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French Bicorne Styles?

Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2020 4:39 pm
by Levi the Ox
Hello all!

I've been wrestling with a uniform question that came up as I muddle along on my Peninsular War figures. I have a box of Victrix early French (1804-1807) that I plan on using for conversion fodder, but am somewhat stumped by their flattened bicornes.

I had initially intended to use them for Spanish regulars, before discovering the sorry state of their headgear (and the fortunately-timed Warlord announcement of resin Spanish!). Then I thought to use the elite company figures as gendarmes, and have assembled the first group as such, before finding much "fuller" bicornes in the Victrix French artillery box that better match the depictions of the gendarmerie I can find.

Are the full, rounded, half-moon bicornes in the artillery kit a different style than the more flattened ones worn by the early infantry? Or is the latter just a depiction of worn uniforms on campaign, rather than fresh for the parade ground?

The handful of bicorne officer heads in the kit are very full (presumably they paid for better ones), and even Revolutionary/early Imperial French fusiliers from other ranges seem to wear fuller and more rounded bicornes than the Victrix ones. (By which I do not mean to diminish the quality of the Victrix kit, it's fantastic!)

The primary reference I am using for Gendarmes a pied:

Re: French Bicorne Styles?

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:09 am
by Dragoon
I’m not sure if the French infantry wore the large plumes on campaign. As I use the British army for gaming, but the French that I’ve faced across the table have been the parade ground uniform with bearskins for the grenadier companies, the voltigeurs with long floppy plumes and even plumes for the centre companies.
At the other end of the table there would be a division with patches on the trousers elbows of uniform jackets patched, some with oilskin shake covers but they still looked impressive.
None were wrong.

Re: French Bicorne Styles?

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:20 am
by BaronVonWreckedoften

You are looking at two different types of headgear, essentially. The hat that is (quite correctly) worn by the Victrix figures is known as a "chapeau", which is part of the gradual evolution of the ordinary soldier's headgear from the floppy hat of the late 17th Century, through the tricorne, then the slightly flattened-front bicorne of the late Prussians, and finally the casquet and the chapeau of the 1790s. At the same time, you get an almost parallel development of an officer's headgear, which is a collapsible version of the late tricorne, which can be conveniently flattened and tucked under the arm. Unfortunately, quite a few figure manufacturers have confused the two variants, hence the erroneous headgear worn by many of the French rank-and-file in the Eureka French Revolutionary War range. How the actual bicorne became common wear amongst rank-and-file soldiers in some units (eg the Gendarmerie) I honestly don't know, although the chapeau itself remained standard issue right up to the First Abdication; maybe it was to distinguish them?


Re: French Bicorne Styles?

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:40 pm
by Levi the Ox
Many thanks for the clarification, Baron Von Wreckedoften! That clears up a great deal! I'm not surprised that specialists wore distinctive attire, they are consistently shown with the epaulets and short sabers of elite companies too.

Thankfully, it's only a couple of headswaps for me, since I've only done a group so far.

Dragoon, I am definitely aiming for the campaign look for most of the troops, thanks for the suggestions!