In 1806, with Napoleon apparently all-conquering, Saxony found itself forced to ally with the French, and for the next few years remained faithful to that alliance, supplying thousands of troops for Napoleon's armies. The three Saxon cuirassier regiments were considered by many to be among the finest in Europe, and two, the Garde du Corps and the von Zastrow regiment, accompanied the main body of the Grand Armee when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 and played a large part in the battle of Borodino. Since this battle seems to have been a focus for Zvezda at the time, these figures were clearly created with that battle in mind.
The now standard Zvezda sprue arrangement means this set has three sprues of troopers plus one of specialists, as seen above. All the troopers (first row) plus the NCO and officer (second row) have sword drawn and seem to be engaged in hand-to-hand combat, slashing to right or left. Indeed it is immediately noticeable that everyone is looking to the side - obviously done to facilitate the sculpting of the helmet. As such it works well enough, but the lack of anyone facing the front will limit the use of these figures in a charge for example, although the plastic does allow the turning of heads without too much difficulty. Some of the poses have been achieved using the old Italeri technique of having the figure at an angle to the mould, which means one leg is further forward than the other. However, from the neck down all the poses are fine.
The set is labelled as appropriate for the period 1810-1814, with the first date being significant as it was that year that the helmet was introduced. The differences between the three cuirassier regiments were mostly in colour and small details - meaningless in this scale - so these figures could be any of them. All wear a front-only cuirass, which is correct, but none except the officer are wearing the scaled shoulder straps on their cuirass, which all the sources (including Zvezda's own box artwork) seem to agree should be there. Since Zvezda are clearly thinking of Borodino when making this set some further discussion is required. At that famous event one of the two cuirassier regiments present, the Garde du Corps, was without its cuirasses, so the figures in this box would only be usable as the Zastrow regiment. Zvezda are clearly aware of this as the guidon, which is correctly sized, is finely engraved with the standard of that regiment. One observation is that none of the men wear a plume on their helmet (except the officer, whose plume is a separate piece). The plume was generally a full dress item, but sources are unclear as to whether this was ever worn in action. However there does seem to be agreement that the trumpeter at least should have one.
The horses have a couple of interesting features. First, the reins have been modelled above the saddle, such that they actually touch the left hand of the figure. If the plastic had allowed this loop to be twisted round and bent down then this would have been an excellent arrangement, but here it looks a little odd. Second, each trooper has a carbine, but this is a separate item that attaches to the horse, not the man, via a couple of holes in the front blanket. This is a tight fit, but when in position it matches well with the carbine belt of the figure, and is an excellent way to reproduce a tricky feature. The horses are entirely accurate in terms of saddlery etc., although the pose of one (the first horse in the bottom row) caused us some concern as the front leg in particular is too high and too straight.
Sooner or later any customer is probably going to want to place the figures on the horses, and at that point the trouble starts. As with their set of French Knights the figures have pegs near their ankles which are meant to fit in the holes on the sides of the horses. However the men fit their mounts well, so when squeezing the man over the saddle the soft plastic pegs simply bend up, making entry impossible. Trim at least one of the pegs off, and the man will sit perfectly well.
It may be tedious to hear it again but Zvezda have delivered their usual top notch sculpting job, with almost no flash and plenty of good detail. The level of detail on the design of the guidon is a highlight, and a fearsome challenge to any painters, although on balance we still prefer smooth flags. One feature that is not apparent from the pictures on this page is that they are too tall. At between 26mm and 27mm in height, these figures are about 1.9 metres tall without their helmet, and while it is true that the larger men were favoured for such heavy cavalry regiments, this still seems excessive to us.
With Strelets having already produced the Garde du Corps, suitably lacking their cuirasses, this set is a natural companion, although the differences in sculpting style and size between these two sets are enormous. Although those wanting plumes will have a problem, the lack of shoulder straps can be mostly resolved with paint. The main problem with this set is the size issue, but this is certainly an attractive set, and offers possible uses as cuirassiers from other states as well as Saxony.