History is full of larger-than-life characters, and one of those was Frederick Augustus. Born in 1670, he inherited the title of Elector of Saxony in 1694, and on the death of the king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth three years later he contrived to also have himself declared king of that near neighbour. Along with many in the region, Augustus was jealous of the Swedish hegemony of the Baltic region and readily joined alliances against that country when a young man, Charles XII, inherited the Swedish crown. The following years of war, known as the Great Northern War, brought both success and failure for Saxon arms, but in alliance with Russia and others the Swedes were eventually defeated. The end of hostilities benefited Russia far more than it did Saxony, but Saxon troops had played their part in those tumultuous years, and with this set they are finally represented in our hobby.
Augustus endeavoured to make his army modern and efficient, and his soldiers had several changes of uniform before the Swedish War was finally over. The first five poses pictured above are of ordinary musketeers of the type that formed the bulk of the infantry in any army of the day. At the start of the war there were 10 Saxon infantry regiments, including two in the Guard, and all consisted of 15 companies of musketeers plus, or possibly including, one company of grenadiers. These proportions varied over the period, but the large majority were always musketeers. The uniform these figures wear seems to try and cover the whole period (up to 1721), so while all are wearing the usual coat of the day, some have buttons all the way down the front in the older style while others have the buttons no lower than the waist, in the style introduced around 1707. All the men wear stockings and shoes, and most have the tricorn, although one man wears a hat without the three turnups, which was quite common earlier in the period. However there is no sign of the alleged uniform with small cuffs and skirt turnbacks that some Saxon troops are believed to have worn somewhat ahead of their time. All the men carry a large cartridge pouch on their right hip, suspended from a belt over their left shoulder, which is quite correct. Several also seem to have the priming horn that this belt also supported. Most of the pouches are plain, but one shows a crowned badge, marking this man as a member of the Guard. All the men also have waist belts supporting swords and bayonets, which again is as it should be.
The two middle figures in our second row are clearly grenadiers, and like the musketeers are correctly attired, including the tall mitre cap with the bag held up rather than allowed to fall to the side. These two men also correctly have a coat-of-arms design on their cartridge pouches, and a smaller pouch on the front of their waist belts. Both have the match case on their shoulder belts, and one seems to have an extra haversack, which would be for carrying the grenades themselves. As with the musketeers, everything here is accurate.
The drummer and fifer are correctly dressed much like the ordinary soldiers, although the drummer has the extra lace decoration on his sleeves, which is correct but changed to plain sleeves and swallow’s nest wing epaulettes after the 1707 changes. The first figure on the bottom row, an NCO, is also properly done and is noteworthy for having the partisan which was the mark of his rank.
The middle three figures in the last row are all officers (but not of grenadiers, which carried fusils), and they are typically dressed for the time. Officers have always pleased themselves to an extent when it comes to uniform, but all these look perfectly reasonable, with their ornate coats and large wigs. One holds a spontoon, as per regulation, while another has that very common mark of a gentleman, a cane. Two have a sash over the right shoulder and a gorget at the throat, which were both new to regulations in 1712, although quite likely to have been seen before this.
Finally there is the flag-bearer, who is particularly smartly turned out in a fine coat with lapels and the shirt showing, and a full wig. His flag is not engraved with any design (good!) but is a little small compared to those flags that we know of today, although not by a tremendous amount.
A close inspection of these figures reveals that they do rather well in terms of detail, with some really nicely done areas such as pockets, wigs and the faces. However there is a fairly awkward look to them overall, mainly due to the very flat poses, which mean that items are pressed tight against the body and are sometimes a little out of proportion. This is particularly so of the more animated poses, which is perhaps why there are so few of these. In places there is no flash, while elsewhere the flash is very noticeable, and as can be seen on one of the grenadiers some figures have large areas of excess plastic, although these seem to vary between sprues.
Although 14 is a respectable number of poses for an infantry set, the high number of officers and specialist troops like the musicians leaves few cavities for ordinary troops, especially when the set attempts to cover both musketeers and grenadiers and offers the same number of each pose. We had no complaints about any of the poses, but clearly the choice is limited here, particularly for the grenadiers, neither of whom are doing very much. Luckily companies such as Zvezda, Strelets and GerMan have made similar troops which could be mixed with these. As we have said, the poses are quite flat and not energetic, but adequate for all that.
Saxon troops naturally fought with their Polish-Lithuanian counterparts, and often with Russian and other allies. Less well known is that the Elector leased many such troops to the Habsburg Emperor, and in that capacity some saw action against the French and Bavarians, notably at Malplaquet under Eugene of Savoy. Therefore these figures have quite a wide scope, particularly given the similarities between uniforms at the time. We were not thrilled with their overall look, but they are well researched and all the poses are well chosen. Some tidying up with a knife might be necessary, but on the whole these figures would be worth such an exercise.