By the 15th century the Duchy of Burgundy had become a large and very important player in Western Europe. Nominally a French fief, it instead would fight the French king on occasion, and in most respects acted as a sovereign independent state with considerable power. When the last duke, Charles the Bold (1433-1477) took the reins of power in 1467, he modernised and restructured the Burgundian army, introducing significant elements of a permanent force, making it something of a model which other countries would follow for many years. However his armies seem not to have been particularly large much of the time, and the duke himself has not enjoyed a good reputation as a military man, in large measure because his enthusiastic military exploits only met with limited success, and in 1477 he was killed by the Swiss at the disastrous Battle of Nancy, a death which was swiftly followed by the dismemberment of the state of Burgundy.
The box title says ‘Infantry and Knights’, so we have roughly arranged our images to show the infantry on the top row and the knights below, though appearance was not always a solid guide to knighthood. Taking the infantry first, we thought that a couple of them, with very fine coats trimmed with fur and with false sleeves, looked to be rather better dressed than the bulk of the infantry might reasonably expect, though this is not wrong as such. Apart from the helmets there seems to be little visible armour, although the fourth man has armour on both arms and legs and almost certainly some on the trunk too. Two wear open-faced helmets, and two have what are often termed war-hats or kettle hats, relatively simple but effective head protection, but not what you would expect a knight to wear.
One man is holding a quite large sword and also a buckler shield, and is a pretty convincing pose. The rest have polearms of various designs, and are handling them in different ways – the running man holding his polearm more than half way along the pole would get little reach or power in a blow, so we preferred the other poses, but nothing here is too terrible. The last figure is certainly somewhat flat, however, and looks better from the side than from the front.
The knights have a lot more armour, naturally enough. This was the golden age of white armour, and knights generally wore the best they could afford, being able to keep up with fashions much better than the poor infantry. All these four poses have more or less full suits, with one having some form of tabard over it. Like some of the other figures, this man displays the cross of St Andrew, the recognised field sign of Burgundian troops for most of the century, and alone of the ‘knights’ he wields a long-handled sword over his head, a pose which has often been done before, usually badly, but here works really well. The other three knights have war hammers or polearms – not ideal knightly weapons, but very effective when having to fight on foot, as all these are. A particular feature of these three men is the small flag each has on his helmet. This is the bannerole, a recognition flag worn by chefs d’escadre and chefs de chambre. A chef d’escadre was, according to the ordinance of St. Maximin de Trèves on 1473, in charge of a squadron of 25 lances, each lance usually being a knight, a swordsman, a page and several other foot troops in numbers from one to perhaps six. Such a squadron was further subdivided into four chambres, each of roughly six lances and led by a chef de chambre. Thus you can see that a relatively small number of knights had these banner distinctions, but at least RedBox have provided them here and customers can trim them off as required.
The sculpting is very nice, as we have come to expect from RedBox, and there can be no complaints about detail or textures. There is not much flatness to the poses, and while there is some flash in places this is not particularly excessive.
While a knight was required to provide a horse suitable for a full charge with couched lance, there were times when they were obliged to fight on foot, so having some here makes sense. There is much here that is missing such as archers, but this is only one set of several, so we will assume other sets will fill the gaps. The figures we do get presented no concerns about accuracy of clothing or weaponry, were nicely presented and generally well made, so as a part of the whole this small set provides some useful elements. Only the cross of St Andrew really identifies them as in Burgundian service, and in fact many such men were actually Italian anyway, so a useful set for the later 14th century in much of Western Europe.