The Christian lands that the Crusades had seeded in the Middle East were often in a precarious position - surrounded by potential enemies and without the large reserves of manpower to call upon in an emergency. The best of what forces they could call upon were the knights of the military orders, men who joined religious orders to protect pilgrims and other Christians in the Holy Land. As a result they participated in many of the campaigns of Outremer, and are a very important part of the history of the Crusades.
When in battle, and stripped of any heraldic or other markings, there would have been little to tell between brother-knights of a military order and lay knights, since they largely followed the same fashions and advances in military technology. Most armour was imported from Europe, and was therefore expensive and not abundant, so items could easily be used over long periods of time when fashions had moved on, causing quite a mixture of styles at any one moment. Some of these men wear the conical helmet with nasal guard that graced many a Norman head in 1066 and the first crusade, but the majority wear later types - helmets with a full face mask or one that completely encloses the head. Styles in this set are varied and suggest different dates, but in general this kind of helmet appeared around the start of the 13th century. All the figures also wear a surcoat, which appeared during the later 12th century in the Middle East, and all have mail with long sleeves and mail mittens, which again appear around the late 12th century. Shields too are a real mix, but most represent the kite shield evolving into what was to become the heater shape. In conclusion then these figures are a wide mix of styles, and individuals would have differing periods during which they could be described as typical (which is presumably intentional to maximise the use of the set), but in general we would say these figures are best suited for most of the 13th century.
As can easily be seen there are basically three poses here. The box shows the figures arranged as a defensive line, with front rank kneeling, so we can see what the designer had in mind. Such a formation is OK but naturally severely limits the use to which this set can be put unless combined with other sets, which is surely the point. Strelets are clearly regarding many of their sets as parts of a whole, to be mixed and matched as required by the customer rather than representing a whole army in a single box. For many this is very welcome, but it means that when such sets are taken in isolation, as here, they can seem very dull. So, this set contains enough variety of pose to produce a defensive line that looks realistic by avoiding the absolute uniformity that comes from repeating a single pose many times, but does not stretch far beyond that, although of course the poses in the first row also make a decent 'knights at rest' collection.
The chunky and slightly rough Strelets sculpting style is evident once again, with the spears in particular being tricky to properly trim after removing from the sprue. We particularly liked the many helmet designs, all of which are authentic, but found the set lets itself down with the separate spears. Even once fully trimmed many simply do not fit properly in the cupped hands provided, which do not have clear line of sight to each other, so requiring that the spear is curved round the body (something not evident from our pictures). We can see no good reason for this, but it is poor when coming from an experienced manufacturer such as this. Some may prefer to channel a groove in the figure's body to ease this curving, but this shouldn't have been a problem in the first place.
All self-respecting knights wanted to be mounted, but the harsh conditions of the Holy Land took a huge toll on horses, and there were occasions when being dismounted was preferable, so a set of dismounted knights is quite fitting. This is a set with a very specific aim rather than a generic set of knights, which alters its likely usage, and it fits well with the other Crusades sets from Strelets. However more should be done to ensure parts fit together properly and without much remedial work by the customer.