CUIRASSIERS, a kind of heavy cavalry, originally developed out of the men-at-arms or gendarmerie forming the heavy cavalry of feudal armies. Their special characteristic was the wearing of full armour, which they retained long after other troops had abandoned it. Hence they became distinguished as cuirassiers. The first Austrian corps of kyrissers was formed in 1484 by the emperor Maximilian and was 100 strong. In 1705 Austria possessed twenty regiments of cuirassiers. After the war of 1866, however, the existing regiments were converted into dragoons. Russia has likewise in modern times abolished all but a few guard regiments of cuirassiers. The Prussian cuirassiers were first so called under P'rederick William I., and in the wars of his successor Frederick the Great they bore a conspicuous part. After the Seven Years' War they ceased to wear the cuirass on service, but after 1814 these were reintroduced, the spoils taken from the French cuirassiers being used to equip the troops. The cuirass is now worn only on ceremonial parades. In France the cuirassiers date from 1666, when a regiment, subsequently numbered Sth of the line, was formed. During the first Empire many regiments were created, until in 1812 there were fourteen. The number was reduced after the fall of Napoleon, but in modern times it has been again increased. The French regiments alone in Europe wear the cuirass on all parades and at manoeuvres.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)