Born to Breed: The Estridsen Lectures
Erik I Estridsen – the Alexandrine Crusade
arse-kicking, saracens, effiency and blessings, on force multipliers, giving the Lord a helping hand, battle-maps historical and otherwise, an anniversary, historical merit, amphibious landings, bad use of gorilla suits, baiting a trap, the trap is triggered, an unkindness of ravens, waiting for the storm, the storm, an unfortunate lack of speed, blackest defeat, opportunists emboldened, a return from the wars, a mass slaughter, letting war fund war, a glorious return, victory. Boat Anchors and runestones.
Welcome back, class.
We left Erik I as he was haring off to Alexandria, anxious to be the first Christian ruler to take up the cross and kick saracen arse in the name of God. And to get some respite from his family. Opposing him was the might of the Shia sultanate, at the time one of the mightiest realms on earth whose vast possessions were capable of fielding some five or six times the manpower of Denmark and England combined once raised by their sultan.
But it is one thing to be able to raise a huge army and quite another to wield it as an effective weapon and Erik I marched with the blessing of the Pope himself. The favour of God is as much of a force multiplier as anybody needs, but Erik I, who was no dummy, emptied the treasury to hire mercenaries to bolster the united Danish-English forces, increasing his army by a third, for he preferred giving the Lord a helping hand where possible.
Today's lecture will focus on the course of the war's progress by means of tactical battle-maps lovingly recreated in the 19th century for the 800th anniversary of the 1st crusade by order of the Danish general staff, in what can best be described as a bout of misplaced romanticism. Based primarily on wild extrapolation from a handful of primary sources and wilder guesses, it is of dubious historical merit, but it matches the few recorded dates and tell a great patriotic story of war against enemies both internal and external, and which student could reasonably ask for more?
1095 – the 1st Crusade Begins
The Danish troops deployed directly on the Egyptian coast, advance groups invading Alexandria and Al Alamayn with as much enthusiasm as Stuyvesant and Lenny beating up the town drunk, “just because”, while wearing gorilla suits over pink underwear. Don't try looking innocent – the police chief is a friend of mine and I saw the pictures. You'd be a disgrace for this institution if it still had any pride, so I guess you lucked out there. But I digress.
Invasion, April 1095
The initial landings were sufficient to draw the Shia sultanate's nearest army into responding in force, attacking the landing party in Alexandria, that they outnumbered three to one, correctly calculating that the army from Al Alayn wouldn't be able to arrive soon enough to rescue the troops in Alexandria from destruction.
Battle in Alexandria, May 20, 1095
Hardly had they engaged the few defenders, than Erik landed the third of his army, which had been kept on the ships just out of sight and the odds changed in favour of the Danes. Finally the army from Al Alamayn arrived and what had been a running battle turned into a slaughter, as the saracens were tiring and seriously outnumbered. The might of Danish chivalry charged and the dead saracens covered the desert like a gory blanket, their bodies made food for the ravens.
If ravens lived in the desert, which they don't, but it is the thought that counts.
It Is a Trap! May 29, 1095
With the destruction of the only organised saracen force in theatre attained, king Erik set out to occupy the countryside while waiting for the sultanate to call the weapontake of the realm. With his fleets patrolling the coasts, a number of small armies moving along the coast were spotted in good time and intercepted by quick landings in hostile territory.
Given the speed of communication in those days, the sultanate reacted with commendable swiftness to the invasion and the saracens grand muster began in July.
Shia Raising Troops! July 22, 1095
This had been planned for. While the battle-hardened coastal invasion army kept up swatting minor force concentrations, Erik directed a substantial army of near 3000 men to rapidly redeploy to the Sinai, where it would prevent minor contingents from the East in joining the Alexandrine battles and likewise prevent broken saracen survivors of those battles from retreating to regroup in safety.
Embark the Interdiction Force, July 30, 1095
Disembark the Interdiction Force, August 25, 1095
So far all of Erik's plans had borne fruit. Saracen casualties were a dozen times the Danish casualties all all saracen attempts to gather significant armies had been nipped in the bud. But the Shia sultanate was deep indeed and the unbelievers ever ready to fight for their false god. Gathering strength in the far reaches of Ethiopia, a new shia army was on the march for Egypt and it was only discovered at the borders of the duchy of Alexandria. Composed of hordes of light cavalry, the Danish force in Gizeh fell under immediate threat from the advancing horde in September, 1095.
Egyptian Army Gathered in the South! Sep 7, 1095
Alerted too late to the threat, the Danish army was unable to escape and set down to preparing defensive fortifications. Like an unstoppable force of nature, the Egyptian army force marched into Gizeh and caught up with the Danish army. The battle stood at Abu Rowash.
Battle of Abu Rowash! Nov 18, 1095
The outcome was a disaster – the worst disaster of king Erik's reign. When the stragglers returned to Alexandria, from which he was directing the campaign, his habitual merriment was subsumed by a black rage. It is said that he descended upon the dungeons and carried out experiments on the saracen prisoners for a full three days before resting, inaugurating many innovative interrogation techniques that remain of value in the disciplining of students of the school of hard knocks to this very day.
When news of the defeat reached England, much of the remaining English nobility rose in arms against the conqueror. Lancaster, Norfolk, and Hereford all rose, and a few opportunistic counts rose with them. With such a great threat back home, king Erik saw no choice but to immediately withdraw all forces save garrisons from Alexandria, sailing for England at maximum speed while the Company of the Rose was hired in Denmark and sent to slow the tide of rebellion, making the rebels pay for every success until reinforcements could arrive.
Battle Score Jan 4, 1096
King Erik was wroth indeed. He had left many good men to die garrisoning the Alexandrine conquests with an impossible mission: Holding out until his promised return. As he lost sight of shore he swore a mighty oath that ere the year was out, he'd return with greater numbers to avenge the fallen.
And the saracens moved in to cut up the remains.
By May 1096, the first major reinforcements arrived in England.
First Reinforcements Arrive in England, May 25, 1096
Four months of bloody warfare broke the power of the English dukes for a generation as the veterans of the crusade sacked cities and holdings straight across the country. Counties were stripped and huge ransoms set for the lives of the dukes. Norfolk was the last duke to surrender, in August 1096, and his defeat marked the end of an era. The frequent rebellions that had plagued Harald and Erik since the conquest were at an end and it would be a full two decades before any Saxon noble dared act openly against the king again.
Norfolk last rebel! Aug 27, 1096
1096 – the 1st Crusade Resumes
Flush with money from the ransoms that had beggared the saxon nobility, king Erik hired the Company of the Hat, assembled the levies once again, and set sail for Egypt.
Returning to Egypt! Sep 17, 1096
As expected, Gizeh had been reconquered by the sultanate and the sultan's troops were moving in on Alexandria itself, but they were too slow, too slow, spending time on mopping up the fortified holdings in Buhairya and Quattara. The armed might of Denmark-Norway and the remnants of four mercenary companies landed in Alexandria, relieved the garrison, and prepared to take the battle to the enemy.
Army of Vengeance. Nov 27, 1096
Marching south, the army of vengeance encountered the sultanate's main army in Buhairya, and skirmishes broke out along the line of advance.
Battle of Qasr Farfra. Dec 8, 1096
Over 18 days the armies skirmished, feinted, and fought, and in the God's will was made manifest: In the great battle of Qasr Farfra, the ignominous defeat of Abu Rowash was avenged and Erik the Merry's reputation as a warlord secured for all time. While not the most strategically brilliant or tactically adept, he stuck to his last come hell or high water, and he let nothing stop him short of victory.
VICTORY IN BATTLE! Dec 26 1096
The outcome so impressed the sultan, that he chose to succumb to the inevitable and acknowledged the sovereignty of Erik over all of Alexandria.
1st CRUSADE WON. Jan 7, 1097
With the crusade succesfully concluded, king Erik set about ordering his new distant possession. First he renamed the primary fortified castle, “Fort Dannevang”, to remind the saracens of who was the boss.
Renaming the Largest Fort in Alexandria! 1097
Then he appointed counts of Al Alamayn, Quattara, and Buhairya, keeping Alexandria for himself.
And finally, to set a duke to govern the duchy in the name of the king, a man without the imagination or inclination to rebel so far from the king's oversight, and a man he wouldn't mind living far away from the Danish court, he set his nephew Bjørn, who became Bjørn I, Boat Anchor of Alexandria.
Thus started the long and occasionally stark raving mad line of the Dukes of Alexandria.