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can I say, I am a sucker for braided sidelocks (cadenettes), waxed mustaches, Hussar’s pelisse, dolmans, swordplay, and outdated notions on honor.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.
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).
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.
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.
The 3e Hussards (Esterhazy’s hussars) are 258 today.
Now, to go watch The Duelists again.