Back in 1989 Revell released a set of Normans, and a fine set it was too. The principal problem was it contained hardly any mounted knights, despite the Norman's renown for their cavalry. This set from Strelets seeks to rectify that, and is intended to complement the Revell product.
The customary 12 poses from Strelets include quite a variety of weaponry. The sword was the most important weapon for the Norman knight, and it is good to see plenty here. Two figures have spears or lances, with one couched under the arm and the other being thrown over arm - both are reasonable. Axes were not popular with the Normans, so we were surprised to see two such weapons in this set - the man with the longer two-handed axe is particularly unlikely. One figure has a cloak - an unusual garment to be worn with armour - and is perhaps meant to be some sort of officer, however his pose with sword over his shield was not one of our favourites. Two men are wielding clubs, which might seem rather primitive but sources such as the Bayeux Tapestry do show these being used. One such figure, the third figure in the second row, is particularly interesting as he is wearing a large crucifix necklace and has a similar Christian emblem on his shield. His hair seems to confirm that he is a churchman, probably a bishop, and could easily serve as Bishop Odo at the Battle of Hastings. His hood is down and he wears no helmet - a risky thing to do in the middle of battle if you were in the thick of the action. The other club man is none other than the Duke himself, modelled much as he is depicted on the tapestry. Finally one man has a hammer, which was introduced to crack plate armour, not developed at this period, so we felt this was entirely wrong.
The normal costume of the Norman knight was mail and a helmet like the Spangenhelm. Apart from the bishop and one other bare-headed man (which again seems unlikely in battle), all are wearing helmets of appropriate design, mostly with the well-known nasal guard. However the surface detail on many of the figures does not look like ordinary mail. Quilted, lamellar and scale armour are all suggested by some of these. Mail would have been almost universal for knights during the invasion of England, so these figures are better serving in Norman armies in more Southerly parts of Europe, much nearer the East, where such armour is known to have been used. Many of the shields are of the familiar kite shape, but round shields, popular in the early part of Norman history, are also present, though these should be flat rather than rounded.
The horses are mostly charging, which limits their use for other activities, but are reasonably posed. However the saddles should have raised pommels to help support the knights, but these are missing here.
Though not nearly as well done as the Revell set, detail is fairly good here. The men are properly proportioned and there is no flash. The two separate lances are straight, though with many thick joins to the sprue they require a lot of trimming to produce a good piece. Both the figures that take these weapons needed the hole in their hands enlarging a little to accommodate them. The style of riding during the Norman period became more straight legged, though these figures do not particularly exhibit this look. However they do not grip the horses either, and at best they 'perch' on the saddles, with most requiring some fixing to ensure they stay in place.
None of the figures wear a surcoat, which appeared around the middle of the twelfth century, but it seems that they largely cover the 200 years of Norman warriors prior to this date. Though some are less appropriate to Hastings than others, this is a fair set which adds to that of Revell and depicts a subject that had a big impact on Europe at a crucial stage in its development.