At the outbreak of the Thirty Years War cavalry was generally categorised into two types - cuirassiers and arquebusiers - with cuirassiers being the heavier, so it is cuirassiers that are depicted in this set. Native Swedish cavalry had not impressed early in Sweden’s involvement in the war, but improved horses and battle experience made things better, although German cavalry still played an important role in the armies of Gustavus Adolphus. The cuirassiers were the last vestige of the fully armoured knight of the Middle Ages, and were soon to lose much of their remaining armour, so the age of heavily armoured men on large horses saw its last hurrah at this time.
The usual tactic of cavalry in the early 17th century was the caracole, whereby ranks of mounted men took it in turns to fire their pistols at an enemy rather than coming to actual blows. The Swedish model was to charge and make contact with the enemy, with the emphasis on the use of cold steel, and pistols relegated to melee work after the charge. This tactic was to be adopted throughout Europe, and all these poses are suggestive of this later technique. Four of the six have their long straight swords unsheathed and in action, while the remaining two are holding pistols – one seems to be using his as a club. Hitting someone with a pistol smacked of desperation, as pistols were expensive and easily damaged, but it did happen, so all the poses here are quite appropriate.
As cuirassiers most if not all these men might be expected to wear three-quarter armour, which meant breast and back plates, a helmet (closed or open), armour on the arms and tasses covering the thighs and legs down to the knee. All the figures in this set have this with the very obvious exception of the helmet, which none have. Now it is true that Swedish 'heavies' in particular 'lightened' as the war dragged on, but this meant losing the limb armour, so men were left with trunk armour and a helmet of some sort. Having the full armour but no helmet is simply strange and if not impossible would certainly have been very rare, particularly in the thick of battle. Apart from that quite glaring problem these figures are pretty accurate, although it must be said it is not always possible to make out what is going on on some.
The horses too are pretty accurate, with reasonable saddles and a brace of pistols on each. Many of the poses however are hopeless - no horse has ever run in such a way as to have three hooves on the ground and the fourth high in the air, but the majority here are simply unnatural and look dreadful.
There is not much good to be said about the sculpting either. Proportions are often poor and detail is frequently missing or confused. There is quite a lot of flash and many of the riders can’t be persuaded to sit fully on the horse. These are very far from attractive figures.
While heavy cavalry like this was fading away from the battlefields of Europe a charge by a group of such men would still have been an impressive sight. Considerably less impressive would be a charge by these figures, which with their soft hats and contorted horses don’t even look particularly menacing. Revell made two cuirassiers in their set of Swedish Cavalry, and did a splendid job too, but even if this set is not compared with that high standard it still leaves a very great deal to be desired.