The two regiments of carabiniers in the French army were long established as an elite when the Revolution took place, and they managed to retain that distinction in the years of upheaval that followed, being the premier line cavalry. They tend to be remembered in the armoured cuirass and helmet that they wore at Waterloo and elsewhere, but this was a later style which was not at all welcomed by most rank and file at the time. Their previous uniform had been much simpler and had changed little in many years, and this is the uniform depicted in this set.
Strelets are known for poor set titles, and labelling these as 'early' does not give many clues. Presumably you are meant to know that they are Napoleonic, but more than that we must look closer for the telltale signs that might date these figures more precisely. All wear the 1791 habit-veste with open lapels and fringed epaulettes, which continued in use until the new uniform with armour was introduced in 1811. In 1805 a single-breasted surtout was adopted and this simpler item became the usual form of dress when on campaign, although the original habit-veste, which became parade dress, seems to have still been worn even on campaign. Most obviously one figure is carrying an eagle, so he at least must date from no earlier than 1805. The men wear bearskins which varied to an extent during the period up to 1811 but not by much and those modelled here are reasonable. However there are two particular items to note here. First is that all the men have cap lines which ensured that if the bearskin fell off it was not lost. This was important because the bearskin fell off a lot as it was only attached by a strap passing under the man’s queue, but it seems that such a line was only a later addition, although exactly when is unsure. More certain is the second item, which is that, once the men stopped wearing queues (as fashion changed) the bearskins had to be fitted with metal chinscales. We know this happened in Vienna in 1809, and every figure here has such an item, so these figures are only correct for the period from 1809 to 1811, when the armour was introduced. It is therefore surprising that all the men also have queues - the very thing that required the chinscales by their loss.
Still considering the accuracy of these figures, all the horses have a rectangular portmanteau which was introduced in 1808. However many illustrations after this date suggest that even then the previous round version was common. Either way there was usually a folded or rolled manteau on top which is missing on all the horses in this set. Also the bearskin has a plume attached, which as with the habit-veste was a parade item but may also have been worn in battle. At least here the customer has the option to remove or retain it as they wish. Another campaign item missing here is the overalls that normally covered the breeches, while a rather more important omission on these figures is the bayonet and scabbard, which none have.
The wide range of horse poses are the usual collection of reasonable and very poor Strelets staples, but all the saddlery looks fair apart from the fact that all should have a bucket on the right side of the saddle for supporting the musket when on the march. For some reason the strap around the horse’s belly has been modelled as a two-piece affair, which is not correct.
As heavy cavalry the carabiniers were often to be found at the charge, which is what many of these poses seem to be doing, although we liked the figure looking down as if engaging infantry. Naturally their very name tells us that these men were armed with a musket, and two of the poses are handling that weapon, so while they are reasonable they cannot be part of a charge. On the whole then the human poses are pretty good but the horse poses pretty poor.
Sculpting is much the same as normal on these Strelets figures. As always long slender items like swords and scabbards are rather shorter and thicker than they should be, and detail is reasonable rather than outstanding. There is almost no flash worthy of the name, but while all of the riders are a tight fit for the horses some are too tight and are inclined to rise in the saddle and therefore 'hover' a little above it. Some careful filing will resolve this, but it is still an annoying aspect which should have been avoided.
If we had designed these figures then we would have given them the surtout and campaign overalls and missed off the chinscales. While this last item could be filed away or simply ignored we feel it is better to leave it off and allow it to be painted on if the customer wishes. Of course we didn’t design them but criticised them instead, which is much easier. Wearing essentially parade uniform makes them less useful than they might have been but does not make them unusable, and the same goes for the chinscales. With the necessary skill and patience these could even be used for the Revolutionary Wars, which thus far has very few suitable figures available. The various accuracy flaws are annoying but all quite subtle, but the poor fit of the men with the horses, while nothing new, is something that really should be addressed.