Hello. This is my first attempt at an AAR, and possibly also my first ever forum post. I'll be writing this in a historybook style, trying to retain an overarching perspective on the whole of Iberia, rather than focusing solely on the dynastic tribulations of the characters I play, starting with King Alfonso Jimenez of Leon. This AAR turned out to be relatively war-focused, because, well - apparently that's what you spent most of your time doing if you lived in Medieval Iberia. It's also a little compact, kind of like an undergraduate-level book. Images
should be clickableare clickable in the first post. So without further ado:
Chapter 1: The late 11th century
During the late 11th century, Christian Iberia underwent a consolidation and unification that, for a large part, laid the groundwork of the later Reconquista. While King Fernando The Great fractured his realm upon his death in 1065 by dividing it amongst his sons as per the noble custom, the Kingdoms of Leon, Aragon and Galicia were to be reunited only years later.
1066 – 1084: The Reunification and expansion of Leon, Castile and Galicia under King Alfonso the Great
Chiefly responsible for this reunification was the middle child of Fernando The Great: Alfonso, himself also known later as The Great. It is widely acknowledged that he, with an unprecedented degree of cynicism and ruthlessness, arranged for the deaths of his two heirless brothers, handily returning both their royal titles to himself as early as in 1067 – effectively tripling the size of his Kingdom without raising a singly levy.
Borders of Leon, 1066
Borders of Leon, 1067
No incriminating evidence to suggest his involvement was ever found, nor did he ever claim public responsibility, and thus his rule remained legitimate. Evidence of not just his involvement, but of his engineering both deaths were uncovered by historians much later, in the form of letters containing his agents' orders; as well the personal notes of an individual thought to have filled the position of royal spymaster. Further corroborating this, some of his vassals – particularly his aunt – apparently assumed he was involved, something deducable from an interim period (1067-1068) of several civil wars, all of which King Alfonso won. The rebels – including his aunt – were stripped of lands and titles, which were then redistributed amongst his loyal followers.
As Leon grew, nearby Christian rulers chafed, and the territories of Aragon and Navarra diminished greatly. King Alfonso was in a state of constant war against Muslim rulers, both as the defender and the aggressor. However, the contribution of Capetian France in maintaining – for instance – Barcelonian independence, must not be underestimated. While Barcelona and France had no formal political alliance, the French monarchs expressed a very clear desire to keep Barcelona as a Christian buffer state against Muslim influence on its southern border. From the years 1066 to 1085, Barcelona, too, was in a near-constant state of war, defending against Muslims incursion from Iberia, North Africa and even Sicily. It seems highly unlikely that without the continued intervention of France and Leon, Barcelona would have stayed neither Christian nor independent.
When Leon was not defending itself or Barcelona from muslims, it attacked them. From 1070 King Alfonso had consolidated his position to such a degree that he could focus his efforts solely on conquest. Before 1080, Leon had absorbed the tiny Sheikdom of Albarracin. In a joint campaign during 1082-83 followed both the Emirate of Lleida and the northern portion of Zaragoza, essentially spelling the end of small, independent Muslim rulers in the northern half of Iberia.
Borders of Leon, 1083
To the south, The Emirates of Cordoba, having absorbed Valencia, and Beja dominated. Mauretania held the southern reaches of Iberia, but ruled from their base of power in North Africa. Precisely what designs King Alfonso may have had on what remained of smaller Muslim territories, or even the weakened Christian rulers, remains unknown: After being maimed in a battle during the second 1084 campaign to retain Christian Barcelona, he died sometime in June that year, at the age of 44. The Throne passed to his eldest son Fernando, who, despite being the eldest, had come of age only months before.
Pictured: Artist's rendition of Prince Fernando, some time before his coronation. Aged approximately 16.
1085 – 1100: Ascension of King Fernando II “The Bold”
The time from 1085 to 1091 marks yet another a period of uninterrupted warfare. While civil war threatened immediately after the succession, it appears the Iberian lords simply postponed internal strife until after the most recent Muslim attempt at conquest was met and thrown back. Immediately after his coronation as Fernando II, the King rushed back to the front lines in Barcelona, presumably eager to both eject the Muslims and avenge his father. This time, however, France did not intervene, and against the formidable numbers of the Moors, Leon and Barcelona's combined armies could only stem the tide temporarily. Bereft of other measures, Fernando turned to mercenaries. Their pay came chiefly from whatever gold Fernando could scrape by ransoming prisoners from previously won battles.
In a pitched battle inside Barcelona Proper, the combined armies of Leon, a mercenary company, and what was left of the Barcelonian army met with the Moorish Sultan in Battle. This is considered one of the defining moments in Iberian history – had King Fernando lost here, Christian Iberia would be broken and open to a full-scale Muslim invasion. Nearby muslim rulers counted on this, and at at least one – the Emir of Beja – began making preparations in earnest for the conquest of Leon.
However, chiefly through Fernando's excellent military acumen, the battle was won – but more importantly, the Sultan himself was captured and taken prisoner. The moors routed, King Fernando returned to Leon, now rushing to defend his homeland against the Bejan invasion, which had gone ahead despite the Sultan's defeat. The Emir of Beja had counted on the armies of Leon being depleted from the war, and in part the Emir was right. Much to his chagrin, however, Fernando's mercenaries willingly came along, providing the required numbers for quickly expelling the Beja. Predictably, the Cordoban Emirate then seized the opportunity to invade Barcelona. In an unprecedented strategical gambit, King Ferrando invaded Cordoba itself after making a detour through Barcelona, delivering a decisive blow the armies of a bewildered Emir Isma'il. In Barcelona, the combined Barcelonian and Aragonian armies proved enough to expel the broken Cordobans, who were forced to cede significant territory to Leon after the war.
Through careful Marriages, both King Alfonso and Ferrando worked to secure alliances with Monarchs who were both capable of fielding large armies, and not too far away to effectively deploy them in the event of a large-scale war. King Ferrando appears to have wasted no time in securing the formal allegiance of France. To gauge how deep the political ties between Capet and Jimenez were, one need only look to King Fernando's sisters, Princessses Nicor and Ermengarda – over the course of a few years, they married the brothers Prince Raimbaut and the young King Henri of France, respectively. Henri had ascended the Throne at the age of 19 in 1093, somehow still unmarried. As a result of these unions with the Capet House, Jimenez blood was found in almost all the great houses of Europe at some point during the middle ages.
In 1096, King Fernando enacted what can only be described as a religious and cultural purge of his domain. While earlier conquest from Muslim territories had retained their old minor nobility, mayors, and the odd Mufti (at least until their inevitable conversion), King Fernando now unseated all these muslim leaders, filling the vacant positions with uplifted Christians of his choice.
Borders of Leon, 1099
Summary of Chapter One
While King Alfonso's ploy to reunite the three major Christian kingdoms in Northern Iberia may have been morally questionable, it is hard to contest its pragmatic benefits. Tripling his territory under one banner allowed Alfonso to become the most formidable defender of Christendom in the whole of Iberia, and the French and Leonian willingness to aid the minor principalities – particularly Barcelona – in retaining their independence proved immensely valuable in halting Muslim expansion. While King Alfonso's relatively early death could have spelled the end for the period of unity and expansion, his son proved immensely capable. Rather than losing momentum, the reign of Alfonso and even the earliest portion of Fernando's reign, saw the tables turned on the Muslims. In the face of increasing military power and Fernando's “aggressive defence”, they were forced to give up territory to the Christians – a development they almost certainly had not predicted, likely slowing their response.