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jscaco

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Welcome to the next installment of AARs depicting my journey into learning how to master EU4. (Part 1 Part 2). In this next journey from 1444 to 1821, we will be following the rise of Brandenburg/Prussia while I learn about HRE mechanics, managing the reformation, forming new nations, and many new features of the game now that I own most DLC. I have also decided to change up the style a bit now that I have been recording more information with the intent of writing this AAR. I would also like to say that I am glad I found out that AAR writing is a thing, as I have been needing a new creative outlet in my life. I have also been enjoying reading the various AARs on this forum and while I do not have time to enjoy them all I have found many that are excellent and inspirational.

PART ONE: Brandenburg Beginnings
Chapter 1: Dreams of Destiny 1444
Chapter 2: A New Mark on a New Era 1454
Chapter 3: Spark of War 1468
Chapter 4: Primus Inter Pares 1480
Chapter 5: Buried Steel 1487
Chapter 6: Fractures 1497
Chapter 7: Storm from the North 1520
Chapter 8: Subterfuge 1528
Chapter 9: Independence 1540
Chapter 10: House of Cards 1542
Chapter 11: The Darkest Hour 1548

PART TWO: The Talented von Gersdorffs
Chapter 12: Into the Fire 1559
Chapter 13: Charting a Course 1564
Chapter 14: Friends and Foes 1568
Chapter 15: The Pretender, the Pirate and the Prince-Consort 1584
Chapter 16: Fearless 1585
Chapter 17: Recovery 1588
Chapter 18: New Men 1599
Chapter 19: Christian Soldiers 1602

PART THREE: Gott Mit Uns
Chapter 20: The Five Years War 1607
Chapter 21: Two Weddings and Two Funerals 1610
Chapter 22: Heat of Battle 1614
Chapter 23: Planting Seeds 1620
Chapter 24: For the Sake of Prussia 1628
Chapter 25: Enemies Vanquished 1630
Chapter 26: The Prussian Way 1634
Chapter 27: Advent 1645
 
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Chapter 1: Dreams of Destiny

jscaco

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Chapter 1: Dreams of Destiny

November 1444


The elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich II von Hohenzollern, awoke in the middle of the night. He dreamt that the Holy Roman Empire had been fully united, with the capital in his own city of Berlin, in his own castle. But the man who sat on the throne was unfamiliar to him, and the guards had strange weapons and armor. He had fled, and soon found himself outside in a land that he did not know, caught in a thick battle where neither side seemed to notice him. A cavalry charge was heading towards him, and he leapt out of the way. Dust, noise, panic and blood assailed his senses, and when he could see clearly again, he saw a severed head on the ground. It resembled the young king of Poland, who Friedrich had met at the imperial court some months ago, petitioning for aid against a crusade against the Ottomans. The lips of the head moved as if to speak a warning, and at that point Friedrich had awoken.

Memories of the Imperial Court made him scowl at the thoughts of the von Hapsburgs recently taking control of the Empire and his opinion of the many flaws of their governance. It was tempered by the sight of his wife, Catherine, sleeping silently next to him. Sighing, the thoughts of the day ahead poured into his mind, and thoughts of the strange dream poured out. It would not do to linger on thoughts of the Hapsburgs while domestic concerns were more pressing, although his brother and heir Albrecht Achilles thought that the von Hohenzollerns should challenge the Austrians when the emperorship was next up for election.

His ancestors had been wastrels at best, but he had done what he could to reduce corruption and restore honor to his position. He had ruled his duchy for four years at this point and was not having an easy time of fulfilling his objectives. Restoring the province of Neumark was a top priority for him, but his feelers towards the Teutonic Order had been rebuffed. His neighbor in Bohemia coveted Brandenburg lands and the border uncomfortably close, and a recent insult from his mother-in-law caused relations to break down with her home country of Brunswick. As much as he hoped to live in peace with his neighbors, it was clear that bitter rivalries with all three were inevitable.

He had secured alliances with the princes Pomerania, Magdeburg, Bavaria and his wife’s home of Saxony. The old guard in his advisory council had been replaced by men he could trust, old schoolmates his own age. Joachim Siegmund, Siegmund von Quitzow and Georg Munchov were not the best men in for the job in Brandenburg, but they were affordable for the cash-starved electorate, and men of good character.

Von Quitzow had a plan that might work, if the Teutonic Order continued to be obstinate. Legal claims would be fabricated on Neumark, hopefully making the case that the territory was never pawned in the first place. Munchov would raise as many troops as the treasury could support, and Joachim Siegmund would work to improve internal stability so that when the time came to press the claim with force of arms there would be minimal dissention among the populace.

With that business taken care of, Friedrich prepared to meet with the representatives of the various estates. He had demands to make of them and favors to grant to sweeten the deal. Bracing himself for the politicking ahead, Friedrich II “the Iron” had steeled his nerve and his resolve, the disturbing dreams of the night before already forgotten.


June 1446


Friedrich started at disbelief at the two Imperial dispatches, dated less than two weeks apart. The newer was a proclamation that Ladislaus the Posthumus, the Hapsburgian puppet, was elected emperor. Friedrich’s brother Albrecht Achilles had been in Austria representing the Brandenburg electorate. Friedrich was concerned about Albrecht pushing too hard for his own candidacy; he knew it would be a long shot and did not think the move was worth rocking the boat, but Albrecht felt that he could make some headway with some of the other electors.

Which made the second message as concerning as it was distressing. Albrecht was dead, and details were sparse. Apparently, he had been slain in drunken brawl, but Friedrich did not believe it and suspected foul play. Not only was his dear brother dead, but the succession of the electorate itself was in doubt. He and Catherine had failed to produce any children, but not through lack of trying. He began to fear that the court rumors of infertility might be true.

As disastrous as that was, he needed to prepare for the right moment to retake Neumark. Poland had recently invaded the Teutonic Order, releasing Danzig as an independent state. Brandenburg had reached out to Danzig as a potential ally, but Poland had gotten there first and was in the process of talking the newly released state into being vassalized. Rumors from the east were that Constantinople had fallen, or was just about to. These were trying times; he allowed himself a few minutes to shed tears over his brother alone before fortifying himself to bring the news to the court.

C1-I1.png


January 1451


It seemed like the war was going to be easy at first, but Brandenburg was facing more resistance than expected. Pomerania was the only one of his allies that was willing to enter a war of aggression (despite their concerns over the Saxonization of the province of Uckermark), but Lubeck and the Livonian Order came to the Teutonic’s aide. Danzig and Poland were dealing significant damage to the Teutons, but after occupying Neumark, the offense had stalled. The Lubeckan fleet had taken control of the Baltic, trapping the Pomeranian navy in port. Most of Brandenburg’s troops were sieging Lubeck at this point, trying to force them to exit the war. Recent scout reports indicated that the Livonians managed to evade the Polish armies and had arrived in Pomerania and were moving to retake Neumark, potentially slaughtering the token force the Pomeranians had left there.

But for once, Friedrich’s thoughts were not with the war. A scream from the room down the hall pulled his attention from the map. His wife had been in labor for what seemed like days at this point, but Friedrich was out of sorts and had hardly been sleeping. Between the concern for his wife and the stagnant war, there was little that was not stressful.

Friedrich heard a second voice scream, and his spirits perked up. Secretly dreading that another stillbirth was in the works, he was pleased to hear the distressed infant catch its breath and let out a second wail. The soft patter of the servant’s feet was barely audible over the din, but Friedrich heard it in time to face the door before it opened.

“My prince,” beamed the servant, “you have a son.”

Friedrich stuggled to find the words “That...it...fantastic news...” he stammered as he got to his feet.

“Aye. The midwife says that he is one of the healthiest infants she ever saw.”

“And the Electress?”

“Healthy as well,” replied the servant as he followed Friedrich down the hall. A nod from a second servant at the door and they were admitted, and Friedrich laid his eyes upon his wife and his son, both as healthy as could be.

“What a blessing!” proclaimed the prince as he picked up the child.

“What shall we name him?” asked Catherine.

“Albrecht. Albrecht Christian, for God has answered our prayers.”
C1-I2.png
 
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atwix

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subbed. Glad you took up AAR writing.

I would also like to say that I am glad I found out that AAR writing is a thing, as I have been needing a new creative outlet in my life. I have also been enjoying reading the various AARs on this forum and while I do not have time to enjoy them all I have found many that are excellent and inspirational.
there are some gems in the AAR section here.

It indeed satisfies creativity needs. I remember reinventing myself on AAR writing evolving from raw commentary on troop movements on my 1.9 ryukyu one tag into adding flavour with conversations, GIFS and storylines on various rulers/advisors etc by 1.15 with crusading Naxos...

Good luck with Brandenburg
 
Chapter 2: A New Mark on a New Era

jscaco

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Chapter 2. A New Mark on a New Era


October 1454


“Three cheers for Brandenburg! Three cheers for victory! Three cheers for Friedrich!” Toasted the Prince of Bavaria. He had reason to celebrate, he had just scored a great victory over the fools in Bohemia, who two years earlier had invaded his lands. Brandenburg was among the several allies that Bohemia had brought to the fight, and Friedrich II’s army, performing excellently in both battle and seize, had played a big part. While he was glad that Bohemia had lost half their territory, Bavaria had taken all the provinces for themselves. At the very least, Bohemia owed Friedrich a great deal of favors.

He had had to call off his conflict with the Teutons early to join this war. The Livonians were breathing down his neck, so he settled with forcing the Teutons to break their alliance with Lubeck. The rest of Teutons outside of Neumark had been completely crushed by Danzig and Poland; what is worse is that now the remnants of the Teutons were now inside the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria wasted no time in acknowledging as order as a principality of the Empire.

At least Brandenburg was being respected as a military power. Getting to his feet, Friedrich patted the Bavarian monarch on the back and left the tent as if intending to relieve himself. He walked away from the raucous pavilion, then quickly strode through the camp to the supply wagons in the back. As instructed, he waited by a certain grain cart.

Soon, his contact arrived.

“Are you alone?”

“Yes.”

“Good. You have proven your prowess in matters of war, and in matters of honor; I believe you have the skills and abilities required of the position you seek. When the time comes, Mainz will support you.”

“That is most excellent to hear. May I ask...”

“No time for questions, I must return. You have my word that we will soon join in alliance, and I will support you, and your line.” Whispered the Elector of Mainz, as he turned and disappeared into the darkness without another word.

C2-I1.png

August 1460


Paul von Cube, the last of the Teutonic commanders, woke up on the battlefield. He was having difficulty moving his legs, and was in tremendous pain. Who knew this was how it was going to end? It was surely God’s punishment for the order drifting so far from its original mission.

He had been assured security by the Emperor Ladislaus after the Poles had overwhelmed them. He knew the Brandenburgians coveted Neumark, but was expecting their armies to be elsewhere in this war. The Teutons had sought out an alliance with Brunswick, and were only answering a call to arms, and were not expecting to run into the main Brandenburg army.

After an uncertain period of time, several shadows passed over him.

“There he is, sir. He’s still alive.” Said one shadow.

“Barely.” Replied another as it descended down to von Cube’s level. He was able to recognize it as the Brandenburg General Zitzwitz, who had seized down his small fortress and crushed his army.

“You fought bravely, Sir. I’m sorry it had to end this way.”

Paul von Cube struggled to speak. “Why did you come here? You should be in Brunswick...”

“I will rejoin the forces in Brunswick soon enough. My lord entrusted me to see to the reclamation of Neumark personally.”

Von Cube was shocked. “That would be an illegal move! The Emperor will demand that you release the land to our order!”

“My lord of Brandenburg has made his intentions clear;” explained Zitzwitz, “the Emperor can stomp his feat if he wants to. Besides, your order is no more.”

“That was the plan...all along...you attacked Brunswick just to draw us in to the conflict...so there would be an excuse...” stammered von Cube.

“Indeed. Again, I am sorry it had to end this way. You were a worthy opponent, and I will ease your suffering.”

Zitzwitz stood back up and nodded to the other shadow, who stepped forward with a pike in hand. Paul von Cube felt one more sharp jolt of pain in the middle of his chest, then felt nothing more as the Teutonic Order faded from history.


C2-I2.png

November 1460


Nine-year old Albrecht Christian von Hohenzollern looked up from the other boy that he was beating with a wooden sword at the sound. The church bells were ringing, so the army was returning as expected. He dropped the wooden sword and started running back across the garden. Even though his father and mother ordered his presence when the army returned and he wanted to disobey them on principle, he did not want to miss the return of the army for anything. He disliked most of his studies and was rude to his teachers, but he always was drawn to the glory of the military and the was excited that Brandenburg had won another victory.

Pushing a servant aside, he dashed upstairs and made his way to his room and for once had no complaints as he was dressed in the formal clothes selected for him. Just over a year ago the army had marched out. After hearing all the stories of glory and recovering rightful Brandenburgian lands, he had wanted to join them, but his father insisted that he stayed. He showed Albrecht where the troops were going and his cleaver plan. Albrecht did not pay much attention to the names of the many princes involved in this war, but he suddenly took an interest in maps and enjoyed coloring in the provinces, slowly filling them brown as the armies moved to control different places.

Berlin had been quiet while the army was away, and while he enjoyed the freedom he had with most of the adults preoccupied with the war, he was eager to see the army return in the glory they left in. He then joined his parents in their coach and soon they off towards the city walls.

“Your grandmother’s claim was sufficient to claim Brunswick itself.” said Friedrich II, largely ignoring his son, “What’s more, Cologne and Bremen smell blood in the water, and have occupied Brunswick’s remaining land, claiming it for themselves. They can no longer be considered rivals.”

“Splendid.” Replied Catherine. “And what of Magdeburg?

“Anhalt was given to them, as promised.”

“Not only have we restored Neumark to Brandenburg we have secured a very strategic fort in Brunswick.”

“And Saxony? The alliance did break with them over this.”

“It should not affect relations too much. Our diplomats report that they still maintain largely a positive regard for us.”

Friedrich looked towards his son, “Albrecht, you will inherit a stronger duchy than the one I did. Be sure to always defend it and ensure your own son will inherit a stronger one still.”

“I will, father.”

Eventually, the carriage reached the outskirts of Berlin and pulled up next to a platform. The advisors and other officials had already arrived. Albrecht Christian payed them no mind and quickly strode up the steps to look upon the army. There were fewer of them than had departed, and they were dirty and exhausted. None of them beamed like they did when they marched off, but all seemed glad to finally be home.

His father started congratulating the soldiers on their victory, mentioning the heroic feats that happened in some of the battles. With each cheer from the crowd of troops and civilians, Albrecht felt pride. He looked towards his parents, then the advisors, then over to General Zitzwitz. He noticed the general was not cheering as enthusiastically than the others, and looked as if his thoughts were elsewhere. When his father described how Neumark had been reclaimed from the evil Teutons, Zitzwitz slunk, and Albrecht wondered why he would find that glorious victory sad.

C2-I3.png
 
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jscaco

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subbed. Glad you took up AAR writing.
Nice to see you're enjoying AARs :). Hope you have fun with this one!
Thanks. While writing this I realized that I don't know as much about HRE history as I should, but it's EU4 so events diverge from history pretty quickly. While writing dialogue I wish I knew more about proper terms of address and some turns of phrase that existed then, but I decided to just forget about it, have fun, and see where the story goes.
 
Chapter 3: Spark of War

jscaco

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Chapter 3 – Spark of War

C3-I3.png

September 1468



Georg Munchov bowed before the casket of Friedrich II, leaning on his cane. An old injury from falling off his horse had flared up in recent years, but it would not stop him from paying respect to his late Prince, and his friend.

He moved to the back of the room and found his place next to Siegmund von Quitzow.

“There are only two of us left now,” he said.

“Yes,” replied von Quitzow, adjusting his expenisve Venetian spectacles he aquired just a few years ago. Neither of them were young anymore. “But we have prepared for this eventuality. Albretcht Christian will inherit our plans for Brandenburg as well the seat of power.”

Munchov started at the casket. “The soldiers do love him, and he is a natural general. A great fighter, and the people are in awe of him. But he is...” Munchov paused.

“...a buffoon, yes. Rude. Cruel. Tactless. Impulsive.” Finished von Quitzow. “I know your opinion of him, old friend. He does have some tactical genius though, you said it to me yourself. He takes little interest the finer details of administration, true, but he is easily led. If Ladislaus can dance for the Hapsbergs, surely Albrecht will dance for me. Remember, Ladislaus Posthumous himself must fill a casket too one day. The Electorate of Brandenburg must prevail, it’s bigger than any of our lives.”

“Which makes the succession most important.”

“If Saxony agrees to the marriage proposal, that will not be a problem. It may secure their vote as well. Mainz will still support us and Cologne might be amicable.”

“Still, the electorate is bigger than any one family even. There must be assurances...”

“I will draw the paperwork up and bury it in some other decree, Albrecht does not read the fine print.” He glanced briefly at the young, handsome prince paying his respects to his father.

“Be careful with him. We enjoyed this long peace because Friedrich heeded our advice. Albrecht is not as thoughtful. Should he become a problem...”

“Our prince is a glory-seeker, Georg. You know what hazards befall that type. We pray for his long life, but war is dangerous...”

C3-I2.png

February 1470



Johann Siegmund Zitzwitz sighed as he surveyed the battlefield. There were about equal casualties among the infantry between the two sides, but the Brandenburg cavalry had managed to deal significantly more damage than they received. The Nuremburgers were in full retreat, still a significant force, but the siege of Landshut had been lifted. When the Bavarian forces, still a few days behind, finally caught up they would see that once again they owed Brandenburg.

Brandenburg had come to the aid of Bavaria when the Palatinate attempted a land grab. The young prince Albrecht Christian I had talked openly about attacking this neighbor or the other, but no plans had really formed. But when the call-to-arms came, the prince wasted no time marshalling his forces to find the glory he sought.

Zitzwitz had seen many reactions from men at their first battles. Some would freeze up, others panic and fire their muskets wildly, others would maintain formation but be unable to shoot, others would discover an inner resiliency under fire and others would discover an inner cruelty. And others...

The prince galloped his horse in the direction of the fleeing troops, fired a pistol shoot that had no chance of hitting, and, laughing, spun about and ran his horse back through the corpses. Others sometimes lost their minds.

Eventually, Albrecht Christian I got bored and rode up the hill were Zitzwitz was surveying the scene.

“Why so glum, General?” asked the Prince, “Had to betray a respected foe again? Too much gore for your stomach? Not enough for me, I say!”

Resisting the urge to sigh, Zitzwitz regretted that he confided in the Prince his personal concerns years ago. Albrecht Christian I was not the sort of man to forget any one’s weakness, not the sort to pass on any opportunities to mock someone.

“This is only the beginning, my Prince.”

“I should hope so.”

“The Nuernbergers will retreat and regroup. As soon as the Bavarians arrive, we should take the fight to the Palatinate.”

Albrecht Christian rose an eyebrow. Zitzwitz would not dare to order his Prince around, but despite the bullying he knew his tactical insight was respected by the younger man.

“I’ll give you credit where it’s due, General. You were right, you were able to make an opening for my troops.”

“They’re all your troops, my Prince. I’m just glad you are quickly learning the arts of war. Not many princes take the field themselves, as most are better served at the capital, but you have potential.”

“Potential to even replace you?”

“I serve at your command.”

“But I cannot replace you. Even if you get sick after a battle.” The Prince laughed. “I know you. You didn’t think I’d be capable to lead that detachment.”

Zitzwitz finally allowed himself to sigh. “You did surprise me. If you weren’t my lord I would promote you. Distinction in battle should be rewarded.”

“You know what? I agree. Let’s promote someone else in my place.”

“What do you mean?”

“HANS! Yelled the Prince, ignoring his general.

“Yes, my Prince?” asked a tall, blond soldier from Albrecht’s retinue who was nursing a head wound.

“I saw how you fought on after your horse was killed from under you. It was an inspiring sight, would you agree, General?”

“Very inspiring” said Zitzwitz, who did not see it.

“In fact, the General agrees that you should be promoted to Lieutenant.”

Zitzwitz kept his face stoic. It was the Prince’s prerogative. “Congratulations, Lieutenant...Hans was it?”

February 1477

C3-I1.png

They had come, one after another, thinking to strike down Bavaria while she was wounded. First the Palatinate, with Nuremburg in tow. Then Bohemia dragged Luneburg and Memmingen into a futile effort retake some provinces. Finally, Salzburg decided to strike in the back while being supported by Austria.

Despite the drain on lives and treasure, Bavaria’s allies of Ravensburg, Mainz and Brandenburg held fast and each time beat the invaders back. The might of the Palatinate, Bohemia and Austria, were all held in check. The Empire was on notice; Brandenburg had arrived as a regional power, and Albrecht Christian I made sure everyone knew it.

The Bavarians were generous, despite the winter weather and the devastation that wrecked their lands after 8 years of war. They had to be, they owed Brandenburg big. They feasted the princes who had joined them in battle time and again. Careful of how much he drank, Albrecht slipped away from the celebration and went to wander the halls. As much as he loved the thrill of battle, he hadn’t been home in ages, and his children were growing without him.

An old man slowly arrived and was walking next to him before he knew it.

“I fine speech back there, Elector.”

Albrecht frowned. It was the Elector of Mainz. “What do you want, old man?”

“I just wish to congratulate your performance against Austria. I have read many reports on your exploits in the field, and you have outperformed your father.”

Albrecht did not trust him. “And?”

“Years ago, I swore to your father that I would support Brandenburg in the next Imperial election. I will be frank...you are not a likeable man.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“But your leadership and Brandenburg’s martial skill have proven their superiority. I will support you.”

“And who else? My father was embarrassed at the ‘46 election. I need more votes than two.”

“You might be surprised. A weakened Austria creates many opportunities. Farewell.” Said the Elector of Mainz as he slipped away.

“No more of this slinking around! That’s what got my uncle killed! Support me openly, if you dare!” Albrecht told the darkness. But the old man was gone.
 
Chapter 4: Priums Inter Pares

jscaco

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(Note on some of my screenshots – in some of the previous cases I cut-and-pasted relevant information from more than one screenshot into one for some of the images provided, particularly if the events are related. In all cases the relevant dates have been tacked on too. Now on with the narrative...)


Chapter 4 – Primus Inter Pares



July 1480


Albrecht Christian ran through the woods outside Berlin, managing to keep up with the men he was drilling. Old general Zitzwitz was bedridden, leaving Albrecht to drill the troops personally, a task that he had preferred.

Making the Brandenburg forces specialize in combat in forested regions had been his idea, as much of Northern Germany was. He always felt better in the army, and let his advisors manage the internal affairs of the kingdom. The last few years had been peaceful, with the city of Berlin growing. A new era of arts and science had begun, and while Albrecht did not understand it, he was glad that Brandenburg would be in good hands in the future.

He had missed most of his son’s childhood while on the Bavarian campaigns, but Johann Georg was now a young man of 13, and one to make his father proud. He had listened and observed the elderly advisors left over from Friedrich II’s rule, but also enjoyed hunting and inspecting the army and other manly pursuits. He was glad to see his son Johann Georg grow to be a lad capable of handling the challenges of both state and warcraft in this new age.

He leapt over a log, crouched behind a boulder, loaded a crossbow and fired at one of the dummies on the other side of the clearing. Hundreds more flew from nearby trees and other sources of cover as his men fired their bolts, most of them striking one of the dozen dummies lined up, and they started running towards the next set of targets.

Giving encouraging waves to the troops closest, he used the pause an excuse to catch his breath. Maybe he can’t keep up with the troops as easily anymore. He was only 29, but older people he knew kept dying. Zitzwitz himself probably won’t last the winter. It seemed the new recruits were getting younger every year, and his wife was pregnant with their next child. He was truly in the prime of his life.

He decided to wait for the last of the drilling troops to fire their crossbows and pass by. While more of the other nations in Europe were adopting firearms at a larger scale, they were too loud and accident-prone for the sort of forested stealth warfare he had in mind. The last person to approach him was not one of the fighting men, however, but a messenger. A messenger bearing a letter sealed with the spoked wheel of Mainz.

C4-I1.png



July 1482

This whole expedition was a waste of time and manpower. Brandenburg had performed admirably, in Albrecht Christian I’s opinion, but his allies were not as resolute. The Palatinate, aided by Ansbach and Nuremburg, had decided to take out the elector of Mainz in an attempt to take them out before the Emperor died and the next election came up. Zitzwitz did not survive long after the declaration of war, so Albrecht lead the army himself. He did well enough in the battles he participated in, and even took a short detour to help Bavaria repel an ambitious Augsburg backed by Austria. Augsburg agreed to a white peace and ended the conflict after only a brief occupation.

During this time, Mainz’s other ally, Wurttemberg, found itself consumed by the Palatinate and, while Brandenburg troops were rushing to the rescue and trying to expel the occupying forces, the Elector of Mainz had died and the new one was quick to surrender for war reparations. The cowardly lad probably thought that he was lucky to still have a province to his name and was thankful to Albrecht, but if he had held on a bit longer he would have been able to keep his money too.

While away on this extended campaign, he once again missed the birth of a child. He was wasting resources and manpower that could have been spent on an offensive move against Bohemia, or perhaps Pomerania to gain ocean access, or even Poland. The alliance network in the HRE was being shaken up, and somehow he felt that the Hapsburgs were aware of Brandenburg’s political moves and elector alliances. Mainz, Cologne and Saxony all were telling his diplomats that Brandenburg could rely upon their support, but he did not trust them.

Sighing, he resumed marching his army home...

C4I2.png



June 1484



Of course the Palatinate weren’t the only ones who wanted to take Mainz down a peg. This time Nassau thought to make a play, backed by the elector Trier and free city of Frankfurt. Once again Brandenburg marched to defend an ally. The siege of Nassau was proceeding well, but not as fast as the countersiege in Mainz itself. Albrecht Christian I may have to abandon his efforts here at some point.

He missed his son, who was growing to be an excellent heir, and his young daughter, Magdalena, who had his eyes and inspired a softness that he did not know resided in his heart. It was tough running a kingdom and a war at the same time; he recently got a long-delayed message from the king of Poland, for example, threatening Brandenburg if they expanded in his vicinity, and word had reached him about new workshops being developed to increase domestic production.

Lifting his attention from the camp, he noticed a trail of dust approaching down the road. Only large enough for a single horse, and moving rapidly towards the camp. Most like a messenger, and he wondered what tidings this new messenger brought him. Was it too much to hope for Nassau to be offering peace already?

As the messenger neared, something seemed off. He dismounted his horse, then approached Albrecht to where he stood, surrounded by his officers.

“Are you Albrecht Christian I von Hohenzollern, the Elector and Margrave of Brandenburg?”

“I am.”

“It is my duty,” said the messenger, presenting a scroll as he decended to his knees, “to report the death of the EmperorLadislaus I, may God have mercy on his soul. And, to present the results of the wishes of the Electorate...”

The messengers’ throat seemed dry, and when Albrecht read the scroll he too found himself too struggling for words. It seemed Mainz and Cologne had remained loyal after all. Saxony would up going for the Austrian candidate, but it was close. He never thought that rival Bohemia would support him, nor that current war enemy Trier or former war enemy Palatinate would, but he was shocked that they did not support Austria and would up splitting the vote.

“...that Albrecht Christian I be Emperor-Elect of the Romans.”

For once, Albrecht felt as if he could rely upon his allies, and that all of his effort had paid off.

“You may rise,” he told the messenger

“All hail Emperor Albrecht Christian!” hollered Major Hans, and the rest of the officers repeated.

“I should point out, however, that you are not the Emperor in name until the Pope crowns you in Rome.”

Albrecht was incensed. “Rome? I’m in the middle of a war here, I can’t travel to Rome. And if I could, the breakaway Italians are too hostile to risk the journey.”

“His Holiness has planned for this, Emperor-Elect,” said the messenger, producing another message, this one with the papal seal. “You shall have all the rights, responsibilities, privileges and honor of the Emperor of the Romans, save the title. You shall be referred to formally as Emperor-Elect of the Romans, otherwise it will be exactly as if His Holiness crowned you himself.”

“That is the smartest idea His Holiness has ever had. Do give him the regards and thanks of the Emperor-Elect.”

C4I3.png
 
Chapter 5: Buried Steel

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Chapter 5 – Buried Steel


September 1487


Although he only heard about it from correspondence from his father and the other military officers in the field, Johann Georg followed the war closely. An attempt to lift the siege of Mainz in the summer of 1484 led to a horrible defeat as Brandenburg wound up fighting more reinforcements than anticipated, and Colonel Hans was killed.

Things were looking up in the spring of 1486 as the invading Trier troops were repelled at Brunswick. His father, the Holy Roman Emperor-(elect) Albrecht Christian I himself took the field personally and was right in the thick of the fighting and demonstrated his personal hardiness so much that people started calling him “the Steel”, echoing the nickname of his father before him, Friedrich II “the Iron.” After reading the reports of the battle, Johann noted that it seemed that success had as much to do with the location of the battle than anything else; Brunswick would be a fine location to entrap an enemy.

Johann Georg was always looking for lessons to be learned. His father was certainly instructive in military matters, even from a distance. But as far as the management of a government or diplomatic tact went, his father was a best example of what notto do.

In fact, Johann George was actually more or less running the domestic policy of Brandenburg while his father was away. He had listened to the advisors on the art of statecraft, and was able to pick up some the slack personally as tight budgets forced a reduction in advisory staff. And, while he did not share his father’s love of the military life, Johann had started inspecting the fresh troops and ensuring that they had the best drill instructors. He was not sure if he was the most qualified to be engaged with the military to that degree, but it seemed to make him popular with the soldiers and the civilian population alike and he had heard of no complaints from his father or any of the other generals.

The most recent report from the field was that the mutual war exhaustion induced Nassau to agree to a white peace with Brandenburg, although that meant abandoning Mainz to the mercy of their rivals. There is no doubt that peace would be celebrated throughout Brandenburg as their sons and fathers returned home, but this time they were returning with an Emperor.

The crown had arrived in Berlin, reluctantly but dutifully handed over by Austria at the Pope’s demand. Despite the Pope sending his blessings, he himself would not personally be able to crown him due to frictions between the Italian and German portions of the empire. But would the Electors keep the crown in Brandenburg if Mainz got eliminated?

Johann spun his wedding ring with the forefinger and thumb. Unfortunately, the Emperor Elect would not get to meet his daughter-in-law. Resulting from a long-ago marriage proposal, she had come to Berlin a few years ago once the two were of age. Unfortunately, she was not happy in the city, and soon grew ill. After a few months, she died and was quickly forgotten by most of the rest of Brandenburg as just another death during a time of war. Sometimes Johann thought he was the only one who cared she was gone. He did not know if he loved her, nor did he think he wanted to marry ever again.

Albrecht Christian “the Steel” would at least get to meet little Magdelena, now six years old. She was definitely the heart of the palace, bringing cheer to nobles and servants alike as she ran down the halls. Those who knew him say that she was very similar to their father in many respects. Johann was inspired by some of those similarities, but others he found concerning.

C5-I1.png

August 1488



Albrecht Christian I smiled pleasantly at the news from the courier. “Excellent. Now we just have to hope Bavaria keeps to their end of the bargain.” Mainz had been a liability and he did not miss it once it was overrun, but there were still some powers in the Holy Roman Empire that recognized the value of loyalty. Bavaria had accepted the electorate in Mianz’s place.

The electorate appeared secure, with Saxony, Trier, Cologne and now Bavaria making up a formidable voting bloc. Albrecht did not fool himself; he knew that his son was more beloved than he was, this feat was Johann Georg’s work as much as it was Albrecht’s in the battlefield. The new alliance with Denmark, for instance, was his idea.

“Now if only those short-sighted princes would stop invading each other and seizing territory unlawfully, only to scoff at me when I tell them to return it. I don’t have a lot of power as Emperor, but it seems I should get some respect from those pri...”

He noticed Madgelena listening from the doorway. “...er um.” He stuttered, cutting the profanity off.

“Why are you mad at the princes, father?” she asked.

Albrecht sat down, groaning from the wound that he took at the battle of Brunswick.

“Oh, they all just want each others’ land...of course, we want some of their land, too. But I wish they would at least pretend that they answer to me! It’s so frustrating dealing with them, and I don’t care who knows it!”

“Just smack them!”

“Ha ha ha! I smacked some of them around a bit, back in the day. It was grand campaigning, but only now do I realize how much I missed by being out in the field. Your brother grew up without me, I won’t make the same mistake with you.”

“Yes, father.”

C5I2.png

June 1489



Magdelena tried to keep from crying too much during her brother Johann Georg’s coronation ceremony. Despite his promises to spend more time with her, he had gone out to visit the army camp and help the soldiers drill. She wasn’t too mad that he left because the army made him happy and running the country was hard, but she was mad at him for dying in the camp. They said it was dysentery.

And now Johann was Emperor. She was happy for him, but she was also jealous of all the attention he was getting. All the strange nobles who had come to Berlin to attend the ceremony fawned over him, but several of them were interested in Magdalena as well. She did not like their questions, prying about her age and her mother’s lineage and who she might fancy on marrying someday. They did not bother Johann with those questions.

Johann knelt before the bishop, who was holding the crown that Father never wore. Johann had told her that it was important for traditions to be upheld, even if the pope wasn’t going to leave Italy.

He also told her that she would be his heir for Brandenburg, but she could not be the heir for the Emperorship because she was a girl. Magdelena thought that was unfair.

“Long live Emperor Johann George I von Hohenzollern!” cheered the crowd, but Magdelena could not help but imagine them cheering for her someday.

C5I3.png
 

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A new monarch who will no doubt see new opportunities. Expansion into Poland? A route to the sea at the expense of Pomerania? Economic development in the lands he already holds? It could be any of these and more!

I really like how you show the personalities, qualities (and flaws!) of each Hohenzollern through the eyes of others as well as through their own behavior. It works very well.
 

guillec87

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always looking for Brandemburgers adventures! subbed
 

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A new monarch who will no doubt see new opportunities. Expansion into Poland? A route to the sea at the expense of Pomerania? Economic development in the lands he already holds? It could be any of these and more!

I really like how you show the personalities, qualities (and flaws!) of each Hohenzollern through the eyes of others as well as through their own behavior. It works very well.
Not too far off in your predictions, as the next update will show.

It is fun to find a way for each ruler's stats and abilities to combine with my own in-game decisions, successes and mistakes to create a character that distinct from the others, while also trying to write around the limited heir generation system to come up with reasons why events in the game played out the way they did.

always looking for Brandemburgers adventures! subbed
Thanks! Hopefully it won't disappoint
 
Chapter 6 - Fractures

jscaco

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(There are actually very few screenshots for the early years of Johann Gerog I's reign, so we are going to move rapidly through those years)

Chapter 6 - Fractures

c6-i1.png

June 1497


Johann Georg I slowly dipped the quill into the ink as he stared at the document in front of him. To his left, representatives from the invading armies. The prince of Salzburg was giddy about the proposal but seemed impatient to return to field. The representative of the free city of Ulm had an overly proud air to him, almost as if he helped defeat the armies of the Emperor. The elector of Saxony, bound to Brandenburg through old family ties but recently was sometimes and ally and sometimes a foe, refused to meet his eye. But Johann knew that the fourth diplomat, a minor Hapsburg, from Austria was the one who had the most to gain from this document and was the real threat.

He looked to his right. It was hard to read the expression on General Arnswald’s face, as usual. The general was not one for flinching. During the long, five-year war that resulted when Poland tried to dislodge Brandenburg’s new Danish allies from the Baltic in the early 1490s, he gained renown when he lifted the siege of Berlin from the Lithuanian army. It would ultimately be a victory for the Danes and Brandenburg, but to Johann’s chagrin no land was part of the deal, and Poland was even closer to Brandenburg as they managed to cut off a slice of Pomerania in a different war they were engaged with on the side. Next to him, General Humpis was also avoiding the Emperor’s eye. He had recently lost the battle of Erz against the advancing enemy forces and had led them to back to Berlin with his broken army. He was suitably ashamed, but it was not his fault he was outnumbered.

The chair that would have been occupied by the Elector of Bavaria was empty. Johann had known it would have been tough to honor the alliance with Bavaria, because this time their enemies were too numerous. In the end, Bavaria was not able to muster enough allies to save them, and Johann had the well-being of his own people to think about now. It was understandable that the Bavarians were not interested in sticking around, but they should have been glad that Brandenburg was able to provide what help they could. If they knew the sacrifice Brandenburg was about to make, would they have been supportive? He doubted it.

In the next two chairs were seated two up-and-coming army officers who were attending this meeting in their capacity as the two generals’ aide-de-camps. Georg Wilhelm von Stille was watching the enemy delegation intently. But the other young officer, Johann Friedrich von Anhalt-Dessau, seemed more interested in the whispered conversation he was having with Princess Magdalena. Anhalt-Dessau was a promising soldier, but he had a bit of a reputation among the ladies of the court. Magdalena was of an age where she was aware of the attention men gave her and was starting to learn how to capitalize on that attention, but Johann worried she was still young enough to be charmed by charismatic rouge.

Magdalena eventually noticed that Johann was watching her, and she quickly brushed Anhalt-Dessau’s hand aside and indicated that they should direct their attention towards the signing ceremony. Johann briefly made a mental note to keep an eye on those two. It was past time he found a royal match for Magdalena, but he was hesitant to ship her off while she remained his legal heir.

He held the quill over the parchment. Enacting this law would roll-back protections that made construction and development cheaper across the empire and would the Emperor’s ability to recover Imperial territory. The fact that it would hurt everyone but hurt Brandenburg slightly more was likely the only reason the Hapsburgs were promoting this.

After a pause that was just long enough for some of the nobles standing in the back of the room to get uncomfortable, Johann Georg I swiftly signed his name to the document. With one flourish of a quill, he had reached peace, assured the safety of his people and integrity of the national infrastructure, and revoked the Reichsreform measures that Austria had so readily supported decades ago but now considered a liability now that they were not in charge. He wondered if the Holy Roman Empire would ever be strong again, or if it was fated to slowly break apart.

C6-i2.png

January 1512


General Johann Friedrich von Anhalt-Dessau surveyed the land around him from the top of the fortress in Kolberg. The land was covered in snow, but the Baltic sea was open and the ports were already starting to build the first vessels in the Brandenburg navy.

It had been a tempestuous fifteen years since he first got involved with the princess Magdalena. He had thought it would have been an interesting challenge to seduce her while the Emperor Johann Georg I was distracted by the shame of the Hapsburg’s demand. It was a thrilling affair, but they eventually were caught by a maid. To save face, a marriage was quickly arranged, and Anhalt-Dessau was given an appropriate noble title. When he had wondered if the title came with any lands, the Emperor just told him that he expected his general to help him win them.

However, Poland had been warning Brandenburg not to engage in any offensive wars of expansion, and Johann Georg I had been far too willing to come to the aid of allies in distress. Coming to the aid of Bavaria had not only led to the Reichsreform repeal in 1497, but Ansbach’s attempt to claim part of Bavaria in 1507 only led to the Emperor paying war reparations and finally ending the relationship with Bavaria for good. Now Bavaria was an angry elector down to one province, surrounded by hungry neighbors.

The Emperor was extremely knowledgeable on military training and strategy, it was true. However, his knowledge base was mainly theoretical and had little to do with realities in the field. The mixed military record during in reign so far was proof of that. Brandenburg was slow to adapt to the latest technologies that other powers in Europe were taking up, and each successive defeat drained the nation’s manpower and resources. A noble rebellion was put down, but victories were few, and budget cuts meant that troops could not be drilled in peacetime.

With the thrill of the affair gone, Anhalt-Dessau had drifted apart from his wife, much to the Emperor’s disappointment. He had been hoping for a nephew that would suffice as an heir as he himself refused to marry again. Marriages were arranged for some distant cousins and godchildren, but Johann Georg himself probably thought he was too important for the daughters of his allies within the HRE.

He tapped the damaged crenellations he was standing behind; this particular fortress had not been too difficult to capture. Anhalt-Dessau had spent the intervening years developing and practicing siege tactics, as well as learning how to be more discrete with his trysts with camp followers. He did not care what Magdalena got up to, but if she had been engaged in any affairs of her own she had learned to be discrete as well.

Finally, Poland tried again to take Goldingen again and Brandenburg answered the call, with Johann Georg’s rescuer complex once again causing him to summon the troops. Anhalt-Dessau spent much of the war on the front lines, trying to control west Poland and crushing the army lead personally by the Polish king Stainslaw II von Hapsburg at Neumark before moving into the Pomeranian territories that Poland had taken off them in 1493 while Brandenburg was tied down in one of the Bavarian defensive wars. This time, however, some deft diplomacy at the end of the war allowed Brandenburg to escape with a positive separate peace for a change, and Brandenburg finally attained sea access.

c6-i3.png

December 1515


Magdalena normally resisted when her brother tried to drag her into assisting with the government of the realm, but she had to admit that he knew how to throw a Christmas party. The annual celebration in Berlin had grown over the years to the point that very few imperial princes or foreign diplomats would miss it, and it was often the place where the last unofficial diplomatic business of the year would be wrapped up. Smiling politely, she took her husband’s hand and entered the ballroom, trying not to make eye contact with the doorman as he announced them. To the doorman’s credit, he remained professional as the couple walked pass. The young man sometimes suspected that her husband knew about their relationship, but Magdalena knew it was a marriage of convenience and that the general was as faithful as she was.

She nodded at a noblewoman from Pomerania as she walked by and received a polite if icy curtsy. They were a little testy after Brandenburg liberated the imperial territory that they had lost, and Johann Georg I had wisely determined that Brandenburg should hold onto the territory for now to ensure its security. Pomerania was not happy about this arrangement, but there was little they could do.

An even icier reception was given from the diplomat from the Palatinate, but the reason was understandable. After their success beating Brandenburg in recent years, the Palatinate had recruited their allies Salzburg (who had just finished off Bavaria), Ansbach and a resurrected Mainz for their attempt to conquer Trier. Brandenburg and Frankfurt had come to Trier’s aid and managed to successfully repel the attack. She approved that Johann Georg I employed some of the separate peace deals that he was starting to become known for. Mainz was the first to capitulate last year, and word had just returned from the Palatinate that they had accepted Brandenburg’s latest proposal; a province was given to Trier and Nassau was liberated. Trier themselves had yet to lay down their arms, but hopefully the Palatinate was put in check.

A conversation with the Elector of Trier and his wife was more congratulatory; although they wished they could have controlled the peace deal there wasn’t much to complain about in the result. The Elector of Friesland, who had been appointed to fill Bavaria’s place, was well in his cups and was extremely glad to talk to them, the rush of joining the inner circle not yet having worn off.

An hour later, Johann Georg I finally made an entrance. His meeting with the Silesian ambassador had gone late. Border friction was an ongoing issue and Silesia no doubt wanted to dispute the validity of the legal basis for some of the claims. However, Magdalena grew concerned when she noticed that the Silesian was not present.
 

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A very violent update, it seems central Europe is a maelstrom of conflict. Johann seems to have had some luck in his warlike pursuits but less luck as leader of the HRE.
 

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A very violent update, it seems central Europe is a maelstrom of conflict. Johann seems to have had some luck in his warlike pursuits but less luck as leader of the HRE.
Yea, it's hard to maintain peace in the empire while also expanding to get what I need to complete missions and form Prussia, and it would take a while for me to figure out how to really start gaining Imperial Authority. But worth it! As far as violence goes, theres more coming...
 
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Chapter 7 - Storm from the North

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Chapter 7 Storm from the North


December 1520


General Anhalt-Dessau kept pace with the engineer, dodging around soldiers as they proceeded down the siege trench at the base of the fortress of Ratibor. The night crews mining towards the keep had come upon an obstruction and stalled, they were left exposed to musketfire at dawn. He gave his full attention to siege techniques and wanted to inspect the area personally.

It had been a busy five years since the Christmas party where the Silesian ambassador walked out. Silesia had thought of itself as a rival to Brandenburg, and once Johann Georg I demanded the province of Glogau war was inevitable. Anhalt-Dessau approved of the decision; if Brandenburg would be respected as the Imperial nation the princes must fear its wrath. Johann George was constantly improving diplomatic relations with as many of the princes as possible, but a handful would be at cross-purposes with Brandenburg’s need to control the land necessary to be strong enough to defend the Empire.

Friesland, eager to demonstrate their usefulness, and fickle Saxony would be Brandenburg’s partners for this operation. They were well-situated to take on Silesia’s allies, while Anhalt-Dessau lead the main force up Glogau and then on to the fortress.

However, back in Brandenburg the nobles were growing restless about how the recent Imperial ambitions of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Relations with those electors who were not openly hostile were great, but disunity continued to rein and Brandenburg’s enemies still thought to tear down the electors. Johann Georg I dreamed of being powerful enough to reinstate Reichsreform. In order to achieve this, he had decided to use what Imperial Authority he did have to ensure that the crown would be able legally to pass to Magdelena, and the decree of Pragmatic Succession was passed.

Anhalt-Dessau was smart enough to keep relations with his wife cordial if icy; being on extended military campaigns were good for that at least. Magdelena was still in her thirties; they could still at least have a child to cement their power. And if not, after Johann Georg was gone, he could get rid of her.

He approached where the crew was pinned down; Sileasian musketeer marksmen had positioned themselves and were taking shots at the men down below. He ordered some cannons to be brought forward, it would only be a matter of time before the enemy got their own cannons in position...

A blast, followed by a cloud of dirt and debits as a cannonball blasted the ground just short of the recently excavated trench. Men were yelling and scrambling over each other. He staggered to his feet just to see the corpse of the engineer he had been following before the dust cloud blew over him. Then he heard a second blast and saw no more...

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May 1522


Johann Georg I and Magdalena sat and listened to General Georg Wilhelm von Stille describe the results of the Silesian invasion. The siege of the capital and the remainder of the provinces after the death of General Anhalt-Dessau proceeded to completion, though not as fast as if von Stille’s counterpart was still alive. Glogau was now part of Brandenburg, a decent treasure and tribute was demanded, and the threat of Silesia was reduced.

Johann Georg I was concerned about reports of heretical protestant and reformed preachers gaining popularity in Poland and Scandinavia. There were even reports of some of the soldiers in the most recent campaign starting to espouse some of these new heresies. von Stille did not believe it was a matter of importance. Either way, there was little he could do about it other than keep the Papacy informed and prosecute what cases there were that applied to the De Heretico Comburendo Act that his father had signed into law many decades ago.

After the general left, Magdalena turned towards her brother.

“That was well done. We should deal with Pomerania next.”

Johann, shuffling the papers around, raised a skeptical eyebrow. “So soon? General von Stille hasn’t even had a chance to take his boots off.”

“We have the manpower and the momentum. The Pomeranian separatists in the area we freed from Poland are getting feisty.”

“You mean Kolberg? Your own county seat? Your late husband’s seat, who you talked me into promoting?”

Magdalena scoffed. “You said he was one of your best men many times.”

“I did. His siege ability was second to none. But I thought you would be more fond of him.”

“Not everyone can mourn for thirty-five years.”

“You aren’t getting any younger either. You are still my heir, but who will follow you?”

“You let me worry about that” said Magdalena as she stood up and headed towards the door.

Johann frowned. “You are still assuming that you will follow me.”

“There’s no one else. We agreed when you passed Pragmatic Sanction that I would follow you. You told me all the reasons you could not marry any of the eligible noblewomen we knew.”

“That aside, we need to be careful about folding the Pomeranians into our realm. We need to accept them as full cultural partners. You just think of leadership as strong armies and fancy parties, but there are actual difficulties of administrating land to worry about, and you are as disinterested in those matters as father was.”

Magdalena stopped at the doorway. “He seemed to get results.” She said before leaving the room.

Johann wondered what he was going to do with her. He didn’t want to marry her to another one of her playthings, but at least she wasn’t flaunting her indiscretions anymore. Sighing to himself, he briefly considered the silver ring that he had worn for many years. It was time to address the next item on the day’s agenda, and it would be better for Magdalena to not be present. He rang a bell and when the page arrived, Johann Georg I instructed him to show the mysterious Danish courier in.

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August 1525

Magdalena could not believe that her brother was getting married again, even though she had known this day was coming. Dorothea von Wittelsbach of Denmark was a bookish and industrious 23-year old who had made it out of Denmark just in time for an ugly succession war to break out between her brothers. Magdalena respected Dorothea’s intelligence and skill in maneuvering out of that situation and into the arms of the Emperor. And Magdalena recognized her for the threat she was.

Johann Georg deserved to have some happiness, she supposed, but he was uncharacteristically blind to growing discontent amongst the nobility. At least good news was coming in from Pomerania; the area was currently under occupation by the new general, Knoblesdorf. Although there were reports of Pomeranians on the verge of revolt within Brandenburg, the occupation was not a significant drain on the nation’s resources. Pomerania had advantage on the sea, though, but they could not entirely block her dear port of Kolberg.

The new theologian, she could not remember his name, was slowly reciting the familiar rites. The man had been in a fervor recently, the majority of the citizens in the new province of Glogau had come under the sway of the Reformed heresy.

“Speak now, or forever hold your peace...”

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Chapter 8 - Subterfuge

jscaco

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Chapter 8 - Subterfuge


June 1528

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It had taken five years, but Pomerania was fully annexed, and with a relatively low loss of life. Although it was getting harder for him to stand for long periods of time, Johann Georg I was able to address the victorious army as he had witnessed his father do after every campaign. The soldiers would not remain long; they were going to head down to Glogau, where Silesian separatists were preparing to rally and if the army arrived in time they might catch them by surprise.

It was a rainy day, but Magdalena, Dorothea and all the rest of the court were willing to make the trip out to the camp. Brandenburg was now of a size comparable to Austria and Bohemia, the other major powers in the Holy Roman Empire. Aside from a tentacle of Bohemia which was uncomfortably close to Berlin itself, Johann Georg I was satisfied with Brandenburg growth within the Empire. Magdalena should be satisfied that, with the annexation of Pomerania, the other princes were on notice that despite his kind words and intention, Johann Georg was not afraid to take out any princes who stood in his way. He would prefer an empire that was peaceful internally and was working constantly to improve relations with the princes, but now Brandenburg was in a stronger position.

It was to the east that he looked now. If he could acquire a bit more of the Baltic coast, he was sure that he could set up Brandenburg for success for years to come. This was complicated by the fact that Dorothea’s brother, Peter I of Denmark, controlled those provinces. Peter I was not the brother Dorothea preferred to have won the Danish succession war; he had recently annexed Norway and was growing in power. Brandenburg was also still allied to Denmark as a check against the other power contesting for control of the region, Poland. Despite recent gains, Brandenburg was weaker than both powers and had no clear path to victory.

Johann Georg also sent agents to Hungary. Blocking a potential Austrio-Hungarian union was considered as a decent way to weaken Hapsburg power. Hungary had already started to fragment, and Johann Georg’s agents had identified Croatian separatists who would not need much additional funding while they waited to attempt their own independence operation. He was hoping that these clandestine tactics would lead to more success than straightforward warfare. Although the army may ultimately be needed to assist these rebel allies, indirect methods just might be the way forward.



June 1533

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It seemed that all of Brandenburg was celebrating the birth of little Albrecht. Magdalena was not. She knew that she should be happy, that there would be security for her family holding the electorate of Brandenburg and the Imperial title.

Yet for decades she had been her brother’s heir. She sat at this right side, provided what advice and assistance was required. Johann Georg I had spent valuable political capital to ensure that the electors would support her to succeed him as the HRE’s first female emperor. Ironic, given that the HRE came about from the refusal of the Western empire to accept Irene as Emperor in Byzantium. That was centuries ago, these were more enlightened times.

Perhaps she may one day select young Albrecht to follow her once she was in charge. But long ago Magdalena had decided that nobody would stop her from succeeding her brother. Not the old men of the electorate who had to be cajoled into supporting Pragmatic Sanction. Not the young power player from Denmark who sought to replace her. Not her own brother, with his plans for Brandenburg after he was gone (what was that about a parliament to delegate legal drafting powers to several of the leading nobles? Preposterous!). And certainly not a new nephew.



June 1540

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Dorothea was reexamining the latest intelligence reports in her husband’s office while he was meeting with the new quartermaster, Joachim Nestor Briesen, to discuss the most efficient way to get fresh troops to the front lines.

It was only just last year that four years of struggle in Poland had reached its end. Poland had made a play for Danzig, trying to wrest it from Danish control. She never thought that she would be working with her brother Peter I, again. It was a vicious conflict, with the Polish forces in particular suffering grave losses. However, Johann Georg eventually concluded that the conflict was no longer worth the cost and negotiated a separate peace. Poland was glad to accept Brandenburg only “giving up” it’s claims within Polish territory; however agents were already at work reestablishing them.

Another reason to exit the conflict was that Croatia was finally ready to break away from Hungary and had declared war; the Brandenburg army was quickly redeployed. The Hungarians proved to be far inferior opponents than the Polish, and quickly surrendered once the Ottomans jumped on them. Croatia was now independent and grateful, but with the Ottomans aggressively working their way through the small nations in their vicinity Dorothea had to wonder how long that would last.

Denmark had capitulated to Poland not long after Brandenburg left the war; Danzig was returned to Poland but nothing else. Both larger kingdoms held land that Johann Georg had determined was necessary for one of his plans, the formation of a kingdom either in or of Prussia. Dorothea did not care which preposition was ultimately used, but she was glad to do her part to contribute to an up-and-coming dynasty like the von Hohenzollerns; little Albrecht would have big shoes to fill but a strong duchy and empire to inherit. Albrecht was currently with his aunt in Kolberg inspecting the condition of her property there after being on the front lines. She was hesitant to let him go, but Johann Georg wanted her son to see all corners of Brandenburg as he grew up, and besides, hadn’t see said she needed a break repeatedly recently?

In truth, there was no denying the Holy Roman Emperor, especially when Magdalena had applied her influence, and there was little rest to be had in any case. Not long after the armies had arrived in Hungary did word reach Brandenburg that Sweden had started their own independence war. This time, powers from all across Europe were intervening on both sides, so there wasn’t as much urgency, but she was eager to see Peter I embarrassed, she did not want to see Denmark lose control of Sweden. Also, she hoped the war would bring Albrecht and Magdalena back to the capital, as Kolberg was too close to Denmark for comfort.

One of the palace secretaries appeared in the doorway, “My Empress, I hate to interrupt, but a courier just arrived. There is a priority message, for your eyes only.” He said as he handed over a sealed piece of paper.

Dorothea accepted the message, and once the secretary had left the room, read it and her world turned upside down.


Edit 5/24 - Several references to the upcoming Swedish Civil War were inaccurate and have been corrected
 
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Chapter 9 - Independence

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Chapter 9 - Independence


August 1540
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“It would appear to be at least two armies,” reported the recruiter Joachim Nestor Briesen, “A larger force of twenty thousand and a satellite force of six thousand, but it is sticking close to the main army.”

“The fortress at Brunswick has been great place to trap armies before. We’ll ride out as soon as the forces are assembled.” said Johann Georg I as he struggled to climb unto his horse. He was still physically active at 71, but he had his limits.

“Are you still planning on riding out yourself, Emperor?” asked the lord of Potsdam, von Gersdorf. The man was a useful political ally, one of the aristocrats that was most supportive of Johann Georg’s proposed parliament, but the man and his family were notoriously corrupt.

“There isn’t anyone else left.” Despite his reservations, Johann Georg I decided that the relationship with Denmark was still useful and Brandenburg came to aid in Swedish independence war. However, the Swedes had both Spain and France among the nations backing them, and the Spanish had been camped outside Brunswick for a while now.

“Brother, we know you are capable of forming battle plans where you do not need to be present. You are not Father, you don’t need to seek glory, especially at your age.” pleaded Magdalena. Her new lover, the younger prince of Luneburg, Berhhard von Welf, stood sheepishly to the side trying not to look at her or otherwise appear to betray anything. Johann Georg suspected she was involved with the dapper aristocrat to get back at him for marrying the younger Dorothea, but that was not all that he suspected about her.

“Worried about my health, are you?” Johann asked suspiciously. “It is not about glory, but duty.” He had not been able to prove that Magdalena had anything to do with little Albrecht drowning while swimming unsupervised under her care, but he had his suspicions. He knew her ambition and could not hide her dismay at the birth of Albrecht, not from him. He should have disinherited her and sent her to a nunnery years ago, but it was too late now. He would have to deal with her at some point after he returned, but he did not know how.

Enduring the pain from the motion of the horse, Johann Georg galloped out to lead the army, the officers and imperial hangers-on following behind. The Spanish forces awaited.



November 1540

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Two days after he had called a diet to convince the nobility to raise the additional levies needed to reinforce the army after the loss at Brunswick, the old emperor Johan Georg I suffered a stroke while reorganizing the army in Stettin and was pronounced dead within hours. Joachim Nestor Briesen was scrambling to get the new troops assembled as fast as possible when the news hit.

The Spanish clearly had more advanced arms, were more numerous, and were more motivated to continue the fight then Brandenburg was, and now Brandenburg was without leadership. The new empress, Magdalena I was knowledgeable enough about the progress of the war and was an inspirational leader, but she had never had much of an interest in the hard details of governance and would not lead armies personally. Briesen knew that the national manpower shortage applied to officer corps as well and there was a dearth of decent generals. Compounding this was the conflicts between the Catholic majority and new Reformed recruits from the ex-Silesian eastern provinces. There were a few fistfights, but nothing more serious. The tension, though, was clear, and some of the soldiers bristled at fighting fellow Catholics from Spain and France on behalf of the Protestants in Scandinavia. There were no signs of discipline slacking, but the rapidly changing religious makeup of the nation needed to be addressed. The majority of citizens in Neumark were following the Reformed faith now, and the way things were going it was only going to spread more.

Joachim Nestor Briesen also knew that the national budget was on a string, and while Austria had recently sent a cash gift, probably because they wanted to see the Spanish hurt more than the Brandenburgers, it was not enough for the crown to hire additional advisors. Johann Gerog I was skilled enough to govern with many highly-paid offices unfilled, he was not sure that Magdalena was skilled enough to do so.

The first empress was crowned, and Briesen stood and applauded with the rest. To his left, von Welf gladly celebrated his mistress’s coronation, blissfully unaware that most people were aware of their affair. To his right, von Gersdorf was stoically celebrating, but his children were excited by the novelty. Johann Georg I had ruled for so long, there were few in the duchy remaining who were around before he came to power, and most of them were losing their memories. Magdalena was almost sixty herself, and the lack of an heir was obvious and unspoken. Like the issue of religion, though, the issue of succession would have to wait. There was, after all, still a war on.



March 1541

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These last few months had been the best in her life, Magdalena I thought as the servants brushed her hair for the day. She had been chosen by the electors to continue the von Hohenzollern dynasty, which she had been waiting for most of her life. She had been the first woman to break through and claim the Emperor title, a dream of powerful woman throughout the western empire ever since Irene in Byzantium was rejected in favor of Charlemagne. She hoped he was rolling in his grave.

While she missed her brother, she did not miss being in his shadow and his critical eye. His memory was helpful for reminding people of her authority, but she had resented him for forcing her into an inconvenient marriage.

Now she was free to marry who she wanted, and she had wed Bernhard von Welf as soon as spring rolled around. She did not think she had been as strongly in love with anyone since she was much younger. He was patient, tolerant, deferential and handsome, and she was enjoying being able to express her love publicly for once.

Dorothea had been pushed away from court life, and the grief-stricken younger woman was likely to leave the country. She clearly sensed that Magdalena did not share Johann Georg I’s enthusiasm for helping Denmark suppress Sweden. Denmark still controlled Baltic Sea provinces that Brandenburg had claims on, and if Sweden was independent pressing those claims would ultimately be easier.

After capturing Brunswick, the Spanish had bypassed the rest of Brandenburg to help the French and Swedes attack the Danes on their home turf. Magdalena I was hoping to take advantage of this distraction to send what remained of the Brandenburg army to retake it, and with any luck she could find a way to exit the war from a position of strength. After the servants finished with her hair, she was prepared to step out and engage with the Imperial court, once again ready to enjoy a day where she was in charge.
 

guillec87

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Nice the Empire elected a woman as their head!
 

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A likely child murderesses as monarch... I certainty hope she gets her just deserts.