|Holy Britannian Empire|
Anthem: All Hail Britannia!
Motto: Incedo Semper ad Futuri
(Marching Ever Onward To Tomorrow)
Head of State
Head of Government
House of Lords
House of Commons
The Holy Britannian Empire (also refered to as the Britannian Empire or just Britannia) is the world's dominant military superpower and one of the large supernations that control earth initially in the early 21st Century, the others being the European Union and the Chinese Federation until the latter's annexation.
The story of Britannia begins in the distant past, in a group of islands off the north-western coast of Europe. Some time between the 7th and the 1st century BC those islands came to be inhabited by a sub-group of a people whom history would call the Celts. Divided into various tribal groups, the Celts of ancient Britain possessed a civilization remarkably advanced for its time, with sophisticated agriculture, a system of wooden roads and even metal coinage.
This island world would see a period of dramatic change, beginning in 55 BC with the arrival of Julius Caesar. Britain had been known in the classical world for centuries as a source of tin, and was reputed to be a wealthy land; perhaps wealthy enough to be worth conquering. Caesar's first landing was more of a reconnaissance than an invasion, seeking to ascertain whether or not the Britons had been helping their Gallic cousins against him. He established a firm foothold, only to be forced to withdraw when bad weather in the English Channel threatened his supply lines. When he returned the next year with a larger force, it was ostensibly in support of Mandubracius, heir to the murdered King of the Trinovante tribe. Caesar defeated the warlord responsible, Cassivellaunus, and established Mandubracius as King of the Trinovantes; henceforth a loyal ally of Rome.
It is at this point that the man later known as Alwyn enters the pages of history. Whether he even existed remains controversial, and even his true name remains problematic. Much of what is 'known' about Alwyn was formalized in the early nineteenth century, at the behest of Emperor Ricardo of Britannia. Much like Emperor Arthur, the 'Alwyn' of Britannian tradition may have been a single person, the combined exploits of multiple persons, or merely a legend. In Britannia he is nevertheless regarded as the first of a line of Romano-British Kings and Queens (and later Emperors and Empresses), thusly dubbed the Alwynids.
Britannian tradition has Alwyn make his appearance in 55 BC, as a warlord leading the fight against Roman invasion. He is described as being a great war leader, whose courage and leadership united the Britons to throw back three Roman invasions. The illiteracy of the Britons means that the only alternative accounts are those written by Romans, often decades or even centuries later. The closest approximation in these accounts is a warlord of the Catuvellauni tribe whom they named Alwinius. The Romans note him as an outsider, possibly having come from outside the isles, who had gained the allegiance of Cassivellaunus and several other tribal leaders, had repeatedly spoken out against Rome (especially the peace deal of 54 BC) and having possessed some sort of connection to a mysterious set of monoliths in Britannia's southern region (what modern historians know as Stonehenge).
Alwinius enters the Roman narrative again in 48 BC, having succeeded Mandubracius as King of the Trinovantes. It is unclear whether this Alwinius is the same person, and no reliable evidence exists as to how he gained his position. Either way, he was to spend the next five years solidifying his power base and expanding his domain, bringing neighboring tribes into a grand alliance by a mixture of force, threats, and persuasion.
Alwyn's power was based to a great extent on his personal retinue of warriors, known as the 'Chosen Swords', or simply the Chosen. They are described by Roman accounts as wearing chainmail, carrying swords and shields, and fighting in disciplined units not unlike the Roman legionaries. The sources disagree as to their capabilities, but all agree that they were loyal to Alwyn, even unto death.
Tacitus provides the most detailed description of their origins. In his account, Alwyn attempts to raise his Chosen from among the best of his people. Unaccustomed to the harsh, Roman-style discipline Alwyn imposes on them, most of the recruits prove unteachable. Undeterred, Alwyn resorts to recruiting boys, whom Tacitus describes as orphans or simply 'unwanted'; others are purchased from slave traders. These youths prove more receptive to Alwyn's ideas, and within a few years are molded into an elite force.
It is unclear to what extent the Chosen were any match for the Roman Legions. Over time their capabilities have been greatly exaggerated, and disagreement remains as to their numbers, with estimates ranging from a few hundred to over ten thousand. They were nevertheless invaluable to Alwyn, for no other force in Britain could match them in open field. Backed by his Chosen, Alwyn was able to expand his territory (in part to pay the not-inconsiderable expense of their upkeep) and terrorize neighboring tribes into accepting his leadership.
Romana Civitas SumEdit
The Romans would not return to Britain for almost a hundred years. Alwyn's domain appears to have survived in some shape or form, ruled over by King Addedomarus and later by his son Dubnovellaunus, whose existence has been confirmed by studies of contemporary coinage. Both are listed as descendants of Alwyn in the Britannian legend. The kingdom's capital was at Camulodunum, modern Colchester.
But return the Romans did, perhaps inevitably. In 43 AD Emperor Claudius dispatched a force of four legions under the command of Aulus Plautius to bring the Britons to heel. By this time the kingdom was under the leadership of Caratacus, son of the successful conqueror Cunobelinus. He failed to prevent Plautius landing his troops in Kent, a happenstance the legend blames on an argument with his brother Togodumnus. He nevertheless reacted quickly, marching his troops to face the Romans somewhere along the river Medway. The battle ended in a Roman victory, and when Claudius himself arrived shortly afterwards, Togodumnus swore allegiance to Rome as King of the Britons. Caratacus continued his resistance for a time, but disappears from the historical record at around 51 AD.
Rome's decision to retain the Alwynid Kingdom, as opposed to splitting it into smaller entities, was a turning point in Britannian history. Though legions were stationed in Britannia to keep them honest, Togodumnus and his descendants had a free hand to expand their territory into the 'barbarian' lands to the north and west. This they did with a policy not unlike that of their Roman overlords, combining outright conquest with clientage. High-status Britannians increasingly adopted Roman lifestyles, and sent their sons to Rome to be educated. The administration was expanded and improved along Roman lines, and the settling of Roman colonia on Britannian soil helped to spread Roman culture and values.
This did not go without resistance. Of all the complications encountered by the Alwynid Kings of Britannia, the most recalcitrant was by far the druids. Described by the Romans as priests and judges both, little else is known about them with any certainty. Both Roman and Britannian accounts nevertheless put them at the center of resistance to Alwynid rule, encouraging and helping to organize disobedience and even outright revolt. It is worth noting that the force sent to crush the druids in their stronghold at Ynys Mon (later Anglesey) was made up entirely of Romans, under the command of Suetonius Paulinus. Cogidumnus' own soldiers may have been unwilling to carry out the task themselves.
The destruction of Ynys Mon marked the effective destruction of druidic culture, and the end of their role in resisting Roman and Alwynid rule. But it was the revolt of the Iceni tribe, located in what is now Norfolk, that would truly go down in history. It began with the death of Prasutagus, King of the Iceni and client of Cogidumnus. In the hope of preserving his kingdom, Prasutagus had willed it jointly to Cogidumnus, and his own two daughters, with Emperor Nero acting as guarantor. The Iceni territories were promptly overrun and incorporated into the Britannian kingdom, with Tacitus adding that Prasutagus' wife Boudicca was flogged and their daughters raped. The histories disagree over who precisely was responsible, but the affair seems to have been a joint effort by Romans and Britannians alike.
The result was a full-scale revolt, first by the Iceni, then spreading across Britannia. Boudicca's followers ambushed and destroyed a Britannian army, and then a Roman legion sent to reinforce it, before proceeding to burn Camulodunum to the ground. Suetonius hurried back with his legions, but was unable to prevent the destruction of Londinium and Verulamium. Suetonius Paulinus returned with his legions, and defeated Boudicca at the Battle of Watling Street. Boudicca is thought to have died either during or shortly after the battle. Supported by Rome, Britannian kings extended their rule to the north and east, until they ruled over the majority of Britain. So great was their power, and so diverse their dominions, that some Britannian Kings began to fancy themselves Emperors in their own right. As Rome weakened and collapsed over the fourth and fifth centuries, this went from a pipe dream to a serious possibility.
The first 'Emperor' of Britannia has been given the name 'Vortigern' by history. The name was given to him by the historian St Gildas, writing in the 6th century. It is worth noting that Gildas does not name him as Rex, Imperator, or even Princeps, but rather as tyrannus superbus, implying him to be a usurper or warlord of some kind. Little is known about him beyond that, though he is generally remembered as the man who invited the Anglo-Saxons into Britannia, only to be supplanted by them. A common theory - and one the Britannian legend expounds - is that Vortigern was indeed a usurper and hired Saxon mercenaries to shore up his regime. The Britannian legend has him come to a bad end after trying to cheat his erstwhile allies out of the land and wealth he had promised them. Whatever the cause, the Saxons overran a substantial portion of South-Eastern Britannia.
The two centuries that follow are shrouded in mystery, concealed from human knowledge by a lack of written records. The Britannian legend fills the gap in its own special way, with the exploits of the Pendragon dynasty; otherwise known as the Artorian dynasty, so-named for its most famous member. Placing the Arthur of song and story in real history is at best fraught with difficulty, at worst nigh-impossible. What is known is that the Britannians enjoyed a brief period of stability, despite Germanic invaders having overrun much of the country. This stability and success went so far as to allow the establishment of colonies in France and Spain. The legacy of the former, Armorica, lives on as modern Brittany.
Britannian legend lays this golden age at the feet of Uther Pendragon, and his better-remembered son Arthur. Indeed, this period (or the stories told of it) can be said to form the basis of modern Britannian culture. It begins with Uther, who by one means or another rose to become the dominant warlord in what remained of Britannia. During his career he acquired the name Pendragon, a name which has itself attracted its fair share of storytelling. Some tales ascribed it to him owning a pet dragon, or being a tamer of dragons. One theory even claimed he had acquired the secret of Greek Fire from the distant eastern Roman Empire. A simpler, but more likely theory ascribed it to his use of a dragon as his symbol.
The origins of Uther's son Arthur are even less clear than his own. The Britannian legend puts him simply as the son of Uther by his wife Igraine, the 19th century version dismissing the more fanciful accounts as slander. Similarly much of the mythological content of his life, such as drawing Excalibur from the stone, was removed in the 'official' version. Nevertheless treated as fact are his marriage to Guinevere, his assembling of the Knights of the Round Table, his victory at Mount Badon (around 500 AD according to Gildas) and his death at the hands of Mordred at the Battle of Camlann.
Whatever the truth of Arthur, it is known by the end of the sixth century the Britannians had reclaimed the land lost to the Saxons, and were governed to a greater or lesser extent by a single ruler. Perhaps taking a cue from the long-fallen Rome, they started calling themselves Emperors. The title was apt, for they now ruled over several different peoples; Britannians, and the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others who had come to Britannia since the 5th century. The reign of the Artorian Emperors saw a blending of these peoples and their cultures into a greater whole, resulting in a civilization outdone in western Europe only by the Frankish empire of Charlemagne.
Britannia's glory rose to heights of which the Alwynids could only have dreamed. Using a military system based broadly on that of the Franks, Britannia extended its power all across the British Isles, reaching as far north as the Firth of Forth; though attempts to conquer Ireland were only partially successful. But this vast realm was not easily governed, and the great failure of the Artorian Emperors was their inability to develop the governing institutions that would allow them to do so. In practice they governed by subcontracting substantial domains out to powerful Dukes, whom they found increasingly difficult to control.
Fury of the NorthmenEdit
The great crisis of the Artorian period came in last decade of the eighth century AD, when Norse raiders landed on the island of Lindisfarne, sacking the monastery and killing many of the inhabitants. This was only the first of many such raids, ranging in scale from a handful of ships and a few dozen warriors to scores of ships and hundreds of warriors. Hailing from Scandinavia, these warriors called themselves Vikings, referring to their practice of going 'a-Viking', that is to say going on a trading or raiding expedition. Individually, Viking warriors were little or not superior to their Britannian counterparts; their weapons and equipment were much the same. What made the Vikings so unmanageable was their tactics, made possible by their iconic warships. Seafarers and shipbuilders par excellence, the Vikings could come and go as they liked, with no community within a few miles of coast or river safe from their attentions.
But for a series of wider factors, Britannia might yet have weathered the storm. The Dukes enjoyed unprecedented power and autonomy, and the Emperors of the time utterly failed to bring them together. Worse, the Dukes tended to regard one-another as the greater threat, and were not above hiring Vikings to attack their rivals. A further complicating factor was the Church, which regarded the Vikings as a divine punishment and called for the appeasement of God through prayer and gifts to the Church. All these factors served to confuse and divide Britannia when leadership was desperately needed. FInally, in 865, a substantial army of Danish Vikings landed in East Anglia. Through a combination of brutal violence and deal-making with unscrupulous or desperate Britannian nobles, the Danes conquered much of Britannia within ten years. When the reigning Emperor was also killed, all seemed lost for Britannia.
But fate would once again intervene, this time in the form of Alfred of Wessex, whose brother Aethelred was one of the last Dukes alive. With his father's death in 871, Alfred took up his brother's dukedom; in 874 he found himself with the mantle of leadership for all Britannians. In many respects he was an unlikely leader, noted more for his intellect and piety than for prowess in battle. But these qualities would serve him well the battles to come, allowing both to outwit the Danes and overawe the Church into giving him its full support. By improving his navy and instituting a system of fortified settlements, Alfred was able to counter the Danes' mobility and force them to fight on his terms. By 880, he was in effective control of southern Britannia, as far north as Warwick. He had little difficulty in persuading the nobles to name him Emperor.
Under the House of Wessex, Britannia would go on to reclaim the whole of Britain. Their dynasty would last unbroken until 958, when King Svein 'Forkbeard' of Denmark invaded Britannia and took the crown for himself. His invasion, and the brief period of Danish rule, was different from previous Viking invasions in many ways. Denmark had been a single kingdom for nearly half a century, formally united in 965 by Svein's father, Harald Bluetooth. Svein's armies were better organised, better disciplined, and better supplied than the marauding bands of yesteryear. Also, both Svein and his more famous son Canute ruled Britannia as Britannian emperors, the latter moreso than the former. Canute left much of the administrative structure in place, though he modified it somewhat, and promoted Britannians willing to serve him to high position. The most famous of these was Godwin, to rose to become Earl of Wessex under the new system.
Canute 'the Great' would rule until 1035, though his dynasty would be replaced in 1042. with the death of his sons Harthacnut and Harald Harefoot. His replacement was Edward, heir to the House of Wessex, raised in exile in Normandy. Emperor Edward's rule was defined by his ultimately unsuccessful enmity with Godwin, who had betrayed his brother Alfred to torture and death at the hands of Harald Harefoot. After his attempt to force Godwin from power failed, a disempowered Edward turned to religion, becoming known as 'the Confessor. When he died without an heir in 1066, Godwin's son Harold took the throne with the approval of the nobles. Harold's reign would last only a few months, in which he defeated a major Norwegian invasion near York only to be defeated and killed by William, Duke of Normandy, at the Battle of Hastings. The Norman conquest marked a turning point; Britannia would not be successfully invaded again for over seven hundred years.
Normans and PlantagenetsEdit
Like Canute before him, William ruled as a Britannian Emperor in name and in fact. It would nevertheless take many years to bring his large and fractious realm to heel. The 'Britannian' population was concentrated in the south-east of the country, its culture a blend of Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian elements. Throughout the south and east of the country, the Anglo-Saxon element was dominant, as evidenced by the use of Anglo-Saxon names and a primarily Germanic language now known as Old Britannian; with a fair helping of Brythonic and Scandinavian loan words. There were also substantial hold-outs in which the Romano-British aspect was dominant; primarily Wales, but also Cornwall and Cumbria. To the north, in the Britannian territory of Northumbria, Scandinavian language and culture played a greater role than in the south. Further north, the lands beyond the river Tweed were dominated by the indigenous Picts, though Irish-derived Gaels were spreading north up the west coast. These peoples had all accepted the Britannian allegience to a greater or lesser extent, but this did not prevent them from harbouring ambitions of their own. The success of the Norman Emperors in maintaining control lay in two major institutions; the Church and the Village system. The Catholic Church was very much the unifying institution of Medieval Europe as a whole, reaching from the smallest village to the greatest city in its scope. It was also responsible for much of the administrative machinery. The Church, the monasteries in particular, provided a place in which the cultures of Britannia could meet and mingle. Over time this blending would spread to encompass the country as a whole.
The Village system was not invented by the Normans, but it was perpetuated by them to cover the whole of Britannia. The term refers to the Villeins, or Vills, who made up the bulk of each village's population. Though Emperor William abolished outright slavery, the majority of all peasants were Villeins. Essentially serfs, they were bound to the village in which they lived, unable to leave or marry without the Landlord's consent. It is a historical irony that these Norman Britannian villages would become the incubator of modern democracy, a development tied up in the relationship between Britannian peasants and their Norman rulers. Unlike the Britannian landlords they supplanted, Norman knights were largely uninterested in actually governing their manors. With their landlords almost constantly absent, it was necessary for peasants to manage their own affairs. It became common practice for peasants to elect a leader from among themselves, whose task it was to manage the village and its lands; they eventually acquired the old Britannian title of Reeve. This system had two long term effects. One was to diffuse rebelliousness by giving peasants meaningful control over their daily lives. The other was, by the same token, to let them get used to the idea of running their own affairs. The former benefitted the ruling elite, while the other would come back to haunt it.
The Norman dynasty was replaced by the Plantagenet Dynasty in 1154, following a period of civil war known as 'the Anarchy'. The cause of the war was a succession conflict between Matilda, daughter of Emperor Henry I, and her cousin Stephen of Blois. Matilda fought with the help of her second husband, Geoffrey Count of Anjou; called 'Plantagenet' for the sprig of Common Broom he wore in his helmet. Though she was unable to defeat Stephen, Matilda ensured via the Treaty of Winchester that her son Henry would succeed Stephen. This he did in 1154, becoming Emperor Henry II. His patrimony was impressive indeed, including not only Britannia but his father's 'Angevin Empire', which consisted of half of France. Henry was a great reformer in his time, forging a coherent legal system out of a confused mixture of Britannian tradition and Norman edict. But he is primarily remembered for the death of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in Canterbury Cathedral supposedly on Henry's orders. Thomas' martyrdom and subsequent sainthood blocked Henry from making a series of extensive reforms to the Church, which included depriving it of its judicial powers. Much of the continental empire he inherited from his father was lost by his sons, though later Plantagenets managed to temporarily win it back.
The Plantagenet dynasty ruled Britannia from 1154 to 1485, being finally brought down by a period of internecine conflict remembered as the 'Wars of the Roses'; this came to an end in 1485, when Emperor Richard III met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field. His replacement as Emperor, Henry Tudor, was the first of what would prove a mighty dynasty. He was succeeded in 1491 by his son Henry VIII, whose long and tumultuous reign would see Britannia remove itself from the Roman Catholic Church. He in turn was succeeded by his son Edward VI in 1547, who is remembered primarily for his extreme Protestantism, and his attempt to remove his half-sisters from the succession in favor of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey. His death by tuberculosis in 1553 brought his half-sister Mary to the throne, who sought to reverse his religious reforms in favour of Roman Catholicism. It is for her ruthless brutality in this cause that she is remembered, perhaps unfairly. She was succeeded in 1558 by her half-sister Elizabeth, who in the course of her reign managed to stabilise Britannia and lead it to power and prosperity.
The Golden AgeEdit
The period known as the 'Golden Age' began with Elizabeth I, though its roots went back much further. It owed a great deal to a concentration of power around the throne that began with Henry VII, by which he sought to ensure that the Wars of the Roses could never happen again. The nobles were gradually stripped of their independent power bases; denied the right to own castles or maintain private retinues, and taxed heavily to deny them other options. To gain enough support and funding to keep the high aristocracy in check, both Henry VII and his son Henry VIII turned increasingly to Parliament, assembling the body repeatedly to seek votes of money. This would have the unforseen effect of accustoming its members to meeting, and allowing them to establish procedures and customs by which they would function. Few at the time foresaw the consequences.
Equally important was Elizabeth's marriage to Charles le Bretan, a Catholic noble and devotee of her half-sister Mary. The marriage took place under the shadow of Mary's failing health, as she and her supporters sought to cement her re-Catholicisation of Britannia. Once married, Charles sought to strengthen his position by getting Elizabeth pregnant. This he failed to do, leading to rumors both of his own impotence and that Elizabeth was using various underhand means to prevent pregnancy. He eventually succeeded in impregnating Elizabeth, but too late, for Mary died in November of 1558; Elizabeth was subsequently crowned Empress in her own right, with the pregnancy remaining unconfirmed until several weeks later.
Elizabeth gave birth to a healthy son in August of 1559, naming him Henry. Charles was permitted only once to see the child, and would have no part in his upbringing. Slighted and humiliated, Charles sought to avenge himself and gain the power he felt was his right by other means. However, he found little support among his fellow Catholic nobles, many of whom felt they could do his job much better themselves. Thomas Howard, Earl of Norfolk, is said to have mockingly dubbed him the 'Duke of Britannia', referring both to his boasted descent from ancient Britannia and to the Ducal title he had received upon marrying Elizabeth. But the real contender for his place was Robert Dudley, Elizabeth's childhood friend and confidante, whom she favored with titles and postings in the Imperial household. When Elizabeth created him Earl of Leicester in August 1564, as part of Prince Henry's birthday celebrations, Charles could take no more. He staged an uprising in April of 1565, using forged Commissions of Array to illegally raise troops; only for the rising to fizzle when Thomas Howard, then Lord Lieutenant of Northumbria, ordered the soldiers to stand down. Charles was eventually killed while attempting to flee to Normandy. Despite his treason, Elizabeth showed mercy to his family by not attainting any of them.
Elizabeth's reign was for the most part a story of exaltant success. Under her reign Britannia saw off multiple foreign invasion attempts, of which the Spanish Armada of 1588 is the most famous, and rose to become a major maritime power, with multiple colonies in North America and the Carribbean islands. Britannia also managed to survive the religious turmoil gripping Europe, though Britannian Catholics endured popular mistrust and political discrimination that would last for more than two centuries. The threat of Catholic European powers also helped forment unity between Britannia's various Protestant sects, of which the largest were the middle-of-the-road Anglican Church of which Elizabeth was Head, and the more hardline Presbyterian Church that had caught on in the north. This unity would not last.
A lingering complication in Elizabeth's reign was her relationship with her son. Henry had inherited his mother's formidable intellect and his grandfather's hot blood; a dangerous combination at the best of times. Born in the year of her coronation, he would wait forty-five years to ascend the throne, a delay he endured with a remarkable grace and patience. But for all that, there was tension aplenty between mother and son, though not over any great difference of opinion, or any wrong that Elizabeth might have done Henry. As William Cecil once quipped, the dread lieth not in their enmity, but in their likeness. Mother and son were simply too similar to get along peacefully. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was broadly able to manage her brilliant and increasingly restless son, usually by the expedience of slowly expanding his responsibilities. The most significant of these was responsibility for overseeing the settling and maintenance of overseas colonies, a cause he pursued with great enthusiasm.
Henry took the throne on his mother's death in 1603, by which point he was already married and the father of three children. His wife and Empress was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James Stewart, Earl of Moray and a principal ally of his mother in the north. This was not the first time the Tudors had intermarried with the powerful Stuart family, who had risen to pre-eminence in the north over many centuries, but for a Stuart to become an Imperial consort was unprecedented. For the next two centuries Britannian Emperors would have both Tudor and Stuart blood in their veins.
Henry IX's reign is remembered primarily for colonial expansion. Under his rule Britannian colonies in North America and India were expanded, and a large-scale programme of colonisation begun in Ireland; this was known as the 'Plantation of Ulster'. North America was colonised in a series of individual efforts, led by a mixture of private individuals and companies. The most famous of these was the Virginia Company, which established Henrytown in 1604 as part of their Virginia colony. The success rate of these early colonies was mixed, but Henry's determination drove the project on, to the point of personally financing several Carribbean colonies. Experiments in the cultivation of cash crops such as sugar and tobacco proved highly profitable, providing the Crown with a lucrative source of income.
It is in this context that Henry's reign took a dark turn. One problem that had consistently dogged colonisation of the New World was a shortage of willing manpower. Europeans had been traveling to North America throughout his and his mother's reigns in a steady trickle; their number included religious minorities such as the Puritans, the latter best remembered for those who arrived in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Though some were willing to accept the authority of the Britannian Crown, they were not enough to meet Britannia's needs. During his mother's reign Henry had found two methods to be effective, and he expanded both during his own reign. One was to offer incentives, such as money or land; a policy Henry limited to would-be colonists with vital skills, due to the expense involved. The other was the enforced transportation of convicted criminals, a practice Henry would come to depend on. He greatly expanded the number of crimes punishable by transportation, until his laws were popularly known as the 'Sail Code'. The experience of these unfortunates depended on the severity of their crimes. Those convicted of lesser offences, such as theft or vagrancy, would step off the ships as free men, able to seek their own fortunes. Those found guilty of more serious crimes were sent as indentured labour, regarded even at the time as slavery by any other name.
These practices helped solve the initial problem, only to reveal another. In the economically crucial Carribbean colonies, tropical heat and disease killed European colonists faster than they could be replaced. The answer many plantation owners turned to, and picked up on by Henry, was the importing of slaves from Africa. This was already a widespread practice, and the Britannians found little difficulty in purchasing vast numbers of slaves from African rulers. Henry's approach to slavery derived from that of Ancient Rome; a slave was bound to his master, but could hold property, earn money, and eventually buy his freedom. Henry was remarkable in that he applied this policy to black slaves and white indentured labourers equally, at least within the Crown Colonies where his word was law. Nevertheless, the reality for an enslaved or indentured worker was unceasing labour and early death.
Crown and CommonwealthEdit
By the time Henry died in 1625, Britannia was a prosperous and powerful state, one of Europe's rising stars. But success concealed deep-rooted and festering divisions, both political and religious. As the threat of invasion receded, the unity of Britannian Protestantism began to break down as old divisions resurfaced. Though the Church of Britannia encompassed a broad majority, there existed a substantial and growing minority of more extreme Protestants, notably the Puritans. They rejected the religious settlement the Church of Britannia represented; its bishops, vestments,and ceremonies were a little too Catholic for their liking. Their ill-feeling was given greater vehemence by a regular stream of horror stories from Europe, itself in the grip of a series of conflicts that would come to be known as the Thirty Years War. Hard-line Protestants were outraged by reports of atrocities against their co-religionists, and infuriated by the unwillingness of Crown or Parliament to do anything about it. To many, the only possible answer was a Catholic conspiracy at the heart of government.
The ascension of Henry's son Edward to the throne in 1625 brought this conflict to the surface. Edward was different from his father and grandmother in many respects. A childhood spent caught in the middle between his parents and his formidable grandmother had bred in him a tendency to be charming, to tell others what they wanted to hear in order to extricate himself from hard choices. This could be useful at times, but it also gained him a reputation for being two-faced and untrustworthy. He had a horror of conflict, and recoiled from what he saw as the bigotry and intolerance of the hardliners, taking refuge in the colour and ritual of high-church Christianity. Worse in the eyes of the hardliners was his wife, the French Princess Henrietta Maria. Though she practiced her Catholicism only in private, she nevertheless became the obvious centre of anti-Catholic conspiracy theories.
The other centre of resistance to the Crown was Parliament, an insitution whose power had grown over the past century. By this point it was bicameral, with the nobility being represented in the House of Lords and everyone else being represented in the House of Commons. In practice, the Commons were represented by a relative minority of rural gentry, elected via a limited franchise system developed in the 13th century. It could only be summoned by the Emperor, and its primary purpose was to levy new taxes, granting the Crown revenue far in excess of what it could normally collect. The Commons had come to realise their importance over the years; the gentry in particular were the only ones with the authority and ability to collect new taxes at the local level. When combined with new religious and policial ideals rising from the Reformation and the Renaissance respectively, the Parliamentarians began to get ideas. These included the notion, radical at the time, that Parliament should meet continously whether the Emperor summoned it or not. Even more radical was the idea that the Emperor should be able to pass no new laws of any kind without Parliament's consent.
The stage was set for a clash of personalities and ideals, with tragic consequences for all concerned. Edward found himself faced with a Parliament that protested loyalty while barraging him with demands he found both unreasonable and insulting. These included the dismissal of many of his closest servants and allies, strict limits on his Empress' household and freedom of action, an end to his high church policies, and that he give up his Carribbean monopolies. The latter was particularly important, for it was the one thing allowing Edward to govern without Parliamentary taxes, as well as maintaining the guard regiments left to him by his father. Edward responded by dismissing Parliament in 1629 and ruling alone for eleven years. This brief period was ended by a religious crisis in 1637, when northern churchgoers reacted to Edward's new Prayer Book with riots. Northern Presbyterians formed a 'Covenant' in 1638, vowing to defend their religion and liberties with their lives if need be. In 1639 a Covenanter army marched south, defeated a hastily-assembled Imperial army at Newburn Ford, then attacked and occupied the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Without the funds to raise a large enough army to oppose the Covenanters, Edward was forced to summon Parliament in 1640. Parliament's response was to demand peace with the Covenanters, and on the Covenanters' terms. Edward had no choice but to concede.
Far from marking an end to the crisis, Parliament's apparent victory only made things worse. Convinced that Edward was plotting against them, Parliamentary leaders led by John Pym brought matters to a head by demanding the execution of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford; Edward's Lord Deputy in Ireland. When an attempted impeachment failed for lack of evidence, Pym resorted to an Act of Attainder, which needed less evidence but required the Emperor's seal. Edward initially refused, unwilling to destroy a loyal and capable servant on the basis of hearsay. His resistance confirmed all of Parliament's suspicions, while Parliament's determination to destroy Strafford confirmed all of Edward's prejudices in turn. In the end Strafford wrote to Edward asking him to sign the attainder, and condem him to death, for the unity of nation. Edward neither forgave nor forgot what he had been forced to do.
Strafford's execution in 1641 sparked off of a full-scale uprising in Ireland. The revolt began as a coup attempt by Catholic Irish gentry, such as Phelim O'Neill and Rory O'Moore; their goal was to gain control of Ireland and negotiate for religious toleration and legal equality between the native Irish, the Catholic 'Old Britannians' and the Protestant 'New Britannians.' The authorities in Dublin over-reacted, convinced that it heralded a general uprising by Catholic Irish against Protestant settlers. The brutality of their response merely widened the confrontation, and the prophecy became self-fulfilling as Catholic peasants attacked Protestant settlers; generally robbing and expelling them, in some cases killing them. The death toll is thought to have reached around twelve thousand, but Britannian pamphleteers put the number at anything up to two hundred thousand. The killings provoked a wave of hysteria throughout Britannia, and whatever calming effect had arisen from Strafford's execution was undone. Amid the hysteria arose old stories of indestructible men, and witches with mind-controlling powers. In January 1641, accompanied by a few hundred guardsmen, Edward attempted to arrest five Parliamentary leaders, only to discover that they had fled. Fearing for his and his family's lives, Edward fled the city and met up with his guard regiments, which Parliament had forbidden him to bring into London. Seeing no alternative, Edward raised the Imperial standard at Nottingham. The (First) Britannian Civil War had begun.
The First Britannian Civil WarEdit
The first two years of the war consisted of frantic efforts to recruit soldiers and secure equipment and supplies. Edward had his guards, but these numbered only a few thousand, while his only organised army would remain tied down in Ireland fighting the forces of the Irish Catholic Confederation until a truce was arranged in 1643. Also, while Edward enjoyed significant support from the rural population, most of the towns and cities sided with Parliament. This meant that although he was able to win battles in open field, he was unable to press home any advantage he happened to gain. This bought Parliament vital time to recruit, organise, and arm its forces, while their control of most of the Imperial navy helped prevent the Imperialists from bringing in outside supplies and reinforcements. The result was a stalemate, in which ground changed hands with the capture of those towns and other settlement that lacked the fortifications to withstand a siege; by the same token their owners tended to lose them as easily as they gained them. Though both armies grew stronger, the Imperial armies broadly retained the upper hand in the field until July of 1644, when they won a great victory at Marston Moor. This marked the end of a broad winning streak for the Imperialists.
The tribulations of the Parliamentarian cause saw the rise of one of the great names in Britannian history, Oliver Cromwell. A Puritan MP who had fought in the war from the beginning, Cromwell had no time for the endless squabbling of the Parliamentarian leadership. Unlike most of them, he understood that the Imperialists believed in an Imperial government and were willing to fight and die for it, giving them an advantage over the disunited Parlimentarian forces. His answer was to create an organised, professional army, with hardline Puritanism as its ideological glue. Cromwell first tested these ideas with his own regiment of cavalry, dubbed the 'Ironsides.' Combining the dash and valour of the Imperialist cavalry with iron discipline and religious fervour, they swept all before them. This approach was expanded to the entire army in 1645, when Parliament established the 'New Model Army', with Cromwell as second-in-command. The New Model saw its first major victory at Naseby, forcing Edward to retreat north while the New Model conquered Royalist territory in the south-west.
Naseby was a major blow for the Imperialists, but not a crippling one. Edward's army had been defeated, but by no means destroyed. With the New Model having retaken Leicester, and proving itself as capable in seige warfare as it was on the battlefield, Edward's only option was to head north, where he still held substantial territory. Setting himself up at York, Edward recieved news that James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, had defeated the Covenanters at the Battle of Kilsyth. Seeing an opportunity to secure the north for the crown, Edward marched north to Carlisle with as large an army as he could spare, pausing there to gather additional troops from Newcastle. His arrival was a disaster for the Covenanters, for it helped Montrose to convince his highland soldiers, who were motivated primarily by clan interests, to remain with him a while longer; if only to finally get paid. Edward and Montrose met near Selkirk, defeated a hurriedly-assembled Covenanter force that sought to oppose them, then marched north to besiege Edinburgh, which surrendered in return for pardons.
Despite this apparent success, all was not well with Edward. Though the north was all but secure, overall victory seemed as distant as before. He had spent a great deal of money paying Montrose's army for their trouble, though he had won their and their general's loyalty in the process, and although his truce with the Irish Confederates had held, they still demurred from pledging their full support. Meanwhile, Parliament was in effective control of southern Britannia. What historians have called the 'first period', or even the 'First Britannian Civil War' had come to an end. Before, the war had been characterised by what amounted to maurading and glorified gang-fights, interspersed with occasional pitched battles and sieges. Ordinary Britannians had endured misery beyond imagination; the burning of villages, the looting of towns, the theft of food and valuables, to say nothing of rape, mutilation, and murder. The second period was defined by consolidation, as both sides pulled their dispersed forces together into ever larger and better-organised armies, seeking the knock-out punch that would bring final victory.
In the south, this consolidation saw the rise of the New Model Army as a political force. With the rest of Parliament effectively sidelined, the New Model became a tool of Oliver Cromwell, as he sought to impose order on a fractured and demoralised country. Though Sir Thomas Fairfax was still officially in command, he lacked Cromwell's killer instinct for power and knack for politics, and in all but miltary matters he was himself sidelined. The New Model rapidly became a state within a state, and one with no interest in the relatively moderate politics of Parliament. The religious fervour instilled by Cromwell had flowered into political and religious radicalism, with groups such as the Levellers and the Fifth Monarchy Men enjoying a substantial presence. This tendency was further fired by the involvement of Puritan colonists returning from North America. Some were soldiers, but others like Hugh Peters were preachers, spreading a vision of an egalitarian and godly society in which Emperors, nobles, and bishops would have no place. For a growing number of the New Model, the war had become a crusade, in the pursuit of which almost any atrocity was permissable. After Naseby, the New Model soldiers had mutilated women in the Imperialist camp by slitting their noses, a traditional punishment for prostitution; such brutality became a hallmark of the New Model's campaigns. Though the Imperialists were far from innocent in that regard, it nevertheless horrified many Puritans, in whose name the war was supposedly being fought.
It is perhaps because of this that Edward began, in early 1646, to send out secret peace feelers to Parliament. These found willing ears in Sir Thomas Fairfax, and even in Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless, it took a bloody but inconclusive clash near Pontefract to make them act. In the early hours of March 5th 1646, Fairfax rode to parley with Edward while Cromwell remained in the camp. Both were accompanied by only a handful of followers, to avoid any possible of treachery. But treachery there would be, for a group of hardliners in the New Model's camp had become aware of the secret negotiations, and saw a chance to end the war once and for all. They followed Fairfax to the meeting place, and attacked both groups once the meeting was underway. Fairfax was killed, and Edward was shot in the neck, dying in the Imperial camp a few hours later.
Cromwell was outraged by the killing, and ordered the surviving assassins executed. The result was a mass mutiny, as Leveller soldiers sought to rescue the assassins. Cromwell managed to restore order, but he was forced to lead his army south away from Newark, lest the Imperial army take advantage of the situation. His fear was for the moment baseless, for news of the Emperor's death had plunged the Imperial camp into lamentation. As word of the murder spread, the Imperial army retreated north to York, where Edward's body would be temporarily interred. With most of the Imperial family in safe exile with Empress Henrietta, the only person in a position to take command was Edward's sister Elizabeth. Grief-stricken and enraged, Elizabeth rallied her brother's followers, haranguing them to destroy the traitors. With Cromwell retreating, and many Parliamentarian garrisons having declared for the Levellers, it must have seemed like an opportune moment. As it was, Cromwell managed to turn the tables on Elizabeth near Chesterfield, a victory owing as much to Elizabeth's rage as to Cromwell's considerable military skills. The defeat shocked Elizabeth out of her fury, as she retreated north to lick her wounds.
But the situation was still looking up for the Imperialists, for the murder of Edward had galvanised the Irish Confederates to pledge their support to the crown. Elizabeth was persuaded to wait while Ireland was stabilised, and for fresh troops to be shipped over to bolster her armies. However, she could not be persuaded to seek an alliance with Cromwell, whom she regarded as a traitor like all the others. The war would drag on for two more years, in which the Levellers were gradually crushed between Elizabeth and Cromwell. Cromwell met his final end at Worcester, leading his Ironsides in person, leaving the remaining Parlimentarian holdouts to Elizabeth's mercy. By 1649 the war was considered over, and Elizabeth had herself crowned as Empress Elizabeth II. This event raised eyebrows, for the rightful heir was Edward's young son Richard, then in the Netherlands with his mother and siblings. But Elizabeth had the loyalty of a large and battle-hardened army, and the country was in no mood to cause trouble over it.
The end of the war marked, for the moment, the end of Parliamentary ambitions. The ideals of constitutional government had been drowned in blood, and would remain hopelessly tainted for over a century. Parliament itself had been defeated and discredited, and over the following decades would find itself stripped of meaningful power. In a manner not dissimilar to her French opposite number, Louis XIV, Elizabeth established a network of Imperial officials right down to the county level, the beginnings of a modern civil service. Their task, amongst others, would be to collect such taxes as the sovereign decreed, when the sovereign decreed it, through the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Elizabeth used the funds provided by this new system to rebuild Britannia, and to reorganise her existing forces into a new Imperial Army and Navy. In this, her greatest challenge lay in how to create an officer corps both professional enough to perform effectively, yet immune to political or religious subversion. Elizabeth prioritised political reliability over professionalism, formalising the existing patronage pyramid to make herself the primary focus of loyalty and personal interest.
Elizabeth died in 1665, after a reign that was relatively successful yet doomed to be overshadowed. Once the fervour of her avenging crusade had petered out, she remained a respected rather than a beloved ruler. Her legacy lay in the widespread reconstruction she oversaw, and the machinery of absolute monarchy that would long outlive her. The political and religious fervour awakened by the civil war took a long time to die down, and Elizabeth's reign would see as many as a dozen brushfire uprisings. On the whole though, the Britannian people were tired both of war and ideology, having seen with their own eyes what such passions could wreak. The neutering of Parliament was no great tragedy for the majority of Britannians, for it had never really represented them anyway. The great and final tragedy of her reign was the Great Fire of London, which saw much of the city destroyed. Despite a long illness, Elizabeth insisted on going downriver by barge to oversee the firefighting efforts, while her nephew Prince Richard led the fight on the ground. The exertion may well have hastened her death.
The Glorious CenturyEdit
The reign of Emperor Richard IV had a less than stellar beginning. With St Paul's Cathedral having been destroyed, his coronation was a small-scale affair at his palace at Whitehall. But those attending saw that their new Emperor would be unlike anything they had recently seen. Richard possessed many of his father's virtues, but combined them with a smooth, elegant confidence that Edward had imitated only by dint of great effort. To many, it seemed as if the dark days of the civil war and Elizabeth's iron-fist were behind them, for the rightful Emperor was at last on the throne. To their surprise, Richard continued to acknowledge his late aunt as Empress, rather than the usurper she was and would always be in the eyes of his mother, Henrietta Maria. The fact that Elizabeth showed no indication of marrying throughout her reign may have given him the confidence to wait it out.
Like his father, Richard was a lover of art and beauty. His first act as Emperor was to commission a grand rebuilding of the ruined city of London, with a view to making it a metropolis on a par with Paris and Rome. The man he chose to oversee the project was Christopher Wren, who had been tasked with renovating St Paul's Cathedral before its destruction in the fire. Backed by Richard's authority and wealth, Wren rebuilt London on a completely new street plan; with broad avenues, new buildings in the classical style popular in Europe, and a new cathedral. It would prove a fitting capital for the newly-arisen Britannia. Richard also oversaw a great flourishing of Britannian civil society; made all the more remarkable by the defeat of Parliament. Richard effectively dismantled much of the secret security apparatus created by his aunt, regarding such repression as an expensive waste of time. When a group of his ministers pleaded with him to restore it, Richard expressed his true feeling in an angry tirade:
"What would you have me do, my lords? Shut up every mouth in the empire? Have you agents enough to identify them? Militia enough to arrest them? Justices enough to try them? The blatherings of tuppence-hapenny talking heads are not the concern of sovereigns."
Though Elizabeth II had done a great deal to rebuild Britannia, Richard knew that there was still much work to be done. As such, he hoped to maintain peace and stability for as long as possible. But Britannia's prosperity was increasingly dependent on trade with its overseas possessions, especially in North America, while the crown could not do without the income from the Carribbean colonies. With them came the former Portuguese colonies of Tangiers and the islands of Bombay, the dowry of Richard's new Empress Catherine of Braganza. Britannia already had Spain to contend with in the region, and the rising power of France was a further unwanted complication. Richard's advisors largely agreed that involvement in future wars was inevitable, but they disagreed on how best to go about it. Some called for a continental strategy, using a large army to support continental allies and constrain any power that might become dominant in Europe. Others called for a naval strategy, using warships and amphibious forces to protect and capture colonies. Fired by youthful ambition, Richard vowed to do both.
Richard's first war was the War of Devolution, a year-long confict in which he joined with Sweden and the United Provinces to oppose Louis XIV of France's ambitions in the Spanish Netherlands. This was followed by the Franco-Dutch war of 1672-78, in which Britannia fought alongside France and Sweden against Spain and the Dutch, amongst others. It was in this conflict that a certain John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, made a name for himself. This was followed in turn by the War of the League of Augsberg, running from 1688 to 1697. Richard proved himself a capable soldier in these wars, while military success gave Britannians a renewed national pride and confidence. The lustre of Richard's glory was nevertheless tarnished in February of 1692, when Imperial soldiers of the Earl of Argyll's regiment killed thirty-eight members of the Clan McDonald of Glencoe. Public outrage forced Richard to return to Britannia to head a full-scale investigation. The inquiry put the blame on John Dalrymple, Secretary of State for the North, who had orchestrated the massacre in an attempt to terrorise the fractious highland clans into obedience. It also established the legal principle that a soldier's obligation to obey orders was absolute, and that he could not be held legally accountable for said orders. This was mostly a well-meaning attempt by Richard to protect his soldiers, in whose wellbeing he took a sincere interest, from a invidious dilemma; obey and hang for murder, refuse and hang for insubordination.
Richard died in 1705. He is remembered primarily for his military exploits, along with the rebuilding of London and many Britannian towns and cities. Having had no children by Catherine, he was replaced on the throne by his nephew James. Emperor James I, like his uncle, is remembered mostly for his wars. He continued Britannian involvement in the War of Spanish Succession, which continued until 1714. Needing additional soldiers for his campaigns in North America, James expanded and reorganised the Militia; a paramilitary force established by Elizabeth to maintain order at the local level. Under James, the Militia became both a military reserve and an internal security force, organised at the county level and commanded by the Lord Lieutenant of each county; though in practice they were either controlled or at least influenced by the local gentry, who provided the officers. This new institution helped to resolve a long-standing complaint of the gentry, namely that they were powerless to protect themselves and maintain order without Imperial help. In practice, the Militia's duties tended to consist of police work, including the breaking up of riots. It did not go unnoticed that the most common color for Militia uniforms was red, the dye being cheaper than the Imperial Army's blue; red was also the color of the New Model Army, for the same reason.
James' military fortunes were varied, with the inconclusive War of Jenkins' Ear and a mediocre performance in the War of Austrian Succession contrasting with exaltant success in the Seven Years War. It was in the latter conflict that Britannia attained supremacy in North America, with the victory at the Plains of Abraham in September 1759. This victory, and the subsequent capture of Quebec, left Britannia in control of all of settled North America north of the Great Lakes, along with the entire east coast up to but not including the Florida peninsula; then a colony of Spain. Britannia had also established a trading presence in India, in the form of the three 'Presidency Towns' of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. When James died in 1761, he was the sovereign ruler of a truly global empire. He could not have foreseen its fate.
Absolute monarchy had brought Britannia stability, prosperity, and military glory. But the ideals of Parliamentary government had not completely disappeared. Elizabeth's victory had seen large numbers of parliamentarians and their sympathisers travel to North America, where the experience of Imperial rule was very different. American colonists had grown accustomed to a high level of autonomy from the Imperial metropole, necessitated by distance. Their loyalty was, at least in part, motivated by fear of their continental enemies; most notably the French and the Native tribes, against whom Britannian troops were needed to protect them. Puritanism had gone into abeyance over the 19th century, but it had nevertheless left its mark on the American consciousness. The arrival of so many parliamentarian refugees only served to strengthen sympathy for the 'Good Old Cause'; it was increasingly believed that Britannia had rejected what God had ordained, and that it was for America to take up the sword.
But those who would come to lead the revolution, later known as Washington's Rebellion, were of a different stripe. Products more of the Enlightenment than of the Reformation or the Renaissance, men like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson - to name but a few - were animated by new ideals. Being largely Deists, they rejected the idea of a 'Godly' society, preferring instead a secular society in which Church and State would be separate. They also tended to regard Parliament's defeat in the civil war to be a disaster, though opinions varied as the to the ultimate cause, and constructed many of their ideas for a new government on the basis of correcting Parliament's mistakes. They were also adherents of classical republicanism, holding selfless service to the state to be a citizen's highest duty and honour, in return for which he enjoyed a citizen's rights and privileges. In this they set themselves against the Versailles-influenced court culture developing in Britannia; a culture of extravagance, flattery, backbiting and influence-peddling, with the all-powerful Emperor at the centre of everything.
Ironically, Henry X was not a particularly tight fit for this view of contemporary elite culture. A curiously down-to-earth character, he acquired the nickname 'Gaffer Henry' for his hands-on approach to managing his various industrial and agricultural projects. Like those who would oppose him in America, Henry was a believer in the Enlightenment philosophy of 'Improvement'; that which could be improved, should be improved. Ironically it was his attempts to improve trans-atlantic trade, and enforce uniformity in taxation and administration between Britannia and her colonies, that would provoke rebellion. The 1765 Stamp Act brought taxation in the colonies into line with that of Britannia, which in practice meant imposing a series of completely new taxes while enforcing others that had been quietly neglected by the more considerate Imperial governors. This caused great anger among the colonists, who were reminded of the distinctly Parliamentarian notion that they could not, and should not, be taxed without their own consent. The situation was made worse by Henry's obstinancy; he was determined that the colonists should pay what he saw as their fair share towards the upkeep and security of the empire that protected and nurtured them. Matters reached a head in December of 1773, when citizens of the port of Boston, Massachusetts, boarded a merchant ship and threw its cargo of tea into the harbour in a protest against government taxation policies. Imperial authorities reacted by closing the harbour until the tea was paid for, and by expanding the powers of Imperial governors. Henceforth they could appoint or dismiss officials, appoint jurors, and restrict public assembly at will. These actions at a stroke dismantled the gradual liberalisation of civil society that had taken place under Richard IV and James I. Outraged colonists responded by forming a Continental Congress in September of 1774, to form a united front against Britannian tyranny. The stage was set for revolt.
The war started as a series of police actions, as Imperial troops attempted to disarm the colonists, of which the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775 are arguably the most significant. The Imperials discovered that while American militia could not stand against them in open field, they were not easily defeated when able to take advantage of buildings or difficult terrain. As a result, they quickly found that while they could maintain control of the towns, the countryside belonged to the rebels. By the same token, rebel forces were unable to oust Imperial troops from fortified positions, as they lacked heavy artillery. This problem may have spelled costly defeat for the rebels besieging Boston, had not Imperial commanders showed a distinct lack of flair. This was most apparent on June 17th 1775, when General William Howe blew an opportunity to outflank rebel forces on Breed's Hill in favour of a full frontal assault, winning at the price of heavy casualties and a major confidence boost for the rebels. It nevertheless took Benedict Arnold's capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and the transfer of its heavy guns, before newly-appointed General George Washington was able to capture Boston for the rebels. When the Britannian troops evacuated on March 17, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies fell under effective rebel control. Henry's response to these outrages was to order a full-scale deployment of warships and troops to North America. After landing near New York in August of 1776, Howe managed to defeat Washington at Long Island and then capture New York itself. Those rebels taken alive were housed on prison ships for the rest of the war, where more died of disease and neglect than all the war's battles put together. New York proved invaluable as a naval base, through which many tens of thousands of Britannian troops would arrive over the course of the war. Washington found himself on the back foot, and it was only through some skilful maneouvring, along with his famous winter crossing of the Delaware, that he was able to partially salvage the situation.
It was following these events that one of the strangest affairs in Britannian history took place. Faced with severe shortages of war materiel and funds, the Continental Congress dispatched Benjamin Franklin to France in December 1776; his mission was to advocate for the new American nation in Europe and secure military assistance against Britannia. Precisely what happened remains unclear, but Franklin suddenly ceased his activities a few weeks into his visit and disappeared. This happenstance was so unexpected that the Congress actually sent agents to France to ascertain what had become of him. Regardless of the circumstances, French supplies to the American rebels remained at a covert trickle, though several French army officers took part in the war as individuals; notable among them was Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who would play an important role in his country's own revolution. Other commissioners were sent in Franklin's place, but none were able to convince the French King, Louis XVI, to expand his role in the war. Without the troops and supplies it desperately needed, the rebellion was living on borrowed time. Meanwhile, as many as 100,000 Imperial troops served in the colonies, ensuring that Imperial commanders had the manpower both to engage rebel armies and secure territory.
It is testiment to Washington's abilities both as a military commander and as an inspirational leader that he was able to continue the struggle until 1781, when he was killed near Yorktown. It is for these qualities that, in spite of losing his revolution, future generations would regard Washington as a legendary figure, oft claimed (perhaps erroneously) as the man who came closest to defeating Britannia. Ironically enough, even the Britannians, up to and including Emperor Henry himself, would come to see Washington as a worthy adversary and would so honor him well after the war. Among those admirers, General Charles Cornwallis would prove to be one of the most dedicated; legend has it that, upon hearing Washington himself was leading the charge against Yorktown, Cornwallis took to the field personally to meet him. This in itself would come to mark Washington's final hour as, upon mounting his final charge with his remaining troops, Washington would live just long enough to break through the Imperial lines and throw his sword through Cornwallis' stomach. This act would soon become the ultimate symbol of defiance, especially amongst those opposed to Britannia.
Considering the rhetoric bandied-about on both sides, Britannian policy towards its defeated colonies was remarkably lenient. All members of the Continental Congress were marked for death, with some being captured and executed, some being killed while on the run, while others escaped abroad or vanished altogether. Several congress members, including John Adams, resurfaced in France, where they would play a role in events to come. Most of the surviving prisoners, both military and civilian, were released once the war was over. Britannian North America after the failed rebellion was nevertheless a very different country, and a very different society, to what it had been before. Numerous fortresses and smaller forts were constructed at strategic points throughout the territory, allowing a large garrison to be comfortably housed while controlling all but the most obscure transit routes. There was hardly a town that did not possess at least a fortified blockhouse, while roads and river infrastructure were improved to allow for the rapid movement of troops. But the effects of the defeat ran much deeper, into the psyches of the colonists themselves. Contemporary writers describe both a sullen passivity and a palpable sense of despair, ranging from those believing they had disappointed God by failing to fulfill his plan to others believing that their free society was just not meant to be. Several colonial governors reported a spate of suicides over the following years. But while some simply tried to get on with their lives, others had not had their fill of fighting. In this way the war arguably dragged on long after 1781, being reenacted and refought in a thousand and one small uprisings and clashes, fought for a thousand and one reasons.
Perhaps the most tragic figure of those times was Benjamin Franklin. The reason for his defection to the Imperials will likely never be known, but it would cost him dear. In 1782, as the rewards for the crushing of the rebellion were handed out, Franklin was granted the title of Earl of Warwick. When he attempted to refuse it, Emperor Henry told him "what you have started, sir, you will now finish!" His eventual, reluctant acceptance marked him, in the eyes of revolutionary and patriotic movements for centuries to come, as an arch-traitor. The target of many assassination plots, he spent much of what remained of his life on a country estate provided by Henry. There he gained a degree of consolation, and even rehabilitation, as a gentleman-scientist. He took a particular interest in electricity, and is regarded as the man who discovered the superconductive properties of Sakuradite, though his ability to test his discovery was limited by having no reliable source of electricty; most of his experiments could be conducted only during lightning storms. He was regularly visited during his self-imposed exile by a young woman who went by the name of Cecilia Cathcart; a woman described as possessed of extraordinary beauty, an unusually sharp mind and long green hair.
Age of RevolutionEdit
Washington's Rebellion may have ended in defeat, but it would cast a long shadow. The crushing of the American rebels caused a great deal of soul-searching among reform-minded Britannians. The forces of absolute monarchy and aristocracy were in the ascendant, and to some it seemed that a light of hope had been cruelly snuffed out. For the more conservative aristocrats, the victory was the vindication of all that they believed; reform was folly, revolution a blind alley, and resistance futile. This bred in them a profound arrogance, and a resistance to change, that would have dire consequences in the decades to come.
The year 1789 AD saw the breakout of Revolution in France, marked by Louis XVI's summoning of the Estates General in an attempt to remedy a severe financial crisis. An argument over whether the three 'Estates' should vote together (giving the more numerous Third Estate the advantage) or as blocs (allowing the First and Second Estates to outvote the Third) led to representatives of the Third Estate to form a 'National Assembly' in the Tennis Court at Versailles. This, and the crown's confused response, led to riots in Paris; culminating in the storming of the Bastille. Louis backed down, and was hailed as a constitutional monarch; meanwhile, the assembly proceeded to abolish feudalism and the Church's seigniorial rights, marking the beginning of a new society. But the failure of the new government to swiftly resolve the financial crisis, which was already exacerbating a severe famine, led to the growth of political radicalism. The King's attempts to oppose revolutionary change, combined with his attempted escape via Varennes, destroyed his credibility and set him on a path that ended in his execution in January of 1793.
In Britannia, there was little official response to these events. Aging, unwell, and possibly senile, Henry failed to react. His eldest daughter Elizabeth was declared Regent in 1793, her ascession facilitated by her control of the Imperial Guard corps. She was an effective administrator, and did much to improve Britain's financial situation. But her tight-fistedness did not make her popular, with the people or for that matter with the nobles. Realizing that her empire was in much the same position as France before the Revolution, Elizabeth took it upon herself to resolve one of the most glaring financial problems, namely that the nobles held much of the country's wealth yet paid no taxes. As their French counterparts had done, the nobles initially resisted her decree that they should pay taxes proportionate to their wealth and incomes. This time, however, the Officer Corps of the Imperial Army and Navy did not join in. They could not bring themselves to turn on their Empress in a time of war, who was in any case backed by the war-fever of the London mob, whose passions she ruthlessly manipulated. The nobles capitulated, and Elizabeth finally had the money she needed.
Despite this, her situation proved increasingly dire. Britannian troops had been deployed to Flanders as part of a coalition army under the overall command of Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield in 1793. But even without constant bickering from the allied commanders, the Britannian contingent was badly-supplied, poorly-organized and its performance less than stellar. By the time it was evacuated in Spring of 1795, it had lost more than 20,000 men over two years of fighting. The cause of this debacle was primarily incompetence on the part of officers at all levels, exacerbated by structural inefficiencies in the logistical system and the proprietary nature of Britannian regiments. Britannian infantry and cavalry officers were promoted using the Purchase System, in which a would-be officer purchased his commission from the crown, then rose to higher ranks by paying the difference between the price of his current commission and that of the rank above. The inevitable result was that the monied rose above the talented, though the system had the redeeming feature of encouraging good behavior among officers; a 'cashiered' officer lost both his commission and the money invested in it.
A far worse problem was the vast pyramid of patronage of which purchase was an integral part. Even the technical services - the artillery, the engineers, and the Imperial Navy - were not immune, despite a promotion system based on seniority and the passing of grueling exams. Unlike its French counterpart, the Britannian aristocracy was too small to completely dominate the officer corps. It nevertheless controlled enough positions in the higher echelons of the armed forces and the civil service to enjoy effective control of the patronage pyramid; they were in a position to decide who could rise to their level. This was made easier by the fact that so many of the gentry who made up the bulk of the officer corps were the spare sons of nobles, denied titles or lands by strict primogeniture. The overall result was factions and infighting within the officer corps, a game which even the most professional and loyal officers were forced to play if they desired advancement.
It was against this entrenched resistance that Elizabeth struggled, both as regent and later as Empress, when her father finally succumbed in November of 1799. In that same month, a French general by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte launched a military coup against the current French government, known as the Directory. Taking the title of First Consul, Bonaparte began reorganising the French administration, and preparing France's armies and fleets for war. This incident is widely regarded as the moment of the founding of the European Union, though at the time it was relatively easy for Bonaparte's enemies, Elizabeth III chief among them, to portray him as a tyrant. For the next seven years, Elizabeth would oppose Bonapartic France more consistently and forcefully than any other European power, but ultimately to no effect. The beginning of the end came on October 21,1805, when a Britannian fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson faced a combined French and Spanish fleet near Cape Trafalgar. A brilliant and much-loved commander, with a string of victories to his credit, Nelson was nevertheless undone by the same aristocratic infighting that would undo Empress Elizabeth; with whom he was rumoured to have had at least one intimate encounter in the course of his career. Precisely what happened remains unclear, but it is known from multiple accounts that several warships attempted to leave Nelson's battle-lines at a crucial moment. Speculations for the motive have ranged from a deliberate conspiracy against Nelson to mere self-preservation. Though the true outcome of the battle is debatable - both sides suffered comparable losses - it was the tragic death of Nelson that made it a French victory. His death caused an outpouring of public grief, which quickly turned to anger when word arose of how Nelson had been treacherously abandoned. The officer factions moved quickly to protect their members, and when HMS Cadmus returned to Portsmouth with its Captain and several officers missing, the entire crew was arraigned for mutiny. The supposed mutineers confessed to the murders, but pleaded that their intent was to prevent the ship being taken out of the battle line. Their testimony led to a public outcry, and Elizabeth personally intervened to acquit the defendants while having hundreds of officers arrested as part of her investigation. Outraged, many more officers resigned their commissions in protest, crippling the Imperial Navy at a crucial time.
Bonaparte smelled blood, and so accelerated his plans for invasion. His plans were nevertheless delayed for two years by a combination of bad weather and logistical complications; most notably unsuitable landing craft. The invasion finally took place in April of 1807, and was accompanied by the first large-scale use of air power in history. This was a force of balloons, commanded by Bonaparte's Chief Aeronaut Sophie Blanchard. Though she had dissuaded Bonaparte from his notion of using them to carry troops, their purpose was to gather intelligence and generally cause confusion. The balloons would have little direct influence on events, but they did succeed in spreading terror and confusion throughout southern Britannia, in part due to the popular belief that the balloons would indeed be carrying troops as Bonaparte had envisaged. By the time Elizabeth was able to gather enough information and bang enough heads together to organise a defence, around 20,000 French troops were ashore. By the time Bonaparte arrived to take command at the end of May, this number had risen to over 100,000. Ignoring the pleas of her physicians to rest, Elizabeth swung into action. She ordered militia battalions to join with regular forces at the major cities, whose governors were commanded to hold out as long as they could. Seeing that London was indefensible, she moved north to York, which the local authorities were working frantically to fortify. Her last, and most infamous, command before leaving London was that all livestock and crops south of York were to be carried away or destroyed; her very own 'scorched earth' order. In July of 1807 she headed north from York to Newcastle upon Tyne, where she met with Admiral Collingwood and oversaw the fortification of the city and the organising of the militia. In order to travel quickly she had left the bulk of her guards in York, taking with her only two regiments of horse guards. Under most circumstances this would have been more than adequate to ensure her security. After ordering Collingwood to gather ships and attack the French landing sites as soon as he was able, Elizabeth moved on to Berwick, and then to Edinburgh.
The Humiliation of EdinburghEdit
Elizabeth set herself up at Edinburgh Castle, intending to direct the assembly and training of the troops before heading south. News that the French had become bogged down in Norfolk gave her hope. But she found Edinburgh incompetently administered, with food in short supply and the military logistics hopelessly disorganized. As word spread of their Empress' arrival, citizens of Edinburgh began to gather outside the castle, calling for bread and relief of their poverty. The gathering was peaceful at first, but the Edinburgh Revolutionary Council, as one of the local political clubs now called itself, started agitating among the crowds. When the authorities tried to calm things down, the Revolutionaries unleashed their rank-and-file, a mixture of criminals, destitute weavers, dispossessed highlanders and other dregs of humanity they had snuck into the city over several weeks. Edinburgh was plunged into chaos, and Elizabeth found herself besieged in the castle, with supplies for only a few days and no way to call for help. The Revolutionaries attempted a bluff, persuading the despairing Empress that they were in control of the city, and that if she did not accede to their demands, then they would either storm the castle or leave its occupants to starve. Telling a tearful Sir Walter Scott "get going Sir Walter, I will not see you hang", Elizabeth signed both the abdication and an order for all troops to lay down their arms.
Buoyed by their unlikely victory, the Edinburgh Revolutionaries quickly sent word around the country, hoping to establish a revolutionary government as quickly as possible, and calling for the death of nobles and remaining members of the Imperial Family. Unfortunately for them, this would be met with mixed success; driven by bloodlust and insatiable hatred toward the Tudors, the Revolutionaries would focus the bulk of their efforts in exterminating the Imperial Family first and foremost. As Elizabeth's siblings and relatives were hunted down and slaughtered, one after the other, most of the nobility were able flee the Isles and head for North America, taking with them as much of their wealth as they could carry. Historians would sight this oversight as a critical piece toward Britannia's post-Edinburgh preservation and eventual resurrection as a great power. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh revolutionaries found themselves in a desperate situation. Far from rallying to their cause, the people were for the most part reacting with dismay. There was widespread desire for reform, but not for revolution, and especially not for the country to be decapitated with foreign invaders on its soil. These feelings were only strengthened by Bonaparte's reaction, which was to take ruthless advantage. He stormed north, isolating and crushing those northern towns and cities that chose to resist. As Bonaparte's troops marched on Newcastle, Admiral Collingwood ordered his fleet to escape north, but stayed behind to defend his native city; a gesture that would cost him his life. By the end of August 1807, Bonaparte's army was approaching Edinburgh, having done in just over a month what would have taken months or years against organized resistance.
It was at this time that Richard Le Bretan, otherwise known as Ricardo - an affectation he acquired from his Spanish mother - finally made his move. A long-standing courtier and loyalist of the Empress, and widely regarded as her lover, Richard was determined to save both her and the empire. Accompanied by his friend Sir Richard Hector and a minor order of chivalry calling itself the Knights of the Round, Ricardo managed to infiltrate Edinburgh Castle and smuggle the Empress and a handful of attendants out. By the time the revolutionaries realised what had happened, Ricardo and Elizabeth had reached Dundee and joined the Imperial fleet. A re-invigorated Elizabeth initially wanted to fight on from Ireland, but Ricardo pushed for them to sail across the Atlantic immediately, before Bonaparte thought to send ships after them. Ricardo's position was strengthened by news that the Irish government in Dublin had collapsed, with the Irish nobles fleeing on any ship they could find. Sorrowful, yet determined not to give in completely, Elizabeth gave the order to sail for America. For her and most of those with her, it was the last they would ever see of the British Isles.
As for Bonaparte, he could only watch in bewilderment as Britannia collapsed around him. Much of Britannia's ruling elite had fled, and what remained was swamped by a rising tide of chaos. Revolutionary mobs rampaged through town and countryside in search of nobles, Royalty and other 'enemies of the people'. They were opposed by a handful of remaining soldiers and militia, along with terrified townspeople and villagers who shouldered muskets and barricaded streets to defend their homes and property. It was increasingly apparent that only Bonaparte had the power to restore order, and in September of 1807, a deputation of surviving notables - a mixture of nobles, gentry, civic leaders, bishops, and military officers of one sort or another - asked him to do just that. Their leader was Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, in whom Bonaparte saw a future leader for Britannia. Not wanting to remain in Britannia any longer than necessary - lest his enemies elsewhere get ideas - Bonaparte persuaded Jenkinson to accept the temporary title of Regent, on the understanding that his position would be subject to democratic election as soon as practicable. Stationing just enough troops behind to help the Regent and his government restore order, Bonaparte returned to France, leaving the traumatized country in peace.
Igne Imperium Renovatur IntegraEdit
If the old Britannia's story had come to an end, the new Britannia's story was just beginning. From her temporary capital in Boston, Elizabeth worked to bring Britannian North America into line, though many problems were rapidly becoming apparent. Elizabeth had a substantial army at her disposal, numbering at around eighty thousand men, along with a much larger number of Militia. The former had changed since Washington's Rebellion, having lost its volunteer character and become more akin to a European Gendarmerie. Between army and Militia, Elizabeth may have had as many as two hundred thousand soldiers at her disposal, but this in itself was a problem. Though Ricardo had managed to bring some of the Imperial Treasury along with them, and the colonial authorities maintained their own stocks, Elizabeth simply did not have enough gold at her to pay all her soldiers. This was not an immediate problem, as the soldiers had gotten grimly accustomed to their pay being late, but it was not one she could afford to neglect for long. Elizabeth also had little in the way of a navy; the fleet that had brought her to America consisted of a half-dozen ships-of-the-line and a dozen frigates, while her colonial resources could provide only another dozen frigates and a few dozen smaller vessels. Major naval operations would not be on the cards for some time.
Elizabeth understood these problems, and sought for ways to get more gold. But although Britannian North America had been blessed with many riches, gold and silver were not among them, at least not in the amounts Elizabeth needed. Another problem was the arrival of so many nobles from Europe, many of whom had little but the clothes on their backs. Those with marketable skills were forced to take jobs otherwise beneath their dignity to make ends meet, and some even starved to death rather than seek or accept charity. Their presence also led to friction with the colonial population, with whom they had little in common besides allegience to Elizabeth. A culture war of sorts broke out between newcomers and colonists, as the nobles sought to recreate the world they had lost. Perhaps the most important battleground of this war was in education, as nobles found their way into high positions in schools and universities. Some nobles, especially noble women, established schools of their own, and found remarkably little shortage of parents seeking to add old-world refinement to their children's educations. But others, especially in the northernmost of the 'Old Thirteen' colonies, were less than pleased; seeing the gentrification of the economy, education and society as an assault on their culture. Despite their resistance, it was a culture war the aristocrats would eventually win.
As it was, only two real options for acquiring much-needed gold presented themselves. One was a massive expansion of trade, which had been all but curtailed by Bonaparte's domination of Europe; this would necessitate either peace with Bonaparte or somehow finding new and equally lucrative markets elsewhere. The second was territorial expansion, either into North America or against the Spanish and Portuguese territories in Central and South America and the Carribbean; or both. The choice was not an easy one; any kind of major territorial expansion would require such a commitment of resources as to make any plan to reconquer Europe a dead letter for generations. The Imperial court was split into factions over the issue, with many Britannian and ex-European nobles putting pressure on Elizabeth and her advisors to make an alliance with the Spanish and Portuguese and then liberate Europe with their help. They were opposed by a mixture of European and North American nobles and gentry who favoured a policy of North American expansion, with a heavy dose of Physiocracy; that is, the ideology that Britannia's true fount of prosperity was its agriculture. These 'Old World' and 'New World' factions squabbled for power and influence both within the court and outside of it, their rivalry growing all the more entrenched - and all the more violent - as Elizabeth's health worsened. Young hotheads of both factions fought with sword and dagger in the streets and alleys of Britannian cities, in scenes not out of place in the novels of Alexandre Dumas.
On October 18th, 1813, Empress Elizabeth III breathed her last, surrounded by her most senior courtiers. It is generally agreed that Ricardo was present, though opinion differs as to his reaction to Elizabeth's dying declaration that he should succeed her as Emperor. As it was, the declaration sent shockwaves through the court, and through the empire as a whole. Ricardo was widely respected, having proven himself as an administrator and undeclared Chancellor, but his personality and darker tendencies prevented him from being truly loved. What was more, he was being granted the crown over Elizabeth's surviving blood relatives. Though only a few very distant relations remained, this remained a serious breach in both tradition and practice. But for all that, it was soon clear that Ricardo would have the crown whether court and empire liked it or not. Backed by the Imperial Guard and his own court faction, Ricardo was in effective control in a matter of days, though the violence unleashed by his ascension would drag on for many months. Though both factions suffered, in the end the New World faction came out on top, as Ricardo revealed his long-term plan. In a presentation to the court, related to the people in a series of pamphlets titled Igne Imperium Renovatur Integra (Latin for "Through Fire, the Empire is Reborn Whole"), he outlined his plan for a magnificent new empire that would span an entire continent. He dazzled noble and colonist alike with the promise of fertile lands and untold riches, of an empire in which noble and commoner would live in harmony, for there would be plenty for all. Nobles climbed over one-another to offer treasure and sword-arm to the cause, while the Commoners flocked to donate what little money they had, or to swell Britannia's armies.
In 1814, in what would later be called the First Expansionary War, Ricardo unleashed his armies against French Louisiana. The process of conquering and consolidating the territory, which was almost as large as Britannia itself, would take over ten years. Distracted by the work of consolidating his own European empire, Bonaparte's reaction was muted. His fleets and armies were considerable, but a full-scale war against Britannia would require moving tens or hundreds of thousands of soldiers across the Atlantic, a logistical feat beyond imagination at the time. The conquest was a resounding success, giving Britannia a much needed confidence boost while adding vast new territories to the empire. French colonists and native Americans in the new territory faced a stark choice; accept the Britannian allegience, or become second-class citizens in their own homeland. The majority of the French colonists did the former, as did many native tribes. Those who did not, notably the Comanche, would remain a thorn in Britannia's side for many decades. But by far the greater threat was the Mexican Empire, a substantial chunk of the former Spanish Empire that had achieved independence in 1821. Seeing an opportunity to balance Britannia's rising power in North America, Bonaparte recognised the new state and opened trade links with it, a state of affairs that continued even when Agustin de Iturbide was named Emperor in 1822. European trade brought Mexico much needed wealth, allowing Agustin to stabilise his regime and fund a powerful army. Britannians, needless to say, did not take this well. Mexico was widely seen both as a strategic threat in its own right and a European proxy, a potential springboard for full-scale invasion.
Riding high on the prestige of conquest, and the great wealth that Britannia had gained, Ricardo resisted the siren call of war. He spent the rest of his reign consolidating what he had gained, organising the land into a vast new peerage. The former colonies and new territories were reorganised into a series of duchies and grand duchies, which were in turn divided into smaller territories in turn. The main exception to this system was those territories held by the Emperor personally, which were known as 'Providences'. This in practice included any town or city possessing an Imperial charter. The other notable exception were the 'marches', a term referring to territories judged so dangerous as to warrant military control. These included the Mexican border and so-called 'Indian country', where Native Americans still lived in significant numbers outside of Imperial control. The dukes and grand dukes were the most significant nobles in this new system, for they held not only feudal rights over their territories, but the formal legal powers of the former colonial governors. This helped to bind the nobles to the crown, but the temptations of such power would prove an ever-present threat. The most common issue at the time was over so-called 'livery and maintenance', namely whether or not nobles should have the right to maintain armed retinues. This was one issue that Ricardo could not silence with words. For some nobles it was merely a question of aristocratic dignity, but for others it ran far deeper; they had seen their homes, their countries, and their very civilisation destroyed by riotous commoners, and were determined not to be so helpless again. With the nobles providing the bulk of the army and navy's officers, and the Imperial Guard cuirassiers being made up entirely of nobles, this issue marked the beginning of a power struggle between aristocracy and crown; what one historian described as 'patrician' and 'praetorian' factions. Ricardo, desperate not to see his nascent empire tear itself apart, conceded the point. It was a decision that would haunt his descendants.
When Ricardo died in 1834, his empire was prosperous and reasonably stable. His own family was the exact opposite. In an extraordinary move, Ricardo had broken with centuries of custom and law and granted himself and his descendants the right to marry multiple wives. Under this arrangement, perhaps inspired by the practices of the Ottoman Sultans, any child of his by any wife would be considered legitimate and Royal, with the right to inherit the throne. This move was deeply controversial, but Ricardo was riding high on the prestige of the First Expansionary War, and it passed with little or no overt resistance. This new approach allowed Ricardo to cement ties with powerful noble families, but it also granted him a bevy of Royal children, of whom only the most capable need ascede to the thone. The inevitable and tragic side-effect was a court riven with intrigue, as Ricardo's consorts squabbled for prestige and influence, both for themselves and for their children. In a pattern that would repeat itself in later centuries, the contest became dominated by a handful of likely candidates, while other less capable or merely less confident princes and princesses formed into factions around them, along with any number of nobles and other interested parties. Ricardo's death, and the struggle for the throne that followed, laid down the rules and practicalities of the contests to come. The winner, Crown Prince Maximiian el Britannia, secured his position with the support of the Imperial Guard, the officer corps of the Imperial army, and a majority of the Grand Dukes. His is considered one of the least bloody accessions in Britannia's recent history.
Emperor Maximilian is remembered primarily as the Emperor who conquered Mexico, though he began his reign with a series of much smaller campaigns against EU possessions in the Carribbean Islands. The growing Imperial Navy excelled itself in this theatre, winning a major victory over a French fleet at the Battle of Guadeloupe. The Imperial Marine Corps also won fame, especially in the conquest of Cuba. These victories marked the end of European influence in North and Central America, with the EU turning its attentions elsewhere in subsequent decades. They also proved invaluable to Maximilian, whose reign would never be popular for anything else. Beholden as he was to the nobles who had backed his accession, Maximilian was regarded by many ordinary Britannians as distant and uncaring, more concerned for the needs of nobles than for their interests. That being said, as history had already proven so many times and would again, military glory could cover a multitude of sins. But with the Carribbean under control and no other enemies within easy reach, Maximilian's only option for further glory was Mexico. Fortunately for him, he already had a pretext for war. Agustin had been overthrown in a popular revolt in 1833, with General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna taking his place as Emperor Antonio. Though charismatic and much loved in Mexico, Antonio was portrayed in Britannia as a dangerous usurper and warmonger. Maximilian's chance finally came in 1836, when the State of Coahuila y Tejas seceded from Mexico. Citing a need to protect Britannian settlers from Mexican tyranny, Maximilian declared war.
Despite being effectively over in less than three years, the Mexican war would cast a long shadow. Mexico was at a clear but not necessarily insurmountable disadvantage in terms of numbers and material, though its lack of naval strength would prove a serious problem. The Mexican cause was not helped by Antonio's insistence on commanding in the field in the first year of the war. Though reasonably competent in the strategic context, his lack of tactical flair contributed to Mexican defeats in Coahuila y Tejas and Sonora. By the end of the first year, Britannia was in effective control of Las Californias, Sonora, and Coahuila y Tejas, and poised to march further south. Britannia's Carribbean fleet blockaded Mexico's east coast ports, though it would be many months before an Imperial task force could sail around Cape Horn and blockade the western ports. Mexican troops fought bravely and well, despite regular supply shortages and widespread desertion by conscripted peasants. Their fight was made all the harder by the Imperial Rangers, led in Mexico by General George Marion, who was, most ironically, a descendent of the former Continental Army's legendary General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion. Armed with rifles and equipped with the new cylindro-conoidal bullet, the Rangers were all but unbeatable in combat; while their raids on Mexican supply lines greatly complicated Mexican efforts. Conventional Mexican resistance came to an end in September of 1839, when Mexico City fell after a heroic defense. Antonio was stripped of his crown, but allowed to live out his life in comfortable retirement. Many upper-class Mexicans pledged allegience to Britannia, recieving titles and lands in return. The spring and summer of 1840 actually saw a spate of weddings, as young officers married the daughters of well-to-do Mexican families. For the elite, the process of assimilation had begun.
But for the rest of Mexico, the ending would be nothing like as happy. The bulk of the Mexican population at the time were rural peasants, living in what amounted to serfdom on hacienda estates; much as they had done under Spanish rule. Apathetic and largely illiterate, the peasantry did little to help or hinder the Britannian invaders, even as it became obvious that they had no intention of leaving. Their situation would continue under Britannian rule, with Mexican peons working under the same conditions, on the same haciendas, in many cases for the same landlords as before. Perhaps Britannia's greatest mistake was in failing to take advantage of their apathy to cement their control. Though appreciative of Mexico's relatively sophisticated urban culture, Britannian officers and nobles cared little for the peasants; one officer described them as 'worse than Injuns, but less violent.' As such, they thought little of using violence to bring recalcitrant peasants into line, and turned a blind eye to crimes committed by their soldiers.
Riled by this treatment, many peasants joined the guerilla, the little war, against the Britannians. In most of Mexico the Britannian response was an escalating cycle of brutality, which included the burning of villages, taking hostages and reprisal killings. The exception to this rule was George Marion, whose rangers had far more success in hunting rebels and bandits than other units. His policy rejected reprisal in favor of using rangers to hunt rebel forces on their own turf, as well as the creation of a rural militia to maintain security. Made up in part of captured bandits - for whom the alternative was the firing squad - this force came to be known as the Rurales. Marion eventually persuaded Maximilian to back his policy in 1846, but only after having defeated and killed one of his political opponents, a certain General Franklin Pierce, in a duel. Even then, military control of the former rebel territories would not end until 1855, a success Maximilian would not live to see. Outraged by his refusal to punish Marion, relatives of Franklin Pierce assassinated Maximilian in 1848; the entire family was wiped out in retaliation. Maximilian was the first post-Bonapartic emperor to be assassinated. He would not be the last.
The Second Britannian Civil WarEdit
To all outward appearances, Britannia in the mid-1800s was going from strength to strength. Its territory now stretched from the Arctic Circle to Panama, and from ocean to ocean; though substantial areas were only sparsely inhabited. It enjoyed a growing population, both through natural growth and immigration, and wealth beyond imagination. Its urban life grew ever more sophisticated, enriched by a blending of primarly European high cultures. Other towns and cities were centres of industry, their foundries and factories fed by an ever-expanding network of railroads. Britannia's aristocrats lived in a splendour not seen since before the French Revolution, while a rising middle class of merchants and professionals enriched Britannia as they enriched themselves.
But there were rumblings under the surface, as Britannians of all classes disagreed on how best to lead the country onward; and even on what it meant to be a Britannian. The aristocracy itself was divided, both politically and culturally. The southern aristocracy based their wealth on agriculture, and their self-image on their position as landowners. They held most strongly to the chivalric ideals that had spread through Britannia since Ricardo's time, and were most likely to oppose social change. Their northern counterparts, for whom agriculture was not such a reliable source of wealth, had sought other ways to enrich themselves. They turned increasingly to science and industry, investing their money in the ever-spreading factories and railroads, developing industrial projects within their territories, and even becoming involved in the running of such projects. For more conservative nobles this was a travesty, an abandonment of what it meant to be an aristocrat. Nobles found guilty of the sin of commerce could find themselves stripped of their status and titles by a jury of their peers. This fed into the geographic split between industrial north and agrarian south, as nobles sought friendly company in which to pursue their interests.
The best that can be said for Alec la Britannia, 91st Emperor, was that he kept the peace in a difficult time. At worst, he merely staved off the inevitable. His reign was comparatively brief, lasting only ten years from 1848 to 1858. Another son of Emperor Ricardo, Alec was very much a compromise candidate, settled-on by the Imperial family in order to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed that had accompanied his brother Maximilian's ascession. Alec has often been labeled the 'Britannian Claudius,' an unassuming figure who endured obscurity in return for a quiet life. There is nevertheless good reason to argue that he was quite aware of the growing rift within Britannian society, and that he understood its nature better than most of his relatives. His great failure lay in the profound naivete, or pehaps cynicism, with which he attempted to resolve it. Alec acquired himself the nickname 'Nine Parts' because of one of his best-remembered sayings; that rulership was one part ideology and nine parts economic policy. Though valid in more tranquil times, it betrayed either a failure to understand, or a high-handed dismissal of, the depth of feeling on both sides. The conflict between northern and southern nobles was intimately connected to a much wider issue; that of slavery. Slavery was the linchpin not only of the southern economy, but of its very way of life. But abolitionist sentiment had long been spreading in the north, feeding into a cultural and ideological conflict that reached from the highest to the lowest levels of Britannian society.
The conflict came to boiling point in 1858, when Alec died following a stroke. The shock of his death threw the court into chaos, and within days royal blood would be shed. The first to die was Duncan la Britannia, the darling of the chivalric class and favored candidate of the south. He was followed only days later by his main rival, Joshua sui Britannia, the north's favored candidate; murdered by one of Duncan's supporters. Southerners in particular were outraged by Duncan's murder, seeing it as evidence of a conspiracy against their interests. Their anger only deepened when Minister of War Jefferson Davis, Grand Duke of Virginia, was arraigned before the House of Lords on charges of treasonous conspiracy, misappropriation of state funds, and Joshua's murder. The collapse of the trial after one week did little to calm the situation.
Within the court the conflict was bloody but brief, as Alec's former councillors worked desperately to bring the feuding royal families together and work out a compromise. The obvious candidate was Victor el Britannia, Maximillian's own son, who was only thirteen years old. His mother Theresa lobbied hard to be named as Regent, but found herself opposed not only by her rival consorts, but the House of Lords itself. Their preferred candidate was none other than Jefferson Davis, riding high on a wave of sympathy following his trial. The thought of Davis as Regent horrified northerners, especially abolitionists, who feared that he would use the sovereign power to enforce pro-slavery laws. The council stalled, but could not sufficiently dent Davis' support in the lords, while northern nobles and politicians made it clear that they would not tolerate a Davis regency. The only alternative was Princess Louisa li Britannia and her common-born husband, Abraham Lincoln.
Emperor Abraham li Britannia, 92nd Emperor, has to be the unlikeliest Emperor in all of Britannian history. Born to a poor family in the Duchy of Benedict, Abraham made a name for himself as a self-taught lawyer with a gift for oratory. It was in this capacity that he drew the attention of the Grand Duke of Exeter, who recruited Abraham onto his legal team. This move brought him wealth and success, but was as nothing compared to the turn his life would take in 1839, when he first met the Grand Duke's most important business partner. Princess Louisa was something of a nobody in the Imperial family, a lesser princess with little hope of the throne, who alternated between pursuing the cause of abolition and enjoying the high life; both funded by a substantial land portfolio. Louisa regularly made use of Abraham's services, and at first their relationship appeared to be purely professional. But at some point they did the unthinkable; they fell in love. Their marriage scandalized the court, but attracted little attention outside of it. The couple might have lived out their lives in luxurious obscurity if not for the 1858 succession crisis.
Abraham and Louisa were crowned Emperor and Empress in the autumn of 1858. Though popular reaction was mixed, the aristocracy reacted almost universally with horror and disgust. Most noticeable by her apparent lack of reaction was Theresa, who had been denied her place as Dowager Empress; though she doubtless planned to rid herself of the new co-sovereigns as soon as her son was of age. To their credit, Abraham and Louisa worked hard to seal the breach between north and south, but ultimately to little effect. The accession of a known abolitionist and a commoner was more than the southern lords could bear. In 1860, a group of southern aristocrats and knights put their names to an undertaking to overthrow their unwanted sovereigns by force. In a public declaration on December 20th, the so-called Confederate Lords denounced Abraham and Louisa as false, proclaimed their loyalty to Victor as the true Emperor, and declared their intention to defend their rights and property by force. Nobles and knights flocked to join them from all over the empire, including the north. By the time hostilities actually broke out in April of 1861, the Confederate Lords' territory included the Duchies of South Carolina, North Carolina, Jackson, New Wales, Birmingham, Zetland and Memphis, as well as the Grand Duchies of Virginia, Georgia, Houston and Lyonesse alongside the Mexican territories. The Dukes of Springfield and Benedict attempted to align their territories with the Confederate Lords, only to be overthrown and forced to flee by loyalist nobles.
And so, on February 4, 1861, the Britannian Confederacy (or alternately the Confederate States) was formed. Though Jefferson Davis, now Chancellor of the newborn nation, served as its de facto ruler, the Confederate Lords recognized Victor - in spite of his remaining in the north - as the de jure monarch, to the point of "crowning" him as the Confederacy's "Emperor". This in itself was more of a public declaration of the Confederate Lords' true intent: to conquer the north and reunify the country into a New Britannian Empire, one built upon the empire's "true" values. Further emphasizing this intent, the Confederacy adopted a modified Imperial flag as its banner - one that replaced the original coat of arms with a blue and red checkered, white and gold outlined escutcheon that held the Britannian serpent (the symbol of rebirth in Britannian heraldy) over a crossing set of gold chains (the symbol of unity) and an inverted sword (the symbol of resistance) emblazoned upon its center. This flag, in turn, would become renowned by later generations as the Southern Cross.
To those in the know, Abraham and his government faced an impossible challenge. Of an army officially numbering forty thousand, just under thirty-thousand were available for service; the rest were either lost to desertion or trapped in Imperial forts and bases inside Confederate territory. Even worse, the navy's Carribbean fleet based at Mobile declared for the rebels, and several Imperial warships mutinied and headed south. As a result, the Imperial navy's strength of sixty modern steam ironclads and eighty-six steam frigates was reduced to only thirty-four and forty-nine respectively. Despite the jingoism of the northern press and public, Abraham quickly realised that the coming war would not be a short one, and made his plans accordingly. His first General Order of the war was for the raising of new regiments, with junior regiments being split to provide trained cadres. Northern nobles pledged their retinues, which were incorporated into the Imperial forces under these provisions. It would nevertheless take many months to mould these disparate forces into a unified army.
The Confederate Army that opposed Abraham was a colorful affair indeed. The bulk of its strength in 1861 was made up of noble retinues the larger forming their own regiments while the smaller were combined together. They varied considerably in their appearance and equipment, with some regiments turning up dressed as medieval men-at-arms (or so their employers imagined), or in uniforms that would not have looked out of place in Versailles or Sanssouci. The rest were volunteers, hurriedly raised in the early months of 1861. Perhaps the most colourful, and controversial, units of the Confederate army were the knightly orders. Made up of nobles and knights, the orders rode into battle dressed in chainmail and plate armour, charging with couched lance. This phenomenon can be explained in part as an expression of the Confederacy's chivalric ideals, but it also represented something much deeper and more painful. It was in many respects a desperate lashing out against the encroachment of modernity, an anguished yearning to prove that the knightly ways of old could prevail against modern industrial warfare. They were at times able to pull off upsets, such as at First Bull Run and Chancellorsville; however they tended to suffer against Imperial firepower.
The war began with an Imperial attempt to invade Virginia in July of 1861. Its target was Richmond, Virginia's foremost city and the seat of the Confederate government, along with the vital Tredegar Ironworks and the naval base at Hampton Roads to the south-east. The campaign came to a sudden and violent end as the Imperial army attempted to cross the Bull Run river near Manassass Junction, in the face of Confederate opposition. This was the first major battle of the war, and set the tone of much that was to follow. Both armies deployed and fought in the Napoleonic fashion, with battalions arranged in thin lines, screened by clouds of skirmishers. Despite the efforts of reformers, this was the only way of battle the majority of Britannian officers knew, and their stubborn adherence to it would cost many lives.
The root of the problem was that this doctrine was designed for the muzzle-loading flintlock musket, which could manage only three or four shots a minute on average. Imperial infantry were armed primarily with the new Springfield rifle, a breech-loading bolt-action rifle developed from examples of Johann von Dreyse's Zündnadelgewehr; acquired from Europe in the 1850s. Years of tinkering had made the Springfield a far superior weapon, which in tests could manage as many as fifteen shots per minute. Reformist officers had spent years lobbying for changes in infantry tactics, but a combination of organizational inertia and stubborn pride confounded their efforts. At Bull Run the price of this short-sightedness was made brutally clear. Confederate infantry, who unlike their Imperial counterparts were often permitted to fire at will, inflicted terrible damage on the advancing Imperial troops. The advance collapsed when Confederate infantry counter-attacked, accompanied by a charge by three Confederate knightly orders; the Southern Cross, the Golden Wreath and the Grey Shield. A complete rout was prevented only by the intervention of the Imperial Guard brigade, which following normal practice had been kept in reserve.
Imperial forces would have little more luck on the sea than on the land. Outraged by the defections and fearful of what the Confederacy might do with so many modern ironclads, many Imperial admirals pushed for an all-out attack; to crush the rebel fleet while the Imperials still had a numerical advantage. The result was a full-scale naval battle near Hampton Roads, with both sides deploying all of their available ironclads and most of their steam frigates. Far from the decisive victory the Imperials hoped for, the battle proved a tactical draw. The armor of the ironclads proved too much for their own weapons, with many captains resorting to firing shrapnel over the enemy decks on the hope of killing the crews. While several frigates were sunk, and many of the ironclads damaged, no ironclads were sunk or captured, and the Confederate fleet was able to escape south to fight another day. The one comfort of the day was that the Imperial fleet was able to blockade Hampton Roads, a major port and one of only two Confederate shipyards - the other being Mobile - capable of building large ironclads. For all that, the Confederate fleet was free to roam the high seas, attacking Imperial shipping while shielding its own from Imperial interference. Sea trade was vital to Confederate survival, as Confederate agents were even then sourcing and purchasing weapons from European arms manufacturers, while President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte - nephew to the EU's first President - turned a blind eye.
On land, Imperial fortunes took a turn for the better in 1862, as Imperial armies grew ever larger. A Confederate advance was halted at Shiloh in April, giving the Imperial cause a much-needed confidence boost. In the east, Imperial forces laid an ambitious plan to land George McClellan's Army of the Potomac on the Virginia peninsula, allowing it to bypass the Confederate defenses and attack Richmond. The plan was initially successful, but complicated by one of the most famous events of the entire war. For in March of 1862 the Confederates, hoping to break the Imperial blockade of Hampton Roads, had unleashed their latest warship. The CSS Virginia was ground-breaking in many respects, with an all-steel hull, sloped casemate superstructure and the most powerful guns ever fitted to a warship at the time of her launch. Imperial admirals were aware of her existence, but did not believe the Confederates would risk it under such circumstances. On her first foray, the Virginia sank the ironclads Emperor Ricardo and Emperor Maximilian, and damaged several others before ammunition shortage - a consequence of its hasty deployment - forced it to withdraw. Shocked by this, the Imperial Navy was forced to deploy its own newest warship, the HMS Monitor. Monitor was a very different animal, being designed as a bombardment platform rather than a high-seas warship, with her guns - which were fewer in number than her intended opponent's but of larger size and rating - in a set of fully-armored turrets. When she finally faced Virginia on March 9th, her armor proved sufficient to resist the Virginia's guns, though her own guns were unable to do much damage. Heavier and slower due to her heavy turrets and lower draft, Monitor could not prevent Virginia from fleeing the battle. But the blockade was saved, and McClellan was able to advance up the Virginia peninsula; only to be halted in a series of clashes in late June, known as the Seven Days Battles. Virginia was able to escape the blockade in May, taking up temporary residence in Charleston.
Flushed with success, and with a new commander in the form of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Imperial territory, defeating Imperial armies at Second Bull Run and Chantilly. These successes left Lee in a position to advance further north into Maryland, which he did in September. In a strange incident, McClellan acquired Lee's campaign plans, found by Imperial soldiers wrapped around three cigars. McClellan went on the offensive, successfully taking the South Mountain passes from Confederate forces. These victories were in part due to new artillery tactics, developed by the artillery corps in response to tactical problem of the Springfield rifle, as well as the sheer number of the latest rifled guns McClellan had requisitioned for his army. The southern troops had neverless delayed McClellan long enough for Lee to gather his army near Sharpsburg. The battle that followed, named Antietam for the river alongside which it was fought, was one of the bloodiest of the entire war. McClellan's artillery provided effective support to the infantry, but a shortage of shells prevented it from performing as he wished. His attacks against the Confederate left and center were initially successful, but the attacking corps were not properly coordinated, and opportunities to decisively break Confederate resistance were missed. An attack further south, commanded by Ambrose Burnside, was initially successful, but failed for want of support. By the end of the day, the death toll ran into the tens of thousands on both sides, and McClellan was unable to prevent Lee from withdrawing south.
Antietam marked the end of McClellan's career, his failings as a commanding general having been exposed. His replacement was a reluctant Ambrose Burnside, in a large part due to the legend of 'Burnside's bridge' at Antietam. Taking the technical victory as divine providence, Abraham began drafting what history would name the Emancipation Edict, which he would issue on January 1st 1863; freeing all slaves held in rebel territories or owned by rebels. The bloodshed had nevertheless convinced him of the need for major military reforms, though it would be many months, and many hard battles, before these reforms bore fruit. Historians have tended to mark the Battle of Fredericksburg, fought in December of 1862, as the final turning point. Burnside's attempt to slip across the Rappahannock river in mid-November was stymied when the pontoon bridges he needed failed to arrive in time. By the time he was able to cross the river in force, at the town of Fredericksburg, Lee had managed to array his army along the heights overlooking the town. With the effectiveness of Imperial artillery reduced by low-lying mist, Imperial infantry were forced to advance into withering fire against Confederate infantry defending a stone wall lining a sunken lane. The Imperial Guard division won fame at Fredericksburg, its courage and sacrifice matched only by the Irish Brigade, and its reputation as a pack of pampered good-for-nothings finally scotched. That the guard included a disproportionate number of the most promising young officers and NCOs, for whom the guard acted as an informal fast-track system, made its losses all the more tragic.
Having lost around thirty thousand dead or wounded, a third of his army, Burnside was forced to withdraw. Fredericksburg was the last battle in which Britannian infantry fought in the Napoleonic style. Abraham used the slaughter as a pretext to force a new doctrine on the army, which essentially extended the practices of the Ranger Corps to the army as a whole. From then on, the infantry would advance in loose formation, and accurate individual fire was to be encouraged; practices already taking hold in the Confederate army. A disaster such as Fredericksburg could not go unpunished, and Burnside was replaced by Joseph Hooker in January of 1863. A far more aggressive commander than either of his predecessors, Hooker planned to bypass Fredericksburg to the West, near the town of Chancellorsville. In this he succeeded, only to hesitate on May 1st, for reasons that are not entirely clear. This bought Lee vital time to redeploy his army, leading to one of the war's bloodiest battles and arguably his greatest victories. The Battle of Chancellorsville nevertheless cost Lee one of his most trusted subordinates, Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, along with tens of thousands of casualties. But the victory presented an opportunity, and in June Lee led his army north into Pennsylvania. When the Imperial Army of the Potomac headed north to oppose him, Lee sought to concentrate his army on the high ground surrounding the town of Gettysburg. This he failed to do, in part due to resistance by dismounted Imperial cavalry, later supported by infantry. The Battle of Gettysburg would last for three days, culminating in a full-scale attack led by Major General George Pickett, for which the battle is mostly remembered. The mutual slaughter was made all the worse by the presence of Gatling guns; appearing for the first time in a major battle.
Gettysburg is widely regarded as the turning point in the civil war, from which the Confederacy would never recover. It coincided with the fall of Vicksburg, allowing Imperial troops to march further south and gain control of the entire Mississippi River, effectively cutting the Confederacy in two. These defeats also marked a shift in the psychology of the South, with previously suppressed divisions flaring into life. Ironically, the arguments over slavery took a back seat to much broader issues of identity. Many southerners believed that the war could be won only through the full and ruthless application of military technology, using firepower to overcome the South's nigh-insurmountable disadvantage in manpower. But others, especially knights, feared that this approach would cause Britannia to lose its soul even if the Confederacy won. Also, a defensive war based on firepower could only realistically result in a Confederate secession, putting an end to any hope of reuniting Britannia and restoring its 'true' values. They found themselves outvoted by the Southern public, in whom the slaughter and privations of war had bred a growing bitterness. Political infighting within the Confederate leadership would nevertheless weaken the Confederacy at this crucial time, and contribute to what to some seemed even then like its inevitable defeat.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Confederate military science also made its first appearance in 1863. Named for its inventor, who drowned during its second sinking, the submarine H.L. Hunley included some of Britannia's latest technologies. Most important among these was an electric engine powered by sakuradite, the largest and most powerful ever made. The sakuradite itself was largely imported from Japan, over the increasingly intemperate protests of Imperial ambassadors, at considerable expense. But the Hunley itself did not carry this engine, being only a prototype; instead she made do with a hand-cranked propeller. The project very nearly fell victim to the political and cultural conflicts of the Confederacy, aside from the difficulty many nobles had in grasping why they were paying for a ship that was designed to sink. Sent into combat in February of 1864, the Hunley managed to sink the Imperial sloop HMS Housatonic, only to be caught in the explosion and sunk itself. But the concept was proven, and given a moral boost by the Hunley's sacrifice. The Confederacy's second and third submarines, the CSS Kraken and CSS Scylla, showed what the new technology was capable of. Unlike the Hunley, both were equipped with experimental self-propelled torpedoes - also powered by sakuradite - which the Confederate Navy hoped would allow it to defeat the Imperial navy's newest battleships.
Their test soon came about in September of 1864. Despite Imperial successes on land, victory seemed as far away as ever. Ringed with larger and ever more elaborate earthworks, and defended by Gatling guns, Confederate cities had become all but impregnable. Command of all Imperial armies had by this time been given to Ulysses S. Grant, who already had a reputation for hard-nosed ruthlessness. He knew that Imperial control of the Mississippi meant little so long as the Confederates could ship supplies and men across the Gulf of Mexico and that the Confederate cities would never fall unless they could be isolated. The latter was to be solved by an amphibious invasion of Cane (formerly Cuba) - cutting off the bulk of the Confederacy's sea trade - followed by the recapture of all the other Hemingway islands (Caribbean). The initial attack, under the command of Vice Admiral David Farragut, consisted of the HMS Monitor, accompanied by two of the Imperial navy's new high-seas battleships, the Conqueror and the Dominator. The task force encountered the Confederate battleships Virginia and Houston in the Straits of Florida, forcing them to disengage after several hours of fighting. The Kraken and Scylla took no part in the battle, despite having been towed to Maxtown (Havana) only days earlier. The Monitor wrought terrible damage on the shore defenses with her batteries, leaving the way clear for landings near Maxtown.
It was only as the main force approached Cane that the Kraken and Scylla took action, targeting the vulnerable transports and their escorting ironclads. The first attack of the Kraken sunk the ironclad Warspite and a transport - the first successful torpedo attack in naval history - while the Scylla bypassed the escorts and sunk three additional transports. But the landings continued regardless, and Maxtown's defenders turned their attention to the Monitor. The Kraken attacked on September 15th, hitting the Monitor with two torpedoes. Though one failed to penetrate the Monitor's armor, the other struck the stern, disabling the rudder and propellers. Monitor responded with a desperate fusillade along the torpedoes' vector, and by cruel chance hit and sunk the Kraken. A desperate attack by the Confederate fleet on September 30th ended in failure, with the Virginia, Houston and seven ironclads sunk, compared to two ironclads on the Imperial side. Maxtown surrendered the next day, as did the crew of the Scylla not long after, thus effectively securing Cane within a week. The remaining Hemingway islands followed over the coming month.
The fall of Cane led to a decisive split within the Confederate leadership. Several southern nobles and politicians, having concluded that the eastern territories were lost, fled to the Mexican territories while there was still time. This did not seriously alter the outcome of the war, but it arguably hastened the Confederacy's looming defeat. Grant spent the first months of 1865 isolating Confederate strong points and fighting-off Confederate counter-attacks. The fall of Petersburg in April led in turn to the surrender of Richmond, and Lee was forced to surrender his army at Appomattox on April 11th. What remained of the Confederacy's eastern territories fell to Imperial forces within a few months.
In an attempt to stir up support among ordinary Mexicans and gain international recognition, as well as potentially end the war with some semblance of their original values, the remaining Confederate Lords declared themselves the new Mexican Empire, with Alexander Stephens, former Grand Duke of Georgia, being hastily crowned as Emperor Alexander. The only real change this brought on the international stage, however, was for the Tokugawa Shogunate to finally bow to Imperial requests and end sakuradite sales, while all attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Britannia were bluntly rejected. Much more, Abraham himself declaring the war would not end until "the last traitor is dead and buried deep". Despite Mexico's dire situation however, it would take Imperial forces two more years to finally subdue it. This was in part due to the sheer scale of the campaign, with over a hundred thousand men and their supplies needing to be moved over ravaged or underdeveloped territory. Former Confederate troops fought with a fatalistic stubbornness, knowing if bullet or bayonet did not take then, the noose and the axe awaited.
Beside land campaign, the Imperials found themselves with another problem: the remnants of the Confederate Navy, following their Lords' example, soon declared themselves the Imperial Mexican Navy and arranged themselves along the Mexican coast - effectively a reverse of the previous Imperial blockade - to prevent landing attempts from the Gulf. Though the Imperial Navy remained a potent force by this point, the Admiralty was hesitant to break their own blockade around the former Confederate territories and potentially open them up for Mexican reprisal and/or European intrusion. Additionally, while the Imperial Navy retained its Pacific Squadron, the shortages at the onset of the war had resulted in the bulk of its forces being reassigned to the Atlantic; as such, the Pacific Squadron was too small and underequipped to stage a repeat of the western landings seen in the Mexican-Britannian War.
Thus, in one of the most ironic twists in Britannian history, the Admiralty chose to deploy the Scylla, now rechristened as the HMS Leviathan, against her former fleet. Under the command of Lieutenant Commander Horatio Nelson Farragut - Admiral Farragut's eldest son from his first wife Susan - the Leviathan launched an essential repeat of the Battle of Hampton Roads, systematically eliminating the blockade ships in a series of hit-and-run attacks. Unlike the Confederates' run at Hampton Roads however, the Leviathan was completely unchallenged throughout her run, thus allowing her to succeed - again unlike at Hampton Roads - in breaking both the blockade and the Mexican Navy in only a matter of weeks, effectively paving the way for the eventual Marine landings. As a side effect of this however, the European Union, and by extension the rest of the world, would realize the effectiveness of the submarine as a whole, and so pursue development of their own submarine forces. Alongside, the Leviathan's raids would inspire French writer Jules Verne to write what is largely considered his magnum opus, the science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
After a gruelling campaign, the capital city of Maximilian (formerly Mexico City) would at last fall on June 19, 1867. The remaining Confederate Lords and Emperor Alexander would be hunted down and summarily executed soon after, and though certain ex-Confederate commanders, namely the infamous Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, would continue to stage organized resistances, these would only last for a few more months at most. Thus on September 9, 1867, the Second Britannian Civil War came to its official end.
Incedo Semper ad FuturiEdit
The civil war cast a long shadow over Britannian society. The south's defeat was not merely political, but cultural and even demographic. Many hundreds of thousands of southerners, mostly men, had died in the fighting, with some communities losing all of their menfolk. But far more deep-rooted was a the sense of social and cultural defeat. Having gone to war to preserve what its people saw as true Britannian values, to many southerners it was as if those very values had been themselves defeated. Contemporary accounts refer to a widespread sense of despair and resentment, not dissimilar to the feelings accompanying the defeat of Washington's Rebellion. Even in the north there was little sense of triumph, as the true scale of the bloodshed became apparent. The dominant feeling in the north was a determination to take the empire forward, and to ensure that such a tragedy could never happen again. For generations to come, the civil war would stand as a warning of what would happen if Britannian ever turned on Britannian.
Bouyed by victory and this new determination, Emperor Abraham took the lead with a programme of reform that encompassed the entire empire. Dubbed 'Reconstruction' in the press, it aimed to repair both the physical and psychological damage wrought by the war, reuniting Britannians with a common culture and interest. The first order of business was to settle the empire's finances; war expenses and trade disruption had left Britannia with a national debt of over three billion Pounds, or around thirty percent of GDP. Abraham's response was to completely reorganise the lower and mid-levels of Britannian goverment, which included stripping nobles of all their seigneurial powers; including those related to tax-collection. The civil service was expanded in order to cope, with the choicest positions going to loyalist nobles in compensation for their lost privileges. The new revenues were quickly put to use, expanding and improving the empire's infrastructure. New railway routes spread across the empire, including a long-awaited transcontinental line. Ruined cities were rebuilt and expanded, while ravaged countryside was reorganised to better suit the empire's new needs. The estates and smallholdings of the old south were refashioned into vast factory farms, producing food and cash crops for trade and domestic consumption alike.
This changes did not come without resistance. Rural southerners deeply resented these changes, especially the destitution caused by the expansion of the factory farms. Countless smallholders were driven to the breadline, or forced to sell up and seek their fortunes elsewhere; in the newly industrialised cities or the distant fronter. Some lashed out at the government with campaigns of civili disobedience or sabotage, while others took out their frustration on those they saw as the beneficiaries of their misery; the newly-freed slaves. The result was a semi-covert race war across the south, organised and perpetuated by defeated knightly orders, notably the Southern Cross and the White Camelia. The government responded with force, tasking tens of thousands of Imperial troops - many of them former slaves - to suppress the violence and hunt down the insurgents.
For all the brutality and terror of the southern insurgency, the worst shock of all came in April of 1868. On the night of April 14th, the Imperial couple attended a gala performance of King Lear at the Imperial Opera House in the Capitol, accompanied by several courtiers and other members of the Imperial family. Among the company was a noted actor named John Wilkes Booth, who acted as the inside man for a team of assassins, bent on avenging the south with the blood of the 'Great Emancipator'. Taking advantage of the thunderstorm scene, the assassins threw improvised bombs into the antechamber of the Imperial box, then stormed the box with guns blazing. Emperor Abraham and Empress Louisa were both killed, along with two ministers and a half-dozen senior courtiers. The assassins were themselves gunned down by newly-arrived guards within minutes. The killing shocked an already traumatized Britannia, eliciting grief and rage in equal measure. The southern insurgents, though they denied involvement, were blamed for the outrage. The insurgents were hunted ever more harshly, with the slightest resistance ruthlessly punished. Reconstruction would go ahead, buoyed by the memory of its Imperial martyrs.
In a truly ironic turn of events that was not lost on the citizenry, Victor el Britannia would immediately take the throne as 93rd Emperor. And in spite of all the conflict and controversy surrounding him and his role (albeit unintentional) in the previous war, Emperor Victor would be destined to see the Reconstruction through to its conclusion as well as preside over a new age of science and invention that would share his name: the Victorian Era. In turn, one name stood out above all others within that line. Thomas Alva Edison was in many respects a uniquely Britannian success story; a man who rose from relative obscurity to the heights of fame and fortune, an inventor beyond compare, and one of Britannian history's most idiosyncratic personalities. Edison began his career as a telegraph operator and freelance researcher, with many of his first patents being relevant to the former. His success as an inventor gave him the resources he needed to establish his own laboratory in Menlo Park, in the Duchy of New Jersey.
Though Edison acquired over a thousand patents in the course of his career, arguably his most significant achievement was the development of a viable sakuradite alloy. Sakuradite was something of an obsession for Edison, to the point where it was said that if electricty was his true love, sakuradite was his mistress. Sakuradite's bizarre properties had long mystified scientists, though it was acknowledged as the most perfectly conductive substance known to man. It was also extremely expensive and extremely dangerous, with all too many experiments ending in large and violent explosions. But Edison persevered, and in 1880 he finally perfected his formula. It was this that drew the attention of Emperor Victor, who invited Edison to contribute to a project of his own; the construction of a hydroelectric power station near Niagra Falls. Edison's involvement in the project earned him a knighthood in 1881, and led him to build his own hydroelectric plant at Vulcan Street in the following year. The decade would see a veritable explosion of new technologies, transforming Britannia beyond recognition.
In this time, Britannia abandoned its traditional isolationism. Sea trade was more economically vital than ever, while the ever-growing power of Europe and the South American states made the need for an assertive foreign policy abundantly clear. Though control of the Atlantic was judged to be impracticable, in part because conquering Greenland and Iceland would mean war with the EU, the Pacific offered plentiful opportunities. In 1896 Britannia declared suzerainty over the Kingdom of Hawaii, though this merely formalised an arrangement that had existed de facto since 1874, establishing a large naval base. Over the next two years later, Britannia annexed the Micronesian islands, from the Marshalls in the east to Palau in the west. Its ultimate target was the Philippine Islands, then under the control of the rogue Spanish colony of Nueva Espana. The invasion took place in 1898, with the islands being overrun in a matter of weeks. As would become customary for Britannian conquests, Victor won over most of the local elite through offers of titles and incorporation into the new administration. But as it had been before, and would be again, the process of pacifying local resistance would take much longer than the initial conquest. Despite this, years of expansion had left Britannia in effective control of the Pacific sea lanes, putting Britannia on the map as a great power.
Into the New Age Edit
The conquest of the Philippines arguably made war in South America inevitable. Though the EU had not intervened on Nueva Espana's side, diplomatic relations were at an all-time low. Also, the expansion put the Imperial navy under considerable pressure, as warships could not be moved from Atlantic to Pacific except via Cape Horn or the Northwest Passage. Britannian attention once again turned to Panama, initially with a view to colonizing the narrow isthmus for easy transfer of cargo; a revival of the Darien Expedition of three centuries earlier. But an EU attempt to dig a canal across the isthmus, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, had given Britannian interest a new impetus. Lesseps' attempt proved an expensive failure, but the scale of what he had achieved convinced many Britannians that a Panama Canal was indeed viable. Emperor George, Victor's chosen successor upon his death in 1900, and his government found themselves under pressure from an increasingly jingoistic public to annex Panama.
But many of George's councilors were reluctant, for the former Gran Colombian republics of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador had collectively vowed to resist any Britannian aggression in Central America. Though even their combined resources were no match for those of Britannia, the tiny Isthmus of Panama could very well negate Britannia's advantages. If the South American republics intervened, a full-scale invasion of their territories would be necessary to defeat them; running the risk of full-scale war with the Empire of Brazil, and the powerful Republics of Chile and Argentina. But one factor made the latter less likely; the difficulty of moving military resources north through the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest. Convinced by pro-war ministers and generals that such a conflict was inevitable in any case, George began planning for war. His plans would have to take into account a range of new weapons, the products of a worldwide arms race that had been going on for many years. Many new technologies would make their appearance during this time: the modern battleship stemming from Britannia's HMS Dreadnought, smaller higher speed ships such as torpedo boats and destroyers, rapid fire gunnery weapons and, perhaps most innovative, the appearance of armored motorized vehicles. On the latter, Britannian thinking was divided between two approaches; the need for a trench-breaching 'heavy' vehicle on the one hand, and a fast-moving 'light' vehicle on the other. A variety of designs were produced, including the Mark V heavy landcruiser (informally labeled as the "tank"), with its distinctive lozenge shape.
However, it would be the air that would see the greatest changes. The first of these would be the airship. Reconnaissance balloons had been used extensively in the civil war, though their usefuless was limited by their inability to move under their own power. Recognizably modern airships, driven by sakuradite-based motors, were first used in the Mexican campaigns, even launching an air attack against Maximilian City; though more damage was done by panic-stricken citizenry than the small bombs dropped on them by hand. In the age of dreams that was Victor's reign, the possibilities of airships were nevertheless recognized. Over the following decades they would grow ever larger, ever faster, and ever more capable. This air power, limited though it was, was also one area in which Britannia had an unquestioned advantage; of all the South American powers, only Brazil possessed any kind of airship capability. The second would make its debut in 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. Fixed-wing aircraft had long been of interest to the Britannian military, but it was the Wrights' invention of a practicable control mechanism that finally sealed the deal. Small, extremely fast and operable by only one pilot, fixed wing aircraft would become an ideal staple for the 20th century, with many of the world powers pursuing the concept with great interest. This would eventually come to fruitation in the 1910s, with the development of the first monoplanes and biplanes, which would eventually transition into the first modern "fighter" aircraft.
After just over a decade or so of planning, George and his compatriots would at last come up with a plan of invasion. This in turn was divided into three distinct elements: the first the moving of troops into Panama, and securing it against possible counter-attack, the second a series of seaborne invasions of the Gran Colombian republics, and the third a naval war against the South American naval powers, if they should intervene. The latter element would on the face of it prove particularly difficult, though Britannia's naval strength at the time was not to be sneezed at. The Imperial Navy at the time included approximately fifty modern post-dreadnought battleships, eighty armored cruisers, one hundred and two light cruisers, and several dozen submarines; but the combined naval resources of Brazil, Chile, and Argentina were broadly comparable.
The Second Expansionary War began in 1914, opening with an invasion of Panama and its immediate neighbors, which fell within weeks. The Gran-Colombian republics responded as they had promised, only to find themselves the targets of Britannian aggression in turn. Even as Colombian troops marched to reinforce Panama, Britannian warships swept the Colombian and Venezuelan navies aside. Despite the best efforts of the Colombian and Venezuelan armies, Britannian ground forces achieved multiple landings along the Carribbean coastline. The seeming collapse of the northern republics, after only a month of fighting, brought Brazil, Argentina, and Chile into the war on their side. It was here that Britannia's premier Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral John Jellicoe, made its combat debut, wreaking heavy losses on a Brazilian task force near Grenada. But when the Grand Fleet headed south to blockade Rio de Janeiro, it faced Brazil's own Grande Frota, culminating in the first large scale naval battle of modern history.
Though tactically inconclusive, the Battle of Rio de Janeiro would mark many turning points of the new age. First, it was both the largest naval battle and only full-scale clash of battleships in the war. Second, it would be the last major engagement between "big gun" styled warships before the advancement of air power became the dominating factor of naval warfare. That being said however, the modern battleship's legacy would be firmly established by the HMS Warspite, who, due to her damaged steering system, would encircle the Brazilian fleet at high speeds and endure thirteen hits from Brazilian gunfire. Not only would she survive the onslaught, though greatly damaged, she would even be able to withdraw north to Imperial waters. Even so, Rio de Janeiro would prove to be a Brazilian strategic victory as the Britannians would be unable to establish their blockade. Nonetheless, Britannian submarines were used successfully against Brazilian and Argentine sea trade, causing significant economic disruption. In retaliation, Brazilian airships launched a bombing raid against the Britannian naval base at Saint Dominic (Hispaniola), inflicting minor damage.
Meanwhile, the Britannian advance in the north had stalled. Though most of the Gran Colombian cities had fallen to the Britannians, what remained of their armies continued to fight on in the south, kept alive by supplies from Brazil and Peru. Britannian efforts to finally defeat them were complicated, ironically, by a weapon of their own invention: the Maxim gun. Smaller and lighter than the Gatling guns they replaced, Maxim guns had become the basis of Britannian fire-and-maneuver tactics. But as quickly became apparent in South America, the advantage they offered to the defender outweighed their benefit to the attacker. Repeated human wave attacks led to unprecedented losses, forcing Britannia to develop new infantry tactics based around small, independent units capable of acting with complete autonomy. The new assault battalions finally broke Gran Colombian resistance, but only after many months of hard fighting. Shocked by the scale of the slaughter, which had matched the civil war in the space of a year, George sought peace with Brazil and her allies. With their naval power all but broken, their sea trade cut off, and little prospect of victory in the long term, the allies came to terms in 1918. Britannian control of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador - now the Duchies of Helene, Columbus and Ephesus - was acknowledged in perpetuity, while Britannia promised to make no further territorial expansions in South America. It was a treaty neither side intended to honor, and would merely delay the inevitable.
Crisis and TransitionEdit
Emperor George died in 1931 after a long illness. His prestige as a successful war leader, and the length of his reign, had allowed him to prepare the way for his son, Theseus, to take the throne as 95th Emperor. He inherited an empire, and a world, in crisis. The eighteen years since the end of the Second Expansionary War had seen Britannia rise to unimagined prosperity, only to collapse into economic chaos. The so-called 'Great Depression' had its immediate roots in a speculative boom in the 1920s, reaching its peak in 1929. Precisely what started the crisis is unclear, but it was in this year that the 'death spiral' began. Falling share prices left speculators, some of whom had borrowed at dangerous levels to fund their speculation, out of pocket. Various economic bubbles, notably in housing, burst violently. The banking sector was particularly badly hit, with thousands of banks going bust, taking their despositors' savings with them. Lack of affordable credit and simple uncertainty led to large-scale contraction and shutdown of businesses, leading in turn to mass unemployment. Worse, the increasingly international nature of trade since 1918 meant that the crisis did not stay within Britannia's borders, but spread out across the world. The 'Great Depression' was as global as the boom that preceded it.
Within the Imperial Court, recriminations began almost immediately. Though the burden of destitution fell primarily on the poor, nobles too had been affected, some having risked their entire fortunes on the stock market. The period saw a spate of suicides, as well as penniless aristocrats giving up their titles and vanishing into the populace to live as best they could. This tendancy spawned a new genre of 'my aristocrat neighbour' stories, describing broken aristocrats trying to survive among ordinary people, ranging from romance to comedy to tragedy. Aristocratic and popular anger at this situation led to the rise of three new political factions, none of them quite like anything Britannia had seen before. The Euro-Britannians were traditionalist aristocrats, originally brought together by sympathy for the former Russian Empire (which had fallen to Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks in 1917) and anger at the inability or unwillingness of Britannia to save it. Influenced by Tsarist and pan-Slavic thinking, the Euro-Britannians blamed the unfettered capitalism of previous decades for the current crisis, seeing it as a symptom of a wider social and moral malaise. The rise of the Euro-Britannians to serious political power was on the back of a wave of national paranoia and conspiracy theory, with 'Euro-Republican infiltrators' being blamed for anything from juvenile deliquency to the national debt.
The other two newcomers, the Purists and the Nativists, were paradoxically both very similar and very different both to the Euro-Britannians and each-other. Having emerged as a coherent political force at the same time as Euro-Britannians, the Purists had two ruling principles; that human equality was impossible, and that Britannia should resist foreign influences. Though the latter principle was a cause of many of their clashes with the Euro-Britannians, they also clashed over the economy. Whereas the Euro-Britannians favoured limiting or even abandoning capitalism, the Purists had embraced it as an economic necessity.
The third pole in this political and social tripod was the Nativists. Unlike the highly aristocratic Euro-Britannians and Purists, the Nativists were a grass-roots phenomenon, its supporters being primarily commoners. Like the Euro-Britannians they saw the EU as a threat to their society and values, but opposed the former's willingness to embrace outsiders. Like the Purists they accepted the principle that human beings were not equal, but felt that the Purists did not go far enough in opposing foreign influences. The Nativists opposed all immigration, and called for the total expulsion, suppression, or extermination of non-Britannians; a measure at which even the most hard-line Purists baulked. While their strength lay in populism and xenophobia, their weakness was a tendency on the part of their leaders to let their choler get the better of them, especially when it came to the Imperial family. Many times they alienated potential supporters, and earned the label of dangerous lunatic or even traitor, by insulting or threatening popular royals.
The accession of Theseus to the throne in 1931 brought all these conflicts to the fore once again. Even his coronation was not free of controversy, the new Emperor having decided to have himself crowned with the bare minimum of expense (lest extravagance enrage the public). Though the gesture was appreciated by the chattering classes, as were the free entertainments and public feasts laid on at Imperial expense, the economy of the ceremony itself caused irritation in some quarters. Theseus began his reign by taking Britannia's tanking economy in hand. Asserting his authority as head of the Imperial Bank of Britannia, he declared a bank holiday; effectively shutting down all banking activity in the empire for a period of several days, allowing the banks to reorganise themselves. Taking his cue from the economist John Maynard Keynes, he also instituted a series of infrastructure projects across the empire, with a view to providing employment while upgrading the economy. Of these, the single most famous was the Boulder Dam, constructed between 1931 and 1936. On far greater scale was the reforestation and irrigation of the Great Plains, a project described by one contemporary as 'like nothing seen since the days of Rome'. Playing a critical role in the development of these plans was Theseus' Chancellor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His wider reform programme, which included a fixed Minimum Wage, retirement pensions, and unemployment insurance, became known as the 'New Deal'.
The cavalcade of success came to a halt in 1937, when the economy fell back into recession. Unemployment, which had fallen to just over fourteen percent, rose back to nineteen percent. Conservative nobles and business leaders blamed the New Deal, which they claimed was leading to strikes and unreasonably high labour costs, and government hostility to business. In a heated session in the House of Lords, one noble caused outrage with the words 'lift the Imperial lash from our backs, and the Chancellor's boot from our throats!'. For Theseus, the problem was as simple as it was intractable. General prosperity was both a political and an economic necessity. As Emperor he was held in an almost superstitious awe by the bulk of the populace, but their love and support depended on providing at the very least economic security, if not an ever-rising standard of living. Economically, the Roaring Twenties had seen the debut of a new kind of capitalism, referred-to by economists and commentators as 'consumerism'. High wages had allowed unprecedented numbers of people to spend money on consumer goods and other luxuries, notably private automobiles. This theoretically created a benign circle, with vast profits being reinvested and the well-paid workforce expanding. But it was a circle dependent on public buying power, which in turn necessitated high wages. Aside from business subsidies, the only way to reduce the burden on businesses was for the government to subsidize workers itself, though this would mean considerable expense.
To some conservative nobles, especially pro-Russian Euro-Britannians, the answer was to abandon capitalism altogether. Taking the traditional Russian peasant commune (itself largely destroyed by that point) as their cue, they called for the return of the populace to the land, arguing that this would stablise society and bring happiness by restoring traditional communities and values. The majority dismissed this idea as absurd; if for no other reason that Britannia could not hope to maintain or defend itself without industry. But to others within the aristocracy and the Emperor's inner circle, another answer presented itself. If Britannia did not have the resources to maintain a stable industrial society, then the answer was to expand those resources the old-fashioned way. In November of 1938, a deputation of generals and admirals, led by War Minister Winston Churchill, presented Emperor Theseus with their plan; a plan for the conquest of the rest of South America. Full-scale war, they argued, would provide the breathing room that Britannia desperately needed. Millions of unemployed could be funneled into the armed forces, while war production needs would fill factory order books for years to come; a concept that would later be called Military Keynesianism. On top of that, simply looting the conquered areas of their wealth would allow the Imperial Household to recoup the money contributed to the recovery programs. Theseus was convinced, but his one concern was the EU, which would almost certainly intervene. Churchill's answer was as ruthless as it was bold; a secret alliance with the Soviet Union. Britannian agents had already uncovered evidence that the USSR, now under the leadership of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili - better known as 'Joseph Stalin' - was plotting an invasion of the EU. The idea of allying with the Soviets horrified the handful of Euro-Britannians in Theseus' circle, and the Emperor was himself dubious of their usefulness as allies, or of the wisdom of allowing them access to Britannian technology. Churchill won him over with the reassurance that the alliance was to be nothing more than a marriage of convenience. Alongside, Churchill would add, in a declaration that many consider a sign of conspiracy, Stalin and his communists would have their own day of reckoning in due time.
Twin World Wars Edit
The period known as the Twin World Wars got its name from two simultaneous, yet only peripherally related wars that took place in the old and new worlds respectively. In the New World, the Third Expansionary War (otherwise known as the New World War) finally began in 1941 with minimal preamble, tensions having risen continously for over two years. Britannia's strategy opened with attacks against Peru, as well as the EU territories of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Britannian armoured divisions swept along the Peruvian coast, while Britannian airships dropped airborne troops behind Peruvian positions in the mountains. Ferocious riverine and jungle combat ensued as Britannian forces pushed inland. Meanwhile in the Old World, there was nothing the EU could do to save its South American territories, for it was under full-scale Soviet attack only days later, thus beginning the Soviet War (otherwise known as the Old World War, or the Great Patriotic War as it was referred to by the Soviets) in Europe. In the face of overwhelming Britannian forces, the Peruvian government fled to Bolivia, its remaining forces either doing likewise or fighting on as guerillas in the mountains, where it is said some remain to this day. Bolivia was able to hold back the Britannian tide, but only thanks to reinforcements from Chile's massive citizen army. A Britannian advance through the Amazon became bogged down in fierce jungle fighting that would last for many years.
The Imperial Brazilian Navy acquitted itself honourably in the early stages of the war, achieving arguably its most famous victory at the Battle of Paramaribo. Ambushing Britannia's South Atlantic fleet as it supported a major landing, Brazilian destroyers inflicted heavy losses on their Britannian equivalents. Even worse, the Britannian fleet lost two of its aircraft carriers, HMS Hornet and HMS Yorktown; one to an air attack from the lone Brazilian carrier Sao Paolo, the other to a Brazilian destroyer squadron that encountered it seemingly by accident. The Britannian commander, Vice Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, led his six battleships in a furious charge against the Brazilian fleet, leading to a brief but furious battleship clash. The Brazilians lost two battleships to Britannia's one, forcing them to withdraw, though they made up the loss when Brazilian torpedo boats sank an additional Britannian battleship while covering the retreat. Though technically a Britannian victory, Paramaribo was an embarrassment for the Imperial Navy, and reignited the carrier vs battleship controversy. The 'big gun' faction argued that carriers had been proven too flimsy for high-seas combat, while the carrier faction argued in turn that the loss was proof of the efficacy of carrier aviation. Less controversial was the conclusion that the Britannian destroyers had been outclassed, namely due to the Brazilians' superior tactics. This disparity would be swiftly resolved.
The bloodying of the South Atlantic fleet bought the Brazilians and their allies valuable time. But the advantage accrued from this was limited, for their EU allies had little help to offer. By the end of the first year Soviet forces were pushing through Bohemia and Romania, though their advance into Finland had stalled. The EU could not provide the tanks and planes in bulk that Brazil desperately needed; limiting itself to a handful of samples and technical crews, allowing the Brazilians to build their own. Europe was nevertheless able to supply some old-model warships, and found the yard space to build some newer vessels to Brazilian specifications. This was the ultimate weakness of the Soviet-Britannian alliance; while Soviet could menace Europe on land, it could do relatively little against the EU's combined fleet. It was for this reason that Britannia was forced to postpone its planned invasion of Iceland after the Battle of Paramaribo. Though the need to expand the navy went without saying, Theseus faced a difficult strategic decision. If he focused his efforts on Iceland, he would have to pit his navy against the EU's own considerable naval strength, with no guarantee of victory. Focusing on the weaker Brazilians on the face of it seemed more profitable, but at the price of allowing the EU fleet to roam unopposed. Theseus was eventually persuaded to focus the Atlantic fleets on Iceland, on the basis that the EU would be forced to give the recapture of Iceland - or preventing him from profiting from its capture - their top priority. In turn, what warships could be spared could be turned against Brazil, possibly including the Pacific fleet. But this carried its own risks, for transferring the Pacific fleet to the Atlantic would leave Britannia's Pacific coast and colonies vulnerable if some Asiatic power - Japan being the most likely candidate - should attempt anything untoward.
The second year of the war saw the destruction of the Chilean navy, despite the best efforts of her Brazilian and Argentinian allies, and the invasion of Chile. Made vulnerable by its unique layout, Chile was perforated at several points. But as its allies had already done, Chilean forces retreated into the mountains, putting up a stubborn defence. As it had elsewhere, the mountainous terrain caused all manner of problems for the Britannian forces. The army had greatly underestimated the number of specialist mountain warfare troops it would need, having expected to break South American resistance with conventional ground forces supported by tanks. The Imperial Air Force's airborne troops did a great deal to overcome this problem, primarily using airships to outflank enemy positions, though parachute drops from fixed-wing aircraft were coming into vogue. But this meant exposing the vulnerable airships not only to ground fire, but to increasingly modern and increasingly numerous enemy fighter aircraft. With no means of attacking Brazil and Argentina's inland cities, the production of these aircraft, and all other war material, continued unabated. With airships having proven unsuitable for strategic bombing due to their limited payload and vulnerability to enemy fighters, the only possibility was Britannia's new heavy bomber, the revolutionary Lancaster. With four engines and a range of over three thousand kilometres, it was touted as being able to cross the Atlantic ocean; though it lacked the fuel necessary to return. The Lancaster was the answer to Britannia's immediate problem, but it would be many months before enough of them were combat-ready. For all of the second and much of the third year of the war, the Britannian advance would proceed at a snail's pace.
The second year of the war saw the tide turn in Europe, even as Britannia's position strengthened. The resulting death of President Phillipe Petain via a daring Soviet bombing run on Paris had shaken the EU's political leadership to the core, allowing the German government to supplant France as Europe's leading power and, upon German Prime Minister Carl Friedrich Goerdeler's emergency ascent to the European Presidency, to direct the war as it saw fit. As the Soviets were slowly pushed back, Britannia finally saw its chance. In June of 1942 Britannia's North Atlantic fleet faced an EU taskforce near Iceland in what would prove the largest carrier battle of the war thus far. Despite being commanded by one of Britannia's most aggressive commanders, Admiral William Halsey Jr., the Imperial fleet could make little headway; the two fleets were an equal match both in technology and the skill of their pilots. On the battle's third day, Halsey attempted to break the deadlock by hurling his battleships and escorts straight at the EU fleet, in a maneuver known as the Heimaey Death Ride (named for the small island near which the action took place). But the mad charge was a calculated gamble, for as the EU fleet's Bf 109s and Ju 87s attacked, they were set-upon from above by Britannian Seafires, flying high in wait for them. This desperate plan cost him two battleships and thirteen destroyers, but his fighters wrought terrible losses on the EU's carrier planes. Robbed of air cover, the EU fleet was forced to withdraw south lest it be trapped against the Icelandic coast. With his pilots too exhausted to fly after three days of constant action, Halsey was unable to pursue. But the battle had ultimately served its purpose, for Britannian forces were finally able to land on Iceland, capturing it after a week of hard fighting.
On the strategic level, the capture of Iceland had the desired effect. It forced the EU to redeploy vital naval assets to the British Isles and Scandinavia, in order to keep Britannian forces contained. As such, Britannia was free to increase pressure in the South Atlantic. Though the EU's convoy system and effective anti-submarine tactics had limited the effectiveness of Britannian submarines, they were of little help against Britannian cruisers, now free to run riot. With victory almost in sight, Theseus chose to ignore both Britannian and Soviet pleas to open a new front by invading the British isles or mainland Europe, and concentrate all efforts on breaking the Brazilian Empire once and for all. The general staff's plan was for a large-scale landing on the coast of Amapa, with a view to capturing the port city of Macapa before pushing inland along the Amazon River. This would prepare the way for a push east and south along Brazil's Atlantic coast, with the capital at Rio de Janeiro being the ultimate target. The landings took place in January of 1943, near Maraca Island. An attempt by the Brazilian navy to ambush the landing, perhaps in the hope of repeating the Battle of Paramaribo, was repulsed with heavy losses. Britannian marines, reinforced by rangers, forced their way through to the main road, catching Brazilians forces between themselves and a near-simultaneous thrust from the north. As they headed south, they were preceded by the Imperial airborne corps, making its first large-scale paradrop from fixed-wing aircraft. Using tactics and methodology based on observations of the German fallschirmjagers in Europe, the airborne corps made a successful drop in and around the town of Ferreira Gomes, surprising the local militia and securing the crucial bridge. But despite successes like these, Brazilian resistance was stubborn and often highly effective; it took five weeks for the Britannians to capture Macapa. While jungle troops moved up the Amazon, marines and other troops were moved around the Ilha de Marajo to attack the important city of Belem. The city fell after three weeks of bloody fighting, opening the way along the coast.
What followed was many months of hard, slow fighting, as Britannian forces drove along the coast. By January of 1944, Britannia had finally secured Fortaleza, granting secure access to Brazil's eastern flatlands; ideal country for the tank corps to show off its skills. But even as Britannia gained ground, the strain was beginning to tell; on both army and empire. At the height of the war, around sixteen million Britannians served in the Imperial forces in one capacity or another, of which twelve million served in the army. But this was not without consequence, for this meant taking sixteen million - primarily young and male - workers out of an economy trying to support a global war. Worse, almost two million of them had been killed or wounded by 1944, in a war that despite a slew of victories showed no particular sign of ending any time soon. Opposition both to the war and to the empire itself was starting to solidify, as Theseus discovered in a shocking incident at the wedding of his nephew, Prince Michael. As the royal couple left the cathedral, a group of women carrying-anti-war banners pushed their way through the adoring crowds and began yelling insults. The royals at first bore it with becoming dignity, but when several of the women began throwing rocks at the couple, the protesters were themselves attacked by the crowds, with many being killed before police could reach them. When the survivors were interrogated, they were revealed to be women who had lost husbands or fiancees to the war; the wedding was to them an intolerable insult. Though Britannia's anti-monarchist fringe attempted to profit from the incident, the majority of Britannians expressed outrage at the assault on a much-loved young prince and his beautiful young bride. The republican movement was driven even further from respectability, with increasing numbers chosing emigration over political action. Even so, the people's willingness to absorb the costs of ever larger and more destructive wars could no longer be taken for granted.
Some good news came in the summer of 1944, when Bolivia and Chile were declared conquered. Though this freed some troops for further action against Brazil and Argentina, it would be nowhere near enough. It was plain that the main cause of the manpower strain was the need to hold down the new territories, and Theseus sought new ways to reduce manpower requirements for the occupation zones. The approach he settled on was the so-called 'Macchu Picchu' strategy, based around fortified strongpoints and the securing of vital communication routes. Any position considered of sufficient importance was fortified, ranging from military bases to mines. Though the transfer of troops away from the occupation zones allowed the guerillas greater freedom, they lacked the resources necessary to overcome the strongpoints, while sufficient forces remained to escort convoys and secure road and railway routes. Though some generals complained that reducing pressure on the guerillas would allow them to retrench and make them harder to dislodge later, Theseus was adamant that the defeat of Brazil and Argentina took priority. His strategy was not always entirely successful, but it freed up hundreds of thousands of troops for the conventional campaigns. The first of these was a thrust into western Brazil from Bolivia, linking up with forces advancing along the Amazon. By the time this campaign was concluded, in the winter of 1945, Britannia was in full control of the Amazon river and its easternmost tributaries.
This proved the beginning of the end for Brazil, and for an independent South America. With a strategy of river control now viable, Britannian forces pushed further and further into Brazilian territory, while other armies pushed into Paraguay and Argentina. For the first time in the war, Britannian tank units clashed with their allied counterparts in the battles of manoeuvre they had so long craved. But lacking experience in such warfare, neither side was able to make headway in tank-on-tank battles. Britannia's advantage once again lay with its infantry, armed with shoulder-launched rockets based on a design by Robert Goddard. But even this advantage was countered by the appearance of newer, more heavily-armoured tanks based on EU designs. The EU's own experiences with armoured warfare, especially against the Soviet Union's venerable T-34, had led it down a path that sought a balance between armour, speed, and firepower; in essence a modern Main Battle Tank. The EU's first attempt was the Tiger; tough and heavily armed, with its 88mm cannon proven to be a highly effective weapon, but slow and liable to breakdown at awkward moments. Brazil would use many hundreds of its own version, the Tigre, many of them constructed in underground factories to avoid the attentions of the Britannian air force. Because of this, Britannian planners underestimated Brazil's production capacity - badly degraded though it was - and large-scale Tigre deployments came initially as a surprise. As a result, Brazil was able to retake some of its territory in the north-east, until Britannian forces learned how to exploit the Tigre's mechanical shortcomings. Between rocket-armed infantry and gradually-improving tank tactics, as well as the eventual production of Britannia's first fully modernized tank, the legendary Centurion, Imperial forces regained the initiative.
The fall of Rio de Janeiro in March of 1946 was widely seen as the end, in practical terms, of the Third Expansionary War. Actual conventional fighting would come to an end in October of that year, when the last Argentianian forces were defeated near Rio Gallegos. Brazil and her allies were devastated by the war, with the death toll estimated to have run into the millions or even tens of millions. But the fall of the Brazilian empire was marked by one last crime; one that would be remembered over countless other deaths. As Rio de Janeiro fell, Emperor Pedro remained in the Sao Cristovao palace, along with all but the youngest members of his family, having determined to share in the fate of his people. But if he expected the civility due to a crowned sovereign, he was to be tragically if briefly disappointed. Britannian soldiers stormed and looted the palace, killing all inside before moving on. When Theseus arrived shortly afterwards, expecting to take the Emperor's surrender, he found only a slaughterhouse. Accounts vary as to his precise reaction, but it is clear that he was both horrified and outraged by the massacre. Upon learning that the perpetrators could not be precisely identified, Theseus ordered the entire regiment paraded in front of him. After describing the horrid crime some of them had committed, he called upon them three times to give up the perpetrators. Whether out of arrogance or comradeship, the men stayed silent. Theseus gave a word of command, and his Imperial Guardsmen, who had been stealthily surrounding the regiment, opened fire with their machine guns. The regiment was wiped out to a man, the dead stripped and burned on a pyre along with their regimental standards. Its name was stricken from the rolls, and the dead were listed in dispatches as having been executed for treasonous insubordination, condemning their families to bear the shame. Theseus had the bodies of Emperor Pedro and his family buried with all due honor in a magnificent marble mausoleum, constructed at his own expense within the grounds of Sao Cristovao. The gestures went some way towards assuaging the bitterness many Brazilians felt at their conquest, creating an ironic bond between conqueror and conquered.
Days of DarknessEdit
The war was over, and Britannia had already been changed beyond recognition. The need to support the war effort, which proved larger than anyone had predicted, had required massive reorganisation and expansion not only of relevant industries, but the civil service also. The task of governance had also changed beyond recognition, for Britannia's domain now stretched from Arctic to Antarctic, consisting of two entire continents with a population in the hundreds of millions. More importantly, a significant fraction of those millions had neither been born into the Imperial allegiance nor accepted it of their own free will, but had had it forced on them by might of arms. The need to adapt to these changes would force Britannia to change in ways neither its Emperor nor its people could have foreseen, and which would not go without resistance.
Emperor Theseus' response to these challenges was characteristically ambitious; a complete re-organisation of Imperial governance and the relationship between citizens and subjects. This took the form of the 'Area' system, under which the entire empire would be divided into numbered administrative units known as 'Areas'. This system served a double purpose, not merely rearranging the administration of Imperial territories, but also providing a basis for the absorbtion of non-Britannian populations into the citizenry. Under the new system, portions of a colonised state's territory would be separated to form 'Settlements'; territories in which only Britannian citizens had a right to live and work. In practice these consisted of all cities and large towns, with other settlements being established as needed. The colonists inhabiting these settlers provided the population base needed to expand and maintain control, as well as communities into which newly-recruited Honorary Britannians could be absorbed.
Indeed, the creation of Honorary Britannians was one of the Area system's underlying purposes. Natives, increasingly referred to as 'Numbers', had no rights under this system. Though they theoretically enjoyed self-government under collaborationist ruling groups of one sort or another, settlement authorities thought nothing of driving them from their homes and land, and killing them if they resisted. Numbers faced a simple choice; flee into the wilderness to survive in harmless irrelevance, or take the oath and become Honorary Britannians. The latter had a great deal to recommend it, for with it came all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a Britannian citizen. It also brought employment opportunities, especially in colonial administration and the development of colonial economies. In practice, however, the experiences of Honorary Britannians could vary significantly. For some it was a path to better things, especially if they were willing to profit at the expense of their former compatriots. For others it was at best a bittersweet wrench, being forced to leave behind friends, family, and countrymen in the hope of survival as a second-class citizen. Those who remained steadfast to their fallen homelands rarely forgave Honorary Britannians, and the antagonism tended to be mutual, often made worse by Britannia's exploitation of local ethnic and religious divisions.
But although his Area system would be succesfully implemented, Theseus was doomed to spend the rest of his reign managing the three-way struggle between Euro-Britannians, Purists, and Nativists, whose divisions had been amplified by the changes. Whereas Euro-Britannians tended to be accepting of Numbers, Purists and Nativists deplored them to a greater or lesser degree. To most Purists, Numbers were by definition inferior, and should be kept in a state of subjection; both for their own good, and to prevent them from diluting Britannian culture. Nativists were, needless to say, even more hateful and suspicious of Numbers, though their reasons were in some cases understandable. Having no rights under Britannian law, Numbers became the ultimate in cheap labour, undermining the wages and livelihoods of Britannian workers. Many thousands of Numbers, primarily young women, were imported into Britannia to work as household servants. Since Numbers could not be members of 'the Agency' (as the main household servants' union was known), their employers could treat them almost as they pleased, leading to numerous scandals.
Despite Theseus' best efforts, the conflict found its way even into the Imperial court, feeding the already rising tension between the Imperial households. Theseus met his end in 1963, shot while riding in an open-topped carriage through the streets of Dallas. The assassin was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, a former marine sharpshooter known to be dissatisfied with the government. Though available evidence suggested that Oswald acted alone, many Britannians could not accept that anyone, let alone someone of Oswald's unsatisfactory character, could have assassinated the Emperor without outside help; leading to a slew of conspiracy theories. His death caused an outpouring of public grief, and his state funeral brought Pendragon to a standstill; as veterans of his wars lined the streets to salute his catafalque, bidding their Emperor one last farewell. But many must have wept not merely for their late emperor, but for the bloodshed that even then must have seemed inevitable.
Emblem of Blood Edit
As had happened so many times before, Theseus' death sparked off an orgy of bloodletting, as the various royal households struggled for power. Dozens of members of the Imperial family were killed on the first day alone, but the assassins did not have it all their own way. Several targets managed to evade them, while others put up a fight. Of the latter, the most famous was Princess Marlene le Britannia, who with the help of her servants resisted the assassin squad sent to kill her in a desperate gun battle. This incident has been the subject of novels, plays, songs, and even cinema; notably the 1974 movie Marlene's Castle. Legend has it that as the remaining assassins found a dying Marlene, she asked them who they were. Their leader replied that they were knights of vengeance, whose emblem was of blood. Forever afterward, those dark days would be known as the Emblem of Blood era.
For the man who reigned as 96th Emperor, Albert mel Britannia, was as unlike Theseus as chalk was unlike cheese. He attained the throne with the partial support of the Imperial Guard, having bribed several of its officers; setting in the process a dangerous precedent. Perhaps even more dangerously, he abandoned Theseus' policy of political neutrality, openly and flagrantly favouring the Purist faction in appointments and policies. He is remembered primarily for establishing the Imperial Un-Britannian Activies Committee (later re-named the House of Lords Internal Security Committee), which became a byword for paranoia and petty chauvinism. Countless public figures, many of them nobles, were fined, driven from public life, and even imprisoned or executed on the flimsiest of pretexts. Anyone who spoke out against the committee was labelled a 'Euro-Republican infiltrator' and investigated, often with dire results. The committee nevertheless enjoyed a degree of public support, especially from Nativists, who saw it as rooting out traitors and conspirators. The tide only turned in 1975 when it tried to convict war hero General Claude Auchinleck of being an EU sympathiser. The committee's bullying tactics outraged both the public and the army, to the point where one of the committee's members was assaulted and beaten almost to death by a group of army officers. Albert wrecked what credibility he had left by having the officers executed without trial, and decreeing that the committee acted with his direct authority. The final straw came in the same year, when he had his son, Crown Prince Frederick, killed for challenging him before the court. A week later, he was ambushed and murdered in the palace by a group of Euro-Britannian nobles.
The beneficiary of Albert's death was his half-brother Thomas la Britannia, who took the throne as 97th Emperor. At first his reign was a time of optimism, for he was a much milder and more genteel character than his predecessor, who seemed likely to end the paranoia and tyranny of the past eight years. This he largely did, and his attempts to govern with an even hand seemed to promise a return to sanity. But it could not last, for those to whom he owed his throne wanted their rewards. He had little choice but to reward and favour his Euro-Britannian followers in much the same way that Albert had favoured the Purists. He also continued Albert's habit of creating new Imperial Guard formations as rewards and sinecures, leading to a bewildering variety of units, many of them colourful, most of questionable usefulness. Over time, it became apparent that Thomas' government was as incompetent and corrupt as its predecessor, its only advantage being that it was nothing like as cruel. Thomas himself remained personally popular, with the majority of the public regarding him as a well-meaning incompetent, worthy of pity rather than hatred. It is a testament to the desire of both the court and the public for stability that he survived on the throne as long as he did.
But even then, the man destined to replace him was planning his ascension. Born a lesser prince of no apparent distinction, Charles zi Britannia had survived the Emblem of Blood and grown into manhood in the years followingyears following. Since the Emblem of Blood to the modern age, many have wondered how this was even possible; indeed, the idea of a mere child and lesser royal surviving one of the worst internal bloodbaths in Britannian history, in which many more prominent princes and princesses had fallen to the guillotine, seemed not only impossible, but outright mythical. Some have equated this to Charles' tenacity, which he had held since his childhood, while others have claimed he was simply overlooked due to his lesser status. And then there are those that believed Charles had been supported and protected by an unseen yet powerful force; one that, whether it was of simple political or supernatural nature, not even the most daring of Emperors or assassins would cross.
Regardless, Charles learned at a young age that to be weak and alone was to be an easy target for the petty cruelty of others. In one notorious incident, Emperor Theseus came upon him being thrashed by a guardsman, while his older half-sister Princess Felicia and her courtiers looked on. Outraged, Theseus had his own guards thrash the luckless guardsman, despite the man's pleas that Princess Felicia had ordered it. Angered that Felicia was unmoved, Theseus had her lapdog seized and shot. When this finally provoked her to anger, he struck her to the ground and thrashed her with his cane until she bled, ignoring the pleas of the horrified courtiers. As she was taken away, Theseus turned to the shocked boy and declared: You see, child, this is what we must do to keep order in our own house. Throughout her life she has been given nothing but kindness, yet in her there is only cruelty. Cruelty can only be answered with cruelty, and only those who have suffered cruelty truly know the value of kindness.
Charles made his bid for power in 1997, when Emperor Thomas died under mysterious circumstances. By this point Charles had already secured the support of several noble families by marrying multiple consorts (a practice that had spread to the Princes) and fathered several children, notably Princes Odysseus and Schneizel, and Princesses Guinevere and Cornelia. When the contest for the throne broke out, Charles had already secured the support of the two highest ranking Knights of the Round Table; Lord Bismarck Waldstein and his protege, Lady Marianne 'the Flash' Lamperouge. Nevertheless, as Thomas lay dying Charles fled the court and went to ground, keeping himself informed with the help of spies inside the palace. By the time he made his move, the Imperial Guard and the Knights of the Round had collapsed into factional infighting, killing and dying for one Prince or Princess or another. Bismarck and Marianne had spent this time identifying army and air force units with reliable officers, rotating them into the formations stationed closest to Pendragon; though only the Imperial Guard was allowed to be stationed within the Capitol itself.
At the appointed time, Charles and his closest companions turned up at the War Ministry in Pendragon, from which he declared himself 98th Emperor. His half-brother Prince Richard retaliated almost immediately, sending the 24th Guards Infantry Regiment, the 2nd Dragoon Guards, and two companies of the Emperor's Musketeers (one of the myriad 'reward' formations created by Emperor Albert) against the Ministry. They found themselves opposed by the 124th Armoured Regiment, led personally by Bismarck. Though the Dragoons' Challenger tanks were technically superior to the army's older Chieftains, years of official and Imperial neglect had left the Dragoons with little notion of how to use them, while the foot guards had no anti-tank weapons to speak of. Between the 124th and strafing attacks by air force Tornado fighter-bombers, Prince Richard's forces were driven back to the palace. Supported by two newly-arrived regiments of mechanised infantry and two of paratroopers, the 124th stormed first the Imperial Palace and then Saint Darwin Boulevard.
By the end of the week, the drama was all but over. Of those who had competed for the throne, only Charles remained alive. But the empire he now ruled was in a dire state. Neglect and mismanagement by his predecessors had allowed the economy to run out of control. The optimism of the post-war boom had led to rampant speculation, while cheap credit had led to widespread debt. A series of stock market panics from 1984 to 1987 effectively destroyed Britannia's banking sector, causing massive economic disruption. This failure was to a great extent down to Emperor Albert's incompetence, for it was one of the Emperor's many tasks - in his capacity as Chief Governor of the Imperial Bank of Britannia - to keep the economy under control. Charles responded to these problems with a veritable tide of measures, including tighter regulation of the finance industry and a complete shakeup of labour laws. The scope of his governance, and the ruthlessness with which he pursued it, deeply impressed ordinary Britannians. Now, at last, it seemed as if proper governance had returned.
Into the New MillenniumEdit
Of all of Charles' renovations, perhaps his most ambitious plan was the so-called 'Imperial Millenium Plan', a complete reorganisation and re-equipping of the Imperial armed forces from top to bottom. Issued in 2000, it saw the instigation of a series of military development programmes, producing an array of new weapons. These programmes were integrated to an unprecedented degree, for the plan required that the new weapons should have as many technologies in common as possible, in order to simplify war production and logistics. One of the more controversial aspects of this was the universal adoption of the Yggdrasil drive, a system capable of extracting energy from liquid Sakuradite batteries and transferring it into electrical systems with unprecedented efficiency. The drive had been developed by the Ashford Foundation, with whom Marianne Lamperouge had been involved for many years, leading to complaints that she had gone from client to patron. Even more controversial at the time was the Humanoid Armoured Knight project, which sought to develop robotic labour 'frames' for military uses. Frames had first appeared in the 1990s as an outgrowth of industrial exoskeletons, themselves made possible by Sakuradite-based energy systems and the new computer technology. Between the army's Advanced Special Envoy Engineering Corps - otherwise known by its informal designation "Camelot" - and the Ashford Foundation, these technologies were combined with other up-and-coming technologies, such as compact 'Factsphere' sensors. One outlier among these technologies was the 'Cockpit Ejection System', based around an escape pod concept for conventional vehicles. Having failed to catch on, the patent and technology were bought up by the Ashford Foundation, though ejectable cockpits would not appear until the rollout of the first true combat Knightmare Frames: the Glasgow class.
In spite of Imperial support, the Knightmare Frame faced heavy resistance in the officer corps, especially that of the tank corps. When the Ashford Foundation's technology demonstrator Ganymede made its debut in 2000 - test-piloted by Marianne Lamperouge - critics pointed to its need for an external generator (the Yggdrasil drive still being under development), even though it exceeded all requirements in agility, maneuverability, ground speed, dexterity, and weapons handling. One journalist dubbed it a "military-industrial boondoggle, destined to fail profitably." Charles responded to the criticism by announcing his engagement to Marianne. This was not as shocking as might be expected, for court insiders and Royal-watchers had been speculating on the possibility for some time. What truly shocked the empire was Charles' decision to crown her as his Empress; the highest title a consort could aspire to, making her almost his co-sovereign. Reactions from the nobility were mixed, but the public was on the whole delighted, and their wedding became a day of wild rejoicing. Their first child, Prince Lelouch vi Britannia, would be born in December of that year.
After the Emperor's marriage to his new common-born Empress, Britannia enjoyed ten years of stability and prosperity. This period saw the large-scale adoption of many new innovations, notably industrial automation and the Internet. The latter was particularly significant, made possible by rapid developments in Information Technology, though something similar had already existed in the EU for several years. By adopting 'European' technologies to improve the empire, Charles ran into the usual opposition from anti-European elements, notably the Nativists. Opponents pointed to the unemployment caused by industrial automation, and the appearance of online crime via the so-called 'Dark net.' But there was little real resistance, and by January of 2010 internet coverage had extended over the entire Homeland and all settlements. These halycon years came to an end in the summer of 2010, when Empress Marianne vi Britannia was assassinated by person or persons unknown. Adding to the tragedy was the wounding of her daughter, Princess Nunnally, who was paralyzed from the waist down and rendered blind by the trauma. When her son Prince Lelouch confronted his father over the incident, Charles responded by disinheriting both Lelouch and Nunnally, then sending them to Japan as hostages. Both disappear from the historical record at this point, and would not reappear for eight years.
The Oriental Incident Edit
Whereas the new millennium had brought Britannia into an age of peace and prosperity, it had only transitioned Japan into a nation of crises. Ostensibly made wealthy and powerful by sakuradite, the Republic of Japan was as diplomatically isolated as it was politically divided. By this time, Mao Zedong's War of the Orient had come and gone, resulting in the Chinese Federation holding the bulk of Southeast Asia, from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the west to the Korean Peninsula in the east, as territory; this not only left Japan without local allies, but with no means of organizing a local coalition without the involvement of communist Chinese.
Further complicating the matter was the European Union, with which Japan had a difficult relationship, despite their common enmity with Britannia. Japan had never quite gotten over the loss of its regional empire at the hands of the Chinese Federation, and over the following decades had used its sakuradite reserves as leverage to dictate regional politics. This behavior drove more and more countries into the arms of the Chinese Federation; as one Japanese politician sneering described, "clinging to Jiang's coattails like frightened children!" In turn, Europeans regarded Japanese politics as oligarchical and undemocratic, its judicial system as backward and cruel, and its people as casually racist and sexist. In seeming response, many Japanese saw the EU as an arrogant, high-handed bully that was neither able or willing to understand them. This would prove fatal for Japan, as Britannia turned its attentions to Indochina.
The spring of 2010 saw Britannian forces overrun Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, in a war as inexplicable as it was unprovoked. Even with the benefit of hindsight, it remains unclear what Charles or his government hoped to gain from it, though conspiracy theorists have oft claimed there was indeed an ulterior reason behind its execution, with several claiming the war to be tied to a set of ancient ruins located within the Cambodian wilderness. Nevertheless, it forced the EU and Japan together in an alliance, and their combined response was as swift as it was ultimately ineffective.
With neither nation wishing to go to war with Britannia at this time, both EU President Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Genbu Kururugi both agreed to take a more passive approach. The first measure was the complete embargoing of Britannia, namely in sakuradite trade, and the second measure was the blockading of Britannian ports in both the Pacific and Atlantic by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and European State Navies, specifically through their respective submarine forces. With Britannia, especially its military, as reliant on sakuradite as the Earth was to sunlight, the dual embargo and blockade would theoretically bring Britannian expansion, and perhaps the whole of the Empire itself, to a screeching halt. From there, Emperor Charles would have no choice but to negotiate, and both Merkel and Kururugi eagerly expected his appearance at the bargaining table.
So anticipating of Britannia's capitulation that neither the European nor Japanese leadership, much less that of the rest of the world, were able to so much as suspect Britannia's eventual response. On August 9, 2010, in a full worldwide declaration, not only did Emperor Charles refuse to negotiate with either the "hellions of Europe" or the "rabble of the Far East", but claimed that Britannia would march ever onward regardless of the efforts of "lesser scions of equally lesser nations". In turn, he would complete his declaration by claiming, in a message that was as vehement as it was ominous, that Britannia would deliver a more "direct" response to the European-Japanese embargo and blockades in short while.
That response would come on midnight of August 10, 2010, when Britannia declared war on Japan. The first attacks took place only hours later.
Conquest of JapanEdit
If the conquest of Indochina had been a limited trial run of Britannia's new military system, the invasion of Japan was its first full-scale deployment. It was also distinctive in that it saw the first full-scale deployment of knightmares in history. Though they did not prove the wonder weapon their advocates had hoped for, knightmares nevertheless played a significant role in the speed of Japan's defeat.
The war opened in accordance with newly-established doctrine. Britannian attack submarines launched sneak torpedo and missile attacks on Japanese warships and bases, while others deployed special forces teams to gather intelligence and wreak havoc. So effective were these teams in concealing their identity, that the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) initially mistook their attacks for the work of domestic terrorists. The Japanese government responded by tabling a plan to intern anyone regarded as 'unreliable', including foreigners, ethnic minorities, and Japanese known to hold 'questionable' political beliefs. The plan was shot down by Prime Minister Genbu Kururugi, after EU Ambassador Miguel Gandolfy - with whom he was negotiating for EU military help - warned that if the plan went ahead, he would not get so much as a brass wingnut. A minority of Japanese nevertheless took matters into their own hands with a plague of race riots all across the country. The direct military effect of the attacks was minimal, but many special forces officers later expressed surprise at just how much terror and confusion they had spread.
The Britannian conquest of Okinawa is a useful case-study in understanding Britannian tactics at this stage in the war. Britannia's Third Fleet, built around four of the Imperial Navy's carrier battlegroups, approached Okinawa from the direction of the Philippines. Opposing it were three District Fleets of the JMSDF, while the islands had been reinforced with several squadrons of multirole fighters and tens of thousands of troops. Okinawa's own defences were substantial, consisting of a network of underground tunnels and bunkers extending across the entire island, some of which were designed to support missile systems and rail-mounted gun turrets. The reinforcing of the island had taken place on the personal order of Prime Minister Kururugi, and would enter the mythology of the war as a symbol of his absolute determination to resist. Nevertheless, it was regarded in some quarters as a mistake; a squandering of resources on a hopeless cause.
The Third Fleet began its attack with a cruise missile bombardment, intended to degrade the defences before the main assault. But the Japanese missile defences were equal to the challenge, and most of the missiles were intercepted. The Third Fleet was forced to move closer, bringing their electromagnetic artillery to bear, while also coming into range of the defending Japanese warships. The Japanese ships were highly sophisticated, and their crews fought bravely, but the Britannian force outgunned them by a substantial factor. Worse, the solid slugs fired by the Britannian cannons were not as easily detected or intercepted as missiles, significantly reducing the effectiveness of the shore defences. By midday of the first day, all but a few of the Japanese warships had been sunk - the rest fleeing to Chinese ports - and the Britannians were ready to start their landings. While the warships bombarded the defences in preparation for an amphibious assault, Galaxy heavy transport planes from the Philippines flew over the islands, depositing paratroopers and knightmares. These landings took the Japanese by surprise, for their air defences were still active despite the attrition they had suffered. Indeed, although some of the transports had been shot down, their armour and electronic countermeasures had allowed them to survive the worst of the ground fire.
It was at this point that the knightmares made their debut. The Glasgow class was Britannia's first mass-deployment knightmare frame, and its deployment in Japan would the standards for years to come. A total of sixty knightmares were deployed onto Okinawa, mostly by air though some were deployed from carriers. Their method of deployment was a distinctive horseshoe-shaped transport UAV, the eponymous Gyrfalcon, which could operate independently or be controlled by the pilot of the knightmare it was carrying. These machines, in many respects a forgotten triumph of Britannian military technology, allowed the Britannians to deploy their knightmares almost anywhere. Once on the ground, the Glasgows superlative terrain-handling allowed them to outflank and cut off entrenched Japanese infantry, appearing where their enemies least expected or wanted them. When Japanese tanks and IFVs attempted to oppose them, the knightmares swarmed and overwhelmed them, though not always without loss. The RPI would suffer around 50% casualties in the course of the Japanese campaign, mostly due to artillery fire or anti-tank missiles, though a common factor was the inexperience and recklessness of many pilots. When told of these losses, Emperor Charles replied "promote the survivors, they will not make the same mistakes."
Okinawa had been effectively conquered within two days, at least on the surface. Though the Britannians would spend several days clearing out whatever tunnels and dug-outs they could find, the deeper networks remained undiscovered. This was in part due to the orders of General Mitsuru Ushijima, who had ordered the troops manning the deeper tunnels to go to ground and remain silent; shortly before killing himself as Britannian troops approached his bunker. The defending troops retreated underground, collapsing the entrances behind them, ensuring that the Britannians either never found their tunnels or assumed that they were trapped, and would die of asphyxiation, starvation or claustrophobia. Thus did one of Britannia's greatest victories become one of its worst failures. Okinawa itself was of little interest to the Britannian forces, having been judged too isolated to be of any strategic use. When the Third Fleet moved on, only a token garrison was left behind; which rapidly developed a reputation for indiscipline, drunkenness, and sexual indiscretion. The Okinawans, regarded by the Britannians as harmless, amiable good-for-nothings, were largely left to their own devices. Between Britannian neglect and a strict secrecy policy, the underground bases remained secure and secret. Similar bases, such as the Japan Liberation Front's Narita Mountain Base, would remain undiscovered by Britannia for many years.
The war itself lasted only a few weeks, coming to an end under inexplicable circumstances. Despite Britannian successes, Japanese forces were successfully resisting throughout the country, with civilians, even non-Japanese immigrants, volunteering to fight or otherwise assist in record numbers, all while the JMSDF, in spite of its own severe losses, fought on valiantly. Thanks to damage inflicted on Britannia's ELINT networks by European special forces, even surface ships were able to operate with near-impunity, striking at Britannian supply convoys only to lose themselves in the vast ocean before slipping back to their hideouts along the coasts of the supposedly neutral Chinese Federation, where the Imperial Navy dared not overtly pursue for fear of provocation. The Joint Staff Council predicted that they could hold out for at least another month, possibly two; enough time for promised EU reinforcements or a Chinese intervention. Morale had also been boosted by the tactical victory at Itsukushima, in which Japanese forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kyoshiro Tohdoh ambushed and destroyed an unwary Britannian force, and the continued defense of Kyoto, in which garrison forces under Major General Izanagi Kondo held back the Britannian advance into the city for an entire month (subsequently the span of the war). The former victory earned Tohdoh the epithet Kiseki no Tohdoh, or Tohdoh of Miracles, while Kondo became known as Kyoto no Aruji, or the Lord of Kyoto. Ultimately however, none of these would do Japan good in the long run.
The straw that broke the camel's back was the mysterious death of Genbu Kururugi, who had reputedly committed suicide in order to convince his government to end the futile struggle. The Japanese government surrendered not long after, with many recieving Honourary Britannian status and high positions in the new administration. A handful of high officials, notably Atsushi Sawasaki, chose to flee instead. Leadership of Area 11, as Japan was to be known, was placed largely in the hands of Taizo Kirihara, head of a semi-secret clique known as the Six Houses of Kyoto, which between it had majority control of Japan's Sakuradite industry. The Japanese armed forces were disarmed and disbanded, but the sudden surrender meant that many units had time to hide their weapons before the Britannians could arrive to secure them. As a result, while Britannia might have effectively conquered Japan, it had failed to pacify it, resulting in continued resistance for the remainder of Area 11's seven year existence.
Settlements were established in all Japanese cities and towns, the inhabitants driven at first into surrounding ghettoes and then out into the countryside. Many fled into Japan's mountainous interior, where neither Britannia nor Kyoto had any meaningful control. Others simply lived on as best they could, surviving in the ghettoes while scrounging a living from the ruins of their country. A few fought back, as members of one resistance cell or another. Many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, fled Japan for other lands. A great many, easily numbering in the millions, chose to bite the bullet and become Honorary Britannians, trading their nationality and identity for the chance of a better life.
More to come
Growth of the EmpireEdit
Black Rebellion and Devastation of JapanEdit
Annexation of ChinaEdit
Great World WarEdit
The Empire's modern home territory, formally known as the 'Imperial Homeland' or just the 'Homeland', consists entirely of the American continents. All these territories were acquired before the introduction of the Area system, yet, in reference to the British Isles being the original Homeland, are designated as Areas regardless. These territories are in turn divided along feudal lines, providing Britannia with a truly vast peerage. Despite that, Britannia does practice some amount of "modern" democracy, as local legislatures are elected in addition to their ruling nobility. This was instituted after the Second Britannian Civil War, to balance the power of said nobility. The largest of these territories are the Duchies, which are in turn divided downward into Marquessates, Margravates, Earldoms, Viscounties and Baronies. The size, population, and economic importance can vary considerably. For example, the Grand Duchy of California includes the Earldom of New Liverpool (Los Angeles), and the Duchy of Cornwall includes the Margravate of Bytown. The Duchy of Hemingway consists of the Caribbean region in its entirety.
As a side note, certain Duchies, ones that have gained considerable importance to the Empire or whose Duke or Duchess have gained recognition from the Crown, hold the special rank of Grand Duchy. These Duchies enjoy a great deal of influence within the Imperial government while their Grand Dukes/Duchesses hold the highest ranking amongst nobility, being second only to members of the Imperial family. As such, the title is perhaps the most difficult to obtain within Britannia's nobility system; similar to ascension to the Knights of the Round, only the Emperor or Empress can grant the title, and he/she only does so to the most worthy of subjects.
An Area is a nation or group of nations that has been conquered by Britannia and made into a colony. Each Area is designated with a number, and its people are referred to by that number (ex: after Japan was conquered and made into Area 11, the Japanese were known as Elevens). For the most part they correspond to their pre-conquest borders, though in some cases, such as with the Homeland Areas, the former individual territories may be merged together to form a "whole" Area.
Areas 1-6 are what make up the Homeland, and so are only treated as Areas in name; they are only classified as Areas in recognition of their not being the "true" Homeland (which remain the British Isles), but de jure colonies. Area 8, the Falkland Islands, lays off the southwestern coast of the Homeland and was originally part of Area 6 (South America), having been divided into its own Area in recognition of its role as a penitentiary state for the Homeland's worst criminals; as such, it too is treated as an Area in name only. Any territory not apart of these is recognized as a "true" Area, a la colonial state, and governed accordingly.
(Non-Homeland) Areas are divided into three categories: Reformation, Developing, and Satellite. An Area gains greater autonomy as it proceeds through these categories, though it may be demoted to Reformation in the case of a serious setback. In Reformation and Developing Areas, the Viceroy acts as the Emperor's proxy, controlling the Area as all but an Absolute Monarch in his or her own right. This is considered necessary for efficient governance, but can also be a legal minefield, as shown in the case of Suzaku Kururugi (see Judiciary). The Areas also attract ill-feeling from other countries, especially the EU, which regards the Numbers as oppressed peoples and gives refuge to escapees.
Any land of interest to Britannia is declared a 'Concession' and placed under direct Imperial control, usually for the purposes of Settlement construction. Concessions made directly to the person of the Emperor, or the Imperial Family, are called 'Providences.' Territory not ceded in either fashion is administered by collaborationist governing bodies, though they are answerable to the Imperial Viceroy or Vicereine.
As of the modern age, Britannia is divided into forty-six Areas, ranging from the original Imperial Homeland to most of Asia, the entire Middle East and whole portions of Europe and Africa.
Major Cities and SettlementsEdit
The Imperial Capital is the city of Pendragon (originally founded as Philadelphia), which is located in the Grand Duchy of Pennsylvania. The Imperial Palace is located at the center of the city, from which extends Saint Darwin Boulevard, to which the Palaces and Villas of the Imperial Consorts are connected. Pendragon is Britannia's political and administrative hub, as well as being the Capital in the symbolic sense, making control of it vital to the control of Britannia as a whole. The mountains west of the city are riddled with underground bunkers manned by combat units of the Imperial Guard.
The Empire's Head of State is the Emperor or Empress, a position that holds theoretically absolute power. The Emperor can make policy, propose laws, and can veto any act by any other branch of the government. He or she appoints 50% of Peers to the House of Lords, as well as all Ministers and Justices of the Supreme Court. He or she is also Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Armed Forces, receiving a personal oath of loyalty upon his or her Coronation. The Emperor or Empress is considered equal to the law, embodying its authority while being theoretically subject to it. Transgressions by members of the Imperial Family may be punished by demotion, a fate considered worse than death. To overturn any official act of the Emperor requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, while an impeachment requires a three-quarters vote. It is generally considered that an attempt to impeach would most likely result a in civil war.
It is accepted practice for many of the top positions to be held by members of the Imperial family, especially Governorships of Areas. As such, it is considered seemly for an Emperor to produce a large number of children by different Consorts. Consorts who bear the Emperor a child are given a residence on St. Darwin Boulevard. Charles zi Britannia had over one hundred formal consorts during his reign, most of whom he married by proxy; for him to father a second child on a particular consort was a sign of particular favor. Naturally, this system is not traditionlly utilized by Empresses, as they only need one male Consort to produce heirs.
Though the Emperor may have as many Consorts as he deems necessary, the Emperor can only select one to become his Empress. To become Empress is the dream of every Consort; not only does it present the greatest amount of power and prestige available a Britannian woman, but the one who ascends is effectively recognized as the Emperor's equal, and so shares direct power and authority with her liege. As such, in similar fashion to the children they bear, the Consorts must fight amongst themselves for the Emperor's favor, which is not always earned by love (though it can play a huge role in it). Marianne vi Britannia, for example, gained the title of Empress both by providing direct support to Charles in her capacity as the previous Knight of Two, and because (at least in appearences) both former Prince and Knight had shared genuine love.
After an Emperor or Empress dies, the throne theoretically goes to the Crown Prince or Princess of the time, but ultimately to whomsoever among the Imperial children can take the throne and keep it. If there is no clear successor, then there will almost certainly be bloodshed as the most likely candidates and their followers fight it out.
The Imperial Family's private expenses are paid for out of the Imperial Estate, the value of which runs into tens of billions of Pounds. It is common for Princes and Princesses to have private fortunes or incomes, usually the profits of private ventures. Viceregal positions also offer numerous opportunities for 'self-enrichment,' an example being Prince Clovis' involvement in the semi-legal trade in historical artifacts. Through this he not only made himself privately wealthy, but acquired a considerable collection of Japanese artifacts, which came into the possession of Princess Euphemia after his death.
The government, formally known as the Imperial Senate, is made up of a Bicameral Legislature, with the House of Commons as the Lower House and the House of Lords above it. The House of Commons has control of the Budget, and is responsible for all legislation. It is not necessary for the Emperor or Empress to put a Bill before the Senate, but doing so is considered a courtesy. The House of Commons debates the Bill among itself before taking a vote, a passing vote sending the Bill to the House of Lords, which debates it in turn. A Bill that does not pass muster is sent back to the House with 'suggestions', which in turn must be debated and put to the vote. This can lead to bitter infighting between Commons and Lords, and between Parties in both. The responsibility of overseeing the smooth running of the Legislature falls to the Chancellor, who acts as the Emperor's proxy and go-between. In the event of the Legislature being unable to come to a clear decision, the Chancellor will ask the Emperor for a ruling. A Senator cannot be made to yield the floor except by the direct command of the Emperor, a stipulation intended to limit filibustering, though this rarely happens.
The House of Lords is evenly divided between hereditary and appointed Peers, the latter being chosen by the Crown. Membership of the Senate is decided by popular vote in elections taking place every four years, the Franchise consisting of all adult Imperial Citizens. Needless to say, Numbers are ineligible to vote. The entire process is overseen by the Imperial Judiciary to ensure fair play.
The Judiciary Edit
Britannia's Judiciary derives its authority directly from the Emperor, putting it on equal terms with the Legislature. Its uppermost echelon is the Supreme Court, made up of appointed Justices serving for life, answering only to the Chancellor and the Emperor. The Courts themselves are divided into Civil and Criminal, existing at the District and State level, along with Courts of Appeal. Only the Supreme Court may establish legal precedent, and it is expected (though not required) that the Emperor make new laws in consultation with it. The Judiciary guards its independence jealously, resenting any attempt by any faction or interest to interfere in its business. It is, ironically, one of the few institutions in Britannian society from which non-Britannians and Numbers can expect a degree of fair treatment. This is motivated by a concern for the Human Rights of non-Britannians only up to a point, the primary concern being efficiency. If an innocent person is convicted, then the guilty party remains unpunished, free to commit further crimes. The Judiciary is connected to the armed forces via the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG, or simply JAG), which shares a similar mindset.
- The case of Suzaku Kururugi is an interesting one. He was right to believe that he could expect justice from the Britannian judiciary, at least in Britannia Proper. Jeremiah Gottwald was able to set him up only because in a Reformation or Developing Area, the Viceroy acts as the Emperor's proxy; with Clovis dead, Jeremiah was holding his post until Cornelia accepted it. In their haste, they effectively overrode the entire system, found Suzaku guilty, and would have executed him were it not for Zero's intervention. In so doing they made an enemy of the OJAG, which contributed to their subsequent isolation and discreditment.
Britannia's armed forces are arguably the most powerful and technologically advanced in the world as of 2025. They have an active strength of around 4,000,000 in peacetime, doubling to around 8,000,000 with the Reserves. On top of this is the Colonial Security Forces, consisting of lesser-quality army personnel tasked with holding down the Areas. By 2017, they numbered around 10,000,000, spread out over the Areas. The absolute maximum the Empire can support is 20,000,000, and ideally not for extended periods of time.
The Britannian armed forces are organised into three primary branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. Though theoretically a part of the army, the Imperial Guard and Royal Guard function independently in practice. The other significant armed branch is the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) which, although primarily an intelligence and espionage organization, maintains its own special forces unit.
The uniforms of the three primary branches are standardized. The main uniform color is traditional Britannian (Prussian) blue, while variations are based on position and role. These include grey for security personnel, dark grey for staff officers, orange uniforms for engineers, yellow for medics and white for flag officers (though the latter are more renowned for personalized uniforms).
The standard officer's uniform consists of a suit-style open jacket, fastening on the right or left in the male and female versions respectively. Both include white collared shirts and neckties. Male personnel wear trousers as standard, while female personnel are permitted either trousers or knee-length skirts. Rank and service sub-branch may be displayed on the collar and lapels. A complimenting greatcoat or cloak may also be issued, either to defend the wearer from colder climates or simply to display prestige. Headgear is generally optional, with commissar caps, flight caps and kepis being available to all ranks and berets being reserved for special forces or certain high profile commanders.
The Imperial Guard is an elite formation within the Imperial forces, answering directly to the Emperor. It was first embodied in 1814 as Horse and Foot Guards to Emperor Ricardo. The Guard would grow in number and scope over the years, as the need of the Crown for a politically reliable military force became apparent. By the Emblem of Blood incident in 1954, the Guard had become a bloated, corrupt institution, its usefulness nonexistent beyond providing employment for unemployed (or unemployable) aristocrats. Following that era, descending Emperors would take care to continually reorganize the Guard with their most loyal followers.
The Imperial Guard is colored grey with a red sash running across the tunic (from the right shoulder to the left of the waist) and elbow-length black capes. Guards stationed around Imperial Palace traditionally wear plumed helmets and are armed with long rifles equipped with elaborate bayonets. Guardsmen on combat duties are equipped in the same manner as regular infantry, and have access to the full range of equipment, including knightmares.
The Royal Guard is a subordinate formation of the Imperial Guard, tasked with the protection of members of the Imperial family other than the Emperor outside of Imperial property. The Guard itself is an administrative formation, consisting in practice of different Regiments named for those they serve. Unlike other branches, the Royal Guard has no set uniform design. Rather, in similar manner to the practice of high ranking military officials, the uniforms of the individual units of the Royal Guard are tailored to the whims of whatever Prince/Princess that they're in service to. For example, Princess Cornelia's guard values dark violet tailed coats with grey or gold embroidering (depending upon rank), white trousers and black jackboots, while Prince Schneizel's guard tends to wear green-blue tunics with black and gold embroidering and white epaulets, formal green-blue and gold caps, white trousers and black jackboots.
Directorate of Military IntelligenceEdit
The Directorate of Military Intelligence, or DMI, was established as Britannians's main secret service after the Second Civil War. Like the Imperial Guard, to which it is linked, it answers only to the Emperor or Empress. Its original purpose was to provide the Crown with complete and accurate information on any particular subject, allowing the Emperor or Empress to make informed decisions. Over time, it evolved into a modern espionage agency, its roles including Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, and Internal Security.
The Imperial Army is one of the two oldest branches of the Imperial forces, and the largest. Since the time of Emperor Ricardo it has served two essential roles; to maintain control over Britannian territories and to engage in offensive operations. The first-line forces, considered the elite of the army, are tasked with the latter role. The former role goes to the Colonial Security Forces, consisting of any recruits who did not meet the standard for the mobile forces. Both are organized in the same fashion. Current Imperial Army doctrine gives center-stage to the knightmare frame. With its unique combination of mobility and firepower, knightmares act as both the reconnaissance and mobile striking elements of any Britannian ground force. To use an old world analogy, knightmares are the light cavalry while the role of heavy cavalry is played by tanks. Unlike the EU forces, the other main branches of the ground forces - artillery, armor, mechanized infantry - tend to operate in single-type units, with mixing taking place only at the corps level. A typical corps for open-field operations will number three tank divisions, one mechanised infantry division, and one artillery division; the ratio of tanks to infantry is usually reversed for urban operations.
In a typical open-field operation, knightmares will operate ahead and to the flanks of the main force. Special Dragoon Squadrons are permitted to act independently, with minimal input from their superiors, but otherwise knightmares tend to function at the company level. Their role in the early stages of an engagement is both reconnaissance and direct action; they must find the enemy, keep the commander informed of his movements, then blind him by isolating and destroying his forward recon units. Once this is done, the knightmares will begin to isolate larger formations, surrounding and cutting them off, while launching hit-and-run attacks to disrupt their cohesion and weaken morale. Once they are suitably softened, the tank formations strike the final blow. Knightmares are supported from the air by squadrons of Viper gunships.
Royal Panzer InfantryEdit
The Imperial Army's knightmare division. Founded in 1997 by Emperor Charles, its role was the testing and evaluation of powered frame mecha for possible military employment. One of its most famous early members was Marianne 'the Flash' Lamperouge, who as Empress Marianne vi Britannia remained closely involved in the selection and vetting of its members. Devicer cadets are chosen and trained in accordance with exacting standards, and are knighted upon graduation, giving the RPI a strong aristocratic ethos. As the name suggests, the RPI is meant to be administrated by Princes and Princesses, as part of Emperor Charles' policy of testing his children's worth through military command and administrative functions.
The Imperial Navy is, alongside the Army, the oldest branch of the Imperial forces, harkening back to the original Homeland. The Navy's roles are to ensure the security of Britannia's coastlines, territorial waters, and sea trade, as well as to take offensive action in the event of war. The Imperial Navy is supported by the Imperial Navy Auxiliary, which acts in a logistical and transport role.
Imperial Marine CorpsEdit
The Imperial Marines are, as their name implies, marine infantry, linked to both the Army and the Navy (though officially a subset of the Navy). They specialize in amphibious, arctic, and littoral warfare, also providing armed complements for warships and security for Naval bases. The formation of the Royal Marine Infantry, as well as the implementation of the amphibious Portman series, has made them all but completely unstoppable in littoral warfare. The 2nd Brigade was assigned to Area 11, assisting Viceroy Cornelia with her counter-insurgency campaign.
Royal Marine InfantryEdit
The Imperial Navy's knightmare division. Formed after the success of the Army's RPI, the RMI, naturally being a subset of the Imperial Marine Corps, specializes in amphibious knightmare operations. As opposed to the older service, the RMI lacks the aristocratic aura as its pilots are selected based more on professional ability than officer ethos; the practice of knighting new members is the only commonality between the Panzers and the Marines. As the name suggests, the RMI is meant to be administrated by Princes and Princesses, as part of Emperor Charles' policy of testing his children's worth through military command and administrative functions.
Imperial Air ForceEdit
The Imperial Air Force had its origins in the Second Expansionary War. Founded as the Imperial Flying Corps, it consisted of a few squadrons of biplanes. The IAF got its name in a large-scale reorganization under Emperor Theseus, being divided into separate Fighter, Bomber, and Transport Commands. The modern IAF serves in much the same capacity as it did then, adding SIGINT Commands.
Much like the ground forces, the Air Force favors aggression and taking the fight to the enemy. Unlike its sibling branches, the Air Force lacks its own knightmare branch, and so retains its original doctrine, which was built primarily around multirole aircraft as well as dedicated fighters and bombers. This doctrine focuses on three primary missions; air dominance, close air support, and strategic air strike. Of these, the air force considers air dominance to be the most important, and tends to resent being called on to perform other operations before this has been achieved.
The other major change in recent years has been the appearance of airships, starting with and descending from the prototype Avalon. After a slow start, the IAF has embraced the airship as its premiere weapon of choice, though they are unlike anything in recent experience. As with knightmares, Britannia has had the opportunity to lay much of the groundwork for the use of airships. Though the fallout of float technology has greatly limited their potential, airships remain a valued force to be reckoned with, with current doctrine treating them as greatly expanded bomber and transport craft.
Britannia's population is ethnically very diverse. The oldest aristocratic families are generally of white European extraction, though many non-whites have themselves elevated to that rank. The black aristocracy of the Hemingway Islands are a prominent example, including the Houses of Duvalier and Dessalines. Native Americans and Mexican Criollo are also represented. The rest of the population displays an even greater diversity, with almost every concievable ethnicity represented to a greater or lesser degree. Britannian citizenship is based on the individual's relationship with the Crown, rather than with the nation as an entity. Theoretically, any person who formally swears allegience to the Emperor and to Britannia may be considered an Imperial citizen, though in practice such a person is an Honourary Britannian. While such a person has the same rights, duties, and privileges of a full citizen, in practice they tend to suffer discrimination in certain contexts, especially the armed forces. Some Britannian factions, notably the Purists and the Nativists, regard Honorary Britannians as foreign, and seek to end the Honourary Britannian system altogether.
Britannian society as a whole is deeply hierarchical, though paradoxically it is also a cut-throat meritocracy. Any person with the right combination of ability and ruthlessness can expect to go far in Britannia, perhaps even gaining aristocratic status as a reward. The easiest place to do so is the armed forces, where the slightest ability can lead to rapid promotion. Just as success is rewarded, failure is ruthlessly punished, and not even the Imperial family is entirely safe. An atmosphere of constant competition and struggle breeds violence and ruthlessness in Britannians at all levels of society. These impulses must be turned outward, in war and conquest, lest they be turned on one-another. Initially, a small proportion, approximately 15% of the population, are considered in serious opposition to the current system, their main preference being Washingtonian democracy. Since the Devastation of Japan, that number has grown significantly, but they still lack the power to accomplish an actual revolution.
The Anthem of the Empire is called "All Hail Britannia", after the Britannic Salute.
- Truth and hope in our Fatherland!
- And death to every foe!
- Our soldiers shall not pause to rest
- Vow our loyalty
- Old traditions they will abide
- Arise young heroes!
- Our past inspires noble deeds
- All Hail Britannia!
- Immortal beacon shows the way
- Step forth, seek glory!
- Hoist your swords high into the clouds
- Hail Britannia!
- Our Emperor stands astride this world
- He’ll vanquish every foe!
- His truth and justice shine so bright
- All hail his brilliant light!
- Never will he be overthrown
- Like mountains and sea
- His bloodline immortal and pure
- All Hail Britannia!
- So let his wisdom guide our way
- Go forth and seek glory
- Hoist your swords high into the clouds
- Hail Britannia! as alww