Walloon Guards

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Walloon Guards
Guardia Valona
Bandera militar Spain 1700.jpg
Military coat of arms of Philip V
Country Flag of the Low Countries.svg Spanish Netherlands (until 1713)
Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg Austrian Netherlands (1713-1795)
Flag of France.svg  France (1795-1815)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  United Kingdom of the Netherlands (from 1815)
Allegiance Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Spanish Empire
Branch Escudo del Ejercito de Tierra.PNG Spanish Army
Type Infantry
Role Royal Guard
Engagements War of the Polish Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
Motín de Esquilache
Spanish War of Independence
Ramón María Narváez

The Walloon Guards (Gardes Wallonnes; in Spanish, Guardia Valona) were an infantry corps recruited for the Spanish Army in the region now known as Belgium, mainly from Catholic Wallonia. As foreign troops without direct ties amongst the Spanish population, the Walloons were often tasked with the maintenance of public order, eventually being incorporated as a regiment of the Spanish Royal Guard.

Corps military unit size

Corps is a term used for several different kinds of organisation. A military innovation by Napoleon, the formation was first named as such in 1805.

Spanish Army land warfare branch of Spains military forces

The Spanish Army is the terrestrial army of the Spanish Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is one of the oldest active armies — dating back to the late 15th century.

Wallonia Region of Belgium

Wallonia is a region of Belgium. As the southern portion of the country, Wallonia is primarily French-speaking, and accounts for 55% of Belgium's territory, but only a third of its population. The Walloon Region was not merged with the French Community of Belgium, which is the political entity responsible for matters related mainly to culture and education, because the French Community of Belgium encompasses both Wallonia and the majority French-Speaking Brussels-Capital Region.




The Walloon Guards were first raised at a time when the Low Countries were under the Spanish Crown as the Spanish Netherlands. "Walloons" was the German (walah) name for their romanized neighbors. Initially Walloon line infantry regiments were formed by the Flemish, the Brabantians and Walloons to the number of 4,000 men and were recruited among the strongest and tallest men available, to spearhead assaults or to cover retreats.

Low Countries Historical coastal landscape in north western Europe

The Low Countries, the Low Lands, or historically also the Netherlands, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.

Spanish Netherlands Historical region of the Low Countries (1581–1714)

Spanish Netherlands was the collective name of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries, held in personal union by the Spanish Crown from 1556 to 1714. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels.

Romanization transliteration of characters in a writing system to Latin character system

Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of writing from a different writing system to the Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so. Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written text, and transcription, for representing the spoken word, and combinations of both. Transcription methods can be subdivided into phonemic transcription, which records the phonemes or units of semantic meaning in speech, and more strict phonetic transcription, which records speech sounds with precision.


The decision to raise a regiment of Walloon Guards was taken on 17 October 1702 by Philip V of Spain and the new unit arrived in Spain in December the following year. They were linked with the Spanish Guards (Gardes Espagnoles) raised shortly before. Both regiments had the same organisation, disciplinary regulations and uniforms of dark blue, red and silver. The model for both were the French Guards (Gardes Françaises) of the French Maison du Roi, a detachment of whom were sent to Spain in 1703 to act as instructors. [1]

Philip V of Spain 18th-century King of Spain

Philip V was King of Spain from 1 November 1700 to his abdication in favour of his son Louis on 14 January 1724, and from his reaccession of the throne upon his son's death, 6 September 1724 to his own death on 9 July 1746.


After the independence of the United Netherlands in 1648 and the cession of the Spanish Netherlands to Austria at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714, Walloons continued to serve in the Spanish army together with foreign soldiers from Switzerland, Ireland, and Italy. The Walloon Guards remained a primarily Walloon unit, although the Austrian authorities attempted to discourage recruitment in the former Spanish Netherlands. Most officers of the Regiment came from long established Spanish families of Walloon origin. Similarly, some rank and file members of the regiment remained in Spain when their period of service was over, took Spanish wives and encouraged their sons to enlist in the various Walloon units of the Spanish Army.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.

Peace of Münster Treaty between the Dutch Republic and Spain signed in 1648

The Peace of Münster was a treaty between the Lords States General of the United Netherlands and the Spanish Crown, the terms of which were agreed on 30 January 1648. The Treaty is a key event in Dutch history marking formal recognition of the independent Dutch Republic and formed part of the Peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War.

Late 18th century

In March 1766, the Walloon Guard was amongst the troops defending Charles III of Spain during the Esquilache Riots, and shots fired by a detachment of the regiment killed a woman, intensifying the crowd's anger. Demands made by the rioters to the king included the disbanding of the Walloon Guards, several of whom were killed during the disturbances. [2]

Charles III of Spain King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788

Charles III was King of Spain (1759–1788), after ruling Naples as Charles VII and Sicily as Charles V (1734–1759). He was the fifth son of Philip V of Spain, and the eldest son of Philip's second wife, Elisabeth Farnese. A proponent of enlightened absolutism, he succeeded to the Spanish throne on 10 August 1759, upon the death of his half-brother Ferdinand VI, who left no heirs.

Esquilache Riots

The Esquilache Riots occurred in March 1766 during the rule of Charles III of Spain. Caused mostly by the growing discontent in Madrid about the rising costs of bread and other staples, they were sparked off by a series of measures regarding Spaniards' apparel that had been enacted by Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marqués de Esquilache, a Neapolitan minister whom Charles favored.

The Walloon Guards played a significant role in the extended Great Siege of Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783. By this date shortfalls in recruiting from the Netherlands were being made up by drawing on Irish and German sources. [3]

Great Siege of Gibraltar 18th-century siege

The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence.

Until the Austrian Netherlands were overrun and annexed by the First French Republic in 1794, the region continued to supply 400 to 500 recruits per year to the Walloon Guards through a recruitment office in Liège. The three Walloon line infantry regiments, Brabante, Flandes and Bruselas, were dissolved and redistributed to other regiments between 1791 and 1792.

Peninsular War

Walloon Guards c.1800 Guardia Valona.jpg
Walloon Guards c.1800

Part of the Walloon Guards were stationed in Madrid at the time of the French occupation in October 1808. These were incorporated into the French Army, which already included a significant number of Belgian and Dutch units. Four battalions of Walloon Guards garrisoned in Barcelona and Aragon continued in Spanish service, seeing much action against the French. With recruitment from the Southern Netherlands effectively ceasing, the Walloon Guards were reduced in numbers to two battalions by January 1812, in spite of drawing on Spanish volunteers as replacements.


With the restoration of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy in 1814 the Royal Guard was reassembled, but continuing recruitment difficulties meant that the Walloon Guards had become a mainly Spanish unit. On 1 June 1818 the Walloon Guards were accordingly renamed as the Second Regiment of Royal Guards of Infantry, losing their traditional distinctions. In 1824 a new Guardia Real was raised drawing entirely on Spanish conscripts or volunteers from the regular army.

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  1. Mansel, Philip (1984). Pillars of Monarchy: an Outline of the Political and Social History of Royal Guards, 1400-1984 (1st. ed.). London: Quartet Books. p. 18. ISBN   0-7043-2424-5.
  2. Hughes, Robert (2004). Goya (1st. ed.). London: Vintage. p. 50. ISBN   0 099 45368 1.
  3. Adkins, Roy and Lesley. Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History. p. 68. ISBN   978-1-4087-0867-5.

This article incorporates material from the es:Diccionario Enciclopédico Hispano-Americano registered in 1892, nowadays in public domain