Labelling figures as ‘crusaders’ covers so many scenarios that it really tells us little about what we should expect from this set. Naturally the most famous are the various crusades directed, at least mostly, at Muslims in Palestine, with the first six being the principal conflicts, covering the period 1095 to 1228. Other crusades were conducted at various times in the Iberian peninsula, France, Prussia and elsewhere during the medieval period, so there is plenty of scope here.
On closer inspection we find quite a divergent group of medieval figures here, but we can pick out some characteristics that will help to date them. The wide variety of helmets include some conical examples with nasal protection that would work well for the First Crusade (1095), some lower-domed hemispherical examples that would date from a century later, and a Phrygian-style one that has a broad potential time span. There is also one with a full face mask, which would date to the late 11th century at the earliest, and a great helm, which first appeared a few years later. Apart from one man all these figures wear more or less full mail, with some including mittens on the hands. They also wear the surcoat, which first appears around 1127 in the Eastern Mediterranean but took a long time to reach Western Europe. Many carry shields, which are either of the heater shape (developed during the 12th century) or the almond-shape more common in the East at the same time. In short then this is a rich variety of armour which makes individual figures typical for different periods, although of course armour was expensive and made to last a very long time, so old armour continued in use alongside more modern styles. If you wanted to place all these figures together however then they would only really make sense from about the Fourth Crusade onwards (1202), with some elements already quite old-fashioned by that date. Some features of Eastern influence like the lamellar armour on one man further mix up the picture, so these definitely look to be crusaders in the Holy Land, as the box artwork would seem to suggest.
By contrast the weapons are easy to sum up; most are using a sword, with just one spear and a couple of axes also on show. Swords were expensive, and while anyone could pick one up off a battlefield or be given one by a wealthy lord, the bulk of the infantry would have carried spears, polearms and other simpler weapons. Since most here have swords, and their armour is pretty good, we must conclude that these are all knights, which explains why the set is labelled as ‘dismounted’, since most knights would hope to join battle while on horseback (and most of these figures are wearing spurs). As knights therefore the preponderance of swords is fine, although all the swords are very much at the short end of the acceptable range. To balance that observation the two axes are enormous – far too large in fact, so the array of weapons is less than ideal in terms of sizing.
For us the highlights of the poses actually include most of them, because on the whole they are energetic, realistic and entirely believable. Despite having no separate parts the usual Caesar mould has delivered a lot of deep and lifelike poses who are genuinely using their weapons and shields in the proper manner and without any flatness. Most are clearly in close combat, and one looks to have an arrow wound to the stomach (bottom row), but there are a couple in seemingly more relaxed posture too. A nice selection.
Sculpting is very good too, with the usual high level of detail and absence of extraneous plastic that we would expect from this manufacturer. As always the thinner extremities are prone to a little bending, as with the spearmen in particular, but there is no sign of any flash and no loss of detail anywhere. On our sample we did find a handful where the base was a bit warped, which was annoying, but otherwise there can be no complaints about the quality of production.
With such a broad target it was always going to be fairly easy to achieve good accuracy, and there are no problems here apart from the size of the weapons. We thought the box should have said the figures are knights, and of course the only thing that marks them as crusaders is the cross gently engraved onto their surcoats, but the mix of armour styles was pleasing, as was the quality of both the poses and the sculpting, so this is yet another very nicely done collection of figures.