Extra #7: What She Knew Brecanta, Province of Portugal, AD 1112 Even the servants were still moving slowly. Amina stifled a yawn and stared hard at the Viejito. Shuffling her feet a little, she noticed a small tear in her sock that she would fix herself. Big repairs were done by a seamstress, but he always made her do small ones herself. “Thank you for being so prompt small lady,” he said without looking up, giving her the usual title she hated. He relieved anger at being exiled by annoying her. “You have had an evening to reflect and consider what you learned and your tutor has a day off. I’m sure he’s cherishing a morning free of willfulness. “I am not willful!” she protested. “I know what I know and it’s his job to show me I’m wrong. I’m not going to pretend for a tutor. It‘s disrespectful to his scholarship.” “I see we must talk later about appropriate use of the term respect, but for now tell me about Francia… Start with the current dynasty,” he added quickly. He knew the ways she struck back at him too. Caught with her mouth open the short girl turned it into a deep breath. “There are two names for the kings of Fransa,” she recited in the common language. “The Conradins or Robertines. Conrad was the first king but only ruled three years. Robert tried to take over Brittany but we stopped him. Then there was Hugh who loved the Church, and Lutis who was clever but grandfather León outsmarted him. His son is another Hugh, who spends time building roads and wells and ports. Viejito why don’t we build things anymore?” She’d started talking faster at the end because she was running out of breath. “We do. But we’ve been building much longer than they so we usually repair what we’ve built. Now go on.” She sighed. “His son is another Robert and I don‘t like him.” “Really?” he said in a tone that said he was prepared to laugh at her. “He thinks we shouldn’t have any land north of the mountains. When an embassy came to visit father, I spied on them and his own ambassadors said so.” Amina wriggled a little with happiness as she saw his face change. It wasn’t often she could surprise him. Rodrigo de la Vega knew as Amina did not, the embassy was sent by Hugh II to confer with Alejandro IV to see if Spañan medicine--which took much from the Arab and the Jewish--could stop the plague. “What High Prince Robert thinks is matters little now as he is barely a man. For now, think about the kingdom. Why are the Robertines so important compared to the Aldrians that came before them?” “The Conradins,” she said to annoy him, “are important because they changed how Fransa worked. The Aldrians used family alliances like us but left people alone except when they needed to fight. Everyone pretty much did as they liked. They didn’t ask for much because they were afraid they wouldn‘t be obeyed--but doesn‘t that get people into the habit of ignoring you?” “Then you remind them why they obeyed you in the first place.” “But fighting just destroys things and what if you’re not strong enough--you might lose!” “Ah, you see kings were originally named by agreement so everyone knew who was in charge when danger came. Strong kings could command, but even they had to ask or keep winning to reward their followers. The Raptor, Abd ar-Rahman, was like that.” “Asking doesn't work,” she said wrinkling her nose. “It’s hard to get everyone to agree and by the time you do, you have to give up things or it's too late. We don‘t do that! Or at least not much.” “Our nobles spend time and money on things like art and buildings and poets and get prestige and praise for it. They send the rest to the capital so the king defends them and they don’t have to. He gets praised for that. Sometimes their own children help. It appeals to the inherent human weakness of sloth, gives them an outlet for their resources, and a reason to leave war alone. They can say to themselves 'without our money and our sons the king could not fulfill his duties' and feel important. That’s true but not the way in Francia. So stop sliding away from the topic and tell me how things are done there.” Cornered, Amina abandoned her attempt to shift the conversation over to the way Spaña worked. “Their big problem is half their kingdom is wild compared to the other half. The western parts were Roman, have bigger cities and depend on peace for trade and food. They have councils but the big cities are controlled by the relatives or people the king likes. They have enough troops to keep the town quiet but not to do more unless the king trusts them. If that happens he lends them some of his own army but never for too long. Because the west has been peaceful so much longer, there aren't as many castles in the countryside and they look more like big houses. There are a lot of small forts that are bases for the king’s police to keep the roads open and the bandits down, these are the barons. Once you get past the border so as long the king keeps up his army it would be stupid to try and rebel in the country. I think the western part is where they get most of their power.” “Ah, but it didn’t start that way. How did that change?” “Um… oh! It took a long time. A lot of the old counts died or got moved to cities. Others were removed after rebelling against taxes or other reasons. Whenever there was free land the king took it over and put his Royal Service in control when he could or his close family. Other counts work for the king and the civil war let Duke Hugh get rid of people he didn’t like.” “Rebellions are useful for reordering things if you can manage to stamp them out,” the Viejito admitted. “But as you said, fighting is destructive. Take advantage of them if they appear but make very sure they are stamped out for good. Doing things by half measures only means you will have to do them over and over again. But tell me about the east.” Amina nodded very fast, his words finding the approval of her bold nature. “Uh-huh. The east is where the trouble always is. There were a lot of tribes and a lot of forests and not a lot of cities. The king isn’t able to control the east like the west, because things are too far apart or too broken up by the land. He has to depend on the dukes.” “There are dukes in the west, how are they different?” “Oh. Dukes are strange up there. Our dukes lead armies, but their dukes lead places and armies. I think that’s confusing. Western dukes are usually relatives. They get put in the big cities to keep taxes and stuff going to the king and they‘re the ones that usually have parts of the king‘s army. I kind of like that idea. If they rebel it’s a big problem but the king’s army usually won’t follow them. In the east the dukes have private armies because there isn’t time for the king to respond as fast. Also they’re based around the old tribal borders, so there are some differences between dukedoms there. They don’t have to pay nearly as many taxes. That’s how the first Duke Hugh got powerful, he was on the east border so he had a much bigger army.” “Very good. How does King Hugh try to keep the easterners from disobeying?” “The church. The bishops have a lot of influence and run cities or sit on the king’s councils with the dukes and the royal service that run the kingdom. They are like our agencies.. But what would a lord or even a priest know about running things? I think they're slower than us,” she said with a conspiratorial wink that made Rodrigo crack a smile. “It depends on who is selected,” Rodrigo admitted. “King Aldric began the councils. They changed over time to be in charge of the administration and they have help, advisers who are trained in their schools or sometimes in ours or in Italy. One thing you should remember in regards to taxes also, the Francians don‘t have as many coins as we do--we usually take silver from them. They spend a lot of time working on how to get more, they’re much more experienced at mining, metals, and engineering than we are. We have Darimessa but there are places all across their kingdom that do the same. We've started to employ Francians ourselves actually. Regardless, they sometimes pay their taxes in soldiers or food. Most of the positions in the kingdom are given to those who are loyal or who are good at leading armies.” “Oh, but isn’t that really hard to make work?” “In practice it is, but when the response comes it’s very big and fierce--though you have time to prepare for it. Their roads are much better these days than even a hundred years ago so they move more quickly now. In fact it takes them less time to build a road than it does us. What they don’t have is ships. Before you ask, this is because it has been a very long time since they had a western or southern coastline. In the north they used to count on the Irish but right now they use Albaney. “You’re looking a bit bored,” he said and Amina blushed a bit. “You’ve done very well, and I know that you actually know this instead of just memorizing it because you put it in your own words for the most part. It will be time to eat soon so if you indulge me until then I will let you have some free time in the east garden after.” The girl perked up a bit at that, for the east garden was the one that had the lemon trees she thought were pretty. “What do you want to know?” she asked with more than a little pride. “Hmm,” he mused. “Architecture based on mathematics and old formsis a bit too advanced even for you. Ah, what makes a good lord in Francia? How is it different than Spaña?” “Obey God and the king and defend them!” she said, quoting a common Francian saying. “Our nobles spend a lot of money on hiring poets, artists and scholars or building things that look good. They do some of that too--I kind of like their music--but their lords spend a lot more time fighting on the borders or rebels, and sometimes each other though the king tries to stop that when he can by letting the towns have more power. Basically if you’re working for the king you can do a lot of things. Our ruling lords just stay quiet and entertain themselves and should let us run things the right way.” By the end she sounded contemptuous of the nobility of Spaña. “Well you may be a little prejudiced against our nobility.” “They disinherited me!” she shouted, her temper flaring. “They can’t do that! Araman was my ancestor!” She was so angry she quivered a little and Rodrigo could see how deeply Amina had been hurt. If she clung to her lineage and position it wasn’t because she was spoiled, but because her world had collapsed and she needed something to hold on to. He saw her suck in a ragged breath and immediately left his desk. “He worked hard to keep them safe when everyone was sick. He died because of it! How could they betray my father like that?!” Amina burst into tears. “Little princess,” he said as she clung to him sobbing, “…being a king makes it your fault, even when it’s not.” A heavy burden the Gracious One has placed on her family, he thought. May He be praised that her shoulders will never have to bear it now. ______________________________ That is, Roman style symmetry, proportion, regular clean lines in a very heavy Romanesque style with a fondness for squares or polygonal towers, chiaroscuro effects, with somewhat helmet-shaped domes. Essentially some defining non-structural features of baroque with some of Roman (like lots of columns). With Russian hats. As was pointed out earlier, this is a way to get them to expend their energies and set aspirations on things other than rebellion but also owes a great deal to the Muslim traditions on what makes a good ruler. Author's Note: A little clumsy, but I think it works a bit better than just dry exposition. So we've covered government, a little culture, the role of towns, which scientific areas the Francians excel in, and a bit of architecture. I'd hoped to cover more about social stuff but I don't think it would quite fit. There are also hints about how much contact and similarity actually exists between the two countries. Incidentally, Amina is 11 here.