Monday, June 13, 2011

Royal Commission

A commission from King Louis XVI for a Scottish officer.
On the eve of the Revolution, the French monarch commissions Stuart Jean Bruce as an infantry captain, to serve under the commander of the King's household guard. Military Appointment signed "Louis" as King of France and Navarre, Versailles, 1788 July 1. Official wax seal in lower right corner. Pronouncing his complete confidence in the value, courage, military experience, faithfulness and affection of Stuart Jean Bruce, the King appoints him a Captain of Infantry in the French household guard commanded by the King's cousin, the Prince of Condé.
When King Louis XVI signed this document, his realm was already in an acute financial and political crisis which would develop into the French Revolution, and result in Louis' dethronement, trial, and execution (on January 21, 1793). In August 1788, the royal treasury emptied by the cost of its wars (including the American Revolution), France stopped payment on its debts. Hoping to raise new taxes, Louis called a meeting of the Estates-General, the first since 1614, and the dynamic leading to the French Revolution and to Louis' downfall was set in motion.
A biography of Stuart Jean Bruce is unavailable, but Scots held a venerable place in the traditions of the French Army. The claymore-wielding Scottish Guard, dating from 1418, was the most prestigious company of French royal household troops. (As an infantry captain, Bruce would not have been assigned directly to the Scottish Guard, a cavalry unit, but there were several other companies of royal body guards whose numbers included many of foreign origin.) The guards of the royal household were not merely ceremonial. They were elite soldiers who fought in the forefront of France's wars until the Revolution. Since the Union of the English and Scottish thrones in 1603, France - traditional ally of independent Scotland - had been a natural destination for Scottish opponents of English rule. The failure of the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, fought to restore the House of Stuart (Stewart) to the English throne, brought many more Scots to France.
The Royal Household Guard was commanded by Louis Joseph de Bourbon (referenced in this document), Prince of Condé, cousin of Louis XVI. With Louis' downfall, the Prince took soldiers loyal to the monarchy abroad to serve as the Army of Condé in the ranks of the enemies of revolutionary France, first Austria, then England, and finally Russia. It was disbanded in 1801, but Condé and his supporters returned to France after the defeat of Napoleon

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