Anno Obumbratio: A 16th Century Alternate History

The Irish are still getting crushed. Some things never change.
Unfortunately not. But perhaps the lack of religious differences will mean a better outcome for the Irish here.

Good chapter--the more things change, the more they stay the same (with the Irish still getting put down). This is a much better end for Catherine than OTL's, IMO...
Yes, Catherine has gotten a great send off. It's fitting for her to leave us in the chapter when we finally hit 100,000 words!

Great Update, always nice to see Ireland, though hopefully, We can get a split Ireland, Gaelic West/North/Deep South and English East/South, hegemonic England not annexing the Gaelic Chiefs would be cool too.
What possible reason would the rebel Ormond have to think the Pope would support him over Queen Mary? In OTL obviously, there was the religious difference, claiming to defend the Catholics from Henry's reaving, but there would appear to be nothing in TTL that would bring him to think that anything would cause the Pope to support a rebel against his legitimate sovereign. Interesting tidbit about the begging, does that apply to the mendicant orders? they would be able-bodied men who could work, but support themselves and their preaching through begging. Is that a thing Henry or Elizabeth did in OTL?
I love Catherine reaching her final reward, a well deserved send off for her, though deeply ironic epitaph considering OTL.
Unfortunately, England is likely to keep their interest in Ireland.

As for Ormond: It's not as wild as you think. Even in the 1520s, way before Henry VIII's religious controversies, the Anglo-Irish Earls still tried and often failed to seek out foreign support for their causes. This included not only the Pope, but Charles V as well. In this situation, Ormond would probably seek out Pius V because of his warm relationship with France. Even without the religious issues, Mary remains close to her Habsburg relatives and relations, while cordial between Pius V and them, aren't super warm. So I don't see him reaching out to Pius V as too wild, IMO. A desperate man does desperate things.

As for the begging, this would not apply against mendicant orders. The laws target vagrants and vagabounds; the old and infirm can apply for licenses to beg, while punishments are meted out to the idle poor: those without occupations or work who are in this period seen as trying to beg instead of finding an honest occupation. As the mendicant orders have occupations as preachers but merely beg as a way to support their mission, they would be exempt. The Vagabond Laws are based on some of the laws passed during Henry VIII's reign, such as the licenses for begging. Some of his laws had more draconian measures, such as cutting off ears for second offenses and execution for the third, but the justices largely balked at enforcing such measures. Mary's stopped here at whipping, which is an upgraded punishment from previous laws in Henry VII's time which merely included locking them into stocks for three days. We still haven't moved towards any true Poor Laws, which is unlikely, as the monasteries are still around. The Tudor era poor laws were a response to the great poverty unleashed by the destruction of the monasteries and religious orders who had traditionally provided such services.

And so we return to England, where everything seemingly is going well! The royal dynasty grows, and they have crushed the Irish rebellion! I do hope, that eventually the Irish will get a better deal than what happened otl. With no Protestantism in Britain, that should be possible
I think things will still be somewhat rocky. Instead of a religious mission, it's quite possible the English look upon their mission in Ireland as a civilizing one, instead of a conflict riven by religious issues. Hence the desire to still increase central authority there and to bring the Gaelic clans under English dominion.


I feel.

Like there is more grief in store for Mary just yet.

The birth of Henry and hint at future sons especially has me thinking that not all of her kids- especially maybe future kids- will make it.

If England and Scotland stay rivals, it would be really cool to see either side engage in some Gaelic diplomacy- perhaps the English governors court in Ireland or the Scottish court decide to patronise Classical Gaelic poets from the whole area where that literary language is used, hoping that if the Scottish Gaelic clans see people linked to their clan gaining wealth and prestige under the English they’d be more likely to declare for the English in a future war, or vice versa if Irish Gaelic nobility see Irish poets in the Scottish court, it might allow Scotland a bridgehead into Ireland in the future. Even though the spoken languages have diverged, they’re both referred to at this point as Irish and share the same literary standard.

Either way, giving classical Gaelic a home in an official government court makes it more likely it ends up used as an administrative language eventually.

Also what I think is an important change here is that official Tudor sanctioning and recognition of Brehon law has occurred (even if only outside the pale of settlement) - compared to otl where i don’t think it ever received any sort of official recognition. it might lead to nothing obviously, but we’ll see.

The restoration of the earls of Kildare as the lords deputy of Ireland is also fun to see given that the great earl and his son had essentially acted as high kings of Ireland on the behalf of England for almost half a century- now they’re being invested as guarantors of the perpetual peace and further cementing their loyalty to the crown while also growing their own power in Ireland. They represent the key possibility for Irish culture to flourish under English rule- now that the English have acknowledged that Brehon law has some legitimate basis outside the english march, it’s up to a second great earl of Kildare to promote the idea that the crown should take control of the training and appointments of the brehons and force the Gaelic chiefs to submit their disputes to brehon judgement rather than feud. The main things that made the English feel their only option was plantation was brehon inability to fulfil their function of regulating the chiefs impositions on their tenants and the lack of death penalty- the solution that prevents plantation is therefore an empowerment of the brehons and imposition of death penalty instead of eraic into brehon law.

If plantations do continue though, perhaps they take an ecclesiastical counter reformation tenor- the Irish were often seen as essentially old world native Americans in the 16th century, so maybe instead of private plantations, the crown encourages Jesuit/other missionary orders to remodel irish society in reductions under their control- especially with regards to combatting clerical and secular concubinage and regulating divorce.
We shall have to see what is store with Mary!

As for Gaelic, I don't see the Scottish royal court taking any interest in Gaelic. Scots has already become the mainstay of the Scottish court and is becoming a literary language, too. I could see the governor's of Ireland taking interest in it, but it will also depend on who exactly is governing there. Does Mary maintain the Anglo-Irish Earls (or Irishmen) in the office of Lord-Lieutenant, or does she try and mix it up by appointing Englishmen? At this point it's clear that she'd prefer to use the Old English Earls to govern for her, but she expects them to obey the mission she's set forth, which does have a rather civilizing tone. In that case, supporting Gaelic poets might be seen as backwards; there was already the issue of the Old English / Norman lords in Ireland going native so to speak. If it were up to the Queen, she'd like to bring them closer to England... hence Ormond's children being sent to England.

I don't want things to get too mixed up: there's been no official sanction given to Brehon Law, but rather a desire to create a single unified law code for the whole of Ireland, which remains divided between the Gaelic Clans and Brehon Law, and the Pale and English areas using Irish March Law (which is much more lenient than English law). One big issue with Henry VIII's policy was that he attempted to give the Gaelic lords some buy in by giving them earldoms and titles, but these titles typically followed English law and primogeniture, while the traditional lands and titles would follow Brehon law which allowed for tanistry and gavelkind succession. Mary and John would like to see a single unified law code that melds both law codes (as well as English law) and spread across the whole of Ireland. This is still likely to cause grumblings amongst the Gaelic Clans.

Kildare being appointed to his position is definitely interesting. Mary would prefer to work with the Anglo-Irish Earls if she can. They're the closest thing she has within Ireland that can effectively push forth her policy at this time. Obviously the laws caused a lot of issues: not just Brehon law in the Gaelic territories, but Irish March Law, too, as mentioned above. For instance, Irish March law allowed for most felonies to be dealt with through fines, rather than the death penalty. It also permitted the Anglo-Irish to negotiate with Gaelic cattle rustlers, as English authority was too weak to deal with it. The first important step is for the Dublin administration to extend it's authority outside the minor areas where it's influence has been limited. If it can secure control over large swaths of Ireland, it will be in a position to offer security and enforce the laws. At this point, any new law code is a twinkle in the queen's eye... but a hope for the future.

I can definitely see the idea of Jesuit / Franciscan / Dominican or whatever else reductions in Ireland. The Irish monasteries remain untouched, so there is a chance to use the religious orders to reform religious life in Ireland... especially given that laws already govern that only Englishmen can hold Irish benefices, so it adds to the civilizing mission, so to speak.
Chapter 28. Sons of Sigismund
Chapter 28. Sons of Sigismund
1538-1543; Poland & Lithuania

“With no money, one is likely to win no war.”
— Sigismund I of Poland

Music Accompaniment: Taniec Polski No. 1


King Sigismund I "the Old" of Poland, c. 1518.

By the 1530s, King Sigismund of Poland was secure upon his throne and within his position. Though he remained constrained by the Polish Sejm, he benefitted from the local nobility's advice and built up a competent bureaucracy of royal judges and treasurers in Kraków. Sigismund had always desired to claim more power for the Polish crown but worked well enough within the system that previous monarchs had established. His reign was not without blunders—his invasion of Germany in support of his French allies had earned him nothing. It had cost him significant support, which doomed his efforts to establish permanent taxation for a standing royal army. In economic matters, Sigismund proved a more successful king—he succeeded in paying down the royal debt, separated the public and royal treasuries, and regularized coin production from the Kraków mint. Other reforms benefitted the Polish salt mines and the agricultural economy—and legal codes that formalized serfdom originated in Sigismund’s reign.

Sigismund had a large and healthy family. He had enjoyed a harmonious marriage with Barbara Zápolya, sister of John Zápolya, the King of Hungary. Her death in 1532 deprived Sigismund of a vital partner and consort, but she had succeeded in her duties, giving the king a large family of six children. The royal family included two sons, Sigismund (b. 1515) and Alexander (b. 1516), and four daughters, Hedwig (b. 1513), Anna (b. 1520), Sophia (b. 1523) and Catherine (b. 1524). Queen Barbara had been vocal in her anti-Habsburg politics; it was only following her death that Sigismund was able to affect a reproachment with Emperor Charles V that included the betrothal of the emperor’s daughter Marie to Sigismund’s eldest son, also named Sigismund. “After decades of trouble with the Habsburgs and the bloody nose which he had received in Brandenburg, King Sigismund was more than willing to seek a more positive relationship with the emperor,” Jerzy Radziwill wrote in his private journals. “There was no better to secure peace between both realms than through a marriage—a Habsburg queen would do more wonders than any piece of paper.” The marriage treaty, negotiated in 1535, agreed that the pair would marry in 1538. The young princess was beautiful and took much after her mother, having inherited her eyes and coloring. When the emperor broke the news of Marie’s impending nuptials, she reportedly wept, stating: “I shall be crossing to the ends of the earth—further from you and everyone than I have ever been before in my life.” Even as Empress Renée attempted to console her, the princess saw her impending marriage as a prison sentence. King Sigismund encouraged his son to write to his betrothed—and young Sigismund and Marie would exchange letters in polite French. King Sigismund dispatched Illia Ostrogski and his wife, Beata Laska (reportedly an illegitimate daughter of King Sigismund), to teach the young princess Polish and instruct her in the matters of the Polish court.

Marie’s suite departed from Brussels in February 1538, with the emperor and empress following the bridal procession as far as Nuremberg. “The emperor was emotional when he embraced his daughter one final time—with Isabelle in France, Marie was the last tangible connection that he had to the Empress Mary,” a lady-in-waiting to Marie wrote in a private letter. “The emperor urged Marie never to forget him… while the empress wept and begged Marie to do all the good, she might do in the Polish court. From Nuremberg, we departed towards Pilsen…” Marie spent a short stay in Prague with her aunt, Mary, before she eventually arrived at the Polish border in May 1538, where she met King Sigismund and the Polish court at Balin. King Sigismund quickly embraced his new daughter-in-law—promising to love her like his daughters. Sigismund’s daughters were courteous enough to this new addition to their family—her intended husband, the young Prince Sigismund, was aloof as he greeted her. “She is not at all what she seems, nor what I pictured,” Prince Sigismund reportedly murmured to one of his companions in French—which Marie understood perfectly. Prince Sigismund’s younger brother, Prince Alexander, made up for his brother’s boorishness—kissing his sister-in-law’s hand with all the flourish of a French courtier. “Prince Sigismund is rude, and he is not as handsome as his portraits,” Marie muttered later that evening to her ladies-in-waiting. “Prince Alexander is kind and much more handsome… why is he not the eldest son?” A lament of a princess who would soon do her duty. Prince Sigismund and Marie would be married at Wawel Cathedral—this would be followed shortly after Marie’s coronation as Queen of Poland—her husband was co-crowned Vivente Rege in 1531 as King of Poland. From the beginning of her marriage, Marie would be the first lady of the Polish court.


Supposed Portrait of Marie of Austria, c. 1537.

Sigismund and Marie’s marriage was fraught with issues from the very beginning. Both possessed solid and outgoing personalities. Sigismund was loud and boisterous: he enjoyed feasts and hunting and spent much of his time with his young companions, such as the Radziwill cousins, both named Mikolaj. Sigismund, at twenty-three, also had a large sexual appetite—he had several mistresses and continued to indulge in affairs even after his marriage. Marie was bright and vibrant—of her mother’s children, she had a temperament that most matched the Tudor princess who had become Holy Roman Empress. She enjoyed courtly dances and, coming from a sophisticated court, also enjoyed games of love. At the same time, her husband had numerous affairs, and Marie conducted flirtations of her own—often provoking the ire of her husband. “The prince and princess quarreled from dawn until dusk,” Anna of Masovia wrote to her sister. “Prince Sigismund would find a flaw and exaggerate it; in turn, Princess Marie would find her issues and magnify them. Bitter tirades would devolve into fierce arguments of screaming and shouting… on more than one occasion, the prince struck the princess for her flippancy…” One terrible situation occurred shortly before King Sigismund’s birthday in 1539 when the young couple quarreled so terribly that Prince Sigismund violently drug Marie by her hair from her bedchamber, pulling out several strands of her hair. When Marie appeared before the court with two blackened eyes, King Sigismund intervened by separating the couple for several weeks. Sigismund brokered reconciliation several weeks later, and for a time, it seemed successful—Marie soon became pregnant, but she suffered a miscarriage in July 1539. Prince Sigismund accused his wife of purposely losing the child, which scuttled whatever progress they had made. Prince Sigismund soon took up with Teodosia Movila, the daughter of a Moldavian Boyar who had sought refuge in Poland. Teodosia quickly became one of Prince Sigismund’s most favored lovers and was soon his official mistress.

Despite her issues with her husband, Marie got along well with the rest of her new family. King Sigismund the Old doted upon Marie—calling her his Flemish Flower. She established good relationships with her sisters-in-law, too. But her closest relationship was with Alexander—her brother-in-law and Prince Sigismund’s younger brother. “Sigismund and Alexander were like night and day…” one Polish courtier would write anonymously decades later. “While Prince Sigismund was devoted to pleasure and cared little about his position and the future of the crown he would someday wear upon his own, Prince Alexander was conscientious of his duties. He got along well with Princess Marie from the day that they met; many at court lamented that what a pity it was that Alexander was not the elder son and even more a pity that he was unable to marry the princess he loved.” No one can be quite sure of Alexander and Marie’s actual relationship. Though they were devoted to each other, some believed it was merely a courtly romance or flirtation, something Marie cherished in her heart without acting upon it. Others wondered if there was perhaps more to it, with an anonymous love letter subscribed to Marie stating: “When you are away from me, my heart aches and it is unbearable… pray that this letter reaches you safely; when you read it, remember that my lips have kissed this parchment, and I scented your favorite perfume upon the leaves.”

Regardless of whatever passed between Alexander and Marie, it was concerning enough to King Sigismund that he knew his younger son must marry sooner rather than later—and quickly. Sigismund sought his younger son’s bride from Germany and found a perfect match in the eldest daughter of Heinrich V of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Margarete. Alexander married Margarete in September 1540 at Corpus Christi Basilica in Kraków, a sumptuous ceremony befitting the King of Poland’s second son. Alexander’s marriage ceremony culminated with King Sigismund naming Alexander as Grand Duke of Lithuania—and co-ruler of the Grand Duchy alongside his older brother, to provide him with his own station. Despite these new heights, Alexander’s marriage was no more successful than his brothers: Margarete, raised in a provincial German court, could not even compare to her glittering sister-in-law, the daughter of an emperor and an English princess. “Prince Alexander is kind and ensures that I want for nothing,” Margarete would write in a letter home to her father. “But when all you wish is for his attention or for him to glance your way, all the baubles and trinkets in the world matter little…”


Portrait of Prince Alexander of Poland, c. 1540s.

Shortly after Alexander’s marriage, King Sigismund dispatched his younger son and his new wife to Vilnius, where they occupied the Grand Ducal Palace. Alexander threw himself into renovation efforts—he lured Italian architects to Poland with generous wages and sought to give the entire palace structure a Renaissance makeover. Alexander also became head of the Lithuanian Council of Lords. As one of the Grand Dukes within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Alexander pursued a policy of protecting Lithuania’s borders—aside from fortifying critical settlements along the frontier, Alexander sought to defuse tensions with the Grand Duchy of Muscovy by negotiating with Grand Duchess Elena Glinskaya, regent for her young son, the Grand Duke Vasili IV[1]. Alexander also sought organization in the wild fields north of the Pontic Steppe. Though Alexander would have little success in this area, he would help lay the seeds for the organization of the Ruthenian Cossacks in the next reign. Compared to Prince Sigismund, who was in some ways a bigoted Catholic, Alexander represented the multicultural traditions of the Jagiellonian dynasty—during his time in Lithuania, he would endow not only Catholic Churches but would also provide significant funding for several Orthodox Churches and monasteries. Though Alexander primarily lived apart from Margarete, their marriage bed proved more fertile than Marie and Prince Sigismund’s: in the early months of 1541, Margarete would give birth to a daughter named Barbara in honor of Alexander’s mother. While Alexander was in Vilnius, King Sigismund sought to send Prince Sigismund on a tour of several Polish provinces—which he essentially used as an excuse for hunting and whoring. “Must we continue to be separated by these leagues of land and dirt?” Another letter began—supposedly written by Marie to Alexander, though unverified. “You cannot imagine how it feels—to be wed to a man who is cruel to your very person, but at the same time to discover the man who is everything that you have ever wished for in a prince—only for him to be snatched for your grasp and wed to another. Remember that I would do anything to be by your side—even if it meant parting the seas.”

While Prince Sigismund toured Poland and Alexander assisted in governing Lithuania, this left Marie in Kraków as the Polish Court's first lady—a position she had occupied since her marriage. Despite her foreign birth and Habsburg blood, Marie had little issue charming the Polish nobles. “The little queen was a bright light—sorely needed in Poland following the death of Queen Barbara.” one Polish noble wrote in their private journal. “There had existed no queen, ever, in the history of Poland that performed her duties as well as Marie did. The Szlachta adored her because of her tragic story; her upbeat attitude, esprit, and wit allowed her to put all at ease—even the most ardent critic became her supporter simply by conversing with her.” Marie threw herself into the social whirl of the Polish court—aside from meeting with ambassadors and petitioners, she instituted days where she met any that desired to put a petition before her—this included even the meanest and poorest of her subjects who would otherwise not be allowed in her presence. Aside from such functions, she also hosted drawing rooms, dances, feasts, and other entertainments—establishing herself as the locus of the Polish court as Sigismund the Old, entering his seventies, began to withdraw from active participation from the court. “Our daughter is a wise and witty girl,” Sigismund wrote to one critic who attacked Marie’s social events. “In our absence, she is the glittering jewel of our crown—she shall do as she pleases, and we shall support her in that.”

[1] Elena lives longer here. Vasili IV is the eldest surviving son. Her eldest son, Ivan, is stillborn. Vasili, unlike Yuri Vasilievich, is not deaf.
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Well, the marriage between Marie and Sigismund isn't good and I hope she's doesn't cheat on him with Alexander. But it's good to hear that she's enjoying the court!
I hope she does cheat on him with Alexander, the girl deserves some fun- as long as of course, they’re smart about it and she doesn’t get herself executed for adultery.
They won’t do that. Marie is the emperor’s daughter. Henry the Ass only got away with that stuff otl because Anne B and Kitty H were domestic brides

That being said, poor Marie. I hope Prince Sigismund dies soon. Not only is he a shitty husband, but he seems to be a shitty heir too. With Alex married to Margarete, they might not be able to be together, but she’ll be free from Sigismund at least. I suppose that Margarete can die in childbirth or of disease or something, but I don’t want that. She’s innocent in all of this. This is giving Lavinia, Mary and Matthew from Downton Abbey, and I always disliked how Lavinia was treated
Good chapter, hopefully the situation for the Polish royals improve from all the turbulence that has been going on, also interested in how this Russia will develop with Vasyli instead of Ivan, while he probably won't have the iron hand his brother had on the nation that had many benefits(exploration and colonization of Siberia, better centralization of power, modernizing measures in the state and nation) but having someone that doesn't kill their main heir or make his daughter in law miscarry would go a long way of strengthening Russia in the long way if there's no war over the throne.
Well, the marriage between Marie and Sigismund isn't good and I hope she's doesn't cheat on him with Alexander. But it's good to hear that she's enjoying the court!
No, she won't dare risk her position. Too much hinges upon that, and I can't see her risking herself in that way, even if we sort of know where her heart lies...

I hope she does cheat on him with Alexander, the girl deserves some fun- as long as of course, they’re smart about it and she doesn’t get herself executed for adultery.
At this point, it'd be too risky. Sigismund has all but abandoned the martial bed, so there would be no way for her to pass off the child as Sigismund's. Not to mention what sort of consequences there might be for Alexander for sleeping with his brother's wife... it'd add an extra layer to turmoil that just isn't needed right now.

They won’t do that. Marie is the emperor’s daughter. Henry the Ass only got away with that stuff otl because Anne B and Kitty H were domestic brides

That being said, poor Marie. I hope Prince Sigismund dies soon. Not only is he a shitty husband, but he seems to be a shitty heir too. With Alex married to Margarete, they might not be able to be together, but she’ll be free from Sigismund at least. I suppose that Margarete can die in childbirth or of disease or something, but I don’t want that. She’s innocent in all of this. This is giving Lavinia, Mary and Matthew from Downton Abbey, and I always disliked how Lavinia was treated
Exactly. She'd ruin her own position and put her father in a very bad position. Wouldn't be good for Habsburg-Polish relations, fragile as they are right now.

At this point, the only way for the two to be together would be for Sigismund and Margarete to die... I suppose Sigismund might overdo it and die by debauchery, but Margarete is another story completely. She could live for a very long time. They may very well end up star crossed lovers who want to be together, but it just never happens.

See? It's not just me!

Fantastic chapters, @DrakeRlugia - you always manage to impress me. Definitely nominating you for a Turtledove next year!
Thank you, Falcon!

Good chapter, hopefully the situation for the Polish royals improve from all the turbulence that has been going on, also interested in how this Russia will develop with Vasyli instead of Ivan, while he probably won't have the iron hand his brother had on the nation that had many benefits(exploration and colonization of Siberia, better centralization of power, modernizing measures in the state and nation) but having someone that doesn't kill their main heir or make his daughter in law miscarry would go a long way of strengthening Russia in the long way if there's no war over the throne.
I think Poland will likely be fine when Sigismund the Old passes. His eldest son clearly doesn't have the aptitude for government, but Alexander seems a little better disposed, and his position as co-ruler in the Grand Duchy means he can handle the frontier areas where there are typical troubles. Russia will definitely have a different development from OTL without Ivan the Terrible who's been all but strangled in the cradle. I think there's a chance the Rurikids can survive into the 17th century, which could have a lot of changes.
Awesome chapter! Poor Marie. I wholeheartedly support Sigismund the younger dying in a hunting accident, at least then Marie could marry someone nicer and who she likes hopefully.
Chapter 29. Sands of the Orient
Chapter 29. Sands of the Orient
1535-1540; Ottoman Empire & Persia

“What men call sovereignty is a worldly strife and constant war;
Worship of God is the highest throne, the happiest of all estates.”
— Poem written by Sultan Suleiman

Music Accompaniment: Üsküdar


Sultan Suleiman at the Siege of Rhodes, 1522.

Following the defeat of the Turkish troops at Grafenwörth in 1534, they retreated into Turkish territory through the kingdom of Hungary—where Suleiman was in a foul mood. He extracted a heavy levy upon John Zápolya, which the Hungarian king could not pay. As part of his revenge, the Suleiman soon introduced troops into the border regions of Hungary: this included a janissary regiment that would be garrisoned at Buda—ostensibly for the protection of the Hungarian royal family, but in reality to make them a hostage to the Turkish Sultan. “Remember to whom you owe your crown,” one letter penned from Suleiman to John Zápolya stated clearly. “All that you have is because of me—and remember how swiftly I can remove it should I decide to do so.” The Hungarian-Turkish alliance now sat upon fragile footing, with King John having few others to turn to. His embrace of the Turks had alienated him from Catholic Europe; though his wife championed the Protestant Reformation, few of the Protestant Princes were unwilling to offer support to the king who had opened Pandora’s Box into Europe. Despite the Turkish losses, Suleiman returned to Constantinople with all the celebration due to him as Padishah. “The whole capitol turned out for their sultan,” a Venetian consul would write in his diary. “One would have thought that the Sultan had returned from his greatest victory if you had seen the sights, the streamers, the parading troops… or perhaps wondered of the celebrations if the Sultan had held Vienna.” Suleiman soon returned to Topkapi Palace, where he was greeted warmly by his wife Roxelana, who in 1532[1] had been given the title of Hakesi Sultan and formally recognized as Suleiman’s queen consort.

Suleiman had held Roxelana dear for many years. By the 1520s, Roxelana had usurped the position held previously by Suleiman’s chief concubine, Gülbahar—also the mother of Suleiman’s eldest son, Mustafa. In a break with Ottoman tradition, Suleiman had freed Roxelana from slavery and married her. She occupied an unprecedented position: not only was she Suleiman’s wife, but she allowed to bear Suleiman multiple sons, in defiance of harem protocol. Gülbahar’s position was degraded by Roxelana’s growing influence—in 1532 when Mustafa came of age and was appointed governor of Manisa, Gülbahar departed with him. Despite Mustafa’s position as Suleiman’s eldest son, his position with his father was complicated. “All knew of the love that the sultan bore for the sultana…” a Genoese merchant wrote in a letter back home. “None could compare to her beauty or her splendor; she was the jewel of the sultan’s treasures… the choicest rose within his garden. All paled before her—and all always would.” Suleiman honored Mustafa as his eldest son—but the children of Roxelana received his love and affection. It was Suleiman’s second son, named Mehmed, that the Sultan doted upon—and that some believed that he might name his heir when the time came. “It did not matter what was thought, or what tradition was up until that point,” Feridun Agha, a eunuch within Topkapi Palace wrote in his private journals. “For our master was intent on doing as he pleased… and as he thought best.”

Suleiman’s empire was one of the largest in the known world. It stretched from the Balkans—the land of blood and honey through Anatolia and the Levant into the sands of Mesopotamia and Egypt. From Egypt, the empire spread into North Africa, where the corsairs held Tripolitania and Cyrenaica by the sultan’s grace. Suleiman’s greatest corsair, Heyreddin Barbarossa served as Beylerbey of Algiers, where he plundered the ships of the infidel and placed pressure upon the Hafsid Sultans of Tunisia to bow to the might of the Turks—all while warring against Allah’s greatest enemy in the Mediterranean: Spain. The Ottoman power spawned three continents, with the Ottoman flag sailing on ships from the Mediterranean into the lands of India, where they fought against Portuguese traders and adventurers. The Ottoman’s issues were not only in Europe: the Franks[1] were pitiful insects when compared to the Ottoman's greatest enemy—the Persians, led by the Safavid dynasty—who were adoptees of Twelver Shi’ism, and presently under the reign of Shah Tahmasp. For as long as Suleiman had warred against the Franks, he had faced issues from Persia, who coveted the return of their territories in Mesopotamia. “Everything which the sultan possessed, the shah desired tenfold,” the Chevalier de Balbi, Knight of St. John and briefly an ambassador to Persia for Charles V wrote in his private memoirs. “And he would continue to desire until he held it in his very palm—until Persia reached the edges of the world which the Turk had snatched from them.” As soon as Suleiman had returned to Constantinople, he began to set his eyes eastwards—troubled by reports that Tahmasp had killed the governor of Baghdad who had been loyal to him, as well as receiving the suzerainty of from the governor of Bitlis in Anatolia—a troubling prospect for the sultan to consider.


Roxelana, also known as Hürrem Sultan; c. 16th century.

Suleiman was known as the Magnificent. Europe viewed him with awe for his military prowess. Within his empire, he had attained the sobriquet of the Lawgiver because of his attention to the Ottoman law code, or Kanun, which covered distinct areas of the law such as criminal conduct, taxation, and land ownership. Suleiman was one of the wealthiest sovereigns in the known world. The Ottoman Empire's annual income reached 6,000,000 ducats by 1530, dwarfing even the income of Emperor Charles V as King of Spain. Under the sultan’s aegis, the Ottoman Empire had entered a cultural golden age, where artistic societies enjoyed close coordination and protection from the sultan himself. Suleiman lavished attention on artists from across his empire; while previous sultans had adored Persian culture and art, Suleiman sought to build his own legacy that resulted in a blend of Arabic, European, and Turkish artistic traditions. Constantinople received special attention: “The beauty of all cities—the sigh of all sighs,” a Greek trader wrote in his journals. “Adored as the choicest diamond of all the world—the sultan, O sultan—only could have adorned our city so well.” Suleiman sponsored numerous works through his sprawling empire, using funds to restore the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Kaaba in Mecca. “The sultan spent each coin that fell in his coffer freely,” an Ottoman treasurer, Abbas Corso wrote. “… for each trickle of gold that fell through his hands was but merely a small piece of the giant waves of prosperity in which he could have his in grasp!”

By 1535, Ottoman troops had not only taken control of Bitlis but had also succeeded in occupying Baghdad as well as Tabriz. “The Turks believe they have won, but let them see that we cannot be bested,” Hussan Qaramanlu, a Turkoman bannerman within Shah Tahmasp’s army wrote during the Persian retreat from Mesopotamia in 1535. “We shall ride into the darkness, through the mountains—and burn everything within our wake as we do so.” Qaramanlu’s words proved prophetic—though Suleiman had succeeded in taking territory, he had failed to vanquish the Persian army. Shah Tahmasp, with his army almost completely intact, retreated into Persia, ordering his troops to scorch the lands they left behind. Pargali Pasha, Suleiman’s Grand Vizier laid the seeds for his demise when he took the initiative to broker a truce with the Persians. Suleiman would retain Mesopotamia, but Pargali fell from grace less than a year later—with Suleiman urged to put away his favored councilor through the machinations of Roxelana, as Pargali, a former lover of Suleiman favored the sultan's eldest son as a possible successor. Pargali would be strangled in his sleep by assassins hired by the sultan, Hadim Suleiman Pasha, the Beylerbey of Egypt, succeeded Pargali as Grand Vizier. Hadim as Grand Vizier would pursue a naval-oriented policy that included the buildup of naval forces in both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Hadim lavished revenues upon the old port of Yanbu, wishing to turn it into an entrepot of Arabian trade—while Ottoman interest in Basra would be dated from this period, with Hadim building up a positive relationship with the Al-Mughamis, the local Bedouins that ruled over Basra and gladly accepted the protection of the Ottoman Empire. This buildup encroached upon Portuguese settlements in the Persian Gulf, such as Kuwait and Ormuz—where the Portuguese had constructed a fortress. Hadim Pasha played a role in moving Suleiman’s focus beyond Europe and Persia—if only for a short period. Suleiman dispatched Ottoman troops and ships as far afield as India, where Hadim Pasha sought to bolster the Gujarat Sultanate against the increasing influence of the Portuguese in India—who were slowly expanding their trade and colonial empire throughout the subcontinent. Not all would go according to plan—Ottoman forces would fail to evict the Portuguese from Diu in 1538. A Turkish officer, Adbülaziz Bey would lament in a poem written to his lover of the loss: “Diu, O great Diu—must we lament and wail upon this loss? Greatest treasures—spice and silk, burnt and lost. Infidels; our greatest enemy.”

While Suleiman’s oldest son remained in Minisa as a provincial governor, his younger sons by Roxelana received more public facing roles. “It is clear to all who can see that the infidel desires to hoist her Sehzades above all the others…” wrote an anonymous critic of Roxelana in the period. Roxelana’s eldest sons—Mehmed, Selim, and Abdullah would all begin to play public roles as they grew older. Most of Suleiman’s love and largesse was saved for Mehmed, the most brilliant of Suleiman’s sons who outshone all the others. Indeed, Suleiman could not help but lament the likely outcome that would come to pass when he eventually left this world: “Mehmed is the sultan that the empire shall need—and Mustafa is the sultan that the empire shall want. They shall fight for this throne and this crown into the depths of hell; all my other sons shall follow and shall perish, for only one can live while the rest must die…” Even as Suleiman lamented the fratricide that would someday await his sons, he continued to heap honors upon his sons borne to him by Roxelana—while his eldest son withered away in Minisia with his mother, someday awaiting his fateful summons to Constantinople. Sehzade Mehmed’s importance to Suleiman grew in 1537, when the sultan attacked the Knights Hospitaller on Corfu—who received support from Venice, France, and Spain. “The Sultan gave his favored son command at the Siege of Corfu,” Bertrand d’Ornesan, Baron of Saint-Blancard and commander of the Flotte du Levant wrote in his private journals. “The young prince fought valiantly but did not bloody himself. When the Turkish fleet failed to weaken Corfu and the Ottoman army was forced to withdraw, Prince Mehmed proved his worth in withdrawing his troops with minimal losses. He more than proved his fidelity and timidity—virtues that the great sultan would do well to learn himself.”


Ottoman ships from the Battle of Zonchio, 1499.

The Mediterranean remained far from secure for the Turks—though their navy was vast and great, they contended with the numerous Christian navies, from the French, Spanish, and Venetians to the ships of the Knights Hospitaller and the Neapolitan Marinaio. Though the French had increased their activity in the southern Mediterranean and the Adriatic owing to their relationship with the Kingdom of Naples, the biggest threat to Turkish expansion through the Mediterranean was Spain. By 1535 Ferdinand was firmly in control of the Spanish crown. A king-in-waiting, he commanded the government and controlled the awesome revenues of Spain, which included not only the riches of Castile and Aragon but the gold that was now pouring into Europe from Mexico and Peru. Though Ferdinand still worked closely with Charles V, the first fruits of Ferdinand’s independent foreign policy date from this period. “My brother the emperor is Burgundian, and so he is more concerned with the French and the Protestants than the Turk—especially since Grafenwörth…” Ferdinand would write in a letter to the Duke of Alba. “But I am a Spaniard, and so must think about Spain. France is trouble, but they are no threat to our crown. The Protestants—they are base heretics, but no threat to our people, who know of the true faith and the true church. No, there is another who is a threat—a threat to our people and our crown… and that is the Turk.” Ferdinand took a greater interest in foreign policy outside of his brother’s whims in the aftermath of Grafenwörth—with Ferdinand believing it was Spain’s duty to provide a check against Turkish power in the Mediterranean—just as Portugal provided a check in the Orient.

In 1535, Ferdinand provided funding to the adventurer Martin Angulo, who had built up an expeditionary force in Oran to install a Zayyanid prince upon the Tlemcen throne who would be more amiable to Spanish interests. Angulo, in alliance with the Banu Rashid[3] succeeded in siezing Tlemcen in 1536. “Angulo rode into Tlemcen with his Zayyanid princeling—Abu Zayyan—at his side, like a cowed victor…” one Spanish soldier wrote in his memoirs regarding the Tlemcen expedition. “… the town smelled of blood and viscera. We took the princeling directly to the citadel of Mexuar, where the remnants of the royal guard had turned against the former sultan, Abu Muhammad. Angulo showed no mercy, and Abu Muhammad was cut down—with Abu Zayyan declared his successor. Zayyan accepted Spain as his suzerain, and his first edict was to petition our expedition to garrison Tlemcen, and for Spanish artillery to be installed in the citadel…” Ferdinand’s support was not limited to Algiers, and he also provided lavish aid to the Hafsid Sultanate in Tunis, allowing them to resist Ottoman domination. Despite Ferdinand’s ardent Catholicism, he saw no hypocrisy in his policy of supporting Muslim princes against the Turk: “The Moslems of North Africa fear the Turk more than they fear us,” Ferdinand wrote in another letter to the Baron of Longi in Sicily. “A Moslem under our dominion is one less under the dominion of the Turk. Let them serve as the stepping stones of a new Reconquista.” Ferdinand’s desire to fight against the Turks was increasingly cloaked in religious terms. Ferdinand saw the conflict against the Turks as a new stage of the Reconquista. Just as Isabella and Ferdinand had fought against the Muslims in Granada, Ferdinand saw a role in North Africa. In its most grandioise form, Ferdinand spoke of the repulsion of the Turk from North Africa and the restoration of the cross where the crescent had long held sway. As part of this new development, the Inquisition in Spain developed new penances for those convicted and abjured for their blasphemy: service in the African garrisons or wholesale resettlement into the North African Presidios.


Shah Tahmasp of Persia; c. 16th Century.

In Persia, Shah Tahmasp had his interests outside his conflict with the Ottomans over the fertile lands of Mesopotamia. Persia also sought to increase its influence throughout the Caucasus—ostensibly to reduce the influence of Ostajlu tribes who held lands in southern Georgia and Armenia, but also as an excuse to extract booty and wealth from the region. Tahmasp covered his campaigns in religious language—a Jihad against the Georgians who retained their Christian faith. Tahmasp would lead several campaigns into Georgia over the years, but his most successful in 1540 would lead to the sacking of Tbilisi—with the looting of its numerous churches, the wives and children of the nobility carted away into slavery in Persia. Much like Suleiman, Tahmasp was a sovereign who sought to leave his mark upon Persia. He broke the backs of the Turkoman tribes and empowered the Persian bureaucracy. The appointment of Jahan Qazvini as vizier also saw Persia expand their diplomacy outside of the Orient—relations with the Portuguese, Venetians, along with the Mughals and Shiite Deccan Sultanates were established. The first extant Persian letters sent to Europe date from 1540, when Shah Tahmasp wrote to the Doge of Venice. Venice authorized an embassy to go to Persia under Michel Membré. Membré would leave some of the first descriptions of the Safavid court, then located at Tabriz. Like Suleiman, Tahmasp pursued reforms to transform his dominions into a powerful state.

Unlike Suleiman, Tahmasp had a large harem. Though his chief wife, Sultanum Begum was a Turkoman who belonged to the Mawsillu tribe, Tahmasp broke with Safavid tradition in procuring his other consorts from Georgia and Circassia. Sultanum Begum bore Tahmasp two sons, Mohammad, and Ismail. There existed no fracture in the Persian harem—Tahmasp had no favored consort, and he was attentive to all his children. Tahmasp ordered that his daughters be instructed in administration, art, and scholarship, so that they might be cultivated brides. While most of his sons were in their infancy in the early 1530s, he paid keen attention to their education, ensuring that all his sons received the education that was due to them as Mizras, or royal princes. Even a son who might be born to one of his slave consorts would be raised accordingly—with Tahmasp wishing that he might someday be able to involve his sons in administering his empire.

Tahmasp also oversaw a religious revitalization of Persia. The Qizilbash tribes had worshipped Tahmasp’s father, Ismail, as Mahdi, a figure in Islamic theology believed to play a role in the end times, to rid the world of evil. The Qizilbash urged Tahmasp to follow in his father's footsteps. The young shah underwent a religious awakening in 1533 that saw him perform an act of penance and outlaw irreligious behavior, all while denying that his father had been a madhi. Despite his new orthodoxy, Tahmasp was interested in the occult and claimed a connection with various Ali and Sufi saints, who supposedly foretold the future to the shah in prophetic dreams. Tahmasp’s religious beliefs empowered the mullahs and sayyids, who would become a bedrock of the Safavid dynasty and would play increasingly important roles at the Safavid court. This intersection with Islamic authorities proved beneficial: Islamic scholars declared that Tahmasp and the Safavid dynasty had sayyid connections as a branch of the Husaynids. Tahmasp expended funds to renovate Qazvin as a center of Shiite faith, both as a center of learning and piety, with funds provided to expand the Shrine of Husayn. Tahmasp also paid particular attention to the ancestral Sufi order led by the Safavids in Ardabil; he built a mosque attached to the Shrine of Sufi-ad-Din, built in an Illkhanid fashion to bring in pilgrims and visitors. Tahmasp ensured that Sufi rituals were widely practiced and invited both Sufis and mullahs to the royal palace to perform public acts of piety and zikr, during Eid al-Fitr, with such performances also serving to reinforce allegiance that existed between the Safavid dynasty and Islamic networks. These events helped define Twelver Shi’ism as the bond that held Persia together—transcending tribal and social orders. Despite Tahmasp’s patronage of Islam, he was in no way bigoted; unlike his father, he did not attempt to coerce other religious groups to convert and offered patronage to the Christian Armenians within his domain.

[1] Happens a year earlier here, as Suleiman spent 1533 campaigning.
[2]A general term here, like Latins. Aimed at Europeans in general, not the French.
[3]IOTL, the Banu Rashid worked against the Spanish, but they did often ally with the Spanish too: typically against the threat of Ottoman expansion.
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Great chapter, while it seems Suleiman is at the top of the world, succession will get messy and enemies will take advantage of it, especially a Spain not having to fight the Dutch, a Naples with French backing and the Persians with their strong Shah and making connections with other Europeans, could we see a possible Persian-Spanish Alliance in order to squeeze the Ottomans on two fronts?
So, the Ottomans are Ottomaning, but it’s interesting that Ferdinand seems to be taking a more proactive role against them due to his Spanish focus. That’ll likely change things in the future
I hope that in this timeline, Şehzade Mehmet becomes Sultan. He is one of my favorite princes in Ottoman history.
I do have some plans for the Ottomans, so we shall have to see!

Great chapter, while it seems Suleiman is at the top of the world, succession will get messy and enemies will take advantage of it, especially a Spain not having to fight the Dutch, a Naples with French backing and the Persians with their strong Shah and making connections with other Europeans, could we see a possible Persian-Spanish Alliance in order to squeeze the Ottomans on two fronts?
There will likely be conflict whoever Suleiman favors as heir, simply because he has a dearth of sons. The Ottomans at this point still practice fratricide, meaning the succeeding sultan puts all his brothers to death upon taking the throne. This definitely incentivizes those who are not as favored to stir up issues, especially as different princes are favored by different groups.

As for a Habsburg-Persian alliance, ideas for such an alliance date back to the 1520s. Both Charles V and Louis II of Hungary, and later Ferdinand would seek out Persian support against the Ottomans. The issue is the great distances: any envoy or ambassador sent to Persia is likely to take a year or so (at a minimum) to return, and things can move too quickly to make any such alliance truly feasible. Suleiman did often have to abandon his European campaigns because of Persian invasions in the East: with Tahmasp still being Shah here, I see this likely to continue.

So, the Ottomans are Ottomaning, but it’s interesting that Ferdinand seems to be taking a more proactive role against them due to his Spanish focus. That’ll likely change things in the future
Yes, only a few changes so far: but the scene is definitely being set for further changes. Ferdinand definitely has a great interest in buffering Turkish influence in the Mediterranean, and supporting the petty Moslem princes there isn't a bad idea. I should be clear though that Spain isn't really looking to aid those strong enough to stand on their own, such as Morocco. They see the benefit in aiding weaker states like the Hafsids and the Tlemcen Sultanate. Ferdinand's foreign policy is still heavily coached in the language of Catholicism and Reconquista: the Hafsids and Tlemcen are not equals, but possible vassals to be exploited for the Christian cause.

On another note, I've started working with a vector program to make coats of arms. I made a CoA for Mary, based on her marriage to John. It's heavily influenced by Mary Tudor's OTL coat of arms when she married Philip of Spain:


It's not perfect, but I am very happy with it. Ideally I'd like to zhuzh it up a bit more, as Christian II still used the Swedish arms and (likely) still does. This is an English style, rather than Scandinavian style COA, as John's would have a small coat of arms in the center. I'll probably work on it a bit more, but at least people can have an idea of the arms / flags that might be flying around the Tudor Palaces!
On another note, I've started working with a vector program to make coats of arms. I made a CoA for Mary, based on her marriage to John. It's heavily influenced by Mary Tudor's OTL coat of arms when she married Philip of Spain:


It's not perfect, but I am very happy with it. Ideally I'd like to zhuzh it up a bit more, as Christian II still used the Swedish arms and (likely) still does. This is an English style, rather than Scandinavian style COA, as John's would have a small coat of arms in the center. I'll probably work on it a bit more, but at least people can have an idea of the arms / flags that might be flying around the Tudor Palaces!
Beautiful <3
This definitely incentivizes those who are not as favored to stir up issues, especially as different princes are favored by different groups.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity for a clever prince to make alliances with wealthy communities who aren’t really represented in the ottoman governing classes- if they can finance and back a successful campaign for the throne, that’s a great opportunity to be rewarded with government/military positions or commercial privileges.

Here’s hoping the situation of the 1520s and before where the ottoman court communicated with European courts in Greek continues, strengthened by a revival in the archons position after they manage to pull off something like that. Perhaps a marriage between a new sultan the daughter of the head of the kantakouzenos family or something could help bring them back into the ottoman chancery a little, or at least such that the fabulous wealth gathered by Michael Seitanoglu Kantakouzenos doesn’t get dissipated after his fall from grace.
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Chapter 30. The Lady of Paris
Chapter 30. The Lady of Paris
1540-1542; France, Italy & Navarre.

“Stronger faith than was ever sworn,
Prince again, oh my only princess,
That my love, which will be to you ceaselessly
Against time & assured death.”
— Vers à Isabelle, written by the Dauphin François for his wife.

Music Accompaniment: Pavane de la Guerre


King François of France, c. 1530; French School.

The Truce of Lucca signed in 1539 restored peace between the Houses of Valois and Habsburg but effected no real change in the makeup of Italy. King François continued to hold the Duchy of Milan, just as his ally Louis IV held the crown of Naples. Though peace now reigned between France and the empire, François kept his troops in Savoy. He refused to return it to Charles III—a known partisan of Emperor Charles V who had married the emperor’s sister, Catherine of Austria. “So long as I live and breathe, Savoy shall remain under my dominion,” François declared before his marshals—making his point clear. Charles III, his wife, and numerous children now languished in exile in Brussels hoping they might one day be allowed to return to their domains. François appointed the Marquis of Saluzzo as governor of Savoy, and introduced garrison troops into Turin to ensure the duchy remained sedate. Though François had not been victorious in the previous conflict, his position in Italy had vastly improved in some ways.

Through the 1530s, François continued to reign as a humanist—the ideal Renaissance prince. He formally declared French as the official language of the kingdom and provided funding for the creation of the Collège Royal where students could study French alongside Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and even Arabic. François pursued a policy within France to eradicate Latin as the language of administration—an ordinance published in 1539 at Villers-Cotterêts established French as the administrative language of the kingdom. It also mandated that priests record births, marriages, and deaths, and ordered the formation of registry offices in each parish. The ordinance did not apply to the Duchy of Milan, where François ordered the Governor of Milan to carry out a similar reform through the Ordinance of Lecco that formally established Italian as the official language of the duchy and sought to simplify the administration there as well. France’s economy continued to grow throughout the period—François offered subsidies and tax exemptions to lure Milanese weavers to Tours and Lyons to bolster France’s silk industry. François paid attention to military industries especially—he encouraged the growth of foundries in northern France to produce muskets and artillery for his growing army, and he ordered extra funds expended to renovate and expand the harbors of Rouen, Toulon, and La Rochelle.

Religious issues continued to remain complicated within France. The Council of Bologna closed in Italy without accomplishing any real work, and Pius V expressed little interest in moving forward with another council until other sovereigns agreed. “While we value your opinion—and that of France as the eldest daughter of our church,” Pius V wrote in a candid letter to François. “A council will require support from all of Catholic Europe… until the emperor and the Queen of England, among others, support our cause, I believe it is futile…” The divide between Protestants and Catholics continued to grow—and in France, the ideas of the Protestants continued to intrigue the commercial classes in the large cities, and members of the high nobility, too. François’ sister, Marguerite, the Queen of Navarre, was an ardent reformist and was friendly with Marie Dentière, a Protestant reformer who encouraged Marguerite to turn her brother away from the Catholic church. Anne de Boullan, the Duchess of Plaisance and mistress to the King of France was also a believer in the religious reformation, with Anne sharing a close connection with Marguerite. The position of the king’s sister and mistress supporting religious reform was juxtaposed with the ardent Catholicism of his wife, Beatriz. Though François had always remained lenient towards the Protestant cause and never begrudged the beliefs of those whom he adored, his beliefs hardened against the Protestants in the late 1530s following the Affair des Placards, when anonymous French reformists plastered placards denouncing the mass across Paris and other provincial cities, as well as upon the doors of the king's bedchamber.


Prosecution of Protestants in the reign of François I; Late 1530s.

“There is no doubt that Madame Gouttières is behind these foul posters,” Queen Beatriz wrote in an impassioned letter to her sister—a veiled reference to Anne de Boullan contained within it. “She has stolen the king from me, and I do not doubt that she shall not rest until she has converted him to her faith. He is utterly bewitched… I know not what to do.” Many believed that Anne—and perhaps Marguerite—had some connection with the placards. Others pointed fingers at French reformers, such as Antoine de Marcourt were the true suspects given the placard's Zwinglian wordings. François countered the placards by ordering processions through each of Paris’ parishes. The king himself attended, with one onlooker writing, “The king and the queen stood under a canopy dyed a most magnificent azure blue—fleur-de-lys etched in golden silk thread. Their majesties stood solemn and silent as the Most Holy Eucharist was carried before them, making clear where the king stood.” The king’s affirmation of his Catholic faith provoked the first clamp down on the Protestant religion in France; some of France’s most prominent Protestants would go abroad, such as Jean Calvin who settled in Geneva, and Clément Marot, who entered the service of Empress Renée. Though François made no break from Anne de Boullan—he made clear that his conscience remained where it had first sprung, and no polemics from her or from his sister would sway his opinion.

In truth, the relationship between the Duchess of Plaisance and François began to cool down. Following the triumphant birth of her son, Octave, Anne rode upon a wave of infamy. In 1535, Queen Beatriz finally gave birth to the son she had desired for so many years: Philippe Emmanuel. The young prince would become Duke of Orléans and second in line for the throne following the death of his older brother, Louis, in 1538. Though Anne became pregnant in 1536, this pregnancy did not progress as smoothly as the others. “Daily the duchess complains of aches and pains… she is in great agony, and suffers from a terrible malaise,” one of Anne’s ladies, Yolande de Sèvre wrote in a furtive letter to her aunt. “She is recently enceinte again… but I swear I have never seen my lady so unwell. The chamber femmes gossip as always; they claim that the queen’s Portuguese valet, Fernão de Castro has no doubt slipped something into one of her drinks…” These rumors did not fade. Though Anne would recover, she suffered a miscarriage when she fell down a flight of stairs at Amboise during her seventh month of pregnancy. Anne gave birth to a stillborn daughter whom she named Marguerite. Anne’s final pregnancy would be in 1540—and she gave birth to a stillborn son that she called Charles-Hercule. “… I must write with heavy regret, sire, that we have lost the child—though the duchess fares well, and we believe she shall survive,” one of François’ royal physicians wrote to him in the aftermath of Anne’s final pregnancy. “… but I must be frank, majesty: the lady has suffered gravely in your service and has been wounded… this final travail has caused much damage. Though the duchess shall be fit for service soon, I must make clear that further pregnancies would be at risk to her life…” Thus began the transformation of Anne de Boullan from the king’s mistress into his greatest friend. The bond of physical love was shattered in 1540, but Anne’s influence would only grow.

Despite Anne now being heralded as the king’s friend, it did not lead to an improvement in the relationship between François and Beatriz. François led a separate life from his consort. While he saw her on formal occasions and occasionally slept with her out of duty, François had long tired of her dramatics and hysterics—no longer did they fight and soon makeup soon after in the bedchamber. Beatriz gave birth to her final child in 1542—a daughter named Marie in honor of her mother, Maria of Aragon. Beatriz doted upon both of the children, with the Governess of the Children of France lamenting in a letter to the king that: “… though, of course, I welcome the queen to visit the nursery and see to the children, I lament that she feels the need to criticize about how the nursery is arranged… surely, the queen should not deign to bother with such matters?” The birth of her children provided a needed balm for Beatriz—she did not get along well with her stepchildren, and her own children gave her a much-needed outlet for her maternal feelings. “Though the queen would rage as that was her way,” one courtier wrote in their memoirs. “The queen calmed considerably following the birth of Madame Marie.” The division of the court between the king’s mistress and his wife leaked into the royal family—François’ children from his first marriage adored Anne de Boullan and despised Queen Beatriz. In turn, Beatriz’s children would soon grow up to adore their mother and to despise the mistress who had stolen their father. Even as Anne left behind her physical relationship with the King of France, she ensured that the king’s was satisfied by supplying him with a retinue of women who could take care of his needs—and leaving soon after. These women were kept at homes near the French court that the Duchess of Plaisance called her petit jardins. “Pure filth, she has stooped to her lowest levels, no better than a common harlot,” one critic of Anne announced in a letter to a friend. “How can one be expected to pay allegiance to such a frightful creature?”


King François as Saint John the Baptist; 1520.

François also spent the latter part of the decade seeking martial alliances for his eldest daughters. Charlotte—previously discussed—married Alexander, the King of Scots, while Louise, the sister spurned by Scotland married Louis IV of Naples. For the youngest of the older princesses, Anne, marriage was not something she had ever had in mind. Compared to her more robust sisters, Anne had always suffered from ill health. “Our little princess has been diagnosed with the pox,” a member of the royal nursery wrote in a letter to their family. “… the royal doctors despair her survival.” The young princess was struck with smallpox in 1527; though she recovered, she was left blind in one eye and with scarring across her hands and cheeks. Anne, rather than despair over her fate, found solace in religion and declared her wish to enter religious life. François was reluctant to grant his little nun her wish, as part of him nursed hopes that he still might find a suitable marriage for her. “His Majesty, of course, had no desire to see his daughter enter a convent,” Claude d’Urfé wrote in his private journals. “…though he was a good and sincere Catholic, he did not wish to see one of his daughters waste away in a religious vocation when there was so much more he could offer them…” Only after Anne’s twentieth birthday in 1538—when the king felt that he would be unable to find Anne a suitable husband did he finally relent and agreed that she could take on a religious vocation. “Madame Anne’s adoption of her new vocation was carried out in the utmost secrecy…” a lady of Princess Anne’s suite wrote in a letter home. “… the king's approval came late one evening—and none knew except Anne herself. She departed from Fontainebleau accompanied by one of her ladies and a small guard. When dawn rose over the court the next morning, the princess was gone… a week later, we received news that she had been allowed to embrace her religious calling… she took up residence at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre-les-Dames, in Reims…” The entrance of a royal princess into the abbey gave it access to much needed funds through Anne's royal dowry; a royal princess residing in the convent also attracted numerous outside donations. In 1542, Anne would become abbess of the abbey. The youngest of François’ daughters with Claude, Victoire would marry relatively late at the age of nineteen in 1540 to Wilhelm, the Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg—as part of François seeking alliances with likeminded German princes.

In Italy, François pursued a conciliary policy among the Italian princes. With the emperor’s failure to triumph even after his finances and domains recovered, many of Italy began to wonder how long French domination over the peninsula might continue. Pope Pius V passed away in 1541—among those in attendance at the 1541 Papal Conclave included Cardinal Reginald Pole, who served as Bishop of Salisbury and was a close associate of Queen Mary. The supposed Papabili included Alessandro Farnese—the last surviving cardinal created by Alexander VI but seen unfavorably because of his advanced age. Others were Niccolò Ridolfi, nephew of Leo X. The ultimate victor was Cardinal Girolamo Ghinucci, who took up the mantle of Pope as Gelasius III. Compared to Pius V, Gelasius less favorable to the French than his predecessor—a fact hailed positively among the Papal camarilla. Other princes in Italy saw the need to maintain friendly—or at the very least, cordial—relations with France, lest they end up deprived of their lands like the Duke of Savoy. Lorenzo III, the Duke of Florence, though married (somewhat unhappily) to Joanna of Austria, the emperor’s illegitimate daughter, continued to maintain friendly relations with France—alongside the Duke of Ferrara and Modena. The Duke of Mantua (rewarded his title in 1530 by Charles V as part of his assistance during the War of the League of Valenciennes) remained wary of French power—while the Marquises of Montferrat and Saluzzo remained loyal French satraps in northern Italy.


Pope Gelasius III, c. 1543.

The French court of François remained debauched as ever—this did not change as France entered the 1540s. “The king did as he pleased, and dallied where the Duchess of Plaisance wished him to dally,” one critic attacking the immortality of the king’s court wrote in 1541. “Fontainebleau, Amboise—they are all domains of harlots and atheists; ladies of the most sophisticated blood paint themselves as whores, while even the holiest cardinals and servants of God can find pleasure in the French court—either with courtesans or pretty young men. King François is a whoremonger of the highest order—he stands for lewdness, immorality, and vice. He is no true Christian, or true Catholic—a vain Luciferian after only his pleasure.” Georges de Boullan, as Duke of Valentinois continued to be a close associate and friend of François—even after his sister had ceased to sleep with the king. “Have you truly left the king’s bed, sister?” George reportedly japed to Anne when he discovered the news. “Perhaps this old horse can finally have a break—and you shall finally be able to get off of your back!” Despite this, Boullan fortunes remained high into the 1540s—François continued to lavish gifts upon his favored ‘friend’—and she continued to wield influence. Though some circles hoped to foist one of François’ petit amours from one of Anne’s gardens into the seat of influence as his official mistress, François had little desire for it: the king, in his mid-forties and approaching his fifties still maintained a large sexual appetite, but the companionship which Anne de Boullan provided him could not be purchased—no little waif from her garden could compare to her on that front.

While the king reigned supreme, his eldest son, the Dauphin formally was right behind him. As the Dauphin entered his adulthood, he became a lightning rod for those opposed to the policies of the king. The Dauphin François was a loyal son—though he despaired of his father’s debaucheries and perhaps feared for his life. The Dauphin had a cordial relationship with Anne de Boullan—and a less cordial relationship with Queen Beatriz. “The Dauphin had never cared for the queen—and the queen had not cared for him, either,” Sebastiano de Montecuccoli, secretary to the Dauphin wrote in a letter to his wife. “Relations between them became more difficult following the birth of the queen’s son, Philippe—she saw a brighter future for her son outside of being Duc d’Orléans.” Though the Dauphin and Dauphine often resided at court, they also had their residences: King François had given the pair the Hôtel de Bourgogne as their Parisian residence. Dauphine Isabelle soon convinced her husband to raze the entire residence to build a new Renaissance townhouse where it once stood—the Hôtel du Dauphin. They also possessed the Château of Blois and were given use of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes. Compared to his father, the Dauphin François adored his wife, Isabelle. “He loved her from the very first day he had set eyes upon her,” one courtier wrote in their memoirs regarding the court. “… and she felt the same about him.” A keen romantic, the Dauphin often left his wife various poems and trinkets as part of their romantic games of chivalry. “They were more in love than anyone could ever imagine at our court…” another courtier noted in their letters back home to their parents. “If one could not find the Dauphin, they had only to seek out the Dauphine… for he was often in her chambers. They were seldom apart and were happiest in each other’s company…” Little surprise that the marriage was fruitful; in 1539, Isabelle would give birth to her first child—a son named François in honor of his father and grandfather. This would be followed by a stillborn daughter in 1541, with a second son, Louis born in 1542.


Dauphin François in armor; c. 1540.

Marriage was also paramount in Anne de Boullan’s mind and in Queen Beatriz's. Queen Beatriz harbored high hopes for her son, Philippe Emmanuel—who she called her florzinha, or little flower. Philippe had become Duke of Orléans following the death of his oldest brother in 1538, but Beatriz sought great fortune for her son. “Some saw great malice in the queen’s machinations…” François of Bourbon, the Duke of Estouteville would write in his memoirs. “…for it was clear that Queen Beatriz desired for her son to have a crown just as well as his elder brother would have one. Many believed the queen would do away with the Dauphin—or do anything to see her son become King of France. But that is false, though she is no friend of mine; she abhorred France and wished her son to be sovereign elsewhere.” One of Beatriz’s first plans concerned her homeland. “I have heard that the Infante Carlos is unwell…” Beatriz wrote in a letter to her brother in 1538. “Your nephew Philippe Emmanuel grows stronger each year… and looks more and more like our dearly departed father. I desire nothing more than for my son to have a proper wife, and hope you might consider a marriage between him and the Infanta Beatriz…” Yet when young Carlos recovered, Beatriz soon set her sights upon Navarre—desiring that her son should wed Françoise Fébe, heiress to that small kingdom. “Owing to the warm relations between our two lands,” Beatriz began in a letter addressed to Henri II and Marguerite of Angoulême. “It is my greatest wish that you might consider the offer of my son’s hand for your daughter… they are close in age, and nothing would ensure Navarre’s protection more than to have a son of the House of Valois serve as its king.” Though Henri II was interested in the offer, Marguerite angrily rebuked it—complaining to her brother, who reminded Beatriz sternly that he would decide his son’s future marriage.

While the queen was restrained, the mistress had freedom to negotiate the marriages of the king’s bâtardes. In 1540, François formally legitimized his children with Anne de Boullan—granting them formal recognition and the surname of d’Angoulême. Élisabeth d’Angoulême, Anne’s eldest daughter was betrothed in 1540 to François of Bourbon, Count of Enghien and younger son of the Duke of Vendôme. Anne’s second daughter, Jacqueline d’Angoulême would be engaged to Gaspard II of Coligny—the Seigneur of Châtillion and son of late Marshal of Châtillion. Young Octave d’Angoulême, Anne’s lone son—would eventually inherit the bulk of her fortune and her ducal title. “I shall find him a wife in due time,” Anne reportedly told the king with a sly smile. “But he is yet a boy. Let him play with his blocks and soldiers—the marriage bed can come later.” A possible marriage was rumored between the king's illegitimate son and his niece: Princess Françoise of Navarre; this was soundly denied. Some believed that Marguerite had long desired for her daughter to marry François of Bourbon, son of the disgraced Constable of Bourbon—until his religious life had ruined such possibilities.
Francis of France is as debauched as usual. At least it seems that Jr. and Isabelle will be more chaste. I wonder who Octave will marry… I feel like you’ll do something interesting with him ;)
I'm just glad that France has been stable for now, Beatriz has the kids she loves even if her situation still isn't the best so hopefully she can be left alone. Hopefully the Dauphin can deal with both the Protestants as well as a resurgent Emperor by keeping the military sharp and well funded.