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The Beaumonts of Leicester


With the defeat of the Saxon king Harold Godwinsson and the crowning of Duke William of Normandy as King of England, a new power, on the very edge of Europe, was born. The days of the Heptarchy, when seven Saxon kings ruled over England were well and truly over.

The realm that William now governed was large, with a population mostly hostile to his rule. The native Saxons regarded the Normans with nothing more than disdain, and a great uncertainty about the future of their land hung over them like a great black rain cloud. However, the bastard Duke William was no fool, and saw that the land was too large maintain effective government without dividing it into smaller parcels, each chunk of land having it’s own local ruler who would raise arms for and swear fealty to the crown, in return for the King’s protection. Thus, English feudalism was born.

Much of the land was granted to those nobles who had fought most bravely during the conquest, as William believed that those who showed the most courage and valour under his colours would be the most loyal to him. The only areas to remain under Saxon overlordship were the lands of Cumbria and Lancashire, who rulers had supported William in his bid for kingship. However, the rest of the country was now in a situation where Saxon subjects were ruled by Norman lords, and this was potentially dangerous.

The Beaumont family had been one of the most loyal, and indeed most valiant of the Norman nobility, and William had granted the city of Leicester and the surrounding countryside to Robert de Beaumont, and his younger brother Henry had been made Earl of Warwick. Both were young and very loyal, but of course like all noble families certain vague ambitions lay in the backs of their minds, the desire for power, triumph and glory ever the powerful force.


Robert was in London, attending his liege lord at his court in Westminster Abbey as the feudal system obliged him to do. He had yet to make the journey up to Leicester, and was, despite his youth, very placid. Unlike his brother Henry of course, who was filled with childish excitement at the prospect of taking lordship of his new lands in Warwick.

“Brother, I can barely wait to see this town of Warwick! I‘m sure my subjects will be the most productive in all of England, for if they are not, I will make sure they are.” Robert glanced over to Henry and smiled vaguely.

“Of course, my brother. But my peasants will be twice as hard working as yours.”

Henry started a retort but Robert raised his hand. Across the Hall a very finely adorned man had entered, followed by what must have been his children. He leaned over to Henry.

“Do you know who that is?”

Henry nodded.

“Yes, that is the King of Denmark, and his retinue” The brothers continued to stare, and as he did Robert caught only the slightest glimpse of a girl, who glanced in his direction before hurrying away. From that moment, Robert was smitten. He nudged Henry.

“Did you see her?” Henry shrugged.

“Who? You mean one of the King’s daughters? Father told me that they follow their father everywhere he goes, even all the way to England!” He glanced at Robert, who was staring dreamily into space. Henry punched him jokingly and laughed, causing Robert to cry out in pain.

“Bloody hell, that hurt! So she’s a Princess, you say? Then I have decided; I shall ask for an audience with the King of Denmark and ask for her hand in marriage, with my lords blessing of course.”

**​

The King of Denmark agreed to the union, the girl turning out to be Princess Ingrid. Being the second youngest, and with assurances from King William of the quality of the Beaumonts, the marriage took place on January 17th in Westminster Abbey, with Henry, his father Roger and the Kings of England and Denmark in attendance. He found Ingrid to be a confident but quiet young lady, very much spoilt by her doting father. She was both beautiful, pious and intelligent, and Robert was rather put out to discover that she seemed to be cleverer than him. She was surprised, but not too disappointed by this sudden union, and quickly became enamoured with the idea of being the wife of an Earl.


It was now time for Robert to head north towards Leicester for the first time to take up his lordship as Earl of Leicester. Many of the vassals of William had been fine warriors, but Roger, father of Henry and Robert, had decided not to became a feudal lord, instead allowing his sons the land instead. He himself stayed in London in the court of William, and as Robert begun the long journey north he wondered what lay ahead.
 

Veldmaarschalk

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A shame that, that Knytling family in Denmark is so big already, otherwise your heir could become heir to the king of Denmark.
 

RossN

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Oh, very interesting beginning. *subscribes* :)
 

EvilSanta

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Nice start.I rarely have patience to read long stories with few pictures but this is one of the few ones.
 

Fiftypence

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phargle: It sure is. Thanks. :)

Veldmaarschalk: I am roleplaying to a degree, so that did not really enter my thinking. Anyway, the King of Denmark has about five sons, that would be a lot of assassinations. :eek:

RossN: Thanks for the interest.

Judas Maccabeus: I honestly don't mind if you do a Leicester AAR. If you like, you could play as his brother in Warwick instead. ;)

EvilSanta: Pictures will be quite frequent, so you needn't worry about that.

Just a note, I'm playing 1.05 with no modifications. Photobucket is down for maintenance, so I can't upload the screenies I intended to include in the update. I will add them later.

The Beaumonts of Leicester​


The city of Leicester

There was no snow, but a stubbornly chill wind accompanied Robert de Beaumont, his wife and their retinue as they journeyed on the Roman Road towards the city of Leicester. On the first night they stayed at an inn at Luton with a large Saxon landlord, who despite all his pleasantries left Robert in no doubt of his hostility towards the Norman invaders. However, they were treated with strained courtesy, and when morning came they left as quickly as possible.

Another two days riding and they came to Leicester, with it‘s thatched roofs houses and busy, bustling markets, home to over a thousand souls. It reminded Robert of London, the air thick with the hot foul smell of animals and human excrement coexisting together in close proximity, and the sound of chickens and cows, market traders and the gushing, steady flowing water of the River Soar that divided the town in two.

One of the riding party had gone on ahead to make sure the townsfolk and the guards who manned the walls knew that the Earl was arriving, and to commandeer the townhouse used by the old Saxon lords in which the Beaumonts could reside until a castle could be constructed. When Robert and Ingrid entered the town quite a crowd had gathered to see their new lord. Some looked angry, very few pleased, and most just seemed anxious about how this new order was going to affect their lives. Leicester had been in the old kingdom of Mercia, and under the Saxon kings they had generally been left to their own devices, except for when the revenue men came to collect taxes every now and again.

As Robert, atop his steed, gazed over the crowd one face particularly caught his eye, for it was indeed the only one that was smiling. She was ancient, with unkempt grey hair and black, rotten teeth and her face was twisted into the most grotesque grin Robert had ever seen. Ah great, the local mad old crone, thought Robert with a certain degree of amusement. He caught her eye and smiled back at her, which seemed to take her by surprised. Robert chuckled to himself as she hurriedly scuttled away.

The house that had been taken over was fairly simple, and was not noticeably larger than any of the other houses in the town. It lay right in the heart of Leicester, which of course meant that the stench from outside inevitably seeped in, as did the sound of the hustle and bustle. There was a clear snort of disgust from Ingrid as they first viewed the house, and Robert smiled at her.

“Don’t worry my dear, my top priority is to order the construction of some kind of castle.” There was no response from Ingrid other than a sullen look. After a couple of seconds Robert remembered that she did not have a word of Norman, and bit his bottom lip in contemplation.

There was a silence, and Robert pondered whether there were any good forests nearby for hunting. But that would have to wait, for there was other business that needed attention first.

**​

As with any ruler, Robert needed individuals to handle the everyday running of the realm. However, it seemed that in the beginning at least there was a dirge of talented Norman men, and so these duties were taken over by women.

The Chancellory was granted to Constance Grey, the sister of one of the knights who had fought for William during the conquest. The role of Chancellor was to act as the Earl’s personal secretary and to handle the diplomatic and foreign affairs. There was, however, a problem; Constance was not the brightest lady Robert had ever met. In fact, far from it. Her apparently vacuous exterior hid a cunning, deceitful nature that would result in vendettas arising as Constance went about her way lacking any kind of subtlety in her actions.

Ideally the position of Chancellor would have been occupied by a bishop, or at least someone with a fair knowledge of the law. As it was, Robert just had to make do.


A lady who certainly did not lack subtlety was Isabella de Montfort, who was clandestinely appointed Spy Mistress. She was of solid Norman noble stock, and the Montforts were a family on a par with the Beaumonts in terms of power and influence that they wielded within the realm and as members of the King’s Council. She was suspicious and crafty by nature and had the added benefit of being a lady in a man’s world, which, in espionage, was definitely a boon.


When Robert was not in Leicester, should he be out hunting or travelling throughout his realm at the various manors of vassal knights, the daily affairs of the realm would be handled by the Steward, the position being granted for the time being to Princess Ingrid.
 
Last edited:

cuchulain

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nice choice of county

i played as the count of warwick (his brother) and became duke of meath, then king of ireland a generation or two later. then i conquered england after some changing of sides, which included recapturing cornwall from the muslims. i found that the other beaumont count will become your vassal, if you get a dukedom. but good luck!
 

coz1

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Excellent, the Beaumont name begins a proud history of troublemaking in England. ;) Looking forward to it!
 

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cuchulain: Thanks. That sounds like a fun game. :)

coz1: Well, they will be in good company, that much is for sure. :D

Judas Maccabeus: Yep, until I have vassals my diplomatic score isn't worth squat. Money, that's what being a count is all about. Well, lack of money. ;)

The Beaumonts of Leicester


William de Courtenay's manor house

The Knight’s Fee is the amount of land it requires to support and equip a knight, part of the feudal system introduced to ensure the loyalty and service of the native Saxon population of England. Throughout the countryside around Leicester lived knights, vassals of the young Earl, who ensured that the peasants in the villages turned over one third of their produce so as to fulfil their part of the feudal contract.

The trees were beginning to show the first signs of spring, the pink of the cherry blossom and the budding oaks as the world emerged from winter’s slumber. Robert had spent the first few months of his rule travelling from manor to manor securing the oath of fealty from the various vassal knights, insisting on doing so with only a minimal retinue despite Chancellor Constance‘s worries about roaming bands of thieves and bandits.

His journeying had allowed him to see his realm for himself, and to gain a true understanding of how everything held together under feudal rule. He had seen the villeins and serfs toiling in the rolling, brilliant green fields, the merchants of Leicester and the other towns that dotted the countryside. Sometimes he took a walk through the tranquil meadows, where butterflies collected their nectar and rabbits and hares ran wild.

He had seen the forests, with the beautiful deer and wild boars that promised so much for future hunts. But most of all, he had marvelled at the manor houses of the knights, which had sprung up in seemingly no time at all. It made him tinged green with envy, for his castle was still a building site, with barely any progress being made.

The manor house of the knight William de Courtenay* was a large, double story former Saxon mansion surrounded by acres of farmland, rolling pastures and forest. He was a sturdy, stocky man, with a thick brown beard, and he welcomed Robert to his home with polite good grace. Robert could not help but marvel that this man, a knight and a gentleman, had to pledge fealty to him, a mere sixteen year old boy. It seemed somehow perverse, but that was the way feudalism worked.

After the formalities had been concluded, as Robert was preparing to retire to the room that had been specially prepared for his stay, William grabbed his arm and took him to one side.

“My lord,” de Courtenay whispered, “there is something that I wish to discuss with you.” Robert nodded blankly, and could feel his eyes willing him to surrender to the lure of sleep. However, the knight was insistent, so Robert followed him into the solar and took a seat, declining William’s offer of ale.

“My lord, you may not know but I have a great enthusiasm for family history, especially that of the high nobility. Your family, of course, is greatly prestigious, and I turned something up that may suggest a claim in to land in Ulster.” Robert’s eyes widened with surprised, the tiredness fading.

“Ulster? I was not aware that any of my family have ever taken an Irish bride?” de Courtenay contemplated how to proceed for a second, and then took the plunge. He spoke slowly and calmly.

“Not as a bride, no, but I found some information that would seem to suggest that your father was not in fact sired by your grandfather, but by an Irish noble with extensive lands in Ulster. It was quite a scandal, and was hushed up to preserve the good name of the Beaumont family. It could be suggested that in law you have a claim to the current landholder of Ulaid’s lands…”

William trailed off, looking at the young Earl uncertainly. Robert scratched his chin, his eyes on the floor. It was never pleasant to find out about indiscretions in one’s own family, and William was not sure how Robert would take the news that his father could very well be a bastard, whether he would take William‘s actions as an insult to his honour or as an golden opportunity.

Eventually he looked up, a gleam in his eye.

“You have the relevant records to allow me to press a claim, do you?” There was a slight nod from William de Courtenay. “May I see them?”

“Of course.”

Robert examined the document’s for a good few minutes, until at last he put them to one side.

“William, how quickly do you think you could ready your manor for war?”

William de Courtenay smiled.

**​


*A fictional character.
 
Last edited:

EvilSanta

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So,up for some Irish land?THats the spirit,ol' boy.
 

coz1

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Seems William and Robert will make a good pair. :D
 

Fiftypence

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EvilSanta: Oh yes. :D

cthulhu: Thanks. :)

Coz1: Maybe not... ;)

The Beaumonts of Leicester

The call to arms went out to all the manors of Leicestershire in late April, and all the knights agreed to honour their part of the feudal contract and raised regiments from the peasantry, numbering nearly a thousand in total. Before, however, Robert had travelled down to London to attend to the King, and to gain his support which William happily supplied. After all, the more lands the Beaumonts owned the more glory would come to England. He explained how there was some familial connection to the region of Ulster, but neglected to mention that his father was illegitimate to preserve his reputation as a knight.

Earl Robert was to take personal command of the troops, which left Leicester with the hope of victory in Ireland. Before he left he returned to Leicester to spend some time with his wife. During the first few months of their union he had had barely any time for Ingrid, but the night before his departure was spent with her.

**​

Ulaid fell within a couple of months. Robert had been expecting a tougher fight, indeed he had hoped for a tougher fight as the glory would be all the greater. However, the chief of Ulaid was totally routed and the whole province was in Robert’s hands by May of 1068. The only negative was King William, who in early 1068 came and took command of the siege and stole the glory, stripping the countryside bare and burning much of Belfast to the ground in the process. However, the lands were secured for the Beaumonts, and Robert was officially made Earl of Belfast by King William while out in Ireland.

Robert's lands in dark green

When Robert returned to Leicester he found two surprises. The first was a certain Simon Colvile, a bishop sent at the special behest of the Pope himself. Robert was unsure how to react, cautious about a possible Papal spy but with the secure knowledge he had nothing to hide. The man seemed very jovial, not the sombre and proper manner Robert expected from a member of the clergy. He did not say anything however, and made sure to keep a close eye on the man.


The second was rather more…surprising. In his absence from Leicester, Ingrid had bore him a son. Robert choked in shock.

“When was he born?” Ingrid smiled, now with a basic knowledge of the Norman language.

“January. I named him Stephen, and he was baptised by Father Simon.” she said, the smile remaining static on her face. “It was not a difficult birth, and the midwife was a local crone from the town.”

The image of that old woman, the awful old crone he had seen on his initial arrival in the town flashed before him, and he hastily dispelled it from his mind.

“Fine. May I see him?”

“Of course, he is upstairs with the wet nurse.” Ingrid watched as Robert walked away, and bit her bottom lip. The lie had been easier than expected. He must never know the truth.

Stephen. Ignore the age.​

**​

The man on the black horse was back again. William de Courtenay welcomed him in, and as before the man did not remove his helmet. He spoke in a deep, smooth voice, definitely Norman but de Courtenay could not tell anything else about him.

“You have served me well, Sir William. I bring you your payment for your services.” William’s eyes bulged as the man produced a purse, and placed ten gold coins on the table. He took the money greedily, and grinned.

“You still have not told me why you wished for me to forge those documents-”

“And I don’t intend to,” the man said sharply. He stood up.

“I may desire your services again, Sir William.” de Courtenay opened his mouth to speak, but before he could the man had strode out of the house. He watched as the black horse galloped away from the manor, stroking his gold coins with a mixture of gratitude and relief. There was something about that man that made him deeply uncomfortable.

 
Last edited:

Veldmaarschalk

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Great storyline, as always FiftyPence.
 

angryclown

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Ah! A new FiftyPence AAR

*subscribes*
 

coz1

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Hmm, I'm confused. How did you get control of Belfast of King William stole the siege?

And perhaps you are right. Seems, Sir William is up to a little something.