In Westminster Abbey the tomb of Edward I, king of the English from 1272 to 1307, bears the epithet Scottorum malleus - 'Hammer of the Scots'. Edward was certainly a warrior king in the traditional sense, and he gained a formidable reputation throughout Europe for his many successful campaigns, successes which were built partly on the cavalry that were the backbone of his army and which are depicted in this set.
Though Edward was to use archers with great success, his cavalry remained the prestige element of the army as in every other army in Europe. Traditionally made up of feudal retainers who owed military service to the king, by the end of the thirteenth century there were also many paid professional mercenaries in the ranks. The 12 poses in this set all seem to suggest the charge - the shock tactic that was supposed to claim final victory. None are really looking to left or right, nor are any looking down as if to do battle with foot soldiers. Most are simply holding up their weapons as they might in a charge, but those that are swinging weapons appear to have their target directly in front of them, which would be very unlikely. One interesting figure is raising his visor, perhaps for fresh air or to improve visibility, and another is in the act of drawing his sword, but in general the poses are adequate but uninspired.
At this time armour was undergoing many changes, and these figures are a good reflection of the period. All wear mail, but several have some elements of plate, particularly on the knees where this first appeared. Most wear the long surcoat, which was fashionable at this date, and are generally accurate. The helmets include everything from fairly simply types through to some examples of the great helm, which again is perfectly accurate and makes a convincing group.
The principal weapon was the sword, but as secondary weapons axes, maces and lances were used and all can be found here. Two of the figures have lances couched under their arm in the classic charge pose, though the spears have bent while the mould cooled and are rather uneven. All shields are moulded as part of the figure, and for the most part these are OK, although engraved with patterns which we would have preferred left blank. However some carry round shields, apparently made of planks of wood. Though this is appropriate for the poorer infantry there seems no evidence for it in the ranks of the cavalry.
The horses ('destriers') have a mixture of cloth covers and armour made of leather, quilted fabric or even mail. This last was expensive and fairly rare, so having a third of the horses so attired is excessive. Strelets figures are never very elegant, but this chunky muscular look works well with these mounts, who look like they really could cope with the increasing weight of their riders in their armour. We felt the poses with both legs on one side on the ground and both the others in the air to look unnatural, but otherwise they are reasonable.
There is a good deal of detail on these figures, though on occasions it is hard to make out exactly what is being represented. All the figures have a triangular kind of arrangement to their legs, and while they fit the horses they do not grip them and will need gluing. The rather chunky look to these figures and small imperfections in straight edges such as sword blades detract from the overall look, but there is virtually no flash to be removed. Once again Strelets have ventured into a new historical era and they deserve credit for it, but though their quality has improved on their earlier sets there is still a significant gap between them and the giants such as Italeri.