Unholy Roman Empire

PROLOGUE

The carnage was everywhere as far as the eye could see, blood stains painting the streets in sinister crimson, splattering under the hooves of thousands horses; even the seasoned veterans frequently turned their eyes away, making the sign of the cross and uttering prayers at the sight of their work. There was no one left standing; every Saracen in the city was slaughtered with no mercy shown, revenge for the occupation of the Holy City that was once again in the hands of soldiers of Christ. The man on the horse smiled, observing the utter devastation from the higher ground.

He was already rather aged, but still powerfully built, clad in expensive armor embellished with the black eagle on yellow field. A great sword rested at his side, adorned with gold and jewels, a symbol of status in the war-torn world. The man’s great red beard showed more than a few strains of grey hair, and his movements, while still betraying the great deal of strength in his bulky frame, showed more than a few signs of coming old age.

As the knights of his entourage looked down at the Holy City of Jerusalem, engulfed in plunder, slaughter, and rapine, he reflected on his moment of triumph. This was the one accomplishment not even the greatest of his predecessors could match, the crowning achievement of the four and a half decades of his life’s struggle. He could remember the days long gone when panic spread through all of Christendom when the Saracens took Edessa, and the humiliation that his uncle and predecessor suffered on the ill-advised foreign adventure; now was the time for payback.

He thought of the churchmen in distant Rome, so sure of their innate superiority to him and his likes, yet too cowardly to do anything but hide behind the walls of the Vatican while the real men fought and died to spread the word of God and His Son into the lands the meek and degenerate long deserted. At least the Saracens, infidels and heretics they might be, were in his mind preferable to the overbearing, controlling so-called “Vicar of Christ” and his clique of sycophants and master manipulators, the very ones who would dare to deny him, the Holy Roman Emperor, his birthright, and the birthright of his Empire.

At least the Saracens, misguided as they were, were brave, fearless, fighting to death against his men, and dying on the streets of Jerusalem as the payment for their bravery. In another time, another place, he would have spared a few words of admiration for an enemy like that, fighting whom would be stories worth of minstrels singing about for centuries to come. Yet, this was neither time nor place, for the Warriors of Christ proven victorious once again, and now there would be no one to deny that God is truly with them, with him.

Then, his thoughts darted towards the distant north-west, towards the city of the Greek schismatics on the Bosphorus. How could these heretics claim his title, passed on through Charlemagne and Otto the Saxon? How could they dare to claim their superiority to the true Emperor of the West? He had little love for them… hell, he thought, at least the Saracens could be noble, virtuous, and honorable – the Greeks were weak, degenerate, constantly scheming against him and against one another. Maybe, he thought, one day they will be shown the might of the one true Roman Empire, and be made to bow down like the vermin they were. At least that Saladin fellow held strong and proud before the axe of the executioner; he doubted that Isaakios of Constantinople would even manage a straight face for a short moment before breaking down in pleas for his life. He hated these schismatics more so than the Pope and his schemes.

He knew, however, that the time was growing short. He was already nearing seventy years of age, and as much as he liked to think otherwise, his time on this earth was nearly over. Who would continue the struggle, he thought? There was one thing he envied of the Greek basileus, the ease with which he seemed to be able to control the Patriarch of Constantinople – and how little the Patriarch was able to interfere in the worldly affairs. Maybe, one day… a thought simmered in his mind. Maybe not him, but one of his successors would be able to return the reign of Emperors to Europe, and to make the insolent, proud nobles and clerics alike bow down to them, like it was once before – and like it shall be again.

The wind blew a patch of dust into his face, dry desert sand drenched in blood of this fateful day. He knew today that his place in history was complete, and that, like Charlemagne, Constantine, or Augustus, he has accomplished what was laid out before him, to be remembered forever in the moment of his victory, untarnished by defeat or setbacks. The wind made the man’s long cloak waver in the hot air of afternoon, revealing the insignia of the House of Hohenstaufen, and the Imperial Eagle – the eagle of Caesar, Augustus, Constantine, and now – the eagle of Frederick Hohenstaufen, the first of his name to hold the scepter of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Savior of Jerusalem. Frederick smiled again, this time a wolfish grin. His name stroke fear into the hearts of Saracen and heretic alike, with all bowing down before him, heard all over the Christendom and in many places beyond. And this name will be the one to remember him by, the man of great deeds and great red beard, Barbarossa!
 
Hermanubis said:
Interesting… seems like your going to incorporate some of the ideas from the other TLs then…
Definitely, I decided to use Third Crusade as a POD, giving Barbarossa and his successors much-needed ammunition for the battles with the Vatican... the Unholy Roman Empire proper, though, will not rise for another several centuries - the POD is far enough back to be able to mold the history as I would see fit to somewhat plausibly attain the goal of URE. There might be several other cameos from other TL ideas as well... but all leading towards the same eventual goal.
 
Interesting POD Midgardmetal...Although Im gonna do some research to give you some better thoughts, I still look forward to what you come up with. Keep it comming
 
Historico said:
Interesting POD Midgardmetal...Although Im gonna do some research to give you some better thoughts, I still look forward to what you come up with. Keep it comming
Thank you for your comments, any feedback is definitely welcome!
 
Depending on how long he lives, I'm not sure how important this is. Remember, when he died, the Empire was left in the very capable hands of Henry VI.
 
Faeelin said:
Depending on how long he lives, I'm not sure how important this is. Remember, when he died, the Empire was left in the very capable hands of Henry VI.
IMO Barbarossa's survival is not as important as is the fact that he accomplished a successful Crusade, thus giving him extra credibility in his struggle with the Pope for ultimate supremacy. Considering he was already in his late sixties, he does not have much left in him - but at this point, Henry will have easier time dictating the Pope what he wants, not in the least because the Holy Roman Empire recaptured Jerusalem - thus strengthening its temporal ruler's spiritual authority as well.

The prevailing theme here will be the struggle between the Vatican and the Emperors for ultimate supremacy, as opposed to creating uber-HRE that goes through an identity crisis later on :D (this comment is not intended as sarcasm of any kind)... the successful Third Crusade could accomplish just that, and the butterflies I am thinking of are going to get... well, weird.

Thus, while HRE is likely to be stronger than in OTL, it will not be the continent-spanning uber-Empire, although it would be likely to end up more centralized than OTL, at least down the line.
 
I agree, the POD is a very interesting one. And even if barbarossa is old, his son is ready to step in on schedule more or less, and again will get the Norman kingdom by marriage. But this time he will be the king of Jerusalem too
 
midgardmetal said:
IMO Barbarossa's survival is not as important as is the fact that he accomplished a successful Crusade, thus giving him extra credibility in his struggle with the Pope for ultimate supremacy. Considering he was already in his late sixties, he does not have much left in him - but at this point, Henry will have easier time dictating the Pope what he wants, not in the least because the Holy Roman Empire recaptured Jerusalem - thus strengthening its temporal ruler's spiritual authority as well.
Of course, Frederick II also took Jerusalem.
 
LordKalvan said:
he bought it, if i remember right
Definitely... the problem with him was that he was already at the odds with the Pope, and couldn't keep Jerusalem for more than a few (three, I think) years... had he kept it longer, he would have IMO had easier time dealing with the Papacy.
 
Grettir Asmundarsen said:
Check your tense throughout the piece. You switch from present to past and back again a couple times. Add some dialogue as well.
One thing I should clarify is that the style of the "Prologue" piece is only going to be used for interludes here and there - I am going to use a different style for the majority of the TL, the prose is mostly to accentuate the points, the characters, etc. As such, the dialogue would only be used whenever there is any interaction between characters in the interludes - most of the TL would have little need for it. There might be a bit of it in more "descriptive" pieces, but they by far are not going to be the majority of it. The next piece (which is almost complete, and will be posted today) will showcase what the majority of the TL will look like.

Any style/language comments are definitely welcome though - English is not my native language, and any way I can get better in written prose works by me.
 
The Aftermath of the Third Crusade (1190-1198)

All in all it's just a poor man's crusade
Poor man's crusade
The Holy Land home of our blessed lord
Enslaved and stained by godless hands
They shall be damned
Jerusalem
Is waiting for you
To rise once again
So we will slaughter in the name of Christ


Demons & Wizards “Poor Man’s Crusade”

To understand the phenomenon of European history known as the Unholy Roman Empire, it would be necessary to examine the roots of its establishment, five hundred years before the crowning of Ulrich as the first Unholy Emperor. Thus, it is only fitting that our story begins in the wane of the XIIth century with the one Frederick von Hohenstaufen, more commonly known as Barbarossa.

While the story of Frederick’s life and accomplishments prior to the Third Crusade is best told elsewhere, there is no denying that the capture of Jerusalem by the German army in the fall of 1190 was probably the single greatest achievement of the man’s life, at least in his own eyes, and in those of his contemporaries. That Barbarossa lived only for three more years after his most spectacular victory also helped to create the myth of the great Emperor that served as an inspiration to many of his more and less capable successors. To this day there are legends circulating about the late Frederick not being truly dead, but simply asleep, waiting to come to his people in their greatest hour of need, signified by the time when the ravens stop circling around the tower under which he is said to sleep.

Thus, when Frederick Barbarossa departed the Holy Land in late 1190, there was no question in the minds of his subjects and, more importantly, other Christian rulers, that this short, unassuming looking man except for the great red beard was truly blessed by God, and commanded authority far greater than that his temporal status gave him. With the succession of his son Henry, future Henry VI, virtually assured, Barbarossa’s reign, despite his failures in Italy and problems enforcing his authority in Germany, was viewed by his contemporaries as an astounding success. With Henry already crowned the King of Germany and, in 1190, the King of Jerusalem, his future seemed bright indeed.

When in 1193 Henry VI succeeded to the Imperial crown, he was already an accomplished leader, having been the chief enforcer of his father’s policies in Italy, and a regent during the Third Crusade. By then, Henry could claim a successful expedition against Sicily to his credit, adding it to Hohenstaufen domains on the account of it being his wife Constance’s inheritance, as well as quelling of numerous Guelph rebellions in Northern Italy; the transfer of authority from Frederick to him was therefore smooth and relatively efficient.

Within months of his ascent to the crown, Henry shown that he was made of the same material as his late father. Any dissent in Italy was crushed; the recently elected octogenarian Pope Celestine III was in no position to intervene as Henry’s armies encroached on Rome itself. An embassy was sent to the court of the Eastern Emperor Alexius III with demands of tribute, which Alexius was all too quick to give in to. Thinly veiled threats were sent to the court of Richard of England, demanding that the latter recognizes Henry as his suzerain.

Richard’s flat out refusal was the source for much political hostility between England and Holy Roman Empire during the remainder of Henry’s eventful reign, mostly displayed in the debate on another Crusade, this time against Egypt. Eager to win for himself the glory and the wealth that such an adventure would bring, Richard attempted to invoke yet another Crusading adventure, which was being opposed by Henry and (through Henry’s forceful manipulation) by the Pope for the fear of Richard becoming too powerful. Secretly, however, aging Celestine hoped that Richard might be his deliverance from this boorish German, and thus soon secret correspondence begun to travel between London and Vatican with alarming frequency.

Unfortunately for Henry, while still technically he was the most powerful monarch on the continent, his ability to project power to the British Isles was minimal, to say the least, and with French King being of little help, Henry could do little but wait, all the while trying to centralize his domains and transferring much of his power base to his new fief in Sicily. By 1196, inspired in part by the Byzantine model, Henry attempted to change the succession law in the Holy Roman Empire to be hereditary, rather than elective. Meeting with stiff resistance from the German princes and Italian nobles, Henry was ultimately unsuccessful, albeit he found some significant support for the idea. It was, however, of some consolation to him that the princes agreed to confirm the crowning of his infant son Frederick as the King of Germany, the sure stepping stone to the Holy Roman Empire itself.

In a meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe the clouds were gathering fast. In 1195, the Eastern Emperor Isaac II was overthrown by his own brother Alexius III, blinded and imprisoned. However, another Alexius, Isaac’s son, was able to escape his uncle’s trap and found refuge at the court of one Philip of Swabia, a German prince married to dethroned Isaac’s daughter, and almost immediately started to weave the incessant web of intrigue that could only be described befittingly as Byzantine in nature, ultimately hoping to unseat his uncle in Constantinople.

Henry was immediately skeptical of this new pretender; it was better for him to have a weak, complacent Emperor in Constantinople that was already a proven quantity, and a relatively worthless one at that. As long as Alexius III was in power, there could be no trouble expected in the East; no matter what promises his young namesake made, the fact remained that in the wrong hands, he might become a pawn of those opposing Henry, and the weapon by which his downfall could be wrought.

As long as the ailing Celestine was Pope, Henry was content with his ability to contain any Crusading sentiments that posed direct threat to his supremacy; however, the introduction of young Alexius into the mix of European politics threw all bets off. As Alexius’ promises grew more and more exorbitant, many in England, France, and even German principalities begun to support the idea of a Crusade, financed in large part through the newly restored Emperor of the East.

Then, in 1198, the situation changed once again. The Pope Celestine III, already an invalid after series of strokes, died in Rome. In his stead, the Curia elected a man of a very different caliber, the one Lotario de Conti. A scion of one of the most prominent Roman aristocratic families, Conti was the nephew of late Pope Clement III, and despite his relative youth, was no stranger to politics. As the new Pope ascended to the Pontificate under the name of Innocent III, Henry knew that the battle for the hearts and souls of Europe just entered into another round.
 
Interesting Middy...So we have an full 5 centuries to go before the empire is actually called Unholy. So how is colonization going to be affected in TTL with all these European Powers at eachother's throats? I am really anxious on seeing how the Germans duke it out against the Vatican without ticking off Constantinople? Can we get a Map of the Holy Roman Empire and it's Territories?
 
midgardmetal said:
Definitely... the problem with him was that he was already at the odds with the Pope, and couldn't keep Jerusalem for more than a few (three, I think) years... had he kept it longer, he would have IMO had easier time dealing with the Papacy.
Of course, the reason he couldn't keep it was because of the Pope.
 
Faeelin said:
Of course, the reason he couldn't keep it was because of the Pope.
Keep in mind, he started out as a child-ruler, and thus valuable time was wasted, while the Papacy could keep on growing in strength. In TTL, he ascends the throne in different circumstances - not to mention that while Henry did have a son in TTL and named him Frederick around the same time as in OTL, it is likely that this Frederick II is different from OTL Frederick II. The interregnum (loosely speaking), and fragmentation and decentralization of HRE (started by Frederick) in OTL were IMO as much to blame for inability of Frederick to enforce his will over the Papacy as the Pope's actions.

Frederick II's problem was that his enemies had a chance to grow stronger, while his actions diminished his powerbase and set the seeds of HRE's eventual mess. Here, the momentum of earlier Hohenstaufens is not lost - although since this Frederick is different from OTL person of the same name, things could work out very differently...
 
Historico said:
Interesting Middy...So we have an full 5 centuries to go before the empire is actually called Unholy. So how is colonization going to be affected in TTL with all these European Powers at eachother's throats? I am really anxious on seeing how the Germans duke it out against the Vatican without ticking off Constantinople? Can we get a Map of the Holy Roman Empire and it's Territories?
I'll try to get one up, but a word of warning - I am not very good with the maps. If someone wants to take over the map portion of the TL, you are more than welcome!
 
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