Grand Constable of France

The Grand Constable of France (French: Grand Connétable de France, from Latin comes stabuli for 'count of the stables'), was the First Officer of the Crown, one of the original five Great Officers of the Crown of France (along with seneschal, chamberlain, butler, and chancellor) and Commander in Chief of the King's army. He, theoretically, as Lieutenant-general to the King, outranked all nobles in the realm, and was second-in-command only to the King of France.

The Connétable de France was also responsible for military justice and served to regulate the Chivalry. His jurisdiction was called the connestablie (or in modern French orthography which sticks closer to the correct pronunciation: connétablie).

The office was established by King Philip I in 1060 AD, with Alberic becoming the first Constable. The office was abolished in 1627, with an edict, by Cardinal Richelieu, upon the death of François de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguières, in order to strengthen the immediate authority of the King over his army.

The position was officially replaced by the purely ceremonial title "Dean of Marshals" (Doyen des maréchaux), who was in fact the most senior "Marshal of France" (Maréchal de France); as the word doyen is used in French mainly in the sense of "the eldest".[1]

The later title Marshal General of France or more precisely "Marshal General of the King's camps and armies" (Maréchal général des camps et armées du Roi) was bestowed on the most outstanding military leaders. The recipient had command authority over all the French armies and garrisons who were engaged in war, and was senior to the Maréchaux de France, but had none of the extended political powers of the earlier "Constable of France".

Jean Fouquet - Remise de l'épée de connetable à Bertrand Duguesclin - Enluminure (XVe siècle)
2 October 1369: Charles V of France presents the sword Joyeuse to the Constable Bertrand du Guesclin, miniature by Jean Fouquet

Badge of office

Constable of France sword-J 26-IMG 1795-gradient
Constable of France sword, on display at the Musée de l'Armée at Les Invalides, Paris.

The badge of office was a highly elaborate sword called Joyeuse, after the legendary sword of Charlemagne. Joyeuse was a sword made with fragments of different swords and used in the Sacre of the French Kings since at least 1271. It was contained in a blue scabbard embellished with royal symbol, the fleur-de-lis, in column order from hilt to point. Traditionally, the constable was presented with the sword on taking his office by the King himself.[2]


After the abolition of the office of Sénéchal in 1191, the Connétable became the most important officer in the army, and as First Officer of the Crown, he ranked in ceremonial precedence immediately after the peers. He had the position of Lieutenant-general of the King within the kingdom. The constable had under his command all military officers, including the powerful maréchaux; he was also responsible for the financing of the army, and administering military justice. The official name of the jurisdiction was la connétablie (the constabulary), which he exercised with the assistance of the Maréchaux de France (Marshals of France). This paralleled the Court of the Lord Constable, later called curia militaris of Court of Chivalry, which existed in England at that time.[3]

Persons subordinate to the Constable of France

  • Marshal of France (Maréchal de France). However, during exceptional times the Marshal of France could be senior to the Constable, depending on the decisions of the King
  • Colonel-general - a special category of general in the Royal French army, commanding all the regiments of the same branch of service (i.e. Cavalry, Dragoons, Infantry et al.)
  • General
  • Lieutenant-general - the highest regular general officer rank of the French army to which a career army officer could be promoted on the basis of seniority and merit, and not noble blood
  • Maréchal de camp (literally (Military) Camp Marshal), not to be confused with Field Marshal) - the lowest general officer rank, in later times renamed Major-général and equivalent to the present-day général de brigade (brigadier-general)
  • Porte-Oriflamme - a prestigious honorary position, not an army rank, which gave the right to carry the King's royal banner (called Oriflamme) into battle
  • Grand Master of Crossbowmen (Grand-Maître des Arbalétriers du Roi) who was in charge of all archers in the army
  • Grand Master of Artillery (Grand-Maître de l'Artillerie royale). From the beginning of the 17th century, the Grand Master of the Artillery became a Great Officer of the Crown an immediate subordinate of the King and was no longer under the command of the Constable.


  • The title "Lieutenant-general of the Realm" (Lieutenant général du royaume) was not a military rank, but a royal appointment. It was bestowed by the King of France during times of crisis (civil war, a severe illness of the King, war with other realms such as England etc.) on a royal prince of the blood of his choice; who thus became the Commanding general of the entire kingdom, in effect, with supreme command over the civil service, the army and even the Connétable de France, until the moment the King chose to take back the supreme authority in his own hands.[4]

Constables of France

Note that there are gaps in the dates as the position was not always filled following the demise of its occupant.

Constables of the Kings of France

The Capétien Dynasty

The Valois Dynasty

The Valois Angoulême Dynasty

The Bourbons

First French Empire

During the Consulate regime (1799-1804), the deposed Bourbon dynasty, through the Comte d'Artois, allegedly offered Napoléon Bonaparte, at that time First Consul of the Republic, the title of "Constable of France" if he would restore the Bourbons as Kings of France. Bonaparte declined the offer. However, in 1808, Emperor Napoléon I (since 1804) did himself appoint the Grand Dignitaries of the French Empire (Grands Dignitaires de l'Empire Français), among them his younger brother Louis Bonaparte, (in 1806 King of Holland by decision of his brother) as Constable, and Marshal of the Empire Louis Alexandre Berthier, the French Army Chief of Staff and Prince of Neuchâtel as Vice-Constable. Both titles were of a purely honorific nature, and disappeared with the Napoleonic regime's fall.


If I Were King, 1938, with François Villon (played by Ronald Colman), who was appointed by Louis XI, King of France (played by Basil Rathbone) to be Constable of France for one week.

Various versions of Shakespeare's play Henry V depict Constable Charles d'Albret, Comte de Dreux, who was appointed by Charles VI of France and was killed in the Battle of Agincourt (1415). He is played by Leo Genn in the 1944 film, by Richard Easton in the 1989 film, and by Maxime Lefrancois in the 2012 film. In the 1944 film he dies in personal combat with King Henry. In the 1989 film he is depicted as falling from his horse into the mud (historical tradition holds he was drowned in the mud due to the weight of his armour, disabled by having his horse fall on him). In the 2012 film he is shot by a longbowman after stabbing the Duke of York in the back in woodland away from the main battle.

See also


  1. ^ Le petit Larousse 2013, p361
  2. ^ p172, Slater, Stephen, The Complete Book of Heraldry (Lorenz, 2002), ISBN 0-7548-1062-3
  3. ^
  4. ^ Le petit Larousse 2013, p629
  5. ^ Richard Vaughan, Charles the Bold, (Boydell Press, 2002) 250-251.

External links

Battle of Caen (1346)

The Battle of Caen on 26 July 1346 was the assault on the French-held town by elements of an invading English army under King Edward III as a part of the Hundred Years' War. The English army numbered 12,000–15,000, and part of it, nominally commanded by the Earls of Warwick and Northampton, prematurely attacked the town. Caen was garrisoned by 1,000–1,500 soldiers and an unknown, but large, number of armed townsmen, commanded by Raoul, the Count of Eu, the Grand Constable of France. The town was captured in the first assault; over 5,000 of the ordinary soldiers and townspeople were killed and a few nobles were taken prisoner. The town was then sacked for five days.

The assault was part of the Chevauchée of Edward III, which had started a month earlier when the English landed in Normandy. The French failed to intercept the English transports at sea and were taken by surprise, with their main army of over 15,000 men in Gascony. The English were virtually unopposed and devastated much of Normandy before assaulting Caen.

Five days after storming the city the English marched to the River Seine. By 12 August they were 20 miles (32 kilometres) from Paris. After turning north they heavily defeated the French at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August. Subsequently, the English commenced the successful siege of Calais, which had a significant effect on the remainder of the war.

Battle of Calais

The Battle of Calais was an ambush staged in the early morning of 1 January 1350, during the Hundred Years' War, by English troops in the occupied French city of Calais against an unsuspecting French force which was attempting to take the city by stealth. The French commander, the knight Geoffrey de Charny, had bribed Amerigo of Pavia, an officer of the city garrison, to open a gate for them, despite there being a truce in force between France and England. The English had been forewarned by Amerigo, and their king, Edward III, personally led his household knights and the Calais garrison in a surprise counter-attack. The French were routed by this smaller force, with significant losses and all of their leaders captured.

Later that day, Edward III dined with the highest-ranking captives, treating them with royal courtesy except for Charny, whom he taunted with having abandoned his chivalric principles by both fighting during a truce and by attempting to purchase his way into Calais rather than fight. As Charny was considered a paragon of knightly behaviour and was the author of several books on chivalry, the accusations struck deep; they were frequently repeated in subsequent English propaganda. Two years later, having been ransomed from English captivity, Charny was placed in charge of a French army on the Calais front. He used it to storm a small fortification commanded by Amerigo, who was taken captive to Saint-Omer and publicly tortured to death.

Battle of Sluys

The Battle of Sluys (; Dutch pronunciation: [slœys]), also called the Battle of l'Ecluse, was a naval battle fought on 24 June 1340 between England and France, in the roadstead of the port of Sluys (French Écluse), on a since silted-up inlet between Zeeland and West Flanders. The English fleet of 120–150 ships was led by Edward III of England and the 230-strong French fleet by the Breton knight Hugues Quiéret, Admiral of France, and Nicolas Béhuchet, Constable of France. It was one of the opening engagements of the Hundred Years' War.

Edward sailed from the River Orwell on 22 June and encountered the French in Sluys harbour. The French bound their ships into three lines, forming large floating fighting platforms. The English fleet spent some time manoeuvring to gain the advantage of wind and tide. The delay caused the French ships to be driven to the east of their starting positions and to become entangled with each other. Béhuchet and Quiéret ordered the ships to be separated and the fleet attempted to move back to the west, against the wind and the tide. While the French were in this disorganised state the English attacked.

The English were able to manoeuvre against the French and defeat them in detail; with most of the French ships being captured. They lost 16,000–20,000 men killed, against slight losses to the English. The battle gave the English fleet naval supremacy in the English Channel. However, they were unable to take strategic advantage of this and their success barely interrupted French raids on English territories and shipping. Operationally the battle allowed the English army to land and to then besiege the French town of Tournai.

Château de Vizille

The Château de Vizille is a castle in the French town of Vizille near Grenoble. It is one of the most prestigious and important castles of the Dauphiné Region. Traditionally since the 14th century the Dauphiné was the homeland of the inheritor of the French throne. Today the Château de Vizille houses the Musée de la Révolution française.


Connétable or Connetable may refer to:

Connetable (Gatchina), an obelisk and square in Gatchina, Russia

Connétable (Jersey and Guernsey), elected heads of the Parishes in Jersey and Guernsey islands

Constable (French: Connétable)

Grand Constable of France, the First Officer of the Crown of France


Copertino (Italian pronunciation: [koperˈtiːno]; historical English: Cupertino; Salentino: Cupirtinu [kʊpɪɾˈtiːnʊ]) is a town and comune in the province of Lecce in the Apulia region of south-east Italy.

Crécy campaign

The Crécy campaign was a large-scale raid (chevauchée) conducted by an English army throughout northern France in 1346, which devastated the French countryside on a wide front and culminated in the eponymous Battle of Crécy. It was part of the Hundred Years' War. The campaign began on 12 July 1346, with the landing of English troops in Normandy, and ended with the capitulation of Calais on 3 August 1347. The English army was led by King Edward III, and the French by King Philip VI.

Edward was under pressure from the English Parliament to end the war either by negotiation or with a victory. As his forces gathered, Edward vacillated as to where in France he would land. Eventually he decided to sail for Gascony, to succour the Duke of Lancaster, who was facing the much larger main French army. Hampered by contrary winds, Edward instead made a surprise landing on the nearest part of France, the northern Cotentin Peninsula.

The English devastated much of Normandy, and stormed and sacked Caen, slaughtering the population. They then raided the suburbs of Rouen before cutting a swath along the left bank of the Seine to Poissy, 20 miles from Paris. Turning north, the English became trapped in territory which the French had denuded of food. They escaped by fighting their way across the Somme against a French blocking force. Two days later, on ground of their choosing, the English inflicted a heavy defeat on the French at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346, before moving on to besiege Calais. After an eleven-month siege, which stretched both countries' financial and military resources to the limit, the town fell.

Shortly afterwards, the Truce of Calais was agreed; it ran for nine months to 7 July 1348, but was extended repeatedly over the years until it was formally set aside in 1355. Fighting continued during the truce, but not on the same scale as during the Chevauchée. Calais served as an English entrepôt into northern France that was held for over two hundred years.

Frederick I, Duke of Lorraine

Frederick I (French: Ferry or Ferri) (c. 1143 – 7 April 1206) was the duke of Lorraine from 1205 to his death. He was the second son of Matthias I and Bertha (also called Judith), daughter of Frederick II, Duke of Swabia. He succeeded his brother, Simon II, who had already given him the county of Bitche in 1176 and had recognised him over the northern, germanophone half of Lorraine by the Treaty of Ribemont of 1179. Judith had wanted him to succeed to all their father's inheritance, but a three-year civil war only secured him Bitche and a half-portion.

Simon abdicated to a monastery in 1205, recognising Frederick's son Frederick as heir. Frederick inherited it all nevertheless, but died a year later and it went to his son by Wierzchoslawa Ludmilla (1150–1223), daughter of Mieszko III the Old, duke of Greater Poland and high duke of all Poland. Their children were:

Frederick, his successor in Lorraine

Thierry the Devil (le Diable), lord of Autigny, married Gertrude de Montmorency, daughter of Mathieu II le Grand, Constable of France.

Henry the Lombard, who built the castle of Bayon

Philip (died 1243), lord of Gerbéviller

Matthias (1170–1217), bishop of Toul

Agatha (died 1242), abbess of Remiremont

Judith, married Henry II, Count of Salm

Hediwge (died 1228), married Henry I, Count of Zweibrücken

Cunigunda, married Waleran III of Limburg

House of Bonaparte

The House of Bonaparte (originally Buonaparte) was an imperial and royal European dynasty of Italian origin. It was founded in 1804 by Napoleon I, the son of Genoese nobleman Carlo Buonaparte. Napoleon was a French military leader who had risen to power during the French Revolution and who in 1804 transformed the First French Republic into the First French Empire, five years after his coup d'état of November 1799. Napoleon turned the Grande Armée against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories during the Napoleonic Wars. He installed members of his family on the thrones of client states, extending the power of the dynasty.

The House of Bonaparte formed the Imperial House of France during the French Empire, together with some non-Bonaparte family members. In addition to holding the title of Emperor of the French, the Bonaparte dynasty held various other titles and territories during the Napoleonic Wars, including the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Holland, and the Kingdom of Naples. The dynasty held power for around a decade until the Napoleonic Wars began to take their toll. Making very powerful enemies, such as Austria, Britain, Russia, and Prussia, as well as royalist (particularly Bourbon) restorational movements in France, Spain, the Two Sicilies, and Sardinia, the dynasty eventually collapsed due to the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the restoration of former dynasties by the Congress of Vienna.

During the reign of Napoleon I, the Imperial Family consisted of the Emperor's immediate relations – his wife, son, siblings, and some other close relatives, namely his brother-in-law Joachim Murat, his uncle Joseph Fesch, and Eugène de Beauharnais, his stepson.

Between 1852 and 1870, there was a Second French Empire, when a member of the Bonaparte dynasty again ruled France: Napoleon III, the youngest son of Louis Bonaparte. However, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the dynasty was again ousted from the Imperial Throne. Since that time, there has been a series of pretenders. Supporters of the Bonaparte family's claim to the throne of France are known as Bonapartists. Current head Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, has a Bourbon mother.

House of Montmorency

Not to be confused with the Irish De Montmorency baronets, named for Castle Morres, Kilkenny.

Montmorency, pronounced [mɔ̃.mɔ.ʁɑ̃.si], is one of the oldest and most distinguished noble families in France.

House of Rohan

The House of Rohan (Breton: Roc'han) is a Breton family of viscounts, later dukes and princes in the French nobility, coming from the locality of Rohan in Brittany. Their line descends from the viscounts of Porhoët and is said to trace back to the legendary Conan Meriadoc. Through the Porhoët, the Rohan are related to the Dukes of Brittany, with whom the family intermingled again after its inception. During the Middle-Ages, it was one of the most powerful families in the Duchy of Brittany. They developed ties with the French and English royal houses as well, and played an important role in French and European history.

The only surviving branch of the family is the branch of the Rohan-Rocheforts, Dukes of Montbazon, Dukes of Bouillon and Austrian Princes of Rohan, who migrated in the early 19th century to Austria.Following his marriage (1645) with Marguerite de Rohan, only daughter of Henri II de Rohan, first Duke de Rohan (who died in 1638 with no male heir), Henri Chabot, a descendant of the eldest branch of the House of Chabot, from Poitou, was made Duke of Rohan in 1648 and allowed to use the name Rohan-Chabot instead of his own, thus giving birth to the House of Rohan-Chabot.



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