SPOILER ALERT! This set is clearly heavily influenced by the Dumas book The Three Musketeers, to which we will frequently refer in this review. We won’t be giving away any of the story, but will be discussing the characters, so if you intend to read this book and are sensitive to spoilers then you should consider not reading the rest of this review since inevitably it will reveal elements which you may not wish to know in advance!
In March of 1844 Le Siécle newspaper serialised a new story by Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) called The Three Musketeers. The story told of a young man from Gascony coming to Paris in 1625 to join the King’s Musketeers, and of the adventures he had with his new friends, the titular three musketeers. The story was a big hit and was quickly released as a book, achieving international success and widely translated. Several follow-up books would appear, taking the story forward many years, but it was the first book that remained the favourite with many, giving a fame to the various real historical characters contained in the book, as well as the King’s musketeers themselves of course, which would not have been so widespread were it not for the book.
Despite the fact that the box for this set makes no mention of the book, and only speaks of the Thirty Years War, anyone who has read The Three Musketeers will immediately recognise the figures to be found here. Therefore we will begin by attempting to identify each of the figures.
The top row is clearly made up of the musketeers themselves. The book makes it plain that they were all expert swordsmen and very fond of a duel, which explains why each man is holding something in addition to his sword, giving the impression that none are finding their fencing particularly taxing. They hold a handkerchief, a bottle and a drinking vessel, which are explained in the book, so to a great degree they do give the appropriate heroic appearance that the author clearly intended.
The second row begins with another musketeer, this time actually using a musket. Although skill with the musket is not given much coverage in the book, such men would obviously have been able to handle such a weapon, and as with the top row this man seems to be very cheerful, waving his hat in the air. The second figure is pretty clearly d’Artagnan himself, since he too looks confident with a sword but does not wear the cassock of the musketeers and looks quite young too.
The third row strays completely from the theme of musketeers, but remains true to the book. The first figure is a fairly simply-dressed woman with a pleasing face and figure which must surely be Constance Bonacieux, although the unfortunate Kitty would also be a (less likely) candidate for this figure (there are, like all of them, four in each box after all). Next to her is a woman dressed in very fine clothes and again very shapely, with a dress that makes the most of her figure. This would seem to be the Queen, Anne of Austria, the subject of so much affection. Lastly there is a very well-dressed gentleman with sword sheathed but carrying a cane. Since this set only contains what you would call the ‘good guys’, this figure could serve as M. de Tréville, Lord de Winter, the Duke of Buckingham or even the King himself, since all would have been dressed in similar style.
So, having assigned characters to each figure, do they work well as those characters? Well yes, in our view they do. The clothing all matches what one might imagine such characters to look like, and the poses chosen also seem to fit well with the literary description. The soldiers are engaged in dashing exploits with their swords, the ladies are decorous and clearly deserving of the instant infatuation they seem to provoke, and the last gentleman has all the dignity of a major political figure. As a set of the heroes of the Dumas book these fit the bill very well.
We must not forget that the set claims to be a depiction of an actual historic unit, and if we consider the figures in their historic context then the judgement is very different. The four musketeers are correctly dressed as such, which is to say they wear ordinary soldier’s clothes but with the cassock that was the sole item of uniform. The cassock has not been engraved with any design, but the box shows what it should be. If dress is good then the poses are bizarre. In reality such men were the guard of the King outside the Louvre, and while they did on occasion actually take part in battles, they would not have done so grasping tokens from ladies or drinking utensils! Also the first man is using his left hand, which Athos is able to do in the book, and may have happened in real life, but in a set with so few poses seems like an unwise choice to us. The cheery man with the musket is also not the best sort of pose for a battle, as we would have much preferred him to actually be using his weapon. The swordsman in the second row wears no cassock but is also properly dressed and a good pose, making him the most useful of the lot.
In a set with only eight poses, having two women is an indulgence which makes no sense in purely military modelling terms. The first is dressed as a relatively well-off lady, and the second is clearly something aristocratic. Neither are in the King’s musketeers, and both are actually shockingly revealing in the low cut of their dresses – shocking at least if in public, where they would be seen as immoral and immodest. Clearly the sculptor had a lot of fun making them, and they do have their uses, but as civilians walking the street the first woman would be seen as more working than walking, and the second is hard to imagine as a lady of quality. The last man, by contrast, is perfect and would have many uses, from some sort of officer to any gentleman of the time.
Whether historic or literary, these figures are beautifully sculpted. The detail is excellent and the clothing is superbly done everywhere. The faces are really expressive, and the proportions are pretty much spot on too, with lovely slender swords and musket. The poses we liked, although the last man in the top row is far from a recognised fencing posture even without the cup, so is the weakest of the bunch. It is pleasing to report that there is no flash anywhere here, so the quality of production is outstanding.
In summary then we have two very different products in one. Viewed as a depiction of the Dumas novel, these are great characterisations with lots of life, some cheek, some sex appeal and all the action you would expect. All the major hero characters are depicted, so there is nothing not to like here. As a historical depiction of the King’s musketeers of around the time of the Thirty Years War (which means from 1635 in fact), the men’s costume is fine but the poses are bizarre and far from representative. The ladies poses are fine but the costume is not what would be seen in public, particularly for someone in the ruling class, so perhaps limited to balls and the like. More importantly, only half of the eight poses are actually of the King’s musketeers, and you get eight women in each box. So if the Dumas book had never been written, and this was a pure historic set, we would not be impressed with anything but the standard of production. So our scores reflect the historic view, not the implied but never claimed literary view, and from that stance this fun set is too wasteful with poses and civilians.