Monday, 9 January 2012

Portuguese regiments in British pay

English, Scots and Irish regiments of the British Army can provide for a great deal of research pleasure for the student of British military history and the lineage addict aficionado. Foreign regiments in British service provide an additional challenge when it comes to finding proper details of the regiments in question. When found, details are often sketchy, incomplete and they may even be contradicting. Adding to the confusion is the broad range of regiments that can be called foreign.

As could be read on this blog before a large number of German troops were in English pay during the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession. Such troops entered English pay and service through contracts signed between England and the German state in question. Terms of service and pay were laid down in the contract. Huguenot regiments are also found in English service, and they can be considered foreign as well. Their origin, and reasons for existence differed from that of, for example, the German regiments. In 1708-09 we find a number of Portuguese regiments entering English pay, with yet another background. (The need for more men and bayonets is in most cases probably the ultimate reason why a regiment came into being anyway.) 

By late 1708, as various English regiments had been disbanded, reduced or merged in 1707 and 1708, five new regiments were to be formed in Portugal as replacements: one regiment of dragoons and one of foot. These regiments were to be formed from Portuguese [soldiers], but officered by English and, mostly, French Huguenots. The British treasury paid for the regiments. Commissions were given without date, to be filled in Portugal, and did not exceed the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Though information was not found, the colonelcies were most likely bestowed on Portuguese. Because the regiments were Portuguese, the king of Portugal objected against the idea of having French Protestants commanding his regiments. This delayed the completion of the regiments, which did not happen before summer 1709. By the time the regiments were fully embodied, it was also decided to reorganize the four regiments of foot into five additional regiments of dragoons.

The History of the Reign of Queen Anne for 1709 gives a list of colonels, lieutenant-colonels and majors:

Since the regiments appear in precedence lists compiled after the war it seems likely that the regiments were considered native some time afterwards. In 1712 the following colonels are listed (in order of precedence of their regiment):
  • Balthasar de Foissac
  • Hunt Withers
  • Jean Desbordes
  • Constantine de Magny
  • Paul de Gually
  • Joseph de Sarlande
Five of the six colonels are clearly French Huguenots. To add to be confusion, another regiment of dragoons commanded Charles de la Bouchetière, also a Hueguenot, is often mentioned together with the regiments discussed above.

All six regiments of dragoons mentioned above were disbanded by 1712 and its officers were placed on half-pay. This seems also an indication that at some point the regiments were no longer foreign.

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