“An Audience with Empress Catherine” #FEMbruary 2020

I have now completed my submission for the 3rd Annual FEMbruary Challenge! I posted on my FEMbruary figures recently and promised that I’d share something which ‘would complete the scene more fully’. Well, I went a little further than planned…

Entirely coincidentally, Catherine the first is the 2nd Russian empress called Catherine that I’ve painted for a FEMbruary challenge, Catherine the second (the Great) being painted back in 2018:

I had some real trouble with basing. At first, I just glued the figures to pennies with modelling clay as usual without thinking of what Catherine and the ladies of court might be standing on. Then I spent time, filing down the clay and adding some PVA glue to smooth the surface. Next I painted a tiled floor which looked great apart from being hopelessly uneven!

So I scrapped that and went back to the drawing board. I found some cheap HO scale mosaic card floors which I though might look the business in some kind of a stately garden.

Adding some hedges and flowers, the palace garden idea took shape. My Capability Brown talents in full flow, I made a gravel path alongside a hedge. Helpfully, my Strelets Roman Senate set also came with a roman statue which I added to my design. I wasn’t sure how to paint a marble statue but a little cream colouring with satin varnish seems to have worked well enough?

Aside from the statuary, there are the two court ladies I presented previously; one a lady glancing with a fan and the other patting her lap dog.

A woman of the nobility observes the general’s greeting.
“There’s a good boy!” – said Catherine to General Repnin…

The other characters that I was planning to introduce are also from Strelets’ “Court and Army of Peter I” set. The Russian general is bending to kiss the hand of Empress Catherine, a fact correctly identified by a commentator on my last post.

There’s also some guards from the same set, veterans of the Great Northern War, which I’ve painted up to watch over her imperial highness. I know the early Strelets figures aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I do love the expressions on these guys.

Finally, you may have noticed the large house in the background. This is courtesy of Paperboys on Campaign 18th Century buildings book, which I had purchased recently anyway with a view to placing some of them on the wargaming table, their scale apparently being far more suitable to my 20mm figures than the 28mm they’re originally designed for.

The building is unfinished but I only needed the rear facing the garden. It’s far too small for any of the grand St. Petersburg palaces of course, but perhaps it will stand for a wing or even a little ‘out-building’ in the grounds of one?

And with that, like a genuflecting general, I bow graciously out of FEMbruary. Don’t forget to check out the other varied and fabulous work being created across the blogosphere for Alex at Leadballoony’s FEMbruary by checking out his original post here –

A sample of these glorious creations include;

My young daughter shows she’s a FEMbruary supporter by helpfully adding a sky effect in the background of my photo!

FEMbruary: The Other ‘Empress Catherine’

I’ve been making swift progress with my FEMbruary submission. In the first FEMbruary challenge back in 2018, I chose Bad Squiddo’s 28mm figure of Catherine the Great. One of the most remarkable rulers in history, most people are familiar with her name, the monarch being the subject of recent TV miniseries in the UK (2019) and Russia (2014-19). While Catherine II of Russia is famous, less familiar is Catherine I, mostly because she only reigned for three years after Peter I’s (her husband’s) death.

Catherine I, Empress of Russia by Augustine Fauchery, hand-coloured lithograph, 1830s NPG D34625 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Born of very humble beginnings as Marta Helena Skowrońska, she was nonetheless to become a remarkable and very capable empress. In a happy marriage, the “energetic, compassionate, charming, and always cheerful” Catherine proved to be the perfect partner to support and manage the tempestuous emperor Peter. With no successor named by the dying Peter, popular Catherine took power with the support of Peter’s best friend, Prince Menshikov, and the Guards Regiments.

I was interested to discover there was an equestrian portrait of Catherine I in a Guards uniform riding a grey charger, closely resembling (perhaps not coincidentally) the later painting of Catherine II by Eriksen which had inspired my 2018 figure. So, it seems that the Bad Squiddo figure could stand for either Empress Catherine?

I am very unfamiliar ground painting 18th dresses but thankfully the fashion of the early 18th century was for plainer designs:

“In the beginning of the (18th) century…a plain style was preferred, without too many ornaments. This style was strongly influenced by Françoise d’Aubigné, the wife of King Louis XIV.” How did women dress in the 18th century?

This seems to be born out in contemporary portraits and it made things much easier for me. My Strelets 1/72 scale figure wears a dress which I’ve painted in a similar shade to her portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier. A red sash and an ermine-lined velvet cloak is all that’s missing. I may brush on a little satin varnish to imitate silk.

The above painting most probably was the inspiration for Strelets’ sculptor too. The dress design being remarkably similar and there’s even a tiara on her head closely resembling the one she wore (making some allowance for the complications of sculpting such a thing in 20mm scale)!

Catherine’s opulent tiara; an abundance of large pearls, gold, possibly diamonds, together with some pretty hefty rubies in there too!

The other two FEMbruary ladies at court are also nearly completed. This charming figure is using her richly decorated fan and gazing into the distance:

The other lady has a small dog at her feet which she is reaching down to pet. I thought that it looked a little like a King Charles Spaniel (a breed, incidentally, particularly popular with the 1st Duke of Marlborough), so I painted it in that fashion. This is the figure for whom I had to resort to some serious flash removal. To conceal her disfigurement, half of her face I’ve hidden under the locks of her hair.

So, these three courtly women are nearly completed but not quite! There’s more to come – the Empress Catherine is reaching her hand out in front of her and I’m also painting something which will make sense of this gesture and complete the scene more fully. So, ‘stay tuned’!

Firing Line: The 1st Foot Guards

Presenting my project’s third regiment from the Duke of Marlborough’s British army; the 1st Foot Guards!

Lovely figures, once again by Strelets, if not entirely historically accurate. They are mostly all from their new “Firing Line” box of British Infantry figures. Blue breeches, cuffs and collars are a distinctive element in this regiment’s uniform.

For the grenadiers, I’ve used a couple of figures from their “In Attack” box instead, simply because the ‘firing line’ grenadiers looked so good that I’m thinking of keeping them back for a special purpose.The grenadiers have blue fronted caps, piped with yellow, examples of which I’ve attempted to reproduce (see 1st Guards grenadiers crossing the River Nebel below):

The musketeers I’ve shown with yellow hat lace.

The Strelets Firing Line box comes with various firing and loading poses. For the 1st Guards, I’ve concentrated all the firing figures together within this single battalion. Strelets supplied two poses standing to fire their muskets.

But there were only a limited four figures in a kneeling pose across the box.

The NCO was a pleasing figure to paint, suitably adopting a shouting and pointing pose:

This commissioned officer appears to be wearing gaiters and is holding his pair of white gloves.

More ‘fun with flags’… Would you believe that I actually quite enjoy the tinkering challenge of not-quite-getting-it-right, until I eventually admit defeat and accept whatever outcome. With this one, I realised I had foolishly put the red device in completely the wrong corner! Oh well, never mind…

I’m now thinking that I’m ready to tackle something else in the WSS project which perhaps isn’t British infantry. I’m not sure what exactly yet and anyway the FEMbruary challenge will now take precedence for a little while. Furthermore, I’ve recently come into possession some more WSS figures – but more on this in another post.

Strelets, meanwhile, recently announced on their forum that they are committed to also producing both cavalry and artillery sets for this series, in addition to the French Fusiliers slated for production – so much more to look forward to there! 🙂

Lace Wars: The 1st Guards

Two regiments (and 1 box) already completed in my War of the Spanish Succession project, I’m still happily painting the lovely Strelets British infantry. For the latest figures, I’m making use of Strelets other very newly released WSS sets;

  • British Infantry in Attack
  • British Infantry Firing line

After a couple of line regiments, I felt it was time to include an elite formation and so I’ve started work on the most prestigious infantry in the British Army; the 1st Foot Guards.

The 1st Foot Guards at Blenheim, crossing the River Nebel.

My C.S. Grant book on the uniforms of the WSS informs me that the 1st Guards wore a red coat with facings of “Royal blue” and breeches of blue. Depictions of the regiment from this time seem to show a mid-light coloured blue, including this 1st Foot Guards re-enactor wearing a grenadier’s uniform:

I have Vallejo paint called “Royal Blue” but I’ve instead opted for their “Flat Blue” which seemed a more satisfactory shade.

Impatient for Strelets to produce other sets (presuming of course that they do), at the wise suggestion of John at Just Needs Varnish blog, I’ve been exploring other potential sources of 20mm scale WSS troops. As a first toe in the water some figures have arrived today from metal 20mm manufacturer Irregular Miniatures. These are some infantry officers to make up my shortfall from the Strelets boxes and a regiment of British Horse consisting of an officer, a trumpeter, a flag bearer and five troopers:

I think they’re very impressive! 🙂 Size comparison shows the figures to be slightly smaller than the Strelets figures. This is because these Irregular Miniatures figures are ‘true’ 20mm which is to say 1/76 scale rather than 1/72.

Anyway, there’s an awful lot going on on the Suburban Militarism painting desk at the moment, and those Foot Guards won’t paint themselves!

Lord Orkney’s Regiment of Foot

I’m starting to find some very useful information about British regiments at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession. A website called The Spanish Succession is dedicated to the WSS and has lots of great and detailed information even on individual regiments including my chosen one; Orkney’s Regiment. The “oldest regiment in the British armed forces” had it’s roots far back in the Swedish army of Gustavus Adolphus of all things!

Ironically, my War of the Spanish Succession regiment even fought for the French army until Charles II ‘asked for it back’ in 1688. This regiment fought in all the major battles of the Duke of Marlborough and around this time became known as ‘The Royal Regiment’.

The Earl of Orkney, who gave him his name to the regiment, was appointed to it’s colonelcy 1692. An experienced soldier, he notably led the final assault at the Battle of Blenheim on the village leading eight battalions of troops before then receiving the final surrender of the French there.

By Martin Maingaud – Public Domain.

I also found some information on Pinterest about the flags carried into battle by the Royal Regiment / Orkney’s Regiment. My previous regiment had an English flag but being a Scottish regiment, the Orkney’s national flag was carried instead of the Union flag at this time. The design is shown below:

Once again, I had to endure the horrors of painting folded flag drapes. I might neaten up those white lines, but here is the result:

Orkney’s Regiment is described in my copy of “The Armies and Uniforms of Marlborough’s Wars” as having red coats, white facings, grey breeches and yellow lace on the tricornes. The facings later became blue possibly as early as the end of the 17th century but sources depict them still with white cuffs during the Marlburian period. Certainly, artist Bob Marrion preferred to illustrate the regiment with white facings in the aforementioned book.

R.J. Marrion’s illustration of a man of Orkney’s Regiment of Foot (book cover).

The figures I’m using are still from Strelets “advancing” set of British infantry figures. Sankey’s Regiment were all marching with arms at the slope, but Orkney’s men are all charging forward with their bayonets ready.

Though the box is finished, Orkney’s Regiment is lacking an officer and also a grenadier company. I’ve ordered more boxes of this series, however, so I can open another and attend to the shortfall in due course!

Ave, Senatus Romanus!

Whilst I’ve been painting up my latest War of the Spanish Succession regiment, through the post here at Suburban Militarism has recently arrived a bag of small wooden cubes.

I posted recently that I’d received a box of Strelets Roman Senators for Christmas. My friend and fellow blogger Pat also admired the set but posed the same very good question that was on my mind – what the heck can be done with them?

I quite liked the daft notion of Suburban Militarism having a senate, squabbling and scheming over my latest painting plans or raucously debating the acquisition of the next model kit. But I needed some means of basing or presenting them and then I had an eccentric idea…

Get on with it, Marvin!!!!!!!!

I thought I could maybe base each senator on a kind of marble plinth, like Roman statues somehow brought to life. Hence, I found some perfectly sized wooden blocks for mere pennies…

Plinthy the Elder…

…and – sparing me the task of attempting to paint a marble effect – I found some perfectly marbled masking tape online.

I aim to paint a few characters every now and then, adding to my senate slowly over time. These are the first three senators:

Thanks to Roman Name Generator, I’ve put some names to each senator too:


Hostus Volusenus Iulianus

Gaius Gellius Severus

Flavius Velius Lentullus

So, watch out for a series of cod-Latin post titles related to these figures which sound like spells from Harry Potter. In the meantime, I’m pushing on with my Lace Wars figures. The next regiment is approaching completion…

Marlburian Men

I am particularly delighted to have a book come through the post recently which is an indispensable guide to the era I’m currently painting. It’s a 2016 hardback edition of C.S. Grant’s “The Armies and Uniforms of Marlborough’s Wars”. This terrific book combines two previously separately released volumes on the topic and – best of all – is lavishly illustrated throughout with line sketches and lots of full-colour depictions of Marlburian-era soldiers by one of my favourite military uniform artists, the now sadly deceased R.J. Marrion (the author’s ‘great friend and collaborator’).

To anyone interested in the War of the Spanish Succession, I can only highly recommend it – if you can find or afford a copy, that is! Although recently published, it seems to be very rare and, from some sellers, hideously expensive. For an era whose records of military uniforms are sketchy at best, it is proving extremely useful to tap into Charles Grant’s ‘many years of research’ with this beautifully presented book.

I’ll be honest here, it didn’t come cheap but I think is worth every penny and is an essential help to one of my 2020 projects – wargaming the Marlburian Wars.

Yes, wargaming isn’t something I’ve ever done before but I’ve been steadily looking into it with a view to trying some solo games. I’ve already invested in a green baize table cover for the landscape and also secured some ‘buildings’. The intention is to explore putting my 1/72 scale Lace Wars figures into use on the wargaming table. This will be a slow-burn process involving steady research and development, specifically requiring:

  • developing my understanding of wargaming and how it works!!!!!
  • developing some Marlburian-era rules through research on the period
  • developing the armies themselves by painting the figures (1 regiment (Sankey’s) completed so far!)

Of course, I’ve plenty of other figures from different eras I could use for skirmishes, etc, but my Lace Wars figures are the first being developed with wargaming specifically in mind and this has already led to some development on the bases;

Grenadiers of Sankey’s Regiment – now with decorated caps!

By grouping the bases together instead of individually (I’ve grouped them in groups of 4, 2 and singles), it will facilitate rapid deployment and movement during the game, the individually based figures allow for any casualties/losses to be reflected on the table… Apologies to wargamers – this is all new to me!

So my first regiment is virtually completed. The British army is already represented by the above Sankey’s Regiment which consists of 24 figures including 2 sergeants, an ensign and an officer. I’ve deliberately used a simple, plain, green grass scatter on the bases to help reduce shedding of the grass through wargame use, and also to better match my dark green baize which they’ll be marching across.

The flag was a real pain to paint! I love the sculpting but trying to understand the fold of the flag and then reflect that fold with the painted cross of St. George resulted in a number of repaints. The end result is still not right but I’m sticking with it!

Given that the Act of Union was in 1707, British regiments at this time were for some time represented by either English or Scottish flags instead of the Union flag. So I have shown this English regiment carrying the cross of St.George into battle. The other regimental flag, the colonel’s colour, was much more open to individual interpretation often with any colour background and a design of the colonel’s own choosing.

I’ve already started on the other half of the box of Strelets’ advancing infantry by depicting a Scottish regiment – more on that in a future post!

Lace Wars: Sankey’s Soldiers

The War of the Spanish Succession, indeed much the 18th century’s so-called ‘lace wars’, have been significantly overlooked in plastic at 1/72 scale until Strelets began to put things right towards the end of last year. At time of writing, Strelets have four sets slated for release:

  • British Infantry in Advance (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry in Attack (1701-1714)
  • British Infantry Firing Line (1701-1714)
  • French Fusiliers (Early War)

The first two have been released and the first set has already found its way to Suburban Militarism. This “in Advance” set includes around 20 marching figures and a similar number again advancing with the point of the bayonet – I’ve started with the marching boys.

I’ve been struggling to find Marlburian uniform information on specific regiments on the net, so I may have to turn to actual ye olde books for more info. Eventually, I turned to one of my postcards which was part of a set bought from The Keep Museum in Dorchester about the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiments.

The postcard shows an illustration by Rob Chapman of a soldier from Sankey’s Regiment in 1718 (regiments being named at the time after their colonel). Depicted just after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession on ‘sea service’, they would later be numbered as the 39th Regiment of Foot.

I was attracted to painting this regiment by the green facings, yet my copy of W.Y. Carman’s “Richard Simkin’s Uniforms of the British Infantry Regiments” tells me that for this regiment “no distinctive facings may be quoted before 1742” but does have this to say on their subsequent green facings when :

“…pale green was used for the facings and waistcoat. The green was later named as ‘willow green’, ‘popinjay’, ‘light green’ and other variations, no doubt because a fixed shade of green was hard to find in those days when dyes changed under battle conditions.”

In the end, I’ve been happy to go with the illustration and (in the spirit of those endless shades of green that they enjoyed) have given them some lime green facings, to match Rob Chapman’s illustration.

My marching figures are now about 90% finished, but you will note that some work does still remain to be done. This grenadier company above, for example, are still awaiting some attention to their grenadier caps. No idea what the actual caps looked like but I’m thinking some more of that lime green and some other detailing might do the trick.

Also on the march are some sergeants carrying halberds and a couple of officers too wearing their gorgets. The ensign has a black flag which needs painting in some manner too:


Sankey’s Regiment: A brief history

This regiment was orignally named “Colonel Coote’s Regiment” when it was raised in 1702. The said Colonel Richard Coote however was soon to die in a duel to be succeeded by Colonel Sankey, whose name the Regiment then took. Though missing out on all of Marlborough’s great battles of the war, they still campaigned in the Low Countries, France, Germany, Spain and North America. At the battle of Almanza, the regiment mounted mules to earn the ironic nickname “Sankey’s Horse”. After the war, having been raised as infantry and later serving as psuedo-cavalry when mounted on mules, the men found then found themselves acting as marines when on ‘sea-service’!


The remainder of the box I intend to paint up as a different British regiment, though I’ve yet to decide upon which one. Another aspect on my mind is for me a somewhat novel approach to basing, but more on that in another post.

My Christmas Cornucopia

I always enjoy seeing some of the gifts and presents that other bloggers get for Christmas, so I’m sharing some of mine too.

First off, this box of Marlburian British Infantry in Advance from Strelets wonderful new foray into the War of the Spanish Succession. I’m delighted that Strelets have begun this series which has been woefully neglected by in 1/72 scale plastics. What’s more, the figures are beautifully sculpted, too.

At my suggestion, I’ve also received from kindly relatives a box of these unusual figures, also by Strelets:

Strelets’ Roman Senate 1 box is about five years old now and as the name suggests had a sister box (number 2) also issued, which features many of the same figures. Two sprues contain senators all standing in their togas and alternatively listening or debating. A final sprue contains senators armed with knives, a statue, and Julius Caesar, all of which are designed to help you recreate the infamous assassination in the senate. A step out of the usual horse and musket era and into ancients; I’ve already been developing my plan for these which I’ll share in due course!

In another step away from 18th-19th century warfare, I’ve received a set of my favoured 1/72 scale plastics by the increasingly impressive Red Box. Last year, I developed my Ottomania project using their well-sculpted Ottoman Turks. As a kind of adjunct, I can now dip a toe into their late middle ages Duchy of Muscovy figures with these “Pishalniki” (arquebusiers).

What’s this? Wargaming?!

Earlier this year, Man of Tin blog, The Grand Duchy of Stollen and others paid tribute and mourned the passing of a deeply respected figure in the wargaming world; Stuart Asquith. Never having wargamed before, I was interested to read about the man and his achievements which included a book I’d had buried in my loft since my childhood; his Military Modelling Guide to Wargaming. His guide to solo wargaming was unwrapped on my birthday and together, who knows, I may investigate putting some of those figures of mine to use…

Of course, I need somewhere to keep all my crap, I mean precious hobby items and these boxes will do the job nicely; one with the grenadier from the sadly closing local discount hobby shop and the other from stationers Paperchase and featuring the Nutcracker which has been curiously popular this Christmas.

And finally, an amusingly appropriate stocking-filler…

I’ve already been busy working on some of my new figures and I’ll share progress shortly.

Until then, I wish a happy, productive and peaceful New Year to all Suburban Militarism visitors and friends!

It’s Snow Time!

It was around this time last year that, taking some inspiration from the onset of winter, I tackled the first of Strelets French Sledge Train sets. The results were really pleasing, unusual and inventive, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.

So it’s a perfect time of year again to attempt Set number 2 of the Strelets French Army Sledge Train sets. This one contains the exact same sledge and horse but with different occupants and walkers.

The figures are nearing the end of the painting process, with just a few things still to attend to or improve. I’ve yet to start on the sledge itself and the base, so I thought I’d share the characters before they get included in a little diorama, similar to that produced last year:


1. The Hussar:

This chap is wearing an hussar uniform with a less-than-regulation, broad-brimmed hat that he’s taken from somewhere. I painted him in what I believe to be the colours of the French 7th Hussar Regiment.

Depicted as as lucky occupant of the sledge, what perplexed me at first was what he was craddling in his arms. Predictably, Plastic Soldier Review got it quite right by suggesting that it was a horse leg! With a little paint, it indeed became clear, hoof and all. All in all a typically odd and delightfully imaginative figure from Strelets.


2. The Blinded Grenadier:

A grenadier of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard is a pleasing inclusion. He is blinded, presumably from a combat wound. Strelets have signified this by a bandage around his eyes, a walking stick and a hand extended out to feel the way. He appears to be wearing a scarf but he needs to urgently button that coat up against the winter snows!


3. The Comrades:

I’ve not quite finished them but I like these figures in particular. In a moving scene, Strelets have created two comrades struggling through the snows together. One is clearly wounded, his arm in a sling. His other arm is around his comrade who helps him walk. His comrade is wearing what appear to be very similar to the Opanci peasant shoes I last painted on the Serbian WWI infantry last year. Perhaps a sympathetic local took pity and helped him out?


4. The Plunderer:

This fortunate chap wears a warm regimental forage cap, that looks like a night cap. He’s well-equipped, smartly dressed, and in a piece of great fortune has managed to get his hands on a sack of something. Whatever it is, it’s clearly valuable enough to carry with him.


5. The Mother and Child:

In a reminder of the women and children which accompanied armies of the period, Strelets have included a lady sitting on a barrel in the sledge. She appears to be holding a tiny baby wrapped up on her lap. Appallingly, the outlook for both on the retreat would not be good whatsoever.


6. The Littlest Hobo:

Another well-equipped soldier who stands a better chance than many of survival. He has full packs on his back and has even tied a bundle of privisions to his musket. He’s ditched or stowed away his shako and wraped his head in a warm covering.


7. The Running Man:

A senior officer, perhaps even a Général de brigade, runs through the snows. Perhaps his horse has bolted or the Cossacks are hot on his heels? I think it is more likely that he’s another occupant of the sledge who’s now chasing after it after answering the call of nature! Run, Monsieur Général, run!


8. The Yogic Sledge Driver

The driver of the sledge wears a Polish lancer’s cap but otherwise could pass for an infantryman. Cracking a whip, he is sitting in an extreme crossed-legged position which can only be described as a half-lotus! Very flexible!

9. The Pitiful Pony

The same half-starved labouring pony from Sledge set 1 makes a reappearance. Definitely one of Strelets best horse sculpts, in my opinion. A sad reminder of the very considerable animal suffering experenced in the retreat from Moscow.

So, just final touches to the figures, and the sledge to paint and assemble, before I start to put the whole sledging expedition together and then this suitably snowy scene will probably be the last completed project before Christmas!