The Hundred Years War lasted well over a hundred years. Well that depends on how you count truces, and when you consider the war to start and end, for it was not a continuous conflict between England and France. Nevertheless it lasted well over a century, and it was a time of significant development in the look of the medieval knight, so this box of English examples from Zvezda needs a more specific date.
Armour was never uniform as such but it certainly followed fashion, so these figures can easily be dated. They all seem to wear plate, both on the body and on the limbs, and most have the helms that were common around the mid 14th century. A few have an early form of the visored basinet, and the figure who has obligingly removed his helm displays an earlier example of the basinet also. Moving down the body we find all are wearing a surcoat, which is in various lengths from the knees to around the hips - mostly the latter. This again strongly suggests the middle of the 14th century, with the longer versions being popular earlier on. Many of the men wear their sword belts low over the hips, which is common for, you've guessed it, mid 14th century, while almost no one has a crest - a device that was more common in the late 13th/early 14th but by 1350 was mostly reserved for the joust. One last clue may help to clinch it. The figure labelled as the 'general' is also named as Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376), veteran of many battles of the war including Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). With his famous helm and armour this figure could hardly be anyone else. In conclusion then, we would suggest the set is best suited for the middle decades of the 14th century. We promise not to discuss the date again!
The majority of the figures are on foot. While the popular image of the medieval knight is mounted, the English had already learned from the Scots how infantry could frustrate even the best cavalry, so by the Hundred Years War they usually fought on foot and only mounted to chase a beaten foe, thus teaching the same lesson to the French. All the poses apart from the last in the top row (identified as a 'commander') seem to be clearly engaged in hand-to-hand combat and exhibit all the action you could wish for. The man with the two-handed sword is particularly splendid and has been achieved by having a separate arm. Still we liked all the poses, particularly since everyone that has a shield seems to be actually using it for defence, which is not always remembered when sculpting figures.
The horses are also a great selection, although we disliked the pose of the first in the third row. All the animals seem heavily armoured, with caparisons which may well hide mail or fabric armour underneath. This seems all the more likely as all have a chanfron (head armour) of one form or another. This level of armour is more typical of the later part of the 14th century, but would still have been seen at an earlier date - just not as universally as this set suggests during the mid century (sorry, we promised we wouldn't discuss dates again).
The sheer quality of these little figures would brighten the day of even the most irrepressibly happy person. Detail is great, sharp and simply a joy. All shields and housings have been engraved with heraldic designs which, while perfectly reasonable and actually very attractive, make life a little bit difficult for anyone wishing to choose their own designs. These figures don't know the meaning of the word flash, and with the handful of separate shields and the one extra arm there is no waste plastic to spoil the view. The fly in the ointment (actually more of an albatross) is Zvezda's continued madness in putting pegs on the legs of the knights and, more unforgivably, holes in the sides of the horses. It is simply physically impossible to get said pegs in said holes. The usual firm Zvezda plastic merely bends the pegs long before they approach the required position. Cut the pegs off and you will find the riders, despite their correctly straight-legged stance, fit the horses like, well, a real horse and rider. When your engineering is that good why spoil it with such a stupid feature? Zvezda persisted with this pointless exercise for many more sets, and we persisted in thinking it unnecessary.
So what is there still unsaid? We've mentioned the excellent poses, the stunning artistry and the perfect engineering. The flawless proportions and lively animation speak for themselves, so that is about it. In a phrase, Zvezda have done it again. Now, did we mention anything about a date...