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HistoryEdit

Although many European nations have maintained Horse Grenadier units at some point or the other throughout the Early Modern Era, the one country with which they are frequently associated with is France.

It was Louis XIV who first introduced the concept of Grenadiers à Cheval de la Maison du Roi or Royal Household Horse Grenadiers in 1676, which consisted of cavalry capable of throwing grenades — a truly terrifying prospect for many as hand grenades were large, bulky and highly primitive in design, meaning that an aborted throw could be a grenadier's last. Understandably, both horse and rider alike had to be the fittest and the strongest in the army. The horsemen were picked from the grenadier corps of the army — already considered an élite unto themselves — and ordered to ride horses in the name of the king. Ultimately however the concept of mounted grenadiers proved untenable (the horses could shy or panic in the wake of exploding grenades) and the Grenadiers à Cheval served in a position of melee-based heavy cavalry rather than an actual bomb-thrower.

The Royal Horse Grenadiers were effectively disbanded with the onset of the 1789 Revolution, and in their place, owing to the unstable and fracticious nature of the Reign of Terror, a new elite meant to function as the French Republic's elite fighting force — the Garde Consulaire — was founded and into it were added a Horse Grenadier regiment which functioned as the latter Grenadiers à Cheval of the former French royal household — an élite heavy cavalry force. When Napoleon was anointed as Emperor of the French,. they were now renamed the Grenadiers à Cheval de la Garde Impériale — the Imperial Guard Horse Grenadiers. It is this one image that has since then stuck in the popular imagination. As with military convention of the day the Horse Guard Grenadiers were not committed to battle early, for Napoleon like many other commanders preferred to hold them in reserve until needed. With the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1814, the Horse Guard Grenadiers, like many units personally attributed to the deposed Emperor, were subsequently disbanded.

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