French Cavalry regiments

Parts of the French cavalry could trace its origins back to companies of mounted knights. These were the companies that formed the Gendarmerie, which had 16 companies that fielded 8 squadrons. The Royal Carabiniers were also a separate unit. The bulk of the French cavalry was organized into regular regiments. Of these there were about 60 in 1701.

La Gendarmerie

One of the first questions that could be posed about the Gendarmerie is whether they were part of the Maison Militaire du Roy. I do not know the answer yet and have therefore chosen to describe it as a part of the regular army. The Gendarmes were divided in companies that could mostly trace back their ancestry to bands of heavy armored horsemen raised by the French aristocracy. This was the meaning of Gendarme: a fully armored horseman, which was something that differed from light cavalry. Even in the beginning of Louis XIV's reign the princes of the blood, the Maréchaux de France and some other members of the aristocracy still had their own companies of Gendarmes and Chevaux-Legers, but this was changed by Louis XIV.

Louis changed this in 1660 (just after the peace of the Pyrenees), that year he disbanded all companies of the Gendarmerie except those of the royal family. By 1700 the Gendarmerie numbered 10 companies of Gendarmes and 6 companies of Chevaux-Legers fielding 8 squadrons. As each company numbered 63 men these amounted to 1,008 men, not counting the officers. The names of the Gendarme companies were: Scotch, English, Bourguignon, Gendarmes de Flandre, Gendarmes de la Reine, Dauphin, De Bretagne (previously Bourgogne), D'Anjou, De Berri and D'Orleans. The Chevaux-Legers were: De la Reine, Dauphin, De Bretagne (previously Bourgogne), D'Anjou, De Berri and D'Orleans. All companies were commanded by Captain-Lieutenants. As said one can doubt whether the Gendarmerie belonged to the household troops, but when they were both in the army the Gendarmerie were commanded by someone from the Maison du Roy. As regards rank the Gendarmerie were the highest ranking cavalry units in the French Army after the cavalry of the Maison du Roy.

Royal Carabiniers

The name of the Royal Carabiniers came from their principal weapon, which was a carbine or short rifle. In 1679 the king ordered that each cavalry company should have 2 carabineers. On 29 October 1691 the king then ordered that each cavalry regiment should field a company of carabineers. When it turned out that these served very well in the Battle of Neerwinden the king made these companies into a regiment on 1 November 1693. This new 'regiment' of carabineers counted 100 companies divided into 5 brigades under the overall command of the Comte du Maine. Each brigade counted 20 companies and was commanded by a mestre de camp and a lieutenant-colonel. A comparison with regular cavalry regiments that often did not count more than 12 companies tells that the carabineers indeed counted 5 regiments. After the peace of Rijswijk each brigade of the carabineers was reduced to 2 companies.

The carabineers were no doubt intended as an elite unit. Appointments in the regiment were often reserved for talented soldiers who could not afford to buy a company or regiment. The carabineers fought on foot as well as from horse back, and for this reason alone one cannot designate them as regular cavalry. As regards rank it ranked right after Berry and before Orléans.

Brigade Names of colonels
1 1694 Comte d'Aubeterre; 1707 De Verneuil; 1716 Chev. de Sanguin
2 1693 Commandeur du Rozel de Cagny; 1716 De Grieu
3 1693 Marq. d'Achy; 1702 De Cloys; 1719 de Froideau
4 1693 de Résigny; 1702 de Lestang; 1711 de Pujols
5 1693 Comm. de Courcelles; 1702 chev. d'Imecourt; 1705 Marq. de Rouvray; 1716 Pardaillan

60 Cavalry regiments

From time immemorial the nobility had fought on horseback while the peasant fought on foot. However, this counted only with regard to the heavy cavalry called Gendarmes. The Gendarmes were manned by the nobility and their vassals fielding heavily armored warhorses and armored men. Even in the late Dark Age there were also horsemen equipped by the cities. These were called Chevaux-Legers or light cavalry and were not used for the real cavalry combats but for auxiliary tasks. It is from these that the regular cavalry regiments of the French army descended. Apart from this the (petty) nobility still kept a preference for serving in the cavalry and the proportion of noblemen continued to be higher in the cavalry. The moment that the cavalry regiments of the French army were formed can be dated to 1635 when Louis XIII created them by law. By 1700 the cavalry regiments were divided in two groups: The 'Regiments Royaux' (owned by the state) and the 'Regiments Gentilhommes' (privately owned) Here is an overview of the French cavalry regiments:

Regiment Names of colonels
Colonel General 1675 F.M. de la Tour c. d'Auvergne; 1705 H.L. de la Tour d'Auvergne c. d'Evreux
Mestre de Camp General 1690 Marq. de Rosen; 1703 L.F. Marq. de Montpeyroux; 1714 Duc de la Vallière
Commissaire General 1688 Villars; 1703 comte de Verrue; 1704 Duc de la Vallière; 1714 Comte de Chatillon
Royal 1701 Comte du Bourg; 1706 Duc de Sully; 1712 Comte de Melun
Du Roy 1694 Duc de Broglie; 1705 Marq. de Fournès;
Royal Etranger 1691 Duc de Coigny; 1704 Marq. Tournelle; 1706 C. de St. Chamans; 1710 Duc de Valentinois
Royal Cuirassiers 1697 Marq de Bonneval; 1710 Comte de Beuzeville
Royal Cravattes 1697 Comte d'Alègre; 1705 Marq. de Curton
Royal Roussilion 1693 Marq. de Praslin; 1702 Marq. de Bonneles; 1706 De Chémereuil; 1706 Comte de Saumery
Royal Piémont 1690 Marq. de Bouzols; 1705 Marq. de Manicamp
Royal Allemand 1693 L.C. comte de Nassau Saarbrücken; de Quaet de Landskroon
La Reine 1693 Comte de Thézan; 1706 Marq. du Cayla; 1706 Marq. du Cayla; 1761 18th
Dauphin 1693 Marq. d'Imécourt; 1702 Marq. de Vandeul; 1710 Marq. de Lessart; 1712 ma. d'Harcourt
Dauphin Etranger 1762 incorp. in Dauphin
Royal Bourgogne 1693 Marq. de Puyguyon; 1704 Marq. d'Ancenis; 1715 Comte de Brassac
Berry 1693 Marq. d'Yolet; 1702 Marq. de Sandricourt
Du Maine
Cossé (G) 1694 Cossé; 1704 Magnières; 1710 Marq. de Monteils; 1737 Royal-Pologne
Grignan (G) 1689 Grignan; 1703 marq. de Flesché; 1761 Royal Lorraine
Esclainvilliers (G) 1691 Marq. d'Esclainvilliers; 1704 ditto; 1761 Royal Picardie
Duras (G) 1697 Duc de Duras; 1710 Marq. de Villequier; 1761 Royal Champagne
Saint Pouanges (G) 1696 Marq. de St. Pouanges; 1716 Chambonas; 1761 Royal Navarre
Lévis (G) 1689 Marq. de Lévis; 1704 Vaupalière; 1707 Bessay; 1713 Novion; 1761 Royal Normandie