Holy Britannian Empire Edit
Anthem: All Hail Britannia!
Motto: Semper incedens ad posterum
(Marching Ever Onward To Tomorrow)
Absolute Monarchy (De Jure)
Head of State
Head of Government
House of Lords
House of Commons
10,000,000 Numbers (pre 2010)
The Holy Empire of Britannia is a superpower in Juubi-K's Code Geass fanfiction The Sum of Our Choices. This page is being updated to match the Reboot currently in planning. It also applies to the fanfiction One and Only Son.
The Empire's home territories, sometimes referred to as 'Britannia Proper' or 'the Homeland', consist of North and Central America, Hawaii, and Greenland, along with the entire Carribean region. All these territories were acquired before the introduction of the Area system. These territories are in turn divided along feudal lines, providing Britannia with a truly vast peerage. The largest of these are the Archduchies, though these are also known as States. As a result of their size and economic importance, they are governed by elected state legislatures in addition to their Archdukes and Archduchesses.
The Areas, otherwise known as the 'Colonies', consist of South America, New Zealand, Japan (August 2010 - January 2018 ATB), and portions of Africa. They consist of states conquered by Britannia, for the most part corresponding to their pre-conquest borders, though in some cases small states and other non-state entities are leashed together for bureaucratic convenience. Any land of interest to Britannia is declared a 'Concession' and placed under direct Britannian 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 this fashion is administered by collaborationist governing bodies, though they are answerable to the Imperial Viceroy or Vicereine.
Areas are divided into three categories; Correctional, Developing, and Satellite. An Area gains greater autonomy as it proceeds through these categories, though it may be demoted to Correctional in the case of a serious setback. In Correctional 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.
Satellite areas are also known as Protectorates, a leftover of an early version of the area system developed by Emperor Lothar li Britannia. Protectorates either retain their former name or are granted a new one (rather than a number), and are governed by an elected council known as an Imperial Audience (a concept borrowed from the former Spanish Empire). The Philippine Islands were granted this status after their initial conquest, but after their subsequent conquest by Japan, and later reconquest by Britannia, they were subordinated into the Area system. The only formal Protectorate still in existence during Charles zi Britannia's rule is Hawaii.
Major Cities and SettlementsEdit
The Empire's Capital is located at the city of Pendragon. The Imperial Palace is located at the centre of the city, from which extends St Darwin Boulevard, to which the Palaces and Villas of the Imperial Consorts are connected. Pendragon is the Empire'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 surrounding the city are riddled with underground bunkers manned by combat units of the Imperial Guard.
The original capital and current eastern hub of the empire is the city of Caerleon. This city was first planned by Richard le Bretan (the future Emperor Ricardo) as a central hub for the newly-pacified colonies, with the plans being approved in 1790. His design combined Roman magnificence with Arthurian romanticism, and was intended by Richard not merely as an impressive capital, but as a new Camelot; symbol of his own counter-revolutionary ideals. After the Edinburgh Disgrace of 1813, it became Elizabeth III's temporary capital, and the newly-founded Britannia's formal capital, with Ricardo's own palace at Caerbrennin becoming the Imperial palace. The city was largely destroyed during the Knightslayer War, and although rebuilt afterwards, it never regained its former preeminence. Caerbrennin Palace is still used by the Imperial family as their residence in the city, and the Imperial Military Academy is located there.
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, begining 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 Eowyn enters the pages of history. Whether he even existed remains controversial, and even his true name remains problematic. Much of what is 'known' about Eowyn was formalized in the early nineteenth century, at the behest of Emperor Ricardo of Britannia. Even the name is problematic, being Saxon in origin. Much like King Arthur, the 'Eowyn' 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, thusly dubbed the Eowynids. Britannian tradition has Eowyn 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 known as Eudeyrn. The Romans note him as a subordinate of Cassivellaunus, and a respected warlord in his own right. He is described as speaking out against the peace deal of 54 BC, in some cases making loud denunciations of Rome. Eudeyrn enters the Roman narrative again in 48 BC, having succeeded Mandubracius as King of the Trinovantes. It is unclear whether this Eudeyrn 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 soldifying his power base and expanding his domain, bringing neighbouring tribes into a grand alliance by a mixture of force, threats, and persuasion. Eudeyrn'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 Eudeyrn, even unto death.
Tacitus provides the most detailed description of their origins. In his account, Eudeyrn attempts to raise his Chosen from among the best of his people. Unaccustomed to the harsh, Roman-style discipline Eudeyrn imposes on them, most of the recruits prove unteachable. Undeterred, Eudeyrn resorts to recruiting boys, whom Tacitus describes as orphans or simply 'unwanted'; others are purchased from slave traders. These youths prove more receptive to Eudeyrn's ideas, and within a few years are molded into an elite force. But for all that 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 Eudeyrn, for no other force in Britain could match them in open field. Backed by his Chosen, Eudeyrn was able to expand his territory (in part to pay the not-inconsiderable expense of their upkeep) and terrorize neighbouring tribes into accepting his leadership.
Romana Civitas SumEdit
The Romans would not return to Britain for almost a hundred years. Eudeyrn'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 Eowyn in the Britannian legend, though there is little evidence for any such connection. 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. It is at this point that events once again become confused. What is not in doubt is that a great battle took place, with the Romans emerging triumphant. The main point of contention is over the role and fate of Togodumnus. Some accounts have him die in the battle, but the Britannian legend has him survive and defect to the Romans, taking the name Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus. When Claudius himself arrived shortly afterwards, Cogidubnus swore allegience to Rome as King of the Britons, and was accepted as such by the triumphant Emperor. Caratacus continued his resistance for a time, but disappears from the historical record at around 51 BC. Legend has him survive in the wilderness, fathering a dynasty of true Britannian kings who would in later times reclaim their own.
Rome's decision to retain the Eowynid Kingdom, as opposed to splitting it into smaller entities, was a turning point in British history. Though legions were stationed in Britannia to keep them honest, Cogidubnus 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 Eowynid 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 centre of resistance to Eowynid rule, encouraging and helping to organise 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 Eowynid 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 Emperor Nero, Cogidumnus, and his own two daughters. 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. The Britannian legend adds Caratacus to the tale, pleading with Boudicca to wait for his own followers to arrive before pursuing Suetonius. But Boudicca proves too proud and too angry to listen, and leads her troops to defeat and death.
Supported by Rome, Britannian kings extended their rule to the north and east, even into the lands later known as Scotland. The Britannian legend claims that they came to rule the whole of the British Isles, including Ireland, but there is nothing to substantiate this. At the turning of the 4th and 5th centuries, these glory days came to an end. Weakened by civil wars, invasion, and economic and social strife, the western Roman empire had long been in decline. The legions were finally withdrawn some time in the first decade of the 5th century, leaving the Britannians to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile world. Attacked by Picts from the north, 'Scoti' from Ireland, and Germanic and Scandinavian raiders from across the sea, Britannia entered its own long decline. The economy deteriorated as Imperial trade networks collapsed, and whole cities were abandoned as urban life ceased to be viable. The historian St Gildas, writing in the 6th century, gives the name of Britannia's ruler as Vortigern. Curiously Gildas does not name him as King, but rather as tyrannus superbus, implying him to be a usurper or warlord of some kind. The Britannian legend portrays him as a cruel and ineffectual tyrant, and mirrors Gildas by having him invite Saxon mercenaries to shore up his rule. Taking land in payment for their services, the Saxons established themselves in Britannia, along with others such as the Angles and Jutes. For whatever reason they turned on the Britannians, and carved out kingdoms of their own.
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. The legend places Uther as the descendant of Caratacus, the deposed King of ancient Britannia. The tyrant Vortigern somehow became aware of Uther's heritage and sought to imprison him, but did not destroy him for fear of a curse from the wizard Merlin. Vortigern's death at the hands of the Saxons allowed Uther to escape into the wilderness, where over time he rose to become a leader of warriors. 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. His death brought about the chaos and civil war described by Gildas, and the resultant collapse of what remained of Britannia.
The Anglo-Saxons came to dominate the southern and eastern portion of Britannia, while the Britannians themselves lingered on to the north and west. These holdouts included Dumnonia in the south, the 'Welsh' kingdoms of Dyffed, Gwynned, and Powys in the west, and Elmet, Rheged, Goddodin, and Strathclyde further north. Some of these retained their independence from Saxon rule for many decades, but they were only ever a shadow of the Britannia that had once been. The Saxons enjoyed nearly three centuries of dominance, absorbing several of the Britannian successor kingdoms. These glory days came to an end as the ninth century began, as Scandinavian warriors launched plundering raids against the Saxon kingdoms. History would dub these maurauders 'Vikings', for the Norse term 'to go a-Viking', meaning a trading or plundering expedition. Between their legendary seamanship and their excellent ships, they could strike and retreat as they pleased, even sailing up rivers to attack villages and towns that thought themselves safe. Neither the divided Saxons nor the weakened Britannians could stop them, and by 867 they had overrun the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, and would go on to conquer much of the country for themselves. Only in the reign of Alfred the Great of Wessex, from 871 to 899, did the Saxons finally turn the tide. For all his victories, Alfred's true legacy was something far greater. It was a country called England
As the fortunes of the Saxons waxed and waned, the last Britannians clung on in distant places. Of these holdouts, the largest was a kingdom known to history as Alt Clut, but whose rulers called it Britannia. Located in Strathclyde, this last remnant was well-placed to avoid the worst attentions of the Saxons. Doubtless many of the Britannian refugees who ended up there hoped that it might prove the launchpad for an eventual reclaimation of the entire country. But with the Saxons to the south, the Picts to the north-east, the Gaels of Dal Riata to the west, the rival Britannian holdout of Goddoddin to the east, Alt-Clut had more immediate problems.
The Britannians had to wait for their time to come, but come it did. As Viking power waned, the rulers of Strathclyde saw their chance. They expanded their lands at the Vikings' expense, acquiring the Britonnic-speaking Cumbria to the south. Though they lost some northern territory to the newly-founded Kingdom of Alba, the Britannians managed to expand further to the south and west, their borders reaching to the River Tyne. This, invariably, brought the revived Britannia into conflict with the rising power of England. How Britannia found the strength to resist the Vikings, let alone overrun a considerable portion of their territory, remains unclear. Contemporary accounts describe an army not much different from those of the English and the Vikings, and some hint that the Britannians marched alongside Viking allies. The Britannian legend even claims that some Viking warlords swore allegience to Britannia's Kings. A possible explanation is religious conflict, with both the legend and other accounts claiming that these particular Vikings were Celtic Christians, as opposed to the Roman Catholicism of the English and the Paganism still preferred by many Vikings. It is equally likely that the Britannians merely took advantage of a weakened, divided Danelaw.
Sic Transit GloriaEdit
Britannia would gain even more with the accession of Edward the Elder to the throne of Wessex in 899 AD. Doubtless preferring to have Britannia as an ally than an enemy, Edward offered the hand of his daughter Eadhild to Britannia's new King, Malcolm. Their marriage in 924, the first of many intermarriages between the two Royal families, did not merely bind Britannia and Wessex together as allies. It also sowed the seeds for the long dreamed-of revival of the ancient Kingdom of Britannia. Edward died that same year, replaced by his son Aethelstan. Together, the royal brothers-in-law expanded their respective kingdoms at the expense of the Vikings, with the river Tees becoming the shared border. Both fought side by side at the epic battle of Brunanburh against the Scots and their Viking allies, their victory stabilising the land, but leaving them militarily weakened.
Though both suffered Norse raids from time to time, relations remained relatively stable until the reign of Aethelred the Unready, beginning in 978. His failures as King were many, but perhaps the worst was ordering the massacre of all Danish men in England on St Brice's Day in 1002. This deed provoked, or was a convenient excuse for, King Svein 'Forkbeard' of Denmark to invade in 1013. Aethelred proved as ineffective on the battlefield as on the throne, and he fled to France. His son Edmund, disgusted by his father's weakness, chose to remain and carry on the fight; his valour earning him the nickname 'Ironside'. He established himself in the Midlands, and sought help from Britannia to the north. Svein died in 1014, and his son Cnut was forced to withdraw to Denmark when Aethelred returned with an army. But Edmund's anger still burned, and he defied his father by marrying the widow Ealdgyth, who was reputed to be of Royal Britannian blood.
Father and son squared off, but the timing proved fatal, as Cnut launched his own invasion in 1015, overruning much of the country. Aethelred fled once again, and Edmund took up the fight alongside his principal ally, King Duncan of Britannia. Both fought hard, but Cnut was his father's equal in the skills of war, and many Saxons accepted his rule, preferring his strength to Aethelred's weakness and incompetence. When the armies faced off one last time at Assandun in October of 1016, it was Cnut who emerged victorious. With Duncan dead, and his army destroyed, a sick and dying Edmund accepted a peace treaty which allowed him to retain Wessex, though with Cnut as his heir. His death the next month left Cnut as King of the whole of England, whose resources he promplty turned against Britannia. By 1020 he had conquered up to the Scottish border, and although his line would not outlast him long, he would be remembered as Cnut the Great.
After Cnut's death in 1035, the newly-unifed England was ruled-over by his sons Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut until the latter's death in 1042. The beneficiary was Edward, son of Aethelred the Unready and his second wife Emma of Normandy, who had married Cnut after her husband's death. This made him the half-brother of not only Edmund Ironside, but Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut. Edward used this to maximum effect, presenting himself as an Englishman to the English and a Britannian to the Britannians. He further deepened his connection to his Britannian subjects by marrying Enid, a Britannian princess and daughter of the late King Duncan. This highly symbolic event helped stabilise relations between the English, Britannian, and Scandinavian communities, continuing the work of Cnut.
But all was not well around the throne of England. The most powerful man after Edward was Godwin, Earl of Wessex. A consummate survivor, Godwin had been a loyal servant of Aethelred, then Cnut, and both of his sons. Edward had reason to be suspicous of Godwin, for he was widely suspected of having murdered his older brother Alfred, a charge Godwin always denied. Godwin in turn had reason to worry, for when Edward returned from exile in Normandy he brought with him many Norman courtiers and followers, to whom he gave lands and important positions. In 1045 Godwin asserted himself by persuading or forcing Edward to divorce his wife Enid, who had failed to bear him a child, and replace her with his own daughter Edith. Rumours abounded that Enid had borne Edward a son, who had been spirited away lest Godwin have him killed. The truth may never be known.
Edward neither forgot nor forgave the humiliation, and tensions simmered for a further six years in which he failed or refused to impregnate Edith. He made his move against Godwin in 1051, staging a fight between the people of Dover and the retinue of his brother-in-law, Count Eustace of Boulougne. Forced to choose between disobeying his King and punishing his own people with fire and sword, Godwin chose rebellion, only to flee to Flanders when the uprising fizzled. Edward's victory did not last long, for Godwin returned the next year with an army, and the King's support evaporated. Deprived of his Norman courtiers and reduced to little more than a puppet King, Edward turned increasingly to religion. He would forever afterwards be known as 'the Confessor.'
Godwin did not long enjoy his victory. He died in 1053, replaced as Earl of Wessex and foremost over-mighty subject by his son Harold Godwinson, much to the annoyance of Edward's Britannian subjects. They had not forgotten the way Enid had been treated, and many may have believed in the rumoured son and heir. Their ill-feeling was made all the worse by the rule of Harold's brother Tostig, made Earl of Northumbria in 1055. Heavy-handed and greedy, Tostig alienated Britannian, Saxon, and Dane alike. When in 1065 the Northumbrian lords rebelled against Tostig, Britannians supported them in great numbers. Faced with civil war, Harold put the good of the kingdom above brotherly love, and Tostig fled to Scandinavia, vowing revenge
The Normans. Edit
But if the Britannians resented the power of Harold Godwinson, this was as nothing to the hatred he provoked in William, Duke of Normandy. Regarding himself as the rightful heir to Edward's throne, William had in 1064 managed to extract an oath of support from Harold, reputedly on holy relics and almost certainly under duress. When Edward died in 1066, Harold broke his oath and accepted the crown. He readied himself to resist a Norman invasion, but the first challenge came in the north, when King Harald Hardrada of Norway landed a fleet of three-hundred ships at Tynemouth. Supported by the exiled Tostig and his followers, Harald sought to take the throne of England for himself. Harold rushed north, and miraculously managed to defeat and kill both Harald and Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. When William landed in Kent, Harold came south to face him, only to die in battle at Hastings. William was crowned King of England in December, but it would take many years before England was pacified under his rule.
As England was governed by the Norman and later the Plantagenet dynasties, the name of Britannia would be lost to history. The English would later claim the figure of Arthur for themselves, his story retold by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century. His account includes many elements taken for granted in Arthurian stories, such as his fathering by Uther Pendragon upon Igraine under cover of Merlin's magic, his marriage with Guinevere, and his death at the hands of his nephew Mordred at Camlann. Other popular elements, such as the city of Camelot, the Round Table, and Mordred as Arthur's son by his sister Morgan le Fay, were added in the romances of later centuries; by such contributors as Thomas Malory, Chretien du Troyes, and even Geoffrey Chaucer. But the Neo-Britannian kingdom that survived for nearly five hundred years largely vanished from history, its Royal line lost along with that of Wessex, its people and culture absorbed into a greater whole. It lingered on in song and story, and in the traditions of a handful of noble families. Eight centuries would pass before the Britannian Legend would have a chance to express itself.
The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England from 1126 to 1485, when King Richard III met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field. His replacement as King, 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 England 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 favour 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 stabilize England and lead it to power and prosperity.
The Tudors Edit
It was during Mary I's reign that the name of Britannia rose once again, in the form of Charles de Bretan. His precise origins are unclear, but his was one of many noble families who claimed some connection to ancient Britannia. Like many of the northern nobles he was a Catholic, and he professed undying devotion to Mary. But he was also ambitious, and when Mary commanded in 1558 that he marry her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Charles jumped at the chance. Mary was dying, and the marriage was a last-ditch attempt to preserve her re-Catholicization of England. But despite this, Mary had no intention of allowing Charles to become King of England, as a letter to Elizabeth shows;
...he shall not have from my hand the crown of England, and I charge you never to grant it. For he is of that northern race that were Kings in ancient time, and doth fancy himself a King in my kingdom.
The marriage went ahead, and Charles sought to strengthen his position by getting Elizabeth pregnant. This he failed to do, leading to rumours 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 Queen 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. But 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 heritage and to the Ducal title he had recieved upon marrying Elizabeth. But the real contender for his place was Robert Dudley, Elizabeth's childhood friend and confidante, whom she favoured with titles and postings in the Royal 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 the North, ordered the soldiers to stand down. Charles was killed while attempting to cross the Scottish border. Despite his treason, Elizabeth showed mercy to his family by not attainting any of them.
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.
The Golden AgeEdit
Elizabeth would face many challenges in the course of her long reign. Of those, among the most significant was the threat posed by Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland. Mary regarded herself as the rightful Queen of England as well as Scotland, a claim in which she enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the Papacy. It was feared by many in England that Mary would use Scotland as a springboard for an invasion, backed by French and possibly even Spanish forces. This never materialized, due in part to Mary's difficulties in bringing her fractious kingdom under control, while France and Spain had plans of their own for England. Mary was ultimately let down by a combination of naivete and desire, leading her to unwise choices in friends, lovers, and husbands. Her second husband - her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley - was by all accounts a drunken wastrel with a penchant for domestic violence, whose only meaningful contribution was fathering Mary's heir, James. Mary was later implicated in her husband's death in February of 1567, and in April of that year she was abducted by her current suitor and ally - James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell - and taken to his castle at Dunbar. A month later they were married, leading to a revolt led by Mary's half-brother, James Stuart, Earl of Moray. Having captured Mary and forced Bothwell into exile, James declared himself Regent with the support of Scotland's Presbyterian nobles; the Lords of the Congregation.
Elizabeth's reign is remembered as a great success. She successfully steered her country through forty-five difficult and vulnerable years, seeing off multiple rebellions and at least one major invasion attempt. 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 Queen was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of the Earl of Moray, giving him and his descendents a blood tie to the throne of Scotland; a choice that had not sat well with his mother. Henry IX's reign is remembered primarily for colonial expansion. Under his rule English colonies and trading posts 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 colonized 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 colonization of the New World was a shortage of willing manpower. Europeans had been travelling 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 English Crown, they were not enough to meet England'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.
Crown and CommonwealthEdit
By the time Henry died in 1625, England 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 English and Scottish Protestantism began to break down as old divisions resurfaced. Though the Anglican Church 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 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 hardliners, was his support for Charles I, then King of Scotland. The two Kings were second cousins via their grandparents - Mary Queen of Scots and her half-brother James - and brothers-in-law via Charles' sister Margaret, who married Edward in 1615. Charles, like his father James VI, sought to rule as an absolute monarch, and shared Edward's high-church tastes. This, along with his marriage to the French Princess Henrietta Maria, put him at odds with hardline Protestants in Scotland.
The other centre of resistance to the Crown was Parliament, an institution 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 King, 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 political 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 continuously whether the King summoned it or not. Even more radical was the idea that the King 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, 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. The crisis came in 1638, when Scottish Presbyterians formed a 'National Covenant' and rose in arms against Charles. Forced to flee to England with his family and closest supporters, Charles turned to Edward for help,
But Edward did not have the funds to raise a large enough army to oppose the Covenanters, and was forced to summon Parliament in 1640. Parliament proved less than sympathetic, with many MPs siding openly with the Covenanters. Far from voting money and troops to support Charles, they raised a case against Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Edward's Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, who commanded the only real army at Edward's disposal. When an attempted impeachment failed for lack of evidence, Pym resorted to an Act of Attainder, which needed less evidence but required the King'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 condemn him to death for the unity of nation. Edward would neither forgive nor forget.
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 English' and the Protestant 'New English.' 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 English and Scottish pamphleteers put the number at anything up to two hundred thousand. The killings provoked a wave of hysteria throughout England, 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 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 Royal standard at Nottingham. The English Civil War had begun.
War without an EnemyEdit
The English Civil War was a slow starter. Large pitched battles were comparatively rare in the early years, with much of the violence consisting of small-scale local clashes; in many cases little more than gang-fights. With their armies numbering only around 15,000 men each, neither side was willing to risk all on a decisive engagement. The first pitched battle, at Edgehill in October of 1642, was an indecisive affair. During 1643, Yorkshire and the West Country emerged as the major theatres of war; located as they were between the Royalist heartland of the North, Wales, and Cornwall, and the Parliamentarian heartland of London and much of the south. Edward rather cautiously kept his main army at Oxford, at the centre of a Royalist salient. On the whole, the major cities tended to favour Parliament, while rural areas favoured the King.
1643 saw a gradual shift in territory as both sides sought to consolidate their heartlands and isolate enemy territories. The Royalists consolidated their position in Wales, and secured the West Country through to Cornwall; creating a Royalist crescent from northern Wales down to the south coast. Meanwhile, the Parliamentarians managed to push north and take Lancashire, cutting the Royalists off from their territory in the north and north-east. All the while, the war remained a curiously genteel affair; as both sides sought to end the war by negotiation. Even relatively hardline Parliamentarians sought to keep the King on his throne, while Edward knew that his best hope of reestablishing acceptable civil government after the war was with the cooperation of Parliament. This only added to the general indecisiveness of the conflict, and stoked frustration in certain quarters.
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 Royalists believed in monarchy 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 Royalist 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. A subsequent victory at Langport destroyed the last Royalist field army. Edward was forced to flee north, and spent the next year vainly attempting to replenish his forces. In May of 1646, he surrendered himself to a Scottish Covenanter army in Nottinghamshire.
To the Parliamentarians, it must have seemed like victory. But it was not to be. Edward's cousin Charles remained free, and was even then in secret negotiation with the Covenanters. Fearful of being sidelined by the hardline Puritan faction growing amid the Parliamentarians, the Covenanters signed a treaty with Charles in December of 1647, agreeing to restore him to his throne in return for religious freedom. Despite this, Charles had difficulty in convincing his people to attack England on behalf of his cousin. His desire to do so was driven as much by dynastic ambitions as a sense of loyalty to Edward, as his son Charles was betrothed to Edward's youngest sister Elizabeth. But the Scots were war-weary, and reluctant to invade England for the sake of a King who did not share their faith; even if that King's enemies were little better. It would take a drastic turn of events in England to change their minds.
For Parliament, the growing influence of Puritan hardliners was bad enough. But a new force was rising in the shadow of the New Model Army, and gaining an ever greater hold over the Puritan movement. It was a group of officers, theologians, and political thinkers, who sought to reconcile the reformist zeal of the Puritans with the practical necessities of government. Coming to be known as the Conclave of Saints, or simply the Conclave, their plan was to take total control of the country, and reorganise it into a perfect society in which a purified church and a godly state were one and the same, and every man was equal under God. Their ideas won them support in the New Model Army, and they took advantage of the suffering wrought by the war to build a popular militia of sorts, known simply as the Poor Men. Edward's capture in 1646 was a turning point for the Conclave, who called loudest of all for the death of the King. Their numbers alone made them difficult to ignore, but the willingness of the Poor Men to riot on their behalf made them downright dangerous. Suspicious, but realising that he could not afford to fight the Conclave, Cromwell went along with their policy.
Edward was put on trial, charged with personal responsibility for all the death and destruction inflicted by the war. The death toll is thought to have been around three hundred thousand, or six per cent of the population. Perhaps knowing that he was doomed, with a mob of Poor Men surrounding the High Court of Justice, Edward did not even offer a plea. Needless to say he was found guilty, in a trial that was by both contemporary and modern standards a farce, and executed by beheading on August 10, 1647. His death sent shockwaves across a Europe nigh-inured to bloodshed by the horrors of the Thirty Years War. None was more horrified than his cousin Charles, who is said to have turned deathly pale and collapsed in his seat upon hearing the news. This, combined with word of the excesses of the Conclave and the Poor Men, was finally enough to win the support of the Scottish Parliament, and the people, for war against England.
Rule of the Bishops Edit
The war proved a disaster for the Scots. Despite the horror at Edward's execution, and widespread fears of possible English aggression, neither the Scottish Parliament nor Charles' advisors could agree on the best course of action. As a result, the Scottish invasion of April 1648 was a confused, overly-cautious affair; despite the best efforts of its leader, the Crown Prince Charles. The Scottish army was large and comparatively well-armed, but political divisions between its commanders, especially between Covenanters and former Royalists such as the Marquis of Montrose, weakened its cohesion. Contradictory orders from Edinburgh led to slow progress; though Charles was able to persuade the traditionally Royalist city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to open its gates to him. This was ironic, for the city had twice endured capture by the Scots since the beginning of the crisis; first in 1640, and again in 1644 after a seven-month siege. Cromwell responded by marching north at the head of the New Model Army, defeating the Scots near Durham and forcing them to retreat north. In no mood to besiege Newcastle, Cromwell bypassed the city and pursued the Scots, destroying their army at Dunbar and taking Edinburgh shortly afterwards. King Charles and his family were forced to flee abroad.
As Cromwell mopped up in Scotland, and turned his attentions to Ireland, the Conclave continued to grow in power. Taking advantage of its ability to intimidate Parliament and raise popular agiitation, the Conclave took effective control of the Church of England, executing or imprisoning any clergy who refused to cooperate. Church and state were reorganized, with all civic and religious authority being centralized in the traditional Bishoprics (and new Bishoprics established where necessary). The Conclave's members took the title of Bishop for themselves; justifying it on the basis that it was a title used by the early pre-Roman Church. Though Parliament was technically the highest authority in the land, by 1651 the Conclave had taken effective control of the administrative structure of England; and would soon do the same for Scotland and Ireland. The British Isles would be, by the middle of the 1650s, under the control of an organised theocracy.
Cromwell's campaign in Ireland is by far his most notorious, and is remembered primarily for the siege (and subsequent massacre) of the town of Drogheda, from 3rd to 11th September 1649. Despite fierce resistance, and considerable losses to hunger and disease - made worse by his army's primitive logistical system - Cromwell brought Ireland under effective control by 1652. Even then, this was facilitated by allowing Irish soldiers to seek employment abroad, in any army not currently at war with the Commonwealth of England. It was at that point that Cromwell began to truly realize the depth of the Conclave's ambitions. Though he approved of its efficient organization and many of its goals, he was unsettled by some of its more extreme activities; including the banning of Christmas and various public entertainments. Rumours that the Conclave was reorganizing the Poor Men into a formal army under its own control finally drew Cromwell back to London. He spent the next year attempting to rally Parliament and moderate the Conclave's activities, all to no avail. On 20 April 1653 the Conclave finally made its move, ordering soldiers to arrest Cromwell and shut down Parliament. As he was arrested Cromwell made his last, great speech;
You say you are saints and righteous men, keepers of the peace of England. You who have made God a tyrant, Christ the jailor of mankind, and his holy word a lash upon the backs of honest men. You are no saints. I say you are no saints, nor righteous men. May God have mercy on us, and save us from you.
Oliver Cromwell, one of the most unlikely and arguably among the greatest generals and statesmen in British history, was unceremoniously executed two days later.
The rule of the Conclave would continue for seven more years; a period regarded as one of the darkest in British and Britannian history. Without the political instincts of Cromwell, or someone like him, no one remained to stand between the Conclave and its ideals of a perfect, godly society. This, as much as anything else, would prove its downfall. Though later comparisons to totalitarianism are exaggerated, the Conclave's interest could reach almost every aspect of daily life, with local Bishops having almost complete discretion to act as they saw fit. Royalist plots, both real and imagined, were a constant concern, and some Bishops were known to have burned whole villages in order to stamp them out. Even without this, ordinary people were annoyed by the endless interference of the Conclave in their daily lives, backed as it was by the power of life and death. Traditional celebrations and feast days were forbidden, as were activities such as gambling, drinking alcohol, attending theatres, wrestling, and horse-racing. Death penalty offences included atheism, blasphemy, holding 'obscene' opinions, and even adultery.
Return of the King Edit
A backlash was all but inevitable, and the signs were clear by 1658. The Conclave's army, on which it depended to maintain control, was overgrown, ideologically contaminated, and growing mutinous. The remaining nobility found themselves under increasing suspicion, as the most likely leaders of a revolt. But the real symbol of resistance, and the Conclave's eventual downfall, was a mysterious figure known as John Dash. Like many such figures, such as Robin Hood or Ned Ludd, he may have been nothing but a legend. But at the time he was linked to a rash of attacks on the Conclave, which included the assassination of Bishops, and the burning of Churches, tithe barns, and Bishop's Palaces. The Conclave reacted in the only way it knew how, lashing out in paranoid rage. Even Conclave members, those moderates regarded as dangerous backsliders by the hardliners, were not safe.
John Dash's identity, assuming he even existed, remains a mystery. As for his motives, many different stories circulated. Of these, the most popular was that he was an orphan boy, taken in by a noble family who were secret Royalists. A visiting Bishop tricked or terrorized young John Dash into telling all he knew, leading the Bishop to burn the family's house and massacre all inside. Only John Dash and the lord's daughter escaped, only for her to die in the snow. The story is fanciful, but not entirely incredible. Several such 'police actions' took place at that time, as Bishops lashed out at noble families judged politically unreliable. This had the effect of radicalizing the nobility, and driving them to rebellion.
The eventual leader of the resistance, and the object of all its hopes, was Charles Stuart, son of King Charles I of Scotland, and husband of Elizabeth Tudor, the rightful Queen of England. By this point the couple were holed up in the Netherlands, the centre of a small but growing Royalist exile movement, and plotting his eventual return. Charles I had died, some say of a broken heart, shortly after his arrival in exile. But their resources were limited, and the Conclave's assassins relentless. The man who truly made their return possible was Major General George Monck, commander of the Conclave's Army of Scotland. Originally a Royalist, and later a friend of Cromwell, Monck had survived the Conclave's suspicious attentions by carefully cultivating the image of a blunt, ale-swilling soldier's soldier; a man too stupid and simple-minded to pose a threat. But this image concealed a shrewd political mind, and a deep-rooted sense of honour. Like many of his fellow generals, he was growing weary of the Conclave's tyranny and incompetence, and fearful of the civil disorder that its seemingly inevitable collapse would unleash.
By the time the final collapse began, in October of 1659, Monck was in effective control of Scotland. This was, as much as anything else, due to the weakness of the Scottish Bishops; who had become dependent upon him to maintain order. Precisely what started the final crisis is unclear, but the most commonly-accepted narrative is a series of riots in London, sparked off when a soldier shot dead a child whom, he claimed, had been singing John Dash will have his due. The riots spread throughout the city, to the point where the garrison could not contain them. Several members of the Conclave were killed, and the rest forced to flee, only to be captured by soldiers under the command of Major General John Lambert. Lambert was part of a clique of hard-line anti-Royalists known as the Wallingford House Party; named for the home of another member, Major General Charles Fleetwood, in which they met. Seeing that the Conclave was running England into the ground, yet fearing for their lives if the Monarchy were restored, they launched a coup-d'etat; establishing a Committee of Safety on 26 October.
It was obvious to Monck that the Committee was exchanging one tyranny for another; a tyranny no more acceptable to the public than that of the Conclave. His response was to lead his army south, crossing the River Tweed at Coldstream on 2 January 1660. The early part of his march took him through Berwick, Newcastle, and York; whose garrisons he added to his army. Lambert tried to gather his garrisons and mobile units into a usable field army, but had insufficient funds with which to pay them. Monck, apparently aware of this, continued his advance while carefully avoiding Lambert's forces; denying him the pitched battle he desperately needed. On 3 February, Monck's army entered London; Lambert's forces melting away ahead of him. Once in control of the city, he began communicating with Charles and Elizabeth in Brussels; who hoped to use his takeover as a vehicle for their own return.
Matters immediately became complicated, as the differing personalities of the two co-sovereigns-in-exile asserted themselves forcefully. Charles proved the more forgiving of the couple, expressing a willingness both to forgive those who had fought against his father and father-in-law (though not anyone directly involved in Edward's regicide) and to reign in cooperation with Parliament; at least up to a point. But Elizabeth was having none of it; her kill-list was considerably longer than her husband's, and she was determined to reclaim absolute power without condition. It took two months of tense negotiations before Charles was able to issue the Declaration of Breda in April, promising amnesty to all who would swear allegiance to the co-sovereigns and freedom of religion. Charles and Elizabeth returned to England in May, arriving in London on the 29th; their quarrels kept firmly in private. The couple were formally crowned as King and Queen of England and Scotland, their reigns backdated to the deaths of their respective fathers.
The Golden Age Edit
Ruling over the now-united kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Charles and Elizabeth would preside over a long and much-needed period of peace and stability. With England and Scotland's governing institutions ruined by the political chaos of the past two decades, the co-rulers took the opportunity to rebuild them from the ground up. The Church was stripped of its legal and administrative authority, though certain taxes would still be collected on its behalf. Administration was reorganized around the traditional Counties, led by the restored Lord Lieutenants with the assistance of County Councils. Their responsibilities included the administration of justice, the collection of taxes, the organization of the militia, and the maintenance of vital infrastructure; such as roads and bridges. The counties in turn were formally subdivided into districts, replacing a variety of other subdivisions such as ridings, wapentakes, and tithings; though these lived on to some extent in local culture. Districts were governed by Justices of the Peace, assisted by District Councils. In practice, the local gentry and nobility tended to dominate District and County Councils respectively; a state of affairs Charles and Elizabeth seem to have entirely intended. The exceptions to this rule were the chartered towns and cities, which were granted County status in their own right.
Society reacted quickly to the return of the two monarchs, throwing off Puritan restrictions in favour of a new age of pleasure, artistic expression, and scientific enquiry. The Restoration spawned whole new genres of art, music, theatre, literature, and even fashion. It would even provide England with a new capital, as the Great Fire of London in 1666 largely destroyed the old city; leading Charles and Elizabeth to appoint Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild it on a new, European-style street plan. The Restoration laid the foundations for the aristocratic culture of modern Britannia, along with many aspects of its political and military systems. Charles initially disbanded the New Model Army, regarding it as politically unreliable and constitutionally dangerous. But subsequent circumstances would force him to reform it, in effect founding the modern Britannian army and navy. Though internal revolt and plots by anti-monarchist elements were constant threats, the greatest threat of all was the 'Sun King' Louis XIV of France, whose professional army and navy were the terror of Europe. Charles and Elizabeth were personally on good terms with Louis, and many aspects of their military organization were based on those of France; including the practice of putting regiments under the command of proprietary colonels. But anti-French feeling was widespread, and the co-rulers' difficult relations with the Dutch Republic, which spilled over into a series of small wars, were deeply unpopular. Friendship between the British Isles and France was, for all the Royal goodwill, politically impossible.
Charles finally died in 1685, possibly of uraemia; though in practice he was all but tortured to death by his physicians, whose medical knowledge was woefully lacking by modern standards. Elizabeth ruled alone for five more years, finally dying in 1690. In accordance with his mother's last wishes, Parliament passed the 1690 Act of Union in time for her son Richard's coronation, allowing him to take the throne as King Richard IV of Great Britain. His first challenge was what history would call the Nine Years War with France, which had been ongoing since 1688. The primary cause of the war was France's attempts to acquire neighbouring territory, with a view to creating an impregnable fortress network designed by Sébastien de Vauban. Aside from the new Britain, five other powers would take the field against France; eventually leading to a compromise peace in 1697. It would not be the last of the so-called 'Cabinet Wars' to end so indecisively.
Richard oversaw a great expansion of British power, with his efforts focused primarily on North America. His reign would see a series of European wars, which would make the name of a certain John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Attaining his first commission through the patronage of the King's uncle - James, Duke of York - Churchill gained a reputation for physical courage at the Siege of Maastricht in 1673, when he fought in a thirty-man Forlorn Hope alongside no less a personage than Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan; the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas' most famous character. He would recieve his first independent command in the Spanish Netherlands in 1688, and fought well enough to win King Richard's personal attention. So high had he risen in the King's favour that, in 1700, he was tasked with organizing a new European coalition against France; provoked by Louis' attempt to place his grandson on the Spanish throne. The War of Spanish Succession would drag on for thirteen years, ending in 1715 with another round of territorial exchanges. Marlborough would hold command for ten years, from 1702 to 1715, and win five great battlefield victories - Schellenberg, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde, and Malplaquet - as well as capturing thirty major towns, all the while fighting alongside the equally famous Prince Eugene of Savoy. He would go down in history as the greatest general ever born in the British Isles, revered by Britons and Britannians alike.
Richard's death in 1735 revealed the only great failure of his reign; his lack of an heir. Despite two marriages, none of his many children survived to adulthood. His heir presumptive, therefore, was his cousin James Francis, son of James Stuart and his second wife Mary of Modena. The only problem was that James had been baptised and raised a Catholic, at the ardent wish of his father, who had converted to the Roman church in 1669. But since his father's death in 1701, James had fallen under the influence of his various Protestant relations; notably his aunts Mary and Anne, and Mary's husband William, Prince of Orange; not to mention the King himself. With Richard's death, the pressure to convert to Anglicanism and thereby silence a rising tide of popular discontent grew all the stronger. Eventually, declaring that he found his late cousin's High Church Anglicanism "quite tolerable", he gave in; formally converting as part of his coronation. He would reign for thirty-one years.
Revolution in America Edit
James II's reign was for the most part a great success. It was under his rule that British power was first established in India, as Britain and France struggled for control of lucrative trade with the various Indian Princes; nominally presided-over by a decaying Mughal Empire. British policy decisively changed in 1757, when Mir Jafar, commander of the armies of the Nawab of Bengal, plotted with the British to overthrow his French-leaning master, with whom he had quarrelled. The result was the Battle of Palashi, in which a small British army under Robert Clive trounced the Nawab's much larger army; a feat greatly assisted the Nawab's premature retreat from the battlefield, and Mir Jafar keeping his division out of the fighting. This was only the beginning of a series of wars and conquests that would, by the end of the century, bring most of the Indian subcontinent briefly under British rule. British power was also expanded in North America, during the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763; a war remembered in Britannia mostly for the acquisition of Quebec, and the victory and martyrdom of General James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
When James died in 1766, he was succeeded by his son Charles Edward, who ruled as Charles III. In sharp contrast to his father, who had grown dour in his later years, Charles was handsome and charismatic, with a reputation for instinctive charm and at times a fine turn of phrase. But like those who went before him he was a devout believer in the Divine Right of Kings; that as King it was his right, and sacred responsibility, to wield absolute power for the good of all. On the face of it this was no great problem, for Britain had enjoyed decades of prosperity and military glory under the rule of absolute monarchs; and bad memories of the alternative still lingered. Few if any wanted a return to the chaos of civil war, or the tyranny of the Conclave. Beyond a deep-rooted but gradually fading fear of Catholicism, religious fervour had few attractions for the British people.
But in the British colonies in North America, the situation was very different. Though Puritanism had once exerted a powerful hold over the American mindset, it was gradually being replaced by a new set of ideals. Educated colonists, men of the Enlightenment such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin - to name but a few - had come to dream of a new kind of government and society. 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 Britain; a culture of extravagance, flattery, backbiting and influence-peddling, with the all-powerful King at the centre of everything.
For decades, fear of outside enemies - notably the French, Spanish, and Indians - had kept the colonists loyal. But the final defeat of France by 1763 removed this outside threat, and left many colonists wondering why they paid such high taxes for an army and navy they neither wanted nor needed, controlled by a government that paid them little attention. Matters came to a head when Charles sought to bring colonial taxation in line with that of Britain, with the 1765 Stamp Act. In practice this meant imposing a series of completely new taxes while enforcing others that had been quietly neglected by the more considerate Royal 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 Charles' 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. Outraged colonists responded by forming a Continental Congress in September of 1774, to form a united front against Royal tyranny. Charles responded in turn by dispatching troops to the colonies.
What would come to be known as Washington's Rebellion, named for the single most famous rebel commander, began as a series of police actions, as Royal troops attempted to disarm the colonists. Of these, the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775 are arguably the most significant. The British 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 British 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. Charle'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 British 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 Britain. 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 Royal troops served in the colonies, ensuring that British 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. His death took the heart out of the rebellion, and his tomb would become a gathering point for admirers and malcontents for many years afterwards. But perhaps the most tragic figure of those times was Benjamin Franklin. The reason for his defection 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, King Charles 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; while Washington's memory would stand as an icon of resistance to Britannia. The other rebel leaders were marked for death, but some were able to escape to Europe; where they would play a significant role in events to come.
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. Charles III had died in 1788, replaced by his younger brother Henry as Henry X. Under Henry, Britain held hard to absolutism in the face of growing political unrest. But Henry was not the leader Britain needed at this dangerous time. Ageing, unwell, and possibly senile, Henry could not react effectively to an increasingly chaotic situation. His failures greatly angered his daughter Elizabeth, who unlike her father and his courtiers could see the danger the French revolution presented. For a while she bided her time, building support among the Guards regiments and the officer corps of the Royal Army and Royal Navy. When news of Louis XVI's execution reached London, Elizabeth made her move; storming Kensington Palace with a retinue of guards officers at her back, sweeping all resistance aside. Declaring her father unfit to rule on the grounds of senility, she claimed the throne as Elizabeth III.
Elizabeth brought a much-needed energy and decisiveness to the government, as war broke out on the continent. But it soon became apparent that the Royal Army was not the superlative weapon it had once been, as an expedition to Flanders from November 1792 to June 1795 - ostensibly in support of the First Coalition - ended in embarrassing failure. Outraged, and fearful of emboldened revolutionary elements within Britain, Elizabeth began a new round of reforms; intended to drag government and military alike into the modern age. Resistance by conservative nobles was crushed by harsh words and threats of punishment, backed by the loyalty of her guards. As she licked Britain's defences into shape, she continued efforts to undermine the French Republic by covert means; none of which were successful.
The worst failure of all was on October 5th 1795, when a Royalist insurgency's attempt to take Paris was halted by the efforts of a certain Napoleon Bonaparte; a young general who had won fame in Italy. He would go on to win further fame in Italy, but his infamous invasion of Egypt in 1798 would ultimately fail; in part due to a British fleet under Admiral Horatio Nelson destroying his fleet at the Battle of the Nile. It was all Napoleon could do to get back to France with his life, leaving what remained of his army to die in Syria. Nevertheless, Elizabeth had identified Napoleon as a most dangerous enemy, and would rarely take her eye off him.
Her suspicions were confirmed in November of 1799 when Napoleon launched his infamous Brumaire coup against the Directory, replacing it with a tripartite consulate with himself as First Consul. Now in effective control of France, Napoleon set about making reforms of his own; providing the French people with the stable, efficient, and enlightened government it had craved for so long. If Elizabeth saw him as her mortal enemy, the feeling was mutual, and Napoleon was as determined to destroy Britain as Elizabeth was to destroy him. Though her European allies kept him busy for several years, Napoleon kept up his war effort against Britain as best he could, gathering a vast army at a massive complex of camps near Boulougne.
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 Queen 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 Royal 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. Seeing that London was indefensible, Elizabeth fled north, ordering loyal troops and militia to gather in the major cities.
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 Queen's 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 unfortunates they had infiltrated 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 Queen 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 you gone 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 Royal Family. Unfortunately for them, this would be met with mixed success; driven by bloodlust and insatiable hatred toward the Tudor-Stuarts, the Revolutionaries would focus the bulk of their efforts in exterminating the Royal 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.
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 Queen, and widely regarded as her lover, Richard was determined to save her. Accompanied by his friend Sir Richard Hector and a minor order of chivalry calling itself the Knights of the Round Table, Ricardo managed to infiltrate Edinburgh Castle and smuggle the Queen and a handful of attendants out. By the time the revolutionaries realised what had happened, Ricardo and Elizabeth had reached Dundee and joined the Royal 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.
Fortunately for them, Napoleon had already found a suitable candidate to replace Elizabeth. During her frantic retreat north, Elizabeth had been forced to leave behind her youngest nephew Michael, by then aged only fifteen, at the Royal palace at Sandringham in Kent. Elizabeth was by all accounts fond of the boy, and was reputed to have been grooming him as her successor. But she was by September on her way to exile, and Michael found himself surrounded by a growing band of refugees and lost army units, gathering around him for want of anywhere else to go. He was soon visited by Napoleon, who made him an offer he could not refuse; the Crown of Great Britain, and French withdrawal from the British Isles. In return, Ireland was to be acknowledged as an independent state, and all British overseas holdings were to be turned over to French authority. With no realistic alternative, and what remained of the government begging him to accept, Michael acquiesced.
New Empire for Old Edit
If the old Britain's story had come to an end, the new Britannia's story was just beginning. From her new capital at Caerleon, Elizabeth worked to bring North America into line, though many problems were rapidly becoming apparent. Though she had around 20,000 regular troops available, they tended to be poorly-trained raw recruits; all better units having been transferred to the British Isles years earlier. She could also raise around 40,000 militia, but these varied considerably in their capabilities; ranging from the excellent colonial dragoons - kept in practice by hunting down troublemakers and keeping order on the frontier - to the generally poor infantry battalions. A steady stream of loyalists and other refugees followed her into exile, but these tended to be nobles; the first wave being mostly penniless unfortunates fleeing for their lives, while those after 1813 were embittered emigrants bringing their property with them. Ricardo swiftly established himself as Elizabeth's Chancellor and right-hand man, drawing on local connections and his own resources to establish a functioning government. Indeed, Elizabeth's palace outside Caerleon was Ricardo's own residence, built there at great expense during his sojourn there in the 1780s. The new government was, needless to say, packed with Ricardo's own partisans; a mixture of British nobles and local dignitaries he had established relationships with over the years.
On October 18th, 1813, Queen Elizabeth III breathed her last, surrounded by her most senior courtiers. To the shock of her blood relatives present, she named Ricardo as her successor. Ricardo responded with an extraordinary declaration; distributed all over British North America. He declared that the old kingdom was dead and gone, burned to ash in the fires of war and revolution. It's failure, he added, was due to having abandoned the ancient customs of old Britannia in favour of new-fangled modernity, which could only end in the kind of blood-drenched ideological madness that had tormented France for so many years. The only way forward was to return to the ways of honour and chivalry, to create an ordered society in which every man knew his place and was content in it. His new society would be a holy empire, based on divinely-ordained authority answerable to none but God. He was Emperor Ricardo, and this new continent would be known forevermore as the Holy Empire of Britannia.
Needless to say, this social and ideological revolution did not go without resistance. The first backlash came from other court factions, generally centred around Elizabeth's surviving relatives. Though there was no Imperial Guard at this stage, Ricardo had several knightly orders at his disposal; chief among them the Round Table. Led by Sir Richard Hector, these knights moved swiftly against Ricardo's enemies, killing dozens in a single night. Those of Elizabeth's relations not killed were forced to flee, some of them all the way back to Britain. Riots broke out in many towns and cities; some of them demanding independence, others professing loyalty to King Michael. All such resistance was bloodily suppressed, to the point that by time of Ricardo's magnificent coronation in June of 1814, Britannia appeared entirely pacified.
The coronation itself was a glittering Arthurian pageant, with the new Emperor riding through Caerleon accompanied by armoured knights and attendants dressed in costumes that owed more to Chretien de Troyes or Sir Walter Scott than real history. The spectacle was nevertheless enough to win over the citizenry, at least for a time; and Ricardo soon followed up with a full-scale declaration of intent. In a lavish demonstration before his courtiers, Ricardo laid out his intentions for the future empire; a programme of westward expansion that would bring the entire continent under Britannian rule. Dazzled by the prospect of land and wealth beyond imagining, the nobles fell over themselves to pledge their wealth to Ricardo's cause.
The first target of Ricardo's expansion plan was the French colony of Louisiana. Despite its considerable size, it was sparsely populated, and unable to resist the advance of Ricardo's army. Louisiana was overrun in a series of lightning campaigns, causing Britannia to effectively double in size in three years. The process of entirely securing and populating the former Louisiana territories took much longer. Ricardo was quick to divide up the land, granting vast estates to his loyal nobles. Thousands of commoners were persuaded to move west in order to populate the new estates; lured with the promise of land, and bound to that land with legal indentures that reduced them to little better than serfdom. The slaveowning nobles of the southern territories were, in turn, persuaded to convert their slaves into serfs by similar means. This process did not always go smoothly, meeting resistance both from slaveowners and from local commoners, who regarded any improvement in the status of the slaves - no matter how limited - as offensive and dangerous. That they also faced reduction to serfdom only made their ill-feeling worse.
This gradually fed into a burgeoning resistance movement, concentrated primarily in the southern territories but with adherents in most areas. Their goal was nothing less than the overthrow of Ricardo and the establishment of a Republic; the fulfullment of the promise of 1774. Determined to avoid the mistakes of the previous attempt, this revolutionary movement was highly organised and secretive in the extreme. Its members were organised into cells at the local level, with little or no knowledge of any other cells or their activities. Higher-ranking members moved between cells and safehouses, providing information and training. Cells in urban areas tended to focus on subversion and sabotage, while those in rural areas organised themselves as rifle companies; a role for which they were well-suited, being accustomed to fieldcraft and firearms. Training camps were also established in remote areas, for the purposes of training the line infantry and artillerymen the rebels would ultimately need in order to defeat Ricardo decisively. This was invariably a slow process, as the colonial government was well-practiced in preventing such subversion, and arms could be smuggled to the camps only in small amounts. More immediate success was found in subverting the colonial militia regiments; a process that brought the rebel forces its greatest leader.
A Tale of Two Rebels Edit
Andrew Jackson began his military career at the tender age of thirteen, acting as a courier for the revolutionary forces. His attitude was further hardened by the time he spent as a Prisoner of War, during which his older brother Robert would die of smallpox, and he himself was assaulted by a British officer for refusing to clean his boots. His mother, in an attempt to secure their release, had agreed to nurse POWs suffering from Cholera; only to die of the sickness in November of 1781. An orphan at fourteen, Jackson would nurse a deep hatred of the British for the rest of his life. But the defeat of the revolutionary cause left him with no outlet for his hatred. Having decided that the best revenge was to live well, he spent many years working as a frontier lawyer in the Tennessee Colony, and made his home there. He prospered as a planter and merchant, owning over a hundred slaves on his largest plantation, known as the Hermitage. So successful and respectable had he become, he was even able to attain rank in the Tennessee Colonial Militia, becoming Major General by 1802. His precise reasons for this are unclear, but loyalty to Britain was unlikely to be among them. Though he had retired from active service by 1815, he retained extensive connections throughout the Tennessee militia, and was highly respected elsewhere. For the new rebellion he was an invaluable recruit; so much so that by 1817 he had largely shouldered the old leadership aside.
Meanwhile, Ricardo sought to further strengthen his position by taking control of the Caribbean islands in their entirety. He began this process with the conquest of Florida; the last vestige of European power east of the Mississippi. His next target was the island of Hispaniola, which he claimed with the help of an unlikely ally. Henri Christophe, King of Haiti, was an effective but unpopular ruler; hated for using forced labour on his various construction projects. Precisely what passed between him and Ricardo's agents is unclear, but in 1818 he was able to conquer the eastern half of the island with Britannian help; accepting the title of Duke of Hispaniola and pledging allegiance to the Britannian crown. With Hispaniola under Britannian control, Cuba fell easily, and the Carribbean islands in their entirely would fall under Britannian rule by 1820, along with the remaining European colonies of Guiana and Suriname; these being united with British-controlled Guiana to form Britannian Guiana. Throughout this process, he was only too willing to ennoble local leaders of any stripe in return for their loyalty; further inflaming southern feeling and driving greater and greater numbers into the arms of the rebellion.
But if Ricardo was aware of the growing rebellion, he made no show of it. He had a problem much closer to home to distract him; namely his eldest son. Born to Ricardo's previous wife, Henry le Bretan had been named as Ricardo's heir upon his ascension to the Imperial throne. Relations between father and son had grown strained over the years, made worse by Ricardo's ever-growing harem of concubines, who had produced him a selection of alternative heirs. Henry nevertheless avoided being disinherited, in part due to the support of many nobles, including Sir Richard Hector. Matters came to a head during the First Expansionary War, as father and son disagreed over how to deal with the Native population. Henry had come under the influence of Samuel Houston, a maverick lawyer and advocate for the Cherokee people, with whom he had lived as as youth. Swayed by his arguments, Henry became convinced that the Indians could be peacefully incorporated into the empire. Ricardo saw the Indians, even the 'civilized tribes' that lived within the empire's borders, as an obstacle to expansion; for him, the only options were total integration or expulsion.
But Ricardo had over-reached himself. His new colony of Guiana was surrounded by two powerful states; the Republic of Colombia to the west, and the Empire of Brazil to the South. Neither were best pleased with this Britannian redoubt on their continent, and neither had managed to establish effective relations with Britannia; due in considerable part to Ricardo's high-handedness and suspicion of republican governments. Led by the nigh-legendary Simon Bolivar, Colombia eventually responded late in 1820, launching a full-scale invasion of Britannian Guiana. The divided and under-supplied Britannian forces were overwhelmed in a matter of weeks, leaving Ricardo embarrassed and short-handed at home. Seeing his chance, Jackson sent out the call to begin the uprising in March of 1821. All across Britannia, isolated outposts were attacked by rebel 'free companies', while government and military buildings were attacked with 'infernal machines'; essentially bombs of one sort or another. With his army spread out over the continent, and whole battalions of militia deserting to the rebels, there was little Ricardo could do at that stage. Within a fortnight of the first attacks, Jackson had assembled a usable army in Tennessee; consisting of around eight thousand infantry, six hundred cavalry, and seventeen guns. His plan was to march north-east against Caerleon, gathering additional troops at pre-arranged points along the route.
Ricardo's initial response to the crisis was to assume that Prince Henry was behind it, leading to a violent brawl between their respective supporters in the halls of Caerbrennin palace. Once again, Sir Richard Hector was forced to intervene, putting an end to the disorder and convincing Ricardo of Henry's innocence. He then assigned Sir Jonas Landstrom, Fourth Knight of the Round Table, command of a hastily-assembled force of one thousand cavalry; before ordering them south against the Rebels. Around half of Landstrom's force were colonial dragoons, which had for the most part remained loyal to Ricardo, while the rest were armoured knights of the Orders of the Silver Shield and Sagramor. His task was to overwhelm and crush isolated rebel positions, and order loyalist forces to head north. This he did, riding hard through Virginia to relieve the besieged garrison at Richmond, only to receive word of another rebel concentration to the south at Petersburg. Judging the threat to Richmond to be too great to ignore, Landstrom ignored his orders and led the Virginia Militia south, facing the rebel force at Swift Creek. The battle was a victory for the Loyalists, but overshadowed somewhat by the conduct of the Order of Sagramor. Ignoring Landstrom's orders to wait, the knights charged the rebel position at Swift Creek Mill, and were wiped out almost to a man.
News of the defeat at Richmond and Petersburg spurred Jackson to action. Overruling the protests of other rebel leaders, he began his march north-east, gathering what troops could reach him. But Ricardo was also on the move, heading south-west with an army of around eight thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, many of them knights. He finally encountered Jackson at the town of Lynchburg on April 16th, finding the Rebel army arrayed on Fort Hill to the south of the town. Jackson doubtless hoped to lure the Imperials across the James River and into the town, trapping and destroying them there. Ricardo cleared the town of Jackson's sharpshooters, then shocked his staff by ordering the inexperienced Fifth Knight Sir Malcolm Chisholm to launch a full frontal assault on Fort Hill, while ordering Prince Henry to lead his own brigade south past Fort Hill. Ostensibly this was an outflanking manouever, but to Sir Richard Hector and the Imperial staff the Emperor was plainly using his own son as a decoy. Henry's brigade endured repeated assaults by rebel infantry, but it was not until the Emperor collapsed, seemingly of a heart attack, that Sir Richard Hector was able to send any support. Jackson's attacking infantry was caught in the open and wiped out, and shortly afterwards Jackson himself was killed; fighting to the death among his surviving cavalry.
The defeat at Lynchburg, and the loss of Jackson, tore the heart out of the rebellion. But for the Imperial side it bore its own share of tragedy. When Henry returned to the Imperial command post at Lynchburg, he was informed by a pale-faced staff officer that his father was dead. At the urging of all present, Henry placed the Imperial signet ring on his finger, and was proclaimed Emperor before the troops. He then rode back to Caerleon with his army, determined to secure the throne against his half-siblings and their supporters. As it was, of his eight half-siblings, only two attempted to oppose him; and paid for it with their lives. The survivors - Annabelle li Britannia, Victor el Britannia, Louis vi Britannia, Alec la Britannia, Catherine de Britannia, and Jessica zi Britannia - all swore allegience to him. This curious naming system had been an invention of Ricardo's, a means of separating their bloodlines while acknowledging their connection to the main household. Henry would reward their loyalty with the titles of archduke and archduchess, receiving the newly-created archduchies of Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. These archduchies, along with some smaller independent duchies, became the primary territorial units of the Empire, holding much the same powers as the abolished colonial governors. Thousands of others were ennobled too, under a system of Henry's own devising which endures to this day.
With the last embers of rebellion effectively crushed by the spring 1824, Henry's rule seemed secure. But his Empire had more than its fair share of problems. Its territories were vast, extending from the Caribbean to Newfoundland, but sparsely populated. Despite some population growth, and a trickle of immigrants arriving from Europe, it's population was still less than ten million. As such, it was highly vulnerable to attack, not least from the newly-independent Empire of Mexico; a state made up of former Spanish territories running from the Isthmus of Panama in the south to the California peninsula in the north, and bordering Louisiana at its easternmost point. Its ruler, Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, had used the supposed threat of Britannia in order to shore up his often shaky power base. This did not prevent his overthrow in 1824, and Mexico's transformation into an even more hostile republic. Nevertheless, with a population of only six and a half million, and plenty of its own problems, Mexico was little more interested in attacking Britannia than Britannia was in attacking them.
The Mexican War Edit
Though the conflict has been widely seen as inevitable, what ultimately started the countdown was Henry's policies towards the Indians. Almost certainly influenced by his friendship with Samuel Houston, Henry sought to improve conditions for the Indians. By this point, the Indians remaining in Britannian territory were the so-called Five Civlized Tribes; the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole. Of the five tribes, the Cherokee were regarded with the greatest interest by Britannians. In the years since the establishment of the Empire, they had created their own written language and established what amounted to their own state in the territory of Georgia, with its own police force, newspapers, and legislature.
The worryingly republican character of the Cherokee government fuelled Britannian paranoia, and was a convenient excuse for land-hungry Georgians to oppress and mistreat them. The discovery of gold in 1829 only made matters worse. Attempts early in his reign to calm tensions and protect the Indians were largely inneffective, forcing Henry to consider a more radical solution. If his white subjects wanted the Indians expelled, then he would expel them; on his terms. In 1826, he issued what would come to be known as the Indian Relocation Decree; under which the five tribes would be relocated to a new territory along the Arkansas River. Under this decree, the Indians were required to sell their land to Imperial agents at market price, and were permitted to carry their property away with them.
The transfer of the Indians took several years, and did not always go smoothly. In some areas, white mobs attacked Indian communities, and even the Imperial agents sent to oversee the property sales. Such violence was met with armed force, as the archducal regents unleashed their household guards upon the troublemakers, backed by Imperial troops. Ringleaders were guilloutined or hanged, while lesser rebels had their ears cut off; repression that would leave a bitter legacy. Nevertheless the transfers went ahead, with tens of thousands of Indians travelling west over eight years. The land in which they found themselves was vast and fertile, and it did not take the Indians long to establish themselves and prosper. The Cherokees soon rose to prominence in Arkansas, led by their Principal Chief, John Ross. Though of mixed Cherokee and Scottish ancestry, he was regarded as the acceptable face of the Indians by Britannians, and even full-blooded Cherokee looked to him for protection. Henry showed his approval by making Ross an Earl, and naming him as governor of the Arkansas territory in 1830.
But if the establishment of the Arkansas territory was a success for Britannia, it was a red rag to the Mexicans; for it occupied the gap between their respective territories north of Louisiana. Indeed, it was assumed by many on both sides - including the Indians themselves - that the territory's purpose was to secure the unclaimed land for Britannia. Among Britannians, the territory became known as the 'Arkansas Marches' for that very reason. Its existence contributed significantly to an ongoing breakdown of relations between Britannia and Mexico, further complicated by the presence of Britannian settlers in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. The first of them had arrived during Emperor Agustin's brief reign, and had become Mexican citizens.
But the Republic's increasing hostility, not to mention its increasing centralisation of power, left them vulnerable. Precisely what passed between Henry's agents and the 'Texian' colonists is for the most part a mystery. However, it is apparent that he made contact with prominent empresario Stephen F. Austin at some point between 1828 and 1832, almost certainly using Samuel Houston as a go-between. His purpose in doing so, it is hard to doubt, was to organise a revolt against the Mexican government. Perhaps suspecting this, Mexican authorities arrested Austin in January of 1834. Henry responded by issuing a formal ultimatum, demanding his release and an end to the 'oppression' of the Texians. President Valentín Gómez Farías refused, and what history would come to know as the Mexican War began in March.
Faced with extreme war fever and suspicion of Mexico at home, Henry's intent was nothing less than the conquest of Mexico; and his strategy reflected this. A small force was sent east under Sir Jonas Landstrom with a view to securing Alta California. Another, larger army invaded Neuvo Mexico, under the command of General Sir Winfield Scott, accompanied by John Ross and four of the Indian regiments. This force had a double purpose; both to secure territory for the Empire and to win over the local Indian populations, whose relationship with the Mexican authorities was stormy at best, outright hostile at worst. Scott was himself a relative newcomer, regarded with suspicion in some quarters because of his North American birth and for not being one of 'Ricardo's own'; the clique of nobles and officers who had been close to Emperor Ricardo from the beginning. But Henry was far more open-minded, and Scott's skill as both general and diplomat would amply justify his trust. The third army was led by Henry himself, moving south-west along the coast towards Matamoros. After defeating a Mexican army at Palo Alto on May 8th, he captured Matamoros a week later. With this port secured as a supply base, Henry pushed inland, taking Monterrey after a costly battle taking three days. With disease further weakening his forces, Henry paused at Monterrey, allowing Mexican forces to withdraw south.
This string of defeats made an already unstable Mexican political situation even worse. President Farias was finally overthrown in June, replaced by General Antonio López de Santa Anna, the man whose proxy he had initially been. Santa Anna had won fame fighting against the Spanish, and in the various minor civil wars that had plagued Mexico for much of its independent period; his survival and success earning him a reputation as a smooth political operator. With his stalking horse Farias gone, Santa Anna assumed full authority, turning Mexico into a military dictatorship. Hoping to catch Henry napping, he led an army of twenty thousand north in late July, via the mountain roads towards the town of Saltillo.
But Henry was already moving, and would meet Santa Anna to the south of Saltillo, near the village of Buena Vista. Despite being weakened by desertion, the Mexican army won a costly victory, forcing Henry to withdraw to Monterrey. But news of an uprising in Mexico City forced an enraged Santa Anna to withdraw south, giving Henry time to summon reinforcements. In February of 1834, taking advantage of Scott's capture of Zacatecas, he advanced south and took Cuidad Victoria, then headed south west to capture San Luis Potosi, meeting Scott there in early April. Weary of what was proving a costly war, Henry immediately pushed south towards Mexico City, which he captured after a heroic defence in May of 1834. Armed resistance would drag on for several years, but for all intents and purposes the Mexican War was over.
Splendid Isolation Edit
Victory in the Mexican War left Britannia as the nigh-undisputed master of North America. The only foreign enclave in that area was Russian-controlled Alaska - so far from the Britannian heartland as to be barely worthy of notice - and the only other land route was via Panama to the south. Though southern Mexico would remain restive for some time, Britannia would continue to stabilize and prosper for many years. Restive Indian populations were controlled to some extent through the establishment of two new territories; Comancheria and Apacheria; intended in part to act as a buffer zone against potential Mexican revolt. Henry sought to bring the various Indian tribes into the fold via an early version of the Honourary Britannian system, which came down in practice to carrot-and-stick.Indian leaders who cooperated with rewarded with noble titles, and their nations with title deeds to their land. Those who did not found themselves at a disadvantage in any conflict with loyalist nations and tribes; both in the courtroom and on the battlefield
This fed into a deep-rooted resentment and suspicion felt by many Indians, who saw it as a system of divide-and-rule; but it had the effect of bringing the Indian territories more firmly under Imperial control. Disagreements and outright conflict between traditionalist and modernising Indians fed into a wider social and political controversy over the direction in which Britannia was destined to take. Should it modernise along European lines, or should it hold fast to traditional ways of life? Ironically, among the most vocal protectors of Indian traditionalists in the corridors of Imperial power were the Ricardian nobles, who saw the protection of traditional ways of life as vital to the maintenance of social order.
Slavery continued to die out in favour of serfdom; a system under which individuals were bound to the land they farmed rather than treated as chattels in themselves.The decline of the African slave trade further accelerated this process. The obvious advantage was that serfs were self-sufficient, whereas slaves had to be fed and housed at their owner's expense. They were also much less likely to run away or be rebellious, as their small plots and homes gave them something to lose; whereas a slave had little or nothing to lose. This system nevertheless contributed to an informal system of racial stratification, for the majority of serfs were former black slaves; though increasing numbers of white Britannians were becoming enserfed, usually as a punishment for crime or in order to escape debt.
During his reign, Henry had done his utmost to manage the changes taking place in Britannian society, and to ensure the Empire's long-term stability. The most significant change was a veritable population explosion, fuelled by a seemingly neverending supply of cheap food; itself a byproduct of the decline of cash-crops under Ricardo. A plentiful supply of food resulted in greater numbers of children being born, and a higher proportion reaching adulthood. Birth registers from early in Henry's reign noted cases of eight or even ten children being born to a single family; though this was the extreme end of the scale. At the start of his reign in 1821 the population numbered around ten million, by his death in 1848 it had more than doubled to over twenty-five million.
Henry understood better than most of his nobles how this growth would strain society. His tours of inspection found village communities strained to breaking point, and towns swarming with young men in search of work. Reports from magistrates across the empire were a never-ending litany of inheritance disputes, as siblings and cousins struggled for the control of farms too small to support them all. Henry's conquest of Mexico proved a vital safety valve, opening up vast new lands to be colonized. Henry personally funded many such 'plantations', establishing entire new communities in the new lands; connected by new roads and canals. He even went so far as to establish a second capital, Pendragon, between California and Apacheria, to act as a western hub for the sprawling empire. For a time, the sheer scale of Britannia was enough to easily absorb Britannia's excess population.
But that same scale was also a problem for Henry, making him all the more dependent on his archdukes and other territorial nobles. While this doubtless fuelled their ambitions, Henry was too well respected (not to mention feared) for them to seriously consider acting against him. But the seeds of future difficulties were being sown, most notably in the form of the chivalric orders. Under Ricardo, many knights had formed themselves into formal and informal organizations, modeled on the military orders and chivalric brotherhoods of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Henry was somewhat less tolerant of such things than his father, and sought to make the knightly orders useful. To gain recognition from the College of Arms, an order had to be able to raise and maintain the numbers of a cavalry regiment, and to organize and train themselves in the same fashion. Many smaller orders amalgamated in order to make up the numbers, and by the end of Henry's reign the Roll of Honour included over fifty orders.
The Gathering Storm Edit
Henry died unexpectedly in 1848, his death ascribed to heart failure. The empire over which he reigned was a remarkably prosperous and well-organised state. But it was one with serious and deep-rooted structural problems, which his successor would spend his entire reign trying to contain. Despite a happy marriage to his childhood friend Theresa Howard, none of Henry's children survived to adulthood. After a brief power struggle between his half-siblings, his half-brother Alec la Britannia was enthroned as a compromise candidate. Alec's advantage lay in his experience of goverment, having served for several years as Henry's Treasurer. This left him with an extensive understanding of money, which would serve him well throughout his reign, but with the unfortunate tendency to see governance in primarily economic terms. He would go on to earn the soubriquet 'Nine Parts', due to a quip that government was one part ideology, nine parts economic management. Such cynicism may be understandable, but it would prove singularly unhelpful.
Whatever his intentions, it was all Alec could do to manage the increasing complex and fractious empire. Perhaps influenced by his brother's success, he believed that most problems could be solved by maintaining and improving the economic machine; especially the supply of cheap food. His infamous quip would come back to haunt him more than once, as ideology became the cause of a great many of his problems. The political differences that Henry had spent so much time and energy managing grew even worse under Alec, made worse by a growing connection between the knightly orders and the territorial nobles. Alec was noticeably more tolerant of the knightly orders than Henry had been, seeing it as a useful and generally harmless way of keeping the chivalric classes distracted. Some orders took advantage of his laxity to grow in size and influence, acquiring lands and wealth to support themselves. Some dukes and even archdukes were the Grand Masters of knightly orders, and some even managed to unite several orders under their leadership.
The traditionalist politics of many nobles, combined with the Arthurian dreams of countless young knights, combined to make the knights a powerful political presence; one that Alec could not easily oppose. But it would be a mistake to focus entirely on the image of Britannian knights as living anachronisms, riding armour-clad with couched lance against the massed ranks of cruel modernity. Armoured knights had proven effective during the Mexican War, but only in the hands of commanders who knew how best to use them. The armour itself had also improved considerably over the years, driven first by Ricardo's obsession and later a society-wide fascination, to the point where it could indeed resist musket fire. But even then, not all knightly orders rode into battle in full armour; some equipped themselves as cuirassiers, and many did not wear armour at all.
But nostalgia and cultural fixation were not the only reasons for the ascendancy of the knights. They also came indispensable to the maintenance of order, especially on the frontiers and in the new territories, where the rule of law was rudimentary and threats lingered in the form of Native tribes and bandit gangs; the latter sometimes made up of runaway serfs, or even of delinquent knights. Far from the centres of power and the military garrisons, only the knightly orders were able to secure and protect the new land. For this reason, along with the support they enjoyed among nobles, it was at best very difficult for Alec to keep the knights under control. As their wealth and power grew, he contented himself with keeping the wider system functioning; seemingly unaware of the storm he was allowing to brew.
The Cardinal of Caerbrennin Edit
The reigns of Henry and Alec saw the rise to power of one of the great names of Britannian history. Lorenzo Soresi began his career as a page in the household of Alec, then Archduke of Carolina; where he quickly displayed both a good grasp of high finance and a knack for court politics. He advanced his career by ending the careers of others; those whose schemes to fill their pockets and advance themselves at the young archduke's expense were rooted by him. Needless to say this made him many enemies, and he is known to have survived at least one serious assassination attempt during his time in Alec's household. But his ability to manage the various personalities around him kept him alive, and allowed his rise to continue. As Alec grew to adulthood, Lorenzo eventually caught the Emperor's eye. Henry was impressed with Lorenzo's array of abilities, and the sprezzatura with which he managed Alec's court; while Lorenzo deeply admired Henry in turn, seeing him as the kind of man Britannia desperately needed on its throne.
Lorenzo prospered under Henry, gaining numerous titles and rising to the Chancellor's personal staff. When Alec took the throne in 1848, few were surpised when he raised the 38-year-old Lorenzo to the Chancellorship. But if he expected to be able to manage the Empire as he had managed his master's household and various government departments for so many years, he was to be disappointed. Though he and Alec were of a similar frame of mind when it came to governance, it must have been apparent to Lorenzo that Alec was simply not the Emperor his brother had been. He simply lacked both Henry's killer instinct for power, and the stature he had gained through his conquests and decades of rule. With both the high nobility and the knightly orders growing increasingly difficult to control, Lorenzo sought to position himself as Cardinal Richelieu to Alec's Louis XIII; so much so that he soon acquired the nickname 'the Cardinal' at court.
This made him no shortage of enemies, especially among the southern nobles. Lorenzo was a known adherent of a new idea in Britannian politics; which today could be dubbed Social Darwinism. Though of noble birth, Lorenzo had survived and succeeded only due to his abilities. During his later, more successful years this had caused him to fall in with adherents of the new ideology of Purism. This made him enemies among conservative aristocrats, especially over the issues of slavery and serfdom. The Purist movement was already well known for its opposition to slavery and serfdom, and it was growing in popularity among the lower nobility and educated commoners. Some hardline nobles were ideologically invested in slavery and serfdom, and abhorred even the possibility that they might be abolished. Among moderate conservatives, who could take or leave those institutions, it was feared that Lorenzo might abolish slavery and serfdom on terms disadvantageous to them.
As it was, Lorenzo made little progress on this front during his Chancellorship. Much of his time and effort was spent countering the machinations of his rivals; chief among them Emperor Alec's own wife. Alejandra Maria Alvarado was the daughter of an ennobled Mexican family, whose wealth combined with their willingness to do Britannia's bidding had earned them considerable power and influence. Her marriage to Alec was by all accounts a love match, and by the time of their coronation she had already borne him a son, Basilio. But her affection did not extend to his old friend and Chancellor, Lorenzo. Believing that he had opposed their marriage, Alejandra regarded Lorenzo as a threat to her husband's power, and her own position. For years Empress and Chancellor struggled for power in a genteel but deadly game of power politics, launching and countering endless intrigues. As conservative nobles coalesced around Alejandra as their advocate and protector, Lorenzo was forced to deepen his ties with the Purists; confirming the conservatives' suspicions.
The final, inevitable downward spiral began in 1861, when Prince Basilio was assassinated by his own Knight-of-Honour, Sir Ganelon Laval, who then escaped. Denied their son's killer, the grief-stricken Emperor and Empress turned their wrath upon his hapless fiancee, Lady Annette Weinberg, and her family. The Weinbergs were one of the great noble families of Britannia, their fortunes starting with the heroism of Sir Eric Weinberg at the Battle of Lynchburg. The mass arrest of the entire clan, and their indecently swift convictions on the basis of limited and in some cases tainted evidence, scandalized the empire. But with Emperor Alec seemingly broken by grief, and Alejandra bent on revenge, few dared stand in the juggernaut's path. Few besides Lorenzo, who pleaded for the Weinbergs to no avail, and openly criticized the conduct of their trial. This made him a target, not merely for Alejandra and her supporters, but for the citizens of Caerleon; who saw her as a wronged woman being denied justice. When Alec finally died in January of 1862, supposedly of a broken heart, it seemed as if Lorenzo's career was at an end.
But in truth it was the beginning of the end for Alejandra, whose last mistake was to demand that Annette die along with her family. The public prejudice that had previously supported her now turned against her, seeing her as a malicious hysteric demanding the death of an innocent young girl. Reports of Annette crying for her brother as the blade fell fueled the growing outrage, and Alejandra's supporters were assaulted in Caerleon. This shift allowed Lorenzo to intervene on behalf of Annette's brother, Sir Andreas Weinberg, and ensure his acquittal. Alejandra, maddened by grief and enraged at this treatment, began to lash out; either ordering or allowing her followers to strike back at anyone who so much as criticized her. Seeing that she was losing her grip, Lorenzo began to move against her followers, killing some and imprisoning others. In one horrific incident, Lorenzo had thirty of Alejandra's loyalists - including one of her nephews - executed before her window. This last atrocity finally broke her, and Lorenzo had her packed off to a nunnery; where she spent the rest of her life.
North-South War Edit
For a time, it seemed as if Lorenzo il Soresi had finally triumphed. In February of 1862 he had declared himself Regent, and called upon the Imperial family and higher nobility to assemble in Caerleon to select a new Emperor. But he had reckoned without the feelings of the conservative nobles, outraged by his confinement of the Empress-Dowager and fearful of his intentions. Far from attending the planned gathering at Caerlon, hundreds of higher nobles instead headed for their estates, as did thousands of lesser nobles and tens of thousands of knights. Factions began to form around the most powerful nobles, consisting of alliances of vassals and knightly orders, backed with ducal and archducal militias and hastily-raised retinues. The most powerful of these anti-Soresi factions, calling itself as the Confederate Lords, finally took the fight to the enemy in May of 1862.
The Battle of Stafford, taking place on May 3rd 1862, displayed the curious character of the North South War. The main Confederate army, led by Jefferson Davis, Duke of Vicksburg, was slow in getting underway; allowing an army under Sir Christopher Chamberlain, First Knight of the Round Table, to steal a march on him. The two armies met near Stafford, Virginia, along the main road north to Caerleon. On the face of it, Chamberlain's army of thirty thousand Imperial soldiers, backed by twenty thousand knights, militia, and armed retainers, should have been more than a match for Davis' similarly-sized force of knights, militia, and retainers. But the Imperial army was no longer the superlative weapon it had once been. Two decades of neglect and penny-pinching had left it seriously weakened. The soldiers were not as well-trained as they had once been, its weapons were often in poor condition, and critical supplies were lacking. The militia and retinues on both sides were often worse-off, with many units armed with medieval weapons such as spears and halberds.
The real stars of the North-South War were the knights; products of Britannia's chivalric and Arthurian cultural fixations, finally given the chance to show what they could do. Most of the knights at Stafford fought on horseback, but a force of Confederate knights fought on foot; the Order of the Red Dragon, who brought to the battle one thousand knights and three thousand armed retainers. The Red Dragon knights were also noteworthy for their use of the Shot Lance; one of Britannia's most bizarre weapons. It consisted of a tall spear, with the head consisting of a steel-cased Congreve-style rocket. Though inaccurate, their effective range was around a thousand metres, and when deployed in numbers they could wreak terrible damage on troops in close formation. This they did at Stafford, enduring Chamberlain's ragged artillery fire to unleash their rockets on the Imperial centre, throwing the infantry into confusion. Davis then unleashed his mounted knights, the armoured horseman thundering into the disorganized infantry and sweeping them away. Veteran officers who survived the war complained bitterly about this, arguing that Emperor Henry's army would have carried the day. But Chamberlain's army collapsed, the survivors streaming north towards Caerleon. But lacking siege artillery, and facing a stubborn defence organized by Lorenzo, Davis was unable to take the city.
What followed was eight years of violence and destruction. Great armies manouevred on the plains and amid the forests, while small warbands ravaged towns and villages; hoping to provoke recalcitrant enemies to unwise battle, or else starve them to death. Countless small wars were fought between lesser members of both sides, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes for honour, but in many cases simply to secure enough food to survive the winter. A handful of intrepid foreigners, who dared imprisonment and death at the hands of xenophobic Britannians, compared the fighting to battles they had seen in the Taiping Rebellion, or among the Indian states. Armoured knights clashed with sword and lance, or with bizarre weapons like Shot Lances, Bomb Javelins, or the more elegant gunblades. The effort and expense that had gone into rendering these weapons remotely viable was merely further proof of just how bizarre and wrong-headed Britannian society had become. It set in the popular mindset of Europe, and further afield, a vision of Britannia as a deluded, anachronistic backwater.
This vision soon encouraged the European powers to take advantage of the situation. Spain in particular was eager to reclaim its lost Central American empire, and the rich islands of the Carribbean were an irresistible temptation to France; still the dominant power in Europe. Britain also got in on the act, seeking to force Britannia's east coast open for trade. The Imperial Navy by this point consisted of just over eighty ships, of which its most powerful were twenty-four heavy frigates of which the newest had been laid down in 1815; and maintenance and training had suffered from the same neglect and penny-pinching that had so fatally weakened the army. Brave though the Imperial sailors and their officers were, they were no match for the ironclad steamships of the European navies, whose guns fired explosive shells at ranges beyond anything the Imperial ships could match. France and Spain divided up the islands between them, and Spanish troops landed in Central America; while the British focussed their attention further north. Seeing that they had no defence against the firepower of the invading warships, the nobles of those regions chose collaboration instead; keeping their lands and positions in return for their obedience. Britannia was being colonised.
Return of the Empress Edit
Britannia's salvation would come from an unlikely source, and an equally unlikely place. Princess Claire li Britannia had avoided the war and the intrigues that preceded it, largely by virtue of having been sent to Japan as an infant; shortly after her birth in 1849 to late Emperor Henry's maîtresse-en-titre, the Lady Diane Sorel. The reasons for this are unclear, but court rumour at the time ascribed the child's disappearance either to Lorenzo's machinations or Alejandra's jealousy. She spent the first sixteen years of her life in the isolated Eimei Village in rural Japan, a refuge for outcasts and ronin, her true identity remaining hidden until the village was attacked and destroyed by a warband of the Sumeragi Clan, accompanied by Sir Andreas Weinberg. His ostensible mission had been to negotiate with the Shogunate and the Sumeragis for Sakuradite. His actual mission was to investigate rumours of Clare's existence; rumours which turned out to be true. Accompanied by a band of surviving villagers, the princess and the knight would undergo many adventures before finally returning to Britannia late in 1869. It is testament to Claire's persuasive powers that she was able to lure Andreas into her own service; turning him against the master who had saved his life and avenged his family.
Having accepted the allegiance of the House of El Britannia, represented by Prince Niels, also Grand Master of the Order of Merlin, Claire quickly set about establishing a territory of her own in the ruined Britannia. It soon became apparent that Claire was of a type quite unlike her fellow Royals. Perhaps as a result of her somewhat rustic upbringing, Claire was remarkably unpretentious and even friendly, regularly walking among and even speaking with her subjects. Her philosophy was also radically different to that of Lorenzo, and that of his enemies. She did not practice or tolerate serfdom or slavery within her territory, and even her nobles governed her land with remarkable patience and kindness. Indeed, kindness was at the very centre of her ideology; to the point where she argued that a society that was not kind to its people was worthless. Needless to say, this approach was exceedingly popular with Britannia's long-suffering commoners; and even some knights and nobles were drawn in. Within a year of her arrival, Claire had acquired considerable territory in western Britannia, to the point where she had become a serious player in the ongoing civil war.
By this time, the Lords Confederate no longer existed as a coherent faction. Internecine conflict and sheer frustration had torn it apart, and its nobles had chosen to collaborate with the British in return for protection and possibilities of trade. Their allies in the Carribbean and southern Mexico had made the same arrangement with the French and Spanish respectively. The one upside for Lorenzo was that this foreign interference had sparked a wave of terror across Britannia. Fearful of invasion, Britannians who had previously sat on the fence, or even taken up arms against him, now turned to Lorenzo to protect them. But Lorenzo's Purist ideology remained widely controversial, making it difficult for him to build a national consensus. Worse, he had been little more successful as a war leader than anyone else had been. Never a military man, Lorenzo viewed war from the perspective of a politician and bureaucrat. This was not without its advantages, for it left him with a grasp of organization and logistics that many of his rivals lacked. But his instinct was always to defeat his enemies with diplomacy and machiavellian politics; always his best weapons.
Thus Claire was not merely a military threat, but a political one as well. Her popularity with the common people made it easy for her to maintain control of her territories, and a tempting prospect for those seeking an alternative to Lorenzo. The European powers were quick to see a chance to weaken Lorenzo, and thus encouraged their collaborators to declare themselves for Claire. Their hope was that Claire would be forced to go on the offensive, keeping Britannia weakened and divided for many years to come. Alternately, if she managed to win, she could be prevailed-upon to make concessions in return for peace. This, as much as anything else, may be the reason why Lorenzo decided in March of 1870 to negotiate with Claire. Princess and Chancellor finally met at an isolated castle in the Rocky Mountains, each accompanied by a few retainers and guards. Precisely what transpired remains a mystery, mired in legend and exaggeration. But it is clear that Claire must have impressed Lorenzo greatly, or else made him an offer he could not refuse.
Either way, it was agreed that the remaining Royal families and high nobility would gather at Pendragon, the empire's western hub, in order to select a new Emperor. In May of 1870, Claire was herself selected, and crowned as 92nd Empress, the first and thus far only woman to hold that title. Lorenzo was confirmed as her Chancellor, a much-needed sop to the Purists and his various other supporters. With the support of her relatives and the high nobility, Claire was able to gradually disband the countless armies and warbands, and set about restoring order.
The Dark Times Edit
After eight years of violence, the Britannian people could be forgiven for yearning for peace; and for believing that Empress Claire had brought it at last. The various armies and warbands were disarmed and disbanded, bandits suppressed, and the authority of local magistrates restored. Peasants farmed their fields unmolested, and merchants once again travelled the roads and rivers. As commerce began to flow again, ruined cities and towns were rebuilt, and began once again to grow. For the first eight years of Claire's reign, as the war-weary Britannians set about rebuilding their country, all seemed well.
But far away from the verdant fields and bustling cities, within the palaces and castles of the mighty, all was definately not well. Claire's determination to make Britannia a kinder, gentler society was running into difficulties. Though she was able to ban chattel slavery - a minority interest even at its height - her attempts to abolish serfdom provoked opposition from across the nobility; many of whom depended on serfdom to maintain their wealth. At the suggestion of Lorenzo and some progressive nobles, Claire attempted to encourage the abandonment of serfdom via economic logic. The south-eastern archduchies had already been influenced by their British 'protectors', and had begun importing modern machine tools and knowhow in order to establish factories and modern farms. Railways were also experimented-with on a small scale. Claire encouraged this in the hope of persuading the conservative nobles to abandon serfdom, while also negotiating with the British to remove their troops from her territory. This they finally did in 1874, after the signing of a deeply controversial trade deal that allowed the British free access to all east coast ports.
Further controversy followed with the French territories. The defeat and overthrow of Napoleon III in 1871 had left France with a new Republican government in desperate need of money. The Carribbean island holdings were judged to be non-viable, and the new government looked around for a buyer; a process that would drag on for several years. The notion that their lands were being sold off, and that they might have to pay to get them back, further inflamed public opinion in Britannia. Claire and Lorenzo nevertheless managed to clinch a deal by taking advantage of one of the sale's complications. The French had forcibly ended both slavery and serfdom on the islands they had taken, whereas the Spanish - Britannia's main competitor in the auction - had maintained serfdom. Claire was able to win the French over with a promise not to restore serfdom or slavery, thus making herself the moral candidate. The purchase went ahead in 1876, leaving only Spain to challenge Britannia on what had once been its own land.
But this diplomatic coup won Claire little fame. The idea of having to buy back territory that had been stolen by force, or surrendered by traitors, galled many Britannians. This was made worse by the new trade treaties with France and Britain, which were popularly regarded as unequal. Britain's treaty granted free access to all ports along Britannia's east coast, and allowed British citizens to purchase land in and around said ports at reduced prices. They also granted extraterritoriality to British citizens and persons under British protection, rendering them immune to Britannian law. The French treaty was a near-straight copy, but centring on the Carribbean coasts and islands. Outrage at these concessions was strongest among Britannia's educated urban population, especially those living in the ports, for whom foreign enclaves were an everyday reality.
To make matters worse, Claire's attempts to improve the economy had created their own problems. Industrialisation, spreading rapidly in the east coast archduchies, was indeed turning opinion against serfdom as Claire had hoped. But the price of such progress was upsetting the social consensus, and turning a previously stable way of life upside down. The artisan class, one of the wealthier sub-strata of the commoners, was hit particularly hard; with many driven out of business and forced to take jobs in the new factories at lower wages and status than they were accustomed to. Riots and machine-smashings resulted, the nobles unleashing their militias and retainers in retaliation. Some reactionary knightly orders sided with the artisans, widening the confrontation further. Clashes between orders, and sometimes nobles also, became increasingly common; as orders and nobles alike sought to secure their territory and interests.
On top of all this came problems at home. By 1876, Claire had already borne two children, by two different husbands. The first was Prince Lothar li Britannia, by her first husband Edwin von Braunschweig; though it was rumoured that the father was actually one of Claire's Japanese companions, the mysterious and taciturn warrior known only as Renya. Claire's marriage to Edwin was by all accounts a disastrous failure. Edwin resented his wife's inner circle, the attention she lavished on their son, and especially his own lack of status. He had married Claire seemingly on the understanding that he would become Emperor, or at least Claire's co-sovereign; neither of which concession Claire had any intention of making. By 1874 relations had broken down beyond repair, and Edwin was known to be spreading rumours regarding Lothar's paternity. After a series of outrages, including death threats against Prince Niels el Britannia and reputedly attempting to force himself upon the Empress, Edwin was divorced and banished from the court.
After waiting a few months for propriety's sake, Claire married Louis Templeton, Duke of Vermont; and in 1875 bore him a daughter, Princess Victoria li Britannia. Claire openly doted on both her children, and they spent long periods away from court at the Imperial family's various retreats and hunting lodges; ostensibly to give them a healthier childhood. Claire also courted controversy by nursing both of her children herself; her detractors arguing that such a duty was beneath her, her supporters arguing that royal children needed royal milk. Unfortunately, this served to damage her image even further; with her detractors portraying her as a weak woman more interested in her children and feminine frivolities than the business of government.
This image would be tragically cemented in 1880, when Victoria fell dangerously ill. The Britannian surgeons who treated her were distinctly backward in their medical knowledge, with some still adhering to the doctrine of the humours, and their treatment amounted to little more than torture. A horrified Lothar managed to enlist the help of a Scottish immigrant doctor named James Darrow, but by the time he was able to arrive it was already too late. Victoria's death, and the horrific manner of it, left Claire broken with grief, and unable to respond when Spanish troops invaded Britannian-held territory in Mexico. The Spanish were only halted by the efforts of the Apache and Comanche tribes along the Southern Marches, along with the men of Texas. With the Empress in no condition to handle the situation, her government was forced to sign an armistice letting the Spanish keep what they had taken. Though the death of her young daughter under such tragic circumstances won Claire much personal sympathy, her credibility as Empress was badly damaged.
Britannia Resurgent Edit
The humiliation of defeat, and the loss of her daughter, had sown deadly seeds in the heart of Claire's son. Prince Lothar had spent his childhood watching his mother endure crisis after crisis, and humiliation at the hands of powerful nobles concerned only with their own interests. The death of his beloved half-sister, and the further humiliation inflicted on his mother during the Spanish crisis, left him deeply embittered. Matters grew even worse in the following years, when Claire attempted to address the empire's security issues by recreating the formal Imperial army. Many of the knightly orders, notably the Golden Wreath, reacted badly to this.
In July of 1881, a deputation of Grand Masters, led by Ordric Malreux of the Golden Wreath, confronted the Empress before the court and all but ordered her to abandon her plans. Claire refused, and the knights stormed out, blaming her advisors for turning her against them. Two days later, on July 9th, a combined force of knights from the Golden Wreath, the Silver Shield, and the Black Cross stormed Caerbrennin Palace, fought their way past the Merlin Knights, and killed two of Claire's ministers before fleeing the scene. Claire was outraged, but could do nothing about it. She had at most six orders upon whom she could rely for support, while Malreux and his allies could raise twice that number. Months of tense negotiations led to a handful of token executions.
During this time, Lothar had fallen under the influence of an ageing Lorenzo il Soresi, as well as his old ally Victoria Trevalyn, the first woman ever to be sworn into the Order of the Round Table. Lorenzo and his remaining supporters despaired of Claire's rule, and saw Lothar as their last, best hope. It was Lorenzo who convinced the Empress to let Lothar accompany an embassy to Europe in 1883, a journey that would take him away from Britannia for the better part of two years. Lothar greatly enjoyed his European odyssey, of which he kept his mother and cousins informed in a series of highly detailed letters.
Aside from the expected audiences with European leaders, he visited universities, hospitals, factories, and shipyards, absorbing the latest knowledge and best practice. He was particularly fascinated by railways, in sharp contrast to some of his companions, who feared the vibrations would make their brains disintegrate. Of all the European states he was most impressed by Germany, which was by then foremost in sciences, industry, and military power. He devoted an entire letter to his musings on a military exercise he attended alongside Kaiser Wilhelm I.
Upon his return in 1885, Lothar set his plan into motion. His first step was to persuade his mother to put him in charge of a colonization effort in the far north, around the shores of Hudson Bay. Drawing on his own funds, Lothar lavishly funded the expedition; which reached the small town of Churchill in October 1885. Using Churchill as a base, Lothar expanded Britannian authority around the unclaimed shores of Hudson Bay and out into the prairie, befriending the natives through a judicious policy of carrot and stick. This new territory he named Polaris.
If Lothar had harbored some secret desire to settle in the north and forget about Britannia, as some historians have suggested, it would soon be dashed. Early in 1886, veins of sakuradite were discovered in the Black River region; enough to make Lothar unimaginably wealthy, and Polaris a target. Under conditions of strict secrecy, Lothar began to mine the sakuradite and send it to Europe; receiving in return shipments of European mining and industrial equipment, which he used to develop Polaris further. He also imported European weapons, ranging from bolt-action rifles to field guns, and instructors to train a new army. Many of the instructors, mercenaries, and other experts who came to Polaris were in fact Britannian exiles, such as Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison.
With the court and nobility growing ever more suspicious of his motives, Lothar found himself under increasing pressure to reveal what he had been doing. With time and luck running out, Lothar returned to Caerleon, ostensibly for a lavish celebration of his eighteenth birthday. As part of the celebrations, his regiment of foot guards paraded before him at Caerbrennin Palace, while the Empress and her astonished courtiers looked on. Some of the more sharp-eyed observers noted the bolt-action rifles the men carried, and the German-style uniforms certainly did not go unnoticed.
Precisely what Lothar intended by this gesture is unclear; theories have ranged from adolescent posturing to an ill-conceived attempt to intimidate Malreux's faction into backing down. If the latter was true, it had the opposite effect. Malreux and his followers openly accused the prince of being in the Kaiser's pay, and even Claire ordered Lothar to disband his forces (the true scale of which she may or may not have been aware) and stop these provocations. Enraged, Lothar left the city and headed north to his own lands. The stage was set for tragedy.
In early May of 1888, Ordric Malreux made his move. The entire forces of the Golden Circle, the Silver Shield, and the Black Cross attacked Caerleon simultaneously, storming the city and capturing the palace. The Merlin Knights and the palace guards were slaughtered to a man, and the Empress was taken prisoner. Only a handful of her relatives were able to escape, fleeing north in search of Lothar. Malreux then issued a declaration, claiming that he had acted in defence of the Empress and Britannia's true interest, and that Britannia must be brought under the leadership of true knights if it was to survive. He then proceeded to execute several of Claire's courtiers and ministers, along with her half-brother Prince Neils and her husband the Prince Consort Louis. He finally ordered a grand convocation of all the knightly orders, calling upon all Grand Masters to attend upon him in Caerleon to arrange the affairs of the empire.
Lothar was horrified by the news, and is said to have almost broken down and wept, blaming himself for his mother's condition. But anger soon replaced despair, and he issued a declaration of his own; denouncing Malreux and calling his convocation illegal. Seeing no alternative, he mobilised his army; now around 40,000 strong, and marched south; gathering his First Men allies along the way. Upon reaching Winnipeg, he ordered his native contingents to continue south; their target being the archduchy of Minnesota, dominated by the Order of the Greenwood, notorious for its hatred of the First Men. As the natives took their revenge, Lothar turned east and linked up with the forces assembled by John Macdonald, Archduke of Ontario, before marching north of the Great Lakes and turning south into Massachusetts. As he went, several more knightly orders and noble retinues joined him; notably including the orders of St Raphael, St Michael, St Uriel, and St Gabriel.
By this point it was clear to Ordric Malreux that he had civil war on his hands. He issued further decrees reiterating his position, and ordered all his available troops, consisting of four whole orders, north against Lothar. They called a halt near the crossroads at Albany, and settled down to wait for reinforcements. The discovery of their presence presented Lothar with a terrible dilemma. While he was confident he could defeat Malreux's unwieldy army, doing so would delay him for several days; leaving Malreaux with the option of killing his mother out of sheer spite. A group of his followers eventually persuaded him to let them go south, and rescue the Empress by stealth. Lothar gave his blessing, and prepared for battle.
The Battle of Albany, taking place on July 19th, 1888, is one of the great tragedies of Britannian history; seen by some as a pageant of honour and sacrifice, others as a brutal farce. Its first events took place the day before, when Lothar's vanguard - consisting of the knights of the four orders, supported by his artillery, stormed the bridges over the River Mohawk, securing them for his army to cross. By the time Malreux realised what was happening, and was able to get his army into battle array, Lothar's infantry and cavalry were pouring over the river and taking up position. Uncertain of the capabilities of Lothar's troops, Malreux counter-attacked with a force of infantry. Armed mostly with flintlock muskets and polearms, the order infantry were no match for Lothar's troops, armed with bolt-action rifles and Maxim guns.
What followed was the ultimate tragedy of the day, known forever afterward as Malreux's Death Ride. The Malreux in question was Ordic's nephew, Oswyn Malreux, in charge of a contingent of knightly cavalry. With the initial infantry attack defeated and the survivors fleeing, Oswyn responded by calling together every cavalry formation he could find, then led a series of all-out charges against Lothar's centre positions. The reasons behind this desperate act are unclear, though one popular story claimed that he (like many of his fellows) was gravely disquieted at his uncle's imprisonment of the Empress, and sought to atone for his involvement via death at the hands of her son. Amazingly, one of his charges actually managed to break through the front lines, though between swiftly-deployed reserves and inexperienced artillery crews finally finding the range, this success could not be followed up. With his nephew dead, most of his mounted knights lost, and his army disintegrating, Malreux fled the scene with his Golden Circle knights, whom he had held back.
Albany was Lothar's first major battlefield victory in which he exercised sole command. It also marked the beginning of the Britannian Reunification War, more popularly known as the Knightslayer War, which would drag on for four more years. The war would see Britannia reunited under its Imperial throne, but not under Claire li Britannia. Though successfully rescued from Caerleon and reunited with her son, she had endured imprisonment, starvation, and possibly torture at the hands of Malreux; in a futile attempt to make her acquiesce to his wishes. Lothar pursued Malreux and his remaining followers to Caerleon, then all but destroyed the city with his artillery, leaving Malreux dead under a pile of rubble. Caerleon would be rebuilt, but like its Empress, it would never really recover its former glory. Claire's health finally failed in 1891, leaving the throne and the war to Lothar. Though he was more politely known as Lothar the Iron-Handed, his actions in the war would leave him with a much darker epithet;
Lothar the Knightslayer.
The New Age Edit
Britannia's new age was born in battle, as Lothar fought to bring the empire under his control. The death of Ordric Malreux at Caerleon had decapitated the anti-Imperial alliance, but many powerful nobles and Grand Masters sought to carry on the war; albeit spending as much time and effort fighting among themselves as with Lothar. Lothar's response, as Regent and later as Emperor, was to conquer his enemies one at a time; crushing their armies in the field while his agents kept their leaders divided and distracted. Several members of the Zevon family are known to have served Lothar in this capacity, causing some historians to propose this period for the formal founding of the Pluton organization; though this remains unproven. The methods Lothar's agents resorted to are nevertheless reminiscent; including misinformation, blackmail, kidnapping, assassination, and even bombings.
Lothar quickly established control of the east coast territories, then opened 1889 with thrusts along the Caribbean coast, and into Tennessee, Indiana, and Minnesota. His overall strategy was to advance in short bursts, then settle down to consolidate and expand his infrastructure. Wherever his armies marched, railways and telegraph lines followed, cementing his control and allowing fresh troops and supplies to reach the front lines quickly. More than once, attempted rebel counter-attacks were stymied by Imperial troops in fortified positions, resupplied by rail, and supported in some cases by improvised armoured trains.
But Britannia's industrial capacity remained limited, forcing Lothar to import much of what he needed - everything from shells to machine tools to railway locomotives - from abroad, at increasing expense. Lothar's war effort bled the Imperial treasury dry, forcing him to make up the difference with increased taxation and outright looting; though the latter was confined to rebel territories. Lothar further increased his income by reviving the Act of Attainder, allowing him to strip rebel nobles (or those judged to be rebels or otherwise criminal) of lands and titles without trial.
As Lothar's armies pushed south and west, resistance became ever more effective. The knightly armies of old Britannia gave way to modern artillery and rifles, imported via the handful of west coast ports. The fall of San Francisco in October of 1891 largely put an end to this. Formal resistance came to an end in May of 1892, when the last remaining rebel nobles presented themselves to Lothar at Pendragon, surrendering themselves to his judgement in return for their lives and property. Perhaps weary of war, and with peace finally in sight, Lothar spared them both execution and attainder in return for substantial cash fines. But resentment would linger, especially in areas that had suffered Imperial 'requisition'. Others, including those artisans and peasant farmers who found their way of life under threat, wondered just what this new age would bring.
As far as Lothar was concerned, the new age meant industry and weapons. Railways spread across Britannia at astonishing speed, with many local networks financed by local nobles and industrialists. Where the railways went, industry soon followed, taking advantage of Britannia's vast mineral wealth and plentiful building space. The process was further accelerated by Lothar's inauguration of the Imperial Bank of Britannia in 1894, providing a never-ending stream of cheap credit. Full-scale adoption of the new currency would take several years, and was met in some areas with violent resistance.
Previously, what passed for industry in Britannia had been mostly powered by natural forces; such as wind and water. Perhaps inspired by late Roman practices, Emperor Henry had overseen the creation of many aquaducts and water-driven mills, and some east coast industrialists had experimented with steam power before the North South War. Under Lothar, much of this old technology was swept aside in favour of the new electrical technologies; many made possible by sakuradite.
Though Benjamin Franklin's development of the so-called 'Franklin Battery' in 1795 had earned him great fame as a scientist, the relative rarity of sakuradite made it little more than a curiosity. But by the middle of the 19th century, interest in sakuradite was growing rapidly; fuelled by the opening up of Japan and improvements in prospecting and mining techniques. But although the Franklin Battery was unparalleled as a power source, it suffered from a near-crippling weakness; namely that refined sakuradite was highly explosive and dangerously unstable. But by the 1890s it had been discovered - by Thomas Edison among others - that sakuradite was not merely a source of energy, but highly conductive of electricity; indeed, the first and only room-temperature superconductor known to science. It was Thomas Edison who showed the way, creating a new hydroelectric power station at Vulcan Street, in the Grand Duchy of Michigan, in 1890. Based on sakuradite alloys of his own invention, the station had a working output of twenty-five kilowatts. By 1900, Britannia boasted 400 such stations, and newer, better designs were on the way.
The Spanish-Britannian War Edit
But the peace was not destined to last long. Though Britannia was for the most part secure against foreign threats, one considerable threat lingered in the south. Spain still retained the territories it had reconquered in 1880, and had moved considerable military forces into Mexico and Cuba. To patriotic Britannians, this situation was an intolerable affront to their national dignity. Worse, the Spanish had retained and in some cases restored serfdom in order to make the territories profitable, leading some progressive Britannians to call for a war of liberation.
Despite diplomatic efforts by Lothar, the Spanish Crown nevertheless had no intention of giving up the reconquered territories. Not only were they a vital source of income and prestige, but it was widely believed - in Spain, at least - that the Spanish Empire was a reward from God; granted after their defeat of the Emirate of Granada in 1492, the year that Christopher Columbus sailed for America. Tensions would continue to mount, made all the worse when Lothar's agents found evidence that Spain had not only backed several of the rebel warlords with funds and modern weapons, but was continuing to stir up trouble among the new industrial proletariat, and among the First Men in Apacheria and Comancheria.
The final countdown to war began in January of 1898, when four warships set sail from Britain for Britannia. The four Dauntless class armoured cruisers - named Warspite, Gladiator, Fearless, and Warrior - had been purchased by Britannia only the month before, and were sailing under the control of Britannian crews. One of the ships, the Fearless, suffered engine trouble and was forced to stop in Havana Harbour, Cuba. Despite the high tensions between the two empires, Fearless' stay at Havana was uneventful enough to convince many journalists and foreign observers that war might yet be avoided. Their hopes were dashed when, on the night of February 15th 1898, Fearless exploded and sank with all hands.
Though a later investigation blamed firedamp released by bituminous coal, Britannian public opinion fixed the blame firmly on Spanish perfidy. These claims were given a degree of credibility by Spanish diplomatic complaints over Britannian naval expansion, especially the British purchase of which Fearless was a part. Lothar responded with commendable restraint, ordering a full investigation and summoning the Spanish ambassador. But the war fever could not be denied, with members of the newly-created Senate issuing increasingly strident calls for action, and pro-war demonstrations occurring almost daily in Britannian cities.
Lothar issued a final ultimatum on April 20th, demanding that Spain hand back the lands it had taken in 1880; moderated with an offer to negotiate a staged withdrawal over five years. Spain adamantly refused, vowing to declare war if Britannia made any aggressive moves. Lothar ordered his generals to activate their war plan on April 25th, issuing a formal declaration of war on the same day. Three Britannian armies, numbering around one hundred thousand men in total, advanced into Spanish Mexico. Light cavalry units, many hailing from Comancheria, Apacheria, and Texas, screened the advance. At the same time, Britannia's Pacific fleet set sail from its base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii - leased from the Hawaiian crown in 1887 - for the Spanish territory of Nova Hispania; otherwise known as the Philippine Islands.
Despite the considerable changes in technology over the intervening decades, the Britannian invasion of Mexico followed much the same pattern as the original conquest. Hoping to make the most of their firepower, Spanish forces fought mostly on the defensive, making extensive use of fortifications and trenches. Britannian forces responded with heavy artillery bombardments, and used machine gun companies to provide covering fire for advancing infantry. This was generally effective, but the Spanish troops fought with remarkable stubborness, and Britannian casualties were often high. Lothar also continued the practice of aggressive railway construction, having his pioneer units build additional track as the armies advanced; sometimes with the help of POW labour.
Though the land war in Mexico went well for Britannia, the situation on the sea was much more difficult. Despite Britannia's rapid industrial expansion and its acquisition of steam turbine technology - almost certainly through espionage - the process of building a new Imperial navy was still ongoing. By 1898 the only Britannian-built warships were twenty torpedo boats; the twelve frigates and five cruisers being all foreign-purchased. Faced with this weakness, Britannian admirals had settled on the Jeune Ecole approach to naval warfare, which had proven itself two years earlier in the Sino-Japanese War. To this effect, most of the torpedo boats had been stationed in naval bases on the Caribbean Islands and Hispaniola. Protected by extensive shore defences, the torpedo boats launched a series of hit-and-run attacks on Spanish shipping, disrupting their supply lines and sinking several warships. An experimental submarine, the HIMS Leviathan, also took part.
With the Spanish fleet on the back foot, the Imperial Navy was able to take the fight to Cuba, with the first landings taking place east of Santiago in August. Weakened by the desertion of native troops, harried by guerillas, and wasted by Yellow Fever, the Spanish garrison was down to around twenty-five thousand usable troops. Despite stubborn resistance, Cuba was in Britannian hands by the middle of October. The Philippines came under effective Britannian control by June, despite the presence of British, French, German, and Japanese warships; and outright interference by the Germans. With the situation all but hopeless, Spain sued for peace shortly afterwards; the war finally ending with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in December of 1898.
The incorporation of the Philippines into the Empire would nevertheless prove a challenge. Filipino rebels had played a considerable role in the Britannian conquest, but had no particular desire to become Britannian subjects. For Lothar the matter was personal, for his mother had passed through Nova Hispania after fleeing Japan as a teenager, and had told him many times of the suffering the Filipinos endured at the hands of their Spanish overlords. But for all that, he could not simply give the islands up. His answer was to establish the Philippines as a formal Protectorate in 1900, as he did with Hawaii in the same year; in what many historians regard as a trial run of the Area system.
In overall control was the Imperial Viceroy Tobias Bruckner, a tough but fair-minded war veteran, but he was advised by an Imperial Audience, a council made up of Filipinos who had sworn allegiance to Britannia; becoming so-called Honourary Britannians. A policy of carrot-and-stick was applied, with resistance ruthlessly suppressed and the islands aggressively improved. Serfdom was ended, and farmers granted land rights in return for oaths of allegiance. Nevertheless, it would take many years for the Philippines to be pacified.
The Shadows Deepen Edit
The peace that followed Lothar's victory against Spain would not last long. Britannia had firmly established itself as a Great Power, but this came at the cost of friendly relations with its South American neighbors. Colombia in particular was suspicious of Britannia's intentions, if only because of their geographic proximity and Britannia's failed attempt to establish Britannian Guiana at the beginning of the century. The great flashpoint of the period was the Isthmus of Panama, a narrow strip of land dividing the Pacific ocean from the Caribbean Sea, and beyond it the Atlantic ocean. Whomsoever possessed it could transfer goods and passengers between ports much more quickly than the long voyage around Cape Horn. But Panama was at this point a Department of Colombia, albeit a rebellious one, and Bogota had already permitted Ferdinand de Lesseps to build a Panama canal in 1881; an effort abandoned in 1894 after countless deaths and vast cost overruns.
Lothar found himself under pressure to acquire the canal zone, and even the whole of Panama. But the war with Spain had been costly, and exposed numerous weaknesses in Britannian doctrine and equipment which would take many years to address. Unwilling to go to war, Lothar resorted to guile; unleashing the secretive Pluton organisation into Panama to sound out pro-Britannian elements and stir up an already volatile political situation. When Panama finally declared independence in November of 1903, Pluton agents and troops helped pro-Britannian politicians to secure the government, while Britannian warships blockaded the sea lanes into Panama, preventing the Colombian navy from deploying troops. Faced with a fait accompli, and in no more mood for war that Lothar was, Colombia was forced to back down; and Panama joined the empire as a Protectorate. Work on the Panama canal was quickly resumed.
The 'Panama Incident' was a triumph for Britannia, and proof to Lothar that underhand methods could be just as effective as brute force, if not more so. Unfortunately, it had two tragic side-effects, the most significant of which was a near-complete breakdown in diplomatic relations with South America. It had long been Britannian policy to establish positive relations with South America, especially via marriage alliance with the South American monarchies. But by Lothar's reign this had only been partially successful, with a marriage between Isabel, Princess Imperial and later Empress of Brazil, and Prince Dominic di Britannia.
The marriage itself was successful, producing two sons and one daughter. But although Isabel was personally popular, her marriage damaged her standing in Brazil. This was in part due to patriarchal attitudes in Brazilian society, but her perceived suitability to rule was also weakened by her role in the abolition of slavery - which angered Brazil's wealth elite - her hardline Catholicism, and her unwillingness to actively rule; leaving such matters to her husband.
The Panama Incident, and the Brazilian government's lack of reaction to it, caused outrage in Brazil, and gave a clique of military officers an opening to launch a coup. The Imperial family was forced to flee, taking refuge in Britannia. But despite Lothar's promises of support, Dominic and Isabel had no desire to retake their thrones, and instead focused on lobbying for their children to be recognized as Britannian royalty. An irritated Lothar acquiesced to this, though he went on to develop good relationships with his Brazilian cousins.
The new Brazilian Republic quickly joined forces with Colombia, and sought to establish a continent-wide anti-Britannian military alliance. But by 1908 this had broken down in acrimony and mutual recrimination, mostly due to long-standing distrust between the other states, especially between the republics and monarchies. Relations between Chile and the Kingdom of South America had never been good, and Paraguay remained both fiercely republican and deeply embittered over the loss of so much territory during the War of the Triple Alliance.
Peru remained the oddball of the continent, established when previously pro-Spanish native nobility had defected and joined forces with local rebels to establish their own state. The Kingdom of Peru - also known as Tawantinsuyu or the Neo-Inca Empire - thus attempted to recreate the culture and social structure of the long-fallen Inca Empire; though in practice the result was a cultural hybrid. The main diplomatic sticking point was Peru's dominant religion, a local syncretism of Christianity and Andean sun worship known colloquially as the Sun Church. This new faith spread far beyond Peru's borders, though hardline Catholics and social conservatives elsewhere in South America found it offensive.
The countdown to catastrophe began in 1906, when the British Royal Navy launched their newest warship; HMS Dreadnought. Equipped with all the latest technologies - including electromagnetic guns - this new battleship rendered the navies of the world obsolete overnight, and sparked off a worldwide arms race. Britannia was able to respond relatively quickly, launching its first dreadnought - the Lyonesse - in 1908. Many more would follow. Brazil responded with the Minas Geraes class, and South America and Chile soon did likewise. The air forces of Britannia and the Colombian-Brazilian alliance also saw significant expansion, with both sides building or purchasing airships and fixed-wing aircraft as fast as they could.
Thanks to developments in sakuradite-related technologies, such as lightweight engines and dynamos, airships and fixed-wing aircraft alike had undergone rapid improvement. Britannia itself had seen the first ever first ever controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903, care of the Wright Brothers. By 1912, Britannia possessed forty-two zeppelin-style airships and six hundred fixed-wing combat aircraft; of which the most powerful were the Odin class airship and the Valkyrie biplane respectively.
Although the Colombian-Brazilian alliance possessed considerable military power by 1912, it was clear to Colombian military planners that they were at a disadvantage due to Britannian dominance of the Caribbean. A desperate plan was concocted, by which Colombian Q-ships - civilian ships equipped with concealed weapons - would surprise Britannian-held islands and land marines, capturing the islands before the Imperial navy could respond. The activation of the plan, and the opening of the South American War, began as a result of a tragic misunderstanding. Colombian diplomats had succeeded in attracting the sympathy of the French-led Entente Europeenne, consisting of France, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium; to the point where the government in Bogota believed that Entente support would be forthcoming in the event of a war with Britannia.
The final countdown began on July 4th 1914, when Britannian marines boarded and searched a Colombian freighter at Havana, only to send it on its way two days later. What would otherwise have a petty matter proved the fatal spark, as the Colombian government ordered full mobilization and the activation of all war plans. Days later, word arrived from Europe of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenburg, in Sarajevo on June 28th. Europe was on the verge of war, and French support for Colombia could not be guaranteed. President Fernando Aguirre, his confidence shaken, attempted to halt mobilization.
But he faced opposition from the hardline faction in Congress, unofficially led by General Luciano Bianchi, which favoured war with Britannia. In what may have been a tragic case of groupthink, the hardliners believed that French warnings about the European crisis were exaggerated, and that it would be politically impossible for the Entente, after so many declarations of amity, not to come to their aid. On July 16th, the Q-ships began their attacks on Britannian colonies and bases in the Windward Islands. The plan was a complete success, with the islands falling under Colombian control within two days.
The South American WarEdit
Britannia's immediate response was to unleash the Imperial fleet against the occupied islands. In no position to take the Britannians on, the Colombian navy withdrew to await Brazilian reinforcements, leaving their marines trapped on the islands. Britannia's Caribbean Fleet began a brief island-hopping campaign, retaking the islands one-by-one. As more and more Imperial warships arrived, the Colombian fleet linked up with their Brazilian allies near Tobago then steamed north to reinforce their remaining islands. Britannia's East Coast Fleet, under Admiral Paul Steiner, moved to reinforce the Caribbean fleet near Gaudeloupe, and a furious battle ensued on August 8th.
Britannian losses were heavy, including six battleships, five cruisers, and six frigates. But Colombian-Brazilian losses were equally brutal, coming to five battleships, eight cruisers, five destroyers, and eight torpedo boats. The Battle of Guadeloupe was a cruel baptism of fire for the Imperial Navy, but one they could reasonably call a victory, as the allied fleet withdrew and fled south to the safety of Colombian ports. Falling back on the Jeune Ecole tactics that had proven so effective before, the Britannians unleashed their frigates and torpedo boats into the Caribbean. The allies did likewise, and what would come to be called the War of the Little Ships raged across the Caribbean.
Inevitably, Britannia's attentions turned to an invasion of Colombia itself. Though Britannian troops had attempted a breakout from Panama, Colombian forces were keeping them contained. The Imperial army had learned, from bitter experience eleven years earlier, of the defensive firepower afforded by modern magazine rifles, machine guns, and artillery. As such, they had no intention of relying on a land thrust from Panama, and sought to break the deadlock with amphibious landings. But staff officers disagreed on the ideal place to make the landings, with some favoring the Departments of Venezuela and Orinoco - through seas soon to be secured by the navy via the island-hopping campaign - and others favoring Magdalena, due to its proximity to Panama.
The latter was decided upon, with the invasion finally taking place in March of 1915 after many months of preparation. The two main landings, at Cartagena and Barranquilla, were costly failures. But several smaller landings were successful, and by frantic effort the landing forces were able to link up and march on Cartagena, eventually taking the city in May of 1915. This victory cost Britannia around two hundred thousand casualties, with the Colombians suffering comparable losses.
The war in South America came to be dominated by two mighty generals, Joseph 'Blackheart' Lastinger and Marcus 'Bloodbath' Bradley; two personalities as different as they were mutually hostile. Lastinger had risen through the artillery, fighting as a teenage gunner at Albany. A great believer in scientific warfare, he made a name for himself in Mexico with meticulously-planned and brilliantly-executed artillery barrages, and a solid grasp of logistics. But his brilliance was marred by a taciturn callousness that some said mirrored Lothar's own disposition. Though his troops were generally well supplied, he became notorious for 'spending men as he spends shells'; as one commentator put it; hurling his troops forward in human wave assaults following his bombardments.
In sharp contrast was Marcus Bradley, an infamous beau sabreur much loved by his men for his bravura and nigh-suicidal physical courage. Originally a cavalry officer, he favored maneuver over firepower, and believed that men, not machines, won wars. He is most commonly remembered for leading the Imperial army's last great cavalry charge at Villa Cielo, in which his four regiments threw retreating Colombian infantry into disarray and overrun the artillery, only to be forced back by the advancing Colombian reserves. Despite their mutual animosity, both men would in their own ways contribute to the further development of the Imperial army.
Though the Imperial army succeeded in breaking through to the Panama salient, finally securing it after a series of furious battles around the Bocas del Atrato, it had come at a terrible cost. Hundreds of thousands of men were dead or wounded, and even though the army continued to grow thanks to a surge of patriotism and war fever, Lothar must have wondered how long this attitude could last. Determined to avoid a war of attrition that could weaken Britannia and potentially cost him his throne, Lothar turned to the latest technology to break the deadlock. His first choice was the Imperial Aerial Corps, as it was then known.
Earlier in the war, Britannian aircraft had limited themselves primarily to reconnaissance and small bombing or infiltration missions, the latter carried out small infantry units in the manner of German zeppelintruppen or French chasseurs a dirigible. From 1916 onward they shifted to large-scale bombing raids, the first of which was a six-ship raid on Bogota in February of 1916, inflicting heavy damage in return for two airships lost. Though the effect on Colombian war production was not what it might have been, it did force Colombia to expand its air defences at the expense of front-line resources.
Britannia also resorted to new technology on the ground. Taking their cue from the war in Europe, Britannia made use of gas shells for the first time in June of 1916, during an offensive against Medellin. The Chlorine gas released by the shells killed many thousands of Colombian and Brazilian troops, but the gas dissipated relatively quickly, allowing the Colombians to reinforce their rear lines before the Britannians could make much headway. Further gas attacks would be attempted, using a variety of substances, but it never proved the wonder weapon the Britannians were hoping for. One area in which Britannia did enjoy some progress was that of armoured vehicles; one of a series of innovations seeking to grant Britannian troops sufficient mobility to break the trench deadlock.
Following early improvisations with steam tractors, the Britannians came up with the Mark III Armoured Troop Carrier; what would today be called an Armoured Personnel Carrier or APC. These machines were large, slow, and mechanically unreliable; but their caterpillar tracks and powerful steam engines allowed them to force their way through trench lines and shell craters, while their armour was sufficient to stop machine gun fire. At the final attack on Medellin, in August of 1916, fifty of these machines were deployed. Despite around half breaking down, the Britannians were able to break through lines already weakened by artillery, air strikes, and gas. Medellin fell within three days, and Britannian troops reached the Magdalena river a week later. Supported by armed river boats, they made multiple crossings and began what many believed would be the final advance on the capital.
Bogota fell in mid-October 1916, but it was by no means the end. The fall of Medellin had caused a mass panic in Bogota, and the government and many prominent citizens had fled. As a result, the loss of Bogota was significant primarily in terms of its industrial capacity and population, rather than what in previous years would have been the crushing psychological blow of losing the capital. But the new mechanized approach to warfare had otherwise proven itself, and further innovations would follow. Though APCs saw continued improvement, Britannian designers took armoured vehicles in a new direction, once again taking their cue from the battlefields of Europe.
The result was a series of so-called 'Armoured Battle Vehicles', or 'Armours'; though designers were divided over whether to focus on speed or armour and firepower. The intervention of Marcus Bradley, who saw light armours as the basis for a cavalry renaissance, led to a focus on light, fast-moving vehicles. Unlike the steam-driven APCs, the first Armours were equipped with electrical engines powered by Franklin Batteries; providing great power in a relatively small package. The first mass-production design was the A2 Venator, rushed into production in time for an assault on Maracaibo in mid-1917. Leading the 1st Armour Division in person, Bradley spearheaded a flanking attack to the south of lake Maracaibo, breaking through the Colombian defences at Caja Seca.
Ironically, the APCs following him were manned by his rival Lastinger's creation, the so-called Stormtroopers. These men were hardened veterans of the trenches, retrained in fieldcraft and infiltration tactics, and armed with submachine guns, shotguns, and flamethrowers, as well as the new light machine guns. They were also equipped with helmets and body armour; an ironic throwback to Britannia's recent past, but a useful one nevertheless. Dubbed Lastinger's Lions in the press, or Blackheart's Bastards by their fellow soldiers, the stormtroopers fought with a ruthless zeal, rarely taking prisoners. They also proved highly effective in urban combat when Maracaibo's defenders refused to surrender, despite being surrounded.
The Sorrows of Empire Edit
The rest of the South American War was a long, brutal grind, finally coming to an end in May of 1919 when Colombia's last holdout, Cayenne, fell to Britannian forces. Unable to save her ally, an exhausted Brazil sued for peace; meeting with Britannian representatives in neutral Peru. An equally exhausted Britannia had but one condition; that Colombia's surrender was to be regarded as unconditional, and that Brazil would not interfere with the outcome. After five years of war, with hundreds of thousands of Britannians killed or wounded, it was clear that status quo ante bellum was not going to happen. Nevertheless, Brazilian ambassadors signed the Treaty of Lima on June 21st 1919.
The war was finally over, but Colombia's sufferings had only begun. Public opinion in Britannia was bitterly vengeful, and Colombian politicians in exile regularly denounced the Treaty of Lima, calling for national resistance unto death. To Lothar and his government, it was clear that Colombia could not be allowed to exist as a country; for like as not it would only return even stronger and more vengeful than before. The only answer that seemed viable was to turn Colombia into an Imperial Protectorate, and Lothar laid plans for this during the summer of 1919. But his intentions would be for nought, as during an inspection tour of the ruins of Caracas, he was shot by a Colombian Franc-tireur. The wound proved fatal, and he survived just long enough to dictate his will as he was carried by train back towards Britannia. He finally succumbed several days later, just as the Imperial train crossed onto Britannian soil.
Lothar had never been a well-loved Emperor, but his death in the moment of triumph was enough to cause an outpouring of public grief. Despite having several children by a series of consorts, he had failed to name an heir; leading to a brief but furious power struggle within the Imperial family that ended with the accession of his son Maximilian rui Britannia. Faced with public outrage over Lothar's murder, Maximilian quickly abandoned Lothar's plans for a protectorate, and oversaw development of a much harsher scheme. Under his oversight, Colombia was divided into a series of ten administrative zones, which came to be known as Areas. Native Colombians were expelled from what remained of the cities, which were rebuilt and resettled with Britannian citizens. Of a pre-war population of just over nine million, a little over two million soldiers and civilians had been killed in the course of the conflict. The survivors were driven to the edges of society, forced into shanty towns around the edges of the cities, or else smaller towns and villages in which the Britannians had no apparent interest; at least until they were forced out to make room for Britannian redevelopment projects.
Some vanished into the mountains and jungles to carry on a guerilla resistance, while many more simply fled; disappearing across the borders in search of refuge in Brazil or Peru, with many dying en route. Britannia turned a blind eye to the emigrations, seeing them as a useful means of reducing the native population and making it easier to control. A relative minority, between one and two million, chose to pledge allegiance and become Honourary Britannians. Many of these were wealthy and well-connected, seeking to protect what remained of their property. Others were poor, seeking opportunities in the Settlements or in Britannia. Though officially regarded as Britannians, in practice they endured varying degrees of prejudice and discrimination. Those who remained behind generally endured lives of squalor and poverty, dependent on administrative councils - made up of Honourary Britannians - for employment, housing, and the basic necessities of life. Though some Areas saw gradual improvement, in most cases the councils were only interested in pleasing their Britannian Prefect, and the Viceroy he served; not to mention filling their own pockets.
For Britannians, the conquest of Colombia raised painful questions about who they were and where they were going. The North-South and Knightslayer Wars had left Britannia with a deep sense of vulnerability, awakening bad memories of the Edinburgh Disgrace, but also a painful ambivalence. To attain the wealth and military power afforded by industrialization, the old Britannia had been seemingly destroyed. Britannia had lost its innocence, and had the sense of place and security offered by the Old Britannia stripped away; as much by its own Emperor as by foreign invaders. This sense of loss and vulnerability drove in many Britannians a desire for domination; to regain Britannia's former security by dominating both North and South America.
The Golden Age Edit
The long-awaited peace that followed these dark times was a period of unprecedented prosperity and optimism. With sakuradite easily available, electronics such as wireless radios, electric lighting and heating, and telephones, became increasingly available. As demand for electricity grew, wind turbines and solar farms became increasingly common sights across Britannia. The growing availability of electricity also fueled a growth in car ownership, as increasingly efficient and lightweight sakuradite battery systems made motor cars affordable for the middle class. Driving became a glamorous pastime, with thrill-seeking young knights and nobles popularizing fast cars. By the same token, aircraft technology also developed rapidly, with economically viable airliners appearing the mid-1920s; offering speed as opposed to the comfort and relative safety of airships.
The ten years following the end of the South American War was also a period of incredible cultural and artistic vitality. Professional sports reached a new height, not merely in performance but in variety and magnificence. Towns and cities across the empire built palatial stadiums, capable of hosting almost any sporting event; not merely the relatively new sports such as soccer, football, baseball, and athletics, but the still-popular jousting. New forms of dance and music appeared, of which the most popular was Jazz. By the mid-1920s the most popular entertainment form was cinema, revitalized by sound film and technicolor. So popular was it, that there was hardly a small town or suburb that did not possess a cinema. Cinema retained its role as a propaganda tool, but by this point it had grown into something so much more; with private studios producing a wide variety of films for the mass market.
What set this period aside from previous boom times was not merely its sheer scale, but its depth. Britannia's economic expansion made for near-full employment, and factories that had supported the war effort quickly retooled to produce the new consumer goods; rapidly absorbing the buying power of both the working class and the growing middle class. The result was what appeared to be a benign circle, with even the poorest Britannians enjoying an ever-growing standard of living, while the aristocracy and business elite lived in unimaginable opulence. In some respects this prosperity helped to stabilize Britannian society, convincing even the lowest-ranking commoners that the current social order was worthwhile and beneficial. This was fortunate for the elite, for the growing wealth of the commoners meant that more and more men met the property qualification to vote; and there was increasing talk of extending the franchise to women.
If Britannia had a glaring weakness at this stage, it could be found at the very top. Emperor Maximilian was not a glaringly incompetent ruler, but he lacked the drive and determination displayed by his predecessors. He was notorious in his own lifetime for his enjoyment of modern pleasures, including slumming in cocktail bars, consorting with flappers, and indulging in narcotics. This was far from unusual in the Imperial court at that time, but it did Maximilian's public image little favors. But far worse, as far as the empire was concerned, was his unwillingness to engage fully with the business of government and the management of the economy. He found it convenient to adopt a policy of laissez-faire, leaving the economy to its own devices and letting the market solve its own problems.
His attitudes also caused him many problems with his immediate family. Like most Britannian Emperors, Maximilian took multiple consorts; but whereas Lothar had resurrected this practice out of political expediency, Maximilian continued it for his personal pleasure. He was also unlike his father in that he signally failed, or never really tried, to maintain amity between his eight consorts.
More to come
Britannia is in theory a Constitutional Monarchy, with power divided between the throne and a bicameral legislature; with the aristocracy represented by the House of Lords and the commoners (everyone else) represented by the House of Commons. The Emperor's powers are in practice extensive, including the right to sign and veto legislation, appoint Ministers and Judges, command the armed forces, convene and dismiss Parliament, grant pardons, and receive ambassadors.
Imperial Family Edit
The Imperial family is headed by the reigning Emperor or Empress. The Emperor's consorts, whether singular or multiple, are generally granted the title of Queen Consort, whereas an Empress' consort is is referred to as King Consort. A reigning sovereign may chose to grant his or her consort the Crown Matrimonial, and thus promote them to Emperor or Empress Consort (as appropriate), becoming the sovereign's co-ruler.
Thanks to a reform by Emperor Theseus, any consorts not promoted to Emperor or Empress Consort occupy the level of the chain of precedence directly below the Sovereign regardless of gender; thus removing a built-in disadvantage to Sovereign's daughters, who previously were subordinate to female consorts, who were equal to the Sovereign's sons. Thus the order of precedence runs from Emperor or Empress to King or Queen Consorts, then the Sovereign's children, and the children of the Sovereign's children.
Royal children are granted the title of Prince or Princess, and numbered according to their standing within the Imperial family, and perceived likelihood of taking the throne. The eldest child is considered Heir Apparent regardless, as they cannot be displaced merely by the birth of another child; and as such receives the title of Crown Prince or Princess. In practice, however, the throne goes to whomsoever is able to take and hold it.
Under Emperor Maximilian, the Imperial residence was established along the humorously-named Saint Darwin Boulevard, located some way outside Pendragon. Individual consorts received their own residences, though their neighbours include powerful and wealthy nobles with whom they socialize.
Family life amid the Imperial court is invariably a fraught affair. Emperor Lothar is noteworthy not only for having resurrected the custom of having multiple consorts, but also for managing to maintain a degree of amity and peace between them; this he achieved by showing none of them any particular favor. This had the unfortunate side effect of causing most of his children to deeply resent him; Maximilian most of all.
In practice, as seen in Maximilian and Charles' reigns, relations between consorts are all too often very bad. Good relations sometimes occurred, based on mutual respect or shared interest, but the need to secure their children's futures, not to mention the throne, hangs over everything. These complexities can be seen among Charles zi Britannia's consorts. Gabriella la Britannia was by far the most overtly villainous, openly bullying the children of other consorts, notably those of Marianne vi Britannia; though at the same time she allowed her beloved son Clovis to socialize with them. Amelia li Britannia, mother of Cornelia and Euphemia, was one of the most respected consorts, but had a mutually respectful relationship with the controversial Marianne, and allowed her daughters to socialize with Marianne's children.
The ideology of Purism can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, coalescing in response to Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution. At the time it fell broadly under the conservative umbrella, as it sought to preserve Britannia's traditional social and political structure, in particular the supremacy of the aristocracy. What set it aside from traditional reactionary elements was its attitude towards the membership of the aristocracy. Purists embraced Social Darwinism, and developed their own version of Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest. For Purists, the worthiness of the aristocracy was as much a matter of proven ability as of blood; the worthy should be permitted to rise, and the manifestly unworthy allowed to fall. They argued for the ennobling of commoners of proven ability, ostensibly to ensure that Britannia was effectively governed; but also to give commoners a stake in the system, and make them less likely to object to aristocracy as an institution.
Purists also came to oppose slavery and serfdom. Though various reasons were cited at the time, one of the most common focussed on the corruption of public morals. To keep a human person in bondage was believed to have a corrupting effect, both on the generally aristocratic owner and on the free commoners who lived amidst this system. To raise an aristocrat amid slavery and serfdom, it was argued, would instill an instinctive contempt for his fellow human beings; one he would inevitably if unconsciously extend to non-slaves and non-serfs. Commoners in turn were being corrupted, made indolent and arrogant by their status as free commoners amid chattels. Such attitudes, the Purists argued, were destructive to social order and inimical to progress.
The Nativist ideology was born in the reign of Emperor Lothar the Iron-Handed, though it would take several decades to metastasize into its current form. It began as Lothar sought to turn the Arthurian, pseudo-medieval Britannia into a modern industrial superpower; a process he considered indispensable to Britannia's survival. The result, for countless lower-class Britannians, was the destruction of their way of life. Peasant farmers found themselves forced off their land, sometimes by wealthy landowners, other times by their own, more enterprising neighbors. Forced to head for the cities in search of work, they endured lives of disease-ridden, industrial toil, dreaming of the world that had been. Such men and women proved easy fodder for a variety of populist political movements, ranging from anti-industrial reactionaries to Marxists.
The final straw for the more conservative end of this new industrial proletariat was the Evolution controversy. Though the Imperial Church accepted Charles Darwin's theories as compatible with Christianity, many of the traditional Protestant churches rejected it as incompatible with Biblical truth. Though both Claire and Lothar were careful not to interfere in matters of religion, the main flashpoint was the public education system, in which Evolution was taught as scientific fact and religious matters taught from an Imperial Church perspective. Rejection of Evolution dovetailed with traditionalist resentments to form the Nativist movement in the 1890s. Their official manifesto was a rejection of foreign ideas and influences, and a return to the True Britannia that had existed before Lothar, but it also tapped into domestic racism, as well as anti-aristocratic and even anti-monarchist sentiments.
The Britannian economy is essentially capitalist, with a distinctly laissez-faire tendency. It is one of the world's largest, counting for an estimated 30% of global GDP. Like the empire, the economy has historically been a closed system, with relatively little external interaction or trade taking place. This isolation was cemented by the conquest of South America, which provided Britannia with all the raw materials and capital it could possibly need; with the sole exception of sakuradite. Attempts to expand international trade in the early 21st century were ended by the Indochina crisis, when the EU managed to enforce a global trade embargo of unprecedented scale and scope against Britannia.
Though mixed and highly diverse, the economy is dominated by two primary forces; the Imperial Bank of Britannia, and the Megacorporations. The former is the empire's central bank and lender of last resort, with the sole and unique right to issue currency. The post of Chief Governor is always held by the reigning Emperor, though the role may be carried out by a designated proxy; Emperor Charles' proxy was his son and Chancellor, Schneizel el Britannia. As a result, the Emperor in effective has the power to set monetary policy and control the amount of cash money in circulation. This in theory allows the Emperor to prevent the economy from running out of control, but in turn places a crucial and overwhelming responsibility on the shoulders of a single person.
The Megacorporations are the many dozens of major corporations and conglomerates that between them dominate most economic activity outside the direct purview of the Throne and the Imperial Family. Some are over a century old, and most are under the effective control of aristocratic families. Denied outright monopolies by anti-trust laws, megacorporations tend to make up for it with highly diverse portfolios, with the largest encompassing dozens of different industries. Their wealth and economic importance gives them enormous political influence, to the point where they effectively control the empire's accountancy bodies. As a result, effective oversight of their accounting practices, and wider operations, is nigh-on impossible short of outright espionage. This tendency has been a factor in a number of major economic crises, including the 1996 'Credit Crunch'.
The Britannian armed forces are organized into three primary branches; army, navy, and air force. Each has its own knightmare branch; the Royal Panzer Infantry, the Royal Marine Infantry, and the Royal Aerial Infantry respectively. The Royal Guard is also a separate branch unto itself, and all branches are connected by certain sub-branches, notably the VTOL Corps and the Logistics Corps. The Office of Secret Intelligence maintains its own special forces unit.
The style of uniforms is for the most part consistent. The basic duty uniform consists of a white shirt and red necktie, with officers wearing a double-breasted jacket and enlisted men wearing a distinctive high-collared tunic; also worn by officers when going into combat. Trousers are generally worn, though women have the option of wearing knee-length skirts. Officers generally wear flat caps, while enlisted men wear German-style field caps. The colour-coding system is based on the Britannian concept of 'noble colours'. Enlisted men wear grey, subaltern officers wear blue, and flag-rank officers wear white (in practice more of a pale grey). Staff officers wear a distinctive grey greatcoat, with cap bands and short capes in Royal crimson for those serving a member of the Imperial family. The OSI wears a distinctive uniform in pale grey and white, with relatively little distinction between officers and enlisted.
Doctrine and StrategyEdit
The Imperial Britannian armed forces serve two primary purposes; to defend the Empire's territory and people, and to destroy and conquer its external enemies. Before Emperor Charles zi Britannia's accession in 1997, the armed forces had endured decades of stagnation, with little combat experience aside from counter-insurgency work in South America. Charles' response was the so-called Millennium Plan; under which the armed forces were to be revamped and re-equipped; ostensibly to ensure the Empire's security, but in reality to prepare for a war of global conquest.
It was agreed that Britannia could not afford to fight a modern war of attrition. Even with its massive industrial capacity and the mass unemployment inflicted by an increasingly automated economy, the maximum realistic strength of the Imperial forces was around twenty million; of which a substantial portion would be needed to hold down newly-conquered territories. In response, the General Staff divided their doctrine into two distinct aspects. Conquests would be wars of machines and mobility, overwhelming the enemy both physically and psychologically with extreme firepower and fast-moving elite forces. Large units of lesser-quality troops would then move in to occupy the conquered territories, holding them down long enough to acclimatize the population to Britannian rule.
The Knightmare frame was a crucial tool in this strategy. Despite the chivalric pretensions surrounding them, their tactics owed a great deal to the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan and his successors. Their initial role in a campaign was in combat recon, seeking out the enemy while destroying or suppressing their counterparts. Larger units would then outflank the enemy, isolating enemy formations and attacking the rear echelons. With the enemy divided and demoralized, reserve knightmare formations would join the battle and strike the killing blow. The knightmares would be supported in their efforts by the air force, and also by fire support from the newly-designed Caliburn assault gun.
This strategy was first attempted in the campaigns of late 2010, the first being the invasion of Japan, followed by the Siberia offensive. In Japan this strategy was superficially effective, with Japanese forces overwhelmed and annihilated in almost all encounters; but Britannia's inexperienced Devicers suffered around fifty per cent casualties; largely due to Japanese artillery or missile attacks by concealed infantry. In Siberia, the Britannians relied heavily on their airpower to overwhelm Russian forces sufficiently to let the knightmares finish them off. On more than one occasion, large Russian formations were able to stand their ground and fight their way clear of Britannian encirclements. Britannia responded by using its Caliburn assault guns more aggressively, deploying them to provide fire support to the knightmares; but despite their agility and firepower they suffered heavy losses against Russian tanks.
By 2012, it was clear that the original strategy was not working. Britannia's response was threefold; to increase the firepower of its knightmares, to provide more powerful land-based artillery, and to increase the firepower and resilience of its direct engagement formations. In the first case, the response was the long-barrelled G-cannon. In the second case, the answer was the Balor superheavy gun, though it would not appear in numbers until 2017. In the third case, Britannia chose to reactivate the supposedly obsolete Clarent MBTs; though not before subjecting them to an extensive upgrade package.
MB-2A Clarent Main Battle Tank Edit
First appearing in 1990, the Clarent was Britanna's second Main Battle Tank, brought in to replace the ageing MB1D Fenrir. It was designed in response to the advanced tanks of the EU and USSR, which proved so deadly in the EU-Soviet War, and which were obviously superior to the Fenrir. The Clarent was not originally intended to be part of the Millennium Plan, but was brought back into service in 2012 to fill capability gaps. For this purpose, existing Clarents were upgraded to the MB-2A variant.
The original Clarent was armed with a 105mm rifled gun, replaced on the 2A with a 120mm coilgun and autoloader. The original turret-mounted machine gun was replaced with a 20mm autocannon, which could be fired from inside the tank by the gunner or linked to the Factsphere to act as a CIWS.
The Clarent's armour is a steel-ceramic composite known as Covington, revolutionary for its time. The 2A upgrade saw the outer and inner layers replaced with Schrotter Steel for even greater protection.
M-115 Morddure Armoured Personnel Carrier Edit
The Morddure is Britannia's front-line APC, used by both regular and colonial formations. It is built on the same six-wheel chassis as the Caliburn, but with a different superstructure to match its role. Its armament is a pair of 20mm autocannons set into a forward turret, providing effective firepower against aircraft, knightmares, and light vehicles. Its laminate armour is proof against small arms, but vulnerable to anti-vehicle and knightmare weaponry. The crew consists of a driver, gunner, and commander, with space for eight passengers.
MA-55 Caliburn Assault Gun Edit
The Caliburn is a six-wheeled AFV, based on the same chassis as the Morddure and the same turret as the Clarent. It carries a 240mm railgun, with its mechanism and targeting systems configured for both direct and indirect fire. Like the Morddure, it is light enough to be used by rapid-deployment formations. Though its armour is somewhat heavier than that of the Morddure, it is still vulnerable to anti-vehicle and knightmare weaponry.
SHA-4 Balor Superheavy Artillery Gun Edit
The Balor is the ultimate in mobile superheavy artillery. Essentially a gigantic railgun mounted on a chassis the size of a G-1 MCV, the Balor can achieve ranges of up to 500 kilometres.
MS-2 Lugh mobile SAM system Edit
G-1 MCV Edit
Kestrel VTOL gunship Edit
Rhiannon multirole VTOL Edit
Morrigan transport VTOL Edit
Hawk multirole heavy fighter Edit
Falcon multirole light fighter
Albatross heavy transport Edit
Logres class floatship Edit
Caerleon class floatship Edit
Famous and Infamous BritanniansEdit
Emperor Ricardo le Britannia
Emperor Henry 'the Cunning'
Emperor Lothar 'the Iron-Handed'