Garde Écossaise

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Bodyguardsmen of Louis XVI Garde du corps Louis XVI.jpg
Bodyguardsmen of Louis XVI

The Garde Écossaise (French pronunciation:  [ɡaʁd ekɔsɛz] , Scots Guard) was an elite Scottish military unit founded in 1418 by the Valois Charles VII of France, to be personal bodyguards to the French monarchy. They were assimilated into the Maison du Roi and later formed the first company of the Garde du Corps du Roi (Royal Bodyguard).

House of Valois cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty

The House of Valois was a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. They succeeded the House of Capet to the French throne, and were the royal house of France from 1328 to 1589. Junior members of the family founded cadet branches in Orléans, Anjou, Burgundy, and Alençon.

Charles VII of France 15th-century king of France

Charles VII, called the Victorious or the Well-Served, was King of France from 1422 to his death in 1461, the fifth from the House of Valois.

<i>Maison du Roi</i> Royal household of France

The Maison du Roi was the name of the royal household of the King of France. It comprised the military, domestic and religious entourage of the French royal family during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration.


In 1450, King James II sent a company of 24 noble Scots under the command of Patrick de Spens, son of his custodian. This company takes the name of archiers du corps or gardes de la manche. On 31 August 1490, this company, these of Patry Folcart, Thomas Haliday and a part of the company of Robin Petitloch became the first company of archiers de la garde du roi under the command of Guillaume Stuier (Stuart). At the beginning la compagnie écossaise des gardes du corps du roi included 100 gardes du corps (25 bodyguards and 75 archiers). Each bodyguard had four men-at-arms under his command, (a squire, an archer, a cranequinier and a servant), one of them acquired the name of premier homme d'armes du royaume de France. They were finally disbanded in 1830 at the abdication of Charles X.

James II of Scotland Scottish king

James II was a member of the House of Stewart who reigned as King of Scotland from 1437 until his death.

Crossbow Type of ranged weapon

A crossbow is a type of elastic ranged weapon in similar principle to a bow, consisting of a bow-like assembly called a prod, mounted horizontally on a main frame called a tiller, which is handheld in a similar fashion to the stock of a long gun. It shoots arrow-like projectiles called bolts or quarrels. The medieval European crossbow was called by many other names, most of which were derived from the word ballista, an ancient Greek torsion siege engine similar in appearance.

Charles X of France King of France and of Navarre

Charles X was King of France from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. For most of his life he was known as the Count of Artois. An uncle of the uncrowned Louis XVII and younger brother to reigning kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile. After the Bourbon Restoration in 1814, Charles became the leader of the ultra-royalists, a radical monarchist faction within the French court that affirmed rule by divine right and opposed the concessions towards liberals and guarantees of civil liberties granted by the Charter of 1814. Charles gained influence within the French court after the assassination of his son Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, in 1820 and eventually succeeded his brother in 1824.


Charles VII of France depicted as a magus and surrounded by his Scottish guards (left) L Adoration des Mages.jpg
Charles VII of France depicted as a magus and surrounded by his Scottish guards (left)


Scottish warriors were believed to have fought for Charlemagne and later in the Armies of Charles the Simple in 882. It is only after 1295, however, and the agreements that would become known as the Auld Alliance, that there is documentary evidence of French soldiery in Scotland or Scottish soldiery in France. From the outset of the Hundred Years War, there were Scottish companies officially fighting for Philip IV of France. At the Battle of Poitiers, the 1st Earl of Douglas and the future 3rd Earl of Douglas fought for John II, where the future 3rd Earl was captured along with many Scottish knights, notwithstanding the French king himself. In the 1360s there were Scotsmen to be found in the army of Bertrand du Guesclin. In the early 15th century France was split into Armagnac- Burgundian civil strife following the descent into madness of Charles VI. Henry V of England saw his opportunity and allied himself with John the Fearless and invaded. The Dauphin despairingly sought allies, and found them amongst the Scots and the Castilians.

Charlemagne King of the Franks, King of Italy, and Holy Roman Emperor

Charlemagne or Charles the Great, numbered Charles I, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and Holy Roman Emperor from 800. He united much of western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages. He was the first recognised emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire. He was later canonized by Antipope Paschal III.

Charles the Simple King of West Francia

Charles III, called the Simple or the Straightforward, was the King of West Francia from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty.

Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance was an alliance made in 1295 between the kingdoms of Scotland and France. The alliance was formed for the purpose of controlling England's numerous invasions. The Scots word auld, meaning old, has become a partly affectionate term for the long-lasting alliance between the two countries. It remained until the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560.

La Grande Armée Écossaise

In 1418 Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany appointed his son, John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan, Chamberlain of Scotland to command the Scottish expeditionary force, the largest army that medieval Scotland had ever sent abroad. 7000-8000 men arrived at La Rochelle in October 1419 and made their way to Tours to greet the Dauphin. The first thing the future Charles VII did was to shower munificence upon the Scottish nobles. Buchan received Châtillon-sur-Indre, the Earl of Wigtoun received Dun-le-Roi, Sir John Stewart of Darnley received Concressault and Aubigny, and Thomas Seton the castle of Langeais. The Scottish leaders were persuaded to return to Scotland to recruit more troops. The Scottish leadership returned in 1420 with another 4000-5000 reinforcements. While their leaders were at home the Dauphin assigned the Scottish contingent throughout his armies and garrisons and picked a number, roughly one hundred of the best warriors, to be his personal body guard. The Scotsmen fought with distinction throughout France with a notable win at the Battle of Baugé in 1421, where the Duke of Clarence was said to have been felled by Buchan's Mace. The Scots faced a calamity at the Battle of Verneuil in 1424, when they lost 6000 men. Although saddened by the loss of so many of his loyal Scotsmen, Charles VII continued to honour the survivors. The Scots had a further setback at the Battle of the Herrings in 1429. The Scottish Army in France fragmented into free companies (a headache for the French state), and also into Compagnies d'ordonnance within the French Army.

Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany Duke of Albany

Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, a member of the Scottish royal house, served as regent to three different Scottish monarchs. He also held the titles of Earl of Menteith, Earl of Fife, Earl of Buchan and Earl of Atholl, in addition to his 1398 creation as Duke of Albany. A ruthless politician, Albany was widely regarded as having caused the murder of his nephew, the Duke of Rothesay, and brother to the future King James I of Scotland. James was held in captivity in England for eighteen years, during which time Albany served as regent in Scotland, king in all but name. He died in 1420 and was succeeded by his son, Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, who would be executed for treason when James returned to Scotland in 1425, almost causing the complete ruin of the Albany Stewarts.

La Rochelle Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

La Rochelle is a city in western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.

Tours Prefecture and commune in Centre-Val de Loire, France

Tours is a city in the centre-west of France. It is the administrative centre of the Indre-et-Loire department and the largest city in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France. In 2012, the city of Tours had 134,978 inhabitants, and the population of the whole metropolitan area was 483,744.

The Royal Bodyguard

Gardes Ecossaises from the time of Louis XIII. They wear the uniforms worn between the reigns of Charles VIII and Louis XIV. Garde Ecossaise Louis XIII (After Quesnel).jpg
Gardes Écossaises from the time of Louis XIII. They wear the uniforms worn between the reigns of Charles VIII and Louis XIV.
Standard of the "Scottish company", the 1st company of the royal Garde du Corps French Gardes du Corps 1st Company Standard.jpg
Standard of the "Scottish company", the 1st company of the royal Garde du Corps
Uniform of the Scottish guards by 1757 French Garde du Corps Uniform Plate.jpg
Uniform of the Scottish guards by 1757

The King kept about him his Garde Écossaise. The Scottish Guards had likely protected him during the murder of John the Fearless at the bridge of Montereau, and rescued him from a fire in Gascony in 1442. Scottish Guards fell at the Battle of Montlhéry defending their King, Louis XI of France, in 1465.

John the Fearless 14th/15th-century Duke of Burgundy

John the Fearless was Duke of Burgundy as John I from 1404 until his death. A scion of the royal house of France, he played an important role in French affairs during the early 15th century, in particular the struggles to rule the country for the mentally ill King Charles VI and the Hundred Years' War with England. His rash, unscrupulous, and violent political dealings contributed to the eruption of the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War in France, and culminated in his assassination in 1419.

Montereau-Fault-Yonne Commune in Île-de-France, France

Montereau-Fault-Yonne, or simply Montereau, is a commune in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France.

Gascony former France territory

Gascony is an area of southwest France that was part of the "Province of Guyenne and Gascony" prior to the French Revolution. The region is vaguely defined, and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear; by some they are seen to overlap, while others consider Gascony a part of Guyenne. Most definitions put Gascony east and south of Bordeaux.

Later history

The Garde Écossaise survived until the end of the Bourbon monarchy as the senior or Scottish Company of the Gardes du Corps (Body Guards). There were four companies of Body Guards and a detachment of them accompanied the French King wherever he went, posted guards on his sleeping place and even escorted his food from kitchen to table. [1]

Garde du Corps (France)

The Gardes-du-Corps was the senior formation of the King of France's Household Cavalry within the Maison militaire du roi de France.

During the reign of Francis I the garde were held up by blizzards near the Simplon Pass after a defeat at the Battle of Pavia in 1525. Some of the men reputedly settled there and their descendants became known as the "Lost Clan". [2]

From the 16th century onwards recruitment of the unit was primarily from Frenchmen and the Scottish element gradually died out. The name was retained as were certain words of command which had originated in Scots. [3] In 1632, the Earl of Enzie began to rebuild a Scottish regiment in France. [4] There is sometimes confusion as to which unit actually held the title of Garde Écossaise, with several regiments in service often being conflated, especially those commanded by Sir John Hepburn, James Campbell, 1st Earl of Irvine (later commanded by Sir Robert Moray) and Colonel James Douglas. [5] As an example some works recording Scots in action have simply applied the Garde Écossaise name, although referring to the Regiment de Douglas.

By the reign of Louis XV the Scottish Company numbered 21 officers and 330 men in a mounted unit which last saw active service when they escorted Louis at the Battle of Lawfeld on 1 July 1747. On this and other occasions the Scottish Company carried claymores with steel basket guards instead of the swords of the other French heavy cavalry. They were distinguished from the other companies of the Body Guards by wearing white bandoleers garnished with silver lace. [6]

The Scottish Company provided a special detachment of 24 Gardes de la Manche (literally "Guards of the Sleeve") who stood in close attendance to the king during court ceremonies. The name indicated that they stood so close to the monarch as to be brushed by his sleeve. The Gardes de la Manche were distinguished by a heavily embroidered white and gold cassock which they wore over the blue and red and silver uniform of the Body Guard. [7]

Final disbandment

All four companies of the Body Guard were formally disbanded in 1791, although the aristocratic personnel of the regiment had dispersed following the closure of Versailles as a royal palace in October 1789. [8] They were re-established at the time of the First Bourbon Restoration under an ordinance dated 25 May 1814. Until their final dissolution in 1830 the Senior Company retained the title of "les fiers Ecossais" (the proud Scots). [9]

Notable Guardsmen

Monsieur Bergier, an Officer of the Scottish Guards (18th century) Monsieur Bergier, garde de la Manche.jpg
Monsieur Bergier, an Officer of the Scottish Guards (18th century)

The Garde Écossaise in fiction

See also

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  1. Rene Chartrand, page 14 Louis XIV's Army, ISBN   0-85045-850-1
  2. Keay and Keay (1994) p. 639
  3. Liliane and Fred Funcken, page 14 L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats de la Guerre en Dentelle, ISBN   2-203-14315-0
  4. David Stevenson, "Gordon, George, second marquess of Huntly (c. 1590–1649)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 19 Nov 2010
  5. Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean, Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648 (London, 2014), pp.65, 108, 154, 161, 172
  6. Rene Chartrand, page 5 Louis XV's Army - Cavalry and Dragoons, ISBN   1-85532-602-7
  7. Rene Chartrand, page 6 Louis XV's Army - Cavalry and Dragoons, ISBN   1-85532-602-7
  8. Philip Mansel, page 129 "Pillars of Monarchy", ISBN   0-7043-2424-5
  9. Liliane and Fred Funcken, page 10 L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du XIX Siecle, ISBN   2-203-14324-X