Frankokratia: A More Enduring Latin Empire of Constantinople

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mipp, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    June 1216: After laying near death for several days, Henry, called Hendrik by his family and "Ares" by his Greek subjects, the Latin emperor of Constantinople, rose from his bed at last. A man of action by inclination, he was well-ready to quit his sick bed.

    False reports of his death had spread to Epiros, where the new despot, Theodoros Komnenos Doukas was emboldened enough to lead raids into Thessaloniki. His men broke and ran at the appearance of the Latins, led by their emperor, miraculously returned from the death. The despot slunk back to Arta, plotting his revenge.

    Henry was back in Constantinople for Christmas, managing his unruly barons and writing letters to the pope, asking for reinforcements. His army numbered less than a thousand men, and even more than ten years post-conquest, Constantinople had yet to regain its vigor or population. He was cheered to find his teenaged empress, Marija of Bulgaria, had made progress on her French. Marija's father, the notorious Kaloyan, had defeated Henry's elder brother Baldwin at Adrianople in 1205. Many fine lords and knights had lost their lives that day, and Baldwin had disappeared into a Bulgarian prison, never to be seen again. Henry had only married Marija under duress. He'd had no desire to shackle himself to the daughter of his brother's murderer, and Marija herself was a barbarian, half-pagan, with no French to speak of. Her progress under the tutelage of the ladies of Constantinople was coming along excellently, however.

    1217

    Boril of Bulgaria, the cousin and stepfather of Marija, was in a fine mess. His cousins, Ivan Asen II and Aleksandr, had returned from their long exile in Russia with a pack of Kuman screamers at their backs, determined to take Bulgaria from him. He'd appealed to his brother-in-law, King András II of Hungary and Henry, emperor in Constantinople, to no avail 1. His armies kept falling back, until all he had left was Trnovo, and he held that with little more than a prayer.

    As he huddled in his citadel, Boril remembered the curse his former wife, Anna the Kuman 2, had put on him before he packed her off back to her tribe. She'd told him he would die as a traitor must.

    Trnovo surrendered to Ivan Asen II. Boril was handed over to him, blinded, and thrown into prison. Asen kept Boril's Courtenay wife at court, hoping she would be a useful bargaining chip against the Latin emperor.

    In Constantinople, Henry watches with a concerned eye. Boril had been no true friend to him, but he knew what to expect from the man. Ivan Asen II was an unknown element. His empress Marija had grown up with her cousin in childhood, but had last seen him in 1207, when her father Kaloyan was murdered and Asen forced to flee for his life from Boril. Regardless, he had Marija send a small delegation to Trnovo, bearing a courteous letter.

    1218

    In February, the ambitious young ruler of the Bulgarians, Ivan Asen II, captures king András II of Hungary as he makes his way home from the Crusade 3. He makes András pledge to send him his daughter as a bride before releasing him.

    In Nikaia, Theodoros Laskaris was pondering his own marriage. He had recently rid himself of his Armenian wife 4 and was ready to make a new alliance. His eldest daughter, Irene, by his first marriage to Anna Angelina 5 was engaged to the promising young nobleman, Ioannes Vatatzes, and Laskaris was aware that there was much debate as to who would eventually succeed him as emperor in Nikaia. Would it be Vatatzes, or one of Laskaris' own brothers, or even Laskaris' half-Armenian son, Konstantinos? The truth was, Laskaris was keeping his options open. He was not elderly, and he felt sure that one day, Constantinople would be his in truth and not just in name, or failing that, it would go to his son or grandson.

    Henry of Flanders spends the spring and summer campaigning against incursions from Bulgaria and Epiros; his rivals don't feel confident in launching full-scale invasions, but brigands and pirates are everywhere. While he is in Thessaloniki with his ward, the boy-king Demetrios 6, news arrives from Constantinople. The empress Marija is with child. While his soldiers toast to the future prince, and he receives congratulations from near and far, Henry can barely contain his private dread. While he wants a son and heir, and badly, he superstitiously believes this will end in disaster. His first empress, Agnese of Montferrat 7, died after many painful hours in childbirth, trying to give him an heir, along with the child. Henry, who had grown to love her, had been devastated. Although he doesn't feel for Marija what he felt for Agnese, he can't help but be concerned.

    1219

    The Epirotes have encroached on Bulgarian territory. Unable to make much headway against the Latins, Theodoros Komnenos Doukas has turned to chipping away at Asen's territory. Instead of war, an alliance is proposed: Theodoros' brother Manuel should marry Asen's illegitimate daughter. Manuel is twenty years older than the girl, but that is no great bar. Komnenos Doukas has learned of the emperor Henry's overtures on behalf of his niece, the ex-queen of Bulgaria, now a "guest" at Asen's court. He wants to get between Asen and Henry now, before they get any ideas.

    The alliance is made. Gallantly, Manuel agrees that his little wife should stay in Trnovo until she is of marriageable age.

    A Venetian ship arrives in Constantinople, bringing with it two more nieces of the emperor Henry. Eleanor and Marie were the daughter of Henry's sister Yolande and her husband, Pierre de Courtenay. Their elder sisters have already made good marriages to the kings of Hungary and Bulgaria (well, the marriage with Boril didn't turn out so well) and to the future prince of Akhaia 8 and their parents believe Henry can do as well for the younger two. The well-bred girls are shocked at the sight of Constantinople. The city had been half-burnt and ransacked during its conquest in 1204; even now it is depopulated. The famous palaces have been stripped of much of their treasure. Their aunt, the pregnant empress Marija, is not much older than them but she is a half-Kuman Orthodox who can read and write in Cyrillic and Greek but can barely speak French. The girls do find their brother-in-law, Geoffrey de Villehardouin, very dashing and handsome.

    Theodoros Laskaris reaches out to Henry, interested in one of the Courtenay girls as an empress. Negotiations begin.

    In October, empress Marija goes into labor. Henry expects the worst, but their young son is born to surprisingly little fuss. The choice of name is political. Henry wants a name that will appeal to his Greek subjects as well as his Latin. He chooses Philippe, a proper Greek name, and also the name of his brother-in-law the king of France 9. The birth is celebrated in the streets by the common people; Henry is a popular emperor. The child is baptized by the cardinal legate, Giovanni Colonna 10, but some of the Latin barons are concerned about the possible influence of the empress Marija. Now that she is the mother to the heir to the throne, she is the most likely choice of regent in case of Henry's early death.

    Henry responds by creating a new will. In the event of his death, the baron Narjot de Toucy should rule as regent alongside Cardinal Colonna and the empress Marija, in an effort to appease the barons and the pope.

    1220

    The negotiations for the marriage of Theodoros Laskaris to one of the Courtenay girls have succeeded. Laskaris' brothers, Alexios and Isaakios, are given safe conduct to Constantinople to select the girl. They choose Marie, the elder girl, on the advice of some of the Greek courtiers.

    The marriage is unpopular in Nikaia. The common people are not happy to have a Catholic and foreigner as an empress, much less one of the hated Latins. Laskaris is privately thrilled with Marie de Courtenay, who he finds very clever and pretty. She beseeches him with sweet words and caresses to keep the peace with her dear uncle in Constantinople.

    Laskaris' daughter and son-in-law, Irene Laskarina and Ioannes Vatatzes, become concerned.

    The Epirote-Bulgarian alliance lays siege to Thessaloniki. The emperor Henry must once again ride to the rescue of his ward, Demetrios. Between Ivan Asen II and Theodoros Komnenos Doukas, the boy-king is squeezed on almost every side. His mother, Margit, is constantly asking her brother the king of Hungary for men and aid. Although Henry knows the Latin Empire needs a buffer-state between itself and Bulgaria and Epiros, he has to face the possibility that Thessaloniki is living on borrowed time.

    Asen is growing dissatisfied with Komnenos Doukas. He finds him personally unlikeable, and their vaunted 'alliance' doesn't seem to be accomplishing much of value. He receives letters of an ambiguous nature from his cousin Marija, the Latin empress. He takes heart, believing she is supporting him.

    Happier news comes from the Holy Land, as John d'Ibelin, the Old Lord of Beirut, arranges for his nephew Philip to marry Henry's remaining niece, Eleanor de Courtenay. The tearful bride embarks from Constantinople in the company of Cardinal Colonna, who will escort her to Tyre. Henry writes to France, requesting that one of his sister Yolande's sons join him in Constantinople to seek their fortunes.

    1221

    In March, Robert de Courtenay arrives from the Hungarian court where he has been visiting one of his sisters 11. He meets with his uncle Henry and is introduced to his little cousin, Philippe. As the Latin Empire has been at peace with Nikaia since the marriage of Laskaris and Marie, Henry takes the opportunity to visit his vassals in Athens and the Peloponnesos. He and Robert visit Thessaloniki, then head down to Athens, where Otto de la Roche is the duke. From there they visit Robert's sister Agnes and her husband Geoffrey in Akhaia before swinging 'round to Constantinople again.

    In November, Theodoros Laskaris dies. His son-in-law Ioannes Vatatzes seizes power, displacing Laskaris' young son Konstantinos. Vatatzes' wife, Irene Laskarina, gives birth to a son, named Theodoros.

    The widowed empress of Nikaia, Marie de Courtenay, arrives in Constantinople. Brother and sister greet each other warmly. Marie is accompanied by her brothers-in-law, Alexios and Ioannes Laskaris, who want to return to Nikaia and dethrone Vatatzes.

    1. Boril and András were both married to nieces of Henry, daughters of his sister Yolande and her husband Pierre de Courtenay (OTL future emperor and empress of Constantinople).
    2. The widow of Kaloyan, and mother of Marija.
    3. He had quit the Fifth Crusade early and opted to return home.
    4. Her uncle, King Levon I, had passed her off as his daughter when he sent her to Laskaris. It took over a year for Laskaris to learn the truth, and in his rage he divorced her and returned her to Armenian Cilicia, even though she'd given him a son.
    5. Daughter of Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos.
    6. Son of the Crusader lord, Bonifazio of Montferrat, by his marriage to Margit of Hungary, widow of emperor Isaakios II Angelos.
    7. Daughter of Bonifazio, and thusly half-sister of Demetrios of Thessaloniki.
    8. Geoffrey de Villehardouin, who's father is the prince of Akhaia. His great-uncle is the chronicler of the same name.
    9. Henry's sister Isabel had been Philippe II's first wife, before dying in childbirth with twins in 1190.
    10. OTL, captured in the mountains of Epiros with Pierre de Courtenay by Theodoros Komnenos Doukas, and only released in 1218 after the pope threatened a Crusade against Epiros.
    11. Yolandette, queen of András II.
     
  2. Olligarchy Grand Prince

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    Hämeenlinna, Finland
    Interesting. Will be following this.
     
  3. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Thanks so much! Glad someone likes it and is along for the ride :D

    1222

    Alaeddin Keykubad, the younger brother, successor, and for the last several years, prisoner, of the Selcuk sultan Keykavus, began his reign by seizing Kalonoros, a harbor situated on an enormous rocky protuberance into the Mediterranean. The Greek governor meekly handed over the town as well as his own daughter, whom Keykubad married and renamed Mahpari Khatun.

    Here, in this town that would also bear a new name of his choosing, he would build his greatness. Keykubad did not want to merely wrest control of Anatolia from the Greeks, he wanted to take the seas from them as well.

    To Keykubad, the world entire was meant to be breathing room for him and his Selcuks.

    He decided to rename the town after himself: Alaiye.

    In Constantinople, Robert de Courtenay took to writing to his father, Pierre, asking for reinforcements for the Latin Empire. The Empire had an excellent general, in the person of his uncle Henry, and dedicated and experienced sergeants. It simply lacked manpower. Of the Crusading army that had arrived in Venice twenty years ago, some 18,000 1 souls, many among that number had been women, the old, and the sick. They had been compelled to return home. Of those who took ship to Constantinople, and laid siege to her walls, perhaps half of those had also returned home after their year's service in the Crusading army was finished. The numbers had been whittled away by the disaster at Adrianople, constant wars in the mountains of Epiros and the plains of Anatolia, the ambushes of the Kumans and Bulgars. In a dire emergency, the emperor Henry could field some 500 knights and perhaps twice as many men-at-arms 2. With this army, he worked wonders.

    That October, the young son of the emperor and empress, Philippe, turns three. Now past the most dangerous years of infancy, he is turning into a sturdy and likely child.

    At his stepfather's castle in Thebes 3, the boy-king Demetrios of Thessaloniki furiously debated the best course of action with his mother, the ex-empress Margit, his half-brother Kaloioannes 4, his stepfather Nicolas de Saint-Omer, and his stepfather's overlord, Otto de la Roche, the duke of Athens.

    It was clear that the kingdom of Thessaloniki stood no chance against the onslaught of Bulgaria and Epiros. The Latin Empire had not one man to spare. And their last hope, Margit's brother, King András II of Hungary, was absorbed in his wars with the Russians. Finally, it is decided that Demetrios shall go to Montferrat and throw himself on the mercy of his elder half-brother, the marquis Guglielmo VI.

    1223

    The emperor Henry summoned his baron, Narjot de Toucy, to a private counsel. There, he spoke frankly of their lack of manpower and the inevitability that, unless something was done, Constantinople would fall to one enemy or another.

    Henry's plan was to recruit the gasmouloi, the half-breed children of the Franks and Greeks in Constantinople, into elite fighting forces loyal to their birth city. The eldest of them were by now almost twenty years old, and many had already received rudimentary training from their Frankish fathers. Henry's plan was to offer them further training and the opportunity for advancement, and cultivate their loyalty. He had selected Narjot de Toucy due to the fact that Toucy's own wife was a gasmoule -- her mother was the ex-empress Agnes of France and her father the Greek nobleman Theodoros Vranas 5. His connections and knowledge of both Byzantine and Frankish customs and tongues would help him in this endeavor.

    Narjot de Toucy vows to do all he can. A recruitment drive is organized, and space is found in the old Hippodrome for training and drills.

    Theodoros of Epiros and Ivan Asen II weren't friends and in fact were barely allies. It had escaped neither that they had the same goal -- the conquest of Constantinople -- and that one must inevitably destroy the other to achieve that goal. But each man was confident of his ability to take the other out when that day came. They were now plotting the downfall of Thessaloniki. It was decided that while Demetrios was gone, that they would lay siege to Thessaloniki in the spring.

    1. For an estimate of the Fourth Crusade's size, see: Bell, Gregory. "Unintended Interruption: The Interruption of the Fourth Crusade at Venice and its Consequences", Journal of Medieval Military History, Volume 6, 2008.
    2. He defeated a much larger force led by Theodoros Laskaris at the river Ryndakos in 1211, with only 600 knights.
    3. St-Omer, not to be confused with the later castle of Santameri. The original St-Omer was to be demolished by the Catalan Company.
    4. Kalomanuel and Kaloioannes Angelos were the sons of Margit by her first husband, Emperor Isaakios II Angelos. Kalomanuel had joined the cause of his trouble-making uncle, ex-emperor Alexios III, in 1211, and had been captured with him by Laskaris.
    5. Agnes of France, sister of Philippe II Auguste, had been the empress of Alexios II and Andronikos I, and had married Vranas as her third husband.
     
  4. Velasco As High as Honour

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    Nov 13, 2010
    Very nice, following with interest.
     
  5. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1224

    The gathering of troops across the border with Bulgaria and Epiros did not escape the attention of the locals in Thessaloniki. A messenger was dispatched to Constantinople and came to the attention of the emperor. A force was gathered and Henry set out himself, accompanied by two of the likeliest young men of his household: his nephew Robert and Anseauet de Cayeux 1. It is his intention that they should gain some experience in warfare.

    They ambushed the Epirotes as they made their way from Larissa to rendezvous with the Bulgarians. Taken by surprise, the Epirotes break and run. A smaller force organized under Nicolas de St. Omer and Kaloioannes Angelos arrived soon after to reinforce the emperor's army.

    Infuriated with Theodoros of Epiros, Ivan Asen withdrew back across the border to wait out the Latins. The delay cost him this campaigning season; much of his army is made up of Kuman nomads who will want to graze their flocks on spring pastures. A similar predicament cost his uncle Kaloyan Adrianople in 1207.

    In Montferrat, the young king Demetrios' half-brother, the marquis Guglielmo VI, was impressed with the goings-on. Feeling confident that his brother could secure his throne, he equipped him with new armor and provided a sizeable force paid for out of his own pocket, and promised to join him shortly with a larger army as soon as he could recruit it. Demetrios returned to Thessaloniki in triumph.

    In Constantinople, impossibly, economic conditions began to improve. After so many years of uncertainty, banditry, and war, mercantilism had suffered and the coinage had fallen in value. But the Venetians were friendly with the emperor Henry and willing to trade, and their Quarter thrived. Money slowly but surely trickles back into the imperial coffers. Pilgrims arrived in the city on their way to the Holy Land, and came to gawk at the handful of relics left after the ransack of the city in 1204.

    The first class of gasmouloi recruits under Narjot de Toucy pass their training with flying colors. They are given the name Foideratoi, originally a term meaning "allies" (foederati) but coming to mean these elite gasmouloi troops in particular. The Foideratoi are all young men, almost all of them half-Frank, half-Greek, but a handful are Frank/Armenian or Frank/Venetian. They are paid in land and houses, and they and their families will soon comprise the up and coming class of Constantinople. New homes start to go up in the sections of the city that were burned and demolished during the sack of 1204. The Foideratoi are encouraged to marry, and their brides are given small dowries by the emperor, in the hopes that they will produce more little soldiers.

    1225

    In the winter of 1224-5, the emperor Henry outfitted Alexios and Ioannes Laskaris, the brothers of the deceased emperor Theodoros of Nikaia, and sent them out to make trouble for Vatatzes.

    The brothers, both able commanders, had been resident in Constantinople since 1221, having accompanied Henry's niece, their empress Marie. They had been begging the emperor for the means with which to seize Nikaia from the usurper Vatatzes. Henry knew they had little chance of doing this, but hoped that they might destabilize Vatatzes to his own benefit. He sends them to Nikomedia, near the border with the empire of Nikaia.

    Meantime, Henry reached out to Ivan Asen II, seeking to split him from Theodoros of Epiros. He offered the hand of his niece, Marie de Courtenay 2, the widow of Laskaris, to Aleksandr, Asen's younger brother. The girl had played a pivotal role in keeping the peace with Laskaris during their marriage, and Henry hoped she could work her magic in Bulgaria. In anticipation of the marriage, he has her tutored in Bulgarian by his wife, Marija.

    Asen contemplates the alliance. He did not wish to alienate Theodoros, but as time went on he began to feel that the alliance with Epiros was worth less than he had hoped. His brother Aleksandr, who like Asen spent his youth living rough amongst the Kumans and as barely better than a beggar at the court of Russian princes, is overjoyed at the thought of a prestigious marriage to an ex-empress. Ivan Asen II became concerned that such a marriage would give Aleksandr ambitions. He requested time to come up with terms.

    In Constantinople, the young prince Philippe was growing fast. He turned six, and his studies began in earnest: He was tutored in Latin, spoke Greek with his mother and most of the servants, and French to his father and cousins Robert and Marie. A master was employed to teach him the rudiments of swordplay and riding. The common people were charmed to see their handsome young prince riding through the streets in the company of guards and other well-born boys of similar age; they hailed him as Philippos porphyrogenitos 3. That his mother was Orthodox also endeared him to the populace, even if she was a hated Bulgarian. He is part Frank, part Bulgar, and part Kuman, and yet somehow all their own. The Foideratoi in particular adore him, almost above the emperor himself. Their units are given names such as Philippe's Horse, Philippe's Guard, and Philippe's Companions.

    1226

    Theodoros of Epiros pestered Ivan Asen II all autumn and winter to make new plans to take Thessaloniki. As the garrison at Thessaloniki had almost tripled with the arrival of reinforcements from Montferrat, and the sorry showing of the Epirotes a year and a half ago, it looked less and less likely that Thessaloniki would fall to them any time soon. Annoyed, Asen decided to distance himself from Theodoros. He agreed to the marriage alliance with the Latins, with the conditions:

    1) That any children of Aleksandr and Marie would be considered as claimants to Constantinople should the issue of Henry and Marija fail;
    2) That Ivan Asen II would be recognized as sovereign over the Bulgars and the Vlakhs and the Latins would forevermore give up any claim to his territories
    3) That should the emperor Henry die while his son and heir Philippe was too young to rule, that the empress Marija should be regent during his minority with Asen himself as "guardian"
    4) That clear borders be drawn up and mutually agreed upon between their realms.

    Henry agreed to the terms, although privately he had no plans to follow any of them. Should Philippe die young and he and Marija have no more sons, he intended that his nephew Robert should succeed. As for a regency for Philippe, it has long been decided that Narjot de Toucy and Cardinal Giovanni Colonna would rule with Marija until Philippe came of age. As for the borders and acknowledging Asen's rights as a king, Henry thought it no more meaningful than acknowledging Asen as king of the Moon. He did add one condition of his own: that Asen hand over his niece, Marie's sister, the widow of Boril who had been held at the Bulgarian court for the past nine years.

    Robert de Courtenay escorted his sister Marie to Adrianople, where Aleksandr and his honor guard were allowed to meet her. Their sister, Boril's widow 4 is with Aleksandr. The two girls were swapped for one another. A Catholic ceremony was held for Marie and Aleksandr in Adrianople, with an Orthodox ceremony planned for Trnovo. The newly-married couple departed for Bulgaria.

    Robert and his other sister returned to Constantinople. Boril's poor widow barely has time to consider her good fortune before her uncle Henry summoned her. He decided to marry her to Alexios Laskaris, his ally in Nikomedia and the brother of the deceased emperor Theodoros of Nikaia. The solemnization of the alliance between Henry and Alexios with this wedding greatly concerned Ioannes Vatatzes. It seemed to him that the emperor Henry was strategically placing his relatives here and there.

    1. Son of the Crusader Anseau de Cayeux senior.
    2. OTL, served as regent for her little brother Baldwin II before dying young in 1228.
    3. He was, like his OTL cousin Baldwin II, born in the Porphyry Chamber.
    4. Her name was never given OTL in any source I can find.
     
  6. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1227

    A small contingent of Hospitallers, accompanied by several Armenians and even a handful of Cypriots, arrived in Constantinople with an unexpected offer: the young queen Zabel of Armenia.

    Zabel, the daughter and heiress of Levon I, had been married to Philip of Antioch in 1222. Her husband reneged on his agreements to adopt Armenian ways and religion, and had so angered the Armenian barons that he was seized and secretly poisoned in 1225. Knowing that the powerful baron Kostandin of Baberon was behind the death of her husband, Zabel sought refuge at the Hospitaller fortress in Seleukeia, along with her mother, Sibylle of Cyprus. Zabel's deceased husband's father, Bohemond IV of Antioch, had attacked Armenian Cilicia in retaliation, but had been beaten back by Kostandin.

    The Hospitallers were in a precarious position. They did not wish to hand Zabel, who was only eleven years old, over to Kostandin of Baberon. But they know that Kostandin will besiege Seleukeia soon in order to get the girl, and they cannot hold out against him for long. They offer to sell the fortress to Hendrik, with Zabel in it, to wash their hands of the mess.

    Henry, for his part, was intrigued. Zabel was queen in her own right, and just a couple of years older than his own son, Philippe. If they could 'marry' Armenian Cilicia, they would gain a valuable ally on their southern flank. He sent envoys to Cyprus, to Antioch, and to the Hospitallers in Seleukeia.

    In Cyprus, John d'Ibelin, the Old Lord of Beirut 1, and regent for the boy-king Henri 2, received a message: Your Christian brothers ask your aid. Your kinswoman is in danger.

    In Antioch, where Bohemond IV was licking his wounds after having been driven back by Kostandin of Baberon, a message arrived: We will help you be revenged on those who killed your son.

    In Seleukeia, the Hospitallers received both confirmation of Henry's interest in the fortress, and a message for Zabel herself: There is better awaiting you.

    Henry elected to strike quickly. The Venetians allowed him to transport several ships worth of troops to a staging area in Cyprus. They landed on the coast, marching towards Seleukeia, even as Bohemond IV attacked from the other direction.

    The Hospitallers handed over the fortress, with the royal women inside it, to the Latins with some relief. Zabel's mother, Sibylle, accepted the suit of Philippos porphyrogenitos on her daughter's behalf. With Zabel and her mother in tow, the Latins made it to Tarsus, which surrendered to its young queen. A wedding was held there for Zabel and Philippe.

    Kostandin of Baberon, caught between the Latins on one side and Antioch on the other, fell back to Sis. He is finding it difficult to convince the army to fight against their own queen. By the time the Latins had made it to Mamistra, he found it prudent to surrender. Henry treated him honorably, allowing Kostandin and his family to return safely to their own lands. In Sis, Zabel and Philippe were crowned as king and queen of Armenia.

    Several trusted Armenian barons, chosen by the former queen Sibylle, were put forward as guardians of the realm until the young couple reached majority. Henry agreed that his son should stay in Armenia to learn their ways for the time being, placing his nephew, Robert de Courtenay, at the court in Sis as a special ambassador and protector.

    Bohemond IV becomes upset that his son's murderers have not been punished more ferociously. Henry meets with him at Hrosos, assuring Bohemond that discretion is needed at this time. He assured Bohemond that the presence of a stable, friendly Armenia on his doorstep was more important than wrecking bloody vengeance, and that once Zabel and Philippe are old enough to produce children, that a new alliance will be formed that will bring great benefit to Antioch.

    With the former queen Sibylle now in a position of influence in Sis, Armenia's relations with her homeland, Cyprus, improve. Anxious not to repeat the disaster with Philip of Antioch with Philippe of Constantinople, she secures an Armenian tutor and makes sure the prince is seen participating in Armenian Rite church services.

    As soon as he is assured of his son's safety, Henry leaves a contingent of Foideratoi, known as Philippe's Grooms, in Sis and takes ship to Constantinople. The endeavor has taken only a few weeks.

    1. Son of Balian d'Ibelin and Maria Komnene, former queen of Jerusalem.
    2. Son of the dead king Hugh I, and a first cousin of Queen Zabel.

    ***
    So now the Hethoumid dynasty of Armenia has been butterflied away, and Antioch and Cyprus are, if not quite in the orbit of Constantinople, at least cooperating with it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2013
  7. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1228

    The kingdom of Thessaloniki, reinforced by men and money from Montferrat, begins to prosper. The peasants till the soil. The city folk haggle in the marketplaces. The Venetians begin trading in Salonika. And the young king Demetrios even begins refurbishing the ancient palace of the Roman emperor Galerius, which had fallen into ruins.

    But Demetrios knows he will never rest easy while both Bulgaria and Epiros slaver after Thessaloniki. His councilors advise him to 'divide and conquer', and so Demetrios proposes an alliance with Ivan Asen II: he will marry Asen's bastard daughter, Marija (nicknamed Maritza) 1, the one married in name only to Manuel Angelos, who has been waiting in Arta for his little bride to grow up. In return, Asen will recognize him as king of Thessaloniki and stop making incursions into his lands. Asen, for his part, will one day see a grandson of his ruling Thessaloniki.

    Marie de Courtenay, the wife of Asen's brother Aleksandr 2 pushes for the idea. Foremost in her mind is that the security of the Latin Empire is dependent on having Thessaloniki as a sort of buffer state between the empire and its rivals. If Asen will come to terms with Demetrios, this will split the alliance with Epiros and ensure Thessaloniki's immediate survival. She presents the following argument to Asen:
    1) A marriage alliance with Demetrios is far grander than a marriage alliance with Manuel Angelos. Demetrios is a king; Manuel is the brother of the despot of Epiros, with little hope of taking power one day;
    2) Asen will gain first a son-in-law, and in due time a grandson, on the throne of Thessaloniki, who will be natural allies; and finally
    3) Theodoros of Epiros is an unsustainable ally who will someday contest the imperial throne with Asen and in the meantime has helped him achieve nothing of value.

    Asen's own wife Maria Anna of Hungary is in favor. Demetrios is a kinsman of hers through his mother, Margit of Hungary.

    Asen has not so much as made up his mind before false word of the broken marriage/alliance reaches Arta. Theodoros of Epiros is enraged, and rashly vows to teach Ivan Asen II a lesson if he dares throw in his lot with Demetrios of Thessaloniki. Instead of intimidating Asen, this simply makes him mad. Who is this pompous upstart, to think himself the better of Asen, kral of Bulgarians? When word comes that Theodoros has begun assembling his army, that decides things in Demetrios' favor. Asen declares his daughter's marriage to Manuel Angelos null and void (it had never been consummated), betroths her to Demetrios, and readies his war dogs.

    Later chroniclers would put a romantic spin on the conflict, casting Demetrios as the gallant hero riding to the rescue of his young bride, Maritza, as her bridal train was threatened by the approaching Epirote army. In truth, Demetrios tagged along with his soon to be father-in-law, and although he brought a force of his own, Thessaloniki still had in no way the martial numbers to decide the war in their favor.

    The Epirotes do not get far. Asen ambushes them at Prilep, and the slaughter is immense. The Latin mercenaries hired by Theodoros to protect his person fight to the last man. Theodoros' brother Manuel, the erstwhile fiance of Asen's daughter, breaks and runs and he and his men are the only Epirotes not captured or killed that day. Theodoros himself is taken alive, trussed and humiliatingly used as a footstool by Asen for several days, before being sent to Trnovo to have his eyes put out.

    Epiros is in complete disarray. Asen has Demetrios married to Maritza, and escorts them to Thessaloniki. He then returns home in triumph.

    In Arta, where the young children of Theodoros have been left with their mother 3, Manuel Angelos and his men make it home, exhausted. He declares himself the new despot of Epiros, and a few weeks later both his young nephews, Ioannes and Demetrios 4, are found dead. There is no one to challenge Manuel.

    In Salonika, Demetrios and Marija "Maritza" Asenina are crowned king and queen in a ceremony attended by the emperor Henry and empress Marija.

    1. There is no issue of consanguinity since her mother was not Asen's wife, Maria Anna of Hungary.
    2. OTL she dies in Constantinople while serving as regent for her infant brother, Baldwin II, in 1228. I see no harm in letting her live a little longer here.
    3. Unlike in OTL, they had all been left behind, being thought too young to participate in the war/conquest their father had planned.
    4. OTL, Ioannes lives to become a puppet emperor in Thessaloniki under his blinded father. Demetrios briefly become titular emperor, but was besieged by Ioannes Vatatzes and released.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  8. ImperatorAlexander Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    As much as I hate those damn Latins, this has caught my interest. Keep it up!
     
  9. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1229

    Only weeks after Manuel Angelos seized power in Epiros, a pathetic pair of refugees arrived in Constantinople: Mikhael Angelos, the 18-year-old bastard son of the murdered despot Mikhael of Epiros 1, and his mother. Mikhael had been raised in his mother's native Peloponnesos, but the gory regime change in Arta had unnerved Mikhael and his mother and they resolved to put as much ground between themselves and Manuel as they could.

    Henry opted to keep the boy on as a guest at court. It cost him little, and he felt Mikhael might prove useful one day if he needed to destabilize Epiros. Mikhael for his part was fascinated by Constantinople, which he had never seen, and stories of his father (whom Henry had known personally 2), whom Mikhael could barely remember. Henry sent him to drill with one of the Foideratoi contingents, Philippe's Lancers.

    A small envoy from the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II 3 arrive to access the situation in Constantinople. The initial coded report sent back to the emperor read in part:

    The Queen of Cities [Constantinople] shows signs of her former glory, but many sectors remain half-burnt and half-empty. Never before have I seen such a young city; it must be that half the population was born after the Franks [Latins] humbled Constantinople twenty-five years previous. There are many Greeks, and a fair number of Armenians, for it is said that the emperor favors them. They are all allowed their churches, and there are even places of worship for the followers of Muhammad as well. The only Italians allowed in the city are Venetians and Monferratese. Then there are the gasmoules, those of mixed blood, of which there are many, and the emperor enrolls as many of them into the military as he can. He pays them in houses and weapons and clothing, as a pagan emperor might. The emperor, in truth, has little money. I have seen with my own eyes his wife riding in the streets with only a few companions for an entourage, perched on the back of a mule. Their only son is, like the son of Antony and Cleopatra 4, called the king of Armenia. I have yet to see him. The emperor himself is past forty. His subjects call him the emperor Ares.

    The emperor's household numbers some fifty or so. There are only a few hoary old veterans who came with the emperor still at court. Some of [the Latin lords] returned to whence they came, some went hence to the Holy Land and others went I know not where. Some at court are Greeks, others are gasmoules, there are only a few Italians. There is the cardinal [Giovanni Colonna] who has one ear for the pope and the other for the emperor. The empire, if I must call it so, extends only from about Adrianople to Nikomedia. To the west is Salonica [Thessaloniki] which is ruled by an Italian 5; anything the emperor asks of him, he will do. The Venetians have control of some islands. The sultan who rules a vast land to the east is friendly with the Venetians and also with the emperor. The lord of Nikaia is an implacable enemy of the emperor and is said to be a learned and brave man.


    That same lord of Nikaia, Ioannes Vatatzes, was sore vexed. Alexios and Ioannes Laskaris, the brothers of his predecessor Theodoros Laskaris, seemed to live to cause him trouble. Alexios, now married to the so-called emperor Henry's niece, called himself Alexios protosebastos and he and Ioannes were always raiding some merchant caravan, stirring up unrest and riots in border towns, and calling for Vatatzes' downfall.

    Even worse, it had recently become apparent that Vatatzes' son and heir, Theodoros, had inherited his epilepsy. Vatatzes had ordered it hushed up, but couldn't know how long the secret could stay secret. His beautiful boy was the rightful basileios Rhomaion... Vatatzes knew that if Theodoros was to sit the imperial throne one day, he, Vatatzes, must act to counter Henry in Constantinople.

    1. Murdered in 1215 by his own servant.
    2. After the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, Mikhael Angelos had briefly served under Bonifazio of Montferrat before running off to found his splinter state in Epiros.
    3. Currently in Jerusalem on Crusade.
    4. Here the envoy makes a classical reference to Alexander Helios, son of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, and titular king of Armenia, Media, and Parthia.
    5. Demetrios, who's father was the marquis of Montferrat.
     
  10. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1230

    Henry decided it was time to firmly associate his heir, Philippe, as his co-emperor 1. Philippe and Zabel (now aged almost eleven) and Zabel (aged fourteen) take ship for Cyprus, where they visit with Zabel's maternal relatives, and then sail up the coast to Constantinople. They are received with great joy; the common people throng the streets to catch a glimpse of them.

    This is the first time in almost three years that Henry and Marija have laid eyes on their son. They are pleased with what they see. Philippe has been growing, and now strongly resembles his grandfather, the Bulgarian khan Kaloyan (much to his mother's pleasure). He speaks Armenian now almost within an accent, and Greek as well as any Greek, but his French has badly degraded (the only person he has to practice with is his cousin, Robert de Courtenay). Zabel is a dark-haired, demure girl much attached to her young husband.

    The ceremony is held with all pomp and circumstance, and Philippe is crowned symbasileios with Zabel as his little basilissa. The Latin lords of the Morea come to do homage, as does Demetrios of Thessaloniki and his little wife, Maritza. The ceremony is the grandest since the crowning of the emperor Baldwin in 1204. The young lord Geoffrey II de Villehardouin, with golden spurs on his feet and his courtly manners, made a big impression.

    The emperor Friedrich II and Ioannes Vatatzes have finally made contact. They each find in the other a sort of kindred spirit, and moreover, common goals. Friedrich and Vatatzes both wanted to counter the influence of the pope and the Venetians in the region; both were major props of the Latin regime in Constantinople. Friedrich also helps put Vatatzes in contact with al-Kamil, who interceded with the Selcuk sultan on his behalf. If Vatatzes was to mount an offensive against the Latins, he needed to have his rear secure.

    Keykubad was busy with the east, not with the west. Jalal al-Din Manguberdi, the Khwarazemshah, had seized Ahlat and allied himself with Keykubad's cousin 2 Jahanşah. Keykubad despised Jahanşah, who had refused to let him marry his sister, Ismat al-Dunya. Manguberdi promised Jahanşah some of Keykubad's territories in return for his assistance.

    An Ayyubid-Selcuk alliance defeated Manguberdi and Jahanşah. Manguberdi was beset by robbers and killed as he tried to flee, and Keykubad had Jahanşah tied behind a mule and dragged to death 3. He then seized Erzurum and married Ismat al-Dunya.

    1. This was a practice known not only to the Byzantines, but also to the Capetians of France, and would have been fairly familiar to Henry.
    2. Son of Keykubad's uncle Mugiseddin Tuğrulşah, who ruled Erzurum between 1202 and his death in 1225.
    3. As recounted by the Khwarazmian historian Nasawi.
     
  11. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1231

    In the late winter, the Laskaris brothers start a riot in Nikaia.

    Alexios Laskaris had made his way into the city, by means never discovered, and with a small but armed cohort had barricaded himself in the The Church of the Dormition and declared himself the rightful emperor of Nikaia. Within hours, thousands of rabble congregated around the church, some in support of Alexios Laskaris, others in support of Vatatzes, and still others simply curious. Street fights broke out between supporters of the rival emperors.

    Vatatzes, his son Theodoros, and most of his household were at that time in Nymphaion, but he made for Nikaia in all haste. Once arrived, Vatatzes and his men forced their way through the crowd to The Church of the Dormition, broke down the doors, and dragged out Alexios Laskaris and his minions. A riot erupted; a priest was killed and no one was sure by whom, some townspeople supportive of Laskaris began to fight some of Vatatzes' guards, and in the midst of the chaos Ioannes Vatatzes suffered an epileptic seizure, humiliatingly in full view of some of his guards and the townspeople. He was carried back to his palace, while Alexios Laskaris' head was quickly struck off and mounted on the city walls.

    Ioannes Vatatzes had not even risen from his sickbed before giving orders to besiege Nikomedia, headquarters of the Laskaris brothers. This affront would not stand. The Nikaians soldiers march out so quickly they outrace the news of Alexios Laskaris' death and take the city unawares. Within hours Nikomedia is theirs. Captured with it are Ioannes Laskaris, the surviving Laskaris brother, and Alexios Laskaris' widow, who also happens to be the niece of the emperor Henry 1.

    The rumors that reach Constantinople are sordid. It is said that Alexios Laskaris was murdered while clinging to the church's cross for sanctuary (untrue), that his widow was raped by Vatatzes' soldiers (also untrue) and that Vatatzes is marching on Constantinople (well, not yet). Henry knows that Ioannes Laskaris is as good as dead in Vatatzes' custody, but that his niece may yet be saved. Now that Nikomedia has fallen, Vatatzes is only a short march from Constantinople. Henry calls up his army.

    For many of the Foideratoi regiments, this will be the first time they will see real war. Some have already fought the Epirotes and Bulgarians, and others have hunted down Kuman and Turcoman tribes raiding pilgrims and merchants near the borders of the empire. There are by now almost thirty units in the imperial army of these mixed gasmouloi soldiers. Fighting alongside them and the all-Greek regiments is an all-Armenian regiment, raised from city locals, and honored with the name Zabel's Shield.

    The ground is still frozen when the imperial army sets out. The Nikaians do not come to engage them; they remain at Nikomedia, letting the imperial army come to them. There is no sense in hiding behind the city walls -- Nikomedia cannot feed or water an army for long, and the last thing they can allow is for the imperials to march right by then and make for Nikaia itself. So they come out and ready themselves.

    The two armies slam together at midday. The Nikaians are valiant and experienced, but the Foideratoi are shockingly vicious and disciplined, all the moreso as they are under the personal command of the emperor Henry and are determined to impress him. While not an overwhelming victory, they begin to push the Nikaian army back.

    Disaster strikes. Emperor Henry's horse goes down on top of him. His personal guard pull the animal off him to find that he is badly injured. His generals, Anseauet de Cayeux and Narjot de Toucy, order the army to hold their ground, not to follow the Nikaians, who are able to safely slink back to Nikaia.

    The imperial army camps around the city, holding vigil for their emperor who is dying within Nikomedia's walls. Word is sent to the empress Marija in Constantinople, borne by none other than Mikhael Angelos, who had proven himself in the fighting earlier in the day. Inevitably, word also gets to Vatatzes, who quickly writes to his ally Friedrich II of the opportunity.

    Henry dies in the middle of the night, delirious from pain. His last words are a confused mix of French and baby-talk Flemish, which none of the priests and retainers ringing his deathbed can comprehend. Intense mourning erupts throughout the army at the news. Men weep, rip their hair, and despair. The emperor's horse is found with its throat cut. Narjot de Toucy and Anseauet de Cayeux, now the most senior commanders in the army, try to hold it together. Anseauet will stay behind with some of the army to reinforce Nikomedia and keep the Nikaians from advancing into their territory, while Narjot will take the emperor's body to Constantinople for burial.

    In Constantinople, Marija acted quickly. As soon as word arrived of Henry's death, she had her son Philippe and his wife Zabel crowned at Haghia Sophia. When Henry's body arrived, he was buried with all honors at the same church 2.

    By the terms of Henry's will, three regents would safeguard the empire for eleven-year-old Philippe: Marija herself, Narjot de Toucy (commander of the army) and Cardinal Colonna. Almost everyone had forgotten a fourth "guardian" agreed upon back in 1226. Everyone but Ivan Asen II.

    Messengers arrived from Trnovo to "accept" on behalf of their tsar his "duties" as "guardian". Horrified, the Latins barons tried to put them off with protests that the young emperor was fully capable of ruling on his own. The response from Asen was that he would be pleased to come in person to oversee the welfare of "Our most beloved cousin, Philippe tsar of Constantinople."

    Anseauet de Cayeux sent word from Nikomedia, saying that he feared a Nikaian assault. The Latins found themselves hemmed in from all sides. A council was called. Very plainly, the barons told the dowager empress that if they abandoned Constantinople, say for Venice or Rome or Armenia, they would never recover the city. They could not fight a war on two fronts with their most powerful enemies at once. Nor could they call for aid: the Holy Roman Empire and Sicily were ruled by Friedrich II, who was no friend of theirs, the Crusader states were too distant and took weak to help, and the Armenians could not march an army through both Selcuk and Nikaian territory to Constantinople. Demetrios of Thessaloniki could not risk offending his father-in-law and had not the numbers to stop the Bulgarians, besides.

    The decision was made to dig in their heels, put forward a good front, and give Asen no pretext to besiege the city. Marie de Courtenay, the wife of Asen's brother Aleksandr, sent a coded message pledging to do all she could on their behalf. Margit, the mother of Demetrios and an ex-empress besides 3 went to her brother, king András II of Hungary.

    It was late fall before Ivan Asen II made his way to Constantinople. He came in state, bringing his wife and daughters, his boyars and courtiers all finely shod. His army encamped outside the city walls.

    The day after Asen's arrival, an imperial delegation came to meet him outside the city walls. The dowager empress Marija presented him with the symbolic keys to the city. It was said she fell into the arms of her cousin, whom she had not seen since childhood, and wept.

    Many watching on the walls of Constantinople wept as well, but for different reasons.

    1. The same woman who was married to Boril of Bulgaria.
    2. Although not traditionally intended to be used as such, the Haghia Sophia had become the resting place of the doge Enrico Dandolo some years before.
    3. As empress of Isaakios II.
     
  12. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1232

    Ivan Asen II entered Constantinople like a conquering hero. Centuries ago, when the Greeks were ruled by the Bulgar-slayer, then when the heirs to Bulgaria were kept hostage in Constantinople 1 this moment had seemed as distant and unobtainable as the moon. But the Greeks had been broken, by the Latins, and now they would be humbled, by Bulgarians.

    Immediately, street-fighting broke out between the Bulgarians and Vlakhs in Asen's army, and locals and some of the Foideratoi. Asen responded by agreeing to camp his men outside of the city, keeping only an honor guard for himself within it. He was lodged within Boukeleon, and shortly afterward met his young "ward", Philippe.

    Asen, who as yet had no son, took a personal liking to the boy. Had he not already been married to that Armenian girl, he would've made a fine husband for one of Asen's own daughters. Tall for his twelve years, fair-haired like his father, Philippe greets him respectfully in Bulgarian and then in schoolboy Latin. Asen takes his place beside the boy during councils.

    Although Philippe and now Zabel remained popular as ever, Marija's popularity took a downturn. She was seen as a traitor for capitulating to Asen so quickly; the locals openly question her loyalty. Moreover, it soon became apparent that Marija had taken a lover: none other than Mikhael Angelos, the bastard's bastard, only 21-years-old. Even Philippe did not see his mother without Mikhael present.

    In the early summer, András of Hungary springs a surprise attack on north-west Bulgaria, capturing Braničevo and Beograd. There is nothing for Ivan Asen II to do except leave Constantinople and attend to his kingdom. As he marches back to Bulgaria, he calls up his son-in-law Demetrios of Thessaloniki like a vassal to fight at his side.

    Asen had barely made it to Bulgaria before a new crisis hit. Friedrich II attacked several islands, including Corfu and Crete, all owned by Venice, while his ally Ioannes Vatatzes sent his men to lay siege to Nikomedia. The pope immediately excommunicated Friedrich II (again) for this.

    Shockingly, Vatatzes' men lobbed the severed head of Ioannes Laskaris (recently killed while in their custody) over Nikomedia's city walls to intimidate her defenders. It did not work. Philippe was able to send reinforcements to Nikomedia and even to help the Venetians. Geoffrey de Villehardouin landed with his own forces on Crete and valiantly assisted in repelling the Sicilians.

    Poor Demetrios of Thessaloniki was miserable on campaign in northern Bulgaria. He was there nominally as vassal to his father-in-law, Ivan Asen II, but really as a hostage, since Asen's enemy András II of Hungary is his uncle. Demetrios' own half-brother, Kaloioannes of Srem 2 was fighting in this campaign on behalf of king András, and Demetrios dreaded the day when Kaloioannes' head would be brought to Asen on a stick.

    Aleksandr, Asen's brother, had shown up to the campaign with his wife, Marie de Courtenay, en tow, which annoyed Asen. Marie worked her magic on her husband, stroking his brow at night and whispering to him that he deserved better than being one of his brother's war dogs; that Asen still had no son and that Aleksandr was destined to rule; and that he, Aleksandr, who had once been an exile who slept on the ground with a shield under his head, would one day wear a crown. On the battlefield, Aleksandr proved headstrong and ignored half of Asen's orders, and between that and their Kuman shock troops retreating to go to their summer grazing fields, the campaign versus the Hungarians was going badly.

    Meanwhile, in Armenia, Robert de Courtenay looked on helplessly. He and the queen-mother, Sibylle, were safeguarding the throne for Philippe and Zabel, but between the war with Nikaia and the Sicilians roving the coastline, not to mention the delicate situation with Asen, it wasn't safe for the young couple to visit Armenia. Robert had attempted to strengthen his own position by marrying Maria of Antioch-Armenia, only daughter of the pretender Raymond-Ruben 3, making her (and by extension, him) next-in-line after Zabel and Philippe.

    1. Boris and Roman, sons of tsar Petar.
    2. Son of Isaakios II Angelos and Margit of Hungary, and husband of Mathilde von Vianden, a first cousin-once removed of the emperor Philippe. Ruler of Srem since about 1227, after their mother Margit ceded it to him.
    3. Raymond-Ruben was the grandson (paternally) of Bohemond III of Antioch and grandson (maternally) of Ruben III of Armenia, elder brother of Levon I. He had tried to claim both Antioch and Armenia, and died in the attempt in 1221. OTL, his daughter Maria (by Helvis of Cyprus) married Philip de Montfort, lord of Tyre.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  13. Zuvarq Pinche pendejo güey

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Interesting. I like the year-by-year and geographically-restricted style.

    Though if Ivan Asen II is the Tsar of Bulgaria and has entered Constantinople as a regent for Philippe, how exactly are the Latins going to prevent him from making Philippe and entire empire into his puppet?

    I wonder what will happen when the Mongols show up.
     
  14. ImperatorAlexander Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    The format does make following the events in the TL very easy, keep it up!
     
  15. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1233

    Ivan Asen II and András II of Hungary make peace between each other, which in practical terms means that each slinks back over his borders and glares balefully at the other. That winter, Asen sets out for Constantinople, bringing his pregnant wife Maria Anna with him from Trnovo.

    Marie de Courtenay sends a frantic coded letter to the dowager empress Marija: They must not allow that child to be born in the Porphyry Chamber.

    Desperate to distract Asen from securing himself in the city, the Latin barons engineer a crisis. They pick a full-scale war with Nikaia.

    The emperor Philippe's own first cousin 1 is currently held prisoner in Nikaia, which would be pretext enough, but Vatatzes has also killed the emperor's vassals, Alexios and Ioannes Laskaris, and aggressively besieged Nikomedia on multiple occasions. No sooner has Ivan Asen II arrived in Constantinople than he is summoned to Philippe's war council.

    The young emperor beseeches Asen to sanction an assault on Vatatzes and lead his armies into battle. This puts Asen in an uncomfortable situation. The Latins are afire to march on Nikaia, one of their strongest rivals, and take out Vatatzes, a false emperor who is holding the emperor's blood cousin hostage. To demure would make Asen look weak and cowardly; to lead the emperor's armies is at once glorious and annoying. Asen wishes to remain in Constantinople and lay the foundation for his own power, not to march into Anatolia. Vatatzes is a false emperor and must be dealt with sooner or later; but then, he has a powerful ally (Friedrich II). Had Philippe commanded Asen to accompany him, he could have protested that he was not a vassal to be ordered into the field. But because the young man requested his assistance, counting on Asen's position as his "guardian", Asen has little choice. Asen rationalizes it this way: Vatatzes must be taken out. If Asen does it now, the Latins will take the brunt of the fighting, rather than his own troops.

    The Latins, through their go-betweens, the Venetians, approach Keykubad at Konya. If he will attack Vatatzes from the east, the Latins will carve up Vatatzes' possessions in Anatolia between the two of them. The offer is tempting. The Empire of Nikaia will be trapped in a vice between the Turks and the Latins.

    In Trnovo, Marie de Courtenay redoubles her efforts with her husband, Aleksandr. If they mean to strike, they must do it now, she reasons, before Asen's son is born, before he has a heir and before he secures his power in Constantinople. While he is preoccupied with Nikaia, Bulgaria itself is theirs, ripe for the taking.

    As the great lords of Constantinople ready for war, the dowager empress Marija graciously receives Asen's pregnant wife, Maria Anna of Hungary.

    Philippe, not yet fourteen, dons armor and a war helmet for the first time. As he, Asen, and their commanders and troops make their way out of the city bound for Nikaia, many folk songs are composed on the subject of the young virgin emperor and his bravery.

    Vatatzes is aware of the burgeoning army in Constantinople, and discerns quickly that it is meant for him. His own forces move just south of Nikomedia and prepare to engage the combined Latin-Bulgarian forces.

    Just after Easter, the Latins, under the command of Emperor Philippe and Narjot de Toucy, and the Bulgarians and Kumans, under the command of Ivan Asen II, meet in battle with the Nikaians, under the command of Andronikos Palaiologos, megas domestikos of Nikaia 2. The battle rages until a fierce rainstorm turns the battlefield into a mire and severely reduces visibility. The combatants withdraw, circling one another.

    At almost the same time, Keykubad assaults Vatatzes' eastern flank, and his soldiers penetrate into Nikaian territory.

    In Trnovo, Aleksandr declares that Ivan Asen II has abandoned the Bulgarians and fights as a vassal to the emperor of Constantinople; are they to be ruled as slaves? He has himself crowned tsar of Bulgaria, with his wife Marie de Courtenay by his side.

    In the wee hours of the morning, a pack of Asen's Kumans raid a Nikaian camp, get drunk on their wine, and pick a fight with a Foideratoi contingent. Brawling erupts until the Nikaians regroup and attack both of them. Disgruntled, the Kumans abandon the battlefield and their erstwhile allies. The Latins complain furiously to Ivan Asen II. It is only with some difficulty that he marshals the remaining Kumans to rejoin the fray.

    Despite these setbacks, the imperial army pushes the Nikaians back. Retreating behind the walls of Nikaia itself, they prepare for a siege. But the imperial army has no intention of getting bogged down here. Part of the imperial army is posted to surround Nikaia and try to starve it out, and then the rest of the army marches on down the coast, towards Nymphaion.

    Vatatzes' remaining forces are busy trying to beat back the Turks. The decision is made to fall back to Smyrna and put their backs to the sea.

    About this time, word reaches Asen of his brother's betrayal. He is shocked and his troops are upset. Asen's decision was immediate: he must turn around, march back to Trnovo, and see to Aleksandr.

    Philippe puts forward a convincing protest, but soon enough his "guardian" is on his way. The imperial army secures their path from Nikomedia past Nikaia and down the coastline as they follow along at a respectable distance behind Asen's troops. While they would like to push on and capture Vatatzes at Smyrna, they lack the numbers to do so; they mustn't overextend their forces. The Latins hope instead to reduce Nikaia to a rump state. Keykubad, likewise, has made inroads into Nikaian territory. All that is left to Vatatzes now is Smyrna and its environs; the Latins have captured Prusa and, effectively, Nikaia itself, and the northeastern portion of the Empire of Nikaia is overrun with Turks.

    Asen goes right past Constantinople, not stopping to get his wife. Time is of the essence. Loyalists are already pouring out of Bulgaria, trying to meet up with Asen's forces as he marches west past Adrianople.

    Meantime, the Latins make it to Nikaia, where Philippe allows the city residents with the means to ransom themselves, and even allows the crippled, poor, and widows to go free. The Nikaian army, having little option, surrender. They are allowed to leave the city unmolested and head to join their emperor at Smyrna. Philippe then hosts his newfound fair-weather friend, Keykubad, at Nikaia for a week before Keykubad returns to Konya and Philippe takes his army to Constantinople.

    Asen's tsaritsa, Maria Anna of Hungary, has gone into labor and delivered a son named Kaliman. The situation is horrifying on multiple levels. Kaliman has been born in the Porphyry Chamber, and therefore has some tenuous claim on the prestigious title of porphyrogenitos. If Philippe is ever to be secure on his throne, both the infant heir to Bulgaria and Asen himself must be eliminated.

    In November, Asen plows his way into his brother Aleksandr's forces. Quickly overrun, Aleksandr flees Trnovo for the Hungarian court 3. No sooner is this done than the Bulgarians have to fight off incursions from Epiros, where Manuel Angelos is trying to take advantage of the situation. Asen lets his exhausted forces winter in their homeland.

    1. The nameless widow of Boril, and in this timeline of Alexios Laskaris besides, and a sister of Marie, Robert, and Yolandette de Courtenay.
    2. Father of nine-year-old Mikhael (OTL Mikhael VIII). Ioannes Vatatzes remains in Nymphaion with his son, Theodoros.
    3. Where Marie de Courtenay's sister, Yolandette, is queen.
     
  16. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    1234

    In the brief time that Asen's absence allows them, the Latins convene in secret. Fierce debates rage into the night; finally, a consensus is reached. For the security of Philippe's throne, for the survival of their empire in perpetuity, Ivan Asen II must be done away with.

    The task is daunting. Asen is probably the most powerful and experienced leader in the region. Killing him is a big risk. But Bulgaria is a state in flux, and he is the strongman holding it together; without him, the state will either destabilize or Aleksandr, a candidate more to their liking, will take power.

    Quietly, the Latins begin to take action. First, they begin large-scale repairs on the grand walls of Constantinople and the galleys in the harbor. Outside the city walls, near the Gate of St. Romanos, several large structures are built to accommodate the Bulgarian-Kuman camps when they return (they are also intended to burn easily). The locals who live in the suburbs are commanded to move within the city; the emperor offers them lodging. The city officials start stockpiling food and checking the security of the city cisterns. The work continues on through the winter and into spring.

    Word is sent to Robert de Courtenay, the imperial regent at Sis. Zabel is to be sent back to Sis for the time being, to meet with her barons and see to the wellbeing of Armenia. The Armenians rejoice. Before she ships out, her marriage to Philippe is officially consummated. The emperor and empress make a fine sight saying their farewells in the harbor before she takes ship. Although Zabel is sent with a contingent of Foideratoi, her own special regiment, Zabel's Shield, is kept behind and assigned to guard the palace and, in particular, Asen's queen and her infant child. The queen, Maria Anna of Hungary, is assured that this is a special honor.

    Asen, meantime, has been stamping out pockets of rebels and brigands across his lands. His brother, Aleksandr, now having little to lose, has been leading raids from Hungarian territory. Asen puts a price on his brother's head; the price is doubled for the head of his brother's wife. Envoys from Constantinople arrive, bearing a courteous letter from Philippe inviting him to come, watch a grand tournament in the Hippodrome, and partake of the pageantry. It is time anyway that Asen saw to his wife and their new son. Confident that Trnovo is secure, Asen gathers his army and sets out.

    At about this time, the empress-queen Zabel arrives in her homeland. Writing decades later in his memoirs, Robert de Courtenay would reminisce that "she came to us with hardly any nails left, having bitten them all off during the voyage from Constantinople."

    Everything goes off without a hitch. Some of the highest-ranking Latin barons greet Asen outside the city gates, and have his troops quartered in the specially-built houses. Once he enters the city, flanked by his honor guard, Asen is welcomed by Philippe, the dowager empress, and other magnates. He then goes to see about his wife, Maria Anna, and their son, Kaliman. Satisfied all is well, Asen beds down for the night and looks forward to the festivities on the morrow.

    Outside, in their quarters by the Gate of St. Romanos, Asen's army feasts into the night. The wine flows freely thanks to their hosts. By the dawn, they are almost to a man so drunk they cannot walk.

    The next day, the emperor, his mother, and Asen enjoy the spectacle at the Hippodrome. Exotic animals are paraded; a race is held; then knights of the city joust and show off their martial skills. By mid-day, it is blisteringly hot. After the conclusion of the festivities, Philippe invites Asen to a grand dinner at Boukeleon. On his way to enter the palace, some instinct warns Asen. He turns to call out to his guards; as one, the Foideratoi guarding the palace (Philippe's Lancers) surround him. They have their orders. By sheer weight of numbers they overpower Asen and his men -- although several are killed, in short order Asen and his cronies are dragged inside the palace. There, Asen is bound and gagged and dies in agony shortly thereafter.

    At the same moment, Zabel's Shield quickly moves in on Maria Anna of Hungary and her infant son. The child's nurse shouted in warning just as the men fall on her.

    The Latins do not hesitate. Greek fire is flung at the Bulgarian camp; chaos breaks out. Many die as the flimsy walls and ceilings of the structures collapse almost immediately. The defenders manning the walls along the Theodosian Wall are equipped not only with weapons but also with bags of sand, meant to be used should the Bulgarians send the Greek fire back over the wall.

    The bulk of the Bulgarians flee the camps and regroup a little ways away. By now, they know they've been had. Some of the Kumans desert, but by and large the others decide to revenge themselves on Constantinople. They charge the city walls, but are met with volleys of projectiles. Falling back, the Bulgarians began looting the homes of those locals who had not accepted the emperor's offer to move within the city; these locals were almost all slaughtered.

    Word raced back to Trnovo, and almost immediately Bulgaria was torn apart by rival claimants. Aleksandr Asen invaded from Hungary and managed to secure Silistra and Constanța. Other warlords fought bitterly over the nation. Manuel Angelos in Epiros even took the opportunity to try to carve off bits for himself.

    The Bulgarians camped outside Constantinople kept up periodic attacks for the next couple of months. They even tried to attack one of the fortified bridges across the Golden Horn. Philippe was reluctant to engage them, but nor could they break through the walls. The city itself could resupply from the sea. In the first week of May, word came that King Demetrios of Thessaloniki was marching towards the city, bringing with him his own armies.

    The Bulgarians were caught in a vice. Some broke and ran back to Bulgaria, harassed all the way by local Greek garrisons. Other stayed and fought. As Demetrios bore down on them, the Golden Gate opened and Philippe's own forces marched out. They swiftly engaged the Bulgarians as the Thessalonikians came to reinforce them. The fighting was intense, but the exhausted Bulgarians fought to a standstill, and were slaughtered or captured.

    Emperor Philippe led a triumph back through the Golden Gate. The next day, Demetrios of Thessaloniki did homage to him, and great rejoicing was had throughout the city. The future might be uncertain, but for the time being, the Bulgarians were vanquished.

    That night, a friend of Mikhael Angelos warned him that the emperor meant to have him arrested. Mikhael was able to sneak out of the Blachernai Palace just as Philippe's men burst into the dowager empress' quarters to arrest him. Fleeing the city with only a few friends and little more than the clothes on his back, Mikhael vowed revenge. The dowager empress Marija is confined to house arrest. Her son Philippe is tired of her meddling in politics and furious that she took a lover.

    Word arrives from Armenia: The empress-queen Zabel is eager to return to Constantinople, but there is a complication: she is expecting a child, and too sick to take ship. Philippe is desperate to have his child born in Constantinople, but he dares not send her overland (which would require moving through Selcuk territory) and she insists her physical state is fragile. Indeed, the poor girl was so ill that the Armenian chroniclers reported that monks prayed day and night that she might live, and that virgins wept in the street and tore their hair in fear.

    Strange tidings arrive from the east. The Georgians, recently devastated by war with Khwarazem, is complaining of the oncoming approach of a new foe, "Huns" fiercer still than the Khwarazemians. No one knows what to make of these reports. The Latin barons are inclined to think that these are merely exaggerated reports of Kumans, but Philippe is anxious about the stability of his wife's kingdom. Deciding that if Zabel cannot come to him that he will go to her, he appoints Cardinal Colonna and Narjot de Toucy to rule the city in his absence, and sails for Armenia.

    Philippe arrives in Armenia in August. He goes to see Zabel, who is by now almost full-term, and also meets with Bohemond of Antioch. The imperial luggage is being loaded onto the ship to return to Constantinople when the empress-queen unexpectedly goes into labor. She gives birth in the port city of Ayas to a boy, born a bit early and therefore small, but otherwise healthy. The people celebrate in the streets; Philippe and Zabel's son is, in a sense, entirely theirs.

    Philippe is incensed that his firstborn son was not properly born in the Porphyry Chamber but there is little he can do now. He has the infant baptized Leo after his maternal grandfather, Levon I, and appoints him heir-apparent of both Armenia and the Empire. As soon as mother and child are deemed strong enough to survive the journey, they set sail for Constantinople.

    It is October by the time they arrive. Many grand ceremonies are held to welcome the imperial child; it seems the world itself is born anew again.

    Mikhael Angelos is approached by disaffected nobles from Epiros who have suffered under his uncle, Manuel. Under cover of night, he enters Arta for the first time in his adult life, and ambushes Manuel. Mikhael has his uncle thrown into a dungeon, and declares himself the new despot of Epiros. And he casts a hateful eye toward Constantinople.
     
  17. RGB Unqueering the Academia

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2009
    Location:
    Rainy Corporate Dystopia
    I like this :D

    The details is great but the disciplined style makes it easy to read.

    Of course the Franks were vastly more unpopular and significantly less competent than in this TL, but hey.

    Of course the Georgians wouldn't be complaining about the Cumans, a good chunk of the contemporary Georgian army is Cumans. I'd think the Latins would know that. But then any other steppe nation would basically follow the same story...
     
  18. ArKhan ಠ_ಠ dance monkey. dance. ಠ_ಠ

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2007
    Location:
    Land of the weirdos
    More enduring as in to the present day, or more enduring as in "until the Ottomans come along to kick their asses?"
     
  19. Razgriz 2K9 Banned

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Location:
    Alabama
    You do realize that if the Latin Empire survives for more than its 55 year shelf date, you might end up killing the Ottomans before they even have a nation, right?
     
  20. Mipp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Thanks for the positive response, y'all! This is my first ATL, so as you can imagine I am very happy. I know the Fourth Crusade/Latin Empire isn't a popular time period/polity but its near and dear to my heart, and I'm glad y'all are onboard this crazy train.

    I fully acknowledge that I am giving the Latins a lot of lucky breaks. And yes, there will be a lot of butterflies...