In 17th century France it was perfectly normal for important men to have personal retinues of soldiers to act as their bodyguard and, at times, enforcers, and below the king there was none more important than Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), the king's chief minister. When the king constituted a body of 100 musketeers to form part of his household in 1622, the cardinal and others quickly followed his example, and so were formed the Cardinal's musketeers. There was certainly a healthy rivalry between these men and those of the king, and duels or larger brawls were not uncommon, but the image portrayed in most subsequent works of fiction showing the cardinal and these men in a state of semi-civil war against the king is far from the truth.
Although without the same prestige as the king's men, the cardinal's guards were still a prestige unit. Following the king's example the cardinal's men were expected to fight either mounted or on foot, and to be skilled with both sword and musket. Like the king’s men they were given a cassock, identical to the kings except in colour and design, but otherwise they wore ordinary clothing like any gentleman. The figures in this set are properly clothed, with the short cassock and otherwise civilian costume, including a variety of boots, all of which are reasonable. The last figure in the second row is of particularly interest as he has a very different costume. He wears a broad-brimmed cardinal's hat, and half-armour under a large cape and a capelet about the shoulders. Clearly he is meant to be the great man himself, and while we could find no contemporary image of him wearing armour like this, he has been pictured thus in more recent times and it does not seem unreasonable when he accompanied the king on campaign.
The poses are all quite flat but not the worst ever seen. One man holds his sword high in the air, while another does the same with his musket for some reason. There is a nice one of a man resting his musket on his shoulder, and a less likely one of a man holding both a sword and pistol. The trumpeter is quite good, and the cardinal is inactive but perfectly suitable. The horses are the same as those in the sister set of the King's musketeers, and are an odd mixture. The poses are poorly done, with half of them seeming to be pulling backwards.
Sculpting is pretty terrible. Detail is crude and variable, and the faces are in some cases cartoon-like and horrible. The weapons are thick and virtually without any detail, while even the basic shape leaves something to be desired. The sculptor has placed a cross on the cassocks, but apparently could not decide whether to engrave this or have it raised above the cloth so did both. Hands in particular blend into other items without definition, although this is true in many places, and the cardinal is clearly much too advanced for the quality of the set because he has a separate lower portion to his cape, which is supposed to attach via a peg on the back. Needless to say the peg only partly fits, is lose and the result looks dreadful. There is plenty of flash too, and some excess plastic where even the flat poses could not avoid it. The horses in particular suffer from large amounts of plastic between their legs - hidden in our photo but easy to imagine nonetheless.
While we are accepting the armour on Richelieu in the absence of good evidence or logic to the contrary, the accuracy of the set is otherwise fine. The poses are not all what we would have chosen, but perhaps not too bad, especially since the musketeers in the King's set can easily be used to expand the available poses as the appearance of both sets of men differed only in colour and small details. The sculpting however is awful, and the very poor attempt to have a very simple assembly just demonstrates how far the sculptor is from being able to make such things work. All the troopers in this set could easily pass as King's musketeers as well, and indeed several other dignitaries maintained musketeers that looked much the same, so there are several uses for these figures. However their unappealing appearance is a major obstacle to getting excited by these figures, accurate or not, and anyway, while including the cardinal is a nice thought, do we really need two Richelieus for every 10 troopers?