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Compagnies Franches de la Marine (Kingdom of France, ca. 1760)

Last modified: 2014-05-24 by ivan sache
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[Compagnies Franches de la Marine]

Alleged colour of Compagnies Franches de la Marine - Image by Tom Gregg, 30 July 1999

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Alleged regiment's colour

It was long thought that a blue flag with a white cross, fleur-de-lis on the arms of the cross and anchors in the quarters was the color of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, but this was incorrect.
This incorrect flag is displayed without caption or apparent explanation in the otherwise excellent Osprey title Louis XV's Army (5) Colonial and Naval Troops by René Chartrand and Eugène Leliepvre (1997), and that probably contributed to its widespread erroneous reproduction.

Tom Gregg & Todd Mills, 17 October 2013

I am puzzled about the reconstruction colour. Specifically I am puzzled about the cantons as "strewn with fleurs-de-lis". I was under the belief that in 17th-18th century France semee de fleurs de lis d'or was a high distinction, reserved for regiments with the Royal appellation. Documentary and visual evidence seems to support this assumption. My puzzlement is that I know of no documents or references indicating that the multiple Free Companies of the Marine held this Royal distinction as is clearly indicated by the recreated colour.
The closest period correlation I have found to this recreated colour seems to be that of the Royal-Marine, (not to be confused with the Corps Royal de l'Infanterie de la Marine or La Marine). In 1762, the colour of the Royal-Marine was composed of the cross of France with two sky blue cantons and two aurore cantons (saffron / golden) strewn with fleurs-de-lis (General Pierre Bertin, Un régiment comtois : le "Soixante", 1669-1678, Revue Historique de l'Armée, No. 2, 1978).

Regarding the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, in my research I have found evidence (Jacques Petitjean-Roget, Les troupes du roi à la Martinique, 1664-1762, Revue Historique de l'Armée, 38 [3], 1967, citing the Archives nationales : Colonies) that they were originally entitled Les compagnies détachées de la Marine (companies detached from the la Marine Regiment). In 1690 they were reorganized to Compagnies Franches de la Marine. This same source specifically identifies the flag of these new Compagnies Franches de la Marine as being the white cross with two blue cantons and two green cantons. This is consistent with the contemporary documentary and visual evidence of devolution of colours in the French Royal Army of the 16th-18th centuries.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Pollock, Historian at the USAF Air University, 26 February 2000

Alleged colonel's Color

[olonel's Color]

Alleged colonel's colour - Image by Tom Gregg, 30 July 1999