Rank insignia in the French Army are worn on the sleeve or on shoulder marks of uniforms, and range up to the highest rank of Marshal of France, a state honour denoted with a seven-star insignia that was last conferred posthumously on Marie Pierre Koenig in 1984.
Rank insignia in the French army depend on whether the soldier belongs to an infantry or cavalry unit. The infantry arms (armes à pied) include normal infantry, naval troops, the Foreign Legion and engineers; cavalry arms (armes à cheval) include armoured cavalry, artillery, maintenance and logistics. Sleeves are emblazoned with marks denoting either gold insignia for the infantry or silver/white for the cavalry. However, the artillery uses gold as the main colour, despite being a cavalry branch, and spahis use gold as the main colour despite being part of the cavalry, a distinction representing the armoured cavalry.
Famous examples include Turenne, Vauban, Joachim Murat, Michel Ney, Bazaine, Guillaume Brune, Louis Nicolas Davout, Duke de MacMahon, de Canrobert, André Masséna, de Hauteclocque, de Tassigny, Marie Pierre Koenig and Alphonse Juin.
As a distinction rather than a rank, the title of Marshal is granted through a special law voted by the French Parliament. For this reason, it is impossible to demote a Marshal. The most famous example is Philippe Pétain, who became famous as Maréchal Pétain, chief of state of the Vichy France regime. When he was tried for high treason, the judges were empowered to demote his other ranks and titles, but due to the principle of separation of powers, the judges had no authority to cancel the law that had made Pétain a Marshal and it remained the only title he kept after being sentenced.
Six marshals of France have been given the even more exalted rank of "Marshal General of France" (Maréchal général de France): Duke de Biron, Duke de Lesdiguières, Viscount de Turenne, de Villars, Count de Saxe and Jean-de-Dieu Soult.
Although they all wear the same insignia and titles, officers are divided into:
|OF-9||Général d'armée||Army general||In command of an army.|
|OF-8||Général de corps d'armée||Army corps general||In command of an army corps.[note 1]|
|OF-7||Général de division||Divisional general||In command of a division.|
|OF-6||Général de brigade||Brigadier general||In command of a brigade, or of a région in the Gendarmerie.|
There is no distinction between infantry and cavalry generals, since they are all supposed to be able to command any type of unit. The rank was formerly designated as Lieutenant-General of the Armies until 1791. The official historic succession of the "Lieutenant-General of France" corresponded to Général de division for the French Army, and Vice-Amiral (Vice-Admiral) for the French Navy. The rank of Général de corps d'armée wasn't officially adopted until 1939, along with five other French Armed Forces ranks.
|OF-5||Colonel||Colonel||A colonel commands a regiment of the army or a groupement of the Gendarmerie. During the French Revolution, they were called chef de brigade. Cavalry arms wear silver. The origin of the difference in metal colour is that infantry officers once wore silver epaulettes, while those of the cavalry and other arms wore gold, and the colour of the rank badge had to differ from these metals in each case.|
|OF-4||Lieutenant-colonel||Lieutenant colonel||The lieutenant-colonel has the same responsibilities as a colonel. They were called major during the First French Empire.|
|OF-3||Commandant||Commandant||Also called chef de bataillon in the infantry, chef d'escadrons in the cavalry and chef d'escadron in the artillery and in the army light aviation) is equivalent to a major in most English-speaking countries.|
|OF-2||Capitaine||Captain||In command of a company (French: compagnie) of infantry, a squadron (French: escadron) of cavalry or a battery (French: batterie) of artillery.|
|OF-1||Lieutenant||Lieutenant||Commands a platoon (French: section) of infantry, a troop (French: peloton) of cavalry, or a brigade of the Gendarmerie.|
|Sous-lieutenant||Sub-lieutenant||Commands at the same level as a lieutenant, but is a more junior officer rank.|
|Aspirant||Aspirant||An Officer Designate rank. Technically it is not a commissioned rank but it is still treated in all respects as one. Aspirants are either officers in training in military academies or voluntaries, serving as temporary officers. The aspirant must have been previously élève officier (Officer Cadet). S/He can afterwards be commissioned as a sous-lieutenant. The insignia is a single curl of gold lace, disrupted by "flashes" of wool. It was widely used during both World Wars for providing young educated people with an officer's authority.|
|Élève officier||Officer cadet||A rank held during the first years at the officer academies (École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, École militaire interarmes or École des officiers de la gendarmerie nationale)|
|OR-9||Major||Major||Senior sub-officer rank since 1 January 2009 this grade is attached to the sous-officiers. Prior to this date it was an independent corps between the sous-officiers and the officiers. There is typically at least one Major per regiment and several in a brigade.|
|Adjudant-chef||Chief Adjutant||Chief Warrant Officer; often same responsibilities as the lieutenant.|
|OR-8||Adjudant||Adjutant||Warrant Officer; often same responsibilities as an adjudant-chef.|
Maréchal des logis-chef (Cavalry)
Chief marshal of lodgings
|Addressed as "chef". Typically a platoon second-in-command (equivalent to a Commonwealth sergeant or a US sergeant first class).|
Maréchal des logis (Cavalry)
Marshal of lodgings
|Typically in command of a "group" (i.e. squad; equivalent to a commonwealth corporal or US staff sergeant)|
|Élève sous-officier||NCO student||NCO candidates at the ENSOA.|
Etymologically the adjudant is the adjoint ("joint (assistant)") of an officer, and the sergeant "serves" (Latin: serviens = English: servant).
Aspirants are cadet officers still in training. Sous-lieutenants are junior officers and are often aided by adjudants or adjudants-chefs, who are experienced NCOs/warrant officers.
Full lieutenants are experienced junior officers, served by sergeants when commanding their unit.
A four chevron sergent-chef-major rank existed until 1947. It was a ceremonial rank usually given to the most senior or experienced NCO in a unit, similar to a colour sergeant in the British Army. It was discontinued in the post-war army due to its redundancy.
Junior enlisted grades have different cloth stripe and beret colour depending on the service they are assigned to. Troupes métropolitaines ("from the French mainland") units wear blue, Troupes de marine (the former troupes coloniales) wear red, and the Légion Étrangère (Foreign Legion) units wear green.
A red beret indicates a paratrooper, whether from the "troupes de marine" or not. A legionnaire paratrooper wears a green beret with the general parachutist badge on it, the same badge used by all French Army paratroopers who completed their training.
Senior grades' lace stripe metal depends on their arm of service, just like the officiers. Infantry and support units wear gold stripes and cavalry and technical services units wear silver stripes.
|OR-4||Caporal-chef de première classe||Chief corporal first class||Distinction created in 1999. Caporal-chef after at least 11 years of service and appropriate degree.|
|Often same responsabilities as a sergent.|
|In command of an équipe - literally a team (fireteam). Presently this size unit is a trinôme in the army.|
|OR-2||Soldat de première classe||Soldier first class||This is a distinction rather than a rank.|
There are also distinctions to distinguish volunteers and conscripts, and bars for experience (one for five years, up to four can be obtained).
These ranks apply the word commissaire in light of their participation and role in the Commissariat Service of the army.
|Chief military chaplain|
|Deputy chief military chaplain|
|Regional military chaplain|
|Lay person - military chaplain
Catholic chaplaincy of the army
|Reserve military chaplain|