The Carabiniers-à-Cheval, the penultimate regiment in this year’s project, have now been finished. They’ve been fun to do and have a look that is pleasingly unique. Italeri have, not for the first time, produced a terrific set with these figures. This was a set I bought ridiculously cheap a few years ago when my local hobby shop closed down, perhaps I should dedicate them to their once truly terrific model soldier department?!
Painting the Carabiniers white uniforms and their black horses was the biggest challenge. I like to think that the end result is satisfying but, looking at these pictures, I can only state that what seems to work rather well to the eye just isn’t being reproduced in photographic form. The white uniforms look too white and the black horses somehow look grey! They’re a little better than that though in ‘real life’ and you’ll just have to believe me…
As we move in to the final two months of the year, I now aim to do one more regiment, plus a final end-of-project special feature which I’ll reveal nearer the time!
Voici les Carabiniers:
Biography: 1e Carabiniers-à-Cheval [France]
In 1679, French cavalry regiments were required to have two carbine firing specialists in each company. Some years later, these carbine-wielding marksmen were grouped into dedicated carbine companies, one for each regiment. By 1693, the next logical step was to group them all into a dedicated regiment: The Royal Regiment of Carabiniers. By the time of the Seven Years War, it was named the Royal carabiniers de monsieur le Comte de Provence, and based in Strasbourg. In 1774, they became the Carabiniers de Monsieur. Two regiments of carabiniers were appeared in 1787 and, in an evolution from their original light cavalry role, were now designated as ‘heavies’, wearing blue coats and bicorns.
By the time of the Revolutionary Wars, they were now distancing their royalist heritage and wearing tall bearskins, effectively being Horse Grenadiers for a short while. The French Ministry of War ordered that the carabiniers must always be chosen from seasoned and reliable soldiers. After losing their Horse Grenadiers title, they continued to wear bearskins (inconveniently without any chinstraps) and blue coats sporting a scarlet trim for 17 years in total.
The Carabiniers-à-Cheval featured in many campaigns for Napoleon; they fought against the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz; and in the 1806/07 campaigns against Prussia and Russia (e.g at Friedland). In 1809, with the temporary absence of the Guard cavalry, the 1er Carabiniers Regiment formed Napoleon’s escort. During this campaign however, at Aspen-Essling and Wagram, Austrian lancers they encountered hurt the regiment sufficiently for Napoleon to decide to equip them with metal helmets and cuirasses covering both front and back. This change also stipulated the adoption of a dramatic all-white uniform and brass sheathing on the cuirass plates. On their heads was a romanesque helmet sporting a red woollen crest.
The Carabinier regiments traditionally rode on large black horses. The Russian campaign restricted the availability of horses thereafter such that other colours had to be ridden in compromise, albeit on the best mounts available. They distinguished themselves at Borodino in 1812, and later at Dresden and Leipzig in 1813. Fully engaged in the defence of France at Montmirail, Craonne and Reims, they survived the first restoration of the monarchy in 1814 mostly thanks to their traditional royalist heritage.
The regiment missed the action at Quatre Bras but at Waterloo both regiments played a part. They were attached to Kellerman’s 3rd Cavalry Corps, alongside the 2nd and 3rd Cuirassiers, each fielding a little over 400 men. For much of the day, they were inactive. In late afternoon, when Marshall Ney ordered mass cavalry attacks against the Allied squares, Kellerman specifically ordered the Carabiniers a Cheval to hold back and remain out of the carnage. Ney eventually found them sheltering in a hollow and, in a rage, ordered them to join the main cavalry attack. These fruitless charges on Mont St Jean ridge caused them heavy casualties and the defeat at Waterloo proved to be the denouement for both the regiment and its emperor.
Notable Battles: 1792: Valmy, Austerlitz, Friedland, Wagram, La Moskowa, Leipzig, Waterloo.