Page images

the garrison companies and trebled the king's guard. It was at thi period she formed the corps originally called Enseignes de la Garde du Roy, which, after several changes in its constitution, became, under Henri III., the regiment of French Guards.

During the tour which Charles IX. took during 1564-1566, he was followed by his guard, then commanded by Strozzi, and the sight of these troops, evidently organised against themselves, daily aroused the wrath and alarm of the reformers. Hence, the king, hoping to get a little relief from the constant complaints made to him, promised to break up his guard immediately after his return to Paris. He kept his word, but the companies were sent to garrison various strong places in Picardy. At length, the reformers thought they had gained the day: the court had no longer any defenders, and would require time to collect troops to repel a sudden attack. But the astute Catherine foiled them again. In 1567, the queen-mother perceived that the Protestant party were meditating some treachery against the king's safety. Being far too clever to recal the companies sent to Picardy, which would have served as a pretext to the Protestant party, she secretly asked the Swiss Cantons to raise her a corps of 6000 men, ready to march at a moment's notice. On receiving news of this the Protestants resolved to seize the king while proceeding to Paris from Meaux.

The firmness of the Swiss, commanded by Pfeffer, their admirable constancy in passively repulsing the repeated attacks of the Protestant cavalry, the fierce retreat on Meaux, all evidently the result of inflexible discipline and self-confidence, made a deep impression on the mind of the youthful king, who attached Pfeffer's regiment to his person, giving it the name of the Gardes Suisses du Roy. He formed the resolution to constitute his army on this model, and for the second time the Swiss produced a great progress in the military organisation of France. Their triumph over Charles the Bold led Louis XI. to create the old bands: the retreat of Meaux decided Charles IX. on establishing permanent infantry regiments. On October 27, 1567, a few days prior to the battle of St. Denis, the king carried out his project. The army was divided into two commands, entrusted to Colonels Strozzi and Brissac, each of whom had three regiments commanded by camp-masters. In modern military parlance the army formed two divisions, composed of three brigades, each of about 2400 men. This organisation was not the last, but from this moment there have always been regiments in France.

In the present situation of political affairs it became, moreover, indispensable to modify the relations between the commanders of the corps and the colonel-general, and give the former more precise and better determined functions. During the civil wars there were, so to speak, as many armies as provinces, and the colonel-general could not be everywhere at once. The institution of separate regiments, and camp-masters as their commanders, greatly relieved this difficulty. These chiefs, as regarded the administration of the corps, their discipline, obedience, and promotion, were only ostensibly dependent on the colonel-general. In reality, when decisive actions were about to be fought, they had extensive powers and a complete initiative, and this was naturally most advantageous to the king, if he made a proper selection of officers.

It must not be supposed, however, that the organisation of 1569 em

braced the whole royal army. The cavalry and artillery, still formed in companies and bands, had undergone but insignificant modifications, and remained what they had been in the time of Francis I. and Henry II. Many of the old infantry bands left to guard the frontier forts were also not comprised in the new organisation. These bands were not formed into regiments until a later date, but the corps composed of them claimed the privileges enjoyed by the old regiments, and, under the title of moyens vieux and petits vieux regiments, took rank at the beginning of the seventeenth century, after the regiments of Picardy, Champagne, Piedmont, and Navarre.

As for the newly levied regiments, that is to say, those which the pressure of events daily called under arms, the disorders of the civil wars produced an incalculable number. Catholics and reformers, politicians and leaguers, all the men, in short, who had birth or merit to recommend them, obtained commissions as camp-masters, and formed regiments, which only endured so long as their chiefs were in credit or their party obtained any successes. Not one of them survived the peace of Vervins

in 1797.

The new regiments, for a lengthened period, fared much like the new train-bands prior to the regimental period. France had already acquired a political importance in Europe, but her financial resources were still very limited, and her revenues shamefully administered. In this state of affairs it was necessary to raise during war great armies, and during peace reduce them to what was strictly necessary for garrisoning the fortresses. In war quantity had to make up for quality, and when a truce, generally of slight duration, was signed, a mass of soldiers beginning to be formed had to be disbanded, to the great prejudice of the treasury and the public safety. This deplorable necessity, which lasted until Colbert's ministry, cost the state prodigious sums, and dried up for a long period all the sources of the national prosperity. It was not until the reign of Louis XIV. that government began perceiving that there is an economy in keeping up permanent armies, always ready to defend the country, and thus guaranteeing it against attack.

The military institutions of France had not undergone other important changes when Henry IV. ascended the throne. His predecessor had only instituted the office of secretary of state for war, and set on foot seven new regiments formed of the old elements for garrison service. He was meditating other augmentations, when he fell under the dagger of Jacques Clement. It was therefore with the scattered elements composing the armies of the sons of Henry II. that the first of the Bourbons conquered one by one all the provinces of his kingdom, and arrived at that peace of the last twelve years of his life which was only momentarily troubled by the expedition to Savoy. The repose France then enjoyed was employed to heal the wounds forty years of civil war had dealt her, and to introduce improvements into the organisation of the army. The first care of the king and his devoted minister, Sully, was to regulate the finances, and, while diminishing the burdens of the people, prepare resources for the future. Their first measure was to institute a strict reform among the garrisons and the mortes-payes, whose large number and bad composition were a permanent cause of disorder in the towns, and the subject of constant complaints from the municipal officers.

Before the creation of the permanent train-bands, garrisons merely occupied menaced places during war. In peace, and in those provinces remote from the scene of hostilities, when war broke out, the towns guarded themselves. But with the reign of Charles VII. a different system was introduced. Whenever this prince recaptured a town from the English, he placed a garrison in it, as he was not secure of the affections of the inhabitants. Under his successors, the border provinces newly acquired by the crown were held by the train-bands of Picardy and Piedmont. When Charles IX. recalled the garrisons to the army, and formed them into regiments, new bands and legionaries took their place. The distrust entertained during the civil war as to the temper of the townspeople, caused the number of crown garrisons to be greatly increased; the reformers, and at a later date the leaguers, were urged by the same motive to do the same, so that there was not a village in France without its garrison.

The soldiers composing these garrisons were of two sorts. On one hand, there were all the vagabonds of the country, who had taken up the pike or musquetoon because there was no better trade to choose during the troubles that agitated the kingdom, and who preferred, to the perilous service of the active army, the surer and more lucrative post of garrison men. They formed free bands, or companies, paid and kept up at the expense of the towns, but only obeying the governors. Next, there were the mortes-payes, or invalids, who passed from the ranks of the army into the private pay of the governors of cities or castles, and became their janissaries. When we reflect that the governors, through the confusion and breaking up of parties, had rendered themselves absolute and independent masters of the cities they were ordered to defend, and that in most cases they could only ensure their authority by violence, we can conceive the enormity of the abuses engendered by such a state of things.

Henry IV. did not touch the garrisons at the outset, for there were too many interests to be humoured there. But, so soon as the League was dead, he commenced a pitiless war against the oppressors of the towns, and did not cease till he had reduced the bands to the number of fifty, which he spread over the most important fortresses. As for the mortes-payes, after weeding them, he entrusted the guard of some castles to them, and, in 1602, order was everywhere restored. One of the things, too, that immediately fixed the attention of the king and his minister, was to find a remedy capable of preventing the return of that demoralisation which affected the army during the civil war. As Sully

tells us :

The military forces and discipline was one of the articles of government which most required the application of reform. There is a difficulty in understanding how a nation which from its foundation has never ceased hardly to bear arms, and which regards them, to a certain extent, as the only profession worth following, should have delayed so long in introducing the proper order. The French system was repulsive: men were enrolled by force in the infantry, and compelled to march with the stick. Their pay was unjustly withheld, and they were threatened with imprisonment. The gibbets were incessantly before their eyes: they were reduced to make every effort to desert, and to prevent that the provosts kept them constantly confined to camp. The officers themselves, badly paid, were, in a certain sense, authorised to commit violence and brigandage.

Henry frequently said, and he spoke of it from the experience himself had had, that it was impossible for the state to be properly served until a different system was introduced among the troops.

The causes of the evil did not escape the illustrious reformers; they were flagrant, for the evil was hardly visible among the old regiments. The vices that signalised the ephemeral existence of corps of new formation emanated from the bad composition of their cadres, the manner in which they were recruited, and, before all, from the fact that a new regiment was always an object of speculation. Hence, for the war in Savoy in 1600, Henry preferred to complete the old regiments with militia than raise new regiments; and ten years later, when this prince was assassinated by Ravaillac, he was on the point of beginning a mortal struggle with the powerful House of Austria with only thirteen infantry regiments, though they were all composed of old soldiers and picked officers. He had understood how beneficial it is, both from a military and a financial point of view, to have good large regiments and a small staff, and it is to be regretted that his successors, so lavish with their commissions, did not follow his example.

Among the ameliorations due to the reign of Henry IV., we must mention great progress made in the artillery, the institution of engineer officers, and the first idea of sappers. At the siege of Amiens in 1597, the king, feeling annoyed by the cowardice of the peasants ordered to dig the trenches, took advantage of a moment of impatience among his old bands, and persuaded the infantry to undertake this job. After peace was made, he induced a certain number of men by company to supply themselves with the proper tools for digging and wood-cutting. From this time there were always sappers in the regiments, until the formation of a special corps. In order to lighten the taxes, the king discharged, in 1598, the Swiss regiments, only retaining two companies of 100 men each. The king's household was largely increased, and 400 chevaulégers substituted for the 200 gentlemen-pensioners.

With the minority of Louis XIII. civil wars broke out afresh, and caused the creation of a great number of French and Swiss regiments. Richelieu, among his great administrative reforms, did not neglect the army. The regular force, fixed at 2000 cavalry and 18,000 infantry, had its pay ensured, two-thirds by the treasury and one-third by the provinces, while discipline was rigidly enforced to prevent the townspeople being ill treated by the soldiers. Such were the minister's arrangements for peace; but war hardly broke out, ere everything assumed gigantic proportions under his energetic impulse. Unable to raise a national army so rapidly as he wished, he enrolled foreigners, and during the first portion of the Austrian war the forces of France, through the excellence of their organisation and their discipline, became the first in the world, and became a model to other nations. At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War, the French army had been raised to 228,000 men, of whom 72,000 were cavalry, and was divided into six armies. Cardinal Richelieu accomplished the military and political idea of Henry IV. and Sully. But the glorious results had not been obtained without successive creations of regiments, which raised the French army to an effective strength hitherto unknown. At the moment when the skilful minister

died, the number of infantry regiments alone amounted to 139, among them being three regiments of Guards, one Scotch regiment, six. German, two Irish, five Swiss, two Lorraine, and one Italian.

But Richelieu did not content himself with augmenting the royal armies to so enormous an extent. As a man of detail, he at times devoted much attention to apparently secondary things. The troops were repeatedly exercised in large bodies, in managing the arquebuse, the musket, and the pike; fire-arms were improved and lightened; the cardinal encouraged camp-master Arnaud in his researches into the tactics of the ancients, and the illustrious Fobert, also a soldier of fortune, in his first theoretical applications. Lastly, during the long siege of Rochelle, where all sorts of experiments were made, the cardinal attempted to introduce regularity, and up to a certain point uniformity of costume and equipment.

This question agitated many minds, and not without reason; troops of the same party ought to have means of recognition in the heat of combat, and instances of corps serving under the same flags and killing each other were very frequent. The absence of a uniform costume, moreover, singu larly aided in surprises, and all the stratagems of war. During the siege of Rochelle the captains of the French Guards adopted a special uniform for their companies. This example, being encouraged by Louis XIII, who was very curious about minor military details, was afterwards imitated by the captains of several other corps. At a period when the state did not undertake to clothe the troops, this was as much as could be well expected.

Richelieu was the first to form the cavalry and dragoons into regiments. From the formation of the orderly companies by Charles VII., up to 1635, the horsemen formed companies, or small bands. The advantage of regiments, or homogeneous corps, placed under a single command, was too evident to escape the sight of the minister, who got rid of the anomaly; but of all the army the infantry must feel the impulse given to all the military institutions by the cardinal minister. In 1635 he also filled up a gap in the organisation of the army, by creating a large body of marines, who took rank among the old regiments. Lastly, in the midst of all the formations that owed their life to him, he carried on his hostility against the great nobility, and established a new class of privileged regiments, which were to have precedence over those of the gentlemen. These regiments were raised by the state in all parts of France indiscriminately; and, instead of the names of the camp-masters, they bore those of the countries that supplied the majority of the men composing them.

In 1638, three-fifths of the French officers belonged to the citizen class and the people. The nobility gnashed their teeth, but what did the omnipotent minister, who renewed the sentence of death against duellists, and had it carried out with extreme rigour, care for their rage? It was not only the quarrelsome temper of the great that he sought to abolish, he ordered at the same time the demolition of all castles that did not serve to defend towns; he ordered the lords to dismiss all the men-atarms they kept in their private pay; he forced the governors to give account of the levy of troops, and restricted their civil and military power in order to augment that of the king's lieutenants, to whom he gave a new position. By his severity he proved to the nobles that they

« PreviousContinue »