13.3.09

Mousquetaires de la Garde


Mousquetaires de la Garde were a company of the military branch of the Maison du Roi, Royal Household. Made more than a footnote of history by the books of Alexandre Dumas, père, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne take place in the context of some of the leading characters being or having been Musketeers.

Formed in 1622 by Louis XIII when he furnished a company of light cavalry Carabiniers with muskets. The Musketeers trained to fight both on foot as mounted infantry and on horseback, similar to dragoons. When the King travelled out side the Louvre (under Louis XIII) and later Versailles (under Louis XIV and after) and other royal residences they acted as a personal guard.

Soon after the first company was formed a second company was formed by Cardinal Richelieu. So as not to offend the King with a perceived sense of self-importance, Richelieu did not name them Garde du Corps like the King's personal guards but rather Musketeers after the Kings'junior guard cavalry. This was the start of a bitter rivalry between both corps of Musketeers. Upon the death of Richelieu his succesor Mazarin gained the second company, however he disbanded them in 1646. In 1657 the company was reformed with 150men. When Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, King Louis XIV assumed them and added them to the other company. As the original company became the first company they were called the "mousquetaires gris" because this company rode grey horses, the former compnay of the cardinal became the "mousquetaires noirs" due to the colour of their horses being black. It was about this time that the companies doubled in size.

Of all the companies of the Kings army the musketeers were among the most prestigious. Many of the musketeers were nobility because the army reforms of Michel Tellier mandated that nobles would no longer be promoted to officer based soley on their rank, and had to serve for a period of time before they could be considered for promotion. Service in the Musketeers meant that they would be in the presence of the King, and their courage might recommend a commision from him.

On the eve of France's entrance in the American War, King Louis XVI again disbanded the Musketeers due to monitary shortfalls. Reformed on the eve of the French Revolution they were disbanded again. Upon the 1st restoration in 1814 they were formed but disbanded again in 1816.

In 1844, Dumas wrote the first of his novels which included some very real personages or composites of real characters, Charles de Batz-Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan really existed, as did Aramis, Athos, and Porthos whose nom-de-guerres reflected their real name and station.

The original Musketeers wore a blue tabbard, a long open sleeved pullover. It was a royal blue, with a white cross at the arms of which a Fleur de Lys was embrodered in gold. The seams of the tabbard were edged in white. Musketeers carried a musket or more exactly a fire lock, which is pictured here... , which changed to a flint lock at the end of the 17th century. Musketeers were different from other regiments of the 17th century as they did not have pikemen.

During the sucessive reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, the uniform closely resembled those of line regiments with the exception that the tabbard became a sleeveless soubrevste and was worn over a red justicorpes. (Les Mousquetaires portent un uniforme rouge à parements rouges et par dessus une soubreveste bleue galonnée d'argent, chargé d'une croix argent, fleurs de lis d'or et flammes d'or à 5 rayons. L'emmanchure de la soubreveste est très basse, au niveau du ceinturon de l'épée. )

REVUE DE MOUSQUETAIRES. 1729 par Robert Paul Ponce Antoine ; dit Robert De Seri, ce tableau conservé à Versailles au musée national du château et des Trianons est signé et daté de 1729.

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