• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

GulMacet

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Always squabbling, even in the face of the Turkish Hordes. The Empire needs order, so you can defend it against the Heathens! Of course, order also means you take their lands and armies, but that's incidental...
 

volksmarschall

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Well, you need to become Herzog von Bayern to end the Wittelsbacher ambitions. Und König von Böhmen! :p

5 years before the next war, the general was a true medium. :D
For the sake of historicity, and keeping the GC interesting, I have little intention of conquering Bavaria and adding it as a "neu kronland" of the Habsburg Monarchy. I'm more concerned with resurrecting the historical borders (with Bohemia and Hungary), and possibly adding an ahistorical strong congregation of land along the Rhine. However, Wittelsbach power and aims at becoming emperor can never be allowed to happen, or at least if I can prevent it and keep them only moderate strong and not conquer pro-Habsburg electors! :mad: If the German Wars or the Italian Wars (which will be Chapter 4) are bad, wait until we reach the titanic struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany staring in 1560... :eek:

Always squabbling, even in the face of the Turkish Hordes. The Empire needs order, so you can defend it against the Heathens! Of course, order also means you take their lands and armies, but that's incidental...
The border with the Turks is quiet so far, or at least, has been. They've been busy beating up the Mamluks and Asian minors in the Near East. They'll later put a beating on Poland-Lithuania. My first encounter with the Turks was actually very ill-timed, as I was in the midst of my struggle to keep Catholic control of the HRE against the northern Protestants, needless to say - taking Turkish lands right now is not on my agenda. Protecting Southern Hungary and keeping a relative peace until my war with the Protestants is done (as you can tell, I've played about 100 years in advance to where we are in the AAR) is my priority. Hence why, you will find many foreshadowing sentences in the work if you read closely enough, which apparently you have done!

Plus, I like the fact that a certain general in these future wars, with a maneuver skill of 6, can be defaulted as TTL's Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim. ;)
 

Idhrendur

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It's interesting to mentally map these types of writing with what was likely happening in game. Of course, the game doesn't tend to have as many human motives happening, but it's pretty fun to add those in when crafting a story, too. Makes it far more interesting, that's for sure.

[...]wait until we reach the titanic struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany staring in 1560... :eek:
I demand plenty of anti-protestant rhetoric. :D
 
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stnylan

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Interesting long view in the final paragraph there.
 

volksmarschall

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It's interesting to mentally map these types of writing with what was likely happening in game. Of course, the game doesn't tend to have as many human motives happening, but it's pretty fun to add those in when crafting a story, too. Makes it far more interesting, that's for sure.
Attempting to add a "human" element to otherwise emotionless response from the player (me) to abstract characters in the game, or otherwise fictitious people I've created for the sake of the narrative (will be more pronounced later in the AAR) with the inclusion of other archdukes to reflect the historicity of the Habsburgs having so many sons and daughters, is also one of the great joys I have in conducting AARs. While I never play a game for an AAR the way I do for other non-games (like making the Dutch the great power in North and South America...) I also hope that these efforts create a certain ambiance for the readers, whom I am of course, eternally indebted to your kindness of 'following', reading, and commenting -- especially as someone who likes to joke, more people read my AARs that earn me absolutely nothing in monetary terms compared to my actual work, which I doubt has been read by more than a few hundred people. :p

Idhrendur said:
I demand plenty of anti-protestant rhetoric. :D
The anti-Protestant (and anti-Catholic/Habsburg) rhetoric when we reach Chapter 6 and 7 will definitely be pronounced, bordering on militant insanity! :eek:

Interesting long view in the final paragraph there.
The longue durée is the only proper means, imo, of conducting history. Of course, the problem with an AAR is the fact that, having not completing the game, I don't know what lays ahead in the future, and while, at present, being nearly 100 years behind where I am in the game, I need to be careful in what I want to foreshadow and what I need to keep 'hidden.' After all, the paradox (pardon the pun) is that real life histories are often written where we, the readers, already know the end state (reading it either for pleasure, detail, or because we have to :glare:) while the AAR doesn't share that -- even if I'm attempting to write this in a manner as if you all already know the history I'm covering.
 

volksmarschall

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The Third German War, fought once more between Bavaria and a coalition of anti-Wittelsbach neighbors, headed by Bohemia, was somewhat less eventful and less brutal as the earlier two wars and the later fourth and fifth. Although Bavaria would be contained again, it is incorrect to say they were defeated in the means by which one generally thinks of a defeat in war. Rather, it would be more accurate to insist that the John IV and his successor, Duke Philip Moritz I, were defeated insofar as their expansionist ambitions were held in-check, but the duchy remained the second most powerful state within the Holy Roman Empire thanks to John’s careful prodding during his reign.

The Third German War was probably a war than need not have been fought. Although Duke John correctly inferred that Maximilian would be willing to overlook some aggressive reclamation of the historic Wittelsbach lands of Southern Germany, he erred in neglecting the influence of Bohemian intervention. When the Bavarians once again invaded Ulm, they were defeated by the larger anti-Bavarian coalition, a lesson the Bavarians should have learned from the Second German War and from the reports indicating a much larger anti-Wittelsbach coalition headed by Bohemia, even if the Habsburgs were tired and willing to look the other way.

Understanding the mistakes they had made, the Wittelsbach Court embarked on a policy of re-alignment with Poland-Lithuania to counter the Bohemian threat. The Fourth German War, which began in 1487 and lasted until 1489, had far reaching effects that the trained eye might otherwise not see. Duke Philip Moritz ascended the throne of Bavaria in 1482, and carried on his father’s work. Securing an alliance with Poland, he again to seize Ulm where his father had failed twice. Bohemia was in a much weaker position with Polish forces along their border, but Philip also made a gamble, as did the Bohemians, that the Bohemians would not be able to unite with the smaller German armies to defeat him then turn to face the Poles. By contrast, the Bohemians gambled that they could achieve this victory – with, or without Habsburg support.


At left, a fanciful Baroque-era painting of King Vratislaus IV of Bohemia, a key ally to the Habsburg and major player in the Anti-Wittelsbach coalition. Incidentally, he was the last of the Podebrad Kings of Bohemia. At right, a painting of Duke Philip Mortiz I of Bavaria. Like his father, John IV, he had the ambitions of creating Bavaria into the principal German rival with the Habsburgs for control and hegemony of the Holy Roman Empire. He nearly succeeded on several occasions.

Vratislaus IV of Bohemia scored an impressive victory, but linking up with the German minors and defeated Philip in Bavaria, then turning to fend off the invading Poles. However, in doing so, he fell in combat in the final battle of the war – which prompted a white peace between the warring parties. In a way therefore, this war also seems to have been fought with little necessity (as if wars ought to be fought anyway). However, the young King had died heirless, and Bohemian nobles schemed to seize the throne. The politicking of the Bohemian nobles had the Habsburgs worried of the possibility of two potential rivals along their immediate borders – Bavaria and Bohemia.

Incidentally, the Fourth German War, in which Vratislaus was killed, and the main line of the Podebrad Dynasty now extinguished after a brief glorious run of kings, put the former allies on a crossroads to conflict. For Maximilian, the prospects of an usurping kingship was something to worry about. He petitioned for Vratislaus’s uncle, a member of the Podebrad Family, to be crowned the rightful king by his bloodline. Instead, the nobleman Vaclav Pius conspired against the interests of the extended Podebrad Family, which, despite its promotion of Utraquism, a more moderated form of the Hussite tradition, was still seen as being a tool of oppression against the Bohemian people for their seemingly close relationships with the staunchly Catholic Habsburgs, who were among the leaders in punishing Bohemia during the Hussite Wars. When Vaclav and his camp won out, and he was crowned Vaclav V, Maximilian was startled beyond belief of what had transpired.

***
Viktor Steinegger, the long serving court diplomat, guided the emperor in a direction of future confrontation of securing the northern border against the anti-Habsburg and closet Hussite that Vaclav was. In the words of Steinegger, “The greatest threat to the stability of the Habsburg crown is not the hegemonic ambitions of the Wittelsbach [in Bavaria], but in Vaclav V. You [speaking to Maximilian] should do whatever is necessary to secure our northern frontier with them. In doing so, you will also envelop Philip [Duke of Bavaria].”

It was a classical and pragmatic example of the motif, “taking out two birds with one stone.” The Habsburg Monarchy was still in a precarious position. The Ottoman Empire had decimated the Kingdom of Bosnia[1] and were now situated on the southern border of Hungary and remained a still distant (from Vienna’s eyes) but enormous threat to Habsburg interests in Central Europe. By confronting Bohemia, as Steinegger thought, he could have maneuvered Maximilian in a strong position to weaken Bohemia, which was either the second or third most powerful of the Holy Roman states (behind or in front of Bavaria given certain circumstances), and send a strong warning to Duke Philip that his ambitions in Southern Germany would have to likely be okayed by the weight of the Habsburgs in Vienna – who could simply lift up their finger in protest and squash Bavaria like a bug if they truly wanted to.

Plus, Steinegger would rather have the war sooner than later. Bohemia had just emerged from the Fourth German War, although victorious, beaten and bruised. Her armies had trekked from Bavaria to Bohemia, fighting two armies of larger size than her own. Her king had been slayed in victory on the battlefield, and Bohemia’s internal situation was weakened as some refused to acknowledge Vaclav as the rightful king. In addition, the Bohemian Army, despite its battlefield effectiveness, was a paper tiger for all intents and purposes (at least compared to the size and weight of the Habsburg Army).

Map 1.1: The Duchy of Bavaria and Southern Germany.

The principle theaters of the Second, Third, and Fourth German Wars were in the Duchy of Bavaria.

Bohemia, and King Vaclav, was not slow to become aware that they had isolated their strongest ally with his own (Vaclav’s) ascendency. The quickly aligned themselves with the German minors that bordered the Habsburg crownlands. The Margraviate of Baden and the Archbishopric of Salzburg, despite promises from Maximilian that they were not targets of Habsburg expansionist policy, nonetheless remained weary and suspicious of growing Habsburg power. Baden, not necessarily worried about Habsburg power in Vienna, for the two were on good terms, was more worried about Habsburg power in Alsace. Salzburg meanwhile, was very nervous that their cultural and linguistic connections to the South Germans (Austrians) would make her an amble target for the Habsburgs. However, the deeply religious Habsburgs had little interest in destroying an ecclesiastical province of the Holy Roman Empire, after all – the ecclesiastical territories within the empire guaranteed Habsburg influence and favoritism within St. Peter’s Basilica. Indeed, the domination of the College of Cardinals by Habsburg funded bishops, like with the Avignon Papacy being dominated by the French crown, was dominated by the Habsburgs (I will cover this, in part, later). With the enthronement of Pope Pius III in 1483, the next 50 years of the Roman Papacy was referred to as “The Habsburg Papacy” with the strong connection between the Popes in Rome and the Habsburgs in Vienna and the clout of Catholic cardinals and bishops who were exceedingly friendly to the Habsburgs. However, both minor powers were swindled into the belief that Maximilian intended to conquer them (and Bohemia), and the three powers should form an anti-Habsburg coalition.

For Steinegger, this proved useful for two reasons. As mentioned, Maximilian really did not have much qualm with either Baden or Salzburg, however, their alliance with Bohemia would allow for Leopold Wilhelm’s expansion of Alsace into Southern Baden (shifting allegiances and territorial boundaries more favorable to the main Habsburg line in Vienna) and would allow for the subjugation and de facto vassalization of the Archbishopric of Salzburg – which would give the Habsburgs even greater influence within the Roman Church. As Steinegger said to Maximilian:

If war is to be inevitable, it might as well serve to our mutual benefit – the decline of Bohemia, although an ally [former ally by this standpoint], will all but strengthen your legitimacy and rule over the empire. As for Baden and Salzburg, bringing both under the thumb of our rule will only serve our interests for the future, and per the Archbishop – undoubtedly give you a clear voice of influence within the Church. I again re-iterate, if war is inevitable, it should serve our best interests and bring other German princes under our fold.

Ever the pragmatist who saw the best in all opportunities afforded to the Habsburg Empire, few men ever gave as much devotion to a royal family and cause as much as Steinegger. Himself, only a member of the minor German nobility – and who ultimately did little to advance himself in his service to the Habsburgs, the monarchy would not see the likes of another self-serving diplomat for generations to come, even if all future Habsburg diplomats would attempt to follow in his footsteps, some succeeding and others failing in staying true to the statesman ideal of Steinegger.




[1]Bosnia had annexed Serbia earlier in the game, and formed “Super” Bosnia, if you will. I hoped that they would hold out longer than they did for the obvious reason that I really didn’t want the Ottoman Empire on my borders so early (since I had just won the War of Unification with Hungary, and the Ottoman units are, in stats, superior to Western units early in the game). Unfortunately, they didn’t, and all of Bosnia (and Serbia with her) were annexed as the newest additions to the Ottoman Empire.



Chart 1.1, "Ideas" of the Habsburg Monarchy, ca. 1483
 
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Enewald

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Great, now Machievelli will make his book about Steinegger. :p
 

volksmarschall

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Great, now Machievelli will make his book about Steinegger. :p
Actually, Machiavelli is slated to make an appearance during the Italian Wars, but he'll be writing in opposition to the Habsburg ventures in Northern Italy and lauding a certain French King and his "March over the Alps." :p
 

stnylan

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Sounds like generations of future statesmen have their idol that they will pretend to emulate whilst failing miserably to do so :D
 

volksmarschall

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Sounds like generations of future statesmen have their idol that they will pretend to emulate whilst failing miserably to do so :D
Well, many future diplomats and statesmen will be 'better' if we only go by the skill rating 1, 2, 3...since poor Steinegger was just a 1 (don't have the money). Yet, in terms of accomplishments, I think many will fail, and fail miserably, just like you're anticipating.

And I'll be writing and assessing based on accomplishments during their tenures! ;)
 

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Chapter 2

Before the Fifth German War had begun, Steinegger used his authority and influence to create the Reichshofrat, a judicial council of notables from within the Holy Roman Empire, sometimes also referred to as the Aulic Council, which had authority over judicial proceedings. In part, the council was established to administer imperial judicial decrees in the wake of the prospective war. Some more conservative members of the empire and the council, saw the move as an attempt to legitimize the gains of the Habsburgs within the empire, having absorbed the titles of Lorraine, Württemberg, and created a new title for the addition of Istria to the Habsburg crownlands. Furthermore, with the clouds of war gathering against the Kingdom of Bohemia, Maximilian I would need a certain authority to seize territories of the only established kingdom in the ancient order. While these suspicions were certainly true, the Reichshofrat would become, especially with the outbreak of the Forty Years’ War starting in 1559, one of the few imperial institutions of stability and promoting peace and reconciliation between the bloodletting of Protestants and Catholics, which often worked in opposition to the hegemonic ambitions of the Habsburg emperors in Vienna.

In March, Viktor Steinegger convinced Maximilian to launch the first strike and invade Salzburg and Baden, hoping to knock both of them out of the war early, so that the entirety of the Habsburg forces could then be concentrated against Bohemia and win on numerical superiority. On 1 April, the Habsburg armies occupied Salzburg and defeated half of the army of Baden. Although a successful start to the war, the Army of Germany was delayed since it was unable to destroy the entire military arm of Baden, whereby several thousand men escaped into neutral Bavaria to make their way to Bohemia.


The early campaigns got off to a resounding success for the Imperial forces. Salzburg was quickly occupied as was Baden, even if a small contingent of the Badenese forces managed to elude the capitulation of their comrades in the early weeks of the fighting.

Unlike his father, Maximilian I was apt for military command. Competent enough, he led the Imperial Army, of about 18,000, into Bohemia to seize Prague, hoping for a quick end to the war. Despite the initial success, Vaclav V rallied the Bohemian Army, about 10,000 strong, and heroically defended Castle Prague. The excellent Bohemian commander, Count Jan Petr Husi, was a man of many talents and extremely deceptive on the battlefield. The Bohemians, who made extensive use of the crossbow, stymied the Austrian knights and heavy infantry, who were forced back under withering fire. A second wing of Austrian infantry managed to close the gap and inflict heavy casualties upon the Bohemian forces, but the Austrian knights, held at bay by the Bohemian crossbowmen, retired from the field rather than face a darkened hail of arrows. Maximilian, having lost more than 5,000 men, retired from the battlefield at sunset, a stunning blow to the Habsburg armies. The Bohemians lost around 3,000 men in the battle.[1]

However, with the Bohemian allies in shambles, and with the Army of Germany entering Bohemia, Emperor Maximilian recompensed himself and united the two Habsburg forces and defeated the Bohemians outside of Prague, who promptly fled north into Silesia to regroup. Rather than stopping to besiege the city, Maximilian gave chase to the Bohemian forces, and at Niederlausitz, forced the surrender of the Bohemian Army without any blood being shed. Although some Czech nationalists and revisionists have denounced Husi as being a traitor, he most certainly wasn’t. Unlike many commanders of their day, Husi was a humanitarian and greatly cared about the welfare of his soldiers, which earned him great admiration and love from his men. Rather than throwing their lives away in a pointless battle, Husi decided to surrender and retire with honors – which the emperor himself promised to grant. The surrender of the Bohemian Army at Niederlausitz effectively ended the war only six months into the conflict, but the remaining year and half as a campaign of Habsburg domination over Bohemia – reminder the people and the bystander nobles who the great power of the Holy Roman Empire was, and whose loyalty the Bohemian nobles, and king, should commend if they would hope to remain an independent state among the Germanies.

The Bohemian defeated ended Bohemian dreams, which had been rooted with the Luxembourg Family, of returning to pre-eminence and becoming the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Vaclav understood this, and probably influenced his decision, in part of himself being a closest Hussite, in embracing the Protestant Reformation (not to mention that by becoming a Protestant he was implicitly countering Catholic Habsburg power). Furthermore, on the off-whim that a future member of the Pius Dynasty in Bohemia would become emperor – the emperor would a Protestant, and would signal the true end of Catholic Habsburg control over the empire (this of course, never happened, although several Protestant rulers had the dreams of becoming emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and turning it against the Habsburgs and Catholic Church).



Above, a painting depicting the Battle of Prague Castle, where the Bohemians dealt a stunning, but otherwise insignificant, defeat upon the Imperial Army led by Emperor Maximilian. Below, a contemporary depiction of the Surrender of the Bohemian Army and "Hussite" clergy at Niederlausitz where some 5,500 Bohemian soldiers surrendered their arms without a fight.

The victory in the Fifth German War also brought Moravia and Southern Bohemia (Böhmerwald) under direct Habsburg rule as punishment toward the Kingdom of Bohemia, but the peace terms, all things considered, were rather generous. Maximilian could have easily had re-instated the Duchy of Silesia, but allowed the Bohemians to retain direct control over the territories for – Bohemia was a hedge against Poland in the east. Although she was weakened by the war with Maximilian, Bohemia was still the second largest and most powerful state in the empire, behind Bavaria, and possessing an army of 9,000 men led by the great commander that Husi was, and with the rapprochement of relations between Bohemia and Austria meant that Maximilian wanted to keep Bohemia semi-strong and stable as a buffer, if you will, against possible Polish interests in Central Europe.

The architect of the war, Viktor Steinegger, who had faithfully served for nearly 40 years the reigns of Frederick III and Maximilian, died half through the conflict, unable to see his hegemonic dream come true – although he died well-knowing that it would. The war also had an importance to the Habsburg family in Alsace, who gained Southern Baden as compensation for their contributions to the war, and punishment for Baden’s involvement on the losing side. However, Maximilian, at the request of Steinegger before his death, said, “It is important to punish the dissident principalities within the empire, but not to usurp or destroy them…[R]emind them who the emperor is, and where the power of the empire lies, but always keep them on amiable terms with you and your descendants.”

In addition, the Archbishopric of Salzburg, which was occupied by Habsburg forces at the beginning of the war, effectively became a vassal of the Habsburgs – with the prince-bishop as a religious stooge for the Habsburg Monarchy. This was critical in the continued domination of the Papacy by the Habsburgs, who would, as a result of their close attachment to the Church, and the domination of its internal politics, would become the chief defenders of the Catholic faith by the time the Protestant Reformation broke out in Oldenburg in 1500.[2] The control of the Archbishopric, and many of the other ecclesiastical provinces within the empire also contributed to the growing distrust of the Church and the perception of corruption and unholy influences upon spiritual matters – as evidenced by the musings of Martin Luther, who condemned Habsburg control of the Papacy as a reason for his eventual split with the Church – which he penned as being “irredeemably corrupt.”[3] To no one’s surprise, the many archbishoprics of the empire that were aligned with the Habsburgs, most notably Salzburg, became bulwarks against the Protestant Reformation and defenders of the Church and the Habsburgs themselves – often denying the “false” claims of the Protestant leaders of the Church being tainted by Habsburg hands.

The Fifth German War is also important politically, for the war gave the archdukes of Austria, in principal Maximilian’s son and future emperor Matthew, the political capital needed to integrate the Kingdom of Hungary and the Archduchy of Austria as a unitary state – bringing Hungary into the more permanent crownlands to be administered directly by the Vienna Circle. Thus, the war is important in the eventual emergence of the Habsburg Monarchy as a truly unified political entity, and can be seen as one of the last steps towards the centralization of Habsburg lands. It also gave the Habsburgs undisputed control and mastery over Central Europe and the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire, cementing their domination of the ancient order, and securing the long line of future Habsburg emperors, who would become constant fixtures in continental conflicts because of the centrality in Europe and conservative impulse to retain control of a slowly weakening Holy Roman Empire once modernity emerged.

In addition to putting the Habsburgs on their seat for the centralization and unification of their lands – which would occur under Emperor Matthew I, it also ensured that the Habsburgs were now powerful enough to challenge the ambitions of Burgundy on the westward frontier of the empire. Again, Burgundy’s last 40 years under Charles I had been rocky. They had been defeated a series of conflicts with France and Austria, but had still managed to create a contiguous domain stretched between the rising power of the French Kingdom and the ancient domain of the Holy Roman Empire, headed by the ambitious Habsburgs. The Sixth German War, or the Habsburg-Burgundy War, had far reaching effects upon the political and cultural landscape of Europe. Therefore, it is important to overview this conflict which set the stage for the emergence of the Habsburg Monarchy in the sixteenth century during the Second Italian War (1511-1515).

Map 1.2: Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, ca. 1492 (October)


>>> Continue (next update forthcoming)​



[1]I forgot to take a screenshot, as some other popups fired after the loss. The numbers I reported are based on the pre-battle strengths and deduced the casualty rates (nicely rounded of course) based on the post-battle size of the armies.

[2]The Reformation fired in Oldenburg in November of 1500. Oldenburg, Bohemia, and Saxony were the first three states to convert to Protestantism, and in that order, between 1501-1503.

[3]The Martin Luther of this timeline. Luther original’s reformation was part of a hope to cleanse the Catholic Church from within, most of the original Protestant Reformers in the year years did not wish to break away from the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Even Catholic humanist philosophers like St. Thomas More and Erasmus recommended a magisterial reformation of the church, to legitimately take concern for the criticisms of the Reformers. However, the Church balked, and it was later that Luther and the Protestants broke with the Church and started their own denominations because they saw the Church as beyond repair. Luther’s evolution from moderate reformer to militant anti-Catholic can be seen from this purview. Erasmus began to counter some of the claims of the more militant Luther later in their lives after the Church had been split. Luther’s historic condemnation of Church corruption serves as the basis for his condemnation of Habsburg influence over the Church for the purposes of this AAR (Habsburg influence = corruption).
 
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Enewald

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Now that is some stronk Burgundy and a monstrous Münster! :eek:
 

Idhrendur

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A forty years' war?! And I thought real history was bad enough on that front.
 

volksmarschall

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Now that is some stronk Burgundy and a monstrous Münster! :eek:
Burgundy and Munster will play important roles when we enter the middle sixteenth century. The monster Munster, both going to be an important ally (Catholic), and enemy (allied with the French!) :glare:

A forty years' war?! And I thought real history was bad enough on that front.
My poor manpower and treasury during that stretch of the game! :( Thank goodness for mercenaries and bank loans...only further putting a strain of my treasury. I guess the old saying by Cicero is true, the sinews of war are infinite money! :glare:

Interesting :ninja:
Nice to see you drop by Scott! And you need not worry about me crushing the Wittelsbach and Bavaria out of existence! :p
 

volksmarschall

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Chapter 2

The final episodes of the German Wars brought to a conclusion the rivalry between the elevated dukes of Burgundy, who, starting with Charles I, stylized themselves as the kings of a domain that properly belonged to, and was considered part of, the Holy Roman Empire. As briefly covered in the introduction, the Burgundian-Habsburg rivalry led to the commencement of the 50 year period known as the German Wars; although, unlike the next continuous wave of conflict between Calvinist France and Catholic Austria in the Italian Wars, the German Wars are not necessarily seen as being seen as a continual conflict but multiple separate wars between varying states of the Holy Roman Empire, unified only in the overarching theme that the wars were being fought for political hegemony over the politics of the empire.

Despite the brief triumph in the coronation of Charles I, Duke of Burgundy as Charles I, King of Burgundy, he had fallen upon hard times in the political fallout from his rash decision. Louis XII of France had been slowly withering away at the kingdom’s southern borders, seizing parts of the Burgundian Lowlands. By the death of Charles I, in 1487, although he had unified the Duchy of Burgundy and reorganized it as a kingdom – he had lost more land than he gained. Despite this, Burgundy was still a respected and feared regional power, occupying the premier position in Northwest Europe, but hamstrung between France in the South and the Holy Roman Empire, dominated by the Habsburgs, to their east.

Charles I had long wanted to become the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but his son, John Philip I (hereafter King John or just John) had given up on the seemingly impossible goal of becoming emperor – and rather sought to diminish Habsburg power in the border regions between the empire and rebellious Duchy/Kingdom of Burgundy, especially the Habsburg ruled border principalities of Aachen and Alsace. Furthermore, King John understood the precarious position he found himself in (but perhaps, he did not think this entirely through). France was expanding into their southern territories, and the Habsburgs were the undisputed masters of German politics, in lieu of their losses to France during the Burgundy Wars, John Philip turned east, away from the Habsburg Duchies of Aachen and Alsace, but to the Duchy of Cleves instead. In 1495 he invaded and conquered the small and isolated duchy in the quick stroke and snap of his finger, catching the Habsburgs off guard.


King John Philip I of Burgundy, a later portrait.

It is here that King John erred. He perceived the lack of Habsburg response as a green light, if you will, to invade the Republic of Friesland. When he did, expecting the Habsburgs not to react (or to perhaps catch them unawares of his ambitions like he did with the conquest of Cleves), his worst fears had come true when Matthew I, whose regent – Wilfried Herndler, marched against Burgundy to protect Friesland from Burgundian conquest.

Despite their recent setbacks against France, the Burgundian Army was still one of the most professional and highly trained armies in the period between the Late Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance. Like France, their knights were the most potent and powerful units on any battlefield, and far superior to the heavy horsemen of other states. At the outbreak of the war, Burgundy possessed 35,000 men-in-arms for the hopeful conquests. The Habsburgs meanwhile, possessed a slightly higher number of men-in-arms, about 40,000, but they were spread out from Germany, to Bohemia, to Italy to protect their lands from possible threats. This gave Burgundy a window of opportunity – to destroy the Army of Germany under Graf Leopold Wilhelm Meinl, commanding about 15,000 men, before the rest of the Habsburg forces could link up with each other and win the war by numbers alone.

Not knowing the strength and location of the Burgundian armies, the Graf Meinl invaded Barrois, the province uniting southern Burgundy with its more prosperous Lowlands in Flanders, Wallonia, and the Netherlands. John came rushing down from Utrecht, and hoped to defeat the Imperial Army in one swift swoop. The resulting battle between the two sides could be described as a pyrrhic victory for the Burgundians. Although he managed to drive the Imperial Army from the field, he did so at nearly twice the cost to his opponent, who calmly retreated across the Rhine to wait for the rest of the Imperial forces to congregate. The one window of opportunity for Burgundy was missed, and the Imperial forces were fast approaching the day of unity.

On 7 July 1496, the Battle of Nancy was the last hope for Burgundy to score a decisive victory against the Imperial Army. Again, John squared off against Count Leopold Wilhem Meinl. John had been reinforced by Swiss Mercenaries, who would play a much more prominent role in the Italian Wars, and had brought his numbers up to 39,000 soldiers. Meinl crossed back over the Rhine with 25,000 men to defend the Imperial stronghold at Nancy, Lorraine. He was stunned to find the Imperial Garrison had given way, and had marched half of the Imperial Army into a desperate situation. Over 6,500 Imperial troops were killed and captured in the battle, compared to 4,000 Burgundian soldiers and mercenaries. The war had gotten off to a poor start for the Habsburgs, but Burgundy’s chance to follow up upon their victories in Barrois and at Nancy was squandered by John, who feared that he would be caught like a chicken in a basket if he attempted to cross the Rhine into the heart of the Austrian crownlands.


A depiction of the Battle of Nancy where Burgundian forces put the Imperial Army into rout. The victory however, could have been far greater for Burgundy.

For the next month, the Imperial forces gathered their strengths across the river, waiting for the arrival of the Imperial Army of Italy and the Hungarian soldiers, some 12,000 strong, to give an important edge to the Habsburgs. Count Meinl, when the Hungarian nobleman leading his men united with the Imperial troops – Bela Kinizsi, gave the Hungarian horseman command of the Imperial forces, although he remained the chief architect of the campaign. The Imperial Army had crossed the Rhine again, and had marched to St.Di, where the Burgundian Army was encamped along the Meurthe River. Kinizsi recognized a terrible error in Philip’s positioning. Half of the army was encamped with its back to the river, with little room to maneuver (and better yet, no room to withdraw). On August 19, the Imperial Army launched its attack against the Burgundian troops, and drove them from the field in a tense bout of combat where Philip lost some 6,000 of his finest troops. During the flight, John is rumored to have fallen off his horse in the Meurthe as he fled the field in terror and escaping capture.

The war turned after the battle. The Italian condottiero (mercenary captain), Otto Minucci, leading the Habsburg Army of Italy took command of the Imperial Army in pursuit of John and shadowed his retreat to Brabant. At the town of Leuven, Minucci finally engaged the exhausted Burgundian troops, and scored a minor victory against John, who fled south having lost over 10,000 men in the two battles. The Battle of Leuven ended the Burgundy Campaign, but the German Campaign is where the Habsburgs won the war. The Duchy of Hesse had aligned itself, somewhat foolishly, with Burgundy. The Imperial Army, after their victory at St. Di, turned north to deal with the traitorous states of the empire that had thought Burgundy would emerge victorious in the war. Hesse was quickly overrun by the Imperial Army, who quickly invaded Cleves and liberated the duchy from Burgundian rule.

News of the fall of Hesse and Cleves reached Philip in the summer of 1497. Exposed and isolated in the south, John began initiating peace talks with the Habsburgs, hoping that he would not be punished too severely. He calculated that the Habsburgs had to worry about France just as much as he did – and believing that Herndler, Matthew’s regent and court diplomat, would recognize this, would punish Burgundy lightly. This is precisely what happened.


A manuscript depicting a battle between Imperial forces and the rogue Holy Roman Empire troops from the duchy of Hesse, who had allied themselves with Burgundy during the fighting hoping to gain imperial territory along the Rhine River in anticipation of a Burgundian victory.

***​
Wilfried Herndler was an associate to Viktor Steinegger, so he naturally had a pragmatic view of diplomacy, although he lacked the charisma and power that his predecessor had. Herndler saw France as a future enemy of the Habsburgs – their large stretch of some of the most prosperous land in Europe was something to worry about (and Herndler’s fears would come true during the Italian Wars). To compensate for the rise of France, Herndler decided it was best to have a strong Burgundy to keep French attention, while also having a weak enough Burgundy that she wouldn’t threaten the internal politics and stability of the Holy Roman Empire any further. As such, the peace terms were incredibly generous, the Duchy of Cleves would be restored to the empire, Burgundy would end its alliance with Hesse (with the promise of not interfering with Imperial politics further), and Austria would negate its claims to Metz and Franche-Comté, to regions under Burgundian control that had fallen to the Habsburgs, and, as the sitting Duke of Lorraine, also believed these two territories should be part of the Duchy (and therefore, part of the crownlands).

King John quickly accepted the peace offering. As for Herndler, when Matthew turned 15 in February 1502 and he asked him why he had not expanded the Duchy of Lorraine, which he (Matthew) was the presiding duke of, Herndler responded, “One day, your majesty, you will learn that there is more to empire than the acquisition of land. Sometimes it is necessary to look into the future to discover where your enemies are. And when you find them, make sure they are in the roughest position as possible [he is speaking of France].” Thus, in 1497, the German Wars had come to an end, and the rise of the Habsburg Monarchy was to emerge in the turmoil and chaos of the Italian Wars and Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Burgundy pledged neutrality in interfering with imperial affairs if the emperor in Vienna also recognized his claimant status as an independent king. The war also marked an important end in imperial politics, Burgundy was no longer seen as the great rival to Habsburg dominance of the Holy Roman Empire., but the House of Valois in France was quickly emerging as a continental power that would need to be contained, especially after Louis XIII converted to the Reformed faith, adding to the Valois-Habsburg rivalry and giving it a religious dimension on top of the political one. So it is here, that my introductory history to the pre-Habsburg Monarchy ends, and the beginning history of the Habsburg Monarchy, as a unified political entity, begins.

As is often the case with all empires, even kingdoms and lesser states -- its formation (the Habsburg Monarchy) is born out of war and conquest. A fifty year period of war and conquest within the realms of the Holy Roman Empire gave rise to the Habsburg Family as the masters of imperial politics, paving their way to become the de-facto hereditary rulers of the ancient order (although, they were often challenged by the Wittelsbach on the Catholic front and the Hohenzollern on the Protestant front, especially after the Forty Years' War. The Habsburgs medieval and early Renaissance wars of emergence were over, but her grand war of emergence in Northern Italy was yet to begin. Furthermore, the ongoing tie between the Habsburgs and Roman Church would serve as a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation, and usher in a rivalry between German Protestants and German Catholics for the direction and control of the Holy Roman Empire -- which principally served as the cause for the aforementioned bloodletting in the second half of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.


End of Chapter 2
>>> Continue to Chapter 3: The Habsburg Papacy and the Protestant Reformation (forthcoming)
 

Idhrendur

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Ah, the reformation! Surely that won't sow chaos everywhere.
 

volksmarschall

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Ah, the reformation! Surely that won't sow chaos everywhere.
The chaos unleashed in the aftermath of the Reformation and the great struggle already foreshadowed will, I think, bring closure to "Part 2" of this AAR which will begin next chapter.

Although, as I continue to play the campaign and figure how I want to reflect some sense of historicity as well (and keep the game challenging), I think I might be releasing my own vassals (like Styria or Tyrol, etc.) in the future when an emperor dies and the empire is split among among his sons! I actually am tempted to then play as one of the minor lines/cadet branches and try to become emperor through that means as well. All is fair in love, war, imperial politics and the writing arc of a volksmarschall AAR! :p
 

Enewald

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Hugenots ahoy! :eek:

Since there is no mention of the religion of Burgundy, I assume Burgundy will cease to exist before the reformation hits. ;)
 

volksmarschall

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Hugenots ahoy! :eek:

Since there is no mention of the religion of Burgundy, I assume Burgundy will cease to exist before the reformation hits. ;)
Yeah, I was generally surprised France went Reformed, not a single province iirc was Protestant before the rise of Calvinism in the game. Even then, it seemed to initially be rather lax in spreading, but after 1520, shot out with such speed and rapidity unlike I've seen before. I've seen France go Reformed before (actually, they and Switzerland are the most likely to be Reformed of any notable nations from my experience playing the game, except for the few often German minors (or country where the new sect begins). The Huguenots will now feature more prominently than ever and add a flavorful dimension to my rivalry with France.

Burgundy actually survived the play thru, they'll actually be important again during the Forty Years' War, but after this conflict with them, they somewhat become irrelevant as an enemy (we repair our relations per our common enemy in France, whom -- I'd rather have a moderately strong pro-Habsburg Burgundy take the brunt of war with France than I, as I'm busy maintaining hegemony and power within Germany and other places).