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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Idhrendur

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Things seem stable for the moment. No doubt that's because events are about to spiral out of control.
 

Mithfir

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Things seem stable for the moment. No doubt that's because events are about to spiral out of control.
Hmmm... the best way I can resume Richard's solving problems would be with Plan B.
 

Mithfir

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Great chapter, though I think the Crown of Aquitaine might bring trouble with it.
Yes, this was me misreading the conditions on creating the empire of Francia. I thought I needed 2 crowns and another crown outside France, Aquitaine, Brittany and Burgundy. Oh well... this might actually make the story more interesting much later on.

Oh yes, Avignon is actually located in Venaissin. My bad.
 
Last edited:

Mithfir

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Chapter 20​

Family Matters (1155-1160)​


Heiress to Aquitaine

Satisfied that his eldest son was now married to a prominent duchess, Richard turned to domestic affairs. His whispers brought to his attention a most delicate situation concerning Aquitaine. His strongest vassal, while imprisoned, produced no descendants, since he was unmarried and young. With the premature death of his younger brother, his heir was now his cousin Rosèla, a grand-daughter of Alias I, the previous Duke of Aquitaine. Where it gets delicate is that Rosèla married Archambaud d’Ivrea (not to be confused with Count Archambaud, a son of Guy I), a distant relative of Richard and current Duke of Holstein. Therefore, it was possible that the immense demesne could transfer to Denmark eventually. On the other hand, Holstein could also find itself under France’s rule.


Aquitaine's demesne in 1155


Richard shows mercy to Guilhèm IX

Believe it or not, he gained the Content trait. And after his son was born, he became a celibate... Sighhhhhhhhh...

Pondering the situation with his trusted council, Richard decided not to take the Holstein gamble and opted for what he believed to be the lesser evil. In a bold move, he granted pardon to Guilhèm IX, releasing him from dungeon and removing his excommunication stigma. The king maintained the illusion that he had a change of heart, preferring to forgive and forget rather than punish one of his servants. Richard put much work in mending his relations with Guilhèm, while subtly hinting that he finds happiness in raising a large family like his own. Surprisingly, Guilhèm held no grudge towards Richard. Most likely, his long sentence greatly humbled him. After all, it was because he secretly plotted against the king that he had found himself arrested in the first place.

“Either I pardon my most dangerous vassal and allow him to have sons or I risk losing his vast domain to Denmark. I’m beginning to find God’s little games very unpleasant.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​

Answering Richard’s flattery, the grateful duke happily obliged. As soon as he returned home after many years of imprisonment, he quickly married a young lowborn woman. He never conspired against Richard again either. With one less concern in his mind, a relieved Richard turned to his family.

“Pope Sisinnius II granted me absolution and my liege recovered my freedom. I will cherish God’s name evermore and live each day as a blessing. In His name, I give thanks.”
- Guilhèm IX, Duke of Aquitaine​


For the record, none of my children got the genius trait

His third son Alphonse turned 16 on March 16th 1157. According to all sources of the time, Alphonse was an incredibly slow witted boy. Not even his competent tutor, who raised his much smarter twin Guy, could unleash any hidden depths he might have. Disappointed, Richard named him the successor to the bishopric of St.Aignan. Apparently, Alphonse didn’t seem to care.


Guy is sent to Gent

Richard’s 4th son, twin of Alphonse, was the complete opposite of his dumb brother. Reminiscing of his great-great-grandfather, Guy proved an excellent diplomat and gifted orator. Richard held no illusions concerning his chances of inheriting the crown however, with André and Richard being older and healthy sons. In order not to waste his potential, the king married him to Countess Ursula of Gent, a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. The young countess immediately appointed him as chancellor, recognizing his skill. At the very least, Richard hoped he could sire a cadet branch inside his enemy’s realm and perhaps even stir some trouble. The union was a success; Gent would be held by several Anscarids during the Middle Ages.


Prince Richard is married to a Polish duchess

2nd in line to the throne, Prince Richard was engaged with Duchess Anastazja of Silesia, a noble living in Poland. The king’s favourite way to “get rid” of pretenders to the throne was to send his sons abroad. His second son also served that purpose. While the union proved a successful political alliance, it remained an unhappy marriage. Her husband served her many years on her council as her spymaster. The impetuous duchess soon found herself among rebellious nobles in Poland against King Anders I of Denmark. A grandson of Queen Virag I “the Wise” of Hungary, Anders consolidated the crowns of Denmark and Poland through a combination of favourable marriages between Denmark, Poland and Hungary, and successive wars. When he successfully deposed Queen Eufrozyna I from the Piast house, few nobles welcomed the Danish king warmly. A coup was launched to install another claimant to Poland: Prince Zbyszko. Ultimately, the revolution ended inconclusively and Anders kept both crowns.

Anastazja, while a competent administrator, eventually succumbed to madness after a prolonged sojourn inside the dungeons of Poland when she participated in another unsuccessful uprising. The young Richard became regent afterwards and participated in court intrigue, a hobby he was particularly fond of. Before she was sent to the king’s dungeon, Anastazja already gave birth to 3 children: 2 daughters and a son.


I'm pretty sure Richard strongly face palmed this one

Meanwhile, André’s wife, the Duchess of Aragon, declared war against the king of Castille, demanding that Sancho IV relinquished Galicia’s crown to his relative Ansur, grandson of Sancho II “the Lionheart”. Richard frowned upon such recklessness. Milia had yet to become pregnant and chances were highly in her disfavour regarding the war with Castille. Nevertheless, Richard kept one eye fixed on the conflict. His family’s future depended on keeping Milia out of harm. As the Anscarid predicted, her uprising ended in utter failure. Unlike Anastazja, Milia hadn’t given birth when she was captured. However, she was granted pardon some time after a sentence in prison. There was still hope for André’s line to produce an heir. The Dauphin seemed uninterested in romance, preferring to spend his time with his theological studies. There were also ill rumours concerning the duchess as well. Dirty tongues mentioned that she enjoyed spending a lot of time with her fellow court ladies and not merely in a platonic manner. Of course, it’s also possible that since both spouses were rulers, they hardly had time to see each other.

“I am greatly disappointed with my eldest sons and their wives. André seems more like a bishop than a king. I keep hearing nasty rumours about Milia as well, and now I learn that she’s leading an insignificant war to install another insignificant Jimena on Galicia’s throne, for all the good it will do her. Now, my second son Richard has more fire, except he participates in petty conspiracies with his new Polish friends. And if this wasn’t enough, his wife Anastazja also wishes to depose her liege by participating in a pointless struggle against the powerful king of Denmark. What did I do to the Lord to merit such ill fortune? (...) If I wasn’t such a just ruler, I’d appoint Guy or Gaucelin as the next king just to serve them a much needed lesson.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​


It seems as if I'm bullying Brittany. It's true.

Richard’s other eye stared at Brittany once again. Holding half of the Bretons’ territory, the king proclaimed himself the rightful duke. Alan IV was stripped of his duchy and effectively lost his vassalage contract with the Counts of Léon and Penthièvre. Richard elevated his mother, Countess Éléonore of Thouars, as the new Duchess of Brittany. Grateful, Éléonore immediately declared war against Léon, claiming her suzerainty over Count Devi as her de jure liege. As Richard planned, he followed suit by pushing Éléonore’s claim over Penthièvre. Alan now only held the County of Rennes.


My mom is awesome!

While the French army recovered after Richard’s previous campaigns, the Paladins were prepped. The Just let his levies be and only sent his knights against the meager Bretons. They were more than sufficient, for the Count’s army was utterly crushed at the battle of Paimpol in September 1158. Roland’s Chosen then debuted a long siege of Penthièvre’s various holdings, a siege that would only end in August 1162 with the Count’s surrender to Richard’s rule. In the neighboring county, Éléonore hastily triumphed over Léon, adding the county to her own demesne. In October 1159, more Breton territory was added to France.


Princess Mathilde is married to a German duke

Once Princess Mathilde reached 16, Richard promptly married her to Duke Ernst III of Pomerania. According to the royal chronicles, Mathilde was kind and beautiful but also spoiled. It’s with little regret that the king sent her away. His remaining daughter Esclarmonde was another story; Richard watched her education closely. The young woman had a brilliant future ahead of her in Richard’s eyes.


Westfriesland is now a lovely blue

Through court intrigue and inheritance, new territory is added to France north of Holland. Countess Zoete died, leaguing Westfriesland to her only daughter Peironèla, a vassal of Provence, which is also a vassal of Richard. Always willing to gain more land at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire, Richard happily welcomed the news.


Duchess Éléonore dies

However, his joy quickly became sadness. On December 30th 1159, Duchess Éléonore died of old age. Being her oldest son, the king inherited Brittany. In order to smooth relations with his new Breton subjects, Richard appointed one of his Breton vassals, Count Glen, as the new Duke of Brittany. The Just hoped this would facilitate the Bretons’ transition into their new kingdom.

“My beloved husband cried at his mother’s funeral. Even our daughter Esclarmonde cuddled him to ease some of his pain. To see King Richard so humbled reminded me that behind his fiery presence hid a vulnerable boy who just lost his last parent. Knowing him, he will soon re-ignite his tempestuous demeanour and I expect nothing less from my passionate spouse.”
- Giulia Dandolo, Queen of France​


Well well well...

While the Paladins were still campaigning in Penthièvre, France learned that a new Kaiser sat upon the imperial throne: Adolf II, who was only 6. His father, Ekbert I, died during a skirmish against rebels months earlier. As it happened, Adolf was not very well liked by his fellow vassals. Being a child, his regency left him vulnerable against potential plotters, or foreign invasions. Seeing an excellent occasion to humiliate the Salian house, Richard invited a German noble, Dietrich Searponnois, who was a claimant to the Duchy of Upper Lorraine, to his court. Making him swear fealty, the king appointed him as the new Count of Thouars.


A new friend!
 

Mithfir

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Chapter 21​

Victory and Disappointments (1160-1165)​


Heir to Scotland

His youngest daughter now an adult, Richard found a perfect suitor for her: Alan mab Hoël, heir to the Scottish throne. Queen Sybille I was a member of the d’Ivrea house, but her mother Queen Fingola I married her to the Breton house of Cornouaille. With this marriage, Scotland would be ruled by the Cornouaille house and then return to the Anscarids a generation later. As such, Richard concluded another favourable marriage for his family’s prestige. Esclarmonde herself possessed her father’s fiery temperament and her mother’s intelligence, traits her parents found essential to run a nation. The proud Richard genuinely blessed the young couple and wished them a brilliant future as the future king and queen of Scotland. I’m inclined to believe Esclarmonde was his favourite.


The HRE sure is quick

In February 1160, Richard laid out his ambitious plan to seize more territory from France’s neighbour: the Holy Roman Empire. With his vassal Count Dietrich a serious contender for the duchy of Upper Lorraine, the brash king pressed his claim by declaring war against the infant Kaiser Adolf II. Unimpressed, the Germans quickly gathered a significant army who entered Vermandois. Not expecting the empire to react so quickly, Richard accelerated his troops’ deployment.


France avoids combat

By April, the main French force crossed the border, entering Verdun unopposed. The Teutons avoided combat and withdrew further east. Richard chose to divide his army in two: the larger division would pursue the fleeing Germans while his smaller contingent would cautiously move north to serve as a rear guard. However, the imperial army retreated east in order to join with reinforcements who were hastily closing in on the invaders. Witnessing a much larger army fully intent on clashing with the French, Richard avoided combat. Outpacing the Germans, the first royal army managed to retreat north, where the secondary army was gathering. The Kaiser’s army hoped to reach the French first before their full forces could gather. Unfortunately for Adolf, Richard succeeded in merging all his troops before the confrontation. He also chose where the battle would take place: in Vermandois.


Battle of Laon


Was a lot easier than I expected

As such, in May 1160, France and the Holy Roman Empire committed their forces where they would engage in deadly combat at the battle of Laon. As soon as the German centre crossed L’Ardon River under the rain of arrows from the French, the Paladins quickly entered the fray. The result was a catastrophe for the invaders: the centre quickly crumbled under the knights’ assault. With their core flank stomped, it didn’t take long for the remainder of their forces to suffer the onslaught of the Frankish knights. With minimal losses, Richard secured a decisive victory over the Holy Roman Empire. The battered Teutons were pursued back to Hainaut. In August, the imperial army was ultimately destroyed at the battle of Mechelen.


Civil wars inside the HRE always make me happy

News of the empire’s defeat quickly spread. Brabant and Genève saw this as an opportunity to revolt against the infant Kaiser. Before things escalated further, Richard ordered a quick assault on Upper Lorraine, his primary objective. In October, the king’s forces entered Verdun where they began their assault on the duchy. After a month of relentless attacks, Adolf II surrendered Upper Lorraine to France. The new duke of Upper Lorraine ascended as Dietrich IV, vassal of France. With such a brilliant victory, Richard sumptuously celebrated his conquest. At the victory banquet, the king pronounced a lengthy speech. According to tradition, this is where Richard said one of his most memorable quotes. Afterwards, France enjoyed a few years of peace. The king was all too happy to witness his greatest enemy, the Holy Roman Empire, descend into civil war once again. Up until 1164, Richard didn’t engage in any kind of warfare, instead focusing on grooming his famous royal garden and supervising his budding teenagers’ education.


Upper Lorraine is now part of France

“Nothing is impossible for a willing heart. Let it be known that as long as France is mother to such hearty men and women, we shall prosper forevermore.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​


Jourdain is married

Prince Jourdain came of age in July 1161. While a competent diplomat, he lacked an affirmative personality. Quiet and reserved, Richard nonetheless believed his son deserved a worthy spouse. As such, Richard concluded a betrothal with Duchess Margaret I of Albany in Scotland. The young couple would be married in February 1162. Adding to Richard’s bad luck with his daughters-in-law, Margaret would also launch a revolt against her liege, Queen Sybile I, and be imprisoned afterwards.


Silly daughter-in-law...

As the king predicted, his daughter-in-law Milia’s revolt ended in failure. As of October 1163, the duchess was arrested and thrown in prison. At the time, she was 24 and still without child. Luckily for her, King Sancho IV granted her a pardon the following February and she was allowed to return to her home in Aragon. Growing impatient that his eldest son André had yet to sire a child of his own, Richard visited him to discuss the future of the royal family. Dauphin André later related in his memoirs that the king threatened to grant the throne to one of his youngest sons if André refused to breed an heir. André remained nonchalant, arguing that there was no haste for such thing yet. This only triggered a violent storm; Richard entered one of his terrible furies. He went as far as to suspect André of being a sodomite (homosexual), a terrible offense in the eyes of the Church.

“One day, you shall be king in my stead André. You had better start acting like a king, or else, one of your brothers might gladly take your place sooner than you think. I’m beginning to wonder if I should name one of your youngest brothers as king to wake you up! Each of your married siblings already has children of their own! If your marriage hasn’t been consummated, you better make sure it is before Duchess Milia gets arrested again for treason! Do you understand me?!”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​

The poor Dauphin lamented that he was a misunderstood man. However, it appeared that he did listen to his father’s threats in the end. He spent more time with Milia, even went as far as visit her in Aragon several times. Milia herself was an accomplished intellectual and while she was suspected of inappropriate behaviour with her court ladies, she nonetheless shared a love of theological studies like her husband. During this period, she also realized that she would have to give birth to an heir to continue her line as well.

“Perhaps King Richard is right, despite his insufferable anger. I now see my wife Milia in a new light. Our love of books and intellectual activities brought us closer recently. I might say she’s quite striking as well.”
- André d'Ivrea, Dauphin of France​


Bah!

In December, bad news reached Richard. His daughter-in-law Anastazja, wife of his second son Richard, was captured and sent to prison after a failed revolt. While annoyed by the news, Richard reacted less violently this time. At the very least, Anastazja already gave birth to 2 daughters and a son. Richard the younger was appointed regent in the meantime. This position would give him some experience in preparation of his difficult future. Anastazja’s harsh imprisonment took a heavy toll on her. While she did manage to escape a few years later, the experience deeply scarred her. The poor duchess slowly fell into madness, much to the chagrin of her family.


Navarra aims to install a cadet branch in Aragon

The cadet branch of Navarra appealed to France in September 1164. King Diego I aimed to install his uncle’s wife, Princess Aldonza, on the throne of Aragon against Felipe II. France was in a comfortable position and could easily overpower the weaker kingdom with sheer force. However, Richard had little to gain except perhaps a future ally for his descendants. The Just agreed to help, but he merely sent his Paladins to siege Empuries. Richard gave explicit instructions that if they were to face impossible odds, they were to retreat and avoid combat. Aragon soon found itself under attack from Navarra from the west, France from the north and Genoa from the east. The Italian Republic greedily set its eyes on the coast of Empuries, a lucrative County for naval commerce.


Aragon under attack

With war firmly declared, the hostilities began with Navarra and Aragon engaging in close combat south of the Pyrenees. With the Aragon army rebuffed, Richard’s knights entered Empuries, effectively taking control of the County. The much larger Genoan army passed through, unable to claim the territory for themselves. As such, they marched back to Genoa and watched how the conflict would end. In late winter 1165, Navarra and Aragon clashed again. Flanked with reinforcements from its western ally Léon, Navarra emerged victorious, despite heavy losses. As Aragon’s strength diminished, one vassal attempted to break free from its yoke. Urgell entered the conflict, opposing all other armies in their bid for freedom. The rebels confronted the Navarrese invaders, resulting in an inconclusive stalemate. Aragon’s allies attacked the divided forces of Navarra and Urgell afterwards where they crushed them in pitched battles. At the same time, Richard’s Paladins took over the barony of Empuries.


More family drama

Dreadful news reached Richard in August 1165. His spies in Poland reported that his son Richard planned the assassination of his older brother André. When he learned his son’s plot to kill André, the king flew into a frightening anger. It took the efforts of both the queen and princess to calm him down. Once he regained his composure, Richard retreated to his garden with his family. After hearing their recommendations, Richard gathered his courtiers and vassals in an emergency meeting. The king announced them that he learned that his son Richard plotted to kill Dauphin André. The Just strongly advised each noble present that if he ever heard that André was found dead under suspicious circumstances, his wrath would show no mercy to the culprits. Richard made it clear that kin slaying was a most serious crime, an unforgivable act under God’s justice. Finally, he reminded his entire court not to test his patience, as they know what he is capable of.

“I first thought of Richard as a bumbling idiot. Now, I merely see him as a scheming fool of a son. Even if he succeeded in his petty plot, he could never run the kingdom for more than a few days without breaking down. He is idiotic, weak and utterly incompetent, but never will he become a kin slayer.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​

“For once, I completely understood why King Richard was so angry. To think my son capable of killing a brother, I never suspected my own blood of such villainy. I’m blessed that Esclarmonde is still at court with me to mend my broken heart.”
- Giulia Dandolo, Queen of France​


The last Breton holding

The 10 year truce with Count Alan of Rennes ended in September. Richard launched the final campaign for the conquest of Brittany. At the battle of Rennes, the last battle was fought between Bretons and French, where the Count’s army was effortlessly crushed. Before Christmas, Rennes was brought into France’s fold. Richard, magnanimous in victory, summoned Alan to his court. His contemporaries expected the king to ridicule his adversary, but instead, Richard praised the Bretons’ resilience and tenacity. Alan, while extremely angry at Richard for all the wars he suffered against him, prudently swore allegiance to Duke Glen of Brittany. He understood that he had not even the slightest chance to oppose Richard at this point. Besides, his grandson, the heir to the Scottish throne, married Princess Esclarmonde. In an ironic turn of events, Alan was now part of Richard’s family and a vassal of France.


Another son married

Prince Gargamel turned 16 in October 1165. He is betrothed to Countess Milena of Kujawy in Poland, a 15 year old girl. The next year, the prince is sent abroad to his new home.


To be continued...
 

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Looks like you'll soon be the "Grandfather of Europe".
Hmm, what makes you believe that? Since I know what is going to happen all the way to 1453, I really hope I'm not too misleading or too forthcoming about future events... It wouldn't be much fun to reveal all my secrets so soon!
 

Mithfir

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This week, I received the honour of being chosen as the WritAAR of the week by Fyregecko. I really appreciate the award and this only motivates me to keep writing this report. Thanks all!

http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...ek-Mithfir&p=15460479&viewfull=1#post15460479

The next 2 chapters are very important to Richard's rule and I'd like to take a bit more time to flesh them out. This may take a few more days to bring a new chapter, but I do hope it'll be worth it.

I also got an idea for a future Muslim game that I have yet to play. Since in every game the Pope calls for a Crusade to recapture the Holy Land, why not play as a Muslim ruler situated there? This could be an interesting scenario to play as. I chose the County of Tiberias for my eventual Muslim game. I'm not sure if I'll make it into an ARR just yet. Time consuming and all, but if it becomes interesting enough, perhaps I'll consider it. One thing at a time!
 

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Hmm, what makes you believe that? Since I know what is going to happen all the way to 1453, I really hope I'm not too misleading or too forthcoming about future events... It wouldn't be much fun to reveal all my secrets so soon!
I just said that since Queen Victoria was called the 'Grandmother of Europe" since her children and grandchildren married into many of the European royal families; which it seems the d'Ivereas also seem to be doing.


Congratulations on your award, it is very well deserved.
 

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This is really terrific stuff; the first CKII AAR I've read in a while, and an excellent one. Keep up the good work!
 

Lord Durham

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I came here via WotW, and I'm glad I did. I just spent the morning and part of the afternoon burning through your AAR and want to congratulate you on an enthralling slice of history. Earlier on your mentioned English was your second language. Could have fooled me. Anyway, I'll be following this from now on.
 

Mithfir

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I just said that since Queen Victoria was called the 'Grandmother of Europe" since her children and grandchildren married into many of the European royal families; which it seems the d'Ivereas also seem to be doing.


Congratulations on your award, it is very well deserved.
Oh yes, I like to send my landless sons away to form their own dynasties. It helps increase the House prestige (unlocks better marriages later) as well and potentially gain strong allies if they're good enough. I don't like to land kinsmen other than my heir because I risk gaining the kinslaying trait if I have to get rid of troublemakers with assassinations. And thanks, it sure was unexpected to win it.

This is really terrific stuff; the first CKII AAR I've read in a while, and an excellent one. Keep up the good work!
Thanks and welcome aboard!

I came here via WotW, and I'm glad I did. I just spent the morning and part of the afternoon burning through your AAR and want to congratulate you on an enthralling slice of history. Earlier on your mentioned English was your second language. Could have fooled me. Anyway, I'll be following this from now on.
Yep, it's my 2nd language. One teacher once said I had a French writing style with longer sentences instead of shorter direct ones. /shrugs

Thanks for the compliments and welcome aboard! Gotta browse through my screenshots still and come up with a new chapter this week or later...
 

Mithfir

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Chapter 22​

The Iberian Situation (1165-1172)

Duchess Milia, relieved that she was released from prison, welcomed her husband to Aragon. The Dauphin wanted to witness the news for himself once he heard his wife had been pardoned. André spent the next months in the company of his spouse. This rapprochement resulted in Milia’s pregnancy soon after. Exhilarated, the prince returned hastily to France to spread the news. In great pumps, André announced his father that Duchess Milia was pregnant. Richard let out a sigh of relief. Finally, a child born from France and Aragon’s lines would be given birth.


Aragon in 1165

The war against the kingdom of Aragon continued as planned. The Urgell rebels abandoned their petty revolt once their forces were crushed by the combined might of Navarra and Genoa. With the way cleared, Richard’s Paladins entered Urgell, beginning a long siege of the County. The last territory still untouched by the coalition was the County of Alto Aragon.


Violante I "Ironside" d'Ivrea is born

The long awaited child of André and Milia was born in December 1166: the future Violante I “Ironside”. While happy that his son now had a blood heir, Richard pressured the Dauphin to strengthen his succession by having more children and hopefully a son. Continued pressures took their toll on the young lovers. Expectations kept increasing as the lords of France and Aragon put their hopes on André’s line who would one day govern the growing Frankish kingdom. As of 1167, André was the only married member of the royal family who didn’t have a son. Due to the male preference succession law, Violante wouldn’t be part of the succession line to the French throne until André became king himself. Prince Richard remained the 2nd pretender with his own son Richard as 3rd.

“All these stares, all these expectations and all these hopes are almost too much to bear. My dear Milia herself seems affected by it. She hasn’t been able to sleep much lately, and neither did I. I fear Violante’s birth sapped too much out of her. So much we have to live for, while all we desire is to live a quiet life with our daughter.”
- André d'Ivrea, Dauphin of France​

In May 1167, Urgell was completely occupied by the Paladins. The knights then proceeded to assault Alto Aragon, the last stronghold held by Felipe II. Unable to launch any significant counter-attack against the Franks, the king prepared himself for his inevitable deposition.

Duchess Milia faced problems of her own. In January 1168, her vassal, Count Benito of Tarragona, launched a coup to seize Milia’s titles as his own. Richard, unwilling to jeopardize his family’s future, offered to help crush the pitiful Count. Milia gladly accepted. Richard’s help proved pointless, since Benito was captured in battle, thus ending the rebellion prematurely.


Gaucelin is married to Princess Eglantine

After months of successive sieges, Alto Aragon fell to the Franks. With the kingdom completely subjugated, Felipe II relinquished the crown to Aldonza, the new Queen of Aragon. In order to profit from his contribution, Richard arranged a betrothal between his youngest son Gaucelin and Eglantine d’Ivrea, the only child of Queen Aldonza. The union was accepted between the distant cousins, despite the 12 year difference in age. The couple would be officially married in March 1169.

The brash king sought another challenge to triumph over. Always willing to crush the Italian Republics (besides Venice, where his wife was from), he declared war against Genoa, pushing his kinsman Aymar’s claim for the barony of Monaco.


I always love to beat Genoa

While Genoa quickly made landfall in Castellon and Rosello, they left Nice and their capital defenceless. As such, Richard sent a secondary unit to Nice, while his main host marched south to Rosello. Due to lack of funds, one mercenary company, the Breton Band, turned on Genoa. Seizing the occasion, the French accelerated the march. At the battle of Cuixà, the Bretons and the Franks allied against Genoa. The Italians were obliterated.


The 3rd Crusade begins

July 24th 1169 marked the start of the 3rd Crusade. With the Holy Land still under the protection of the Holy Roman Empire, Pope Eugene III decided it was time for the Muslim factions who ruled in Andalusia to be flushed out from Iberia. Few feudal lords answered the call, as the most powerful Christian kings were nearly all caught in wars of their own.


More Genoan beating!


In October, the secondary Frankish army seized Nice. The next month, Richard’s main force reached Castellon, where they engaged the last Genoan army. With the battle ending in a decisive victory, the Franks pursued the remnants to Valencia. Finally, Genoa surrendered Monaco to Aymar in December.



The main antagonist of the 3rd Crusade

The hot-headed king viewed his options. Joining the 3rd Crusade was tempting: no major European ruler offered to help Eugene III and Andalusia was relatively close to France. The Holy Roman Empire was preoccupied with another revolt from the Duke of Savoy, while the eastern kingdoms of Poland and Hungary faced similar problems. Also, the Abbadid Emirate was hardly a match on its own against France. Furthermore, Emir Siddray I “the Simple” converted to the Zikri faith, an Islamic heresy mainly based in distant Mali. As such, it was very likely that the Emir would be on its own against the Christians.

“Pope Eugene III embarked in a reckless Crusade for Andalusia, believing his faith will be enough to dislodge centuries of Muslim occupation. Perhaps I should remind the Papal masquerade why they need France’s support.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France​

From a pragmatic point of view, jumping in the 3rd Crusade was logical. However, Richard’s growing cynicism towards the clergy made him reluctant to help the new Pope. In the end, there was a lot more to gain than to lose in helping Eugene III. After the Holidays, France officially embarked on the quest for Andalusia. As of January 1170, the European rulers who answered the call besides Richard were the following: the duchies of Munster in Ireland, Gwynedd in Wales, Asturias in Iberia, Kurland in Lithuania, the kingdom of Navarra and the Republic of Venice. King Sancho IV “the Great” of Castille was already knee deeps in an offensive against the Alcole Emirate further west.


Richard is very unlucky with his daughters-in-law...

Before Richard could finish his preparations for the Crusade, Eglantine d’Ivrea, the heiress to the kingdom of Aragon, died suddenly. The young woman had been sick for many days and her condition worsened until she was out of strength. Her only child dead, Queen Aldonza’s heir was now her relative Felipe II, the usurped king. In an ironic turn of events, the crown would return to Felipe II once Aldonza passed away. The 16 year old Gaucelin found himself a widowed man. Disappointed, Richard concluded another betrothal with the 9 year old Duchess of Meisen, Klara I.

This is where the famous episode of the Five Peers takes place in France’s history. According to tradition, King Richard unsheathed Joyeuse, the legendary sword of Charlemagne, using it in a knight ceremony in the presence of the Durendal and his five greatest marshals: the Five Peers. Honouring each man as a son and Peer of France, Richard granted them the honour of leading the 3rd Crusade in Andalusia. The Just believed that the eastern border would be safe since the infant Kaiser was preoccupied with his fickle vassals. The full might of the royal army would be led by the Five Peers, each leading a division that would march to Andalusia. Gorged with honours and a promise of endless glory and riches, the Five Peers set forth for the Iberian Peninsula. This ceremony would later become a tradition whenever the liege appointed new Peers.

The knighting tradition was rather simple. The squire recited a fealty oath to his lord, in which the lord also recites an oath to protect his vassal. Afterwards, the liege would tap each shoulder of the new Peer with his sword, cementing their new relationship as liege and vassal.

“With our armies at their command, these men will know only glory and victory in Iberia. It’s only a pity that I cannot join them. Being the honoured Durendal, I must guard our king first and foremost.”
- Boson de Nîmes, Durendal of France​

The Five Peers were named as followed. Orson de Qula, a remarkable swordsman who excelled in quickly adapting to new circumstances on the battlefield. Savary de Brindas, a young man showing great promise as a future leader and possible future candidate for the Durendal rank. Bertrand de Narbonne, a veteran middle-aged defensive commander who had lost a hand (replaced with a steel gauntlet) in the previous war with the Holy Roman Empire. Bohemond de Narbonne, son of Bertrand, a renowned tactical genius. Mathieu de Cluny, a cunning soldier who enjoyed deceiving his adversaries into underestimating him. Those were the five greatest Peers who served King Richard I “the Just”. And they would take part in the 3rd Crusade in his name. Their adventures have been largely portrayed in classic literature works such as “Les cinq compagnons”, “La Croisade pour l’Andalousie” and the epic “Le serment des cinq paladins”.

I will add screenshots of the Five Peers in another post with the Durendal, due to the 20 screenshots limit per post.

“King Richard carried Charlemagne’s sword, Joyeuse, when he tapped the shoulders of each of the five Peers. While they already swore fealty to Richard years ago, they rekindled their oaths, promising to succeed where the Iberian princes failed centuries ago. While Charles Martel hammered his foes back to Iberia, it would be under Richard’s name that the Saracens would be driven out of Europe for good.”
- Alexandre de Beaumont, cited in the epic "Le serment des cinq paladins".​


The Pope's zerg rush didn't work

Pope Eugene III pre-emptively made landfall in southern Iberia where his personal forces clashed with the Emir’s army. Underestimating the Andalusians proved lethal for the Pope; his army was brutally defeated and driven out of Andalusia prematurely. The other minor feudal lords quickly came to his aid, but they proved insufficient to contain the Muslims. They would have to wait for the five Peers to arrive from France to even hope of succeeding.


You can see Bertrand's army in the far right corner

Orson was the first to enter Andalusia in February where he continued the march to Mértola. Second was Bohemond who started the siege of Badajoz. Savary was given the honour of leading the Paladins to Shlib, a destination he reached in April. Mathieu followed by entering Aracena in September. Last, Bertrand was pursued by a larger army commanded by the Emir himself. He managed to outrun the Muslims by retreating north and then west where heregrouped with Orson’s unit who was still camped in Mértola. However, the Abbadids pressed on and closed in on the French. It would not be the Peers who would confront them first, but the Castilians.


Always nice to have unofficial allies doing the dirty work

In November 1170, the Emir’s forces were ambushed by King Sancho IV at the battle of Caceres. The routed Saracens retreated east, where they narrowly avoided a debacle against the freshly arrived Templar knights. Siddray I still commanded a sizable force and he patiently waited to strike against the foreign invaders.


Duchess Milia dies after a long illness

Sad news reached the lords of France and Aragon. Duchess Milia fell gravely ill in early 1171 and eventually succumbed in February. The 3 year old Violante was now the Duchess of Aragon. A grieving André and the French royal family attended her funeral. Richard’s eventual succession became less and less clear. He began to worry that André might have been a lot weaker than he expected. To further prove his suspicions, the Dauphin soon remarried with his first cousin Melisènda, a daughter of Richard’s sister Aliénor, who already had 7 children and was widowed twice. His bride’s choice was greatly criticized by the king, who had wanted him to choose a more advantageous marriage.

“I may have been hard on André, but I must be. A king cannot afford to be weak. I’m afraid André will prove an ineffectual ruler once my time comes. I still can’t believe he chose to marry his cousin, when so many potential young women wait only to be chosen. Is our house destined to fall after me? I cannot let this happen, no matter what.”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, King of France


Orson moves in against Siddray I


Bertrand easily crushes the last Saracens

Back in Iberia, the Emir attempted to recapture Badajoz once Bohemond finished conquering the County. Noticing the Saracens closing in, Orson decided to eradicate the Emir’s army. The resulting battle ended with a decisive victory for Orson. Retreating to Caceres, Siddray wouldn’t run for long. In August 1171, his main host was wiped out by Orson’s division. The Emir tried a desperate counter-offensive but was ultimately destroyed by Bertrand’s men. Finally, in April 1172, the 3rd Crusade ended with Richard obtaining the crown of Andalusia. The king was once again triumphant on the battlefield. However, his family’s future remained uncertain.


The 3rd Crusade ends with Richard as the new King of Andalusia
 

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Here are the mugshots of the Durendal and his Five Peers.


Boson de Nîmes, Durendal of France


Mathieu de Cluny "le Rusé" (Cunning)


Bertrand de Narbonne "Main d'acier" (Steelhand) and his son Bohemond "le Tacticien" (Tactician)


Savary de Brindas "le Charismatique" et Orson de Qula "le Brave"
 

Hastings1066

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Time to restore some order to Iberia I hope! You seem to be having some dreadful luck with your family though. Funny, when you think about it; mighty France is not threatened destruction by a more powerful rival, but is threatened destruction because the future King can't get his motor running. Well, maybe the new wife will manage a few offspring yet.
 

Lord Durham

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Congrats on a successful crusade. Violante I “Ironside” sounds like a potential force to be reckoned with.
 

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Time to restore some order to Iberia I hope! You seem to be having some dreadful luck with your family though. Funny, when you think about it; mighty France is not threatened destruction by a more powerful rival, but is threatened destruction because the future King can't get his motor running. Well, maybe the new wife will manage a few offspring yet.
The game sure has a way to keep you on your toes when things seem too easy... Just you wait later!

Nice job with the crusade. There's certainly a cloud on the succession though, you've got to love the AI choice of brides.
At some point later (forgot exactly when), the AI made an incredibly stupid bride choice for one of my heirs... An imbecile kinswoman. I got lucky afterwards, but it was a close one!

Congrats on a successful crusade. Violante I “Ironside” sounds like a potential force to be reckoned with.
She will play a role later. She would be the kind of woman I'd like to marry!
 

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Chapter 23​

Renovatio Imperii (1172)​

This will be a shorter chapter that explains the formation of the Empire of Francia under Richard. I'm currently playing a Byzantine game and having lots of fun. I'm pushing to reconquer the whole empire before the Old Gods arrive. I have 2/3 of France in my reconquest campaign, then the Aztecs landed in Brittany... I managed to bleed their doomstack of 180k down to 140k, then they went back to the British Isles. Also, I'll take time this week-end to check out my saves in order to make my future synopsis chapters of each protagonist, just in case my saves get corrupted when the new DLC arrives. I will buy it as soon as it arrives and I will play it. Thankfully, the majority of the screenshots are taken all the way up to 1453, it's just that I keep a save of each year played in case I'm missing some information. Worst come to worst, I'll fill the missing misc. information based from my memories and imagination if it comes to that. Moving on!

Richard’s victory consolidated his position as one of the most powerful monarchs of Europe. Having humiliated the Holy Roman Empire twice in his reign, the Just firmly believed that France was the dominant power in the west. While the Western Roman Empire was no more, its spiritual successor had yet to be acknowledged by the people. The Byzantine Empire stood strong in the east, but since the schism, they were only viewed as a Greek Empire, even if they called themselves “the Empire of the Romans” until its collapse in the 14th century. A few centuries later, the d’Ivrea family would be bold enough to call Paris the 3rd Rome.

Louis I "the Pious"​

For now, let us review a brief history of the Franks which led to the division of their empire. The last Carolingian who ruled the united Frankish empire was Louis I the Pious, who was badly compared to his illustrious father Charlemagne. Crowned emperor in 816, Louis ruled a very shaky reign. The Frankish succession customs required the ruler to divide his territories between his sons. Louis had 3 sons from his first marriage: Lothaire, Pepin and Louis. He appointed Lothaire as his co-regent, naming him the future emperor, while giving Aquitaine to Pepin and Bavaria to Louis.

When his wife Ermengarde de Hesbaye died, he married Judith of Bavaria from House Welf in 819, who gave birth to a 4th son, Charles. The succession question once more resurfaced: Charles had to be given land in accordance to the customs. However, Lothaire refused any change to the succession and soon quarrelled with his father. Regardless, Louis made dispositions to give territories in Alsace, Rhétie and Burgundy to Charles. This would lead to many years of civil wars between the emperor and his sons.

Eventually, a first revolt occurred in 830 against the emperor. Pepin and Louis occupied the imperial palace and sent Judith and Charles in a monastery. Negotiations led to Pepin and Louis obtaining a bigger share of their inheritance, and so the civil war ended.

Lothaire I​

2 years later, the three sons once again revolted against their father. Pope Gregory IV sowed dissension among Louis’s servants, which led to them leaving him one by one. Abandoned by his strongest followers, the emperor was destitute, with Lothaire taking the imperial crown. Unsurprisingly, Pepin and Louis took up arms against Lothaire and the former emperor was reinstated in 835.

"It would be a pity if any man lost his life or limb on my account."
- Louis I "the Pious", Emperor of the Franks​

In 838, Pepin died, leaving his own son Pepin II as King of Aquitaine. The emperor instead crowned Charles as king, which promptly led to a revolt led by Louis the younger and Pepin II. The emperor subjugated his disloyal son and disinherited Pepin II. Finally, the emperor fell ill and died in 840. His sons would once again take up arms with and against each other.


Louis the German​

Lothaire wanted to gather the whole of the empire under his rule, but was met with fierce resistance from Louis the German and Charles. The two brothers allied and triumphed over Lothaire at the battle of Fontenoy-en-Puisaye in 841. Louis and Charles cemented their alliance in the celebrated Oaths of Strasbourg, which constitute the most ancient French text preserved. According to tradition, the two brothers met with their armies and then recited an oath, promising not to betray each other in their struggle against their older brother Lothaire. Louis swore in French, while Charles did the same but in German.

Scan of the written manuscript​

“For the love of God and for Christendom and our common salvation, from this day onwards, as God will give me the wisdom and power, I shall protect this brother of mine Charles, with aid or anything else, as one ought to protect one's brother, so that he may do the same for me, and I shall never knowingly make any covenant with Lothair that would harm this brother of mine Charles.”
- Louis the German, King of Eastern Francia​

“For the love of God and Christendom and the salvation of us both, from this day on, as God will give me the wisdom and power, I shall protect this brother of mine, as one ought to protect one's brother, so that he may do the same for me, and I shall never go along with Lothair in anything that, by my will, would harm him [Louis].”
- Charles the Bald, King of Western Francia​

Charles the Bald

Unable to rebuff his brothers, Lothaire stopped his ambitions and signed the treaty of Verdun of 843, which divided the empire in three parts: Charles obtained West Francia, Lothaire Middle Francia and Italy, and Louis obtained East Francia. An uneasy power balance was established. Charles and Louis were at times allies and adversaries. Neither could completely overpower the other, even if Charles’s rule at first was very unpopular in the west. When Lothaire died in 855, his kingdom was inherited between his three sons. Lotharingia would soon be divided between Louis and Charles.

"This treaty determined the destiny of Europe. Indeed, following the weakness of the last Carolingians and the first Capetians, the kings of Germany annexed without difficulty all the famous median zone; in 880, Lotharingia, then the kingdom of Arles in 1034, without mentioning Italy which granted them their accession to the imperial throne."
- René Grousset, cited in his Bilan de l’Histoire work​

Richard discovered much wisdom in the Will of the Anscarids, the family heirloom book who was given to him when Guy died. The division of territory between sons stopped the expansion of the Frankish empire and led to internal strife between ambitious princes. Thankfully, the Franks eventually modified the succession law, adopting the Primogeniture custom. After all, the most successful rulers didn’t have to fight just to preserve their own land from their family.


The first emperor

While the imperial crown eventually passed to Otto I, Richard’s situation now prompted him to challenge the Holy Roman Empire’s claim. Having once more proven that France is the true protector of Christianity, Richard sought to be recognized as the true legitimate heir of the long lost Western Roman Empire. While the official imperial crown had long passed into Germanic hands, Richard boldly requested Pope Eugene III to crown him as a new emperor. Indebted to the Franks, the Holy Father officially crowned Richard as the first emperor of the restored Imperium Francorum. The date was the 5th of April 1172. This is still a national holiday in the empire of Francia today.

To further provoke the Holy Roman Empire, Richard had his finest craftsmen create an exact replica of the imperial crown. Once he ascended as Richard I the Emperor of Francia, the bashful ruler pronounced a lengthy speech. Since Richard already won two brilliant victories against the Holy Roman Empire years before, it became more apparent to his contemporaries that he was the more competent of the two emperors. On top of that, he was the one who answered the Pope’s call for Andalusia. Now, Richard’s task was to reunite his lands, consolidate his new position and most of all, ensure a peaceful succession to his heir André, the Dauphin of Francia. Unlike his predecessor Louis the Pious, Richard kept all his crowns and would only bequeath them to André at the time of his death. The succession question would prove to be his most difficult challenge.


Francia Occidentalis and Francia Media

“From this day forward, let the whole world know that the Franks now rule a unified land, one that will challenge the false emperor of the West! The Divine Grace favours us as the rightful heirs of the Roman Empire! However, there is much to be done. Our hold in Andalusia is still contested by the Saracens and the faithless Genoans. We must secure our western foothold and only a unified empire will prevail! Celebrate well today, for tomorrow our biggest challenge begins. I expect nothing less than complete success from you, my beloved sons and daughters of Francia!”
- Richard I "the Just" d'Ivrea, Emperor of Francia​