For my current work-in-progress, Refiner’s Fire, Book 6 of my American Patriot Series, I’ve had to recreate the French court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I’m finding a lot of interesting—and scandalous—details of daily life in a palace, but today, I’m going to focus on a relatively mundane concern they shared with our modern-day leaders: security. You can be sure that between the Royal Bodyguard and the famed Swiss Guards, the French monarchs had the situation well in hand, at least until the French Revolution broke out.
|Garde du corps, era of Louis XVI|
The Royal Bodyguard consisted of four companies, and a detachment accompanied the French king wherever he went. They guarded where he slept and even escorted his food from the kitchen to his table. A special detachment of 24 “Guards of the Sleeve” (Gardes de la Manche) stood so close to the king during court ceremonies that his sleeves actually brushed them. They wore embroidered white and gold cassocks over their blue, red, and silver uniforms. From the 16th century onward, Frenchmen primarily made up this unit, but it kept the name and certain Scottish commands.
Soldier and officer of Gardes Suisses in French
service in 1757: Marbot, Alfred de, 1854
The Guards and their officers were all recruited from Switzerland. They maintained a high reputation for discipline, which followed the Swiss codes of conduct, which were significantly harsher than those of the regular French Army. Accordingly they received considerably higher pay than did French soldiers. Their uniform consisted of red coats with dark blue lapels and cuffs edged in white embroidery, with the grenadier company wearing bearskins, while the rests of the companies wore the same three-cornered hats as those of the French infantry. The Hundred Swiss were armed with halberds with the royal arms in gold on the blade and gold-hilted swords.
|Swiss Guards During July Revolution, |
Jean Louis Bezard, c. 1832
The Hundred Swiss had been disbanded when Louis XVI was taken from Versailles to the Tuileries in October 1789. Reformed in 1814, they accompanied Louis XVIII into exile in Belgium the following year. After the Battle of Waterloo they returned with him to Paris, where they resumed their traditional role of palace guards at the Tuileries until a new French guard company replaced them in 1817.
|Book 6, American Patriot|