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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Gloa

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Welcome to The Bastards of Normandy, an AAR where three hapless CK2 players try to play a dynasty starting from everyone's favorite bastard: William, Duke of Normandy.

Every time our characters die, we pass the save game on to the next player, playing as the successor to the dynasty (if not necessarily all the titles). Will our family prevail, or will the shortsightedness and divided schemes of each generation foil their forefathers' plans?

Chapter list:
  1. William "the Bastard"
  2. Robert "The Absent" (Part I)
  3. Robert "The Absent" (Part II)
  4. Robert "The Absent" (Part III)
  5. Robert "The Absent" (Part IV)
 
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Benjamintf1

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DUKE WILLIAM "THE BASTARD" de NORMANDIE


The year was 1066 and Duke William "the Bastard" de Normandie had a plan. Duke William tired of being the pawn of Paris, and with the death of King Edward, William saw his chance to seize the throne of England. With a small gift, he was able to sway the count of Zeeland to help him press his claim. Then he and fourteen thousand men set forth to conquer England.


Controlled by others since the time of his birth, he was used and helped by Henry, King of the Franks to gain power and allow him to gain control over himself. However, King Henry was dead, and in his place was King Phillip, a young boy. Recognizing the power and usefulness of the King of the Franks, he decided to try and marry his daughter off to the young king. This is not the only marriage alliance William seeks to make. Understanding that Harald of Norway claiming the throne of England himself, and wanting to foster a friendly relationship between the two of them, he offered his half brother Odo in a marriage alliance with the King of Norway, drawing from their mutual friendship with Edward.


“A friend of Edward should be a friend of mine, we both claim the throne of England, but we should not let it come between us. A crown need not be so tight as to cut off thoughts of good will and friendship. We shall let the good lord decide whose brow the crown should rest upon, and who shall sit in the throne. The scriptures say,

'There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.'

There will be a time for all of these, we shall mourn the passing of Edward, lest his passing be forgotten. I suggest that my Half-Brother Odo, and your daughter Maria be married, as it will tie our dynasties, and destinies together. Then we shall have a time to be merry. Then, when the mourning and merriment will be over, and there shall be a time for war. But let not hostilities cloud your eyes, for there shall be a clear day on the other side. Though it is too foggy to tell what lies on the other side, the good lord knows, and in his ways are righteousness.”

-A letter from the Duke of Normandie to the King of Norway


While hostilities arose on England and Normandie, not a single battle was fought between William of Normandie and Harald of Norway's forces.

The Duke of Normandy had many a duty to the crown. As well as officially sitting as martial, he had various other duties to the realm of his liege. This made him powerful, and power like that cannot be given leeway. As such, his family were always educated and kept captive in Paris, the king could not accept anything less. This also meant that when William left the country, it left it vulnerable to attack. As soon as William left Normandy, the Holy Roman Emperor declared war on the King of the Franks. This war was lost without the guidance of William, left in the hands of the young King. While William sent advice and guidance, as he had the Papal Banner and was set on invading England. This abandonment was costly to the king, as he came of age during the war, his court had not trusted him to join in the war. The king thought otherwise, went to the stable, prepared his steed and galloped off towards where he thought the fighting was. He did not fasten the saddle correctly, and when the horse reared, he fell off and hit his head, sending him into a coma. This coma was ended by his death. The Duke of Normandy, shocked, re-pledged his daughter to Hughes, the new king, and swore to make sure the new king would not run into such troubles, personally becoming regent and protector to the young king.



While he was off warring (occasionally returning for battles in Normandy and to rest), he left his son, Robert, to his own devices. The duke hated everything about his son and once mentioned to his steward that he wished he smothered him in the cradle. And while he was away and back warring, his son got some similar ideas as his father. Why am I at the beck and call and mercy of my father. I am his heir, I should be the Duke of Normandie. Not thinking of the potential if he waited, he was attacking some children in his court when the Duke intervened. The young Robert lashed out, “You can't stop me, you'll see”. He exited the castle and roused a small band of soldiers. His band of soldiers was crushed and he was immediately placed in a dark prison cell. There he was to rest until he died of poor living conditions. That was, at least, the plan. The duke was in a small battle in Normandy against the English invaders, and got hit by a stray bolt. Shortly there after, he died.

 
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DUKE ROBERT "THE ABSENT" de NORMANDIE
in the arms of a maid

Odo of Bayeux heard of his half brother's death ten days before Christmas, 1073, while wintering the Norman invasion forces in London. Hearing little more from the duchy in the following winter months, he sent the brothers Hamelin, Wynebald, and Wynoc back to Normandy to report to the new duke "and deliver to him his freedoms, if not already given" (Odo of Bayeux, Oxford collections)

Odo also instructed that they find the boy a good wife, if he had not already found one, and work to solidify his tenuous relationship with his tenants, as well as the pope - the man whose legitimacy the campaign depended on - a campaign which still needed orders, he emphasized.

The shortest regency ever. "Appoint me regent and I'll let you out of jail so you can rule yourself."

The brothers were hopeful, despite William's dislike of his child. Young fresh blood could offer opportunities for strong alliances and bold actions. What they found, however, discouraged them.

Hamelin was frank to Odo,
"I write to tell you that his lordship was already released, but upon arriving in Rouen we could not find him. His own household has little idea where he went so shortly after his release, and it has been months since with no letter or visit of any kind. While I do not chide the man for finding his stay in the dungeons unpleasant and tiresome - although his stay was much shorter than many - I feel his conduct has been less than satisfactory, and will seek to tell him of the needs of his loyal servants when I shall find him.

That is not to say that I do not know his location, for a little investigation among the peasantry and a letter to Chartres have determined that our young lord is there. He says he is providing 'council' for his friend there, Count Philippe. The peasants remember his stated reasons for the visit to be much less brotherly..."


...the local gentry whisper about Duke Robert, and they scarcely care if I hear them. He is angry, indolent, envious of money, and a cheat at cards..."

- Excerpt from a letter from Hamelin de Ballon to Odo of Bayeux, Oxford collection.
Just like any other 19 year old who spent the last year locked up by his own father. The 4/4 was only during the regency period, I'm afraid.

Robert was also not a warrior, nor a strategist. Nor, the pope said, a rightful King of the English. Odo's statement of Robert's claims got a chilly response from Rome, and the bishop began to seek peace terms from the newly strengthened English armies.

"...which leaves us with honor, but not the crown. In return, King Harold swears his unending friendship for the House of Normandy. Finally, when the armies have all withdrawn from the island, Robert will marry Harold's daughter Gunhild of Wessex. If Robert will not visit - and if he does, send him through my camp so that I may arrange a meeting - I have sent a description of the young lady.

What? Did you think Robert cared about his prestige? Of course he took the money.

You must impress on Robert the need to agree with this arrangement, if you cannot get some honest infatuation. It was a rare chance to have the King's daughter in these terms, and I have the impression that it is mainly due to her forceful nature. Not that it is our concern. On the contrary, I pray to the Virgin Mary that England's so called "Warrior Princess" can tame the boy."

- Letter from Odo of Bayeux to Hamelin de Ballon, Oxford Collection

But while Odo and Hamelin managed the peace in England, Robert geared up for battle, trying his hand in leading his armies against raiders. For a time, people spoke of "the William next to come" (record on a tapestry, Rouen, France).


Robert, however, seems to have been spooked from these conflicts. After getting a minor wound in a skirmish, "...he has seen the prudence of leading, and letting other men fight for him" (Hamelin, Oxford collection)


In the following years, Robert kept to his castles and let Hamelin and Odo manage his accounts. They were particularly relieved by this as the opportunities for death grew in France.

Don't ask me what happened to Nyitra.

While Hamelin's letters complain of the duke's tactless domestic rule, it is clear


"...I see it only as a lesser trouble than the great sin of dying in some foolhardy adventure. Some days, Robert asks me if maybe his forces would be better used elsewhere, and my skin goes cold at the thought of the great army being thrown into another pointless conflict.

Hamelin's military strategy

This is more likely now that his leg has healed. I try to tell him of how terrible it looks, but I am afraid that the women gasp and fawn over the scar...

...I also have heard of the death of your beloved Maria. When you are over your grief, Robert is worried for you, and I believe he has a girl in mind. He may not be a monk, but that boy knows every woman in France like they know their prayers and testaments...


...aside from the matters of the heart, or the matters the duke concerns himself with, such a marriage would be advisable, for her father sounded particularly pleased with the potential match. He dotes over that daughter, and while Robert did not notice, I could hear the promises behind his speech."


- Letter from Hamelin de Ballon to Odo of Bayeux, Oxford Collection
Of course, Robert II was distracted from supporting his own claim, but Hamelin rallied his support in the duke's name.

Between his uncle and friend, Robert's lands prospered during the wars, and few remembered his reluctance to fight when the wars were won. Indeed, this was a high point in Robert's life, which he absorbed with all the grace and humility that might be expected of him. In a letter to his brother:

"My dear brother Richard. The news is quite excellent - not only a child, but a son (and you said strong and healthy? That is good.). May the Lord bless your son, and provide you a source of pride until your old age.

However, you spoke to me of the name, and seemed hesitant to your wife's suggestion. Why ever so? William is a fine name, she says. You spoke of our father, and no doubt such a legacy should go on.

But perhaps it should not go on in such a strong and healthy son. Is that truly the legacy you wish to suggest? Let us not speak ill of the dead, pious or impious, but our father died with an arrow in his eye, squandering troops around in useless battles in Normandy and losing the war.

What good did our father ever do to our family, that men should name their sons after him? He was a fool, if you were to ask me - and again, not to speak ill of the departed. A great child such as your should deserve a more honorable name, remembering those in our family who actually achieved some form of greatness."

- Letter from Duke Robert II to Richard of Normandy, Henry Collection

Next time: Robert's success can't last forever...
 

Gloa

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(Also, as a bonus: Robert's likely role model, and reason for half the lover's-pox in France)
 

Benjamintf1

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Ah Robert. Shame I didn't smother him in the cradle, or have him die in my dungeon.
 

Mourn

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I like the concept of a succession game AAR and i'm enjoying the writing. Looking forward to more.
 
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Gloa

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DUKE ROBERT "THE ABSENT" de NORMANDIE
in a dark, damp cell

"...the facts are these. My lord, Duke Robert II of Normandie, desired to see how the peasants lived their lives - without the pretense that forms with a noble visit. I did not advise this course of action, but neither did I avoid it - for what harm is it for a young lord to seek learning rather than manage his realm without learning? It is better for him to deal with maturity first, while those who understand the realm can handle it, and then gain maturity. But these are other matters.

He had a loyal knight with him, disguised as he was, and more were nearby to accompany him home. When the night came, though, he had not arrived. Instead, I hear that he is held now in the castle of Duke Guilhem of Toulouse, a scoundrel and drunkard...

...are we to allow such ungodly crimes to go unpunished in your realm, oh King? Arrest Guilhem, and bring him swiftly to justice - or at the least release our innocent lord."

- Plea from Hamelin to Hugues, King of the Franks, on behalf of the imprisoned Robert (Versailles Collection)


Despite his pleas, Hamelin was unable to secure the release of Duke Robert. The King sent his sympathies, but Guilhem's forces were an important part of the war against the Germans. Furthermore, Hugues' new son assuaged the king's concerns about his legacy and succession.


There goes that hope.

Ransoms were similarly useless, and Robert was left - for the second time of his life - unwanted in a dungeon.


Even the shifting attitudes of the church, deemphasizing the sinfulness of some of his characteristics, would not cheer up the imprisoned Robert.

"...my King, I ask you again to provide justice for our imprisoned lord, Duke Robert II. He is still held imprisoned, despite Guilhem's passing. You have always been a friend to Robert's house - what slight could he have done, that the young lord even must keep him still?..."
- Plea from Hamelin to Hugues, King of the Franks, on behalf of the imprisoned Robert (Versailles Collection)

Yeah, he wouldn't give me up either - not for 5 more years. What did I ever do to you?

And when Richard had another son, he named him "after an honorable man".


Hamelin laments the harm caused by Robert's imprisonment, but Normandy hardly suffered under his regency. Nor did Robert, who was finally released after an armed reminder was sent to Toulouse.


"Robert is fine. He has suffered no injury (or if he has, it has healed since), nor does he show any sign of illness. His vision is still good, and his legs are steady. His wits are still about him, and when I told him of that plot we had discovered in his absence... well, he is still Robert.


But I fear he will not be joining you back in Rouen, for yet again the jail cell seems to draw him to Chartres. I know Gunhild will be upset, and how the gossips will sing! - but a lord's orders are his own will, no matter their impetuity..."
- Letter from Odo of Bayeux to Hamelin of Bollon (Oxford Collection)


"You will be pleased to hear that Robert has returned, sooner than expected. He seemed dejected, and when we spoke I was able to discourage him against the wills of the flesh more readily than I recall before.


Not that he hasn't had some outlet, but he now focuses on his horses and the dogs - yes, even Robert has been swept up by the desire to become a grand hunter...


...he was so caught up in the enthusiasm, that he asked me for the greatest hunter in the castle. I told him honestly, but did not realize that he intended to release that lord to lead the expedition! I hastily discouraged this action...


...and Gunhild is furious over this child. She demanded that the girl be sent away, and even Robert complied with no hesitation. One does not want to anger that woman.

"​
- Letter from Hamelin of Bollon to Odo of Bayeux (Oxford Collection)

Everyone knows the basics in the upheaval of French history in Robert's time. Hugues died, leaving his son Henri on the throne of France.
The young king lead to another of the Franco-German wars of the period, which Duke Robert (but really, Odo and Hamelin) participated in - protecting their heartland in Rouen with a marvelous battle.



But Robert's life at home was not as successful.

"...the devil in you with all of his wits, you serpent! I have done all that a husband should do, by the holy word. When have I not done everything for you, save for when on duties to my liege and to my most holy duties? Did you not remember the necklace I brought to you from Paris, or any of the other gifts you have been given?..

...Is there nothing that can be done, woman? I beg you, let us not end this in such a way, disgraced by ourselves and the angels in heaven above. My love, remember how we danced together under the stars, when the castle was sleeping. Can you remember that? Tell me that your love has not gone senseless, even after all these years...

...No doubt you also spread the vile lies on my potency, you witch! You laugh behind my back, wagging your tongue to any maid with made up stories of the most intimate kinds. I should have you arrested and hanged, was it not for my uncle's sermons on forgiveness. This is treasonous, slanderous, no doubt adulterous...

...you hide behind the skirts of your relatives in England. Traitors and usurpers all of them. I should end them, and see if you are more grateful when I deliver you a toe than a ruby!..


...my dear, let us put such thoughts behind us. Why should we ruin our love?..."

- Letter from Robert de Normandie to his wife, unfinished and never delivered (Rouen Collection). Hamelin kept the letter for safekeeping, and may have shown it to Gunhild, but this is speculative. In the least, Robert was persuaded away from attacking King Burgheard, but his relationship with the Godwins - and Gunhild in particular - continued to be strained. Robert sulked at home, complaining that the German war had ended so swiftly and deprived him of a way to escape his unhappy home. He would soon have a better outlet, however.

"...Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the pagans and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward..."
- Pope Zachary II as recorded by Fulcher of Chartres, declaring a crusade against the encroaching pagans in the north


Hamelin advised Robert against the mission, but Robert was eager. He swore the Crusader's Oath and took 4,000 of his soldiers across the previously hostile German realm to the pagan north. He cried "God Wills It!" with thousands of other knights across Christendom, and it seemed that God did.

"...it fills my heart with nothing but joy. Lithuania is a strange place, and very cold - but my men are still strong in zeal. Still, for all the services of the Holy Father, I would wish to be back in Rouen - not for the warmth, or the bread and stew, but for our beautiful child and you, my most radiant wife...

...as for the name, your suggestions are worthy to me. Your grandfather's name will be an honorable one for our child..."

- Robert II to Gunhild of Wessex (Rouen Collection)


Robert was elated to have a son. His letter, excerpted from above, does not even mention any reaction to the other news - the death of his bastard daughter Matheode.


Coincidence? I think not.

However, all good things must come to an end, and with Christian knights - including the excited Robert - sitting out his last castle, King Sabe wisely took up a red cross himself. When his letter had reached Rome and back, the Crusade had ended, and Robert had to return to Normandy... and his other child.


"...Boudewijn needs to have a good chance in life. His father was a mighty man, or so they say. Boudewijn should have the Christian chance himself to prove whether he will be mighty or valueless...

... There is a hunt in Rouen soon. If you would like, I could give you a great hound to join you. You have always admired these, I know, and this pup is of the greatest litters. However, you must promise me what I write here, or else I am sure someone else will find a great use for this illustrious creature."

- Letter from Busilla to Robert, intercepted by Hamelin (Rouen Collection)


Of course I picked "Faithful".

Next time: Robert buries his past...
 

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I like the concept of a succession game AAR and i'm enjoying the writing. Looking forward to more.
We're glad you like it. Just for you, here's a bonus picture from the last chapter:


Apparently the Pope was as shocked as I was to see an independent Emirate of Jerusalem (which was later returned to the Fatimid arms, but survived and was at peace for awhile during the crusading period), and in his confusion decided to not crusade for the completely helpless target and instead go to Lithuania or something.
 
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DUKE ROBERT "THE ABSENT" de NORMANDIE
in the hands of GOD

With the crusade over, and the pope's "Truce of God" less strictly enforced as a result, the Franco-German wars began again. The Franks capitalized on their training from the crusades to make large territorial gains against the distracted emperor.


Yup, attacking the rebels in order to dodge the truce. Nice job, AI.

Robert's great army was no longer great (Hamelin records it as "not one in four men returned"), but he continued to send them when his liege had need - a trait that would serve him well.


"My most excellent of vassals. I commend you yet again for your siege of Brabant. Although I had to leave with unusual speed, I heard you faced off nobly against the enemy...

...I consider you as a brother, and in these perilous times I would like you to know that I wish you to become my heir, if I remain childless until the Lord takes me home..."

- Letter from King Henri II to Duke Robert of Normandy. (Rouen Collection)


Our records are less clear after this, as Robert's trusted adviser Hamelin died this year (Odo had died a few years previous).


Requiescat in Paces, Hamelin of Bollon. You built Normandy, even if it was Robert who ruled it.​

We do know that Robert had rocky relations with his wife, with several accusatory letters being sent by both of them...


Maybe you shouldn't have flaunted that dog your mistress gave you.

...and it's likely that this was the time that the famed white head of Rouen was caught, perhaps by Robert himself as he retreated from his unsuccessful marriage.


Of course, we also know that in 1105, Hugues of Burgundy succeeded to the throne, ending over 150 years of Capet rule over the Franks. Without Hamelin's letters, it's unclear how Duke Robert lost what had seemed to be a perfect opportunity.


And bringing back some old blood.

In any case, Duke Robert seemed to respect Hugues' reign. In 1107 he answered the call to Hugues' Iberian war with:

"To his majesty, Hugues, King of the Franks. I have heard the troubling reports of the corruption of King Alvar in Galicia, which you have sent to us, and am as furious as you are. I will gladly join this most holy cause.



However, I have few men who can be spared in Normandy, with the harvest so near - and after many losses in the Flemish campaigns. Nor am I a strong man, able to lead armies. If my liege wishes, I will serve to aid the campaign in whatever way pleases him and God - but to put me in the front would simply lead to another corpse. Perhaps it would be best to let my experience guide from behind the armies..."
- Letter from Duke Robert to King Hugues III of the Franks (Paris Collection)


Robert got his safe position, and the Galician campaign was successful and short (for the French - for the Galicians, it plunged the region into years of civil wars and power struggles, of which the French invasion was only a footnote - but that's another story). When Robert returned to Rouen, he found a surprising envoy:

"To his Holiness, Pope Marinus. May God bless all the endeavours of our most Catholic church, and provide his wisdom to our actions here and across the Christian world.

I have heard the report of your envoy on the ill rule of the Danish kings, and the weakness and inaction of the young King Peder. That the Lithuanian has been plunged into the darkness of paganism yet again, and while Christian knights and soldiers stood so close - it brings anger to my heart as well.



...but I cannot take this cross - not at this time. My men are tired, and looking to the future harvests in the land, and I myself am too old to storm the castles of King Peder by myself. The Emperor should have many men who desire this cause - more than enough to take the Danish lands and prepare for Lithuania, but I cannot. I must attend first to my own household..."
- Robert, in a letter to the new Pope Marinus in Rome. (Vatican Library Collection)

While the attempt to return the Normans to great power in the north - gaining a strong kingdom and room for glory against the eastern pagans - must have tempted the duke, Robert stayed to follow some of Hamelin's old plans, a new castle to defend the entrance of the great river Seine.


(Although some suggested that Robert's reticence was less about moral or tactical considerations over a Danish war, but rather due to a personal grief.)


In any case, Robert's peace allowed him to begin to solidify his control over his own realm. The new Norman Code of law was set, providing him and his successors with more power than ever, and managing disputes over ecclesiastical and secular lands, courts of law, and so on.


Meanwhile, Robert turned his old (his letters mention the difficulty he had reading, and he may have had an infection from a previous battle) eyes to the heavens.


I had meant to go to Canterbury, for an ironic echo of his father's war... but I didn't realize that's not an option currently.

"I did not find God in the forests, nor in the bitter winter of the Lithuanian realm. But men tell me that to look at the tomb of St. James is to consider the heavenly realm, and to journey in contrition is to seek confession and repentance with God above.

I hope that what I find will give me the answers I have struggled to hear in every sermon the church gives me..."
- An account of Robert's speech to his sons, in a letter from Boudewijn later in life. (Rouen Collection)

Robert described this pilgrimage as being disappointing later in life, urging his sons to go to the orient while they were still young and healthy, and see the true history of the faith in the Holy Land. He even suggested joining the new monastic orders erupting throughout Europe.


Possibly it was somewhat disappointing due to the giant civil war erupting around it.

"My son. You have asked me, most impertinently, about taking the burdens of rulership. I am an old man, and old men are bad at ruling.


But you are a young man, and young men are worse. Rather, I urge you to consider the proposal I have recounted for you, from Grandmaster Heinrich, who has recently visited. Let me remind you that the Scriptures tell us that

to all things there is an appointed time,
and a time to every purpose under heaven

Let your youth use your strength for the betterment of the faith, and you will be rewarded in heaven. Let your age be used for what wisdom tempers you to do..."
- Letter from Robert to his son Boudewijn. (Rouen Collection) This letter was never sent, as Robert's first (and legitimate) son Godwine died that week, and Robert rededicated his new castle to the heir he never expected.


Even without Boudewijn's service, the newfound piety of Duke Robert made an impact on Grandmaster Heinrich, who reported it to the pope when he continued his journeys. Remembering the previous invasion, and noting the currently instability and poor piety of the so called rulers, Pope Marinus sent Robert a new proposal.


Next time: OPERATION SEALION
 

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Bonus: The Suomensko are coming for you.
 

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DUKE ROBERT "THE ABSENT" de NORMANDIE
in his father's footsteps


"Bishop Marinus, servant of the servants of God, sends to his dearest son in Christ, Duke Robert of Normandy, greetings and benediction...

...your family has desired to subject the land to the laws and to remove the vices that have taken root under the House of Godwin, and you are willing to preserve the rights of the churches inviolate. We second this desire that - for the enlargement of the bounds of the church, the restraint of vice, the correction of morals, the introduction of virtues, and the advancement of the Christian religion - you shall enter England, and obtain both an abundant reward from God, and a glorious name for the ages."

- Papal Bull from Pope Marinus I to Duke Robert, empowering the invasion of England (Vatican Collection)

Robert eagerly took the Pope's blessing. The army he would raise was smaller than his father's - only amounting to around 7,000 men at its height - but the "mad" King Ecgfrith had squandered his forces by alienating his nobles and angering his neighbors.


The revolt ended almost immediately, but it had drained Ecgfrith's armies to almost nothing - and he would soon have war with both Scotland and one of the Welsh kings.

King Ecgfrith's advisors saw little hope for a war in England, and instead advocated a swift invasion of Normandy with the 3,000 men still standing from an internal campaign. Seizing Evreux and the ships within might make Robert pause in his invasion - at least long enough to secure the islands. To put it to the superstitious king, they had to word it differently:

"It is known that the perfidious Duke Robert descends from the invading William, known as the Bastard, who previously did attempt to invade and unrightfully conquer this land... William died there, in Normandy, and not in England. So must Robert his son die."
- Purported letter from a duke to King Ecgfrith, although the authenticity is disputed (Oxford Collection)

The tired English army put up a valiant fight but was quickly routed, and Robert's 4,000 proceeded to land in the towns of Sutton and Pevensey in south-east England.


The Norman advance was slow, but unstoppable. Robert's generals seemed unbeatable, writing back to him about the English confusion on the field and disunity in court. They told stories of abandoned castles and defenseless cities, gloating over their enemy's foolishness (they had not yet heard that the Scottish and Welsh invasions had begun, which was the true reason for the lack of English forces in the south).


They also wrote of the capture of several English princes, including a favorite nephew of Gunhild. It was too much for the old duchess to handle. A little more than a month later she passed away from grief, ending the long and tumultous marriage of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman powers.


Robert sat comfortably in Ecgfrith's capital (with a girl at his side, some rumors said), and did not even return to Normandy when he received word of her passing.


Not all rumors are true.

Instead, he went to Aragon, finally free to woo a new - younger - bride. No longer pinned down by the constraints of his advisors, Robert chose a girl with no major alliance but "...a charm which renders such considerations of little value...". He would regret this when the Kingdom of Brittany intervened in the war, bringing in 7,000 Breton soldiers.


Robert returned with new Duchess Elionor pregnant, and his forces fighting for their lives in Wiltfordshire.


Legend says that Robert returned and singlehandedly captured the key commanders of the English force, giving his battered forces a chance to retreat from the island. This is unlikely, and letters written by him would suggest he was with the relief fleet near Hastings at the time.


"...It is true that my forces have suffered defeat in the field, but we still hold many defensible positions up to the Thames and Severn rivers, and more men flock to our banner every day. I plan to lead these men to secure the Breton territories, and forcing his nobles to swear against reinforcing his armies. When my men are ready, we will return to Cornwall and then link up with our forces already in England. Our purpose is still just, and still achievable..."
- Letter from Robert to Pope Marinus (Vatican Collection)


The plan.


Robert's optimism was unstoppable - or at least he tried to seem so, worried that the new holy war in the distant Levant would be an excuse to draw away support for his invasion.


Also, he had a son. But Robert probably didn't care much.


Robert even kept his war up as the Frankish lands splintered after King Hugues III's death.


That's right, it's time to start the bordergore boat.

(After inheriting the Kingdom of Aragon, Hugues had intended for his realm to be split between his two sons. Hugues the younger would take the northern Frankish realms and the younger Guilhem would have the Iberian holdings.

Unfortunately, the French electors did not agree with this split, rallying behind Duke Thibualt de Blois. Hugues and Guilhem rallied their supporters, but a tentative peace mediated by the pope (who wanted to keep Frankish knights in the Crusades, instead of in internecine squabbles) was signed in 1125 before any fighting took place. Hugues gained the south, where most of his loyalists had land, and styled it the Kingdom of Aquitaine. Thibault held the north, styled the Kingdom of France (although both used the title King of the Franks occasionally), leaving Hugues III's realm split into three.

Duke Robert had given his support to Duke Thibault, if only to avoid conflict with his neighbors. He cared little about the struggle with the southern Franks, as they could not disrupt his campaign.)


Dying, however, would. In 1126, the 72 year old duke breathed his last breath and was laid to rest in his castle in Harfleur, facing England as he had requested on his deathbed. The crown passed to his bastard son Boudewijn, while the trueborn (but younger) Sylvester was given the county of Maine and the younger children got minor inheritances.

Robert had hoped that Boudewijn would continue his fight, but with the pious duke dead and the Holy Land awaiting, the pope declared the second Norman invasion of England ended.

Next time: Another bastard at the helm...
 
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DUKE Valeran "THE PIOUS" de NORMANDIE
the plans I have for you


“11 years old is far too young to rule. Not only is Valeran far too young, but he is also far too sick. I fear in his state, the crown will simply fall from his brow. Every morning I see him in fits in his bed and it’s hard to watch. The way he coughs and weezes, you’d think he’s about to lose a lung. I pray to the lord he stays alive, but with that much liquid in the lungs, there’s scarce chance of that. When I took the role of his royal regent, I promised to keep him safe from enemy’s, and make the best decisions for the realm, but how can I defend him from an enemy I cannot see, an enemy I cannot fight. While I can help him finish the rebellion his father started, I cannot make him well. I ask you please intercede for young Valeran, and for me as well. Give us the guidance to overcome these troublesome times.”

- Count Simon of Vexin, Reagent of Duke Valeran in a letter to the local Bishop



With Valeran in the state he was Simon knew that the health of the heir was important, however, if Valeran is to rule, he must be properly trained. Simon immediately sent out for a tutor for young Valeran, who could not only train him for his future role, but keep him entertained in his sickness. Unlike other young rulers, he could ill afford military training, so most of his training was in social graces and other court manners. Baudouin, a reclusive, but convincing man, was found to be the perfect man for the job.



With Valeran mostly in Baudouin’s capable hands, Simon drifted into thoughts of his youth - when the franks were the center of Europe, not the Germans. Many longed for a return to the days of all the franks, united under one king, in one kingdom. With the Holy Roman Empire stronger than ever, and England and Scotland set to unite upon the death of Queen Ela of Scotland, he knew the Franks had to unite to be able to resist foreign pressure. After finishing the rebellion Valeran’s father joined, he started talking to other dukes. Those dukes talked to their king, and their kings began to arm.

“Friends, it has been some time since the Franks have been united, it has been such a long time. Does anyone remember when the franks divided their domain in pieces? Why can’t we return to the way things were? Why should we sit idle as pretenders sit on such mighty thrones that used to be the powerful seat of the franks? Why should such an arrangement continue? Why should others grow, and consolidate power, while the Franks shatter and become weak? David wrote ‘Behold, How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’, and we should follow his words. The franks must stand united, united against the menace to our east (Some argue he is referring to the Muslim empires in the holy lands, others the Holy Roman Empire) united against internal turmoil, united as to shine gods glory even brighter. For divided we are not as strong, but united, we can become a force to be reckoned with once more. Together, all of the franks can live in peace and harmony. Stand with me, stand for Frederic of Aquitaine’s claim to the kingdom of the franks, stand together, and stand strong.”

-A letter sent to all the dukes of France and Aquitaine, Galicia, England, Scotland, and Aragon.



Simon sent the sum of 140 gold to Frederic, to help as he sees fit to reunite the crown of the franks. After much deliberation, the war for the reunion of the franks was started. King Frederic had many supporters, including England, Scotland, Aragon, and Galicia. It seemed that every strong catholic west of the HRE supported Frederic’s claim. Finally France would be reunited.

While the war was being waged for France, Simon mostly kept in the castle, overseeing construction of a new keep and walls. He arranged the betrothal of Valeran to Princess Blanche, daughter of Frederic, and a marriage of a Sister of Valeran and Ecgfrith, the king of England. Ecgfrith, soon fell to 2 massive revolts which threatened his realm, however he miraculously retained his rule.

The war for France was a bloody and horrific war. While the war seemed to first swing towards France, near the point of total defeat, Frederic’s allies managed to start to get the war swinging in their favor, and encourage him to continue. “Do not lose heart Frederic, We all wish to see you on the throne of France, please have the heart to see it through”.



Simon was not able to be the regent of Valeran for his entire childhood. For the latter part of his childhood his regent was Bishop Onfroy. He managed to instill in Valeran a sense of piety and devotion to God. This was a devotion he would carry through his life. On the 28th of Febuary, 1157, Valeran finally reached majority. He had grown up to be patient, and well worded individual. Despite his experience with the bishop(or perhaps because of it), he was never assured about his faith and the church. Maybe that’s what drove him to a life of piety, but none can say for certain. He also desired for the powers and authority of the Holy Roman Emperor, He wished not only to elevate himself, but through Simon’s visions, bring back to the days of a strong France.
 
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Benjamintf1

Second Lieutenant
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You are prolly wondering what happened to the character between mine, and my colleague, Well we had a third person working on him, and we were hoping to have him post it, but that's not going to happen I guess. Bellow, and without editing, here is his post.

The Invasion from Normandy

Duke Boudewijn came into power after the failed attempts of both his grandfather and father to claim a throne of their own. The family had tried twice to take England. All Boudewijn wanted was to be better than his father and grandfather. What better throne to take than the french throne? And so began his reign.

Boudewijn’s first major choice as duke was how exactly was he going to take the throne of France. The easiest way would be to form a faction then gain support. The only issue is he wasn’t the only individual wanting the throne of France. All he needed now was an opportunity.



Just months later, The French declared war on the Aquitaine and The Holy Roman Empire in turn declared war on the French. This is the opportunity Boudewijn was waiting for. The time was right and France was weak.



Everything was at the Duke was winning the war. There were two defining moments. The first came when Duke Robert of the French army was captured. The second moment came when Boudewijn was forced into a direct encounter with the Holy Roman Empire, who was not weak. This encounter ended the Duke’s ability it lay siege to any holds in French land and thus ended the war for the throne of France.


For now the Duke was going to have to settle for a white peace with the king of France. France lost both wars, and lost land. The duke spent some much needed time to rest. This began a time of raising a family and waiting for the next opportunity. The duke was able to focus on diplomacy to gain some allies and even had an affair. The spent the majority of this time amassing wealth, and he was very good at it.


The duke was able to secure an alliance with both England and The Holy Roman Empire though marriages, making him politically untouchable. The Duke’s time was getting late and he want to leave his heir in the best political position possible.


To finish his reign, he had to do one last thing for his heir. The French king had implemented high crown authority in France. Boudewijn was not going to allow this to happen. This is how the second rebellion began. This war would also be the end of Duke Boudewjin’s reign, leaving his land and titles to his son, Valeran.