Saturday, 21 November 2009

Huguenot regiments in the British Army

Another interesting aspect of the British Army during the Nine Years' War was the formation of several regiments composed of Huguenot refugees. That is, the regiments were officered by Huguenots, whereas the rank-and-file were cosmopolitan and polyglot. National identity of a regiment referred usually only to the officers.

Huguenot officers had come to England since the Restoration of 1660, the Earl of Feversham being a famous example. However, it was not until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685, that saw considerable migration of Huguenots from France.

Most of the Huguenots seem to have migrated into the Dutch Republic, Brandenburg, Switzerland and England. Because of the sympathetic attitude of James II towards Louis XIV, not many seem to have awarded a commission in the army. Quite the opposite was the case with Huguenots going into the Dutch Republic, and many of these accompanied William of Orange to England in 1688. Some served as volunteers, others held commissions in the regiments of the Anglo-Dutch Brigade and a third category consisted of officers in the Dutch Army.

From this pool of officers four regiments of Huguenots were raised in early 1689. These regiments were to be the first foreign units to be formed and included in the British Army. Of these four regiments, one was a regiments of horse under the Duke of Schomberg, and the other three were regiments of foot. A regiment of dragoons was added in 1695.

After the end of Nine Years' War the debate on which regiments were to be retaining upon the establishments was started. Unfortunately, the outcome was that the establishments, the regiments, should be composed of native soldiers only and meant the dismissal of all foreign regiments. As a results the Huguenot regiments were disbanded in Ireland in March 1699, officers that were naturalized English being placed on half - pay.

Matthew Glozier. The Huguenot Soldiers of William of Orange and the Glorious Revolutions of 1688. Sussex Academic Press, Brighton, England. 2002.
Matthew Glozier and David Onnekink. War, Religion and Service. Huguenot Soldiering, 1685 - 1713. Ashgate Publishing Limited, Aldershot, England, 2007.

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