Insert witty title here
- Dec 23, 2000
The Long and Winding Road
October rains in Italy are not the most pleasant of experiences. The torrential showers had already made all the garments of Robert soaking wet and now, the rain did its best to reach to the bones of the Duke and chill him to death. Robert felt as if he had no dry patch on his body. Most likely because there weren’t any. Still, he stood there, listening to the pointless babbling, khm, very enlightening mass, Robert corrected himself, of a zealous priest who decided that despite the storm, it would be a good idea to hold a sermon.
While trying his best to look attentive, Robert let his mind wander. He heard several whispers nearby. “Hey, look, it is Duke Robert!” “Yes, looks like the rain doesn’t bother him at all!” “Such piety, such humbleness!” “The model Christian!” “I can’t wait to tell my children I was on a pilgrimage with such a powerful and yet, so pious ruler!” “Look at his garments, simple like ours!” and so on.
“As long as you look the part,” the humble Duke Robert thought to himself and suppressed a wicked grin.
Be it rain or sunshine, where is mass, there is Robert
As the priest kept on going about fire and brimstone and the long, narrow path to heaven, Robert got himself hoping that it was really untrue, for his path had been quite a long one indeed, but not the narrowest. In fact, if what the priest preached about was true, there would be a lot of fire and brimstone waiting for him.
He shrugged the thought off and instead, concentrated on the affairs of the realm. While the priest kept on going and going, Robert instead focused on not so divine matters, trying his best to ignore the rain.
His eldest daughter, Emma, was now securely betrothed to Prince David of Hungary. Securing an alliance between northern and eastern terrors of Europe. Though both were not so terrible no more, it seemed appropriate. Robert was feeling kind of sad, to see her move away so soon, but that is life. Your children do grow up and leave the nest.
An alliance with King Salamon
Such was the case of Robert’s second daughter, Matilda, as well. Betrothed at the age of 7, to Romanos Palaiologos, son of Doux of Epirus. Just across the Adriatic, so while not the strongest, the Doux was at least nearby. Despite being an enemy of the Byzantines, Robert actually liked Doux Nikephoros and the feeling was kind of mutual.
... and Doux Nikephoros
As for Bohemond, his eldest, Robert found something special. Eudokia. A lowborn Greek, who brings no titles, no alliances, nothing. Apart from her pure brilliance. Robert, coming from a low position himself, understood one thing- this matters the most. While it would be nice to be married to the daughter of the King of France, being married to someone like Eudokia can be more beneficial in the long run. Especially, considering the possibility of his grandchildren. Robert loved the thought. She will be 24 when Bohemond finally becomes of age. Should be enough to bear him a lot of children too.
For his younger sons, Roger and Guy, Robert left his options open. Mostly because nothing quite suitable came up. Same with her younger daughters, Matilda and Eria. Also, he arranged marriages of some of his relatives in the court- ensuring that there will be more Hautevilles going around in the future.
Merit over title
As for his vassals. Most of them were Hautevilles. Most of them were in his council. And all of them were related. The most powerful was Count Roger, younger brother of Robert. Owner of Conzensa and Reggio Calabria in, well, Calabria. And unfortunately, also owner of Messina in Sicily- something Robert would like for himself, though be damned if he would act against his favorite brother, Robert thought to himself. Roger is also the steward of Apulia.
Three nephews and a brother.
Northernmost of Hautevilles is Count Robert of Lanciano. Owner of two counties, Foggia and Lanciano, he guards the northern border. Son of Geoffrey, another brother of Robert. Is also a councillor of Robert.
Ahh, Abelard. Son of Humphrey, count of Camarda in Salerno and almost as good of a warrior as Robert himself. Naturally, he is the marshal and does a great job at it too.
Then, there is Count Geoffroy Conversano of Bari, in Apulia. Child of Odo de Conversano, another fellow Norman adventurer and Emma de Hauteville, yet another sibling of Robert. Making him yet another nephew, this one being a spymaster.
Finally, there is Count Geoffroy of Lecce of Lecce. Holding the southernmost county of Apulia, he is the only one who is not related to Robert somehow. How he managed to do it is beyond anyone, but there he is. Living happily in Hauteville-infested territory with his lowborn wife, Gunnora.
Overall, capable men. And not a sign of nepotism nowhere, no sir!
The vassals of Robert Guiscard
The priest still went on. As did the rain. The crowd became smaller by the minute though. Robert continued on, braving the weather, but even more, braving the boredom. No, wait, the priest got to the interesting part- sins! Eh, no juicy examples, just general condemnation. Robert was hoping for some inspiration, but alas, nothing but drivel.
Instead, Robert’s mind wandered again. Lot has changed in Mezzogiorno since his arrival two decades ago. Mostly, of course, for the Norman benefit. The Normans now control most of the lands south of Rome. With the exemption of Benevento, where Landolf IV, one of the last Lombards, rules, declaring allegiance to the Pope. The other remaining Lombard is Gisulf II of Salerno. Robert’s brother in law. And a man who loves his torture- truly, a true Christian.
The Principality of Capua is ruled by Duke Richard. Richard Dregnot. Son of Aclettin Dregnot- one of the first Normans in the area. First and less successful ones. One county versus nine of the Hautevilles. And Richard is really not as brave as his father. Also, he is married to yet another Hauteville- Fredesende, Robert’s sister.
Then, there is Napoli. Count Sergios Spartenos, last of the Greeks. Paying lip service to Byzantium, but otherwise, independent ruler. Not much, and for a ruler living in a Norman-dominated area, there is a good chance that Sergios will not be as independent for long.
As for the Byzantines, they have been kicked out completely. And the islands of Sicily and Malta are still owned by the Muslims, but they have fractured and lost much of their former strength.
To the north, Norman territories border with the Pope and the (not so) Holy (not really Roman) Empire. The relations with the current Pope are amicable. It seems like Alexander II learned a few valuable lessons from Leo IX’s captivity under the Normans and tried not to push southwards, preferring to squabble with Emperor Heinrich IV Salian over the rest of Italy. And even Robert preferred to not fight the Pope. As for Heinrich IV, his Empire looks great on map. In reality, the German Dukes love to fill their feudal contracts, offering lip service to their Emperor, instead of gold and troops.
The Pope and the Emperor. Both defined by wearing hats that just don't fit the frame
West is Byzantium. Konstantinos X Doukas rules over the remnants of the Roman Empire. They have their own problems though. Seljuks to the east require much of the Emperor’s attention, so the chances of him risking another offensive campaign to Italy are slim. In Robert’s eyes, the Basileus is more of a target then a threat.
The Romans have much bigger concerns then Mezzogiorno
In the south, there are fractured Muslim holdings in the North African coast. Though there is a good chance that they will come to each other's aid when attacked, they are no longer a threat to Christians as they once were.
The rain was finally letting go, and so was the sermon. Robert had braved to the end, gaining admiration of the fellow pilgrims. Robert was just glad there was no test afterwards. Plus, the fact that the priest himself was as wet as the Duke. Then, Robert Guiscard, a gallant knight, leader of men, powerful ruler, walked back to his lodgings. Got rid of all his wet clothes, took a hot bath and took the rest of Sunday off.
The Gallant Knight
Next morning, Robert and the rest of the pilgrims continued their long and arduous journey towards the oh so distant city of Rome.