Happy Birthday, Esterhazy’s hussars

As a kid, one of my favorite movies was Ridley Scott’s 1977 film, The Duelists.

What can I say, I am a sucker for braided sidelocks (cadenettes), waxed mustaches, Hussar’s pelisse, dolmans, swordplay, and outdated notions on honor.

Needless to say, I sit down and watch the film at least once a year. Based on the Joseph Conrad short story, The Duel (which is loosely based on the real-life quarrel between Napoleanic generals Pierre Dupont de l’Étang and François Fournier-Sarlovèze), the main character of the story is LT Armand d’Hubert of the 3rd Hussars, who is forced to fight a series of duels with the offended LT Gabriel Feraud of 7th Hussars.

With that, we have a special day today!

Formed 10 February 1764 under the aegis of Étienne François de Choiseul, Duc d’ Amboise, a regiment of finely-mounted and uniformed Hungarian hussar light cavalrymen was given the name of its flashy colonel, Count Valentin Esterházy. A scarred veteran of the Seven Years War, Esterházy is best remembered to history as the officer dispatched to take a portrait of the French Dauphin (later Louis XVI) to a teenaged Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia, which led to the marriage that delighted cake eaters everywhere.

Uniform of the Esterhazy hussars regiment in 1772 by Claude-Antoine Littret de Montigny – National Library of France, gallica.bnf.fr

Speaking of Louis and Marie-Antoinette, following the Revolution, which saw Esterházy retire to an estate in Eastern Europe, his former namesake regiment was dubbed the 3e Hussards, under which it is still known today (save for a weird period in 1814-25 when they were known as Hussards du Dauphin then Hussards de la Moselle during the Bourbon restoration).

Maréchal des logis chef du 3e Hussards in 1791 by René Louis – National Library of France gallica.bnf.fr

Major, 3e Regiment de Hussard, Herbert Knotel, 1806

3e Regiment de Hussard, Herbert Knotel, 1810

3e Regiment de Hussard, 1814. Note, they have finally dropped their braids. 

The French Hussar General Antoine Charles Louis de Lasalle. He famously said that any Hussar who lived past 30 was a scoundrel. Lasalle took a musket ball through the head at age 34, leading a cavalry charge at Wagram. As it killed him instantly, his soul is likely still charging forward without even noticing.

An elite cavalry regiment until 1940, when it became motorized, the unit has earned battle honors for Valmy (1792), Jena (1806), Eylau (1807), Friedland (1807), Montereau (1814), Ourcq (1914– where they fought 300 German uhlans in one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry fights on the Western Front in the Great War), Ypres (1914), The Marne (1918) and Algeria (1952-1962).

Omitted were actions in WWII, where the Hussars covered themselves in glory during the French withdrawal in 1940, became part of the Vichy Army in the South, disbanded in 1942, and, after burning their flags to avoid capture, fought on with the maquis in the hills before reforming in January 1945 as part of Lattre de Tassigny’s Free French 1st Army.

Since returning from North Africa in 1962, the 3e Hussards (3e RH) have been part of the Franco-German brigade (Brigade franco-allemande), and still celebrate Col. Esterhazy to this day.

Il En Vaut Plus D’Un = It is worth more than one. Their crest includes a Griffon with a cavalry saber in one hand and three roses in the other.

On the occasion of the unit’s 250th birthday in 2014 at Metz. Note the honor guard unit in semi-correct period uniforms. 

Who also serve in current uniforms as well

Equipped with AMX 10 RCR (Revalorisé) tanks and VAB armored vehicles, they have been extensively deployed in the past 20 years on peacekeeping and security operations in Bosnia, Chad, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Mali.

AMX-10 RCR (RCR stands for Roues-Canon, or wheeled gun, Revalorisé, upgraded)

The 3e Hussards (Esterhazy’s hussars) are 258 today.

Now, to go watch The Duelists again.

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