Rene Chartrand, The Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643 – 1715 Volume 3: The Cavalry of Louis XIV (Helion, 2020)
Helion, via the talents of Rene Chartrand, brings us the third volume on Louis XIV’s Army and the wars they fought. It describes the historical events from 1685 through to the end of the Wars of the league of Augsburg and the cavalry from 1643 through to 1715.
The author starts with the persecution of the Huguenots by Louis XIV, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and the impact that this had on the French and Dutch armies, with large numbers of civilians and soldiers fleeing France. He then rolls straight into the Jacobite Wars in Ireland pausing briefly to mention the Scottish Jacobite’s before coming to rest at the end of the Wars of the League of Augsburg. It is a bit of a whistle stop tour, but it covers the ground in an easy to understand manner and provides background for the main focus of the book, which is the description of the French cavalry.
The book comes into its own now, and Chartrand starts by covering the development of the Gendarmerie de France, which formed a brigade sitting between the line cavalry and the Guard. The organisation, weapons, equipment, and uniforms of the Line Cavalry, Dragoons, and Hussars are all covered in sequence, and there is a real wealth of detail in these chapters which will be of interest to many. There are a couple of chapters outwith the main theme: one covering the costs of the Kings Wars, indicating what a smooth operator Louis could be, and the other describing the much vaunted Wild Geese and their place in the French army.
The book, as with all the others in the series, is supported by a large number of illustrations. There are 32 colour plates, 5 of which were specially commissioned for the book and drawn by Ed Dovey, and very nice they are too. There are far too many period black and white illustrations for me to count, but they have been carefully selected and I found that they were the ones that I studied the most. The Appendices are a bit of a mixed bag but contain some useful information, including a list of uniform colours for the more important Line Cavalry and Dragoon Regiments.
Chartrand knows his stuff and he is able to share this with the reader in an easy to digest format. Recommended for those already familiar with the army of Louis XIV who either want more detailed information on the organisation of the French cavalry across the period, a wider view of the history of the wars of Louis XIV, or a bit of both.
(Reviewed by Mike Huston)