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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Mithfir

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Chapter 4​

The Navarra campaign part 2 (1088-1091)​


Siege impossible

By summer 1089, the Free Count controlled all holdings in Navarra, except the castle of Tafalla. The castle proved a formidable stronghold and the Count would need a larger army to effectuate a siege. Erramun had fled to Najera and fortified his army remnants. The campaign reached a stalemate. If left unattended, Erramun’s army could recapture Navarra. If Guy attempted to assault Najera, he risked a costly defeat. Erramun’s army was well positioned and had the terrain advantage.


Mâcon feigns retreat


Erramun's remnants are routed

Instead, Guy feigned a retreat from Navarra in order to draw out Erramun’s army from his defensive position. The trick worked: Erramun immediately ordered the recapture of Navarra once Guy’s forces moved. Guy had chosen the place where the battle would take place: in the plains of Leyre, where his superior numbers could fight unhindered.


Spanish castles are tough

At the battle of Leyre, Guy routed Errramun’s forces and pursued them back to Najera, annihilating them. Even so, the fortifications in Najera proved unassailable. Guy’s army was unable to force a siege, but Erramun’s army was destroyed. The army was recalled back to the Free Counties. Guy had another opportunity in mind.


My son-in-law is older than me

Pernelle, his second daughter, turns 16 on 15th August 1089 and Guy seeks a worthy husband. Looking again in the east, he finds an old Hungarian bastard prince, György Andràsfi. The matrilineal marriage is sealed. Despite being 36 years her senior, Pernelle was grateful to her father. Indeed, the prince proved to be a suitable husband. The union would bear its fruits.


Mâcon marches to Nevers

Autumn 1089, the Free Count laid out an ambitious plan. Since the Navarra’s army was destroyed, he hired mercenaries to finish the job. The sell swords would siege the remaining fortifications and subdue Erramun. Meanwhile, he used his personal levies to conquer the County of Nevers, his neighbor.

Guy underestimated Renaud of Nevers. The Count called Auxerre and Vendôme for help and they responded in kind. If all 3 armies managed to unite, they could prove an even match against Mâcon. Time was of the essence, and the Free Count quickly gathered his army before Nevers could withdraw to Auxerre. Guy then marched to Nevers where he caught the Nevers forces by surprise. Auxerre joined in the fight, but the alliance had suffered too many losses to recover. Vendôme never entered the Free Counties.


The alliance is struck before they join


Mâcon defeats Nevers and Auxerre

In spring 1090, the mercenaries enter Navarra and lay siege to the barony of Tafalla. It was now only a matter of time before Erramun would surrender. Castille remained silent to his call for arms.


Give up already Erramun!


The First Crusade is launched

13th September 1090, Pope Paul II pronounced a lengthy sermon in Rome. He calls for all Christian rulers to unite as one and march to the Holy Land in order to liberate it from the Muslims under the Caliph al-Mustansir I. The charismatic Pope then launches the First Crusade, shouting “Deus Vult!” The long march to Jerusalem started. Henri II of France answered the call, but he never sent his forces east. Something was brewing in France that made him wary. Rumours about Philippe I’ supporters preparing another revolt grew louder than whispers.

"Deus Vult!"
- Pope Paul II​


Farewell dear mother

3 days later, Guy’s mother dies of old age. 16th September 1090. The Anscarids kept a small record of her last words on her deathbed.

“Your father would be so proud of you, my little Guy. I go to the Lord in peace and I keep the memory of my children and my grand-children with me. I’ll wait for you in Heaven, where we all return after we have sinned on this earth.”
- Béatrice, regent mother of Mâcon​


Poor little guy... I don't give him 10 years

This is not relevant to the story, but this young courtier was born around this time. I wonder if his lowborn parents were really brother and sister... They had no parents. Ah well.


I'm getting used to it

March 1091, Nevers surrenders to Mâcon. Guy now controlled 4 of the 6 Counties in Burgundy. Only Auxerre and Dijon remained out of his sphere of influence. Auxerre’s ruler was a young unmarried woman named Douce de Bachaumont while Dijon was part of the royal demesne. Guy attempted to secure a marriage between his oldest son Richard and the countess, but she refused. Douce’s advisors were extremely wary of the ambitious Free Count about his increasing political power. Since a marriage would not happen, Guy would have to resort to force.


The 18 year war begins

Henri’s II fears were confirmed in summer 1091. Philippe I’s faction awakens and takes up arms against the king. This time, Aquitaine and Champagne oppose Henri II, both sides counting half of France. This long civil war marked a dark period in the history of France. The civil war could have been averted if Henri had executed Philippe, thus making the war void. He refused.

“I cannot risk executing my prisoner Philippe, lest my court views me as a tyrant. An honourless man cannot hope to lead for long.”
– Henri II, King of France​

For those familiar with France’s history, this is the beginning of the 18 year war (1091-1109). The civil war sapped so much strength from France that the country’s frontiers diminished under Henri II and his following successor. Foreign forces seized the occasion to plunder France and conquer territory. The northern duchy of Flanders broke free from France’s vassalage, only to be gradually absorbed into the Holy Roman Empire. Even Aquitaine would have to fight both the crown and their rebelling vassals. Only the Free Counties in Burgundy remained loyal to the French crown. We will return to discuss the civil war in the next chapters. There is much to describe about this dark period.


A count bests a king


The new Queen of Navarra

But for now, let us return to Guy’s story. In November 1091, the Navarra campaign ends with Guy as the victor. Urraka Antsez becomes Queen of Navarra with Guilhèm d’Ivrea as king consort. Guy boasted how a count managed to best a king.

“Nobles value blood. Clergymen value faith. I value power. In the end, it’s always the more powerful who emerges victorious. Navarra is only one example where word and sword triumphed over blue blood.”
- Guy d'Ivrea​

What Guy doesn’t mention is that he used sell swords to accomplish all this. He kept this lesson close to heart. Prestige and faith cannot win wars on their own. However, diplomacy and coin make the difference when it counts. He taught the lesson to his children and descendants. After all, he would later say that nobles are fickle at best and treacherous at worst. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any contemporary source about Erramun or Navarra before their defeat. All that is known is that Erramun remained duke of Najera until his death.


I had one zero too many
 
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unmerged(528932)

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Giving "historical" names to events yourself is a pretty good idea. You did a good job with coming up with some seriously good ideas! Very inspirational!


Marrying someone off to somebody that much older though is tough. :)
 

Mithfir

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Giving "historical" names to events yourself is a pretty good idea. You did a good job with coming up with some seriously good ideas! Very inspirational!


Marrying someone off to somebody that much older though is tough. :)
Well, it is an historian narrating the story after all! I can't help but think it's a smaller version of the 100 year war happening around this period. Pernelle didn't mind the old guy. She had a son with him and gained a good amount of prestige. Thanks for the kind words. Chapter 5 is coming soon.
 

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Chapter 5​
The 18 year war part one (1091-1098)


Leaders of the Philippe I faction

Philippe I’s supporters once again took arms against the usurper Henri II. This time, Aquitaine and Champagne join forces, gathering roughly half of France under their banner. They request that the Anscarids join their cause. This was Guy’s response.

“France may have a new king to govern her or even a new House as her leader or may not. It does not matter, for the d’Ivrea House remains at the head of Frankish diplomacy. My duty is to France first and I shall continue to complete my duties as its humble chancellor. The Lord will decide which man deserves to be king, blessed by His divine right.”
- Guy d’Ivrea

Guy’s loyalty is commendable. In truth, he had little to gain by joining the rebels. Henri II or Philippe I as king, he would remain chancellor either way. Besides, should the rebellion fails, he would be branded a traitor and his titles revoked, putting his family in jeopardy. It is possible that Guy wanted to secure his own power by expanding his influence in a divided France where no one could seriously oppose him. Or he merely was loyal to his liege. Based on the Free Count’s future actions, I tend to favour the former.


The royal army is routed in Bourbon


Not the best nickname for a king

In early 1092, Philippe I’s faction had the upper hand. They sacked Toulouse while the royal army remained divided in the north. Henri II launched a clumsy counter-attack but was brutally defeated at the battle of Bourbon in November. At this moment, Henri II gained his epithet nickname: the Drunkard. While Henri II’s reign looked promising at first, his behaviour suffered a sharp decline a few years after he sat on the Frankish throne. The rebellion would be his coup de grâce.


Not a good idea...

In August 1093, Henri II sent another small army south, only to be crushed in Melgueil. The Free Count himself had been appointed at the head of a secondary force. However, he deemed it futile to fight a hopeless battle. He returned to the royal court in Maine unharmed. Despite these setbacks, the king clanged to the throne. Philippe I’s army now controlled Toulouse and Rouergue in early 1095.


The sons of the Free Count

Richard d’Ivrea, the heir of House d’Ivrea, comes of age in March 1095. While not as distinguished as his father, he inherited his silver tongue and rhetoric skills. His younger brother Archambaud also appeared as a promising young man, which troubled Guy. He feared that if he divided his titles among his sons with the gavelkind succession law, they would fight each other once they inherited. Both Richard and Archambaud were talented and bright pupils and a war between them would be lethal. Clearly, Guy wanted to avoid this and sought a solution to this dilemma. In the meantime, he married Richard to Aveis de Hauteville, a prestigious Norman young woman hailing from southern Italy. Soon after, Richard asked to receive a landed title. Guy had no doubt that Richard was competent enough to govern, but he refrained from giving him a title. Richard remained patient. To appease his heir, Guy appointed him chancellor of Mâcon.

“Father told me to be patient and that soon I would be a count in my own right, serving under him. He appointed me as his chancellor and married me to a beautiful woman. I had lost none of his favour.”
- Richard d’Ivrea​


Richard's patience will be rewarded


The French-Danish army clashes with the rebels...

Henri II’s situation grew desperate and he struck an alliance with the King of Denmark, which he honoured by sending an army in southern France. The allied army clashed with the rebels in Rouergue and suffered a critical defeat. The rebel faction seemed unstoppable. Henri II became less and less popular in his own court. Worse, his drinking habits only worsened as more bad news kept arriving in Maine. Guy himself began to criticize the king in his memoirs.

“I fear I no longer serve a king, but a drunken slot. Where is the man that once flattered his own court so easily now?”
- Guy d’Ivrea​


... and is completely destroyed


First Crusade fails miserably

By the end of 1096, the First Crusade is called off. Jerusalem would remain in the hands of the Muslims. We would never know if France could have made a difference had the civil war not happened.


The Anscarids conquer Auxerre

While half of France was killing each other, Guy focused on his personal ambitions. In December 1097, the Free Count chose to finish the conquest of the duchy of Burgundy. The last target, Auxerre, easily fell to Guy’s army. After nearly a year of sieging the County, Douce de Bachaumont surrenders to the Anscarids in late 1098. In western France, the royal army and its danish allies are defeated again in Lusignan. Henri II goes from defeat to another defeat.


5/4 demesne limit :(


Poisoned wine?

In the meantime, an important event happened inside the royal palace in the summer of 1098. Henri II, King of France, died under mysterious circumstances. Henri II complained about stomach pain after a late supper and eventually succumbed overnight. Whether the king suffered a severe indigestion or a poisonous plot, I cannot say for certain. Chronicles in the court of Maine in the late 11th century relate how Henri II heavily drank nearly every day, so perhaps his liver eventually had enough of his drunken habits. On the other hand, dying overnight from a sudden pain spike after eating an evening meal sounds too suspicious to attribute the cause of death on “natural causes.” I suspect Henri II was poisoned during his last meal. However, contemporary sources do not describe any trial or retribution made against a possible culprit and no name ever came up either. The mystery remains complete to this day. I will retain the poison theory as the most plausible explanation.


A very unworthy successor

In any case, Henri II was succeeded by his eldest son, Hughes II. His disastrous reign marked the darkest period of the 18 year war.



Meanwhile, in Orient...
 

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Chapter 6​
The 18 Year War part 2 (1099-1103)​

I have a confession to make. My last original save was of this period (1100) while I was writing the previous chapters 1 to 4. I wanted to play this current game badly so I loaded it and just went through with it without saving and taking screenshots. However, I got caught in the flow and things were so interesting that I kept going up to 1115. Unfortunately, since I had no screenshots, I decided to delete this save and restart a new story branch. The results were very different and I felt like it was not close enough to the original. I restarted a 3rd time and I felt it close enough to the original that I kept it. I sincerely hope it will not dampen your interest in my story. This particular dynasty is really interesting for me to play and I think it would just be best if I just played with screenshots regardless, even if I end up 100 years ahead of my current writing. Moving on!

I do not wish to spend too many words on the 18 Year War. However, this conflict soon became a key factor in the history of the Anscarids, and so, I feel obligated, at the very least, to share the main events of this troubled period. Besides, Guy d’Ivrea will play an important role eventually. We will continue with his story after the details of the 18 Year War have been laid out.

Hughes II’s reign is regarded as disastrous by my fellow peers. While the new king was a somewhat competent man in his own right, he clearly could not handle the precarious position he inherited from Henri II. Hughes II had received the throne like one obtains a poisoned gift. France lay on the brink of total collapse and only the alliance with Denmark gave it some leverage against Philippe I’s faction. The French army, weakened and demoralized after so many brutal defeats, fought a losing war. If Hughes II believed things could not get worse, he would be sourly disappointed, because another faction challenged the new king’s rule in August 1099. This faction, led by Count Simon of Amiens, aimed to install Eudes de Bourgogne on the Frankish throne. Eudes was Hughes II’s own brother.


Amiens gathered the Counts of Foix and Carcassone and the Duke of Anjou into his fold. Gévaudan and Forez would later join Eudes’ faction. The battle for France now had 3 contenders: Hughes II the reigning king, Philippe I the usurped king and Eudes de Bourgogne, brother of Hughes II. The strongest faction remained Philippe’s in 1099.


The Anscarids enter Bourges

Hughes II still held the duchy of Burgundy and the County of Dijon and Guy was unwilling to directly oppose his liege. Instead, he sent his army west to conquer Bourges from the infant Duke of Berry. Since the young duke only had Bourges as his landed title, Guy would be able to usurp the duchy for himself afterwards. In spring 1099, the Free Count declared war and invaded Bourges. The following autumn, Guerin de Bourges surrenders the title to Guy. The Free Count elevated himself as the next Duke of Berry.


Soon to be duke

"Long had I hoped to hold the duchy of Burgundy. Instead, I stumbled upon the duchy of Berry. God's ways are unfathomable."
- Guy I d'Ivrea


Guy d'Ivrea, Duke of Berry

For readers not knowledgeable with medieval nobility, the rank of duke allowed Guy to nominate his own vassals. This meant that he could distribute titles of his own to loyal subjects, elevate them to the rank of Count, and they would swear fealty to him. Of course, swearing fealty is always left to interpretation, since many vassals throughout the Middle Ages rebelled against their liege. Guy himself was no exception either. Regardless, Guy d’Ivrea always referred himself as the “Free Count of the Free Counties” even in his last years of life. To avoid confusing the reader, I decided to differentiate him as the Free Duke at this point in history. Historians did the same for Emperor Augustus’ real name, which was Octavius, later renamed Octavian, and finally Augustus.


De jure and de facto

Now, the Free Duke became the de jure ruler in Berry, except the other half of the duchy was de facto ruled by the Duke d’Anjou, a rebel protagonist from the Eudes faction. Anjou’s army fought far from his demesne and Guy held no qualms about his next move. His next target would be the County of Tours. In summer 1101, the Free Duke committed his forces and sent them west. The next season, Guy became de facto and de jure ruler of Berry. Magnanimous in victory, he rewarded his son and heir Richard by granting him 3 Counties: Auxerre, Nevers and Tours. The new Free Count swore fealty to his father in autumn 1101. Richard remained loyal to Guy for the rest of his life.


Richard, heir to House d'Ivrea

"If we survive these troubled times, perhaps I, too, will live long enough to become a duke. The Lord is not seen often in France this time of the year."
- Richard d'Ivrea


France in 1102

The year 1102 is considered a turning point of the 18 Year War. While all 3 factions were exhausted and scattered, new players entered the game of thrones. First, Aquitaine (Philippe I’s faction) faced an internal revolt lead by a coalition of its vassals: Poitiers, Auvergne, Limousin and Bourbon. Second, foreign invaders entered the war zone. No less than 5 different armies sought to conquer territories from the breathless Franks.

On the eastern front, the Duke of Provence incorporated Gévaudan into the Holy Roman Empire. Kaiser Heinrich IV the Cruel soon followed by conquering Forez. From the south, Genoa expanded its trade zone by capturing 2 cities from southern France, Béziers and Nîmes. Next, a Muslim army from the Dhunnunid Emirate laid its eyes on the Duchy of Toulouse. However, several Christian rulers from Iberia offered to aid in the defense of Toulouse. Even so, the coalition had to cede the County of Melgueil to Emir Abbad I in the end.

Lastly, a 5th invader entered the Free Counties: the Duke of Upper Loraine, Wilhelm I. The German duke entered Dijon and laid siege to its holdings. The Frankish king’s army laid scattered and demoralized in the north, while the other French factions were now fighting in the west. After months of siege and pillage in Dijon, the Free Duke took it upon himself to repel the foreign Lorraine army before they would attack his own demesne next. In May 1102, Guy gathered his levies and those of his son Richard and sent them to Dijon. Lightly outnumbered, the Berry army suffered a harsh defeat against Lorraine.


1st counter-offensive against Lorraine

"The Germans from Lorraine deserve respect. Mere burghers defeated my most trusted commanders that trained all their life. However, they deserve no mercy. If Dijon falls, the Free Counties are next. (...) My liege prefers to cower in the west while my army is being slaughtered to defend his own domain."
- Guy I d'Ivrea​

Frustrated by this defeat, Guy turned to domestic affairs. His second son Archambaud was now an adult and the succession dilemma had yet to be resolved. The Free Duke thought about sending Archambaud in a monastery, but he could not bring himself to do it. He saw great potential in him, perhaps even more than Richard. The mere thought of wasting his son’s life as a priest troubled him to no end. On the other hand, he wanted to avoid a sibling feud at any cost.


Guy's second son


Bishop Ogier's successor

The spider web of the Free Counties found a potential young bachelorette: the Duchess of Holstein was unmarried and seemed favourable to a marriage with a Frank suitor. Guy reached a compromise: Archambaud would be appointed as the next Bishop of Tournus, forfeiting his claims in the Free Counties, but would be allowed to marry Signe of Holstein in Denmark. Archambaud agreed. Most likely, it was his only choice if he did not want to be a celibate all his life. Besides, marrying a young duchess and siring a cadet branch had its perks too.


Founders of the cadet branch of Holstein-d'Ivrea

"My lord father gave me a choice: take the vow, or depart the family lands to marry a danish duchess. I ended up taking both."
- Archambaud d'Ivrea​


2nd counter-offensive

"Twice we were beaten by Lorraine. Yet, my liege ordered me to send our lads back to the butcher's cleaver. Much to my own relief, I reported back our success. Duke Guy looked more concerned than relieved. My liege congratulated the commanders and told us to remain ready for another invasion."
- Eudes de Dun, levy commander of Mâcon​


3rd counter-offensive

With the succession finally resolved, Guy turned his attention once more on the Lorraine army situated in Dijon. He gathered another army in January 1103 and hoped it would push them back in Bourgogne. The ensuing battle ended in a pyrrhic victory for Lorraine. The Free Duke was certain that a 3rd offensive would break their lines. In the end of spring, the Lorraine army is finally defeated and driven out of the Free Counties. Soon after, he married his youngest daughter Raymonde to a Croatian prince, Tomislav Trpimirovic.


All children are married now

Even if Lorraine ravaged Dijon and inflicted more losses to the French, Guy earned a genuine recognition from peasants and nobles alike. While Hughes II’s authority recoiled in the east, his vassal held the line in his stead. The praises and accolades weren’t lost on the Free Duke. He worried that he might have to join the civil war as a main participant if the situation didn’t improve fast. He began to considerate pushing his own claim for France, tracing his genealogy back to the Carolingians.

"All things change and we change with them... Our kinsmen kill each other while infidels, merchants and the Salians invade us. Must I also jump into the fray to cease this war?"
- Guy I d'Ivrea​

The situation did change in the summer of 1103. The cunning Duchess of Champagne appealed to the Pope and managed to have the French king ex-communicated...


To be continued...
 
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I for one don't mind the replaying to make an interesting story. But thank you for being up front about it.

Also, I'm rather curious to see how this implosion of France will end up in the end.
 

Mithfir

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I for one don't mind the replaying to make an interesting story. But thank you for being up front about it.

Also, I'm rather curious to see how this implosion of France will end up in the end.
The aftermath was a total surprise for me and I suppose Guy didn't expect it either. Thanks for your support!

On a side-note, I'm really not satisfied with my writing of chapter 6. Next time, I'll correct the many orthography and syntax errors. English is my 2nd language, but I can do much better than that. Sorry...
 

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Chapter 7​
The 18 Year War part 3 (1103-1109)​


Tuscany joins the party

Guy warned his marshals to prepare for another invasion and his fears would soon be confirmed. Autumn 1103, Wilhelm I persevered in his quest for Dijon. The Duke of Tuscany marched on the Free Counties, answering Wilhelm’s call to war. The liberators of Dijon stood their ground, but were unable to contain the Italians. After Christmas, Lorraine entered Dijon once more, flanking Tuscany’s army occupation of the County. Chance of victory against Tuscany and Lorraine was slim at best.


The occupation resumes


Looks like the worst is over...

Then, a miracle happened. In late January 1104, Hughes II’s army realized a coup de maître in Aquitaine. While the Duke of Aquitaine was busy quelling his traitorous vassals, the royal army cornered the duke in a surprise skirmish and captured him. Aquitaine surrendered, sentenced to purge a prison life in Maine. Aquitaine soon rallied their effective forces to Hughes II. The war immediately turned in favour of the French monarch. With the pacification of Aquitaine, France’s most powerful vassal, it looked as if the war would end soon. However, the Duchess of Champagne eluded capture and defected to Eudes’ faction. She still had a trump card in her sleeve and she had every ill intention of unleashing it: Hughes II remained excommunicated...

This may not sound relevant for modern readers, but at the time, being excommunicated was a great offense. In an historical period where religion was present in every sphere of activity and when people were fervent believers, this could potentially bring chaos and panic among the population. The Pope could very well cancel all religious events and suppress every blessing in the lands of an excommunicated ruler. This meant no marriage, no baptism, no funerals, nothing. The mere thought of being exiled from God’s chosen and being unable to enter His kingdom with a baptism or on death with a funeral spelled doom for the common Christian.


The royal army counter-attacks

Pressing his new advantage, Hughes II marched to Dijon to smash the Lorraine army, which he did at the battle of Troyes in April 1104. The royal army pursued the invaders all over the Free Counties, mercilessly slaughtering them to the last. Dijon was liberated afterwards. However, Wilhelm I would bounce back once more.


:(

Raymonde, the Free Duke’s youngest daughter, gave birth to 2 boys in a little less than 2 years. However, she became ill after her 2nd son was born. Suffering greatly during labour, weakened by a fever, she died a few days later, just before her 18th birthday. Guy now outlived 2 of his 6 children. Aside from this personal tragedy, things seemed to take a turn for the best in the Free Counties.


OH SHIT!

Or so it seemed, for the Duchess of Champagne’s trump card was played out. None other than Heinrich IV, Kaiser of the Holy Roman Empire, declared an excommunication war against Hughes II. France’s army was out of breath and its vassals’ levies depleted, so the Germanic imperial army entered France unopposed in autumn 1105 and pillaged the French countryside for months. Finally, in spring 1106, Hughes II conceded defeat. Heinrich IV designated his younger brother Renaud as king. The disastrous reign of Hughes II ended with his humiliating abdication.


The HRE unleashes the pain train

“Damn the Salians! Damn the Salic law! Damn the rebels and damn you Heinrich!”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​

The Free Duke would never forget the Holy Roman Empire for this attack. According to his court chaplain, he became so enraged that he broke several pieces of furniture in the kitchens of his castle, one of his favourite places where he spent most of his free time, and cursed Heinrich’s name repeatedly. Eventually, the duchess and his daughters managed to calm him. Guy spent several days brooding afterwards.

“Never have I seen lord father so angry. He spat out curses without pause, froth came at his mouth and he punched the stones so hard that his knuckles turned red. Mother, Pernelle and I restrained his hands. His eyes mellowed once he recognized us and he embraced us. He almost reverted to the father I grew to love.”
- Alice d'Ivrea​


All the way west

“Once I heard about my lord father’s ire, I left Nevers for Mâcon as fast as I could. The Duke barely spoke. We sat together in the kitchen, eating biscuits for long hours. Finally, he told me to never forget the Salians.”
- Richard d'Ivrea​

French sources stipulated that over 50,000 men plundered, raped, pillaged and burned their way to the capital in Maine, including monasteries. German sources praised the Kaiser for bringing to justice a black sheep of Christianity, one that had been forsaken by the Pope, the voice of Christ on this sinful earth. Revisionists put this number at around 25,000 in recent studies. The fact remained that the Holy Roman Empire fought their way through France without any opposition.


France's new king

The new King of the Franks, Renaud I, was very different from his brother and father. While Henri had pacified his vassals with his diplomacy before the outbreak of the 18 Year War, the new king intended to control them with force. Driven, calculating and mistrusting, he began a dynamic and aggressive rule. His task was clear: finish the civil war, defeat the Duke of Upper Lorraine, re-assert the authority of the French crown and discipline the fickle dukes. In this endeavour, he managed to fulfill most of his goals.

“My liege carries Henri’s blood, but none of his manners. His eyes are cold and intelligent, his posture straight and proud, his voice strong and authoritative. He liked his vassals not. He liked me even less.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​

With his most powerful vassal under house arrest in his stronghold, Renaud I intended to see his other wayward vassals covered in chains before him and his other loyal vassals bend the knee to his rule. However, the long civil war seriously hurt the reputation of the Bourgogne dynasty. The land being ravaged by foreign forces from the east and south, plus the humiliating debacle suffered from the Holy Roman Empire took its toll on the reigning house. And on top of it all, Guy d’Ivrea earned recognition for his defense of Dijon against Lorraine instead of the crown. Renaud I grew suspicious of Guy and soon saw him as a possible threat to his rule. The Free Duke never hid his disdain for the Bourgogne house after Hughes II abdicated; he became more assertive that he was more worthy of the throne than his liege. It would not be unreasonable to assume that Guy planned to seize the throne for his own after he witnessed the Germanic invasion.


The war resumes in the Free Counties

When the imperial army retreated from France, Wilhelm I, Duke of Upper Lorraine, once again invaded the Free Counties. The rebels entered Dijon first, intend on occupying it. Guy entered parlay with Eudes’ faction. He would fight the foreign invasion army and Eudes’ faction could occupy Dijon without any interference from him. The uneasy truce was concluded, and the Free Duke marched against Lorraine. In July 1106, a decisive victory was struck against the Germans. Wilhelm I persevered; he gathered another army once Eudes moved his forces against Renaud I. The German duke ran out of patience, for this time, he aimed to gather an army of 4,000 swords. He once again requested troops from his Tuscan ally and hired mercenaries. Lorraine would launch their last campaign in the spring of 1108.


My mercs are better than yours!

Surprisingly, Renaud I did not raise an army right away to confront the invaders. On top of that, Guy set out to conquer the County of Orleans, a title held by Philippe I, the usurped king. Before setting out for Orleans, the Free Duke launched a daring surprise attack on Wilhelm’s army in Dijon. Caught with their pants down, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of mercenaries hired by Guy. Emboldened with this brilliant victory, Berry’s army began their march on Orleans. The enraged German duke assembled all his available forces and rallied them in Dijon. This reckless charge would prove too risky soon after they left Lorraine.


Philippe I is on his last legs

September 1108, Guy seized the County of Orleans from the fallen prince. He appointed a loyal courtier, Raimbaud de Puiset, as the Count of Orleans, his new vassal. The French king became more and more suspicious of his chancellor. Aquitaine was preoccupied with their rebelling vassals, but the Free Duke kept increasing his influence within the kingdom. Worse, his spies brought rumours that Guy plotted to claim France as his own. Even the common populace began to speak about a possible new ruler. Whispers became discreet conversations; conversations became heated arguments behind closed doors. However, he waited before taking action against Guy; the invaders from the east and the crumbling Eudes’ faction had to be taken care of first.

“My chancellor is a stain of purge soaked in a refined purple silk.”
– Renaud I, King of France​


Damnation!


Wilhelm's recklessness backfires

In fall 1108, the Lorraine army suddenly withdrew from Dijon. Wilhelm I’s reckless campaign backfired against him; his neighbour, the Duke of Lower Lorraine, invaded his lands in order to conquer them as his own. Wilhelm was forced to bring his forces back home to defend his demesne. Guy eagerly seized the opportunity to liberate the Free County, taking credit instead of his liege. Later, in May 1109, Wilhelm finally gave up his campaign for Dijon. Only Eudes’ crumbling faction remained opposed to Renaud I for the time being.

While the 18 Year War ended officially in 1112, it was as good as over in 1109. The remaining rebellious faction had no strength left to resist the king and the following 3 years are seen as a wild goose chase for the leaders by my fellow historian peers. I’m inclined to agree. This episode in France’s history is over, but Guy’s story continues. Renaud I, after all, had a very different vision from his predecessors concerning his vassals...


The foreign invasions end
 
Last edited:

BogMod

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France is always very war torn in my games I have noted.
 

Mithfir

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Really awesome AAR. I can't wait to see how Guy goes.
Thanks, welcome aboard! I loved playing as Guy. When I put myself in his shoes, it's a never ending cycle of surprises. Hopefully, my 2nd protagonist will be as interesting.

Very interesting how extremely war-torn your France is. :) Not much time to breath for the free count of France.
His life is a never ending battle. Up to the very end...

France is always very war torn in my games I have noted.
Oh yes, me too. The Capets never stay kings for long either... I even saw a Dutch as King of France!
 

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Chapter 8​

Guy's Crusade (1109-1113)

The 18 Year War entered its last stage: its conclusion. The few remaining vassals who defied Renaud I’s rule were on the run and their armies shattered. The worst was truly behind for the French populace. In order to restore the country’s strength, the king scoured the various counties in search of the last pockets of resistance. Also, having re-established a relative authority in France, Renaud I promulgated a law that forbade any private wars within the kingdom. The king’s reasoning implied that because France was fighting amongst itself, it sapped its strength, allowing foreign invaders to violate the land. Guy d’Ivrea, chancellor of France, fiercely opposed the proposition. He claimed that it was the king’s own lack of leadership that sank the country into civil war. Of course, he omitted to explicitly name the Bourgogne dynasty, which would have been a fatal mistake. The Free Duke’s rhetoric won many nobles to his side and the proposition was put on ice for the time being. Status quo won for now. Renaud I was a patient man however. No doubt he kept a watchful eye on his chancellor during the entirety of his reign. To avoid being branded a noble with questionable loyalties to the French crown, Guy sought a way to improve his relations with the king.

“Only with a strong authority, emanated from the Divine Grace, can France prosper once more under the leadership of the King.”
- Renaud I, King of France​

“Had the liege of France actually possessed the required qualities, there would be no such debate. The strong never have to claim they are strong. Their strength precedes them and acts upon it.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​



Target acquired

During the 18 Year War, Muslims from Iberia seized the County of Melgueil in the south and this was an opportunity to bring the holdings into his demesne, while re-gilding his coat of arms. This is exactly what Guy resolved to do. So, in early 1109, the Free Counties’ forces began a long march to southern France, to liberate Melgueil from the Habibid Emirate.



The future Queen and King consort of Scotland

His eldest grandson, Alain (son of Alice, Guy’s eldest daughter), comes of age in May 1109. The Free Duke found an excellent suitor: Fingola Dunkeld, heir to the Scottish throne. The marriage is signed: Alain would become the future king consort of Scotland, with, hopefully, a new cadet branch at the head of Scotland a generation later.


“Once more, the female line of our family will deliver a king.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​


Guy's army reaches Melgueil

At the same time, Berry’s army entered Melgueil. Preliminary scouts reported that the Habibids already gathered a large force, not far from the County. However, they didn’t risk a counter-offensive right away. Most likely, the Muslims were waiting for reinforcements and planned to overpower the Free Duke with sheer numbers. A scout was quickly dispatched back to the Free Counties, relating the situation. Not willing to take any chances, Guy hired veteran sell swords and gave them explicit orders to occupy Melgueil and not pursue the Muslims to Iberia. In August 1109, the mercenaries arrive in Melgueil. The occupation continued smoothly until the following autumn, when Muslim reinforcements indeed arrived.


An alliance is formed


The Sultan's army arrives

Sultan Yahya I of the Zirid Sultanate offered to aid his fellow Sunni brethren in his war against Guy. The Sultan’s army made land fall in Provence and Guy expected a heated battle. Surprisingly, the Sultan’s army circled around Melgueil, avoiding battle, and marched back to Iberia.


Why did they go all the way west?

Confused by this manoeuvre, Guy was not sure if it was because a 3rd army was on his way to Melgueil, if it was a miscommunication between the 2 Muslims leaders, or if the Sultan was goading the Franks into a trap. Whatever the case, if a 3rd army was really on the way, he had to strike now before they rallied. In February 1110, Berry’s army left Melgueil and charged at the Habibids. Further analysis from Muslim historians showed that the Dhunninid Emirate entered the alliance and was already en route to Melgueil, effectively confirming the presence of a 3rd army.


First battle of the campaign

Noticing movement from the Franks, the Muslims avoided combat, marching their army in circles to outrun them, buying time. The Sultan’s army also saw Guy’s army leave Melgueil and they returned to France, unwilling to wait for the Dhunninids’ reinforcements. This cat and mouse game lasted for months before a real battle ensued. Eventually, the Free Duke caught up to the Habibids in Melgueil in August 1110. The Sultan army also joined the fight. The Franks brutally defeated the combined Muslim army. A pursuit was ordered until every single soldier was killed.

After this decisive victory, the Free Duke grew overconfident. He ordered his levies back home while assigning the mercenaries to guard Melgueil. Guy knew the Emir wouldn’t concede defeat right away and would try to retake Melgueil. However, he believed his sell swords would be sufficient to the task. According to his memoirs, his relation with King Renaud I was glacial and even his silver tongue proved insufficient to be in his good graces. Perhaps Guy did not want to give even the slightest illusion of weakness in front of the severe king.

As expected, the Muslims launched several raids against Melgueil in the year 1111. All of them failed to dislodge the Franks. Guy hoped that the Habibids and their allies would eventually give up and relinquish the County to him. The determination of the Habibids held strong, for they were preparing another offensive before the next year.


Hey, remember her?

Urraka Antsez, the Queen of Navarra, died in November 1111. Her son, Mathieu d’Ivrea, became King of Navarra immediately. For the first time in 150 years, an Anscarid held the title of king.


Holding on

The following month, the Muslim alliance debarked in southern France again. Guy’s mercenaries secured a costly victory at the battle of Montpellier. Uncertain that they could withstand another offensive, they sent a messenger to the Free Counties, requesting reinforcements. The mercenaries didn’t risk pursuit either, since the broken Muslim armies were camped just outside the County. Reinforcements from the Emir of Abbadid arrived on the western front, but they soon returned to Iberia due to a war triggered by a succession crisis. In May, The Habibids rallied once more and launched a 2nd offensive. Once again, they were defeated. However, the mercenaries’ strength dwindled with each attack.


Reinforcements arrive in Melgueil

A few days later, Guy’s army arrived in Melgueil, much to the relief of the weary mercenaries. Many small raids failed to draw the Franks from the occupied territory.


Battle of Melgueil

Desperate, the Muslim alliance launched a final 3rd offensive. Anticipating an easy victory over a small scouting force, the battle of L’Argentière ended in a decisive victory for the Franks. The skirmish proved to be merely a diversion. The main alliance force marched to Melgueil, effectively establishing a strong defensive perimeter. Guy’s army had no choice: the next confrontation in Melgueil would determine the victor of the conflict. A charge was issued to repel the Muslims from Melgueil, culminating in a fierce clash in October 1112. A secondary Muslim army intercepted the rear guard from the west, joining the fight. The Berry army dislodged the Habibids from the County, but was left badly weakened.


The last battle

Believing the Franks would not be able to stand their ground a 2nd time, the Emir ordered a counter-offensive in December. Out of breath, Guy’s left flank was overpowered, but his center held the line and secured a pyrrhic victory.


He was a tough biscuit

Afterwards, the remaining forces of the Berry army held Melgueil until February 1113, when the Emir finally conceded defeat. The Muslims’ advance in France had been pushed back to Andalusia for the time being. Guy appointed Maurice de Dun, a fellow courtier, as the new Count of Mergueil.

"I must hurry."
- Guy I d'Ivrea​
(Guy wrote this sentence many times during his later years. I'm inclined to believe it became his credo.)​

On an amusing note, the Duchess of Berry, Walpurga, often teased her husband about his white hair in his later years. Growing older clearly didn’t please the Free Duke. Guy approached his 60th birthday, which was considered venerable in the Middle Ages. While he remained vigorous of both mind and body, he felt he didn’t have long to live before he would join his ancestors. Sensing an opportunity to secure more legitimacy to his family’s legacy, he sought to conquer Paris, the previous capital of France. In doing so, he broke the truce with Philippe I, an unforgivable offense.

Truces usually lasted 10 years and not even 5 years after his previous war against Philippe I, Guy sullied his own honour by declaring war before the truce expired. I believe the Free Duke made a calculated risk. Being an old man, Guy became so obsessed with rapidly fulfilling his ambitions that he became a ruthless, if not reckless, machiavelic ruler. Being a respected noble and one of France’s strongest vassals, he probably assumed that it would be a small price to pay. Ironically, the older he got, the more reckless his actions became. His personal memoirs recount he changed his will at least a dozen times during this period.

"My liege, Renaud I, King of the Franks, has been unusually joyful lately. It's as if he knows something we don't. It troubles me to ponder what is on the king's mind."
- Bishop Boson of Autun, Court Chaplain of France​

At long last, the king captured the leader of the last rebel faction, the Count of Amiens, in December 1112, who had sought refuge in Rouergue. Branded a scapegoat and sole responsible of the 18 Year War, he was promptly sent to prison, thus ending officially the 18 Year War. Renaud I had been patient for a long time. The chessboard’s pieces slowly changed one by one. He carefully watched his chancellor move his pawns and soon the king’s turn would come. All that was missing was an opening, one that eventually appeared in the Free Duke’s defenses.


The king's patience is growing thin
 
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Interesting update. I liked the easy-to-follow description of the Melgueil-campaign. I wonder how long it will take a "free duke" to become a "free king". :)
I don't know if I'll use the "Free King" nickname for my protagonists. After doing some minimal research, it turns out that Burgundy was really called a Free County and I liked the concept, so I borrowed it for the dynasty. Apparently, this region always had a strong independent identity. Besides, once you're at the top of the country, does one really need to call himself "Free" anymore? I can't decide...

As for Guy, you'll find the answer in the next 2 chapters. He also receives his nickname! Next update might take a while longer. I fear I might have hit a small writer's block. Also, Starcraft 2 expansion is out and if I don't complete the campaign soon, someone will spoil me the story somehow.
 

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Chapter 9​
The Glorious Campaign part 1 (1113-1120)

Got Starcraft out of my system for now, phew!

Driven by fear of an untimely death, Guy accelerated his plans. Having declared war against Philippe I, the usurped king, and breaking the truce, he sought to make the Capet dynasty powerless. Plus, being the legitimate lord of the previous capital of Paris would have a powerful effect on the population. After all, the Free Duke’s fame kept increasing as he accumulated victories and prestige, which didn’t help mend his relation with the king. Renaud I restored some of the crown authority in the land, which discouraged his remaining non-captive vassals to oppose him, except perhaps one. Up to this point, Guy never rebelled against the previous 3 kings he lived under. However, we know that his relation with Renaud I was cold at best and hostile at worst. Still, the king waited. His prudence dictated that the reckless Free Duke would eventually slip, and when he did, all he had to do was step on him.


This time, his story is truly over

For the time being, Guy’s offensive against Philippe I went as planned. By the end of the year 1113, Philippe’s meager army was crushed. Only his holdings remained to be captured. In June 1114, Philippe I was stripped of his last titles. Paris was now part of the Free Counties. Proud of his accomplishment, he gave the County of Charolais to Simon d’Auvergne, a loyal courtier, appointing him Count of Charolais.


The Anscarids triumph over Champagne

Despite his victory, Paris wasn’t completely under his control. The barony of Meaux belonged to the Blois family, rulers of Champagne. Guy resumed his campaign by declaring war on Valence de Blois, the cunning Duchess of Champagne. By March 1116, Meaux came under the occupation of Guy’s army. The following summer, he marched to Champagne, clashing with the duchess’ forces at Druyes, subduing them easily. It would take almost a year before the duchess relinquished the barony to Guy. In March 1117, Guy consolidated the County of Paris, becoming ruler of the old capital.


Paris is now part of the Free Counties

However, the cunning duchess would not forget this defeat easily. Seeking a way to counter the ambitious Free Duke, Valence was contacted by none other than the king himself. The French monarch appealed to Valence and several nobles in order to diminish Guy’s influence in the court of Maine. Together, they formed a plan. While the king was also the Duke of Burgundy, Guy was de facto ruler of 5 of the 6 Counties forming the duchy. The conspirators argued that Renaud I could legally push his own claim for the Free Counties. Of course, there was no guarantee that the Free Duke would candidly go along with it. Most likely, he would fight to maintain his own titles. Either way, Renaud I believed he would win in the end, since if Guy resisted, he could just brand him a traitor and revoke his titles. But first, there was one detail to negotiate first: the crown authority of the liege of France.

King Renaud I eventually gathered enough voices to pass his proposition. Private wars inside the French territory were now strictly prohibited. The king stipulated that France could not afford to fight their own kinsmen while the Holy Roman Empire and the united crowns of England and Norway had their eyes on a weakened France. Guy’s rhetoric was not enough to counter the monarch this time. During this period, the royal army was in a crippled state after the 18 Year War and the Germanic invasion. Thus, Renaud I attempted to restore the royal army and restrain his vassals. Guy remained undaunted; he found another way to increase his influence within the kingdom.

The Frankish Empire under Charlemagne​

A few centuries before, Charles Martel had stopped the Muslim advance in Europe by defeating them at the Battle of Tours in 732. His grandson, Charlemagne, extended the Frankish Empire beyond the Pyrenees, establishing the temporary Spanish March at the end of the 8th century. What better way to honour his ancestors, while increasing his own prestige, than to conquer territory in the Iberian Peninsula in the name of France?

“I now march in the footsteps of my glorious ancestors, the grandfathers of the Franks. While the king bickers in his court, I push our borders beyond the southern mountains.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​

The timing was right also. Emir Siddray I of the Dhunnunid Emirate warred against the Republics of Pisa and Venice who were assaulting Barcelona and against a coalition of Christian rulers in northern Spain who were defending Galicia from the Muslims. On both fronts, the Emir and his allies’ forces were rapidly facing impossible odds. All that remained for Guy was to place his own pawn unto the Iberian chessboard, which he did at once.


Iberian Peninsula in 1118

Inspired and restless, Guy chose his next conquest: the duchy of Valencia held by the Dhunnunid Emirate. The Berry army began its long march for Valencia in the summer of 1117 and eventually arrived in December. Unbeknownst to Guy at the time, the Free Duke was embarking on his most important campaign. Future historians would name it the first phase of the Glorious Campaign. Once Renaud I heard about Guy’s audacious plan, he rubbed his hands. At last, the Free Duke made a crucial mistake, one that he would take full advantage of; his army was now months away from the defenceless Free Counties... Quickly, he gathered his conspirators and pressed his plans regarding his vassal.

“Only one rock remains in my boot.”
- Renaud I, King of France​


Battle of Castello

The first battle of the war took place at Castello in March 1118, which was won by the Berry army. Defeated, the Dhunnunids attempted to retreat, but were pursued by the Franks. The occupation of Valencia continued without any major opposition for the time being.


Someone is going to pay

A personal tragedy occurred in the Free Counties. Éléonore d’Ivrea, daughter of Princess Fingola of Scotland, was found dead in her bed on the early morning of June 17th 1118. She was only 4. As it happened, a maid had strangled the poor girl to death in the middle of the night, trying to make it look like a natural death. However, Éléonore managed to make enough sound in her desperate struggle that the guards caught the culprit on the act. Unfortunately, it was too late for the girl. The murderer was then brought to her victim’s infuriated great-grandfather.

According to the records of the Anscarids, Guy took the news of his great-granddaughter’s death extremely badly. He sent the maid to the torture chamber and he personally supervised the session. I will spare the reader the details of the next 2 days, since many sources claim different unpleasant torture methods used, and this is not counting the screams heard from the dungeons. I left a citation from the Free Duke to illustrate the degree of his fury.


“I will not send you to the Lord right away, wench. The price you pay here is only a meager taste of what awaits you in the eternal flames of purgatory.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​


He had it coming

While his family mourned the loss of such a young child, Guy took it upon himself to make an example of the maid for his entire court. Whoever dared touch a member of his family would pay a very heavy price. Agonizing, she revealed a name: Malcolm II, duke of Albany, a distant cousin of the Scottish crown princess. Afterwards, she was put in the stock for 3 days in Mâcon and publicly executed. Guy hoped that the message was clear. Even so, the Free Duke’s rage seethed: not even a holy man would turn the other cheek if his infant great-granddaughter was cowardly killed. And so, assassins were dispatched to deal with the mastermind of the plot. Chronicles from Albany mentioned that Malcolm II’s body was found in his bed, in the early morning, in a most gruesome condition. While there’s no official record that clearly stipulates that it was Guy who ordered the assassination, I’m inclined to assume that Malcolm II died as retribution of his plot against Éléonore. Fingola gave birth to another daughter, Valence, a few months later. The line of succession was now safe. The Free Duke turned his attention on his southern campaign once more, but only for a short while.

Guy’s army campaigned far away in Iberia without access to the sea. Sending an army there on foot easily took a few months just to reach Valencia. It would take months to bring them back home. This became the perfect opportunity that the King of the Franks had been waiting for. While things went smoothly in Iberia, Guy received a message from Renaud I in March 1119.

“Esteemed chancellor of France,

It so appears that the County of Mâcon rightfully belongs to the Bourgogne family. Valence de Blois, Duchess of Champagne, informed us that our court recently found authentic documents, which were safely guarded by bishops from Burgundy, dating from the scission of Francia. We humbly request that you peacefully relinquish the title to the crown. We will await a favourable response.”
- King Renaud I​

Stunned, Guy apparently never saw this coming. He quickly recovered, for he hastily wrote a lengthy reply. While the original manuscript is lost today, many monks copied it once Renaud I got a hold of the parchment. The French monarch planned to use Guy’s reply as a testament to his authority once he crushed the Free Duke. Here are some surviving bits of Guy’s letter.

“My liege,
I can scarcely believe the audacity you ask of me. Do you not know that Mâcon has always been part of the d’Ivrea family? Do you not know the glory of our ancestors the kings of Italy and the emperors of Francia? Where were the Bourgognes when the Salians invaded Burgundy? It is thanks to me that Dijon is still part of the royal demesne!

(...)I cannot relinquish the title to you, for I would be sullying the name of my family and the Free Counties. (...) If His Majesty persists in this endeavour, I will proudly show my liege why I have the utmost honour of being called the Free Count of the Free Counties!“
- Guy I d'Ivrea, Free Count of the Free Counties​


"Plays a cool boss music"

As it turns out, Renaud I expected the Free Duke to resist him, which is what he wanted all along. Now, he had the legitimacy to brand Guy a traitor and revoke all his titles. First, he had to capture him and the Free Duke remained a slippery weasel. The lord of the Free Counties never forgot the lesson he learned after the Navarra campaign; how word and sword triumphed over blue blood (and also money). And Guy had plenty of gold to spare for one such occasion. Instead of recalling his campaign for Valencia, he boldly decided to press the attack on 2 fronts: his army would finish the conquest of Valencia and sell swords would defend the Free Counties against the crown. The French nobles watched the chessboard’s pieces move and waited for the time being.


First victories

The severe king split his army in 2. The primary force marched to Paris to occupy it. Guy’s residence remained the barony of Mâcon in 1119, but he would move it to Paris a few years later. His secondary and weaker army was en route to Mâcon. Guy quickly went on the offensive before Renaud would siege the remaining Free Counties. His mercenaries launched a pre-emptive attack in Bourbon, routing Renaud I’s army in June. A pursuit was ordered, where reinforcements from Renaud’s vassals joined the secondary army. They were defeated at the battle of Aubusson in August. Guy started the rebellion with brilliant victories, but his mercenaries were too weak to reclaim Paris from Renaud. Worse, their victories sapped their strength while the French monarch’s main army remained untouched. If his full strength poured into the Free Counties, Guy would be overwhelmed easily. The Free Duke hired a second company and rallied all his sell swords. They had to buy time long enough for the southern campaign’s army to return from Iberia.


A general view of the chessboard

“I must hurry. My commanders have yet to report from Valencia and soon the king’s army will advance south.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​


The war turns in favour of Guy

However, the Dhunnunids refused to give up so easily. The Emir assembled his remaining forces and was preparing a counter-offensive against the Franks. Feeling that time was against him, Guy decided to commit his current mercenaries against Renaud’s army. He believed that at the very least, he could weaken the king’s army enough to slow down its attack on the Free Counties, so that his levies could finish it off later. Baiting the king into a fierce fight, the royal army marched south, believing to score an easy victory. In January 1120, the Free Duke seized a brilliant victory at the battle of Guéret. Paris remained occupied by the crown, but now the conflict turned in favour of Guy on the northern front. His delaying tactic worked and now it was time to go on the offensive.


France in 1119


The Holstein-d'Ivrea cadet branch

News from the Duchy of Holstein reached Mâcon. On March 16th 1120, Signe I, Archambaud’s wife, died after a long period of stress. Their son Hildebert became Duke of Holstein at the age of 13 with Archambaud as lord regent. The succession of the Free Counties would once again surface...
 
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Chapter 10

The Glorious Campaign part 2 (1120-1126)​

This chapter originally contained a lot of screenshots, but due to the limit of 20 screenshots per post, I would have been forced to split this chapter in 2. I didn't want to have 2 posts for this part, so I decided to remove the battle results screenshots along with a few others. I felt that the battle aftermaths were less "important" since it only contained numbers. I still have the screenshots in a folder, if anyone wants to see them, I can always post them in another post.


Eradicating the Dhunnunid army


On the southern front, the Berry army braced itself for the Dhunnunids’ riposte. Their meager forces were easily repelled at the battle of Alpuente. The Franks pursued the remnants all over the emirate. However, the Habibids sent reinforcements and they moved in to intercept Guy’s army. The Franks continued their pursuit, well aware they had an army on their tail. They finally clashed in the County of Calatrava, where the Berry army effectively crushed the Muslims in July 1120. Now that the Dhunnunids’ army was broken, none other than the Republic of Genoa hungrily jumped into the fray, pushing their own claim for the Duchy of Valencia. Half of the duchy was occupied by the Free Counties and Genoa quickly made land fall in Iberia, assaulting the remaining holdings.



Genoa occupies the other half of the duchy

Unable to push back the Christian invaders, the Emir surrendered Castellon to Guy in January 1121. Since Genoa occupied the other half of the duchy, the Free Duke was unable to acquire it without resorting to war. More pressing matters demanded his attention and Guy had neither the time nor the means to oppose the Genoans. The Berry army began their long march back home. Gauthier d’Armagnac, a fellow courtier, was appointed the new Count of Castellon.

“Curse the Genoans! Their greed shall be the end of them!”
- Guy I d’Ivrea​


Repeated pursuits are taking their toll

Back on the northern front, Guy’s advantage proved ephemeral. His sell swords recklessly pursued the remnants of the royal army, suffering heavy losses in pitched battles. The first royal army was certainly weakened, but so were the mercenaries. Eventually, both armies were roughly at the same strength. The Free Duke ordered them back north to liberate Paris and to wait for the southern army to return to France.




The king counter-attacks

Realizing that the traitorous duke gave up the pursuit, the king called him on his bluff. Now that Guy indirectly revealed his hand, the French monarch intended to win the next round. While the 2 companies had marched to Paris in order to liberate it, Renaud I had quickly gathered more troops from his vassals. Now at the head of fresh troops, the rigid king marched to Paris and delivered a crushing blow against the mercenaries. The first mercenary company was entirely slaughtered. The second company barely managed to flee back to Mâcon, outrunning the royalists. From an army of 3,500 at the beginning of the campaign, Guy’s northern forces now only counted a few hundreds.


What remained of my mercenaries

“It is only a matter of time before I bring my old chancellor before me in chains. I eagerly await the moment.”
-Renaud I, King of France​


The rebels march to Paris

In April 1121, Guy’s levies were finally back. The second mercenary company’s remnants rallied to the southern army and together they marched once more to Paris. Not expecting the Free Duke to bounce back so quickly, Renaud I lost the battle of St-Denis the following July. For the time being, Guy gained the upper hand once again.


It's always nice to be sponsored!

Much to his surprise, the Republic of Pisa funded Guy’s rebellion. The Free Counties graciously accepted the gold. As it turned out, the lords of Western Europe grew more and more convinced that Guy could very well overthrow Renaud I and become the next King of France. At the present time, the Free Duke merely wanted to defend his demesne. Perhaps Guy didn’t see the bigger picture at the time since he was preoccupied with his family and his own survival. Not only didn’t the many lords only believe that he could win, they also perceived that he would go after the throne next. And there were good chances that the Free Duke could very well succeed in this endeavour. The next course of action was clear to them. After all, the Free Duke carried the traitor staple even if he succeeded resisting the king. Such is the way of war sometimes; there can only be one who remains at the reins of a country when there are 2 ambitious leaders. The hostilities would restart eventually. The only question was when.


Paris is liberated

In March 1122, Paris was liberated from the royalists. Guy’s remaining forces marched south to confront Renaud’s army. They collided at Bourges, resulting in a victory for the Free Duke. The royal army was annihilated afterwards. Renaud’s feet were trembling and lost their footing. Once, the king maintained the image of a severe and stout king. Now, his vassals saw him as a colossus with argyle feet. One such vassal boldly contested Renaud’s rule: Thomas I Karling, Duke of Valois. He proclaimed that Guy was the rightful ruler of France, triggering a civil war. Unfortunately for Thomas, his meager faction only rallied 3 Counties: Vendôme, Foix and his own demesne situated in Vermandois. Only these territories went in open rebellion, aside from the Free Counties. In autumn 1122, the war for France began anew with different protagonists. Finally, after months of inconclusive fighting, Renaud I let the Free Duke be for now and yearned for peace. Guy was re-instated as a vassal of France in autumn 1123.


Gotta love when a Karling wants me as king

Amazingly, Guy did not rejoice. Branded a traitor, mistrusted by Renaud’s loyalists and the king himself, he understood that the ceasefire would not last. Also, the 68 year old duke felt the weight of the years on his shoulders. Ever since he celebrated his 60th birthday, he firmly believed that his end was near. Still, he defied his own demise by remaining healthy and alive. To make matters worse, his eldest son Richard showed signs of weakness: he had trouble lifting a sword and walking long distances. He grew tired easily and eventually had to restrain his physical activities greatly, despite being a middle aged man. The Free Duke feared he could even outlive Richard. Guy’s fears would be confirmed when Richard would suffer a stroke years later, leaving him crippled and infirm.

“I saved my family and myself from dishonour, but at a high price. I fear that I must keep fighting to spare them the wrath of the crown.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​


Archambaud is now a Count

A problem that Guy thought resolved years ago resurfaced: his own succession. His second son Archambaud received the County of Finland from his son, the Duke of Holstein. Now a landed noble, Archambaud sent a letter to his father, requesting his own inheritance once Guy died. This greatly troubled the Free Duke. His demesne could be fractured between his two sons and Denmark would have suzerainty over Archambaud’s share. Guy brooded over several days. Not only was he an old man and likely to die soon, but now his two sons would probably fight each other to control the entirety of the Free Counties. And on top of that, a faction fought in his name to have him seated on the throne! These recent events weighted on Guy. The succession bred a possible troubled future for his family and should he lived through the civil war, he risked being imprisoned when the rebellion failed.

Guy called for a special meeting between his vassals, his family, even the women; the chronicles relate that his daughters, his wife, and all his grand-children assisted, and his council. Only his second son Archambaud was absent. The tension grew tense; emotions were in high supply as Guy used the full charm of his silver tongue to his court. All sources confirmed that most people present were loaded with heavy sentiments. Then, the Free Duke laid out the current situation and made his intentions clear. First, he would divide his current titles among 3 courtiers; have them swear fealty to him, while keeping Paris for himself. This would exclude Archambaud from succession, since Paris would go to Richard, his eldest son. And so, Ebles of Ramerupt received Bourges, Jean de Bourbon became Count of Chalons and Tierri de Narbonne set up his quarters in Mâcon. In return, Richard would become the new Free Duke after Guy’s passing and they would swear fealty to him. Richard already held the Counties of Nevers, Auxerre and Tours. The Free Counties’ capital was moved to Paris. Guy’s vassals remained united; their support to the old man remained absolute and strong.

Second, Guy argued that now that he was branded a traitor by the king, he had no choice but to keep fighting Renaud until one of them laid death or in chains before the other. Backed into a corner, the Free Duke claimed that France would be better served under him, who defended the eastern front against Lorraine, who recently gained a solid foothold in Iberia, who now ruled the old capital Paris, and who was descended from the Carolingians, a once powerful dynasty, who defended and grew France’s borders. Even at his venerable age, Guy’s silver tongue had lost none of its virtues. The d’Ivrea family, his court and his council offered their loyalty and support to Guy, who now believed he was preparing his last campaign. The Free Duke expected to die before the campaign was over.

Third, he revised his will once again. Guy left some last wishes in what would be later called the “Will of the Anscarids”, where he expressed his vision for France. Also, it served as a backup plan if Richard were to become too weak to rule or worse, died before Guy. We will return to Guy’s testament in the next chapter, as to his own surprise, he would revise it yet again.


Fourth, the Free Counties would appeal to Renaud’s vassals and offer them to join their cause. Only the Counts of Foix and Narbonne answered Guy’s call at first. The preparations were complete. Now, the war for France welcomed new players. Encouraged by his family, believing it to be a sign from God, Guy fought on; he had nothing to lose anymore and everything to gain. In February 1124, the Free Counties broke from France’s rule, declaring war against Renaud for the throne. The second phase of the Glorious Campaign began.


Final boss music /on

“I now march willingly to my own death. This, I am sure. My son Richard may one day be king in my stead. For now, I enter my last campaign and I believe I will not see my beloved wife or my children again.”
- Guy I d'Ivrea​


The rebel alliance gathers

Having already crippled Renaud’s army in his previous confrontation with the Frankish crown, Guy quickly assaulted Dijon, which was part of the royal demesne. Once again, he hired a mercenary company and ordered it to lay siege to the capital in Maine, where Renaud reigned. The king found himself on the defensive at the beginning of the civil war. In May 1124, his 2 most important Counties were under siege by Guy’s forces.


The north and the south

However, the king refused to give up the throne. He gathered a meager army in August and prepared his desperate counter-offensive. The Free Duke didn’t take any chances this time; withdrawing from Dijon, the Berry army moved west to intercept the royal army before it grew stronger. At the same time, the Republic of Genoa, believing to snatch more territory from southern France during the civil war, invaded with a small contingent. To everyone’s surprise, it was not Guy who repelled them, but the Republic of Pisa. The 2 rival republics competed heavily against each other for control of the Mediterranean trade routes. In December 1124, the Genoans were pushed out of France by the Pisans. Of course, the Doge of Genoa’s true strength had yet to be revealed.


Genoa marches west and Berry marches south

In early 1125, Genoa counter-attacked. Mercenaries marched once more to southern France. Taking it upon himself to aid his unofficial ally, the Republic of Pisa, the Free Duke sent his levies south. Narbonne could not prevail against the Doge’s army alone and Renaud’s army was utterly broken. Guy’s army reached Narbonne in March 1125, where the two Italian armies were already engaged in fierce combat. Pisa was on the verge of having their lines broken. The Berry army joined the Pisans, turning the tide of the battle against the Genoans, rallying the defenders in a successful counter-offensive. The Genoan army was rebuffed once again. The tenacious Doge Vitale I bounced back and prepared a 3rd offensive, when extraordinary news reached the Free Duke’s ears.


Aquitaine is my newest friend

None other than Alias I, the Duke of Aquitaine, managed to escape from his house imprisonment in Maine. Now an old man, the powerful duke had been a captive of Renaud for many years. No doubt that during the siege of Maine by Guy’s mercenaries, Alias I took advantage of the chaos and succeeded in escaping. The Free Duke quickly sought him out, negotiating an alliance with France’s most powerful vassal. Eager to take revenge on the Bourgognes, buttered by Guy’s silver tongue, Aquitaine entered an alliance with the Free Counties under some conditions. He would agree to join the rebellion and become Guy’s vassal once the war was over, on the condition that Guy would not increase crown authority, that he remove the ban on the private wars and that Aquitaine conserved the entirety of its demesne. Guy agreed at once. Satisfied, Alias pledged his support to the old Free Duke and together they joined their armies. Renaud’s capitulation was now only a matter of time.

“Damn the Bourgognes! After years of imprisonment, I will gladly see them in chains before I die!”
- Alias I, Duke of Aquitaine​


Genoa is no match for the Berry-Aquitaine army

The Aquitanians joined Guy’s army in early 1126, assaulting Toulouse and Rouergue, the last royal bastions in southern France. Maine had fallen to Guy’s mercenaries, but the king fled to Vendôme, a neighboring County. The mercenary company followed him, sieging the various holdings. Meanwhile, the Genoans launched another offensive in Melgueil. However, the Doge had no idea that Aquitaine had joined the war and was brutally defeated in March.

Finally, in summer 1126, Renaud surrendered to the rebels. At the venerable age of 71, Guy d’Ivrea became officially Guy the 1st, nicknamed “the Old”, King of France. Modern historians posthumously gave him another nickname: the Nine or New King, “Le Roi Neuf”. Neuf means either nine or new in the French tongue. It had taken Guy almost nine years to win the Frankish throne, becoming the new king at a very advanced age and his reign lasted nearly nine years. The irony is quite striking. In victory, Guy grew more worried. His fear of dying never left him and therefore, he had to adapt his succession plans once again...


King Guy the 1st "the Old" of France

“At any moment, the Lord will claim my soul. Still, He allows me to live while my children grow weak and die. What else must I accomplish now that He bestowed me the crown?”
- Guy I "the Old" d'Ivrea, King of France​
 

Mithfir

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Jan 4, 2013
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Wow! That's quite some progress!
That character is a veritable surprise box. And his story is not even over yet! I got at least 3 chapters worth of content left, one who will be mainly filler to explain how he establishes his rule and eventual succession. I really thought that last campaign would take many years and that I'd die before it ended, but then the "Call to arms" icon popped for Aquitaine...