When Charles Edward Stuart landed in Scotland in 1745 in a bid to take the throne for his father, one of the first units created were his Lifeguard, although they were not properly organised until the party got to Edinburgh. These were described as entirely recruited from gentlemen and their servants, and certainly seem to have had an air of social superiority about them. This presented problems for their commanders as they would refuse to do mundane tasks like patrolling, despite the urgent need and the shortage of mounted men in the Jacobite Army. They numbered perhaps as many as 160 mounted men at their peak, organised into two troops, but by the conclusion of the campaign their numbers had dwindled greatly, and perhaps only 46 were at Culloden.
Charles’ urgent need for more troops after his failure to get many English or Scots to join him was supposed to be met by reinforcements sent by France, but many of these were intercepted by the Royal Navy. Included in these reinforcements was Fitzjames Horse, the only mounted regiment in the Irish Brigade, which was a part of the French Army and mainly, but not exclusively, filled by Irish emigres or their offspring. Unfortunately for the Jacobites much of this regiment was also stopped by the Royal Navy, as were all of their horses, so when the remainder arrived in Britain in February 1746 there were just 130 men with nothing to ride. The horses from some existing mounted units were given to some of these men, and it appears that by Culloden around 60 were mounted, while the rest fought on foot.
Step one with this set is to distinguish Lifeguard from Irish horse, and at first this might seem very difficult. All the troopers here wear fairly standard cavalry uniforms of the day, with tricorn hat, long open coat and high riding boots. However there are subtle differences, and it is these that identify these figures. The first four figures, pictured above in our top row, all have coats with no turnbacks, a carbine and pouch both hanging from belts over the left shoulder, and swords held by a belt over the right shoulder. This matches the descriptions and modern recreations of the Lifeguards. Figures five to nine above all have turnbacks on the coat, a pouch held from a belt over the right shoulder and a sword held by a waist belt. This matches the uniform and equipment of Fitzjames Horse, so we have our identification. A further feature to consider is that the first three men in our second row seem to wear a cuirass under their coat, while the next two are unclear but may also have this. It is known that Fitzjames Horse arrived in Scotland with breastplates, so that confirms the identification, although some writers have doubted whether the mounted troopers would have actually worn the breastplate as the horses they were given were much poorer than their usual ones, so less able to take the extra weight.
The last three figures are a bit more problematic. The man carrying the standard wears a fur cap as if he is a carabinier (though he has no firearm), which would be highly unlikely for the Lifeguard. In addition, we know that the Lifeguard carried a standard which was taken from some Government dragoons earlier in the campaign, and while the exact description is not known, it is very likely to have been the usual swallow-tail guidon rather than the rectangular standard here, so this man is clearly with Fitzjames Horse. However we could find no evidence to explain why he has been given a fur cap – no source mentions this during the campaign. Next to this man is an officer, who is dressed as any officer would be, and so could work for either unit were it not for the fact that he clearly wears a breastplate under his coat, which obviously excludes him from the Lifeguards. One note of caution here however is that some sources mention that the officers in Fitzjames Horse wore their breastplate outside of the coat rather than underneath, although how it was worn on any particular day, if at all, is impossible to know now. The last figure is entirely generic of the senior officer of virtually any unit, with highly decorated hat, elaborate coat, sash round his waist and large wig on his head. This makes him useful for so many roles.
There is another difference between these two sets of troopers, and that is in the poses. The Lifeguard in the top row are in quite relaxed poses, and while swords are drawn and carbines at the ready, there is no sense of these men actually being in combat. If just patrolling or on reconnaissance of course there would be no obvious reason why they would have their weapons in hand like this anyway, but at least they work better for the role that the Jacobite cavalry was usually given. The men of the Fitzjames Horse are far more combative, with swords raised and carbines or pistols being fired. Although they had little opportunity to actually act as heavy cavalry before the final defeat, having such poses does at least broaden the scope of the set as a whole, offering possibilities for wargaming where alternative actions can be played out.
The horses are the same as those in several of the Strelets War of the Spanish Succession French cavalry sets. They are in a range of gaits from walking to full gallop, which is much better than the all-charging poses we so often find in cavalry sets, and the men firing carbine and pistol from the saddle will have to use the single relatively calm pose in our fourth row. We were not taken by the first pose in row five, but otherwise these seem reasonable if in rather more of a hurry than they would be if on patrol or reconnaissance. Despite their being used for sets from the early years of the century, their saddles and equipment still seem reasonable for 1746.
This style of sculpting has a lot of detail and to our eye looks very attractive. It is not as slim and elegant as some, but it still looks good. We were particularly impressed by the man firing the carbine, which has been very well done despite the tricky three-dimensional pose. However none of the other poses look flat either, and even where detail is rampant, as in the senior officer, it has been nicely done. We were also very pleased to see that most of the seams are flash free, with just a couple of tiny pieces of flash in places. However we found the fit between some of the men and the horses was not good, as some are not able to sit on the saddle, so will need some work to look realistic.
As usual there are a couple of other points to make here. First, some sources say Fitzjames Horse left their carbines in France, yet all have them here, but of course it would not be difficult to imagine them acquiring weapons locally. Normally their carbines were carried butt down, but as these are the other way up, that implies these are not their usual issue. Although many of the carbines are at a difficult angle to the mould, we thought they had been well done, and the same goes for the swords with their hilts. The standard is almost square (9 mm by 10 mm including the fringe) and not engraved, which is fine by us, although we did wonder if it was not rather small.
Although we are unsure about the accuracy of the fur cap, everything else here is quite accurate, and the poses are pretty appropriate too. The sculpting is very pleasing, and the figures are clean and well presented. Only the difficulty with fitting men onto horses causes a problem. A nice set, and obviously essential for any recreation or refighting of Culloden in particular. The small numbers of each unit help to explain their being mixed into a single set here, which is something that we normally do not like, but better that than they not be represented at all. Of course the figures also offer possibilities for other mid-18th century cavalry, not least the activities of the Irish Brigade in other theatres of war, so this is a very nice set which depicts its subject well and has other uses too.