We have come across another handy biographical dictionary, Les Gardes du Corps de Louis XVI, (literally "the bodyguards of Louis the 16th") by Gilbert Bodinier. Like the Dictionnaire des médecins, chirurgiens et pharmaciens de la Marine, this is an important work of fine scholarship published by the Service Historique de la Défense (under its old title of Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre).
The Garde du Corps was the premier corps of the military household of the king of France. It protected the French king in battle and so, went into battle only when he did, the last time being during the War of the Austrian Succession. It was formed of numerous companies, the oldest being the Garde Ecossaise, or Scots Guard, founded in 1419. They were joined by the:
- compagnie des Cent-Suisses, (the Hundred Swiss)
- gardes françaises, (the French Guards)
- gardes suisses, (the Swiss Guards)
- Chevau-légers, (light cavalry)
- gendarmes de la garde, (guard gendarmes)
- mousquetaires, (the royal musketeers)
- grenadiers à cheval, (mounted grenadiers)
The first seventy-eight pages give an excellent short history, covering organisation, structure, pay scales, emigration statistics, etc.. As a biographical dictionary, Bodinier's book focuses only on those 1750 men who were members of the Garde du Corps at the time of the end of the absolute monarchy in France. There are nearly 550 pages of entries, of varying length, but all the result of comprehensive research in military, parish and civil archives and in published genealogical works. Sources are given at the end of each entry.
A typical entry reads:
Of a family in Lorraine that does not appear to have been noble.
Born in May 1747 in Toul (Meurthe-et-Moselle). Son of Jean-Baptiste-François, lawyer in parliament, and of Marie Pagel. Married Elisabeth-Victoire Pagel, daughter of Charles, a major in the infantry, and of Marie-Thérèse Vaultrin. He had at least the following children: 1) Joseph-Victor, born the 10th of February 1787 at Royaumeix (Meurthe), an officer who married in 1828 Victoire-Félicité Fergant; 2) Laurent, born the 18th of March, 1789, officer, died the 2nd of August 1866 at Royaumeix.
Entered the garde du corps in the Company of Luxembourg the 9th of March 1767; emigrated the 1st of October, 1791, served in the campaign of 1792 in the Armée des Princes , joined the 2nd regiment of noble cavalry in the Armée de Condé on the 27th of September, 1795, he followed the king to Mittau and served until the until the disbanding of the Armée de Condé. He died the 27th of June, 1812 at Royaumeix.
Page 245 (our translation)
Entries on others indicate if they were Freemasons or members of the Legion of Honour. Where the latter was the case, recall that it may be possible then to look up the file on the LEONORE database online. Another excellent and very expensive (55 euros) resource.
Les Gardes du Corps de Louis XVI
Paris : Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre, Editions Mémoire et Documents, 2005.
©2011 Anne Morddel