Henry V (1387-1422), King of England from 1413, is often seen as one of Britain's greatest warrior kings. In fact he ruled with justice and industry, and brought order where there had been chaos, but it is his campaigns in France, the crown of which he claimed, that are illustrated in this set from Strelets.
The greater part of the English armies of the time were on foot, and the majority of them, 75% or more, were archers. This set includes a large number of archers, which is fitting, and all look to be in battle rather than on the march. The poses cover all the motions from taking an arrow to loosing it, and for the most part are realistic. The sculptor has included one archer squatting, which seems an absurd thing to do unless this is meant to represent the fact that many men in Henry's army suffered from dysentery while on campaign and this man may simply be heroically continuing to shoot while also emptying his bowels! The costume of these men is accurate, with some wearing mail and others simple fabric clothes or quilted armour. Some wear helmets, others caps of various designs, and some have hoods - all perfectly reasonable. One man is bare-headed, and though this would normally not happen, eye-witnesses do sometimes speak of seeing men without any head covering. However many have no weapon other than the bow, when all should have at least a knife and most would have had a sword, club or similar. None have a quiver full of arrows, which is a relief as they were not worn at this time, regardless of what Hollywood might claim. One has a bag of arrows hung from his belt, and another takes them from a group by his side, which is as it should be.
Some mistakes have been made with the archers, however, but these are all in minor details which many will happily ignore. Some wear bracers (a patch on the wrist to protect the sleeve) but some do not, when all would normally have these, and those that are loosing their arrow are doing so with it to the right of the bow, when it should be to the left. The set includes two unusual figures who are restringing their bows. Great idea, but the method they are using is how a modern archer might do it - archers in the fifteenth century did not wrap their bows round their legs to perform this task.
The remaining infantry includes men with swords, axes and billhooks. Though many of these men wear mail, there is much more plate armour on show, which is quite correct. Once again the styles vary but all seem reasonable. Two crossbowmen are included, which is useful as by the time of Henry V the English mostly used this weapon for sieges, of which there were many.
There are several foot poses worthy of special note. One man is lying on the ground, head up but with an arrow sticking out of his back. Medieval casualty figures are rare indeed, and though the arrow needed straightening it is nice to see this piece. Another casualty is being evacuated by two squires while supported on an early handgun - a very nice group.
The last four foot figures in the scans above make up two little scenes. The first two figures are of a man dragging another by the legs, and it is to be hoped that the second man is dead. The figures do not fix together in any way, but despite having no base they actually stand very well. Another innovative and very authentic piece, as are the last two figures, which combine to show a downed knight being attacked by a soldier who is about to finish him off with his knife. This could represent the killing of French prisoners carried out on Henry's orders after Agincourt. Both the last two pairings work well together and can be seen here. All these poses are very relevant to the subject and Strelets are to be applauded for their imagination.
English cavalry charges were rare, though not unknown, but all the mounted figures in this set are clearly in combat or charging. Costume and weaponry are reasonable, with one man wearing a great helm who is meant to be the king, though he sometimes wore an open faced helmet with a visor, because at one point he suffered a face wound. Also the device on the shield is wrong for the king. The other problem is the mounted archer. The archers always rode to the battle, but always dismounted to fight. This man seems to be about to draw his bow, which simply would not have happened. To compound the problem, the arrow is monumental, being about 17mm (1.2 metres) in length, when it should only be about 70 cms long.
All the horses are reasonably well done, with plausible gaits and appropriate cloths and saddles. One horse particularly caught our eye as it has armour on the face and neck, and a housing which only covers the hind quarters. English horse armour was very rare at this time, so it is good to see only one horse with it, but we could find no evidence for the 'demi-housing' being accurate.
There is a lot of nice detail on these figures, and no flash to speak of. There is still some roughness round the edges - for example many of the bows are not smooth and elegant but have small kinks in them - and one or two of the poses seems quite awkward, but in general this is an appealing set.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.