Constable of France

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2 October 1369: Charles V of France presents the sword Joyeuse to the Constable Bertrand du Guesclin, miniature by Jean Fouquet

The Constable of France (French: Connétable de France, from Latin comes stabuli for 'count of the stables'), as the First Officer of the Crown, was 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 army. He, theoretically, as Lieutenant-general of the King, outranked all the nobles and was second-in-command only to the King.

The Connétable de France was also responsible for military justice and served to regulate the Chivalry. His jurisdiction was called the connestablie. The office was established by King Philip I in 1060 with Alberic becoming the first Constable. The office was abolished in 1627 in accordance with the Edict of January 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu, upon the death of François de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguières, after his conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1622. The position was replaced by the Dean of Marshals (Doyen des maréchaux), in reality the most senior Marshal of France in a strictly ceremonial role. The title Marshal General of France or more exactly "Marshal General of the King's camps and armies" (maréchal général des camps et armées du roi) was given to signify that the recipient had authority over all the French armies in the days when a Marshal governed only one army usually. This dignity was bestowed only on Marshals of France, usually when the dignity of Constable of France was unavailable or, after 1626, suppressed.

A few constables died in battle or were executed for treason, mostly for political intrigue.

Badge of office[edit]

The badge of office was a highly elaborate sword called the 'Royal Sword' (Fr. 'de Charlemagne') surnamed 'Joyous'. This sword dated from the 14th century and was contained in a blue scabbard embellished with fleur-de-lis in column from hilt to point. Traditionally, the constable was presented with the sword on taking his office.[1]

Authority[edit]

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 precedence immediately after the peers. He had the position of Lieutenant-General of the King, both within and without the kingdom. The constable had under his command all military officers, including the marechaux; he was also responsible for the financing of the army, administering military justice within the host (the name of the jurisdiction was the connétablie), which he exercised with the assistance of the maréchaux (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.[2]

Persons subordinate to the Constable of France[edit]

Constables of France[edit]

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[edit]

The Capétien Dynasty

  • Alberic, 1060–1065
  • Balberic, 1065–1069
  • Gauthier, 1069–1071
  • Adelelme, 1071–1075
  • Adam, 1075–1085
  • Thibaut, Seigneur de Montmorency, 1085–1107
  • Gaston de Chanmont, 1107–1108
  • Hugues le Borgne de Chanmont, 1108–1135
  • Mathieu de Montmorency (died 1160), 1138–?
  • Simon de Neauphle-le-Chateau, 1165–?
  • Raoul I de Clermont (died 1191), 1174–1191
  • Dreux IV de Mello (1148–1218), 1194–1218
  • Mathieu I le Grand, Baron de Montmorency (died 1231), 1218–1231
  • Amaury VI de Montfort (died 1241), 1231–1240
  • Humbert V de Beaujeu (died 1250), 1240–1248
  • Gilles II de Trasignies (died 1275), 1248–1277
  • Humbert VI de Beaujeu (died 1285), 1277
  • Raoul II de Clermont (died 1302), 1277–1307
  • Gaucher V de Châtillon (1249–1329), 1307–1329

The Valois Dynasty

The Valois Angoulême Dynasty

The Bourbons

First Empire[edit]

During the Consulate, the Bourbon family, through the Comte d'Artois, allegedly offered Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul, the title of Constable of France if he would restore the Bourbons as kings of France. However, in 1808, Napoleon also appointed the Grand Dignitaries of the French Empire (Grands dignitaires de l'Empire Français). In doing this he appointed as Constable his younger brother Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and as Vice-Constable, Marshal of the Empire Louis Alexandre Berthier, the French Army Chief of staff and Prince of Neuchâtel. Both titles were strictly honorific.

Movies[edit]

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[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ p172, Slater, Stephen, The Complete Book of Heraldry (Lorenz, 2002), ISBN 0-7548-1062-3
  2. ^ http://www.heraldica.org/topics/france/officiers.htm
  3. ^ Richard Vaughan, Charles the Bold, (Boydell Press, 2002) 250-251.

External links[edit]