In an age familiar with war and blood the Crusades were a series of particularly cruel and bloody campaigns, where the rulers of Europe fought for control of Palestine and especially the places holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims. This set from Italeri was the first time that these knights had been modelled in 1/72 plastic, and it must have presented quite a challenge as the 200 years or more during which the Crusades occurred was a period of considerable change in their appearance.
Regular visitors will know that we don't like mixed sets, and this set mixes infantry and cavalry. However it includes eight infantry poses, five cavalry ones and five horse poses, which is extremely good going for a recent set from one of the biggest manufacturers. The foot figures are moving forward with sword, axe, mace and spear and for the most part are very good. The man about to swing his axe holds it directly above his head rather than behind him, and grips the shaft of the axe too far up to get good power into the blow. One of the swordsmen is moving forward with shield horizontal but is looking to his side when you would have expected him to be looking ahead.
The five cavalry appear mostly in the act of charging, though one man seems to be about to strike to his right. The poses are good, with the man charging with lance under arm being the best of the bunch - he really leans into his charge in a very realistic way.
Five horse poses is very generous for what is basically a half-set of cavalry. All types of activity are modelled from standing to charging, and all the poses look good. Several of the horses bear long covers that display the heraldic devices of their masters, carefully picked out in raised plastic.
The packaging mentions the crusade in the 11th century, i.e. that which lasted from 1095 to 1099, and therefore the figures should closely resemble those to be found on the Bayeux Tapestry, made only a few years earlier. However none of the figures here really match the Tapestry, so if you want to model that crusade you would be better advised to use the Revell Normans set. All the knights here wear surcoats, a garment first thought to have been adopted around 1127. Also several shields have heraldic designs, as do the housing for some of the horses, so they cannot date to before the mid 12th century when heraldry first developed. Finally several of the mounted knights are wearing completely closed helmets, called casques, but this type of helmet did not appear until the early 13th century.
As it is an Italeri product the standard of sculpting and level of detail are exceptional, and these are undoubtedly very attractive and well produced figures. The mounted men grip their horses well, and all weapons and shields are ready moulded onto the figures with the exception of the lance for the charging mounted knight, which fits his ring hand perfectly. All shields, surcoats and housings are engraved with accurate designs, but we would have preferred plain surfaces to allow any choice of design to be painted.
These are not 11th century knights, so ignore the set sub-title and think of these as knights of the second crusade onwards. As such these figures are flawless and add greatly to the available medieval figures.