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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Dovahkiing

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The Angliae Regum Vitae (Anglo-Norman: Lives of the Kings of England) is an anonymous (yet richly illuminated) Latin manuscript likely written somewhere in the middle 15th century, and since its discovery nearly 150 years ago, has remained an object of heated debate among scholars of medieval England. At times, its descriptions seem too detailed to be fabricated; at others, too implausible to be authentic. While recently a growing amount of scholars have embraced the idea of it being a whole-cloth forgery for the most part, we at St. Heinrich University Press prefer, in lieu of jumping into the mud-slinging fray, to simply offer this new translation of the Vitae to the general public, and hope that it will enjoy the fresh look that the document provides at the medieval English state, while also provoking debate as to how best to apply the lessons that lie like pearls between the words, waiting to be gleaned for the finder's benefit...


THE LIVES OF THE KINGS OF ENGLAND
A.D. MLXVI- MCDLIII (1066-1453)


Chapter One: Guillaume 'the Conqueror'
Part the First: The Brother Without Honor

(Translator's note: the first few pages of the manuscript, as hinted at by the somewhat torn state the casual observer will see the manuscript in, are missing. Presumably they dealt with the life of Guillaume and his rule in Normandy prior to his conquest of England in 1066, as well as with the conquest itself.)


(...) and so it came to be, that on the day of the birth of Our Lord, in the one thousandth and sixty seventh year afterwards, that Guillaume, a foreigner who spoke only the flowing syllables of the Frankish tongue, spoke the words of the oath of the English king, promised to protect the people of his new domain, and preserve their ancient rights. After he was anointed by Archbishop Stigand and given the crown that he had won at the bloody field of Hastings, he walked out into a realm that was wholly foreign to him.

The first few months of this stranger's reign were spent dividing the spoils of conquest; though he had an overflowing treasury thanks to the contributions to his campaign, having been sanctioned by the Roman Pope himself, he could not administrate every yard and acre of his new kingdom by his lonesome. And so, Guillaume had little choice but to import the method of rule that he had picked up in his native land: namely, that of lords ruling each his own plot of land in the name of their own lord, while forcing their serfs to work their lands for them, and promising to bring those serfs (and some knights also) to war when the overlord called.

Now this way of government in of itself was no mistake on the part of the new king. It had worked well back in Frankia, and surely the Frankish peasant was not of a species other than that of his brother across the straits of Dover. Yet the particular men that Guillaume chose for the implementation were most certainly false steps.

For one, Guillaume's half brother, Odo. He was chosen to become lord of Kent, a vital county due to its proximity to the mainland, and the fact that it contained the seat of the powerful Archbishops of Canterbury. Now it might be that one would think this choice somewhat wise, giving this important title to one of the king's own family, and had Odo been a different sort of brother, that judgement might be nearer the mark.

Yet, sadly for the subject of this work, Odo was not the type of brother that men refer to when they say "I love you like a brother." He was closer to the type that is famous for saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" For Odo had ever been jealous of the achievements of his half-brother, watching as he became first a strong duke of Normandy, who cast a long shadow both westwards to Brittany and north across the straits, then defeated Harold, the victor of Stamford Bridge.

So as Odo rode south from his royal brother's coronation to take up his lands, the reader might do well to imagine him already hatching plots to exploit the advantage he had just been handed.

In fact, it took the deceptive lord only four months to recruit the powerful brothers Morcar and Edwin, lords of the northern marches, and the Flemish Count Gerbert, who had been granted Chester for his possession.


Fig 1.1 THE CONSPIRACY OF ODO.

It would serve us now to remind ourselves of the magnitude of the further error made by the king in leaving Edwin and Morcar in their positions as overseers of the northern territories of Lancaster and York. For those two, who had already rebelled on a time against that most pious of Saxon kings, Edward, were also those who had no compunction against handing over the kingdom to Guillaume himself after the death of Harold at Hastings. Now they plotted with Odo and Gerbert. against the king they had made. It is the writer's opinion that in fact Odo, though he would be the one to approach the king with the (purposely) vague demand for more rights to the lords of the realm, was the one who was being used by the brothers for their own ends.

Whoever of the conspirators had the greatest part in it, it made no difference to a shocked King Guilliame when less a year after his great campaign against Harold, he was again facing war.


Fig 1.2 THE OUTBREAK OF THE KENTISH WAR.​

It must be granted that the king did have available the course of simply acceding to the demands, yet in all likelihood this would only have put the conspirators in need of a new excuse to make war on him. In the end, Guillaume's pride and jealousy prevented him from bowing meekly to his vassals, even such as Edwin and Morcar.

So it was that in July of the one thousandth and sixty-ninth year of Our Lord, Guillaume found himself on the field, fighting his own brother and his sworn vassals.


Fig 1.3 POSITION OF THE FORCES AT THE OUTBREAK OF WAR.​
It did not take long for the report of the war to reach every corner of the country, and in response, the courageous, the enraged, and the dispossessed left by the foreign conquest by the Normans flocked to aid the rebels.

Fig 1.4 EXPANSION OF THE REBEL FORCE.
This occurrence prevented Guilliame from marching directly on his faithless brother and crushing him in his undeserved holdings. Instead, the king marched north, hoping to defeat each of the northern lords individually, before they could form into a host made invulnerable by pure numbers. In the meantime, a smaller force would march on Kent and stop Odo from joining with his new allies.

Yet this move failed. Since Guillaume had been forced to call up his levies at short notice, while the northern brothers had been planning their moves for months, it took the king months to gather his troops from the still-loyal parts of the realm and march north into the rebel domains. By the time the king had done so, Edwin and Morcar had already linked up and were bearing down on his army with superior numbers.

Finally battle was joined near the town of Newstead in the midlands of England, in September. Guilliame attempted to break the rebel line by charging with his Norman knights directly at the center of the enemy army, seeing that it was made up of the lightly-armed and lightly-trained fyrd, who were not professional soldiers but peasants marching with their lord for the campaign.

The charge, while initially successful, was repulsed when Morcar himself, having previously skulked in the rear of the army, came to the front and propped up the fyrd with his own heavily-armored Huscarls, who managed to kill not a few horses and men, and drove the rest back to their own lines as the arrows continued flying between both sides.

After this the battle became a grueling slaughterhouse, as charge and countercharge came and went, and the ground turned wet with blood. Finally, the rebel numbers told, and the royal troops fled south.



Fig 1.5 THE DISASTER AT NEWSTEAD.
With his levies decimated, and the untouched troops in Normandy too few to be of much account, Guilliame was forced to buy the services of a dubious mercenary band, consisting mainly of soldiers whose lands had been lost to the Norman invader, and were forced to sell their swords, the only thing they had left.

As winter set in, Guillaume sent his troops home, and returned to London with his fifteen hundred Saxon mercenaries to spend the months until campaign season planning his next move, hoping that the rebels would do the same.

Yet the winter of 1067, Guillaume's first as king, was not all stewing and plotting and doing very little, as a bear which sleeps the winter through. On the seventh day of December, on a particularly cold night, the king was touring the battlements of Salisbury Castle, wondering perhaps how long they would stand against the northern host, when suddenly he saw a vision that was so spectacular that the (then) unbookish king had his account dictated and put on parchment. It runs thus, as far as my all too mortal eyes have been able to infer from the ancient pages that I was given to read:


"I, Guillaume, Duke of Normandy, King of England, saw this night a terrible thing. As I walked on the walls, I looked up, and behold, a white thing, which I am unable to describe in full, was bearing down upon from the heavens. It seemed to cry out like a living thing, moving as it did, until I thought it was some kind of punishment from the Almighty for my sins. I looked down, to see that I was still walking upon the walls and not in some otherworld. Then I looked up, and behold, it was gone."


Fig 1.6 THE KING'S VISION.
The remainder of the account contains the king's own interpretation of the vision, as a sign that though the rebellion seemed to be shining gloriously now, soon it would vanish as though it had never been, screaming as it did so.


For my part, I like to imagine the king sitting on the wall after the vision, staring out into the cold winter night, hoping not to freeze. What thoughts ran through his mind? His wife? His children? What God intended for him to do? It is the perpetual wound of the historian that he simply cannot know.




 

Dovahkiing

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Dovahkiing

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Chapter One: Guillaume 'the Conqueror'
PART THE SECOND
WAR AND PRIESTS​
AFTER the mysterious vision, the king had about a month of respite from war. However, he was still obligated to run around the countryside with his small forces, hunting down rebel raiders and foraging parties across the rain-sodden terrain.

But just before the new year came, so did terrible news from the north. The northern brothers, wasting little time after their victory at Newstead, were already marching south to confront the remnants of the royal army and, hopefully to shatter it once and for all.

On hearing this, Guillaume set out from Salisbury with his fifteen hundred Saxons, and gathered fresh levies to his camp near Leicester, where the rebels were reportedly headed.

When the rebels arrived, the king had already managed to gather a host of six thousand men, outnumbering the enemy by a few hundred.


Fig 1.7 - DEPLOYMENT FOR THE BATTLE OF NOTTINGHAM
But Guillaume had not counted on the power of sheer momentum. After having won such a notable victory at Newstead, and having had a while to rest on their laurels without having to march out immediately to fight again, the rebel troops were flush with confidence to take on a king they believed to be already doomed.

At Nottingham, where battle was finally joined on snow covered ground, the power of sheer self-confidence was proven once and for all. Guillaume's army, made up mostly of untested troops motivated either by fear of their lords or hope for monetary reward, were fatally unwilling to stand in the face of spirited enemy charges. In the end, Guillaume's slight number advantage proved to be of little use, as those extra troops melted like snow in the warm hands of the enemy.


Fig 1.8 - RESULTS OF NOTTINGHAM
By the first days of February, Guillaume was again on the run, heading for London to regroup and order any available Norman troops to once more cross the sea and aid Guillaume in his hour of need.

As he waited for the reinforcements to arrive, an emissary arrived from the faraway new pope Hadrian in Rome.

Fig 1.9 - THE POPE'S DEMAND

Hadrian , spurred on by his quick election following the death of old Alexander (who had supported Guillaume's conquest), and hearing of the king's woes, must have deemed him an easy target for an affirmation of church superiority. Since the earliest days of the kingdom of England, bishops had received their appointments from the king, not from far-off Rome. However, now the Holy See desired to see this corrected. It was also implied that papal support for Guillaume's reign was not unconditional, especially in light of the political situation in the north.

However, not even two disastrous defeats could cow Guillaume. His pride would not allow to accede to the Church's demands, and show himself to be weaker than the kings who came before him, a point that he had no doubt the rebels would seize upon gladly.

Bishop Arnulf of Winchester is reputed to have walked off with the emissary, whispering threatening words.

Yet Guillaume was not ready to give up. All through the remains of the winter and spring, as reports continued to flood in from the Midlands telling of town after town falling to the rebels, and Guillaume must have felt their advance like a knife being pushed slowly into his heart. But when the reinforcements from his homeland finally arrived, and with the Saxon mercenaries' numbers replenished following their dreadful losses at Nottingham, Guillaume was ready to march and stop the rebel advance once and for all.

In July of 1068, the two armies faced each other once more, not very far from the site of the first battle at Newstead.

Fig 1.10 - SECOND NEWSTEAD

This time, though, would not be as the previous time Guillaume had fought here. This time he had battle hardened soldiers at his back, trained relentlessly through the winter and spring, drilled on the tactics such as the huscarl surprise that had defeated the royal army at First Newstead, and, perhaps most importantly, fortified by major cash gifts and promises of more to come.

The rebels, on the other hand, were now a spent force. They had spent months besieging town after town, with little rest or leave to plunder what they had conquered (for Morcar had decreed that no plundering should be done, in order not to remind the locals of what had happened after the Normans had conquered the country). They had thought they were going to march on London and take home the Norman king's head - and all they had done in practice was fight one-armed knights who'd stayed home instead of marching with Guillaume, and capture tin-pot towns.

So the results of the Second Battle of Newstead were never in doubt once the fighting began. A push on the rebel right, cleverly disguised as a feint by the conspicuous presence of the entire array of knights fighting under the royal banner, ended up being the real thing. Thus the rebels were quickly surrounded, and only a few hundred managed to escape.


Fig 1.11 - THE FIRST ROYAL VICTORY.

Since the rebels had a far smaller pool of recruits to choose from, and most of those had already now been expended in the three battles against the king, the rebel field army was more or less no longer a threat to Guillaume. From here on out the Brother's War became a series of protracted sieges by the royal forces against rebel strongholds, the first of which was Canterbury. In 1070, Duke Morcar died of wounds received at Second Newstead, which pleased the king greatly.

Fig 1.12 - THE HELPLESS CHILD DUKE ÆTHELWOLD.

Despite this, it did not go all smoothly from after Second Newstead and out. While besieging Canterbury, Guillaume was approached by the abbot of a nearby monastery to aid in the repair of his monastery church. Guillaume curtly replied that he had little time or funds, and trusted that God would provide whatever was necessary.

Fig 1.13 - GUILLAUME ANGERS THE CHURCH ONCE MORE.

The next year, Bishop Wulfstan declared that God no longer endorsed "the wicked King brought over the sea by the power of Satan" and called on all good Christians to fight against Guillaume. Doubtless this was a last-ditch attempt to gain favor with the pope after Guillaume's refusal to cede the bishop appointment rights to Rome.

Fig 1.14 - WULFSTAN THE TRAITOR.



Once Canterbury had finally fallen, Guillaume scoured a small rebel force that had managed to invade Normandy, yet was not strong enough to take any towns or castles of note. This campaign lasted about a year, what with all the hideouts the invaders had made in the countryside.

In 1072, Guillaume finally besieged York, seat of the rebel Duchy of York.

During this time, Guillaume, while the long days and nights of sitting outside the walls went by, became something unusual for a Norman lord: a reader.

Fig 1.15- THE READER KING.
In April 1073 the regents for young Æthelwold finally surrendered the castle. This was the end for the Brother's War, as Odo, who had not been captured at the fall of his capital at Canterbury, was finally found and brought for judgement to his brother.

Fig 1.15 - THE END OF THE WAR.
After being hauled back to London, Odo was given a whirlwind 'trial', was stripped of his county, and summarily executed. The duchy of York was revoked from Æthelwold and given to Guillaume's eldest son and heir - Robert.

Yet Guillaume would not long be satisfied with merely keeping his realm intact. Within a few years, the king would look beyond the sea enviously at the Kingdom of Brittany..

 

robin the red

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Interesting that this counterfactual " Guillaume" the conqueror is, unlike the real one, is not a pius man, and not on freindly terms with the church. Might end up leading England down strange paths... (and thats a good thing!) Also, I think you might have the wrong screenshot for "Fig 1.9-THE POPES DEMAND", unless I'm missing something. Your writing is really good, I am very much enjoying this!