Origins of the institution
L’École Militaire was founded in 1750, after the War of the Austrian Succession, by Louis XV on the basis of a proposal of Marshal Maurice de Saxe and with the support of Madame de Pompadour and financier Joseph Paris Duverney.
Previously, military academies were exclusive to children of a noble background and offered apprenticeships in the King’s Stables or the stables of other royal members. With the aim of creating an academic college for cadet officers from poor noble families, the exclusivity that royal military academies held vanished.
By the edict of January 1751, King Louis XV founded the institution intended for the education of five hundred noble young men and born without fortune. Article XI of the edict provides for “by way of first perpetual endowment” the tax on playing cards. The administration is entrusted to the Secretary of State for War. The Royal Military Academy included a number of military colleges in the province such as the School of Brienne where students were admitted on evidence of nobility. At the end of their schooling, admission to the Royal Military School in Paris was done through a national competition.
Architecture and Ange-Jacques Gabriel
Enlisted by the King to design a more grandiose building than the Hôtel des Invalides (constructed by Louis XIV), Ange-Jacques Gabriel began construction in 1752 on the grounds of the farm of Grenelle. After a long period of construction, the school did not open until 1760. Gabriel presented an immense area with beautiful façades and running water through a system of wells and pipes. It was indeed much larger, and striking than the Invalides.
The Comte de Saint-Germain reorganised the establishment in 1777 under the name of the École des Cadets-gentilshommes (School of Young Gentlemen), of which accepted the young Napoleon Bonaparte in 1784. Bonaparte went on to graduate after only one year instead of two.