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    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

RossN

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A VERY DIFFERENT ENGLAND: A GODWIN AAR


King Harold's coronation.

England 1066

Edward the Confessor is dead and the throne of England is in question. Across the Channel William the Bastard, ruthless and clever Duke of Normandy claims England as his on the promise of the dead Edward and the oath of a very much alive great English noble. In Norway the dreaded viking Harald Hardrada readies his army and fleet to invade with the aid of Tostig once Earl of Northumbria.

In England Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex brother to Tostig and swearer of fealty to Duke William has been crowned in Westminster Abbey. He is the choice of most (though not all) of England but the challenges are immense and there is no certainty he will last...

Contents:
Foreword
Volume I - King Harold II (1066 - 1072)
Volume II - King Earled (1072 - )



Notes: Greetings all. This will be my first Crusader Kings II AAR so it will either be a massive success or crash and burn horribly. I am hoping for the former.

This AAR uses the Stamford Bridge start and the excellent Saxon England mod created by the_hdk.
 
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RossN

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Foreword - The Rise of the House of Godwin

England, 1066​

Before Edward the Confessor England had been ruled by the Danes for thirty-six years. It was the greatest of these kings, Cnut known as Canute in England who made an Anglo-Saxon nobleman named Godwin Earl of Wessex. Wessex, most famous of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and seat of the line of Alfred the Great was the richest and strongest of all the Earldoms and as Godwin served Canute and his sons he grew powerful indeed.

Earl Godwin might have supported the Danish kings but when the last of them died and the old Anglo-Saxon royal house of Wessex returned to power in 1042 he was not ashamed to support the new monarch and indeed his own daughter Edith married the new king. This did not prevent an attempt by Edward the Confessor to exile Godwin and his sons in 1051 because of his opposition to influence of the Normans in England. The power and popularity of Godwin was proven the following year when the Earl returned to England in triumph with the support of the burghers and peasantry. A humiliated Edward had to accept that his father-in-law was at worst the second most powerful man in England.

Earl Godwin did not have long to enjoy his rank, dying suddenly at royal banquet in Winchester in 1053. According to legend he choked on piece of bread while denying disloyalty to King Edward. His son Harold went on to become Earl of Wessex… and thus the most powerful man in England. His other living sons became the Earls of Northumria, Kent and East Anglia solidifying the rise of the Godwins. As Edward’s marriage remained childless Harold became a potential future king.

While the Danes had ruled England Edward had spent his long years in exile in the Duchy of Normandy and according to the Normans he had promised the succession to William the Bastard. In 1064 Earl Harold was shipwrecked off the French coast and brought to the Duke where he swore fealty to William… again according to the Normans.
The following year more trouble struck the House of Godwin. Tostig, Harold’s younger brother and Earl of Northumbria had proven so unpopular that he was overthrown in a rebellion and when Harold refused to support him he fled the court of King Harald of Norway who already had a (weak) claim on the English throne. Once Edward the Confessor died the situation promised to be unstable. Who would become the next king?

That question was answered when Edward finally died on 5th January 1066 but not before asking the Earl of Wessex to protect his widow and kingdom. Harold took this as a request to take the throne as did the Witan – the assembly of royal councillers who in theory chose the king and now chose Harold who was crowned King Harold II the very next day. He did not have long to wait for his rival claimants to react…


The House of Godwin, 1066 including King Harold II of England; Leofwine, Earl of Kent; Gyrth, Earl of East Anglia and Tostig, former Earl of Northumbria
 

RossN

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Volume One

King Harold II
September 1066

The English army had camped on the banks of the River Nene near Northampton and as evening came smoke from thousands of fires wafted into the sky. The King had brought his famed huscarls – heavily armoured foot soldiers wielding great battle-axes that could cut a man in twain with a single blow and alongside these elites were the humbler militia warriors of the fyrd. More than eight and a half thousand English soldiers had followed their ruler north and now lay waiting. Moral was good but there was understandable tension in the air – within living memory the Danes had conquered all England and legend had it the Norse were more fearsome warriors yet.

In his tent King Harold conferred with a muster of nobles. Among the lesser thegns standing or seated at his map table were Harold’s brother Gyrth of East Anglia, Eadric the Wild and the King’s son and heir Prince Godwin. They were considering plans for moving the army on in the morning when a very tired looking travel stained man arrived: Maldred, Mayor of Sarum and King Harold’s spymaster in chief.

“Sire, word from Rouen is that we can expect the Bastard of Normandy before the middle of October. He has assembled an army of over ten thousand.” Maldred announced, accepting a chair but irritably waving away a servant who approached with wine.

A murmur ran around the tent. The Normans were a force to be reckoned with and if true William would have more men than Harold. All eyes at once turned to the King, whose expression had remained impassive at the news. After a moment he turned to Earl Gyrth. “Brother inform your men; at dawn we march for Wessex.”

Gyrth looked surprised and Eadric angry but it was 17 year old Prince Godwin who spoke up. “But father what of York? We must save our people from the Norse.”

Prince Godwin​

The King glanced at his son and frowned. “Think boy. York might be the second city of England but what is on the Southern coast? Winchester, our royal capital and London, greatest city in the land. Ay, I’d sooner lose York than either, let alone both! No if we march now we can catch the Bastard before he crosses with his whole host. No lord has so great a fleet to bring ten thousand men and half as many horses over the channel.” Harold struck the table hard with his palm for emphasis. “If William and his entire army lands and assembles on our soil the crown – your future crown boy – will go to him.”

The Prince shifted uneasily. Almost as tall as his father (and Harold was tall even for a Saxon) young Godwin lacked Harold’s broad shoulders and strong bearing. Not an unhandsome lad with his large sea green eyes and dark hair but all present knew he was not the warrior his father was. Godwin was no fool but his mind was better suited to being a merchant than a monarch – and he was unhappily aware of that. The King’s reasoning seemed sound, but to leave without trying to relieve York… that couldn’t be right could it? “Father perhaps we could leave men here-“
“And be too weak to fight the Bastard and too weak to save York? Boy we can’t be strong everywhere but I’ll be damned if we’ll be weak everywhere either.” The King looked up and nodded briskly. “Meeting over. Go and tell the soldiers. I’ll speak with you later Gyrth and you too Eadric.”

Prince Godwin started to leave with the others but as he turned Harold barked. “Stay boy.” Then, his tone becoming less confrontational he said: “I have another reason for going south than concerns you. You are to be married my son. I have sent letter to the Emperor asking for his sister the Lady Adela. Think of it boy – the house of Godwin and Salian united.”

The Prince did think of it, his eyes widening in surprise. “What is she like?”

“I don’t know,” said Harold bluntly, attention already turning back to his map signalling an end to the meeting. “But if her brother will aid us against Norse and Norman she could be a Rennish harlot for all I care. For both our sakes we must win this war boy.”
 
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unmerged(58610)

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Oh I was so looking forward to seeing the battle of Stamford Bridge fought. You do realize that harald Hadrada won't get over the slight. His ego just can'y believe harold would choose to fight the bastard over him the greatest warrior in Christenddom. He could just die from the humiliation.
 

Moltke

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Oh I was so looking forward to seeing the battle of Stamford Bridge fought. You do realize that harald Hadrada won't get over the slight. His ego just can'y believe harold would choose to fight the bastard over him the greatest warrior in Christenddom. He could just die from the humiliation.
Indeed. In fact I can't recall a single game in the last dozen where Norway come back to attack England after the first peace. They usually win too, since when Harold loses William can't muster a credible defense. Godspeed, RossN!
 

Avindian

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AARs of England are surprisingly rare; trying to keep the Godwins in power is even rarer. Subbed!
 

Nikolai

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A RossN AAR; that is not to be missed. Subscribed!
 

john_bell

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I like it! More please.
 

RossN

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Chief Ragusa: Heh, he should feel flattered that Harold felt the need to ally with the Emperor before fighting him. :D

Moltke: Thanks. :) William is the worse threat early on thanks to his vast army while Harald is the greater long term threat. Hopefully I'll be able to count on the Emperor for aid by then.

Avindian: I had strongly considered playing as Harald but there is already a fine Norse invasion AAR by Estonianzulu out. Plus I came across this very evocative mod and that sealed the deal.

Nikolai, Sleight of Hand, john_bell: Thanks! I'll try and keep it up! :)
 

RossN

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Volume One (continued)

The wedding banquet of Prince Godwin & Lady Adela​

Winchester & London, September-October 1066

In her late thirties Queen Ældgyth was still a handsome women though (to her unending irritation) she lacked the beauty of that other, older Ældgyth who had been common law wife of Harold and was the mother of his elder sons. But then Ældgyth the Younger was Queen of England while Ældgyth the Fair lived as a commoner in Northampton so there is only so far beauty will get you in this world as Ældgyth the Younger would say sometimes with a knowing smile. The Queen was the sister of Morcar of Northumbria and Eadwin of Mercia so even had she not been Harold's wife she would have been able to claim pride in being from the mighty House of Mercia. And Ældgyth the Younger was nothing if not proud - which made her a fair match for Harold after all.

So the Queen was at her most regal to greet Lady Adela when she arrived one rainy morning in late September. Her stepson's new bride turned out to be 21 (four years older than Prince Godwin), dumpy, draped in a nondescript woollen shift and possessing a German accent so thick Ældgyth insisted they speak in Latin at the welcoming banquet rather than the incomprehensible version of English the Emperor's sister spoke in. Ældgyth was very proud of her Latin which Harold could not speak at all and Godwin only barely. She (wrongly) believed it impressed the Bishops, both of whom were in attendance to see the future Queen Consort of England - assuming Harold won of course.

Bishop Eadward of Corfe and Bishop Albert of St. Swithun were leaders of the Witan who had elected Harold... though that did not mean they were devout supporters of the King. In fact it was common (if unspoken) knowledge that the Witan saw Harold as merely the least bad option and his enemies did not come from overseas alone. They spent the banquet conferring in hushed voices with each other over what the Pope's support of William truly meant. Lady Adela tried to keep up but it was difficult to do so, especially with the Queen mindlessly wittering on what a great state occasion the wedding would be. If there is a kingdom left to host it, the bride to be thought to herself in wonder at the undercurrents she was getting at this supposedly simple meal. If this is what the Court is like what of the King? Or the Prince...

Lady Adela​

Lady Adela would not have to wait long to find out. The following day the German noblewoman and her ladies in waiting travelled to London in great state riding a beautiful pure white mare. Saxon villages crowded the roads to witness her journey and gawp at the foreign princess, to Adela's bemusement. Her brother might be the Emperor but back home she had rarely attracted much attention on her own because her birth was illegitimate. The wedding itself was a thing of splendour and Adela shrewdly guessed Harold was spending her dowry on the ceremony to impress her brother, whose eagle eyed ambassadors occupied the front pew in Westminster Abbey. These thoughts were driven from her mind as she caught first sight of her husband, clad in polished armour. So young! was her first thought. Bride and bridegroom looked across at each other and evidently liked what something of what they saw because they exchanged nervous smiles before exchanging wedding vows in front of the Archbishop.

The pageantry was not quite done: as a wedding present Prince Godwin received the Earldom of Hereford from his father. As the newlyweds left the Abbey in great ceremony Adela noticed King Harold speaking earnestly with her brother's ambassadors’ - a reminder if any were needed as to the real reason for this marriage. A sudden alarming thought crossed Adela's mind: what if her brother refused to supply troops after all? On Lord, she prayed slightly, her anxious eyes passing to the abbey altar please guide Heinrich's thoughts!

The marriage pays off!​

Her prayers were answered. On 10th October all England breathed a sigh of relief: the Emperor had agreed to send troops to help in the war. The news could not have come sooner as hot on its heels came word that the Bastard of Normandy had landed in England and was advancing on Winchester. The King and his army (the Earl of Hereford included) marched at once to stop him...
 

Kaioo

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Intriguing start. Interested to see where this goes. On side note, surprised you included a little bit about the Earl of little Hereford, what is the importance of including him in this eh? ;)
 

Garuda

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King Harold II of Englaland? I never noticed that typo before.

Nice start by the way. I'll be following along.
 

RossN

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Sleight of Hand: That's the spirit! :D

Kaioo: Well he *is* my heir. :)

hygge0302: Thanks, glad to have you aboard. :)

Garuda: Heh, as the_hdk mentioned it isn't a typo. ;)

the_hdk: Very glad you like it! :) It's a great little mod (though I have to admit I slightly prefer the vanilla portrait for Harold). I hope you don't mind that I use a few modernisations for convience (like 'England' or 'Saxon'.)
 

RossN

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Volume One (continued)


Huscarl vs. Norman


Winchester, October-November, 1066

Dawn broke over a field south west of Winchester near a small abbey devoted to St Swithun. It was a cold morning and frost clung to the blades of grass which crunched beneath every foot or hoof. Facing each other were two great hosts; the finest warriors of England and Normandy. Both commanders - Harold of Wessex and the Bastard of Normandy - knew that whatever else happened their war would be won and lost today.

Harold's march against William​

Harold's guess had been shrewd. William did not have to ships to move all his men across. Under the leadership of the Mayor of Laval more than five thousand Norman soldiers had been left waiting in Rouen for the fleet to return and ship them across the Channel to join their lord. William had just five thousand, eight hundred men with him against Harold's eight thousand, five hundred and fifty but even so there were nerves in the Saxon camp the night before the battle. The cavalry of Normandy was the finest in Christendom and the Bastard had brought eight hundred and sixty knights with him, near double Harold's horse. Whichever side God favoured would have to fight very hard for victory.

Before battle the two leaders rode out to meet in the middle of the field with their armies at audience.

"A bitter business," said William, glancing at Harold's host.

"True," admitted Harold, his own brown eyes evaluating William's forces. "But we knew it would come to this."

"I hear York has fallen," said William. There was no pleasure in his voice at that nugget of information. Harald Hadrada was the common enemy.

"It will be retaken." Harold replied, and smiled wolfishly. "By one of us at least."

William was not known for his sense of humour but he laughed at that. "This is a beautiful country Harold. I look forward to ruling it."

The two men grasped each other's hands in memory of comradeship then rode back to their armies. Harold rode down the line of his beloved Huscarls, listening to their cheers. His eyes were drawn to the crimson and white banner their standard bearer held aloft. "Men of England! Remember you carry the banner of King Alfred himself! Shall we let it fall into the hands of these pirates? Never! For God, for your country, for your King - to battle!"


11th November 1066 - battle is joined!

The Battle of St Swithun (as it became known) was long a brutal. For hours the Saxon shield wall held off the Norman centre led by the Bastard himself. William knew that if he could just hold his men long enough to allow his knights to flak Harold victory would be his, and for a long time things hung in the balance. But Harold was determined not to yield ground and yard by bloody yard his huscarls began to drive back the Norman infantry. On the right flank of the Saxon army Eadric the Wild leading fyrd of Mercia & Northumbria routed the Norman left, forcing the Bastard to deploy his reserves to stop Mercians sweeping away the Norman archers. This gave Earl Gyrth the opportunity he had been waiting for. The Earl of East Anglia led the Saxon reserve - nearly a third of Harold's entire army. The men, mostly from East Anglia, Kent and Hereford were mere militia, lightly armed and trained next to the Normans or the Harold's Wessex contingent. But they were fresh and now Gyrth charged them at the exposed Norman right flank.

The Normans had fought well but they were now exhausted and Gryth's attack had an immediate and catastrophic effect. The Norman line wavered, and then broke as William's army disintegrated. Retreat became rout as most of the Norman infantry were cut down were they stood, too worn to flee but too demoralised to stand fight. A desperate cavalry charge saved William himself from capture but Eadric the Wild plundered the Bastard's camp. As night fell the Norman remnants were fleeing North West. Fewer than one thousand, three hundred remained alive - and Harold was still king.

"Yet, he does not smile," said Prince Godwin to his uncle as the two watched Harold wander around William's abandoned camp. Even at this distance - the two Earls were several hundred feet from the king and it was not quite dawn yet - Harold's demeanour was sulphurous. "Even though he beat William!"

"Aye, he did nephew," replied Gyrth, shrewdly glancing at his brother. "But the Bastard escaped - and do you not know who did most of the dying? Your father lost more than one in three of his huscarls and if one victory can bleed the pride of Wessex white what will a long war do to England?"

Victory... but at a cost.​
 

unmerged(58610)

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Costly indeed. Thereare an equal number of normans waiting to cross the CHannel. They'll probably link up with William in the northwest and go and fight Hadrada. Harold needs to replenish his housecarls.