British cavalry at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession was divided into the horse and the dragoons, and while the latter were technically meant to be mounted infantry, by this date they were increasingly being used as pure cavalry (partly because it was much cheaper to employ dragoons than it was horse). The horse themselves can be further split into ordinary and horse grenadiers for the purposes of appearance, but most of the horse were dressed in the standard uniform of the day, and it is this type that is modelled in this set for the first time in the hobby.
These men are dressed in broadly the same costume as that worn by all arms, and on the whole by civilians too. They wear the long coat without skirts turned back, with no collar or lapels but with large cuffs. For the men the coat is closed to the waist, thus hiding the waistcoat underneath. By the start of the war the British had withdrawn the cuirass, but in 1707 this made a return (front plate only), but even then it was worn under the coat, so would be hidden here. However the top of the coat may be open, revealing the cravat each man wears at the neck. The coat is decorated with lace round the many buttons and buttonholes, and is well done here. Breeches are worn on the legs, and very long jack boots which have had the top part folded back to make a thicker reinforcement around the knee, particularly necessary when the cavalry charged knee-to-knee. On the head they wear the tricorn, which is also edged with lace, and every man wears gauntlets.
The officers were dressed in a similar manner, but of course their clothing was of better quality and more richly decorated. The officers here have more decoration to the hat, and wear a sash either around the waist or over the left shoulder (both are valid). For some reason the officers have their coat open, showing the waistcoat underneath or, in the case of the penultimate figure in the third row, a smooth surface that is suggestive of a cuirass. The trumpeter is also more highly decorated, and has the false sleeves on his coat that were typical of such men.
All horse carried a carbine suspended from a broad belt worn over the left shoulder, as do these men, and these also have a similar belt over the right shoulder supporting the sword, which differentiates them from dragoons, who used a waist belt for the purpose. The sword was not the same in all regiments but was always a broadsword, long and straight, tapering to a point, which is correctly modelled here. The carbine too is properly done, and a couple are also holding a pistol, which is equally nicely modelled. There are no ammunition pouches or other belts, which is correct, and indeed everything about the appearance of these figures is accurate.
The horses are the same as those used in other sets by Strelets for the War of the Spanish Succession, and are appropriate for British cavalry as they have the square shabraque with the rounded corner, appropriate covers for the pair of pistols and a round valise behind the saddle, while the saddle and other equipment look good too. There is a good array of poses which all look reasonable, including one walking, two at the canter and three at the full gallop. It should be noted that at some point during this period it became the custom to dock the horse’s tail severely, and the models here all seem to have a natural length tail. However it is unclear when this practice commenced, or if it was applied to all mounts, even those procured overseas.
The poses of the men are a bit more problematic for several reasons. To begin with, the Duke of Marlborough was insistent on his cavalry conducting a charge with the blade, and forbade them to use their firearms, which would have required them to pause. Indeed famously he only allowed three cartridges per man, and those were only to be used in the defence of the grazing horses or in picket duty. This means the two poses holding a pistol are no good for a charge, which is fine as the cavalry did much more than conduct charges, but as we have said the pistol was rarely actually used. Of the rest, the men have all drawn swords, and some are being waved in the air excitedly while others are being held in a much more restful position. The first figure might seem ideal for the charge as the sword should be pointed forward like this, but the difficulties of moulding such a figure mean this one is holding his sword out to the side as much as forward, which would be a considerable danger to his comrade on the right, particularly if they were charging knee-to-knee, which literally describes how close they were. Equally the two poses holding their sword out to the right would also be a danger to others in a close charge, so for a full-on charge there is little here that works well. This need not matter as cavalry did much more than charge, yet most of the horses are moving at a pace, and indeed three seem to be galloping, when a British charge never went faster than a canter (to preserve order), so in our view neither human nor horse poses are the best choices. That being said, all the poses are fairly natural, although we doubted that the last figure in the top row would have held his sword in that manner.
These are great figures. We were particularly taken with the faces, which are full of character, and even show the determination of the men apparently at the charge. However everywhere the detail is beautifully rendered, such as the care taken to show the manner in which the carbine was attached to the belt. Clothing such as the cravats is perfectly done, as too is the texture of the wigs worn by the officers and the natural hair of the troopers. Proportions are also good, with everything being just as slender or thin as it should be. The standard being carried by the cornet is of a good size and has been given a fringe, cords and a spearhead finial. It has no design engraved on it, which is perhaps partly because there is very little information on what that should be for the period, but is anyway something of which we approve. The trumpeter has a smaller banner on his instrument, which might perhaps be of a similar design, but is again left plain here. The icing on the cake is there is absolutely no flash on either man or horse, at least on our examples.
This is another top-notch product, well-researched and beautifully produced. These figures seem to capture the flavour of the subject very well, particularly the glorious appearance of the lively officers, and our only quibble is that there is relatively little here that can be accurately used for a standard British charge. However nothing here is wrong – even those using the pistols are not impossible, and this is just one of those cases of ‘we would have done it differently’. So a lovely set, and a vital one for those interested in the wars of the early 18th century.