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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Dewirix

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This is the new Weekly AAR showcase, hope it brings you new readers and don't forget to pass it on after your week in the sun ... Congratulations
It's just worked in my case.

I'm glad I was directed this way as it's a thoroughly enjoyable ride. I particularly liked the "Teflon Priest" joke, but humour aside it's a well-blended tale of intrigue and martial adventure. I get the feeling that I may have joined just after the critical war is won. From now on the Republic will face external enemies on a much more level playing field.
 

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Following this,very interesting. I must also repeat an earlier question; when is the author writing?
 

Alfredian

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This is the new Weekly AAR showcase, hope it brings you new readers and don't forget to pass it on after your week in the sun ... Congratulations
Much appreciated. And I actually got to spend my week in the sun down in Cornwall in the sun.

It's just worked in my case.

I'm glad I was directed this way as it's a thoroughly enjoyable ride. I particularly liked the "Teflon Priest" joke, but humour aside it's a well-blended tale of intrigue and martial adventure. I get the feeling that I may have joined just after the critical war is won. From now on the Republic will face external enemies on a much more level playing field.
Glad you liked the Teflon Priest. I couldn't work out if it had past people by or was just a very bad pun.

You are defintely right that there is a more level playing field now (although I am increasingly worried by the Pagan threat in Russia). The Republic at least has relatively cohesive borders now.

well that is impressive - I thought I was bad with such things but I do reckon this is the first deployment of a spreadsheet in CK AAR. And very informative as to how well balanced (ie precarious) the realm is
I like to thing of the spreadsheet as being very compatible with medieval life. After all the English Exchequer started with a checked sheet spread on a table for working on accounts.

The realm is finely balanced and could easily vanish as quickly as it arose. It needs time for its institutions to acquire legitimacy, and for the new vassals to get used to serving the Uffasons.

And its good to see that the Varangians keep their nobility (and who exactly is a noble) in line in true scandinavian fashion: clean, ordered spreadsheets :D
Well, you don't want to accidentally marry someone common (unless they are very wealthy).

The idea for Aldwulfson's Peerage comes from a copy of Debretts Peerage (from 1927) that I bought in a second-hand bookshop a couple of years ago. You can imagine people turning to this to deal with the minefield of possible offence that can be caused by miscalculating precedence in a highly stratified society. Picture Jane Austen levels of anxiety in a society where everyone carries swords.

When is this 'book' (AAR) being made? The reference to modern-day nobility and arranged marriages makes me ask the question.
Following this,very interesting. I must also repeat an earlier question; when is the author writing?
It is an interesting question that you both put. When I picture Edward Uffason (our writer) I am picturing a mid-ranking nable from the 1500s or 1600s. He is sat in his study in winter. The room is lined with shelves of books (both new-fangled printed ones and old handwritten ones) and tattered old scrolls.

What I don't know is where he is writing. Is he sat in his family's townhouse in Thessalonike, or is he himself exiled following the earlier collapse of the Uffasons' domain. I suppose we will find this out as time goes on.

*********************

Anyway, after a ridiculously busy month here is part 23. I have thought this would cover about 40 years that I had remembered as being rather quiet. It turns out they were quite busy, so here are eight years instead.
 

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Part 23 – King Leofric and the Queen of the Adriatic (1124 to 1132)

Peace with the Empire left King Leofric in charge of a large but fragile realm. The majority of his nobles wished to see him replaced by a member of the old Greek high nobility, and were only prevented from doing so by their inability to decide on a single candidate. Meanwhile his family were bitterly divided over who should succeed Leofric if he should die before producing a son.

It is not surprising therefore that first eight years after the war saw Leofric shy away from foreign wars and concentrate instead on securing his rule at home. He took to the field only to crush rebellions in Crete and Bulgaria. His activity was focused more on the Senate (who ratified his proposal to ensure inheritance of estates would pass strictly by primogeniture through the male line) and the bedroom (for which he was finally rewarded by the birth of Prince Slavek Uffason in 1129). The two measures tied up the succession and unified the Uffason family behind King Leofric and his infant son. This reconciliation was further helped by the close personal friendship between Leofric and his cousin Coenwulf (the son and heir of Earl Saebert of Lesbos who was second in line for the throne).

1130 brought one great change at court as Queen Richza died in Labour. Leofric spent the minimum allowable time in mourning before remarrying. His new bride was Euanthia Iasites. She came with an excellent Greek pedigree as the Iasites family were of the first class of Greek high nobility. Her brother (Romanos Prince of Athens) was also one of Leofric’s most important vassals. With no Bohemian queen, Leofric saw no need to retain Bohemian customs at court and revived the Helleno-Varangian culture. This included ensuring Prince Slavek was raised as a Helleno-Varangian, not a Bohemian (contrary to his marriage contract with the late Queen Richza).


If the Republic had been focused inwards during this period, the same could not be said of Christendom’s enemies. The pagan Republic of Vyatichs was swallowing up the Orthodox Russian principalities, whose disunity was proving to be their downfall. Meanwhile the Moors were strengthening their control over Iberia, and spreading across Italy as well. While the occupation of southern Italy was both a worry and an inconvenience for the Republic, it was nothing to the damage caused by the Algerian Kingdom of Hammadid’s occupation of Venice in 1127. This was a huge blow to the Republic, as ever since Prince Cerdic’s marriage into a Venetian merchant family (in 1066) the Uffasons had developed a symbiotic relationship between their domains and the Venetians. With the trade routes around southern Italy (to France and Genoa) and through the Dardanelles (to Russia) cut off the Republic had become even more dependent on exporting goods through Venice. Now all of the major trade routes to the Republic were in Muslim hands.

The Pope was shocked by this Muslim advance, but reacted by calling for a crusade to liberate Jerusalem. If successful this would have great moral value, but would be of little practical help when Muslim horsemen were burning the Papal vineyards.


King Leofric was not made in the same mould as his father (King Aethelwulf). He refused to invent claims to land as a pretext for conquest. He also had no wish to take up arms against fellow Christians, unless the attacked him or rebelled against his rule. However, he had no moral problem with fighting Muslims. His concern here was simply to avoid conflicts that the Republic might be unable to win. Leofric had pushed his luck in the war with the Empire, but had no intention of doing so again.

It was therefore 1132 before King Leofric attacked the Kingdom of Hammadid. This was to be a very different war from the Republic’s fight for survival with the Empire. Leofric was able to lead a large, well equipped army and all the fighting would all be on enemy territory. Leofric led the main army towards Venice itself, while his marshal led a seaborne invasion of Hammadid’s territories in Sardinia and the south of France. It was sign of the peril that Christendom was in, that the Kingdom of Hammadid controlled so much of the richest land in Europe. The seaborne invasions proceeded smoothly and only met minor opposition. What this really meant was that the King of Hammadid had concentrated his forces around Venice itself. King Leofric arrived to find a formidable army in his way.

The main army of the Kingdom of Hammadid was a curious blend that represented the turbulence that had afflicted the western Mediterranean in the first quarter of the 1100s. The core of the army was made up of the King’s Arab and Berber retainers (generically referred to as Moors by the Christians). Some of these were permanently attached to the royal court, while others had been granted estates in the newly conquered lands. Next came a motley collection of French and Italian mercenaries and apostates who fought for the Arabs willingly. They appeared chaotic in camp, but had all made a living from the sword for many years (as more honest trades failed to prosper in those hard times). Finally there were levies drawn from Venice and its hinterland. These men were unwilling and unprepared to be placed in the line of battle. Merchants and tradesmen keen to get home to their real lives as soon as possible.

Peace elsewhere allowed King Leofric to bring the flower of the Republic to war with him:
• Heavy cavalry (akin to Frankish knights) drawn from the wealthier nobles.
• Heavy infantry drawn from the poorer Helleno-Varangian Nobles. These were often called by the generic title of huscarls after their style of equipment and tactics. This was used even though many were thegns (gentry) rather than paid retainers of other lords.
• Light cavalry drawn from the poorer Greek nobles
• Pikemen and crossbowmen drawn from the Republic’s urban militias and the communities of Italian (particularly Venetian) exiles who had fled the Hammadid occupation
• Skirmishers drawn from the herdsmen and mountain tribes that dwell within the Republic’s Serbian and Epirot lands.
The Battle of Venice was to be a very different affair from the inconclusive affairs that characterised the war with the Empire. The field of battle had broken ground in the centre, with smoother ground to the east and the west. Accordingly both sides lined up in a very similar fashion. Pikemen and cavalry often cope poorly with broken ground so were posted to the east and west (respectively). Both side deployed their heavy infantry in the centre of their lines. This arguably hurt the Republic’s forces most; as it meant they could not form the solid shield-wall they would normally use in a pitched battle (a manoeuvre the King of Hammadid’s forces would have failed to perform effectively).

Once battle was joined it quickly became clear that neither King Leofric nor the King of Hammadid had any cunning strategy in mind. 34,000 men were simply to bludgeon away at each other until one side fled or darkness fell. This is often spoken of as a ‘soldiers battle’.

By midday the Battle was well under way. Poor terrain was hampering King Leofric’s huscarls in the centre, while the King of Hammadid’s cavalry was slowly driving back Prince Ulf (of Dioclea) in the west. Yet when the tide of battle turned it did so not because of the efforts of the warrior nobles, but by the actions of the city militias, men who had put away their craft tools and books of accounts to work the field of battle for a short while. The Republic’s militias were volunteer companies, who had set out to fight the infidel, restore trade and (in the case of the Italian exiles) recover their homeland. They were far more keen than the pressed militias the Hammadids had recruited (men whose families were effectively hostage for their good behaviour).

The turning point came when a band of the Republic’s Venetian exiles found themselves brought face-to-face with men who had been their neighbours back home. The fighting died down in that part of the line and the noise level dropped. From his place with the huscarls King Leofric could tell something was happening, but not what it was. He sent riders to find out what was happening and began to plan for the worst. The riders were scarcely out of sight when a cry began to ring out from the eastern flank of the army – “St Mark, St Mark and death to the moors”.

The Republic’s militiamen found themselves pushing on an open door. They swept up all those of their former opponents who wanted to join them and cut down any others who could not flee. Nothing travels through the field of battle quicker than a rumour that the flanks have been broken, and panic quickly spread to the mercenaries and poorer Moors in the centre of the King of Hammadid’s line. As the rear ranks fled those in the front found themselves cut down by the huscarls or taken for ransom.

Only in the west was the King of Hammadid able to pull his forces back in a cohesive fashion. These men were all mounted. They may have given the Republic’s cavalry a bloody nose (inhibiting pursuit), but they still reaffirmed the old huscarl joke that a horse’s main use on the battlefield was to help foreigners to run away (a joke they used on their Greek fellow-citizens as much as anyone else).


The Battle of Venice left the King of Hammadid stripped of all his infantry and unable to turn and fight. King Leofric was able to occupy Venice and then pursue the Moorish forces across northern Italy and into the King of Hammadid’s lands in the south of France (which were already under occupation by the Republic’s seaborne invasion force).

King Leofric was effectively able to dictate his own peace terms. He demanded (and received) all of the King of Hammadid’s territories in north Italy (Venice and Aquilegia) and Sardinia (Cagliari). This was a huge success as it gave the Republic control of its own trade route to north Italy and Germany, as well as the potential wealth of Venice itself (once normal trade resumed).

Why did Leofric not demand the King of Hammadid’s French lands as well? Fear of further fighting is the obvious answer and it is correct. Yet the fear was not fighting the Moors, but rather the King of France. He had made it clear that he planned to reconquer the south of France eventually and anyone occupying land there would have to fight to keep it. Still King Leofric could be well-pleased with the events of 1132 as they marked the second major triumph of his reign.

****************​

As an aside, one other man who could feel pleased with these events was Burgred Atheling. He was the main Saxon claimant to the Norman-held crown of England, yet had been languishing as a minor courtier of Prince Ulf of Dioclea (King Leofric’s uncle) since his father’s failed rebellion in 1117. As well as his much heralded royal ancestry, Burgred was also the grandson of Prince Cerdic’s bastard son Oswald (who had died fighting the Pechenegs). The Uffasons prided themselves on looking after their own and even King’s bastard could expect to become an earl. Oswald died before receiving an earldom, so as his heir Burgred would receive it instead and become Earl of Cagliari. The family’s debt to Oswald was paid in full.
 

Dewirix

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Venice is quite the prize, and all the moreso in this case given it sheltered an impoverished Cerdic when he fled the Norman Conquest.

The Republic seems to be threatening to recreate the historical Roman Empire, which can only make Catholic Europe more nervous. Given the choice between a Turk and a Greek master, it might be that not everyone would choose the latter.
 

Alfredian

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looks like your hybrid state is undergoing another transformation as it gains ground in Italy too
It makes life more interesting, as the Republic acquires a wealthy and vocal Catholic minority. One who see themselves as more civilised than the Greeks, and certainly the Helleno-Varangians.

Venice is quite the prize, and all the moreso in this case given it sheltered an impoverished Cerdic when he fled the Norman Conquest.

The Republic seems to be threatening to recreate the historical Roman Empire, which can only make Catholic Europe more nervous. Given the choice between a Turk and a Greek master, it might be that not everyone would choose the latter.
Catholic Europe is probably right to be nervous. However, it is so busy collapsing into civil war and getting beaten by Pagans and Muslims that the Republic is not really at the top of their to-do list.

**************

Time for a quick reminder to vote in the AARland Choice AwAARds. You have until the end of October. At this point I should add a statement encouraging you to vote for anyone you like, but instead I am going to say VOTE FOR THIS AAR. After last quarter's breakthrough (receiving 1 vote), this time there seem to 3 whole votes for this AAR! I now have lofty dreams of breaking the 5-barrier. Well, anyone can dream....

Anyway, the next part is coming up now (and if we can get 5 votes I will hurry up with the part after as well).
 

Alfredian

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Part 24 – Duty is a hard taskmaster

King Leofric had done his duty to the Republic. He had fought in its wars and married who he must for the good of the state. Yet where there is marriage without love, there will be love without marriage. Venera Bagratuni was the daughter of Leofric’s older sister Anastasia, and his vassal the Earl of Lukomorie. Leofric was almost old enough to be her father (aged 30 to her 17), yet the scandal of their affair focused more on the degree of kinship between them and the birth of a son (Aethelfrith FitzUffason) in 1138. Bastards were not uncommon around court, but these normally had a mother of low birth and paternal acknowledgement of them was discreet. King Leofric’s acknowledgement of little Aethelfrith was very public, as was the position of the Lady Venera at court. The Queen was unhappy, as was her brother (the Prince of Athens), and the church hierarchy. Yet none of this upset the King, who was experiencing a happiness he had never found in his two diplomatic marriages. There was much speculation that Leofric would have his marriage to the Queen annulled (despite the two sons she had given him) and marry Venera in her place. Yet this never happened as in 1141 Lady Venera died trying to give birth to their second child. Many regarded this as punishment for Leofric and Venera’s adultery, yet the more charitable found time to pity a man who had been granted a short spell of happiness before having it ripped away.


However duty is a hard taskmaster, and while this was going on Leofric found himself called upon to come to the aid of the Emperor of the Germans in his war against the Kingdom of Zirid (Tunisia) and the Emir of Cyrenaica (whose domains run from Benghazi eastwards to the middle of the Nile Delta. King Leofric had initially hoped this war would just blow over, but German inefficiency made an African expedition by the Republic a necessity. Leofric decided on a two pronged assault on the Emir of Cyrenaica, hoping that knocking him out of the war would both bring the King of Zirid to the negotiating table and reduce Cyrenaican piracy against Republican shipping. The campaign was straightforward and achieved a total occupation of the Emir’s domain (and eventually led to peace with the King of Zirid). What was not simple was the peace settlement with Cyrenaica.

Racism is not a term that would have been used at the time, but the Greeks had a long tradition of dividing the world between civilised men (largely contained within the Greek World) and Barbarians (virtually everyone else). Within the broad category of Barbarians there were degrees of acceptability. Orthodox Christian barbarians (such as Serbs, Bulgars, and the Uffason’s Helleno-Varangian followers) were obviously least offensive. Then Franks, Italians and other assorted Catholics. Pagan barbarians came next, as the Orthodox Church had undertaken successful missionary work amongst them in the past, so they could obviously be saved for Christendom.

What was really beyond the pale (pardon the anachronistic phrase) was dealing with those peoples who formed the mainstay of Islam in the Mediterranean, such as the Turks, Arabs, Persians and Berbers. This might seem harsh, but after losing the heartlands of Orthodox Christianity (especially Egypt and Syria) and suffering centuries of defeats, the Greeks had hardened their hearts to those who had had inflicted this suffering on them. Even stripping out Muslim-Christian conflict, demonization of Asiatic peoples fitted comfortably within a Greek discourse that looked right back to the Persian invasions of Classical Greece.

When presented with the Emirate of Cyrenaica, contemporary Greek opinion knew what should be done. Disposessing the Emir, his sheiks and their Muslim followers, and placing Greek lords to rule the land. This view was supported by many other land-hungry young nobles (Helleno-Varangian, Serb, Bulgar, etc), yet it was not a unanimous viewpoint within the Republic. For the Helleno-Varangians as a whole were quite accepting of people from diverse backgrounds (which should not be a surprise in a group founded by exiles). They had themselves been labelled as barbarians by the pure-blood Greeks, and so rejected the more extreme Greek division between civilised men and barbarians. As long as newcomers would adopt a few core customs (Orthodoxy, use of Greek peppered with Saxon loan-words, love of epic poetry and beer) they could assimilate themselves into Helleno-Varangian social circles. Turks, Arabs, etc who were prepared to convert were not beyond redemption.

King Leofric also had important practical worries about any settlement that involved dispossessing the Muslim aristocracy. Holding down all that hostile land would require significant garrisons, at significant cost. All this effort would be to hold land that Leofric did not particularly desire. How much unprofitable sand does any King really need to own? Leofric chose to please his Treasurer and anger the more hawkish Greeks. The Emir was allowed to do homage for all of his lands, given seats in the Senate for himself and his sheiks, but had to allow Orthodox missionaries free access to his domains. These were far better terms than the Emir had expected and he accepted them immediately. In accepting them he bound himself tighter to the Republic than the Emir initially knew. By choosing to serve a Christian he had angered the religious hardliners within Cyrenaica and came to rely on the threat of King Leofric’s retribution to stop his nobles throwing him from power (or a high window).

For the first time the Republic had vassalised Muslim lords who were not just Greeks being brought back to the fold. By the end of 1138, the Republic was a power in Africa (as well as Europe) and had shown that King Leofric would not force his enemies to fight to the death.


Not all wars are based on a clash of civilisations. In 1142 the King of Burgundy declared war on the Republic, trying to steal King Leofric’s domains in Italy. In a brisk campaign Leofric drove back the Burgundian armies and forced them to accept a white peace. The King of Burgundy was not a good pupil, declaring war again in 1143 and forcing the Republic to teach him the lesson all over again. This peace was even more humiliating, as he had to renounce all of the territorial claims he had started the war for. Burgundy was only spared further humiliation by Leofric’s refusal to invent his own claims to Burgundian lands and take these lands as reparation for the war. If the King of Burgundy had been facing Leofric’s late father (King Aethelwulf) he would have lost most of his domain.

Leofric did feel justified in enforcing those claims that he held legitimately. In particular he felt insulted by the Republic of Mantua’s refusal to accept his overlordship, so left his army (fresh from victory over Burgundy) to besiege the Mantuans until they came begging to become his vassals.


1143 saw yet another war at the other end of the Republic. This was started at King Leofric’s command, but he took no part himself. The aim was to strengthen the Republic’s north-east frontier and gain more territory in the Crimea. The Sultan of Qarakhnid’s forces were easily overwhelmed, but two interesting things did happen on campaign. For the first time King Leofric allowed one of his Muslim vassals (Emir Nikodemos of Kherson) to lead an army, and Marshal Eadric was severely wounded leading another army.

Bad luck for a Marshal of the Republic was a point of interest at court, but was not that unusual during Leofric’s reign:
• 1124 Marshal Badry Bagratuni dies of ‘old age’, which was probably helped by being poisoned by one of Earl Saebert’s supporters.
• 1134 Marshal Saexbald Uffason severely wounded by an assassin.
• 1142 Marshal Michael Delassenos murdered by son of the late Marshal Badry.
• 1143 Marshal Eadric Uffason severely wounded in battle against the Sultan of Qarakhnid.
• 1154 Marshal Ruslan Uffason severely wounded in a duel with another courtier.

The only good thing about being Marshal was that you (or more likely your heir) had a good chance of receiving an earldom in recognition of loyal service.
 
Last edited:

loki100

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nice again to see the workings of the complex ethnic pot of the Republic in the treatment of N Africa - a sensible solution but one that could see Greek distaste for their 'foreign' masters increase. And, the curse of the wounded marshal continues to resonate.
 

Alfredian

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And, the curse of the wounded marshal continues to resonate.
They got off lightly. Three of them were only horrifically wounded.

They could probably still bite someone's kneecaps off.
 

enf91

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What are you talking about? It was only a flesh wound.

Leofric currently seems on track for one of two things: sainthood for kindness to his fellow men, or damnation for kindness towards heathens.
 

Dewirix

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I approve of Leofric's moderation. It's clear that the Republic can hold its own against its enemies and will win over the heathens by its successes rather than through force. If Leofric doesn't want to be a tyrant I can't fault him for that.
 

Alfredian

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nice again to see the workings of the complex ethnic pot of the Republic in the treatment of N Africa - a sensible solution but one that could see Greek distaste for their 'foreign' masters increase.
This will definitely alienate the Greeks. However from an Uffason perspective this is no great loss as the Greeks High Nobility were not very loyal anyway, but now there is an extra counter-balance within the Republic (in the form of the Arab converts to orthodoxy). Balancing opposing forces in this way is sensible politically, but can leave some serious long-term weaknesses (I am picturing 19th century Austria-Hungary).

And, the curse of the wounded marshal continues to resonate.
I was particularly pleased with how many got injured away from the battlefield. Any Rurikovich would be proud.


Leofric currently seems on track for one of two things: sainthood for kindness to his fellow men, or damnation for kindness towards heathens.
I think the Greek nobles might think he is going somewhere hot, but the Church is quite well-disposed, as they have made huge strides re-converting the Muslim Greeks. He has also built quite a lot of churches.

I approve of Leofric's moderation. It's clear that the Republic can hold its own against its enemies and will win over the heathens by its successes rather than through force. If Leofric doesn't want to be a tyrant I can't fault him for that.
Leofric is very much the constitutional monarch, and doesn't seem to need the tyrant's trappings of power. His son and heir might be a rather different character though.

****************************

As a quick update I have now played to about 1193, and 1192 sees the most dramtic changes since the war with the Empire in 1124.

****************************

Right. Huge thanks to those of you who have voted in the AARland choice awAARds. It is much appreciated. I am amazed to say we have reached five votes, so here is the next part.
 

Alfredian

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Part 25 – Father of the Republic

The 1130s and 1140s had seen steady growth for the Republic, but the news was much less heartening for this Islamic world. The Seljuk Sultanate was wracked by rebellion and had been driven from the Caucasus by the Pagan Republic of Vyatichs. Meanwhile successive crusades had liberated first Jerusalem (taken by the King of Croatia in 1137) and Constantinople (taken by the King of the Danes in 1144).

The Republic of Vyatichs was a heterogeneous power comprising a mixture of Russians, Finns, Cumans, Turks and other assorted peoples caught up in the collapse of the Russian principalities. Their loose paganism absorbed many influences and made it easy for subject peoples to hold onto those folk customs they held dear. In many a Russian village peasants could be seen worshiping icons of the Virgin Mary, but using the name of the Pagan Mother Goddess.

King Sobeslav the Magnificent of Bohemia-Hungary had earlier established his rule across the Ukraine, driving back the Cumans. When the Republic of Vyatichs turned its attention south these two colossal realms found themselves at war. This raged from 1141 to 1145, and was one of the fiercest conflicts of the medieval era. It laid waste to most of the Ukraine and western Russia, and extracted a huge cost in men and treasure from both parties. King Sobeslav was the foremost king in Christendom and there were great hopes that he could turn back the Pagan tide. These hopes were to be in vain, as Sobeslav could not break the Republic of Vyatichs down. The war finally ended with King Sobeslav’s death in battle in 1145. The Regency Council of Bohemia-Hungary was desperate for peace at any price, before their union of their two kingdoms could fracture. The were prepared to pay a heavy price and they did. They gave up 7 provinces and renounced their claims to 32 more. They had abandoned the Christians of Russia to their fate.


The apocalypse had come to orthodox Russia, but life went on as normal within the Republic.

The cities of Thessalonike and Venice competed to be the first city of the Republic, each rebuilding itself to outshine the other. King Leofric bought the site of his great-grandmother’s family mansion and began a rebuilding project that would see it become the grandest palace in Venice. The Doge’s former palace became a home for the Senate when the King was in the City.

King Leofric’s children grew and in 1145 his heir – Prince Slavek – came of age. Slavek was given the heir’s traditional title (Earl of Epirus), but also a new title as Prince of Venice. He was also married to a Russian Princess – Zinaida Rurikovich. Where King Leofric was a conservative character, Prince Slavek was much more aggressive. Not that he was given to unrestrained violence, but rather that he was conscious of his status as the son and grandson of kings, and would not have his dignity challenged. He had two great desires, and these sprang not from lust or greed, but from his pride. He wanted the throne of Bohemia-Hungary (which he felt he had claim to through his mother) and to be seen as a new Justinian, bringing Italy back under Greek rule. However, he was still only the heir and could do little besides urge his father to act. This restraint chafed at him and did nothing to improve his temper.

King Leofric would not take the aggressive action urged by Prince Slavek for another 12 years, as in 1146 the King narrowly escaped assassination and then a major rebellion broke out led by Leofric’s brother-in-law (Prince Ioannes Iasites of Athens). Prince Ioannes had never forgiven Leofric for the shame his public affair with Venera Bagratuni had cause to the Iasites family. Even if he could not seize the throne himself, Prince Ioannes could place his sister (Queen Euanthia)’s son Albert Uffason on the throne instead of Leofric or Prince Slavek. The ‘Greek Rebellion’ was marked by widespread unrest across the Empire and loyalist forces were called on again and again to stamp out uprisings by disaffected Greek and Bulgarian nobles.

Prince Slavek urged that a hard line be taken with these rebels, executing the leaders and stripping their families of their lands. This was not something the King Leofric was prepared to do – “The Lord has forgiven me my sins in the past. How can I not show forgiveness when it is in my power”. Most defeated rebels were allowed to do homage to the King and were regranted their lands. Even Prince Ioannes received the kiss of peace from King Leofric. The King would make no more martyrs than necessary. The only rebel earl who lost his land was the Earl of Naissus, and this was because the King had always disliked him on a personal level.


The German Emperor Friedrich had married Leofric’s daughter Aethelhild in 1142. Leofric had hoped that this would both cement his German alliance and provide his daughter with a safe and wealthy life. This illusions were shattered in 1151 when Emperor Friedrich was dethroned by his cousin the Duke of Bavaria. Empress Aethelhild was to become that saddest of figures, an exiled ruler seeking charity at another’s court.


By 1157 the Republic had recovered from the destruction of the Greek Rebellion and the aging King finally agreed to let Prince Slavek lead the Republic to war. This was not a small war, but a major campaign aimed at driving the Seljuks from their remaining Italian possessions. The timing was good as the Muslim Emperor of Byzantium already declared war on the Seljuks.

The war was made up of three campaigns:

1. Prince Slavek’s invasion of mainland Italy. He executed this efficiently, but had no chance to defeat the Turks in battle.

2. Prince Talib of Cyrenaica’s invasion of Sicily. This was a series of sieges, which allowed the young prince to show that a Christian Arab could lead the Republic successfully against his Muslim brethren.

3. Earl Albert of Chortitza’s campaign on the Don River and into the southern Caucasus. Prince Slavek did not get on with his younger half-brother Albert and deeply resented the success he won in this campaign. Earl Albert faced Sultan Allahyar of the Seljuks three times in battle and was victorious even when outnumbered. This gained Albert a huge amount of prestige and completely overshadowed Slavek’s successes in Italy.

When the Sultan’s peace envoys arrived in Thessalonike they offered to give up all the Seljuk holdings in Italy and Sicily. This should have been the greatest moment of Prince Slavek’s life, yet everywhere he went he was tormented by the praise he heard heaped on Earl Albert. Distaste was rapidly turning into hate.


Prince Slavek’s impatience for power was obvious for all to see, and he began to take a bigger role in government as King Leofric grew weaker. Finally in 1162 King Leofric died quietly in his bed.

He had reigned for 38 years and a whole generation had grown up in his shade.

He had inherited the Republic on the verge of destruction and left it secure and prosperous.

He had taken the young Republic’s institutions of Senate and Assembly and made them a working system, supported to by all the main groups in the Republic.

He had secured the position of the Uffason family and made his personal title of King synonymous with the Republic’s title of Dictator and First Consul. Even hardcore Republicans routinely (and without irony) referred to him as King Leofric.

With the loss of the Lady Venera he had renounced his sins and lived his life so commendably that he was beatified immediately after death.

Leofric was not an exciting King, but through his constancy and determination he built the Republic and turned back the Muslim tide that had been obliterating the Orthodox world.
 

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Just caught up with this excellent tale and am looking forward to reading it over the next few days. A great idea for a story and the opening chapters are very promising. Great work Alfredian!
 

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He had inherited the Republic on the verge of destruction and left it secure and prosperous.

He had taken the young Republic’s institutions of Senate and Assembly and made them a working system, supported to by all the main groups in the Republic.

He had secured the position of the Uffason family and made his personal title of King synonymous with the Republic’s title of Dictator and First Consul. Even hardcore Republicans routinely (and without irony) referred to him as King Leofric.

With the loss of the Lady Venera he had renounced his sins and lived his life so commendably that he was beatified immediately after death.

Leofric was not an exciting King, but through his constancy and determination he built the Republic and turned back the Muslim tide that had been obliterating the Orthodox world.
& one rather suspects that Slavek will go for the bloody, incompetent, dramatic model? Be interesting to see how the multinational republic copes with those stresses ... even if we are still 31 years from 1192.
 

Alfredian

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Just caught up with this excellent tale and am looking forward to reading it over the next few days. A great idea for a story and the opening chapters are very promising. Great work Alfredian!
Thank you for reading. I enjoyed writing the first few chapters, trying to work out why Cerdic would have to leave home.

& one rather suspects that Slavek will go for the bloody, incompetent, dramatic model? Be interesting to see how the multinational republic copes with those stresses ... even if we are still 31 years from 1192.
I don't think he is going to end up as a saint...

******************

A big thank you to the people who voted for this in the AARland Choice AARwards. I really appreciate it. The leap from 1 vote (Q2) to 5 votes (this time) was a very nice surprise.

I will now go on to give my Oscar's speech thanking my Mum, my dog, my agent..............

Chapter 26 coming up
 

Alfredian

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Part 26 – The Republic in 1162

This chapter will look at the state of the Republic at the death of King Leofric.

Islam within the Republic

The position of the Islamic clergy within the Republic’s new domains was important and served to make the integration of these provinces much harder. They bitterly resented being ruled by infidels and worked hard to fan the flames of rebellion. The absence of a formal hierarchy (as found in Roman Catholicism) did undermine their efforts at a coordinated rebellion, but also hindered the Republic’s efforts to calm things down.

There were sporadic outbreaks of violence, yet during Leofric’s reign they never really turned into a major revolt. These outbreaks of violence were very localised and often centred on rumours of anti-Islamic activity. For example, rumour would go round that a Greek merchant had defiled a copy of the Koran; a mob would start to form; the protest would get louder and more aggressive. Eventually the local nobles (be they indigenous or immigrants) would use force to put down the mob and a brittle peace would reign again.

The local nobility (be they Arab, Turk or Berber) found themselves in an increasingly difficult position. The sheiks and emirs had accepted vassalisation to retain their position and wealth, but now found themselves ruling a hostile populace. They were able to avoid some of the incidental offence that a Greek count would have caused, but became figures of popular hatred once they began to convert to Orthodox Christianity. Sheiks became counts, and took on European ways, which began to spread down to the local Minor Nobility as well. They became increasingly divorced from their Muslim subjects, and increasingly reliant on their Christian neighbours.

The Church and the Peasantry

The Orthodox Church had an overwhelmingly favourable view of King Leofric and therefore of the Uffasons as a dynasty. Islam had been driven back, churches built and new areas opened up for missionary activity. It was no surprise that they had beatified him on his death, nor that they agreed to King Slavek’s request to elevate him swiftly to sainthood as Saint Leofric of Thessalonike.

The Catholic Church within the Republic gave the Uffasons their guarded support. No attempt had been made to force them to renounce Rome or to interfere on doctrinal matters, and they were not really losing any believers to Orthodox missionaries.

Both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches told the Peasantry to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” and the Peasantry generally did as they were told. The only real exceptions were when they were led into revolt by ambitious noblemen. These rebellions were rarely in the peasants’ interests, as it was their villages that got looted and their sons who were cut down in the melee. Nobles tended to come through these rebellions unscathed, protected by expensive walls and armour.

The Burghers

For the Burghers of the Republic’s towns and cities the Republic was viewed as a complete success, and this success was credited solely to King Leofric. He had ensured the Republic’s Assembly (where they were represented) was strong enough to serve as a counterweight to the aristocratic Senate. This freed them from the worst abuses of their local nobles or the central Government, and protected them from arbitrary taxation. They had also seen King Leofric go to war to reopen their most prized trade routes.

They had grown more prosperous than they had been in generations, and were overwhelmingly loyal to the Royal Family. The Uffasons were (quite rightly) seen as their protectors from foes inside and outside the Republic.

The Minor Nobility

The tale of the Minor Nobility under King Leofric really has three parts.

Firstly there are the indigenous Minor Nobles of Europe – Greeks, Italians, Serbs, Bulgars. These were largely keeping alive their way of life as it was before the Uffason’s, under the overlordship of their own High Nobility. Yet even here there were changes. They faced Burghers who were wealthier and more confident than before. More likely to stand up for their town’s rights, and appeal all the way to the Republic’s Assembly if threatened with force. These indigenous Minor Nobles were not natural supporters of the Uffasons.

Secondly there were the Arab, Turkish and Berber Minor Nobles of the new domains. The influence of these was severely weakened during the conflicts that lead to their masters being vassalised. Many were killed, and even more went into exile to avoid being ruled by infidels. Those who remained tended to be either grizzled old men, widows, children, and those who were prepared to put their pragmatism ahead of their faith. These were not particularly loyal to the Republic, but not reckless enough to cause trouble.

Thirdly there were the Helleno-Varangian Minor Nobles. By now these were an even more mixed bag than they had been even at the start of Leofric’s reign. The largest group of Helleno-Varangians were those born within the Republic. They boasted of their English or Scandinavian ancestry, but this was a rather small branch of their family tree. They continued to speak Greek sprinkled to Saxon loan-words, and retained just enough distinctiveness in dress and behaviour to stand out from the ordinary Greeks. A smaller group were first generation immigrants who had arrived in the Republic and been taken on by High Nobles eager to increase the number of huscarls at their command. These tended to marry into the Helleno-Varangian community. By this point the greatest number of incomers were Orthodox Russians displaced by the growth of the pagan Republic of Vyatichs. With their longstanding Scandinavian links they adapted rather well to Helleno-Varangian life.

The Helleno-Varangian Minor Nobility that had developed under the Uffasons and was built around the territorial expansion that the Uffasons had delivered. In a Helleno-Varangian household younger sons were not sent to join the clergy or learn a trade. They were trained to fight from an early age, with the expectation that they would enter the warband of some earl or count and eventually be rewarded with an estate of their own. The landless young huscarl usually ended up as a prosperous thegn (gentleman) or went to an early grave.

It was mostly these young men who filled the gap left by the departure of much of the local Minor Nobility in the Republic’s new Muslim provinces. Their skill at arms and willingness to use force (where needed) propped up the rule of the vassalised sheiks, tying the new provinces closer to the Republic.

The High Nobility

For information about the High Nobility we can once again turn to Aldwulfson’s Peerage. Sadly none of the copies from 1162 survive, but my father obtained a copy from 1165, which still gives us a good impression of the peerage at the time.




The first thing we notice is that the peerage has become more stratified during King Leofric’s reign. The title of prince or duke can still be used virtually interchangeably, but moving down to the peerage’s lower tier there are three fixed titles:
• A man can only call himself an earl if his title has been created by the King through a grant of land from the Royal demesne.
• A man can only call himself a count if his title has been specifically confirmed by the King. Usually this happens through vassalisation in war.
• Those who have received their title from a prince or duke (rather than the King) can only call themselves a viscount.

A viscount may have all the power and money of an earl, but will always rank behind him in the order of precedence, and his title will make this plain for all to see.

The second thing we see is that the peerage has been rocked by a couple of major inheritances. The Doukas family (descended from the last Christian Emperor of Byzantium) have inherited the Principality of Achaea from the Kourtikes family. A cadet branch of the Iasites family (Princes of Athens) have inherited the Principality of Karvuna from the (Bulgarian) Balik family. These gains might not garner the glory of conquest, but the wealth they bring is just as real.


Turning to the culture of the High Nobility we can see a great degree of diversity. Greek culture (including its bastard Helleno-Varangian offspring) covers 51% of the peers, but the peerage is increasingly diverse in its composition. Back in 1124 Greek & Helleno-Varangians made up 79% of the peerage, so the drop to 51% in 1165 was a dramatic change.


By the end of King Leofric’s reign the political debate had formed around three main positions. These were not political parties in the modern sense, but rather groups of individuals who shared a common perspective.

1. The Royalists. These were the people who supported the Dictatorship turning into a hereditary position passed from father to son within the Uffason family. Its supporters were mainly drawn from the Uffason family and the new Arab peers. The latter regarded an Uffason monarch as providing protection from the land-hungry Greeks. It is a little ironic that they feared replacement by Greek nobles, while busily creating estates for their new Helleno-Varangian retainers.

2. The Oligarchists. These believed the basic structure of the Republic was sound, but that the Dictator should be elected for life by the Senate. In practice this would mean the Dictator was always likely to be a prince from one of the Republic’s most important families. Unsurprisingly then, the supporters of this faction tended to be peers from the great families of the Republic (Greeks, Serbs and Bulgars).

3. The Constitutionalists. These agued for the letter of the constitution, i.e. that the Dictatorship was an emergency position and should now be removed. The Republic should instead be headed by a pair of consuls elected by the Senate AND the Assembly. This faction was supported mainly by lower peers (earls and counts) from Europe who were not vassals of any prince, being bound only by their vows to King Leofric. Following the constitution would give them a chance for personal advancement, as it would emasculate the Uffasons and the Princes.

We can also see how much more secure the Uffason’s hold on power was by 1165 than in 1124. In 1124 the factions that supported keeping an Uffason as Dictator could only command the support of 27% of the nobility (and even that support was divided between supporters of King Leofric’s two potential heirs). By 1165, their supporters (the Royalist faction) had the support of 61% of peers.

The big losers in this period of stability were the Greek and Serbian princes. They had seen new nobles (who were natural supporters of the Crown) join the senate, and had also lost the support of many earls and counts to the Constitutionalist faction. They had dropped from controlling 67% of the Senate to only 18%.


If King Leofric could generally count on the willing support of the Senate and Assembly, he could also call on a significant amount of raw power if required. The Crown and the Minor Royals control 35% of the provinces (and soldiers) in the Republic. A further 10% was controlled by the Church and ennobled courtiers, who were overwhelmingly likely to follow the Crown. Anyone trying to seize control of the Republic by force would need almost unanimous support from the remainder of the aristocracy, and that was incredibly unlikely while the Greeks continued to look down on the other peers.
 
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Dewirix

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I have a feeling that Slavek is going to turn out to be solidly Royalist at the very least. Either that or argue that the state is in perpetual emergency and therefore needs a permanent dictator.

A very believeable update on the social composition of the Republic.