In 1622 Louis XIII of France gave muskets to a company of light cavalry in his Royal Guard and thereby created the Mousquetaires du Roi. They were part of the Royal Household and a bodyguard for the king, but as they were small in number they might easily have been largely forgotten today were it not for the novels of Alexandre Dumas, whose tales of d’Artagnan and the three musketeers make these men still widely known. GerMan have already made a dismounted set which has previously been reviewed, so this is a natural mounted companion set.
It was during the 17th century that uniforms as we would understand them first appeared, but it seems very likely that the Musketeers wore no uniform when they were first established. At some point they were given tabards - a kind of cassock garment with open sides to allow the wearer to use their weapons - and it is this familiar item which we find being worn by these figures. The style of this tabard doubtless changed as fashions changed, but the style depicted here is quite reasonable. Other than the tabard there was no uniform, but the typical dress of high boots, gauntlets and a large hat with plumes has been correctly reproduced here. The dates on the box are something of a mystery. We do not know of the significance of 1620, nor 1673, although the latter was (perhaps coincidentally) the year that the real Comte d'Artagnan, commander of the Musketeers, died. Given such a long time period it would not be possible to have the uniforms perfect throughout but those here are quite authentic.
The poses are a nice selection, with the majority having their rapier drawn and apparently in a charge or combat. These are anything but flat, as shown in our pictures, yet there is no assembly required, so clearly the method of manufacture allows for poses others cannot achieve. Two of the men have pistols drawn, which is fine, and there is one man standing, apparently holding his horse. We really liked all the poses.
The horses seem fine for the period, and are in quite active poses apart from the standing animal held by the dismounted musketeer. All seem very familiar, but the one with the barrel under the animal is an odd choice and we would much rather have done without this item, which is difficult to carve away. It is satisfying to report that the men fit their horses absolutely perfectly and look great when paired up.
The sculpting is excellent, with the loose clothing of the day well represented. Detail is very good and the men look very natural. The swords and scabbards are perfectly slender, as they should be, and on the whole everything has been put together very nicely indeed.
We must however issue two warnings. The first is that these figures are made in a fairly soft plastic which is fine except that it is far from robust. This means thin items can easily be broken, so you could easily find some or all of the sword blades separate when you open the box as these are obviously vulnerable. They can be glued back (as all of ours had to be), but this is likely to deter some people who need some resilience in their figures. The second warning is that GerMan tell us that some early examples of this set were despatched with too few horses, so check before you buy, or get your seller to before they send them to you.
Cardinal Richelieu raised a similar company shortly after the king, and these were dressed in the same way so these figures can be used for both. In the 1660s the king took over both units and created the Grey Musketeers and the Black. This set includes flags for both, although there is no standard-bearer. Once you repair these figures, which you will probably have to, they look great, so if you can live with the need for careful handling then these bring alive an apparently dashing and chivalrous period in French history very nicely.