National Gendarmerie

The National Gendarmerie is one of two national police forces of France, along with the National Police. It is a branch of the French Armed Forces placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior—with additional duties to the Ministry of Defense. Its area of responsibility includes smaller towns, rural and suburban areas, while the National Police, a civilian force, is in charge of cities and their centres. Because of its military status, the Gendarmerie also fulfills a range of military and defense missions. The Gendarmes have a cybercrime division. The force has a strength of more than 100,000 personnel, as of 2014.
The Gendarmerie is the heir to the Maréchaussée, the oldest police force in France, dating back to the Middle Ages. It has influenced the culture and traditions of gendarmerie forces all around the world, especially in independent countries from the former French colonial empire.


Early history of the institution

The Gendarmerie is the direct descendant of the Marshalcy of the ancien regime, more commonly known by its French title, the Maréchaussée, an institution that lasted from the medieval times until the French Revolution.
During the Middle Ages, there were two Grand Officers of the Kingdom of France with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France and the Constable of France. The military policing responsibilities of the Marshal of France were delegated to the Marshal's provost, whose force was known as the Marshalcy because its authority ultimately derived from the Marshal. The Marshalcy dates back to the Hundred Years War, and some historians trace it back to the early twelfth century.
Another organisation, the Constabulary, was under the command of the Constable of France. The constabulary was regularised as a military body in 1337.
In 1415 the Maréchaussée fought in the Battle of Agincourt and their commander, the "Prévôt des Maréchaux", Gallois de Fougières, was killed in battle. His existence was rediscovered in 1934. Gallois de Fougières was then officially recorded as the first known gendarme to have died in the line of duty and his remains are now buried under the monument to the gendarmerie in Versailles.
Under King Francis I, the Maréchaussée was merged with the Constabulary. The resulting force was also known as the Maréchaussée, or, formally, the Constabulary and Marshalcy of France. Unlike the former constabulary the new Maréchaussée was not a fully militarized force.
In 1720, the Maréchaussée was officially attached to the Household of the King, together with the "gendarmerie" of the time, which was not a police force at all, but a royal bodyguard. During the eighteenth century, the marshalcy developed in two distinct areas: increasing numbers of Marshalcy Companies, dispersed into small detachments, were stationed around the French countryside providing law and order, while specialist units provided security for royal and strategic sites such as palaces and the mint
While its existence ensured the relative safety of French rural districts and roads, the Maréchaussée was regarded in contemporary England, which had no effective police force of any nature, as a symbol of foreign tyranny.English visitors to France saw their armed and uniformed patrols as royal soldiers with an oppressive role. In 1789, on the eve of the French Revolution, the Maréchaussée numbered 3,660 men divided into small brigades. Their limited numbers and scattered deployment rendered the Maréchaussée ineffective in controlling the "Great Fear" of July-August 1789.

The Revolution

During the revolutionary period, the Maréchaussée commanders generally placed themselves under the local constitutional authorities. Despite their connection with the king, they were therefore perceived as a force favouring the reforms of the French National Assembly.
As a result, the Maréchaussée Royale was not disbanded but simply renamed as the gendarmerie nationale. Its personnel remained unchanged, and the functions of the force remained much as before. However, from this point, the gendarmerie, unlike the Maréchaussée became a fully military force. During the revolutionary period, the main force responsible for policing was the National Guard. Although the Maréchaussée had been the main police force of the ancien regime, the gendarmerie was initially a full-time auxiliary to the National Guard militia.
In 1791 the newly named gendarmerie nationale was grouped into 28 divisions, each commanded by a colonel responsible for three départements. In turn, two companies of gendarmes under the command of captains were based in each department. This territorial basis of organisation continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Nineteenth century

Under Napoléon, the numbers and responsibilities of the gendarmerie, renamed gendarmerie impériale, were significantly expanded. In contrast to the mounted Maréchaussée, the gendarmerie comprised both horse and foot personnel; in 1800 these numbered approximately 10,500 of the former and 4,500, respectively.
In 1804 the first Inspector General of Gendarmerie was appointed and a general staff established—based in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris. Subsequently, special gendarmerie units were created within the Imperial Guard, and for combat duties in French occupied Spain.
Following the Second Restoration of 1815, the gendarmerie was reduced in numbers to about 18,000 and reorganised into departmental legions. Under King Louis Phillippe a "gendarmerie of Africa" was created for service in Algeria and during the Second Empire the Imperial Guard Gendarmerie Regiment was re-established. The majority of gendarmes continued in what was now the established role of the corps—serving in small sedentary detachments as armed rural police. Under the Third Republic the ratio of foot to mounted gendarmes was increased and the numbers directly incorporated in the French Army with a military police role reduced.
In 1901, the École des officiers de la gendarmerie nationale was established to train its officers.

Battle honours

Five battles are registered on the flag of the Gendarmerie:
The gendarmerie is still sometimes referred to as the maréchaussée. The gendarmes are also occasionally called pandores, which is a slang term derived from an 18th-century Hungarian word for frontier guards. The symbol of the gendarmerie is a stylized grenade, which is also worn by the Italian Carabinieri and the Grenadier Guards in Britain. The budget in 2008 was approximately 7.7 billion euros.
The equivalent Dutch force, Royal Marechaussee, uses officially the old French term - which King William I, when assuming power after the fall of Napoleon, considered preferable to "gendarmerie".


In French, the term "police" not only refers to the forces, but also to the general concept of "maintenance of law and order". The Gendarmerie's missions belong to three categories:
These missions include:

Basic principles

The Gendarmerie, while remaining part of the French armed forces, has been attached to the Ministry of the Interior since 2009. Criminal investigations are run under the supervision of prosecutors or investigating magistrates. Gendarmerie members generally operate in uniform, and, only occasionally, in plainclothes.


The Director-general of the Gendarmerie is appointed by the Council of Ministers, with the rank of Général d'Armée. The current Director-General is Général Christian Rodriguez who took office on November 1, 2019.
The Director-General organizes the operation of the Gendarmerie at two levels:
The Gendarmerie headquarters, called the Directorate-General of the National Gendarmerie, long located in downtown Paris, had been relocated since 2012 to Issy-les-Moulineaux, a southern Paris suburb.
The Directorate-General of the national gendarmerie includes:
The main components of the organization are the following:
The above-mentioned organizations report directly to the Director General with the exception of the Republican Guard, which reports to the Île-de-France region.
The reserve force numbers 25,000. It is managed by the Departmental Gendarmerie at the regional level.

Departmental Gendarmerie

The Departmental Gendarmerie, or Gendarmerie Départementale, also named «La Blanche» , is the most numerous part of the Gendarmerie, in charge of police in small towns and rural areas. Its territorial divisions are based on the administrative divisions of France, particularly the departments from which the Departmental Gendarmerie derives its name. The Departmental Gendarmerie carries out the general public order duties in municipalities with a population of up to 20 000 citizens. When that limit is exceeded, the jurisdiction over the municipality is turned over to the National Police.
It is divided into 13 metropolitan regions, themselves divided into groupements, themselves divided into compagnies.
It maintains gendarmerie brigades throughout the rural parts of the territory. There are two kind of brigades:
In addition, it has specialised units:
In addition, the Gendarmerie runs a national criminal police institute specializing in supporting local units for difficult investigations.
The research units may be called into action by the judiciary even within cities. As an example, the Paris research section of the Gendarmerie was in charge of the investigations into the vote-rigging allegations in the 5th district of Paris.
Gendarmes normally operate in uniform. They may operate in plainclothes only for specific missions and with their supervisors' authorisation.

Mobile Gendarmerie

The Mobile Gendarmerie, or Gendarmerie Mobile, also named « La Jaune » , is currently divided into 7 Defense zones. It comprises 18 Groupings featuring 109 squadrons for a total of approx. 12,000 men and women.
Its main responsibilities are:
Nearly 20% of the Mobile Gendarmerie squadrons are permanently deployed on a rotational basis in the French overseas territories. Other units deploy occasionally abroad alongside French troops engaged in military operations.
The civilian tasks of the gendarmes mobiles are similar to those of the police units known as Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, for which they are often mistaken. Easy ways to distinguish them include:
The Mobile Gendarmerie includes GBGM, an Armoured grouping composed of seven squadrons equipped with VXB armoured personnel carriers, better known in the Gendarmerie as VBRG. It is based at Versailles-Satory. The unit also specializes in CBRN defense.

National Gendarmerie Intervention Group

is an elite law enforcement and special operations unit numbering about 400 personnel. Its missions include counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, surveillance of national threats, protection of government officials and targeting of organized crime.
GIGN was established in 1974 following the Munich massacre. Created initially as a relatively small police tactical unit specialized in sensitive hostage situations, it has since grown into a larger and more diversified force of nearly 400 members.
Many of its missions are classified, and members are not allowed to be publicly photographed. Since its formation, GIGN has been involved in over 1,800 missions and rescued more than 600 hostages, making it one of the most experienced counter-terrorism units in the world. The unit came into prominence following its successful assault on a hijacked Air France flight at Marseille Marignane airport in December 1994.

Republican Guard

The Republican Guard is a ceremonial unit based in Paris. Their missions include:
The non-metropolitan branches include units serving in the French overseas départements and territories, staff at the disposal of independent States for technical co-operation, Germany, security guards in French embassies and consulates abroad.

Maritime Gendarmerie

Placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the Navy, its missions include:
The Air Transport Gendarmerie is placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the direction of civilian aviation of the transportation ministry, its missions include:
The Air Gendarmerie is placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the Air Force, it fulfills police and security missions in the air bases, and goes on the site of an accident involving military aircraft.

Ordnance Gendarmerie

The Ordnance Gendarmerie fulfills police and security missions in the establishments of the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement.

Nuclear ordnance security Gendarmerie

As the name implies, this branch is in charge of all security missions pertaining to France's nuclear forces.

Provost Gendarmerie

The Provost Gendarmerie, created in 2013, is the military police of the French Army deployed outside metropolitan France.

Foreign service

Gendarmerie units have served in:
The uniform of the Gendarmerie has undergone many changes since the establishment of the corps. Throughout most of the 19th century a wide bicorne was worn with a dark blue coat or tunic. Trousers were light blue. White aiguillettes were a distinguishing feature. In 1905 the bicorne was replaced by a dark blue kepi with white braiding, which had increasingly been worn as a service headdress. A silver crested helmet with plume, modelled on that of the French cuirassiers, was adopted as a parade headdress until 1914. Following World War I a relatively simple uniform was adopted for the Gendarmerie, although traditional features such as the multiple-cord aiguillette and the dark blue/light blue colour combination were retained.
Since 2006 a more casual "relaxed uniform" has been authorised for ordinary duties. The kepi however continues in use for dress occasions. Special items of clothing and equipment are issued for the various functions required of the Gendarmerie. The cavalry and infantry of the Republican Guard retain historic ceremonial uniforms dating from the 19th century.


Officiers Généraux
Grade Insignia Rank
Général d'Armée
Général de Corps d'Armée
Général de Division
Général de Brigade

Officiers supérieurs
Insignia Rank
Insignia Rank
Insignia Rank
Garde républicaine
Insignia Rank
Insignia Rank
Insignia Rank
technique et administratif
Chef d'Escadron

Officers Subalternes
Militaire du Rang


The National Gendarmerie consisted of approx. 103,481 personnel units in 2006. Career gendarmes are either commissioned or non-commissioned officers. The lower ranks consist of auxiliary gendarmes on limited-time/term contracts. The 103,481 military personnel of the National Gendarmerie is divided into:
This personnel mans the following units:
; Départemental Gendarmerie
; Gendarmerie Mobile
; Special formations
; Other units
The Gendarmerie nationale's Prospective Centre, which was created in 1998 by an ordinance of the Minister for Defence, is one of the gendarmerie's answers to officials' willingness to modernise the State. Under the direct authority of the general director of the gendarmerie, it is located in Penthièvre barracks on avenue Delcassé in Paris and managed by Mr Frédéric LENICA, "maître des requêtes" in the Conseil d'Etat.



The gendarmerie uses many different French cars, like Renault Megane and Peugeot Partner.


The Gendarmerie has used helicopters since 1954. They are part of the Gendarmerie air forces. FAG units are attached to each of the seven domestic "zonal" regions and six overseas COMGEND. They also operate for the benefit of the National Police which owns no helicopters.
Forces aériennes de la Gendarmerie operate a fleet of 55 machines belonging to three types and specialized in two basic missions: surveillance/intervention and rescue/intervention.