During the Thirty Years War, many Scottish migrated to Europe seeking fame and fortune. With the entrance of Sweden into the direct fray, the Scottish were actively recruited. By the mid 1630's, with the fortunes of the Swedes waning, the French began to subsidize the Scottish troops directly rather than using Sweden as the paymaster.
Towards the end of the 1630’s changes in the political equilibrium in England made it apparent that civil war was unavoidable. This naturally aroused the interest of the many Scottish officers in Swedish and French service, who, unlike their colleagues in Scotland and England, had a good training and experience of practical military operations. In 1639-40 large bands of them returned: it is recorded. for instance, that when Alexander Leslie landed in Leith in 1641 he met no less than 36 felIow officers from Germany. The returning soldiers were of all ranks, from Field Marshal (like Leslie and Patrick Ruthven) on down. As not only officers but also other ranks were needed, General James King was sent to the Continent and Denmark to enlist men.
Organised recruitment of Irish regiments to the French army dates from 1635 and seven regiments were recruited to fight in France. While numbers declined in the 1640's, eight regiments fought in French service after the Catholic defeat in Ireland. For example, the exiled James Stuart, Duke of York, had a regiment which was disbanded in 1664 (then called the Royal Irlandais).
Unit History – Hebron or Hepburn IR (1633-1636)
The regiment, Hepburn, is based on one of the many Scottish regiments serving the French. It was raised in 1633 from remnants of Scottish units that had fought for the Swedes and had been under the command of the Scot, John Hepburn. In Swedish service four chosen Scottish regiments, Hepburn's regiment, Lord Reay's regiment, Sir James Lumsden's musketeers, and Stargate's corps, were formed into one brigade under the command of Hepburn. It was called the Green Brigade, and the doublets, scarfs, feathers, and standards were of that colour.
In January 1635 the regiment was assigned to the army corps of Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, supporting the duke's actions in defence of Heilbronn and the capture of Speyer. Subsequently the regiment was transferred to the army commanded by Cardinal Richelieu's fidèle Louis de Nogaret, cardinal de La Valette, third son of the duc d'Épernon, and suffered badly, like all the other units in the army, in the disastrous campaign to relieve Mainz during the summer of 1635.
The regiment remained in the army of La Valette during the 1636 campaign, and officers and men distinguished themselves campaigning against imperial forces in May and June 1636. In the spring of 1636, John Hepburn served in Lorraine, with the army under the Bernhard Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and so eminent were his services that King Louis ordered the diploma of a marshal of France to be granted. Before receiving his marshal’s baton, he was killed at the siege of Saverne (1636) by a ball shot from the ramparts. He was not older than his 36th or 38th year but had a successful military career. He was buried, with great splendour, in the southern transept of the cathedral of Toul in French Lorraine.
In 1643 there were four Scottish regiments serving in the French army in addition to the Gardes Ecossaises: Douglas, Grey, Lundy and Fullerton.
Text: French Armies of the Thirty Years War, Stephane Thion, LRT Editions, 2008