On parade! Colourful French cavalry of the 18th century

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My inspection parade of all the armies in my wargaming collection continues with French cavalry of the mid-eighteenth century. They’re certainly colourful en masse!

These were all painted in the very early 2000s, so represent my level of painting at the time. But despite the fairly crude shading and detail, they do look really good on the table, and have in fact stood the test of time quite well.

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As with most of my armies, the basing hasn’t been done to align to any particular rules. I work the other way round – I adapt rules to suit my basing!

 

Title_Drag

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First up are the Colonel-General Dragoons. Dragoons were basically mounted infantry. Thus these Front Rank figures, with their boot-gaiters (‘bottines’), short red coats and muskets really look the part.

French dragoons were equipped with tools, such as axes, bill-hooks or saws, instead of off-side holsters, and these are faithfully represented on these models.

I particularly like the way Front Rank have posed the officer on the far end, looking to the dressing of his line. The drummer is also a nicely detailed figure, carrying his infantry-style drum.

I used the Nec Pluribus Impar website for painting details, along with the Funcken uniform books.

The flag was also from the Nec Pluribus Impar website, suitably reduced in my Corel Paint graphics programme, and printed out.

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Title_Cuir

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The Cuirassiers du Roi, raised in 1653, were one of the few French cavalry regiments allowed to wear bearskin caps. They also wore armoured breast and back plates, lined inside with red cloth.

My source for painting these figures was the wonderful illustration in John Mollo’s Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63.

These Front Rank models were my first attempt at painting metal cavalry figures. I found it quite finicky to paint all that red cloth lining, piped in white, that sticks out around the cuirass.

I used oil-paints for the horses, which went well – apart from one heart-stopping moment when I was applying the varnish and the oil-painted surface bubbled badly. Fortunately I was able to smooth it down, and it still looks OK eighteen years later!

The flag is a scanned black-and-white illustration from a Pengel & Hurt publication, which I then coloured using my Corel Paint graphics programme.

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Title_Wurt

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I got these fur-hatted cavalry figures wearing cuirasses in a bulk deal. To ensure a variety of uniform colours in my army, I was determined that these figures would wear white coats. Out of the limited number of French units that wore white coats and fur hats, I decided on the Wurtemberg Cavalry Regiment, a German unit in French pay.

The previously-mentioned Cuirassiers du Roi were the only French cavalry to wear the front and back plates that are depicted on these figures, but I already had a unit of them. Other cavalry, such as the Wurtemberg regiment, were only issued with front plates, but apparently seldom wore them.

Therefore I painstakingly filed the back plates off each figure. The front plates were too difficult to remove, so I decided this was going to be one of those “seldom” occasions when their plates would be worn! Even this is not strictly correct, as the cuirass was worn under the coat, not on top. But this is the best I could do with the figures available.

The flag posed another problem, as I could not find any pictures of the real flag. In the end I made up a design based on a written description in the publication by Pengel & Hurt. I even managed to add a white cravat made from toilet paper!

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Title_conde

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These cavalry figures on galloping horses were amongst a bulk lot of Front Rank figures that I bought. All my other mounted units were on standing or walking horses, so it was a change to paint up these much more animated figures, and I was very pleased with the result.

This regiment was owned by the powerful Condé family, and so its musicians wore the family’s colours instead of the regular French royal livery. A picture of the mounted drummer in the Osprey book Louis XV’s Cavalry shows the yellow-buff and red Condé livery, with which I have painted the trumpeter in my unit.

Observant readers might have noticed that some of the swords are longer than others – this is because apparently these figures were a mix of older and newer Front Rank castings.

For the flag, the only information I had at that time was a written description, which I had to use my imagination to interpret in Corel Paint. The cross-hatched design on the yellow-buff side of the flag is a symbolic funeral pyre.

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As it turned out, I wasn’t too far off in my interpretation of the Condé flag. After I had done my flag, I came across a 1771 print which showed the flags of the French infantry and cavalry regiments. You can see the funeral pyre on the Condé flag quite clearly. The original print has faded considerably, so the yellow-buff colour has changed to white.

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So that’s my French cavalry. Next time we’ll look at the artillery. And don’t forget to visit my other On Parade! postings, in which I’m gradually doing inspection parades of every army in my wargaming collection.

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I hope I've given you something to think about - please do leave a comment with your thoughts or reactions.

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