Asantahene

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Wow-intrigue, intrigue and more intrigue...there are powerful forces ranged against the Torrechiavennas

Great update
 

fabiolundiense

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Wow-intrigue, intrigue and more intrigue...there are powerful forces ranged against the Torrechiavennas
Great update

Thanks, Asantahene ! Mbwaaaha-ha-ha-ha...... ;)
 

fabiolundiense

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KING STEFANO THE WISE :
A PRISONER’S TALE — Part V



Enzo took the decanter and poured the rich Venetian wine into a delicate cup of yellow glass. Holding the glass to Aubry’s parched lips, he said : “Drink.”

The prisoner stared at Enzo before tilting his head towards the cup. He took two deep sips before turning his chin away. Enzo returned to his seat. In the opposite corner of the cell, the young Julien de Callaris dozed on a small feather mattress.

“So you inherited copies of the king’s papers from Angoulême,” said Enzo evenly. “You made ample use of them. Yet you deliberately misinterpreted them to justify your crimes.”

“The record speaks for itself.”

“King Stefano never raised a finger against the Duke of Benevento.”

Aubry grinned mischievously. “I misinterpret the facts, Spymaster ?”

“It was Prince Giordano, Count of Moesia, who took Benevento for his vassal. A legitimate claim.”



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“Prince Giordano, King Stefano, it is all the same. They are a rapacious race, the Torrechiavenna. Amalfi, Spymaster. A fabricated claim. Again for the benefit of the heir, Prince Stefano.”



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“Very well, a fabricated claim. Angoulême decided to let it pass because you were all too busy spreading unrest all over France, for the sake of undoing its king.”

“Aye. The Torrechiavenna usurper.”

“So your faction installed a Frenchman on the throne of France. Meanwhile, Amalfi, in the hands of a Frankish Karling, is restored to an Italian prince. Likewise Benevento. The same ideal is at work for France and for Italy. Your vendetta is nothing but envy.”



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“Bari. Aargau. They never stopped, Spymaster. They never stopped !”

“Legitimate claims.”



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“So I misinterpret facts. What about murder, Spymaster ? King Stefano was a murderer — he is guilty of infanticide ! The rightful heirs of Samos — three rightful heirs ! Christoforos, Maximos, Anastasios. All of them innocent children.”



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“And last of all, the Duke himself. Lest he beget three more sons to inherit his crown. Lest the Torrechiavenna suffer the misfortune of losing Greek lands. Lands to which they are not entitled. Murderers, Spymaster. Murderers, every last one of them.”



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Enzo smiled. “Like you. You tried to murder the king. But I prevented it.”

He turned to his right. The young Julien was sitting up on his mattress, his eyes wide open in wonder.

“I am not like you,” he continued. “I let your grand-daughter go. I will do the same for this boy here. Even you, Signor de Callaris. I will let you go.”

No response.

“You may keep your peace,” said Enzo. “No more questions. No more pain. Freedom, Signor de Callaris. Freedom can be yours. Unless of course you do not desire it.”

“What do you want ?”

Enzo laughed. ”What do I want ? I want you to leave this realm, Signore, and never return. Go to France, where your Frenchman now rules. Or to Constantinople. Or to Alexandria, for all I care. I want you to disappear.”

“Disappear and live, Spymaster ? What is the price ?”

“You and your band have served the new king of France. You served the Sultan of Mauretania, and the Basileus. You received ample recompense. A treasure in gold. You will deliver that treasure to me. Then you will disappear. And live.”

The prisoner closed his eyes. Minutes passed wherein no one breathed a word. At last, Aubry de Callaris stirred.

“I thirst.”

Enzo rose and placed the glass cup against the prisoner’s lips. As Aubry savoured another long draught, he gazed into the Spymaster’s eye.

It took only a few minutes to agree on terms. Aubry was to be removed from the dungeon. Enzo decreed that he would be confined to a room in Enzo’s own house. Aubry would instruct his wife to hand over the gold to the boy Julien, who would bring it to Enzo. As a gauge of good faith, the boy would deliver to Aubry’s wife an order of safe-conduct to the port of Genoa for the whole family, with enough coins to buy passage on a ship to Nice.

Aubry was given parchment and a quill.

“My fingers are broken,” he said.

Enzo slammed his fist on the table. “Let the boy then memorise my instructions.”

“You write the letter,” Aubry retorted. “My grandson can vouch for its authenticity.”

Enzo took the quill and began to write.

“You must begin with Tesoro mio,” Aubry interrupted. “That is what I call her.”

“I write what I —”

“Write it, Spymaster. Only then will she be sure it is from me.”

Enzo wrote. In the end, he modified his own version after listening to Aubry repeat the instructions in his own words.



Tesoro mio,
do not be afraid for me, for we are allowed to flee.
We shall depart to Genoa. Julien brings you a safe-
conduct. You must take the gold. Give it to Julien.
He will be the messenger. Let him bring the gold
to me the day after tomorrow at six bells. Then we
shall both be free. Adieu.



Then Enzo wrote out a safe-conduct for passage to Genoa. Both parchments were entrusted to the young Julien, who was then escorted out the dungeon gate. Half an hour later, Aubry lay on a divan in a windowless chambre on the ground floor of Enzo’s three-storey town house. There he settled down to wait.


~~~​
 

Asantahene

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Hmmm not sure I trust this scheming spymaster

I'm very much liking this writing style and the speech is better now it's not peppered with faux Shakespearian 'thous' and 'sayest' etc. I kinda find that a bit jarring.
 

fabiolundiense

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Hmmm not sure I trust this scheming spymaster
I'm very much liking this writing style and the speech is better now it's not peppered with faux Shakespearian 'thous' and 'sayest' etc. I kinda find that a bit jarring.

Oh dear, sorry you weren't enchanted with the thees and thous. Good thing I'm not planning on doing another medieval love story :)

Now I wonder just whether those writs of safe passage are worth the ink drying on them...

Awwww, you guys are way too cynical :D
 

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KING STEFANO THE WISE :
A PRISONER’S TALE — Part VI



Edda de Lobo caressed the tear-stained yet still dry parchment she had received hours ago for the hundredth time. She had given up wiping her tears away, they simply continued to pearl out of her eyes. She had known the letter would come sooner or later. Had prepared for it. Perhaps even waited for it. And prayed it would never come. Now it lay on her kitchen table. And she could not stop rereading those killing lines.

Tesoro mio.

The signal. Her beloved Aubry’s signal. His final instructions. He did not want her to die with him, no matter that she wanted to. She would have to live. Live without him. Take the children to safety.

Tesoro mio. Flee.

A simple code. One, or two. The last word or two words of a sentence. Ignore the middle sentence. Flee. To Genoa. Safe-conduct. Gold. The messenger. Six bells. Be free. Adieu.

It was almost six hours since Julien had come home with the letter. She needed to hurry.

She had to cease her crying, at least for now. Gathering her meagre belongings, she piled them in the larder. Emma’s and Julien’s bundles were next. The safe-conduct, the bank’s affidavit, her father’s poems. Every other document they had ever owned was now a layer of ashes in the fireplace.

Some minutes later, their neighbour’s boy Aldo arrived as requested. A simpleton, so sweet and obedient. Handing him a round wicker basket tied with rope, she explained the errand he would perform for her the next day. At this same hour. Aldo repeated the instructions perfectly, then took the wicker basket home with him.

Done. Now it was time to dress Emma and Julien. It was time to leave.



~~~​



Enzo closed the archive folder, shaking his head with a smile. How anyone could despise this former king of Italy — and the whole Casa Torrechiavenna — was beyond comprehension. King Stefano. King the Stefano the Wise. So aptly named.

One could say the same about the once heir presumptive, Prince Stefano. A strong, dependable man, by all accounts. After being created Duke of Salerno, he had wisely laid claim to the county of Bari as its de jure liege lord. André II, the king of Lotharingia, had been foolish to believe he could hold on indefinitely to Italian vassal counties. And calling on an Anglo-Saxon duke for help — it was an act of pure desperation. King André’s death had brought to the fore a wiser ruler who had promptly surrendered the territory.



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But life was not just glory and conquest. The last folios in the archive held the records of the two instances of deepest sorrow in King Stefano’s life. First, the passing of his wife, Queen Julienne, duchess of Portucale. The king of Aquitaine, Portucale’s overlord, had further upset King Stefano by decreeing that her title go not to her first-born son Prince Stefano, but to the Prince’s grandson, Prince Sesto, a boy of two. Both men had wisely refrained from contesting that inheritance.



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The king had later consoled himself with a new queen. A woman of French origin, Enzo noted wryly. Like her predecessor. Douce de Bourgogne-Comté had eventually given the realm two more royal princes.



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The second instance was the death of Prince Stefano, the heir presumptive. For years he had been not only a devoted son but a brilliant Chancellor of Italy. He had steered a Council of men utterly devoted to the king. Whispers of insanity had compounded the king’s grief. His successor had taken a hand in suppressing those rumours. In truth, however, Enzo wondered if insanity did not run in the family. The present king.... Fortunately, insanity had not seemed to affect Prince Stefano’s first-born son Sesto, the new Duke of Salerno and new heir presumptive. The Council had unanimously sanctioned the succession.



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For the remainder of his life, King Stefano had found some solace in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The archives were full of traces of his especial attachment to his grandson Tedaldo. The future king.

Of all his daughter Princess Clara’s sons — she had been married matrilineally to a Greek courtier — the king doted on the first-born, Tedaldo, more than any other. After Crown Prince Stefano, then Crown Prince Sesto, it was Tedaldo who brightened the king’s later life. If the archives were to be believed, the boy had been as attached to his grandfather as the latter had been to him. When the prince had come of age, Stefano had married him to a Frankish maiden of respectable origin. A union that had escaped the notice of a brooding Karling prince. Tedaldo had then been promoted Commander of the Realm, despite rather unremarkable horsemanship. But he had eventually produced a son, winning him even higher status at Court.



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But King Stefano had not only been a man obsessed with dynastic fortune. He had donated profligately to the Church and Holy Orders, and despatched missionaries to his Infidel territories. He had loved the mountains, like his forebears. Loved the hunt, falconry, the arts, and other noble pastimes. He had loved and been loved in return. He had lived and died in honour.



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A discreet knock on the door ended his mental venture into things long gone.

“Avanti !”

“Pardon, m’lord,” murmured Enzo’s manservant from the doorway. “A visitor.”



~~~​



Enzo glared at the creature before him. “Where is the boy Julien ?”

“The m-m-mistress ordered me to see you,” came the timid reply. In his corner of Enzo’s windowless study, Aubry de Callaris smirked.

Enzo guessed what had happened. The boy Julien had been detained by his grandmother, a servant being sent in his stead. The boy and the woman had then left for Genoa, abandoning Aubry to his fate. Perhaps he should have had the house watched.

“Never mind.” They will not get far. “Begone.”

Enzo stared at the parcel at his feet. A plain round wicker basket, more profound than it was wide. The lower half was still caked in earth. It had undoubtedly been buried somewhere, in an isolated spot nowhere near the Callaris house. The cover was bound to the basket with thick rope tied in a complicated knot.

Enzo lifted the basket and set it on a table. Its weight warmed him. There had to be something close to three hundred gold pieces inside.

Looking up, he saw that Aubry was on his feet.

“So eager to leave ?”

“Freedom, Spymaster. You promised.”

“Not even one last look at your... earnings ?”

“No need.” Aubry began limping towards the door.

Taking a dagger from his belt, Enzo cut through the rope with a flourish. He threw the cover back. The gleam of a multitude of gold coins greeted his eyes.

“Allow me, Signor de Callaris !” he cried. In a swift move he was at the door of his study which he threw open. “Guards !”

They were upon him in a moment, two on each arm. Aubry collapsed as they dragged him out of the house and tossed him into a covered wagon. They had their orders. They would take the old man out of the Alpine city to a cliff and throw him over the edge. Standard procedure for the master’s special prisoners.

Alone in his study, Enzo plunged his hands into the bounty of gold. The beginning of his groan of ecstasy died abruptly. What was that under the gold ? His fingers had encountered a foreign surface. Jagged. Stone ? Was that a layer of stones under the gold ? Had the basket been — ?

A sharp pain in the palm of his right hand jolted his senses. With a shout, his hands flew up out of the basket. Blood. With another roar, Enzo swept the basket to the floor. Gold coins, sharp jagged stones the size of a child’s hand, and a pair of enraged vipers fell at his feet. No, not vipers, he realised to his horror. These snakes were completely black. From Ethiopia or some other hellish place. A hundred times more venomous than a viper.

By the time his manservant came into the room at around eleven bells, concerned that the master had not taken his supper, Sir Enzo de Lobo had been dead for over three hours.



~~~

N.B. next post, a state of the world.
 

Asantahene

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Aha good riddance to the odious spymaster. He still seems to have done for poor Aubrey though :(

Great update-look forward to a look at the State of The World
 

fabiolundiense

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LANDMARK MARCH 1229



It has been nearly 163 years since the last over-view of the (civilised) world — in 1066. In that time, I have met all the short-term goals I set for myself.

— Italy is united.
— My home-start county of Grisons is now safe from predators who would invoke de jure jurisdiction : by conquering or inheriting the provinces of Neuchâtel, Berne, and Schwyz (and, in the next post, Aargau) I was able to create the duchy of Upper Burgundy. Now, if anyone wants Grisons, they’ll have to fabricate a claim first.
— All counties of the de jure kingdom of Croatia are now in Croatia.
— I finally became a Crusader King with the last ruler, King Stefano. Two counties of de jure Africa did I conquer. Not a lot, but one has to start somewhere.
— The HRE blob has not spawned. I believe it is safe to presume it will not spawn at all henceforth. A look at Central Europe might suffice to explain that. The duchies of Brunswick, Saxony and Thuringia are still independent. So are the kingdoms of Bavaria, Lotharingia and Great Moravia. And France is holding on to several German counties.



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Italy is also holding on to “German” provinces — namely, the duchies of Swabia and Baden. Upper Burgundy is de jure kingdom of Burgundy.

— Lastly, for the long-term goal of taking over Byzantium, I have a very small start there too. However, there are now only two powers present in the de jure kingdom of Sicily : the emperor of Constantinople and myself. Both Lotharingia and Burgundy used to own titles there, but I relieved them of their burden. :D
Actually, Lotharingia still controls Venice. :mad:



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Looking west :

— France is in turmoil ;
— Aquitaine continues to expand south, taking over Galicia, much of Castille and parts of the de jure kingdom of Aragon ;
— I retain the province of Algeciras at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.



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Ah, poor love-struck Contessa Julietta....



Looking north, one can see why I sought to ally myself with the Scots. They might succeed in forming an empire up there ! Note however that the Papacy owns two provinces in the southwest, Somerset and Dorset (I think).

Scandinavia and the heathen Slavs are still being barbarian.



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But more important to me is building up my dynasty. In this game, I have adopted Elective Monarchy. Here is the dynastic tree.



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King Maurizio II of Croatia becomes Maurizio I (the Merry) of Italy in 1059. He is the fourth son of the previous king. He is succeeded by a nephew, Pietro, the first son of older brother Ugo.

Pietro the Able is succeeded by his third son, Jacopo the Fat.

Jacopo is succeeded by his first son Gian the Holy.

Gian is succeeded by a grandson — Leonardo, the first son of Gian’s fourth son Lorenzo.

Leonardo is succeeded by his brother Stefano, who is now succeeded by a grandson — Sesto, Duke of Salerno, the eldest son of his eldest son Stefano.



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So far, my vassals have not made life difficult as far as the succession goes. They follow my lead. The more vassals I get, however, the more different opinions are voiced. Vassals in Croatian duchies tend to want someone from their own ranks to be king. But majority rules.

Below, a look at my kin of Swabia, just for fun. How did I gain that German duchy ?

Gian the Holy’s wife inherited the Duchy of Swabia. Upon her death, the title passed to their first son Ausilio by way of primogeniture, then to his eldest child Lidia. As neither Ausilio nor Lidia inherited Italy, they remained independent. But Ausilio’s brothers all had a claim to Swabia, as did their children, who were at my Court. In order to annex Swabia, I pressed the claim of Ausilio’s nephew Gian. Easy peasy. :cool:



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NEW GOALS

It is now AD 1229. Forming the Empire of Italia looks doable. It means going to war with Constantinople. Then there is the pursuit of pushing back the Infidel. The Tulunids are just as powerful as Constantinople, if not more. Good challenges there. Over the next hundred years or so, I shall try to
— take more counties in Sicily so as to form the Empire of Italia ; and/or
— take the de jure kingdom of Greece ;
— take the de jure kingdom of Africa.


~~~​
 
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Asantahene

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Good job and good luck!
 

fabiolundiense

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Good job and good luck!

Thanks ! The next ruler did some good stuff,I think :)


That was a wonderfully comprehensive overview. I especially liked the explanations for the lines of succession. I'd love to see Italy united under the Torrechiavennas. But perhaps more German territory to further secure Grisons?

For the time being, I don't see an imminent danger in the north. However, if Bavaria or Aquitaine start to act up, I shall hit them so damn hard.... :)
 

fabiolundiense

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KING SESTO TORRECHIAVENNA THE WISE

From the Enciclopedia Italiana [Ed. Paradossi, Torino, 1885]



TORRECHIAVENNA, Sesto, King of Italy and Croatia, b. 25 March 1200 in Trento, d. 15 January 1240 in Trento.

King Sesto Torrechiavenna ascended the throne of Italy-Croatia in March 1229 in his twenty-eighth year, one year after becoming Duke of Salerno on the death of his father Prince Stefano of Italy.



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A brilliant diplomat and scholar, he is paradoxically remembered for military actions in which he participated only from the flanks. These were mainly the conquest of the county of Aargau (1231) and the counties of Annaba, Beni Yanni and Constantine in Kabylia, North Africa (1237). It is believed that these and other military deployments adversely affected his health, leading to an early death.

The conquest of Aargau in Upper Burgundy had been initiated by Sesto’s grandfather, King the Stefano the Wise, a few months before his death in 1229. Sesto led the war to a rapid conclusion in early spring 1231. Count Barthélemi de Callaris, who had held the county of Aargau in fief from the king of Lotharingia, grudgingly conceded defeat when his son Jaufré was captured during the war. Eventually, Barthélemi de Callaris removed himself to his demesne of Sticht in Holland, after which Jaufré de Callaris was released without ransom and permitted to settle elsewhere in Upper Burgundy with his family.



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The Second Kabylian War had its origins in Sesto’s diplomatic relations with the kingdom of France. Notwithstanding a certain compassion towards the Parisian branch of the Casa Torrechiavenna which had lost the crown of France during a civil war, Sesto decided to build a strategic alliance with the new monarch, King Foulques de Champagne. This was accomplished through the grooming of the youngest Italian princess to become Queen of France. King Foulques and Princess Giulia were married in 1231.



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The alliance was reinforced by Sesto’s agreement to participate in France’s wars. One of these was with the Sultan of Egypt, who had invaded France’s possessions in Syria. Sesto sent a token contingent across the Mediterranean. There were archers, pikemen and not a few knights, but also more than fifty smiths whose job was to study Muslim weapons and war techniques in preparation for a project to wrest the once Christian territories of Kabylia from Muslim control.

When it seemed certain that Egypt would abandon the war for Syria, and would be too weak to offer real assistance to the Sultan of Mauretania, Sesto recalled his fighting men to Italy. He declared his own Holy War in the summer of 1235.



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It was during this campaign that the famous Ambush of Kairouan took place, a masterpiece of the pincer plan in medieval warfare. A fighting force of 5700 men and horse were deployed as bait in the path of a Mauretanian army known to be over fifteen thousand strong. Behind the enemy, over seventeen thousand Italian fighters were secretly landed in Tunis. Taking the coastal route to Gabès, their arrival was timed so as not to scare the enemy away but to allow them to reach the smaller army first before hitting them from the rear. The Muslim Generals saw through the plan, however, and gave the order to retreat. The two Italian contingents immediately switched to attack mode, honing in on the enemy from the south and the east. The manoeuvre ended with a decisive victory for Italy.



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Mauretania sent a desperate plea for help to the Sultan of Egypt, but to no avail. Before the latter could muster a significant force to send across the Libyan desert, Italy had encircled what remained of the enemy’s forces. Kabylia was surrendered to Italy in 1237 after a mere two years of war.



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Having thus gained a reputation throughout the realm for piety, virtue and zeal for his religious faith, coupled with renown for wisdom and learning, Sesto forged strong ties with the Pope, with all the bishops in Italy and Croatia, and indeed with many men of artistic talent all over Europe. For himself and his contemporaries, he exemplified the ideal ruler being a pious knight pledged to honour God, Church, family and order. Yet as if to remind historians that all men are flawed, Sesto showed a surprising lack of diplomacy where his nearest of kin was concerned, with consequences that may have changed the fate of the dynasty.

For around the time of Second Kabylian War, Sesto quarrelled with his first-born son Prince Sesto. The boy had as an infant become Duke of Portucale upon the death of his grandmother. The quarrel turned into an irreparable rift. Historians have searched in vain for an explanation for the breakdown in paternal relations. No consensus has been reached to this day.



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The breach became a matter of common knowledge and a slight source of scandal when King Sesto conferred the titles of Count and Duke of Salerno on his cousin Prince Tedaldo, Count of Neuchâtel. These had been Sesto’s own titles before the succession, and his father’s titles before him, and were generally considered to be the equivalent of being declared Heir Apparent. Prince Tedaldo was known to have enjoyed great favour with King Stefano the Wise. In a sense, Sesto appeared to be aligning himself with his grandfather’s wishes for the succession. At the same time, Prince Tedaldo had already begun to display signs of the ailment that afflicted him, and which had already earned him the nickname “Mad.”

It has been speculated that, given time, Sesto might have reconciled with his son the Duke, and that he would have become King Sesto II of Italy upon his father’s death. Such, however, was not to be.



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After the Second Kabylian War, Sesto busied himself mainly with the younger members of the family. His primary ward was the former King Stefano’s young son Prince Maurizio. It is also a matter of record that he helped with the education of Prince Ugoccione, son of his cousin Crown Prince Tedaldo.



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In 1239, Sesto betrothed his second son Prince Averado to Æthelhild of Wessex, Duchess of East Anglia who was also heiress to the Kingdom of Bavaria. In celebration of the betrothal, and of ten years of rulership, a Great Ball was held at the castle of Trento, an event remembered long afterwards for being exceptionally loud, boisterous, extravagant and violent even by medieval standards.



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Later in the spring that same year, France and Aquitaine were at war with each other. In virtue of the promise of alliance, Sesto took up arms against Aquitaine. The Royal Council, worried about the king’s fitness to bear arms, besought the help of Crown Prince Tedaldo to persuade the king not to ride personally to battle. That help did not materialise. For just as an Italian fighting force prepared to march to war, Timotheos Skleros, Duke of Athens, passed away. He was Prince Tedaldo’s father. Tedaldo being the new Duke of Athens, the territories were automatically incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.



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King Sesto marched to war. To the relief of his courtiers, his declining morale led him to delegate military engagement to his Commanders. But when an opportunity to lead a defensive force arose, Sesto took command of a small contingent. The Battle of Thionville in December 1239 ended in victory, but Sesto was struck behind the knee by an enemy arrow.



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Sesto was immediately carried off the battlefield. Reluctantly, he gave the order to be transported to his family castle in Trento. The wound festered. Soon the king was delirious with fever. He died less than three weeks later.



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~~~​
 
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Asantahene

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I like the change in style. Keeping it fresh.

Remind me are you an elective monarchy?
 

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KING TEDALDO THE MAD

Part I : A Hoarding of Crowns​



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Count Sinucello of Veglia, Chancellor of Italy and Croatia, wheezed and waddled up the winding staircase to the Royal Observatory. The Royal Observatory, hmphhh ! The royal attic, thought Sir Sinucello to himself for the umpteen hundredth time. A Spartan room with broad beams covered in two hundred years of cobwebs and a wind-swept terrace. Why the king chose to spend hours up there observing peasants going about their mind-numbing business down by the castle walls he could not fathom.

Three steps from the top, he paused to catch his breath. A moment later, the king’s stentorian voice filled the stairwell. “Enter !”

The Chancellor hauled himself up the last three steps and opened the door.

“What are you doing here ?” demanded the king by way of greeting.

“The Ambassador from Burgundy, Sire,” Sir Sinucello replied.

“Send him away. What does he want ?”

“With respect, Sire, he brings a reply. A demonstration of my lord’s magnanimity —”

In two strides the king was upon his Chancellor. “Give it to me !”

With a sigh, Sinucello reached into his vest and extracted a parchment which was immediately snatched away.



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“Excellent ! Haha ! Excellent ! You are worth your weight in gold, good man !”

In spite of himself, the Chancellor smiled, more than a little gratified.

“What did I tell you ? A family of kings and queens, Lord Chancellor. I shall have a family of kings and queens, hahaha !”

Crowns, alliances, weddings and territorial acquisitions, thought Sinucello to himself. The king could think of nothing else. And every Court in Christendom seemed in haste to fulfill his dream. Princess Lavinia, the king’s feisty sister, now betrothed to the future king of Burgundy, was only the latest in a string of very enviable matches. Scarcely a month had passed since an Ambassador from the frozen north had arrived in Trento bearing a similar message. Prince Ugoccione, the king’s first-born son, was now promised as bride Princess Kamila, daughter of the king of Denmark.



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Before that, it was the scheme involving Brindisium.

“I want more territory in Greece,” the king had informed his Chancellor one morning. “What shall I have ?”

“There is much to be had, my lord,” Sinucello had replied tactfully. “Might I suggest to my lord that, since the Basileius was only recently forced to accept my lord’s inheritance of Athens, he would most likely oppose ceding more of Greece to my lord ?”

“Nonsense ! The Basileius is too busy defending his lands in Mesopotamia.”



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“Quite so, Sire. But Jihads are not eternal. The Basileius will not be amused.”

“Let him pout to his heart’s content ! I want more of Greece. You shall devise the stratagem.”

“At once, my Lord.”

He had then given the matter no more thought. Soon enough, as expected, the king had come up with his own solution. A rather obvious one, forsooth. Prince Fabrizio, one of the king’s uncles, had married a noble Greek lady, who was at present the Countess of Brindisium. Prince Fabrizio thought most highly of his royal nephew, and much less of his landed spouse. The king had invited his uncle to make Italy his home. The Prince had been only to happy to oblige. Whereupon the king had revoked the title to Benevento — its lord had, alas, sired no offspring — from one vassal to bestow it upon the Prince, together with a dukedom. Presto ! The heir to Brindisium was now also heir to an important Italian demesne. It meant that one day a new portion of Greek-owned Italy would pass under Italian control.



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The next year, the king’s uncle Prince Maurizio came of age. No mention was made of any marriage whatsoever, which worried Sir Sinucello. But then, over the next four months, the king’s brother Prince Innocenzo passed away suddenly, and the late king’s second son, Prince Averado, married his betrothed, thus earning himself the title Petty King of East Anglia.



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Then came the YMC : the Year of the Marital Crisis.

Queen Isabelle, the king’s young wife, had produced a daughter, the couple’s second child, not long after the coronation. Since then, Court gossip had it that the queen was wont not to accommodate the king’s manly desires. The truth, when it became known, surpassed everyone’s fantasies : the queen had taken a vow of celibacy.



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An embassy had been quietly despatched to Rome. The king’s legate carried an armful of testimonials, and had been instructed to further enlighten His Holiness with any detail necessary to obtain the desired result : freedom from his marriage to Queen Isabelle and leave to marry anew.

The embassy returned unsuccessful.



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“I shall have my divorce,” said the king.

Sir Sinucello took to wringing his hands absent-mindedly. The king’s tone was cool and collected. Uncannily so. It could only herald some dreadful unpleasantness.

“Stop wringing your hands, Chancellor ! Fetch me the Lord Marshal !”

The Lord Marshal was fetched.

“What the devil are those black infidels up to ?” the king demanded.

“Sire, Mauretania and Africa are at war. Africa’s fortune ceases not to whittle down. Egypt is putting Constantinople to flight, but the tables may yet turn.”



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“Splendid. Marshal, prepare for a crusade against Egypt.”

“My lord,” breathed the Chancellor, trying desperately to steady his nerves, “might I suggest a reexamination of the Lord Marshal’s report ? According to the numbers —” He halted abruptly. The king was staring at him. If looks could kill....

“Might I suggest, Lord Chancellor, that you retire to your bed for a month or two ?” said the king in an icy whisper. “Rest would do you good, for you are being uncommonly obtuse. I shall have my divorce.”

The Chancellor nodded his head, feigning to comprehend the royal train of thought. The king was not fooled for an instant.

“For heaven’s sake, stop feigning to comprehend. Africa is the weaker foe, the easier prey. What honour would there be in going after the weakling ? Would His Holiness be impressed ? No, obviously not.” Turning to the Marshal : ”I want honour and victory, my lord. I want you to earn it for me. A crusade against Egypt. You shall not fail me.”

The Lord Marshal executed a sharp salute and fled from the Royal Presence.

“You shall comprehend later, my dear Chancellor,” said the king, patting his servant’s shoulder. “We shall crush mighty Egypt, armed with the true faith. His Holiness will be most pleased. He will love us to pieces. And he shall grant me my divorce.”

“It was foolish of me not to see it, Sire,” replied the Chancellor. God help us all !



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~~~​
 

Asantahene

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Wow that's a rather extreme strategy for obtaining a divorce!