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Thread: Victorious through God’s grace: de Hautevilles’ chronicle

  1. #141
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    Thanks, Merry Xmas to all of you! Probably there will be a lower activity here for next couple of weeks, as I will be on holidays.
    But from time to time I will lurk the AARland ... See you in 2011!

  2. #142
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    Here we are, back in AARland!

    LXVIII. First years of Isaakios’ regency


    Theophilos’ sudden death produces a profound sorrow and anxiety over the possible consequences on the kingdom’s stability of such quick transition, while the Polish enemies are still at the gates. Thus Queen Anna, acting as Regent, places the young prince Isaakios under custody for safety’s sake until the enemies are driven from the land, while marshal Alexios, brother of the deceased king, and chancellor Ioannes Forgach are appointed to assist the Queen Mother in the government of the realm.

    The kingdom inherited by Isaakios is environed by many dangers: the Polish forces continue to threaten it from the north; Count Ralph is still defying the royalist troops in Greece; Richard, Count of El-Arish, has also risen against the succession in June 1370. To all this, add the terrible ravages of the Black Death over the whole country.

    Throughout 1370 the struggle with the rebellious counts remains critical. The lack of manpower due to the bubonic plague causes a halt to military preparations, and marshal Alexios strives to gather decent armies. Just to give an idea of the tremendous effects of the pandemic, when Duke Roger of Cairo – one of the most powerful vassals of the king – is asked to mobilise his Egyptian hosts to march against Richard of El-Arish, from five provinces he manages to raise an army of only about 2.500 men, in spite of the fact that Roger’s domain includes large cities like Cairo and Jerusalem.

    Then, from autumn the situation of the royalist contingents engaged in the pacification of the hostile dignitaries begins to improve: after some initial difficulties, Roger of Cairo defeats the felon count of El-Arish and encircles him in his castle, which would only surrender in July 1371. In the meantime, marshal Alexios lands in Naxos but his troops pillage the islanders, an execrable conduct which raises many complaints but against which the child-king Isaakios cannot do anything. By summer 1371 the royalists capture all Ralph’s fortresses and he is conveniently driven out of his lands, with Naxos incorporated into the royal demesne and Demetrias assigned to Alexios of Athens for his service in suppressing the last rebel.

    When the internal front begins to consolidate, external threats take up again: despite chancellor Ioannes Forgach’s successful negotiation of an anti-Polish alliance with Vaclav of Bohemia, raids against Apulia by the troops of Georgii Piast resume with greater intensity in February 1371. A contingent rashly composed with mercenaries and a handful of local knights is defeated and dispersed in fear by the invaders, who move to besiege Capua. Only when marshal Alexios calls in the troops of his uncle Christophoros of Benevento and Giselbert of Spoleto he finally manages to cope with the Poles, thanks also to innovations in weapon systems – like for example the introduction of morningstars and polearms. In September Giselbert of Spoleto engages the besiegers of Capua with a mixed force, but his Campanian mercenaries break the ranks and take flight again. Left alone with his men (now outnumbered 1 to 6), quite astonishingly Giselbert defeats the Poles and breaks the siege of Capua, effectively ending the last offensive movement of Georgii Piast in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

    Even worse than this is the peril faced by the regency in the following biennium, namely the Byzantine invasion of Greece. Already in 1361 the new Emperor Eusebios, tired of the alliance that has bound Byzantines and Sicilians together for roughly a century, has attempted to profit from the weakened status of the former partners to expand back into mainland Greece. In that occasion the Grand Duke Alexios skilfully limited damages by removing the vassal count of Demetrias and assuming direct control of the bordering area. But now, against the reiterated expansionistic designs of Eusebios there is no more an Alexios who stands firm: so when the Byzantines move against Duke Alexios of Athens in late spring 1372, they find an easy way and in just ten months both Demetrias and Atheniai are lost to Andronikos II (the predecessor has died during the campaign).

  3. #143
    Terrible! You may have defeated the Poles, but the Byzantines are coming as well!

  4. #144
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    LXIX. The child king’s prospects improve

    The first years of the regency have been marked by danger but despite the setbacks the kingdom remains strong, controlling most of the Italian peninsula south of Firenze, Sicily, a sizeable chunk of Libya and Egypt, and Jerusalem with the Holy Sepulchre. What is needed is peace for consolidating the legitimacy of the dynasty on the throne. As a pacifying concession to the nobles in the wake of the suppressed revolts in Greece and the Levant, in 1373 the council suspends the royal prerogatives introduced by Alexios during the Protectorate and reinstates the feudal contract: in this way, at least, the child king Isaakios can trust the loyalty of all other magnates.

    After another devastating Khwarizmian raid into Monferrato, chancellor Ioannes Forgach realizes the need to break also the diplomatic isolation to which the kingdom has been subject since the time of the quarrel between Alexios and Abelard. Hence, a treaty of alliance is concluded in November 1374 with the envoys of Doge Adelfo Mastropiero.


    Until 1375 the regency council meets regularly and governs in harmony, but with the death of chancellor Ioannes Forgach (whose role in the transition of power has nonetheless been crucial) the king’s uncle and marshal Alexios puts himself at the head of all state affairs, faithfully serving the monarchy until Isaakios becomes of age in 1379. Alexios deserves the standing, as during this second part of the regency period obtains the oath of allegiance to the child king from Ottavio of Orbetello (in central Italy) and devises with determination and ability the next direction in which the Hauteville dominion would expand: Egypt.

    Egypt has defied the Khwarizmian attacks, but remains (as the whole Near Levant) a patchwork of independent entities available for absorption: the largest of them is the Principality of Homs, still ruled by the successor of Boghos, while the most distinguished continues to be the rump of the Kingdom of Jerusalem ruled by Enzio de Lusignan. On them the new diplomatic policy is launched, with the aim of forging marriage bonds and offer protection against the Muslim threats. So, in 1378 Alexios himself marries Delinda, sister of Enzio, while contacts are established with Prince Smbat of Homs to arrange a wedding between his gifted sister Ardai and the future king Isaakios.

    - - - -

    But even Alexios could do nothing against the real terror of the period, that is the Black Death. Around mid-1370s the bubonic variant of the plague begins to subside, only to be replaced by the more lethal pneumonic infection. Towns and hamlets are depopulated, domestic animals and crops abandoned and as a consequence poverty and famine strike the people, regardless of any aid coming from charitable rulers such as the Hautevilles. Also, popular reaction to the Black Death brings a decline of religious authority and devotion, as many believe that the plague represents the punishment of God for the sins of humanity: parents abandon their ill children, any sense of solidarity is lost and even the priests strive to preserve their discipline and faith in the Good News. Hell has arrived on earth…



    Rumours from distant lands – Scotland from the House of Dunkeld to that of Aed

    In these same years an astounding Scottish tragedy consummates, being the apex and extinction of the ruling dynasty of Dunkeld. In 1368 the last great king of the House of Dunkeld, Ruadrì, has taken over the English crown from the Angevins with the assistance of his Welsh ally, Yann of Dyfed. But just three years later the Scottish-Welsh partnership breaks down because of various disputes and turns into open rivalry. The strengths of the two contenders are uneven and Ruadrì quickly progresses to annex Powys. After two more years of warfare, the Scottish troops occupy also Dyfed and Gwynedd and King Yann is forced to give up his native lands while the Scottish ruler claims the predominance over the whole Wales.

    But King Ruadrì will not press that claim: after almost 40 years of rule he is aged and worn out, and above all has given up the hopes of legitimate offspring. Ruadrì dies childless in 1376, and with him the Dunkeld line comes to an end. With the great king’s death, the situation becomes confused, as the line of succession is disputed (even Isaakios of the Two Sicilies has a distant claim on the crown as great-grandson of Princess Finnguala of Scotland!). With the decisive support of a group of Scottish nobles, Aed of Mar manages to elevate his son (Eochaid II) to the royal status. The child, a mere figurehead, dies of plague 1379 and at this point his controversial father assumes the throne as Aed II.

    His direct reign would last another ten years, unfortunately characterised by the increasing power of the noble clans and general turmoil. Upon Aed’s death in 1389 his younger son would ascend as Alexander II, but only to survive for three years and leave the crown to Aed’s brother Duncan III. With such premises it becomes clear that the new ruling dynasty of Mar has not the authority of the old one, and must still secure the loyalty of its subjects.

    In the meantime, Scotland engages in a deadly conflict with France, also embroiled in its own internal disorders against the rule of King Henry II. The war opened in 1386 lasts just some years, during which both contenders have to face each-other but also fight their own internal opponents. Only the 1392’s ascension of Duncan III adds a spin to the Scottish side, with the campaign resuming vigorously and the Scots winning decisive battles on the French soil while Henry II is struggling to deal with the upheaval of his disgruntled vassals (much more numerous and powerful of the Duncan’s ones, evidently). Finally broken down by his many foes, in May 1393 Henry II is forced to accept harsh peace conditions that give to Duncan III considerable territorial gains (Shrewsbury in England, and Paris, Nantes, Evreux, Boulogne Tourraine in France) and sanction the Capetian renounce to the English crown, previously claimed by the French dynasty from the Angevins. Inevitably, the brilliant victory against the French will increase Duncan’s legitimacy at home, while the defeat costs Henry II Capet his throne, as shortly after he is ousted by Amedeo de Lorraine, who seizes the crown and inaugurates a new ruling dynasty.


    Domains of Duncan III in 1393

  5. #145
    How did Duncan get all those claims in France?

  6. #146
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    Frankly don't know, but later in the game my experience is that everyone has claims on everyone else given the interconnections between the dynasties. Anyway the outcome was shocking: Scotland first globbed England, and now is recreating the real situation in late 14th century during the Hundred Years War (with itself instead of England) ... Scotland, Aragon and Norway are being the AI real surprises in terms of success.

  7. #147
    They will become problems methinks.

  8. #148
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    LXX. King of Egypt!

    In 1379 Isaakios has finally grown up into a youth of great valour and reputation and, as already agreed, marries Ardai. Apart from bringing a brilliant queen (who later would even become the king’s real chancellor) and a much-awaited conciliation with the progeny of Boghos (usurped of the Princedom of Athens roughly 50 years ago by Isaakios’ great-grandfather, Alexios), the marriage contract contains a clause that the Two Sicilies would ease the situation of Ardai’s original family by quelling the remaining Muslim chiefdoms in Egypt.


    A new Queen for the Two Sicilies

    Isaakios’ care for the Prince Smbat is not disinterested: the king is well aware of the internal struggle the Khwarizmian Empire is suffering after the death of Vahhab and sees it as a way to consolidate the Sicilian grasp on Egypt and even institute there a monarchy on the example of the Kingdom of Jerusalem inaugurated in 1099 following the First Crusade.

    So, when in June 1379 Isaakios departs from Lecce towards Reggio to embark with his royal host strong of some 3.200 men, nobody can forecast that he will become the most successful Norman leader in the Eastern Mediterranean since the times of Bohemond of Taranto. Once reassured that the motherland is strong and the local nobility happy with the reinstated feudal rule, the Sicilian king is ready to take the sea in September of the same year. In the middle of his journey, Isaakios is informed that Ademar of Crecy (sent as bishop to convert the heathens of El-Arish in 1375) has broken the allegiance and declared his independence from the Two Sicilies, an insult that the king promises to punish at the right time.

    In the last days of December the Sicilian fleet arrives off El Alamayn, where the royal host is supposed to land and join the forces of Isaakios’ strongest lieutenant in Egypt, the Duke of Cairo. The small town falls after roughly two weeks, and from there Isaakios moves west to Tobruk, taken in early March 1380.


    Isaakios’ first conquests in the Egyptian campaign

    The Sicilians have not time to rejoice over these swift conquests, as in rapid succession come the news of Ademar of El-Arish entering an alliance with the King of Jerusalem and of Djerba declaring its independence from Isaakios. Fired by revenge the king leaves his uncle, marshal Alexios, as governor of Tobruk and leads east, now resolved to punish the treacherous Bishop of El-Arish before his example is followed by some other vassals. On the way to the Sinai, in late April Isaakios receives the allegiance of Prince Smbat (at this time ruler of Alexandria, Quattara and Gizeh). In the following weeks, the king’s march slows down a bit, as he wants to repose himself and his men from the toil of war. Sumptuous feasts take place both in Alexandria and Cairo to celebrate Isaakios’ successes and reward the new vassal Smbat, during which the King of the Two Sicilies sets up the Duchy of Alexandria (then conferred upon uncle Alexios) and grants his now adult sister Pulcheria the title of Duchess of Capua.

    After the celebrations, Isaakios resumes his march heading for El-Arish in order to solve once and for all the treason of Ademar. By end-June the port town is encircled and in less than three months captured, with the treacherous Bishop fiercely punished. Yet the deviation to El-Arish has not turned away Isaakios’ attention from his grand design, the conquest of Egypt, for which the collapse of the Khwarizmian power under the minor Khudayar has now created the right conditions (in 1383 the boy will be removed by a distant relative, Aydin, in a palace coup). Encouraged by the divisions in the Muslim world, Isaakios declares war on Emir Seydo of Azerbaijan – owner of vast tracts of land including Manupura, Sudan, Benghazi and Cyrenaica.

    For this purpose the king mobilises an adequate army - thirteen thousand strong – drafting his most powerful vassals: while the Italian contingents (roughly 9.000 men) head to Libya, Isaakios and his Egyptian vassals (with 4.000 warriors) continue operations on the Nile. It is in Libya where the first successes are achieved: overwhelmed by the enemy forces Benghazi and the whole Cyrenaica fall in March 1381 allowing the redeployment of more Sicilian forces to Egypt. Two months later also Manupura surrenders to the Sicilian troops, followed by the province of Sudan in August. By now, Isaakios’ tour has changed to a triumphal march: every town receives him as a conqueror, and people come out in throngs to cheer him. With the latest additions, a great part of Egypt is submitted to the young conqueror. During a great banquet given to his associates and those local dignitaries who have submitted to him (including the count of Gabiyaha), Isaakios proclaims the birth of the Kingdom of Egypt.


    Isaakios would set sail for homeland later in the year with Queen Ardai and the royal host. Two years of intense warfare have left their marks on the young sovereigns, and both need rest. During her husband’s campaign, Ardai has paid visit to her original home and spent much time in Egypt, where the couple’s elder daughters, Maria (1380) and Sophia (1381), have been born. Nevertheless, the royal consorts are still looking for a male heir.

    Still, war is not over with the king’s departure: preparing for walking out, Isaakios hires a mercenary company to provide protection to the newly acquired realm, now threatened by the come-back in force of Emir Seydo. A general engagement cannot longer be avoided and takes place in December 1381, when a great part of the army employed by Isaakios for the conquest of Egypt is still there. Roughly 7.000 Sicilians and Egyptians meet an equivalent Azeri force at Manupura, where the outcome of a long and harsh is the near-annihilation of both contingents. But Isaakios has already sent new reinforcements to Egypt, while Seydo has none. So when the Sicilian mercenaries get ready in Egypt and a second battle occurs at Manupura, the Azeri army is conclusively defeated and scattered in early 1382. After this setback, Emir Seydo retreats into his lands without being anymore a threat for Egypt (and only a negligible nuisance for the Hauteville dependencies in the Levant), until an armistice is finally established in October of the following year.

    To conclude, please don’t be tricked into thinking of the establishment of the Hauteville Kingdom of Egypt as another chapter of the crusades. Actually, the flame of religious fanaticism has burnt out in the whole Christianity: partly because of the Black Death, but also partly as a consequence of the fact that the liberation of Jerusalem in 1337 has deprived the Latin Catholics of any target. As always, the advancement of commerce – Sicilian, Venetian, Aragonese and French in these specific times – conflicts with religion wars. Therefore, the triumph of Isaakios has nothing to do with the previous holy campaigns, being merely the result of a war of conquest.


    The Kingdom of Egypt (light green) at its proclamation; red-squared Jerusalem and El-Arish, Hauteville possessions outside Egypt
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    (His heaven above the traveller may change, but not the soul within)

  9. #149
    Well done! Begin Colonising Egypt.

  10. #150
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    In two hours my AAR will move in its second year of life ... time for a balance is getting closer.

  11. #151
    Congratulations on a wonderful AAR! I'm sure all the lurkers who follow this would congratulate you as well if they feel like it.

  12. #152
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    LXXI. Companies of adventure and diplomatic progresses

    Once back to Lecce, Isaakios is saluted by his people as a second Caesar, in a sort of reminiscence of the triumphs that celebrated the Egyptian victories of the ancient Roman dictator. Then, the Hauteville ruler rests for more than one year, dedicating himself to family, works of piety and assistance for the poor and plague-stricken. Two deaths cast a shadow over an uneventful 1382: that of Isaakios’ uncle Alexios, the king’s trustworthy protector during his minority and afterwards the competent planner of the conquest of Egypt (rewarded for this with the ducal titles of Alexandria and Cyrenaica), and that of baby dead while still in Ardai’s womb.


    A condottiere on his horse

    With the new year 1383, Isaakios is ready for new challenges: for capturing them the king can count on companies of adventure flourishing in the latter half the 14th century, precisely their Golden Age. In this period featured by the ravages of Black Death and the decay of crusading spirit, several groups of itinerant soldiers appear in Italy, the first of them to fight for the Northern city-states against their many external enemies. The collapse of institutions such as the Holy Roman Empire and the Angevin Kingdom of England has only exacerbated the trend, bringing in more and more bands (generally manned with 5.000 mercenaries) from Northern Europe and the British Isles: some of them are cadet sons in search of fortune, other simple brigands.

    The first sizeable example of free company hired by the Apulian Hautevilles dates back to roughly 50 years ago, when Grand Duke Alexios and his brother David benefited from their Scottish connections to contract 6.000 highlanders, later employed in the Sixth Crusade. In August 1383 Isaakios organises a mixed force of 7.000 men (in which mercenaries surprisingly outnumber native-born Sicilians drafted from the nearby Siracusa) to relieve Messina, in Muslim hands for 16 years now. The army behaves with proper discipline and valour, and before Christmas the old royal capital is free, even though Isaakios would later refuse to relocate there his court from Lecce because of the fear for plague.

    In the meantime, Isaakios’ diplomacy continues to make progress under the direction of a new chancellor, Randolph de Hauteville. Invested with the task of extending the Sicilian sphere of influence into the bordering regions of Central Italy, the competent Randolph gains a fundamental success in April 1383: a pledge of allegiance of the Tuscan Republic to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Some background here is in order: a year before the chief magistrate Borso Malipiero, a member of the Guelph party ruling over the Florentine republic, has profited by the confusion in the Ghibelline ranks spurred by the death of Baldewin von Hohenstaufen (succeeded by a minor son, Dietrich) to expand north.


    Isaakios holds sway over Central Italy

    After short attempts to restrain Ghibelline actions, in the course of few months the enemy forces prevail, entering Tuscany and ravaging its finest cities and towns. At this point, the Florentines place in Isaakios their last hope to preserve freedom and resolve on calling in his protection. Despite the fact that there has been a longstanding Hauteville policy of expansion in Central Italy (just think of the numerous takeovers of Roma, or Alexios’ conquests in the mid-14th century), the Florentine submission comes as an unexpected bonus: in an eye-blink, four prosperous provinces (the whole Tuscany and the vassal commune of Modena) join the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which now stretches its borders up to the edge of the Lombard plains, almost creating a land connection with the Venetian ally. The opportunity to pursue this goal comes shortly, as in the last days of the year the Most Serene Republic (which has already acquired Ferrara in 1366) attacks the remaining domains of Baldovino of Romagna, with Bologna already fallen in Venetian hands by early 1384 and the rest of the district occupied shortly after.

  13. #153
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    LXXII. The Iron Crown of Italy claimed


    The Iron Crown of the Lombards has been associated with the Holy Roman Emperors since Charlemagne’s coronation, therefore bestowed for centuries to the Hohenstaufen rulers as “taster” of the Reichskrone. Since the Renunciation of Nice (1360) four Swabian rulers – Rudger, Markward, Baldewin and now Dietrich – have held the title of Italy, but their declining powerbase has moved to Northern Germany and Denmark: some of them have never even come to Italy during their ruling period!

    The Norman kings of Sicily have never shown much interest in that circlet, but now Isaakios starts to greedily look at it as a formal acknowledgement of the Hauteville power over the peninsula. While the king is still mulling over a participation in the hostilities in Romagna – and winning back the allegiance of the recalcitrant count of Djerba, probably frightened by the punishment previously received by the rebellious Bishop of El-Arish – something new happens in 1384 to fulfil Isaakios’ wish to claim the crown of Italy: influenced by the many enemies of the struggling Swabian dynasty, the new Pope Godfrey de la Cueva (Richard III has died two years before after a long pontificate of almost three decades!) excommunicates Dietrich von Hohenstaufen, the young King of Italy and Denmark.


    The King of the Two Sicilies would not immediately press the claim against Dietrich, opting to wait until his wife Ardai (who has given birth to another daughter in 1384) finally delivers a male heir – Manuel, born on 28th February 1385 – and more likely until his Venetian allies clear the way north through the Po Valley. For another year the king remains uncertain as to what to do: then in February 1386 Henry II of France – with whom the relation is already tense because of the defection of the count of Malta from France back to Sicily – lays claim on all Dietrich’s royal titles and Isaakios at last resolves to take action.

    And so war is declared on Dietrich: for this purpose, Isaakios raises 14.000 knights and long swordsmen, for the most part Gaelic and English mercenaries, and gives a meeting in Tuscany where the new governor of Firenze Cosma Bobone receives him warmly. In June a first skirmish with the enemy forces is won near Lucca, a town traditionally siding with the Hohenstaufens. From there, Isaakios passes almost unopposed into Northern Italy and reaches Nice (royal town and centre of the Ghibelline faction in Italy) in late September, capturing it after a siege of almost three months.

    But the powerful Sicilian king appreciates that the war needs to be carried on upon the German territory, where the last supporters of the Swabian dynasty still resist in the strongholds of Braunschweig-Luneburg. During his wintering in Lombardy, Isaakios is informed that his elder son Manuel has died, leaving the younger Ashot (an infant just born in last October) as only heir to the thrones of the Two Sicilies and Egypt.

    With the good season Isaakios crosses the Alps and marches into Germany. Unopposed, he reaches Lower Saxony and takes by force Luneburg and Braunschweig, respectively in August and November 1387. Completely in the hands of the Sicilian invaders, the young Hohenstaufen king has no alternative than to accept Isaakios’ harsh conditions: the surrender of the Iron Crown and the cessation of Nice to the Republic of Tuscany.

    By assuming the kingship of Italy Isaakios extends his sway further to the north, as many secular and ecclesiastical rulers formerly subject to the Swabian rule now acknowledge the suzerainty of the Hauteville dynasty:
    • In Italy, the city-states of Pisa (with Lucca and the other Tyrrhenian dependencies, under the dogal dynasty of Steno) and Cremona;

    • In Germany, the ecclesiastical provinces of Bavaria (archbishopric) and Schwyz (bishopric) and the influential lay Duke of Holland;

    • In Denmark the Duke of Sjaelland and the counts of Jylland and Holstein.
    The picture below shows – as of November 1387 – the network of direct and indirect vassals (green), Venetian allies (blue) and pending claims (orange) of Isaakios de Hauteville in the lands which traditionally constituted to the Holy Roman Empire until its dismantling in 1360. A great accomplishment for sure, however right in the moment of triumph rumours reach Isaakios that Sicily is in tumult (and his vassals unable to keep control of a part of the island), inducing him to rush back to Italy.


    Isaakios' vassals, allies and claims in the former HRE

  14. #154
    The Venetians maybe your allies but be wary of a them growing too strong.

  15. #155
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    LXXIII. Getting to the top and stumbling


    The 24-year old Isaakios coming back from Germany is the strongest Christian ruler of the time, uniting on his head the crowns of the Two Sicilies, Egypt and Italy. The child who upon sudden inheritance from his father Theophilos of the Sicilian crown was in serious need of protection and guidance, has accomplished all this in just six years and surpassed the deeds of any of his Hauteville predecessors. He is now a full man, tough and valiant in the eyes of his 85.000 warriors. However, every ascendancy to glory comes with a degeneration in character and Isaakios is not immune to this rule: his confidence in men has gone, substituted by vengefulness and rancour; the proverbial moderation has turned into caprice and love for luxury; aggressiveness and vice have tarnished his reputation.

    Having left in Nassau a garrison of almost 4.000 Gaelic and English mercenaries to keep Northern Germany in order, in early 1388 the great king returns to Italy stopping at Cremona to be crowned in its dome with the Iron Crown. Although in the last few years the Black Death has begun to retreat in most of Apulia, in the northern lands of the peninsula there are still periodic outbreaks and in one of those Isaakios gets the plague (February 1388).


    From there the sick sovereign is transported to his Apulian homeland and court, from which he has been parted for two years. Despite being carefully quarantined, Isaakios is happy to know his family is fine and growing, particularly the beloved only son and heir Ashot, for whose nurturing he entrusts a local noble. In mid-March even Pope Godfrey de la Cueva comes to visit the sick king, praying for a complete and speedy recovery.


    This occurrence – the Pope himself paying homage to Isaakios – is possibly the most notable and true sign of his zenith. From here, the king can only move downhill: while he is forcedly laying down at Lecce to recover from the plague, the rest of the nation struggles with internal tensions: in Calabria, resentment against the oppressive administration of the royal governors has caused a popular uprising; in Sicily, the situation is even worse as the dispute between Duke William and one of his vassals, the count of Siracusa, now turns into a much bigger turmoil.

    A wicked heretic and dangerous plotter, in May 1388 Duke William of Sicily profits from the king’s infirmity and denies to pay him homage. When Isaakios sends his envoys to Agrigento to summon obedience the arrogant Duke refuses to meet them, forcing the liege to intervene in a much more vigorous way. As the king is still fighting against the plague, his choice of a leader for the expedition falls on Roger, the staunch count of Palermo, who has already been given the town of Siracusa and can prospectively work as substitute for the felon Duke William.

    Roger is not the only pawn on Isaakios’ board, as the king can play other two decisive cards against William: the support of the Pope, who excommunicates the rebel magnate on account of his deviating views, and Duke Petros of Holland, who is sent to capture William’s other domain, namely the Duchy of Cornwall.

    In the meantime, the king quite amazingly recovers after seven months of illness and resumes his duties in full. Soon after his champion in Sicily, Roger, dies in combat, thus there are no more excuses not to reach the island to settle the situation, as warmly suggested by the remaining royalist supporters who are experiencing serious desertions of people sceptical about Isaakios’ vitality and convinced that recent triumphs have rather mollified his nerve and will in leading the battlefield. A first reinforcement of 2.000 men is dispatched from Reggio but gets no success and defects for lack of confidence. Finally Isaakios resolves to march personally to Sicily at the head of his 3.200-strong host collected at Lecce.


    The new year 1389 starts with troubling news: a Muslim revolt inflaming in El-Arish (followed later in the year by even more dangerous peasant uprisings in Cosenza and Salerno, which only a careful stick and carrot strategy manages to subside) and, on a personal tone, the death of Queen Mother Anna. At least, the operations against the rebel Duke of Sicily develop with success as the royalist forces storm the castle of Agrigento and take over Cornwall. With Duke William finished off and his son Raymond spoiled of his rights, by August 1389 the island of Sicily can be considered pacified and any opposition crushed.
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  16. #156
    Ashot! An Armenian De Hauteville!?!

  17. #157
    Ammiratus ammiratorum Hastu Neon's Avatar
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    Yes. And likely - if nothing special happens - he will be the next king of Sicily, Italy and Egypt!
    Btw, as probably it's clear from this last post, a civil war is being prepared against the arrogant rule of Isaakios.

    Keep tuned.

  18. #158
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    LXXIV. Civil war breaks out

    The easy elimination of the Duke of Sicily cannot hide the increasing discontent among the kingdom’s magnates with Isaakios’ personality and method of government: most shockingly of all, on 5th August also Duke Berthold of Sardinia goes into open rebellion. He has been a devoted vassal of the Apulian Hautevilles since the time of Grand Duke Alexios, and for this reason rewarded by Isaakios with the ducal title of the island after the seizure of the crown of Italy. Instead now Berthold raises against his liege trying to persuade other peers that the king has become a cruel tyrant no longer fit to reign over a great nation. The sedition of the ingrate Duke of Sardinia sows the seeds of a proper civil war.


    Finally Isaakios appreciates the dramatic turn that the situation has taken: in an effort to enact immediate countermeasures against the risk of other treasons, the king abolishes the scutage tax and begins to bestow the most recalcitrant nobles with rich gifts, while the lands taken from the rebellious vassals are distributed to loyal ones: Geoffroy (son of the dead royalist leader Roger of Palermo) is given the Duchy of Sicily, Corcc of Moray (a Scottish dissident hosted at the Sicilian court) is rewarded with the Cornish possessions and Raoul de Crecy becomes bishop of El-Arish.

    Yet, the king cannot hope that gifts and grantings can do everything to solve his problems: at the same time, he needs to provide a proof of strength to enemies. For this reason Isaakios arms against Berthold of Arborea a retaliatory expedition of 4.400 Salernitan soldiers. Led by marshal Bernard de Crecy, the contingent arrives in Sardinia in November 1389 and soon overwhelms the weak local forces, kicking the ungrateful Berthold off his bastions in March on the following year. This victory brings some relief to the royalist party, and Isaakios profits from it to realize another distribution of lands in an attempt to improve his reputation: the king entrusts his only son and heir Ashot with the Duchy of Calabria (initially comprising Reggio and Cosenza, but the young boy would also receive Messina in 1391), his elder daughter Pulcheria gets the island of Naxos and an aunt Theodora is appointed countess of El Alamayn (even if she would defect in just one year).

    Unfortunately, Theodora’s is not the only defection which concerns a ruler less and less inclined to compromise: but if Isaakios can surely live with treason of the puny count of Jylland or the distant Duke of Holland, much more harmful for his cause is the abandonment of Duke Richard of Cairo, the most powerful peer of the Egyptian kingdom and the holder of the keys of both Cairo and Jerusalem. Probably a main cause of this development has been the preference long accorded by the royal couple to Smbat of Homs (brother of Queen Ardai) like on occasion of his 1386’s elevation to the ducal title of Alexandria, which has only served to inflame the jealousy of Richard of Cairo. As we will see shortly, when Smbat himself raises almost the whole Egypt against Isaakios, not counting on the valuable means of Cairo proves a severe blow to the fortunes of the Hauteville ruler.

    The major revolts begin in the period spanning from June 1391 to February 1392, when a new group of magnates – no longer able to endure the king’s duress – breaks out into open rebellion. In Italy, the insurgent leaders are Cosma Bobone, the Governor of Tuscany, Charles of Napoli and the new Duke of Sardinia, Ademar de Crecy; in the overseas possessions the following vassals rise up: Smbat (Duke of Homs and Isaakios’ brother-in-law), Duke Landone of Cyrenaica and the counts of Damman, Gabiyaha and Quena. It requires all the resources which the king and his new chancellor Isaakios Komnenos (substitute for the plague-infected Randolph) can effectively command to counter such strong opposition: gold to win support of the remaining vassals and new levies – reliable local hosts this time, and not erratic companies of adventure – to go against the rebels. When Isaakios resolves to put himself in motion again, geography determines the first target, the vital city of Napoli. With 8.000 fresh troops mustered from Lecce and Salerno, the king approaches Napoli and – outnumbering twofold Duke Charles –takes the city, forcing the magnate to abandon the rebel cause and swear back allegiance.

    The new year 1392 sees a general reversal of fortune, as the growing number of insurgents manage to threaten directly the royalist strongholds (namely Lecce, Salerno and Agrigento) while the king is engaged again on an expedition in Northern Sardinia. For several months the rebels go through Apulia and Sicily, razing and looting particularly Lecce, the capital that symbolises as nothing else the hegemony of the king. The rebels have gained so decisive a momentum that Isaakios is compelled to make a quick peace with Duke Ademar of Sardinia, exacting 500 much–needed ducats for leaving him unscathed, and return on the continent to organise a more powerful army with the vital contribution of the Dukes of Urbino and Calabria. But before the reinforcements could reach the endangered royal cities, both Agrigento (20th September) and Salerno (11th October) fall in rebel hands, with Lecce narrowly escaping the same fate one month later. But the spectacle which the capital offers to the royal relief troops is horrible: several public buildings destroyed by the besiegers’ fury, nothing but ruins everywhere, local economy in shambles.

  19. #159
    Do you think you might not be able to hold onto the throne?

  20. #160
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrell8 View Post
    Do you think you might not be able to hold onto the throne?
    I will. This is a big challenge, as several vassals are breaking free, but I will survive.

    The barons in Southern Italy and Sicily are still loyal - they have been subject to the Hautevilles for 3 centuries now, and therefore much more reliable - and contribute a lot of manpower. The problems are in Central Italy and Egypt, and here I risk to see my grip somewhat diminished.

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