Saturday, 30 August 2014

Maurits's Musketeer (MiniArt kit No. 16010)

I made MiniArt's Netherlands Musketeer (Kit. No. 16010) and have a review. This post has three subjects:

  • The eighty years war's history
  • The musket's history
  • The review of the figure

History of the eighty years war

During the rule of Karel V the 17 Dutch provinces (currently roughly Belgium and The Netherlands) where forged into a unity by this emperor. He was fiercely opposed by Karel Van Egmont, Duke of Gelre and Pier Gerlofs Donia the great Frisian but they finally had to give in and became part of the Burgundian Circle within the Holy Roman Empire, one of Karel V's domains. Within this setting the 17 provinces enjoyed a relatively great freedom most noticeable in the religious field.
This was all about to change fast when Karel V resigned from the throne and left the 17 provinces under the rule of his son Phillips II best known as the head of Spanish empire. He demanded that the strict and intolerant religious laws that officially existed under Karel V on paper be put in practise. News of this change in policy led to a rebellion known as 'Beeldenstorm' or 'iconoclasm'. Phillips political liaison in the 17 provinces, Margaret of Pharma, promised to be less strict after the noblemen of the Netherlands begged her to be more tolerant. The rebellion subsided when she did. Not every noblemen was convinced to stay in the Empire but they rebelled no more.

Ruined statues in the 'Dom kerk' in Utrecht, The Netherlands. A silent witness to a volatile time in history. Not something proud of it though considering other instances in history in which heritage was destroyed. Looking on the bright side, the event wasn't combined with murder, theft and rape.

Meanwhile news of the rebellion reached Phillips II in Madrid and he decided to grant not an inch of freedom and send Fernando Álvarez de Toledo better know as Alva 'The iron duke' to the 17 provinces. Alva was under direct command of Philips II and as such was not bound to listen to wishes or suggestions of the local noblemen led by Willem Van Nassau or Margaret of Pharma. His policy was characterised by 3 things: Punishment of the rebellious people including the dead penalty for many, enforcing the Catholic religion as the only religion and a heavy increase in taxation. Needles to say, Alva did not make himself popular giving plenty of reasons to rebel against the Spanish throne again. The first Dutch duke daring to challenge Alva's rule was Willem Van Nassau (also known as Willem Van Nassau or William the Silent), the highest, most important local noblemen of the Netherlands and the main political support of the Spanish throne in the 17 provinces. He explicitly challenged Alva's rule but not Phillips II's. The national Anthem of The Netherlands is called 'Het Wilhelmus' (The William) and describes, along with a lot of pious lines, the history of the eighty years war first years. The line 'den koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd geëerd' (the king of Spain I have always served) refers to this continuing loyalty to the Spanish throne. In 1568, the year seen as the start of eighty years war, the forces of Willem Van Nassau met Alva's forces in battle several times losing every time except the one in Heiligerlee. The brother of Willem, Adolf Van Nassau died in that battle however which was a big loss in an otherwise flawless victory. Willem Van Nassau fled to his place of birth in present day Germany. It seems a bit strange but his authority was never officially revoked by other noblemen from the provinces. Alva did revoke all his official titles and property in name of the Spanish empire however.

Paintings of Willem Van Nassau, Phillips II and Alva.

Verse 1, 2 and 6 of the Dutch anthem 'the William' with English translations.

At this moment the rebellion seemed to be over, the only ones openly supporting Willem Van Nassau openly where the 'Waterbeggers'. These people where a bunch of privateers that where stationed in the coastal provinces now mixed with many refugees fleeing from the Netherlands in fear of Alva. Willem Van Nassau allowed them to carry his Orange-White-Blue flag. They where forced to use English harbours as their main outpost because the Spanish empire reconsolidation of power in the 17 provinces. In 1572 Elisabeth the I of England drove the waterbeggers out of the English harbours because she wanted better relations with the Spanish crown. With nowhere to go the waterbeggers started an assault on the Netherlands led by people appointed by Willem Van Nassau and reconquered many cities on the cost. The provinces of Gelre and Friesland wasted no time joining Willem Van Orange. In the same year noblemen from cities met in their meeting or 'Staten Generaal' and reaffirming the status of Van Nassau as their prima interparis (first among his equals). The waterbeggers where not the most disciplined troops and couldn't resist pillaging from time to time which seriously angered Willem Van Orange. This let to the formation of groups with 1 commander for every 100 soldiers instead of 250 enforcing more dicipline among the waterbeggers which was an other important step taken in 1572. The official status of Willem Van Nassau is somewhat ambiguous at this moment because in the eyes of the Spanish throne he is still a title less men. Alva started an counter assault slaying the male population of reconquered cities and allowing the rape of women. The forces under Van Nassau where able to stop the Spanish from taking cities such as Alkmaar and Leiden. To celebrate the liberation of Leiden (Leidens ontzet) the first university in the Netherlands, the Universiteit Van Leiden was founded by Van Nassau, still in honor of Phillps II underlining that the rebellion was against Alva's strict rule only. Also a commemorative coin was made stating 'Haec Libertatis Ergo' or 'this is about freedom'.
It was clear to Phillips II that Alva's hardline politics worked counter productive. When Alva arrived things where almost back to normal as under Karel V and now half of 17 provinces where in an all out war against Alva who kept calling this an 'uprising'. He was releaved of his duty and the more moderate Don Requences took over. In 1575 there where peace negotiations but these failed. The uprising had gotten a very deep religious dimension and differences could not be overcome. In the period until 1588 the political distance between mostly the Northern provinces and Spanish empire grew larger. In 1581 the 'Plakkaat van Verlatinghe' or Act of Abjurcation was signed in which provinces of Brabant (NL), Gelre en Zutphen (NL), Vlaanderen (BE), Holland (NL), Zeeland (NL), Friesland (NL), Mechelen (BE) and Utrecht (NL) did not recognise Phillips II as sovereign ruler any more. Willem Van Nassau was seen as Steward of almost all the provinces. He was murdered in 1584 and in 1588 the Republic of the seven Provinces was officialy formed. The first political entity not to be ruled by a monarch in post-medieval Europe. In the 9 years between 1575 and 1588 the Spanish had quite some military successes. In the following 10 years they where forced on the retreat by the now 'Republic of the 7 provices'. The army of the republic was led by Maurits Van Nassau, son of Willem and his cousin Willem Lodewijk Steward of Friesland.

Maurits and Willem Lodewijk

Maurits was a sophisticated mathematician thought by Simon Stevin while Lodewijk was an enthusiastic student of military tactics. He was the first military commander of his day to study tactics the Romans and Byzantines employed in ancient times. Both of these men brought hard needed military expertise to the Republic's army resulting in many victories.

In the eleven years following nor the Empire nor the Republic gained the upper hand. In 1609 a peace treaty was signed lasting 12 years. From 1621 until 1648 the war continued. A noticable Spanish victory was the conquest of the Breda nicely depicted by the painter Velazquez. The depiction of respectful behaviour of both Spanish and Republic soldiers is accurate, their still was a war but the days of genocide where long past for both sides. Republic victories include the capture of the Spanish 'silver fleed' by Peit Hein and the conquest of Den Bosch by Ernst Casimir and Frederic Hendrik.

The surrender of Breda painted by Velazquez.

Siege and capture of Den Bosch by Ernst Casimir and Frederic Hendrik

In 1641 the first preparations for a definitive peace treaty started and it was signed in 1648 in Münster ending the eighty years war. This treaty was a part of other treaties known as the 'peace of Westphalia' ending several wars including the 30 years war.

Paining of signing ceremony for the peace treaty of Münster

History of the musket

The musket is the weapon which replaced the first mass used fire arm, the arquebus. The Musket became the most important weapon of armies all over the northern hemisphere in the 16th century and was replaced by the rifle around the half of the 19th century. What makes a musket a musket is the fact that the inside of barrel is smooth. A musket has to be loaded by first inserting gunpowder and than a bullet which where round. The powder and ball had to be pushed down by a rod. The musket was then placed on a stick to support the weight. The typical range in which you could shoot a musket with some precision was 70 meters maximum. It took along time to load and fire a musket and typically formations of musketeers had to be protected by men with pikes from cavalry. Maurits Van Nassau was a pioneer in developing tactics for formations of musketeers. In the last century muskets where equipped with bayonets, also they became lighter and more reliable as time and technology progressed. The musket was finally superseded by the rifle trough three innovations. Cartridge bullets (bullets with a gunpowder filled coper tube attached to the back enabling a gun to be loaded from the back of the barrel), bullets shaped as a pointed cylinder (decreasing the clearance between barrel and bullet) and rifled barrels (giving the bullet a spin resulting in a rotational motion of the bullet making it less prone to be deviated off course). The riffled barrel was known in the 16th century already but not used widely because technical difficulties not solved until the invention of the modern bullet described in fact by the first two inventions. A musketeer had a lot of accessors to fire and maintain it's weapon.

A musketeer from the 16th century.

The MiniArt figure

Miniart produced a figure of a musketeer from the 16th century marketed as 'Netherlands Musketeer' making it quite a unique product. For as far as I can see the figure is historically accurate. It's uniform looks very similar to the figure in the picture of Willem Van Nassau and Phillps II below.

It's helmet (1), shoulder pads (2), 'pantbuttons' (3) and thing on Willem's shoe (4) in the place we have our shoelaces these days are strikingly similar. It's collar looks a bit different but was also seen in these days.

The parts fit quite well except for the arms, these need quite some filler to be fitted properly. Other parts require the amount of sanding we got used to from this brand. An other weak part are the inner surfaces of the shoulder pads. They have a straight edge that can best be sanded of to make it look like the other side as moulded by MiniArt. Finally I replaced the moulded parts representing rope by thin cloth red-white-blue wire I braided. After the figure was painted I drilled small holes around the belt and pulled the wire through. This was not easy as the holes where too small to let a needle trough. I solved this problem by painting the first centimetre (2/5 inch) with thick paint and allowing that to dry forming a kind of 'needle'. The paint must be undiluted but must not be applied in a thick layer on the wire. I could only get the wire in from the outside of the figure so I had to cut the rope and tie it together on the inside of the figure. This procedure took me several hours due to many failures so think if you really want to do this before you start. Needless to say I glued the torso to the figure after this was completed. I printed a Orange-White-Blue flag, the flag of Willem Van Nassau with the inscription 'Haec Libertatis Ergo' on the white banner and attached to a painted skewer with a thin rope. The whole thing was attached to through a hole in the base. Enough history for now and on to the photo's! As always you can click on them for a larger version.

This is a nice figure from MiniArt. It may take a bit of work to make the figure but once this is done you have a quite good figure to paint. At a retail price of about €12,50 it is really a bargain and a change to make quite a unique model from an important and interesting time in history.

Special thanks to 'Don Italeri' for verifying the part on the history of the eighty years war.

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