Chapter 9: The Last Crusade
I was raised a catholic, but I think I lost my faith on the battlefield. Halen never prayed. He relied on himself and himself alone to win his victories. The same is not true of the rest of the world. Europe chafed when the Czar declared himself Defender of Christendom, and only a few days later all of Catholic Christendom had risen against him, intent on storming into Russia to force him to renounce the title. One of the largest wars of the century had erupted. This war was fought not over territories or dominions (not in any real sense, to be sure) but over a title - over religion - over nothing but belief, at least on its face. The press called it the Crimean War. Halen called it the Last Crusade.
In reality, I think it was a show of force. The balance of pow er in the word was disrupted by the fall of the Ottoman Empire from the ranks of the so-called Great Powers; only terrible conflict could establish a new one. The nations of the west sought to curb Russia’s expansion of influence in Turkey. This, more than religion, was why the Last Crusade was fought. To my astonishment, Halen welcomed the war (though he fell short of outright celebration). When I asked why, he said he finally had a solution. When I asked what it was he had a solution to, he said nothing.
At Halen’s command, our company left Greece for Sweden, of all places. This action puzzled me. Though most of the countries of Europe fought against Russia (including Prussia and the North German states, following their declaration of war in January 1844), Sweden was one of the very few that was neutral, and we were essentially uninvited. Nonetheless, we enlisted a small transport fleet and departed Greece in December; we arrived in Stockholm several weeks later.
Halen sought an audience with King Karl XIV Johan, who was unfortunately deathly ill. We were forced to wait until 8 March, when the old king finally passed away and his son, Oscar I, ascended to the throne of Sweden and Norway. Halen received his audience with Oscar almost immediately after the coronation.
I finally began to see Halen’s plan when I accompanied him into Stockholm Palace to meet the King. Halen had a bold proposal for Oscar: Sweden, nominally bound to Russia by economic treaties but not alliance, should break its treaties with Russia. Oscar did so, claiming that they had been the personal commitments of his father and did not hold under his new administration. When the response came back a week later that the Czar had done nothing; Halen’s plan grew bolder still.
My friend said that Sweden should declare war against Russia for the reclamation of the lost provinces of Finland, once Swedish by historical claims. Halen admitted that even under his illustrious leadership Sweden would not stand a chance against Russia (Sweden-Norway’s some 60,000 soldiers, when mobilized, to contend against Russia’s 400,000), but he further claimed that this was an opportunity without parallel. Russia’s armies were called away, engaged by a coalition of a half-dozen angry Great Powers, and Finland was theirs for the taking.
King Oscar took some convincing, but Halen’s record won him out in the end. He ordered conscription enacted to supplement Sweden’s standing forces as Halen successfully requisitioned modern muzzle-loading weapons from our French contacts. Sweden declared war against Russia in May, 1844. What followed was the most bewildering military campaign of my life.
We thundered into Finland in May, the only resistance we encountered there were a few woefully underprepared brigades of fresh conscripts which we rounded up and captured almost without firing a shot - it would not have taken a general of Halen’s skill, or indeed any skill, to do so. We spent the rest of the year in what was, in essence, the occupation of Finland and we encountered no resistance whatsoever - the Russians seemed to have deserted the region. Though the winter was decidedly harsh, the Swedish troops were prepared for it and it alone could not stop us. Halen ordered us further south, beyond the Finish borders at the dawn on 1845 and still we encountered no soldiers of the Russian army. The only soldiers we met were French sailors who manned the blockade along the Finnish and Balkan coasts. Their marines occasionally came ashore and delivered news of the rest of the war to us.
In April, Halen had grown so bold that he ordered about half the Swedish army to march to St. Petersburg under his command; he left the remainder of our forces in Finland. We reached St. Petersburg in May to my utter astonishment, there was no Russian garrison to meet us. We marched into the city unopposed. Halen dispatched various regiments to parts of the city, proceeding at the head of HO Rifles to the Czar’s Winter Palace.
There were about a hundred or so guards standing before the palace, neatly in a line. Halen approached the line with the entire brigade of his rifles - there was a brief standoff before the commander of the guard agreed to have his men stand down. I gathered that these were not the Czar’s regular guardsmen, who I doubted would have surrendered to us so easily. Halen entered the palace with myself and a contingent from the army - we searched the vast building in pairs.
We found the Czar in what seemed to be a state room (though in fairness, all rooms in the building appeared to be staterooms) - I was again shocked that he had not fled the city before our arrival. Halen and I entered the room, which had perhaps a few dozen of the Czar’s court and other attendants and only a pair of Russian soldiers who we had captured and disarmed. Halen ordered all of the Russians but the Czar to leave the room; his Rifles cleared them and left us alone with the Emperor of All Russians.
Czar Nicholas I demanded to know our names and the meaning for our impudence.
Halen simply replied, “Halen.” He then introduced me and said that we were here as representatives of the Swedish army, having captured St. Petersburg and that the Czar was now in our power as our prisoner. Nicholas refused to believe this until Halen took him to a window in a neighboring room and showed us the thousands of our soldiers who had congregated outside the Winter Palace, bearing Swedish banners.
The Czar shook his head, asking how we had gotten to St. Petersburg; Halen replied that we had occupied Finland over the course of the last year and from there had marched to St. Petersburg; the Czar replied that he had received no reports of combat from Russian units in Finland and had thus assumed that there had been no movement on the front, suggesting that we might have stopped our advance for the winter. Halen replied that there were no Russian units in Finland, saving those few conscripts we had rounded up in the first days of the war.
The interview was equal parts disbelief and outrage from the Czar, perhaps understandably so, but we eventually were able to convey to him that he had lost the war and was now a prisoner in his own palace. Halen insisted that the Czar immediately sign a peace treaty not only releasing the territories of Finland back to Sweden but also renouncing the title of Defender of Christendom. The Czar resisted both suggestions initially, but once Halen assured him that the title would not go to his hated enemies in Germany (who he believed had betrayed the principles of the Holy Alliance, laid down by his father), he relented and we rapidly drafted a peace treaty.
Some said that Halen had brought the world to war when he snubbed the Ottomans in Greece; all now agreed that he had brought Europe to peace when he marched into St. Petersburg. We returned to Stockholm heroes (though we had done virtually no fighting), where King Oscar of Sweden-Norway declared Halen the liberator of Finland and named him a Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim, Sweden’s highest honor. Bizarrely, Halen was also later invited to a ceremony in Vienna where Emperor Ferdinand I awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold, an Austrian honor of tremendous gravity. I do not know to this day why Ferdinand decided to give Halen the honor. Supposedly it was for ending the war in the coalition’s favor, since Austria had borne the brunt of allied casualties, but I think it was really to curry influence with Halen, who the Emperor had correctly recognized as a powerful force in Europe.
Halen would remain in Sweden for roughly another year, overseeing the Swedish military in name, but in practice moderating negotiations between Sweden and Denmark. Halen’s plan to ensure Danish claims in Europe came to fruition in 1846 when he suggested a union of Denmark and Sweden. Halen had consulted neither King Oscar of Sweden nor King Christian of Denmark before proposing this to both, and both were somewhat reluctant initially, but such was Halen’s influence in both kingdoms that they agreed to the proposition. Though both bloodlines were already deeply intertwined, neither family had marriageable daughters (Princess Eugenie, the only unmarried woman of either family and King Oscar’s daughter, was deemed too unwell to marry). King Christian’s only son, Frederick VII, was in fact sterile and the line in danger of ending.
The two kings eventually arranged the existence of a dual monarchy between their two countries until the end of the Danish Oldenburg line, at which time the crown of Denmark would pass back to Sweden. The United Kingdoms of Scandavia came into being on the 23rd of November, 1846. As per their agreement, the Kingdoms existed under the dual leadership of both houses until the death of Frederick VII in 1863, at which point the monarchies were unified under Sweden. The combined forces of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Holstein could field nearly 140,000 soldiers, enough to give even Prussia pause.
As for the title of Defender of Christendom, Halen’s treaty stipulated only that Russia should abandon it and not who should receive it. There was another internal diplomatic struggle between Prussia, Austria, and France for the title - in the end, Austria emerged as the strongest claimant but the Pope refused to grant it to the Empire. Thus, following the Crimean War, there was no Defender of Christendom.
Unbeknownst to us, the Crimean War had diminished British influence with the Sublime Porte to nonexistent in favor of the Turks’ allies in the war, whereas previous the British had the most influential foreign power in the Ottoman Empire. They had proposed to negotiate a peace treaty and thusly regain their clout, but Halen’s upset victory ended this proposal. It was the fourth time Halen crossed the British.
The Great Powers would retreat to their separate corners to fume over these perceived injustices until just a little over one year later, when the Springtime of Nations drove the question of titles or influence from their minds.
Halen's Personal Information:
Followers: ~6000 (1 brigade of guards, 1 brigade of artillery)
Title and Honors: Protector of Denmark, Liberator of Belgium and Finland, Grand Croix Legion of Honor (France), Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer (Greece), Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold (Austria), Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (Scandavia)
Danish-Holstein Campaign (1836-1839)
Belgian Campaign (1839-1840)
Greek Campaign (1841-1843)
Finnish Campaign (1844-1845)
Before I forget, I didn’t know that Hest was Danish for horse, coola567. Sorry, I don’t speak Danish.
This military campaign was one of the weirdest I’ve played in Vic2. The Russians didn’t send any troops to stop Sweden during the entire campaign.