Una diferente ‘Plus Ultra’ - the Avís-Trastámara Kings of All Spain and the Indies (Updated 5/6)

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Torbald, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    So Sigismund and Barbara's love story has happy end here :). Although I'd say Sigismund II would name his firstborn after himself (it was custom among Polish Jagiellons to name firstborn son after father or paternal grandfather).
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  2. Torbald þegn

    Jan 27, 2010
    The story of Barbara and Sigismund touched me, what can I say? :)

    That's interesting, do you think Casimir would be a better name?
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  3. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    Sigismund II was son of Sigismund himself, so I'd say his firstborn would also be Sigismund, with perhaps second name given after godfather (Holy Roman Emperor seems likely as godfather, so Sigismund III Charles/Zygmunt III Karol).
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  4. isabella Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2012
    Italy will be used only for Northen Italy here as the historical Kingdom of Italy, part of the Holy Roman Empire so calling Italy a state in the South would be without sense. Likely your ATL the Kingdom of Italy here will be a state with Tuscany and Emilia Romagna as lower borders or Umbria and Marches if the Papal States will keep only Lazio (an without the southern part of the region aka the zone around Gaeta who historically was the northen part of the Kingdom of Naples and was transferred to Lazio only years after the unification so here will stay as part of Naples)... United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily sound good...

    Good to know. So Massimiliano married his first cousin here, while Francesco a less close relative while Ludovico and Beatrice had at least another child (or Archduchess Bianca is daughter of Ludovico by a second wife? I hope the first as a longer living Beatrice would be good as she was brilliant and interesting and her early death is the only reason for which she is not so know as her sister Isabella or her OTL sister-in-law Lucrezia)....

    Your Habsburgs will have also Burgundy and that will keep them from becoming too focused on south and east as the OTL Habsburgs as Germany will be in the center of their Empire...
    I am not sure if they will have Vienna as single capital or their court will shift between many cities (Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Frankfurt and Brussels/Machelen)...

    Well the crazy wedding were a sort of tradition who they inhereited by Spanish Kingdoms in OTL and here they will not need them so I also can see a much healthier marrying traditions (like the one they had before Charles’ generation)
  5. Torbald þegn

    Jan 27, 2010
    I'll probably be needing your help in the near future for the Poland update, I'll PM you any questions I might have.

    That's interesting, I think we may see the Peninsula end up with a "Lombardy" (maybe even "Principality of Lombardy" or "Republic of Lombardy/Lombard Republic") in the north and the "United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily" in the south. I'm still unsure what will ultimately become of Central Italy, however...

    Bianca was born by Beatrice, yes.

    As much as the main line Habsburgs wanted to keep their possessions together IOTL, I can see TTL's Habsburgs maybe appointing their children and siblings to viceregal positions over the Netherlands (+ Franche Comte), Hungary, Bohemia (maybe Hungary-Bohemia), and perhaps over Austria as well, while the Emperor himself keeps his court in Frankfurt.

    The Spanish royal family is still at risk of some inbreeding, however, given the need to keep the Iberian Union together (can't have one of the cadet branches trying to run off with Portugal or Aragon, can we?). This may also cause other succession troubles in the future as well, as the desire to keep the number of heirs to a minimum might cut down on options if and when a king dies childless/without sons.
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  6. Torbald þegn

    Jan 27, 2010
    Also, the reference threadmark for TTL's Protestant sects has been revised and fleshed out much more (for those of you who want something of a TL;DR on the last update).
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  7. Germania09 Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2011
    Mobile, Alabama
    That idea would be for the best for administrative reasons overall that way the Emperor can keep his focus and delegate necessary responsibility to others.

    As for Frankfurt here’s hoping the Hapsburgs turn it into a true Imperial capitol :D ....when they’re not fighting the Turks and French of course

    A surviving Papal State would be interesting :p
  8. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    OK. I can help with Jagiellon questions.

    I think son of Sigismund and Barbara should be also few years younger (they met for the first time in 1543 and married secretly four years later)
  9. BlueFlowwer Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2017
    Jan is kind of a boring name for a future polish king. Casimire sounds better.
  10. Tarabas Well-Known Member

    Aug 30, 2018
    Hi! I just wanted to say that I am loving this timeline. I find it very well-written and realistic, with so many insights in different aspects of this ALT-world I daresay I am learning a great deal of things about OTL (which is I believe is the real point of AH). That being said... Congratulations, and please, keep it going!
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  11. isabella Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2012
    @Torbald: is unlikely who a kingdom who include Lombardy, Piedmont and Tuscany will be called with a name different from Kingdom of Italy... Kingdom of Italy, United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily and Papal States/Holy See (only Lazio) sound good
  12. Tarabas Well-Known Member

    Aug 30, 2018
    I agree regarding the Kingdom of Italy the Papal States (although officially it was "State of The Church", but the two are used indifferently AFAIK). "United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily" would fit, I guess, although there was the already existing "Kingdom of the Two Sicilies" (Regnum utriusque Siciliae). I know this denomination pre 1817 was short-lived (it was created in 1442 by Alphonse V of Aragon and lasted just a few years), but it would make for a good precedent even ITTL, I guess.
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  13. Saya Aensland Well-Known Member

    Sep 3, 2009
    The Kingdom of Naples officially called itself Kingdom of Sicily. In fact, it had a better claim to being the legitimate Kingdom of Sicily, since the insular Kingdom of Sicily got started when a bunch of rebels decided "Man, these Anjou characters are assholes. Hey Aragon, wanna rule us?" When the Trastamaras later gained the throne of Naples, they styled themselves "king of both Sicilies".

    The point here is, if the name of the reunited country refers to a "Kingdom of Naples", the implication will be that the mainland Kingdom of Sicily was a fake offshoot Sicily falsely claiming the name, when it was the other way around. And that's the story of why Two Sicilies was called that.
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  14. Wendell Wendell

    Jun 8, 2005
    Lost in what might have been
    What did you use to make that impressive family tree?
  15. Torbald þegn

    Jan 27, 2010
    Yeah, I imagine the best hope for the peoples of Germany really associating themselves with the somewhat disjointed superstructure of the Habsburg network would be the pretty obvious solution of having the Habsburg Emperor just plant himself right smack dab in the middle of Germany. Simple geographical closeness to the highest authority in the land has often worked wonders for the people being governed.

    A surviving Papal State would be interesting, although I'm wondering what kind of place such a Papacy would occupy in the Catholic world ITTL. The supranational nature of OTL's Papacy plays nicely into the established ultramontanism, so maybe a surviving Papal States would work better in a more conciliar-focused Catholic world with national patriarchates.

    Very good, I'll adjust his name and birth date when I can.

    Thank you very much :)
    And I know what you mean, I've learned so much writing this TL and you'd probably be surprised at just how much here is actually straight from OTL history or borrows heavily from it (I feel like more footnotes would help illustrate this, but unfortunately I have little enough time as it is just to get out each update).

    I think Sicily will probably end up being the name, given what you guys have told me, although I haven't totally discarded the "United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily" yet - the reason being that (spoiler alert) this state was going to end up with Albania and part of Montenegro and Greek Epirus by the late 1700s, forming something along the lines of the "United Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, and Albania/Epirus/Illyria."

    I'm not sure about Northern Italy yet, however. I don't think it's totally unrealistic for a name like Lombardy to be chosen given how 19th century naming conventions for unprecedented or long disunited nation states were often chosen for their romantic appeal. 19th century nationalist romanticists (as 19th century nationalist romanticists are wont to do) in the north of Italy might identify with the Lombards of Late Antiquity as a means of delineating themselves from the peoples of the south, and the geographical definition of Lombardy might be extended beyond the corner it occupies in OTL modern day. That being said, "Padania/Padonia/Cispadania" is another viable choice. Also, maybe something like "Apennina/Appennina" for Central Italy?

    A website called www.draw.io - it's pretty intuitive, but unfortunately it's not specifically made for family trees so plotting the family tree and how I would space it out was still a bit tough.
  16. Rakhasa Well-Known Member

    Dec 8, 2008
    Or it could go weird. I do remember the background fluff of some timeline (now that I think on it, it may have been one of GURPS alternate worlds, it was a long time ago) where the Papal states survives, but one of the popes took the whole "give Caesar what belongs to Caesar" rather seriously and as a result the Vatican of that timeline was the creator of Constitutional democratic monarchies, with the Pope as a head of state but an elected secular prime minister.
  17. Tarabas Well-Known Member

    Aug 30, 2018
    As a native from Central Italy, I must admit that finding a name for a Central Italian State is a tough task. That would depend a lot on it boundaries, I would say. "Apennina/Appenninia" would make a lot of sense, especially from the geographic POV, although it sounds a bit weird. The only historical state I can think of was the jacobine Tiberine Republic (with capital in Perugia), but this would be really umbro-lazian centered. Depending on the circumstances, could we see perhaps a revival of the Duchy of Spoleto? It extended over large swathes of central-eastern Italy, and it has the same flavor of Lombardy. Although, this would not be that fitting if this state occupies Tuscany as well. Maybe some collateral branch of the Hapsburgs ending up as Grand Dukes of Tuscany and Dukes of Spoleto?
  18. isabella Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2012
    I will left Lazio as Papal State and put everything north of it in a Kingdom of Italy (but I have no idea of what dynasty will be the ruler of this kingdom: Sforza, Medici, Este, Gonzaga, Borgia if Caesar will be successful, Savoy, Farnese if they ever get Parma, someone else?) and the Kingdom of Sicily/Two Sicilies or United Kingdom of Naples and Sicily in its traditional lands... As capital of the Kingdom of Italy either the original seat of the ruler of the state or Milan or Florence...
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  19. Threadmarks: XXXVII. Between the Wild Fields and the Frozen Sea

    Torbald þegn

    Jan 27, 2010
    ~ Between the Wild Fields and the Frozen Sea ~

    Cossacks fighting Tatars

    The 16th century ushered in strange times for the north of the world. Some changes burst forth in anger and zealotry, with swords drawn and creeds rewritten, while others were more subtle: every year the summers were cooler than the last, and every year the ice on the rivers and coasts spread further and stayed longer. Despite the constricting cold that seemed to creep in more intrusively each year, the northerly states of Europe worked with more vigor than ever before, to both enrich themselves and to subdue their rivals, in the process assembling vast domains stretching over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers.

    The far north of Europe was now firmly riven in two, split between two monarchies bursting with dynamic energy and with endless aspirations of conquest and economic revitalization. As the 16th century unfolded, Sweden and Denmark would enter into their most relentless competition yet, striving to dominate their immediate neighbors as well as one another. Eastern Europe, once heavily fragmented, was now dominated by the three vast entities of Poland-Lithuania, Muscovy, and the Ottoman state. Naturally, these three would lock horns repeatedly over what scraps remained: the Poles and the Turks repeatedly vied for control over the Duchy of Moldavia, the Muscovites were locked in an endless cycle of raids with the Turkish puppet-khanate of the Crimea, the Poles and Muscovites could entertain no peace while each other sought the submission or liberation of Ruthenia, and all three were keen on taming the “Wild Fields” of the Pontic Steppe and establishing themselves more fully on the Black Sea.

    All the while society everywhere was in upheaval, with new religious ideas disseminating faster than they could be responded to by the existing Church order, whole populations displaced or put to the sword in the throes of full-blown cultural warfare, and the societal elite subjected to all manner of infighting and intrigue.

    - Det Stigande Nordlandet -

    After the Danes and Swedes laid down their arms in 1523, the next few decades in the Nordic countries were defined by the birthing pains of the Danish and Swedish royal churches. The Protestant movement in Northern Europe was a complete social revolution, striking a chord with every element of society from top to bottom. However, Protestantism had been borne on the back of certain intellectual and ideological currents, and the rejection or lack of relevance of said currents was the primary limiting factor in its spread. It cannot be denied that - with a few prominent exceptions - the earliest, loudest, and most numerous voices in the Protestant movement were coming from the unique theological atmosphere of Northern and Central Germany, and, as a consequence, chords were more often struck by Protestantism in communities with long exposure to German thought and culture.

    The reception of Protestantism in the lands of the Danish and Swedish monarchies is therefore markedly different from that within the Holy Roman Empire - with large portions of the populace eagerly embracing the teachings of Luther, Karlstadt, and Vinter, and with others making full-throated denunciations of such heresiarchs. The kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden would eventually come to be known as international defenders of Protestantism, but the initial imposition of Protestantism by their monarchies was met with bitter opposition from some, which often erupted into armed rebellion such as the Count’s Feud in Denmark or the Dacke Feud in Sweden. Even when the pro-Catholic uprisings were crushed, the establishment of a Protestant church was defied at the legislative level, as the voting bishops of both realms were enormously wealthy landowners who stood to lose the most if the Church’s hierarchy and land ownership were threatened. Christian III was eventually triumphant in nationalizing the Church of Denmark after years of internal warfare and with the convenience of Denmark’s close ties to Protestant Germany, and Gustav I convinced the Swedish Riksdag to accept his ecclesial reform after similar violent suppression and his threat to abdicate and thus plunge the realm into another civil war, but an uneasiness persisted into the latter half of the 16th century.

    After the Vinteran creed had been declared supreme, the monasteries had been dissolved, and the structure of the royal churches set up, little was done in the next few decades by the monarchs of Denmark and Sweden to transform their realms into thoroughly Protestant states. Catholics persisted in the rural areas of Jutland and the inland reaches of Norway for decades after the Vinteran church was established in Denmark, and the large popular uprisings Sweden experienced in Dalarna, Småland, Skaraborg, and Värmland were all motivated in part by the unpopularity of the repression of Catholicism. Similarly, even as the new churches of Denmark and Sweden continued to reform and shed more of their Catholic elements, there was always tension between the traditionalists and the radicals, especially with the injection of Protestant German refugees during and after the Schwarzkrieg.

    The theology, form, and ritual of the new Vinteran churches of Denmark and Sweden were more of a compromise between Protestant and Catholic sensibilities than an unfiltered realization of David Vinter’s actual teachings and preferences (a fact that irritated Vinter and many of his followers immensely). While there was a certain amount of house cleaning in regards to older Catholic trappings such as paid indulgences, saintly cults and relics, monasticism, and clerical celibacy, much of the Catholic liturgy (albeit with communion now received in both kinds) and iconography (albeit with less of it overall) remained. The insistence on maintaining the Catholic elements of the Nordic churches was as much a diplomatic choice as it was a theological or sentimental one: Denmark and Sweden found themselves relatively isolated in a still predominantly Catholic Europe, and it was therefore the more prudent option to ameliorate - or at least stabilize - relations with the Catholic powers. The kings of Sweden and Denmark no doubt still viewed themselves as partaking in the same Christian tradition as they always had - although with a new organization and some doctrinal peculiarities. This Catholic understanding of what was in theory supposed to be a roundly non-Catholic nation-state would allow a more flexible approach to the foreign and internal policy of Denmark and Sweden, influencing their alliances networks and eventually causing the two kingdoms to clash once again.

    The odds of peaceful coexistence were remarkably slim from the start. The first Vasa king of Sweden, Gustav I, was a national hero: the leader of the Swedish struggle for independence against Denmark and the subject of numerous (and primarily false) legends of wartime heroism. The immense respect owed to Gustav allowed him to mandate virtually unopposed in the manner he wished, which was compounded with his natural wit and ruthless treatment of enemies to make for 36 years of autocratic rule in which the Swedish realm was fundamentally transformed into a model nation-state. When he expired in 1559, Gustav had left behind a well-oiled bureaucratic machine in the place of what was once a thoroughly medieval kingdom on the fringe of Europe. However, the still-fragile state of Sweden would be imperiled by Gustav’s successor, Erik XIV. From an early age Erik was diligent, intelligent, and ambitious - much like his father - but he found himself faced with a set of crises in which his latent mental illness began to surface.

    The Two Eriks
    Erik XIV of Sweden and Erik VIII of Denmark

    Despite having secured his throne and the freedom of Sweden through a bloody contest with the Danes, Gustav had made a concerted effort to maintain peaceful relations with Denmark throughout his reign, pursuing a policy of detente after the war for independence and instead focusing on internal issues such as reforming the Swedish Church and government and suppressing a number of revolts. However, mutual non-interference between the two kingdoms simply could not be sustained so long as their geographical insecurities and disputes remained unsettled, and so long as there were ambitious men seated on their thrones and filling their parliaments.

    On one side, the Danish monarchy under the House of Oldenburg understandably still resented the loss of Sweden and wished to reassert themselves as the masters of the Nordic kingdoms. On the other side, the Swedish monarchy was finding it incredibly difficult to cope with the severe geographical limitations placed on Sweden and on its ability to prosper by its borders with Denmark. Despite possessing the longest unbroken stretch of Baltic coastline, the kingdom of Sweden was barred from fully participating in Baltic - or even oceanic - trade due to a lack of access to ports that were ice-free year-round, with the only viable conduit being a 20 kilometer stretch around Älvsborg fortress at the mouth of the Göta river - well within reach of Denmark’s center of power in Sjælland.

    By the time of Erik XIV’s accession it had become the prevailing opinion in the Riksdag that if Sweden was to be confined by her neighbors to the Baltic Sea, then she should do well to attain mastery over it. Ensuring Sweden’s survival by enhancing her military and economic resources through conquest and diplomacy was all the more urgent given the disposition of Christian III’s successor, the belligerent Erik VIII. Almost immediately after climbing the throne in 1558, Erik VIII showed his appetite for war by having his field marshal, the now elderly Johan Rantzau, subdue in a matter of weeks the peasants’ republic of Dithmarschen, which had repulsed an invasion in 1500 and humiliated the Danish crown. Erik VIII made no attempt to hide his ultimate objective from his rival, boldly choosing to bear the Swedish shield on his coat of arms. Erik XIV responded by adding the shields of Denmark and Norway to his.

    However the first blow would not be struck along the Danish border. While Erik XIV was more keen on aggressive expansion than his father, direct confrontation with Denmark was still undesirable as he was aware that Sweden could yet not go toe to toe with the Danish military without considerable risk. For this reason the developed ports of Livonia were exceptionally appealing to the Swedish monarchy for purposes of commerce, especially considering the only other apparent option was the acquisition of Scania, which would require forcibly severing it from Denmark. However, Swedish interest in Livonia was still a threat to the ambitions of Erik VIII, who viewed the region - especially Estonia - as within Denmark’s traditional zone of influence. Due to the tolls collected at the Øresund (which controlled all maritime traffic between the Baltic and North Seas), the Danish monarchy was one of the richest in Europe, and possessed the necessary buying power to relieve landholders in the Livonian Confederation of their holdings. Such was the case with Johannes V von Münchhausen, bishop of Ösel–Wiek, who was bought out by Erik VIII for 30,000 thalers in 1558.

    Despite mounting tensions, the two Eriks were still unwilling to break the tentative neutrality between their realms until they were forced to respond to a call to arms from their respective allies in Pomerania-Prussia and Poland-Lithuania. The previously mentioned amalgamous Catholic-Protestantism of the Nordic monarchies was much more conspicuous in Sweden than in the more German-influenced kingdom of Denmark, and efforts were made by the Vasa monarchs after Gustav I to turn back the clock on Sweden’s religious arrangement. Despite mounting tensions, the two Eriks were still unwilling to break the tentative neutrality between their realms until they were forced to respond to a call to arms from their respective allies in Pomerania-Prussia and Poland-Lithuania.

    - Aurea Libertas -

    Coat of arms of Sigismund II Jagiellon

    To the Polish monarchy, for Prussia to go from being a largely neutered entity finally dominated by Poland to being a possession of a foreign prince and constituent of a large and threatening coalition was an objectionable development, to say the least. According to the terms of the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466, the lands of the Teutonic Order in Prussia were a fief under the Polish crown, and, as such, the 1530 expulsion of the Teutonic knights from Prussia under Barnim XI constituted an attack on Sigismund I’s vassals. Although Barnim assured Sigismund I that he would maintain Prussia’s submission to the Polish crown, the close association of the Pomeranian duke to Poland’s rival Denmark and his vigorous promotion of Vinteran Protestantism in his domains, as well as the pincer-like arrangement of Pomerania-Prussia around Poland’s Baltic coast all made future confrontation a foregone conclusion. Although Pomerania-Prussia was spared such a confrontation for some time by Sigismund I’s death in 1532 and the regency of his twelve year old son Sigismund II, the majority of Sigismund II - a man of equal talent to his father - in 1539 ensured that a demand for redress from the Polish crown was imminent. But this confrontation would continue to be delayed. While negotiations between Barnim XI and Sigismund II were undertaken in 1543 and a brief war would flare up in 1557, neither provided any solution agreeable to both sides and most of Sigismund II’s energies were occupied by his involvement in the 20 Years’ War and by strife within Poland-Lithuania.

    Uncertainty and agitation were brewing in Sigismund II’s realm much the same as everywhere else, but with added peculiarities that served to create different challenges. The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - bound together in a personal union under the Jagiellon dynasty - constituted perhaps the most culturally and religiously diverse state in 16th century Europe. The Protestant movement had effected significant changes in Poland and Lithuania, where religious liberty had a long and storied past. Even before the Luther and Karlstadt first voiced their grievances in 1515, Poland-Lithuania was a multicultural conglomerate: the urban centers were primarily dominated by populations of German-speakers and Ashkenazi Jews, and Orthodox Ruthenians made up a larger portion of the peasant masses than the Catholic Poles or Lithuanians. It had been long understood that it was imperative to treat religion with a delicate touch in order to maintain peace and political cohesion between these groups.

    Protestantism - both radical and mainline - remained a primarily German affair within Poland-Lithuania for much of the first half of the 16th century, flourishing mostly where German-speaking urbanites could be found. However, Neo-Lutheranism (known simply as the “Reformed Church” by its adherents in Poland-Lithuania) in particular had seen much more success amongst members of the Polish and Lithuanian nobility - the szlachta - than the more established sects of Meyer and Vinter, partially due to Neo-Lutheranism not having the same off-putting Germanic flavor. However, the real advantage of Neo-Lutheran teachings over the Meyeran and Vinteran creeds was in its opinion on royal and ecclesial authority: while Meyer and Vinter both upheld the divinely-ordained nature of kingship, the necessity of obedience to the state, and a hierarchy of bishops appointed either by other bishops or by the king, the works of Chemnitz and Spangenberg argued that subservience to any earthly authority was totally conditional on that authority’s uprightness, and that church leaders should be elected by the laity they were to shepherd. This was exceptionally appealing to an aristocracy that gagged at the thought of increased subordination to the crown, and that also desired to further control every aspect of life for those it lorded over.

    As was the case in the other emerging powers of contemporary Europe, contention between the crown and the nobility in Poland-Lithuania had been mounting over the decades. However, the Polish-Lithuanian szlachta had no equals in Europe when it came to the influence they held over the monarchy and state, having accumulated so many rights and privileges by the reign of Sigismund II that they had become the virtually unassailable masters of the realm. What was more, the szlachta were fast becoming the richest of the European nobilities, something primarily owed to the ongoing price revolution: as precious metals flooded Europe in the 16th century, the prices of basic commodities such as wheat (which grew prodigiously in much of Poland-Lithuania’s territories) skyrocketed. The easy money of landholding in a realm containing some of the most fertile land in the world - combined with the culture of religious and cultural tolerance and the extent of aristocratic liberties - meant that while the nobilities of Central and Western Europe were busy massacring one another whilst going bankrupt, the szlachta had learned to live together in relative harmony and had the means to bask in the delights of 16th century Europe. This lent a good deal of stability to the Polish-Lithuanian state, but also made certain actions impossible if the szlachta disapproved. For instance, according to the 1505 decree of "Nihil novi nisi commune consensu" ("Nothing new without the common consent"), any new legislation not pertaining to matters of crown lands, royal cities, royal peasants, mines, and the Jews was prohibited unless it received the unanimous approval of the szlachta in the Polish Senate and Chamber of Deputies. This concrete immovability was made painfully obvious for Sigismund II in the late 1540s.

    When Maria von Hapsburg, daughter of Charles V and Sigismund II’s first wife (marriage to whom was the leading motive for Polish intervention in the Schwarzkrieg), had died in 1545 at the age of 21, the 24 year old Sigismund II had suddenly become one of Europe’s leading bachelors. The leading nobles of the realm were eager to see their young king remarried to candidate of their choosing, yet Sigismund II refrained from considering any proposals for three years. This was somewhat frustrating for the nobility, although it was understood that the king was more than likely allowing himself a proper mourning period, something which proved not to be the case when Sigismund II immediately presented his chosen bride immediately following the death of his mother, Bona Sforza, in 1547. This woman was Barbara of the house Radziwiłł (Radvila in their native Lithuanian, an enormously powerful family amongst the szlachta), daughter of Jerzy Radziwiłł, the Grand Hetman of Lithuania. Sigismund II had fallen in love with Barbara while still married to Maria, and had waited patiently until the immediate obstacles had been removed before following his heart. The consequences of this love match were immediate and mostly negative, with the chief issues being two-sided.

    Barbara and Sigismund

    Firstly, Sigismund II had already married Barbara in secret in 1546, without the approval of his privy council, the Polish Senate, and against the direct disapproval of the now-deceased queen mother. Barbara was considered an objectionable choice by almost everyone for a plethora of reasons - with some citing the open secret of her and Sigismund II’s illicit affair, while others advanced theories of Barbara being a witch and a serial seductress. Such complaints were usually outlandish and certainly unfounded, but were encouraged by the szlachta, representing a concerted pushback on their part to reassert their authority over their king in all matters - even his choice of spouse.

    Secondly, Barbara's brother Mikołaj “Rudy” ("the Red") and her cousin Mikołaj “Czarny” (“the Black”) had - like so many others amongst the szlachta - both been associated with the Protestant Neo-Lutherans even before the sect’s official split from the Old Lutherans in 1562 with the Proclamation of Herstal, after which the two Radziwiłłs were open practitioners of the Neo-Lutheran creed and promoted it throughout the Grand Duchy by funding Neo-Lutheran schools and the printing and dissemination of Neo-Lutheran works such as the Nordhausen Centuries. Given the acceptance of Protestant thought amongst the Polish-Lithuanian upper class, this close association of fervent Protestantism with the monarchy was not nearly as concerning to most of the szlachta as was Sigismund II’s failure to request their permission to marry. Much like in France or the Netherlands, Protestantism had proven to be disproportionately more popular with the nobility than with the lower classes - so much so that by the mid-16th century Protestant nobles in the parliament - or Sejm - outnumbered both their Catholic and Eastern Orthodox counterparts.

    However, the Protestant szlachta did not hold an absolute monopoly on power within Poland-Lithuania and their opinion was certainly not the only one that held substantial clout. The Catholic element of Polish and Lithuanian society - whether amongst the clergy, the commoners, or the nobility - hitherto had been quiet about the emergence of Protestantism and ambivalent in its regard for the Protestant element with which it shared a country. In any other Catholic monarchy, such a changing equilibrium of power brought on by Protestantism would have fairly quickly led to a religiously motivated civil war or coup of sorts. While the growth of Polish-Lithuanian Protestantism and the relatively sudden Protestant majority in the Sejm would not lead to such difficulties during the reign of Sigismund II, the situation would cause the Catholic power bloc in Poland-Lithuania to gradually grow less comfortable as Protestant factions further encroached into the Sejm and now into the royal family. The hostility in this Protestant-Catholic divide was brought to the fore by the Sejm of 1554, wherein the Catholic bishops attempted to introduce restrictions on heresy and the Protestant szlachta countered with demands for the toleration of bibles and services in the vernacular and for the instatement of a national church.

    Having already fallen out of good graces with the szlachta due to his marriage to Barbara Radziwiłł, Sigismund II spent the later 1540s and most of the 1550s attempting to finagle around the gridlock offered in the Sejm, while the szlachta teetered on the edge of open revolt. Sigismund II was in no position during this period to seek support for an invasion of Prussia, especially considering that it was likely it would not be surrendered to the szlachta as the spoils of war but would instead be organized as a part of Royal Prussia and kept directly subordinate to the crown. Likewise, the szlachta - while a distinctly martial class - were for some reason disinclined to contribute very much at all to the defense of the Polish-Lithuanian union, and more or less expected the crown to shoulder the cost of any and all military projects. The szlachta could occasionally be expected to muster alongside the king when there was a significant external threat, but even then were known to offer intransigence, as when they nearly took up arms against Sigismund I when he became insistent on their contributing towards the construction of border forts to halt the expansion of the Ottoman Turks.

    With a resolution to the “Prussian Crisis” mired by the Sejm’s non-cooperation, Sigismund II bided his time and built up ties outward, reaching out to Sweden and the Livonian Order in particular. Little progress was made with the Swedish king Erik XIV, who still considered Poland-Lithuania to be another competitor for influence in the Baltic (despite being at war with their common Russian enemy from 1554), but the increasingly precarious situation in Livonia - especially in the face of the surging might of the new Tsardom of Russia - allowed a favorable agreement to be reached in the 1557 Treaty of Pozvol, which placed the territories of the Livonian Order under the protection of the Jagiellonian monarchy pro tempore. Ivan IV, the “Tsar of all Rus” since 1547, declared this treaty to be an act of provocation aimed at eliminating Russian influence in Livonia and excluding Russia from the Baltic entirely. In January of 1558, Russian troops spilled over the Livonian border.

    The Russian invasion provided Sigismund II with an amply threatening foe to galvanize the Sejm into military action. The szlachta were also intrigued by the commercial opportunities offered: the real prize was the city of Riga, the largest and richest Livonian port which also commanded the mouth of the Daugava, a river stretching inland all the way to the Valdai Hills. Control of Livonia and access to the Gulf of Riga was therefore much more tantalizing than control of Prussia, which was considered unnecessary so long as Danzig was secure. Additionally, the Protestant szlachta realized that they had a vested interest in war in the Baltic: the potential annexation of Prussia and Livonia meant not only more lands to be dispensed but also more Protestant subjects to tip the scales in the Sejm in particular and in terms of overall demographics in general. Using a Russo-Danish non-aggression pact signed in 1556 and the Danish purchase of Ösel–Wiek in 1558 as casus belli, Sigismund II simultaneously declared war on Denmark and issued his terms to Duke Barnim, demanding he dissolve the personal union uniting his domains and relinquish control of Prussia to either the Teutonic Knights or the Polish Crown. The timing was ideal: Denmark had become tied up in a war against England on behalf of Scotland’s pro-Danish Hamilton dynasty, and the Hapsburgs had overcome their adversaries in France and within the Empire - shattering the military might of Protestantism in much of Northern Europe and installing a new margrave in Brandenburg with marital ties to Sigismund II, thus leaving Pomerania-Prussia in a much less comfortable position vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors.

    - Dominium Maris Baltici -


    The motley of bishoprics, free cities, and military order lands that comprised the “Terra Mariana” of Old Livonia was once a constituent of the greater Teutonic Ordensstaat until the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, where what remained of the military might of the Teutonic Knights was shattered by a combined, vengeful Polish-Lithuanian army. In the aftermath of Grunwald, the shaky Livonian Confederation persisted, forming a Diet (Landtag) in 1419 to resolve its internal differences, all the while its increasingly formidable neighbors paced along its poorly defended borders.

    Many of the circumstances leading to the outbreak of war in Livonia were initiated by a previous master of the Livonian Order by the name of Wolter von Plettenberg. In his 40 year tenure from 1494 to 1535, Plettenberg saw relations with the emergent Russian state deteriorate, successfully repulsing the much larger invading forces of the Muscovites while allying the order with the Grand Duke of Lithuania, bringing Livonia into the Jagiellonian orbit. Although Plettenberg had supported the growing number of Protestants in Livonia in the hopes that they might force the Archbishop of Riga to submit to him, Plettenberg refused to embrace Protestantism himself and secularize the lands of the order as Barnim XI had done in Prussia, instead choosing to offer his vassalage to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. The emperor accepted the offer, but could do little to extend his authority or protection over the region while he struggled with discord and civil war within the borders of the Empire proper.

    Adding to Livonia's insecurities was the fact that, by the start of the 16th century, the once powerful Hanseatic League - or Hansa - had officially entered into an irreversible decline - especially as the Danes and English began to build up their centralized nation-states and the wealthy Dutch began purchasing the services of vast, technologically advanced mercenary fleets. In this changing environment the military capabilities of the cities of the Hanseatic League could no longer compete as ably as they once had, and the league cities in the further Baltic - such as Riga, Reval, and Narva - could no longer be offered sufficient protection by their westerly affiliates. The weakening of the Hanseatic League had thus left a vacuum in the Baltic that many states were eager to fill in whichever way they could. The allotment of Eastern Europe into the two spheres of Russia and Poland-Lithuania and the transformation of Denmark and Sweden into efficient, rival nation-states had left noticeably less elbow room in the Baltic, and these four chief powers now entered into fierce competition over the absorption of the remaining marginal and waning statelets of the region. For Sweden the Hanseatic League had been considered an ally (especially against Danish interests) ever since the Hanseatic cities of Lübeck and Hamburg had supported Gustav Vasa in his struggle to secure the throne. Consequently, the Hansa’s faltering strength intensified Swedish interest in acquiring Livonia as security against the impending disappearance of friendly Baltic ports.

    Thus by the mid 16th century Livonia was entangled in irremediable hostilities with Russia while Protestantism had been allowed to spread prodigiously. There was as yet no formal prohibition on Protestants becoming or remaining members of the Livonian Order, and by the early 1550s the order’s membership was nearly split between Catholics and Protestants. The remaining Catholic knights of the Livonian Order still held the majority, however, and were responsible for officially ending the connection to their brethren in Prussia once the new Protestant Grandmaster, Barnim of Pomerania, publicly declared his support for Vinteran Protestantism and attempted to enforce his jurisdiction - alongside his new creed - over Livonia.

    Fragile but wealthy Livonia thus became the eye of the vast maelstrom of unresolved geopolitical rivalries boiling up around it in every direction, and a violent, multinational war for the region became an inevitability. When the imminence of a Russian invasion was realized in early 1557, both Erik VIII of Denmark and Erik XIV of Sweden issued proclamations declaring their guardianship over the Livonian Order. For a Protestant ruler to make such an offer to a Catholic military order while interconfessional violence tore through Europe might seem strange in retrospect, but the two Eriks saw themselves as no less Catholic than any of the knights they swore to protect.

    Livonia, c. 1530

    The Catholic majority in the Livonian Order, however, saw it differently, and had no desire to entrust their protection to a Protestant kingdom, and in 1557 their voting bloc in the Landtag pushed for the defensive pact with Poland-Lithuania. However, the deciding vote of the Catholic bloc obscured the declining overall influence of Catholicism in Livonia. The large German-speaking burgher class and landed gentry had greatly abetted the spread of Protestantism, and virtually the only self-professed Catholics left in Livonia by 1557 were the greater portion of the Livonian brothers, a handful of bishops, and the native Balt peasantry. Although a committed resistance kept the fortresses of Reval, Pernau, and Wesenberg out of Russian hands, the Order’s leadership was obliterated at the Battle of Törwa in early 1560, and in the chaos that followed the magnates, landholders, and churchmen of the Livonian Confederation carved out what they could and appealed to the different intervening powers for protection. The secularization of Order lands - so long defied by much of the old leadership - now proceeded with dizzying speed as many of the surviving knights openly declared their Protestant beliefs, with the Order’s own Landmeister, Gotthard Kettler, declaring a new duchy over Courland, Semigallia, and Lettgallia and offering his vassalage to Sigismund II.

    Meanwhile, across the Baltic, Erik XIV had declared war on Denmark in 1559, hoping to capitalize on their war with Poland-Lithuania. Under Gustav Vasa and his reservist programs, Sweden had raised the first native standing army in Europe, with one out of ten of its peasants required to drill regularly and liable for military service during wartime. However, Sweden’s reformed army was still no match for the more experienced and better-equipped mercenaries that the Danish monarchy could afford to recruit. Erik XIV’s initial push into Scania was a complete failure, and he was forced to withdraw in mid 1560 while the Danes put Älvsborg to siege. Luckily for the Swedes, by mid 1561 Erik VIII’s pockets were no longer quite as full as he would have hoped, and much of the Danish mercenary army refused to march until payment was made. Further, under the leadership of the capable Jakob Bagge and Klas Horn the Swedish navy had scored a number of significant victories over the Danish in the Baltic. Erik XIV renewed his southward and westward push, sacking Ronneby, capturing Hamar, relieving Älvsborg, and besieging the fortresses of Bohus and Varberg.

    This improvement in Sweden’s fortunes ground to a halt, however, when Erik XIV’s tottering mental stability suddenly took a nosedive under the successive stresses of the war, and by 1562 he had become markedly more paranoid towards the nobles of the realm and other men of promise and importance - principally the influential Sture family. The paralyzed Swedish war effort allowed Erik VIII to regain the initiative, and by early 1563 he had reversed nearly all of his opponent’s gains. In the midst of potentially ruinous levels of court intrigue, Erik XIV personally led an army to intercept a Danish force en route to Varberg - the only captured city still in Swedish hands - but ended up being cut down on the field of battle at Falkenberg.

    The death of a king in wartime is, in most cases, an unmitigated disaster for the realm. However, in the case of Erik XIV’s death at Falkenberg, the kingdom of Sweden had been spared a number of immediate and future difficulties. The late king had simply become too volatile to earn the trust and and assistance of Sweden’s powerful nobility, and, for all his talents, was too headstrong to admit only through friendly cooperation with Poland-Lithuania could Sweden’s geopolitical enemies be counterbalanced. Erik XIV’s replacement, his younger brother Johan (now Johan III), was able to ameliorate the crisis developing between the monarchy and nobility with promises of lenience and royal protection of their privileges, and also served to redirect Swedish interests in a more useful direction: eastwards.

    Johan III of Sweden

    The war with Denmark continued, but was now conducted in tandem with Poland-Lithuania. Johan III - having been of equal ambition to his brother - had secured the hand of Sigismund II’s sister, Catherine, in 1562, and his unexpected accession to the throne (having formerly been under house arrest at the behest of the paranoid Erik XIV) therefore carried with it the implication of a partnership between the houses of Vasa and Jagiellon. Johann III was so intent on currying favor between Sweden and Poland-Lithuania, in fact, that he reintroduced many Catholic elements into the Swedish church and its liturgy through the publication of his “Liturgia Svecanæ Ecclesiæ catholicæ & orthodoxæ conformia” - more commonly known as the “Red Book” (“Röda boken”) - which would precipitate a long and heated struggle between the king’s traditionalists and the more hardline Protestants.

    Additionally, Swedish field armies were beginning to perform better against their Danish counterparts, with Johan III handily repulsing a Danish invasion of Västergötland at Sandared in early 1564. As the conclusion of the Schwarzkrieg (and the eruption of religious warfare elsewhere) had brought waves of Protestant migrants to the Nordic countries, the Danish and Swedish monarchies now had access to a pool of experienced commanders that brought with them all the innovations in warfare accumulated in Western and Central Europe over the previous half-century. As Denmark was the richer and more geographically immediate option, the Danish military absorbed the majority of this talent, modernizing its land forces with the landsknecht-style drills and tactics employed by the Danish generals Daniel Rantzau (a distant relative of Johan Rantzau) and Pontus de la Gardie (originally from France). However, there were some that slipped through the cracks and ended up in the service of Sweden, such as Ulrich von Hutten, a former Imperial knight whose services were purchased by Erik XIV in 1554 with the offer of two baronies in Åby and Rörvik. The disparity in organization and know-how between the Danish and Swedish armies was therefore fast disappearing, and the Swedish military was quickly learning valuable lessons that it would use to its advantage against less-prepared foes in the near future.

    As anxious as Sigismund II was to gain control of Prussia and Livonia and to secure greater hegemony in the Baltic, Poland-Lithuania - as a mostly combined apparatus - was not prepared for war in 1558. While Sigismund II personally defeated Duke Barnim’s army at Ostroda in 1560 and broke a combined Danish-Pomeranian army at Stolp in 1561, the Polish war machine was being ground down against the renovated and expanded Teutonic fortifications which Barnim XI had spent decades pouring his wealth into, while the superiority of the Danish and Pomeranian navies allowed the besieged to be resupplied by sea. The greater concern, however, was Ivan IV’s Russia.

    - Russkoye Sodruzhestvo -

    The union of the Russian state under Muscovy was the Resurrection to the Russian people’s Passion Cycle. Centuries of division under the appanage principalities and of oppression under the Mongol yoke sharpened the sense of Russian nationhood, culminating in a rapid “gathering” of Rus lands under Grand Prince Ivan III of Muscovy and a robust current of patriotic feeling that clamored for all of Orthodox Slavdom to be made one. This heady aura surrounding the sacred Muscovite monarchy was perhaps at its greatest peak during the early reign of Ivan III’s grandson, Ivan IV. The young tsar exuded authority, commanding an awe-inspiring - and often frightening - presence. His military victories over the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan in 1552 and 1556, respectively, and over other faded remnants of the once fearsome Golden Horde had bought him respect at home and abroad, and - more importantly - had opened new trade routes and stabilized the long-volatile frontier to the south and east.

    Ivan IV
    Tsar of All Rus'

    Lithuania had become less and less able to contend with the burgeoning Russian state since the turn of the 16th century, and it sustained numerous defeats at the hands of the Muscovites until the intervention of its Polish and Livonian allies. Ivan IV’s massive tsardom was an entirely different animal from the old Muscovite Principality, and the vulnerability of Lithuania was felt much more acutely than before. In keeping with the continued policy of “gathering” the lands of the Rus, Ivan IV hoped that by forcing Lithuania into a war over Livonia he might finally restore the historically symbolic city of Kiev to proper Orthodox rule.

    Adding to the insecurity of Lithuania’s grasp on Kiev and its surroundings was an increasingly shaky hold on the cossacks, a nebulous, primarily Slavic group of uncertain origins existing primarily in the Pontic Steppe. While some cossacks were the descendants of Slavs who had been living on the steppe for hundreds of years, many others were migrants from Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania, from whence they had fled to escape the bonds of serfdom. The Zaporozhian Sich - a cossack host subject to the Polish-Lithuanian monarchy - had a friendly enough relationship with the house of Jagiellon, but their fiercely autonomous way of life frequently put them at odds with the domineering Lithuanian szlachta, and attempts to place them into a fully sedentary lifestyle and thus more firmly place them under the thumb of the nobility had often led to violent uprisings.

    Most of the Lithuanian szlachta did not want to forfeit Ruthenia and most certainly did not want to be subjugated by Ivan IV, who was notoriously ill-disposed towards the landed aristocracy. Military assistance was desperately needed from Poland, but the Polish szlachta were uninterested in extending such aid without something in return: the establishment of a real union between Poland and Lithuania, opening up the riches of Lithuania’s vast tracts of Chernozem farmland to Polish imposition. For the proudly independent Lithuanian aristocracy, such a union represented the nuclear option. The majority of Poland-Lithuania’s Eastern Orthodox nobles were concentrated within Lithuania’s borders, and while the Jagiellons were impressively tolerant of their Orthodox subjects, the cultural and religious bonds between this population and the hostile Russian state had become a source of unease. So long as the house of Jagiellon was prevented from binding its Polish and Lithuanian crowns - and thus using the Polish resources to ensure Lithuania’s territorial integrity - there was a heightened risk of losing the Ruthenian nobility to the Tsar. This risk had been made clear and present by the rebellion of Mikhail Glinski in 1508, wherein Glinski (an Orthodox noble) took up arms against Sigismund I - citing an affront from the crown - and swore allegiance to the Grand Prince of Moscow in the midst of the third Muscovite-Lithuanian war.

    A stronger union between Poland and Lithuania suited Sigismund II’s aspirations, but his early attempts to get the Lithuanian parliament - the Seimas - to consider uniting their government with that of Poland were all rebuffed. The closest the Polish-Lithuanian union came to being strengthened during this period came in 1563, when the Seimas agreed to call a special session on the matter after Ivan IV captured the city of Polotsk, but a Lithuanian victory at Chashniki two months later removed the sense of urgency and the matter was shelved indefinitely.

    Following the failure of the 1563-1564 Seimas, Russian conquest of the greater part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania seemed a foregone conclusion. In 1562, Ivan IV had been able to conclude a truce with the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, allowing for their destructive capabilities to be channeled solely towards Lithuania, and by the latter half of the 1560s the Crimean raids were beginning to critically weaken the Lithuanian position around Kiev. While the Russian advance was turned back in the northeast with a defeat at Vitebsk in 1567, the very same year Ivan IV took advantage of a massive uprising in Danzig (sponsored directly by Duke Barnim of Pomerania-Prussia) and an army under Ivan Golitsyn was able to capture the city of Nizhyn and defeat the Lithuanians at Kozelets, leaving Kiev open to a siege. Golitsyn would withdraw in early 1568 after Sigismund II secured a three-year ceasefire from Ivan IV, but the growing weakness of Lithuania’s defenses had been made clear.

    All hope was not yet lost for the House of Jagiellon, however, and the Tsardom of Russia - while imposing - was not invincible. With Swedish armies encountering minimal success on land and Danish fleets unable to deliver a decisive setback to the Swedes at sea, Johann III and Erik VIII were beginning to recognize the futility of continuing their war while it ate away at their treasuries and suffocated Baltic commerce, and signed a two-year truce in 1565 along with Sigismund II, Barnim XI, and the bürgermeister of Lübeck, Christoph Tode.

    After this two-year truce expired in 1567, none of the signatories were interested in renewing the conflict except Sigismund II, who was emboldened by the withdrawal of Russian forces from Kiev and - using the Pomeranian-funded revolt in Danzig as a pretext - invaded Prussia. After decimating Barnim XI’s army once more at Wehlau in 1569, Erik VIII - growing nervous over the survival of his Pomeranian-Prussian protectorate - requested an audience with Sigismund II and Barnim XI at Köslin. With the threat to Sigismund II of intervening on the behalf of the rebellious Meyeran commune that had established itself in Danzig, and a threat to Barnim XI of abandoning the duke to fight the Poles alone, Erik VIII was able to convince both parties to allow Danish emissaries to arbitrate peace talks.

    Both sides were ready for peace: despite the extensive diversion of their treasuries towards defensive expenditures, neither Barnim XI nor Erik VIII could muster the strength to expel the Poles from their occupied territories and were prepared to make concessions in order to prevent losing Prussia entirely, and Sigismund II was willing to walk away with a smaller piece of the pie than he had originally intended so as to turn his attention once more to Lithuania and Russia. In the 1569 Treaty of Köslin Sigismund II forced the cession and incorporation of the Masurian uplands and everything north of the river Neman into Poland and Lithuania, respectively, in exchange for a 15 year truce.

    Meanwhile, the war for Livonia had dragged on for two decades - albeit punctuated by numerous ceasefires - with Russia dominating the region up to the Daugava while Sweden had taking most of Estonia following an agreement with Ivan IV. Sigismund II was determined not to see a repeat of 1567, and moved to conciliate his Polish and Lithuanian subjects in such a way that would ease the passage of a more united state and allow him to bring the facets of both to bear on Poland-Lithuania’s enemies - specifically Russia. The sight of hundreds of Russian banners outside the walls of Kiev had sufficiently terrified the Lithuanian szlachta and presented them with a vivid foretaste of what might come should Lithuania attempt to stand on its own, and the conclusion of Poland’s war with Denmark and Pomerania-Prussia had soothed Lithuanian fears of being used as a military asset for Poland’s adventures in Central Europe. A temporary compact was agreed upon by the Seimas at Równe that offered up Lithuania's separation from Poland as well as all Lithuanian land south of the Polesian marshes as collateral should Poland be able to prevent any loss of Lithuanian territory - a promise that would be fulfilled and rewarded with complete political union at the Sejm/Seimas of Grodno in 1572.

    Sigismund II needed to do very little from this point to ensure the turning of tables against Ivan IV. While the invading Russians were initially greeted by the Livonian Balts as liberators, their cooperation was quickly lost as the Russian occupation became marked by a particular ruthlessness, with large numbers of captives tortured and killed on the orders of Shaghali, the khan of Qasim and Ivan IV’s vassal. Further disruption to Russian progress in Livonia came when Ivan IV opted to end his arrangement with Sweden in favor Erik VIII of Denmark’s brother, Magnus, who coordinated an assault on Swedish Estonia from his stronghold on the isle of Ösel with his Russian allies beginning in early 1565.

    The Swedish garrisons in Reval, Wesenberg, and Narva were vastly outnumbered by their Russo-Danish opponents and were almost wiped out completely, but the timing of Magnus and Ivan IV’s plot was unfortuitous. Across the Baltic, Erik VIII abandoned his ambitious brother out of eagerness for peace with Johan III several months later, and Ivan IV decided to divert many of his troops in Livonia southwards once he sensed an opportunity to take Kiev in 1567. Sigismund II further incentivized Johan III by offering his brother in law the bishoprics of Dorpat and Riga (provided he could take them), both of which had been secularized by Meyeran bishops during the early stages of the first Russian invasion. Peace with Denmark meanwhile freed up thousands of Swedish troops for deployment to Estonia, and the lessons the Swedish army had learned from its Polish and German advisors and from its encounters with Danish forces had effected a serious difference in competence between the compact, well-trained, and highly mobile Swedish forces and the sprawling, lumbering Russian forces. The most marked displays of this came in 1569, when a 3,000 Swedes held Narva against a besieging Russian army more than 12 times its size, and when a Swedish army of 7,000 obliterated a force of 21,000 Russians at Dorpat 4 months later. The Russian presence in Livonia proper had not been ended with these defeats, but its ability to effectively project the will of the Tsar was no more.

    The Battle of Dorpat, 1569

    The Compact of Równe also made waves very quickly. When a Crimean army encountered and was routed by Polish hussars fighting alongside Lithuanian cavalry at Vinnytsia in 1570, the khan, Devlet I Giray, could tell which way the winds were blowing, and began planning in secret to betray his nominal Russian allies and claim the former territories of the Golden Horde. In truth, Ivan IV’s temporary alliance with the Crimean Khanate was an anomaly in the near-constant struggle between the Orthodox Rus and Muslim Tatars over control of the Pontic Steppe, which had already lasted hundreds of years and now gained a more complicated dimension with the intervention of the Ottoman sultans on behalf of the Crimean khans.

    After conquering the the Greek Principality of Theodoro and the Genoese colonies at Cembalo, Soldaia, and Caffa in 1475, the High Porte could manage the affairs of the Crimean Khanate more directly, effectively turning the khanate into a protectorate and beginning a long and mutually beneficial relationship between the two peoples. While the Crimean Tatars secured the northern frontiers of the Black Sea and delivered tens of thousands of Slavic slaves to Konstantiniyye, the Ottoman Turks provided them with firearms and both religious and secular teachers, as well as funds for the construction of fortifications, palaces, and port facilities. Greatly strengthened by the Ottoman Sultan’s investment, the Crimean Khanate now possessed the capabilities to strike at their old enemy to the north and possibly liberate the subjugated Tatars of Kazan and Astrakhan - where a brutal turf war had developed between the Tatars and the Russian settlers in the absence of most of the Tsar’s armies.

    Under the khans Mehmed, Sahib I, and the latter’s son Devlet I, massive raids penetrating as many as 200 kilometers into Russia were conducted in 1517, 1521, 1537, 1552, and 1555. Devlet I now organized the largest raid by far - his combined host numbering greater than 100,000 - and in early 1571 penetrated the Tsar’s lowered defenses along the Muravsky Trail (wiping out a 6,000 man garrison in the process) and headed straight for Moscow. While unable to take the city, the devastation inflicted in the Russian heartland was immense, and much of Moscow was burned to the ground. While Russian forces were tied up in Livonia, Ioffredo Bestagno, a Genoese chronicler in Ivan IV’s retinue, wrote that the Tsar had hoped to secure a massive ransom from Konstantiniyye by capturing the Crimean Khan and his sons, “but upon witnessing the destruction wrought on his imperial city of Moscow and on the surrounding territory, he was taken by a great sadness, and then by a great rage, so that he gave the order that no quarter was to be given to the Tatars.” Ivan IV ordered the abandonment of Livonia or the moment, pooling what remaining troops he had in the region in Pskov before ordering them south.

    Conscious of the Tsar’s preoccupation with the war in Livonia, in 1572 Devlet organized a new, larger campaign as quickly as possible in order to repeat the previous year’s success and possibly sack Moscow as well. Moving north with an army perhaps 60,000 strong, Devlet was greeted by roughly 25,000 Russians near the city of Kaluga on July 15th. The battle of Kaluga was quite unlike previous encounters between the Rus and the Tatars, revealing a great deal of adaptation and innovation amongst the Russians to counter the Tatars’ fearsome but unchanging tactics. Exceptional attention was paid beforehand by Ivan IV’s commander Mikhail Vorotynsky to the location and circumstances of the battle, choosing to confront Devlet at an exact spot along the Oka River where the immediate environs were heavily wooded. Between the dense forest and the riverbanks, the Tatars were forced to engage their enemy in very close quarters, rendering their infamous skill in horseback archery virtually useless. Likewise, although the battle was primarily fought with sabers and spears, before departing the smoking remains of the Kremlin Vorotynsky made sure to procure gunpowder artillery, which he was able to field against the Tatars to terrible effect.

    Accepting that he had been properly rebuffed, Devlet sounded a retreat and moved his army southwards. Vorotynsky allowed his enemy to cross the Oka, as he had already given orders to fortify Odoyev to the south in the event of a Crimean retreat, and Devlet’s host found itself pushed on all sides towards the city. Vorotynsky’s massive trap was successfully sprung, and the Russian army met the Crimeans to the north of the swelling waters of the Upa River. As the Tatars were coping with exhaustion and despair, the Russians were exhilarated by the sorry state of their foes, and broke Devlet’s army against the banks of the Upa. The butcher that followed lasted several days as the routed Tatars scrambled for the nearest suitable ford, with Devlet himself and his son Mehmed counted amongst the dead. In total, an estimated 35,000 to 45,000 Tatars as well as 2,000 Turkish Janissaries were killed or captured between the battles of Kaluga and Odoyev. The aftermath of the 1572 was a disaster for the Crimean Khanate. The son of Devlet I most malleable to Ottoman interests, İslâm, was supported by the High Porte but was deeply unpopular with the native beys of the realm, who viewed him as a recluse and a pawn. The dispute over the succession erupted into an armed conflict lasting three years, which saw the Ottoman faction victorious (thanks in no small part to the vast military resources of the Ottoman Empire) and the realm left to wrack and ruin.

    Ivan IV also had little to gain personally from this great victory beyond the sending of a clear message to the Turks and Tatars. The Cossacks, on the other hand, were now poised to dominate the Pontic Steppe and were given the political means to do so, finally gaining recognition and unconditional support during the reign of Ivan IV, who - realizing the precariousness of the Russian Tsardom’s new borders southeastern borders and needing to focus his own resources on Livonia - elevated the various cossack hetmans to direct vassalage under the tsar, giving them more autonomy within their own territories than was permitted to any other boyar or magnate at a time when the system of provincial governors was being replaced everywhere else in the Tsardom.

    While victorious on numerous fronts, Ivan IV’s state ultimately spiralled downwards under the weight of his own ambition, further kindled by the intransigent hatred Ivan IV had for the Russian aristocracy. Ivan IV’s decision to so violently force reorganization on the Russian realm came at a time of Russian dominance over its enemies, meaning that when Russian luck against Sweden and Poland-Lithuania began to falter, the far-reaching social upheaval and embittered enemies made by the oprichnina would cause Russia’s warmaking abilities to unravel spectacularly.

    Ivan IV’s early program of reform - which showed promising signs of representative government - began to slow as his mental health went into decline, devolving into acts of simple vengeance and the introduction of the policy of oprichnina - which entailed property confiscations, public executions, and general oppression inflicted on the boyars in an attempt to break their resistance and appropriate large amounts of land for the crown. The overall situation in his tsardom was further exacerbated by the repeated defeat of Russian forces in Livonia and Lithuania. As the humiliating reversals on the frontlines multiplied, so too did Ivan IV’s distrust and repression of the boyars. Ivan IV’s mistreatment of his aristocratic leaders sometimes had dangerous consequences for the war effort, with many boyars defecting to his opponents in exchange for better treatment. For instance, the prince Andrey Kurbsky - once a close friend to the tsar - joined the Lithuanians in 1564 while leading Russian troops at Dorpat.

    What was perhaps Ivan IV’s most critical error came in a single night, in a moment of overwhelming anger. Having signed a 4 year truce with Johan III and Sigismund II in 1573, Ivan IV invaded Livonia once again in 1577, but after a decisive defeat at the hands of the Swedish at Narva in 1578, Ivan IV found himself fighting off a combined Polish-Lithuanian-Swedish invasion of the northern reaches of the Tsardom. In 1580, while in a heated argument with his son, Ivan Ivanovich, over whether or not to muster an army to relieve the besieged city of Pskov, Ivan IV - being a man of extreme passions - swung his scepter at his son’s head with enough force to crush the young man’s skull. The Tsarevich barely avoided the killing blow and fled from his almost immediately remorseful father. In a single stroke, Ivan IV had turned his son into a rallying point for the boyar front that wished to see Ivan IV deposed and his policies reversed.

    The humbling terms accepted by Ivan IV in this moment of crisis - ratified in late 1580 and including the absorption of Estonia, Ösel–Wiek, Dorpat, Riga, Ingria, and much of Karelia, and of Courland, Lettgallia, and Semigallia into Sweden and Poland-Lithuania, respectively - further incensed the boyars assembling around Ivan Ivanovich at Novgorod, sparking a full blown civil war aimed at forcing Ivan IV’s abdication, which only reached its conclusion with the death of the tsar in 1583. The advancement of the Russian monarchy at the expense of the Russian aristocracy meant that the loss of the monarchy to the whims of the aristocracy shifted the conflict to one between the boyars and the institutions created and groups supported by Ivan IV - particularly amongst the lower classes and lesser nobles. The war thus continued, albeit - for the moment - in the public squares and law courts rather than on the battlefield.

    Eastern & Northern Europe, c. 1585
  20. The Merovingian To whom the Capets aspire.

    Mar 11, 2017
    Austrasia today, Burgundy tomorrow.
    Oof! You had me on edge here. I'll be interested to see what a surviving house of Rurik will do.