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The Story of the Royal Scots
Chapter III - Mingled French and English Service, 1636-1683


Hepburn’s Successors—Le Regiment de Douglas—The Conde-Turenne Campaigns—Battle of Dunkirk Dunes— Recall to England—Pepys and the Regiment—Further Foreign Campaigns—Two Battalions—End of French Service—The Grenadier Company—Tangier, 1680-1683.

Not long before the death of Sir John Hepburn he had 1636 “shared with Cardinal de la Valette the credit of revictualling Hagenau” and “not unconscious of his own merit [this is a pretty touch], he asked that Metternich might be considered his prisoner, as the four thousand crowns ransom would be of service to him.”

At the same time he made the modest claim that Le Regiment d’Hebron should take precedence of all others—hence the irritation of the Picardy regiment. Louis XIII was faced with the risk of losing this powerful and successful Scot unless his requests were granted, and gave in, but when the Saverne musketeer fired his fatal bullet, the ransom had not been paid over.

As Hepburn lay a-dying he found strength to ask that the four thousand crowns should go to his kinsman, George Hepburn. It has been said that the leadership of the regiment devolved on Sir John’s brother, Lieut.-Colonel James Hepburn, but he was killed shortly before in the same campaign.

It is probable therefore that the second colonel was George, an unpopular appointment, for the men wanted Lord James Douglas, a Catholic like Sir John, whereas George was a Huguenot. The second Hepbum, however, fell in action in 1637 as he was leading a storming party at Chatillon, and Lord James succeeded him as third colonel. He was the third son of the first Marquess of Douglas, and re-named the old corps “le Regiment de Douglas.” In the following two years, 1638-1639, the Scots were fighting against the Spaniards and took part in the siege of St. Omer and other operations in Picardy and the Spanish Netherlands. The bond between the regiment and its national head, Charles I, cannot have been very strong, because the King’s attempt to force the English Liturgy on Scotland in 1640 and the Civil War which began in England in the following year did not result in the recall of Douglas’s men to their own country.

Indeed, the wars of Louis XIV against Austria and Spain (Louis XIII had died in 1643) resulted in a new Scots regiment going to France under the command of Colonel Andrew Rutherford, afterwards Earl of Tcviot. They were called the Regiment of Scots Guards—a mere civility, for they never served near the royal person. Their doings must here be recorded briefly, because in 1660 they were incorporated into Douglas’s regiment, and thus are part of the ancestry of The Royal Scots. Their first duty was to aid in the relief of Roucroy, a town in the Ardennes which was under siege by the Spaniards, and soon afterwards they joined in the siege of Thionville on the Moselle, which fell on August 10, 1643.

Meanwhile Douglas’s regiment had gone to Piedmont and was serving under the Prince of Savoy. They were at the siege of Turin, which began August 14,1643, and closed with the surrender of the city on September 27, a success in which Rutherford’s Scots Guards also took part. Douglas remained in garrison for a time, but was back in Picardy the next year, serving under the Duke of Orleans, and helped in the successful siege of Gravelines. In 1645 Lord James Douglas fell in a skirmish near Douai, and was succeeded in the colonelcy by his eldest brother, Archibald, later created Earl of Angus and Ormond. His command was never more than formal, and in 1653 he resigned in favour of his half-brother, Lord George Douglas, afterwards Earl of Dumbarton. But this is an anticipation.

Although the Treaty of Munster in 1648 brought peace to most of Europe, France and Spain were still at loggerheads, and Louis XIV had a quarrel with his own Parliament on hand as well.

Douglas’s regiment took part in the King’s siege of Paris, but in 1650 it was in parlous case, for Louis’ treasury was empty and the Scots went without their pay. Meanwhile Charles I had been martyred and Charles II had signed the Scottish Covenant. A campaign in their native land looked promising, and Douglas’s and the other Scots regiments proposed to leave Louis. The Grand Monarch declined to lose their services, and promised them regular pay. Had they been released, Charles the Second’s campaign might have gone to a very different issue, and the battle of Worcester (1651) might have ended in the defeat of the Parliament, instead of being the “crowning mercy.” But there was ample active service for them in France. The old relationship between the regiment in Hepburn’s day and Turenne, then little more than a lad, was renewed. The Scots served under the great marshal in 1652 in the struggles against the Prince de Conde and his Spanish Allies. They had their fill of street fighting against barricades in the suburbs of Paris, and would have overcome the insurgents if the city had not opened its gates and given sanctuary to them. During the winter the Douglas regiment lay siege to Bar-le-Duc, and, when the town surrendered, an Irish corps in the Spanish service came over to the French and joined the regiment of the Duke of York, afterwards James II. There was no resting in winter quarters for the Scots in 1652. Supported by their late foes, the Irish of the York regiment, they attacked Ligny, but a mine operation failed, and when they crossed the ice-covered moat and failed to mount the breach the ice broke and both regiments had heavy losses. However, a day later they took the town.

The development of military costume at this period is shown in Fig. 2, which is based on a series of plates published at Paris in 1647. The musketeer still carries a rest for his weapon. The breeches are not so full as in 1633, and feathers are profusely used both in the broad-brimmed hat and the helmet. The pikemen were still an important branch, but the proportionate number of pikes to muskets steadily diminished during the last half of the seventeenth century, and the pike finally disappeared about 1705, when the ring-socket bayonet became established. Thereafter infantry battalions consisted of musketeers only. We know from the State Papers that in 1667 the uniform of the regiment was red and white.

The years 1653-1655 passed with casual fighting, and 1656-1658 in service in remote garrisons, for good and practical reasons on King Louis’ part. In 1655 he had made peace with the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, and this drove Charles II to join with

Louis’ enemy, Spain. After the battle of Worcester, many cavaliers, to the total of several regiments, had gone into the French service, and these now transferred their swords to Spain.

Louis XIV feared that his old Scots regiments, Douglas’s, Rutherford’s and others, would follow their example, so he marooned them where they could do no mischief. There is no record of their taking any part in the joint operations carried out by Sir John Reynolds for Cromwell and by Turenne for Louis about St. Venant and Mardyk in 1657, when the Spaniards had somewhat the worst of it. Cannon says that Douglas’s regiment took no part in this or in the fighting of 1658, but there is ample evidence that they were at the last and most important of the battles, that of Dunkirk Dunes. It seems that Cromwell gave Lord George Douglas permission to recruit for his regiment in Scotland, and Mr. Fortescue says that the old Garde Ecossais fought alongside Douglas’s. He gives no authority, and it is possible that the guard regiment was Rutherford’s, already mentioned (p. 22).

However that may be, Douglas’s regiment lined up with Turenne’s French troops on the sandy dunes facing the Spaniards, commanded by Don John of Austria, Condi’s Frenchmen and five regiments, Irish, Scots and English mingled, under the command of James, Duke of York. The old guard of English Royalism had turned out for its last stroke at Cromwell and his policy, but it did not avail. After Turenne had driven the Spaniards and their Allies like chaff before the wind, one group of three hundred among the dunes refused to surrender. The French officer assured them that resistance was hopeless, but it was only when they saw the Spaniards in full retreat that these last men of Charles the First’s Guard regiments laid down their arms. Dunkirk fell soon after, and the English and Scots went on victoriously to the taking of Bruges, Dixmude, Fumes, and, last of all, Ypres. The assault there was so brilliant that Turenne embraced Morgan, the English leader, and “called him one of the bravest captains of the time.” Unhappily, there is no record as to the precise part taken by Douglas’s regiment in this final effort of Cromwell’s military career. The great Protector’s death threw everything into confusion, and the regiment was left kicking its heels in Dunkirk.

The negotiations leading up to the Restoration and Conde’s submission to Louis XIV brought a peace which must have been very galling to this hardy body of Scots, who had lived by the sword as a distinguished fighting unit since Hepburn reconstituted them as a regiment in 1633. King Louis reduced them to eight companies as part of a general policy of peace retrenchment, and they went to garrison Avennes in 1660. It was doubtless at this time that Rutherford’s corps of Scottish Guards, first raised in 1643, was incorporated into the Douglas regiment, which had only a year to wait for a striking change in fortune.

The placing of the Douglas regiment, or, as we may by some anticipation call them, The Royal Scots, on the English establishment was the result of a rising of the Fifth-Monarchy men in January 1661, the last flicker of defeated fanaticism. Monk’s regiment broke it up, and the incident ensured their continuance as Guards (afterwards Coldstreams) in the new standing army. The Grenadiers were raised, and Douglas’s regiment was called to England. Mr. Fortescue uses the words, “Louis the Fourteenth was requested to restore to him (i. e. to Charles II), the regiment of Douglas . . . and this famous corps, having duly arrived in the year 1662, became The Royal or Scots regiment, and took the place which it still occupies at the head of the infantry of the line.” If The Royal Scots had not been a British regiment since 1633, hw could Charles have asked Louis to restore them? If they were regarded merely as a corps of Scotsmen serving France to suit their own purposes, Charles might have asked for them as a loan or a gift, but not as a restoration. The whole incident goes far to prove that The Royal Scots are in fact senior to all the Foot Guards, as well as to all line regiments.

And there is further evidence. In 1661, on the breaking out of the Fifth-Monarchy trouble, the Queen’s regiment (the old Second) was embodied. If at that time The Royal Scots had not been regarded as British, the Queen’s are unlikely to have resigned to them the proud title of First Foot.

It seems safe to assume that Douglas’s regiment arrived in England in 1661, but as the new standing army was more than sufficient without it for all purposes which the King dared avow, it was ordered back to the service of France in 1662.

During its short stay in England it seems to have been raised to two thousand three hundred, but in 1663 it was reduced again to eight hundred.

In 1665 England declared war against Holland, and Louis XIV went to the aid of the Dutch. Charles recalled the regiment once more, and Colonel Lord George Douglas, on March 1,1666, was in Paris demanding liberty for his regiment to return to England. Apparently there was no interning of potential enemies

in the seventeenth century, for in the following June the regiment landed in Rye, eight hundred strong. The English Government gave them back-pay from June 10, which was doubtless the day on which they gave up King Louis’ service. Four hundred men were added to the regiment’s establishment, and it was quartered at Chatham until about July of 1667.

Pepys gives us a dramatic, and it must be confessed an uncomplimentary, sketch of the Scots’ behaviour when the Dutch fleet fired on Chatham. On June 30 he met Lord George Douglas with Lord Brouncker, and afterwards heard that the Scots, like the English, had run at Sheerness.

“ . . . but it is excused that there was no defence for them towards the sea, that so the very beach did fly in their faces as the bullets come, and annoyed them. ... It seems very remarkable to me, and of great honour to the Dutch, that those of them that did go on shore at Gillingham, though they went in fear of their lives, and were some of them killed; and notwithstanding their provocation at Schelling, yet killed none of our people nor plundered their houses . . . and, which is to our eternal disgrace, that what my Lord Douglas’s men, who came after them, found there, they plundered and took all away . . . our own soldiers are far more terrible to those people of the country-towns than the Dutch themselves."

It would seem that the long habit of freebooting in the foreign wars had somewhat dulled their sense of the difference between meum and tuum, and that civilians, whether friends or enemies, had come to be regarded mainly as providers of pleasant gear. Later on that day Pepys “did hear the Scotch march beat by the drums before the soldiers, which is very odde.” Their last station in England seems to have been Rye, whence they disembarked for France on October 12, and went to Lille. It is evident that Charles and Louis had patched things up before the Peace of Breda in 1668, for the evidence of the State Papers makes it quite clear that the regiment left in '67, though Douglas did not follow until April 1668.

When Charles joined Louis in 1672 in the war against Holland, the regiment was increased to two battalions—Douglas and his officers had been recruiting in Scotland from 1669—and they fought once more under their old friend Turenne. The Duke of Monmouth was possibly in command of the contingent from England, for he spoke before Sedgemoor of the Scots having served under him. They did well at the siege of Grave, and when the town surrendered many English who had been fighting for the Dutch gladly entered Douglas’s service. In 1673 they were at the siege of Maestricht, and when later in the year Charles II made peace with the Dutch he left some of his regiments, including Douglas’s, at the disposal of Louis, although Douglas’s was at that time on the English (which was not the same as the Scottish) establishment. This was not popular with those most concerned, Douglas’s men, and desertions were frequent. However, once more under Turenne, they fought splendidly in 1674 over the old ground where Hepburn had campaigned so well—Heidelberg, Landau, Mannheim, Molsheim and Saverne. It is interesting to note that they were brigaded with Hamilton’s Scots and the English regiments of Monmouth and of Churchill. The latter, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, was learning his warfare in a brilliant school. Once more the regiment was denied the comfort of resting in winter quarters, and took part in the siege of Dachstein in January 1675, when the senior major, whose name has not survived, was killed the day before the town surrendered.

On March 9, Lord George Douglas was created Earl of Dumbarton, but the regiment continued bearing its old name of Le Regiment de Douglas while it served in France. There must have been great sorrow in the ranks on July 27 when they were at Treves. On that day the veteran Marshal Turenne, who had so often led the Scots to victory, was killed by a cannon ball as he was reconnoitring the enemy’s position. The regiment especially distinguished itself in the siege of Treves that followed. The Marshal de Crequi had succeeded to the supreme command, and was unable to keep his French troops in hand. They wanted to surrender, but the Scots, more Roman than the Romans, stood by their leader and put up a most desperate defence. Treves fell in September, but Louis XIV sent them his especial thanks for their loyalty. It is probable that during all this year of 1675 there had been friction between French and Scots, for a report brought to London as early as January told of a fracas “about their quarters, and a great deal of mischief was done on both sides.” It may well be that Douglas’s men were gey ill to live wi’.

In 1676 they were fighting again alongside Hamilton’s men on the Rhine, with the French in much inferior force. The Germans were too many for them, and falling on the French rearguard near that town of ill omen, Saverne, where Hepburn had fallen, drove them through the Alsace pass in great confusion.

Once more the Scots stayed a dibacle. Two battalions (whether Douglas’s or Hamilton’s does not appear) poured such a withering fire into the German horse that they drove them back and annihilated several squadrons, but Sir George Hamilton paid for the success with his life.

The next year, 1677, was a crucial period in the history of Douglas's regiment, for it was its last in the service of France, but this final campaign has its especial interest. Once more the British troops were under the command of Marshal de Crequi and included two squadrons of Royal English Horse, a battalion of Monmouth’s, and Douglas's drawn up in two battalions. This is the second definite reference to two battalions, but docs not mean that the regiment was yet formally separated into two in its organization. This followed in 1686, and is a unique distinction for the First Foot, which alone of all English infantry regiments has never had less than two battalions. If we take a long view of this event, it may be regarded as foreshadowing the ultimate military system established during last century, viz. that of linked battalions.

We need not follow the regiment in its last fighting near the Rhine, which ended in November 1677.

The year 1677 marked a turning-point in the policy of England, too long a cat’s-paw of Louis XIV. Charles II, much as he had relied on the secret pension from the French king, was driven by national feeling to range himself with the Dutch against Louis' pretensions. The British troops were recalled, and on January 29, 1678, Lord Dumbarton went to France ”to bring away his regiment.” Louis raised a punctilio about their departure, and the first companies seem not to have reached England until March n, or the last until September, on the first of which month they mustered in Hertfordshire, twenty-one companies strong. Incorporated in Dumbarton’s regiment—as it was now called—were the remains of another Scots regiment which had been raised for the French service by Lord James Douglas,1 brother of Lord Dumbarton.

It is, as Pepys would say, pretty to see how the old regiment went on from strength to strength, absorbing weaker elements continually, and always strengthening its own personality in the process.

This year of return was also marked by a change in organization and equipment. A company of Grenadiers was added under the command of Captain Robert Hodges. As John Evelyn said with truth, this was “a new kind of soldier,” begotten by new methods of warfare and the increasing use of field fortifications. They were strong picked men armed like other musketeers, with the addition of a pouch suspended from a broad buff belt which passed over the left shoulder, and containing three hand grenades.

The ordinary broad-brimmed hat of the period was replaced (in the Grenadier company) by the high conical cap, which looks so imposing in old pictures. Its practical merit was that it enabled the musket to be unslung rather more readily, but its aesthetic merit no doubt counted a good deal in days when the pomp and circumstance of war gave abiding pleasure. Even so, its height must have made undue difficulty in unslinging the musket, for it gave way not long after to a cloth cap.

Nathan Brooks’ Army List of 1684 says that the regiment was “distinguished by red coats lined with white; sashes white, with a white fringe; breeches and stockings light grey; grenadiers distinguished by caps lined white, the lion's face proper crowned,” etc. (see Fig. 3).

It is worth noting that our regiments in the trenches in France have lately renewed the Grenadier tradition by the use of hand-thrown bombs to an extent not previously known in modern warfare.

In 1679 the regiment was transferred to the Irish establishment and landed at Kinsale in April. It then consisted, when at full strength, of tw'enty-one companies, each including three sergeants, three corporals, two drummers, and fifty privates. There were eighty-two officers, excluding the staff officers, i. e. adjutant, chaplain, chirurgeon and his mate, quarter-master, drum major and piper major. The colonel was a Roman Catholic, and his commission was therefore in abeyance; meanwhile he was appointed to the command in Scotland.

Nothing interesting happened in Ireland, and in 1680 the siege of Tangier by the Moors led to sixteen companies being shipped thither. Those who sailed in H.M.S. Phoenix were pursued by a “Turk’s mann of war of about 22 or 24 gunnes,” but a shot from the Ruby and the sight of the English ensign caused her to haul off. Tangier had been a troublesome possession since it came to the English crown as part of the dowry of Charles the Second’s Portuguese consort, as readers of Pepys’ Diary well know. The Moors were not only brave but scientific soldiers, and their siege works were skilfully contrived. Eighty-four of the veteran Scots made a brilliant sally on May 12 to rescue the garrison of an outlying fort which was to be blown up. The Moorish army lay between. The men from the fort lost a captain and one hundred and twenty men, and only forty-four succeeded in joining the rescuing Scots, who themselves lost fifteen killed, and their gallant leader, Captain Hume, was wounded.

After four months’ peace the struggle began again in September, when the Grenadier company in particular behaved themselves “very bravely.” Their hatchets were pretty weapons in a hand-to-hand fight. Major Hackett was then in command of the regiment, and the struggle continued with little intermission until October 27, when a general sally against the Moorish lines was crowned with success. It was a desperate business. The story is long and lively, but it has been told by Colonel Davis and retold in the Records, so it need not be repeated here. Dumbarton’s bore the brunt of the fighting, and the casualties were very heavy.

The Moors were glad to make terms, and peace continued until the British ended their occupation of Tangier in 1683. Meanwhile the King had no quarrel for his faithful Scots to prosecute, so they enlivened the weariness of garrison duty by private bickerings. There were duels between officers and bloody fracas between men: also questions of precedence between the governor and the officers of Dumbarton’s, which led to lively argument.

After the demolition of the Mole, the forts and the town, a long and laborious business, the garrison sailed for England, Dumbarton’s crowned with glory gained by fighting under new conditions in a new continent. The regiment reached England in the winter of 1683-1684, and the five companies which had remained in Ireland since 1680 came over to join the sixteen from foreign service.

In 1678 the regiment was in some danger of disbandment. In the Proceedings of the House of Lords, December 16,1678, upon a Bill for disbanding some of the Forces, there appears in the list the Regiment of Foot of George, Earl of Dumbarton. Happily the Lords did not use the besom of destruction.


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