For much of the medieval period the elite heavy horseman had struggled against such as the English longbow and the Scottish schiltron, yet had managed to retain a considerable influence on many battlefields. With the coming of the Swiss pikemen and their Landsknecht imitators, infantry was better able to defeat even the heaviest cavalry, and the rise of gunpowder weapons would seriously damage the effectiveness of the noble charge, but during the 16th century the perceived need for light cavalry was, if anything, more widely recognised. With the introduction of the Stradioti from Eastern Europe and the Jinetes from Spain, the value of such troops for all the usual roles of reconnoitring, guarding, foraging and skirmishing meant they were a feature of every army in Western Europe. With the above-mentioned pioneers already produced by RedBox, this and its sister set represent the home grown light cavalry that developed during this century.
Although light cavalry did not have the resources of the noble heavy men-at-arms, they were as much interested in fashion as any soldier of the day, and most of the poses in this set seem to follow the German Landsknecht fashion, with wide sleeves and breeches displaying many slashes, plus broad-brimmed floppy hats liberally decorated with feathers. The last figure in the second row seems fresh from an explosion in a milliner’s shop; his hat is a riot of bows and ribbons, and his gown too is very ostentatious, so we are inclined to think he is particularly wealthy and extrovert and quite possible a suitable figure for an officer, particularly as he seems to be directing operations rather than engaging in combat. However all of the figures are dressed in the flamboyant style of the day, which is very much German though the men themselves could be of many nationalities as well as mercenaries in other armies. There is not a lot of armour on show, although some may be underneath the clothing, and just one man wears a visored burgonet helmet. For true light cavalry all this costume and armour is appropriate for the period and properly done here.
The main weapon of the light cavalryman was a light form of lance, and when this broke the sword would be brought into use. Two of the poses here have a lance of a good length and design, and two others have drawn their swords. The last figure in the top row carries a halberd – hardly a weapon of the cavalry – so perhaps he is more of a mounted infantryman; the kind of horseman that would later become a dragoon. The poses are OK although the man holding his sword directly over his head is, as usual, less than natural. The man with lance upright and the man with the halberd are clearly not in action, which is a good thing since much of the good work done by such men did not involve actually fighting the enemy.
While we were quite happy with the poses of the men, the horses are something different. These range from the adequate to the bizarre, with legs flying out in all directions and dead straight, looking nothing like the movements of a horse of this or any age. One is rearing up high, and another seems to be stopping dead in a hurry, but there is only one decent pose that is not, at least in theory, at full gallop. This means the walking horse in the last row is really the only worthwhile one here, particularly when you remember the tasks these men usually performed, so the horses are a huge disappointment, even though their simple bridles and saddles look reasonably accurate.
Apart from sitting man on horse there is no assembly here, so yes, even the man with the lowered lance is one piece. True his lance is a little to the side, but he is still a good pose cleverly done. All the men are nicely detailed – and this is a subject that makes great demands of fine detail. Good faces and natural proportions mean these are very attractive figures, and we failed to find any flash either. Some of the riders are a substandard fit on their saddles, tending to hover a little above it as their legs are too close together to fit properly, but a little knife-work will resolve that easily enough. One swordsmen has a huge guard on his sword, which is presumably an attempt to show the very wide guards sometimes found at this date and used by the Landsknechts in particular.
This is a set with pretty nice figures in useful poses, cleanly produced and well sculpted. It is also a set with some horrifically bad horses in bizarre fantasy poses that would be wildly untypical even if they had been anatomically possible. Unfortunately this set shares the same horses with Set 2, so a search for decent mounts will have to look further afield, but concentrating just on the human element here we have an interesting and attractive collection that do a fair job of depicting their subject, particularly when combined with the second set.