'Jacobite' was the name given to those who sought to restore the Stuarts to the thrones of Scotland and England, and the Jacobite movement, which ran from 1688 until the later 18th century, spawned a number of plots and several attempted uprisings to achieve this aim. Most famous of these was the ’45, the rebellion in Scotland that ended on the field of Culloden, but several other attempts were made before 1745 which involved Jacobite armies facing government forces in battle.
It would be grossly inaccurate to say that all Jacobites were Scottish Highlanders, and equally so to claim that all Scottish Highlanders were Jacobite, but for at least most of the uprisings the Jacobite army was named the Highland Army as the majority of the personnel were Highlanders. This set and its sister set Jacobites (2) make no attempt to depict the various French, Spanish or Irish elements of Jacobite armies, nor any English volunteers, and concentrate instead on the Scottish element. Again not all these Scots were Highlanders, with many being Lowlanders for whom Highland dress and customs were entirely foreign. However some attempt was made (at least in 1745) to clothe such men in a semblance of Highland dress in lieu of a formal uniform and to give the army some identity. To confuse matters more the popular perception of Highlanders habitually wearing the plaid simply is not true, so many genuine Highlanders would have had little in their appearance that suggested their origin.
To summarise the previous paragraph then, Jacobite armies offered an extremely motley appearance which would require a considerable number of different figures to be fully reproduced. This set contains an impressive 20 poses, but all are clearly depicting Highland dress. However a good many of these do so really badly. Some clearly have the plaid, and this is pinned up over the left shoulder as was normal, but some seem to have merely a philabeg, which was the forerunner to what later became the kilt, plus a loose bandolier around the body and over the left shoulder which is a separate garment. We can find no mention or illustration of this and must therefore assume that the sculptor did not understand how Highland dress worked. Such 'bandoliers' (merely a length of rectangular cloth) were sometimes worn by those wearing breeches or trews, but none here have this arrangement. Apart from the mounted officer only one man has breeches or trews, which again seriously under represents these commonplace items, implying that these figures are mainly from the more wealthy front ranks of the Jacobite battle line. All have stockings and shoes, and those that are not bareheaded are correctly shown with bonnets sporting a cockade. Many seem to have short coats, which is fine, and some may simply be wearing their shirt, which is also fine, although the reported practice of shedding the plaid before contact with the enemy and wearing just the long shirt has not been reproduced here.
In regards to the general kit of these men there is not much to say as there is little enough of it. Apart from the common purse many are recorded as having canteens (of which there are none on show here) and many, especially those with firearms, would have had a bag for ammunition and a powder horn. Again there are no horns visible here (although some could be hidden in the plaid), but strangely many of the figures have been made with a crossbelt over the right shoulder. In a few cases this supports a scabbard but for the majority this terminates on the left hip with...nothing at all. It supports nothing and performs no function, so why is it there? The answer of course is it should not be. The amount of equipment Highlanders might take into battle would vary enormously so some newly arrived recruits might be expected to be light on such things, but the majority should be more encumbered than these figures.
Turning to the subject of weapons, this is a particularly complex element of a complex subject. During the early revolts such as 1689 muskets were few and many men would have had very basic weapons little different from those of medieval times, particularly polearms such as the Lochaber Axe, which were blades strapped to poles. Two of the figures in this set carry such devices, and a further two have spears, which again would be simple weapons for those without the money or access to anything better. By 1746 however, and especially after their victories at actions such as Prestonpans and Falkirk, muskets were readily available, either supplied by Spain or France or picked up from the defeated Government forces. In the early stages of the ’45 the assortment of home-made and ancient weapons was remarked upon, but by Culloden most would have been discarded for firelocks. However only four poses have muskets, and the most common weapon remains the sword - more particularly the broadsword, although some of the smaller examples could just as easily be long dirks. One man carries a double-handed claymore, which again would be more appropriate for the earlier uprisings than the later ones. Several pistols are in evidence, which is fine, but only two men are carrying shields. The frequency of shields in battle is one of many aspects still discussed by historians today, but we felt more should have been included here, mainly for the swordsmen.
For the Highlanders in any Jacobite army there was really only one battle tactic – the fearsome Highland Charge. This was a full on charge at the enemy which might or might not also include a single volley at fairly close range and the discharge of pistols, but its prime purpose was to so terrify the enemy that they flee before contact is even made. This worked well on many occasions, but not at Culloden, which sealed the Jacobite’s fate. Why then are there almost no charging figures in this set? We find some perfectly acceptable poses and a good many apparently engaged in hand-to-hand combat, but the records show that the Highland troops often avoided such close contact, and if a charge failed to panic the enemy then they stopped short. Naturally sometimes contact was made, as with Barrell's and Munro’s regiments at Culloden and with fleeing soldiers at previous engagements, so some poses of this nature are required, but not so many as to preclude charging poses. The men firing their muskets are firing very high, which was unfortunately very common in reality, particularly amongst untrained troops.
As you can see there are six rows of figures pictured above. The first three rows show figures unique to this set, and each pose has three copies in each box. The remaining three rows, which contain single examples of each pose, are also to be found in the other Strelets Jacobites set already mentioned. These include some quite nice poses such as the men crawling and the Highlander advancing with head down and sword at the ready. However these common figures also include some terrible examples such as the man holding his shield directly over his head where it could not possibly be of any use - the pose is simply ludicrous. The rest are rather better and include a splendid officer mounted on his fine horse, and a piper. The pipes were naturally an important part of Highland culture and while their method of being held and played looks odd here it does agree with various depictions at the time so seems to be accurate.
We must at this point say that these figures are very different from the usual Strelets style. Their proportions are better and the figures are slimmer, particularly their limbs, which are much better proportioned. The level of detail is also generally better, with small items such as buttons being appropriately sized rather than exaggerated as is usual with Strelets. While the figures may be slim and more attractive, the sculpting is still not particularly good. Some of the poses are decidedly awkward and unnatural, and there is a slight rough quality to them. For example, the kneeling man holding a musket has a cupped left hand but the musket is not placed there but somewhat in front of it, leaving a strange mess where the hand should be. Curiosities such as the mounted officer having a full length sword yet a scabbard barely half that length, and some medically impossible twisting of bodies only add to the unfavourable impression some of these figures give. We did not find much flash on these figures, and the mounted man fits his mount very well, while where are no separate weapons or other assembly, so the set is at least ready to go straight off the sprue.
It would seem that this set has been designed to concentrate on the quality Highlanders - those who were more likely to wear the belted plaid and who would also be more likely to carry a broadsword. This does not make them inaccurate, but not particularly representative of Highlanders as a whole, although they do more closely reflect the romantic image many have of these men. Where some are inaccurate is in the strange dress, while the assortment of weapons will be more or less appropriate depending on which of the many Jacobite uprisings is to be depicted. We prefer this slim, more natural style, to the usual Strelets chunky style, but there are plenty of problems with sculpting, particularly bizarre and unnatural poses and some vagueness in areas such as hands. Most important is the lack of a good number of charging poses, although the second set goes some way to make up for this. A very mixed bag then with some figures much more useable than others.