Galling the gleaned land with hot assays,
Girding with grievous siege castles and towns
In order to understand the events in Edirne during the spring of 1490, some explanation of the prior war's difficulties is necessary.
The 1475-1486 Ottoman Jihad against Moldavia had been no easier on the Turks than it was on the Austrians; though successful, the effort consumed a vast amount of lives and treasure. Hot on its heels came war with Castile and Burgundy—a mere 20 days after the cessation of hostilities with the Austrians. Followed, of course, by a succession of crusades by most of western and central Europe. The many wars drained the sultan's coffers, so the Ottoman bureaucracy sought to reduce army expenses by requiring each wāli (provincial governor) to pay the cost of his own garrison.
This was a dangerous formula for soldiers, governors and ordinary subjects alike. Sometimes a wāli would hold office too briefly—or be deposed—so that his retainers and garrison found themselves unemployed and unpaid. Soldiers in this position sometimes turned to robbery and brigandage, supporting themselves by preying on the lower classes. Meanwhile, the craftier governors simply passed on the garrison costs by levying illegal ad hoc taxes on the peasantry.
Compounding the peasants' aggravation was the fact that janissaries and other high-status slaves (known as Kapıkulu) in the military establishment were tax-exempt. This made them an object of envy and enmity to both peasants and lower-ranking soldiers. The end result is an explosive mix—a resentful populace labouring under confiscatory levels of taxation, preyed upon by powerful bandits, and ruled by an aristocracy disinclined to address either complaint.
THE CELÂLI REVOLT
The Army of Egypt's sudden arrival in Edirne causes much anxiety amongst the English leadership; in fact, Sultan Cihangir's prediction of William's reaction is nothing if not accurate. English commanders are in favour of combining forces for an attack, but William obstinately refuses to abandon his two remaining sieges. The King-Emperor will not risk any other power—allied or otherwise—gaining a foothold in Greece itself. Meanwhile, the Benbows can do nothing but grumble to each other via courier, and prepare their meagre forces for the inevitable Turkish onslaught.
Which rather miraculously fails to materialise.
The population of Edirne is not exactly glad to live under Anglo-Greek occupation, but it is at least spared the devşirme (or "tribute in blood") and taxed at a lesser rate. When Sultan Cihangir enters the province in late May of 1490, popular joy at the prospect of liberation soon turns ugly. In Turkish-held towns, the high taxes of the old Ottoman regime are quickly reimposed, sparking a revolt. A local religious leader, Şeyh Celâl (Sheikh Jelal) leads some 8,000 discontented peasants, townsmen and ex-sipahi to the sultan's encampment at Edessa, demanding civil reform. (Eight thousand Ottoman peasant revolters appear in Edirne.)
On May 29th the two sides meet to negotiate at a spot between the armies, but the meeting does not go according to plan. Sheikh Jelal is belligerent to Cihangir's officials, and in the ensuing dispute Jelal—according to Ottoman chroniclers—draws a dagger. He is instantly cut down by quick-thinking janissaries, but the rebel army—seeing their leader surrounded and subdued by the sultan's entourage—is enraged. The janissaries do their best to get Cihangir and senior officials back to the main body of troops, but in the ensuing mêlée, determined Jelali rebels surround the 54-year-old sultan and pull him from his horse. Driven by blind fury, the opposing armies rush to engage each other in disorganised hand-to-hand brawling—disobeying the shouted orders and instructions of their more sober-headed commanders. (Ottoman Empire loses 1 point of stability for monarch death in combat; currently -2 stability.)
Critically, some nazır and ağa (the army's senior administrative and ceremonial officers) are also captured and executed by Jelali rebels. Leaderless and caught up in the chaos of battle, the Ottoman army has no focus; despite superior numbers and weapons, it cannot gain any advantage over the rebels—a condition worsened by the defection of some provincial auxiliaries to the rebel cause. Eventually some junior officers are able to reassert control over their men; rather than stay and risk further losses, the demoralised army retreats northeast toward Varna.
In the coming weeks, all three of the sultan's legitimate sons will die in suspicious circumstances—undoubtedly due to vicious intrigue and infighting in the Divan. Rumours credit Cihangir's talented and ambitious brother Selim; once governor of the remote province of Muş, now sultan in his own right.
Through no effort of his own, William's stubborn refusal to budge has paid off. And as if Providence were signalling its blessing, Thessalonica surrenders to Benbow the Younger on June 16th. Baron Strange will remain there (on William's orders) to rest his army and make preparations to tackle the Jelali rebels sieging Adrianople.
The Ottoman Empire is not the only combatant beset by rebellion.
After the breaking of the truce with Turkey, the fabric of Austria's civil harmony has been shredded. For better or worse, Emperor Franz I judged it important to retain England as an ally—but entering another Ottoman war quickly makes him every bit as unpopular as his Ascanian predecessor. (Austrian stability is -3.) Just as they did before, the peasantry takes up arms; along with janissaries in Turkey, the Emperor will have to confront three separate revolts at home.
The Emperor's decision to war against the Turks so soon after signing a truce was highly unpopular.
Under pressure from Russian armies fighting in the Serbian Crusade, the Khanate of Kazan abandons their Turkish allies and offers a peace status quo ante bellum. The Ottomans will have to fight on alone.
COWARDS DIE MANY TIMES BEFORE THEIR DEATHS;
THE VALIANT NEVER TASTE OF DEATH BUT ONCE
In the middle of January, the English siege of Philippopolis is briefly joined by a Serbian army (numbering 8,000 men) led by Despot Đurađ II Branković. William is patiently waiting for his engineers and miners to fatally weaken the city walls, but Đurađ is hungry for battle, not bargaining chips for peace negotiations. The Serbian despot soon tires of siegework drudgery, and resolves to battle the Army of Egypt in the neighbouring province of Burgas. William's appeals to wait for English reinforcements fall on deaf ears, and the Serbians march out on the 20th. The king cannot help but feel guilty; these men march toward certain death, while he plots sieges and negotiating-table advantage. Certainly their sacrifice will keep the Turks away from Anglo-Greek forces.
For several nights after their departure, William's sleep is haunted by nightmarish visions. Đurađ and his 8,000 men slain, the field littered with broken and battered corpses. Mighty waves of Turkish janissaries rolling westward, overwhelming the smaller English sieges. The Austrian Emperor marching southeast from the siege of Sofia, but arriving too late; the defeated Franz is impaled on a pike along with the parchment of his broken treaty. Death for William and Henry, yes; perhaps even a glorious one—but to what end? England, Greece, Serbia and Austria stripped of rulers and heirs, ripe for the plucking of villainous rivals...
Philippopolis surrenders to William on the 30th—the same day that another large Serbian force arrives from the northwest, seeking news of their liege. Upon being told that Đurađ has moved to attack the Turks with an inferior force, they too march east toward Varna. Battles with the Ottomans were supposed to be a job for the Benbows, but their forces are now in the rear, and William's army is closest to the enemy. With no tangible reason to avoid engaging the Turks any longer, the king marches east.
THE BATTLE OF VARNA
Approaching Varna, the road becomes littered with the detritus of passing armies. Traces of gallóglaigh light mail left by the Earl of Derby's siege force; broken bows and javelins once used by Cuman and Vlach Bulgarian rebels; dented and cracked zirh külah helmets commonly worn by Turks; bits and pieces of German and Italian armours imported by wealthy Serb aristocrats.
Skirmishes begin in late February, as the advancing English and Serbian columns make contact with outlying elements of the Ottoman army. On March 16th, the bulk of the armies meet northwest of the city; the English are surprised and astounded to learn that Đurađ II Branković is still alive, though his original force of 8,000 has been surrounded and badly mauled by the enemy.
The arriving Serbs immediately join the fray to relieve their beleaguered sovereign, eliminating the opportunity for carefully considered battle planning. William and his men effectively fight as Serbian auxiliaries and not as a cohesive force of their own. The traditional English formation of footmen and archers in the centre with cavalry on the flanks—used since the 1066 Battle of Hastings—is abandoned. As the Serbian line surges forward, whatever troops are readily at hand are used to fill in the gaps.
The battle is fiercely fought, halting only with the arrival of sunset. Casualties are so heavy amongst the Serbs and Turks that each thinks themselves the defeated—until the Ottomans begin withdrawing the following day. With their backs to the sea, the Turks have nowhere to go but westward toward Philippopolis.
English casualties are roughly 1,100 of 5,200 combatants. The toll amongst the Serbs is much higher (almost 6,900 men); Turkish losses are 8,400.
History will rightly credit the Despot of Serbia, Đurađ II Branković, with blunting the renewed Ottoman offensive in the Balkans.
On the same day as the Battle of Varna, Baron Strange Stephen Benbow effortlessly disperses the Jelali peasant revolt in Edirne. English losses are light, while virtually all of the remaining rebels are apprehended. Apprised of the Turks' movement by William's messengers, Benbow the Younger wheels his army north to meet them.
William also marches west to relieve Philippopolis; having just captured it the previous month, he's in no mood to see the Ottomans reverse his work so quickly.
On April 12th, William III, Benbow the Younger and a Serbian contingent capture the remainder of the demoralised Ottoman army. It is the effective end of Turkish resistance in Greece and Bulgaria.
By May of 1491 the Grand Crusade has made serious progress in the western half of the Ottoman Empire: all of the Turks' European provinces have been occupied, and armies are pushing eastward into Asia Minor. The Castilians hold Corfu, Epirus and Budjak; the Danish have invested Silistria and Circassia; Russians have landed in Kastamon; and Dutch, Cypriot and Serbian armies have landed in Antalya. Meanwhile, the Timurids have occupied almost everything east of Angora. Rebels are attempting to seize Konya and Karaman; the only province that is undisputedly still in Ottoman hands is Angora itself.
Back in Europe, the Queen Regent's continuance of her husband's commerce-encouraging policies pays dividends for producers of wool and textiles. Which in turn provides a boost to domestic tax revenues.
In the summer of 1491, half of the additional 12,000 footsoldiers called up by the Queen Regent arrive in Constantinople. They are soon dispatched to siege Karaman and disperse 5,000 Ottoman peasants revolting there. The expedition also leads to the first tentative contact between England and the Timurid empire, as scouting parties from both armies meet on July 16th. The meeting bears little fruit, however, as the scouts can not effectively communicate with each other.
The Timurid culture is a hybrid of Turkish, Mongol and Persian roots, with significant Islamic influences. Since they share more in common with the Osmanic Turks than Catholic Europeans, and there is no shared language by which English and Timurid leaders might communicate, William is concerned that skirmishes might erupt along the shared frontier. The allied advance is instructed not to proceed beyond a north-south axis running from Kastamon through Angora to Karamon—at least until the intentions and goodwill of the Timurids can be ascertained.
In the end, William's cautious approach is pre-empted by events. Just three days after the surprised scouting parties have puzzled over how to make themselves understood to the other, the Timurids reach a peace settlement with the Turks. Sultan Selim I Osmanli agrees to release the Candaroğlu Beylik in northern Anatolia as an independent state.
The Timurid withdrawal creates an opening for other European powers, who were once skeptical of the crusade but have since become convinced of its ultimate success. On September 13th, Poland, Magdeburg and Mecklenburg declare their own crusade against the Ottoman Empire.
Thereafter the crusade becomes an exercise in siege management; for lengthy efforts, rotating fresh troops in while permitting the weary veterans to depart for rest and refreshment in Greece. Most Turkish towns are tired of war and hold out for only a few months at best. Angora and Trebizond surrender in late February of 1492, after sieges of less than four months.
Several months before William and his eldest son are scheduled for leave in Greece, the king takes the precaution of having the Princess of Wales summoned to Constantinople. After three years of campaigning in mostly male company, the prince is sure to find female companionship irresistible. Better that the first woman Henry encounters on leave should be his wife.
In William's case, no such conjugal consideration is possible. As Queen Regent, Eleanor is required to remain in England. William's main comfort is that he has at least done his duty; he is the first Lancastrian emperor to actually lead the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire in the field.
There are other comforts, too. In the Aegean, the patriot rebellions in the islands of Euboea and Naxos are overwhelmingly successful. Soon the local rebel leaders petition William to be recognised as provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.
MUNUS A MANU
Simony is the crime of paying for sacraments, holy offices or positions with the church; the term comes to us from the example of one Simon Magus, described in the Práxeis tōn Apostólōn (Acts of the Apostles), chapter 8, verses 9-24. In the Late Medieval Era this practice is not uncommon, especially amongst the greedier members of the clergy and nobility.
Due to his incessant wars Pope Celestine VI is invariably short of money. In the seven years of his reign, he has all but institutionalised simony within the Papal Curia. New titles and offices are routinely created, and existing but vacant ones are discreetly auctioned to worthy bidders.
In one famous example, the Pope arranges the marriage of his youngest son Gioffre to the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Lorraine. In return, the duke's other illegitimate child—a thirteen-year-old son—receives a cardinal's hat and is nominated by Rome to fill the recently vacated Bishopric of Cambray.
The Palace of Westminster is aghast; both the Queen Regent and Archbishop of Canterbury have their own candidate in mind, but a visit from a papal legate makes it clear that they must accept Rome's preference or lose fellowship with the church. A strongly-worded communication from the queen does little to remedy the complaint, but does gather limited support in foreign courts.
(I am puzzled by the notation of "The Antipope" in the button's description, because there is no Antipope extant. Or if there is, he has not taken possession of anyone's province. Nor is the "Schism" modifier assigned to the present Curia controller.)
Providence does answer London's prayers in another fashion, however, as Pope Celestine VI will die of natural causes in October of 1492. The conclave following Celestine's death will witness a full year of bitter infighting and acrimony before electing his successor, Pope Alexander VII.
Aided by the local populace's frustration with years of war and privation, the Grand Crusade's siege efforts in Asia Minor have been remarkably successful. Additionally, several small armies of poorly-trained Turkish provincials had been levied by the new sultan, but none had much of a chance against the enormous numbers of European knights and footmen now present in the country. By late spring of 1492, the only two provinces whose garrisons have not capitulated are Bithynia and Selim's old stronghold of Muş.
With complete victory all but assured, ambassadors begin arriving in Constantinople to discuss terms and concessions to be extracted from the defeated. What is immediately certain is that none of the other Catholic princes have any desire to see England in command of a fully restored Byzantine Empire. The Greek magnates, naturally, want as much reclaimed territory as possible for themselves. William is partial to seizing both sides of the Hellespont, thus ensuring that all transit taxes get paid to Byzantine coffers. Ideally the King-Emperor would also like to keep Corfu and Epirus out of Castilian hands—though that decision is not his to make.
On the matter of Castilian gains, William is bound to be disappointed. The goals of Juana de Trastámara are realised on the first of September, when the Ottomans cede Corfu and pay indemnities. Castile finally has a presence in the eastern Mediterranean, a useful counterweight to English-held Malta.
The Castilian armies leaving Epirus are quickly replaced by Byzantine armies, who are looking to recapture another long-lost territory.
By mid-September it is clear that the Anglo-Greek armies are capable of maintaining the sieges and occupation garrisons without foreign assistance, so some of the smaller allies begin negotiating an end to hostilities. (Ottoman Empire agrees to white peace with Cyprus.)
In the Late Middle Ages, England's wool trade was an important source of revenue to both merchants and Crown; but like all commerce it could be disrupted by war, weather, excessive greed, ill fortune, and bureaucratic interference. To help regularise trade and smooth over potential impediments, the Lancaster dynasties of England and Burgundy—northern Europe's key textile producers—sought a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Intercursus Magnus ("Great Intercourse") of 1494 contained many elaborate commercial clauses specifying the dues and customs that could be levied, but otherwise required the parties to promote trade and avoid potential disputes .
The treaty also created many detailed regulations about maritime jurisdiction—regarding piracy, shipwreck, fisheries, contraband and carrying arms, treatment of debtors, scrutiny of cargo and carriage of bullion. It cemented the importance of trade in national policy, and was the genesis of much subsequent maritime practice.
Parliament seems pleased by the Queen Regent's shrewd effort (event "Reactions to our New Policy", gain 1.00 prestige). Within a few months the treaty will also welcome new signatories, including the commercial powers of Venice, Florence, the Netherlands, and the Hanseatic League.
Despite the now-inevitable victory of the Grand Crusade, such triumph comes at a considerable cost. Throughout Europe there are tens of thousands of families in mourning; wives who will never again embrace a beloved husband; children who cannot yet comprehend the eternal absence of their fathers; parents grieving cherished memories, hopes and dreams along with slain sons.
Nobility and wealth are no insulation to the depredations of war, as the Earl of Derby discovers in the autumn. On October 13th his son Stephen—commanding the English contingent at the Dutch-led siege of Muş—is felled by an outbreak of dysentery in the allied camp.
Benbow the Younger, along with several other allied noblemen, will be interred in a Catholic mausoleum in Constantinople.
The Intercursus Magnus is very popular with the major merchant companies in London, who profit handsomely from the standardised trading practices. With the addition of reciprocal agreements with Venice and Florence, the number of Anglo-Greek merchantmen plying the Mediterranean rises significantly.
Unfortunately, the enormous amount of commercial and naval traffic passing through the Straits of Gibraltar soon proves irresistible to the Barbary corsairs.
During her two month voyage back to England, the Princess of Wales had been violently afflicted with seasickness. But at Christina's disembarkation in London, her distended belly hints at the true cause; she and Henry had finally conceived a child.
On April 8th, 1493, the princess gives birth to a healthy baby girl, named Elizabeth.
NU VI STÅR TRE BRØDRE SAMMEN
In the besieged city of Muş, the surviving members of the Ottoman Divan counsel the Sultan to make peace with those crusaders that will accept it. England and Byzantium seem bent on extracting extreme concessions, but other nations should accept more modest prizes.
By November of 1493, the Turks have negotiated a peace with Denmark, agreeing to cede the province of Silistria and pay indemnities. (As the Danes withdraw, Portugal will attempt to reimpose crusader occupation on Budjak and Circassia.) The Turks also manage to secure a peace status quo ante bellum with the Poles, thereby neutralising another significant adversary.
The Danes' Crusade has delivered glory, prestige and a nice Black Sea port into the hands of King Frederik. More importantly, it has knit the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish people together in the undertaking of a great enterprise, and fostered an enduring sense of Nordic unity.
Just twenty-four days after peace with the Turks, the Danish Rigsraadet, Nowegian Riksrådet, and Swedish Riksråd ratify acts of union creating the Kingdom of Scandinavia.
As a mark of esteem for the English crown's steadfast support of the Hanseatic League, a kontor is created in the town of Liverpool, within the Duchy of Lancaster.
ENGLAND c. 1494
William III Lancaster
By the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland and France and Lord of Ireland
True Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine
~ Burgundy (Duke Henri III Lancaster-Valois-Bourgogne)
~ Cyprus (Basilissa Charlotte I Lancaster-Lusignan)
~ Lüneburg (Duke Friedrich III Lancaster-Brunswick-Lüneburg)
Treasury: £21.2 million (212m ducats)
GDP (estimated): £122.68 million (1,226.8m ducats)
Domestic CoTs: London £39.79 million (397.95m ducats), Constantinople £24.66 million (246.60m ducats)
Army: 12,000 Knights (Chevauchée), 36,000 Gallóglaigh
Reserves (potential levies): 10,932
Navy: 24 Carracks, 24 Pinnaces, 21 Cogs
Tradition: Army 23.10% Navy 9.50%
Prestige: Fifty-sixth (15.50)
Reputation: Respectable (0.59/15.00)
 The actual Intercursus Magnus was signed in 1496 and in addition to its maritime and trade regulations, also required England and Burgundy to cease supporting rebels and pretenders in each other's realms. It was later followed by a supplementary Intercursus Malus ("Evil Intercourse") in 1506, which allowed English cloth to be sold duty-free in the Burgundian Netherlands. The Burgundian duke died before the 1506 supplement could be ratified, so trade provisions reverted to the 1496 agreement under his successor.