Again with the Norman Invasion. Story of de Hautevilles.

Again with the Norman Invasion. Story of de Hautevilles.

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
The Long and Winding Road
  • hjarg

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    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.

    1599077766370.png

    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.

    1599077711303.png

    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.

    1599077735627.png

    ... 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.

    1599077634851.png

    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.

    1599077833176.png

    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!

    1599077535865.png

    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.

    1599077580367.png

    The neighbors

    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.

    1599077420604.png

    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.

    1599077466458.png

    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.

    1599077672556.png

    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.
     
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    Deus Vult!
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    Deus Vult!

    The Island of Sicily is situated on the crossroads of Mediterranean. Thanks to her favorable position and fertile land it had also always attracted the foreign invaders like shit attracts flies. The Greeks, Carthagians and Romans spilled blood over the islands. Then, with the weakening and fall of Rome, Vandals, Ostrogoths and Byzantines were at each other's throats over the island. Not for long though, for then the Muslims invaded. The local resistance was fierce and it took them over 100 years to conquer all of it. Now though, the Emirate of Sicily was already deep in the decline and it was time to add yet another nation to the long list of conquerors- Normans. Robert and his brother, Roger, already started in 1061, with a successful conquest of Messina.

    Wali Muhammed ibn Ibrahim Kalbid was not to blame for the splintering of Sicily. He already inherited splintered land from his uncle, Hassan II The main reason- the Kalbids were Shiite, while the rest of Sicily favored Sunni faith, causing the realm to splinter. Kalbids retained Palermo and Syracuse, while Agrigento and Malta were ruled by Sunni rulers. And of course, Messina was ruled by Normans.

    1599166224236.png

    Until few decades ago, Kalbids were in control of the Island. No more.

    It was 20th December of 1066. Robert Guiscard’s pilgrimage finally ended. He reached his home, castle of Trani, early in the morning. By noon, everyone had gathered at the church square. Market stalls had been pushed aside as the crowd filled every nook and cranny. Robert, still in his simple pilgrim grab, climbed up the church stairs and at the door, turned around. He looked at the crowd. As one would expect. Mostly locals, Mezzogiornoans. Italians and Lombards. Some Greeks. Precious few Normans, easily distinguishable by their much lighter complexion and fairer hair. As he turned, the crowd fell silent. Expecting.

    1599166494373.png

    Church of Trani

    Robert Guiscard spoke in fairly passable Italian, mixed with ample Franco-Norman phrases. Unbeknownst to him, this kind of mix between the languages became the standard in Hauteville-owned lands in the future. Now, though. Robert cleared his throat and started, with a loud and booming voice.

    He stated that “a barbaric fury has deplorably afflicted and laid waste the churches of God in the regions of Sicily”. He urged that “the Normans and Italians and other good people of Mezzogiorno, all true Christians who have re-established peace and righteousness in their own land, they should turn their attention to the Island of Sicily and bring aid to the Christians there”. Finally, he finished with a powerful: "Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor!”

    The crowd went wild enough not to notice that Robert would fit himself quite well into the description. Instead, he removed his simple traveler's cloak and revealed a plain white shirt, with a red cross stitched on it. “This cross was stitched here by the Pope himself! The Most Holiest of Popes, Alexander II, personally promised remission of sins to anyone who follows me and that all of the people taking up arms go with the Papal blessing and with God on their side.”

    “Who’s with me! Deus Vult!” he proclaimed.

    1599166272876.png

    Deus Vult!

    “Deus Vult!” the crowd responded, in cacophony and perfect disharmony. Robert Guiscard smiled to himself, pleased, as he walked down the stairs into the crazed crowd. He checked his cross. Alexander might be a Pope, but tailor, he was not. He will need to get the stitching redone. Still, he was quite pleased with himself. Soldiers were good. Zealous soldiers were better. Zealous soldiers, fighting so he could gain two more counties, were the best.

    Muhammad ibn Ibrahim was doomed. The very same day, a declaration of war was issued, claiming all his lands in Sicily.

    1599165610964.png

    Deus Vult!

    One week later, the Norman army at Messina was gathered and ready to march. Nearly 1300 levied zealots, willing to throw themselves on enemy swords. And 10 knights, Norman elites. Led by Duke Robert himself, they marched southwards at noon. Towards the ancient city of Syracuse, where the main forces of Muhammad were gathered.

    The main battle took place on 23rd of January, 1067. Let us just say that Duke Robert Guiscard was a brilliant strategist, more than capable commander of men. He knew how to position his troops, where to strike, where to push. He knew how to use the land to his advantage. Naib Salla of Mazara, the enemy commander, knew none of this.

    1599165755275.png


    The Norman superiority in numbers wasn’t that great. The Norman fervor was. Like hawks, they descended upon the poor Muslims. Incidentally, chanting “Deus Vult!” For a moment, the enemy lines held. Then, they did not. What was an army moments ago, turned into panicked men, all trying to flee for their lives. What was a battle turned into slaughter. Less than half an hour after the battle had begun, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim was short one army. Also, thanks to Count Abelard, short of one son and heir. Skewered by a lance on his back, the life of Alyamas ibn Muhammad Kalbid ended before it could even properly begin.

    1599166386101.png

    Muhammad, down one army and one son

    The Normans proceeded to siege the castle of Syracuse. It was uneventful. Apart from Count Roger de Hauteville of Messina creating a new cadet branch, the Hauteville-Conzensa family in March. Robert felt kind of proud. Few decades ago, they were nobodies. Nothing as obsucre as the Hauteville dynasty. Now, they are still obscure, but at least, they are branching out!

    1599166072206.png

    The Sackville-Baggin... khm, I mean Hauteville-Consenzas

    Syracuse fell in June of 1067. The Normans hit the jackpot. Or rather, found the jackpot hiding in a cupboard in the palace. Fella ibn Muhammad Kalbid, the second son of Wali Muhammad and for five month already, the heir of the Emir.

    1599166441228.png

    Welcome to the dungeon!


    This was the breaking point of Wali Muhammad. One county under Norman control, one son in captivity, one son dead and one army, scattered by the Normans. Enough is enough. Few days after the fall of Syracuse, the Normans had won.

    1599166328340.png

    Muhammad showing serious lack of imagination.

    Even better- Robert Guiscard gained the county of Palermo untouched. Without having to siege, without having to plunder the countryside. The keys to the city were delivered to him by the former Wali himself, and Robert was not above a bit of gloating. As if God was really on his side, Robert thought to himself. Then, laughed at the thought. The streets of Palermo were quiet when the Normans rode in.

    1599166818892.png

    Wali Muhammed giving keys of Palermo to Robert Guscard

    Robert Guiscard was not a compassionate man. To show that he is not to be messed with, he started his rule of Palermo with a show of force. Jala Ammarid, captured during the siege of Syracuse, with young Fella, was executed publicly in the main square of Palermo. Just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and well, for believing the wrong God. Showing the good citizens of Palermo that Normans are not to be messed with. The message was understood well.

    1599166297452.png

    Execution of Jala

    The rest of the summer and well into autumn, Robert Guiscard and his men spent in Sicily. Taking over half an island is a more arduous task than it seems. Small holdings to be relieved of their current occupants and to be distributed to loyal followers. Masses to be held in thanks for victory. Some mild plundering of rich Muslims. Tearing down crosses from mosques and converting them (or, in many cases re-converting them) to Christian churches. It was all going well. Robert was now considered a pious man, a true Christian. He was amused.

    Until in October 1067, it was all rainbows and unicorns. Robert truly felt like he was on top of the world. Or at least, in total control of Mezzogiorno. Then, a message arrived.

    1599166180133.png

    Damn you and your house!

    “Fuck,” was all Robert had to say.
     

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    The Welcoming Party
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    The Welcoming Party

    The Council

    “I mean, Lancano is part of the Spoleto, and therefore it is within a rightful domain of the Duchess,” Bishop Abelard started. “Perhaps the most wise course of action would be just to give it u...”

    He stopped mid-word. No words were even needed. Murderous glares of the Duke, his brother and three of his nephews or by other words, Robert Guiscard’s totally nepotism-free council, made him wisely close his mouth.

    “No,” it was Count Robert of Messina who opened his mouth first.

    “Hell no,” added Count Abelard of Camrada.

    “Out of the question,” commented Count Geoffrey of Bari

    “Fuck no,” added Count Robert of Lanciano. “If she wants land so much, I can give her a small plot. About two meters in length, half in width and one and half in depth. That is all she is going to get!”

    “You see,” Robert Guiscard ended the conversation. “We Normans are good at taking, but not so good at giving. So let us just all pretend you didn’t say it. Nor thought of it.”

    Abelard just nodded. “Sorry, my Liege,” he said, quietly, eyes looking at his feet.

    “So, how are we going to defeat this Italian bitch?” asked the Duke. “She seriously outnumbers us, after all”

    “Our allies, of course,” said Robert of Lanciano. “Both Salamon of Hungary and Nikephoros of Epirus will certainly be of help. With both of them on our side, the numbers tip to our advantage.”

    “Yes, naturally,” replied Robert Guiscard “But it takes time for them to reach us. We need something to hold off the bloody Tuscans now!”

    “Mercenaries?” asked Abelard. “I know a band, you know. Nearly a 1000 extra men...”

    “We are stripped of cash though,” said Robert Guiscard. “We have about 70 gold. We would need about twice as such. And I really hate to go to red. It does not help the morale of men...”

    It was Bishop Abelard who opened his mouth again. “The Pope has money,” he said. Now, he had undivided attention of Duke, his brother and three of his nephews. “And since you just liberated Palermo and Syracuse from the infidels, he looks at you favourably. If you add that the disastrous war against fellow Christians can result in Muslims from Africa coming to prey upon the weakened Normans and retake the island, he can be persuaded”

    “Brilliant!” said Robert Guiscard. “How much can we squeeze out of Alexander?”

    If Abelard was shocked at the Duke’s words, he did not show it. “Around 100 or so,” he said.

    “More than enough. See to it!” Duke said.

    “Ok, Bishop Abelard will try to get some gold from the Pope,” Robert Guiscard concluded. “Nephew Robert will call for our allies. Count Abelard will contact the mercenaries. All clear? Let us go, we have a war to win!”

    1599304297757.png

    Saved by the Pope!

    Meeting

    An army was marching toward Trani. Half of them, just your average peasants, but the other half, more weathered soldiers. Lightly armored, sure. But still capable men. Two knights rode in front of them, carrying a banner of multiple golden lions (the more, the merrier of course) on a red background, separated by a white stripe.

    Duke and his entourage were there, expecting. The knights stopped, the army stopping at their heels. One of the knights dismounted and kneeled before Robert Guiscard.

    “My Liege,” he said.

    “Oh, fuck off,” said the Duke, dismounting as well.

    “And a merry fuck off to you too,” replied the knight, grinning and rising up.

    Robert reached the knight and gave him a proper bear hug. Plus a few pats on his back.

    “It has been too long, Perctarit!”, he said. “How’s your father?”

    “Happily retired, living a peaceful burgers life in Camarda,” he replied.

    “So, you’re in charge now?” Robert asked. “That is a pleasant surprise. Come on, you were but a boy when we fought alongside your father.”

    The Duke suddenly felt his age. Sill, he continued. “Now, tell me all about how your father is doing, and what the Longbeards have been up to these years!

    With this, the Normans and the Langobards joined camp, while Duke Robert and Perctarit spent an evening in Trani, drinking and reminiscing. The next morning, the combined armies marched northwards, feeling a bit of hangover, from the Duke in charge to the lower peasant. Reunions can have consequences.

    1599304410832.png

    Preferring the local businesses

    Battle of Lanciano

    It was the Venetians, most likely. The allies of the Duchess Matilda, due to her marrying Carlo Conarini, son of Doge Domenico II of Venice. Who else would get an idea that hey! why should we march when we could sail? There is some logic to if of course. Moving by sea is faster, and perhaps added with arrogance, like we shall show these Norman upstarts how things are and be done by Christmas. Land in Lanciano, take it as fast as possible. Normans will be cowering in fear somewhere in the South, most likely. After taking Lanciano, march south, beat the army of Robert Guiscard and force him to give up claim.

    A fine plan, overall. But with one wrong assumption- that the Normans will be cowering in the South. Instead, the Normans and Longbeard mercenaries were marching northwards. Even better- unsure of her chances, Matilda had hired mercenaries. Just in case. And while the original Tuscan forces with Venetian allies were landing in Lanciano, they were landing in neighboring barony, Chieti. Meaning that Normans could pick them off one by one, if successful.

    1599304466315.png

    This looks like a recipe for disaster. If you happen to be a Tuscan, at least.

    The enemy outnumbered the Normans by little over 1000. Then again, the Normans had Robert Guiscard. The enemy had some random Venetian. Robert positioned his troops in a way that forced the enemy to attack in an unfavourable position, still embarking from the ships, while the Norman main forces were in the coverage of the woods. This mattered little though. Robert Guiscard mattered the most. His knowledge on how to use the troops. His timing of the attack. His personal bravery, as he and his gallant knights charged into battle, slaughtering peasants left and right.

    1599304172889.png

    As the battle starts, Normans have just a tiny advantage. Or by other words, enemy was caught by their pants down.

    The enemy did try their best, attacking the Normans as they embarked. Meanwhile, Tuscan mercenaries in the next province were still in the process of disembarking as well and were of no help, so the Tuscans and Venetians were on their own. Against a numerically inferior opponent, sure. But a numerically inferior opponent who just happened to be very good at warfare.

    Before long, the Tuscans and Venetians found themselves not fighting, but fleeing back to their ships, preferring the questionable safety of Venetial galleys to the cold steel of Norman knights. It was 2nd of April of the year 1068. Normans won their first victory in the war, losing only little less than 300 soldiers while killing about 1300 enemies. About a third of their army. It was a good start, but the war was not won yet.

    Count Robert of Messina won the little peasant-slaying contest by reaching a kill score of impressive 73. Geoffrey de Mowbray, a simple knight, become second with a score of 67 skewered peasants and Geoffrey of Bari and Abelard of Camrada shared the third and fourth positions by killing 62 of them both.

    1599304116454.png

    Great success. And amazing kill-score.

    Matilda’s mercenaries had started their march to the rescue after disembarking properly. Unfortunately, Robert won too soon- meaning they could still turn back and flee. It was a shame, for the Normans were hoping to curb their numbers as well, but you can’t have it all.

    Initial wave of Tuscans was beaten back successfully. They still outnumbered the Normans though and Robert Guiscard was pretty certain that they will stay off the boats in the future. The result of the war was still uncertain.
     
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    Sacco di Firenze
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    Sacco di Firenze

    LOL?

    “Ehh, they’re the ones running around naked, screaming LOL? LOL?” Robert Guiscard asked.

    Bishop Abelard just sighed. It was hopeless- his Duke did not know, or apparently, did not care.

    “No, my Liege,” he started patiently. “They believe that the Holy Bible is the only source of authority and they don’t believe in sacraments like baptism and confessions... And they don’t believe in priesthood.”

    “Hmph. So not running around naked?” Robert Guiscard repeated himself.

    “My Liege, you must have confused them with Adamites,” Abelard replied.

    “And lolling about?”

    “The etymology of the name comes from derogatory name for those without proper academic backgro...”

    “No lolling then?” Robert quickly interrupted. Before it could evolve into proper academic explanation.

    “I’m afraid no running around naked and no lolling, my Liege," Ablerad compressed the doctrines of lollardy to a format the Duke liked.

    “I kinda liked the lolling. Well, perhaps they can be convinced? But no priests, you said?” Robert continued further.

    “The Lollards indeed does not believe in theocracy, but believe in lay clergy- that means any man, but not a woman, of course, can preach the word of God,” Abelard shuddered at the thought. “They also do not believe in icons or reliquaries, are quite literal in their interpretation of the Holy Bible and disallow Holy Wars- in fact, they promote peace?”

    “Bhehh, pacifists,” Robert’s face turned like he ate something sour. “Count me out then!”

    “You were not seriously considering...?” Ablelard gasped. “My Liege, I did not offer you to join Lollards! I just informed you that we have a Lollard outbreak in Benevento!”

    “That is bad, right?” Robert asked.

    “Heresy this close to the Holy See! Vassal of the Holiest of Pope converting to heresy! Of course this is bad! Even worse, your brother-in-law, Gisulf II of Salerno, joined Duke Landolf IV in his unholy ways!”

    “Wait, so they’re heretics now?” asked Robert

    “Well, yes, my Lord”

    “Good!” Robert bared his teeth for a wolfish grin.

    “Good, my lord?” Abelard asked, in confusion

    “It means I can take the lands of Salerno without bothering with claims and without upsetting my wife. Much. Praised be LOL!” Robert smiled.

    “It’s not the...” Abelard just gave up. “Yes, my Liege! Good!”

    “We have a war to win first though...” Robert effectively ended this religious lesson.


    1599390811378.png

    Look, Lollard Lombards!

    Battle of Napoli

    Throughout the summer, Normans and Tuscans had been playing a game of cat and mouse, though who was cat and who was mouse was a bit unclear. Tuscans and the mercenaries had joined forces, numbering nearly 4000. They still seemed to want to avoid direct confrontation. A bit unwise, for time was on the Norman side. Forces of King Salamon were marching southwards, tipping the scales on the Norman side.

    Finally, in October 1068, Hungarians had reached Foggia. Robert Guiscard ordered his troops to march to Napoli, where forces of Matilda were stationed. Fortunately for Normans, the Duchess also managed to get herself deep into debt, making her soldiers in a foreign land, facing them horrible Normans again and without a pay. Not good for morale.

    1599390844458.png

    Normans advancing

    This time, Robert was facing the Duchess herself. She was a passable general, but nothing compared to Robert. The Duke tiptoed around her forces, avoiding direct confrontation, until her troops were tired and demoralized- and until the Hungarians marched in. Then, the combined armies attacked- and it did not go well for the Tuscans. Again, around a third of their army was killed, while the rest ran back towards Tuscany.

    1599390866200.png

    The Battle of Napoli. And by gods, count György looks like he's got it.

    The End of War

    This time though, the Normans followed. Hungarians too. They caught up with the Tuscans in Cortona in January 1069. Again, Robert harassed the Tuscans until the Hungarians, and this time, also the armies of Doux Nikephoros arrived. Then, they all charged. Long story short, Matilda once again lost about third of her men and fled to direction unknown.

    1599390974116.png

    This time, the Normans followed

    This battle cost Robert dearly though. His nephew, Constantine, son of Humbert, died in the battle. Only 23 years of age, Robert had great hopes for him. But alas, it was not to be, for the cruelties of war spare no one.

    1599390997337.png

    Good-bye, Constantine. I hardly knew ya!

    This time, the Normans did not pursue. The Hungarians and Eperians started the siege of Siena, as the Normans marched to Firenze and put the capital of Matilda under siege. Meanwhile, Matilda, knowing full well she is going to be defeated, her heartlands filled with enemy forces, tried one thing in her desperation. The siege of Lanciano. Robert did not react in any way. He just hoped that the castle would do what it is meant to do- withhold the siege.

    In June, Siena fell and forces of Salamon and Nikephoros marched southwards. Kind of a pointless exercise, for Firenze was just days away from surrender.

    On 4th of July, 1069, the magnificent city of Firenze was sacked by Normans. Quite ruthlessly. Adding 26 gold to the coffers of Robert Guiscard. It also meant that Matilda was now more than eager to talk peace.

    As a compensation for transgressions against peace-loving Normans, Robert asked Matilda for 356 gold pieces. She had no choice but to agree, spiralling her further into debt. Now, she was almost 500 gold in the red and was a subject of mockery both within her own holdings and within the whole Holy Roman Empire.

    1599391046663.png

    Matilda after war. Deep in debt and low on prestige.

    Duchy of Sicily

    At the same time, Robert made himself a bit better- he found new ways to increase control in his newly-conquered territories. And became a bit more dreadful to his enemies as well.

    1599391025269.png

    Overseeing and dread. What more?

    Now, loaded with money from Matilda, the first thing Robert Guiscard did was to proclaim himself a good, proper Duke of Sicily. He also made it his primary title. He left his capital still in Trani though, for the province of Palermo still needed a bit of conversion and pacification. Still, it was a magnificent celebration, blowing through most the money gained from Matilda in one crazed party, lasting for several weeks.

    1599391092331.png

    New Duchy of Sicily

    “It is good to be a Duke,” said Robert Guiscard. “Twice the Dukes is twice the better!”
     
    House Cleaning
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    House Cleaning

    Finalizing the Conquest

    “Hello, my dear Perctarit,” said the Duke with a mischievous smile. “Still at my service, as I see?”

    “Well, yes, sire,” said Perctarit, leader of the Longbeards Band, “Standard 3-year contract, paid upfront, yours until the time runs out.”

    “Yes, I can see why this is profitable for you. The thing is, I’ve had more than enough reports of drunken, bored mercenaries. And while I approve of them spending their pre-earned gold in the local taverns and whorehouses and thus promoting local businesses, the ruckus is even starting to get on my nerves...” Robert indeed seemed to have some black rings under his eyes, hinting a slight lack of sleep.

    “So, sire, what do you want? To ban my men from taverns?” asked Perctarit.

    “That would create even more problems, I think,” said the Duke. “Bored and sober mercenaries seem to be a recipe for even bigger disasters. No, I have some other plans- to relieve you of boredom. Perctarit, go conquer Agrigento!”

    “What, all alone?” Perctarit was shocked. “I have about 500 soldiers left, this is all...”

    “Don’t worry,” said the Duke. “You still have twice more than they do”

    To this argument, Perctarit had nothing to reply. So, in July of 1069, he and his mercenaries went to war against Wali Ali, who had less than 300 soldiers loyal to him.

    1599568592911.png

    Longbeards vs Agrigento

    The biggest event during the war was the marriage of Emma de Hauteville, firstborn of Robert, and Prince David of Hungary. Taking place in January 1070, it was first held in Trani, then the couple travelled to Hewes in Hungary, where they had another celebration. Then, both of them stayed at the court of King Salamon. No title, but hey, at least an alliance. Robert was sad to see his firstborn leave, but that is the way of life. At least, David seemed like a good man. And some private discussion with the Duke left him with very clear impressions of what will happen if he dares to mistreat Emma.

    1599568618883.png

    Marriage of the firstborn. And hey, David is scared of Robert

    By April 1070, the war was over. Wali Ali offered no real resistance and the Longbeards had lost less then 100 soldiers in the war. “Easiest conquest to date,” said Robert, who did not have to spend an extra soldier or an extra dime to get him one extra county. With this, the conquest of Sicily was done.

    1599568661348.png

    No surprises here

    Surrounding Areas

    As Perctarit and his merry band of Longbeards took Agriento, Count Roger of Messina started his own conquest. Of Malta. Though the island had little of wealth and value, consisting only of castle, it was part of Sicily and Robert was not happy. But hey, it was his brother after all. Since Malta had about the same military might as Agriento, the result of the war was clear to everyone. Now, Sicily, a five-province duchy, was divided between brothers- two counties for Roger, three for Robert Guiscard. Not something that really made Robert happy, for he planned to make Sicily as a core of his land, but something he wasn’t able to do anything about. Especially considering that when he found out, Roger’s troops were already besieging Malta. Too late.

    1599568558475.png

    Thanks, Robert

    Instead, Robert bethored his third son, Guy, to the eldest daughter of Robert, Mathilda. Hoping to make sure that his lands will be his after the death of Robert. Unless Robert of course managed to produce a male heir- and the chances were good for that, for Robert was 39 and his wife, Judith (granddaughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy), was just 33. In short, Roger left the problem to his children to deal with, one way or the other.

    1599568730027.png

    Cousins

    At the same time, Duke Landolf IV Landolfidi of Benevento, despite his adherence to Lollardy, received a Papal blessing to go to war against Dregnots of Capua. Or just ignored Alexander, his liege, and went to war. It is a bit unclear. The result was clear though- in April 1070, the Landolfidis took (back) the county of Capua, scattering the surviving Norman upstarts throughout the world. This was the fall of House Dregnot. First into Italy, first out.

    1599568687823.png

    In this place used to be Princedom of Capua, ruled by other Normans

    Burn the Heretics!

    Gisulf II of Salerno was still happily Lollarding about, when Robert Guiscard declared Holy War on him in April 1070. Hurrying up, because Gisulf, being a heretic, was free-for-all, and he preferred him to be doing the conquering, instead of his siblings or relatives or god forbid, some foreign power being lured by the riches of Salerno.

    Sichelgaita, Gisulf’s sister and wife of Robert, did not mind much as well. She was abhorred that her brother would be a heretic and understood that Robert had to do what he had to do. Before someone else does it.

    Gisulf wasn’t without allies. It was just too bad for him that the ally was Duke Vratislav of Bohemia. Sure, they marched to the rescue, but it is a long way from Bohemia to Mezzogiorno. Meanwhile, in the end of May, Robert Guiscard’s armies completely annihilated the Salernan army and by September, the city fell to Norman conquerors.

    1599568761132.png

    No big surprise here as well

    Five month of war changed the status of Gisulf II from proud and powerful Prince of Capua to homeless vagrant, while Abelard of Camarda now enjoying lordship over one of the richest areas in Mezzogiorno.

    1599568782254.png

    Abelard, the future Duke of Salerno

    Of all the states in Southern Italy and Sicily, only Napoli remained independent. Rest were mostly eaten up by the Normans, with the exception of Capua.

    1599568812087.png

    Mezzogiorno is looking much more green then it used to be

    Norman Invasion

    In the meanwhile, Normans were successful in their invasion of England. Former King Harold Godwinson had been disposed of and had fled to mainland Europe, in a desperate attempt to gain support for his re-re-conquest of England- but finding precious little support for his endeavors.

    It was not all roses for House Normandie though. Duke Guilleaume had been killed in a battle in May 1069- when he was already winning the war. His son, now King Robert Normandie, finished the war and now calls himself the Conqueror.

    1599568432453.png

    All is nice and shiny for the new Norman King...

    Even worse- though the Southern English lands were divided between conquerors like it is good and proper, the lands up North swore fealty to Duke Maredudd of Bryneich, making the Duke a ruler of all the lands north of Avon and Nene rivers. Basically, making the Duke a King within a Kingdom.

    1599568509657.png

    Well, apart from having one really powerful Duke of the North...

    Fortunately for King Robert, Maredudd was currently in jail. Unfortunately for King Robert, the jail belonged to King Harald Hardarada. While Duke Guillaume and King Harold had been fighting each other in Southern England, no-one had bothered with Harald, who had been busy occupying and looting (perhaps not in that order) the lands in the North.

    1599568476450.png

    Then there's this...

    Instead of resting on laurels, Robert has to keep on fighting. And even if he keeps on fighting and wins, Maredudd can cause him problems. It seems like Kingship comes with it’s own set of problems...
     
    Duke is Good. King is Better!
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    Duke is Good. King is Better!

    Internal Affairs

    The following years did not bring much news to the Normans. Robert Guiscard was building up his coffers while recovering from the war. With one exception.

    While answering to Duke Robert in theory, the vassals had been free to do as they please. For example, Count Geoffrey of Bari was using this to relieve Count Geoffrey II of Lecce of Lecce of Lecce. Count Geoffrey I had been slain by Venetians during Tuscan-Norman conflict, the mother of Geoffrey had re-married, to Count Robert of Lanciano and now, the poor baby count, only 4 years old, was being stripped of his lands. Robert of Lanciano came to aid Geoffrey of Lecce, and now, two of his councillors were attacking each other.

    1599768811099.png

    Like taking a county from a baby

    Robert Guiscard did not like that so much. So, in February 1071, he instituted limited crown authority. Not that it helped much- his vassals could still fight each other without issue. Main difference was that now, if Robert Guiscard did not like it much, he could relieve the offending party of his title(s) and give them back. Or keep them to himself. The latter being the more likely scenario.

    1599768942019.png

    Still no stopping them, but at least, can grab a title

    Of course, the institution did not go without a hitch. Robert of Lanciano decided he does not like it very much and the old ways were way better, so he created a faction that tried to bring back the good old ways. Fortunately, he was all alone in his faction, thus making it insignificant. Roger of Messina, the most powerful vassal and baby brother of Robert Guiscard, the only vassal that could have pushed the law back, was allied with Robert Guiscard, so no factions with him. And Ableard of Camadra, having just received Salerno, was now a happy puppy. Robert of Lanciano was pretty much the only one grumbling about the change.

    As for Geoffrey of Lecce of Lecce, his days were numbered. In the beginning of 1072, Lecce was under firm control of Geoffrey Conversano. The boy was relieved of this county and sent back to his mother.

    There were some good news as well. In December 1071, Bishop Abelard managed to convert the populace of Palermo. Liberal use of sermons, ample supply of firewood and preaching fire and brimstone managed to convince the population that the best way is the Catholic way. Abelard, satisfied with the results, moved on to Syracuse, bringing death, destruction and mass conversions in his wake.

    Followed by Count Roger of Messina convincing the people of Palermo to become Norman in February 1073. Tax relief was the key- Normans had to pay a little less. Enough to make people come and speak in bad Franco-Norman and sign themselves up as Normans. “I am them Norseman and my wife is as well, and we are really bloodthirsty savages. Growl!” despite their olive skin, black hair and brown eyes and hands that had never held a sword in their life. In the end, in order to keep up the charade, they actually became Normans. Or at least, the term Norman slowly started a change from ferocious Northmen, being good at plundering and war and stuff like that, to the general term for the population living under Hautevilles. One way or the other, the people of Palermo now identified themselves as Normans.

    1599769002393.png

    Palermo, converted and Normanized

    King Robert Guiscard

    “The crown looks good on you,” commented Sichelgaita.

    Robert looked at his wife fondly and smiled back: “So does yours, you know”

    The spring had came to Palermo. Mild April winds and sunny weather all around. The people outside were cheering loudly this time. Nothing compared to silence when Robert Guiscard and his troops marched in just five years ago, claiming the city their own.

    He and Sichelgaita had just rode through the city. Dressed in their fines garments. Wearing crowns the Pope had personally put on their heads. After a sermon that took way too long, and after way too long kneeling on a cold stone church floor. The warmth of the sun and the cheering of their crowd made them all warm and giddy inside. As they slowly progressed, letting people bask in their glory, enjoying the adoration of their subjects. Normans had proven themselves to be rough warriors, but also, wise rulers. Bringing peace back to the island, restoring trade and letting their subjects live in relative quiet, if they wished. Or join the Norman armies and search for adventure, glory and painful death aboard if they so wished. Of course they were cheering.

    1599768680936.png

    A mosaic detailing the coronation of Robert Guiscard. Performed by Jesus Christ himself, not the Pope.

    Robert Guiscard thought back- me, a Norman adventurer. Coming to Mezzogiorno, with few men in tow. Now, a King! Fortune favors the brave, and he had been brave indeed. Brave and cunning and ruthless, and now with a proper crown, anointed by a proper Pope and few who could look to him as equals in the world.

    “Don’t get too drunk,” Sichelgaita whispered to him, smiling mischievously, as they entered the main hall. “You have a queen to ravish tonight!”

    Robert winked back at her, and then, the celebration began. In the main hall, where all the vassals, friends, enemies and other fine people had gathered. And on the outside, where people could get their fine wine and roast pork or cow and where you could forget for a night that you are poor and dine like a King. And share a cup with the King, when Robert was making rounds there later.

    1599768843784.png


    “It is expensive to be a King,” said Robert later that evening in the Royal Bedchamber, giving his queen a Royal Tumble. “But hell, it is good to be a King”

    It was 12th of April in 1072. Robert Guiscard was crowned as Robert I of Sicily. Normans, starting as sell-swords, had become the undisputed rulers of Mezzogiorno.

    1599768979151.png

    Hello, Kingdom of Sicily

    Last County

    After the celebrations ended, Robert Guiscard waited a few months until his coffers became full again. Then, he attacked the final independent power in Italy- count Sergios of Napoli. It was truly a one-sided war. Normans, outnumbering them almost 5:1, wiped the Counts forces out in Siponto. Then, proceeded to siege the City of Napoli. Then, after the siege, first ransomed Countess Dorothea back to the Count and after that, forced Sergios to bend his knee and swear loyalty to the King.

    1599769130032.png

    Also like taking a county from a baby

    Robert Guiscard was the King. The conquest of Mezzogiorno was complete. Apart from Capua and Benevento, but these Robert dared not to touch. Perhaps Bohemond, or his son or even grandson will complete the conquest of the region.

    1599768884900.png

    The Royal Lands and vassals of Sicily. Including close-up of the newest by by far the unhappiest Count

    Now, it was time to turn the Norman gaze outwards.
     
    Coming of Age of Bohemond
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    Coming of Age of Bohemond

    Robert Guiscard watched his son with pride. Yes, a bit lacking in other areas, but his knowledge or warfare was already superior. Unfortunately, these were the times where having a sword in your hand, trusted followers in tow and knowledge of what to do with them can lead a man high. Be it into glory or into gallows, but high. Bohemond will do well, of that, he was certain.

    1599928859108.png

    Hello, Bohemond of no specific county yet.

    He beckoned his son over, making a gesture encompassing the city, the port and much of the island. All nicely visible from the castle parapets.

    “One day, my son, this will all be yours,” he said.

    Bohemond just said “Hmph”

    Robert looked at him questiongly.

    “Yes, all this will be mine. All that you show me. The entire county of Palermo!” said Bohemond. “And that is all!”

    Robert sighed.

    “Yes, your brother..”

    “Half-brother”, Bohemond corrected him. And added to himself. “Roger will get Apulia. Both the Duchy and the county. And i’m fine with it. Sicily is much better. Though i’d prefer to get everything!”

    “Well, I cannot leave your brother poor, landless and at your mercy, can I now?” asked Robert

    “I wouldn’t mind,” replied Bohemond. “It is just- I don’t want to start my rule with taking back what is rightfully mine from my brothers. There are better targets out there...”

    “And as I said, Roger is fine by me. It is Guy that irks me...”

    Robert nodded. “Succession rules...”

    “Fuck the rules! Fuck the rules where I will get Palermo, while he gets Syracuse and Agrigento and Rossano on top of it!”

    1599928822247.png

    Bohemond, future King of Sicily, Duke of Sicily and a meager count of Palermo

    Robert sighed. “Son, I understand your predicament.”

    “Like fuck you do!”

    “Like fuck I do! Do you think I do want to lose everything I worked for to these stupid partition rules? Do you really think I want my son and heir to become one of the weakest rulers in the realm and watch as my life’s work is torn apart by internal strife and then, eaten up by stronger neighbors?”

    Robert’s outburst really took Bohemond by surprise. “Didn’t know you cared,” he muttered, half-embarrassed

    “That’s because we don’t talk much, not because I don’t care,” replied Robert. “But worry not, my son, i’ve been thinking about it. A lot. I’m far from dying, but I’m old enough that the succession weighs heavily on my mind...”

    Robert leaned on the parapets, gazing at the city. “This is one of the reasons I’ve moved the capital to Palermo. Now, you will inherit Palermo, not Roger. And Palermo is much better than Apulia.” He took a small pause and continued, “Well, there is also the fact that Palermo as a powerbase is much better than Apulia. Richer, more soldiers, more fertile. Good trading location.”

    1599928793344.png

    Moving capital to Palermo

    Bohemond nodded.

    “But don’t worry, son,” said Robert. “I will make sure you get the entire island. And as it is your job to ensure that your main heir will get the whole island.”

    “How’s Eudokia?” the King changed the subject. Bohemond looked blissful. “You know, the way she...” Bohemond had enough decency to stop half-way, but his lustful grin hinted strongly what he meant.

    “Ahh, that’s just the thing, boy,” Robert winked. “It is good to get a heir. But a King must show some restraint here... for one heir is good, two is trouble...”

    “Look who’s talking. I heard you knocked up my step-mother again,” grinned Bohemond. Robert shrugged in reply.

    “I’m just a man,” he said. “Not a saint.”

    “I’m hoping for a daughter,” said Bohemond. Honestly. “

    “So am I, son, so am I.”

    Lot had happened. Bohemond, growing up and marrying. And moving the capital to Palermo. And Sichelgaita giving birth to a beautiful daughter, named Gaitelgrima after her aunt. Yes, luckily, it was a daughter. Another child, without further complicating the succession of the Kingdom. Robert felt happy.

    1599928922568.png

    Another Hauteville

    Across the Adriatic

    Duke Mihaljo Voislavić of Duklja was not the smartest man. Independent Duke, situated between the Byzantine Empire and Croatia. Perhaps he should have balanced the powers against each other, playing a precarious diplomatic game to keep himself independant. Instead, he adopted lollardy. And with him lollarding about, he could not find much in terms of friends, allies and supporters- something both Byzantine and Croatia took advantage of. Now, the Duke was just down to the county of Pomorje. Situated conveniently on the shore of Adriatic.

    1599928943262.png

    Duke Mihaljo had lost pretty much everything

    Robert was not against kicking people when they’re down. Quite the contrary, that was when he preferred to do the kicking. Plus, he had some brand new mangonels that needed the test drive. And Duke Mihaljo being Lollard gave him a valid excuse to be a conquering bastard. What is more noble that being the conquering bastard in the name of Christ?

    The war was declared on 19th September, 1074. 10 days later, the forces of Robert started to embark, braving the treacherous autumn sea of the Adriatic. Arriving in November, they met no resistance, because all the forces of Mihajlo were depleted in the recent war against Byzantines. So, the Normans just besieged the castle. Robert gave command to his knight, Geoffrey de Mobray, for the man was much better at using the new mangonels. Soon, Geoffrey had managed to turn castle walls into rubble while the defenders managed to deplete the food stores and got a disease going on.

    1599928971585.png

    Normans testing new mangonels

    The castle fell in February. Normans captured Dragomir, the steward of Mihajlo. Since apparently, loyal service as the steward does not count enough to be ransomed, Robert pressed him into service. “Better then to rot away in a dungeon or be a steward of a Duke who has no land,” as Robert put it. “Though I will not offer you a job as a steward, you are more than welcome to stay in my court. Or hang. Your choice”. Dragomir chose the court.

    1599929142024.png

    Become a courtier or become a corpse.

    Then, the war was over and Normans now had a holding on the other shore of Adriatic. Robert kept the county for himself for the moment. It was not bad county at all- it had a castle, a church and a city. A bit poor, but what county isn't nowadays.

    1599929097177.png

    County that is aptly named "Next to the sea". Newest holding within Kingdom

    Royal Matters

    During the war for Duklja, princess Matilda of Sicily, first child from the union of Robert and Siechelgaita, came of age. Promised as a token for alliance between Duke Nikephoros of Epirus and Robert Guiscard, the promise still held. Just now, Nikephoros had died and his son had became a count. Count Romanos of Metzovo. A count is still good, said Robert, and Matilda left the Norman lands for the Byzantine Empire.

    1599929022762.png

    Second daughter of Robert Guiscard, married to a Byzantine count

    As for Count Roger of Messina, he was a Count no more. Following the example of Roger, he proclaimed himself as a Duke of Calabria and moved his headquarters back to mainland, to Reggio Calabria. The most powerful vassal within the Kingdom, but the alliance between Roger and Robert also makes him the most well-behaving vassal in the Kingdom.

    1599929058334.png

    Duke Roger of Calabria

    Decades ago, when Hautevilles came to Mezzogiorno, no-one heard their names. Obscure nobles from an unimportant family. Their role was to be on the footnotes of history, not remembered but by a few academics. Now, with them controlling almost all of Mezzogiorno, they could no longer be ignored. Called as “Norman upstarts” by Byzantines and for example Matilda of Tuscany and “Northern barbarians” by Muslims. Not the most pleasant- but as Robert said: “At least, they cannot ignore us no more.” And they were right- Hautevilles could no longer be ignored.

    1599929173916.png

    Hautevilles. Now, just insignificant.
     
    Into Africa!
  • hjarg

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    Into Africa!

    Emirate of Kairouan is an interesting mixture. Near the coastline you have your beautiful cities, blooming trade, arts, knowledge and architecture and all the other nice things. Even plumbing on some occasions. Inlands, you have bedouins, living their tribal ways, like their forefathers have been for thousands of years.

    From the county of Tunis, with a potential of five holdings and currently having both castle, city and temple holdings to the Arigh tribe, located on a few (almost) safe passageways through Sahara.

    This setup actually works quite well for them. As the locals keep on saying: polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert. Or by other words, more civilized parts of the country provide food and other goods while the more barbaric parts continue the lands well-supplied with protection, loot and slaves. Still, the synergy of these so different ways of life is quite amazing.

    This was all about to come to and end though. Robert Guiscard, looking at ways to expand his holdings, had been eyeing the rich Duchy of Tunis for a long time. It was there, it was rich and it was full of Muslims. The latter allowed Robert to gain new lands, conquer new enemies and look pious while doing it- not so bad of a relationship at all.

    High Chieftain Munis ibn Yahya Riyadid of Kairouan kept the more civilized parts of his Emirate under the control of his vassals, while the tribal lands were under his direct control. Making him actually quite a powerful ruler. Not much of a military man though. The numbers were just about similar, but the Normans had Robert Guiscard.

    1600028537263.png

    Perfect location for expansion across the sea

    On 30th of May 1075, Robert declared war on the Munis, with a goal to conquer the lands of Tunis. The Norman forces started their gathering at Palermo, from where they would board the ships and cross the small distance between Sicily and North African coast. The spirits were high. The crosses were distributed freely. The priests did their sermons, promising remission of sins to all who go across the sea and give up their life for the glory of Robert Guiscard. Well, they might have worded it a bit differently.

    Just four days after, on 3rd of June, a messenger arrived in Palermo, from Duke Roger of Calabria. Asking for help from Robert with the peasant revolt. “Them revolting peasants,” Robert cursed and changed plans to march to mainland Italy instead.

    1600028593164.png

    Perfect timing

    In the beginning of July, the Sicilian army reached Cosenza, where Duke Roger was already in the process of slaughtering the peasants. Robert joined the fun and with the combined forces, the poor peasants were killed to a man.

    Then, the reports came in- peasants on a boat! Apparently, Kussil, the leader of the army, managed to sneak into some unguarded galleys, set sail and was currently landing in Reggio Calabria. Normally, this would have even beet a smart move- landing behind the enemy and all of that. But not in this case, where you land an army of peasants deep into enemy territory, with the armies of Duke and King being nearby.

    They landed at the end of July. Only to find Robert Guiscard and his men waiting. Angry, impatient and annoyed, for they should be in Africa at the moment. And 237 peasants to use as target practice to relieve this anger. Poor Kussil and his soldiers- there were actually fights breaking out on who gets to kill the peasant.

    Being a King does have its privileges. Robert Guiscard got to kill Kussid. Publically. Slowly. With great pain. Showing anyone what will happen to these trying to oppose him.

    1600028614235.png

    End of the Great Peasant Maritime Invasion

    Robert of Lanciano dealt with the final peasant outbreak in Salerno. In just two month, the realm of Sicily was again free of the revolting peasants. Also, it made a nice family outing- Roger brought all his relatives together for a peasant hunt. Still, it was a delay Robert Guiscard did not care much for. As soon as the peasants had been pacified, the Normans entered the boats and sailed across the sea- this time, to their real goal, Tunis.

    1600028655775.png

    Peasants, pacified.

    It was finally on 15th September 1075 when Normans made a landfall in Tunis. Geoffrey de Mowbray, the resident expert with mangonels, took over the command. He was good. Really good. He knew just how to aim, just where to aim, finding the weak spots of the castles and using the magnificent machines to hurl rocks just where it hurt. Soon, the walls started to crumble and the morale of the defenders started to wade. On 14th November, a day less than two month, the castle of Tunis fell.

    1600028681368.png

    Arrival in Tunis

    Unfortunately, of people of value, Normans found only one son of Count Abd-al’Haqq during the looting and killing that followed afterwards. Still, 10 gold is better than no gold and Robert Guisard ransomed the lad right back to his father.

    Normans moved on to Kairwan, the only inland county of Tunis. Main reason- the final county of Satfura actually has a proper bona fide keep. More then able to hold back the Norman besiegers for months to come. Kairwan was just faster.

    The beginning of the year of 1076 saw the forces of Kairouan marching to Tunis and putting the city under siege. Also well-equipped with mangonels, they lacked Geoffrey de Mowbray though. Now, it was a race. Who will be the first to breach? Who will be the first to make the castle fall?

    1600028712766.png

    Race you to surrender!

    Normans had a bit of a head start. It was in the beginning of February when the Kairwan fell. This time, the loot was better as well. Zwira, first wife of Count Kamil. 25 gold!

    Now, Robert Guiscard took over and marched his troops to relieve Tunis. The enemy scattered and fled towards the south, but the Normans caught up to them, in Zaghwan, barony next to Tunis.

    The leader of the enemy armies was Count Abd-al’Haqq, the owner of Tunis. It is perfectly understandable that the guy wanted his county back. The thing is- he was actually very-well versed in warfare. Almost to the level of Robert Guiscard. Almost. The forces were about equal- Normans did outnumber the enemy, but Abd-al’Haqq had also almost 500 light soldiers.

    1600028738372.png

    The enemy commander is surprisingly formidable

    The knights were the ones that turned the battle. Just 13 of them, sure. But the majority of them were really good. Well-armed, well-versed in battle. The ground trembled as the Normans charged, death-defying, into enemy ranks. Broke through, impaling some of the enemy on their pikes. Created confusion amongst the enemy ranks, as the small contingent of armored men trampled into Muslim forces. Followed by the levies, crashing into the ranks. This was enough to make the enemy turn.

    1600028776624.png

    First blood

    Not the greatest victory by far, but Robert managed to push the enemy back, kill about fifth of the enemies and send the rest running to the hinterlands.

    The Normans moved on northwards, where they besieged Banzart in Satfura. Indeed, the fort was something the Normans had never seen before. Well-fortified, well-placed. Huge walls. Geoffrey de Mowbray’s eyes lit up. Finally, a challenge!

    It was all fun and games until in May, peasants in Rossano rose up against lords, taxes, Normans and all such stuff. Led by Anastasios, low-ranking local noble. Fairly competent man. Robert Guiscard sent them an official letter. With no words, just a big number 2 on it.

    1600028840060.png

    Bloody peasants and their bloody timing!

    At about the same day, yet another messenger of Duke Roger arrived. This time, informing that the Duke had started the war to conquer chiefdom of Djerba and it would be swell if Robert Guiscard could join the fun. Robert, after consulting with maps and advisors, found Djerba. A worthless tribe near Tripolitania. King gave Roger his blessings- but said that he can offer a lot of prayers, but no men.

    1600028804777.png

    Duke Roger, going after a tribe further South

    In July 1076, the fortress of Banzart was about to give up and roll over. Finally. It was then the enemy once again returned and once again, put Tunis under siege. Predictable. By that time, Geoffrey had already worked his miracles. The castle had taken proper damage, their food stocks were emptying and diseases were running rampant inside the fortress. The surrender was not too far off.

    1600028870135.png

    Here we go again.

    In August, the county fell. No walls can hold Geoffrey, it seems. Just some can hold a bit longer. Also, this time, jackpot! Count al-Lakmhi was hiding there, instead being in the field like a proper vassal should be. 50 gold, plus some extra from additional prisoners.

    1600028904782.png

    Jackpot!

    Then, it was time to march southwards. Yet again, the enemy abandoned the siege of Tunis and tried to pull back. Yet again, the Normans intercepted the enemy at Zaghwan. Yet again, the results were about the same. Just, this time, the enemy managed to corner and kill Count Sergios of Napoli, adding an unexpected boon to Robert Guiscard. Countess Pulcheria seemed like a much better hostile vassal than Sergios. As for the enemy, they once again took some losses and pulled back.


    1600029026057.png

    A victory and a lucky break

    This was enough though. High Chieftain Munis fully understood that he could not defeat the Normans. Tunis under control of the Normans, two battles lost, half his vassals being forced to pay ransom to Robert Guiscard. It was certain that Robert would keep on coming. As a wise man, Munis fully understood that it was time to beg for peace.

    In October 1076, Munis gave up, giving Tunis to Normans. Three whole counties in North Africa were now part of the Sicilian Kingdom. For the first time in centuries, Europe wasn’t under assault from the Muslims. Instead, the Muslims were under assault from the Europeans. Bringing the fight back to their home territory.

    1600029445066.png

    The newly conquered lands of Sicily. Also, Duke Arnaud doing his own little crusade on lower right.

    It was not all good though. Duke Roger had been wounded in the last battle of Zaghwan. Wounded bad enough that a few days before the peace, the Duke drew his final breath. Beloved brother of Robert, the Duke died like a proper ruler should. He confessed his sins. He said good-bye to his friends. He fasted. He left all his holdings to his son, Arnauld. And made Robert swear that he will take care of the boy. Then, he received a final communion. And departed from this world to the next and hopefully best.

    1600029061125.png

    Rest well, dear brother. And hello, nephew!

    Robert, unable to take the loss, sought solace with women of questionable nature, but with a fixed price. Fortunately, the army had its share of camp followers. Some for the poor soldiers, some for the more exquisite members of the society. You know, nicer tents, prettier girls, less diseases. Robert secluded himself there for days. Came back a changed man. Or at least, a man with less stress. And a lighter purse. And with a reputation.

    1600029100976.png

    The loss of his brother truly did force Robert into questionable deeds

    Robert had some decisions to do. First, it was a new steward. It seemed like Dragomir’s capture and pressing him into service was a good idea. Especially considering Dragomir was a much better steward. And Robert had an issue- running out of adult powerful vassals who wanted to be in the council.

    The second decision to make was a bit more unpleasant to Robert. Giving away the newly conquered lands. Something Robert enjoyed much less than the conquering of these lands.

    First, it was Serlo de Hauteville, nephew of Robet Guiscard. He got Medjerda, the inland county of the Tunis duchy. A fully developed county, with a proper castle, a city and a temple. Overall, a great catch.

    Then, it was Prince Guy, Robert’s youngest. Now, Count Guy of Tunis. He is the one who got the jackpot. The richest, most developed- and with the most potential. No nepotism involved, ok. 14-year old Count was feeling thrilled at least.

    1600029144251.png

    A son and a nephew, now counts of Tunis and Medjerda.

    Finally, Herman de Hauteville, brother of Count Abelard. He received Pomorje. You know, the single Balkan province Robert was thus far the sole owner of. Third county of Tunis, Satfura, the King kept to himself.

    1600029194078.png

    Another nephew and new Count of Next to Sea

    Then, it was all done. The war over. The titles distributed. The brother buried. It was time for Anastasios to see what Robert meant by number 2.
     
    Brotherly Love
  • hjarg

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    Brotherly Love

    As the Normans were sailing back from Africa to deal with the rebels, Robert Guiscard received a letter from Count Romanos of Metzovo. Husband of his daughter, Matilda. Apparently, his brother and suzerain, Doux Nikolaos of Cephalonia, was trying to take Metzovo from his brother- just to make himself more powerful. Members of House Palailogos do not play nice.

    “Blood is thicker than water,” Robert Guiscard commented as he received the letter . “And whoever tries to make my daughter destitute will pay for it. Dearly.”

    Thus, the Normans were at war again.

    1600200917052.png

    Count Romanos, getting ousted by his own elder brother, Doux Nikolaos

    Revolting Peasants

    Meanwhile, the rebels were actually successful in capturing and pillaging the county of Rossano and had moved on to siege Cosenza, the province next to it. Duke Arnald was not thrilled, for it was his personal demesne being threatened, but being about 5 years old, he could cry all he wanted, no-one cared.

    On 21st of January 1077, the main army of the Kingdom of Sicily descended upon the naugty peasants like a thunderstorm praying down upon weary travellers. It was suddenly pouring Normans, with sharp weapons and murder on their mind, and the poor peasants were giving a proper lesson on why they were the peasants while Normans called themselves warriors. Normans lost 17 soldiers, while the entire peasant army was hunted down without mercy.

    1600200873808.png

    Not a good time to be a revolting peasant

    With one exception. Their leader, Anastasios, a minor noble from Rossano, was brought in chains before the King. Right there, in the fields of Cosenza, still littered with bodies of what were his comrades a few hours ago. Now, they were more of a fertilizer. Everyone expected Robert to add Anastasion to the fertilizers. Most likely in a horrible and slow way.

    Instead, Robert looked at his former enemy and asked simply: “Say, you want a job?”

    Everyone, including Anastasios, looked at him, shocked. Then, the prisoner raised his head high and proudly said “I will rather die then empty your chamberpot or shovel manure of whatever you had in mind!”

    Robert chuckled. “You know, emptying my chamberpot is actually a very sought after job. And I’m not sure you’d qualify. No, I had something else on my mind. Want to join my knights?”

    There was more shock. Bohemond himself stood up, asking “Father! What is the meaning of this? You want this backstabbing bastard to ride along you.” he paused, then added “Ride along US?”

    “Boy, if I say he rides with us, he rides with us.” replied Robert in a slightly annoyed tone. “So, what say you?”

    “Death or Knighthood?” replied Anastasios. Robert nodded.

    Anastasios glanced at the soon-to-be-decaying bodies of his soldiers. He decided he did not want to join them. “I’ll fight for you,” he said.

    “Unchain him,” said Robert and in the same field, he knighted Anastasios, the peasant leader.

    “Valuable lesson to all- if you want a job, rebel against us,” mumbled Bohemond.

    Robert, who heard it, replied with simple: “Rebel against us and be good.”

    1600200781133.png

    Death or Knighthood, Anastasios?

    Across the Adriatic

    The Normans reached the lands of Epirus in May 1077. Just as they arrived, news reached them- Duke Nikolaos has won a major battle against his brother in the capital of Romanos. Epic indeed, for the legend says only 6 soldiers from the enemy side were left standing in when the battle ended.

    1600200736088.png

    6 soldiers pursuing 386

    Unfortunately for the winning side, it was not a slow and a bit boring siege from now on, until Romanos was deprived of his capital. Robert turned his forces towards Metzovo, where less than 500 happy victors celebrated their grand victory and tried to calculate how to effectively siege the castle with little more numbers then the defenders. Until the Normans came and wiped them out. And capturing Mayor Damianos in the process- you know, some good old ransom to cover the embarking costs. Days after, the mayor was set free, leaving a modest pile of gold behind and he left the Norman camp, followed by mocking Normans who asked him to enlist to Doux’s army again, so they could get twice the money.

    1600200707932.png

    The Normans showing how things are done

    Then, the Normans went to besiege the county of Nicpolis. That fell in October, bagging Normans one countess, 8 years old and worth 50 gold. Not a bad deal at all.

    Then, it was time for the enemy capital, located in the island of Cephalonia to fall. No particular results, no-one captured, just 22 gold from looting. The war was coming to an end though soon. Or so the Normans thought.

    Doux Nikolaos hired some help. In March, the Longbeards beat the forces of Count Romanos. Followed by Normans marching in and sending them packing. After the battle, the King asked Captain Perctarit of the Longbears to have a pleasant dinner, before the beards and the Greeks continued their running. A truce was set, a table was set and wine was served. Two men had a pleasant evening.

    1600201189423.png

    Longbeards defeating the forces of Romanos, then Normans defeating the Longbeards

    During the dinner, already quite drunk Robert Guiscard said “You should pick better whom you work for, you know”

    “What, you’re offering?” Perctarit replied.

    “Nah, i’m fine,” replied Robert.
    “And by fine, he means cheap”, Bohemond added, grinning.

    “That’s the thing though,” Perctarit said. “If you’re doing fine, you don’t need me. If your armies happen to be slaughtered by say Normans, then you come knocking on my door. And then, I take their money, because why not. My men need to eat. I don’t have much of a choice.”

    Robert nodded. After thinking over a bit, he advised “It would be smart to avoid any contracts that involve opposing me though.”

    Perctarit just pretended he didn’t hear that. The next morning, the war continued.

    In July, the Normans managed to corner the army of an ally of Nikola, Duchess Eirene of Opsikion (1 years old), in the province of Angelokastron. Nikolaos and other troops nearby suddenly decided that they have places to be and things to do, leaving the poor enemy to fend for themselves.

    1600201234908.png

    A battle, you say? No, i have heard of no battle! I have business elsewhere!

    This battle turned out to be very profitable. As the Normans rounded up the prisoners, they found out that they netted one count and two mayors, meaning 110 gold in ransoms. Biggest catch as of yet.

    With this, the war was coming to an end. In October, the peace was signed. Not only did Romanos keep his lands, Nikolaos was deposed from his lands titles. The middle brother, Georgios, took over both Duchies of Epiros and Cephalonia. A flagellant, rakish man, wounded by Normans during the war.

    1600200525006.png

    The end of the war. Finally. And the new Doux

    As for Normans, they sailed back home, leaving behind Romanos and a bit ravaged and looted Duchy of Epiros. At least, with all the ransoming and ravaging, they not only cut their losses, but made a little money from the love lost between brothers.

    Royal Matters

    Roger de Hauteville, the second son of Robert and heir apparent to the Duchy of Apulia, came of age in January 1077. A bit of a disappointment to his father, sure. But a son is a son, after all. You can’t pick them.

    1600200807941.png

    Not all of them grow up to be brilliant though.

    Followed by Guy de Hauteville, the Count of Tunis, in January 1078. Passable diplomat, passable general, poor soldier. Married to the eldest daughter of Roger, former Duke of Calabria. Unfortunately, none were as good as Bohemond. Still, a family is family and both were expected to be powerful vassals when the King passes from this world.

    1600200629703.png

    Count Guy of Tunis

    In July 1077, the small war of Duke Robert, now continued by Duke Arnald, came to conclusion, kicking the poor chieftain out of his tribal lands and taking over a perfectly useless county in the North coast of Africa.

    1600200669748.png

    Yay! A tribal holding!

    In July 1077, Bohemond, the son and heir of Robert Guiscard, received news. Eudokia bore him a son. The birth was without a hitch, the child was healthy and the Hauteville line was more secure then ever. It was not until the end of the war though, when the happy father and grandfather reached Palermo, they got to see the child. By then, Bohemond the Younger was already more than a year old. And boy, the boy looked exceptional.

    1600201148288.png

    Hello there, young Prince!

    With Bohemond the Younger, the future of Hautevilles was cemented indeed.
     
    Beware of Kings Gifting Horses
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    Beware of Kings Gifting Horses

    King Robert, returning from the war in the Balkans, did not only find a brilliant grandson back home. Sichelgaita greeted him with two daughters! Yolanda and Fresende, just born, filled the castle with joy, laughter and unbearable noise. Feeling joyous, Robert ordered grand celebrations all around. And in very secret, he was really happy that both of them turned out to be girls.

    1600285878580.png

    Yay, twins! Double-yay! Daughters!

    It was also time for Prince Roger to finally marry. Melisende, a lowborn French girl, residing in Provins. Bit of a glutton, but intelligent, diplomatic and hopefully, able to add nice heirs to the Hauteville legacy. As long as she enjoys carnal pleasures nearly half as much as food, Roger should have a line of children in tow.

    1600286021787.png

    Roger, getting married

    Meanwhile, the other Norman kingdom was finally secure. Robert the Conqueror of England had managed to push back the Norse and was now without question the True King of England. Now, he was fighting King of France over the county of Eu, but even this seems to be a successful venture for the young Norman King. It seems like the conquerors of both North and South are here to stay.

    1600286110937.png

    Robert of England is doing quite well

    Beware of Kings Gifting Horses

    “Now, Arnald,” Robet said to his 6-year old nephew, Duke of Calabria. “I’m going to take your cousin Adele from you, ok?”

    Arnald's face started to fill with tears. Robert continued quickly: “And in return, I shall give you this!” He beckoned his servant and he came in, carrying a masterfully crafted wooden horse. With wheels and everything. “This horsie will be all yours!,” the King exclaimed. “You like it?”

    Arnald, still on the verge of crying, nodded quickly. Robert ordered the servant to put it down and without hesitation, the Duke climbed on a horse and screamed “Charge, horsie!”, while his hand rose up, like holding a sword.

    “Hey,” said Robert to the servant. “We should have some wooden swords as well. Go check Bohemond’s old stuff!”

    Within minutes, the servant was back, holding a toy sword that obviously had seen a lot of use and handed it to Arnald. The Duke was exalted. He rode his horsie and held his sword up high and played hunting unbelievers.

    King watched him, smiling. “So, Adele,” he asked again after a while.

    Duke looked at his horsie, a bit guiltily. “But I like to play with cousin Adele,” he said in a somber voice. Looking a bit like crying once again.

    “Oh, you can play with Adele” smiled the King. “In fact, I think I shall send her permanently to your castle, so you can play all the time with her.”

    1600285912310.png

    One Adele, please!

    “Oh, it’s all right then,” replied the Duke and turned his attention to horsie again. “I shall name you Cookie!”

    “Why Cookie?” said the King, smiling

    “Cause I love cookies and I love my horsie!”

    To that flawless logic, the King had nothing more to say.

    Soon, Arnald departed the city of Palermo, having signed some legal documents and also, agreeing to become a ward of King Robert. Like a true knight, he rode proudly on his Cookie, while one servant pulled the horse and another one followed, making sure that the Duke would not trip on the uneven streets of Palermo and would not get his noble cloak all muddy. It was a lovely sight, bringing up a crowd of cheering onlookers. Arnald rode proudly, holding his wooden sword up high.

    1600286181686.png

    Duke Arnald, the newest ward of King Robert

    Few days later, King Robert Guiscard revoked the County of Messina from the 4-year old Countess and sent little Adele to the court of Duke Arnald, where the two of them could play all they want for as long as they would like.

    1600285967803.png

    Countess Adele, your reign will be short

    Since he was not a totally heartless bastard, he gave Arnald something else as compensation. His personal demesne, County of Rossano, also in Calabria. Though a bit looted and ravaged after the peasant revolt took the castle and as of late, also riddled with bit of bandits, it was still a fine gift, compensating the loss of core lands of Arnald. Though the horsie was more important to the Duke. Rest of the Kingdom appreciated Robert’s gesture with this one. Adele got pretty much nothing then a permanent playmate though. World can be cruel to women.

    1600285995448.png

    Have a horsie and a county, boy!

    Also, incidentally, Robert Guiscard now held the entire Island of Sicily as his personal demesne. Malta was still under control of Arnald, but since this wasn’t the richest, more fertile and otherwise interesting land, Robert was fine with it. Palermo was 4-barony county, Agrigento, Messina and Syracuse were all 3-province counties. Malta managed to squeeze one castle in and that was that. No wonder Robert was not really interested- his personal demesme limit could be used more effectively elsewhere.

    Securing the Succession

    It was in November 1078 when King Robert claimed that he is the Duke of Tunis. High Chieftain Munis can call himself that all he wants, but it is Robert who is actually holding the title and most of the lands. And if Munis really doesn’t like that, he is more then welcome to grab his boys and march to Tunis and take back the land. No takers on that.

    Instead, the Normans continued their celebration, filling the streets of Tunis with wine, beer, drunk Normans, bad singing and even worse dancing, as Robert crowned himself as the Duke.

    1600286050650.png

    Munis, I hope you don't mind

    With this, King Robert Guiscard had now a total of three Duchy titles. And three sons. Meaning, Roger will get Duchy of Apulia and County of Apulia. Guy will get Duchy of Tunis and County of Satfura, also conveniently in Tunis. Roger will end up with a short stick, for he will get the Duchy, sure. He will also get Count Geoffroy of Bari as his vassal- and the Count has two of Apulian counties, while Roger will have just one. Basically, making Geoffrey de facto Duke and Roger de facto count. Meanwhile, Guy already controls Tunis, thus making him a powerful ruler within his own realm, with Count Serlo de Hauteville having no chance to rock the stability of his realm.

    Most importantly though- Bohemond de Hauteville will now inherit the Kingdom of Sicily, Duchy of Sicily and all four provinces of the Duchy of Sicily, making him still the strongest amongst the Hautevilles and also, making sure that the Real Royal Demesme, as Roger put it, remained in the hands of the ruler.

    1600286080157.png

    The succession is secure!

    Roger sighed with relief. He, already 63 years old, health ailing, knew full well that if he did not leave his realm in capable hands, where the King is also the most powerful of the rulers, the fledgling Norman Kingdom will fall. Combined with internal struggle and external enemies, the precious little Kingdom would fall, their lands conquered by enemies and soon, forgotten by all.

    Now, there was less chance of this happening. Much less chance.
     
    Future for Daughters
  • hjarg

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    Future for Daughters

    In January of 1079, Princess Mabel of Sicily came to an age. Robert found a very suitable man for him. Tomasz, a Polabian commoner from Lubsko, wherever that is. Tomasz liked the fine things in life, like fornication and food. Behind his jovial looks and easy-going nature, a truly cunning and intelligent man was hiding. Something Robert really appreciated. A man he could really use...

    1600376590302.png

    Tomasz managed to look completely harmless

    A year later, it was Princess Eria’s time to reach adulthood. She became a scholar. She was also married to a commoner, this time a Czech man named Jarohněv. Also, known for his intelligence, though he did not do so good on martial matters.

    1600376748986.png

    Eria, all grown up and ready to bear next generation of Hautevilles

    January of 1081 brought also some joy and jubilation to Sicily. Bohemond and Eudokia got another child! This time, it was a baby girl, named Griselda. Also, bright and intelligent. It was joyful occasion.

    1600376835004.png

    Hello there, little one

    The alliance between Hungary and Normans had been in place for over a decade. King Salamon of Hungary was instrumental in defeating Matilda and helping the Normans to retain all their lands. Since then though, the relations had deteriorated a bit. Mostly because Salamon had totally lost his marbles, killing his own son. And torturing his own brother to death. And most likely, murdering his sister. David, the youngest of Salamon’s siblings, was still alive and well, though Robert was deeply worried about the safety of his eldest daughter, Emma, married to the lad. The alliance between nations was still alive and well, but Robert swore to ignore all pleas of help from the filicidal King. Thus ended the friendly relationship Normans had with the Kingdom of Hungary.

    1600376569942.png

    This is one sick King.

    Constantine

    Meanwhile, in the Island of Sardinia. Zirid Emirate, a nation holding half of Tunis and half of Gabes and some lands in Iberia, managed to invade the island and gain one county. Just across the Papacy, making the city of Rome to be perfectly within a raiding distance. A worrying development for the Pope, though a welcome one to Robert Guiscard, who now has a proper free Casus Belli to enter the island. At the same time, Judike Torchitor, the ruler of the southernmost province of the island, Calgiari, expanded to Africa, taking Annaba. “Copycat,” was Robert’s comment.

    1600376620143.png

    Robert was no longer the only European ruler invading Africa

    Annaba was part of Duchy of Kroumerie. The other province of the Duchy was inland, called Constantine. Currently under control of the Emirate of Zab. Yet another small tribal nation of bedouins, more than happy to raid their neighbors and wage war against all whom they did not like. Robert, eager not to see Cagliari expand further into Africa, decided to take the county. Just in case, as he commented. So, in August 1079, he declared war on High Chief Hassan, claiming Constantine for himself.

    1600376654967.png

    Let us take Constantine, before anyone else does

    The forces of Hassan tried to avoid the Normans and head towards the inner regions of the Normans. Robert heard that and changed direction and caught up with them in Qalama in October 1079. Outnumbering the enemies, having a better commander and more knights- plus also, now the Norman army was not just the levies, but also came with some bowmen and light infantry. Poor enemy forces were slaughtered.

    1600376681930.png

    An easy victory

    At the same time, Count Musaddid of Constantine, the war target, decided to go on a war of his own, rose his levies and was wiped out in November. Normans, having beaten the enemy in Bilizma, stayed there to put the tribe under siege. Looked like victory was at hand.

    Just, on 25th December of 1079, Robert got an unexpected and entirely unwelcome Christmas present. Munis of Kairouan, perhaps feeling a bit bitter about the fact that the Normans had taken half of his lands, decided now was time for revenge and joined the war. In February 1080, the Normans received reports of the army of Munis marching to Mahdiya, in Zirid lands, and trying to rent boats from there. Successfully, for in April, they landed in Sicily, marched towards Palermo and put the Sicilian capital under siege.

    1600376707342.png

    Munis in Palermo

    Too little too late though. Robert let them continue their siege, for Constantine was about to fall. Still, it showed that Palermo was perhaps more vulnerable then the Normans would like to admit and the peasants around the province once again felt the joy of Arabs coming to raid and plunder, but it was temporary.

    In May 1080, Constantine fell. Normans found the Count and his son, hiding in the broom cupboard. Quickly, they ransomed them back to their family and then took their county from them.

    The newly conquered county was assigned to Tomasz, who promptly founded House Constantine, with a cool white lion on black background. And with a peculiar motto “By and sword,” whatever that meant. Still, since the marriage was matrilinear, House Constantine died with his owner. Unfortunately. It was a cool House.

    1600376788184.png

    Tomasz, looking even more jovial and harmless. Also, granting titles is really not a strong suit for Robert

    As for Robert- granting the titles was not his strongest suit. To get over it, he went for yet another visit to the brothels.

    Jafara

    Duke Roger of Calabria had taken the county of Djerba a few years back. A worthless province, for sure. But since he already got one, Robert thought he might as well expand to the territory of Tripolitania. Especially as Tripolitania herself was a really good county, worth keeping.

    In January 1081, Robert declared war on Chieftain Abd-al-Qawi of Jafara. A single tribal holding, with no allies, not much armies and now, without any hope. Robert gathered his armies in Djerba and by the end of February, had defeated less than 1000 strong army of the enemy and was putting the castle in siege.

    1600376858396.png

    Since Roger got one, Robert wants his own worthless county if Tripolitania as well!

    Most important thing of the war- Robert finally learned how to properly use mangonels to crack the castles. Now, there was no need to give the command of the siege to someone else- Robert was the one having all the fun.

    1600376900219.png

    Understanding how the siege stuff works

    In June, the castle fell. Robert took both the Chieftain and his wife during the siege, ransomed the wife back to the chief for all the gold he had (23 out of 50) and then made them both homeless wanderers.

    1600376924288.png

    Taking the last gold from Abd-al-Qawi

    Jarohněv, husband of Matilda, got the newly conquered tribe. No nepotism involved again, none whatsoever!

    The future of both Robert’s daughters was more or less secure. Both were happily wed. Both had their own lands, though their husbands controlled that in name. Both had a good chance to become duchesses and if they bore many children to their husbands, the Hauteville line will flourish in the future.

    1600376960485.png

    Future of Eria secured
     
    Hat-Trick
  • hjarg

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    Hat-Trick

    Not even a month had passed since the Norman conquest of Jafara, Robert declared yet another war- this time, against the Emirate of Cyrenaica, reaching from Tripolitania, along the African coast, until to well, Duchy of Cyrenaica. Ruled by Emir Djafer ibn Kilab of the House Suleimid. Currently at war with the Fatimid Sultanate- or at least, with Emir of Alexandria. Also, allied with Fezzan, a tribal nation deep inland. The goal- county of Tripolitania. Fezzan was actually the stronger one this time- over 3000 soldiers, while Cyrenaica had around 2000.

    1600467473558.png

    The enemies this time

    This time, Robert Guiscard did not march straight into enemy lands. Quite the opposite, he did not raise his armies at all, but stood around, waiting. For having a capital in the Island of Sicily is a pain and a boon. It is expensive to ship your troops out. But it is also expensive for the enemy to ship their troops in- and that is just what they did. First were the Fezzans.

    They marched towards the sea as soon as the war began. In July, Normans noticed them sailing north from Tripolitania- and it was no doubt where their destination is- the Island of Sicily. Few fast, sleek galleys that Robert had sailed ahead, carrying the message. Even better, Thakiya Banu Khattab, the ruler of Fezzan, had decided to split his armies into two. Instead of fighting the whole army, Robert could pick them apart.

    Mazara was the first location. Around 4500 Normans versus 1700 Fezzans, still in the process of disembarking from their ships. Robert had an advantage and he used it mercilessly. The enemy light infantry countered by Norman bowmen. The enemy levies, unused to the great sea and sea voyages, feeling lost and confused. The Normans, offering cold steel to everyone interested and not interested. The army, led by Thakiya himself, melted like a northern snow under Saharan sun. Normans had won their first total victory.

    1600467502533.png

    Strike one!

    The other Fezzan army, the lesser one, was caught up by the end of September. Normans, still eager from the first victory versus the enemies, suffering from the same problems as the first army. In addition, they were not led by a man of Thakiya’s caliber. That was the end of the second Fezzan army, as the battle of Agrigento turned out to be even swiffer and more brutal than the other.

    1600467523954.png

    Strike two!

    By October, there were no more Fezzan armies. Sicily was clear of any dangers and Robert had put himself in a more favourable position.

    The war always comes with a price though. Count Abelard of Camarda got wounded in battle of Mazara. Badly enough that the wound started festering and now, poor Count was feeling really unwell. No way he was going to miss the great adventure into Africa though- as Normans boarded the ships to sail to Tripolitania, Abelard was carried on board with the rest of Normans, promising to get better on the journey and put up a good fight once the Normans arrived.

    1600467549564.png

    Poor Abelard

    By November 1081, the Normans were on the boats and ready to sail to Cyrenaica. Robert thought to bring war to the enemy capital. Having paid 40 gold for the ships. Then, the news arrived- Cyrenaica fleet was spotted near the shores of Sicily. Robert cursed and ordered the fleet to land in Siracusa. Realizing that he had just paid 40 gold for a trip from Agrigento to Siracusa, he cursed more. Much more.

    1600467570000.png

    Let us turn around, right now!

    Still, you have to use what you can. Predictably, the enemy, threatened by Norman presence in Sicily, landed in Palermo. The wise thing to do would have been to turn the ships around and sail somewhere far away from Sicily, but hey, you do not stop an enemy making a mistake.

    Instead, Robert hanged around until his troops had recovered from the long and arduous sea voyage from Agrigento to Syracuse, and marched into battle with an enemy whose troops were still recovering.

    This one was even better. Besides landing his troops, Emir Djafer had managed to get his coffers into red and the enemy commander, Shujah of Waddan, was not half the man Thakiya was. Normans lost 71 soldiers, while the enemy army was yet again wiped from this Earth, their commander captured (and ransomed for 50 gold), the Island of Sicily secure once again and both the enemies kind of out of armies.

    1600467618408.png

    And we have a hat-trick! Three wipes!

    Using the 50 gold ransom to ship yet another fleet (or as commented by the leader of Genoans, whom the Normans hired ships from- “I’m sorry, but there is a fixed cost for entering the ships. If you decide to move your troops across the Mediterranean or just one province, this is not our problem no more. Your contract becomes null and void once you land. You want to board the ships again, you have to pay up.” So, Robert grumbled and paid up). Now, the Normans were sailing to Tripolitania.

    This time, the Normans did reach their destination and put the city under siege. Abelard of Camarda did reach the shores of Africa, but his condition worsened by the day and in June of 1082, he died. An ox of a man, he managed to survive for over half a year, and according to Hauteville family legends (with emphasis on legend), actually managed to kill some defenders. From his sickbed. With a bow. Take it or leave it. His son, Gaufrid, aged 9, took over both the Counties of Camarda and Salerno.

    1600467734914.png

    Rest well, Abelard. You will be missed.

    As for his new marshal- who better than his own son, Bohemond. Robert had been planning to give the position to Bohemond anyway, but did not want to upset poor Abelard, now resting with the angels.


    1600467696006.png

    New marshal, Bohemond. And the rest of the council.

    In June 1082, the city of Tripolitania fell. Robert started his march towards Cyrenaica. March though hostile desert provinces, for he was too cheap to pay for the transport again.

    In August, everything changed. Emir Djafer ibn Kilab died. Not just did, but was murdered. And was not just murdered, but was killed by his own son, Hina ibn Djafer. Upon his death, the realm was splintered, with his oldest son, Musa ibn Djafer, inheriting Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and the war with Normans. The murdering son, Hina, got Syrte.

    1600467765751.png

    Another example of filial love. Patricide at it's finest

    The result of the filial love was that Musa, understanding that after half of his realm was gone, there was no fighting with the Normans no more. At least not the successful kind. So, the first thing he did as the new Emir, he signed a peace treaty with the Normans, ceding Tripolitania.

    Hina on the other hand sent a strict letter to Robert, complaining that the Normans were now marching and ravaging through his lands and would they kindly fuck off, please, for the Emirate of Syrte is a neutral party in the war between Cyrenaica and Sicily. Robert thought about it, then compiled.

    Count Jarohněv of Jafara was now also granted the County of Tripolitania. And Princess Eria, his wife and another murdering sibling, got three times as powerful, for Tripolitania was a proper, civilized county, not some tribal holding. Sometimes, murder does pay.

    1600467859937.png

    The war ended by murder

    Royal Matters

    One of Robert's youngest, Yolanda, caught the consumption in December 1081. Just three years old, the poor girl was suffering immensely. Fortunately, Bishop Abelard was not just a man of the cloth, but also quite a good physician, knowing full well what to do without actually hurting the poor child.

    1600467590964.png

    My poor daughter indeed. She truly looks sick

    On the 4th March of 1082, Eudokia died. She was at the age of 33, fully healthy, hopefully ready to bear more children to Bohemond. Then, one evening, after the meal, she felt ill, returned to her quarters and by nightfall, she was dead. In horrible pain. Robert had a nasty suspicion that her daughter, Princess Eria, now Countess of Jafara and future Countess of Tripolitania, had something to do with it. It was also something Robert was not ready to pursue. Having his own daughter pinned as murderer would be a scandal unlike any other, something he did not wish upon the House de Hauteville. Instead, Count Geoffrey, the spymaster, was instructed to do a very not thorough investigation.

    1600467650901.png

    Just why, Eria, why?

    As the heir cannot be without a wife, Robert was forced to remarry Bohemond. The grieving widow, who truly did like his wife, was married to Ansegundis von Adenau, a Franconian minor noble, known for her enticing beauty.

    1600467670360.png

    New future Queen

    Robert the Conquer of House Normandie, the King of England, had abandoned his Norman ways. Instead, he had managed to create a sort of fusion between the Norman and Anglo-Saxon cultures, called not really inspiringly, the English culture. Half of his provinces of England accepted, the Normans on the continent remained Norman and half of the Anglo-Saxonds did accept the change as well. Quite a few, seeing that he had ruled England for dozen of years and half of the time he was fighting the Norwegians.

    1600467822957.png

    Northern Normans becoming not so Norman no more

    Roger Guiscard had taken a different approach. Instead of adopting, he forced the others to adopt. Norman culture was now prevalent in Palermo, Agrigento and Siracusa, with steward Dagobert currently converting Messina.

    1600467798507.png

    Hautevilles do not adapt. The others do.
     
    More of Brotherly Love
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    More of Brotherly Love

    To the Pilgrimage! Again!

    In July 1083, Robert Guiscard made yet another attempt to show the world how good a Christian he really is. It is time for yet another Pilgrimage. Yet again, to Rome. Because this is the cheapest option, of course. And conveniently located nearby. And having good relations with the Pope does not hurt as well. So, Robert donned his pilgrim’s hat and started walking. Of course, since he was a King of Sicily, he did not walk alone. Lots of pilgrims started their journey, some seemingly carrying weapons and having chainmail under their pilgrims outfits.

    1600620100740.png

    There you go, invest 90 gold

    Fortunately, no standing in the rain this time. Mostly because the rain is rare in the Mezzogiorno summer. Heat can be unbearable though. So can be bandits. Stupid, stupid bandits, thinking this would be yet another pilgrims camp to rob. Instead, they met a wall of steel and military expertise. Imagine, sneaking upon a camp, hoping to find some easy prey, rob them of their valuables and leave them to starve and beg. Instead, upon attacking, a tent opens up, an eldery gentleman in his nightgown jumps out, sword in hand, smiling widely, but his eyes spoke murder. Soon followed by other gentlemen with similar disposition and weaponry. The bandits, around 20 of them, didn’t even get a chance to run. Half of them were dead, half of them wounded. Robert gave quick judgement, and five minutes after the skirmish, the rest of the bandits were promptly hanged. Normans went back to sleep.

    1600620126916.png

    Now the camp to attack

    In September 1083, Robert reached Rome. There, he asked the Pope for some tax refunds. Pope Alexander II, so pleased that Robert took the pilgrimage, answered favourably. As Robert Guiscard himself commented: “Invest 90 gold in pilgrimage, get 255 in return. Plus you get to skewer some bandits on the way. Perfection!” Then, he paused. Thought about it. “Oh, and you get to visit the Christian holy site and reflect upon Christ or something like this as well.”

    1600620175256.png

    ... and gain 255 in return. This is a good deal

    Robert used the pilgrimage on another thing as well. Finally having some time for himself, he used the quiet nights to let the scribes read him the “Gallic Wars” by Caesar. Proper Christian literature for one’s pilgrimage, after all. Robert did actually pick up some tips from the grand master.

    1600620202059.png

    Some light reading during pilgrimage

    More of Brotherly Love

    From October 1076 to October 1078, for the entire two years, Robert Guiscard fought against Doux Nikolaos of Cephalonia and Epirus who tried to revoke some countries from Count Romanos, his very own brother. Unfortunately for Nikolaos, Romanos was also son-in-law of Robert, having married his eldest daughter, Matilda. Robert saw it as Nikolaos was trying to make his own daughter homeless wanderer and intervened. This resulted in Nikolaos being thoroughly beaten, deposed of his titles and the middle brother, Gregorios, installed as the new Doux.

    Unfortunately, Gregorios died of wounds in October 1082. Died heirless. Meaning, Nikolaos got something few of us do- a second chance. He was once again the Doux of Cephalonia and Epirus. And he had learned nothing. For in October 1083, he once again tried to make Countess Matilda a homeless wanderer. Once again, Romanos came crying to Robert Guiscard and once again, the King of Sicily sighed heavily and ordered his troops to be gathered.

    The military power of Doux Nikolaos and his allies was just about the same as it was half a decade ago. The same did not apply to Normans, for the muscle Hautevilles could put out had increased about twofold.

    It was actually such an overkill that there is nothing much to write about the war. Sure, Normans fought some battles. Outnumbering and out-commanding the enemy by far. Sure, they took some castles in sieges. But overall, the war could be summed up with a simple sentence: Robert Guiscard came and won.

    Nikolaos Pailailogos was once again deposed. This time, his son Athanasios, aged 4, took over the Duchy and once again, the lands of Count Romanos were secure. As the Normans left, Robert Guiscard looked deep into the eyes of Romanos and said in a quiet voice: “Finish it, boy!”

    1600620238950.png

    Doux Nikolaos, wasting his second chance

    Hautevilles and Marriage

    Yolanda got better! In January 1085, young Yolanda had finally recovered from consumption. Only to get typhus a year later. She recovered within a few months though.

    1600620316732.png

    From consumption to typhus. Some people don't have all the luck.

    It was then the King arranged marriages of his daughters as well. Yolanda got Saltaru. Man with a bit of pale complexion, but quite an intelligent man. Suitable for breeding new fresh young bright Hautevilles. Fresende got Muniu. Not the brightest, but the boy had exceptional prowess.

    1600620539669.png

    More brilliance coming to Hauteville family

    To the more pressing matter though: Bohemond the Younger. Finding a suitable match for the heir of Bohemond, most likely the future King of Sicily, is no laughing matter. It needs careful consideration. So, consider they did.

    Abelard was first. “How about Princess Emilia, fifth child of King Kresemir the Great of Croatia? House Trpimirovic is quite powerful and also nearby. The alliance between us between them would be beneficial to all of us...”

    There was agreeable nodding all around the table.

    Then, it was Robert of Lanciano. “Princess Mautild of England. Four years old, but we could get the houses of Normandie and Hauteville joined. Northern Normans and Southern Normans, united...” he sounded dreamy.

    Roger said with a cold voice: “Last I checked, they were Normans no more. Plus, too distant for the alliance to be of any practical value. Next!”

    Robert sighed, looking a bit disappointed, but he understood what Roger meant.

    Geoffrey of Bar was next. “How about Infanta Sanca of Galicia. House Jimena is no small catch- and even better, she is the current heir of King Garcia Fernandez, so there is a good chance that the sons of this union will rule over both Galicia and Sicily.”

    There was again agreeable nodding. Then, it was Robert of Lanciano who opened his mouth. “Queen Emma of Galicia is just 30 years old. And King Garcia is known for his familial duties, meaning also bedding the queen frequently. Our reports say that the likelihood of a male heir coming sooner or later is inevitable.”

    “And besides the lure of the throne, Galicia has nothing much to offer us.” Roger ageed. “Next!”

    Dragomir, the steward, beamed. “I have the best of all- Princess Eunike of the Byzantine Empire. Nothing like marrying your grandson to the daughter of Basileos himself! Just think of the prestige!”

    He was silenced by the cold looks of the Normans. Being a Croatian, former capture of war and all that, he did not understand.

    “No,” said Robert. “Not the Byzantines. Never!”

    And that was that.

    “Bohemond, you have been silent?” said Robert to his son and marshal. “Don’t you have any preference?”

    “Hmm,” said Bohemond. “How about Mernissa?”

    “Mernissa of what? What House?”

    “Mernissa of nowhere,” said Bohemond. “Just a girl I met when I visited Count Serlo of Medjerda.”

    Rest of the council was shocked. “A commoner?”

    “As was my dear Eudokia,” Bohemond reminded them. Robert nodded in agreement.

    “The child was exceptionally strong,” continued Bohemond. “Like an ox. And I talked with her. She was smart too. Something that would strengthen the line of Hautevilles for sure...”

    “Just,” he continued. “She is born out of wedlock as well. “Her father is Youkhanna, the steward of Serlo. And her mother is Adilah, a simple nobody in the court of Serlo. It is a well-known secret there that these two fornicate- and Mernissa is a result of that.”

    “Hmm, what else?” asked Robert

    “Well, she also is a Muslim,” Bohemond added.

    “So, a child born out of wedlock, whose parents are known fornicators, but known for nothing else?” said Robert. “To marry the future King of Sicily?”

    Bohemond just nodded.

    “And yet, she is exceptional?” Robert asked

    Bohemond nodded once again.

    “Ok,” said Robert. “I always thought that merit wins over whom your parents are, but putting a bastard Muslim on the throne... interesting. Mernissa it is!”

    Thus, Bohemond the Younger was betrothed to Mernissa, a girl with no lineage, no prospects and even no clear parents. The world was in shock.

    1600620281122.png

    Bohemond the Younger and Mernissa the Wild Oat

    Finally, Gaitelgrima, the soon-to-be-of-age daughter of Robert, was betrothed to Svetozar. A commoner from Russia, who forgot his spine, but who again was smart and bright. Robert kept the meritocracy thing going.

    1600620648315.png

    Yet another commoner

    Also, during the time, Robert got even better at warfare. Now, he was a strategist, known for his cunning of finding new devious ways to slaughter the enemy on the battlefield.

    1600620401039.png

    Robert, even better at kicking butt at large scale

    Even More of Brotherly Love

    The following years, apart from the matrimonial issues, were quiet. Robert helped some of his vassals with their pesky peasant revolts, but beside that, nothing much happened.

    Until in February 1088, yet another message from Count Romanos arrived. This time, the Count was asking for Robert’s help against Doux Athanasios, age 7. But now, it was the Count who was the aggressor and went on to press his claim of Epirus. “Good,” commented Robert as the Norman forces gathered once again.

    1600620709644.png

    Here we go again

    The highlight of the war was when Robert and over 5000 of his merry men caught up with the enemy besieging Metzovo, led by good old Perctarit of the Longbeards. Normans, taking full advantage of the mountainous nature of the province, surrounded the enemy and picked the Longbeards off.

    “See, I told you to pick better contracts,” said Robert to Perctarit after the battle. The mercenary just shrugged and said “Paid in advance. More gold for me.”

    1600620735281.png

    Hello Longbeard my old friend

    The other notable event was the Battle of Gardiki, in September 1088. Not because the battle had been special. No, it was around 500 enemy against a force 10 times their size. It ended as predicted. Just this time, Robert Hauteville got Nikolaos Palailogos as prisoner. The main reason why he had to cross the Adriatic for the third time.

    Robert thought of torture or perhaps an execution. Just to show them who is the boss. Instead, he beckoned Nikolaos to him and simply said: “Few people will get to know what they are truly worth. You do. 25 gold, paid fully by your son. Now, start walking and if you ever cause trouble again, I will not be as lenient.”

    1600620781809.png

    Perhaps I should have killed the chicken...

    War was over in November 1088 and now, Count Romanos had changed into Doux Romanos II of Epirus. Incidentally, also meaning that Matilda was a countess no more, but Duchess. Robert once again left the Byzantine lands, but before, he said to Romanos: “Boy. Remember who made you the Doux. Remember this the next time you think of getting a lover or going whoring”.

    Romanos just flinched and nodded.

    1600620815967.png

    From a simple Count to powerful Doux
     
    Woes of Robert Guiscard
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    Woes of Robert Guiscard

    In November 1088, Robert Guiscard declared war on Marianu, a 3-year old boy. He was also Count of Logudoro, a province in Corsica. The war lasted until February 1089. After the castle was taken, Count captured and ransomed back, Robert took the second county in Corsica. He gave it to Bohemond the Older.

    1600722817419.png

    Like taking a county from a baby

    At the same time, Munis ibn Yahya of Kairouan had completed his conquest of Sfax from the Zirids. With it, the Emir had full control over Duchy of Gabes. This might have been a cause of celebration on other occasion, but not when you have Normans as neighbors. Robert Guiscard saw this as an opportunity to take the entire duchy with just one war. Declared in February 1089.

    1600722853048.png

    Congratulations on your conquest of Sfax! Mind if we take it?

    In March, reports came in. As predicted, Kairouan forces marched to Zirid Empire’s capital, Mahdiya. Despite the fact that the nations had recently been at war, the Zirids were kind enough to let Munis ibn Yahya use their ports. Or perhaps they just had no choice. Doesn’t matter- the result was the same. The enemy boarded their ships and set sail towards Sicily. As predicted. Robert smiled as he hear the news.

    Robert Guiscard gathered his army to meet the enemy and on 4th of June, the enemy forces met in Mazara. The enemy commander, a mercenary named Afulay, was more than competent. The forces were about even, but the Muslim camel riders were a truly a pain. Still, Robert Guiscard was better, the Normans were better and the advantage of catching the enemies still in progress of disembarking was of great help.

    It would have been a clear victory, but the war is always unpredictable. Robert and his entourage got caught in the middle of the battle. Surrounded by the enemy camel riders, outnumbered. Robert’s horse was taken down and the King himself fell on the ground. Robert raised his sword, preparing for a final stand. The enemy already drew first blood, managing to hit Robert in his arm. King and his followers stood back-to-back, covering each other, while the enemy, outnumbering them, drew closer and closer. Things were looking really bad.

    Then, a sole horseman rode in. Full gallop, lance expertly pointed at the enemy, he rode bravely where the Muslims were the thickest. He skewered a few with the lance, then jumped off from the horse, took his sword and without hesitation, landed to the thick of it. Cutting enemies right and left, giving the enemy a pause. He went on for a full minute, leaving corpses on his wake. Then, an enemy managed to hit his calf from behind and the man fell.

    Sometimes, the minute is all you need. It was enough for Norman reinforcements to arrive, pushing the enemy back, saving the King. First thing Robert did was rush to the horseman who saved him. He was still breathing. Barely. He had several wounds. One of his legs had been almost cut off below the calf. He was Bohemond.

    Oblivious to the battle, the King kneeled behind his son and cried. “You fool! You brave fool!” he said. Bohemond opened his eyes, smiled and replied: “It was glorious, father!”. Then, he passed out. Robert, in his range, drew his sword again. Chanting “After me,” he charged the enemy lines, not even bothering to check if there was someone after him. He fought like an elderly demon, bringing fear to the enemy, slaying them by dozens. An enraged Norman, going berserk like his great-great-grandfathers of the North. It was he that made the enemy turn tail and run.

    1600722955247.png

    Poor Bohemond

    Thus ended the battle of Mazara.

    1600722916049.png

    Overall, a great victory

    The war still raged on, not caring for the wounds of Bohemond. As the armies of Kairouan pulled back, reports came from Tunis that the enemy’s allies had reached Tunis and were preparing to embark. Likely destination- Sicily again. Robert had to turn his attention to war, while Bohemond was left in the capable care of Bishop Abelard. The Bishop also treated the King’s wound.

    1600722978414.png

    One goes out, the others come in

    The enemy landed in Palermo by the end of August. Little over 3000 in numbers, they landed, confident in their superiority. Instead, they marched right into the Norman trap. Robert Guiscard managed to position himself between the enemy and their ships, cutting off their means of escape. The enemy, demoralized, suddenly facing a superior foe, broke ranks fairly soon. What had been an army turned into a mess of men, each trying to survive. Few did.

    1600723095073.png

    One battle, two allies

    The celebrations of the battle of Palermo were still ongoing. Then, festivities turned into a tragedy. News arrived from Constantine- Robert Guiscards daughter, Mabel, had died at childbirth. Just at the age of 26. While giving birth to her fifth child. One daughter, four sons. Poor Mabel had been busy. Her husband, Tomasz, Count of Constantine, grieved.

    So did Robert Guiscard and Siechelgaita. Mabel was their precious princess and the loss of a daughter is something no-one should experience. King and Queen left the court behind and spent an evening, reminiscing the life of their beloved daughter. From childhood to adulthood. Both of the parents were deep in tears, but they did find a little solace from each other.

    1600723121053.png

    Mabel, dead at childbirth

    At the same time, Bohemond struggled. He was strong and resilient, but his wounds were plentiful and deep. Abelard did his best and without his help and the strength of Bohemond, it would have happened sooner. In the beginning of September 1089, Bohemond finally felt like it was his time. He said good-bye to his son, Bohemond the Younger, summoned from Corsica, along with her wife, Ansegundis and three of her daughters- Griselda, Rosalind and Albelarda. He told them all how sorry he was that he will not be there to see them grow up. He wished his wife the best. He told Bohemond the Younger that now, it is upon his shoulders to see that the glory of the dynasty will not fade away. And he made peace with Sichelgaita, his step-mother. Then, he received absolution and prayed with everyone. By morning, he was dead. He lived like a true knight, he fought like a true knight and he died like a true knight.

    1600723168207.png

    Bohemond, died to his wounds

    Now, Bohemond the Younger took over- as the primary heir of Robert Guiscard and also, as the count of Logudoro. He was just 12 years old when he lost his beloved father. He also was a brilliant boy.

    1600723241299.png

    Bohemond is dead. Long live Bohemond!

    Robert was not there, for he was leading an army. The war waits for no-one, not even a mourning King. The Kairouan forces had not retreated towards Africa, but instead, had landed in Salerno and put the city under siege. Bohemond caught up with them in Capua in November 1089, then pushed the enemy back, towards Central Italy. Muslims running, Robert hot on their heels. In February 1090, he caught up with them in Montalcino, in Tuscan territory. Seeing that Matilda was at the same time fighting with the Pope over Orbetello, Tuscany was getting quite crowded. Bohemond won again, and then followed the enemy once again, until finally catching up with them in Terracina, in Papal lands. After this, the Kairouan army was no more.

    1600723346566.png

    It took three battles to end the Kairouan army

    Robert gathered his army and sailed to Sfax. Arriving in July 1090, he put the city under siege.

    In the meantime, Count Serlo of Medjerda created his own branch of the Hautevilles- now called Hauteville-Aribus. This was the second house within the Hauteville family. He was also granted the title of Marshal of the Realm after Bohemond's demise.

    1600723044405.png


    Then, another news hit the poor King. In August 1090, his daughter Matilda, wife of Doux Romanos of Epirus, had died of consumption at the age of 31. Robert grieved once again. He had fought three wars for her beloved daughter, but God had other plans, making it all in vain. Three children within a year. This was more than many men can handle. Robert secluded himself in his tent for days, praying for the souls of all his children.

    1600723377895.png

    Matilda, died of consumption

    In September, Sfax fell. Robert marched south to Gabes, missing a Kairouan force trying to board the ship by mere days. The enemy landed in Sfax. Robert marched north again and killed off the enemy. Then, it was south to Gabes again.

    1600723436849.png

    Not the smartest more

    Meanwhile, Kairouan had managed to raise another army. As Robert besieged Gabes, they took on the fortress of Sfax again. Robert, confident that he will finish the siege before the enemy does, did not move. His confidence was misplaced. In March 1091, when Gabes had 13 days to fall, Sfax fell. Once again, the enemy started boarding the ships. Gabes fell in April and the King rushed north. Alas, it was too late. The enemy managed to hit the boats again and sailed off towards Sicily, Robert just getting their rear guard.

    1600723460303.png

    The timing sucks!

    Again, Robert started the siege of Sfax. When the city fell in July 1091, then the war was over. Munis was forced to give up his access to the sea and all his lands in Gabes. Once again, the Normans were successful. But at what cost?

    1600723529982.png

    Once again, peacemaker made things a bit easier

    Meanwhile, Gaitelgrima, another daughter of Robert Guiscard, had came of age and was married to Svetozar. A vengeful coward, sure, but an intelligent man, competent in financial matters. Robert gave the newly conquered titles to his son-in-law. At least something good came of this.

    1600723489281.png

    Gaitelgrima and the groveling Count

    Also during the war, Count Jaronhev of Jafara and Tripolitania, Robert’s other son-in-law and husband to Princess Eria (the murderer of Robert’s daughter-in-law, Eudokia), had died to the wounds he received in battle of Palermo. Fortunately, he died after he managed to impregnate Eria several times. First fresh Hautevilles now ruled the counties of Jafara and Tripolitania. First, Osbern, just 3 years old; the second county was given to just freshly born Robert.

    1600723306258.png

    Another tragedy, albeit a smaller one

    The war with Kairouan made Robert Guiscard a broken man. Loss of his beloved children, especially his heir, Bohemond, left him with no energy and plenty of apathy. He did not go to war. He did not build anything. He just went through his daily motions. He even lost his cynical side a bit and started getting closer to God- mostly because he hoped to meet his children soon. Up there. By the time the war ended, he was already 76 years old, after all.

    After the celebrations of the New Year in 1093, the King felt the burden of his age like he had never felt before. Like a true Christian ruler, he gathered his family and friends. He said good-bye to his sons and daughters. He gave Bohemond the Younger his blessings. He kissed Sichelgaita for the last time. Then, he received his last rites, he prayed with Abelard, confessed his plentiful sins and received plentiful absolution. After that, he removed his fancy clothes, donnes his simple pilgrims grown and fasted and prayed. The fast, weakening his already weak body, did not help much. On 7th of January, King Robert Guiscard drew his final breath.

    1600723557841.png

    The end of Robert Guiscard

    Long Live King Bohemond!
     
    Robert Guiscard de Hauteville
  • hjarg

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    Robert Guiscard de Hauteville

    Sometimes, a right man is born just at the right time and happens to be just at a right place. Robert Guiscard, an adventurer from the North, is a perfect example of that man.

    The timing was just right. The Caliphate had fallen. Muslim world, united just a while ago, had been splintered into smaller, warring Emirates. Some, smaller. Some, bigger and stronger. None with the might of Abbasids. Something a man with ambition could use to his advantage.

    The Byzantine Empire was also on decline. The Roman Empire was not the Empire it was during Justinanus no more. Nor was it the same as it was during Basileus II, killer of the Bulgars. More threatened by Seljuks of the east and weakened by enemies attacking from all the sides, the matters of Italy were second-hand to the Greek Romans or Roman Greeks.

    This allowed the Lombard lords of Southern Italy to start fighting for their independence from the Byzantines. Incidentally, creating a need for fierce fighters- the Normans.

    It was in 1047 when Robert de Hauteville arrived in Mezzogiorno, with a few soldiers in tow. A soldier of fortune, a mercenary. A man without land and prospects- but more than eager to get some! By that time, the Normans were no mere mercenaries no more. This brother, Drogo, controlled County of Apulia. Just a County though. By the time Robert came to power after the death of his brother Humphrey in 1056, Normans controlled much more. By 1066, they controlled almost the entire southern Italy and one province in Sicily. But Norman appetite was far from satisfied.

    Robert Guiscard took the Island of Sicily in two quick wars. In the between, he defended himself against the Duchess Matilda of Tuscany, and ensured that she would get no pie of the Norman lands. Also, he grabbed Salerno from his brother-in-law, who found Lollardy and then found himself without any lands after Robert did some old-fashioned purging. Meanwhile, Robert’s brother, Roger, took Malta.

    In 1072, Robert was no mere Duke no more. He was crowned as a King of Sicily, raising a poor Norman upstart adventurer into heights he could not dream of when he arrived. The number of Kings in Europe was not that great, and Robert Guiscard was among the selected few. He celebrated by force vassalization of Naples. Swear loyalty or become a corpse is always a good argument. This was the time when Robert moved the Norman capital from Trani in Apulia to Palermo in Sicily as well.

    It was then that Robert Guiscard was forced to turn his gaze away from Italy. For the Mezzogiorno was almost completely controlled by the Normans. Rest of Italy was under control of the Holy Roman Empire and the expansion to that direction would have been slow and bothersome. No, Robert had much juicier targets. First was just across the Balkans. County of Pomorje, part of Duchy of Duklja, whose Duke had conveniently embraced Lollardly, was just lolling about until Robert took his lands.
    Then, it was time for Africa. Just across Sicily were small Muslim Emirates. Splintered, warring, weak. Nothing compared to Normans, nothing compared to the military genius of Robert Guiscard. First was Tunis. Part of the Emirate of Kairouan. Robert Guiscard fought then in a war from 1075-1076 and the success of the Norman troops got the King his first lands in Africa. For the first time in centuries, the tables had been turned. No longer did Europe have Muslims from Africa invading and looting Europe. Instead, they got Normans moving to Africa.

    In the following years, Robert Guiscard continued his expansion to Africa. Taking Constantine in the west, Jafara and Tripolitania in the East. He also attacked the Zirids of Africa, located just nearby, but instead of their local holdings, he took a province in the Island of Sardinia that Zirids had recently conquered. His final war was against Kairouan again, taking Duchy of Gabes.

    He also had a very small war in Sardinia, taking the county of Logudoro.

    In addition, Robert Guiscard fought three wars in the Byzantine Empire. Count Romanos, married to his daughter Matilda, was having trouble with his brother, Nikolaos, Doux of Epirus, who constantly tried to take the lands from Romanos. Thanks to the intervention of Robert Guiscard, Romanos ended up as a Doux of Epirus. Only to lose Matilda to consumption a few years later.

    Robert Guiscard had two wives. With them, he sired 10 children. 3 boys and 7 girls. Three of them, Robert lost during the last years of his rule. Mabel, Countess of Constantine, died at childbirth. Matilda, Duchess of Epirus, died from consumption. And finally, his beloved son and heir, Bohemond, died from wounds he got in the Battle of Mazara.

    Almost half a century after Robert Guiscard first arrived in Mezzogiorno, in 1093, he died as a King of Sicily, controlling all of Mezzogiorno apart from Capua and Benevento. In addition, one province in the Balkans, two in Sardinia and 9 in North Africa. Final realm size- 28.

    His grandson, Bohemond, son of Bohemond, succeeded him as the new King.

    1601110507948.png

    The world in 1093
     
    Coming to Power
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    Coming to Power

    Bohemond de Hauteville gave a very clear signal when he became the King. He is Hauteville, and he means business. The best way to show it is of course mass sacrifice, khm, I mean massive execution of captives gathered in dungeons by Robert Guiscard. Mostly unimportant Muslims no-one wanted to pay ransom for. Bohemond found the execution of heathens relaxing. Tells much about the character of the King.

    1601200425892.png

    The finer things in life. Good food, fine wine, screams of pain and terror of heathens.

    Then, it was time to oversee the lands.

    First, his personal demesme. Bohemond lost lands in Apulia and Tunis to his uncles, but he retained the Duchy of Sicily in almost all her glory (apart from Malta). He also was Count of Logudoro in Sardinia, inherited from his father. This was more of a throwaway title, but even back then, Sicily was considered core of Hauteville lands.

    Robert Guiscard was not the richest King by far, but what he had, he mainly invested into various counties of Sicily. First and foremost, Palermo, the Norman capital. Robert had gotten agriculture running, had also started some mansions and also, rudimentary barracks for soldiers and tents for archers.

    Besides Palermo, the province also had the City of Trapani. Still a small city, but with promise to grow. Also, Bishopric of Mazara. Both came with their own port and fields.

    Next was Messina. Acquired by Robert using questionable means and wooden horses, this province was more covered with forests. Meaning a lumber industry, hunters lodges and also, some barracks and tents. The City of Cefalu was in about the same level as Trapani and Bishopric of Catania, known for its mines, was located safely inland.

    Siracusa also had some fields, some hunting lodges and barracks. They also had some extra fortifications, but these were to be teared down soon and replaced with something else. It also had the city of Caltagirone, but this was more of an overgrown village then anything else. No Bishopric.

    Finally, Agrigento. Bohemond was a proud owner of Grigenti, boasting again some fields and some tents for archers and some fortifications. It had received least attention from the four. It also has a city, called Caltanissetta. The main difference with every other city in the islands is that it is located inlands, away from the sea. It also happens to be located on the center of inland trade routes of the island.

    1601200398813.png

    Core lands of the Kings of Sicily

    That is the extent of personal power of Bohemond. Then, of course, there are the vassals. First and foremost is Arnald of Calabria. Son of Robert, brother of Roger Guiscard and also, a personal ward of Robert. Just a bit older then Bohemond- he is 20. He controls all three provinces of Calabria, also has Malta and has Count of Djerba (province in Tripolitania) as his personal vassal. Making him the strongest of the vassals. Also, he is a formidable leader and almost as great of a warrior as his father was.

    Then, there is Gaufrid of Salerno. Son of Abelard of Camarda, he had recently declared himself a Duke of Salerno and moved the capital there. Just 19 years old, he is mostly known for his gluttony.

    Robert of Lanciano, son of Geoffrey de Hauteville, a brother of Robert Guiscard, still holds both counties of Lanciano and Foggia. Still guards the northern border. Still is a chancellor. He is also 58 years old, so he will not most likely stick around for too long no more.

    Giselle of Pomorje is just 13 years old. His father, Herman, brother of Abelard of Camarda and son of Humphrey, died quite soon after he got the county and Giselle had been running Pomorje for over a decade. She is safely betrothed matrilineally, so the Hautevilles of Pomorje will keep on.

    Prince Guy of Sicily is the Uncle of Bohemond. He is also the Duke of Tunis, and owner of two counties- Tunis and Satfura. He also has a vassal of his own- Serlo Hauteville-Aribus of the Medjerda. He is also a competent military engineer, excelling on sieges. And even though he is just 31 years old, he has already managed to sire 6 children.

    Countess Pulcheria of Napoli inherited the county, after his father, Sergios, died fighting for Robert Guiscard in the first invasion of Africa. Though only 25 years old, she had been ruling for nearly 20 years. She had also inherited his father's distaste for Normans.

    Then, there is Count Tomasz of Constantine. Fresh widower, former husband of Princess Mabel, Bohemond’s aunt. Lustful glutton, whose jovial face and cheerful manners hide a ruthless and cunning man. Lustful indeed though, for now the 46 years old man is betrothed to 12-year old Busilla de Conversano.

    Next in line is Count Osbern of Jafara. Son of Jarohnev and Princess Eria, yet another aunt of Bohemond. Making him a cousin. Just 7 years old, he controls the counties of Jafara and Tripolitania (the latter inherited from his baby brother, who died at the age of 2).

    Count Svetozar of Sfax controls the latest conquest of the Hautevilles- Duchy of Gabes. Married to yet another aunt of Bohemond, Princess Gaitelgrima, the nepotism of the Hautevilles becomes more and more obvious with every turn.

    Then, there is Richard of Gallura. Again, a Hauteville, son of Drogo. Just one thing- he is already 45 years old and has not managed to produce an heir thus far. It is suspected that Gallura will leave the hands of Hautevilles soon. But since this is Gallura, quite an unimportant province in Sardinia, no-one cares much.

    Finally, there is Duke Roger of Apulia. An uncle, a hunchback, a drunkard and quite a learned man. Controlling a single county of Apulia, while having Geoffrey of Bari, owning Bari and Lecce, as his vassal. Robert did really receive a short end of the stick.

    1601200553697.png

    The Kingdom of Sicily and all (direct) vassals of Bohemond

    Then, of course, there is the council. Bohemond kept Dragomir as steward and Robert as his Councillor. Since the former spymaster, Geoffrey of Bari, was no longer a direct vassal- as was with former Marshal, Serlo of Medjerda, these Bohemond had to replace. Tomasz of Constantine got to be the new spymaster. Arnald of Calabria got the new Marshal position. Both men are more than deserving of their positions as well. Finally, Abelard was still there. Still Court Physician. Still loyal, though not as much as he was to Robert.

    1601200586741.png

    The Council

    Robert Guiscard left Bohemond a full coffer. Nearly 1000 gold there. Also, Bohemond got about 4000 levies at his disposal and a small, but powerful enough core army. Mangonels, archers, light horses, pikeman and levies. A bit of everything. Bohemond has some muscle to throw around, for sure.

    1601200684864.png

    The army and the money

    Half of the coffers, Bohemond spent right away. Two new Duchy titles, Gabes and Tripolitania, were created on his order. Both Svetozar and Osbern now were ecstatic with the new King and were crowned Dukes in a grand ceremony, with an old man and a child kneeling side-by-side, as Bohemond crowned them both as Dukes. It was nothing compared to the thing that was to come though.

    1601200520355.png

    Two new Dukes

    On 7th January of 1093, Bohemond became a King of Sicily at the age of 15. On 11th January, he became of age. The preparations for the sweet sixteen of the King were already well on their way- and now, with Bohemond becoming a new King, amped up a few degrees. People from all over the realm and the world were already coming to see the potential new King of Sicily. Now, they saw the real new King instead. This started with Bohemond being crowned as the King by Pope Alexander II (still alive and kicking), who was one of the guests anyway, so what’s a little coronation ceremony on the fly? And ended up in a weekly celebration where wine and beer flowed freely and where even the poorest could stuff themselves to their limit. There was joy, laughter, drunken brawls and much love for the young King.

    1601200375264.png

    Bohemond, coming of age

    As for Bohemond himself, after the coronation, he retreated to the crypt underneath the Cathedral of Palermo. Two graves were there. His grandfather and his father. He kneeled on the cold stone floor and prayed in silence. For hours. Praying for their place in heaven, remnicenting good times he had with both of them. Finally, he stood up and said silently, both to himself and to Robert and Bohemond. “Father, I will swear that I will be as brave of a knight as you were. And Grandfather, I will swear that I will be as cunning and brilliant as you were. I will not squander my inheritance, but I will raise the Hautevilles to the new glory!”

    Thus started the rule of King Bohemond the Younger.
     
    Saving Uncle Roger
  • hjarg

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    Saving Uncle Roger

    King Bohemond sailed across the seas, to the Holiest of All Cities. Jerusalem, the Dome Rock, the entire Holy Land left him with an impression that he carried with him for the rest of his life. As the King himself described, following the footsteps of Jesus Christ was a life-changing experience. He felt the God near him and in him during his journey- and most importantly, he felt God’s good intentions towards him.

    1601418338070.png

    More like "I have slept through the Holy Path" by the look on his face

    When he left the Holy City behind, he gazed toward the city once more. “Shame the Muslims own it,” he said to himself, thoughtfully.

    One of the first things Bohemond did upon returning was to ask for some money from the Pope. In some ways, he still kept to the ways of his grandfather. Holy might be holy, but gold is something you can touch.

    1601418317660.png

    Holy Tax Return, Popeman!

    Also, Bohemond kept the beard and new hair he grew during the journey. Looking less young and more kingly now.

    1601418267112.png

    The new look

    Double Duke

    “Gaufrid,” Bohemond said to the Duke of Salerno. “Care to explain?”

    Gaufrid de Hauteville, son of Abelard, just a few years older than the King himself, tried his best to look clueless. “Explain what, my Liege?” he asked, feigning innocence.

    Though he was a glutton and it showed already, the man had ambition. As usual- Count Abelard died too soon, leaving the young count fatherless. Surrounded by people who did their best to get to the good graces of the young count, they showered him with praise and really held back on criticism. Resulting in Gaufrid perhaps overestimating his abilities by a bit. Or by quite a large scale.

    “Like,” said Bohemond with a sharp tone. “Like me going on my pilgrimage with you as Duke of Salerno? And when I return, I find you as both Duke of Salerno and Apulia?”

    The King took a deep breath and continued “And I find my uncle Robert as definitely not the Duke of Apulia, and also your vassal? Alongside Geoffrey of Bari, that is?”

    Gaufrid stiffened. “I am well within my right to do so, my Liege!,” he proclaimed loudly. “After all, my father, Count Abelard, inherited the claim from his grandfather, Duke Humphrey, brother of Robert Guiscard, and as such, my claim for the Duchy is as strong then Rogers!”

    Bohemond felt the rage build up on him. He felt a vein on his forehead throbbing. He felt like grabbing his sword and just splitting Gaufrid into two, as he stood there, that arrogant look on his face.

    Just, the King knew full well that splitting powerful vassals into two would create more problems than it is worth. As knew Gaufrid.

    Bohemond gritted his teeth and forced himself to calm down. “And I understand there has been a bit of a war going on?” he added with a very icy tone.

    Gaufrid just shrugged. “Well, your uncle did not recognize my claim, so a bit of persuasion was needed.”

    The Double Duke had no idea how close to becoming Duke of Salerno on the bottom half and Duke of Apulia on the upper half he became. Bohemond gripped his sword until his knuckles turned bare white, but then he let go, slowly.

    “You went to war against my Uncle,” he said, slowly, breathing out.

    “I am well within my right to do so,” repeated Gaufrid.

    “If that is all, my Liege?” he bowed and turned away. Leaving behind one very angry Bohemond.

    1601418420999.png

    Gaufrid, taking Duchy of Apulia from Roger

    Rest of the council had been watching in silence. Then, Pulcheria looked up, with a mischievous smile. “Poison or dagger, sire?” she asked.

    Bohemond stared at her blankly. “Eh?” he said

    “Poison or dagger?” she repeated herself.

    “No,” said Bohemond. “No, no, no! Not this way!”

    “So, are you going to just stand by?” she asked.

    “No,” said Bohemond again. “Death is too good for him. I want to make an example out of him.”

    “I think death sets a good example,” muttered Pulcheria to herself, but left it as that.

    “Abelard,” Bohemond turned towards his Bishop. “Can you get me a claim on Salerno?”

    The Bishop nodded. “It can be done. It will take some time. You sure about it, Sire?”

    Bohemond nodded. Then, he dismissed the council. Merenissa stayed behind. “You held yourself back really well there, my dear,” she commented.

    “I was this close to killing him on spot,” said the King.

    “I noticed,” said the Queen. “Come, my husband,” she said with a wink. “Let me think of something to take your mind off these things...”

    Bohemond felt much calmer already. She smiled at her wife, already visibly pregnant, and allowed her to take his hand and lead him towards royal bedchambers.

    He felt happy that his marriage was arranged with such a nice woman as Mernissa. Could have been worse. Much worse.

    1601418285892.png

    Bohemond and Mernissa, now more then just husband and wife

    Holy War for Annaba

    Judike Torchitor of Cagliari in Sardinia followed the Normans- he invaded Africa, taking the county of Annaba in 1079. Then, in 1091, he died, splitting the counties between his sons. Sergiu, the younger, got Annaba. Constantinu, the elder one, got Cagliari. Count Tomasz of Constantine used that fact and declared war on Sergiu. Then, Tomasz died. His son, Arnald, inherited the county and the war. To make matters more interesting, Ali II ibn Fadl of the Amarid Emirate that Bohemond just defeated, thought of finding new glory in Africa and also declared war on Sergiu.

    War was not going well for Arnald, until he bethored his sister to be a relative of Duke Pere Ramon of Barcelona, thus gaining a valuable alliance. And gaining Catalan army, joining in their war. Pere Ramon turned the tide and in July 1095, Arnald relieved Sergiu from Annaba. And Bohemond inherited a Muslim holy war against Annaba. Once again, Bohemond was at war with Amarids.

    1601418220174.png

    While Bohemond gets the war...

    First thing Bohemond did was to create the Duchy of Kroumerie and hand it to Arnald. Better for the boy to receive it from his King then to create it himself and hog all the glory and show no gratitude.

    1601418238970.png

    ... Arnald gets the Duchy

    Meanwhile, enemy forces were besieging Cagliari. This time, Bohemond heeded the call of fellow Christians and marched to the rescue. The enemy started pulling back, but it was too little, too late. Bohemond caught the small enemy force and destroyed them. Since it seemed that this was about it from the enemy, he then disbanded his troops again.

    1601418139280.png

    That's over with

    Pope Alexander II finally died in October 1095. First thing his successor, Clemens III, received was a letter from Bohemond, asking for Papal aid against his long, hard and costly war against the enemy. Sighing, Clemens III empties his coffers a bit. With satisfaction, Bohemond noted that the Pope still had plenty left.

    1601418155917.png

    New Pope, new donations!

    The war dragged on, with neither side showing any initiative. Until in March 1097, Bohemond and Ali II agreed that this was pointless and signed a white peace.

    1601417795767.png

    Boring an to an unglorious war

    Royal Matters

    Bohemond’s twin aunts became of age on 25th October 1094. Both were married to capable men, men who did not bring the power of their dynasty, but instead, were known for their own merit. Though Saltaru was a bit on the light side, The twins were married in a lavish dual wedding ceremony and they both settled in the palace of Palermo with their husbands. Waiting for Bohemond to conquer something nice for them.

    1601418385164.png

    Twins and their double marriage

    Griselda, Bohemond’s sister and a friend, also became of age in July 1096. Bohemond married her to a handsome devil called Anfroi Fitzwalter. Griselda seemed happy.

    1601417955429.png

    A prince charming!

    Succession is Safe!

    On 6th October 1095, Alberada was born. A daughter and firstborn of Bohemond and Mernissa. There was much joy and celebration and the child looked exceptional. At least, to the eyes of the loving mother. Bohemond himself was campaigning at Sardinia at the time and it was not until late Novemer before he could hold the baby in his arms. Still, the succession was safe. Even if the child was a girl- but she was also a promise of plenty more to come.

    1601418185799.png

    Welcome to this world, Alberada

    Saving Uncle

    “Fuck!” said Bohemond. “Fucking fuck! I shall personally fuck this fucker so even his fucking mother don’t recognize that sad fuck no more!”

    He held the letter in his hands and with swift movement, tore it into two.

    “Fuck,” he repeated himself.

    Then, he slammed his fist on a solid wooden table, bloodying his knuckles. The pain helped him concentrate.

    “Fucker,” he said more calmly.

    Then, he noticed his council, staring at him, eyes widened.

    “Gaufrid,” he explained. “Our beloved Duke of Salerno and Apulia. Apparently, he had revoked Bari from Geoffrey in January. Apparently, he tried to do the same with Uncle Robert and he refused. Now, the Duke has been fighting my uncle Robert over County of Apulia since April. Apparently, Geffrey of now just Lecce is fighting alongside my uncle. Apparently, my beloved former chancellor Robert of Lanciano, God rest his wicked soul, joined Gaufrid in his war- and now, his son and heir William is continuing the war.”

    1601418084361.png

    Uncle Robert and Count Geoffrey in their desperate battle to hold their lands.

    The King took a deep pause. Then, he said in a bit too loud voice. “Now, why wasn’t I informed? It is bloody November, you know!"

    “Bloody November!” he repeated himself and slammed his fist on the table again, leaving small stains of blood behind.

    “Can anyone explain to me how it is possible that there is a war within my realm and I wasn’t informed?”

    Prince Guy, the new chancellor, Duke of Tunis, brother of Robert, uncle of Bohemond, smiled calmly at the angry King. “Nephew, I think you just answered yourself to your question. It seems like the late Robert was withholding all information coming from the peninsula. You being busy in Sardinia and the pregnancy of Merissa and all that. He might have even told you that, in a situation where he was certain you would not listen and in a way that you would not listen.”

    1601418039985.png

    Uncle Guy, the new Chancellor

    Calmness of Guy seemed to have an effect on Bohemond as well. Making him a bit calmer. Then, a bit more. Then, even more. Then, the King sat down and said, in a quiet voice. “I want blood.”

    Council just nodded.

    It was the end of June of 1096. Things were not going well for Uncle Robert. Robert of Lanciano and Gaufrid had scattered the forces of both him and Geoffrey. Apulia was under occupation and Gaufrid was currently besieging Lecce. It was clear that the castle would not hold out for much longer and Gaufrid was already celebrating his future victory.

    Failing to notice that Bohemond gathered an army in Bari. Failing to notice Bishop Abelard, doing things considered perhaps not the most appropriate for a clergyman. Failing to notice that the noose around his head tightens.

    On 30th June, Bohemond had gathered (read: forged) enough documents to show that in fact, the fief of Salerno was granted to Abelard of Camarda by Robert Guiscard on the condition that the named fief would be returned to the King Robert or his descendants upon death of Abelard. Since Abelard is long dead and Gaufrid has not honored the agreement, King Bohemond is now sadly forced to press the said claim.

    1601417980852.png

    Bohemond greatly appreciates Gaufrid's stance in the matter
    Gaufrid refused. “Good,” commented Bohemond.

    The very same day, the army of Bohemond marched south. Both Gaufrid and Count William were besieging the province of Lecce. Just, upon finding out that he is suddenly at potential war with his liege, William sent envoys to Bohemond, claiming that he really did not want to do it, but his father’s last wish and so on, and begged the King for forgiveness. Bohemond promptly forgave and William gathered his men and left the siege camp, leaving one very angry Gaufrid behind.

    The Battle of Brindisi has very little to write about. Gaufrid was not as good of a military commander as he thought he was. His army was about fifth of Bohemond’s army. When the forces met on 29th July, Bohemond demonstrated his superiority as a knight and as a commander. After the battle, there was no army of Gaufrid.

    1601417908982.png

    While William scatters to retreat, Gaufrid and his ambition really did on this day

    Then, Bohemond did something questionable. He continued the siege of Lecce (after all, Geoffrey was a vassal of Gaufrid, and therefore, even though he was at war with Gaufrid, he, as a vassal, was also at war with the enemy of his liege, meaning King Bohemond. Made sense?) and sacked the castle. He also took Geoffrey of Lecce as a prisoner after the siege, along with half of his family. The total ransoms netted the King about 100 gold and one very angry count.

    1601417887417.png

    This is not the nicest thing to do...

    Bohemond was not finished yet. His forces then marched to Salerno, only to find out an army of Lecce besieging the province. Since neither side could decide who would get to do what, Bohemond just beat the army of Geoffrey and took over the siege.

    1601417846025.png

    Hostile takeover of the siege

    Salerno fell in November 1096. After the siege, Bohemond’s troops found Gunora, the daughter and heir of Gaufrid. Bohemond, trying to recover some of the costs of war, just ransomed her back to Gaufrid for 100 gold. Meanwhile, Bohemond marched on to Camarda.

    1601417820589.png

    Hello Gaufrid, time to pay up

    Camarda fell in May 1097. With this, the original lands of Gaufrid were safely under the control of the King. A year ago, Gaufrid was an arrogant man, confident in his abilities and certain his ploy would be successful. He thought that the King cannot oppose him, that he would be the sole master of Apulia and Salerno both, that he would be the most powerful vassal of Bohemond- and perhaps, one day, it would be he who would be King. Now, landless, armyless, he had no choice but to beg Bohemond for mercy. He received none.

    Bohemond forced Gaufrid to accept the sedition of Salerno to the King. Seeing that the Duke was in prison, he really had no choice but to comply. One of the richest, most developed provinces of the Kingdom was now under Bohemond’s direct command.

    1601418575922.png

    Making Salerno as part of the Royal Demesme

    In addition, King took both Roger and Geoffrey from him as vassals and made himself the direct ruler of the two. Again, kind of hard to say no if the King had you locked up, right?

    1601418464444.png

    Taking over the vassals of Gaufrid

    That is not all. Bohemond also forced Gaufrid to end the war with Uncle Roger and thus saved the poor man from becoming homeless and destitute wanderer.

    Finally, Bohemond kept Gaufrid in prison and had no intention of letting him go any time soon.

    Mass executions and wars against infidels is one thing. Here, Bohemond really showed all the Normans that dissent is not recommended. Bohemond might be first amongst the equals, but he is the first and it would be wise not to anger the young King, for he is quick and without mercy.
     
    Free-for-all!
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    Free-for-all!

    Zab, a small semi-tribal Emirate near the coast of Africa. Alone, without allies. And one of their counties, Satif, looks really nice. Bohemond, wanting to increase not the Norman influence, but the influence of the Kingdom of Sicily, deemed it to be a proper target.

    1601716536808.png

    This will be easy

    In February 1102, war was declared. In April, Bohemond defeated the enemy army in Qalaa Bahmud, a province in Satif. Then, he put the castle under siege.

    1601716823842.png

    Yes, easy

    This was supposed to be it. Perhaps a small battle more. Perhaps taking the enemy capital. And then, sign a peace, get a new province and be home by Christmas. This was not to be.

    Abu-’Amr of the Iznaten Emirate, a nearby country with about the same size as Zab, smelled blood. And he was allied to Tadlid Grand Empirate, the Muslim nation of the area. Nothing is quite as strong as Tadlids. So, when Abu-’Amr declared war, Zab was doomed.

    1601716845882.png

    Things got a little more complicated

    Unfortunately for Emir Abu-’Amr and Amir-al-Umara Yusuf of Tadlids, eyes of Bohemond lit up as he declared: “It is free-for-all Muslim hunting time!”

    Satif fell in August 1102. At the same time, Tadlids had landed in Annaba and started their march towards Hodna, where the capital of Zab was. This was not to be, for Bohemond started their march towards them, showing hostile intent.
    1601716877410.png

    Instead of continuing siege, let us go hunting!

    Trying to escape, they marched deep into Africa, until Bohemond caught up with them in January 1103 in Tuggurt. At least, caught up with half of them. And killed them all.

    1601716910310.png

    This is truly deep into Africa

    After that, in June 1103, Bohemond caught up with yet another army of Tadlids in Ikjan, in Satif. Another battle won.

    In August, he attacked the Iznaten army in Waghlanat, killing them all.

    In December, he found another Tadlid army, deep in the Sicilian territory in Qalama and also slaughtered them all.

    In January 1104, it was again time for Tadlids in Tubna. Bohemond won, though the enemy army just pulled back.

    In March, it was another Tadlid army, in Bilizima. Again, slaughter.

    1601716937068.png

    All the battles, in no particular order

    This was enough for Bohemond. Having weakened the major power in the area and killing a disproportionate amount of religious enemies for a single county, he was finally satisfied. Signing peace in few days after the final battle, Normans had yet another county in Africa.

    This one went to Rainer, an intelligent man, well-versed in financial matters. And also, husband of Rosalind, Bohemond’s sister.

    1601717000600.png

    Count and Countess of Satif

    Royal Matters

    Another child was born to Bohemond and Mernissa in April 1103. A daughter, called Adelin. It was their fifth.

    1601716961015.png

    Fifth child

    After the war, Bohemond held a grant feast in Palermo, celebrating his success in Africa- and also, celebrating his sister Griselda’s ascension to the throne. Almost everyone who is anyone in the Kingdom of Sicily was there. Only Count William and Prince Roger abstained.

    1601717022561.png

    Time for a party!

    At the same time, Bohemond left his martial endeavours and concentrated on Theology for a bit.

    1601717042076.png

    Little foray to theology

    Final Solution

    In May 1103, despite being tucked away in prison, Duke Gaufrid started yet another conquest for Apulia. The Duke, having learned exactly nothing, was put to place by Bohemond, who forced him to end his war.

    1601716977670.png

    Oh, come on, Gaufrid...

    This was not tolerated. In September 1104, Bohemond got himself a claim on Bari. He could not enforce it, for Gaufrid was still a Duke of Apulia and that would leave him landless and without vassals and all that. So, Bohemond first relieved him of the Dukedom of Apulia. A bit tyrannical, yes, but it is ok to be a bit of a tyrant. Especially when you’re the all-powerful King of Sicily. Then, he took the County of Bari. Leaving Gaufrid homeless. Not to worry though, Bohemond was kind enough to offer him food and shelter for the rest of his sorry life- like hell he was going to let Gaufid loose. So, the former Duke of Salerno and Apulia, now, just a commoner, would spend the rest of his miserable life in the dungeons, serving as an example for the rest of the vassals, showing what happens if you make Bohemond really angry.

    1601717115900.png

    First, we take Apulia. Then, we take Bari

    Uncle Roger got his title as a Duke back. In addition, Bohemond also granted him the county of Bari. Meanwhile, Geoffrey of Bari had died in 1098. Of old age. His son and heir, Robert de Conversano, had died just a year before his father in battle. Current Count, Robert de Conversano of Lecce, grandson of Geoffrey, was perfectly content with just the county of Lecce, so no worries there- and Roger at least is now stronger then his vassal.

    1601717178707.png

    Roger, once again the Duke

    There was one issue though. Roger has only one child. Valdrade. A girl. Who is married to Payer de Namur. Not matrilineally. To make matters worse, they also have a son, Henri de Namur. The future heir of the Duchy of Apulia.

    1601717144862.png

    Sole daughter of Roger and Henri, future Duke of Apulia

    Bohemond was not thrilled. To make matters worse, there was no chance that Roger would get any more children, for his wife, Melisende, was already 55 years old. No chance there would be any children from her.

    When Bohemond was pondering about the situation, Pulcheria whispered softly to King’s ear: “Till death does them apart, right?”

    Bohemond nodded. “Robert is fond of Melisende. Any hints I've made about divorce fell into deaf ears.”

    “I can see to it that they will be apart a bit sooner than expected,” Pulcheria continued in a soft voice.

    Bohemond was taken aback. “Are you suggesting that we kill the poor woman?”

    “I’m just saying that the world can be a dangerous place. Especially if you happen to be a barren duchess, unable to produce a male heir,” said Pulcheria softly.

    Bohemond fell into silence. For long, he pondered. Then, finally, he looked up and said to Pulcheria: “Do it!”

    “Dynastic concerns are more important than that women,” he mumbled to himself.

    She just nodded and left in silence. Bohemond sat there, alone, staring at the fireplace and sighed. Sometimes, it sucks to be a King.
     

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    The Treachery of Greeks
  • hjarg

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    The Treachery of Greeks

    The Betrayal

    Things were not going well for the Fatimids. Quite the opposite, actually. Byzantine Empire had taken Delta and parts of Sinai. Also, one province of Alexandria. Jukondarids, a Coptic realm from Upper Egypt, had taken most of Upper Egypt. They still controlled Palestine, Pyramids and Alexandria and that was about it.

    In March 1105, Bohemond decided to make the burden of ruling even more lighter to Caliph Badr. He declared war, claiming the two remaining provinces of Alexandria. Norman forces gathered in Cyrenaica, marched through the Byzantine territories and then, put the city of Alexander the Great under siege.

    1601823851788.png

    Fatimids, down on their luck

    It was all going so well. Not an enemy army in sight. Alexandria’s walls crumbling until in February 1106, the city fell and Bohemond bagging the big prize- Emir Sharif of Alexandria himself after the siege. It was all pure bliss.

    Then, on 11th February 1106, Doux Romanos II of Epirus happened. He had been married to late Princess Matilda of Sicily, daughter of Robert Guiscard and aunt of Bohemond, in order to cement an alliance between Robert and Doux Nikephoros, father of Romanos. Nikephoros was moderately useful to Robert during his war with Matilda of Tuscany, but after that... After the death of Nikephoros, Romanos was given two counties, while his elder brother held the Duchy. Two times, Robert Guiscard sailed over Adriatic to defend Romanos, back then just a count, from his brother, then Doux of Epirus, from taking his lands. Third time, Robert sailed to make Romanos II the new Doux. In short, Romanos stayed in power because of the Normans. And Romanos became the Doux because of the Normans. The debt of gratitude he owned to Robert Guiscard and his descendents was enormous.

    How did the fine Doux repay his debt, you ask? Well, he managed to make an alliance with four other Douxes of the Byzantine Empire- Ioannes II of Kiburrhaiotai (around 1500 soldiers), Kosmin Miroslavitč of Syrmia (1200 soldiers), Doux Konstantinos of Dyrrachion (whopping 4200 soldiers and finally Doux Michal of Krete (1300 soldiers).

    With the alliances, Romanos II was confident enough to repay his debt of gratitude by trying to enforce the claim of Dorotheos, third son of Romanos and Matilda, on the Sicilan throne. The timing was right as well. Bohemond, just taken Alexandria, had just decided his army was too big and sent about 1500 soldiers marching back to Cyrenaica, where they were to be disbanded and sent home. Confident that his current troops would be enough to win the war- and for a reason too, for Fatimids were low on both money and soldiers. He was just about to give the order to march to Giza and from there, to Cairo.

    1601823924774.png

    Treachery of the greatest magnitude

    1601824003966.png

    The treacherous Doux and his offspring

    1601823836553.png

    The four allies

    Now, he was in a bind. He called his war council and that also gave conflicting advice- should the Normans keep on going after Fatimids? Should they march to holdings of Krete, Tobruk and Sullum? Or should the Normans take the fight to the enemy? Or should the Normans try to make peace with Caliph and deal with the other threat?

    Bohemond slept uneasily that night, weighing his options as he tried to sleep. He finally came to two conclusions- first, the timing of Romanos was a mistake. On part of Romanos, that is. While on paper, the best time to backstab Bohemond was when he was at war with the Great Caliph of the Fatimids, Romanos apparently did not get the memo that Fatimid military might was not what it once was, he also ignored the fact that Caliph Bard was involved in two other wars, neither going in his favor. If Romanos counted that the Fatimids would keep the Normans busy, he was sadly mistaken. Second conclusion was that Fatimids would wait. The priority is to crash the Five Doux

    The early rays of sun were already peaking through the curtains of palace of Alexandria as Bohemond, not gotten a wink of sleep that night, rose from the comfortable bed of Emir Sharif (who had exchanged his bed into not so comfortable bed in the dungeons below), ordered his commanders to him and right there, in his nightgown, proclaimed:

    “I have decided. We shall be visiting our friend, Doux Romanos. Gather the soldiers, get the boats, make it happen.”

    1601823952690.png

    Off we go

    War of Five Doux

    At the end of April, Normans landed in Nicpolis and Arta, the capital of Romanos, under siege. Secondary army started the siege of Epirus, but since they lacked any siege equipment, it was not even expected to make any progress. Rather, the armies just plundered the countryside.

    1601824080963.png

    Hello Epirus. Once again, Normans are coming!

    The enemy armies steered clear of the Normans. Instead, they seemed to be taking interest in Pomorje, the sole province Normans had in the Balkans.

    Nicopolis fell in August. As a bonus, Bohemond captured quite a loot. Tryphon, firstborn of Nikephoros, firstborn of Romanos. Kanyava, wife of Nikephoros. Demetrios and Pavlina, children of Romanos. Anthousa, new wife of Romanos. Apparently, the Norman attack came as a surprise. Not a soul expected Bohemond to react so quickly and therefore, they found half of the family of Romanos trapped well inside. A lucky break for Bohemond.

    1601824331783.png

    The biggest catch

    Then, it was time to decide the further course of action. Continue sieges and destroying the personal demesne of Romanos? While there was some pleasure to see his lands burn, Bohemond decided instead to focus on relieving Pomorje and fighting an open battle. So, he combined his armies and marched northwards, towards the enemy.

    1601824144998.png

    Normans marching north. Not the most pleasant journey

    It was not easy. His march went through the hostile lands of Greeks. First, the lands of Epirus. Then, the lands of Doux Konstantinos of Dyrrachion. The enemy was indeed there, around Pomorje. About a 1000 more soldiers then Bohemond had. The thing is though- each of the enemy armies was separate. Each controlled by their proper owner. Each not acting in coordination. Quite the opposite- news of the Normans arriving started maneuverings, with each Doux trying to make sure the other Doux would face the Normans first. Allowing Bohemond a choice of his targets.

    Bohemond picked the army of Dyrrachion. Mostly because the spies told that their supplies were getting low and therefore, the morale of the enemy was not so great. And Bohemond could use any advantage he would get.

    Now, the other Douxes had two options. Come and march to the rescue or wait until Bohemond finishes with Dyrracion and then picks them off one by one. Wisely, they chose the former. As the Normans and Greeks clashed, reinforcements started pouring in.

    1601824173198.png

    Normans descending upon army of Dyrrachion

    In this battle, the Normans really showed what they were made of. The leadership of Bohemond, the bravery of the Normans. The Greeks were crushed, without mercy. The core of the Norman army was not big. 13 knights and their retinues. But their impact was great, as the cream of the Kingdom of Sicily crushed into Greek ranks. In the end, it was they who decided the fate of the battle. Günther alone raked over 168 kills, with William of Lanciano getting 125 and Arnald of Calabria 101. The Greeks scattered and ran. The Battle of Drivast showed a clear Norman superiority.

    1601824211911.png

    Günther. The most amazing knight.

    Bohemond marched south again. In Dyrrachion, he found an army of Doux Michal of Krete, all alone and without any friends nearby. Without hesitation, the Normans attacked. After that, there was no army of Krete no more.

    1601824282214.png

    Slaughter of Kretan forces

    Normans started the siege of Avlonas, the northernmost county of Romanos. Meanwhile, the Douxes started creeping back towards Pomorje- but this was of no consequence no more. By the end of May 1107, the Avlonas well. This was enough. Romanos was forced to beg for peace, emptying his treasury as reparations and giving up all the claims on Sicily.

    1601824307430.png

    I hope you learned your lesson, Romanos

    Learning an important lesson in the progress: you do not mess with the Normans.

    Finalizing the war

    The war with Fatimids was still ongoing. Nothing had happened in Egypt during the 17 month Bohemond was absent. Well, nothing much on the Norman front. Fatimids had managed to lose Cairo to Jukondarids. Their capital, now under Coptic rule.

    1601824364983.png

    Change of ownership of Cairo

    To Normans, that meant less trouble. The Normans besieged Giza, the new capital of the Caliphate. It was over by February 1109.

    Bohemond created the Duchy of Alexandria and gave the title to Alfons de Hauteville, son of Count Tomasz and aunt Mabel.

    1601824441644.png

    New Duke of Alexandria

    Royal Matters

    Melisende, a wife of Uncle Robert, was killed by an unfortunate accident with a poisonous spider entering her bedchamber. Although everyone agreed that this was unnatural, not a single finger pointed at Bohemond and Uncle Robert was forced to marry again. Hopefully proving to be more successful in producing a proper male heir this time.

    1601823878031.png

    Sorry, Melisende, for hurrying up the "until death does you apart" part

    Queen Griselda created her very own branch of the Hauteville dynasty, called Hauteville-Montanejos, in March 1106. Bohemond was not sure how she would uphold her family motto- “No Cruelty”, but otherwise, felt happy for her sister.

    1601824117646.png

    New House

    Next was Prince Guy, who created House of Hauteville-Tunis in December 1106. “Labor, Courage, Friendship!” was his motto. Only to die a month later due to wounds received in the battlefield- at age of 45. His son Roger took over as the Duke, and his other two sons received a county each.

    1601824245185.png

    Guy, dying about a month after creating the House of Hauteville-Tunis

    Then, it was time for Giselle of Pomorje to get her own House. She decided to be more creative and called it House Bourcq. With being sole Norman enclave in the Byzantine lands, some protection from God would be due indeed.

    1601826727162.png

    When it rains, it pours

    Princess Muriella of Sicily and Prince Mikulaš Premyslid were betrothed in June 1107. Bohemond gained an alliance with King Ota the Handsome of Bohemia, though the intention of Bohemond was not to get Mikulaš not because his father was the King, but because his father was Handsome and that stuck to Mikulaš as well. Oh well, this was the first proper alliance since the times of Robert Guiscard and Solomon of Hungary.

    1601824390144.png

    I like you because you're beautiful, not because you're a king!

    Bohemond celebrated his victories by ordering construction of a church in Calatafimi, Palermo. Massive undertaking, but it would be well worth the money spent. Also, seeing as the local peasantry had been really exhausted by the recent wars, Bohemond decided it is time for a break.

    1601824465852.png

    New church. And no offensive wars in the near future
     

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    Big Brother to the Rescue!
  • hjarg

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    Big Brother to the Rescue!

    The Second Crusade

    It was in July 1109 when Clemens III called the rulers of Europe to Rome, to address the issue of Lollard heretics lolling about in Lesser Poland. Another outbreak of people getting funny ideas like pacifism and running naked in the woods. Well, the latter were adamites, but minor differences, minor differences. Prince Kazimierz Piast of Poland, Duke of the Lesser Poland, was the first major noble to openly decree his dislike for the Pope and the core tenets of Catholic faith. The other locals followed suit, thus creating a small but very lollard community of Poles.

    1602341860867.png

    Someone is lolling about!

    Apparently, Clemens III had a solution to heretics in Poland. What else- to liberate the Holy Land from the heathens! Nothing like a Holy War in Palestine to make Kazimierz see the light. Other rulers nodded in agreement, saying how good of an idea it was.

    1602341896895.png

    The Papal solution to Lollards- Take Jerusalem!

    Then, Bohemond stood up. “You know,” he said, addressing the rulers of Europe. “While Clemens does have a right idea, I’m not sure he has the right target...”

    He waited a bit, allowing the translators to get the message across.

    “Yes, the liberation of the Holiest of the Cities is a noble cause and while I’m more than happy to see the Cross decorate the Dome of Rock once again, we should not forget that this is not a perfect world we live in. Heathens are heretics are everywhere, and while taking the distant land of Jerusalem is a noble cause indeed, I think there are more pressing concerns nearby.”

    He took a pause and gauged the audience. He noticed that he had some agreement. After all, Jerusalem was far off and travelling was expensive...

    “Our brothers and sisters in Iberia are threatened by the Muslims there!” Bohemond continued. “For centuries, the brave Christians in the North have fought against the Muslim onslaught and they are slowly, but surely, losing against the Muslim tide! And that is much more concerning then the Holy Land, for loss of Iberia would hurt us all, it would weaken Christianity. It would make the battles of Karl the Great for naught!”

    He then decided to add something new to the script: “And with Hudids recently taking Barcelona and eradicating the lands of Aragon, the situation is more dire then ever! Now, the Muslims are bordering France, after all!”

    “I say that instead of Jerusalem, we should retake Barcelona! Oust the Hudids and liberate Aragon from few years of Muslim yoke!”

    Most rulers did some quick calculations and came to following conclusions:
    Iberia is indeed much closer then Jerusalem.
    Muwalladism is a sect of Islam, not present in anywhere else but in Iberia, so the opposition would be less fierce.
    Barcelona is really lovely in springtime.

    1602341944075.png

    Barcelona is lovely in springtime

    So, much to dismay of Clemens III, the rulers decided that a Crusade is a fine idea indeed, but hey, Holy Land is not going anywhere, so let us all have an Iberian vacation.

    Bohemond then chose Gerald de Hauteville, son of Count Tomasz and his aunt Mabel, as the future King of Aragon.

    1602341970039.png

    Two Dukes and one future King. Mabel would be proud!

    Cousins!

    Meanwhile, Bohemond and Griselda arranged a marriage. Princess Adelin of Sicily and Prince Humphrey of Valencia, cousins, were to be married when they grow up. This would be a blessed union, for the children, if they do not get inbred, will be truly glorious. This also meant that a formal alliance was formed between Bohemond and Griselda.

    1602342011131.png

    Cousins, united in marriage

    It had some consequences. Like, the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia being under assault from both Muslim rulers of Iberia and internal conflicts, like the peasants who really did not like their new, Christian rulers.

    Bohemond, as a good brother he is, decided to help her sister out with all the might of Sicily. He got dragged into the following conflicts:

    Dhunnunid Emirate, the powerhouse of central Iberia, trying to take the county of Alcaraz. Led by Emir Isma’il ibn Isma’il. Allied with Huddid Emirate, who had just managed to take the lands of Aragon and Barcelona, up north. Total manpower over 5000 soldiers.

    Ghomara Empirate, led by Emir Tifal ibn Aderbal. Vassal of Tadlid Grand Emirate. They own the provinces of Ceuta, Melila and Tangiers and also, Algeciras in Iberia, just across Gibraltar. Allied with two Walis, also from within Tadlid Grand Emirate, from Fez and Tangiers area. Just a little over 1000 combined.

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    A timely marriage, when considering Griselda's position

    Plus, some peasant revolts Griselda did not bother Bohemond with.

    It seemed like the Queen was really in some trouble.

    By the end of November, the Norman forces, numbering over 7000, landed in Denia. The situation was dire. Ghomara and allies had just managed to take Murcia and now, upon hearing news of arrival of Normans, were pulling back southwards. Alcaraz, the target of the other war, was under Muslim control, but Griselda and her forces (numbering around 2000) were pretty close to actually re-taking it.

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    Yes, the Queen was in trouble indeed

    Dhunnunids and their army of 2000 soldiers were besieging Teruel. As for Huddids, they just received a declaration of war from Adalaida of Toulouse, one of the most powerful French vassals, who also happened to be allied to Duke Guilhelm of Aquitaine, the most powerful French vassal (currently residing in dungeons of Queen Ermengarde of France), so they were marching North to deal with the new threat.

    Since Teruel was holding out just fine, Bohemond decided to march south first. Ghomara and their allies did a smart thing and ran. But the Normans were faster. And Ghomara itself were slower- meaning their allies already managed to get to the next province, leaving the enemy face Normans alone. This ended up with a slaughter.

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    First battle

    Then, Normans marched to Baza, where the ally of Ghomara was sitting around, doing pretty much nothing and won a victory. Not a major one, but still enough to force the enemy to flee.

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    Marching northwards

    Meanwhile, Griselda had at least managed to take Alcaraz back and had moved to take Murcia back. Bohemond then marched his army northwards, to relieve Teruel from the Dhunnunid siege, sending about 2000 soldiers to help with the siege of Murcia. In May 1110, the Normans attacked the enemy and were once again victorious, though not too much. Enemy lost about fourth of their soldiers and was forced to pull back. Bohemond took offensive and went to siege Ucles.

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    Pushing the Dhunnunid back

    Then, in August 1110, the Muwalladi in Valencia decided that it was prime time to rebel. Rightfully so, for it was a prime time to rebel- unless you happen to forget the Sicilian forces just happening to be in the neighbourhood. Without Bohemond, this revolt would have been a final nail in the coffin. Now though, it was an inconvenience at the most.

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    Here we go again!

    Royal Matters

    In August 1109, Bohemond finished his foray into theology. Discovering that the military is more of his way, though he appreciated the fine arts of science and pedagogy a bit more than he used to. Still, dusty old tomes were not of his liking, he much preferred the glorious victories over his opponents. The Norman way.

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    Nah, it is martial all the way to Bohemond

    In November 1109, Mernissa bore yet another son to Bohemond. Called Bohemond, the young lad was as brilliant as he could be. This was a second son of the royal couple, and sixth child overall. Looks like the marriage between them is truly blessed.

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    Bohemond the Youngest (at the Moment)

    In September 1110, Bohemond instituted high crown authority laws. Meaning, no longer will there be infighting between vassals. Or well, that infighting will be much more rarer than it used to be. Poor Gaufrid, still in dungeons, will be the last of the vassals who waged war against the uncle. Hopefully.

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    Much less internal wars

    The Second Crusade

    In September 1110, Ucles fell. Shortly after, when Bohemond’s troops were preparing to march on the rebels, Clemens III finally called for a Crusade. It was once again time for the Christians to stand united against Muslims. Or was there? On latter days, it was called Weird Crusade, and was called that for a reason.

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    It is time!