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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter XXV. Marechal-De-Camp


In the autumn of 1632, Hepburn, with the Marquis of Hamilton, Captain Masham, and a few other soldiers of fortune, who had bid farewell to the German wars, arrived in London, which (instead of its great and dusky dome) had then the square Gothic tower of old St Paul’s Church, which had been recently repaired, after its first conflagration in 1561; and the same broad noble river— but spanned by the venerable bridge on whose battlements the heads of Wallace, Frazer, Seton, and many a Scottish hero, had mouldered in the sun and wind.

King Charles received the Marquis (who was one of his favourite peers) with the utmost affection a prince could show a subject, and also the gallant Hepburn, of whose achievements he had heard so frequently. It was probably at the palace of St James’s, where, in the preceding November, the King’s daughter, Mary, had been born, that the Marquis presented Hepburn to him.

"On his arrival at court,” says the historian of the British army, "his fame having preceded him, he was knighted;” but there is certain evidence that he obtained his spurs soon after he entered the service of Gustavus; yet, whether at the hand of that monarch, or by patent from King Charles, is unknown. So much doubt prevails as to this, that another writer states he was knighted by King James VI.; but that prince died in 1625, and we have shown that Hepburn did not arrive in London till the close of 1632, seven years after.

He appears to have resided in the English metropolis for some time, and, while there, to have become intimate with the compiler or editor of that very rare quarto work entitled “The Swedish Intelligencer, wherein, ovt of the trvest and choysest informations, are the famous actions of that warlike prince (Gustavus) led along, &c. Printed for Nath. Butter and Nicholas Bourne, 1632.”

In his preface to that remarkable record of the German wars, the editor (who is generally believed to have been either Sir Thomas Roe or William Watts of Caius College, Cambridge) informs us that his "care was to learne out and get acquaintance with such gentlemen as had been personally present in the actions” he relates. Though quaint and rude in its style, this work is interesting, as being written down from conversations the editor had with Sir John Hepburn, Lord Reay, and other Scottish officers who served the King of Sweden.

The discontents between Charles I. and the people of Scotland and England were at this time gradually fermenting, and the Puritans of London openly reviled him because, to gratify the clergy, he had ordered the repair of the half-ruined church of St Paul, the removal of the old church of St Gregory, and the demolition of various shops and houses for the extension of the edifice, all of which raised an immediate outcry against the superstitions of Popery—for so the ignorant and unthinking bigots of the time termed the reparation of that venerable bane. About the same time, Charles had proposed the complete restoration of the ancient cathedral church of St Andrews in Fifeshire, which had been so barbarously destroyed by Knox and a mob at the Reformation.

Considerable obscurity involves the actions of Hepburn during the few months of his sojourn in Britain; and thus it is impossible to state whether or not he visited his native village of Athelstaneford before making an offer of his services to the King of France—which he appears to have done before the close of 1632, and before King Charles proceeded to his coronation in Scotland— as early in the following year he obtained from Louis XIII. the command of a regiment composed of various old Scottish companies, which for some time had served independently in the army of France.

His new commission as colonel is dated 26th January 1633.

Father Louis Laguille, the Jesuit, mentions that Hepburn obtained the rank of marichal-de-camp on arriving in France. This appointment, which was first created by Henri IY. in 1593, (and was revived by the late Emperor after the Revolution,) invested the holder with the rank of a general officer, and he was second only to a lieutenant-general. It was his duty to see the army properly disposed of in camp or quarters; to be present at all movements that were to be made; to be the first to mount his charger, and the last to quit him. He commanded the left wing in all advances and attacks.

At this time there were many Scottish officers and soldiers in the French army, which was then at the summit of its chivalric spirit and military splendour. Among these the quaint old translator of Rabelais enumerates "Sir Andrew Gray, Sir John Seaton, Sir John Foulerton, (Campbell) the Earl of Irvine, Sir Patrick Murray, Colonels Erskine, Andrew Lindesay, Mowat, Morison, Thomas Hume, John Forbes, Livingstone, John Leslie, and others, all colonels of horse and foot under Louis XIII. of France.”

When Hepburn entered his service, Seaton was the oldest Scottish officer in it—having been a captain in the French Guards so early as 1608.

Many more than can be enumerated in these pages followed the oriflamme at this time, all Scotsmen of gallant spirit, and cadets of the oldest baronial families.

James Campbell, Lord Kintyre, (son of the Earl of Argyll,) afterwards created Earl of Irvine, commanded a regiment of infantry. Andrew, afterwards Lord Rutherford of Hunthill, commanded another. He became a lieutenant-general, and remained in the French service until the Restoration.

From the days of Charlemagne to those of Louis XIII. the French troops had always shown what they could achieve when properly led; and, at the period when Hepburn went to France, she had obtained a well-deserved pre-eminence over the rest of Europe in all military matters. Among the great masses of soldiery composing her armies at this period may be particularised the cuirassiers and archers of the Scottish Guard, all being gentlemen of the first families in Scotland, clad in white surcoats and gorgeous half armour of the brightest steel—a body whose origin was coeval with the Crusades, and whose name is associated with the most glorious days of France. They took precedence of all French troops, and were commanded by George Gordon, marquis of Huntly, called in France, le Marquis de Gourdon. They possessed innumerable privileges and immunities, concerning some infractions of which Lord Colville visited France by order of James VI. in 1623.

In the year 1643 there were borne on the lists of the French army two other Scottish regiments of guards— viz.:—

"Regiment des Gardes Eccossoises de treize compagmes, faisant ensemble 1500 hommes,
“Regiment des Gardes Eccossoises de 1700 hommes, en dix-sept compagnies arrivSes d'Eccosse.”

In that year M. de la Ferte-Imbaut bore the rank of Colonel-General des Ecossais. Both these corps were afterwards incorporated with Hepburn’s regiment, when it was commanded by Douglas, Earl of Dumbarton. In 1635, there were also the two Scottish regiments of Colonels Lesly and Ramsay.

The Gendarmes Ecossais wore coats of scarlet richly laced, and were still the first troop of the old gendarmerie. The price of a captaincy was a hundred and eighty thousand livres, that of a cornetcy sixty-two thousand livres —nearly double the sums required for similar commissions in any of the other troops. Patrick Gordon was their marechal-de-logis.

There were also those chivalric old infantry regiments called Vieux Corps, some of which were embodied so early as 1562, officered by the French chevaliers, who were then distinguished for their keen sense of honour and the splendour of their courage beyond all the noblesse of the Continent; and no troops in Europe surpassed in aspect and bearing the French Foot Guards, which were entirely composed of chosen men of France proper, and in which no stranger, not even a native of Savoy or Alsace, could hold a commission—consequently the greatest jealousy existed between them and the Swiss Guards.

Les Mousquetaires consisted of two companies raised in 1622, and were composed entirely of young men of noble family, who were commanded by the King in person: but Cardinal Mazarin afterwards added another company, as his own personal guards. Their captain was the Comte de Treville. The Gendarmes de la Garde were commanded by Franqois de l’Hopital, marshal of France.

Les Chevaux Legers de la Garde were a corps of two hundred chevaliers of Navarre, whose boast was that they had never lost either a banner or a kettle-drum. They were commanded by the Marshal de Schomberg, and, like the rest of the light horse, were armed with cabossets, or small helmets, light armour, and pistolettes.

There were four colonel-generals: one of French cavalry; another of German Reiters; a third of the infantry of France: the Marquis de Coslin was colonel-general of the Swiss; the Duke de Meilleraye was grand-master of Artillery; and the Chevalier Antoine de Ville, author of an excellent treatise on Fortification, was chief of the Engineers.

A strong force of half-savage Croatian and Hungarian cavalry was subsidised by Louis XII., and in these troops originated the hussars of other European armies. They were armed with the lance—a weapon which, according to the Count de Montecuculi, is "la reine des armes pour la cavalerie.” The dragoons, first raised by Marshal Brissac in 1600, wore buff coats having deep skirts, and open helmets with iron cheeks; but armour, being considered cumbrous, was, with the exception of the morion, back and breast plates, with tassettes, which were worn by pikemen, generally confined to the heavy horse and pistoleers.

The cavalry of this period were divided into Landers, wearing close casques, body armour, buff coats, cutting swords, pistols, flasks, and cartouch-boxes; Cuirassiers, similarly armed; Arquebusiers, in bnff coats, back, breast, and pot, with arquebusses two feet six inches long, touch-box, and pistols—each having a strap fastened to the stock of his piece, "by which, being on horseback, he hangeth it at his neck, keeping his burning match and the bridle in the left hand".

Some of the French cavalry had escopettes, which shot dead at five hundred paces.

The civil staff of every regiment consisted of a provost, clerk, chirurgeon, fourier de campement, and provant-master for provisions.

A blow with a drumstick, or being sent to the gamelle, (i.e.) a wooden bowl—meaning exclusion from mess,) were the punishments for slight offences among the soldiery; and death by the bullet for everything that involved a point of honour. If women of loose character were discovered in camp or quarters, they were subjected to the operation of les baguettes, and, with two drums beating the marionettes before them, were conducted beyond the outposts.

As colonel of a regiment, Hepburn wore armour of any style or decoration that pleased himself; and, amid the military splendour of the French army, could indulge without reprehension in that profusion and display which was so distasteful to the plain Gustavus Adolphus. The mail of a gentleman of that period was usually light, and exquisitely polished, cut, and gilded. A white silk scarf was worn over the shoulder of the French officers, and their hair hung in profusion upon their shoulders, and collars of rich lace, which were spread over gorgets of gilded steel. The hilts of their rapiers, the tops of their knee jack-boots, the housings of their horses and holsters, were fringed and tasselled with gold or silver; and nothing could be more brilliant and splendid than the aspect of a regiment of horse or foot, when the sun shone on all the glittering points of their equipment.

In France, Hepburn gained the friendship of the Cardinal Dukes of Richelieu and La Yalette, and he bears a prominent part in the letters and correspondence of these great churchmen. The former never mentions him without admiration, respect, and frequently affection. They had many interviews on military and other matters of public importance; for Richelieu enjoyed Hepburn’s lively conversation, frank manner, and his bold projects, or chimeras, as he called them. The Scots still enjoyed, as of old, the greatest favour at the court of Louis XIII., whose confessor was Father Gordon, (surnamed Lismoraeus,) previously Principal of the Jesuit College at Toulouse.

The long and friendly intercourse between Scotland and France was at this time so well established, by the ancient league of Robert II. and many an after treaty, that when Englishmen travelled to Paris they found it conducive both to their comfort and safety to pass for Scotsmen. The recollection of this remarkable alliance, which the Union destroyed, still lives in the southern provinces of France, where the ancient manners have been less corrupted by the taint of republicanism. "The appearance of the Highland regiments revived these recollections,” says General Stewart of Garth; "and when travelling through Gascony, Languedoc, and Provence in 1814, I generally found that the mention of my name met with a desire to know if I was from Scotland, accompanied by many observations on the friendly connection which so long subsisted between France and Scotland, concluding with an expression of regret at the interruption of that ancient intimacy.”

Hepburn’s new Scottish regiment was considerably above a thousand strong, and was principally composed of pikemen, whose gallant and soldierlike aspect was long remembered in France. Fier comme un Ecossaw "Proud as a Scotsman,” was an old and well-known saying among the French, when speaking of these haughty and spirited soldiers of fortune. One of those pikemen, John Middleton, distinguished himself on a hundred occasions; and, from being a poor private soldier, rose in future years to be Earl of Middleton, lieutenant-general of Scottish cavalry, governor of Edinburgh Castle, and died in command of the Scots and English troops at Tangiers in 1673; and it was ever his boast that he had first trailed a pike under the great Sir John Hepburn in Alsace and Lorraine.


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