Royaume d’Italie, 1805–1814

The French Connection

Prior to the Revolutionary et Guerres Napoléoniennes l’Italie consisted of a collection of small states over which the Bourbons of France et les Habsbourgs de l’Autriche had fought for many years. Les Autrichiens gained supremacy avec the end of the Old Regime in France until the young Bonaparte et other généraux français drove les Autrichiens out pendant la campagne d’italie of the late 1790’s. This culminated in the virtual end of influence autrichienne in the area avec the their defeat during the 1805 campaign when they were forced to recognise Napoleon’s claim as King of the newly formed Royaume d’Italie. The Kingdom ultimately consisted of Lombardy, Venetia, Modena, the Papal States, Istria, Dalmatia, Piedmont, Savoy, Genoa, Parma et Tuscany. Napoléon appointed his adopted son Eugene to the position of Viceroy d’Italie to rule in his place.

Le Royaume d’Italie proved a fertile recruiting ground for Napoléon et his ongoing need for soldiers et it is in this capacity that l’Italie proved to be one of Napoleon’s greatest assets. La "liberation" française d’Italie generated much support which was to last throughout the Napoleonic era. Early adherents flocked to the armées françaises en Italie, many coming together to form the light infantry style regiments of Tiralleurs du Po et the Corsican Tirailleurs. There was also l’armée régulière italienne which consisted of both guard et line infantry, cavalry, artillery et support troops. These were all organised as the equivalent unités françaises of the same type.

The battle history of the Royaume d’Italie speaks for itself. Contingents served contre l’Autriche en 1805 et 1809, la Prusse en 1806 et 1807, en Espagne de 1808 until 1812 et made a significant contribution to the failed Campagne de Russie en 1812 where they lost some 25,000 of the 27,000 hommes sent. Remaining loyal to Napoleon’s cause when many others deserted, they raised forces for the Napoleon’s reconstituted army serving en Saxe en 1813, et managed to hold off advances autrichiens into l’Italie until Eugene’s forced abdication in Avril 1814.

It should be noted that in addition to these forces some 7 légère (light infantry), 23 line infantry, 6 dragon, 1 hussard et 9 chasseur à cheval regiments of l’armée française had depots et recruiting posts en Italie. As well as this les vieilles légions polonaises de la République Cisalpine were also transferred au service français ultimately becoming the famous Vistula Legion which provided Napoléon avec troops of the highest calibre who operated in every major theatre of operations during the Guerres Napoléoniennes. The Italians proved to be amongst Napoleon’s most reliable et useful allies et were easily the equal of the troops provided by most of l’états allemands.

Troupes Italiennes en Espagne, 1808–1812

Les forces d’Italie provided a considerable contribution to Napoleon’s operations en Espagne avec various contingents serving from 1808 until 1812 when they were withdrawn to participate in la Campagne de Russie. La Guerre d’Espagne provides an excellent case study des troupes italiennes serving le cause français.

During this time the following units saw service, mostly in Catalonia et Valencia in major engagements et the endless guerilla warfare that came to characterise this theatre of operations:

  • 2e, 4e, 5e et 7e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne (2 bataillons chacun)
  • 1r et 2e Régiment d’Infanterie Légère (3 bataillons chacun)
  • Guard Foot Chasseur Velites (1 bataillon)
  • 1st (Real Italiano) et 2nd (Principe Reale) Regiments of Chasseurs à Cheval
  • 2nd (Dragoni Napoleone) Dragoons (4 squadrons)
  • 2 foot batteries (6 lb. guns)
  • 1 horse battery (4 lb. guns)

Organisation et Uniforms

1. – Infantry

1.1. Line Infantry

Modelled on the organisation français, each bataillon consisted of 1 grenadier, 1 voltigeur et 4 fusilier companies. There is some doubt et often conflicting evidence regarding the uniforms et especially the facing colours worn. The old light green uniform had been replaced by un uniforme blanc français avec coloured facings en 1806 avec insignes de grade et de compagnie français et the bicorne for a shako en 1808, although it is probable that some bicornes remained in service, as in l’armée française, for some time afterwards. The Fusiliers shako had a diamond plate avec the iron crown of Lombardy over the regimental number et their coats had pattes d’épaules blanches. Grenadiers had red epaulettes, red shako cords et plume ou un bonnet à poil noir avec brass plate, white cross on a red rear patch for full dress, dragonne rouge et grenade badges on the uniform turnbacks et cartridge boxes. Voltigeurs had carrot shaped pompons verts et shako cords, green epaulettes, dragonne verte avec a white tassel et hunting horn badges on the cartridge box et turnbacks. Regimental distinctions were probably as follows:

  • 2nd Regt white collar piped red, red lapels et cuff flaps piped white, white cuffs et turnbacks piped red;
  • 4th Regt red collar piped white, white lapels, cuffs et turnbacks piped green et green cuff flaps piped white;
  • 5th Regt red collar et cuff flaps piped white, green lapels et cuffs piped white et white turnbacks piped green;
  • 7th Regt green collar piped white, white lapels et turnbacks piped green et red pointed cuffs piped white.

1.2. Light Infantry

The light infantry was organised in a similar fashion to the line avec the fusilier companies called chasseurs, et the grenadiers called carabiniers as in the unités légères françaises. The uniform consisted of a dark green légère française style short jacket avec waistcoat et culotte. Le 1r Régiment probably had yellow facings et waistcoat et le 2e Régiment had red facings et a green waistcoat. Ils portaient le shako avec white cords for chasseurs, green for voltigeurs et red for carabiniers who also portaient un bonnet à poil sans plaque.

1.3. Guard Chasseur Velites (Cacciatori Veliti later Carabiniers)

Details of this units uniforms, like many others de l’armée italienne, are somewhat confusing. Ils portaient un uniforme blanc avec light green facings, red cuffs et turnbacks, red fringed green epaulettes, red over green plume et red et green cords on a plateless bonnet à poil. It is possible that a shako may have been worn by some on the march.

2. - Cavalry

2.1. Chasseurs à Cheval

les chasseurs ou cacciatori a cavallo portaient un habit vert avec white breast loops et collar piping, green waistcoat et culotte. The 1st (Real Italiano) had yellow turnbacks, collar et cuffs et the 2nd (Principe Reale) scarlet. The head dress was originally a black czapka (a left over from the days de la vieille légion cisalpine polonaise) which was replaced en 1811 by the shako avec a green plume et facing colour tip. Les compagnies d’élite portaient a black busby avec red plume.

2.2. Dragoons

Les 2e (Dragoni Napoleone) Dragons portaient l’habit vert à la française avec crimson facings. However, shortages while on campaign en Espagne forced many to utilise uniforms of local brown cloth avec red facings. Ils portaient brass dragoon style helmets avec a black fur turban et black horsehair mane avec a green plume tipped crimson. La compagnie d’élite portait le bonnet à poil noir avec red cords et plume.

3. – Artillery

The artillery consisted de deux batteries d’artillerie à pied, armed avec canons de 6 livres, et une batterie d’artillerie à cheval armed avec canons de 4 livres. L’artillerie à pied portait un habit vert de l’infanterie à boutons de métal jaunes et red epaulettes, black collar, cuffs, cuff flaps, lapels et turnbacks all piped red. Ils portaient a black peakless shako avec cords et pompon rouge. La batterie d’artillerie à cheval portait un uniforme very similar to that of the chasseurs à cheval. Ils portaient un black czapska avec a black fur headband avec un pompon vert sur noir. Ils portaient a green short tunic et culotte avec black collar et cuffs, red epaulettes, piping, turnbacks et breast loops.

Le train d’artillerie à pied portait un uniforme d’artillerie avec green collar, lapels, turnbacks, pattes d’épaules et parements de passepoil rouge avec red cuff flaps. Les conducteurs du train d’artillerie portaient a single breasted jacket, culotte buff et heavy cavalry boots. Le train d’artillerie à cheval portait the same uniform but avec a shorter skirted tunic. All ordinance had grey woodwork et black carriage fittings.

Wargaming les Italiens en Espagne

Le contingent italien en Espagne is ideally suited to the collectioniste ou joueur de guerre as the force is not impossibly large et includes a good mix of troop types avec an interesting variety of uniforms. The quality of the troops makes them a viable wargaming force compared to many other allied contingents en Espagne who had high rates of desertion et poor battlefield performance. The line et light infantry can be fielded by painting any of the currently available sets de l’infanterie de ligne française such as Airfix, Revel ou ESCI, in the appropriate colours. The Guard Velites can be fielded using figurines de la Garde impériale. Les chasseurs et dragons might be a bit more difficult, however I have found that les cuirassiers de chez Airfix peuvent être peints pour représenter exactement des dragons. Les chasseurs could be based on the ESCI guard lancers avec minor conversion et appropriate colours. L’artillerie à pied peut être représenter par artillerie de ligne française avec the peak removed. L’artillerie à cheval are probably the most difficult, but a conversion should be possible perhaps again using the Guard Lancer figurines available. Anyone want to have a go at this?

I can highly recommend that any wargamer avec forces françaises field some troupes italiennes as they provide an interesting et useful addition to any army much as they did for Napoléon himself.

Dean Carpenter


  • Dempsey, Guy C.: Napoleon’s Soldiers The Grande Armee of 1807 as depicted in the paintings of the Otto Manuscript, Arms et Armour Press, London, 1994. (This contains brilliant original source material in a large number of colour plates at an affordable price. Highly recommended for those interested in uniformes français)
  • Funcken, L. & F.: Arms et Uniforms The Napoleonic Wars Part 2, Ward Lock Ltd, London, 1973.
  • Funcken, L. & F.: Uniformes Historiques, pp. 276 - 277, Orbis Verlag, München, 2000
  • Haythornthwaite, Philip: Uniformes de la Guerre d’Espagne 1808–1814, Blandford Colour Series, Blandford Press, Dorset, 1978. (Recently republished et highly recommended for anyone interested in the Peninsular campaign)
  • Haythornthwaite, Philip: The Napoleonic Source Book, Arms et Armour Press, London, 1995.
  • Oman, Charles: Une Histoire de la Guerre d’Espagne, Vol I 1807–1809 From the treaty of Fontainebleau to the battle of Corunna, Greenhill Books, London, 1995.
  • Pivka, Otto v.: Troupes Italiennes et Napolitaines de Napoléon

Questions Fréquents

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter les éditeurs de la revue Military Miniatures Magazine au Miniatures Forum.

Figurines des Guerres Napoléoniennes