Basilicus Sicilia - A Hohenstaufen Sicily Timeline

Chapter 6: The Sicilian Storm
The Reign of King Roger III Hohenstaufen

Following his father’s death in 1250, Roger III Hohenstaufen [1] inherited a Kingdom that was in the midst of a Golden Age. Trade boomed, and the island was the cultural heart of the Mediterranean. Nowhere else could a man find such a confluence of knowledge, commerce, and culture. Similarly, the Sicilian Navy had been strengthened under Frederick, making it one of the most feared forces in the Mediterranean. Roger, however, was interested in improved the army of Sicily, something that his father had done, but without great passion.

It is altogether ironic that Frederick Roger went by Frederick, after the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, while Roger took his name from the administratively and diplomatically genius Roger d’Hauteville. For Frederick Hohenstaufen was certainly the better diplomat, administrator, and builder, while Roger Hohenstaufen was the better and more eager general. While Frederick had always looked inward, absorbing himself in his great passion of building the state internally, Roger would look outward, always on the lookout for fresh land to incorporate into his Kingdom.

When he was crowned, the 19-year old Roger desperately wanted to prove himself in battle. While he likely didn’t need to, at least not to prove himself a powerful ruler, it seemed to be his desire to taste combat. Remembering the Marinid invasion three years previously, he decided to launch his own invasion. The spring of 1251 was spent readying a fleet, which was to consist of 200 of Sicily’s ships, and an army, which was 40,000 strong - the largest Sicily had put into the field since the days of William the Lucky [2].

Landing at the port of El Kala, close to the border with Sicily, he began his grand offensive. Splitting his force, he sent one army to march along the coast, supported by the fleet, in order to receive the various port cities. The second force, which he personally led, moved directly on Constantine, the largest city in the region. Once he reached Constantine, he placed it under siege, hoping to storm the walls before winter.

In October, Roger ordered an assault of the walls, sending his force into the breaches that had been created by Roger’s catapults. However, when the Sicilian forces entered the breach, a concentrated Marinid defense threw them back with heavy casualties. Roger, intensely angry with his failure, decided to change his tactics. Feigning retreat, he had his men leave their tents and valuables in the abandoned camp. When the defenders sallied from the gates to plunder the camp, Roger ordered his men to surround the camp, catching the Marinid defenders unaware. Among the learned population of Europe, his victory earned him the nickname “the new Odysseus.”

Constantine fell soon after, but it effectively put an end to Roger’s campaign for the year. In 1252, the advance resumed, but with no major cities in the region, it largely consisted of minor skirmishes and the investing of small towns. In this advance, Roger made great use of his father’s double-screen system, where two layers of scouts - Berber horsemen and Italian crossbowmen - protected the force. By 1253, Marinid peace offers had reached Roger, which offered to let him keep his conquests in exchange for a lump sum of money. That money was used in the Marinid campaigns against the decaying Almohads.

If the first clue to Roger’s personality was his conquest of North Africa, it was his administration of his new territory that made certain his differences from his father. While Frederick had been content to merely encourage emigration to North Africa, Roger set up specific settler colonies in his new territories. Most important was Constantine, which he repopulated largely with Greek immigrants fleeing the chaos in the former Roman Empire.

Roger’s behavior in Sicily set him apart from his father no less. While Frederick had been content to watch over the cultural and economic growth of his Kingdom, Roger took an active hand in shaping his Kingdom, largely its military. Frederick had largely done away with feudalism in his kingdom [3], but the military still largely resembled feudal levies. Roger resolved to change it into a system based on the old Roman Thematic system, which had served the Absolute Emperors well in their glory days [4].

To that end, he started the program of freemen soldiers. Soldiers were given land enough to support themselves and their families, and expected to support the equipment that they were required to have. Initially, Roger didn’t distinguish between troop types - soldiers were merely expected to bring a sword, spear, bow, and shield. However, Roger quickly recognized the advantages to distinguishing between various troops [5].

Roger’s first test of his new troops came in 1255, when a low-level war between Genoa and Pisa expanded. Genoa invited Roger to invade Sardinia, which was under Pisan control, in order to draw their attention from Genoa. Roger attacked with relish, easily sweeping aside Pisan resistance. At the battle of Arborea, he crushed a Pisan force sent against him, and in the resulting peace treaty, Sicily retained Sardinia, her first European conquest under the Hohestaufens [6].

In 1259, Roger received an unusual opportunity in the form of Caliph Abu Hafs Umar al-Murtada, the current Almohad Caliph. Having been reduced to Marrakech and the surrounding countryside by the advance of the Marinids, he had begun to search for potential allies. A Castilian delegation had offered him a place in an anti-Marinid alliance, but, fearing Castile’s strong anti-Islamic tendencies and their proximity to his capital, he declined. Instead, in May of 1259, he appeared in Palermo.

His choice was less surprising than it may seem. Although Sicilian arms had often been directed against the Muslims of North Africa, there remained a sizable Muslim minority in Sicily [7]. The Kings in Palermo had a history of tolerance, and of favoring pragmatism over religious fervor. While Roger had not inherited his father’s skepticism of religion [8], he still stood out among his contemporaries as uninterested in religious matters. Thus, Roger was open to Abu Hafs Umar al-Murtada’s proposition.

In exchange for Roger’s assistance in battling the Marinids, he would receive legal rulership of all Almohad lands east of Béjaïa. Although most of these lands were de facto parts of the Sicilian domain already, it freed up Roger for other foreign adventures without the fear of an Almohad attack on his southern flank. Roger did demand that Sebta, too, be handed over to the Sicilians, as well as a hinterland for the city [9].

In 1260, therefore, Roger and Abu Hafs Umar al-Murtada set out for North Africa with a Sicilian force of 37,000. Upon landing in Béjaïa, which was ceremonially turned over to Roger, young Muslims from the countryside, looking to be on the winning side, flocked to their banners. In this, the Sicilian Muslims helped convince them that it was no conquering Christian army.

Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd al-Haqq, Marinid Sultan of only two years, was seriously alarmed at the invasion. Gathering an utterly massive force, reportedly 50,000 strong, he marched on Roger’s force. A secondary force, 10,000 strong, was sent against Marrakech, which was undermanned and demoralized after the flight of their Caliph.

On July 30th, 1260, Marinid forces stormed Marrakech, slaughtering its inhabitants and extinguishing the last territorial claim of the Almohad dynasty. On the same day, Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd al-Haqq and Roger Hohenstaufen met on the battlefield. Both sides took heavy casualties, but ultimately the hot summer sun and superior Marinid numbers beat back the Sicilians. Worse, the next day a skirmish broke out in Roger’s camp between the Sicilian Christians and the North African Muslims, resulting in further casualties. Roger, fed up with the entire ordeal and, at any rate, having already gotten what he came for, abandoned the Almohad Caliph to his fate. For Roger, however, it wasn’t over. On his way back, guerrilla attacks stung his force, and he returned with less than 20,000 soldiers.

The campaign left Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd al-Haqq in a strong position, but he couldn’t press his advantage without going on the offensive. Although the Almohads had finally been eliminated, their Sicilian allies were still at war with the Marinid Sultanate, and the massive army was putting a serious strain on the Marinid state. Thus, in 1261, the Marinids sued for peace. Agreeing to every term the Almohads had, the Marinids won a peace with Roger, leaving both sides free to look elsewhere.

For Roger, elsewhere was east. The death of Möngke Khan had left the east in chaos. The Muslims were shattered by the sack of Baghdad, and the Mamelukes were currently embroiled in a war to overthrow their Fatimid oppressors after the stunning victory of Ain Jalut that very year. The only state that didn’t seem to be collapsing was the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Roger’s father had restored the holy sites to Christianity through a bluff. Now, Roger intended to restore the entire Kingdom.

Roger’s actions weren’t motivated by any sense of Christian piety. Having already fought to restore a Caliph to power, he was much more interested in combat. He seems to have been a man that got a thrill out of battle, even when it wasn’t the most advisable course of action. However, he had plenty of incentive to return to the Holy Land. Pope Urban IV, the second Englishman ever to sit in the Lateran, was adamant that the mere cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem, while holy, were not enough to ensure the safety of Christian pilgrims. He offered Roger guardianship of King David I, the 5-year-old King of Jerusalem, whose parents were both deceased, if he would reconquer the area.

Roger jumped at the opportunity. Not only would ha have a chance to gain the spoils and the battles of the Near East, but he would care for the King of Jerusalem, who just happened to be the same age as his eldest daughter, Margarite [10].

In 1264, therefore, Roger set out for Acre. There, he was met with cheering crowds, and the remaining Knights of Jerusalem arrayed themselves with his forces. Together, they numbered only 21,000 strong, but the force was more than enough to accomplish the task at hand. With the Fatimids and Mamelukes slugging it out, the area was left with only skeleton garrisons. By the end of the year, Roger had secured land routes for Jerusalem and Nazareth, and he supposedly entered Bethlehem with his army on Christmas Day, ordering his troops to remain completely silent as they entered the town.

In 1265, though, disaster struck. While marching through the region, a small band of Mamelukes ambushed Roger’s force. A stray arrow hit the monarch in the knee, and the wound festered. By the end of the year, Roger III Hohenstaufen was dead, killed not in a great battle, but in a minor skirmish.

Roger’s subjects mourned the 24-year-old with far less fervor than they had his father. While Roger had overseen a period of prosperity for Sicily, it had hardly been an era of peace. He had spent nearly all of his reign in the battlefield, and had led his forces on adventures across the Mediterranean for often minor gains. As one historian put it, “He was no Frederick, nor was he Nero.”

With Roger’s death, the crown passed to his 20-year old brother, the shy, awkward Alfons. Roger had two children, but both were girls, the 6-year old Margarite and the 2-year old Fransica.

Was Roger, then, a good King? Certainly he expanded his Kingdom - Sicilian North Africa doubled in size, and Sardinia and Sebta greatly improved the lots of Sicilian Merchants. His military reforms made the Kingdom much stronger, and it can be said that he was the one that made sicily feared across the Mediterranean. Surely, then, he was a great King. But he was not a good one. His preoccupation with combat would cost Sicily dearly, and his early death would cause the first period of instability in the Kingdom since his father’s reign.

[1] - Assuming that Roger I was King Roger I, not Roger the Great Count, the famous brother of Robert Guiscard. If the Great Count is counted, the current King is Roger IV.

[2] - William II’s 1185-1189 campaign, where he reportedly raised 80,000 soldiers for his invasion of the Roman Empire

[3] - With the Constitution of Melfi, which placed severe restrictions on the rights of the nobility, curbing their power, which was the hallmark of a feudal society.

[4] - The Macedonian Dynasty.

[5] - To be expounded upon in a military update.

[6] - The Hohenstaufens had mainly focused on regaining Africa or Jerusalem.

[7] - Catholics made up roughly 60% of Sicily’s population, with Orthodoxy at 25% and Islam at 15%. Sicilian North Africa, on the other hand, remained nearly 70% Muslim.

[8] - It’s doubtful that Frederick was an atheist, but he certainly wasn’t a Christian, either.

[9] - Roger’s hope was to secure a point from which he could channel more Genoese trade flowing out of the Mediterranean, in an attempt to counterbalance the Venetian presence in his Kingdom. It would have a great effect on the future of Genoa and of Granada, which was cut off from North Africa by the agreement.

[10] - Margarite was Roger’s eldest child, by his Sicilian wife, Bertha. She was supposedly descended from William Iron-Arm, the brother of both Roger the Great Count and Robert Guiscard.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world...

The first Genoese colony was in Gibraltar, and their next in Malaga. Their bankers lent money to men from Casares to Xiquena. Their ships carried timber, textiles, and coral across the seas. Their gold purchased the great Citadel of Marbella, overlooking the Mediterranean. Their crossbows were trained with in ranges across the Emirate. Their tactics were adopted by the greatest Sheiks of the armies. Everywhere throughout the Emirate of Granada, Genoa was there, ensuring that their goods were purchased and their purses were filled. In exchange, Granada grew ever stronger.

The loss of their connection to North Africa was difficult, but it was a blessing in disguise. Slowly but surely, they grew stronger. Economically. Culturally. Military. Strong enough that, one day, they would see the dream of Andalusia restored and the triumph of Islam. And all the while, the Most Serene Republic of Genoa looked over their shoulder, to the west. To the gold mines of Timbuktu and the spires of Marrakech. Genoa looked west.
Your TL is splendid. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily is my favorite subject in the Middle Ages and Friedrich Hohenstaufen is certainly one of the most interesting medieval kings. It is really good to see that the revitalization that occurred during his reign is not wasted in TTL in futile attempts to beat the Papacy and the Lombard League as it did in OTL. I have a few small questions and pins though.
1. What happened to Schwaben? Is it still in the hands of Hohenstaufen family? I don’t think that Otto had the resources or legal claim to annex it during Friedrich’s reign. And while the Sicilian king can trade it for something valuable I don’t think the German Emperors had anything valuable South of Alpes to give.
2. I seriously doubt that the Hohenstaufen dynasty will see Roger III(or his father Tancred to this end) as a legal king of Sicily. The German invasion was justified by the claim that Constance is the queen by her own right while Tancred is a bastard. So TTL Roger III shall probably be Roger II or you should include the Great Count to the List.
3. The list of the dockings of the Sicilian navy looks rather strange. It lacks Messina which was the chief royal dockyard in OTL as well as the great mainland ports of Amalfi, Salerno and Gaeta. Syracuse on the other hand wasn’t a very important military dockyard in OTL important.
4. The last one is a personal question. Do you happen to know anything on the Kingdoms fleet apart from the ancient one “Die Geschichte der sizilischen Flotte unter der Regierung…’?

Can you say a few words on the economic situation of the Kingdom? In OTL the total population was estimated around 4.5-5 million people but in TTL there are probably more immigrants to the kingdom as well as the newly acquired territories in Northern Africa.
Your TL is splendid. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily is my favorite subject in the Middle Ages and Friedrich Hohenstaufen is certainly one of the most interesting medieval kings. It is really good to see that the revitalization that occurred during his reign is not wasted in TTL in futile attempts to beat the Papacy and the Lombard League as it did in OTL. I have a few small questions and pins though.
1. What happened to Schwaben? Is it still in the hands of Hohenstaufen family? I don’t think that Otto had the resources or legal claim to annex it during Friedrich’s reign. And while the Sicilian king can trade it for something valuable I don’t think the German Emperors had anything valuable South of Alpes to give.
2. I seriously doubt that the Hohenstaufen dynasty will see Roger III(or his father Tancred to this end) as a legal king of Sicily. The German invasion was justified by the claim that Constance is the queen by her own right while Tancred is a bastard. So TTL Roger III shall probably be Roger II or you should include the Great Count to the List.
3. The list of the dockings of the Sicilian navy looks rather strange. It lacks Messina which was the chief royal dockyard in OTL as well as the great mainland ports of Amalfi, Salerno and Gaeta. Syracuse on the other hand wasn’t a very important military dockyard in OTL important.
4. The last one is a personal question. Do you happen to know anything on the Kingdoms fleet apart from the ancient one “Die Geschichte der sizilischen Flotte unter der Regierung…’?

Can you say a few words on the economic situation of the Kingdom? In OTL the total population was estimated around 4.5-5 million people but in TTL there are probably more immigrants to the kingdom as well as the newly acquired territories in Northern Africa.

Thank you! I'll try to answer your questions as best I can, and make the requisite edits to the points you made.

1. The Honenstaufen family's lands are under a different branch of the family, likely closer to Philip of Swabia (I admit, I haven't given it much thought). The gist of the peace between Otto and Frederick was that Frederick (prompted by the Pope) gave up his personal claims outside of Sicily, as per Papal policy, and gained undisputed rule of Sicily.

2. Very true, but TTL Roger III likely would have acquired that number counting the Great Count, while modern historians would consider King Roger II/III a part of the counting, while not including the Great Count. It's a contradictory system, but both contemporaries and modern historians TTL would believe him to be Roger III.

3. My main goal was to show the importance of maintaining the Sicily-North Africa cordon, although I see how those cities I overlooked would be important. Editing to correct...

4. No, I don't know much about it.

As for the economic situation of the Kingdom, I'll be sure to cover that in the next update on Alfons I Hohenstaufen. Thank you for the feedback! Also, while its some time in the future, I was wondering what your (and the board in general's) opinion on colonies was. Specifically, on Genoese and Sicilian colonies in the New World. Possible? ASB? I'd like to know the general opinion so I can plan ahead. Thanks!
Thank you for your quick response. Concerning Schwaben it’ll be much more plausible if Philip had a son in TTL(in OTL he had 4 daughters ). Without him Friedrich has an undisputed claim for the Duchy.

Concerning Genoese or Sicilian colonies in the New World. I don’t really think it is very plausible. The problem is not the unwillingness of people to sail West of the Gibraltar(in fact Genoese tried to send such expeditions in late 13th century in OTL; see Vivaldi brothers who tried to explore the African cost on two galleys). It was the state of shipbuilding that made any Atlantic voyage a delayed suicide. Before the emergence of caravel-like ships with strong hull and lateen sails even reaching Canaries seems a great challenge. Since lateen sales are known for Arabs and in TTL the interference with Arabs is greater in Sicily the strong hull is the weakest spot. In OTL such hull was invented in late 14th century and while it certainly can be invented several decades earlier I don’t see any ocean ships before the first half of 14th century.

But once the caravel-like ship emerge the prospects of Genoese and Sicilian colonies looks rather bright. And while Genoa itself probably doesn’t have enough population for any serious colonial outposts, Sicily is one of the most populated countries in Europe(as I wrote it’s population is estimated to be around 4.5 million people during the reign of Friedrich which [FONT=&quot]is two times more than medieval England had for example[/FONT]) and has a great naval tradition.
Chapter 7: Old Ironsides
The reign of Alfons I Hohenstaufen

Roger Hohenstaufen's death threw the Sicilian world into chaos. Without a strong military leader to hold them in line, the Muslims of Rogers's conquests in North Africa flew into revolt, reducing Sicilian North Africa to Suebta, Carthage, Mahdia, and Constantine. At the same time, the Mongols in Mesopotamia launched an invasion of Rogers's restored Kingdom of Jerusalem, meeting laughably little resistance. As if to underscore the Kingdom's peril, a Venetian fleet carrying soldiers from the Holy Roman Empire, Sicily's old enemy, raided the island itself, burning the outskirts of Messina before retiring to the mainland.

The Kingdom needed a strong military leader, but for the moment the only legitimate ruler was Alfons Hohenstaufen, Frederick's 20-year old son. Painfully shy, he had preferred to spend his youth in the fabulous Map Room of the*Arx Fredericus Rogerus. At 20 years old, Alfons was an expert in geography, having reportedly traveled to Cairo, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Venice, Paris, Lubeck, and London [1]. Still unmarried, Alfons lacked the sheer intellect of his father or the air of command of his brother. Upon his ascension, Alfons became a political non-entity, trapped between the machinations of William of Messina and ex-Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople.

Both men had long histories. William was the illegitimate great-grandson of King Roger I. A capable commander at 53, William had proven himself in Frederick's "crusade" and Roger's African campaign. If it were merely a question of ability, William would have been the obvious choice to lead Sicily in her time of crisis. The Medieval world, however, was far from meritocratic. Despite his lack of any land to speak of, Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople, a now-empty title, was technically the highest-ranking man in the kingdom. Baldwin had travelled to Sicily following his expulsion from Constantinople, hoping that he could raise support for a venture to retake his Empire. Alfons appointed William as his Admiralus [2] and Baldwin as his Chancellor, hoping that the two would balance each other out. However, once the two had power, a vicious struggle for total control ensued.

While William and Baldwin struggled for Sicily, the Kingdom's very survival seemed to hang in the balance. Frederick's conciliatory policies in North Africa had proved to be effective in preventing revolts in his conquests, but Rogers's conquests seemed to have been swallowed up by revolts. Meanwhile, at a battle outside of the crusader fortress Krak de Chevaliers, the combined knighthood of the Kingdom of Jerusalem arrayed against a Mongol force nearly twice their size. Although a counter-charge of Knights flattened an opening Keshik attack, the Mongol commander continued to pursue and aggressive attack against the Crusaders. With their horse archers swarming the slow Europeans, the Mongols ultimately won a crushing victory.

The threats abroad, however, had thankfully not yet been repeated at home. Only minor raids picked at the Sicilian border. This was largely due to the cities of the Lombard League, which, along with the Alps, provided a stout buffer against Holy Roman aggression. The Welf Emperors Otto IV and Frederick II had also helped, largely giving up on returning to Italy, instead focusing on the burgeoning wealth of the north [3]. Otto V, however, had come to power only two years previously, and at 18 he was eagerly eying potential targets. With Sicily weakened by Rogers's death and the Venetians willing to dismantle the other Italian power, Otto found a perfect target. The promise of free trade in conquered territories for the Venetians won Otto a fleet, all he needed to bypass the northern Italian defenses.

In 1268, an invasion force of 18,000 men set sail for the Kingdom of Sicily, led by the renowned Josef the Bohemian. Despite being well in his sixties, Josef was the most trusted Imperial commander, having served faithfully under Otto IV. William immediately set out building a force to stop him, but with almost painful stupidity Baldwin resisted. If Alfons's daughter is to be believed, Baldwin seems to have thought that he could convince the Holy Roman troops to attack Venetian Constantinople, not thinking about who owned the fleet they would use, and restore him to his Empire. By the time William was forced to meet Josef in battle due to the siege of Reggio, he had only 13,500 men.*

Luckily for the Sicilians, the Holy Roman expedition had broken down almost as soon as they landed in southern Italy. Josef suffered a heatstroke after commanding the siege, in the Sicilian summer heat, while wearing full plate armor. He lingered for a week, but soon enough died, leaving command to the seven highest-ranking nobles in the army. None wanted to share power, and two, matching with only 5,000 men, were ambushed and destroyed by William on his way up Calabria. When the two forces met outside of Reggio, the five remaining Holy Roman nobles disagreed on whether to fight or retreat, leading to their encirclement and destruction by Williams's forces.

It is here that Alfons Hohenstaufen first emerged from the shadow of his over-mighty courtiers. The Holy Roman threat had been dealt with, but the 106 hostile Venetian War Galleys anchored off of Apulia had not been. In order to end this threat, Alfons gathered 161 Sicilian ships to deal with the threat. Despite his numerical advantage, however, Alfons didn't attack. While the Sicilians possessed more men and more ships, the Venetians were the better trained and more experienced sailors. Thus, Alfons split his navy, sailing with 61 ships to bait the Venetians out into open water. Once he had done so, he turned around to attack, and at the moment the remaining hundred Sicilian warships encircled the Venetians.

The battle lasted for ten hours, during which the Venetians gave a good account of themselves, but were ultimately defeated. Alfons, in particular, was hailed as the hero of the battle. His flagship, the Neptune, stormed three Venetian ships, sank one, and received the surrender of a fifth and sixth. For the Venetians, the battle was an utter disaster, with their remaining fleets scattered throughout the Aegean Sea and little to prevent the Sicilians from moving on Venetian territory. Between surrenders and destructions, the Venetians report a total loss of their fleet. Alfons lost upwards of seventy ships.

The campaign had a number of positive effects. The borders of the Sicilian homeland were stabilized, and Otto V wouldn't again threaten Sicilian territory. Baldwin, in his infinite naïvety, was captured by the Holy Roman forces, and sent to Aachen as an honored guest, where he would die the next year. William of Messina, however, didn't celebrate his victory for long. He had lost an incompetent, if prestigious, rival, and in exchange gained a popular, successful competitor, who happened to be the King of Sicily.

Alfons's popularity skyrocketed in the wake of his victory over the Venetians. The past 70 years had seen Venice become the unparalleled master of the Eastern Mediterranean, and Alfons's victory broke the myth of Venetian invincibility. What was more, the popular image of him shifted. He was seen as similar to his father - reluctant to fight, but willing to when it was necessary for the good of his Kingdom, and excellent at it when he did.

Alfons would have liked to enjoy his victory in Palermo, but his Kingdom was still in danger. Sicilian North Africa seemed to be in danger of falling, and although William of Messina had been instrumental in the defeat of the Holy Roman expedition, he still represented a danger to Alfons's throne. A solution, surprisingly enough, came from Genoa. Genoese interests in the western Mediterranean had increased dramatically following the Mongol conquest of their trading posts in the Black Sea. The deal was simple: if Palermo would hand Suebta over to Genoa, then the Genoese would finance the Sicilian expedition to restore their North African holdings.

Alfons saw the strategic value of this deal, and spied in it an opportunity to rid himself of his other problem. William of Messina was packed off to Suebta in 1271, where he was to the the Genoese governor. Immediately protesting, he attempted to incite a revolt in his name in Sicily, but the Genoese payment allowed Alfons to use well-placed bribes to ensure the army's loyalty. With the navy firmly behind their fabulous commander, William was left to shake his fists at Alfons from Geonese Suebta.

In 1272, therefor, Alfons crossed into North Africa with a force of 21,000 men. He landed near Carthage, which was besieged by the rebel forces. Alfons first tried diplomacy, offering to restore the pre-Roger borders to Sicilian North Africa. The rebels, confident in their superior numbers, refused the offer, and the next day were flattened by superior Sicilian training and cohesion [4].

A whirlwind campaign this began, with Alfons coordinating attacks between the army and navy, sharply defeating any enemy sent against him. By Christmas, he had pushed the border back to Constantine, where he and his troops rested for the winter. From there, he sent an ultimatum to all Muslim rebels in Sicilian North Africa: leave or die. That spring, he proved his point by attacking a small rebel citadel and massacring the inhabitants; men, women, and children. By May, he had restored an exhausted peace to the region.

Sicilian North Africa, particularly Rogers's conquests, had been severely depopulated by the recent wars. Alfons, in response, showed his incredible ability to spend money. Refugees and the urban poor of Sicily were all sent to be farmers along the North African coast. In order to provide farmland, the army was sent to dig out massive irrigation projects, transforming the dusty plains into arable land. Constantine and the Alger region, in particular, saw a great recovery with Greek immigrants, for which it is now famous.

The year of 1276 saw two momentous marriages. The first, between Margarite [5] and the King of Jerusalem-in-exile, David I [6]. The next marriage was that of King Alfons himself to Elisabeth, the youngest daughter of the King of England, Edward I Plantagenet, son of Henry III and grandson of John I. She was 22 years old, compared to her 31-year old husband.

In peacetime, Alfons was far more like his father than his brother. He far preferred to live in Palermo than on the march, spending his free time as a cartographer for his own Map Room [7]. During the next nine years, Alfons had one son, Robert, and three daughters, Cecile, Yolanda, and Beatrice. For those nine years, he oversaw a peaceful and prosperous kingdom, one which had been returned to its rightful spot as a premiere power in the Mediterranean.

Alfons's Kingdom held some 7 million people, with the vast majority (5 million) in Sicily, Italy, and Sardinia, with the remaining 2 million in North Africa. Those 7 million produced a vibrant economy, which had been hindered, but not decimated, by the wars after Rogers's death. Sicilian timber remained the highest quality in the Mediterranean, and grain from Apulia and Africa was a valuable product in high quantities. Sicily's economy, however, was characterized by the more luxurious products. Silk production, which had been smuggled out of Constantinople during the reign of William the Lucky, competed with cotton for preeminence, and Sicilian merchants traded fruits, iron, sulphur, coral, wine, and gold for pepper, nutmeg, cloves, amber, and wool from across Europe and Asia. It is estimated that Palermo, Messina, Amalfi, and Mahdia were among the ten busiest ports in the Mediterranean.

Alfons also oversaw a regulation of Sicilian coinage. The Piastra became the standard golden coin of Sicily, while continued Greek influence created the silver Nominasa, worth a quarter of a Piastra. Ten copper folloi, another Greek influence, was the equivalent of a Nominasa. It is said that five Folloi was to be worth a loaf of bread. Coins were minted with the face of the King of Sicily on one side and a simple cross and Chi Ro on the other side, representing Palermo's growing distance from Rome. When some of the Muslim subjects objected, Alfons replied that, "The cross is as important to those who follow Mahomet as those who follow Christ, as to both it is what God's chosen died upon."

This comment shows the growing sense of a cosmopolitan society in Sicily. While the Holy Roman Empire persecuted Jews and the Iberian nations waged holy war between Christians and Muslims, in Sicily the two groups could live together. To the Pope, it was an imminent threat of heresy. To the Muslim world, it was a sign that the Christians were "losing their edge" that had taken them to the crusades. And to Sicily, it was merely life.

1285, however, saw Alfons roused once again to war. The preceding year, the youngest daughter of Roger Honenstaufen, Francisca, had married Emperor Simeon of Bulgaria, and had been busily or orchestrating an anti-Alfons alliance, reportedly including the Pope, Venice, and France. Unwilling to be struck first, Alfons requested that Francisca drop all claims to the Kingdom of Sicily, which she flatly refused, as it was the glue that held her alliance together. When she refused, Alfons gathered 189 Sicilian warships and set sail for Thesselonika, the largest city in Simeon's empire. There, he was challenged by the newly furnished Bulgarian fleet, 75 ships strong. The result was never in doubt, but Alfons still showed great personal valor, earning his nickname "Old Ironsides," for the supposed invincibility of his flagship. With his largest city in danger from an enemy he had never really wanted to fight, Simeon agreed to force his wife to drop her claims.

The expedition would be a fateful one. After the battle, Alfons collapsed onto the deck of the Neptune, and two days later is reported as having a "terrible fever." Although the disease didn't kill him, the next (and last) six years of his life were spent largely bedridden in the*Arx Fredericus Rogerus. While he continued to guide the ship of state, he would never again sail away from Sicily. In 1291, he died, likely of cancer. He was succeeded by his 14-year old son, Robert I Hohenstaufen.

Alfons was not mourned as his father was. He had been full of dichotomies - an awkward scholar who commanded naval warfare with a fierce tenacity, and a meek ruler capable of immense cruelty. Despite his flaws, though, Alfons's reign was a successful one, and he deserves to be remembered as his father was. He found his Kingdom collapsing on all fronts, in a great time of crisis. He bequeathed his son a stable Kingdom. If he wasn't as great as a conquerer as his father or brother, it was because he was too busy solidifying the state. For that, all of Sicily owes him a debt.

[1] - The primary historian for Alfons's reign is his daughter, Cecile, who would have been writing about his travels after the fact.

[2] - Originally the Arabic Emir al-Bahr, the title Admiralus had come to denote the de jure head of the navy and the de facto head of both the navy and army, making William the highest ranking military officer in Sicily.

[3] - While the Hanseatic League has yet to be chartered, it is in the timeframe of this update, and will be covered in another chapter.

[4] - A small military update is forthcoming.

[5] - Roger's youngest daughter, she had fled from Palermo on her twentieth birthday, harboring ambitions to take the throne.

[6] - The Mongols had conquered the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem in the previous decade.

[7] - OTL, Frederick Hohenstaufen became a practicing physician, so there is certainly precedent for this kind of behavior.
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Chapter 8: Three Empires, one City
The Orthodox successors to Constantinople's Empire​

Following the disastrous Fourth Crusade, the very heart of the Orthodox church and Roman Empire was ripped out. Constantinople was given over to conquerers, first the boorish Franks, and then, in the ultimate irony, the very Venetians that Constantinople had sheltered for centuries. Such a military reversal was bad enough, but to make matters worse, there was uncertainty among the remaining Greeks about who was the true successor to the Roman Empire. The Laskarids claimed that their Nicene Roman Empire was, while the Komnenoi in Trebizond claimed the same, and the Komnenos-Doukids of Epirus asserted their own legitimacy. When Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria smashed aside the Latin Empire, he took the title "Emperor of the Bulgarians and Greeks," placing himself in a position equal to Emperor Ionnas III of the Nicene Roman Empire, Emperor Manuel I of the Trebizondian Empire, and Emperor Michael II Komnenos Doukas of the Despotate of Epirus.

Each Empire web through transition periods at the time, but none more so than the Second Bulgarian Empire, the rising star of the Balkans. Thus, it is to the Bulgarians that we turn to first.

Chapter 8.1 - The Second Bulgarian Empire
Under Kaliman Asen I and Simeon Asen I

*Even in 1241, when Ivan Asen II died, Bulgaria had a long history with the Roman Empire. The Bulgarian warlord Krum had killed the Roman Emperor Nicephorus I and used his skull as a cup, and in return the Roman Emperor Basil II blinded an entire Bulgarian army. The Roman brothers Cyril and Methodius supplied the Bulgarians with a written script and drew them in to the Orthodox world, and in return the Bulgarians defeated the Latins while the Romans had been shocked by the loss of their Queen of Cities, Constantinople.

Kaliman, however, was not given a pleasant start to his reign. Bath Khan invaded in 1242, decimating Wallachia and wrenching it from Bulgaria's grasp, rolling the Empire's borders back to the Danube. The Mongol threat was only dealt with when, annoyed, Kaliman bought them off with a significant bribe.With his prestige thus damaged, Kaliman faced an open revolt from his nobility, sensing weakness.

As it turned out, the nobility sensed pragmatism, not weakness. In 1243, Kaliman thrashed a rebel army in Moesia. Although it took four more years, by 1247 Kaliman had ruthlessly suppressed the rebellion, killing or deporting any nobles that hadn't supported him. During that period, the Serbians and Epirotes, sensing weakness, had invaded. Kaliman, ignoring the Epirotes, surrounded and destroyed the main Serbian force, eliciting a peace from their terrified King. Turning south, Kaliman then bested the Epirotes, restoring his borders and plundering as far west as the Adriatic.

Finally secure on his throne, Kaliman took stock of his Empire. Under his father, Tuvorno had become the capital and most splendid Bulgarian city, but even the ravages of the Fourth Crusade couldn't entirely destroy the illustrious histories of Thesselonika and Adrianople. While his Bulgarian territory was larger, it was also more sparsely populated, while the Greek south was smaller yet more densely populated.

Luckily for Kaliman, the Orthodox church tied the Empire together. The Bulgarians and Greeks alike had suffered at the hands of Catholicism, and this became the epicenter for national unity.*Under Kaliman, a building program, the largest yet in Bulgaria's history, was started, with mixed Greek and Bulgarian influences. The Orthodox Wallachians fled south, across the Danube, which provided Kaliman with yet another opportunity. Settling them along the southern bank of the Danube, Kaliman began the creation of fortified cities along the river, providing a buffer against future attacks. Finally, Thesselonika and Addianople were revitalized, giving them the reconstruction necessary to return the cities to their rightful positions.

Only Constantinople lay outside of Kaliman's ambitions. In 1255, he attempted to attack the Queen of Cities, but upon seeing the restored Theodosian Walls [1], he thought better of it and retreated. The next year, however, Kaliman launched a blistering offensive against the Epirotes, distracted as they were by a campaign against the Duchy of Achia. Conquering all the way to Dyrrachium, Kaliman stretched his empire across the Balkans, making it the most powerful state in the region, with only Hungary and Venice in close proximity.

After Kaliman's death in 1258, his son, Simeon Asen II [2] took the throne. Simeon, at this point, was a mere 12 years old, overshadowed by his older sisters [3]. In response to the "feminine influence" of the sisters, no less than three Bulgarian generals took Simeon under their wing, only to be murdered, presumably by either the sisters or other generals. During that time, the army of the Bulgarian Empire was strengthened, with a band Crimean Goths becoming the first of the Sarmatian Guard, the elite guards of the Bulgarian Emperors. However, the period also saw the weakening of the Asen dynasty, which had been in power since the days of the Komnenos dynasty in the Roman Empire.

When Simeon finally came of age in 1264, he was faced with a Croat invasion of his western territories. The Kingdom of Croatia, which had wrenched freeing self free from the Hungarians after a brief succession crisis [4], was under the leadership of the aging Durak Zaninović. Having set his sights on the rich ports of the Adriatic, Durak set out with the intention of conquering Dyrrachium and the surrounding area.

Simeon panicked, having little experience in combat, but quickly picked up on the style of diplomacy that the later Roman Emperors used so well [5]. Pointing out the danger of a united Adriatic coast to the Venetians, Simeon thus prompted Venetian raids on the Croat army. By the time Durad's force had approached Dyrrachium, it was easy pickings for the larger Bulgarian force, sharply ending the threat to the Empire.

The victory over the Croats also marked Simeon's victory over his overbearing sisters and generals. Having freed himself from their influence, Simeon continued the word that his father had begun. Primarily, this was repopulating the Danube frontier and turning it into a strong defensive line against future Mongol attacks, while also repopulating the Greek portions of his Empire. The Greeks, largely left to govern themselves, experienced a rebirth of the arts, with wealthy merchants patronizing the arts and organizing the construction of public works. Most significant was the reconstruction of Thesselonika, which rapidly arose to become the largest city in the Bulgarian Empire, and a major seaport to boot.

In the interest of defending his newfound port, Simeon began the construction of a Bulgarian navy. He had completed nearly fifty ships when disaster struck. His young wife, the beautiful Francisca Hohenstaufen, who had fled from her uncle's domain in Sicily. Starting in 1280, Francisca started to construct an anti-Alfons coalition, including the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Most Serene Republic of Venice. Unfortunately for Simeon, Alfons struck first, wrecking his fledgling fleet and threatening Thesselonika in 1285. Hoping to avoid further bloodshed, Simeon agreed to drop Francisca's claim to the Kingdom of Sicily [6].

Simeon lived for two more years, but in 1287, he was dead. He had a single legitimate child, a 3-year old daughter, but his bastard son Krum [7], a 17-year old officer in the army, was wildly popular. A brief civil war led to the downfall of Francisca, who couldn't shake the army's faith in Krum with her charms alone. Thus, in 1289, Emperor Krum Asen I was crowned.

Chapter 8.2 - The Great Komnenoi
The Empire of Trebizond

Ironically, the greatest patron of Trebizondian power was the horde thy leveled civilizations, the Mongols. At Kose Dag, they devastated the Sultanate of Rum, giving the Pontic state breathing room among hostile powers. In 1258, the destruction of Baghdad led to Trebizond growing in importance as the western terminus of the Silk Road, increasing trade in the area. Finally, the crippling of the Geonese presence in the Black Sea allowed Trebizond to secure the Crimean peninsula, giving the nation control over Black Sea waterways.

The Emperors of Trebizond used two great advantages to prop up their Empire. Alexios I of Trebizond (died 1222), his son Ionnas I [8] (1222-1246), and his son Basilios I all used their wealth and beautiful daughters/sisters to their advantage. In 1239, the 17-year old beauty Kommenke, daughter of the Emperor Ionnas I, was married to a Nestorian Mongol chieftain, who in return brought 4,000 Mongol horsemen to fight with the Emperor, beginning the long relationship between Trebizond and the Mongols.

Their acceptance of Nestorians shows the changing attitude of Orthodoxy toward heresies. Before, the church had stomped out any signs of dissent, often creating splinter groups due to their self-assurance. However, following the Fourth Crusade, that self-assurance had vanished with the fall of Constantinople. Instead, Orthodoxy began to welcome many long-lost splinters of their religion, most notably the Armenian and Nestorian churches.

In 1241, Baselios Ionnas I made use of his newfound allies. Launching an offensive into the largely lawless Anatolian plains, he managed to conquer his way to Sinope, which he incorporated into his Empire. Following his victories, he had the south-eastern coast of the Black Sea entirely under his control.

The most consequential action of any of the emperors in the time period, however, was the marriage of Baselios Basilios I to the daughter of the King of Georgia. The two nations were very similar - both had Orthodox populations and had been savaged in the past by the Muslims to the south. Although Basilios would never control both Treizbond and Georgia, he would plant the seed that would go on to change the shape of the region.

The only other even of note was a trade that occurred in 1260, under Basilios I. He traded a vast sum of money to the Mongol lords of Persia for ten men, all from China. These men were unique, because they were experienced cannoniers from the Mongol army. They would forge the first cannons for a Christian leader in history, making Trebizond the first Christian nation to have access to gunpowder. Such a change would soon shake all of Europe.

Overall, Trebizond saw a period of moderate expansion, although very little of note happened. Part of the problem is that many of the records of Trebizond were lost over the years, leading to a lack of primary sources. Thus, most of the information on the period comes from outside sources, which merely emphasize that the city of Trebizond was known for its wealth, women, and seafarers.

Chapter 8.3 - The Purple Phoenix
The Nicene Roman Empire under the Palaeologus dynasty

In 1254, Ionnas III Vatatzes died, allowing his son, Theodoros II Laskaris take the throne. In Nicaea, the Empire's stability appeared to have recovered. The Thematic armies had recovered, the Scholai [9] had been refounded, and the Imperial Navy was once again in existence. Trade had resumed, and the countryside had been largely repopulated. In the minds of most, only one thing remained: to retake Constantinople.

Constantinople always looked closer to the Nicene Roman Empire than to the other successor states. Only Nicaeans could claim to be able to see the Queen of Cities from within their borders [10], and the dream of reclaiming the great capital had never quite died. However, Theodoros Laskaris had a number of issues with the idea of reclaiming Constantinople. It was guarded by the formidable Venetian fleet, an obstacle that not even the restored Imperial fleet, Greek Fire and all, hoped to beat.*

The more pressing issue, however, was that of the resurgent nobility. The Anatolian aristocracy of Roman society had plagued the Empire for years, and only the degradation of the Fourth Crusade seemed capable of ending their constant schemes. Even that, however, had been undone in half a century, and in 1260 a pretender attempted to usurp the throne. After a brief civil war, Theodoros restored order, but his worst fears had been confirmed. As he wrote, "I cannot return to the city, for when I leave with my army, I will return to find that the empire I conquered for will no longer be mine."

Luckily, Theodoros did not have to wait long for his enemies to reveal themselves. In 1263, a massive uprising occurred, led by one Michael Palaeologus. Theodoros attempted to raise A force to fight back, but at the Battle of Smyrna, his forces betrayed him, leaving Theodoros dead on the field and Michael Palaeologus the Emperor of the Nicene Roman Empire.

Having come to power with the support of the nobility, Michael quickly moved to ensure that he wouldn't be deposed in the same way. A master of diplomacy, he coerced the major aristocrats of the Empire to come to Nicaea, where he promptly sat them down and made them sign a document committing them to total support of Michael and his family, under the watchful gaze of the Scholai and Ecumenical Patriarch. With that taken care of, Michael could look outward.

The conquest of Constantinople remained out of the question. It was unlikely that the Empire could have defeated Venice, and even if they did, the rest of the Catholic world would likely turn on the Romans immediately, creating an unwinnable situation. Instead, Michael focused on the Mediterranean. When a Muslim force destroyed the Kingdom of Cyprus, Michael promptly attacked, recapturing the island in a matter of months.*

Michael spent much of his reign carefully rebuilding his nation. Although Cyprus was his last major conquest, he did put the Nicene Roman Empire back on its feet. The countryside, which had been devastated by Christians and Muslims alike, was repopulated, and the burgeoning Roman merchant class, often on cooperation with merchants from Trebizond and Bulgaria, was growing steadily. When Alfons Hohenstaufen thrashed the Venetian navy in 1268, the Venetian stranglehold on Aegean trade faltered, giving the Greek merchants a chance to retake the sea for their own trade.

Michael ruled until 1292, when he died of an unknown disease. He left the throne to his son, Andronikos II. Michael had strengthened the Nicene Roman Empire internally, and given the state a fighting chance in the future. But it was a small state, surrounded by larger and greater powers. Such an obstacle was not to be overlooked.

Chapter 8.4: The Queen in Captivity
Constantinople under the Venetians

The Venetian acquisition of Constantinople in 1230 is an example of incredible irony. The capital that had sheltered the lagoon in its infancy had become a slave to the Venetians. However, all was not as bleak as it appeared. Unlike the Latin Empire, whose only interest had been plunder, the city captured the imagination of the doges. Merchants seeking a door to the east flocked to Constantinople, reviving business in the region. Those businesses patronized the city, replacing shattered roads, restoring great churches and forums, and creating new public works. Although the city remained one of only 60,000 people [11] in 1260, it had regained much of its grandeur. Again, statues and fountains decorated the streets, and merchants sailed regularly in and out of the Golden Horn.

Of course, this prosperity was watched with constant vigilance by the Venetian fleet. After all, two states with clear ambitions to take the city - Bulgaria and Nicaea - directly bordered the city (right across the Sea of Marmara, in Nicaea's case) made the area inherently unstable.

Constantinople occupied a unique spot in the Venetian Republic. Out of respect for the city, a junior doge was appointed for Constantinople. Such a position was usually given to younger politicians in Venice, where they would essentially be groomed for a future as the Doge of Venice. While the Doges of Constantinople and Venice technically worked together, they rarely acted as equals, with the Doge of Venice taking the lead in the majority of situations.*

However, the existence of this political office drew attention to Constantinople. The Doges of Constantinople patronized massive building projects in the city, including the reconstruction of the Theodosian Walls, as well as the restoration of the Hippodrome, which was used for horse races instead of the traditional chariot races. Even the Forum of Constantine was renovated, with a great clock tower rising above the streets. Everywhere, the city seemed revitalized.

However, this revitalization was largely carried out with the immigration of Italians to the city. Ironically, the city that had replaced the Roman culture with Greek was now being flooded with the culture of the Italian peninsula. While Constantinople flourished once again, it was not without losing the Greek brilliance that had characterized it under the Macedonians and the Komnenoi.

[1] - During their ownership of the city, the Venetians had rebuilt the famous defenses.

[2] - Assuming that Simeon I was Simeon the Great of the First Bulgarian Empire.

[3] - A biological change from OTL, with Kaliman producing more daughters than sons.

[4] - Croatia and Hungary were joined in a personal union in 1102, so by the mid-1200s, resentment would have had time to build and a crisis could have given the opportunity for independence.

[5] - The OTL word for which would be "Byzantine."

[6] - The agreement was made without Francisca's consent. Tellingly of their relationship, Simeon's daughter Eudoxia (born 1284) would be the only child the two would have.

[7] - His birth name was Ivan Asen, but it seems that Francisca took to calling him the barbaric name Krum in an attempt to further damage his credibility. Krum seems to have embraced this, and is know to posterity as Krum Asen I.

[8] - A minor succession change - OTL Alexios's son-in-law, Anikondrios, became emperor. Here, Anikondrios died in 1219.*

[9] - Elite Imperial bodyguards, 1,500 strong. Restarted by Ionnas in 1252.

[10] - The Venetian hinterland around the city prevented the Bulgarians from making the same boast.

[11] - This would rank Constantinople among the larger cities in Europe, but compared to the half-million mark of Justinian, it is a pale shadow.
Chapter 9: The Cross-Channel Kingdom
The Angevin Empire King Henry III

With the death of King John I of England, his son, Henry III, inherited a powerful kingdom. Controlling all of England and Wales, much of Ireland, and around half of France, it bordered the Scots in the north and the Aragonese in the south. While the Kingdom was certainly not as wealthy or urbanized as the Sicilians, it was the undisputed power of Western Europe [1]. Known to many as the "Angevin Empire," the Kingdom appeared poised to enter a Golden Age.

Storm clouds, however, were on the horizon for the young King. Nowhere in his Kingdom were the nobles content with their King - in England and Wales, they resented their French-speaking, wine-drinking, cheese-eating monarch, who seemed almost like a foreign occupier, while the French and Irish nobility begrudged their English and Welsh counterparts for their liberties guaranteed by the Great Charter, as well as the fact that London remained the capital of the Kingdom, far away from Dublin or Bordeaux. Henry seems to have been aware of this, and took steps to appease both sides. In France, he married the daughter of the Duke of Brittany, a 16-year old woman named Isabelle, bringing him closer to his most powerful vassal in France. In Ireland, meanwhile, he appointed the highly capable Thomas de Kentwell, the mixed Irish-English Count of Kilkney, as the commander of his armies.

Such measures, although well done, could only hold for so long. More important to the preservation of peace, however, was the productivity and prosperity of the Kingdom. The years of 1231-1233 were periods of great harvests and growth, leading to a minor population boom in the Kingdom, particularly in England. It is estimated that the Kingdom had a population of around 14 million [2], and the economy was the strongest it had been since the days of the Roman Empire.

This tentative peace, however, could never last for long. As the later famous playwright Edward Bertran [3] put it, in a scene where Henry converses with three nobles:

KING HENRY III: Tell me, dukes of my realm, what is it that you would ask of me? Shall I be a slave of my subjects? Would you have your King grovel at your feet?
IRISH NOBLE: Nay, King. We would have you render unto our men of honor the very privileges that you have bestowed upon those of England.
FRENCH NOBLE: Indeed, King. We would have the liberties of your own countrymen, or we would have war for our liberties. Will you pay with ink or blood?
ENGLISH NOBLE (to FRENCH NOBLE): He'll pay with the blood of he who asks, swine! We will not be beholden to a King who speaks French, bows to the French, and licks the heels of the French!
KING HENRY III: Hold your tongue, man! I will not suffer your indignities!
ENGLISH NOBLE: Suffer not, then, and renounce the crown of England! Stand before God as the King of the French, which you most certainly are!

While such an encounter almost certainly never happened, the dialogue does sum up largely what the nobility thought of Henry. No side considered him their King - Irish, Welsh, English, and French all saw him as foreign. In 1235, the tentative peace finally broke.

That year, a distant cousin of Henry's, Geoffrey Plantagenet, declared himself the true French Duke of Aquitaine [4], and raised the French nobility of the region in revolt against King Henry. The next year brought fresh disaster, with the Welsh under Dafydd ad Llywelyn, son and recent successor of the Prince of Gwynedd, Llywelyn the Great.

Luckily for Henry, he had played his hand well. Much of England and Normandy remained loyal to the King of England, and thanks to the efforts of Thomas de Kentwell and Isabelle, Brittany and Ireland remained loyal, as well.

Once Henry gathered an army in 1236, his first order of business was to stave off the Welsh invasion. Pursuing Dafydd, Henry drove the Welsh prince south, although Dafydd made excellent use of his Longbowmen, driving off multiple English attacks. Henry found the use of cavalry charges to be massive, as the Welsh had few ways to counter a fully arrayed squadron of Knights due to a lack of Longbows. Thus, the Welsh were pushed south, with numerous skirmishes along the coast, with each side giving as good as they get.

Finally, late in the campaigning season, Henry managed to trap Dafydd near Somerset. In the battle, Dafydd makes good use of his Longbowmen and defensive position, although a charge of Henry's men-at-arms proves overwhelming for the few archers. By the time Henry charged in with his Knights in tow, the Welsh were broken, fleeing in all directions. From there, Henry hunted down the fugitive Welsh, killing isolated detachments and even capturing Dafydd himself.

In the Treaty of Suffolk, signed the next year while Henry readied his fleet to sail for France, the Principality of Gwynedd was formally turned over to the King of England, who ensured that the Welsh nobility would receive the same treatment as the English nobility did [5]. With that concluded, Henry set out for Rouen, where he would link up with a Norman army, and along with a small Breton detachment would move to block Geoffrey's advance up the coast of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Thomas and an Irish force sailed to Aquitaine proper, where they would destroy Geoffrey's power base. With the attack prepared, in 1237 the fleets set sail.

Immediately, they found the situation far worse than had been anticipated. French forces, under King Louis VIII, had moved to assist Geoffrey. They had smashed a Norman-Breton force sent against them, and we're now actively besieging Rouen. Without his continental reinforcements, Henry's force numbered roughly 6,000 men, while the French force besieging Rouen was closer to 7,500, and a mixed French-Aquitainian force in Brittany accounted for another 5,500.

Luckily for Henry, Thomas's attack drew Geoffrey's force from Brittany, leaving Louis and Henry to finish what their fathers had started. Skirmishing up and down Normandy, the two sides stung at one another, with Henry consistently getting the better of the exchanges due to his incorporation of longbows into his force. It isn't enough, however, to stop Louis from drawing up into battle formation in July on the site of his choosing, a field a few miles from the town of Falais, to the south of Caen.

Louis drew his forces up and began a general advance, led by the chivalry of France. Henry, understanding the danger of charging knights, ordered his Longbowmen to concentrate their fire on the Knights. Under the withering, armor-piercing fire from the English, the French Knights fell back. Sensing weakness, Henry led a charge of his own Knights, turning the retreat of the French cavalry into a rout. Seeing their best warriors fleeing, the French army began to waver. What happened next is best shown by Edward Bertran's depiction:

KING HENRY III: Come, my brothers in arms! The chivalric soldiers of Louis show themselves to be nothing more than children, playing at war. They disgrace men by their cowardice! On them, now! While they are weak! Once more unto the breach, my fellows, once more!

Regardless of the accuracy of this speech, it is true that Henry led his entire force in an all-out charge of the wavering French line. Louis realized that the battle was over, and while a rear guard distracted the English, he managed to reform his army and retreat in an organized fashion. Henry, upon shattering the rear guard, returned to his force, where, if Bertran is to be believed, he celebrated his victory with a mighty feast.

While the Battle of Falais was not decisive militarily - Henry had driven off Louis, but the main threat of Geoffrey remained - it was a turning point in the Aquitainian rebellion. Henry had proved himself not only to be a capable commander, but also an incredibly charismatic man. This would serve him well, as Thomas had landed in Bordeaux, but was not outnumbered almost two-to-one [6] by Geoffrey's force. Worse, Thomas did not have the advantage of longbows that Henry did, leaving him exposed to Geoffrey's advance. Henry managed to convince his troops to race down to Aquitaine, but he arrived to discover that he had missed the battle.

In mid-August, Geoffrey had cornered Thomas on top of a hillock in a driving rain outside of Jonzac, to the north of Bordeaux. The rain had prevented Geoffrey's archers from firing, but a canopy of trees upon the hill gave Thomas's troops the ability to fire down on their opponents. Three of Geoffrey's charges were thrown back, each with increasing casualties. By the fourth, the exhausted and demoralized Aquitainian-French force broke almost immediately, and Thomas led a charge down the hill, driving off the allied force and killing Geoffrey in the process.

With the battles of Jonzac and Falais completed, the revolt in Aquitaine fizzled. Henry, however, was politically savvy enough to realize the cause behind the revolt. Inviting the nobility of the French and Irish portions of the Kingdom of England to sign into the Great Charter of Liberties, he simultaneously started to show greater favor to his English and Welsh subjects. Of the largest cities in the Kingdom, London, Bordeaux, and Rouen all ranked closely together, but from 1238, when Henry returned to London, to 1245, only the capital of the Kingdom received Royal attention. The Cathedral of St. George in London was constructed, as well as a new series of docks along the Thames.

Finally, Henry agreed to the Provisions of Oxford [7], put forward by many of his English nobles. The provisions created the Parliaments of England, Ireland, Wales, and Normandy. Each Parliament corresponded to a geographic area of the Kingdom of England, and was made up of nobles and lawyers from those areas. Each Parliament was able to elect a single advisor to the King, as well as present the King with suggestions of laws and actions. The Parliaments met in Oxford, Dublin, Rouen, and Bordeaux, with London avoided in the interest of keeping the Parliamentary influence and royal influence separate. This had the effect of starting a school of law in the University of Oxford, which started the trend of England as the center of scholarship in the Angevin Empire.

Unique to the Parliaments, particularly in England’s, was the inclusion of the Yeoman class. Not quite the nobility that characterized the rest of Europe, the Yeoman class was based around small landowners, which, through general cooperation, had started to curb the power of the great nobles of the country. This coincided with the growth of trade within the Kingdom of England. The wine trade from Aquitaine, the wool trade from Flanders, and the timber, iron, tin, and fish trade from England all flowed across the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, bringing wealth across the Kingdom. The fertile lands of France, Ireland, and southern England all produced grain and wheat that fueled the population growth across the Kingdoms, and in 1246, the Trade Fair of Caen was reported to have brought in enough wealth to finance King Henry’s construction of the walls and extended abbey of Mont Saint-Michele, the Monastery-Fortress in southwestern Normandy.

King Henry remained in his Kingdom through 1251, during which time he had his first son, Edward, as well as a second son, George, and a daughter, Agatha. In 1251, he was roused again to war, this time by the Kingdom of the Isles to his north. King Magnus Olafsson, the current monarch after the death of his two elder brothers. The Viking-descended Kingdom launched a series of raids on the coast of Wales, raping and pillaging as they went. When a local force attempted to intervene, a large force of Magnus’s men flattened them, leaving with a sizeable loot.

Henry, clearly, couldn’t stand for this, and set off with a force 2,100 strong, determined to force the overbearing plunderers right back to their islands. Upon reaching Wales, however, he discovered that the raiders had fled. Magnus, it was later discovered, had raided in order to gain plunder with which he could pay various mercenaries to support his attack on the Kingdom of Scotland, England’s northern neighbor, which had been trying to impose its authority on the Kingdom of the Isles. Henry was left with a difficult decision – on one hand, it was an attack on his bitter enemy to the north, something that he, in theory, supported. But on the other hand, his domains had been pillaged, something that he could not allow to be forgiven without appearing weak.

Henry erred on the side of pragmatism, and after a show of force and a minor raid on the Isle of Man, he left Magnus well enough alone to fight King Alexander II of Scotland. In the north, Magnus and Alexander met in a great battle on Loch Lomond, which resulted in a smashing victory for Magnus, with a rumor that Alexander had died leading to the flight of the Scottish army. Although Alexander was very much alive, the battle broke his ambition of conquering the Kingdom of the Isles, and three years later Alexander was dead [8].

Henry continued to reign until 1274, making him one of the longest-reigning Angevin monarchs in history. He was remembered posthumously as Henry the Lawgiver, due to his acceptance of the Provisions of Oxford, but he was more influential in the consolidation of the Angevin Empire. Without Henry’s tireless work, the rebellion of Geoffrey, or a similar event, would surely have destroyed the unity of the Kingdom. Instead, Henry had cemented the largest state in Western Europe [9], and continued the tradition of power in the Kingdom of England. Henry’s reign, while not pivotal, was certainly constructive, and when his 27-year old son Edward I of England was crowned in Westminster Abbey. With his ascension, the Kingdom of England would enter a new period.

[1] - ITTL, German lands, including the HRE, are considered Central European. At the time, the HRE was more powerful, if only marginally, than England.

[2] - Population estimates I found place England in 1300 at between 5 and 7 million and France at around 13 to 20 million. I put 14 million here as an estimate of 5 million in England, 7 million in France, and 2 million in Ireland.

[3] - TTL's William Shakespeare. Theater will become a significant part of English culture.

[4] - Aquitaine was the single largest and wealthiest Duchy in all of the Angevin Empire, and traditionally held by the King of England.

[5] - This treaty was made under duress, much like Harold Godwinsson's pledge two hundred years earlier to support William of Normandy's claim to England. In both cases, the one that signed under duress never had an opportunity to reclaim their title for good.

[6] - 5,500 to 2,800, to be precise.

[7] – Signed OTL under Henry III as well. Here, though, Henry is more open to the idea of Parliaments in order to prevent rebellions like Geoffrey’s. In OTL, Henry refused the Provisions, leading to a civil war that he ultimately lost.

[8] – OTL, Alexander drowned in 1249, but to the same effect of preserving the independence of the Isles, for a time.

[9] – Again, considering the HRE as a central, not western European, nation.
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Chapter 10: The “Unholy German Confederation”
The Holy Roman Empire under the early Welf dynasty

When Frederick Hohenstaufen signed away his claim to the Holy Roman Empire [1], he was giving Otto of Brunswick a multi-faceted state. The Holy Roman Empire, given the title the “Unholy German Confederation” by satirical Rationalist writers, was undergoing a period of transition. Poor German farmers and wealthier German merchants began to settle the eastern portions of the empire traditionally inhabited by the Slavs. Meanwhile, to their north the Teutonic Knights continued to fight the heathens of the north, although Mongol raids had put a stop to their advances. The empire was the largest state in Europe, but it was highly disunited and prone to internal strife. It bordered the Venetians to the south and Denmark to the north, and had tied together an unstable region.

The title “Holy Roman Emperor” was also a title with controversy. Otto of Brunswick claimed to be the successor to the Caesars. However, in Nicaea and Trebizond, the Komnenoi and Laskarids claimed the exact same thing. The Doge of Venice and Three-Eighths of the Roman Empire laid claim to some of the prestige in question, and the Sultans of Rum continued to emulate the former Roman overlords of their lands. Otto, however, was content to look away from the rest of these claimants. Having gone from a nation surrounding the Papal States to one pushed back to the discontented cities of Northern Italy by Frederick Hohenstaufen, Otto’s main concern was with his German and Slavic state. Primarily, Otto was alarmed by the growing power of the nobility in his realm, particularly the clergy.

Despite this distrust, Otto himself led the Holy Roman forces in the Fifth Crusade himself. However, by the time he, King John of England, King Philip of France, and King Andrew of Hungary reached Constantinople, where his supposed equal, Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople, was waiting, the Crusade was on the verge of collapse. John and Philip had made little secret of their bitter hatred for one another, and Baldwin’s presumptuous behavior grated endlessly on his senior companion, Otto. Only the full strength of the Pope could possibly hold together the forces, but Pope Horonius was more concerned with chastising Frederick Hohenstaufen than he was with actually facilitating the Crusade. By the time the Crusaders reached Smyrna in 1221, Otto had had enough and turned back to Germany, but not before plundering a few towns along the way. When the aging Theodoros I of the Nicene Roman Empire protested, Otto feigned toward Prusa, and confident that he had cowed the Greeks, continued home.

Having seen the prosperity of the cities of the Aegean, Otto was pleasantly surprised to see the prosperity of the northern cities of his own Empire. Lubeck, Hamburg, Cologne, and Bremen, among others, had rapidly come to dominate the Baltic Sea trade that had once been monopolized by Scandinavians from Visby. These cities had established extensive trading contacts across the Baltic and North seas, dipping into both the Flemish wool trade and the Novgorodian amber markets. Otto, impressed by the wealth of these cities, encouraged their growth, including his endowment of a creation of a navy, small and weak by Venetian, Sicilian, or Genoese standards, but in the north, a dominate force. Thanks to this navy, the German cities could not only protect themselves from piracy, but also actively bully their trading rivals, only enhancing their already rapid growth. Otto, hoping to replicate their success elsewhere, encouraged the merchants to expand their practices across the northern coast of the Holy Roman Empire, and negotiated a deal with the Teutonic Knights for free trade in their ports.

Otto also encouraged this growth by ridding his territory, as best he could, of ecclesiastical overlords. His first action was to promote various major cities in his empire to “imperial” status, which made their mayors subordinate only to him, instead of various bishops or prince-bishops. These cities included Augsburg, Strasbourg, and many of the northern cities [2]. When Pope Gregory IX protested in 1234, Otto replied by respectfully telling the Pontiff to mind his own business. This response marks the distinct cooling of relations between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire under the Welfs.

Otto’s work in the creation of his state was hampered, however, by the continued work of Frederick Hohenstaufen. In 1226, the Lombard League, centered in the cities of Milan, Verona, Venice, and Genoa, was reformed, and declared its independence from the Holy Roman Empire. Otto prepared an attack, determined not to let the riches of Italy escape him, but by the time he had gathered enough forces, the harvest was ready, and the weaknesses of his feudal government shone. He was forced by his nobles to allow his men to return to their fields, and he would have to wait until 1227 to launch his campaign.

Further bad news came the next year. Frederick, the old enemy of Otto, had marched north in support of the Lombard League, and had blocked off the passes through the Alps, presenting Otto with the sole option of a bloody and costly campaign of fighting through the mountains. Otto was negotiating with Aragon [3] for a fleet when he received fresh bad news. Vratislav of Bohemia had risen in revolt to the Holy Roman Empire [4]. Otto was forced to delay his Italian campaign to combat the Bohemian threat – while the Lombard League was a self-contained threat, Vratislav was potentially capable of shattering the entire Welf empire.

The campaigning in the Holy Roman Empire was short and brutal. In late June, the two forces met outside of Boetz, just across the Bohemian border to the north of the Danube. There, Otto’s forces caught Vratislav’s off-guard, trapping them in a two-pronged attack. Vratislav managed to coordinate an orderly retreat, but the majority of his army was shattered, and with it any hope of becoming Holy Roman Emperor [5]. However, Otto’s hopes of achieving a quick victory were dashed when Vratislav retreated to Bohemia, where he pledged that he would bleed Otto’s forces for every inch they took.

Otto was thus faced with a major problem. He had two openly rebellious territories, both of which were receiving support from Frederick Hohenstaufen. His cunning showed itself in his solution. He acquiesced to the demands of the Lombard League on the condition that Frederick pledge not to interfere above the Alps for the rest of his life. Accordingly, the funds of Vratislav’s rebellion dried up rather quickly, leaving him vulnerable to mass defections to Otto’s cause. In the fall of 1227, thirteen castles fell to Otto through treachery, including one that housed Beatrice, Vratislav’s bride, as well as their young son, Leopold.

Fearing for the life of his son and heir, Vratislav agreed to make peace with Otto. Upon coming to Otto to recover his son and wife, though, Vratislav was killed on Otto’s orders. Beatrice was dutifully sent to a nunnery, and Leopold was exiled with a loyal retainer, where he would eventually end up in Doolish [6], the largest port in the Kingdom of the Isles, where he came to be known as Leopold the German. Thus freed of the annoying Bohemian, Otto took the title “King of Bohemia” for himself. This annoyed a number of people, including Pope Horonius III, who saw his taking of the title as a flaunting of Papal authority.

Otto, however, was particularly concerned with the Pope’s anger. Otto, having spent much of his life in combat, was dying. His condition improved enough to reassert his authority in time for the calling of the Sixth Crusade, which he sent his second son, William, on. When Frederick Hohenstaufen captured Jerusalem despite his excommunication, Otto sent a flurry of letters to his son, ordering him to stand by the Pope despite the desertion of the French and Italian contingents. When Frederick turned Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem over to Pope Gregory IX, the Pontiff granted Otto the title “Defender of the Faith.” It would be the last major act of cooperation between the Welfs and the Papacy. In 1234, the antagonism between the two sides would resume with the Prince-Bishopric controversy, and in 1235 Otto would die, leaving the Holy Roman Empire to his son, named Frederick [7].

Frederick II’s reign would be a short but peaceful one. Otto IV’s dominating personality had cowed many of his enemies, leaving few to challenge the newly crowned Frederick. The one incursion he did face was a Viking raid on the northern coast of his empire, which he discovered had been driven off the cities of the north, and that his help wasn’t needed. Pleased with the success, Frederick returned to Aachen, where he had taken to residing, and led a life of ease. While he wasn’t a drunk or a debaucher, Frederick lacked the drive to rule that his father had. Due to this, the power of the nobility and the merchants of the north grew immensely.

Frederick’s reign ended in 1241, with his death after a night of drinking. He was succeeded by his 13-year old son, named Otto. Otto V spent his youth under the care of Josef the Bohemian, a knight that had served both his father and grandfather. In 1243, a noble revolt was put down by Josef with particular brutality, which he hoped would cow the remaining nobles into submission. It had the opposite effect, however. In 1245, a second revolt, this one far larger, was launched. Among the rebelling groups was the “Hanseatic League,” a coalition of the northern cities seeking their independence from the Imperial tax collectors.

The size and speed of the revolt took even Josef by surprise, and he sought out allies across Europe to fight with him. The Viking-descended Danes were a natural choice to strike at the Hanseatic League, while the “Burgundian Company,” a group of Knights the King of France had put out for hire, supplemented his own loyalist forces well.

When Josef began his campaign in 1246, he marched toward Augsburg, where the southern rebels had gathered. The forces met near Affing, where the numerically inferior forces under Josef chose to make a stand against the rebel army. The battle began with Josef’s forces arraying in a defensive formation, with the Burgundian Company and their own knights held in reserve. The rebels, with a large contingent of crossbowmen, unleashed a hail of bolts at the opposing force, slowly chipping away at their numbers. The actual infantry of both sides never engaged, with Josef’s force retiring under heavy fire. A charge of the Burgundian Company managed to hold off a rebel counter-charge, but the battle was a defeat for Josef and Otto V.

The victory at Affing emboldened the rebels across the Holy Roman Empire, much to the detriment of their own cause. When the rebellious nobles had fought defensively, there had been little for Otto and Josef to do to defeat them. However, now that noble armies swarmed Imperial territories, every defeat they suffered chipped away at their manpower. Meanwhile, Josef deftly avoided more pitched battles, reserving his force for when he could overwhelm the enemy.

This tactic, although successful, proved torturously slow. By 1251, the rebellion raged on, with popular opinion still unsure of who would emerge victorious. In 1252, a fleet of longships discharged 3,000 fearsome Viking warriors in Hamburg, led by none other than Leopold the German. In his exile, he had risen to prominence as a brilliant commander, and had convinced the King, Magnus Olafsson, who was currently raiding Wales, to lend him troops to claim his throne. Magnus agreed, and for the next two years Leopold became the terror of Germany, leading fearsome raids with his Vikings that captured the entire year’s pay for the Burgundian Company, as well as other important targets.

This capture nearly spelled disaster for Otto V, but events beyond his control proved fortuitous. The Kingdom of Scotland attacked the Kingdom of the Isles, leading to Magnus recalling Leopold and his men. When Leopold refused, some of his warriors drifted away, leaving him with a measly force of just over 600 men. In danger of being overrun, Leopold uncovered a rare opportunity. The Burgundian Company had abandoned Otto in favor of an offer from King Jaime of Aragon to help him conquer Corsica from the Pisans, who had recently acquired it from Genoa [8]. Contacting the Burgundian Company, he offered to lend his services and men if he were given the position of second-in-command [9].

With the adventuring Leopold off, Josef and Otto were able to capitalize on the confusion among the rebels. Leopold’s fiery rhetoric had made him the choice to replace Otto, and with him gone, the rebellion had no aim. The fractious nobles began to fight amongst themselves, allowing Josef to eliminate their forces piecemeal. By 1253, the rebellion was largely dealt with, although holdouts still remained.

Chief among these holdouts was the Hanseatic League, which had defeated the Danish attack and, with Leopold’s help, had gone on a largely successful offensive. Otto and Josef had successfully cowed many of the rebels, but at the cost of the stability of the entire Empire. The thought of a long campaign against a determined foe was one that Otto couldn’t accept. Thus, in 1254, the Hanseatic League gained its autonomy. The cities were still required to “donate” troops to the Emperor’s cause, but this loose command was easily ignored, and at any rate, the lack of Imperial tax collectors allowed the League to burst with commerce, soon establishing offices as far away as Antwerp.

With the rebellion finally defeated, Otto, now 26 years old, was able to rule an Empire at peace. He had seen the final decay of Imperial power that had started with his grandfather. Now, Otto was determined to reclaim the glory that had once been Charlemagne’s empire. Italy, Sicily, and the Aragonese enclaves in Provence, first. Beyond that, only time would tell how far Otto’s ambition would take him, and his empire.

[1] – As well as his Schwaben territory, which was given to Frederick’s cousin, Beatrice, the daughter of Philip of Swabia, and her husband, Vratislav, the oldest son of the King of Bohemia.

[2] – Otto gave no such positions to Italian cities because he felt that they were rebellious enough as it was, and didn’t want to encourage them by giving their rulers greater prestige.

[3] – At the time, Aragon had one of the largest navies in the Mediterranean, matched only by Sicily, Genoa, and Venice, largely thanks to the expansionist efforts of Jaime the Great.

[4] – Possibly thanks to the prompting of his cousin-in-law, none other than Frederick Hohenstaufen.

[5] – Vratislav’s stated goal was to restore his wife, Beatrice, to her rightful throne. It is likely that he planned on being the true power behind the title, and hoped to install his own dynasty in the Empire.

[6] – Modern-day Douglas.

[7] – The naming of Frederick was in hope of restoring the genius of Frederick Barbarossa, not any love for the current King of Sicily.

[8] – This very acquisition would lead to the Genoese-Pisan war that led to the Sicilian conquest of Sardinia.

[9] – By this time, Leopold’s reputation as a master tactician was well-known to the Burgundians. Along with that, his warriors were all Christians, and he had enough gold to sweeten this deal.
I'm terribly sorry to all of my readers for the delay. I'm currently working on chapters 11 and 12, which I'll spoil as "The Catalan Phoenix" and "The Sultan of the Rock." They should be out in the next few days. In the meantime, here's a peak of things to come:

Salerno, Kingdom of Sicily
December 14th, 1307

To say that Robert was scared would be an understatement. He had been worried when the peasantry had locked him in the city with only a few retainers. He had been scared when September came and went with no signs of help forthcoming. By the time he had seen his men eat their own horses in desperation and watched a man be torn limb-from-limb by the mob outside the walls, there were no words for what he was feeling. He feared bodily harm, true. But it was more. He had been given a divine mission to be the helmsman of a Kingdom. Now, the German Emperor would certainly rob him of what his ancestors had fought to protect.

He wandered numbly through the hallways of the cathedral, occasionally glancing up to see the brilliant mosaic of Saint Michael staring back, seemingly daring Robert to charge out and break the siege. If only it were so easy. Instead, Roger had discovered that he grew nauseous at the sight of blood and couldn't stand to be on a battlefield. His father, his uncle, and his grandfather had had no such fears. Why him?

He looked away from Saint Michael, toward the distant mosaic of Christ himself. Dear lord, give me the strength to ride out and disperse this mob. For a moment, Robert felt the pangs of fear within him. If he did his duty, then he would never feel the warm Sicilian sun or Elisabéth's gentle touch again. He would never have the opportunity to see young Frederick grow into a man, to become the Prince that Robert knew he would be. Everything that he loved in life would be gone if he rode out. Yet if he didn't he would have failed his divine duty. Failure to God spurred him on.

The silence was broken by a small clattering. Startled, Robert looked up to the mosaic of Christ. It appeared to be looking at the floor of the altar. Robert walked forward, and discovered a quill, fallen from the altar, lying directly under Christ's gaze. For a moment, Robert stood in awe. Then, he thought he understood.

I cannot be Saint Michael, and lead the heavenly militia. But I can emulate Christ, and love my enemies! Searching for parchment, Robert began to grow more and more giddy every moment. I will deliver my people from death! And, with any luck, they shall deliver me from death as well.


So, if you have any feedback/suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Thank you all for reading, and I'll see you soon with the Kingdom of Aragon!
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Since we butterflied the downfall of the Counts of Toulouse.

Actually, the Holy Roman Emperor can help the Count of Toulouse claim and annex the rest of Provence from Aragon and have the Count of Toulouse defect to the HRE, Provence was partitioned between Aragon and Toulouse, the Count of Toulouse tried to defect to the HRE in the Battle of Bouvines.
Since we butterflied the downfall of the Counts of Toulouse.

Actually, the Holy Roman Emperor can help the Count of Toulouse claim and annex the rest of Provence from Aragon and have the Count of Toulouse defect to the HRE, Provence was partitioned between Aragon and Toulouse, the Count of Toulouse tried to defect to the HRE in the Battle of Bouvines.

That's very interesting - I haven't read much about that (although, in all fairness my primary source on Aragon isn't the best). The Battle of Bouvines was specifically butterflied here as part of John's reluctance to engage in a pitched battle without HRE support. However, the Count of Toulouse looking to annex Provence isn't a bad idea. Thanks for the feedback!
Overall a good timeline. Planning on updating soon?

Your wish is my command :p. I'd love to hear thoughts on this chapter, which I made about Aragon, Granada, and Provence.

Chapter 11: The Catalan Phoenix
The Three Kingdoms of Aragon​

By all reasonable accounts, the Union of the Kingdoms of Aragon, Mallorca, and Valencia under a single ruler should have evaporated with the death of Jaime I “the Conquerer” in 1274. He had conquered vast territory and incorporated it into a state with a vast, sprawling, and confusing network of rulership. When his sons, Peter and James, succeeded him, the breakdown of the state appeared inevitable. Peter was granted the Kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia, as well as the Catalan counties. However, Rousillon, Languedoc, and the Balearic islands went to Jaime, creating at a stroke two separate kingdoms with Catalan roots.

Both kingdoms were geographically small nations, but had the advantage of being some of the most urbanized areas in Christendom [1]. Similarly, they had natural ties, even if their rulers were rivals. In the final years of Jaime I’s life, he had begun a program of moving the destitute from the marginal lands of Alto Aragon to the fertile lands of Valencia and the rich islands of the Balearics. By the time of his death, both areas had developed similar, if unique, characters.

Jaime I’s reign had also seen the beginnings of a desire for a written code of laws. Spurred on by the Angevin Great Charter and the Sicilian Constitution of Melfi, both of which provided a stable and absolute definition of the powers of the king, nobility, and peasantry, many in Aragon began to demand a similar code. Sensing a good time to one-up his brother, Peter III enacted the Charter of General Privileges, outlining the exact rights of the royalty, nobility, and peasantry [2]. The ploy worked even more spectacularly that he’d hoped. In the charter, he had guaranteed a right to worship freely so long as one payed his taxes and gave the church “due respect.” This was done in response to the large number of Muslims and Jews in the newly conquered lands of the Kingdom. As such, whispers of discontent began to brew in the Kingdom of Mallorca.

Things came to a head in 1281 when a group of nobles in Mallorcan Provence organized a mass defection away from Mallorca. The focus of their revolt, however, was not to rejoin the Kingdom of Aragon. Instead, they allied themselves with Raimond VIII, the reigning Count of Toulouse [3]. Together, these nobles represented the Occitan elite, ruled over by Franks, Germans, and Iberians. The force was a challenge to the Kingdoms of France, Aragon, and Mallorca, as well as the Holy Roman Empire, but the timing of Raimond’s Rebellion was impeccable. Raimond, thanks to his shared border with Angevin Aquitaine, managed to secure a treaty with the young King Edward I of England, neutralizing the French threat, and the Holy Roman Empire was still licking it’s wounds from the ill-fated Sicilian expedition and the death of Josef the Bohemian. That left only the Kingdoms of Aragon and Mallorca to oppose the Provencal-Toulousian revolt, and in a momentous move, the fate of the region was decided.

While Jaime of Mallorca was preparing his armies for a campaign, Peter landed in Mallorca and, under the cover of darkness, burned his brother’s ships in the harbor, stranding him on the island. Over the next few weeks, Peter trapped Jaime in Mallorca, while he made his way across the Balearics, playing up his own legitimacy while condemning his brother’s lack of action, conveniently ignoring his own responsibility in the matter. While the brothers fought over Mallorca, Raimond’s Rebellion won overwhelming success. Having secured the majority of Provence and Toulouse, the rebels had only to choose a new leader.

This proved to be the largest sticking point in Raimond’s Rebellion. While Raimond VIII technically had the highest rank and largest contribution to the rebellion, a prominent Occitan noble named Guillaume de Marselha rose to prominence among the ranks of his own troops. In the end, Raimond fell victim to an enemy soldier, who managed to severely wound the Count. Knowing that he had little strength to battle Guillaume, he instead married the young knight into his family, creating the dynasty that would come to be known as the Empéri, who would alter much of history [4].

Such developments did not go unnoticed by King Peter. In late September, Jaime offered to dine with Peter to discuss a campaign against the Occitans, which records indicate was a ruse where Jaime planned to murder his brother [5]. Peter turned the tables on his younger brother, however, when he arrived at the head of a heavily-armored contingent of knights, who killed James’s retainers as well as the young King. As James had no heir, Peter became the King of Aragon and Mallorca, inheriting in full his father’s great Empire.

However, the problem of Guillaume Empéri de Marselha had only gotten worse during the Aragonese confusion. He had largely solidified his control over the County of Toulouse as well as Provence. His state faced only tacit disapproval from France and the Holy Roman Empire, which was alleviated when, in January of 1282, Pope Celestine V, an Aquitainian cleric, bestowed the title “Duke of Provence” upon Guillaume, who also claimed the title Count of Toulouse based on his marriage. Peter was furious over this slight of his power, and made an attempt to avenge his embarrassment by invading the Duchy.

Unfortunately for Peter, his attempt to invade seemed almost doomed to failure. While sailing for Marseille, his fleet was caught in a storm, wrecking many of the vessels [6]. When he finally made it ashore, he was able to march on the city, where he found a Provencal army that matched his man for man. Not wanting to risk a pitched battle, Peter constructed earthen fortifications and settled down to besiege the port. However, his army had begun to itch to return home, fearing poor luck after the storm, and in July they demanded he return them to their homes. Peter was furious, but with much of his army against him, he had little choice.

With the end of Raimond’s Rebellion and the momentous birth of the Duchy of Provence, time must be taken to examine the changing urban hierarchy of Europe. Eighty years previously, Constantinople had been the dominate city in the Mediterranean basin. Then, in a swift burst of violence, Constantinople had been sacked, and cast down from that position. Venetian control had restored much of the city from ruins, but they could only do so much, and Constantinople remained shell-shocked and unsure.

Instead, four urban centers developed into the nodes of culture, commerce, and politics. Three had populations exceeding 100,000 - Palermo, Venice, and Barcelona. The final city, Marseille, proceeded in a similar fashion, although it remained smaller due to the constraints of the rebellion that created the Duchy of Provence. Each of these cities represented an area that had a mix of classical and contemporary influences - Italian and Greek for Venice, Catalan and Arabic for Barcelona, Latin and Occitan for Marseille, and a mix of Italian, Greek, and Arabic in Palermo. These cities also showed a growing diversity in the centers of power in Europe. Instead of a single, great city - Constantinople - as it had been for much of the time period since the end of the classical age, there were numerous major cities. This came at the same time there were numerous centers of power. It is worth noting that, at the same time, London and Lubeck were growing on the opposite side of Europe.

Peter III’s reign in Aragon was not to be a long or particularly prosperous one. In 1286, he died of unknown causes, leading to the ascension of his son Alfonso III later that year. Alfonso, who was 21 at the time, was everything his father wasn’t. Charming and intelligent, he had the misfortune of inheriting a kingdom that had been thoroughly exhausted by the wars of the previous decade. However, Alfonso was uniquely suited to perform the herculean task of reviving the fortunes of Aragon.

Part of his success was due to the presence of Barcelona, Valencia, and Mallorca as some of the fastest growing commercial centers in the entire Mediterranean. The immense wealth generated by the Catalan merchants drove forward Alfonso’s plan to construct a powerful navy for the Kingdoms of Aragon and Mallorca. By 1289, the grand fleet of Aragon consisted of 120 ships, all of which were manned by experienced crews and seasoned admirals.

One of Alfonso’s greatest moments of genius was his alliance with a man who shared his name - Alfons I of Sicily. Although Alfons was rapidly aging, Alfonso betrothed his young daughter, Antònia, to Robert Hohenstaufen, the 12-year old son of Alfons Hohenstaufen. With this betrothal, large-scale trading rights were contracted between the two kingdoms. This combination of power made the two nations likely the most powerful bloc of influence and strength in the Western Mediterranean. This placed Aragon in direct competition with one influential city - Genoa.

Genoese interests in the western Mediterranean had grown significantly since the coming of the Mongols in the east. Following the Genoese expulsion from the Black Sea, they had begun investing more and more money into Granada. With the brief lapse of Aragonese and Castilian power in the 1280s, Granada had gained some breathing room in which they could regain their power. Genoese interests in the region led to the establishment of various Genoese colonies all across Granada, in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

The Genoese expansion into Granada brought about significant tensions along the borders of Liguria. Similarly, Corsica, which remained in Genoese control following the Sicilian conquest of Sardinia, played a role in the Genoese commercial empire. Pisa, which had declined following the defeat at Arborea, soon allied itself with Aragon in an attempt to gain a powerful ally. Following an attempted coup in Pisa in 1286, a family member of Alfonso III was placed in charge of Pisa, and in 1291 the county of Pisa was incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon.

By the time he was 37, Alfonso III of Aragon was known popularly as “the Catalan Phoenix.” Following his father’s chaos, Alfonso was able to return Aragon to its place under the sun. Such an achievement was celebrated by Dante Alighieri, who placed the soul of Alfonso III in Paradise for bringing order to what had been chaos is 13th century Europe.

Meanwhile, north of Aragon, the Duchy of Provence prospered as well. Guillaume Empéri was blessed with incredible virility - he reportedly had four sons and nine daughters. Of these children, no fewer than eight were married off to foreign dignitaries. Guillaume facilitated the marriage of his children to members of the Welf, Hohenstaufen, Plantagenet, Barcelona, and even Palaeologus families [7].

With the diplomatic success of the Empéri family, Guillaume was able to ensure the peace of his fledgling Duchy. In 1293, a Holy Roman force attempted to reassert their control over the region. A small army, merely 8,000 strong, was sent to take the city of Marseille and capture Guillaume. However, at the Battle of Avignon, the Holy Roman force occupying the city was smashed along the bridge in the center of the city by the knighthood of Provence.

By the year 1300, both Provence and Aragon had grown exceptionally in power, wealth, and prestige. Both nations had illustrious futures ahead of them. But for now, it is time to return to Sicily, the foremost rising star of the age. For there, events were occurring that would shape much of the 14th century. Robert I Hohenstaufen was crowned in Palermo. The peasant-turned-preacher Constance of Amalfi, first stood upon street corners and preached to the urban poor of the cities. Most importantly, however, trade and wealth continued to flow through the ports of Sicily. Robert’s reign would be one that may not have been full of greatness, but was full of change and revolution - it would be a fitting start to the 14th century.

[1] - With Sicily, Italy, and Hellas relatively equal in urbanization.

[2] - Peter is two years younger here than he was OTL, which would make him less sure of himself and more likely to give a generous deal, hence the relatively liberal rights granted.

[3] - The OTL fall of the Counts of Toulouse was butterflied with the English-HRE victory in the Franco-Angevin was and the lack of a Battle of Bouvines.

[4] - The name comes from a castle in Provence. I’m considering having them as ATL Hapsburg-analogs.

[5] - Of course, considering that Peter’s historians wrote this history, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, the dysfunctional nature of the brothers’ relationship makes it certainly possible.

[6] - Peter launched a naval attack in the hope of catching his enemies unaware, instead of marching through Rousillon.

[7] - These marriages were pulled off in no small part due to the beauty and large dowries of Guillaume’s daughters and the military training of his sons.