Monday, 1 August 2016

Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset unit complete

In the production of the latest unit for my armies of 1513 I have returned to the Tudors. This came about primarily from a long background project of attempting to sculpt a convincing base coat which finally came to fruition.

Armed with my new skill it seemed fitting to create a unit of Tudor infantry. The whole composition and nucleus from the army's conception had been to replicate the forces that Henry took with him to France and whilst I could do this fairly painstakingly with commanders, heraldry, flags and troop proportions the main signature element of the period had eluded me and this was a massive compromise.

I pushed on regardless and feel I still managed to get a feel of the period in other ways but this aspect  slowly burned away in the background, I knew I had to do it somehow and I guess that's what prompted me to have a go at sculpting, that and a lot of encouragement.

Once I was satisfied with the look I had created I began to slowly turn out Tudor billmen and accompanying command for a new unit;

This was the first figure that I was satisfied with, the eureka moment if you like. The aspect I had previously had the most difficulty with was the folds in the skirt and with this effort I was finally happy that I had achieved a convincing look. The sleeves were occasionally difficult too as I kept sculpting too many folds in them whereas they're actually fairly stiff things. 

In sculpting these I began with the idea of carrying on using the existing Tudor heads from Perry miniatures but I wanted some greater variety so I did some head-swaps from the old Foundry Renaissance range (also Perry sculpted) as they fitted quite well as in the examples above and below.

The next figure to get the treatment was that of the commander. The head was from a Foundry Gendarme and the body was sculpted on to that of one of the Perry WOTR foot knights. An aspect of this sculpt is that there are more folds, those with wealth in this period demonstrated this factor in many ways, one of which was to wear rich fabric and a lot of it which led to skirts / base coats with more folds than the poorer elements of society. I also sculpted a slashed breast as was the fashion.

Whilst the Landsknecht heads gave some variety they didn't quite look right and the other obvious issue was that I would soon leave me with quite a lot of headless Landsknechts so I explored some alternatives. To really complete the Tudor image I wanted sombre cloth caps, the bobbed type haircut typical of the period and some more expressive faces. In discussion over a pint with Simon Chick and looking through his lead/plastic mountain the solution for this came from an unlikely source;

The heads in this set are very expressive and with a bit of work - generally removing existing hair or cap then adding sculpted hair and a new cap they work really well. I've also found most of the arms to be useful and more recently the bodies are quite useful for casualties (more on that soon).

 Below is another billman in an attacking pose with the Ansar / cloth cap and hair sculpt treatment;

Staying with the Ansar heads there's one in the sprue with a turban and a particularly expressive face which I didn't want to do that much to.

The European courts all featured Moors from North Africa as servants and musicians to lesser and greater extents. Henry's court at this time had quite a few; the servants in Catherine of Aragon's entourage included Moors, a Moorish trumpeter John Blanke can be seen in the Westminster Tournament roll and James IV at this time is recorded as having a troop of Moorish drummers.

The Maarquess of Dorset campaigned in Spain so I made the leap that he too may have added to his entourage. That's my excuse anyway for a rather spectacular standard bearer;

To demonstrate a slightly more refined appearance I painted the turban in a rich gold, black and red pattern and sculpted slashed and puffed sleeves on the undergarment, these were then painted in Dorset's livery of Murrey and White.

The banner is the heraldry of Dorset though in hindsight I think it may include elements added after 1513 - I don't think there are many pedants out there who may notice. It's an intricate multi quartered design typical of the din of the ashes of the Wars of the Roses where families expressed their ever changing allegiances and standing in this manner.

I have a drawing of the Marquess' swallow tailed standard that I knew was correct for this campaign and for that matter an earlier expedition to Guyenne of 1512; ' The Lord Marquys Dorset, parted white and murrey with a like fringe, a unicorn of ermine rayonee alternately of silver and gold sprinkled with sprigs of pinks'

So why not have 2 banner bearers. For this figure I used a foot knight body and arms and added a sculpted base coat with one of the standard Tudor heads.

The banner was rather intricate to paint but no less rewarding. I had a discussion on LAF as to what colour Murrey was with the consensus being red wine which works for me. The colour on the Moor's liveried clothing is slightly darker but it all adds to variety.

I was then at the point of having a reasonable sized unit which I unveiled recently at a refight of the Battle of the Spurs game (see previous post), here are some more detailed photographs;

I wanted to make this unit stand out as a celebration of the hard work that had gone into it so I chose a large 120 x 60 mm base to give a platform for a mini diorama and the maximum potential to show each figure off.

Whilst the new look is spot on for the period I'm not overly keen on sculpting an entire replacement army for my existing Tudor forces so I opted to integrate and re-base with the figures I had with around 60-70% in base coats to those lesser equipped.

I currently have a mix of basing styles in my forces; 60x30 and 60x60mm bases, the smaller of which (above) I've found to be a bit too small with little opportunity for any sort of scene or cohesion. Also, some of the very oldest of figures in the army are on these bases so I used this as an opportunity to take these bases out of the army, retain the figures I wanted to keep and put aside those I didn't. So this unit has replaced 4 of these smaller bases, re-using a few figures in the process.

I've had a few thoughts about the way forward.

I think it's best to continue this approach of sculpting new additions whilst retaining some figures not similarly attired, this gives variety and I think also reflects the pockets of the commanders of each retinue. Some brought thousands to Henry's call whereas some only a handful.

I've opted to have a few large 120x60mm bases for more senior commanders and a majority 60x60mm bases for lesser commanders complemented by further 60x60mm bases without flags.

Here's the new and old

I'm considering keeping a handful of 60x60mm bases in present form to represent Northern levy's or militia, I'm not sure, perhaps I may just have a lesser proportion of base coated chaps among them - your thoughts are welcome.

Note some rather improved photography too - new camera and this time I've even read the manual.

Now for some biography, Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, 1477-1530

In 1507 Dorset fell foul of Henry VII's suspicions and was interred in the Tower and then Calais for 'as longe as Kynge Henry VII lyved, and shulde have bene put to deathe, yf he had lyved longer' this was pardoned at Henry VIII's ascension following which he soon took the king's favour, due in no small part to his prowess at jousting.

In May 1512 perhaps eager to please Henry despatched an expedition of 5000 infantry for the reconquest of Guienne, in conjunction with his Father in Law Ferdinand of Castile. Dorset was chosen to command and received his commission as lieutenant-general. Ferdinand acted only for his own advantage, and despite the protests of Dorset kept making excuses for delay, while all the time he was securing for himself the kingdom of Navarre.

The English troops were kept idle until a severe pestilence in the camp utterly demoralised them, and taking matters into their own hands they insisted on returning home.

An account describes that 'The Englishmen did eat of the garlick with all meats and drank hot wines in the hot weather and did eat all of the hot fruits that they could get which caused their blood so to boil in their bellies that they fell sick three thousand of the flux and thereof died eighteen hundred men.'

When this news reached Henry he wrote in anger to Ferdinand to stop them by force if necessary; but his orders were too late, and the English army returned home without having effected anything, landing at Plymouth in November.

Ferdinand wrote to his ambassadors in England to tell the king that Dorset was doubtless a very distinguished nobleman, but was entirely to blame for the failure of the expedition. Although Ferdinand himself had shown bad faith, his censure was in the main just, for Dorset seems to have displayed none of the qualities of a general; it is, however, fair to remember that he suffered much from sickness. At first it was contemplated bringing him and his associates, who put the blame on their chief, to trial, but it was impossible to discriminate, and eventually, at the request of the council, the matter was hushed up.

Dorset answered the call for the French campaign of 1513 with a retinue of just over 300 men, joining the King in the middleward. The number is above the 200 odd average so not altogether un-modest. Unfortunately nothing survives of his achievements in the campaign.

In the years to follow Dorset's achievements in the tourney are noted as is the King's favour. In 1523 he took part raids on the Scottish border to keep order whilst Suffolk was campaigning in France.

Overall he was a brave soldier, the 1512 campaign is often referred as a fiasco and indicative of a failing Tudor army but I think this is only the case as it's an early expedition after a relative period of military inactivity. I would agree however that Dorset seems to have owed his position chiefly to the favour of the king though a contemporary source recounts that he was esteemed, the first general of those times for embattling an army. The same authority continues that his speech was soldierlike, plain, short, smart, and material.

I've been interested in Dorset since beginning the collection and I'm glad to have him join the ranks and to represent a new chapter in my Tudor army.

I think that's enough rambling for the moment !

Bye for now



  1. I think the old and new mix very ,well lovely work on Dorset's retinue you'll have to move onto Flodden next, I'd love to see what you do with that! You'll need an awful lot of Ansar for that I've bought them to be highlanders /Irish it's a useful kit.
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain, Flodden is of interest but it's on the shelf for now, the Ansar would be perfect as highlanders with fairly minimal conversion, have you any results with them?

  2. Very impressive effort! I enjoyed both the modeling process and especially the final result. Marvelous.

    1. Ditto... that's about as far away from plasticine and banana oil as it's possible to get...! :o)

  3. Inspirational and educational. Really outstanding work.

    Creating a unified look for an army that has built up over several years as ones knowledge and techniques develop is a real challenge. I think your plan to rebase to a common theme and mix in some newer figures in coats sounds like the ideal solution but it is a bit soul destroying to have to break up bases that are already completed to such a high standard.

  4. An excellent blog post, which reflects the amount of thought, time and effort that goes into you Tudors.
    At least the moulding of the heads has saved some time - which you'll now use up rebasing figures!
    We should have more enlightening discussions in pubs!!

  5. Stunning work indeed Stuart !

  6. Really great post. That is a spectacular unit, the green stuff base coats are very impressive and really secure the miniatures as 1513 Tudors. I think mixing in a few in older style jacks and breast plates is fine. Have you thought of sculpting any with a jack, brigandine or breastplate worn over the base coat - that would be a nice variation?

  7. Hello,

    Superb !!! (as usual !!)


  8. Amazing work and a nice bit of history for pudding :-)

  9. Stuart, One of your finest, though the standard is always so high.