The Empire of the North
The Union of the North (1492-1514)
January 2, 1492.
Am I dreaming? Just yesterday I was appointed High Chancellor of Denmark-norway. The applause of the Nobles was loud on that wonderful ice-cold morning when the King handed me my regalia of office. With good cause too - our triumph over the King is complete. We had bound King Hans by the strictest of charters when he ascended the throne in 1481, but he refused to follow our ultimatum. His attempts to take away our privileges by giving the posts that rightly belonged to our class to non-Nobles was an insult to us and my clan had succeeded in keeping the nobles of Norway and Denmark united. In a bloody and swift revolt we defeated the King's army - a revolt in which I played some small part. We had briefly considered placing his brother Frederick on the throne, but too many nobles opposed this to make it practical. Our compromise solution had been to curtail the King's power even more, to the benefit of the Rigsråd and the High Chancellor. The nobles wanted my father as Chancellor, but instead he had stepped down and proposed myself. A surprising choice - some considered me too young, though I had distinguished myself in the revolt as an able leader. Many opposed us, but our clan is powerful - too powerful, some say. And here I am. High Chancellor of the United Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway.
February 15, 1492
That wily Swede, Sten Sture, refuses to put down his regency and let King Hans be crowned King of Sweden. The nobles are restive; fearful of the power accruing to my family. The King and the rich merchants are conspiring against the privileges of the aristocracy.
'Externus timor maximum concordiae vinculum'.
Nothing causes unity like fear of the external. What we need is a short victorious war against some creditable enemy, which can unite the nation. I have my eye on the Hanseatic League. After the recent civil war, our army is large - a whopping 45,000 men while the Hanseatic army is barely 10,000. The lands we'll be able to disburse after our victory will calm the restive nobles; the merchants will thank me for getting rid of their deathly rivals in the League, and the King will be pleased when we drive his brother out of Holstein. The League is busy fortifying its provinces - if we play this properly it should be no problem to make this seem a threat to our hegemony.
July 1, 1492
It is done. This morning the first troops marched across the borders into Holstein, while troops ent ashore from the Danish fleet into Western Pommerania. Soon all the major cities of the League will be under siege. As I expected, the nobles and the merchants are behind us - there have been no signs of dissension for weeks.
September 12, 1492
The Hanseatic armies are destroyed. All of the League is now under the iron grip of our armies. The money-grubbing merchants are working frantically at their fortresses, but it will avail them not at all. Last month I spoke with some traders from Venice who told me some wonderful tales about the great deserts beyond the lands of the Turks.
February 12, 1493
My second year in office has started out on a most promising note. We have signed an alliance with Russia - Sten Sture must be gnashing his teeth over in Stockholm. Holstein is fallen, and Frederick has sought refuge with Jan Olbracht in Poland. Mecklenburg and Bremen are close to surrender. The war is as good as done. The Russians immediately declare war on some far-off barbaric Kingdom called Kazan. We agree to support them - after we have dealt with the League.
October 21, 1493
Have just returned from Mecklenburg, where I received the unconditional surrender of the League. My position as Chancellor is secure - there won't be anyone who dares lift a finger against me for some time to come.
June 9, 1495
Welcome news. Jan Olbracht of Poland, supported by England, Milan and Lorraine have just declared war on the Turks, so the rebels in the Hanseatic League can expect no support from that quarter. Welcome news indeed. And Saxony have agreed to a union of marriage between a Saxon princess and Prince Christian.
April 1, 1498
Finally that Swedish incumbent, Steen Sture, has been forced to relinquish his regency and crown King Hans in Stockholm. The Union of Kalmar is complete again. The Rus have given up their war against Kazan, returning to the status quo.
December 4, 1500
Turkey has surrendered, ceding Byak to the Poles. The weight of numbers was too great against them, and now the Polish arms are free to turn North again. Yesterday I suggested to the King that we double th army, to preempt any Polish attacks. He agreed, and this morning I took out loans to the tune of 1000d. Our forges are busy - 150 cannon will take a considerable time to finish.
April 1, 1501
King Henry VII of England was so pleased by the marvelous gem box I sent him last month, that he has agreed to share the secrets of their seafarers. Tonight I shall speak with Sir J. Cabot, one of the great English explorers.
April 2, 1501
Ouch. What a night. What a hangover. What tales Sir Cabot told us. He even offered me a drink of some sparkling water he claimed came from some spring on the new continent. It tasted strange - more strange than anything else I've ever drunk. But at the same time incredibly invigorating. I don't know when I last succeeded in drinking the King under the table. I need some sleep.
April 8, 1501
My hand is still shaking from the severe fever that has me in its grip. The water that Sir Cabot offered me must have been poisoned; I have lain abed for the past seven days. The scoundrel has already eloped back to his despicable master. But whose plot was it? While I have been abed, King Hans has declared war on Sweden. The nobles are in an uproar over the matter, the Kingdom's stability has hit rock-bottom, and is only one step removed from open revolt. The King claims that Steen Sture was plotting to usurp his throne - certainly the old devil has arisen again and now directs the enemy armies against us. Damn Cabot.
July 2, 1501
Cabot's plot has failed and the man himself dissappeared, lost at sea according to our spies. My fever broke after 4 weeks, and I am now feeling better than ever. I leave for Norway tommorrow, to guide our troops to victory over the Swedish forces besieging Skaane.
November 15, 1501
Our luck could not be worse, as winter has struck early this year. Our armies starve in the wilds, but General Winter shall not save the Swedes. My father died in the siege at Vesterbotten - I shall miss his sage advice. At least our Russian allies are pulling their weight and have conquored Karelia and are now besieging Nyland. If only it wasn't so cold...
July 19, 1502
The Teutonic Order has seized the opportunity while I was busy in Sweden to attack and annex Pskov. For now, all we can do is send our strongests protests at this attack on a sovereign state.
November 2, 1502
It is over. This evening Stockholm fell, and with it all Swedish hopes of victory. It is time to heal the wounds of the past - we will dismantly the Kalmar Union. Swedes and Norwegians will henceforth be permitted equal rights in the Rigsrådet. The King demurs, but he does not have the power to prevent this - and I have the support of all the pro-union Swedish and Norwegian nobles to face down any opposition from the Danish nobles. It will be. But first we will have to buy off Ivan III of Russia, and he will settle for nothing less than Karelia and Nyland.
Well, so be it. Scandinavia must have peace, even if Nyland must be sacrificed.
January 1, 1502
The victory parade is just over, as 22,000 cavalry, 75,000 infantry, 144 cannon have rolled past on the boulevards outside the palace, while 50 warships and 26 transports saluted the city from the harbor. I can rest - for a while, though I know the period of reconstruction over the next few years will take its time. Fortresses will have to be upgraded, Tax collectors put into place, the inevitable revolts by the unelightened put down. But even should I die tommorrow, I have succeeded in my task - to make Denmark the greatest nation in the North.
May 15, 1511
What a surprise, this afternoon to rediscover these notes. 9 years - has time truly passed so quickly? King Hans still sits on the throne, with myself as his trusty right hand. He has become mellowed with age, and we get along better in these days than we did in my youth. And I - I have not aged. People have begun remarking on it, the way I haven't changed at all during the past 10 years. Not since that spring evening, when Sir Cabot gave me some water from some spring in the New World. What was in that water, I wonder? And why would Sir Cabot have given the drink to me? As yet however, there is only talk.
Denmark is at peace, and our staggering debts have been paid off during the past 10 years. Europe has been mostly at peace, only Turkey and Hungary engaging in an 8-year war that ended in Hungarian victory when the annexed Bosnia. In the new world, the Spanish conquored a province from some barbarian tribe called the Aztecs, while fighting another tribe called the Incas to a standstill.
I must return to my work; perhaps I shall store this book somewhere safe, to once again glance at my naive writings from earlier days.
Jan 5, 1513
King Hans is dead. Christian II is now King. The boy is capricious, wilful and cruel - his reign in Sweden over the past years have been spent putting down one revolt after another. He offends our Saxon friends by dallying with some Dutch woman, and even appointing her mother to overseeing our finances. He offends the nobles, and refuses to honor the royal charter and thinks himself a great general. I sense dark times ahead...