Rene Chartrand, The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643 – 1715 Volume 2: The Infantry of Louis XIV (Helion 2020)
This latest volume of The Armies of the Wars of the Sun King series does what is says on the tin but in the reverse order. It starts by describing the wars and political manoeuvres of the Sun King from 1668 until 1684, pauses briefly to discuss the economics of war in the later 17th Century, and then spends the rest of the book delving into the details of the French Infantry from the Wars of Devolution through to the Spanish War of Succession.
Chartrand initially focuses on describing the primary reasons leading up to the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678) from the Sun King’s perspective, and then spends three chapters taking the reader through the main aspects of the War. These are followed by a chapter on the little known and unsuccessful Sicilian Rebellion. Chartrand rounds off the history lesson by summarising Louis XIV’s political and military manoeuvring up until the close of 1684. One of the challenges of this period is trying to find accessible information for those of us who can only read English, and this certainly piqued my interest.
The main focus of the book is the next 150 pages, which concentrate on the infantry component of the French Army. Chartrand covers the recruitment, organisation, weapons, and uniforms of the line infantry in a comprehensive manner. The text is enhanced by 24 coloured pages of uniform illustrations, 8 pages of flags, and a substantial number of black and white pictures liberally spread throughout the book. These help to demonstrate the stylistic changes that took place over the period, and this is one of the real strengths of the book. The Appendices contains lists for the numerous regiments and their various Commanders. In addition, there are separate lists of known uniform details dating mainly from the 1690’s onwards. The paucity of uniform details for specific regiments in the earliest period is frustrating but understandable as the concept of standard uniforms was in its infancy.
The only downside to this book is that it is designed to be part of an integrated series and as such struggles to stand on its own. The information contained in this volume is excellent and well worth reading, but it appears to be a case of go big or go home. The reader really needs to buy all four books to get a comprehensive description of the army as a whole, the organisation, uniforms and equipment that it fought with, and the conflicts that it fought in. Recommended for those who want a detailed description of the infantry of Louis XIV and a panoramic view of his early wars.
(Reviewed by Mike Huston)