While the Wars of the Roses were an entirely English struggle for power, naturally Scotland took a keen interest in what was happening south of the border, particularly if events could be guided to their advantage. Such an occasion occurred in 1460, when the English Queen Margaret, having been defeated at the battle of Northampton, asked for aid, including troops, in exchange for a town on the border. With her army of English and Scots she marched south, won a victory at Wakefield, but failed to retake London, although many Scots had returned home by this time. Scotland continued to try and manipulate events in England, and late in the period there was an English invasion too, while some Scots may have served either side as mercenaries, so the Scottish role in the conflict was not inconsequential.
Although some observers mentioned that the bulk of the Scottish troops were poorly armed and armoured, there was nothing different about Scottish soldiers compared to those of England or any other part of Western Europe in terms of appearance. In previous campaigns Scottish soldiers had been told to wear the cross of St Andrew front and back as a recognition symbol, and this may have happened here too, although despite being depicted on the box artwork there is no sign of this on the figures themselves. The bulk of the figures have a padded jack (i.e. a jacket) which offered good protection but was much cheaper than metal armour, so was probably the norm. A few have a mail shirt or at least a coif, and a couple have pieces of plate armour protection on arms or legs, which would have been unusual. One man (first figure in bottom row) has a full plate suit, and so is wealthier than the rest. All have helmets apart from the piper and one archer, who have soft caps. The fully armoured man has a splendid modern sallet, while most of the rest have open-faced versions that were common, and two have the brimmed kettle hat. While all these are authentic, one of the kettle helmets is on the cranium of an archer, which would not have happened in reality since the brim would interfere with the bowstring. Also four of the figures have a sort of sash across the body that has been engraved with a square pattern as if it were a tartan as depicted on the artwork. We could find absolutely no suggestion that this was ever done (tartan is we know it today did not even exist in Scotland at this time although of course simple check patterns did), and can only assume it is an effort to try and make the figures feel more Scottish to a modern customer.
The top row contains the two pikemen poses. Both have enormous pikes, which are between 68mm and 70mm in length (4.9 to 5 metres). The Swiss had pikes this length, and Scottish Parliamentary edicts in 1471 and 1481 recommended pikes have a length of 5.6 metres (6 ells) and 4.7 metres (5 ells) respectively, but unsuccessfully, for in fact such pikes were between 3.7 and 4.3 metres long. However happily (or perhaps not) there is no sculpting at the tip at all, so it is a simple matter to snip off as much length is you want to lose. Far harder to remedy however is the great thickness of these things - they are more like tree trunks. The poses are OK but clearly are not working together.
The second row begins with some longbow men. Apart from the accuracy flaws already mentioned these look good, and we particularly liked the walking archer. All have their arrows held by a small bag, which is fine for the two men not loosing their arrows but unlikely for the man actually in action, who would probably have stuck his arrows into the ground by his side. The swordsman with the archers is curious, because he holds an enormous sword (total length 21mm, or 1.5 metres) which is clearly meant to be double-handed, yet he waves it in the air like a normal sword. He is also one of the flatter poses here.
The bottom row shows the polearms, and while these varied enormously in design, the one held by the last figure in the row looks rather clumsy and crude to us. Such weapons are hard to convincingly sculpt without using multiple pieces, and the man in the middle does not work well to our eye. Since he holds the weapon next to the blade, he is effectively negating the reach of the pole, so is unconvincing.
Also in this set is the piper in the top row. Bagpipes were played in many parts of Europe down the ages, so there is no particular reason why some should have been included here except to try and make the set seem more Scottish to the modern viewer. However it is not wrong to have this figure here, and we have no particular problem with the design of the pipes or the manner in which they are being played, although in fact they are not being played at all as there is nothing in the man’s mouth!
Upon opening this box we were surprised to find rather less flash than we have generally seen in a RedBox set, although make no mistake there is still a good deal here. However it seems some sets fared less well, so be prepared for possibly a lot of flash. Even our apparently good example had more than almost any other manufacturer in production today. The level of detail is really not that bad, but is highly inconsistent, so as we have said the pikes have no heads and some of the weapons look quite coarse.
The slightly flat poses, the roughness of the sculpting and most of all the crowbarring in of 'Scottish' elements for a modern taste make this something of a mediocre collection of figures. Not all the figures suffer from the accuracy problems, so some are certainly usable, but they are unlikely to take pride of place in any 15th century plastic army.