In 1622 Louis XIII of France created a new guard unit to form part of the maison militaire in the royal household. The men were to be able to fight both mounted and on foot, and be skilled with both the musket and the sword. Recruits were to come mainly from the sons of lesser gentry, and service as a King’s Musketeer would in part provide something of an education for young men who would move on to be officers in the army. Their stated purpose was to act as the king’s bodyguard when he was on his travels, although they would also serve as an elite unit in some of France's military encounters. They quickly gained fame for bravery and skill at arms, and their position beside the king, who showed them great favour, made them one of the most prestigious units in which to serve. However in 1646, after the death of the king, and with the new king still a minor, they were disbanded, only to be reformed in 1657 after the king, Louis XIV, came of age. They would go on to serve France well for over a century more, but perhaps not be well remembered today were it not for the book 'The Three Musketeers' by Alexandre Dumas, which would spawn so many stage, film and television productions, and continues to do so.
At the time that the King's Musketeers were created there was no real concept of uniform in armies as we would understand it, but as a mark of distinction for his new unit the king clothed them in a blue cassock with an ornate white cross on the front, back and sleeves. This reached to the thigh, and largely hid the rest of their clothes, which were simply the men’s normal costume. Reports sometimes mentioned particular arrangement of coloured plumes in the hats, but essentially the cassock is what marked out these men, and all the troopers in this set are correctly clothed this way. Around 1660 the cassock was made longer, so these figures are suitable for the early decades of their existence - the period for which they are best known today - so a good choice in our view. Most of the boots are very long, which was fashionable at the time, so there are no accuracy issues here. The last figure in the second row has no cassock, but instead wears half-armour like a cuirassier. Although he might seem like an officer he is almost certainly intended to represent the king himself, for the costume is perfect for the man himself.
Although the musket could if necessary be used while mounted, the obvious weapons for such men when mounted were the sword and the pistol. Two of these figures carry the sword, in adequate but very flat poses, while a third uses a pistol. Another man carries a musket (or some other form of firearm) while the fifth carries a standard. All are quite flat but otherwise reasonable poses, as is the king.
While information on the horse furniture of the time is sketchy we have no problem with the simple saddles modelled here. The bridles are crude and hard to judge as a result, but all the animals have a brace of pistols, which is reasonable. The poses however are quite poor, with half of them appearing to be backing up and one looking like it is in some dressage competition.
Unfortunately the sculpting is often crude and very poor indeed. Some of the faces are downright horrible, and everywhere detail is basic and proportions often grotesque. The king seems to have lost his right hand and much of his lower right arm as it melts into the torso of the figure, but the arms in general are badly done. The weapons are still worse - the swords are thick and featureless strands of plastic, and the musket is completely devoid of any definition or detail as the man’s hand simply blends into it. The standard has been engraved with a fringe on it, but for some reason only on one side, and otherwise has no design (which is good as the actual appearance is not known today). An attempt has been made to depict the elaborate cross decoration on the cassocks, but with very mixed and largely unpleasant results. There is a good deal of flash on all the figures and on the horses, who also suffer from large amounts of excess plastic between the legs. The fit of man on horse is variable, from adequate to impossible, so there will be some work required there too.
The historical accuracy of these figures is impeccable, and all the poses are perfectly reasonable, at least in theory. However the execution once again lets the set down, with some quite crude, flat figures where even basic details seem to have been either lost or not bothered with in the first place. The horses are also pretty bad, so all the good work in design and research is for the most part wasted on these ugly models. Also, while including the king is a nice thought, do we really need two kings for every 10 troopers?