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Set 001

Swiss Vatican Guard

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2012
Contents 37 figures
Poses 3 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 25 mm (= 1.8 m)


With their renaissance costumes and medieval weaponry there is certainly no more recognisable soldier on the planet today than those of the Papal Swiss Guard. At the time of their creation, in 1506, it was very fashionable to employ Swiss mercenaries as a bodyguard or a palace elite, but over the centuries these units gradually disappeared until today only the Papal Guard remains, a unique institution charged with the personal protection of the pope. The history of this small force has not been continuous - they have been disbanded on several occasions, only to be reformed after a few years - but they claim to be the world’s oldest serving military unit still in existence.

The Swiss Guard has usually been a tiny force - today it numbers less than 150 all ranks, which is typical - but it has a very serious job in protecting the pope, particularly during his many public appearances and visits abroad. Today they are most commonly seen in what has become the global uniform for bodyguards - dark, well-made suits with sunglasses and ear-pieces, but it is their ceremonial role that is celebrated in this most unusual set from newcomer MM. Of course their colourful costume is often to be seen around the Vatican, but the form represented on these figures, the full dress version, is only seen on very special occasions such as swearing-in ceremonies or visits by heads of state.

What are termed privates in most armies are called halberdiers in the Swiss Guard since they carry the halberd, and the two main figures in this set are both halberdiers. The single figure is a sergeant, but their uniform is quite similar. All wear the loose-sleeved doublet with loose pantaloons and stockings that are typical of the 16th century, as are the ruff collar and morion helmets with the long plume or crest of ostrich feathers. The striped effect engraved on these uniforms is really just there to aid painting and convey the stripy impression - the real cloth does not have such deep channels, which gives it the appearance of being quilted on these models. In any case the striping is wrong on the doublets so has to be ignored. The sergeant’s doublet is plain black rather than striped, as illustrated on the box, so not engraved here. Officers have all-plain uniforms that are otherwise of the same cut as the men’s. One halberdier wears the full cuirass, including shoulder pieces, which again is only brought out on very special occasions. In all respects this uniform is correctly represented here (as you would hope for a widely-photographed extant subject). Incidentally it would be easy to assume this uniform had persisted since the days when it was normal fashion, but in fact it was introduced in 1914, when Commandant Jules Repond designed it, having researched the Guard’s early uniforms from frescoes. Over their history the Swiss Guard has had many uniforms, broadly following the fashions of the day, but paradoxically this one is appropriate for approximately the past one hundred years.

Generally with modern sets we talk a lot about the weaponry. Well in this case there is not much to say, except that the halberds are OK (although the blade has been given a rather odd shape) and the swords are fine.

This set came from the same stable as those of Caesar, and it shows. The sculpting is very good with all the detail you could want, great proportions and not a hint of flash. What really makes these figures stand out from most manufacturers is that there is no loss of detail on the sides, even though the figures are all facing the mould. The crests on the helmets are beautifully done, and they even have a really nice subtle engraving on each side, which is both accurate and a testament to the superior mould used here. However one less pleasing aspect of Caesar figures is also evident here - the long halberds have a tendency to come out of the box bent to varying degrees, which is annoying and not helped by the lack of a protective sprue. The middle figure in our picture is also standing at a very odd angle, noticeably leaning forward and to the right. Finally it will not have escaped your attention that the sergeant has no base. While he does stand on his own we continue to be exasperated by this kind of thing, which means the figure is shorter than the rest, difficult to hold while painting and far more likely to fall over if knocked slightly.

The scores attached to our reviews tend to provoke a lot of controversy as different people debate how you can express a complex idea like quality of sculpting as a number. However the most contentious score seems to be for the number of poses, which is assessed on the number provided compared to what we think is appropriate. Thus sets with fewer poses sometimes score better than those with more if we feel the subject is well covered. Here we have a purely ceremonial set, and the poses are simply one man on guard and another on the move. Now you could argue that there could have been a pose of a halberdier at attention, and perhaps one of an officer, and we would not disagree, but it is pretty hard to think of any others. Certainly no fighting or relaxing poses would make sense, so those five poses would pretty much cover it. As a result we gave the pose count a 7 out of 10, even though if this had been an ordinary combat infantry set we would have scored just three poses with something like a 1. You could also argue that the maker could have included men in other uniforms, of which there are several, and a few figures with the more normal beret would have been very welcome. However we have viewed this set based purely on the poses required for men in this particular uniform. You may have taken a different approach!

With the rapid growth of this hobby in recent years it is increasingly hard to find some aspect of human conflict that has not been covered already, so perhaps less obvious subjects such as this are to be expected. While these figures are strictly speaking military, the lack of any conflict in which they could meaningfully be placed will limit their appeal for some. Of course they could have a use in a general 16th century context - a period that is so far grossly underrepresented in the hobby anyway - but for many the appeal will simply be that they are something a bit different and, for the most part, very nicely produced figures that will doubtless look very impressive formed up in a body, particularly painted up in the bright colours that mark out this uniform.


Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 7
Sculpting 10
Mould 10

Further Reading
"The Pope's Army" - Crossroad - Robert Royal - 9780824523954

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