Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
Order of the Fleur de Lys
The ‘Order’ of the Fleur de Lys is a regiment of Scottish mercenaries based primarily in France but serving across Europe. The title is purely honorific; it is not a chivalric or military order.
The order consisted of Scottish mercenaries originally serving King Charles VII in the 1420s. The king formed the Scottish Guard as his personal bodyguard in 1418, but more Scottish soldiers served the king than could be accomodated in Charles VII’s household. These Scots formed the Compagnie des gentilhommes Ecossais and wore the symbol of the fleur-de-lys on the left breast of their surcoats to show their loyalty to the French crown. The company later served René, the duc d’Anjou, in the 1440s and it was René, after inheriting the crown of the Kingdom of Naples, who conferred the title of ‘order’ on the Scots; the order claimed the chapel of the château d’Angers, one of René’s holdings, as its spiritual center and the colonel of the regiment was called the sovereign grandmaster, with the colonelcy restricted to members of the Montgomery, Sforza, or Medici families thereafter.
Despite possessing the trappings of a chivalric order, the Scots remained mercenaries, fighting for the duke of Milan in Serbia against the Turks, to restore the Serbian king to his throne. Despite having an Italian grandmaster for a time, the Scots still considered themselves loyal to the crown of France, and despite continuing service abroad in the subsequent centuries, the Order of the Fleur dy Lys continued to remain based in France.
The regiment is a mixed formation of cavalry and infrantry, consisting of carabiners and musketeers and piquiers. The companies of the regiment often serve independently from the others, such as the cavalry’s service to the Dutch in the first part of the 17th century.