Hohenlohe Regiment (1815-1831)

The Hohenlohe Regiment was an infantry regiment of the French Army consisting of foreign volunteers. It was constituted by a 1815 decree, after the abdication of Napoleon I and the dissolution of the eight foreign regiments serving in Napoleon’s army. Named after the Prince of Hohenlohe, a member of the German nobility, the unit comprised foreign soldiers who had asked to continue in French service under the restored monarchy. After its dissolution in 1831, the regiment was replaced by the Foreign Legion.

La version française de cet article:
Régiment de Hohenlohe (1815-1831)

Hohenlohe Regiment (1815-1831) - History



In 1815, after Emperor Napoleon I’s return to power in France during the so-called Hundred Days (the period of his reign), eight foreign regiments were formed to serve France. The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo three months later and his following abdication allowed Louis XVIII to return to the throne. This upcoming period was known as the Bourbon Restoration. Among other things, Louis XVIII ordered a new reorganization of the French Army, involving its reduction and the creation of “legions” instead of regiments.

The Royal Decree of September 6, 1815 disbanded the eight foreign regiments and called for the formation of a single legion to receive the foreigners who wished to continue serving France. This new unit was named the Royal Foreign Legion; its two depots were organized in Lyon and Toulon.


Royal Foreign Legion

The Royal Foreign Legion (Légion Royale Etrangère) was placed under the command of Count Sayn-Wittgenstein, who came from a family of German nobility. On January 1, 1816, two battalions of the Legion were officially constituted by Colonel Wittgenstein in Toulon, with a total of 28 officers and 635 men. Another battalion was organized in Lyon a week later, with 15 officers and 462 non-commissioned officers and soldiers; each of the three battalions was to include eight companies.

The organization, administration and pay were the same as those of the common French legions. Like all the others, the unit was given a white flag, and the white cockade replaced the tricolor cockade on the headdress. That’s because during the Bourbon Restoration, France’s original white flag replaced the Tricolore adopted as a national flag in 1794, during the French Revolution.

The strength of the new unit was set at 2,450 men, aged no more than thirty-five years and with a height of at least 162 cm (five French feet). The first contract was for six years with the possibility of re-enlistment for four or six years.

The uniform of the Royal Foreign Legion was the following: sky blue jacket; jonquil collar, lapels, facings and placket; white buttons; jonquil knit vest; white pants with jonquil piping on the side seams; shako (a tall military cap); and a grey infantry greatcoat.

Officially, both the French and the Swiss (who had their own Swiss units in France) were excluded from the recruitment of this Legion. But these restrictions were not respected too much.

In May, the Legion arrived in the Grenoble region to restore order there; the battalions were reunited in Grenoble at the beginning of June.

It was at this time that the Legion was placed under the high command of Louis Aloysius, Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Bartenstein, or simply Prince of Hohenlohe, who became its “senior colonel”. This prince, belonging to the German high nobility, had served in the army since 1792 and had became an Austrian lieutenant general.


Hohenlohe Legion

On June 9, 1816, in Grenoble, the Royal Foreign Legion thus changed its name to the Hohenlohe Legion. It remained under the command of Colonel de Wittgenstein, with the Prince of Hohenlohe serving as his superior and the Legion’s chief inspector. The colonel was instructed to send regular reports to the prince (living in Paris at the time) on the situation of the Legion in terms of discipline and accounting.

At the end of June, two battalions left Grenoble. In July, the Legion’s depot was organized in Avignon.

Through most of 1817, the Legion remained in the southeast of France. The headquarters and the 1st Battalion were stationed in Valence (Drôme department), the 2nd Battalion in Romans-sur-Isère and the 3rd in Briançon. But later in the year, two battalions left France for Corsica: the 3rd in September, then the 2nd in December.

In January 1818, Colonel de Murphy, an Irish émigré who had been serving France since 1800, replaced Colonel de Wittgenstein, who had died unexpectedly. At the same time, the Prince of Hohenlohe was promoted to the rank of maréchal de camp (in fact, brigade general).

In February 1819, the HQ staff and the 1st Battalion also landed in Corsica and settled in Bastia. The depot was first transferred from Avignon to Toulon, then joined the Legion in Corsica.

At this time, in early 1820, the Legion was commanded by Colonel de Marphy, with Lieutenant Colonel Cally as his deputy, and Majors Heuzard de Beaurepaire, Muston, and Bay (an Italian) serving as battalion commanders. The Prince of Hohenlohe, brigade general, remained the “senior colonel” of his Legion.

By a royal decree issued in October 1820, the legions of the French Army under the Bourbon Restoration were again transformed into regiments. This also applied to the Hohenlohe Legion.


Hohenlohe Legion - Regiment - Louis Aloysius, Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Bartenstein
Louis Aloysius, Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Bartenstein, colonel superieur of the Hohenlohe Legion. Born in what is now Baden-Württemberg (a state in today’s Germany) in 1765, he had served in the military since 1792 and had become an artillery general of the Austrian army. In late 1815, he asked Louis XVIII for permission to serve in the French army and command the Royal Foreign Legion. Incorrectly called Marshal of France in many sources, including Wikipedia. This error comes from the Bourbon Restoration military rank maréchal-de-camp (brigade general).

Hohenlohe Legion - Grenadier - 1816
A grenadier of the Hohenlohe Legion in 1816. Painting by Louis Frégier, 1963.
Hohenlohe Legion - Grenadier - 1816 - 2nd Battalion - Porte-fanion
A corporal porte-fanion of the 2nd Battalion, Hohenlohe Legion in 1816. Painting by Herbert Knoetel, 1950s.
Hohenlohe Legion - Grenadier
Another study of a grenadier of the Hohenlohe Legion. Painting by Colonel Joly, 19th century.
Hohenlohe Legion - Stamp - Board of directors
A stamp of the Board of directors, Hohenlohe Legion, 1816-1821.


Hohenlohe Regiment

On February 22, 1821, a new royal decree changed the title of the Legion to the Hohenlohe Regiment (Régiment de Hohenlohe). It also ordered a partial reorganization of the unit. The three battalions with eight companies remained. Each battalion, which adopted the model of the line infantry, was to consist of six companies of fusiliers (ordinary line infantry), one company of grenadiers, and one of voltigeurs (skirmishers). The strength of each company was set at 3 officers (captain, lieutenant, second lieutenant) and 80 men: 1 sergeant-major, 4 sergeants, 1 quartermaster-corporal, 8 corporals, 64 soldiers, and 2 drummers (or cornet players).

The regimental staff, reinforced by a chaplain and an aide-major (an officer who assisted the lieutenant colonel), also included a small group that consisted of 3 warrant officers, 1 drum major, 3 drum corporals, 12 musicians (including a chief) and 4 master workers (a tailor, a gaiter-maker, a shoemaker, and an armorer).

The number of officers in the Hohenlohe Regiment was to be 88 and the number of men 1,943. The recruitment for the unit was accomplished, as before, by the engagement of foreign volunteers.

According to the royal decree, the regiment was to receive a flag bearing the crest of the French armed forces, in exchange for those of the Legion; the cravats of the current flags were to be retained and attached to the new flag.

In 1822, after a stay of four years, the men left Corsica and moved to the northwest of France, to Le Havre. The 2nd Battalion was dispatched to Amiens. The following year, the Hohenlohe Regiment was stationed in Cherbourg in Normandy, with the 2nd Battalion detached to Caen. Meanwhile, they also provided a detachment of volunteers for the French intervention in Spain in support of the local king, Ferdinand VII, against the liberals. In this 1823 intervention, the Prince of Hohenlohe commanded, as a general, one of the French army corps (two divisions of about 16,000 men).

In 1824, the regiment left for Brest in Brittany, where it remained until 1827.

During this time, in May 1825, Colonel de Murphy was appointed brigade general, too. He was first replaced at the head of the Hohenlohe Regiment by Colonel de la Moussave, and then, in late December, by Colonel Duprat.

After leaving Brest in 1827 for La Rochelle and Rochefort in Southwestern France, the regiment spent the following year split between Narbonne, Foix and Carcassonne, in the south of the country. In April 1829, the unit moved to Pont-Saint-Esprit, with a battalion dispatched to Uzés, still in the former Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France. Because of the large number of discharged soldiers and the difficulties of recruitment, the unit strength fell to 1,437 men in May 1828; a year later, the regiment had no more than 1,300 men.

In May 1829, the Prince of Hohenlohe, brigade general and peer of France for two years, passed away. With him ended the position of senior colonel.

A few months later, in July, the 3rd Battalion was disbanded. The following month, Colonel Duprat left the regiment; he was replaced by Colonel Pozzo-di-Borgo.

At the beginning of 1830, recruitment seemed to be increasingly difficult. Reduced to two battalions, the unit comprised only about 850 combat-ready men.

In late May, the regiment was transferred to Marseille. They found themselves there at the time of the July Revolution, a second French Revolution after that of 1789. The firm and prudent behavior of the Hohenlohe Regiment largely contributed to stopping the bloodshed and avoiding the horrors of civil war in this populous city. The two battalions remained there until December.

In October, the municipality of this city granted the regiment a flag of honor in appreciation of the services they had rendered during the events of July 1830. On one side of the flag was the inscription Marseille au Régiment de Hohenlohe (Marseille to the Hohenlohe Regiment); on the other side was a laurel wreath with the words Vive le Roi des Français (Long live the King of the French). Guarded by the family of Colonel de Huelsen, second in command of the regiment at the time and one of the future commanding officers of the Foreign Legion, this flag was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1889.

Towards the end of 1830, the regiment received orders to embark for the Peloponnese, a Greek peninsula. Their mission was to relieve French troops under General Schneider, who had participated in the liberation of the region from the Turkish-Egyptian occupation forces, during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829). At the end of December, the two battalions of the Hohenlohe Regiment landed at Methóni, in the Peloponnese. In France, only the depot in Toulon was left.


Hohenlohe Regiment - Soldier - 1824
A soldier of the Hohenlohe Regiment by Eugène Lami. Painted around 1822; published in 1824.

Hohenlohe Regiment - Fusilier - 1822
A fusilier of the Hohenlohe Regiment in 1822, with a greatcoat. Painting by Pierre Benigni, 1935.
Hohenlohe Regiment - Grenadier - 1822
A grenadier of the Hohenlohe Regiment in 1822 by Pierre Benigni, undated.
Hohenlohe Regiment - Shako
A member of the Hohenlohe Regiment, with his shako. Painting by Andreas Rosenberg (1906-2002), undated.


21st Light Infantry Regiment

However, the new year brought the definitive end of this foreign regiment. By the Royal Decree of January 5, 1831, the Hohenlohe Regiment was disbanded. The unit was to be reorganized into a new light infantry regiment that would take the number 21.

The dissolution was officially announced before the assembled regiment on February 20, 1831 in Methóni, by General Schneider. The unit was under a new leader, Colonel Augustin Stoffel, who had taken command the day before. The latter, of Swiss-Spanish origin, was the brother of Colonel Christophe Stoffel, the very first commander-in-chief of a certain Foreign Legion, which would be created the next month, in March 1831.

During the same ceremony, following the Royal Decree of January 5, General Schneider proclaimed the creation of the 21st Light Infantry Regiment (21e Régiment d’Infanterie Légère), with a total strength of 40 officers and 470 non-commissioned officers and soldiers, all former members of the Hohenlohe Regiment. Its 1st Battalion was commanded by Major de Mollenbeck, an officer of German origin who would also serve as a future head of the Foreign Legion.

Officially, the newly reorganized regiment was open only to men who were born or naturalized French. However, those who promptly executed the declarations required by law to be naturalized could continue to serve. The others received documents, along with a travel allowance, to return to their homelands. But the latter were few in number and many of the unit’s officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers were naturalized en masse.

The new regiment became an integral part of the metropolitan troops of the French Army. Like all such units at the time, the 21st Light Infantry would be replenished only with conscripts recruited in the French departments. The history of the direct heir to the foreign regiments of the Napoleonic army thus came to a definitive end.



Three weeks after the dissolution of the Hohenlohe Regiment, on March 10, 1831, a new unit composed of foreign volunteers was created in France by the order of King Louis-Philippe. This unit was the famous Foreign Legion. The 1st Battalion of this Legion was reserved, among others, for a hundred non-naturalized veterans of the Hohenlohe Regiment who were still willing to serve France. In addition, the new unit also welcomed a number of officers from the freshly reorganized regiment.

In this way, some of the old traditions were preserved for the future. Among them, for example, was the slow march at the rate of 88 steps per minute, which Legion historians associate with the Hohenlohe Regiment. This mythical march is well-known to the public and distinguishes today’s Foreign Legion from all other units of the French Army, and, in fact, from most of the modern armies in the world. Thus the legacy of an old unit continues…


Hohenlohe Regiment - Certificat de bonne conduite - Honorable discharge certificate - 1826
Certificat de bonne conduite (Honorable discharge certificate) for a fusilier of the 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, Hohenlohe Regiment. It was issued in Brest in 1826 by Captain Philippé, his company commander.

Hohenlohe Legion - Button
Button of the Hohenlohe Regiment, 1821-1831. Illustration (most likely) by ADC Burda, 1980s.



Main information sources:
Képi blanc magazines
Miles Byrne: Mémoires d’un éxilé irlandais de 1798 (Gustave Bossange, 1864)
J. B. Bouvier: Historique du 96e Regiment d’infanterie (A. Storck, 1892)
Gustave Schlumberger: Mémoires du Commandant Persat (Librairie Plon, 1910)
Jean Vidalenc: Une formation originale dans l’armée de la Restauration : La « Légion-Régiment-de-Hohenlohe » (Presse Universitaires de France, 1964)
P. Cart-Tanneur + Tibor Szecsko: La Vieille Garde (Editions B.I.P., 1987)
J. Brunon, G.-R. Manue, P. Carles: Le Livre d’Or de la Légion Etrangère (Charles-Lavauzelle, 1976)
Fanion Vert et Rouge


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More from the history of the Foreign Legion:
Second Foreign Legion – Swiss Legion
1863 Battle of Camerone
Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871
Foreign Legion in the Balkans: 1915-1919



The page was updated on: February 22, 2022


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