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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Orjasmo

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King John Plantagenet was and, arguably, still is England's greatest king. Though his reign was tumultuous, he paved the way for the expansion of liberty and justice throughout the English Empire whilst expanding and maintaining a foothold on the continent that would pivotal in the growth of English power across the world. Innumerable books, plays and movies have been written about him and his reign, but just who was King John? Join me as we examine, piece by piece, the reign of King John the Great through letters, documents and even the king's own journals as we seek to discover the true man beneath the crown.

Welcome, ladies and gents, to King John the Great. I'll be writing this as a documentary style AAR of my playthrough as King John Plantagenet, who, in our timeline, was arguably England's worst monarch. In this game, however, the king gained a kinder and softer streak to him as the responsiblities of the crown weighed heavier and heavier. We'll start a month into his reign and go from there. If you have any questions, please do ask! If you have any comments, good or bad, I'm more than happy to hear them! As with anything I write, I can't promise it'll be fun (I'll do my best though), but what I can promise is that it will most likely not give you Ebola. If that's something you can get behind, then welcome and enjoy the ride!

 
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Chapter I: Consolidation of Power

Many know the mythic tale of the rise of King John to the throne. Given no land by his father but still becoming king and proving a capable monarch. King John became the symbol of the underdog, inspiring many even centuries after his death and sparking the phrase "to be a John." What people do no know is that John's first month as king is what made him the person that we know him as today.

When he took the throne, John was an impatient, ill-tempered and greedy man. His first month as king was so abysmally terrible that the nobles beneath him, already chaffing under his tyrannical power hold, were plotting to overthrow him and put his brother's bastard, Philip de Cognac, onto the throne. There are records of these meetings, held secretly in farmhouses, that list prominent dukes and counts among their number such as the Earl of Norfolk in East England, the Earl of Devon in Corwall, the Earl of Sussex in Kent, many counts from Aquitaine and even the Duke of Munster in the south of Ireland.

John knew nothing of these meetings until the ever-loyal Roger, then simply Count of York, informed him of them. John was furious but, under old Anglo-Saxon law, could do nothing as he had no hard evidence and therefore meetings of conspiracy were legal on farm land.

No one can truly know what caused John to make the first move and cede immense amounts of power and land to the nobles but we know it was his idea. Although badly damaged in the palace fire of 1839, much of the book survived and has been translated into modern English. In this famous quote, we see some of the thought behind John's eventual decision. "and if I am to remain the King of England, I must divide the Kingdom into confederacy of like-minded individuals who will govern the land with me and for me."

And so, John took it upon himself to partition England into blocs of power that would rule over most of England and answer only to him. To appease the conspirators, he gave the Count of Devon, Earl William of Wight, control over Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, the Count of Norfolk, Earl Roger of Norfolk, control over Suffolk, and Earl William of Sussex, control over Kent and Surrey. Duchess Isabel of Ossory became Earless of Dublin and Duke William, husband to Isabel and earl of most of Southern Wales, the Duke of Deheubarth. He then divided up the rebellious French lands, naming his mother, Countess Alienor, Duchess of Poitou and Governess of Aquitaine.

His next step was to acquiesce the other worry of the nobles and ensure a legitimate heir to the throne. He had two children, both whom he had denied, from his previous marriage. However, with a revolt on his doorstep over his legitimacy and the potentiality of the throne being passed to the late Richard's bastard, John wanted to ensure the continuance of the Plantagenet line. As such, he legitimized his son, Richard, and declared him heir to the Kingdom of England, his lands and his claims. On top of being heir, John also gave Richard his lands in Normandy and declared him Duke. This would become a tradition and the official way to declare an heir to the Kingdom of England.

The ceremony was grand with dancers, jesters, musicians and an enormous feast. A total of fourteen boars, twenty eight barrels of wine and well over a hundred jellies were consumed. All the lords of England were in attendance and, while most were happy with John's decisions, there were still grumbles. John hadn't seen the last of this affair.

He then went about reshuffling his advisers. He kept both Albert of Fierbois and Duke William of Ossory on as Spymaster and Lord Constable, respectively, but replaced Earl Richard of Bedford with Anselm of Wokingham as Lord Chancellor and made Baron Peter of Castillon Lord Steward. In a controversial choice, he chose the young (28) Anselm, Bishop of Fullham, to be his Court Chaplain. There were rumors that Anselm and the King had a more intimate relationship but the king, to a close confidant, stated, "Anselm is a remarkable man in matters of theology. These rumors and a shameful matter and stain on his reputation. I intend to root them out where I find them.

With the thought of rebellion quelled, his lineage legitimized and his court of advisers restructured, John finally set about rewarding Earl Robert of York for his loyal duties to the crown. In a move of masterful diplomacy, John declared Roger Duke of Lancaster and York, placing and overwhelming majority of the power of England in one man. This decision would prove to be lifesaving in the years to come and Roger would remain the King's closest ally and good friend.

That's all for this week. Please, join us next time as we discuss the King's marriage, his plot to eliminate, Philip, Richard's bastard, and the expansion of his power in France.



Didn't have much to work with this week. Sorry if it drags a bit. If you want pics, I'll get them in there.
 
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tnick0225

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I like this different outlook on King John :) the update didn't drag at all, actually thought it was a well written description of how King John appeased his vassals shortly after his ascension.

Looking forward to the next update. Pictures would be awesome, but not necessary for this chapter I don't think. Although a map would be quite awesome to see :)
 

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Consider this subbed! I like the fresh perspective.

Which game are you playing?
 

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I like this different outlook on King John :) the update didn't drag at all, actually thought it was a well written description of how King John appeased his vassals shortly after his ascension.

Looking forward to the next update. Pictures would be awesome, but not necessary for this chapter I don't think. Although a map would be quite awesome to see :)
Thank you very much. I'll do my best to keep it up. I'll also start adding pictures where I can't quite get the point across in words. There'll be a nice map at the end of this update.

Consider this subbed! I like the fresh perspective.

Which game are you playing?
Thank you! I'm playing Sons of Abraham, all the DLC, with HIP mod.
 

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Chapter II: Unifying the Lands

King John was halfway through his tour of the lands when he stopped in the Northern Welsh kingdom of Gwenydd. While the local lord, Brenin Llywelyn the Great, saw King John as a usurper of the true Welsh lands but to refuse him hospitality could have been considered an act of war. So, the king and his company stayed the night in the brenin's castle.

It was there that he met lady Gwenllian Aberffraw. It is said that the two were like "doves released at a royal procession, flying close and never leaving each other's side". In the morning, when he left the castle to continue the tour, he had not forgotten her and plucked a single rose from the castle gardens. Handing it to her, he said that he would return soon. Sure enough, within the year he was back at the castle. By year's end, church bells were ringing for the loving couple's marriage at the palace chapel. In a remarkable turn of charity, John paid for the all the ceremonies out of the crown's purse. The nobility was beginning to notice a new John, a king that they liked and could support.

Not all was good news, however. The king's journals state that in May of the following year, Philip de Cognac, his brother Richard's bastard, came to him seeking to be landed. John was insulted and furious. "He came to me, with knee barely touching the ground, and asked, nay, demanded for title that, he claimed, he rightfully deserved. I will see England handed to its enemies before I see him with any power. Still, I could not be so forward, I mumbled some promises to give me time. He will be dead by Christmas." And so, plot to kill Philip was put into motion.

Whilst another crusade distracted inquisitive eyes, John gathered support amongst those loyal to him. Earl John of Essex, Queen Gwen and Duke Roger gladly joined the king in his intrigue against Philip but this simply was not enough. John needed someone close to Philip that would not betray them. So, he turned to Baron Albert of White Tower. Sending to him a small fortune and an invitation to the court, White Tower quickly put the pieces together and began working closely with the king. He would soon assume most of the responsibility for the plot as new matters distracted John.

On the second of June, 1200, Alfonso, King of Castille, sent out an urgent request to his brother-in-law, King John. It called John to arms but the demand could not have more poorly timed. The war was against a minor nobleman and so, few troops would need to be sent, but it was a war was against the tyranny of the king. If John did not support, his word in courts across Europe would be worth dirt. If he did, his local lords would see it as a direct insult to their shared power with the king.

John, however, was a man of his word. He sent a small contingent of troops along with two hundred ducats of gold to Alfonso. The money, more than the troops, would save Alfonso for a short while longer but this action caused a rallying cry amongst the French provinces for independence from King John. Leading the rebellious lords was John's own mother, the Duchess Alienor of Poitou.

John was outraged. He desperately needed to reinforce his claim over the French territories. To do this, he had to officially announce himself King of Aquitaine but this would be an expensive endeavor and the royal treasury was spent. With no other options left, John took a loan from the Mayor of London and went through with the proceedings.

John assumed that now, as rightful king of southern France, the nobles would know their place and fall back in line. He was wrong. They were angrier than ever that an English king would dare to make such a proclamation. Even worse, the French king, Philippe II, saw this declaration as a direct insult to his power. Seeking to further embolden the nobility against England, he announced that since John was rightful king of the south, then he was rightful king of the north. On October 3rd, 1200, John received a letter from his nephew, Arthur, Duke of Brittany, calling him to arms against Philippe.

Twenty thousand men, in England and France, came to the King's demand for soldiers. A full six thousand more than Phillipe but John would have to get all his men to France or his advantage would be worthless. The English navy was gathered and cogs hired at great expense to the king and men were put on boats to cross the channel into Richard's lands in Normandy. It is said that the King was halfway across when he received news from a courier that had chased after the fleet in a small fishing boat. The king's cries of fury could be heard could be heard a mile a way. White Tower had betrayed him to Philip de Cognac. The plot was in jeopardy.

From his journals, we see the king's frustration over the event. Dipping in and out of a depressive state, he repeatedly asked himself how this could have happened? Why did it seem that people hated him? After three days, locked in his room in his son's castle in Normandy, he left with his answer, "It's a simple fact. No one cares about me. I could die tomorrow and the realm would move on as if I never existed." This answer gave him enough solace to unite his troops but he was never quite the same again, finding more comfort by himself than with others.

Marching twenty thousand men from Normandy to Anjou in Brittany was arduous but the men's morale held the entire way with the King leading them. On Feburary 13th, 1201, the morning was cold and the two armies met. Duke William of South Wales lead the center with cavalry. To his right were most of the archers and to his left the bulk of men at arms. The French had two sets of cavalry in the center and to the left with their men at arms facing down the English to the right. The French reliance of cavalry would be their downfall as a hail of arrows broke the cavalry led by King Phillipe. As they retreated, the English light cavalry decended on the French lines from the flank whilst the two sides of men at arms clashed. As the remaining cavalry broke and retreated, the English charged down the retreating force. Two days later, what little remained of the French forces pulled out of the province with the English on their tails. In total, the English troops had lost just under a thousand men with the French army limping away at just over, a staggering, ten thousand men lost. That infamous Battle of Cholet shattered the French and would be a symbol of English resilience for centuries to come. By May, the war was over. The French had lost.

John quickly turned Arthur and asked for his vassalage stating triumphantly, "You'll never have to ask for my aid again if you come to rest under the English crown." Arthur happily agreed. To further help John, during the fray of the war, his mother had passed on, breaking the resistance of the Aquitainian provinces. Governance over those lands was passed onto Earl Bertrand of Agen, made Duke of Aquitania. King John ruled now, in peace, from the South of Scotland to the Pyrenees with naught but ocean stopping the flow of English red.


Join us next time as the King John's legitimacy is once against questioned and the power of the king is brutally reinforced.
 
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volksmarschall

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Fantastic AAR so far with the great nexus of focusing on the reign of a single monarch! :cool: (well, at least it seems that's the niche!). Hmm... Cleveland, Ohio - that where I live and work! :p Plenty of snow recently aye? :glare:

Looking forward to the rest of your work.

Cheers!
 

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Yeah this is great stuff.

Some questions:

1. How did you get Brittany to accept your overlordship?
2. Was that THE Eleanor of Aquitaine that you found yourself at war with?
 

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Fantastic AAR so far with the great nexus of focusing on the reign of a single monarch! :cool: (well, at least it seems that's the niche!). Hmm... Cleveland, Ohio - that where I live and work! :p Plenty of snow recently aye? :glare:

Looking forward to the rest of your work.

Cheers!
Thanks a bunch! Yea, I find writing about a single monarch allows me to focus on some of the less talked about events and find a way to add them into the story. I plan on doing another AAR sometime in the not too distant future about Muslims in Norse Denmark but dig myself into this grave first before I start another.

As for snow, can't see it because I of the blinding light outside. It's worse than the Mojave.

Thanks again and I'll keep it up!

Yeah this is great stuff.

Some questions:

1. How did you get Brittany to accept your overlordship?
2. Was that THE Eleanor of Aquitaine that you found yourself at war with?
Thanks!

1) I don't rightly know but I'll admit, I was a bit naughty. I play with neg_diplo on (allows you to send requests even if the AI will say no) because the responses are hilarious and I was hoping for a story reason to turncoat on Brittany. However, using mods and the console and the same time can make the AI's circuits go wonky sometimes (very rarely sadly) and he accepted even though he wasn't supposed to. Gratitude, I guess?
2) Yes, THE Eleanor of Aquitaine wanted to go to war with me. She popped off before she could (thanks goodness) but not before donating most of her land to Brittany (the reason I wanted to go to war with them).
 

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Thanks Orjasmo! :rofl:
 

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Chapter III: Day of the Bastard

The war had ended and England had never before, in its entire history, been more powerful. However, never before had John been in a more precarious state, teetering on the edge between true victory and crushing defeat. The lords of England had spent the war plotting and planning, forming three major factions against the king. The first, and weakest, was one calling for independence from the crown, led by the Duke of Munster and followed closely by a tight knit group of French allies. Their passions were strong but their collective armies were nowhere near the power of the kings. The second was the continued call for Philip de Cognac's claim to the throne. With the plot to kill him made public, some of his followers had abandoned him, fearing for their lives, but those who stood strong became more radical than ever. Finally, there was the faction devoted to decreasing the power of the king and gaining more autonomy for the lords. It was a strong faction, but one unlikely to cause any immediate problems. Still, they would have to be watched.

John, determined to show his benevolence to the lords of England, donated the Castle of Windsor to a minor knight who had shown great valiance in the war against the French, Sir Eric, now Baron Eric of Windsor. It was here the famous family got its start. John also moved his court to his London palace, in Middlesex, returning to the historic capital of the old Saxon kings, harking back to a time where lords and the king were in mutual agreement. These were small gestures, but in times like these, the smallest did their part to soften the people of England to their king.

However, while the king made gestures, his subjects moved against him. July, 21st, 1201, Earl Aubrey, the Count of Oxford, made his move against the king might and demanded that he relinquish the throne to the bastard, Philip de Cognac. We have a rather temperate, almost weary, John in his notes, strikingly different compared to the wrathful John of the past. "I cannot fight. My armies, my Kingdom, are tired of war and wish just to rest. Their armies are strong and fresh. If I must, I will call to my side what I have left but... there are other options still."

Philip was desperately packing up his things in the royal palace, as he had waited to see the king's response. This would prove to be the most foolish mistake of his life. The very night that John had sent his response, palace guards smashed down the door to Philip's room and hauled him off to the Tower. John then waited a few days to see who would rise against him, before raising his levies. This would prove disastrous as the disorganized armies struggled to come to a common meeting point without being destroyed by their enemies. After four shattering defeats at Cardiff, Oxford, Cashel and Stamford, his armies broken and considerably weaker than before, John made a move that his enemies never saw coming.

Aubrey was a prolific writer. Whenever he could afford to, he wrote innumerable tomes that still fill the royal libraries of England to this day. Just like John, and many other men of his time, he kept a small, personal diary of his daily life, filled with facts that would have been lost to time were it not for him. No date is more interesting, however, than that of the 18th of August, 1201, for it is on this day we get to see his genuine reaction to the news from London. "I can scarcely believe it. Philip is dead. Executed by the king two days ago. The war is lost. We thought him weaker than this. We thought him a shadow of his father and brother. Now we see, he may be greater than all them combined, willing to do what he must no matter the consequence. The king has won and now he rules with a gauntlet of iron."

And just like that, the war was over, but John's struggle over his right to rule had just begun. The Duke of Munster's faction for independence from the crown had dissolved but support for greater autonomy amongst the lords had grown even stronger than before. Would John be able fight the growing demands for freedom? Would he even keep his thrown in the growing turmoil?

Join us next time where we discuss King John's desperate movements to retain and strengthen his claim to the throne.


A short one this time, but probably one of the poignant moments in the play-through and a defining moment for what is to come.
 
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Asantahene

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Wow-you dealt with that alright-not quite sure how as it sounds like militarily you were broken...?

Watch out for those Irish Dukes-always stirring up trouble

Good update
 

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prolific writers...I read too many of them in RL! :p

A nice small update is always pleasing (and easy) to get through! :)
 

Forster

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I like your writing style, and the story is interesting. I will be following this.
 

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Chapter IV: The Seeds of War

The next three years in John's life were an endless grasping of internal power struggle as those beneath him desperately tried to climb to the heights of power within a system that was built to keep them in their place. However, as they say, where there's a will, there's a way.

After the quick and merciless execution of Philip de Cognac, the threat of the King's dominance over the feudal lords hung high in the air, like a vulture simply waiting for the time to come for its meal to die. Their disdain for the king, if it was not strong enough before, was all the more powerful now and John knew that all too well. "The Kingdom hates me. My lords, they all can't stand the sight of me. There must be a way to remedy this situation." So, John set about to change the balance of power. Proving himself a traitor to the crown, Duke William of South Wales was removed from the post of Lord Constable and replaced with Aymar, Earl of Angoulềme. John saw the man as a royal servant. He knew that the Earl hated him, but he himself found that he respected his loyalty to the crown enough to grant him power over the kingdom's armies as well as the newly available Duchy of Poitou.

The decision was an arbitrary one and it seems that even John knew it, "I'm not sure why I trust Aymar so much. It just seems right to me." He didn't stop there, however. The Baron of the castle at Hook Norton had been killed in the war, standing firmly on the king's side as an ardent royalist. John decided that the best way to prevent another war would be to appease the very man who started it, Earl Aubrey, lord of Oxford. In a grand procession, with all the pomp and circumstance, Aubrey was granted the castle at Hook Norton. Aubrey, in his journal, declared, "I'm beyond astounded. I simply can't understand why the King would hand off the title to me. What manner of angel or demon has possessed him?" Indeed, many were confused as the king's recent actions, but it another would make a decision that would be a defining play in the future of the king's reign.

On the bitterly cold, winter morning of December 29th, 1201, Gwenllian Aberffraw, Queen of England, was caught handing off a note to a lesser lord of Aquitaine, Baron Hugo. This note was handed to the King by Albert of Fierbois and its contents were disturbing. The Queen was plotting to kill Duke Arthur, lord of Brittany, splitting the, now expansive, duchy between his two sisters. Fortunately for the Queen, the king was too busy that week, indulging himself in hedonism and delusions of grandeur, to even notice. So the plan went forwards. A little over two years later, on Feburary 8th, 1204, at a speech to his people, on a high up balcony, Duke Albert leaned against the banister and it snapped, sending him plummeting to his death. The expansive duchy was torn in two. Duchess Eleonore now ruled Anjou, the smaller of the two duchies, and Duchess Constance ruled Brittany. John took no issue in the death of the the young Arthur, smaller vassals were less trouble. However, Duchess Eleonore was married to Duke Hugh of Ulster and Duchess Constance to Brenin Llewelyn of Gwynedd. This threatened to take lands out of his realm.

However, the King, for the time being, had more important things to worry about. The loan that he had taken many years ago, to pay for the expenses behind declaring himself King of Aquitaine, was coming back to haunt him. John had put forth a law to raise the taxes for the cities, but few lords stood behind it. Worse still, a German, with strong ties to the Holy Roman Emperor, had come to the throne of France and was looking to expand his power. The king's mind was trouble and, on March 3rd, 1204, his body betrayed him. He had just bitten out of a large hunk of bread but it was stale and hard and would not go down easily. Soon it was caught in the king's throat and he began to choke. As the world around him started to go black, the king stood, refusing to go out lying down, and slammed his fist into his stomach. The bread flew out, across the table, and air came to the king again. The lords at the table were aghast that something like this could happen but, as the story spread, no one would call the king craven anymore. John was now 'the man who stood against death' to his allies and 'the man who stood against bread' to his enemies.

As the good news about the king's survival went out to the kingdom, good news returned to the king. Lord Chancellor Anselm had been sent out to lay claim to the Isle of Man two years before, now he had returned. On August 19th, 1204, the claim was handed off to the king and riders sent out to Man to demand Earl Ragnvald's vassalage. On December 6th, 1204, they returned to the king, all dead and packed into one box with "NO" painted on top in their blood. It was war.

Join use next time for the King's war against the Isle of Man.


I apologize if this one is a bit erratic. I had a lot of important and separate things to write and no easy way to do it.
 
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Orjasmo

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Wow-you dealt with that alright-not quite sure how as it sounds like militarily you were broken...?

Watch out for those Irish Dukes-always stirring up trouble

Good update
Cut off the head and the snake will die. I executed Philip and his claim died with him, ending the war. After all, you can't put a cold body on the throne and call it king. Yea, that won't be last time they cause trouble.

Thanks!


prolific writers...I read too many of them in RL! :p

A nice small update is always pleasing (and easy) to get through! :)
It's a curse!

I'll try to keep my updates concise so there's no slogging. It can be the death of an AAR as I know too well.

I like your writing style, and the story is interesting. I will be following this.
Thank you! I hope you continue to enjoy it and feel free to unleash the hounds of war when it comes to criticism. I welcome a good critic.
 

Orjasmo

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Chapter V: Revenge for King Ælla

On December 16th, 1204, notices were sent out to lords and stewards of King John's personal lands to raise the men due to the King and gather them in Sussex. The last of the Great Heathen Army, a united coalition of Viking kings that poured into the northern, Jute, kingdom of Northumbria in 867, Jarl Ragnvald of Mann was one of great lineage. It should be no surprise then that the offer of incorporation into England by King John was seen as an affront to all his sensibilities. Ragnvald knew full well that he could not fight the king's armies head on. However, he had also been paying close attention to English politics and knew that John's power over the lords was fragile, at best. Counting on that fragility, his plan was instead to simply hold the isle until the next, inevitable civil war broke out and then quietly sign peace with the king. With hindsight, the plan may seem odd to modern eyes but it was hardly foolhardy. The balance of power between John and the baronial class was tenuous and many hadn't forgiven John so soon for his, perceived or otherwise, transgressions against them. To many, it seemed that civil war was just days away.

John, on the other hand, saw this war as a chance to prove his power as a monarch and temper the rebellious nature of his vassals. He arrived in Sussex on January 10th, 1205, where his English troops were ready to embark to Aquitaine, where they would gather his remaining forces and finally move on Mann. In a diplomatic overture to his constant desire to unite his kingdoms under one people, he split control of the troops between himself, Earl Gui d'Auvergne, lord of Auvèrnhe, a renowned tactician that once successfully besieged a castle with a quarter of the necessary men whilst defending against an enemy army, and Duke William Marshal, lord of Deheubarth, who, despite some lingering disagreements with the king, was proving to be loyal. Upon arriving at his estates in the Occitan provinces, John noted in his journals, “The journey to Aquitaine was without cause for worry, the seas as calm as the unbroken silence of a winter morning. God has granted me safe passage and it is His judgment that [Mann] should be held by the English people and none else. Praise Him and may His will be done.” By February 23rd, over two thousand men had been gathered to the king's banner and the fleet was ready to set sail for Mann.

Whilst stopping at port in the Breton province of Thouars, John received bad news. A few miles south, in the province of Périgord, the heartland of Aquitaine, disenfranchised Occitan peasants had rallied behind a war veteran and a separatist by the name of Leon. Well over three thousand were burning and pillaging the countryside and those numbers were growing by the day. Worse still, Ragnvald had grown bold and invaded the southern Welsh town of Caerwent. The siege was going poorly, but the town had been caught off guard and were not going to last much longer. Sending out demands to all the lords of Aquitaine to raise men owed to the king, John set sail for Wales. His fleet landed on the sandy Welsh shores, March 15th, and immediately began to move inland. Inside the walls of the town, its defender Sir William of Surrey, got word from scouts that the King's army was on the march and would be at the gates within three days. He set about readying his men for a surprise attack against the Mannian invaders. On March 22nd, Jarl Ragnvald's men had turned to face the King's army in the south. William and two hundred townsfolk opened the gates and charged the Mannian armies. Surprised and routed, Ragnvald pulled out of the battle with a handful of his men and raced for his ships. Those he left behind were slaughtered, with minimal losses to John. Sadly, in the fray, William was killed, but his memory and his sacrifice is far from forgotten in this small Welsh town. In his honor, the following year on the 22nd of March, a festival was held, its main event, the Charge of Sir Wiliam, where men and women of all ages walked the charge he and his brave men ran against the invaders. It is a tradition that still thrives to this very day.

While Ragnvald retreated back to Mann, John was hot on his trail. By April 12th, he had landed on the isle itself and was laying siege to Ragnvald's castle, hoping to take the entire island within the month. Ragnvald's defeat in Caerwent left him with few men to hold the isle, but his pride still stood strong and he stubbornly refused to concede defeat even with it knocking at the door. In Périgord, the peasants had laid siege to the province's castle and inside, morale was low. Leon, however, had failed to prove to be the charismatic leader the peasants had hoped for and over two thousand men had abandoned his cause. With only eleven hundred left, it did not look well but he too refused to give in. Despite a begruded attitude to their English sovereign, even the rebellious Aquitainian lords could acknowledge the threat that a peasant uprising could entail. Successful, more would spread like wildfire across the southern kingdom, something they were loathe to see happen. To this, they accepted the king's request for men and over four thousand were gathered and put under the command of Earl David, lord of Northampton, a man with all the charisma and charm that Leon so desperately lacked. In Mann, the siege went famously for King John. Heavy rains caused the castle's grain stores to rot, only to for the skies to turn to sun shine as the castle began to starve. Desperate to put any sort of dent in the king's efforts, Ragnvald gathered he and his men's remaining strength to raid the king's camps. The days of sun, however, had given John the chance to take Earl Gui's advice and reinforce this position more heavily. Ragnvald's men ran headlong into stiff resistance and, after a day of slogging it out, retreated back into the castle with fewer men and morale shattered.

Leon, due to some quick thinking, had managed to retreat into French lands, dodging Earl David, and push back into Aquitaine elsewhere, where his troops could regain some strength and he could hopefully recruit more men to his banner. He did not know, however, that Earl David had marched his men nearly nonstop after them and was close behind. On July 25th, the two armies met in farmlands that Leon had hoped to pillage. The battle was brutal and the ill equipped and ill experienced peasant army was no match for Earl David's men. Five days later, as John had just broken through Ragnvald's defenses and taken the castle, he got word that Leon's days of revolting were over. The war in Mann was almost over as well. With the castle fallen, Ragnvald had retreated to a well defended monastery that had been build centuries ago by his ancestors in honor of their pagan gods. There, defended by the few men that still stood by him, Ragnvald requested to come to John's camp so that they might come to terms. After two days of discussion, peace was agreed to and Ragnvald slunk back to his holds across the North Sea. John was victorious and had finally done what the Anglo-Saxon kings of old had only dreamt of doing, returning the last of the vikings to where they came from. The quick war had impressed the English lords and the rapid response to the peasant uprising was something, even the most unruly Occitan noble, had to admit was impressive. For now, John had the hearts and ears of his vassals, but the continual shifts of the balance of power are fickle things and even the most loyal of vassals can have treacherous thoughts.

Join us next time for the Grand English Tournament.

I have my laptop back in working order and will resume this AAR. King John the Great isn't going to drift away into the annals of history. Not today.
In addition, I will probably begin another, more grandious AAR sometime soon, once I decide where to set it.
 
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Asantahene

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Good to see you back Orjasmo. Nice update. John seems to have cracked it
 

Orjasmo

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Chapter VI: The Grandest of Tournaments

For decades after the accession of King John to the throne of England, the nation had been in a seemingly endless war. Whether it was internal factions, clawing the kingdom apart from the inside in a desperate attempt to climb up the otherwise concrete social stratum, or by external factions, ripping at the seams and hoping to find the thread that would unravel the bountiful quilt of England; the nation could never seem to catch a breath and find its second wind. However, in the late summer and early autumn months of 1205, England's rest had finally come. With its lords quiet and sated, its enemies at bay and its ideological bogey men put to rest, even the lords of Aquitaine were more than content to give peace a chance.

The conquest of Mann was a splendid victory for John and one that he had needed ever since his brother, Richard, had sailed to the holy land. To be the English king, that had, once and for all, hoisted the Viking invaders that threatened the isle's shores so long ago back into the sea. It may not seem like much through a modern lens. After all, Mann is simply just an island and not a very impressive one at that, but to the English people it was something to celebrate and revel in. They had stood strong for centuries against all invaders and their culture and way of life, while not the same, was still very much English. To John however, the victory was even greater. While the name Plantagenet was still very French to English ears, he could claim what none of his ancestors truly could, to be the true heir to the Saxon throne of Ænglaland and rightful king of the Ængelcynn.

This was something to be celebrated. While the spoils of war were few at best, John made sure to look after his own. The two thousand troops that had campaigned with him were paid handsomely and the families of those that didn't make it were compensated as well as having all funerary expenses paid for by the crown. This was not an act without precedent, as kings had done it before, and it is almost overwhelming likely that it is also not an act of kindness from John, but the gesture was charitable and one that was not expected of him. Many historians have argued his reasons behind it, the more hopeful seeing it as the maturing of the man himself whilst the more cynical view it as little more than a political move. Both parties are likely correct to a point, but his true motives remain a mystery as John is surprisingly quiet on the subject. John was not a very humble man, more than too happy to lavish praise upon himself for even the most minor of accomplishments. Yet, in this case, he does little more than mention it. Perhaps he didn't see it as something to be proud of, going so far as to suggest that it was demeaning to him. Or maybe he was simply busy, as many of his notes during the chaotic following months were starving for details. Whatever his reasons, it did much to increase the people's opinion of him and it was an act that would pay off in the long run.

Two weeks after leaving Mann in the hands of the island's newly chosen steward, John rode into London with all the pomp and ceremony of the ancient Roman generals, returning from far away lands where they had conquered and captured more swaths of lands to add to the map and treasures unaccountable. William of Durham, a priest at St. Paul's, remarked, “He returned to the city triumphant; like a king, like a Caesar.” This image is one John went above and beyond to foster. He had desired for so long, more than anything, to have great conquests similar to those of his father, Henry, and his brother, Richard. Mann had not been the grandest of conquests, even with its added prestige, but it was an excellent start. John had taken the island swiftly and efficiently with little bloodshed. What's more, he had done it alone and with his troops; his vassals barely had time to hear that war had broken out before it was already over. It was something to be proud of and John was only too happy to flaunt it. In mid September, messengers were sent out across the realm to read out the royal decree that a tournament would be held in the king's county of Middlesex. All those who were capable were invited to come and enjoy the splendor that the event would hold. Those who were eligible to take part were instructed to find a man under the office of the Lord Constable to sign up. The planning for the big event was enormous and John was nearly all consumed with making it perfect. This makes what he did take the time to note in detail, all the more pertinent.

Earl Gui, John's mastermind during the conquest of Mann, was the first to depart from the isle after its transfer into English hands. In addition to his natural, Occitan disdain for being ruled by an English king, he had a personal dislike for the man himself. Despite John's accomplishments at keeping the two kingdoms united, even against impressive odds, Gui saw him as fickle, ill-mannered and weak. With his salary paid, he rushed back to Auvèrnhe and quickly began to establish himself as a prominent figure in the Aquitainian counties. Tails of his exploits in previous wars were actively propagated by him and his court and, despite his distaste for the king, he was only too happy to claim full responsibility for the war's success. Within a month of arriving back in Auvèrnhe, he began to proclaim himself a Duke, lord of the Duchy of Auvèrnhe. Despite his preoccupations, John was quick to note that the newly minted, Duke Gui, was a great threat to his authority in Aquitaine and in the whole of France. An eye would have to be kept on him, but John knew that Gui would be brewing trouble.

The bad news didn't stop there, however. Brenin, or High-King, Llywelyn had been given a hard and unrewarding task when he took the Gwyneddian throne; protect the Welsh people and, if possible, regain what was lost. Despite all odds, the Welsh still prospered as neighbor to such a tumultuous giant and their independence was protected by Llywelyn's quick thinking and diplomatic edge. However, the high-king was starting to get older. Unmarried and with no heir, the Welsh people's fears of having no one to protect them after his death grew by the day. Llywelyn, however, was not concerned, for he had been keeping an ear to the ground and watching English politics develop. What he saw amongst the chaos of the past five years was a chance to save the Welsh and regain ancient lands. In the old Breton lands of Brittany, the young duke had been died under questionable circumstances, causing his lands to be split between his two sisters. The Breton peninsular itself was awarded to the newly made, Duchess, Constance, lady of Brittany. The young sixteen year old had never been reared to rule and Llywelyn took that inexperience to his advantage. Using an ancient pilgrimage of the Breton people as an excuse to visit the duchy, he traveled from town to town until he arrived at the court of Duchess Constance and asked for hospitality. To her, the ruggedly handsome man with a thick accent was the stuff of story tales that the housewives and nursemaids of the Breton lands told to their children on a nightly basis. A true Brythonic lord and the last one at that. It should be no surprise then that the pair were courting within a month and married in a year. For her, it was the stuff of legends. For him, it was a victory that exceeded the wealth of many nations. John, knew this all too well. He hadn't noticed it until sending out the invitations, but when he did, it is said that he spent hours screaming in fury. If Llywelyn thought himself untouchable, he had yet to face the wrath of a king scorned.

The next month moved quickly as John put the finishing touches on the grand tournament. London was packed to the brim and all about the countryside, merchants had set up stalls with everything from sweet meats and spices, to cloths from far away kingdoms, to spices from lands so distant no one that bought them was too sure where, exactly, they originated. Using the extra tax revenue to his advantage, John payed off all his debts from both the conquest of Mann and wars even before that. On the matter of Mann, after a month of receiving requests, petitions and queries as to who the new island would be granted, John bequeathed it to the eternally faithful Duke Roger de Lacy, lord of Lancaster. Jealousy and envy sparked much fury amongst the lords of England over the ever expanding power of de Lacy and rumors, both banal and vicious, were spread as to how exactly the Duke had 'earned' the island. Roger, however, payed no mind to the voices behind his back and, in a gesture of good faith, proposed that King John guardian the duke's first son, John de Lacy. Flattered, the king graciously accepted and further gossip was churned up to explain the 'real' purpose behind these events.

As the days grew closer and the lords of England and Aquitaine began to arrive, John moved against Llywelyn in the way John new best. On November 19th, Llywelyn and Constance arrived in the city and were given hospitality in one of the king's finest suites. High above the ground, it had a view of the city and countryside for miles from the balcony. On November 21st, whilst appreciating that view, the balcony's railing snapped and Llywelyn fell to his death. When the king's inquiry made note that the railing had been sawed, rumors flew implicating everyone from a peasant that had been seen in the vicinity at the time to the king himself. Over the years, many have questioned whether or not the king was, indeed, involved and, if he was, just how involved was he? Recent evidence suggests that, not only was he involved in the plot, but he had a heavy hand in even the most minute of details. While some still stand by the king's innocence, it stands to reason that he would, at the very least, have known about the plot and supported it. Llywelyn was a major problem to John and the only man that stood in his way from finishing what his father had started and annexing Wales entirely. On top of that, his marriage to Duchess Constance of Brittany meant that, not only did Llywelyn gain a strong ally and political clout within England and Aquitaine, but was also guaranteed to reunite the two ancient kingdoms under his heir. John had much to gain from Llywelyn's death and little to lose. Given John's view of assassination as a means to an end and his precedent for using it without hesitation, it is far more likely than not that John knew of and actively participated in Llywelyn's death.

Even if he was not involved in the assassination, John was certainly quick to use it to his advantage. He moved to sign an agreement with Duchess Constance that, after her mourning period was over, she would marry John's bastard brother, William. Whether or not Constance believed the rumors about the king's involvement in her late-husband's death is up to debate but secret records of this agreement show that she wasn't hesitant to work with John. The marriage secured her power that she needed to further legitimize herself now that she had lost her husband and secured her the king's favor, detering the hungry eyes of her neighbors, especially those of her sister, the Duchess of Anjou. While the high-king's death did not put a damper on the people's mood, it did disconcert the fragile contentment of the baronial class, both in England and Aquitaine. Many lords became fractious and used the guise the tournament to meet and discuss their next move. On December 3rd, over fifty lords of varying class and dignity, brought an ultimatum before the king, demanding that, in times of war, the number of men the king may demand of them be drastically reduced. Facing another civil war on the eve of his great celebration of peace, John conceded to their demands and the lords returned to their state of contentment.

In Gwynedd, Brenin Owain II, of the house Aberffraw, had been desperately fighting to contain the instability within the realm. Llywelyn's death was ruinous to the Welsh morale and many of the king's advisers were melancholic, at best. The last thing the young king wanted to see was a large, roll of parchment with the seal of the king of England hanging off the bottom. According to Caradog ap Myrth, a leading Welsh poet who had been in the service of Llywellyn and his father before him, that king's great hall was thick with tension as Owain slowly read over the document. After some time, he stood up and thrust forward the parchment so all could see it. “There eyes were both hopeless and desperate. Like a child clinging to his mother's bosom, they looked onto Owain to save them from both the barbarians outside their borders and from themselves. Owain looked upon them strongly, fatherly, and said, “My good cousin John sent this to me. It demands that I, as lord of the High-Kingdom of Gwynedd, bow to English supremacy and accept John as my liege. I know that many of you are scared, worried and tired. You had hoped beyond hope that Llywelyn had saved us and now he is dead, along with any chance of grace for our once great kingdom. You have conceded that this day would eventually come and resigned yourself to accepting that the English would rule Wales sooner or later and, to you, it's better to surrender now and accept defeat than to keep on fighting for our sovereignty.” Owain stood and the sun bathed him from behind, his red hair like a crown of fire upon his head. With the power and might of the Brythonic lion and the authority and majesty of the true heir to Arthur's throne, he roared, 'Well I, for one, will never surrender! I, for one, will never give up just to dance at that bloated imbecile’s feet! We are Welshmen! The Norse ran when they heard our horns! The Saxons died when they tasted our blades! And I would rather perish than live under tyranny!' It was a sight beyond compare, a chance for the people of Briton”

Word returned to John of Owain's response. He went into seclusion for a few days while the ceremonies continued. Many wondered what had happened to make the king retreat from them at a time of his triumph. On December 9th, a warm, early winter wind came up from France and raised temperatures high enough for many to go out in light clothing. The jousting was excellent with many winners, few losers and only one death. Still, there was a damper on the mood for it seemed the king was miles off and the people could feel it. After a bout between two rivals that had been creating a stir all tournament, the trumpets blew and the king stood. Our old friend, Earl Aubrey, recounted the events that took place next. “The King stepped forwards and laid his hands on the platform's railing, balancing himself. He did not appear as he normally did, aloof and high. He looked as though he had descended a pedestal and stood amongst the common folk. As he started, his voice was soft but held the authority of a man who knew that even he was only as strong as his people. 'I have held this tournament in celebration of the English conquest of the Isle of Mann and the final end to the reign of the Nordic invaders.' Cheers came from the crowd, spotted but firm. The King waited until the crowd was silent before he began again. 'Since before the arrival of the Roman upon our shores, the people of these isles have been of hardy stock. And after the fall of the Roman, they stood strong against the encroaching darkness. Invaders have come and invaders have gone, but one thing that has always remained is the indomitable will of the English people. For over five centuries, since the death of King Arthur, the peoples of these great isles have remained disunited. Now, more than ever, the Kingdom of Arthur is on the cusp of being reborn anew. I had hoped to share that dream with High-King Owain, lord of Gwynedd, but he has refused me my humble request. I have taken this to be an act against the will of God and His divine plan for England.' Like lightning, there is almost a shock through the crowd, audible and palpable. The people are with him, the lords are with him, God is with him. 'As such, this tournament must come to an abrupt end. For in this time there is not place for petty events such as these. If you still seek excitement, if your blood boils in anger, if you wish to fight for God and your King, then join me and together we shall take part in the grandest tournament of them all!'”

And so, John rallied the kingdom behind his bid for control over Wales. He had finally broken through his mold and begun to shine as the man and king he had always wished to be. However, war is long and costly and even those started with the people can end without them. It is because of this war that he will learn the cost of both his failures and, especially, his successes.

Join us next time for the War for Wales.


Its a wall! I apologize if this one is a bit long. If it's too much I'll make it shorter next time. Just trying to find the sweet spot between too long and too short whilst honing the style.