Chapter 52: The war against Aragon
(We're going to do another different kind of update, because it's a pretty short one. I don't like these short ones, but the next one is going to cover the rest of Francis III's "reign", and it does give me the chance to experiment a bit.)
15 October 20XX, University of Rome
The professor surveyed his class room. Most of the students looked bored, but then again, this was an introductory history course and a lot of them didn't really want to be there.
"Good afternoon, class."
The students chorused "Good afternoon, Professore."
He motioned to the projection screen, which had a slide of the infamous Treaty of Rome that saw the end of Persia as an effective threat to the Empire of Italy.
"It is clear why Emperor Francis III wanted to force Persia to recognize the dominance of Italy in Fars, but can anybody think of why Laristan, which belonged to the Timurid Empire at the time, was part of the peace treaty?"
After a few moments of silence, one student tentatively raised his hand. "Didn't Marshal de Ruyter think that war with the Timurids was inevitable, and that this would prevent another war with Persia when Italy annexed the province?"
The professor beamed. "Excellent work, Adelbert! Of course, since he is your ancestor, it is sensible that you would know so much about him. Let's move on to a forgotten little chapter in Italian history: the war with Aragon, which began in 1716."
"After the collapse of the Aragonese government, Francis III saw an opportunity to secure the border with Castille. Aragon is a very mountainous area, and with suitable fortifications, Castille would be trapped in her own peninsula. Field Marshal Benedetto Visconti personally commanded one of the invading legions, while Colonel Lafayette took command of the other. Now, if you remember, it was very unusual for Colonels to command legions, but the Emperor wanted the war over quickly."
One of the smug know-it-all students raised her hand. The professor sighed. "Yes, Arabella?"
"I read that Francis III wasn't actually Emperor, that he'd secretly abdicated in favor of his cousin Antonio and Marshal de Ruyter."
The professor chortled. "Where did you read this, girl? In a comic book?" After the students stopped laughing, the professor continued. "In all fairness to Arabella, that was a popular theory at one time in Italian history. Giuseppe, who was Prince at the time, was a very brutal and cruel ruler in Constantinople. Francis III was a very sensitive man -- there is a lot of evidence that he did try to abdicate multiple times, but it would mean Giuseppe's inheritance. The "Shadow Emperors" theory that Ms. Germanicus recalls says that the Emperor retired to a monastery and let his cousin and Marshal issue proclamations in his name. However, thorough research in Imperial archives has indicated no such document, and the monasteries open in the Empire do not show any di Farnese entering a monastery since Pietro Leopoldo."
Arabella tried to recover her pride as best she could. "What about the fire of 1716? Couldn't that have destroyed the records?"
The professor nodded. "It is possible, certainly. But in history, my girl, we must stick to the facts, and until we have conclusive proof we cannot assume that anybody other than Francis III signed those decrees. Even our best handwriting analysts have proven that the handwriting is the same."
Arabella was still a bit grumpy, but she sat down and the professor continued the lecture.
"The war against the Aragonese was no serious matter; both of their armies were routed quickly and with minimal casualties. Fewer than one hundred Italians died in the entire war."
"Aragon did have allies, of course, and many speculate that the Emperor intended on annexing Toulouse or Portugal, both of whom had answered the Aragonese call to arms."
A budding officer rose his hand. "Professore, why didn't he? Most of Portugal's troops were probably in the new world, and wasn't Toulouse a big thorn in the Empire's side."
"A great question, Marcus! The Emperor was worried about the international opinion of the Empire. He was, to be honest, very concerned about the bloodthirsty reputation the Empire had, particularly since the reign of Peter I, and actually wanted to be much more patient and expand more slowly. He probably would never have even attacked Aragon if the opportunity was not so perfect."
"Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that after this war, Italy was at peace for years. In fact, until 1741, the only conflict of any kind was a brief fight with Funj that ended largely in stalemate. The peace signed with Portugal is often called the beginning of the Empire's Golden Age, a time of self-reflection and internal growth."
At the moment, the bell rang.
"That's all class! Remember, the next exam is in two weeks. Study hard!"
Next update should be this weekend, possibly, or early next week.