In 1702 dragoons were described as “Musketeers mounted, who serve sometimes a-foot, and sometimes a-horseback”. They were essentially mounted infantry, but always aspired to be seen as cavalry. While some of their duties were done whilst mounted, they were still largely infantry at the start of the 18th century, and were seen as very adaptable, even fulfilling tasks such as bridging streams and building field fortifications. This utility was augmented by being cheaper than the regular cavalry, so during the wars of Louis XIV the French had many such regiments.
During the period mentioned on the box there was no set uniform for French dragoons. All dragoons shared some distinguishing features, but details of the uniform, and particularly the colours, were down to their colonels. As a result they varied greatly, so a set such as this is best advised to pick a typical look, and that is what has been done. One of the most characteristic features was the stocking cap, with a fabric (or sometimes fur) trim round the base. These men have this, and although this does not seem to be sculpted as fur, it would be easy to paint this as such if required. The dragoon coat was the standard design for the period, but here all have another dragoon characteristic – a shoulder knot of ribbons on the right shoulder. In some regiments this would later turn into an aiguillette. Those figures with the coat open are showing the long waistcoat and breeches, and all wear shoes with long gaiters known as bottines, which reached to above the knee and were held by straps and buckles down one side, very nicely sculpted on some here. Inevitably the officer has a more luxurious level of decoration on his coat as well as a full wig, but interestingly on this occasion he too wears the stocking cap like his men.
All here have a cartridge pouch attached to the front of the waist belt on the right. Again this was not worn by all regiments, and changed over time, but is a typical feature worth doing here. They also have a separate powder flask, and a dual sword/bayonet frog hanging from their belt. Dragoons carried various muskets, carbines and fusils, but the firearms carried here all look good and are of a good length.
Dragoon horses were usually rather smaller than those of the regular cavalry, and indeed this set includes six such smaller animals. All are standing and are clearly being held while their masters are engaged on foot. All the saddlery and bridles look good, including the folded cloak behind the saddle. In front of the saddle each animal has a pistol on the left side, and on the right side one of a variety of tools – either a spade, pick, hatchet or sickle. One horse has a second pistol instead of this, so is perhaps that of the officer. All this is perfectly correct for dragoons, so like the men there are no accuracy problems here.
The poses are mostly the usual infantry poses that you would expect of such a set. We have firing, loading and advancing poses suitable for a skirmish, plus a nicely active officer figure waving his men on and advancing with sword drawn. The first figure in the top row is applying powder to his pan, but is not looking at what he is doing. The man next to him is a bit more unusual in that while he is ramming down his musket he is looking behind him, perhaps to make sure the horses are still safe in case a quick escape is required. The first figure in the third row is particularly apt as he is the man detailed to hold the horses while the rest of the men are in action. With two such figures, there are sufficient to hold all six of the horses in the set.
The growing range of War of the Spanish Succession figures from Strelets has been remarkably consistent in its style and quality, and this set provides more of the same. Really nice, crisp sculpting with a slightly more solid look than some figures, but a style that many find appealing. The detail is very good, and the poses nice and natural. The horses too are pretty good, but on our sample they did have a moderate amount of flash while the men are almost completely free of flash, which is always impressive.
Given the variety to be found in French dragoon regiments during the period 1701 to 1714, these are about as typical as any, and so cannot be faulted for accuracy. Indeed they potentially have a much longer useable period, since this uniform was more or less set around 1680 and remained little changed until 1733, at which point the stocking caps got longer, but otherwise these are generally valid until around 1750. Commanders of the day found their dragoons indispensable, so this is a particularly important element of any French army of the period. With a good typical look, nice sculpting and usable poses, plus a token number of horses, this set makes a good job of portraying these unusual troops.