300 Years a Prince - Narrative AAR - HRE Minor 1337-1637 (Part 2)

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

theosZA

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300 Years a Prince
Table of Contents
Part 1
Part 2
An introduction to part 2 of the AAR follows the interlude.

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The Emperor
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November 1444

He was 61 years old now and while God had been gracious enough to let him live through disease, intrigue and numerous battles, he felt every one of those 61 years. Despite the heavy woolen imperial robes he wore, he felt the cold weather here in Köln.

He looked over to his daughters: duplicitous but lazy Heilwiva, just recently married; and the young twins Ilsa and Margarete watched over by his new wife. His eldest daughter, Barbara, was seated on the benches among the Imperial Diet, one of the few women in the hall. She would surely become a capable ruler and her ambition was boundless. Perhaps in another time she could have become an Empress.

It was for all of them that he was doing this now. Taking an axe to the Empire to protect their future.

His aide stepped up to him with the gilt-edged scroll bearing the proclamation. After a moment's hesitation the Emperor took the scroll and stepped out in front of the assembled nobles of the Empire. He was more comfortable with a sword in hand against an army of Saracens and so he retreated to formulaic ceremony and greetings before finally settling on the heart of his address.

"In the Year of Our Lord 1444, I present this Bull to you, the Imperial Diet, for your approval. I serve as your elected Emperor, and having no living sons that might inherit you can know that the reforms contained within are for the betterment of all those present without prejudice." There was a moment's hesitation as his thoughts flickered back to his son, Gautselin, dead before his time and with suspicion for his death cast on every one of the Imperial princes.

The Emperor gathered himself before continuing. "I am dissolving the Imperial fief. From this day forward the cities within the fief will be granted the status of Free and Imperial City with the right to autonomy and representation in the Imperial Diet. It will be the duty of the Emperor to protect such cities.

"The Duchy of Schleswig and the Counties of Memmingen, Istrien and Kärnten, as personal possessions will pass down within my own familty to my daughters." He stressed the last word. This was the crux of the matter and he knew there would be opposition to it since up until this point there had been no clear boundary between the Imperial and personal fiefdoms. He could already hear some mutters from his audience and the Emperor knew he had to get on to the remaining points.

"To streamline the process of electing the King of the Germans who would be Emperor, the number of Prince Electors shall be limited to 7. Three of that number shall be ecclesiastical, the prince-bishoprics of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. There will be four secular electors. The ancient rights of the Kingdom of Bohemia to elect the Emperor will be preserved as they will remain electors. The remaining three secular electors will represent the main regions of the Empire: Holstein shall be prince-elector for the Baltic, Brunswick shall be prince-elector for the Germans north of the Main, and the Germans south of the Main shall have Swabia as their elector."

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He looked over the crowd watching for their reaction. He knew this was not going to popular. In one stroke he would reduce the political power of a score of electors. But these seven had a lot of power and influence already and might have the clout to see the Bull through already. But the Emperor knew a major concession was necessary and he'd saved it for last.

"To further secure the liberty of all rulers within the Empire, the Emperor cedes the right to interfere in internal conflicts between its member lords." He paused again, letting it sink in. For nearly a century strong Emperors forbade the Empire's members from fighting one another. Conflicts between them had boiled below the surface. There were many scores to settle, old rivalries to enact and land to be fought over. This was the clause that would ensure the 1444 Golden Bull of Köln would be signed. He foresaw chaos and he would do his best to ensure his daughters could survive the chaos and perhaps one day one of his descendants would be Emperor again.

____________________

About this AAR...

This is a narrative AAR covering approximately 300 years starting with Ulrich von Württemberg, a Catholic count in the Holy Roman Empire. The first 107 years were played in Crusader Kings 2 as Part 1. The remaining years will be played in Europa Universalis 4. I will play the EU4 portion on patch 1.15.1 and will be using the following expansions: Conquest of Paradise, Wealth of Nations, Res Publica, Art of War, El Dorado, Common Sense and The Cossacks. I will not be upgrading to newer patches as the converted mod is created for 1.15.1 and only tested working on that patch.

As we join Part 2 we are in control of the Duchy of Swabia, an elector of the Empire.

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The focus of play will be on roleplaying the characters and protecting the dynasty. Don't expect a game about continuous conquest. Rulers and heirs will be played according to their attributes, military leaders according to their pips, and advisors according to their specialty.

In the event of a "game over", I will switch to another tag with preference for another nation with the von Württemberg dynasty. Otherwise, no cheating beside the changes already included in the EU4 mod. I will discuss the specific changes that I made to the Convertor-generated mod in a separate post.

Chapters will only be written for interesting events or time periods. I will skip large chunks of time if nothing noteworthy occurs. The point-of-view for each chapter will vary with the nation's ruler being the most common.
 
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theosZA

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The Conversion Mod

I've made a number of changes to the mod generated by the CK2-EU4 convertor:
  • Drastically cut down on blobs by splitting out Personal Union subjects (CK2 titles at the same level as primary title) and vassals (CK2 titles at a lower level than primary title).
  • Since inheritance relationships are not modeled in EU4, added Personal Unions where a country's ruler or heir is also heir to another country. In particular this puts Brandenburg in a Personal Union under Swabia.
  • Vassal annexation and Personal Union integration requires Diplomacy tech 6 to ensure the smaller subjects remain around for a while.
  • Turned many de jure cores into permanent claims instead.
  • Added heirs for all countries. Recalculated A/D/M stats for all rulers and heirs, scoring them on a curve (grouped by age for child characters).
  • Added royal marriages for rulers and heirs.
  • Manually picked electors for the Holy Roman Empire; removed the Shadow Kingdom events; and made Admin technology 6 a requirement for the Pragmatic Sanction decision.
  • Split out two of the Emperor's provinces as Free Cities and made Switzerland a Free City as well.
  • Switched a number of countries to use an existing tag rather than a converted tag. In particular Swabia will use the WUR tag (Württemberg) but with the Swabian history and flag. I don't know if there are any events for the tag, but this ensures that if there are any tag-specific events then we'll get them.
  • Sumenusko provinces had been converted as animist since the religion wasn't reformed in CK2. Reverted the countries and provinces to Sumenusko.
  • Added admin tech requirements to or simply removed some nation formation decisions that would otherwise be enacted immediately.
  • Changed technology groups to more closely match normal EU4 tech groups. In particular all Muslim countries in Anatolia, the Levant, Arabia and Egypt are moved to the Ottoman tech group as the area broadly bordering the Byzantines.

The British Isles
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England is one of the world's strongest powers with unions over Ireland, France and Jerusalem. However the union over France is very tenuous. England is ruled by Lionel Plantagenet (3/3/4).

France
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The Valois king, Amédée de Valois (4/3/5), still rules in the Kingdom of Aquitaine of southern France and the northern provinces of Picardy.

Iberia
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Iberia is divided between Alfonso VI de Bourgogne (3/6/4) of Portugal, Alfons VI d'Urgell (3/4/4) of Aragon, and Manrique III d'Ivrea (1/5/6) of Castile and León. The Western Maghreb is ruled by Sultan Al-Hasan III Marinid (5/3/4).

Italy
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The strongest powers in Italy are the Papal State under Pope Celestine VI (2/3/2), Mathieu III d'Anjou (2/4/3) of Naples, and Rinaldo II Visconti (4/1/4) of Lombardy. The Serene Republic of Venice is also quite strong with territories in the Balkans, Anatolia and the Aegean Sea. The Eastern Maghreb is ruled by an idiot child Sultan Adal II Kefid (0/0/0).

The Holy Roman Empire
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Sieghard von Habsburg (3/3/6), Duke of Schleswig, Aquileia and Memmingen, is the Holy Roman Emperor. He is however 61 years old and a choice of new Emperor is likely to come soon enough. His heir and daughter is ineligible to become Emperor. The leading candidates are Humbert Opavan Premyslid (4/4/3), King of Bohemia, and Johann von Habsburg (2/6/2), Duke of Austria. The electors are Cologne, Trier, Mainz, Bohemia, Holstein, Brunswick and Swabia.

The Italian region is not part of the Empire, but the Danish region has been added. Not shown but also part of the Empire is Scanian Estonia.

The Baltic Region
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Denmark was conquered by the Holy Roman Empire leaving Norway, Sweden and Finland as the independent nations of the Baltic region.

The Urals Region
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Alagh Borjigin (3/6/3) is Khan of the Golden Horde. In theory they are the strongest power in the world, but they have spread themselves thin with rebellious Russian vassals Crimea and Vladimir, and recalcitrant subject hordes Sibir and Chernigov.

Eastern Europe
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Janko Piast (6/2/3) is King of Poland and Lithuania and bastion against the hordes. Kosmas Palaiologos (3/4/2) is the Byzantine Emperor. Greece is divided between various European interests and the Byzantine Empire stretches only as far as its marches in the middle of Anatolia.

The Middle East
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The Bahris Empire was split by civil war that left Bahri Arabia under the incompotent Sultan Is'mail Bahri (0/0/3) and Bahri Egypt under Sultan Abdul-Azeem Bahri (2/3/4). The two sides are evenly matched but their vassals may be quite fickle.

Persia and India
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Persia is dominated by the Ilkhanate Horde under Shahanshah Bughu Borjigin (2/2/3) who has vassals Mesopotamia and Khiva. India is dominated by the Tughluqs under Shahanshah Aydogan Tughluq (3/2/6) who has vassals Bahmanid and Sonargaon.

Religion
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With the Byzantine Emperor abandoning the Orthodox rites, Europe is now almost fully Catholic. North Africa, Russia and western Asia are almost fully Sunni. The Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem under the English King remains a Christian bastion in the Middle East. Although India is dominated by Sunni Islam and to a lesser extent Jainism, most of the local provinces follow different religions to their rulers.
 
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theosZA

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Swabia

Now for a closer look at Swabia's territory and a bit of a reminder of the current narrative situation... (country names in brackets indicate subject territories)

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Swabia is ruled by the Prince-Elector Duke Albrecht von Württemberg (4/3/2), aged 48. The man's mind has become unhinged after acquiring and reading a mysterious book from a scholar in the Arabian desert.

The heir to the Duchy of Swabia is Eberhard von Württemberg, aged 21. Once a shy and nervous boy, he's grown into a masterful diplomat and serves as the Chancellor of the Duchy. He is married to Luitgard Estrid, daughter of the Duke of Skåne, cementing that alliance. (Marriages with rulers and heirs have been set up as Royal Marriage + Alliance in EU4.)

Albrecht has two living daughters. His elder daughter, Beatrix, is married to Lionel the Hammer, King of England, France, Ireland and Jerusalem and alongside whom Albrecht defended Jerusalem from a Muslim Jihad. His younger daughter, Hildeburg, is just 10 years old. His other two daughters, Margarete and Adelheid, both died as young children.

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Albrecht was the architect of the demise of the heir to Brandenburg, Hermann von Wittelsbach (killed by a poisonous snake), and the previous Countess of Brandenburg, Beatrix von Wittelsbach (imprisoned and executed for unspecified crimes). Brandenburg is now ruled by Albrecht's wife, the Countess Helene von Wittelsbach. (Due to the simplified EU4 dynastic model, this is set up as a Personal Union.) Brandenburg was a much larger duchy not so long ago and there are still a fair few neighbouring cores.

Eberhard von Württemberg is, of course, also the heir to the County of Brandenburg.
 

Italianajt

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Bravo! I too fixed a converted CK2 file and I can appreciate the effort and roleplay you have brought to us with this update. I look forward to see your EUIV playthrough. Swabia Valt!
 

theosZA

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Thanks for the support Italianajt. Spent far too many hours tweaking the mod to my preferences. Fortunately I enjoy that sort of thing and so far I'm enjoying playing in this "new world". Next chapter should be out soonish.
 
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theosZA

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Helene von Wittelsbach, Countess of Brandenburg
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July 1449

The grand hall of Brandenburg castle was gaily decorated and filled with the dozens of nobles and their attendants that made up the Countess's court. At the head of it all Helene reveled in the atmosphere. It was the kind of court life that she'd been denied for so long living in Stuttgart with her husband, Duke Albrecht of Swabia. Over the years he'd continually undermined his local nobility; his distrust for them leading to the stripping of almost all their ceremonial duties; and in the final years in that castle she'd had only servants for company.

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She couldn't help stealing a glance towards the back corner of the room. A cloaked man stood there, in the shadows, with the hood of his cloak up concealing his identity. As their visitor entered the hall, she chided herself and forced herself to direct all her attention on the elaborately dressed Baron Liutbrand of Penzlin, Chancellor of Mecklenburg.

"My dear Baron Penzlin, what a pleasant surprise to have you grace our court with your presence. I feared that you'd be tied up with your lord's war and might never find the time to visit us."

As silver-tongued as the Countess could be, this was probably a lost cause. Liutbrand was clearly furious and barely keeping that anger in check. "That would be our lord, Countess, for he is the liege lord of us both, and he demands your support against the aggression of Duke Liudolf of Brunswick. On my approach I saw the levies mustering outside the New Town so I hope that means I can bring good news back to Duke Heinrich."

"Oh, I'm so terribly sorry for that confusion. Those soldiers are only there to ensure that my own lands won't suffer any unfortunate collateral damage from your war. I don't think these men would fight alongside Heinrich if the fate of the Christian world depended on it, the craven boor that he is." Helene saw how this rankled Liutbrand. The Baron and Duke were related by blood and so the insult on Heinrich was keenly felt by Liutbrand.

Their path was set now and there would be no smoothing over this incident. Without a word Baron Liutbrand turned on his heels and marched out of the hall.

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The cloaked man stepped forward, lowering his hood so Helene could see the face of her husband once again. She'd barely had a chance to see him at all since his arrival in Brandenburg two days ago, and now he'd insisted on his incognito presence for the reception of the Mecklenburg emissary. She'd wanted to talk to him about his visit to England, about the King they called the Hammer, about their conquest of Scotland, and about Albrecht's newborn nephew, Henry Plantagenet, heir to the thrones of England, Ireland, France and Jerusalem. Instead there had been only the preparations for war.

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"You did well my good wife," said Duke Albrecht. "My army is no more than two days away. We can strike at Mecklenburg before the end of the month."

Helene gave a look to her court and the nobles retreated to their own conversations, leaving Helene and Albrecht with a small measure of privacy. "You aren't worried about the diplomatic fallout over the situation? Taking advantage while Heinrich is distracted with Brunswick is hardly chivalrous."

Albrecht stifled a laugh. "Of course not. I have no reputation to protect. Half the nobles assembled here think I was behind the plot to kill your step-brother who would have been Count; the other half don't care because they hated the boy.

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"Besides, I might be no master strategist, but I learned while fighting on Levantine battlefields that there is no honour in war. Mecklenburg is fighting Brunswick; their former ally Saxony has abandoned them as they fight on three fronts against Meissen, Magdeburg and Bohemia; their Teuton allies are distracted over their border disputes in Estonia; and, if my spies are right, their final ally, the County of Lebus, has already lost most of their men in the war with Brunswick.

"No, now is the only time. If we don't strike now, the Uckermark will fall into the hands of someone stronger and far more capable than Heinrich. And that's rightfully Brandenburg land. There is probably no contesting Ruppin, but we will return the Uckermark to her rightful ruler.

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"Now that that's all sorted out, I must return to my army. We need to invest Boitzenburg Castle before they gather the autumn harvest."

Helene let out a soft sigh. "You must leave so soon? I see so little of you as it is."

Albrecht seemed about to object but then shrugged. "Perhaps I can stay one more night. Now where's your commander, Baron Werner? We can spend these hours productively refining the war plan."

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December 1452

Helene lay another blanket over Albrecht as he continued shivering in his bed despite the warmth provided by two roaring fireplaces. It was a small mercy that her husband wasn't awake. She glanced at the physician at the foot of the bed who shook his head. "I'll go fetch the chaplain," he whispered as he headed for the door.

For months now he'd been like this - some comfortable days, but more often a sweating fever or these uncontrollable shivers while wasting away as he couldn't hold down any food. No prayer or blood-letting seemed to make any difference.

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Feeling helpless, Helene got up to pace the room. It was a crystal-clear winter's day and with the room facing to the north she imagined she could see the Uckermark.

This was all a consequence of the campaign against Mecklenburg. Albrecht was 56 years old now and not of an age for serious year-round military adventures. The siege of the seat of the Duke of Mecklenburg, Schwerin Castle, had been particularly tortuous with the besiegers unable to cut off resupply from the see. It had been nearly 18 months before the castle's surrender and Duke Heinrich's acceptance of Brandenburg authority over the Uckermark.

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But by then Albrecht was already too weak to conduct the negotiations himself. He'd returned to Brandenburg Castle while Werner Klara, Baron of Oranienburg, conducted the official peace negotiations.

Albrecht's unwillingness to appoint a regent to govern in Stuttgart was also not helping him. The nobles of Swabia, so long marginalized from positions of real power and on the back of the successful campaign in north Germany were starting to reassert their authority within the Duchy. None of which made any difference to her husband. He was as stubborn as ever, insisting that he'd be just fine in the new year to travel back to Stuttgart and get those upstarts back into line.

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The chaplain entered the bedchamber. An old man now, Father Gotzelo had been the castle's chaplain from before Helene had even married Albrecht. He'd surely witnessed a lot of deaths in his time, and one glance at Albrecht told him all he needed to know. "My Lady, we should administer the Last Rites now before your husband is lost to us."

Though Albrecht's eyes were closed, he spoke now in a hoarse voice. "No, Priest. I don't care for your hollow assurances to the desperate. Leave me alone now with my wife."

Far from being shocked, Gotzelo just shook his head. "So close to death the man is no longer in his right mind. But we do what we must to ensure his entrance into the Kingdom of God."

Albrecht's voice cracked as he tried to respond. "On the contrary; all things become that much clearer when hovering over the precipice of death. We finally learn what is truly important to us. Priest - leave now! And we will not be disturbed."

Gotzelo looked to Helene for guidance. "Father Gotzelo, thank you for your loyal service, but it seems my husband has made up his mind and he will not change it."

And so the chaplain reluctantly retreated from the bedchamber.

Once again Helene sat beside Albrecht's bed. "I hope the lakes of the Uckermark were worth all this."

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"The beauty of those lakes is comparable only to your own my sweet wife. I lack the strength now to open my eyes and gaze upon you, but your sweet face fills my mind's eye and is such comfort now as I approach the end."

The seconds crawled past until Helene was worried that her husband's end had indeed come. But in those seconds Albrecht made a crucial choice. With his voice nothing more than a staccato whisper: "Please - Helene - my good wife - please - my last request - my book - bureau drawer - please - destroy it - don't let me down."

And with that Albrecht's breathing stopped. She turned to the bureau, which had only been used on Albrecht's good days and not at all in the last month. Pulling open the drawer she found the book - the one he'd brought back from the Arabian desert nearly thirty years ago. No one else had been allowed so much as a glimpse inside its covers and many ascribed Albrecht's paranoia, mad ramblings and antisocial behaviour to some dark words inscribed within.

She cautiously picked the book up. She liked to think most wives knew their husbands better than her. Perhaps the answer to the mysteries about her husband now lay in her hands.

She looked up from the book to her dead husband. "I do it for you only so that our family need not continue to suffer under its curse," she whispered and tossed the book in the closest fireplace.

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Italianajt

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Wait...what is in the BOOK? NOOOOOOOOoooo

Also, that's some tough role-play decisions you are leveling against your nation. Good luck. Great story, keep it going!
 

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Wait...what is in the BOOK? NOOOOOOOOoooo

The book was obtained in Chapter 15 and so what the book was is described there...
L5Qylmi.png

More info about the Necronomicon on Wikipedia.

Burning it rather than reading it was the smart choice for Helene.
 
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theosZA

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Heribert Kuno, Chancellor of Swabia
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July 1459

Stuttgart Castle was a flurry of activity as Heribert weaved his way through the dozens of servants making final preparations for the grand ball to be held that evening. Unlike his father, Duke Eberhard III loved hosting social occasions and generally pandering to the Duchy's nobility - a category that (for the moment) excluded Heribert Kuno. But Heribert knew that his duke was always in such a positive frame of mind when these kind of events were happening that it was finally time for Heribert's plan to come to fruition.

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Heribert had started his working life as a scribe's apprentice in Reutlingen in Upper Swabia but his dedication and aptitude with words from both quill and tongue had seen a rapid rise in his station. And now he found himself as Chancellor and serving on the Duke's inner council as one of the Duke's closest advisors. He could feel the lure of a patent of nobility almost within his grasp, but this afternoon's meeting would have to go just right.

The council was meeting now, just a few hours before the ball was to begin. Heribert took his place and then the three of them waited patiently in Eberhard's study; the Duke was no doubt being distracted by the ball's preparations, not that he did any of the organizing himself but he did enjoy critiquing the entertainers and sampling the foods just to ensure the ball was perfect.

In truth Heribert was glad for the Duke's delay. It gave him a chance to chat with his fellow council members and hopefully gauge their sympathies for what he was about to attempt. They were both much older than him and perhaps a bit set in their ways. It was going to be up to Heribert to shake things up.

Serving as Treasurer was Mister Anselm Hartwig, the head of a merchant family in Ulm. He could probably afford to outright buy a title if he cared to. His tightfisted coin counting might make him the hardest to sway but if Eberhard wanted something then Mister Hartwig would find the silver to make it happen.

Seated opposite them was Sir Hermann Phillip, third son of a minor Baron, and since distinguishing himself in the war against Mecklenburg he served in the role of military advisor. It had been seven years since the end of that conflict and with no battles since, Heribert got the feeling that Hermann had become somewhat frustrated. Heribert was counting on it.

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Their conversation was cut short as Duke Eberhard entered the study. "No, don't rise. This council meeting is going to have to be a short one as the ball starts so soon. Let's just deal with the most urgent matters while I'm sure you can handle all the minor details yourselves." Despite the Duke's abrupt tone, Heribert could tell he was genuinely in a good mood. Now was the time...

"My Lord Duke, there are some diplomatic matters of urgency and they are more critical by the attendance of so many visiting dignitaries this evening. As such I implore you to give these matters their full attention." This got a raised eyebrow from Eberhard and emboldened Heribert. "As you are no doubt aware, big changes are afoot within the Empire; the political landscape is shifting beneath our feet. It began with the Golden Bull of 1444 and took a leap forward with the election of Liudolf, Duke of Brunswick, as the new Emperor."

Eberhard cut in, "Yes, yes, as a Prince Elector I know all of this. Remember I cast my vote for my father-in-law, Duke Christopher II of Skåne, and even though Liudolf had less than half the votes, he still had more support than any other candidate."

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"Of course, my Lord Duke, the facts of the matter are already settled. But beyond just the mechanics of the election, do we understand why it was that he was elected? The Brunswick connection to the Imperial line is tenuous at best. But without an Imperial fief the electors look for an Emperor that is already strong enough to protect the Empire and its interests.

"Now I have many contacts within the courts and households of the electors. You personally are held in very high esteen, perhaps moreso because you don't personally crave power like so many other nobles within the Empire. Liudolf is in his fifties now and who knows how much longer God will grant him on this Earth. You would have the support of many if you were to pursue the Emperorship for when Liudolf dies."

This finally caught Eberhard's attention. Heribert's words had been accurate though - Eberhard wasn't power hungry - but there was something so tantilizing in having the keys to the Empire dangled in front of you like that. "What would it take?" Eberhard asked.

"Well, first we'll have to secure an alliance with another strong elector who might be opposed to Brunswick. Duke Sigismund of Holstein is a guest of yours for the ball this evening. Your eldest daughter is 13, almost of an age to be married. Might I suggest you offer your daughter's hand to the Duke's youngest son, Stefan, to cement an alliance with them."

Heribert immediately saw the conflicting emotions crossing Eberhard's mind as this was put to him. Hanne was so dear to him that he would no doubt love to keep her in Stuttgart forever, but a marriage into the Holstein von Schauenburg line was too good for him to deny his daughter. Finally the Duke nodded. "I will discuss the matter with Sigismund this evening to see if he is amenable."

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"It would also be wise, my Lord Duke, to start thinking ahead for the future of your son and heir, Konrad. He might be only 6 years old now, but a good marriage there would go a long way to securing the position of the Duchy. Anyway, that is perhaps a discussion for another day as we don't want this meeting to be any longer than necessary.

"Securing an alliance with Holstein is a start, but what you really need to do is show Swabia's strength, prove that we have the might to defend the Empire. Now Pomerania are our clear rivals in northern Germany as they deny your mother a port for Brandenburg. For their part Pomerania continue to oppose our growing influence in the north.

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"Meanwhile the Sundgau branch of the von Württemberg family has an historic claim to the rest of the Alsace region. It is unfortunate that they now serve as vassals to Brunswick but many in this Duchy wish us to appropriate the land on behalf of your dynasty." Heribert delivered this explanation with as much earnestness as he could muster because it was quite disingenious. The nobles in Swabia, having been marginalized by Duke Albrecht for so long, were looking for opportunities to prove themselves to Duke Eberhard. This tie to Alsace was tenuous at best, but some words in the ears of some high-placed nobles had already had the effect of them agitating for war. And Heribert knew that Eberhard would have heard them.

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"But, my Lord Duke, you are no doubt wondering: Why now? Why this sudden urgency? What has happened that might force our hand?" Heribert saw Eberhard nodding in response to his supplied questions. His noble inclinations to please everyone were allowing him to be led by the nose. "Well, I have just received word that Alsace have signed an alliance with Pomerania."

Sir Hermann suddenly interrupted. "Our two greatest enemies have allied themselves? This is intolerable and a clear sign we should strike now!" That this should come from Hermann's lips was better than Heribert could have hoped for.

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Eberhard paused for a moment before asking "Do we have the strength to take them both on? Skåne won't come to our aid while they continue in their fight against the Finns."

Heribert suspected that Eberhard didn't know the full strength of their situation. "Your father cultivated strong ties with the Imperial Cities of Heidelberg and Switzerland. As long as we frame the situation properly for them, I'm confident they'll support us in this matter."

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Once again Sir Hermann felt the need to interrupt. "We'll hardly need their support I think. Our pikemen are better trained and better equipped than anything our enemies can field." He started to describe some of the minutiae of the improvements that he'd instituted but Eberhard cut him off.

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Mister Hartwig who'd been so quiet all session finally spoke up. "While the opportunity presented here does sound intriguing, where are we to get the money to pay for all this?" Turning to the Duke he said, "While I mean no disrespect, the new churches to honour your father have drained the treasury."

Heribert actually had some ideas on this that he thought Hartwig would appreciate but it was again Sir Hermann that spoke. "A special tax to subsidize the war effort seems fair. And our victory is quite certain - the loot alone will cover any further costs."

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This seemed to mollify Hartwig and for once it seemed as if the council was in agreement. The three turned to Eberhard for a final decision. The moment dragged on uncomfortably while Heribert Kuno just allowed himself to dwell on his dream: himself as Count Elsass.

Finally Eberhard nodded and stood to leave. "Make it happen. But while there is still peace I have a ball to attend."

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theosZA

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I'm traveling for the next few weeks and won't be able to write any updates in that time. Next chapter should be up in about a month.
 

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A bit of a longer break than expected, but I want to finish this AAR and complete the 300 years. The next chapter will be up shortly. Still playing on 1.15.1 as that's the EU4 version the conversion and modding was done for.
 

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Beatrix von Württemberg, Queen Mother to the King of England
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September 1464

With the setting of the sun, quiet had descended on Havering Palace. Beatrix, the Queen Mother, had retired to her chambers. The windows were open, letting in a cool breeze that Beatrix appreciated for finally breaking the late summer's heat. It almost reminded her of the mild climes of her childhood home, Stuttgart. And that brought her attention back to the missive, still on her desk, affixed with the seal of her brother, Duke Eberhard of Swabia. She didn't want to open it. It had been twenty years since she'd last seen him. And although he communicated with her every few months, every time it made her miss home and family.

Finally Beatrix decided that she couldn't put it off any longer. She removed the seal and began reading her brother's words...

Dearest sister,

It is an unfortunate duty that I must write to you now, though first there are plenty of good tidings to share. Our wars are finally over. As you no doubt recall from my previous correspondence, Alsace surrendered to us with barely any opposition.

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Now Pomerania put up more of a fight, but after my army joined up with that of Mother's, there was little to stop us. Only the Pomeranian coastal fortifications, so easily resupplied by sea, were a problem for us. Our dear mother continually warned me of the dangers of these long sieges, blaming one such for the death of our late father. But finally their walls fell. Finally they were forced to surrender Stralsund to Mother.

es6BHa7.png


The conquest was glorious, though in truth I had little to do with the success. It was the Duchy's nobles that led us to victory on the battlefield and in siege. And one man, my lowborn Chancellor, Heribert Kuno, who had the vision to see the opportunity and encourage us to take it. I was only too happy to grant him a title, and he now rules under me as the Count of Swabia's newest province, Elsass.

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Unfortunately that wasn't the end of it. Our Emperor Liudolf, the Duke of Brunswick, no doubt fearing the growing might of the von Württemberg family, demanded Mother return Stralsund to the Duke of Pomerania. It is not an easy thing to deny the Emperor, but she did it.

It was a final act of defiance, because even then she knew she wasn't well. A wasting sickness had been eating away at her and I am sorry to say that Mother passed away on the eve of the Assumption. She was a brave woman, a stoic Duchess of Brandenburg.

As her heir, the duty of ruling Brandenburg now passes to me. I hope to rule it as well as she did.

e9mlGfL.png


There was still more in the letter, but Beatrix needed a moment to collect herself. Helene, her mother, had meant everything to her. Her father had been unhinged and had shown her little love; in truth she hadn't been upset when he had passed. But she had been so close to her mother until she'd had to leave Stuttgart for England.

At the time she'd been terrified, sure that with half a continent separating them, she'd never see her mother again. She'd been right for her mother had then become the Duchess of Brandenburg and her diligent attention to her Duchy kept her from travelling. Twenty years gone and she struggled now to remember her mother's face.

Of course she was also herself now a mother. Her husband, Lionel Plantagenet, known as 'The Hammer' for his victory over the Saracens, had given her a son, Henry. She had sworn to love and care for him like her own mother had for her. When Lionel had died, Henry was her reason to live on. With Henry not yet old enough to rule, the popular Duke Jordan of York had acted as regent, and she continued to groom Henry to be a King fit to follow in his father's footsteps.

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Four years ago this month, the nobles had decreed him ready, and her son had become Henry IV, King of England, Ireland, France and Jerusalem. Even in his youth, many were proclaiming he might become a better king than even his legendary father.

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Thinking about her son lifted her spirits, and she felt sufficiently composed to read on. She skimmed the rest of the letter's contents which was no doubt intended to cheer her up, though the details of foreign wars were merely a distraction. Much was made of the Eastern adventures of her brother's wife's family, as they'd seized land from Finland and conquered the Pskov Republic.

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Was this how things were going to be in Europe? Just constant warfare as borders were drawn and redrawn? Even her own husband had felt the lust for conquest as the Scots were absorbed into the Kingdom of England. She had always taught Henry to look to his own lands first - the exercising of military might should be a last resort - but if it should come to war, then he had been tutored by some of the greatest commanders from France and the Holy Land.

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She put the letter away and was snuffing out the lamps, thoughts of her son filling her with hope, when she heard noises from outside - the clatter of hooves, a large number of horses for this late hour. She glanced out the window to see the approaching cavalry, King's Guard by the look of them, though the King was supposed to be touring the north of the country. There was a growing tightness in her chest as she made her way to the Entrance Hall to receive them.

There the first thing that caught her eye was the Captain of the Guard - Sir Andrew as she recalled. His jacket was torn, cuts and scratches adorned his face, and he looked exhausted. With no deference to protocol he rushed toward her.

"My pardon your Grace for our unannounced arrival and unkempt appearance, but there is grave news and we must take urgent action."

With Sir Andrew's strange greeting, Beatrix's chest tightened further. First the tragic tidings from her brother and now these ominous words from the Captain - Beatrix sensed what would be coming next and it terrified her.

"The King is dead - a treacherous murder that I'm sorry to say we were unable to prevent. No one knows who was behind the assassination, though most are pointing fingers at his cousin, Duke Edward of Lancaster as the next in line to the throne. Jordan, the Duke of York and the former King's Regent, has proclaimed himself Lord Protector of the Realm and promises to hold Edward to account for his crime. From what we can tell he has swayed most of the nobles with his gilded words."

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There was no escaping it - her father and mother were both dead, her husband dead and now her son was dead too. Her whole world was collapsing around her.

"Your Grace, we should flee at once. I don't know what the Dukes of Lancaster and York intend, but both will be marching on London to secure the capital for themselves. And I doubt either of them will appreciate the presence of the deceased king's mother. Better to leave on your own terms than have your fate decided by others."

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The Royal Guard watched her as she closed her eyes and calmed herself with some long breathes. It was suddenly crystal clear - as if the twists and turns of her life had always been leading to this.

"I will go to Stuttgart. My brother, the Duke of Swabia, will shelter and protect me. Our family always endures. Sir Andrew, will you and your Guard escort me to Stuttgart?"

"Of course, your Grace. There is a ship in harbour that will take us to the continent this very night."

Even now, in the midst of tragedy, Beatrix's spirit was lifted by the prospect of returning home.
 

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Landolf Sofie, Swabian Diplomat

June 1471

Although still a modest 22 years old, Landolf had visited Stuttgart often enough to have seen the splendid Karlsplatz House from the outside. And now he finally got to step inside. He couldn't help but feel awe as he took it all in - the glistening white marble pillars, the magnificent paintings adorning the walls, the patterned rugs that must have been imported from the East at great expense. Indeed, no money would have been spared in creating this residence for visiting dignitaries.

It shouldn't have surprised Landolf. For as long as he'd known anything about Swabia's Duke, the esteemed Eberhard III von Württemberg, the man had had a single-minded dedication to raising the profile of the Duchy with it's diplomatic efforts.

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And Swabian diplomats were now renowned within the Empire and beyond, having continuously helped in the negotiation of peace treaties, securing of alliances, and reducing of tensions within the region. Men like Dietwin Gottschalk and Gerhard Andreas were now legends within the Duchy and well respected outside it. It was Gerhard himself who'd visited England in the middle of their civil war to arrange the marriage of the Duke's widowed sister to England's Lord Protector, the Duke of York - a diplomatic coup that would forever change the dynastic politics of that region.

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As the third son of the daughter of a Baron, Landolf wouldn't have expected much prospects outside a military commission. But wielding a sabre was not for him - he would almost faint at the sight of blood, a trait for which his older brothers had always teased him while growing up.

And that's why Landolf found himself here, in the entrance hall of the centre of Swabia's diplomatic efforts. He'd always wanted to travel to distant realms; had studied hard to learn as many languages and German dialects as he could; and now he'd been recruited into Swabia's growing diplomatic corps.

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It had only been a minute when an old man with a full white beard appeared at the top of the stairs. "Landolf Sofie, I presume. Sorry, my eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, and these stairs are a killer on my aging legs."

Landolf could hardly believe his eyes. "Gerhard Andreas? I can hardly believe it ... can hardly believe I'm meeting you in person. You're a living legend."

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"Control yourself boy. You can't be gushing like that with every Duke, King and Emperor you meet. Now come upstairs and we'll discuss your assignment in my study."

A few minutes later and the pair were ensconced in the diplomat's rooms, wich were much more plainly decorated than the opulent rooms Landolf had seen so far. But they were spacious and comfortable, and at the centre of Gerhard's study lay a table sporting a beautiful detailed map of the Empire and the lands just beyond it.

Gerhard settled down into his chair and then leaned in, over the map, and examined Landolf carefully.

"So you're to be this Duchy's newest diplomat then? You're a bit younger than I'd like, but I guess that means we'll have many years for you to learn all the tricks of the trade.

"Now," he continued, pointing at the map, "let's see what you know about the current affairs of Europe. I've recently returned from a diplomatic mission myself. Where do you suppose I was?"

This was Landolf's moment to shine, an opportunity to prove himself worthy and to show that he had been studying up on all the diplomatic happenings.

"I'm sure you were visiting the Prince Elector of Friesland, though I think everyone in the Duchy knows about Eberhard's overtures to the Electors. Since Mainz was so recently conquered by Bamberg, a new Elector had to be created and Friesland, as the newest Elector, would naturally warrant a diplomatic visit."

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"Very good, very astute. And what do you suppose the result of that visit was?"

This put Landolf in a bind. As much as he revered the elder diplomat, he couldn't imagine how he could have convinced the new Prince Elector to support Eberhard over the Emperor who had made him a Prince Elector in the first place.

"Well young Landolf Sofie. Any thoughts?"

"I don't see how you could have swayed them from the Emperor's camp. You have no bargaining chips that I can see - all the Duke's close relatives have been married off, and they're so far away that we have no common enemies. If you managed to turn them, I'd be very impressed."

"In that case it is I that I am impressed for you show greater insight than our Duke. It was a fool's errand, though we go where our Duke commands us. Now what do you know about the situation in the Po Valley?"

Here again Landolf was abreast of current events. "The Coalition of Firenze has united Florence, Trent, Trinacria and Genoa against Lombardy with a combined military campaign to curb the Lombards' expansionism."

Gerhard shook his head slowly. "Of course that's all true, but I suppose I couldn't have expected you to know any more than that. I only just heard the news yesterday through one of my many contacts. Venice and Naples lead the Adriatic League against Lombardy as well."

Landolf interrupted, "I imagine it won't be long then before Lombardy is taken down, stripped of all its gains by its neighbours."

"Perhaps," Gerhard mused. "Lombardy has some powerful allies though, so we'll have to see how this one develops. But certainly we need to keep an eye on developments beyond the Alps.

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"And that brings us to the issue of the Duchy of Tirol." He pointed to Innsbruck on the map as if Landolf didn't know all the cities within 100 leagues. "Tirol and Swabia are enemies, unofficially at least. I trust you know how that came to be?"

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Landolf paused before answering. "Are you referring to the Ravensburg incident? I understand the forged documents disputing the Imperial grant of Ravensburg to Swabia were quickly disproven."

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"Well, my boy, if you learn nothing else today, I hope you learn this. The history that that the rest of the world learns from us is merely a story that us diplomats create. You see, in Swabia our people are incensed by Tirol's ridiculous claim to Ravensburg and the rest of Upper Swabia, while insisting we take our rightful lands along the Alpine Rhine and the Alps of the Brenner Pass. Whereas in the Duchy of Tirol they view Swabia's claims as blatant expansionism while Ravensburg duly belongs to them by Imperial decree.

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"The truth likely lies somewhere else entirely. An honest diplomat worships the goddess Veritas only when it serves his purpose."

Landolf might have been shocked if he didn't hold the senior diplomat in such high esteem. Instead he was eagerly absorbing the man's instruction, taking in his every word. "And the Tirol situation, it has something to do with my first assignment?"

"Indeed it does, boy. But before we get to that, you must understand the limits of your assignment. We are already stretched thin with our various diplomatic treaties - our union with Brandenburg; our alliances with the Swiss cantons and the Free City of Heidelberg; our alliances by marriage with England, Holstein and Skåne; and that tetchy marriage with the Count of Flanders. If nothing else, as you wisely noted earlier, the Duke has no more relatives to marry off.

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"As such, we can offer no more alliances, but we still seek the goodwill of our near neighbours. And for your first assignment it couldn't be easier. The Duchy of Carinthia is already at odds with Tirol and I see no reason why this can't be the beginning of a glorious friendship ... at least until the Duchy of Tirol is no more."

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So this was it then - Landolf would be crossing the Alps. He wouldn't be leaving the Empire. It was perhaps not as glamorous as a trip to Scandinavia or the British Isles or the Holy Land, but the thoughts of his first diplomatic mission, and what it might lead to, filled Landolf with unbridled excitement.

Gerhard, ever the expert at reading people, sensed Landolf's enthusiasm. "This place is stocked with a number of excellent wines. Let us see what we can find to celebrate for tomorrow you will begin your journey to Carinthia."
 

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Duke Eberhard III of Swabia
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October 1475

Eberhard's gaze swept over the crowd, taking in all the dignitaries assembled in the Great Hall. Princes, Dukes and Counts all here to witness the election of the new Emperor and to try have some measure of influence over the outcome. This was the day that his whole life had been leading to. Initially he hadn't sought the Imperial title, but then his Chancellor had planted the idea in his head 16 years ago and ever since he couldn't get it out of his mind. Everything he'd done had been building towards this.

The problem was, as always, Brunswick. Liudof von Schauenburg, Emperor for 21 years, hadn't been loved but he had been both respected and feared. Just three years ago he'd dismembered the Archbishopric of Cologne, stripping it of all it's territorial possesions outside of Cologne itself. And that for no reason than Cologne found itself on the wrong side of the fighting against Brunswick.

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Perhaps the Archbishop of Cologne was fortunate enough to escape the Emperor's full wrath. He remained for now an elector of the Empire alongside Brunswick, Swabia, Bohemia, Trier, Holstein and the newest Elector, chosen to replace the Archbishopric of Mainz, Friesland.

Eberhard started moving through the hall. His goal was to speak with the other Electors before the formal election. But his efforts were hampered by every noble who wanted a quick word. They were all worried about the intentions of Brunswick and were concerned that the new Duke of Brunswick, Wigerich von Schauenburg, would continue to pursue personal territorial gain.

Just last year Brunswick had absorbed Wurzburg whole. A Prince of the Empire removed by the Emperor himself - most who spoke to Eberhard now were angry about it. And they wanted change.

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Eberhard did his best to placate these nobles with some empty platitudes while he sought the ear of those who really mattered. Certainly their former Emperor had always kept that in mind: No need to please the whole Diet, just please the Electors and your dynasty will continue to rule the whole Empire.

Friesland, appointed as an Elector by the Brunswick Emperor, was certainly in the Brunswick camp. And when the Brunswick army forced the Duchy of Bar to return territory to the Archbishop of Trier, Brunswick secured Trier's vote.

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The Duke of Holstein, despite blood ties to the new Duke of Brunswick, was married to Eberhard's eldest daughter. He was fairly confident that vote would go his way.

That left only the votes of Bohemia and Cologne unnaccounted for. The King of Bohemia, Jirí z Podebrad, citing reasons of ill health, had sent a representative on his behalf: his vassal, Jan Piast, the Duke of Silesia. Eberhard couldn't imagine this subject would have any authority to negotiate on his King's behalf and Jirí had probably already determined his vote ahead of time.

This meant that Eberhard would be focusing all his efforts on the Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann von Järva. At 65 years of age, the Archbishop struggled to walk and was reclining on a padded chair when Eberhard finally approached him. Eberhard gave a short respectful bow to the old man even though he wasn't feeling so young himself nowadays.

"Ah, a Prince of the Empire approaches, no doubt seeking my favour and my vote." The Archbishop-Elector seemed in good humour but this wasn't the forthrightness that Eberhard had expected. But Eberhard was still anything if not adaptable to the situation.

"Your Grace, you read me too well. Of course I come seeking your vote - the support of the Church is essential for anyone who would be Emperor. I ask that you take into account that I seek this burden not for my own sake, but for all the nobles of this holy Empire who would not see it torn to shreds by Brunswick."

With that Archbishop Hermann burst out laughing. "Ha, and so every ambitious man throughout history has no doubt claimed. Does not Plutarch tell us that Julius Caeser himself refused the crown again and again, all the while gathering power to himself? If I have gained any wisdom through my many years on this Earth, it is that we have nothing to lose by being honest with each other. And I can honestly tell you that the Duke of Brunswick has already come courting my vote."

"Truthfully? I could hardly imagine you giving him a minute of your time with the way his father all but destroyed the Archbishopric."

"It is of course wise to not anger those who might one day be Emperor. And so I listened, same as I will listen to you, and I told him, like I will tell you, that I will be weighing my options."

This didn't sit well with Eberhard. He couldn't afford to take a chance on the Archbishop, and he couldn't afford the time for any kind of lengthy negotiation. "Ok, if it's honesty you want, here it is: I need your vote. Name your price - how can I convince you to vote for Swabia?"

There was a pause and Eberhard glanced around nervously to see if any but their servants had heard his pleading.

Archbishop Hermann finally spoke up again. "You are right that the clergy of Cologne hold no love for Brunswick and might see you as a preferable alternative. Now we have heard troubling reports of Waldensian heretics within your lands. Your father seemed to tolerate them during his reign as Duke of Swabia. I think it would be fair to prove your loyalty to the Church by rounding up and burning all such heretics."

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This gave Eberhard a few moment's pause before bowing again before the Archbishop. "That is a quite splendid notion. It is as good as done, your Grace."

Hermann smiled. "Then perhaps this can be the start of a wonderful friendship between our two domains."

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And so that vote was banked. It wasn't long before the Electors were summoned to the rostrum to cast their votes. All the assembled nobles turned to watch as one-by-one the Electors stood forward to announce their vote. First the Church - the Archbishop of Trier announced his vote for Duke Wigerich of Brunswick; the Archbishop of Cologne voted for Eberhard, nodding in Eberhard's direction as he slowly returned to his padded chair.

Next was Brunswick and Friesland who, as expected, cast their votes for Wigerich. Then Eberhard, as Duke of Swabia, and his son-in-law, the Duke of Holstein, both casting their votes for Eberhard. Three votes apiece, exactly as Eberhard had anticipated.

Finally Jan Piast representing the King of Bohemia, stood forward. "My King bids me remind you of the seriousness with which he views his imperial responsibilities. At this time he sees an opportunity for the Empire to both protect itself and continue to grow. As such he has chosen to ally his Kingdom with the Duchy of Brunswick and I am instructed to cast his vote for Wigerich von Schauenburg."

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Applause started slowly as the attendant nobles realized who their new Emperor was, then slowly gathered strength as no-one wanted to appear unenthusiastic for their new Emperor. Eberhard remained motionless, heartbroken at the result.


June 1476

Eberhard's bedchamber was terribly stuffy even at night, with the multitude of candles just adding to the summer heat. But Eberhard didn't seem to notice. He was focused on the pages of reports delivered from his various provinces. But he couldn't focus on the numbers. He didn't have a head for figures at the best of times, but he'd hardly been eating in the last few weeks and he struggled to concentrate on anything nowadays.

The reports from Brandenburg worried him. I haven't visited the north often enough, he thought. Other than the battlefields we fought on, I just don't know these provinces. Berlin, Potsdam, Uckermark, Stralsund - he forgot the names almost as quickly as he read them.

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Eberhard hadn't been the same since returning from the Imperial election. Distracted, prone to melancholy, and since the winter snows he'd hardly left his chambers. Luitgard, his wife, rarely visited him now as she spent her time in the castle gardens.

He would have liked to blame the new Emperor, Duke Wigerich of Brunswick, for stealing the title from him, but he couldn't muster up any anger for the man. Wigerich had done nothing that Eberhard wouldn't have done in his place, only Wigerich had been able to pull in the big fish. Eberhard castigated himself for not being alert sooner to the potential of Bohemia to swing the election.

And now it looked like Wigerich might prove himself to be a good Emperor, already instituting major reforms to stimulate improvements across the breadth of the Empire. When Eberhard started thinking about it, he begrudgingly admitted that Wigerich was probably doing a better job than he'd be doing in his place. And this just made Eberhard feel even worse.

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His councillors continued to humour this odd behaviour of Eberhard's, delivering reports to him right here at his desk. And so these reports had piled up until he couldn't bear it any longer and so started trying to work through them now.

The best he could tell from the reports, Eberhard's clumsy attempts at some reforms in his local economies had had little effect except to perhaps destabilize the realm.

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He was already exhausted and he'd barely looked through a tenth of the stack of papers. As his eyes drooped, a servant entered to help him to bed. Eberhard tried to raise a hand in protest but didn't have the energy for it. His eyes closed and he felt the servant carry him to his bed. Am I that light now that a servant can carry me? was his final thought as his head touched the pillow and he drifted off.

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Duke Konrad of Swabia
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March 1477

Konrad stepped out onto the battlements of Stuttgart Castle, the rising sun illuminating the 7,000 besieging troops arrayed along the river Neckar, their siege engines turned on Stuttgart Castle and already starting to wind up for the first barrage of the day. Crossbow men on the wall turned to acknowledge their Duke as he walked by before quickly turning their attention back to the forces of St. Gallen and Heidelberg.

The patter of a running child's bare feet caused him to turn. It was his son, Ulrich, just 6 years old and completely oblivious to the peril that they faced.

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"Come now, little one - the battlements are no place for a young boy right now." He made to usher him back downstairs to the hall.

"But Father, I want to see the soldiers; I want to see the fighting."

Konrad was proud that his heir wasn't growing up a coward and certainly appreciated the boy's martial spirit. But his safety was important too. "Okay, you can stay up here only until the first trebuchet fires and then we'll head back."

That seemed to satisfy young Ulrich as he half jumped-half climbed the parapet to spy the besieging army. As Konrad watched little Ulrich, he couldn't help feel regret at the mistakes that had led here.

His own father had died less than a year ago. It hadn't been totally unexpected, and while his father had been a recluse in his last few months he'd already been taking over many of the Duke's diplomatic responsibilities. Even so he wasn't really prepared for the events that would unfold.

First was the claim by a lowborn soldier, Hartwig Dietwin, that he was the bastard son of the deceased Duke and since he was older than both Konrad and Konrad's brother, Hermann, that he was the rightful heir to the Duchy. Now while there was some passing resemblance of the 30-year old soldier to Eberhard III, none of the nobles who knew Eberhard could took Hartwig's claim seriously - Konrad's father's morals were impeccable; an example that Konrad had wished to emulate.

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But Hartwig had managed to secure the loyalty of a number of fellow soldiers as well as some knights from Baden. They were not to be underestimated.

And then had come the call from Switzerland whose provinces of Österreich were under attack from Austria who sought to reclaim them. His father had made a pact of alliance with Switzerland 17 years ago and it was Konrad's duty to make good on that agreement. And so Konrad had agreed that the banners of Swabia would fly alongside those of Switzerland.

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But first Hartwig's rebels had to be put down. It was to be Konrad's first battle, although he wouldn't be leading the men himself. He was well versed in military theory but he was young and clearly had little experience. And their opponent, Hartwig Dietwin, was a very experienced campaigner who knew how to extract the best from his men. Instead an older noble, Ludwig Sieghard, was to lead the troops.

The Swabian army took up a defensive position on a bend in the Rhine knowing that the rebels would have to come to them if they were to prove their claimant's worth.

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Konrad had been impressed by the courage of Hartwig and his men - charging when the odds were clearly against them. Superior numbers and the chosen battleground gave the loyalists their hard-fought victory. Support for the pretender hadn't lasted much longer as Ludwig Sieghard had been tasked with mopping up the rebel remnants.

It had however cost them valuable weeks in which Austria had been able to rally their allies, Lorraine, Upper Burgundy and Heidelberg. Even Holstein had joined in the war against them despite Duke Ludwig II's brother being married to Konrad's elder sister. The numbers on the opposition side were daunting.

Which led Konrad to his second battle. Again Ludwig Sieghard was in command. This time it was their army that was outnumbered more than 2 to 1 by the Burgundians. Even though casualties were equal on both sides, they couldn't win a battle of attrition and Ludwig called a retreat lest they be left with nothing.

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Ludwig led the army off to regroup with the Brandenburg men near Berlin while Konrad returned to Stuttgart to help with the defences there.

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Konrad watched as the first shots of the day come sailing through the air now, striking at the castle's well-beaten walls. Ulrich fell back off the wall, stunned at the impact, though he bounced up quick enough, still grinning from the excitement of it all.

"That's it, boy, time's up. The servants will have prepared a morning meal for us by now. I'm sure you're hungry - let's get going."

Another hammering of trebuchet shot against the castle walls and Ulrich didn't need any more convincing. The Duke and his heir made their way back downstairs.

They were intercepted on the way to the dining hall by the old Chancellor, Count Heribert of Elsass. He gave an elaborate bow and then said, "My Lord, sorry to trouble you at this early hour. It's a matter of great urgency."

"Go on and eat, Ulrich. I'll deal with this and join you shortly." When Ulrich had run off, Heribert passed a scroll to Konrad. The seal was instantly recognizable - it was the seal of the most powerful royalty in Europe, that of the King of England, France, Ireland and Jerusalem. Jordan of York held that title now though England was still plagued by those who supported the counter-claim of Edward of Lancaster.

Konrad broke the seal and began reading the message from King Jordan.

For many decades have the English realms and the Duchy of Swabia been sworn to alliance and even now that alliance is secured by the marriage between your aunt Beatrix and my uncle James, the Earl of Cambridge.

And it is well known throughout these lands that the villainous Edward of Lancaster did slay the rightful King, the last of the line of Plantagenet, Henry IV, son of King Lionel, the Hammer of the Saracens, and Beatrix von Württemberg, your aunt. It is justice for both our lands that we fight Edward of Lancaster and we will not rest until his head is mounted before the Tower of London.

But traitorous elements conspire against us. Rebellious nobles in France and Ireland seek to overthrow our glorious Union. Seeing our armies engaged with those of Lancaster's, they have named their own monarchs in defiance of our historic treaties.

So I call upon you, Duke Konrad of Swabia, to fulfill your duty to this alliance and assist us in putting down this insurrection from France and Ireland. We are already mustering additional men in London and look forward to your positive reply.

Konrad was burning with rage by the time he put the scroll down. "Is the man blind, or does he just have no care for concerns beyond his own border? It's as if he doesn't even know we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle here, while he seeks to use us as fodder for his recalcitrant French subordinates. If we can't beat Austria, what makes him think we could do anything against France?"

Konrad's anger at his Duchy's own impotence led him to a startling revelation: a plan; a way for him to be able to take destiny back into his own hands. It would require patience of the sort his own mother had counselled, but in the end he would surely have his glory.

"Count Heribert, have a reply drawn up declining their request."

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"But my Lord, they will forswear the alliance. They are our strongest friends and your father worked tirelessly to maintain that friendship."

"No, Heribert, they are a chain around our feet. They care nothing for us and any of the matters in the Empire. No - it is best we put that friendship behind us and you can help us find better friends closer to home."
His Chancellor was dismissed and he returned to the battlements to seek his Marshal, Benedikt Poppo, who was even now standing alongside the crossbows in defiance of the barrage. Benedikt saw the Duke approaching and took his leave of the troops.

"My Lord, how can I be of service?" Benedikt asked, always eager to please the Duke.

"Ah, my good man, Benedict, your defence of the castle has been unimpeachable. These men here would die for you before the walls fell. But I must know the honest truth now for our Duchy depends on it. Can we defeat Austria?"

"The truth, my Lord?" A long pause and a look around to ensure they were out of earshot of those manning the wall, then, "No. There may be only seven thousand arrayed against us here, but the armies of Upper Burgundy and the Steiermark haven't yet arrived. The armies under Ludwig Sieghard in Brandenburg have suffered some heavy casualties and it's only a matter of time before the greater numbers in the Austrian alliance become telling."

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Konrad sighed a touch theatrically. "While we still have an army and the castle still stands, we must seek peace with our foe. I authorize you, Benedikt Poppo, to negotiate terms with our besiegers. Promise them anything but land, give them our whole treasury if you have to, and we can walk away from this foolhardy war."

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theosZA

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Duke Gunzelin of Skåne
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August 1486

Gunzelin Estrid was 63 years old and he was sure he was going to die soon. His old bones ached more with each passing year, and each illness that descended on the castle hit Gunzelin the hardest and left him debilitated for weeks. It was summer and the drafts that were keeping Malmö Castle so cool right now would make it so unpleasant in the winter.

His own father, Christopher Estrid, had been the epitome of vitality. He'd died just three years before at the ripe old age of 88 and had remained active in ruling the Duchy of Skåne right until his death.

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Gunzelin had been ruling the Duchy of Baden since the passing of his mother half a century ago. His father had said that the warmer temperatures of Breisgau had made Gunzelin soft and weak and it was now that Gunzelin felt it held true. Now with his father gone, he was Duke of Skåne and expected to rule from his chilly seat in Malmö. He doubted he could ever get used to the winter cold here.

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He had decided he would return to Breisgau for the winter. His bones wouldn't thank him for the arduous trip but it was the only way he would see the next summer. He still had never had the opportunity to travel to Scanian Estonia and Ingria in the east, but from all reports it was even colder and more unpleasant there.

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And right now the heads of every noble house of any significance within the realm were arriving here in Malmö anticipating Gunzelin's Ducal pronouncements. Before he could do so he had to ensure the nobles would support what he planned to do. To this end he gathered now with the five most important of these nobles in his private chambers. He looked them over now as they entered: to his eyes they all looked so young, so full of energy. And, of course, all so deferential in his presence, bowing deeply to him.

The oldest was Ruprecht, Count of Wiek in Estonia, 43 years old and still young enough to be his son. Indeed he had been betrothed to his daughter, Osterhild, so many years ago. Even now the memory of her made him tear up. She'd been a delightful baby, a curious toddler and then a remarkable child who'd shown incredible aptitude for everything she tried.

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She took after her Dutch mother, Irene van Wisch, in everything, from her handsome features to her remarkable wit. Despite being female, she certainly had the capability of ruling this realm in her own right and with his father's help he'd secured a betrothal with Count Ruprecht to ensure the support of the Estonian region for when she would be ruling.

They were to be married on her fifteenth birthday in the Freiburg Minster. Gunzelin had spent an outrageous amount on the festivities and the Count's family had travelled a thousand miles to be there. But his daughter was nowhere to be seen. She'd disappeared some time during the night on the eve of the wedding.

At first they'd suspected a kidnapping but no demand for ransom was forthcoming. In the end Gunzelin had to concede that his beloved daughter must have just run away. Watching Count Ruprecht take his seat, he now understood why she might have done that. He was fat, slow-witted and gormless, grown too comfortable with his seat in Wiek. He would have been a poor match for Osterhild. She must have seen it even while he was blinded by the politics.

Nearly three decades hence and there had been no word from her. He refused to believe that a girl as smart as her would have perished in the German countryside. Instead he prayed that she'd found a kindred spirit out there, perhaps a smart burgher's son, and was living happily in her anonymity in some distant city.

Perhaps it was this foolish hope that meant that he'd never remarried after the death of his wife; never sought to have another child for fear of disinheriting Osterhild. But now it was too late. The Duchy needed a successor and it wouldn't be coming from his line.

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They were finally all seated and the servants were about to bring in drinks and snacks for his guests. Instead he waved them away. His mouth was suddenly dry and he longed for a few sips of his own wine but he needed a clear head for this. He decided to cut straight to the issue at hand.

"Good noble sirs, we must make a decision on the matter of the succession. If I have the backing of the five of you, the others will surely tow the line."

The young Count Tahbert of Pskov, who had recently come to his position since the death of his own father, had until now been alone in feigning indifference to this audience with the Duke, but now he was very much paying attention and was the first to interrupt the Duke. "My Lord, that's extremely prudent of you. I have a few thoughts on the matter."

The man's family was up-jumped nobility, his father having been rewarded for his leading the conquest of the Pskov Republic, and so Gunzelin understood Tahbert's ill manners and sighed even while the other nobles looked around uncomfortably.

"Ah, my young Count, you have mistaken my intentions here. This is not a council meeting. I'm not here to solicit ideas. No - I will lay out the facts for you all. Once I am done it will be clear to all in this room who should be the next Duke." There was silence and an acquiescing nod from Tahbert.

Gunzelin continued, "First of all, I have no living descendants of my own and to such I will swear in the presence of all the nobles gathered in Malmö." He tried pushing Osterhild to the back of his mind again but even so he was finding it hard to focus.

It had been nearly half a minute without a word being said when the genteel Baron Dietrich of Helsingborg politely coughed and said, "Perhaps my Lord wishes to begin with your niece's wedding six years ago."

"Thank you, Baron," Gunzelin replied with the same politeness. It was still a slightly sore point, marrying his niece from his younger brother to his nephew from his sister, and it had cost plenty of silver for the Church to allow this marriage of first cousins. Of course it had been his father's doing - necessary, he claimed, to preserve our tight bond with the von Württembergs of Swabia, one of the Electors of the Empire.

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"With my brother, Matthias, lost to us since the campaign for the eastern territories, we have no other living trueborn male child of my father. And so we must trace the lineage to successive generations, either through my sister, Luitgard, or my brother, Matthias. Luitgard married into the von Württemberg dynasty and has two male children that have survived until adulthood. The elder of the two is Konrad von Württemberg, Duke of Swabia."

ZdQ34eC.png


Tahbert interrupted again, snarling, "If you mean to propose that cowardly snake as Duke of Skåne, then forget it - you won't be getting any support from Pskov. He'll probably surrender us to the first barbarians that come raiding and plundering."

Yes, thought Gunzelin, the Duke of Swabia's reputation had indeed spread as far as the wild easten reaches of his Duchy. Abandoning his local allies so quickly in war and rebuffing the diplomatic requests of the great Kingdom of England had left Konrad with a stain to his name that would not be quickly forgotten.

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"Now, now, of course not. The younger brother is Hermann von Württemberg married to our own Ilsebe, daughter of Matthias. Any child of theirs would have Scanian noble blood from both father and mother."

Gunzelin could almost see the gears turning in Count Ruprecht's head as he struggled to follow the logic before he finally inquired, "But my Lord Gunzelin, they have no children, do they?"

"Ilsebe gave birth last week to a healthy baby boy. His name is Valdemar and he will be your next Duke."

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April 1487

There was an uneasy silence in Freiburg Minster, the congregation shifting in their seats as the visiting Bishop of Constance descended from the altar to the Duke lying in state. The Requiem Mass was almost concluded now and he began intoning the Lux Aeterna as the nobles started to come forward to pay their respects.

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First was Ilsebe Estrid, the niece of the dead Duke, and her husband, Hermann von Württemberg. The babe and Duke-to-be, Valdemar, was safely ensconced at the back of the church on the wet nurse's breast lest he disturb the solemnity of the occassion.

Ilsebe hardly dared to look upon Gunzelin's dead body for to do so would be to admit he was gone and accept her new role as the head of the regency council for which she was singularly unprepared. She had desired nothing more than to live a quiet life of idleness married to her dutiful husband. But now the nobles were following behind her, expecting her to lead. She made a short prayer now as if for her departed uncle, but in truth for the security of the Duchy until her son would come of age.

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Following the Ducal Regent came the elderly Luitgard Estrid, the sister of the dead Duke, and her son, Duke Konrad of Swabia. While Luitgard wept genuine tears for her brother, Konrad's rage was barely contained. He gave the body before him barely a glance as he instead glared at his own brother, Hermann, and Ilsebe as they went to retrieve the baby Duke. While the nobles of Skåne and Baden might support the infant, for Konrad the matter was far from settled.
 

stnylan

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An intriguing situation there, rather altering things.
 

theosZA

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An intriguing situation there, rather altering things.
Going from CK2, which is so rooted in its stories, to EU4 is quite a challenge in this style of AAR, but there are certainly stories to be found within the implied narrative of a EU4 game and I look forward to these interesting narrative situations.

This latest chapter marks the halfway point in the timeline (150 years) and so I've put together a family tree of sorts with some (very brief) summary notes to give that big picture view.

From Count Ulrich of Württemberg to Duke Eberhard II of Swabia:
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From Duke Eberhard II of Swabia to Duke Konrad of Swabia & Brandenburg:
CLWdVqN.png
 

stnylan

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A very useful family tree
 

theosZA

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Ulrich von Württemberg, Heir to the Duchy of Swabia
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July 1495

Ulrich sat proudly on his stallion as he surveyed his battle lines - over thirty thousand men forming up from Swabia, Brandenburg and their allies. Gusts of wind tugged at banners held high at regular intervals. His own knights were trotting up beside him, the midmorning sun gleaming off their polished armour. He caught the eye of Friedrich, second son of the Count of Elsass and his companion since childhood. He gave a smile which Friedrich returned as he donned his helmet.

Ulrich turned and signalled. As trumpets sounded, infantry all down the line began to advance. His heart raced in anticipation. This was exactly how he'd imagined it. It was the glorious battle he'd been dreaming of ever since the ambassador from Treviso on the Adriatic Sea had come to his father seeking war on their mutual rival, the Count of Tirol, in the Alps. He'd been 22 then, young and eager, but three years of warfare had done little to abate his desire for glory.

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Pisa and Ancona had also joined on the Treviso side. Besides Tirol's, he could see the banners of Bavaria and the free cities of Ingolstadt and Nuremberg also arrayed against them. Too few had come to Tirol's defence and in the early months of the war Ulrich had been sure the superior numbers of the Swabia-Tirol alliance would tell against their inferior foe.

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Their early attacks had led to them taking Tyrol Castle in a lengthy siege, but he and his family had been besieged in Württemberg. He remembered the siege well, the privation of those days - how he'd assured his little brother, Adalhard, only 8 at the time, that their armies would come relieve the siege real soon. And well he remembered the disappointment when they'd had to be smuggled out mere days before the castle fell to Nuremberg's army.

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His father, Duke Konrad of Swabia, was the strategist, planning out the course of the war. But Ulrich was not content with pushing pieces on a map. He wanted to be out in the field with his father's army, leading them in battle. And if his father could have him betrothed to some little girl from Bohemia, he certainly could allow him to fight alongside his men in this war. Heated words had been exchanged - his father had called him reckless; he'd called his father a coward. But eventually his father had relented.

pic-30-3.png


To be sure, he didn't know much about the practicalities of warfare such as logistics, manoeuvering or battlefield tactics, but he did have the charisma, courage and noble bearing that his men would naturally follow. Even as the armies approached each other on this battlefield near neutral Memmingen, he led the cavaly flank from the front, his horse picking up speed and he need not look behind him to know the rest of the cavalry followed him.

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His first battle, near the city of Ulm, had been much easier. They had outnumbered their foe almost three to one, the footsoldiers of Ancona had held the centre while his cavalry had successfully outflanked the Ingolstadt army and put them to flight all too quickly. Not a single man among his knights had even been wounded. That had been one year ago, almost to the day.

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But despite that victory the war had dragged on. The two forces had been rampaging throughout each other's lands, so it was inevitable that it would ultimately come down to this one great battle that might decide the outcome of this war. And this battle was unlikely to be as simple. The numbers were almost equal on both sides. He might not be the best student, but he had picked up some simple lessons so far. The mixed units of pikemen and arquebusiers on both sides meant that blind cavalry charges were risky and it was more important than ever that they attack from the flank.

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For now they were set to engage an enemy cavalry unit head-on. If they could drive them from the field, they'd have the opportunity to roll up the enemy line. But even as the gap closed, Ulrich spotted more enemy horsemen emerging from the woods on their own flank - horsemen that hadn't been accounted for. Outmanoeuvered and outnumbered, this couldn't end well. Just for a moment he was at a loss, never having had to deal with such a situation before. But then they were upon the enemy battle line and there was no time for thought beyond the foes immediately in front of him.

pic-30-7.png


November 1496

Just twenty men accompanied Ulrich this time as they cautiously rode towards the Tirol encampment. They were his trusted guard, all survivors from the battle of Mittelwald near Memmingen. Out of habit he looked to his side, expecting to see his good friend Friedrich, but the young knight had died in that battle. Instead beside him was the middle-aged diplomat, Landolf Sofie. The man's experience and confidence lifted Ulrich's spririts somewhat. Perhaps this wasn't going to go as badly as he feared.

Before they got within a hundred yards of the encampment, a small contingent of soldiers emerged carrying the banner of the Count of Tirol. They were led by two men on horseback who couldn't have been more different. In the front was the Count himself, Sigmund de Luxembourg, young, handsome, well-groomed and better dressed for a hunt than a war camp. Slightly behind him was his war-weathered general, Jakob Abenthung, the mastermind of their defeat near Memmingen.

The two groups came within a few yards of each other and nervously stopped. Count Sigmund was the first to speak. "You here to beg for peace? Your allies are being torn to pieces by the Carinthians and you won't even help them..."

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This war hadn't turned out anything like Ulrich had expected. The glory of battle had given way to the ignominity of defeat. And even while his father's grand plans had been crumbling around him, he'd been concocting even more plans regardless of Swabia's finances or manpower.

Ulrich looked to Landolf now for encouragement. Swabia's small army of diplomats led by Landolf had been working tirelessly to salvage their Duke's reputation. Their greatest success had come in the wake of the so-called English War of the Roses where the House of York had finally subjugated the rebelling English led by the Lancasters as well as the independence-minded French and Irish. Jordan York had finally been recognized as King of England, Ireland, France and Jerusalem by the Pope himself. And Swabia had signed an official alliance with them. They were good friends to have as their options dwindled within the Empire.

pic-30-9.png


Landolf nodded encouragement and Ulrich turned to Sigmund, saying the words that Landolf had prepared for him. "My father, Duke Konrad of Swabia, and I have come to a realization that this conflict between our peoples is a folly ... a vanity conceived by the Count of Treviso. It is unfortunate that it has taken years of bloodshed to realize this, but it cannot continue. We apologize for the hardship we have caused and hope that some financial compensation might go some way towards easing the suffering for your people."

They had lost the war, but his father was determined that they emerge with what pride they could. Ulrich had been given free reign to negotiate any amount of money for peace, but no concessions of land.

Ulrich continued, "If such a peace is possible, Landolf here can work out the finer details." There was a slight nod of the head from Count Sigmund and a look of relief on the face of his general, Jakob. It looked like the war would be ended here and Ulrich had little desire to ever see a battlefield again.

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