Having been impressed with a guard of Polish cavalry in 1807 Napoleon ordered that a Polish light cavalry regiment be raised and added to his growing Imperial Guard. This was done, and the regiment saw its first action in Spain in the following year. The dates for this set start in 1809 because it was in this year that the regiment was first issued lances, and the men were henceforth known as the Polish Lancers. In this guise they performed well in many of their emperor's campaigns, and some even accompanied him into exile on Elba in 1814.
The uniform of these men changed little during the years 1809 to 1815, and it has been well captured on these miniatures. The full dress czapska, uncovered and in its full glory with the long plume, caps a dazzling uniform which is very Polish in style and perfectly done here. With the issue of the lance the uniform was changed in that the fringed epaulette was moved to the right shoulder and the aiguillette moved in the opposite direction, and this is properly done here. The officer, who never carried a lance, retained the former arrangement as can be seen on the officer figure at the end of our second row. This figure also wears his sash, which was generally reserved for full dress and not worn in action, but then all the figures are wearing full dress, so while it looks fantastic it is not really what these troops looked like in the field of battle. However many people like to see the full dress on figures, and these certainly deliver that very nicely.
The horses are all properly attired too, with the long pointed shabraque suitably monogrammed. As with the uniform this is in parade fashion, as on campaign the long corner was tied up to protect this expensive item. Otherwise saddles and all straps look good. Most of the horses have a carbine beside the saddle (in 1813 the front rank were given lances but no carbines, while the rear ranks had carbines but no lances). Three of the poses are very good, but the first animal in the second row of horses is less so. The holes in their sides are to accommodate the pegs between the rider’s legs, which will need to be trimmed down to allow the rider to be positioned.
As so often with Zvezda we can find no fault with the quality of the sculpting and production. All the proportions are excellent and the level of detail superb. Lances are very tricky things to model at this sort of scale, and this set only includes three poses carrying one. The upright lance and the couched lance (either end of the top row) are both standard and very useful, but the second man in that same row, who is using his lance across the neck of his horse, is particularly fine and shows what can be done even with such a difficult subject. All the figures look utterly lifelike and exhibit no flash or other imperfections. The separate lances fit well so are a joy to put together.
If there is an imperfection in this set then we think it is with the pennants. The lances themselves are excellent, being slim and of a proper length (38mm, which is 2.75m and therefore perfect), but the pennants are rather shorter than the real thing, being only a scale 650mm in length instead of the correct 730mm. This makes them rather square and look more like guidons than the long flowing pennants of history, which is a pity as the same proportions have been used on all the lances here. Otherwise the main criticism is that these men never went into battle in this full dress uniform, but whether the use of this uniform here is a bad or good thing depends on each customer’s preference. Why they are entitled 'lifeguard' we do not know, unless it is a vague reference to their status as part of the Imperial Guard, but if you want full dress Polish (or for that matter 2nd or Dutch) lancers in battle then this really must be the set for you.