In imitation of the King, Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) set up his own company of mounted Guard in 1626, which was similar to the famous King’s Musketeers created a few years earlier. This was partly a prestige project, as many important men maintained their own small guard, but Richelieu had need of such men as there were attempts on his life. In the present day however they are most famous as the supposed nemesis of the King’s Guard in the books of the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.
Like the King’s Guard, these men were expected to serve either mounted or on foot, and in this set we find quite an array of mounted men in many poses. One or two could be at the charge, but most are in more common and less aggressive poses, generally relaxed and actually just guarding their patron, which is very appropriate. The first figure holding his sword out from his hip was not a favourite of ours, but generally these are great poses. The last figure is clearly the cardinal himself, wearing the cardinal’s zucchetto and a considerable amount of armour, but it is the figure to his right that grabs the attention. She wears a broad hat and feathers, a bodice laced at the back and with a low-cut neckline, stockings (or, shockingly, trousers!), and long riding boots. She also carries a sword. Needless to say the Cardinal’s Guard did not admit women, even if there had been any who might have wanted to enrol, and no woman would have gone around dressed like this in public in any case. Clearly the designer has thrown historical accuracy to the winds and created a figure straight out of some modern adventure story set loosely during the period, but reflecting very modern perceptions of plucky and daring women rather than the much more dull reality. The sculptor probably had fun creating it, and some customers may have fun using it in some sort of scenario, but it has no place in actual history.
As with the King’s men, so the Cardinal’s men were distinguished only be the cassock they were given to wear. This was of the usual style of the day, and had a silver cross on it to denote the Cardinal’s patronage – a much simpler design than the King’s of course. Unfortunately the sculptor has gone a bit berserk, and all five of the poses wearing the cassock in this set display the King’s design, not the Cardinal’s. This can be fixed with some intricate carving, or painted over and ignored, but it is certainly wrong here (and a wasted effort too). Otherwise the costume is typical of the day, and correctly done here (at least on the male members of the set).
The horses are the same as those in the King’s Guard set, and show a full range of poses from standing still to a full-on gallop. Since the human poses also cover a broad range of activities, this is as it should be, and while a couple of the poses look rather odd, generally the horses are fine. Since there was nothing (except perhaps decoration) to distinguish the animals of one guard or the other, this sharing is reasonable, and the figures fit the horses well enough.
Sculpting is good in our view, with very good detail everywhere. The sword being held out by the first figure in the second row seems stunted to us, but this may be a problem with filling the mould and so variable between copies of the set. We found almost no flash anywhere, and the only excess plastic is a little between the arms of the man in the third row discharging his carbine from the saddle.
Apart from the woman, who has absolutely no historical place in this set, the only fault here is the King’s design on the cassocks, which can be fixed but also means they can be used as reinforcements for the King’s Guard. Otherwise these are attractive and well-presented figures, and those without a cassock have wider uses as various mounted soldiers of the era. It may not have been a major element in the armed forces of the French monarchy, but Richelieu’s Guard is nicely presented here and the early 17th century has acquired some useful cavalry figures with this set.