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Hastu Neon

Lt. General
49 Badges
Nov 29, 2002
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Despite having owned EU3 since its release, I have recently figured out that I never wrote a EU3 AAR. Thus, I have limited time left before we all move to EU4! I have been mostly playing HttT and Magna Mundi, recently got DW and now I want to try a new mod, Death & Taxes (this should also represent a big disclaimer on my future game play).

I have chosen to write a sort of sequel to my Apulian trilogy (see my signature) and therefore I will play the Kingdom of Naples, but with an original (and facilitated, I admit) starting date: 1408, when King Ladislao the Magnanimous of the Anjou-Durazzo dynasty managed to conquer Rome and Central Italy during the convulsive days of the Western Schism.

In real life, Ladislao prematurely died in 1414 at the age of 37, leaving the throne to an unfortunate successor, his sister Giovanna II. Many historians think of Ladislao as an overambitious and ruthless leader, who attempted to unify the Italian peninsula with inadequate means, too much in advance of the times and against too many formidable enemies. Anywise, “Aut Caesar aut nihil” was his motto (revived one century later by Cesare Borgia)...

Will I do better than Ladislao and safeguard both kingdom and dynasty?

_ _ _

Some game features:
  • Version: Divine Wind 5.2 plus Death & Taxes mod
  • Start date : January 1408, I will go on until the history seems realistic enough (i.e. no WC)
  • Settings: everything on normal, except for difficulty set to Very Hard
  • Goals: survive as a dynasty, recover historical claims (Sicily, Epirus), grow in Italy, possibly create a Mediterranean power
  • House rules: no cheats, reloads and similar techniques, possibly adherence to reality (i.e. no marriages with exotic princesses and similar).
_ _ _

  1. Prelude to action
  2. Eat slowly, live long (1408-12)
  3. On the verge of the cliff (1413-16)
  4. Ladislao’s last years of serene reign (1416-24)
  5. The regency for Ferrante (1424-34)
  6. First Ionian War (1435-39)
  7. The Council of Thessaloniki (1440-44)
  8. Second Ionian War and the Sicilian reunification (1444-48)
  9. The shape of a new country (1448-55)
  10. The “unfair alliance” with France (1456-61)
  11. The Queen baby is not cute (1461-74)
  12. The Three Years’ War and Queen Maria’s escape to Sicily (1475-79)
  13. Growing prospects (1480-99)
  14. The dawn of a new era (1500-03)
  15. Maria, a devout Queen (1503-14)
  16. Reach the sky and see the death in the face (1515-20)
  17. The second Austrian Invasion (1520-26)
  18. You want more wars, don’t you? (1527-31)
  19. Maria (I) is dead, viva Maria (II)! (1532-42)
  20. The Italian Wars (1543-57)
  21. Golden years and death of Maria II (1557-72)
  22. A male ruler after 107 years, Ferdinando (1572-79)
  23. The Austrians will never prevail, the Milanese will bow (1580-88)
  24. See Florence and then die (1588-98)
  25. A new ruler for a new century (1599-1610)
  26. A nation under construction (1611-22)
  27. Hardline approaches (1623-39)
  28. The birth of Italy (1640-46)
  29. Martino, a young flower of war (1647-56)
  30. Epilogue, with Francesco III’s definitive triumph (1657-70)
_ _ _

List of rulers:
  • Ladislao Durazzo, King of Naples (1386-87 under regency; exiled/titular 1387-99; reinstated 1399-1424)
  • Ferrante Durazzo, King of Naples (1424-48, of which under regency: 1424-35); King of Sicily (1448-65)
  • Maria I Durazzo, Queen of Sicily (1465-1536, of which under regency: 1465-75)
  • Maria II Durazzo, Queen of Sicily (1536-72, of which under regency: 1536-43)
  • Ferdinando Durazzo, King of Sicily (1572-99)
  • Francesco I Durazzo, King of Sicily (1599-1644)
  • Francesco II Durazzo, King of Sicily (1644-46)
  • Martino Durazzo, King of Italy (1646-55, of which under regency: 1646-53)
  • Francesco III Durazzo, King of Italy (1655-onwards, of which under regency: 1655-58)
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Looks cool. Will be following with interest.
Thanks, unfortunately tomorrow I will leave on holidays for 3 weeks therefore I will start posting updates in some weeks. Wanted just to signal this new AAR before EU4 comes out. Btw, going to download the demo tonight, just to see how it feels...
Chapter 1: Prelude to action


Ladislao (left, with golden crown) with his father Charles III (right)
The Last Judgment, a fresco in Sant'Agata de' Goti
Ladislao was born in 1377 from King Charles III of Anjou and Margaret of Durazzo, and inherited the throne of Naples at the age of 9. His mother, the regent, had to fight hard against the claims of the Valois-Anjou line based in Provence and the rebelliousness of the Italian barons, both incited by the Popes. Ousted from the capital by Louis II of Valois-Anjou, Ladislao and the Durazzo party spent roughly 10 years in exile before regaining the upper hand in 1399.

After having subdued the barons and unsuccessfully tried to claim the crown of Hungary, the resolute Ladislao started consolidating his power in Central Italy at the expense of the weakening Papal authority, by patronising the Roman faction in the Western Schism. Profiting from the poor temper of Innocent VII and Gregorius XII, Ladislao invaded the Papal States several times getting to threaten Siena, Florence and Bologna.

At first sight, in January 1408 the prospects for the King of Naples seem encouraging: half of the peninsula is in Ladislao’s hands and the divisions among the Northern Italian principalities and republics have tilted the balance of power in his favour, the Aragonese and French foes are temporarily away, the Schism is distracting the Church and the chancelleries of Catholic Europe.

Yet, something can always go terribly wrong! Despite some prosperity, Ladislao cannot count on a realm as rich as the North and so the royal coffers are unable to fund huge armies (on the contrary the navy is one of the strongest in the Mediterranean, relying on 17 galliots for the protection of sea routes). Like every feudal monarchy, the allegiance of nobles is never given for granted, particularly when Ladislao’s constant efforts for centralisation touch their local bases of power, as clearly shown at present by the revolt in Calabria of a baron named Francesco Ulivelli.

To add more complexity, let’s finally consider the dynastic issues of the Anjou-Durazzo branch: Ladislao has wedded three times (with a Sicilian noblewoman first, with a daughter of the King of Cyprus second, and finally with the Countess of Lecce Mary of Enghien in 1406 – actually a marriage of convenience enforced to incamerate her vast holdings in the royal domain) but no children have ensued. Both Queen Mary and Ladislao’s elder sister Giovanna (the heir apparent) could be too mature to bear a successor to the throne. At least Giovanna shares with Ladislao a common trait of dissoluteness and out-of-marriage pleasures which leaves room to hope for a future heir...
Chapter 2: Eat slowly, live long (1408-12)

Ladislao faces more than one dilemma: consolidate recent gains or move quickly along the North-eastern direction? Which friends can he count on? And which enemies should he fear?

The king has often been in good terms with the Republic of Venice, a centre of trade where the shrewd Neapolitan merchants are always well-respected and welcomed by local guilds. In theory, also Genoa may represent a strong ally, but less steadfast than Venice as can suffer from French pressures. Florence is Ladislao’s biggest foe left in Central Italy, and many other enemies inhabit the rich Northern plains. To the South, the threat posed by Martì I of Trinacria is less concerning than the implications of a war against his Aragonese puppet masters. With regards to Louis II of Provence, the main adversary claimant to the throne of Naples, his involvement in certain French brawls for the possession of Maine and Anjou (which he will definitively lose to Brittany in 1409) puts him out of the picture.

Any strategic development is linked to the control of Bologna, the town where Gregorius XII has established his curia after the loss of Rome and whose keys Ladislao offensively asks from the Pope in January 1408. In the first two months of the year, war preparations go on expeditiously with a new levy of 2.000 infantrymen and 1.000 knights and the sealing of pacts of friendship with the doges of Venice and Genoa aimed at protecting the Kingdom of Naples from sea attacks. Warned about the menace, Gregorius XII tries to get support from the traditional rivals of Naples and Venice: the commune of Florence, the Este Dukes of Ferrara (and Modena), the Archbishopric of Aquileia. When Ladislao begins to doubt the reliability of Genoa, seduced by the Florentine-Papal party, he also signs an alliance with the Sardinian leader Guglielmo I d’Arborea, jealous of the island’s independence from both Aragon and Genoa.


State of affairs in early 1408
With the first signs of spring in early March, Ladislao starts the campaign guiding the army into Romagna without finding major opposition. In the meantime bad news come from the West, where the devious Doge of Genoa confirms Ladislao’s doubts and sides with the Florentine-Papal faction. Determined to break the front of the enemies before they are able to secure a stronger position, in June Ladislao leaves a small contingent to siege Bologna and rushes to Florence with the bulk of his army, but suffers a strong defeat by smaller, but better organised, Florentine-Papal joint forces. Fortunately the Neapolitans hold out well when in August the enemies try to break the siege of Bologna, which goes on for several months until the Papal garrisons finally surrender during the last days of December 1408. By the terms of the peace agreement, Gregorius XII acknowledge the “secular” authority of Ladislao over the town of Bologna, renounces any claims to Rome and rescinds the pacts with Florence and the Duchy of Ferrara. Essentially, by the end of 1408 the Papal States cease to be a relevant political player in the Italian context and become a client state of the Kingdom of Naples. When in June 1411 the conclave appoints a new Pope, Clemens VII, everyone appreciates that his authority is just an empty shell: when he calls a Crusade against the Turk menace, nobody listens to his words. Besides, how could Christian leaders support the holy cause if they continue fighting each other?

The later part of 1408 sees a number of occurrences which will reshape Ladislao’s priorities for the next couples of years: in August the Duke of Milan Giovanni Maria Visconti (whose mental sanity is seriously in doubt) suddenly attacks Sardinia, which begs for Ladislao’s help. As the Despot of Epirus, Esau de Buondelmonti, intervenes in support of the Milanese, the King of Naples spots the opportunity to re-establish his dominance on the small principality just on the other side of the Ionian Sea. Later on the same year, the baronial upheaval in Calabria becomes alarming when its leader Ulivelli overcomes the royal garrison at Reggio.

Thus at the beginning of 1409, once secured both the passes between Bologna and Florence and a sort of friendly neutrality from Martì I of Trinacria, Ladislao can confidently split the army in two to pursue different aims: force a surrender of the remaining adversaries in Central Italy and defeat the Calabrian revolt before sailing for Epirus. In September 1409 the Florentines give up the fight and agree to retract the alliance with Genoa and restore Pisa to its ancient independence under the leadership of Gabriele Maria de Medici (allied to Ladislao and also married in the Durazzo family). Once Florence has been forced out of war, nobody can sustain the combined weight of Naples and Venice: Niccolo III d’Este must recognize the Neapolitan sovereignty over his Ferrarese holdings, while the Modenese ones get out of supporting Florence. The conflict gradually settles down in 1410, with the notable exceptions of a stinging defeat suffered at Parma by the Neapolitans against the Milanese, more than counterbalanced by the successful subjugation of the Despotate of Epirus (June), a strategic achievement which gives Ladislao the possibility to control the access to the Adriatic Sea.
Shouldn't Provence belongs to the "Anjou" familly as well in 1408? Louis II was Duke of Anjou (for which he was a vassal of the king of France), count of Provence (that belongs to the HRE) and has the title of king of Sicily (read Naples) and king of Jerusalem. Actually Louis I (his father), Louis II and his sons (Louis II and René II) spent their life (and their fortune) trying to reconquer the lingdom of Sicily and Marseille in Provence was the main port for that.

Anyway, good luck! And you're right, the kingdom finally felt to the king of Aragon.
You are right, but Louis II and Ladislao belong to 2 different branches which fought over Naples, just to finally give up to Aragon. I believe Queen Joan I was the last one to hold both Naples and Provence and she protected the popes in her estates at Avignon.
Chapter 3: On the verge of the cliff (1413-16)

Ladislao looks over a kingdom much stronger than that inherited by the father. With the recent wars, Rome and Central Italy have been incorporated in the realm; the Pope (now residing in Bologna), the Duke of Ferrara and the Despot of Epirus have been made subject to the King of Naples. After years of battles, Ladislao should deserve some rest while his foes are beaten: Florence has been diminished and isolated, Genoa and Milan – even if not defeated – remain detached and unthreatening, Savoy and Provence have been curbed in their ambitions by the French nemesis.

Yet, the intricacy of the Italian affairs always reserves bad surprises: when in October 1413 the Archduke of Austria – dragging in his French friends - declares war on Venice, Ladislao imprudently chooses to honour the call of the endangered Northern Italian republic, maybe too confident about his means and the enemies’ reluctance to invade the peninsula. In order to avoid fighting on two fronts, Ladislao soon strikes a white peace with the Milanese Viscontis. Initially it may seem that Ladislao would get away with it, as the French and Austrian armies concentrate their efforts against Venice. But after more than one year and half since the beginning of the conflict, with Venice completely isolated from its holdings in Italy and overseas, the Neapolitan fleet begins to be under pressure in defending the whole homeland.

Thus, when in late spring / summer 1415 two Austrian and French expeditions land at Ancona and Rome respectively, everybody begin to fear for the survival of Ladislao’s great creation. Despite the commitment of an army strong of 12.000 men, the King of Naples has to give in, particularly after half of his forces are lost in a terrible encounter in the plains of Foggia and the enemies take the capital itself. Thanks God, the dreadful situation of Venice finally persuades the Doge to beg a peace treaty from the Habsburgs which also alleviates Ladislao’s troubles. Venice is forced to cede Treviso to the Austrians, release the island of Crete from its grasp and pay – together with Naples – a huge war tribute. Yet, these costs seem a negligible fraction of what would have been the extreme political and economic consequences of a prolonged war. An important lesson remains: never fight the big guys, particularly if there are two of them!

Besides such dangerous war, in this period there is another crucial occurrence which risks having an impact on the realm’s stability. In April 1414 the love affair between the 41-year-old Princess Giovanna (so far heir presumptive to his brother Ladislao, missing any royal offspring) and a wild Sicilian knight at service of King Martì of Trinacria causes a great scandal at court, and even some troubles in the relationship with the court of Palermo that – despite some recent appeasements – has always been considered an usurper since the Vespers of 1282. To add more concerns, Giovanna is also pregnant by the foreigner, and gives birth to a male child whom she names Alfonso! Then, on 31 May 1415 she is found dead in her bed in unclear circumstances: Ladislao cannot do more than adopt Giovanna’s orphaned son and hope that nobody tries to profit from the baby’s weak claim on the crown of the uncle/adoptive father...


State of affairs in 1416
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Great expansion. You really make it seem as if this is history, and I like the bolding of important things. It's good for me, the one with little attention. :eek:o
Chapter 4: Ladislao’s last years of serene reign (1416-24)

After many years of conflicts and dynastic tensions, it finally comes the time for Ladislao to gather the profits of his tenacity and bravery. Also thanks to the fact that the European great powers are embroiled in their own problems: an Iberian war has ended with Juan II of Castile reigning in personal union over the Crown of Aragon, the Kingdom of France is going through a regency for the minority of Charles VII and the leadership in the Holy Roman Empire switches from the House of Luxemburg (whose last Emperor, Vaclav IV of Bohemia, dies excommunicated in 1417) to that of Burgundy.

The state of the army is gradually improved with both new levies and techniques, which include the pike square and the lanced cavalry. The buffer vassals of Epirus, Ferrara and the Papal States and the alliance treaties with Venice, Pisa and Sardinia (even if since 1416 the latter is ruled by Guglielmo II de Trastamara, thus sharing close dynastic links with Castile-Aragon) represent a solid protection against threats coming from the land and the sea.

Thus Ladislao can commit all the resources of the crown – improved through a considerable sale of titles and other gifts – for the sake of knowledge, culture and economic progress. The impact of such reforms on the wealth of the country is consistent: production thrives, currency revaluates and trading regains momentum, with Neapolitan merchants particularly active in the Italian trade hubs and in Alexandria.

Even more importantly for the building of the nation, Ladislao persists with the policy of centralisation which has been a distinctive mark of his long reign. As always, this does not come unopposed: the biggest trouble happens when the king tries to diminish the traditional liberties of Rome. In November 1418 the proposal of abolishing the communal Senate encounters such a huge hostility that a mob of 22.000 peoples, headed by a certain Martino Pierallini, rises against the royal forces and obliges Ladislao to leave the city and muster more soldiers. For great part of the year 1419 Rome remains out of royal control and actually subject to the anarchy of the rioters. Then the frenzied Pierallini wrongly decides to advance towards Naples to beat Ladislao, but the reinforced royal army quickly defeats the rebels and restores the legitimate rule over Rome, whose inhabitants are then culturally assimilated into the Neapolitan nation.

Another relevant episode of such centralisation plan occurs in July 1420, when Ladislao annexes the vassal Despotate of Epirus to his kingdom taking advantage of the weak regency following the ruler’s death. Moreover the successful attempt to bring Achaea into the Neapolitan sphere of influence (1423) makes Ladislao one of the strongest characters in the Greek area, where what remains of the Byzantine Empire is still fending off the Ottoman advance, which now turns south after the 1421 Turkish annexation of Serbia and Bosnia.


State of affairs in 1420
Chapter 5: The regency for Ferrante (1424-34)

Ladislao passes away on the night of March 22, 1424 at the age of 47, sincerely mourned by all his subjects because of his magnanimity and competence. During his long reign, he has vastly expanded the borders of the Kingdom of Naples, which now also includes Central Italy (except Tuscany) and Epirus, and moreover made it a safer and richer place. Thanks to a subterfuge, the succession is safe; in fact the king’s young nephew Alfonso, born by the controversial Princess Giovanna, has tragically died of illness in 1420, but quickly another heir has been found. Later that year Ladislao has got a child, Ferrante, by one of his mistresses and legitimated him precisely to avoid any dynastic risks like with Alfonso. Few months after Ladislao’s death, another posthumous child is born and christened Filippo.

Given that Ferrante and Filippo are just babies, a regency council is established under the wise leadership a great man, Carlo d’Asburgo. Emerged as a valiant admiral of the royal fleet during the dreadful Franco-Austrian invasion begun in 1413, with his prowess and loyalty Carlo d’Asburgo has managed to conquer the favour of Ladislao, and therefore such preeminent role at court makes him the real master of the government for more than 10 years. Carlo d’Asburgo would perform this task with the greatest aptitude (apart from being a great man of war, he has also a strong sense for diplomacy and a good stewardship) and devotion to the royal house now embodied by the young Ferrante and Filippo.

_ _ _

As nothing special happens during the regency period – and this is clearest signal of the regent’s ability to protect the child king, his claims and the whole realm – let’s have a better look at international affairs, as 1425 is a pivotal year for the history of Europe.

Two events stand out, in particular: the end of the Hundred Years War, and the end of the Western Schism. After a quite long truce, the dynastic war between France and England has resumed in 1418. The complex network of English alliances has brought several enemies to the French ruler, Charles VII: Scotland and Wales, Lorraine and all the Iberian kingdoms have actually honoured their respective pacts with England and joined the fight. Despite such horrendous group of enemies and a series of short-lived monarchs (Charles VII himself, followed by Joachim I), the French armies have successfully campaigned, forcing the Britons out of the continent: with the Congress of Arras (held on April 8, 1425), England cedes Calais, Gascogne and Labourd to France and renounces its claims of Picardie. Just after the closing of the peace treaty with England, the French crown determines to call back support to anti-popes and repossesses the area of Avignon, thus practically putting an end to the Schism.

Meanwhile, the Neapolitan regent’s main activity consists in keeping diplomatic risks at bay: first of them is a decline in the relationship with the Byzantine Empire, irritated by Ladislao’s expansion on the Ionian coast of Greece. In June 1426 a minor accident occurs when the Byzantine authorities embargo Neapolitan merchants; it is not a serious problem as the trading activity still flourishes with Venice and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, but surely a sign of warning. Second risk is the avoidance of another war with Austria and France, still allied. In 1427 the Archdukes of Austria exercise with the Pope all the pressures they can to have the city of Venice interdicted with the pretext that local authorities have jailed an Austrian-born priest, then in September of that same year launch an attack together with some allies, including France and Crete. Despite the shame of not honouring a longstanding treaty of mutual defence, Carlo d’Asburgo prudently decides to stay out of the war, feeling that the Most Serene Republic is really doomed. Instead, he reinforces links with both Ferrara and Achaea to protect the borders of the realm against these emerging threats.

Coming back to Venice, initially Doge Alvise Mestre seems to hold off well despite being alone against such formidable enemies, as Venetian troops re-conquer Crete in April 1428, but later that year the odds of war begin to turn as also the Hungarian giant gets on the move after having absorbed both Wallachia and Croatia. Therefore, before seeing all their holdings lost the Venetians try to close an honourable peace by renouncing their claims on the mainland previously occupied by the Austrians, releasing Albania from vassalage and paying a moderate tribute: all in all, not a outrageous deal.

If news coming from East and North are not encouraging, at least good chances are developing to the South. For now, just the facts: in 1432 Juan II of Castile-Aragon dies, and his son Fernando V inherits both Iberian titles. Sicilian nobles, always jealous of their autonomy, defy the new ruler and elect as King of Trinacria a local peer, Leopoldo Mazzetti. Quite surprising given his dangerous position, he also says no to an offer of alliance that the Neapolitan diplomacy immediately advances in order to bring the island into friendliness again after the long hiatus dating back since the Vespers. Instead, the Trinacrian ruler naively yields to Eastern advances and signs an alliance with the Byzantine Empire and Albania: a move that certainly is not well perceived in Naples and gives a fine opportunity to recover Sicily once for all. And finally, in autumn 1435 Ferrante I becomes of age...


Profile of the new ruler, Ferrante I
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Chapter 6: First Ionian War (1435-39)

Ferrante’s attitude is quite similar to his father’s: he is resolute, centraliser and ambitious, but less inclined to lead directly the armies on the battlefield, preferring to delegate such risky task to his officers, and particularly to the mean General Pietro Allori. At the present the easiest route for expansion points to the island of Sicily, where the weak Kingdom of Trinacria has finally slipped away from Aragonese control under the unwise govern of a local ruler.


State of affairs in late 1435
Thus, the very first act of the new king is a declaration of war against the coalition comprising Trinacria, Albania and Byzantium, an adventure in which Naples would be supported by two satellite entities (Papal States and Ferrara), Pisa, Sardinia and Achaea. Ferrante’s initial plans for a quick invasion of Sicily with a 12.000 strong army are frustrated by the stiff opposition of a joint Byzantine-Trinacrian fleet patrolling the Straits of Messina, but when both Naples and Pisa manage to put their fleets to the Tyrrhenian Sea at the end of November 1435, they get a major victory in the first real encounter with the enemy navies, also capturing many ships.

In contrast, the situation gets worse in Greece where the Byzantine and Albanian armies easily defeat Ferrante’s garrisons in Janina and Messolonghi (January and May 1436), occupy Achaea and induce also the Duchy of Athens to side with them. In the same period that sees so many setbacks in Greece, the situation begins to get better in Sicily, as without any naval opposition first a Pisan expedition lands in Malta and then 18.000 Neapolitans manage to cross the straits in July and achieve a strategic victory in Messina on August 15. The shattered defenders are then chased until total annihilation. In order to relieve the pressure on his ally, Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus launches a diversion operation against Apulia, despite the fact that his fleet is becoming weaker and weaker as a result of so many defeats by the hands of the Neapolitan fleet which the great admiral (and former regent) Carlo d’Asburgo can be proud of.

The turning point of the First Ionian War is 1437, as in February both Messina and Palermo fall to Ferrante’s troops, rapidly followed by Syracusa and Malta later this year. Thus Trinacria is out of war and Ferrante can focus all his forces on the Greek theatre. But prior to doing so, Apulia must be freed, as Manuel II’s diversion expedition has managed to capture Taranto in July 1437 and would hold the city for roughly three months before being sent away. Ferrante’s expedition to Greece achieves little in 1438, whereas bad news comes from other theatres: Georgia and Trebizond have joined Byzantium in the war, and landings in Southern Italy continue to bother local garrisons. In May 1439 the situation becomes clearer when the Neapolitan soldiers enter Athens and force the local Duke to sway allegiance to King Ferrante and rescind the treaties with Venice and Trinacria. In order to commit all the available forces against the Byzantine Emperor, Ferrate decides to sign white peace treaties with Albania, Georgia and Trebizond before year-end, and finally on December 17, 1439 he also meets the Trinacrian ruler, Leopoldo Mazzetti, to impose him a harsh deal. By the terms of the agreement Messina and Syracusa pass under the control of the Kingdom of Naples, in addition to a war tribute of 100 ducats and the termination of the alliance pact with Manuel II. Trinacria cannot hurt anymore.
Chapter 7: The Council of Thessaloniki (1440-44)


A natural choice, considering that the Pope is my vassal!
The peace treaties signed in December 1439 leave a single enemy to confront with: Manuel II Palaeologus. As papal controller, Ferrante now represents the effort against the Byzantines as a mission aimed at realising the reunion of the Orthodox Church with the Catholic community. Meanwhile, the Neapolitan expedition achieves great results in Thessaly: with the support of the fleet commanded by another great admiral, Paolo Soderini, Larissa is conquered in September 1440. A long series of pitched battles ensues in the following years, all of which result in clear Neapolitan victories against a Byzantine army increasingly demoralized and cluttered. Achaea falls in 1441, followed by Morea one year later.

Having definitely cleared the Ionian coasts, another great naval expedition departs towards the Aegean Sea in summer 1442, with a clear resemblance of the legendary deeds of the Normans under Robert Guiscard and later William the Good. While Soderini’s navy attacks and captures many Byzantine ships, the army steadily advances towards north-east of Greece. The Neapolitans enter Thessaloniki (the second most important of the Empire) on November 6, 1442 and also take control of Edessa in the following year. Emperor Manuel II is unable to field any noticeable military opposition to King Ferrante, who finally decides to reach Thessaloniki in early 1444 to convene a general meeting of representatives of the Orthodox and Catholic churches, in order to speed up the discussions on their historical reunion.

Unfortunately, the Neapolitan occupation of Thessaloniki and the long-standing hatred between the followers of the two creeds spur resentment in the local population who finally take up arms against the detested "Latins". While outside enrages the battle among Neapolitan soldiers and Thessalonian citizens, in the landmark session of the Council held on February 18, 1444 and attended by Emperor Manuel II and King Ferrante, the Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope Clemens VII, the Byzantine authorities accept to raise Catholicism to state religion (and obviously pay a tribute for the travel of so many Latin dignitaries and renounce their claims on Epirus!).


The peace agreed at the Council of Thessaloniki
It is anyway a fragile truce, just an interlude before the Second Ionian War kicks in 10 months after the end of the First. Ferrante’s ambition is growing fast, encouraged by the high prestige achieved at the Council of Thessaloniki, the stronger-than-ever Papal backing and the ownership of the biggest Mediterranean fleet of galleys (tripled in size thanks to the seizures of Trinacrian and Byzantine vessels). Moreover, Trinacria is just a rump state, ready for being assailed again: its pathetic ruler Leopoldo Mazzetti actually controls Palermo and the tough stronghold of Malta. A possible diversion comes when – annoyed by the stubborn refusal of Siena to ally with him – Ferrante begins to fund a friendly local pretender, Sergio de Rossi, to get control of the important Tuscan town, another target very sought after. But the King of Naples does not want to get distracted from the main prey, particularly after the obtuse Trinacrian diplomacy signs again an alliance with the Byzantines in November 1444, few weeks before the truce expires. Thus, war time has come again: Ferrante sends 12.000 men to Messina and the huge fleet with 6.000 men out of Malta, ready for the signal.
Chapter 8: Second Ionian War and the Sicilian reunification (1444-48)


State of affairs in 1445
The conflict resumes on the last day of December 1444 with the Neapolitan imposition of the siege on the island of Malta. The belligerents involved are mostly the same of the first Ionian War, with few changes in the enemy field: two distant Russian principalities close to the new Byzantine Emperor Thomas I, but above all Savoy and Venice, both particularly worried about further expansion of Ferrante’s domains. Moreover, the Venetians have never forgotten and forgiven the disloyalty shown by the Neapolitan regency at the time of the 1427 Franco-Austrian attack. All in all, more than a concrete military risk it is a critical economic hitch as the Doge bans the Neapolitans from the local marketplace and closes the trade posts established during several decades of mutual agreement.

Like nine years before, the very first land moves are not very favorable for Ferrante, as the initial raid on Palermo results in a setback; a defenseless Epirus is lost to the Byzantine-Albanian forces in the first half of 1445 and a strong Byzantine-Venetian expedition profit of a brief naval superiority to make unexpected landings near Rome. The odds begin to change when the garrisons of Palermo and Malta simultaneously surrender on September 19, 1445 causing the Kingdom of Trinacria to officially perish roughly 160 years after the Sicilian Vespers, and with him any foreign interference on the island…

Having achieved his main goal, Ferrante is more inclined to consider peace proposals by the rest of the coalition, but he knows that he will get no offers without showing muscles and getting rid of the Byzantine-Venetian force which ravages Central Italy: thus he start building docks in Malta for his huge fleet (now counting around 90 ships after two more victorious encounters) and after regaining a clear superiority in the whole Central Mediterranean he orders General Pietro Allori, the veteran of the First Ionian War, to prepare a new expedition to Greece.

Allori’s enterprise, actually launched in late 1446, meets with mixed success: Durazzo, the city which incidentally gives the name to Naples’ ruling dynasty, is briefly taken and lost to overwhelming enemy reinforcements before year-end. Luckily, the Ottomans go to war against the alliance comprising the Byzantine Empire, Georgia and Venice and this episode changes the picture. Fearing a war on two fronts, Venice comes to terms and asks for a peace treaty in July 1447, later followed by Georgia, which let Ferrante focus on Albania only. Without opposition, Durazzo is captured again in February 1448, forcing the Albanians to surrender and sway allegiance to Naples at the beginning of May. Concerned about weakening too much the now-Catholic Byzantines, who currently deal with the infidel Turks, Ferrante offers them a respectable armistice few days after the subjugation of Albania, thus putting an end to the Second Ionian War.

_ _ _

So the triumph of 27-year old King Ferrante can now begin: after having sealed a new alliance pact with Francesco Visconti, Duke of Milan, Ferrante reaches Palermo to be crowned – on the memorable June 10, 1448 – with the regalia once used by Roger II and the Norman kings of Sicily. Despite the symbolic importance of the island capitol, the king determines to leave the government seat in Naples as the country now lean much more to the north than the past. Instead, Ferrante reinstates the royal eagled insignia once used by Manfred: a sign of esteem towards the last Swabian ruler, son of Frederick II, who unsuccessfully tried to defend the nation from foreign interference and really wanted to govern as an Italian ruler. With a single choice Ferrante finally severs any links with the French House of Anjou and restates the intention to focus mainly on Italy and its surroundings.



Manfred’s banners flutter again!
Wow. Great job, I especially like the Catholic Byzies. Nice touch.
Thanks. Unfortunately, despite being Catholic, the Byzzie will continue to be a torn to my kingdom.
Lots of spies inciting revolts and embargoes... I should have taken over them.
Next stop: Italy! :D

Been following this for a while, great read.
Thanks. Won't be easy with France and Austria already well-introduced in the northern part of the peninsula.
First I have to reorganise the country and find some bigger supporter ...
Good work, although it loooks like Byzantium will be overrun by Ottos soon.