The Royal Horse Grenadiers were part of the rather complex structure of the French Royal Guard during the long reign of Louis XIV. Initially raised in December of 1676, they were never more than a single company, and their ranks were filled by outstanding grenadiers from the infantry. Although mounted, they would often fight on foot, particularly at sieges, and consequently their role was seen as similar to that of dragoons. As with infantry grenadiers they would generally lead the charge, and cemented their elite status in various actions, particularly at the Battle of Leuze in 1691.
Their uniform was similar in many ways to the usual military dress of the day – a closed collarless coat with large cuffs and some lace decoration, and breeches on the legs. However instead of boots the men wore gaiters fastened at the side, since they were nominally still foot soldiers, and instead of the usual hat they wore a fur-trimmed cap, reflecting their foot grenadier and dragoon characteristics. Up to the 1690s the cap had had a hanging bag like any other grenadier, but by 1720 this was stiffened with a point at the top, which is what we find on all these figures. Unfortunately no one knows when this change took place, but it could certainly be correct for some or all of the War of the Spanish Succession. Quantities and detail of lace on the coat changed over the years, and the ordinary troopers in this set have none sculpted, allowing the customer to paint as much or little as required. Needless to say that the drummer, flag-bearer and two officers in our third row wear much more highly-decorated coats, which is as it should be. The senior officer at the end of that row wears a full wig and a cuirass over his coat, so could serve as almost any senior officer in almost any army of the day, but everything about the uniform on these figures is correct and well done.
All the grenadiers are properly armed with a curved sabre, and also with a flintlock carbine which rests in a bucket on the side of the saddle. The saddle also has a brace of pistols, but although some sources claim one of these was replaced by an axe in this unit, it seems this may not have happened until after the period under consideration, so again it is likely to be correct here. The belt across the torso supports a small powder container, but there is otherwise no extra equipment. The very large drum is indeed authentic – again reflecting the infantry origins of the unit – and the standard is plain here, but seems of a reasonable size and dimensions.
The horses are the same as those found in previous sets of Strelets French cavalry for the early 18th century, and doubtless will appear in future ones too, but in fact seem perfectly appropriate for the horse grenadiers. The saddle and cloths are fine, and while original images do not show a valise, one would seem reasonable when on campaign. The poses of the animals are a mix of speeds, and although some are a bit awkward, all are quite usable.
To a large extent Strelets seem to stick to the same sculptor when creating a range, as certainly the style here matches the other releases for the War of the Spanish Succession. That style is very nice, with good clear detail and realistic proportions. A particular highlight is the face, with the obligatory moustache and the fashionable curls of the hair, which along with the cap shouts grenadier, as was the intention. The poses are not particularly flat, and offer a decent array of positions, mostly using the sword, thought the man firing a pistol is an unusual inclusion. The officer raising his hat is a particularly appealing pose, but all are useful and well done. The standard is virtually flat out to the side, which is common in figure sets and handy for some wargamers, though not particularly realistic, particularly if the man is moving forward at the same time. However we found almost no flash on man or horse, and the riders sit well on their steads.
This is a really nice set of figures. More’s the pity that there were only ever between about 100 and 200 of these men during the War of the Spanish Succession, but the commitment by Strelets to cover the subject in such depth is to be loudly applauded. All the research looks good here, as does the sculpting and the appropriate poses. This is another very welcome piece in the mosaic that was the armies of the Sun King during the later years of his rule.