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- Mar 10, 2010
Ein Fest für EmelrichThe Prince's Conquests
A Feast for Emelrich
A Feast for Emelrich
July 27, 973 AD
The days were long in the middle of the summer, and most of the day's celebrations had taken place under the glorious sunlight of a comfortably warm July day. In the morning, children had dashed all about the castle playing with one another, filling the courtyard with their laughter and the occasional tears of a few who fell down a little too hard in the midst of their play. In the late afternoon, the throng of gathered guests had left the castle proper and gone out into a great fairground set up in the neighboring fields for a series of contests of skill and strength, accompanied by revelry and plenty of drinks.
Rupert had called the event to bring the noble families of the empire together for two weeks of feasts and tournaments to celebrate the military victories of his eldest son and heir, Emelrich.
Rupert's coronation as Holy Roman Empire had come as a surprise to many, and there had been those among the imperial nobility who had questioned the legitimacy of the Electors' choice, and the youth of his family's noble tenure was high among them. Equally prominent was the dissent of many of the greater nobles against Rupert's decision to accept Pope Clement's demands for coronation -- specifically, that he would only crown Rupert as a proper Holy Roman Emperor after he agreed to restore to the Papacy the original borders of the Papal States as established in the reign of Charlemagne. Many perceived the concession as weakness, and Rupert had been eager to act quickly to dispel that myth.
In doing so, he also hoped that he could begin to cement his son's position for the future and begin to present him as a credible heir. When Bohemia and Arles broke off from their tributary payments following Otto's death, Rupert had charged Emelrich with leading the army that would bring them back under imperial suzerainty. The process had taken several years of marching across the empire, but as they sat there today celebrating his return home, Arles and Bohemia had both resumed their tribute payments, along with the smaller pagan realms of Croatians and Danes. Four of the empire's neighbors had been defeated, and the imperial treasury was filling up thanks to their allegiance, involuntary as it may have been.
Watching over the competitions playing out before him, Rupert sat on a wooden throne draped in expensive rugs and furs to soften it. To either side of him stretched his family, finally gathered together once again for the occasion. Klara sat at his left hand, looking tired and a touch bored. She was just a few years into her fifth decade, and length of life had seen the Kaiserin become rather jaded and easily annoyed. She sat and fanned herself as a pair of warriors armed with heavy two-handed swords clashed with one another, but it was clear her mind was elsewhere.
Beyond her sat Helene, the eldest of the Kaiser's daughters despite her young age of 21. She had a good, sturdy build and strong eyes, and she watched the contest intently as she sat alongside her husband -- Wenzel von Babenberg, King of Bavaria. While the majority of the highest ranking imperial vassals held the rank of Duke, a few -- Bavaria included -- had been acknowledged as proper kingdoms in their own right beneath the Kaiser's authority. Bavaria had been the first, but soon after the kingdoms of Frisia in the north, Lotharingia in the west, and Croatia in the south had followed. Rupert quite liked Wenzel -- he was well-spoke, charismatic, always finely dressed, and had the honor of receiving his king's crown by the hand of Pope Clement II, the same Holy Father who had named Rupert emperor.
Beyond Helene and Wenzel sat perhaps the most cherished of all of Rupert's children -- 18 year-old Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina had been conceived shortly after cancer had taken the life of young Leopold, as Rupert and Klara had found comfort in one another's embrace. Rupert had been elated when Klara learned she was expecting, and from the moment Wilhelmina was born, he doted on her with great affection, as if he had sought to love her enough to account for Leopold's loss, as well. She had stayed close to home, studying with the religious sisters in Weinsberg, and had excelled in her studies. She had sharp and shrewd mind, a heart full of holy zeal and the sort of perfect manners that had made her excellent at entertaining guests to the castle. It had pained Rupert horribly to send her away from home, but he had ensured that she would have only the best -- he secured her betrothal to the young Louis Karling, Prince of West Francia and the eldest full brother of the current West Frankish king, Leon. He was four years Wilhelmina's junior, and so the two had not yet been wed; but she had traveled often into the neighboring realm to prepare for her future life as a princess there.
Far from the Kaiser, sitting at the far end of the right and left sides respectively, were his two youngest. 11 year-old Hildegard was too consumed with fussing with her dolls to pay much attention to the tournament, but such was her way. She was an enormously affectionate little girl, but she tended to keep to herself and disliked playing outside with her friends, preferring the quiet isolation of the castle. Erich, just one year away from his maturity, looked particularly shy as he slumped down in his seat, glancing nervously to his older brother frequently. His betrothed, a young relative of the Chatenois house that ruled the kingdom of Lotharingia, was in attendance, though Erich showed no great urge to see her.
Finally, closest at his right, sat his first son and heir, Emelrich, who was at once Rupert's great pride as well as his terrible shame. Rupert loved Emelrich dearly; he was his first son, and for many years after Leopold's death he was his only son, until young Erich came along many years later. That day's tournament, as well as the feast that would soon follow, was to honor Emelrich for his victories over the past several years in re-establishing former imperial tributaries as well as acquiring a few new ones, but the event was pure hollow showmanship. Emelrich had been in charge of the great army that had marched through Bohemia, Arles, Bihac Croatia, and Denmark, but those battles had been won by the officers under his command. Much to his father's dismay, Emelrich was more concerned with the conquest in the bedroom than on the battlefield. The 29 year-old ruler of worms and heir to Weinsberg had six children, but only four of them were from his lawful wife, Beatrix Chatenois. The other two were the scandalous progeny of a long-running extramarital affair with a Dutch courtier from the northern kingdom of Frisia, who had given Emelrich two sons -- as well as the shameful mark of the so-called "Lover's Pox." Beatrix was well aware of his unfaithfulness and its fruits, and resented him for it. She sat at his side at the tournament only for the sake of appearances; she would find a way to distance herself from him immediately once the feasting began.
Rupert had done his best to instill proper German Catholic virtues upon his son, but as the young man neared his thirtieth birthday, the Kaiser worried that he might never truly come around. It was well known that many within the empire did not respect him, and very few of the Electors had anything positive to say about him. With Emelrich as the clear heir of the von Zahren family estates, he would be the only suitable candidate from the family to consider to follow in Rupert's footsteps. But given his lack of martial skill, his arbitrary judgement, and his many romantic dalliances, it was unlikely that Emelrich could ever be considered a future emperor. It grieved Rupert to say it, but he feared that the family would fall into obscurity following his inevitable death. Emelrich, as much as he loved him, could never be what he was. He wasn't capable of it, and the other lords and Electors wouldn't allow him the chance.
As he sat in his throne watching over a skillful duel between two nimble swordsmen from Milan, Rupert simply quietly resolved that he would accomplish all that he could in whatever years of his life remained so that, even if his son could not inherit an empire, he could, at the very least, inherit a legacy.