Lieutenant-General (France)

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Lieutenant-Général (French: Lieutenant-Général) in France, was a title and rank across various military and security institutions with history dating back well beyond the 18th century. The official historic succession of the "Lieutenant-Général of France" corresponded to Général de division for the French Army, and Vice-Amiral (Vice-Admiral) for the French Navy.

While the French Navy's equivalent of a Lieutenant General is a Vice-Admiral, the equivalent of today's Lieutenant-Général in the French Armed Forces would be partially that of Général de corps d'armée (French: Général de corps d'armée), such was due to the fact that the concept of an Army Corps (French: Corps d'Armée) wasn't adopted first until November 19, 1873 by a Presidential Decree, and the actual rank of Général de corps d'armée was not officially formed until a Law Decree on June 6, 1939.[1]

For the French Army and French Navy during the Ancien Régime, the rank corresponded to Lieutenant-General of the Armies[2] (French: Lieutenant-Général des Armées), and Lieutenant-General of the Naval Armies (French: Lieutenant-Général des Armées Navales) for the Navy, such as in the Levant Fleet and Flotte du Ponant.

History of the rank in FranceEdit

In France, under the Ancien Régime, the Restoration (French: restauration) and July Monarchy, several officers carried the title of Lieutenant-General (French: Lieutenant-Général). Within a general context, the title designated the individual who was delegated all the powers of authority on behalf of the person who he was supposed to replace.

Province Lieutenant-GeneralEdit

The Province Lieutenant-General (French: Lieutenant-Général de Province) was a personage, often issued from high aristocracy, and who represented the King in the provinces of the Kingdom. His role was theoretically resumed to the assurance locum status of the Governor. Accordingly, the Kings would hope that their influence would get neutralized simultaneously, preventing any sort of tentative revolt. The charge function of the lieutenant-general became in the 17th century and specially in the 18th century, purely an honorific title: The individual bearing this title would reside in the Cour de France (French: Cour de France) and would contempt to earn income without actual real work. In addition, the Kings had the tendency to nominate the sons which were heir to their fathers, a hereditary system which made the offices of the lieutenant-general strictly part of the patrimony of aristocratic families.

One should not mix the office of the lieutenant-general with that of the Lieutenant of the King (French: Lieutenant du Roi). The Lieutenant of the King was subordinated to the Lieutenant-General and his role (within a similar framework: represented the King in the provinces) was only upheld with very limited functions.

Lieutenant-General BailliageEdit

The Lieutenant-General Baillage (Baillage (French: bailliage)[3] or Sénéchaussée (French: sénéchaussée) - Bailliage : designated both a territorial entity (administrative, financial or legal circumscription) and the charge officer of that function, designated as Bailli) was the name which referred to the Grand-Judge (French: Juge-Mage),[4] charged with replacing temporarily the Bailli (French: bailli) and Sénéchal (French: Sénéchal) in relation to legal cases.

Lieutenant-General of the PoliceEdit

The title of Lieutenant-General of the Police (French: lieutenant-général de police) under the Ancien Régime was established in 1667, at Paris, to assure and maintain order. As of 1699, other Police Lieutenant-Generals were established in other grand cities in France.

Lieutenant-General of the KingdomEdit

The title of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom referred to a temporary function which the Kings, in circumstances of crises, invested all their power in them to exercise their will or part of their royal authority. Charged with this function were:

Lieutenant-General of the ArmiesEdit

The rank of Lieutenant-General of the Armies or Lieutenant-General of the Naval Armies for the French Navy, was the most elevated rank in the military hierarchy of the Ancien Régime, inaccessible to a commoner. He was only surpassed by the Marshals of France (French: maréchaux) and Colonel-Generals of France (French: colonels généraux),[6] for the French Army, and the Admirals of France (French: amiraux de France) and Vice-Admirals of France (French: vice-amiraux de France), for the Navy, not titles of military rank (French: grade militaire), but Great Officers of the Crown of France (French: grand office de la couronne de France), a dignity both honorific and lucrative. The rank of Lieutenant-General of France was the succeeding equivalent rank of a général de division and the Lieutenant-General of the Naval Armies the succeeding equivalent of a Vice-Admiral of the actual époque.

The ranks of Lieutenant-General of the Armies were renamed as Général de Division and Vice-Amiral (Vice-Admiral) in 1791. In 1814, the rank of Général de division was renamed as Lieutenant-General of the Armies, before definitely being referred to as Général officer corps in 1848. The rank of Général de corps d'armée wasn't officially adopted until 1939, along with 5 other French Armed Forces ranks which included 1 Général d'armée rank, 2 Aerial general officer ranks of the French Air Force and 2 Admiral ranks of the French Navy.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Général de corps d'armée in the French Armed Forces, is the third ranking order of the general officer corps, based on the hierarchical order. The designation of a général de corps d'armée is situated above a général de division and underneath the designation of général d'armée. By regulation, the rank refers to an officer of the rank of « Général de division » who receives the « rank and designation » of a « Général de corps d'armée ». This rank would command an Army Corps, a unit composing several Divisions. The insignia is composed of 4 stars. A Presidential Decree on November 19, 1873 introduced for a first time the notion of "corps armée". A circular on March 17, 1921 depicted that generals commanding an Army Corps (French: corps d'armée) would wear a 4th star, forming with the first three, a diamond shape. The generals commanding the army and the members of the Superior War Council wore a 5th star, superposed in the first 4 stars. Finally a Law Decree of June 6, 1939 made official, the designations and ranks referrals of "Général d'armée", "Général de corps d'armée", "Amiral", "Vice-amiral d'escadre", "Général d'armée aérienne" et "Général de corps aérien".
  2. ^ The French Air Force not in existence during that époque.
  3. ^ A charge function which was also in application in Belgium and Switzerland.
  4. ^ From Latin Judex Major (« Grand Judge ») was an old legal function depending on the lieu and époque in concern. Since Roman Antiquity, the Judex Major was the first Judge in a tribunal. During the Ancien Régime in France, the charge function of the lieutenant-general should not be confused with the military rank of a lieutenant-general. Certain cities had their Grand-Judge, first officer in the jurisdiction implications. In France, this function disappeared with the Revolution.
  5. ^ King Louis Philippe I was the founder and patron of the actual French Foreign Legion and its Origins in 1831.
  6. ^ The Duke of Orleans was the Colonel-General of the Hussars in 1817.



  • Jean-Luc Messager, La Légion étrangère 175 ans d'histoire (The French Foreign Legion 175 years of History), édition EPA Hachette livre, 2007