While many nations had royal guard units in their armies during the War of the Spanish Succession, France was blessed with an abundance of them, and many have already been modelled by Strelets. With this set it is the turn of the King’s Musketeers, and while they are best known today thanks to the Alexandre Dumas book, which was set in an earlier age, two companies of this unit were still in existence in 1700, and still served as an active member of the French army, seeing action at battles such as Ramillies and Malplaquet. They were expected to serve either mounted or on foot, and so are considered the dragoons of the Maison du Roi, although by this time they were more often mounted, and took part in several charges.
The most distinctive feature of these troops was the soubreveste they wore, which was a development of the tabbard of past decades, and was a sort of long sleeveless coat, still with the flaming cross decoration worn by their forefathers. By this time they wore a full uniform and a tricorn hat, along with boots that were softer than other cavalry since they also had to fight on foot. All wore a cuirass under their coat, which were therefore not visible, except for those of the officers, who did not wear the soubreveste. The miniatures in this set are all correctly uniformed in this manner, showing the soubreveste split front and rear to facilitate riding. However, the last two poses in our second row are wearing a large cloak rather than the soubreveste, so are perhaps operating in bad weather. The officer shows his cuirass to good effect, but the more senior man to his left may be so senior as to not have a cuirass. He wears a particularly absurd wig that was fashionable at the time, and seems to hold a baton, so is perhaps a marshal or other very senior official.
In general the musketeers were armed much like the rest of the cavalry, but unusually, they kept their cartridge pouch in their pistol holster on the saddle, and instead had a powder horn suspended from a cord across their body, which has been correctly echoed here. All have a sword scabbard hanging from a waist belt, and those that do not have a sword in hand are holding either a pistol or a carbine. The man playing the hautbois and the one holding the standard have a sword but no carbine, and naturally the same goes for the two officers.
The selection of horses in this set will be very familiar to those who have acquired previous sets of French cavalry from Strelets as they are the same models. The saddlery and bridle look perfectly appropriate for this set, as are the brace of pistols each has, and there seems to be a mix of advancing speeds, some of which are rather awkward but not the worst we have seen. It must be said however that the man playing the hautbois on any of these moving animals is showing considerable expertise!
The style of these figures is exactly what we have come to expect for this range, with a slightly stocky look but very nice detail throughout. Some of the cords holding the powder horns have not come out of the mould complete, particularly around the back, which is a shame, but otherwise everything seems to be present and correct, and nicely done. The ease with which the men sit on their horses is a bit variable, with some being less secure and needing to be fixed in place, and there is about an average amount of flash around the seams of both men and horses, but no other assembly is required.
Although we were not particularly impressed with some of the horse poses, the human poses are all pretty good and likely to be useful. None are especially noteworthy, although the two men holding carbines and wearing cloaks would look better on stationary horses in our view, since they work well as pickets or guards rather than troops mounted on a galloping horse. The musician has been particularly nicely done as he does not point his instrument directly to his side, which would have been easier to sculpt but would have looked less lifelike.
As both mounted and foot troops, the Musketeers had both an infantry flag and a cavalry standard, and naturally the latter is what we find in this set. It is rectangular, and about 9 mm by 11 mm (65 cm by 79 cm) in size, excluding the fringe. The real thing was perhaps more square, but of about this size, so the standard here looks okay. So really there is nothing to complain about in terms of accuracy, and we can also have no complaints about the human poses or the sculpting. The horses are not quite so good, but this is still a decent set depicting these elite men, providing yet another element in the complex pattern of French Household troops serving Louis XIV and his successors.