Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sir William Montagu (Montacute) - Knight, Crusader Miniatures

This figure bares the arms of Sir William Montagu, alias de Montacute, 2nd Baron Montacute (c. 1285–1319) and is the first knight I've painted to match the medieval tiles. His arms, argent three fusils on fess gules, are quite distinctive.

The Montagu family was an old (probably dating back to the Conquest) West Country family who held lands in Somerset, Dorset and Devon.

Montagu saw service with Edward I during the ongoing wars with Scotland and also went on the serve Edward II. He died in Aquitaine, October 1319, where he had been sent be the court to lessen his influence on the king.

His son, also called William, was created Earl of Salisbury. These arms, quartered with those of Monthermer, would remain visible in various coat of arms including those of Warwick the Kingmaker for years to come.

As you'll be able to tell I'm being quite free and easy with the historical time range with my figures for this onging Cry Havoc project (my toys - my rules). These figures are the first knights to be completed that were inspired by the medieval floor tiles from Shaftesbury abbey, Matching spearmen spearmen (seen in this previous post - Link) will complete the small (tiny actually) retinues.

Medieval Floor Tile - Shaftesbury abbey
As the note by the floor tile states:
"It was this Montacute (Montagu) that was in a dispute over the ownership of Sherborne castle in 1341 with Robert Wyville, Bishop of Salisbury, which nearly resulted in a trial by combat."

I will go into more detail about this fascinating 'what if' historical in a future posting i.e. after I've finished painting Montagu's adversary, the Bishop of Salisbury.
Montagu's (rather small) retinue
All these models are from Crusader Miniatures, painted straight out the box with no modifications.

You might have noticed that I haven't painted the horse's caparsion to match the shield. Although this would have been relatively easy to do this figure is a substitute for Sir Gilbert in the Cry Havoc game. This character wears a yellow surcoat and carries a white shield with three red stars (or if you want to be technical - argent, three mullet gules) therefore I decided to mirror the illustration from the game and keep the caparison plain and simple.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Othon de Grandson - Knight, Fireforge Games & Crusader Miniatures

This is another figure based on a illustration by Richard Hook the Osprey book 'The Crusades' (Elite Series E19). This time it is the Savoy knight, Othon de Grandson (d.1328).

It was the colourful heraldic shield that initially attracted me but in a happy coincidence the real Othon had a very close connection to Edward I, one that I happened to notice on a recent visit to Beaumaris castle on the isle of Anglesey. This connection resulted in Othon being appointed as first justiciar of North Wales between 1284–1294.

Othon de Grandson (sometimes spelt Otto or Otton de Grandison) was a knight from the Savoy region which is now covers parts of modern day eastern France, western Switzerland and north western Italy.

The English Plantagenet kings had close family ties to the area. Count Philip of Savoy was Edward I's great uncle and also owned him homage for part of his lands. One result of this connection was that many Savoyards joined the English royal household.

Othon de Grandson himself entered the service of English king Henry III and was placed in the household of the young prince Edward, later being knighted in 1268. He became a lifetime friend and confidant of the future king Edward I. As a result many other Savoyards went on to serve with Edward in his Welsh wars.

In 1271 Othon accompanied Edward on the Ninth Crusade where he served at Acre. Here he commanded a small force of English volunteers defending a section of city's walls. During the siege he saved the life of fellow Savoyard Jean I de Grailly, the heraldry of whom I hope to recreate in miniature form for my ongoing Cry Havoc project. It was possible that it was Othon, and not Edward's wife, that it is supposed to have sucked the poison from the wound inflicted by an assassin's blade on the future king.

Interestingly on Edward's return he appointed the builder/mason/architect Master James of Saint George to build the now famous castles in north-west Wales such as Conway, Harlech, Caernarfon and Beaumaris. James was also a fellow Savoyard and is thought to have travelled on Crusade himself. Many of Edward's castles feature architectural details that appear in both north Wales and Savoy but rarely elsewhere.

Dismounted knight with mace

A more detailed (i.e. better) history of Othon de Grandson can be found online.

With this character I realised that after looking over the metal and plastic figures I had available I knew I could utilise a dismounted knight from Crusader and modify a mounted plastic Fireforge figure (as the Italian company do not currently make knights on foot) to suit as it is far easier to modify a plastic figure to match a metal figure than visa versa. Although not identical they could be made to look similar enough to suit my purposes.

As I wanted to have a bit of variety with the mounted knights I decided to depict the knight on a unbarded horse. This meant that I would have to use the plastic horse model from the Fireforge 'Mounted Sergeants/Men at Arms' set. To match the metal Crusader figure however I used the head, limbs and body of the mounted knight figure Fireforge 'Teutonic Knights Cavalry' set.

The picture above better illustrates the changes I made to the original model but note that the large horns have already been removed from the other plastic helmet.

After removing the horns/wings from the Teutonic helmet and smoothing the surface I added the tiny vent holes to the faceplate by poking it with a sharp metal scribe. Next I removed the head from the triangular plastic mace, shortened the handle to match the metal version, and replaced it with a metal mace head taken another Crusader figure.

I also rounded off the plastic shield so it resembled the one shown in the Osprey book.

I attempted to copy the shield illustrated in the Osprey book and totally messed it up as I thought the heraldic designs were stylised flowers so painted a simple five petal pattern on the shield. A short time afterwards however by chance I found an online image (link) of Othon's effigy which is in Lausanne Cathedral.

I noticed that the symbol I thought was a stylised flower in the Osprey illustration was actually a scallop shell, quite appropriate as the shell was a symbol of pilgrimage. After a liberal amount of swearing I decided to try a paint the shell symbols over the other pattern.

Although they're not a perfect match, for instance the plastic Fireforge helmet is noticeably larger than the metal Crusader version, I'm pleased with the overall look of both figures and how they turned out.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Peter of Dreux - Knight, Firefore Games & Crusader Miniatures

The matching pair of figures detailed in this post have been painted to represent Peter of Dreux, Duke of Brittany, based on the Richard Hook illustrations of Peter in the Osprey book 'The Crusades' (Elite Series E19).

The livery of Peter of Dreux is alternate squares of blue and gold (designating the house of Dreux) quartered with ermines (representing Brittany), or to be precise 'Chequy or and azure within a border gules a quarter ermine'.

Regarding the model itself I had noticed that fortunately one of the plastic Fireforge mounted sergeants and one of the metal Crusader knights matched each other and bore a close enough resemblance to the illustration to represent this character.

Please note that I intentional didn't fit the horse's tail piece on this model and I'll explain why. I read an interesting discussion on the Fireforge Games Facebook page, where someone pointed out something I'd never noticed before. To paraphrase, someone basically said, "On all the medieval illustrations of fully barded horses the horse's tail is covered and is not visible." Out of curiosity I double checked all my image reference books and was slightly surprised to find that I couldn't see any that showed the tail on a fully caparisoned horse (if anyone can provide a contemporary medieval illustration/glassed glass image or reference etc. showing otherwise I'd genuinely like to see it, it would save me a lot of work in the future!). 

I thought it may be an interesting challenge to make and paint a proper fully barded horse. The problem with this approach is that it left me having to fill a large gap at the rear of the model where the caparison/barding is modelled flapping open. This issue was solved by using a thin sheet of greenstuff and blending it in as best I could to match the folds before it set.

As the mounted figure is depicted as having drawn his sword I cut away the hilt, grip and pommel of the sword the scabbard on the figure's waist. I also cut away a small section of the material from the area beneath the saddle area so as to create a similar look to the one show in the Osprey book.

Obviously one the initial attractions of this character was the eye-catching heraldry. However attempting to paint it may, at first glance, appear quite intimidating but the final appearance is actually more down to using simple techniques than any artist skill on my part. I will however freely admit it did eventually prove to be a bit of tough bugger to paint (all this after saying in a previous post that I was sticking with simple geometric designs).

After the base colours, yellow at the front and the off white/grey for the rear, were applied I then used a small, square single piece of cardboard loosely stuck to the model horse with Blu-Tac. I lightly traced the edges using a H6 pencil, repeating the pattern until the front half of the horse was covered with faint grid lines. With the tricky areas around the neck and head I simply drew the lines in by eye. I used a H6 pencil for this as it is traditionally used to create trace lines, the hard lead produces a very fine, faint line (being a draughtsman by trade its nice to be able to return to using a pencil instead of a computer). Once satisfied with the pattern the alternate squares were painted and filled in with blue paint.

For the ermine pattern once again I traced in very faint horizontal lines across the whole of the rear of the horse. Then using the horizontal lines as a boundary guide I painted in short black vertical lines. Once that was done I then painted an inverted V at the bottom of each line. I tried to paint the three dots using a brush but repeatedly made a mess of it. I eventually tried using a cocktail stick, dipped the tip into black paint and placed the three dots on top of the vertical line (although I'm still spotting the odd one or two I missed). I'm not particularly looking forward to painting the wounded/dead version of the same figure if I ever get round to it (I might just cheat and stick to using generic casualty markers).
'A Knight with a Big Weapon'

The dismounted figure is from the 'Knights with Big Weapons' pack (MCF003) by Crusader Miniatures and is painted straight out of the box i.e. no modifications were made to the figure.

Unfortunately neither illustration in the Osprey book (unusually the artwork on the cover is not replicated inside the book) shows his shield but a quick search using Google 'all hail' Images soon revealed the appropriate details.

With hindsight I should have added the greenstuff to repilcate the fancy strips of material that form the sleeves in the original illustration but this only occurred to me after I'd starting to paint the figure.

This figure is a substitute for Sir Conrad in the Cry Havoc game who carries a yellow and blue checked shield and whose horse has a matching caparison.

In an interesting historical footnote Peter of Dreux's original sword pommel, displaying his coat of arms, actually turned up for sale in Damascus a number of years ago. Peter had been wounded at the battle of Mansourah (February 1250) where he had fought with Robert of Artois, the Master of the Templars. He was taken prisoner along with King Louis and other barons. He later died as a result of his facial wounds. The pommel is now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Billmen (Men-at-Arms with shield), Crusader Miniatures

Yet another set of figures taken from 'Men-at-Arms with spear + shield' (MCF030)- from the later Crusades range by Crusader Miniatures, the figures are only supplied with shields) but this time made to represent billmen (which you'll ready know as you've read the title).

For these figures it was a very simple and obvious change, with the bills replacing the spears seen in a previous post. The metal bills were from the Perry Miniatures (WR21 Bills) taken from their War of the Roses range.

The small circular shields were taken from the Perry's plastic WoTR box set.

For both the Cry Havoc/Siege games you need eight billmen in total, although again only three are actually required for Siege.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Halberdiers (Men-at-Arms with shield), Crusader Miniatures

Another set of figures taken from 'Men-at-Arms with spear + shield' (MCF030)- from the later Crusades range by Crusader Miniatures, although the figures are not actually supplied with a spear), but this time made to represent halberdiers.

The halberds, or to be more precise the halberd heads, were taken from the Perry's plastic 'EuropeanMercenary Infantry' set. I cut away the plastic shaft and then superglued the head onto a wire spear shaft.

It may not be historically accurate (or it may be, I'm not entirely sure either way)  to have halberdiers equipped with these small shields but the figures should look slightly odd without them.The left arm is held tight across the body; without the shield it looks as if the figures are holding their stomachs.

The small round shield (targe or buckler - delete was appropriate), was taken from the Perry's plastic WoTR box set.
For both the Cry Havoc/Siege games you need twelve halberdiers in total, only three being actually required for Siege.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Spearmen (Men-at-Arms with shield), Crusader Miniatures

These miniatures are the latest in my on going Cry Havoc/Siege project. These four figures are taken from the late Crusades range by Crusader Miniatures, pack - 'Men-at-Arms with spear + shield' (MCF030) although you'll need to supply your own wire spears. There are the usual four pairs of identical twins per pack.
Crusader Miniatures MCF030 - Men-at-Arms with spear + shield

All four of the shields carried by the spearmen are genuine, historic heraldic designs. Three of these shields are based on medieval floor tiles from Shaftesbury Abbey mentioned in an earlier post. I will detail the family heraldry used on the shields when I post the relevant mounted knight figures, one is already painted and is waiting in the photography queue.

I've kept to very simple geometric patterns as I haven't plucked up the courage to attempt any heraldic animals such as lions and griffins etc.

The gambeson (padded jack or arming doublet) was painted to resemble natural, undyed linen or wool.

I have sixteen of these spearmen figures in total, but I have already used some to depict two other types of soldiers for the Cry Havoc and Siege project, both of which I intend to post very soon.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Shaftesbury, Dorset

Way back in May this year, when here in England we enjoyed our allotted annual one week of nice 'summer' weather, my brother and myself visited various areas including the small town of Shaftesbury.
Note my brother's cheery disposition as he recreates the famous delivery boy scene (honed after years of practice being a real delivery boy i.e. he's a postman)

British readers of a certain age might not recognise the place name but you will probably remember the Hovis bread advert (directed by Ridley 'Alien, Bladerunner, Gladiator, Prometheus' Scott) which featured a delivery boy pushing his bike up a steep cobbled path. The voice-over gave the impression that the scene was set somewhere 'up north'. The street, Gold Hill, however is actually located in Shaftesbury, in the southern coastal county of Dorset.

The town was home of Shaftsbury Abbey founded by Alfred and his daughter Ethelgiva in 888. The abbey became the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England. The relics of St. Edward the Martyr, who had been murdered nearby Corfe castle, were transferred there in 981 and the abbey became a major pilgrimage site. King Canute died here in 1035.

The abbey was the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England. At the time of the Dissolution it was said that "if the abbess of Shaftesbury and the abbot of Glastonbury Abbey had been able to wed, their son would have been richer than the King of England" due to lands and property which it had been bequeathed to the abbey.

As a result of this wealth the abbey was dismantled in 1539 by the order of Thomas Cromwell. The job was carried out to such an extent that you need a good imagination to picture the ruins as ever being an abbey at all.
The scant remains of the abbey. View towards the alter.
So dear reader, you may ask, "why is he rambling on about Shaftesbury Abbey?". Well the reason is that the small on-site abbey museum features stonework pieces excavated from the abbey's ruins, including Saxon carvings and medieval floor tiles.

Purbeck marble head of a knight and support cushion. The detail shows chain mail on the head, which is thought to be unique - late C13th AD.

These tiles (shown above) feature the coat of arms of several local benefactors. These caught my eye and I thought they would be idea references for my late Crusade/Cry Havoc figures. Several of these coat of arms will be appearing very shortly in future posts. Two of the shield designs in particular relate to a fascinating 'what-if' historical story that I will detail in another forthcoming post.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Peasants and Pilgrims, Crusader Miniatures

In perhaps the least glamorous start to any start to a brand new project these peasant figures are the first ones painted to take part in my adaptation of the Cry Havoc/Siege board game.

After buying several packs of knights and men-at-arms miniatures I noticed that the first scenario in Cry Havoc actually involves the humble peasants, hence these figures from the 'Peasants and Pilgrims' (pack ref. MCF032 - from the late Crusades range by Crusader Miniatures) are the first figures to be posted.

The box contains eight miniatures made up of four sets of identical twins. As regular readers will know, I'll find any excuse to modify figures so I got work with a scalpel and greenstuff . The results as shown below.
Original figures

Modified figures
Originals are on the right, the modified versions on the left.

As medieval weapons were often developed from agricultural equipment I looked at the spearman and thought it would be relatively easy to convert the spear into a flail (the bill is another classic example of this form of adaption). I cut off the spearhead and superglued a small length of chain to the end, then I fixed a small length of plastic sprue to the end of the loose chain. I would strongly recommend using decent sets of tweezers for this fiddly job unless you want to glue yourself to the figure (which is precisely what I did, as per usual).

The cowls were added using greenstuff, a thin strip was wrapped round the head and then pushed and pulled into place using a metal scribe.

The small round wooden shield (targe or buckler - delete was appropriate), was taken from the Perry's plastic WoTR box set.

I forgot to take a picture of the backs of these figures so you'll have to trust me when I say I added a large leather bag to the figure on the left. It was made with just two balls of greenstuff stuck into position and then poked with a metal scribe to give the effect of creases and folds. The bag now looks too large but the greenstuff had set by the time I'd changed my mind so I left it as it was.

Another New Project - Early Medieval (Cry Havoc/Siege)

Regular readers of this blog maybe somewhat surprised to know that my first true 'love' (history-wise at least) is actually the Middle Ages. Reminiscing back to my youth, it seemed to have spent running around castles or trying to knock seven shades out of my older brother armed with a broom handle and dustbin lid pretending to be a gallant knight of the realm. I still enjoy walking over lumpy fields waffling on to friends saying, "this was once the site of a motte and bailey castle" watching as their eyes gradually glaze over as they think "yeah, yeah, it's another empty field."

As I also want to change the percentage of modelling to gaming I currently enjoy (approx 99.9% modelling, 0.1% gaming) I thought 'why not go back to where it all really began for me' - the Cry Havoc/Siege board games. Still highly regarded after all these years these particular games, covered the early medieval/late Crusades period, were my introduction to gaming using actual proper rules. The fact that the map in Siege was based on the real Welsh castle at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, (part of the famous 'Three Castles' - Skenfrith, White Castle and Grosmont) helped as well.

New figure launches by Fireforge GamesCrusader Miniatures and recent discussions on TMP led me to find dedicated sites such as Cry Havoc Fan  and the excellent blogsites such as Perrys Heroes and 15mm Havoc have all encourged me to get some minitures painted and ready for playing.

As the Cry Havoc/Siege games are really skirmish games I took the executive decision and decided to base the figures individually. I did initially think about using round bases but eventually decided to use square bases as I reckon that I could eventually use these figures as not-Warhammer Bretonnians.
I also don't want to tie myself down to any one particular precise campaign or battle, although I will be heavily leaning towards the period dominated by the reign of Edward I, Longshanks (the well known moniker 'Hammer of the Scots' wasn't contemporary). The fact that he was also responsible for some the most impressive castles still standing in Britain, Conway, Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris etc. all made making this decision easy.

I'm still trying to work out the mechanics of playing the game with miniatures as the original involved two double sided playing cards per each individual piece (to represent healthy, stunned, wounded and dead status). I remember that we used Essex miniatures to replace the cards but I can't remember how, or even if, we depicted each different status. 

I had contemplated using the original characters from the game as a painting guide but thought there are enough real heraldry schemes to use to make this project even more interesting for myself. The first figures detailed on this blog will be from the new early medieval range from Crusader Miniatures.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sow plus four piglets, Hovels Ltd & Pig Pen

After fancying another complete change from the usual project work I had recently completed this little vignette. This came about more by circumstance than plan, being a culmination of several bits and pieces I had scattered about the desktop.

I had bought these lovely little miniature animals (C8 - Sow plus four piglets, Hovels Ltd Link) at a show several years ago. Like so many of my other projects they patiently sat on the work desk waiting their turn. I had more recently purchased a bag of the wattle fencing by Renedra with no definite ideas of how or when I would use them. Taking two of each of the long (124mm) and short (60mm) sections I tried placing them onto random off-cut pieces of red (fireproof - in case you were wondering) MDF board from work. Eventually finding an idea piece (167 x 108mm) I then went about trying to work out how to put the set together.

I wanted to give the impression that the pigs had burrowed into the ground so using my brand new hand-held hot wire cutter (hours of fun - yep, I do need to get out more) I cut the banks of the pigpen from scrap pieces of expanded polystyrene (used as packing) to the required angle. It is certainly easier and quicker to use than a sharp knife and slightly less dangerous. 

Once happy with the shape I fixed them and the fences into position using PVA (wood)glue. Then the area outside of the fence was then covered in PVA glue, covered in fine sand and left to dry.

The shelter was made from the barbecue sticks for the uprights and the ubiquitous wooden coffee stirrers for the roof, painted various shades of grey to represent weathered wood. Once dry I marked its eventual position on the base along with the positions of the pigs. The next stage involved cutting recesses into the base board where the pigs would stand so the models would sit flush with the ground rather than above. Then using ready mixed plaster I made the mud interior of the pigpen and sparingly sprinkled a bit more fine sand to give the mud a bit of texture but ensuring there would still be smooth flat areas.

I had initially planned to poke holes into the wet plaster with a cocktail stick to create the numerous trotter prints in the wet mud. In reality I left the piece too long under my table lamp and then had to use a small hand drill to make the holes.

Once dry I painted the 'mud' with various shades of dark brown but with very few highlights.

I wanted to represent a genuine old breed of pig and remember seeing these handsome chaps that live on the farm at Kentwell Hall, a Tudor moated mansion near Long Melford, Suffolk. So I opted for the Gloucester Old Spot as I think these are the most visually interesting type. Tamworth pigs are another appealing option (I've always had a soft spot for redheads). Using Google 'All Hail' Images I had enough references to paint a fairly decent representation of the little porkers. These models are very easy to paint up.

Once happy with the piggy paint work they were then glued into position on the base. Any gaps were filled with plaster and touched up with the appropriate paint. Then the model was given the normal layers of varnish, using a high gloss varnish to represent liquid mud. The final stage was the addition of the usual grass, tufts and foliage.

This little model make an attractive addition to the table. As Winston Churchill once said,
"I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

"Looks like bacon for breakfast lads"