The cuirassiers were the heaviest and most spectacular of the heavy cavalry, and as a result enjoyed a popularity which still exists to this day. Their role was to smash through a weakened enemy and win the day, and while only a part of the varied French cavalry they are often seen as the most recognisable element today, which means several manufacturers have made them their first choice for a set of French cavalry figures, and so it is with Strelets.
What marks this set out from those that came before is all the men are in winter uniform, by which they mean all wear a coat. Cuirassiers had long been issued with a cape, but in 1812 this turned into a coat by virtue of having sleeves added, and it is this garment that is being worn here, making these figures suitable for 1812 and after. The coat, with the shoulder cape, is correctly depicted, as is the rest of the uniform inasmuch as it can be seen. Principally this is the helmet, which here has been given a full plume. On campaign the plume was sometimes encased in a cover or removed entirely, either of which might seem reasonable if the weather is wintry, but those wishing to do so can trim or cut this item off. All the men carry a musketoon (also issued from 1812), but this is under the coat for all save the figure who is holding his. Sensibly this figure has his cartridge pouch and belt outside his coat, whereas the rest have theirs underneath, although we do not see the belt that would have held the firearm.
The horses are all correctly equipped with the sheepskin half-shabraque and the rectangular portmanteau. The cuirassiers were meant to be big men wearing armour, so the largest and strongest horses were in theory, if not always in practice, reserved for such troops. The horses in this set do not particularly strike us as exceptionally large, but they are certainly not small so do the job well enough. The animal poses are a real mixture, which allows for more variety of situations to be depicted and is therefore better than some past products that have concentrated too much on the final stage of a full charge.
The poses are dominated by men brandishing their swords, which is both inevitable and what most customers will want. The last two figures on the second row benefit from separate swords which fit into ring hands, but we would still have liked to have seen the official charge pose of sword held straight out in front of the man even though this is very difficult to achieve in a model. Nevertheless most will find plenty to like in these poses, and the men with pistol and musketoon add some variety even if not so useful as the swordsmen. The officer (last figure in first row) looks much like his men, but the flag-bearer and trumpeter are easier to distinguish. The flag-bearer has sensibly cased his flag, leaving just the eagle, which was much more important anyway.
These figures are very nicely done, being at least as good as anything yet produced by this company. The rather stocky build of Strelets figures is perfectly suited to these heavy cavalry, who are not rich in detail by virtue of their coats, yet such detail as is required is also very nicely done with good faces in particular. As usual swords and scabbards tend to be rather too short, but that apart these are very good indeed. The riders are a very tight fit on their mounts, but many will be glad of that and the separate swords fit easily into the ring hands, so a fine sculpting job.
In many ways the subject of this set is ideal for the Strelets style, and they have produced a fine set as a result. With several sets of French cuirassiers already in existence, flawed as they may be, it is an interesting novelty to produce them wearing coats, and since the date is 1812 and after clearly the campaign in Russia was in mind when these were created. They add new life to an always popular form of Napoleonic soldier, and as a result should do well.