At the time of the Crusades Wales was a land of numerous kingdoms each competing with one another in constant raids or open warfare. The advantages of going on crusade, both spiritual and earthly, had the same appeal to Welsh knights as to those in the rest of Europe, despite their having to travel further than most to reach the Holy Land. Just how many took that journey is not known but they were never numerous enough to form their own contingent in any significant army. Nevertheless their participation is now recognised by this figure from Valdemar.
During this period the Welsh are generally described as being poorly armed and clothed, with little or no armour and sometimes even barefoot. However that would refer to the bulk of the citizen/warriors, and for the nobility or their retainers - the Uchelwr (literally 'freeholder') - equipment and fashion would have been much as anywhere else in Western Europe, particularly England, although perhaps a little behind the latest fashion. Our Welsh friend here is clearly a man of substance, or at least he works for such a man for he is well provided with a short-sleeved mail hauberk including hood and a relatively simple helmet with nasal that looks rather like an inverted flowerpot. He wears a cloak but has no evidence of any plate armour. In short then he is perfectly authentic for the early crusading period in particular, but there is nothing that makes him specifically Welsh - indeed there was no such identifying feature.
He clasps his knife with his right hand and rests his left on his shield. Strangely there is no evidence of a sword, which would have been the normal weapon for such an individual although they were expensive. Instead he holds a pick-like device, which we find to be a surprising choice. The only evidence we have found for such a weapon of war is an illustration in an Osprey book ("The Normans" - Elite 9), which seems far from certain as to whether such a weapon was used in this way. However there are plenty of warhammers with at least one similar point and as a tool pick-axes have been known since prehistory, so it is not too much of a stretch to imagine its use in war at this time.
The figure is provided with shield and pick separate, so other weapons could be substituted if required. The sculpting as always is beyond reproach, with a very fair attempt at the texture of mail although we always feel that at this scale any attempt to actually reproduce the links is doomed from the start and a more general texture is the best approach to take. The folds and appearance of the other clothing is excellent and the figure is very well proportioned. With no trace of flash this is certainly a very fine piece of work.
When dealing with single figures it is easier to ignore the norm because there could have been some individuals with unusual features which would be inappropriate in a full set of figures but acceptable here. Nonetheless we are a bit uncomfortable with the pick or war hammer (as a weapon that is), and would be tempted to substitute a sword in this case (although rare and exotic weapons have their place too). That aside this is another great figure from Valdemar (although rather too tall for the period), well produced and very appealing.