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Compagnies Franches de la Marine (Canada)

Last modified: 2015-06-30 by rob raeside
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Compagnies Franches de la Marine

I had an e-mail from Luc Baronian concerning an old subject: the colors of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine (CFM for short; French colonial troops in Canada 17th-18th centuries).

We thought we'd established that the drapeau d'ordonnance of the CFM was blue, quartered by a white cross, with gold fleurs-de-lis on the cross and gold anchors in the quarters. According to the Canadian armed forces, this is incorrect. They show on one of their Web sites a quite different flag with red and blue quarters, a thunderbolt device at the intersection of the cross, and the inscription "By Land and Sea" (in Latin).

I believe this to be the drapeau d'ordonnance of the Corps Royale de la Infantrie de la Marine, but I can't find a reference. It seems that there were several French regiments and corps designated de la Marine in the 17th-18th centuries and perhaps this is the source of the confusion.
Tom Gregg, 28 February 1999

The red and blue colour with the decorated cross is a reconstruction of the CFM colour by the military artist / writer Michel Petard. I think it was done for the Canadian Government. The colour appears in Rene' Chartrand's book on Louis XV's Army vol 5: Colonial and Naval Troops (Osprey Men-at-Arms 313, published 1997) on pages 32-33, but he does not give a source for his information; Charrie' on the other hand says that the colours of the CFM are not known.

A light blue flag with anchors in the quarters and a decorated cross is the colour of the Saint Malo detachments of the Corps Royal de l'infanterie de la Marine, but these colours were only introduced in 1772.
Ian Sumner, 01 March 1999

It's quite hard to find a flag of the CFM, but according to the Canadian Archives (as mentioned above) we have a picture of the flag. But I will do some research in the French army seal to confirm it. The flag (if this one existed ) didn't have an anchor contrary to the corps royale de la marine (like the regiment de St Malo) because the CFM wasn't a marine corps but a land corps attached to the Ministry of Marine (seal). Under Louis XIV& Louis XV, the defense of the colony was attached to the CFM and all CRM where attached to shipboard defense (not only colony contrary to CFM) and other missions, there were also infantrymen.

I'm drawing the CFM's flag and I'll do some research to get more sources about the flag. But the presence of a grenade on the flag is quite logical, the French gendarmerie got it in there symbol since XIVth century.

Leonard Mercader, 18 November 2010