The Order & the Scots Mercenary Companies 1439 -1782
The Order has in its possession Revue and Muster Rolls for the Order’s Companies in France for the period 1413 (before the Order was officially founded) until 1652. Some are complete whilst others are only partially so.
For some 200 years (1572-1782), the Scots Mercenary companies were employed by a variety of States including the Dutch Republic though it seems that the ‘French Company’ as Order’s Company became known, because of its Fleur de Lys badge, did not form part of the establishment of the Dutch Army. Nevertheless the same families sent by their local Chapters can be found taking part in the various wars time and time again (19).
Separate Companies enlisted under their own Captains and by 1573 had become ‘District’ Regiments. The regiment of Col. Ormiston is referred to in 1573. In 1586 the Scots Companies were divided into two regiments under Cols. Balfour and Patten (20).
In 1603 Lord Buccleuch took over a complete regiment to Holland and a third went over in 1628. The two older Regiments had an unbroken existence from 1522 (21).
In 1628 we find reference to Stuart’s Regiment, and in 1629 the Regiment of the Earl of Morton was commanded by Lord Hay of Kinfauns. In 1697-98 there were the Regiments of Ferguson, Lord Strathnaver and the Hamiltons, whilst between 1747-1753 there was the regiment of the Earl of Drumlanrig. The above were all foot companies but there was also Companies of Horse (22).
Capt. Wishart’s Horse existed from March 1586-1616, when it became known as Balfour’s Horse under Sir William Balfour from 1616-1628. Capt. Patrick Bruce commanded 100 Lancers in 1593 and these were captained by Thomas Erskine and Henry Bruce in 1599 (23).
It is recorded in the muster rolls that Capt. Hamilton was killed at Nieuport in 1600 and that between 1617-1620 Robert Irving and William Balfour were both Cavalry Captains. By the end of the 30 years war the Cavalry Captains were William Hay and Sir Robert Hume (24).
The Regiment of Douglas (Earl of Dumbarton) (Now the Royal Scots – 1st. of the Line) saw service in France and has seen continuous service since then.
Other of the French Companies in France merged with the survivors of Gustavus Adolphus’s Scots troops. By the early 1600s there were a great many mercenaries plying their trade based in and around Holland. These were not only Scots but also Germans, Flemish and French though one must be careful about the term French as many were in fact Scots. At the siege of Calmar in 1611 the Scottish Auxiliary Contingent of Gustavus Adolphus, fought under the ‘Banner of the Lily’ and all were either killed or wounded with the exception of their Quartermaster General, Johann von Monnichhofen, who in the words of one Scottish mercenaries writing home stated ‘He surpassed the others in prudence, and knew how to fight from a distance’ (25).
The same names and families served for generation after generation:
‘The officers entered into service very early; they were trained up under their fathers and grandfathers, who had grown old in service; they expected a slow, certain and un-purchased promotion but almost always in the same corps and before they attained command they were qualified for it’ (26).
‘Though they served a foreign state,…they were still under the eye of their own, and considered themselves as depositaries of her military fame’.
‘Punishments of the German nature were not accepted’
‘Gentlemen of the families of Balfour, Scott, Preston, Halkett…Stewart, Hay, Sinclair, Douglas, Montgomery, Graham, Hamilton etc’ served since the middle of the 15th. Century (27).
For example we learn from the muster rolls that Adam Montgomery of Braidstane was commissioned a Captain on Oct 22 1577 and that Robert Montgomery on 2nd. August 1572 was in command of 1000 Cavalry and 2000 Foot in Flanders, though still called a Captain and there was a Capt. Montgomery in Wisshart’s Cavalry.
The following were on the Roll of Officers in the Regiment of Col. D’Offeraall:
Francois d’Offeraall Col.
Thomas Douglas Lt.-Col.
There were 11 Captains of Companies:
(These later served under Lt. Gen. Churchill on 12 May 1689).
With the flight of the Stuarts to France in 1688 it looked as if the Order would follow its Grand Commander, John Graham of Claverhouse, into oblivion but Hugh Montgomery (2nd. Earl of Mount-Alexander) and his cousin by marriage, took over and the Order was able to continue, even if loyal toasts were drunk over a finger bowl and even if the Order has no record of any British Royal Marriages after that of James II until the advent of Queen Victoria. Many of the members of the Order and indeed a whole company remained loyal to the Stuarts and departed into exile. In the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 it looked once again as if the Order would go down in defeat with Charles Radclyffe, who commanded one of the companies of the Order, though others fought for the Hanoverians. The Order yet again it managed to survive only to have all of its property in France confiscated during the French Revolution in 1791.
When it became obvious that the Stuart cause was lost, the Order switched its loyalties to other branches of the Guise-Lorraine family, particularly to that of the Hapsburg-Lorraines, with Maximilian von Hapsburg becoming Sovereign Grand Commander in 1768. It was he who changed the Order from a group of Mercenary Companies into an Order of Chivalry. He was the Cardinal Elector of Cologne, a direct descendant of Rene d’Anjou and already the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. Unfortunately he wanted to make the Order of the Fleur-de-Lys similar to the Teutonic knights which was not acceptable to the vast majority who were Scots or English so in 1800 the mainly protestant members elected Hugh Montgomery of Grey Abbey as the Sovereign Grand Commander, thus breaking the link with the House of Anjou.
On the 30th. August 1839, four hundred years after their original founding, the then Sovereign Grand Commander, Archibald Montgomerie, Earl of Eglinton and Winton, celebrated the 400 years of the Order, by staging the famous Eglinton Tournament at Eglinton Castle in Scotland. It is from this date on that the Order becomes officially “The Order of the Fleur de Lys” and was probably totally reorganised. The Statutes of 1838 bear all the hallmarks of Charles Lamb, Archibald’s half-brother (18).
The Order supported Louis Napoleon, he became its Sovereign Grand Commander in 1862, in his bid for the French Imperial throne. Napoleon I had married into the Imperial Hapsburg family and Napoleon II, his son was of Hapsburg blood. Napoleon III was therefore a cousin by marriage to the Hapsburgs. He was also a close personal friend of Archibald Montgomerie and had been the ‘Visiting Knight’ at the Eglinton Tournament. For a while it looked as if the Order might regain its place in France but this was not to be.
The greatest tragedy for the Order was the 1914-1918 war. Almost the entire membership of the Order was wiped out either on one side or the other. Even where a family survived, contact with the Order was lost. In Austria for example all members were forced to repudiate their membership and in some cases joined other Orders. In France no trace was found. There remained, in Britain, only Brig. Gen. John Montgomery and Sir Robert Montgomery as members.
Major John Montgomery in 1914. (Later Brigadier-General)
With the resignation of Robert Hamilton in 1914, the Order entered a sort of limbo with Brig. John Montgomery, acting up. The Brig., who was the Grand Secretary of the Order and who knew King Leopold of the Belgiums during the latter’s exile in England during the 2nd World War, persuaded the King to become Sovereign Grand Commander, but with the King’s return to Belgium after the War, the Order once more found itself with only two old men as members and looked as if it would finally succumb.
It did however survive and since 1995, new members have been added year by year and the Order is once again on an upward curve with members in England, Belgium, France, Sweden, Canada, USA, Russia and Serbia.
Today the Order is a social and charitable order. The Tenets of the Order are:
Honour, Duty, Truth and Justice. We believe in Honour above self, Duty above wealth, Justice above the law and Truth above all.
Our objectives are to teach better citizenship amongst the peoples based upon the
Ancient Knightly Code and to support worthy causes particularly Orphanages and Youth Centres where these ideas may be taught and to support the learning of foreign languages to help with these aims.
Any gentleman or lady of either the Christian or Jewish religion may join, by invitation, but the ranks of Knight Commander, Dame Commander are restricted to those who can show a Coat-of-Arms going back eighty years or three generations and for Knight Grand Commanders or Dame Grand Commanders three hundred years or ten generations. There are some exceptions at the discretion of the Sovereign Grand Commander, if the people concerned are considered worthy, and are prepared to obtain a grant of Arms.