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.