The Crusaders were introduced together with the Black Falcons in 1984 when The LEGO Group relaunched their Castle theme after the discontinuation of the first knights faction that started in 1978. In Canada and Australia, the Crusaders and Black Falcons were known as the Lion Crest and Eagle Crest factions, respectively, however in 1991-92 the Lion Crest knights used the Crusaders name.
One of the first sets of the Crusaders included a castle (6080 King's Castle), which was considerably bigger than its counterpart from the Falcons (6073 Knight's Castle). During the following years the Crusaders would grow to one of the biggest Castle-themed factions ever, with at least one release in every year from 1984 to 1992, a tally rivaled in number only by the Black Knights or the later Crown Knights.
As contemporary factions, Crusaders and Black Falcons were shown to engage in peaceful competition with each other, as seen in 6021 Jousting Knights from 1984, as well as in military conflict, as seen in 6062 Battering Ram from 1987. Both sets were the only ones were the two factions appeared together, except for the Accessories sets. Another set where the Crusaders appeared with another faction was 6060 Knight's Challenge from 1988, this time with the Black Knights.
Crusaders also featured many halfway civilian buildings, 6040 Blacksmith Shop (1984) and 6067 Guarded Inn from 1986, which was one of most popular Castle sets ever and also the first one to be reissued as part of LEGO's Legends line in 2001 as 10000 Guarded Inn.
After the advent of the Forestmen in 1987, it was implied that the Crusaders were at odds with these newcomers, since a Forestman appeared as a prisoner in 6042 Dungeon Hunters and a lone Crusader was seemingly attacking 6077 Forestmen's River Fortress in 1989, which was the last guest appearance of the Crusaders in a different theme.
However, 6080 King's Castle was discontinued after 1987, meaning that there was no castle for the Crusaders faction available from 1988-89. The 6085 Black Monarch's Castle, despite different styling and emblems, did not belong to a named faction yet (it was retroactively included as part of the Black Knights when that side officially launched in 1992) and so it was considered a spiritual successor to the aging 6080 King's Castle as the largest/flagship Lego Castle set. (The overall structure of 6080 King's Castle is similar to the Black Knights's 6085 Black Monarch's Castle from 1988, which had a similar segmentation with hingebricks as well as two towers, a prison and a gatehouse on the same positions as in this set.) The Crusaders were "merged" this unnamed faction to form a combined "Castle" side in 1990-91 (the catalogue combined the lion and wyvern motifs).
A second castle was added in 1990, 6081 King's Mountain Fortress, which was the first castle ever built on a raised base-plate. This set's release marked more or less the beginning of the end of this theme, since the small catapult from 1991 and the last Crusaders set, 1463 Treasure Cart from 1992 did not appear in any catalogs. Interestingly in 1990 and 1991, the Crusaders were merged with the Black Knights in a combined "Castle" faction (the catalogue combined the lion and wyvern motifs) that was pitted against the Forestmen, analogous to the legend of Prince John's knights against Robin Hood and his Merry Men outlaws, however in 1992 the Crusaders reverted to their own faction when the Black Knights were formally launched.
While discontinued after the 1992 year, a handful of Crusaders (the 6081 King's Mountain Fortress) and Forestmen sets continued to be available from the Shop at Home USA catalogue in 1993 and 1994, alongside the new Dragon Masters faction.
Although it has always been implied that there was some kind of king, there was never a distinct minifigure that filled this position. The first king minifigure would not appear until the introduction of Royal Knights in 1995.
Castles and equipment
The Crusaders owned two castles, a wall segment (included in 6061 Siege Tower), the Guarded Inn, a blacksmith shop, and possibly an armor shop. They also had rather huge complement of vehicles at their disposal, comprising two prison carriages (6055 Prisoner Convoy and 6042 Dungeon Hunters) and several smaller carts (6022 Horse Cart, 6016 Knight's Arsenal and 1463 Treasure Cart).
The Crusaders' army encompassed an impressing and varried array of siege engines, comprising two siege towers (included in 6061 Siege Tower and 6062 Battering Ram), two catapults (6039 Twin Arm Launcher and 1480 King's Catapult) and even a (Ballista).
The symbol of the Crusaders is an upright lion with a crown on its head. This symbol was featured on shields which were available in two variants with either a golden lion on a blue background or a blue lion on a yellow background. There was also a unique red flag piece with the lion crest on it which was only available in 6041 Armor Shop.
Some guards of the Crusaders had the lion crest emblazoned on their torso pieces, while others had a crest with crossed axes. The axe crest was already present in 6080 King's Castle from 1984 and was last seen in the two Knight's Challenge sets from 1988.
There were also horse barding pieces with the lion symbol.
According to a catalog from 1992, "The Crusaders are the bravest knights in the kingdom. They are the protectors of the innocent and the keepers of justice." This is the only official word on the matter.
They also presumably have a king, who is never explicitly identified. The woman in 6081 King's Mountain Fortress is also never explicitly identified, though she is quite recognizable.
Some have noted that if the Forestmen are meant to represent Robin Hood and his merry men, then the Crusaders would be analogous to the army of King Richard I, AKA King Richard the Lion-Heart, who participated in the crusades and supposedly lived during the same time period as Robin.
- Other appearances
- 6021 Jousting Knights (1984), contains a Crusaders knight
- 6077 Forestmen's River Fortress (1989, Forestmen), contains a Crusaders soldiers
- 6102 Castle Mini Figures (1985), contains three Crusaders soldiers
- 6103 Castle Mini-Figures (1988), contains one Crusaders soldier
- 6103 Knights* (1984, Samsonite Promotional), contains a knight and a soldier
(*these sets include Crusaders with crossed axes on their torso pieces)