The Scottish Guard who protected French Kings

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
Did not know this, but apparently for 400 years the Kings of France were protected by an elite Scottish Guard:

It was during the latter days of the Hundred Years’ War that the French King created an elite personal bodyguard comprised of Scottish warriors called the Garde Écossaise (Scottish Guard).
Joan of Arc marched into Orléans to the sound of bagpipes. She entered the city accompanied by a guard of around 60 Scottish men-at-arms and 70 archers. The pipers played Hey Tuttie Tatie – the song that, legend has it, was played for Robert the Bruce as he marched into battle at Bannockburn. In fact, Scottish soldiers made up a significant portion of the relief army as a whole in addition to Joan’s guard.
The Garde Écossaise saved Charles VII’s life in 1442 when his lodgings near Gascony were set on fire. Historian M.G.A. Vale writes that King Charles “escaped death, but only through the prompt action of his Scots archers, who made a breach in a wall by which he escaped.”
By the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774), the Scottish Guard was comprised of 330 men with 21 officers and had transitioned to being a mounted unit. Despite this change, the Scots still fought with the traditional claymores, distinguishing them from all other heavy cavalry of the era.
The Garde Écossaise continued to guard the French Monarchy until the French Revolution disbanded it. Even then, the Garde was reformed along with the monarchy during the Bourbon Restoration. The Garde Écossaise was disbanded permanently in 1830 with the fall of the French Monarchy, over 400 years after they were founded. But they were still honored with the title “Les Fiers Ecossais” (The Proud Scots).
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Very interesting. This is not the only case of bodyguards recruited from some entirely different country, or from an ethnic minority within their own country. For instance the Varangian Guard in the Eastern Roman Empire, who were Scandinavian.
The pope is another with a foreign guard. The Swiss Guard have been in existence since 1506.
I think at times the Scots were more aligned with the French than they were with the English, hence the 'auld alliance'; the 'enemy of my enemy' etc. The English would invade France, so the Scots would invade England - often to devastating effect. I didn't know that, but it certainly makes sense, as a bodyguard of fearsome Scottish warriors must have been somewhat of a deterrent to would-be assailants.

Interestingly in Rome, the Praetorian Guard could be as much a hindrance as an advantage. They would stay loyal... for a price, unless they got really annoyed with their boss (eg Caligula), or until someone came along and offered them more money. Which is why the early Roman emperors had a close Germanic bodyguard who could not be swayed so easily, and why the Praetorian Guard was ultimately disbanded when the emperor felt brave and secure enough in his position to do so.
There were also the Janissaries, the private guard of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan. For most of their existence they were the children of Christian subjects of the Sultan, taken as child slaves (but given a privileged position) converted to Islam, with loyalty only to the Sultan. As the recruitment criteria faded they became politically powerful and were eventually suppressed.
There were also the Walloon guards of the Spanish monarchs and a number of other special guard units recruited from outside the local population.
As described above, often the idea was to recruit outsiders who were not prey the local politics. Often the demise of that independence contributed to the destruction of a monarchy.

See: Royal Guard

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