When confronted with all things administrative, hierarchical, spread-sheetish, we suffer from instantaneous and severe brain fog. Just such a fog-inducer is the usual type of explanation of all of the regiments and battalions and what-nots of an army. However, in French genealogy, one really does need to know a bit about all of that.
"Oh, no! Not more military! Why? Why?" We fear we hear you cry. Well, in France, the military archives are rich with genealogical information and go back quite a while, so it is worth it to understand enough to be able to find an individual's documents, and then to know what they mean. We have tried to give guidelines on where to look but, except for our discussion of Les contrôles de troupes de l'ancien régime, those have so far been for nineteenth and late eighteenth century records.
We now have found The Spanish Succession, a jim-dandy site by Maarten Folkers that explains the French army, along with the armies of half of Europe, as it was from 1700 to 1715. It does so in beautifully simple, clear and concise English prose. The aim of the author is not French genealogy, but "to be the prime reference for the era between 1700 and 1715, a time dominated by the War of the Spanish Succession", and it achieves this admirably.
In the panel to the left of that site, under Forces, click on The French Army. This brings a page of unbearably, eentsy print, which grows larger when clicked on. The entire structure of the Army is explained, and each regiment's history is given. The same is done for the French navy, with every ship named. Lots of footnotes and sources are given, allowing one to check veracity and pursue a line of thought further.
If you are lucky enough to have an ancestor who is documented as having been in the French Army or Navy during this time, www.spanishsuccession.nl will be a great help in putting that ancestor's life and military career in context. Without brain fog.
©2010 Anne Morddel