Els Ducs de Barcelona - a House of Barcelona AAR
Note: This is my first attempt at an AAR. My goal is to try and emulate the historic rise of the Crowns of Aragon from the Catalan perspective, as they were the dominant force that enabled the confederation to span the Mediterranean at its height. Where the Aragonese-Catalan empire crumbled soon after it emerged, I will try to maintain it to the end of the game. Beyond Iberia, the Crowns included at one time or another the following territories: Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, the Kingdom of Naples, and the Duchy of Athens. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Crowns attempted to incorporate the Duchies of Toulouse and Provence as well, but they were unsuccessful. I'll see if I can change that. If I get absolutely demolished, then I'll just follow the House of Barcelona and see where it ends up.
Chapter I - Origins
Ramon Berenguer I acquainting the Moor with St. George
The year is 1066. The Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer I el Vell de Barcelona, has returned victorious from a series of campaigns against the Moors of al-Andalus. He stands as the strongest count in what is known as La Marca Hispanica, a frontier region originally created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslims out of France.
La Marca Hispanica, with Catalunya in Orange
For two and a half centuries now the counts of the march have weathered Moorish attacks, benefitting from their strategic positions amongst the Pyrenees. Most have had to live hermit-like existences in their mountaintop castles, but over time they have pushed out into the valleys to the south. While the County of Barcelona emerged early on as a leader of the region, it has had to suffer sackings and defeats that have kept its power in check. The counts wage glorious holy war as God wills, but it certainly hasn't been profitable.
Ramon's latest reconquests of a number of towns near Lleida, however, have finally provided him with a fortune. He uses these new found riches to institute a true feudal system in both his county and those of his neighbors among the eastern Pyrenees. It is a region that is just beginning to blossom with its own culture and identity, giving new life to a land torn by centuries of death and destruction. It is called Catalunya.
Forgotten about by their former liege the King of France for a century now, the Catalans have become used to fending for themselves. Catalunya remains largely isolated from the other Christian kingdoms in Iberia, having only limited contact with the battered Aragonese and Navarran kingdoms in the western Pyrenees. Many Catalans have ties to the Occitanians of southern France, but that region has proved too involved in its own disputes to offer their defenders any aid.
That Catalunya has endured as its own independent realm this far is impressive. Outside of the city of Barcelona and the castles dotting the mountain range, its society almost entirely consists of small family-based farms producing little more than subsistence. But now, with the reconquests of Ramon Berenguer I, the people of Catalunya have reached a turning point.
Ramon offering vassalization to his fellow counts
The political and administrative machinery of the feudal system is in place, and Berenguer’s neighboring counts have sworn fealty to him as his vassals. The dream of Guifre el Pilos de Barcelona, the legend of Catalunya who inspired the Catalan coat of arms and from whom Count Ramon is descended, has finally been realized.
The Frankish king Charles the Bald uses the blood from Guifre's wounds to paint the House of Barcelona coat of arms (so the legend goes)
Of course, this wouldn’t be the Middle Ages without family issues threatening to cause a rift in the newly created duchy of Barcelona. Count Ramon, now Duke Ramon, is deeply in love with his third wife, the Frankish Almodis de la Marche. Together they have had five children; three sons and two daughters. His oldest sons are the twins Ramon Berenguer II and Berenguer Ramon, and he would like nothing more than to pass his realm onto them after his death.
Ramon Berenguer I, his wife Almodis de la Marche, and their children
But neither of them are the rightful heir; that honor belongs to the sole child of his first marriage with the long deceased Isabelle of Gascogne, Pere. Ramon’s affection for the twins is clear to Pere, who grows increasingly estranged from his father. The duke's courtiers are beginning to take his side, as they find Almodis' history troubling. Not only was she divorced by her first husband Hugh V of Lusignan, but she abandoned her second husband Pons of Toulouse in order to marry Duke Ramon. Add that to the fact that her son Hugh VI of Lusignan is now known as "the devil" to his own clergymen, and Almodis seems very sinful indeed.
When Pere comes to demand a holding of his own, Ramon responds by telling him to go out and conquer one from the Moors. If he can win a reconquest campaign against the Muslims, he shall have proven himself to the duke.
War is declared on the neighboring Sheikh of Lleida, and Duke Ramon raises his personal levies from Barcelona and Osona. Pere is given command of the main force, but as the duke watches his first son march out the gates of Barcelona’s castle, he secretly hopes to never see him return.