'Going native' was the term, and it was looked on with horror, at least by many Europeans. In the British Empire it described colonists or other Europeans that adopted some of the customs and practices of the foreign country in which they lived. However whenever one people invade and conquer another's territory, adapting their lifestyle to the new environment is commonplace despite this disapproval, largely because the local practices are so much better, having been developed through generations of experience. The crusaders, particularly those that stayed to administer the new Christian lands after the successful First Crusade, were no different. Although few in number this new local aristocracy took on a more oriental appearance to varying degrees, although the influences were often more Armenian or Byzantine than Muslim. In addition many of the Christian newcomers married local wives and their offspring, called poulains, were naturally more likely to adopt local customs despite being Christian. Finally some renegade Christians actually fought for local Muslim lords and held land and wealth under them, so again they were more likely to 'go native'. In short then the simplistic view that the two cultures never mixed is false and this set attempts to portray these crusaders in a more realistic light.
All of these figures wear a mail hauberk with long sleeves and mail chausses, but no plate armour apart from the occasional poleyn knee-protector. Helmets are of various styles but again fairly simple, with some having nasal guards, but there are no visors or great helms here. So far this is pretty standard for Western Europe, so now we come to the 'oriental' aspect of their costume. Some have a cover over or under the helmet which includes a neck curtain, and a couple have a turban wrapped round the helmet. That is pretty much it. In truth many here could very easily be riding in England or Germany rather than the Holy Land. One curious aspect of all the figures is that over their hauberk they all wear a very short tunic type garment. The surcoat appeared in Palestine around the mid 12th century, but that garment hung well below the knees, whereas those on these figures cover no more than the hips and while they are split at the front and back to facilitate horse riding they are so short as to make this unnecessary. We can find no reference to such a garment, either of eastern or western origin, being worn in this context, and must therefore serious doubt its authenticity.
The weaponry is easy to describe. The first four pictured poses carry swords, an axe and a mace. Below them are four poses carrying lances upright while the third row shows men carrying the lance or spear horizontally using a ring hand. While oriental dress and customs might have been adopted their style of warfare was not, at least by the western Frankish knights, so this western array of weaponry is quite appropriate. Of more concern are the shields however, particularly in a few cases where they are so long and thin as to be more lozenge in shape, which departs rather from the historical reality.
The horses have quite a variety of saddles but all look good for the subject. The gaits are a mixture of good and not so good, and one pose has a peg on the left side without there being anything to attach to it. This set of horses has been used by Strelets before, but for these figures the peg serves no purpose so needs to be trimmed off. The fit of the men to the horses is variable, with a few having their legs too close together, causing the figure to 'pop off'. Mounting a figure on different horses helps, but we would have preferred all riders to fit all horses.
The Strelets chunky style is something this hobby is very familiar with, and these figures are about typical. A fair effort is made in terms of detail and texture in places such as mail, but the bosses and raised relief on some of the shields is enormous and exaggerated. All the shields are moulded with the figure, so the only assembly is the separate lances or spears for the bottom four figures. We found all four needed to have their ring hands enlarged slightly in order to take these weapons, but this is only a minor problem. The ridge where the moulds meet is not particularly pronounced here, and there is no flash.
The poses are not very exciting but there is nothing much wrong with any of them. The man lunging his sword to his left seems to have lost the lower half of his shield arm, which makes him easily to mould but does little for the pose, while all those in the top row are a little flat. Still it is the accuracy problems that were our main concern, as otherwise these are of the same quality as the many other Strelets medieval sets, which means they will at least blend well with the rest of the range.