These aren’t Pound Store figures that I have converted but I picked them up about 15 years ago or more. They had been knocking around in the odds box and the toy soldier sandpit tins when younger members of the family were visiting. They are if I recall correctly A Call to Arms ACTA figures.
I thought mixing these in with the Elizabethan Cornish rabble that I made from cheap plastic knights would dilute the cost of putting together the local Muster and a Trained Band response to the Spanish Invasion of the 1580s and 90s.
The Armada Osprey book that I have shows the Tudor Elizabethan figures of the London Trained Bands with splendid, almost Diddymen tall bowler type hats, a fashion thankfully gone by the ECW.
Rather than adding this strange fashion accessory, I kept the original flat hats after a few failed experiments with straws and pencils with pencil eraser tips.
Keeping the original hats etc means that these lovely figures could have a duel use in English Civil War games. A quick flick through my old Stuart Asquith The New Model Army Osprey book (an unusual request for a school prize book when I was about fourteen) reminded me of these later uniforms.
This Osprey book was my source for painting much of my Peter Laing 15mm ECW Armies. I also used to rely on the local branch library for the English Civil War Armies Osprey, no longer possible, so I added this to the Christmas books list.
The pikemen were little changed in 50 to 60 years from the Armada to the Civil War, likewise the big square flags and the matchlock figures with woollen hats.
Hopefully some of the Prince August chess pawn figures can add some odd standing musketeers and the Spanish Armada pawn moulds.
In terms of colour, I kept with a uniform Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Blue, almost union blue with light blue for sashes and feathers to represent Watchet Blue. Blue was the fairly standard colour across England for Levy troops and Trained Bands. The hats, britches and stockings were whatever the troops had of their own (or not), only the coat or cassock was standard issue.
I found a sort of flashback to Britain’s Deetail figures when painting the coats and armour simple blue, armour silver, simple bases sap or chrome green. This is the type of stylised look that John Yorio has gone for in his 54mm or Fight! Blog for many of his 19th Century colonials or WW2 figures, matching exiting Deetail ranges or creating in paint ranges that never existed.
However as befits keeping the prepainted ‘shiny toy soldier’ factory look of an earlier Britain’s age than Britain’s 1970s Deetail – that of the lead hollowcast figures – I added Toy Soldier faces with eyes, moustaches and pink cheek dots. This would match in with the other complimentary figure sets – my Muster or Rabble, my Spaniards.
Looking at YouTube clips of the film Elizabeth The Golden Age (Cate Blanchett) 2007 has some useful clips that give you an idea of the Pikemen, Artillery etc. From which I took a few reference screenshots.
I must watch / rewatch this film for some rabble rousing inspiration!
“Cry Havoc and let slip the Dogs of War!” (Julius Ceasar)
My latest conversion from cheap plastic Black Prince Knight or men at arms into Armada era Elizabethan / Tudorbethan Muster (my Arma-Dad’s Army) is the aspiring hack-scribe Bill Shaxbeard. Journal-ist, traveller, ballad writer, poet, dramatist, news hound, soldier?, spy?, inventor of words and phrases. Upstart Chough. Theatre Rival of dramatist Christopher Kit Marlowe, who came to a violent and mysterious end.
Shaxbeard? I have long been intrigued about a world before Samuel Johnson’s dictionary where names and spelling were still fluid. Shakespeare, “Shakspere,” “Shaksper,” “Shakspear,” and “Schakspe(a)re,”Shaxberd … lots of variations in print and signature https://www.shakespeareauthorship.com/name1.html
How can I mix in this Shaxbeard character with the Armada and Spanish Raids scenarios for my figures?
The Mousehole, Paul, Newlyn and Penzance Raids on Cornwall c. 1595 saw coordinated naval bombardments and volleys from Spanish landing parties, sufficient that many of the local townsfolk and the poorly trained and poorly armed Muster (a forerunner of the Militia) wisely retreated or sought cover.
Born in 1564, Shakespeare himself was old enough to be drafted for the Trained Bands, overseas Levy or local Muster. Some suggest in his ‘missing years’, the years of the Armada and Anglo Spanish War, that he ‘went for a soldier’ in the Low Countries. There are some convenient useful biographical gaps in his life between 1585-1592). Others such as Catherine Alexander dispute this.
One of the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ in a speech from As You Like It is the soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the canon’s mouth.
As far as I know, Shakespeare had no direct military experience but would have seen the blue coats of the Trained Bands drilling in London, heard ballads and news of “foreign quarrels” or warres and no doubt met many people who had served overseas.
As he grew in social stature and mixed with more influential people and patrons, the real ‘Bill Shakespeare’ would have been more aware of the requirements of gentlemen and parishes to provide men and arms as the Queen commanded.
Shaxbeard would have heard of the Armadas of 1588, the Spanish landings in 1595 etc.
The Elizabethan and Jacobean world in which Shakespeare grew up was riven by Protestant / Catholic conflict, regime change and the ongoing endless continental wars especially the proxy wars against Spain. Any reference to soldiering and warriors, even those set in the distant past of antiquity, would have been seen then (as today) in the light of Shakespeare’s audience and wealthy (Royal) patrons’ recent experience of war.
Type in ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘War’ or ‘Military’ to your internet search engine and you find many interesting references to his plays and the military world of Tudor or Elizabethan England ranging from dubious ’50 things’ type lists through Wikiquote:
I have been looking out for such details when creating and converting a small army of plastic toy knights into an Elizabethan poorly armed rabble called the Muster (poorly armed compared to the better armed and drilled Trained Bands). Elizabethan foreign wars including Ireland drained men and arms overseas from each parish and County in the Levy system. The ‘Was Shakespeare a Soldier?’ blog post has an interesting section on Shakespeare’s scenes of military life including:
“the recruitment of would-be soldiers. In Henry IV Part 1 Sir John Falstaff describes the soldiers he has recruited, “discarded unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters and ostlers trade-fallen, … and such have I, to fill up the rooms of them that have bought out their services.”
In the follow-up play, Henry IV Part 2, he dramatises the actual process by which men were put on the muster roll. Four men are needed, but the two likeliest ones buy their way out leaving the “scarecrows” appropriately named Shadow, Feeble and Wart.” (‘Was Shakespeare a Soldier?’ blog post.)
These characters of Falstaff, Shadow, Feeble and Wart must be the Elizabethan ancestors of Captain Mainwaring and Private Pike etc in my Arma-Dad’s Army Elizabethan Muster.
(Above) Elizabethan armour stage view of Henry V and Agincourt two hundred years before? Interesting illustration by John James in a cut-away type children’s book Inside Story series called Shakespeare’s Theatre by Jacqueline Morley (1994). I also have the 19th Century Frontier Fort and 19th Century Railway Station.
Lots of interesting background detail for our Armada era skirmish games.
Shakespeare’s plays are full of warriors and battle, mostly offstage (to save on extras?) from medieval warfare in Macbeth through more recent Tudor history in the Wars of The Roses (several Henrys and Richards plays) to Agincourt in Henry V.
A description of Macbeth’s warrior achievements offstage in a battle well describes the gory and visceral nature of medieval and Elizabethan warfare.
Arguably hand to hand fighting with boots, fists, bayonets and melee weapons at the sharp end of battle has changed little since then.
Sergeant “… The merciless Macdonwald–
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him–from the western isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show’d like a rebel’s whore: but all’s too weak:
For brave Macbeth–well he deserves that name–
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
“Some Shakespeare productions seem to fit neatly into this account, fashioning a patriotic, national theatre that supports the government’s military action and functions as a form of wartime propaganda. Perhaps the most famous production is Laurence Olivier’s film adaptation of Henry V during World War II. It presents a chivalric, airbrushed Henry, achieved by removing some of the play’s most troubling scenes, and was patriotically dedicated to the ‘Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture’.”
I can never watch this Henry V without thinking it was possibly the first colour film my late father remembered seeing as an eight to nine year old after return from evacuation, a free cinema schools showing as part of Victory celebrations in 1945/6.
Henry V opens with the famous chorus about creating battles on the Elizabethan playhouse stage and in the audience’s imagination, nicely done in the film with scenes of Shakespearean London and a rousing William Walton score.
“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.”
Henry V, Chorus / opening speech
All in all, not so very far from what wargamers do on the tabletop, in the toy theatres and scenery of our games tables and scenarios. All of this is useful for a background feeling of Elizabethan warfare in the age of Shakespeare (or Shaxbeard).
Next up, almost finished on the painting table: those feared Spanish raiders!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 26 October 2020.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
More recent performances have explored Shakespeare for the PTSD generation of modern warriors:
After reading my last post, Alan Gruber of the Duchy of Tradgardland asked for a “how it was done” blog post on how to downgrade a cheap plastic 54mm knight or man at arms into a Spanish Armada era Elizabethan armed rabble known as the ‘Muster’. This was a Tudor version of the Militia or WW2 Home Guard.
So I took some photos of this downgrade or upgrade when next converting one of these cheap plastic knights or men at arms with its medieval Black Prince type helmet, coronet and heraldic tabard.
Step 1: Off with the helmet point and coronet
Step Two – use scalpel and file to removedetail
Use the file point to tough over any medieval detail such as the plate armour, chain mail around the neck, posh knife belt and heraldic devices on the tabard.
The file point is also useful for roughing up what was chain mail and the neck section of the helmet into long hair.
Step Three – Masking tape trousers or breeches
The strips of masking tape rough measured by eye and cut to size below the knee. Several layers of masking tape needed to bulk out these breeches or trousers. This is not Tudor fashion, the effect you want to achieve is rough working clothes.
Any further plate armour and chainmail detail can be lightly removed by scalpel.
Step Four – More Masking tape
Add masking tape strips to thicken out arms where you have removed armour plate. Cut V shape strips to make a tailored breast plate, secured with a thin dot of super glue. The masking tape roughed up with the file point …
Step Five – Undercoat to blend all together
Step Six – Paint in shiny toy soldier acrylics
Although shiny toy soldier style paint is used including the pink cheek dots, the look of the clothes should be far from parade ground and not ‘uniform’ with the other already completed figures.
Shiny silver paint is used for toy soldier style simplicity. In reality, the scrapyard of armour and helmets that the Elizabethan Muster wore especially in more remote rural and coastal areas were probably already old fashioned and burnished up from their slightly rusty state. The Trained Bands were probably mostly better equipped than the Muster.
Hidden underneath his left hand is a partly concealed dagger in a scabbard, only a small part of the hilt of this knife is visible, hence the reason for the leather belt.
You could if wanted vary the spear to a pole arm or other agricultural looking tool. Whatever pointy stick you choose, “Remember – they don’t like it up ’em!”
I may do another one of these standing figure poses as an archer and one as visiting journalist, playwright, ballad writer and travelling player young Bill Shaxbeard. Somebody has to write up these epic struggles in doggerel, verse and prose!
Step Seven – Gloss spray varnish and base as required.
As regards paints, unless otherwise stated, I use Revell Acrylic Aquacolor, mostly the limited colours of their gloss range but also some of their matt acrylics as well. The light spray of gloss varnish should blend these together.
Some of the brighter colours like the 361-52 Blue gloss looked a little too bright and too much like another of the figures with his blue coat or cassock. Some gloss black was mixed in.
These are not uniforms nor posh Tudor court clothes from portraits, they are everyday working clothes.
The 361-31 Fiery Red gloss of the woollen or cloth hat was also slightly darkened down with some Blue and Black, partly as I am using blue as the overall English bluecoat colour and red for the Spaniards.
The skin tone for my Spaniards and English troops is not the Matt Flesh 361-35 but the 361-35 AfrikaBraun matt. It gives a more old fashioned toy soldier look or tone to the skin. I used Humbrol enamel gloss Pink 200 for the cheek dot.
The leather shoe, hair and spear colour brown is the darker 361-84 Leather Brown Matt and lighter brown leather belt 361-80 Mud Brown gloss.
The green base is Pebeo Studio Acrylic tube 60 Opaque Chrome Green Hue.
So here is another finished member of my Tudorbethan coastwatch, the Beacon Boys, my late Elizabethan Amar-Dad’s Army, ready to ‘Muster’ against any Spanish invasion.