The senior cavalry regiment of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, and therefore of the whole French army, was the Grenadiers à Cheval, or Horse Grenadiers. Conceived as a mounted version of the foot Grenadiers, only the tallest and best recruits were permitted to join this elite unit, and this set from HaT portrays them in all their glory.
The four poses are well chosen and nicely poised with plenty of life and natural-looking stances. Sadly only four poses means there is no room for officers or trumpeters, but the troopers are excellent.
The uniform of the Horse Grenadiers closely resembled that of their dismounted comrades, with the tall bearskin grenadier cap being the most distinguishing element. That uniform has been perfectly reproduced here, with all the right elements in place including the aiguillette on the right shoulder. Note these figures all wear the standard coatee, but on campaign before 1809 these men often wore a surtout instead, though how often and when is not recorded. The very tall bearskin is somewhat taller than the regulation, but reflects the exaggerated height actually worn during the period. The single crossbelt supports a cartridge pouch, though the men do not have carbines. In fact they were issued with full infantry muskets, but nearly all contemporary depictions of them fail to show these firearms so it seems very unlikely that most men carried them. HaT have cleverly accommodated this by providing every man with a separate musket so they can be added by the customer if desired.
The two horses are very well done, with better poses than many others on the market. The horse furniture is correctly sculpted and these are fine looking animals. During the early years of the regiment the portmanteau was round, but the rectangular one modelled on both these horses dates from 1808.
After Napoleon abdicated in 1814 the Grenadiers à Cheval were made into Royal cuirassiers, but had not received their armour when Napoleon returned the following year. For the Waterloo campaign, then, these men wore the cuirassier habit-veste or the plain surtout, which makes these figures suitable for the pre-1815 period. However up until 1814 their uniform had barely changed since their formation in 1800, so in our scale these are appropriate for the whole of that period, though the saddles and coats make the 1809 to 1814 period work best.
Once again HaT has expanded the hobby with a set of figures that saw important action in many campaigns. The standard of sculpting is very good, with genuinely realistic positions and clear detail throughout. This is a nice set of cavalry figures, and it is just a pity that there are only four poses.