After being suitably impressed by the effectiveness of lancers in other armies, and appreciating their value in his own Imperial Guard, Napoleon issued an Imperial decree on 18 June 1811 introducing lancer regiments into the French Line. Though never as famous as the Polish and Red lancers of the Guard, six regiments were created by converting dragoons, and it is these men that are depicted in this set.
This set is unusual in that there are two different versions about. The first two scans above are from the first issue set. However HaT tell us they were not happy with the fourth pictured pose and changed this for the pose shown on the third row when a new batch was made.
The (original) four poses show three troopers either charging with lance levelled or engaging an enemy. The first man has his lance upright as if on the march. The new fifth pose is of a lancer charging with lance resting on hip. The poses are quite well done, though the man leaning down holding his lance very low does not look like he could get much force behind the blow. All lancers had to ensure they controlled the lance even after impact with an enemy to avoid being unable to retrieve it from the unfortunate opponent.
Uniform varied little for the four years of their existence, and is well represented here. However the crest on the helmet looks wrong as it finishes in what is virtually a point at the front, when it should be more rounded. Also the crest should be fatter, though difficulties in moulding probably made this difficult to represent. Much more importantly, none of the figures have coat tails or indeed anything in the seat area. Apparently this was an error during the sculpting, and it was one which was addressed in the revised second issue. In that version, the remaining original poses were recut to include some sort of approximation to coat tails (though not very convincing as HaT themselves admit), and the new figure had properly sculpted tails.
The weaponry of these figures is also imperfect. The lances are a little too short, as the originals were nearly 3 metres in length, though the shortfall is not enough to be immediately noticeable. All the figures have a cartridge belt, as they should, because they were armed with carbine and pistol as well as the lance. Yet none of these figures has either firearm, and nothing on the horses to suggest pistol holsters. It is true that many troopers, burdened with so many weapons, took any opportunity to discard the carbine, but it would have been better if HaT had provided all the men with this item and left it to the customer to decide if some should be carved away. Finally the sword on each figure is the straight heavy cavalry type, whereas it should be the slightly curved light cavalry type.
The two horses are both galloping and are adequately but not brilliantly sculpted, and the poses are not convincing - especially the second one pictured. Also some straps are missing from the horse furniture, specifically straps across the face of the animal, and across its chest. As already mentioned, both should have pistol holsters, and normally evidence of a greatcoat over the pommel underneath the sheepskin. The horses in the second type set are identical to those in the first, except that they are about 10% smaller.
The detail is reasonable on all figures, but nothing special, though there is a noticeable amount of flash. HaT blame the shortcomings on inexperience, and certainly later sets were much better. Not an attractive set, but nevertheless a useful one for a subject that would not see another for over 15 years.