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Foreword: A Most Unassuming House

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The Chronicle of Black and Gold

Foreword: A Most Unassuming House

History is like a half-remembered dream that humanity is always struggling to recall. It comes to us in bits and fragments, but with a flash we remember parts of the story that alter our understanding completely.

So it was with the recently uncovered “La Chronique de la Noir et D’or.” This remarkable manuscript was uncovered in an overlooked hidden passage. It was remarkably well preserved, and upon examination proved to be a remarkable treasure trove of illuminated illustrations and historical information.

The name of the manuscript translates into The Chronicle of the Black and Gold, perhaps a reference to the colours of the family crest. It describes the remarkable story of the noble family of La Châtre, who rose from humble origins to become one of the most prominent noble families in France and indeed all of Europe.

The name La Châtre is derived from the Latin word castra, meaning a fortified camp. To control the river Indre, the Romans built one such castra overlooking the area, and gradually a town sprang up to support the fort. Later on when Rome was but a distant memory, castra became “château”(or castle in English) and the town took an amalgam of the two words for its name.

By then the state could no longer afford the great armies and centralized control of early times. In order to manage the land and keep the peace, kings would grant segments of their kingdom to feudal lords who would rule the land in their stead. Such was the case with Ebbes de Déols, a knight who distinguished himself in service of King Odo, who rewarded him for his loyalty with a grant of land. Eventually building a castle near La Châtre, the family took their name from the lands from which they governed, as was customary for the day.

6 counts of La Châtre lived and died, but none succeeded in making a name for themselves. That is until Raoul the IV, the first subject of this sprawling chronicle.

What makes the chronicle so noteworthy is not only its centuries long scope, but the fact that is recorded by a hodgepodge of authors in all sorts of different styles. Bishops, friends, lovers, troubadours, and enemies have all had their writings lovingly collected and preserved. Much of the chronicle has confirmed what limited information we already knew about the La Châtres, but like most medieval chronicles the focus is on telling a stirring tale and justifying the rule of the authors’ patrons rather than a dry historical recitation.

Due to the nature of the document, the decision was made to publish a translation of the chronicle from Old/Middle French to modern English online. Author's notes have been included to help explain historical context or provide more objective analyses to the often biased accounts of the manuscript’s writers. We have gone to this trouble for two reasons. Firstly, we believe that accessible history is more important than ever in a time of crisis when many libraries and archives are closed. Secondly, it is the opinion of this writer that “The Chronicle of Black and Gold” is one the few truly timeless things in this world: a great story.
 
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Will follow
 

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Interesting :)
 

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Ditto
 

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Climbing on board for what undoubtedly looks like will be an exhilarating ride!

Cheers!
 

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The Victories of Count Raoul, Part 1: An Inauspicious Start

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The Victories of Count Raoul, Part 1: An Inauspicious Start
September 15, 1066- September 1, 1068

One can never be sure what our Lord in Heaven has in store for us, but it is not often that one’s educated guesses are so completely and utterly wrong. When I worked my way up to Bishop of Berry, I never realised the grander destiny that was in store for my liege. It was this greater legacy which inspired me to write this book, that future generations might profit from the tale of Count Raoul, and avoid his mistakes.

Many of you might question the value in writing an account of the life of a mere count. To the less daring among you, the idea of writing an account of a personage lest august than a pope or a saint might seem vaguely Mohammedan. (1) To these among you, I say that in recognition of Pope Alexander II’s decrees of protection of the Jews (2), it is evident that just because something has infidel roots, it does not make it worthless.

Before I begin with my subject, let me spare a few words to talk about myself. A sinner like us all, I have the honour of being the bishop of Berry. I decided to write this tome in order that the truth would have some record and that Godless behaviour could not escape the scrutiny of history. I am prepared to become a martyr for this cause, although like all sensible men I have taken precautions. This volume is in a secret compartment of my desk, itself in a room under a triple lock and key. No one is to lay eyes on this volume until my death, when it is to be sent to the abbey at Déols.

Now at long last we come to the subject of our story, Count Raoul of Berry. His family has ruled this small stretch of land in the centre of France for 6 generations, but unlike most lesser nobility he was not content in the least. He had great ambitions whose heights were only matched by the mediocrity of his talents. You see while Raoul had obvious talents in the field, some poor fool decided to make a scribe of him instead, an effort which had obviously borne very little fruit. It seemed as if chaining him to the desk had given him the work ethic he would need to achieve his dreams of glory, but only made him more vicious than any wild beast when in wroth. Thank goodness this book is safely hidden, for I fear that my very life would be in danger if the Count were to read these words.

No sooner had I taken my post as bishop, then he was in my office with bundles of papers he could probably barely read. He intended for me to think of some sort of loophole in the law of the land that would allow him to seize the nearby county of Tourraine from one of his rivals. I wanted to let him know that such an effort would take a considerable investment in resources and time, but I thought it wiser to smile and nod so as not to incur his wrath.

Never idle for a second, Count Raoul also ordered the construction of a series of camps which his levies could use to rest and train before they marched against his enemies. The Count also used it as an opportunity to train with his knights, seeking the knowledge of arms and chivalry that had been denied to him during his youth. It was in the middle of one such training session that misfortune almost reared her ugly head.

In the midst of a regular sparring session with his men, Count Raoul suddenly found himself set upon by one of his own subjects. Somehow this peasant had managed to defeat one of the Count’s knights, and was now on the verge of defeating Raoul himself. All seemed lost when Count Raoul’s wife shouted at her husband to beat the man bloody. Only then did he find the strength to gain the upper hand, sending the man flying into the dirt.

For a moment it looked as if Count Raoul was going to plunge his sword into the man’s stomach. His knuckles were white and his eyes flared red with fury. However after a few long shuddering breaths he sheathed his sword and offered the man his hand.


This was the beginning of an unlikely friendship. The peasant Raynaud de Grissons was a charming man, and eventually even the Count opened up to him. They trained by day and the Count confided his ambitions to him by night. Frustrated by his mediocre performance, Count Raoul dismissed the knight Raynaud had defeated and granted him his seat as chancellor on the council. I was glad for my compatriot, for just like me he had risen high from the ranks of the peasantry. However I must confess that I worried for my position after seeing how easily the Count dismissed one of his most important advisers.


Raynaud proved to be a natural and won over all the other council members with one exception. Countess Gerberge had a vicious dislike for him, and was not shy about reminding him of it at every chance she got. A remarkably unpleasant woman, Countess Gerberge’s many personality flaws all boiled down to the fact that she was very impious. She went to church a mere once a week (3), and spent the rest of her time staring miserably out the window. The only thing that seemed to provide her pleasure in life were tormenting the servants and saying no to her lord husband.


At Raynaud’s urging, Count Raoul arranged two well-suited marriages for his two children. The purpose of these marriages were twofold: they were intended to raise the profile of our modest house and to give us allies for the upcoming war for the county of Tourraine.

The first match joined the La Châtres to the family of Count Guillaume of Auxerre, a powerful and restless vassal of the Duke of Burgundy.


The second concerned Count Raoul’s only son and heir, Yves. The decision was made to wed him to Ermengarde, the daughter of the modest House of Bourbon. What they lacked in prestige, the Bourbon’s made up for in wealth and military might.



At long last, I finally discovered a serviceable claim. In a very dense and dull book about the history of local land ownership, I found that Tourraine had been originally granted to the La Châtres by King Charles the Simple. Then, during the reign of Robert the 1st, the land had been sold to the Anjoues under the pretext that they would pay a tribute of 50 livres on the accession of a new Count of Berry. Since the Anjoues hadn’t paid this tribute in 70 years, the land was legally ours!

I requested Count Raoul give me 40 livres to purchase the book, have a copy made and then sent to King Phillipe. While we were technically within our rights as vassals to seize the land by force, I felt that it would be best to hedge our bets by keeping on the good side of the crown. He begrudgingly agreed to give me the money, although not before I had to withstand one of his infamous rages. I very easily could have used some of the money to repair some of the stained glass windows of Bourges Cathedral (4), but chose not to do so.

Unfortunately for Count Raoul, God had other plans for him. No sooner had I finalized our claim then the county of Tourraine was attacked by the fearsome Duke of Champagne, the king’s marshal and the most powerful nobleman in all of France. Even worse, Count Guillaume chose this moment to bring his liege to heel. He begged our help in fighting to free the counts of Burgundy from the kinslaying tyranny of Duke Robert the Old.

Count Raoul was between a rock and a hard place. Without Count Guillaume, he had no hope of defeating the Anjoues, but if he did not defeat the Anjoues now then he would be fighting an even more fearsome foe in their place. The Count's rage shook the very rocks of his castle, but in the end he agreed to raise his banners. He hoped for a swift end to the war so he could focus on Tourraine, but God was to deny him that too.

Author's Notes:
1.Writing biographies of secular leaders had fallen out of fashion by this time in Medieval Europe. Saints, Popes and other ecclesiastical figures were generally considered the only acceptable topics, with a few exceptions. Muslims had no such hangups, and most of the secular biographies familiar to a European audience would have been Muslim in origin.
2.Pope Alexander II famously opposed killing Jewish people and forcing them to convert. He praised a bishop for saving Jewish people from a massacre.
3.Noble women, when not managing servants, were generally expected to attend church three or four times a week.
4.The Bishop is referring to the previous Bourges Cathedral, not the current one which is based on its foundations.
 
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Nikolai

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Very good chapter. :) Much secrecy though, locking it up like that. Is the bishop afraid his wroth liege will burn it if it's not to his liking? :D
 

stnylan

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Excellent entry. I can quite imagine the Count's rage at how this ended up going
 

TheButterflyComposer

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I find it hilarious that this game takes the often funny situation of bishop spies from ck2 and makes it as standard. Every bishop you see in your lands that isn't your own is there trying to steal something.
 

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That's a promising start for the AAR (not so much for Count Robert, but he'll surely only grow from that hardship).

The notes are also a very nice addition :).
 

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Very good chapter. :) Much secrecy though, locking it up like that. Is the bishop afraid his wroth liege will burn it if it's not to his liking? :D
Considering the sort of irreverent things the Bishop has been writing and knowing the kind of man Count Raoul is, he'd consider himself lucky to get away with his life.
Excellent entry. I can quite imagine the Count's rage at how this ended up going
Let me tell you, I think I channeled a bit of the Count when that happened in game. At least it made the story more interesting.
I find it hilarious that this game takes the often funny situation of bishop spies from ck2 and makes it as standard. Every bishop you see in your lands that isn't your own is there trying to steal something.
You're right. I'm beginning to wonder if they went too far with that 'turbulent priest" idea...
That's a promising start for the AAR (not so much for Count Robert, but he'll surely only grow from that hardship).

The notes are also a very nice addition :).
Thanks. I'm glad you're enjoying the notes. I thought they might be a fun way to explain historical context without bogging down the story.

The next chapter will be finished tomorrow morning, along with threadmarks for the whole tale.
 
The Victories of Count Raoul, Part 2: The Inconvenient War

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The Victories of Count Raoul Part 2: The Inconvenient War
September 2, 1068-August 17, 1070

I admit that I took great pleasure at the thought that Duke Robert the Old might face some punishment on Earth before he faced the Eternal Fire, for he was far and away the most sinful man in all of France. Since blackmailing his brother the late King Henry into granting him the Duchy of Burgundy, he had used his authority to rob his vassals blind. Nothing was sacred to him, he plundered cathedrals and abbeys whenever it took his fancy. His brutality became so infamous that bishops refused to dedicate churches in his land, for fear that he would kidnap them and hold them ransom.

Duke Robert’s sins even extended to his own family. At one of his many banquets he attacked his father-in-law over a joke. He had his men kill his brother-in-law when he tried to intervene, and killed his father-in-law with his own bare hands. He then abandoned his wife and took a young one more pleasing to his eye. Since these vile acts, it is said that Duke Robert has not had one peaceful night’s sleep, haunted by the vengeful ghosts of those he had slain.

This sort of criminality would never be allowed in a just realm, however in recent years the kingdom of France had begun to stray from God. There is no better example of this decline than the current reigning monarch King Phillipe. This callow youth has led our country since he was a boy of 8, and I fear that it has had an extremely bad effect on his character. According to my friends in the royal court, he takes no greater delight than in torturing his enemies in increasingly bizarre and unpleasant ways. His mood swings drastically from moment to moment, from spiteful glee to fits of hysterical guilt and self-isolation.

He does have his virtues however. Notably he is very generous towards the poor and the church, although these donations always seem to follow some particularly heinous execution. Perhaps it was this spirit of charity which persuaded him to take an old woman nearly 15 years his senior as his wife, or more likely it was due to the advantages of an alliance with one of the most powerful kings of Spain.

Since the king had not acted against Duke Robert, a coalition of three counts decided to take matters into their own hands. Count Raoul and Guillaume had the forces bolstered by the aid of Count Richard of Rouen. Together they pledged to bring Duke Robert to justice for his crimes. However I suspect my liege was far more interested in securing the support of the powerful armies of Auxerre for his ambitions than any real feeling of moral outrage.

Duke Robert had exhausted his men in futile squabbles with other nobles, and his vassals spared but little support for their hated liege. To bolster his meagre forces, he made alliances with two minor counts. More dangerous than all of these was his pact with a rich and powerful King Antso of Navarre.

Count Raoul gathered his men outside his castle in Berry. Neglecting to lead the expedition himself, he instead sent his best commander Mayor Aymor to lead the men. He claimed it was because he needed to take care of his sick wife, but I suspect it had more to do with wanting to focus his attention on the situation in Touraine.

Count Raoul couldn’t have made a better pick than Aymar, who was by far the best commander in his lands. His knowledge of the French countryside was formidable, and gave him a leg up against most of his opponents. This observation of his considerable abilities has nothing to do with the fact that he is my cousin, it is instead borne out of years of impartial contemplation.

Aymar led our soldiers up to the fields of Dijon, where they were joined by the men of Count Richard. There we inflicted a great defeat on the Duke Robert, his men quickly abandoning their arms and fleeing at the first sign of blood. Few were willing to lay down their lives for their despised Duke. Following this victory, Dijon castle was put under siege. If our men could take the jewel of Burgundy, victory would be within our grasp.


The siege dragged on for months, until our forces were bolstered by the army of Count Guillaume. Unfortunately, it had seen better days. Count Guillaume had foolishly tried to take the fight to the Navarese, who had decimated his army in a crushing defeat off the banks of the river Rhône. Count Guillaume’s men arrived only just in time to warn us of the approaching forces of Duke Robert, who had finally managed to unite his allied armies. The war had been a stalemate for these past 8 months, but this outcome of this battle looked to be one which would decide the entire conflict.

Aymar was put in charge of the alliance’s forces. He left a small contingent of men to prevent the men of Dijon from leaving their castle, and took the rest of his army to a field 2 miles from the castle. This was to prevent being smashed against the castle like metal pounded between a hammer and an anvil if the battle went south.

Commanding the opposing army was a sinister Navarese count known only as “the Silver Mask.” His face was rumoured to be so horribly mutilated that one look would stop your heart. He was more than just an ugly face however, it was his strategic cunning which was responsible for the defeat of Count Guillaume.

Aymar had his men set a few traps in the large field where he had set his camp. He had his men train, but otherwise kept still. The army of the Silver Mask were urged to make haste by the Infante (1) of Navarre, who hated France and wanted to be home by Christmas.

The night before the battle, there was a terrible rainstorm. Aymar had planned for the fickleness of the French climate and had brought the appropriate supplies. However, the Navarese were not used to the damp and had to discard much of their supplies on the fast march on Dijon. As such most of their men suffered a miserable and sleepless night.

The Silver Mask had wanted the men to have a week's rest while he tried to get in contact with the men inside Dijon castle to arrange a sortee, but he was overruled by the Infante. He demanded that they begin marching early in the morning to get the whole thing over with more quickly. Horses and men got stuck in the mud, and the whole army moved at a crawl. Some of Aymar’s traps were triggered by men too tired to see them. In order to avoid the traps, the Silver Mask ordered the men to break formation and move with great care over the field.

By the time the Navarese army had crossed the field, it was already past noon. While the Navarese were distracted with the traps, Aymar had been getting all his men in formation and waiting for the mud to dry. Suddenly, he ordered his men to charge. The Silver Mask quickly ordered his men back into formation, but it was too late and the battle began badly. However, the Silver Mask was not one to be beaten so easily, and rallied his men to push back. The French ranks began to waver when the Silver Mask personally slew Count Raoul’s Steward, Mayor Guillaume.

The battle went back and forth, but eventually the French gained the upper hand when everyone heard the shouts that the Infante had been captured. The morale of the Navarese collapsed, and they fled from the field. The Silver Mask used a reserve of cavalry to screen their retreat, limiting any further losses.

At the end of the day, more than 1000 men lay dead and hundreds more were injured. This bloodbath at least served a purpose, as the garrison of castle Dijon lost all hope and surrendered to the Counts’ Alliance. The Infante was sent to Count Raoul, where he enjoyed a comfortable stay in the castle dungeons for the next 9 months.


Unfortunately, I had to come into contact often with the man. I was the only one in Count Raoul’s court who could speak Basque as the Infante never bothered to learn French. Basque is already a difficult enough language(2), but I struggled to understand even the slightest thing he said because of his pronounced stutter and lisp. When I could understand him I found him to be a very difficult character, whining about wanting to go home and how his cell wasn’t to his liking. I fear for Navarre should he ever become king.

Our victory at Dijon sent shockwaves throughout France. The King’s hated uncle was openly being challenged by a collection of mere counts, and somehow they were coming out on top? Many nobles began to question the King’s authority. After all, if they could defend themselves from tyrants, why bother paying taxes to him?

The King acted quickly. He said that he was acting to give his subjects more freedom because he wanted to reward their loyalty to him, others say that he was just acting because he was petrified of rebellion. Whatever his motives, the king signed a new charter limiting the powers of the crown. Although it made him popular among much of the nobility, I thought it was a foolish act. A lack of royal authority is just what enabled devils like Duke Robert to abuse their subjects with impunity in the first place.

With Dijon taken, the Count Alliance set off for Autun. With most of his territories occupied, Duke Robert would be forced to the bargaining table. Unfortunately, the Silver Mask knew this too, and set about besieging the garrison we’d left in Dijon.

Meanwhile, I’d finally managed to negotiate a deal with King Antso. In return for his son’s freedom, he was to give us 50 Livres. I don’t know who was more glad to see the Infante Fernando go, me or the Infante himself.

Finally Autun fell to our armies, and I thought this war was done at last, but it was not to be. Unfortunately for us, the Silver Mask had recaptured Dijon and hanged our entire garrison. Now he was marching on our position and was expected to arrive in 10 days. Aymar decided to go on the offensive and met him on the fields of Chalon.

It was a fierce fight. Without the Infante to encumber him, the Silver Mask was an even more dangerous opponent. Due to months of planning and preparations, he’d even managed to have a small advantage in numbers. However, he had forgotten one crucial thing: the importance of quality. Yes the Silver Mask had managed to press a few hundred more peasants into his service, but in knights and men-at-arms he was badly outnumbered. Our trained veterans were making short work of the greenhorns, when the Silver Mask came face to face with Mayor Aymar.

Snarling that he wanted to give him a scar just as ugly as his own, the Silver Mask slashed at Aymor. He desperately parried but the Silver Mask was too strong and his blade cut a gash from his temple to his eye. Swiftly some of the knights rode to his aid and the Silver Mask was forced to retreat once more.

Unfortunately, Mayor Aymar has been injured in the attack. While the rest of the allies went back to siege Dijon again, Mayor Aymar was brought back to Berry by his men so that he could receive the proper care. Unfortunately, due to the negligence of Count Raoul, we had no court physician so I was obliged to care for Aymar as best I could.

Not everything was so grim in the castle. It turned out that Countess Gerberge wasn’t sick, she was pregnant! I managed to secure funds for a proper midwife and the Countess gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Count Raoul named him Eudes, after his grandfather. Not very original people, these nobles.

With his excuse gone and his best commander injured, Count Raoul took command of his army and began marching to Dijon to help with the siege. It was finished by the time he got there, and this time Duke Robert was all out of cards. The Navarrese had gone home, and his other allies had deserted him. If he wanted to keep his head, he had to make concessions.

Duke Robert was forced to do the following things. Firstly, he was obliged to return all stolen property that he had taken from the church and from his counts. Secondly, he was obliged to give up every power over his vassals except the right to take their lands if their house went extinct. Thirdly, he was forced to make public penance for his sins, sitting at the back of the church wearing naught but a sackcloth. (3)


As much as I was pleased to see that wretched man humbled at last, I received a letter with very bad news. I was glad that Count Raoul was not there to read it with me. Raynaud kindly offered to be the bearer of bad news, but I decided it should be my cross to bear. If someone had to be the victim of his anger, I would rather it wouldn’t be one of his only friends. Still, as I handed the message to a courier, I worried if I might have been too bold. The message was brief but to the point:

The Anjoues have fallen. Champagne has won.

Author’s Notes:
1.Infante, meaning child, is a title accorded to all children and all children of the heir apparent in Iberian kingdoms.
2.Basque is the only language isolate in Europe, which means it has absolutely no genealogical connection with other languages. It is thought that Basque is the only pre-Indo European language that still survives in Europe.
3.Public Penance was a way to atone for great sins in the Catholic church. Doing things like sitting at the very back or outside of the church, and wearing a sackcloth and ashes were common forms of public penance, but there were others. One of the most famous instances of Public Penance was King Henry II’s barefoot walk to the shrine of Thomas à Becket.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Good and bad news at the same time - disaster and triumph twinned.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Nikolai

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2.Basque is the only language isolate in Europe, which means it has absolutely no genealogical connection with other languages. It is thought that Basque is the only pre-Indo European language that still survives in Europe.
I thought this also applied to a couple other languages? Finnish or Hungarian or something like this? One learns, I guess. :)
 

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I thought this also applied to a couple other languages? Finnish or Hungarian or something like this? One learns, I guess. :)
FINNISH and Hungarian are members of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic languages, some dozen or so that are still spoken in some countries bordering the Urals. Estonian and Lappish also belong to this group.
It's funny that you should say that because Finnish and Hungarian actually belong to the same branch of languages! Although Hungarian isn't a language isolate, it's still very different to other languages in the region because the Hungarians are comparatively new arrivals to Europe, migrating little over 1000 years ago.
 

alscon

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It looks like the people of Berry, when telling their children to behave, will mention that if they don't, the Silver Mask will come. He's got the potential to scare them into submission, just as Aymar should be remembered fondly.

Even if it was just a war to put Robert into place, Raoul can use his new freedoms to build up his realm again, and search for a new target, as the Angevins have lost Tourraine.
 

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  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
It looks like the people of Berry, when telling their children to behave, will mention that if they don't, the Silver Mask will come. He's got the potential to scare them into submission, just as Aymar should be remembered fondly.

Even if it was just a war to put Robert into place, Raoul can use his new freedoms to build up his realm again, and search for a new target, as the Angevins have lost Tourraine.
The Silver Mask certainly gave me a run for my money. One of the things I've noticed are that the battles are a lot closer than in CK2. I'm almost liking the new masks for characters with the disfigured trait.

Thankfully Duke Robert was never Raoul's leige, he was just the leige of one of his allies. But you're right, it will give Raoul an edge in the fight against Champagne if his allies are stronger.