Sweet Lands of Liberty
By D Fowler
Part 15 Ė Age of Exploration Ė Africa and Americas
There was much talk, in the Famine of 1235 in England, that perhaps they should look elsewhere for food. But, where?
Louis IXís men actually had an idea a decade later; an idea spurred by the Waldensians and their openness to different ways of thinking, as well as by the general openness of Arthurís kingdom, compared to the more closed Eastern Europe.
The powerful Catholic nation of France was also bursting at the seams in some ways by 1300, but more importantly, they wondered if maybe Prestor Johnís lands might be in Africa. ďWhat if they are fighting to survive against the Muslims on the other side? What if we can meet up and capture Egypt? It doesnít look good for his kingdom if itís in Asia,Ē officials in the Kingís Court suggested.
Without having wasted lots of money on war, Louis decided he had enough to finance an expedition around Africa. He actually planned on an expedition to meet them when he attacked Egypt in 1250, but the timing was way off. The explorers did, however, reach Ethiopia. The French never made it up the Nile, but they were able to help a Christian regain the throne and start a new dynasty, after spending some weeks trying to understand the language.(1)
When word reached Europe that Prestor Johnís kingdom was, 1. Black African; 2. Ruled by a pagan, with the French working to restore the Christian dynasty; and, 3. Located near where the Queen of Sheba had lived, it rocked the world of Catholicism. This was near enough the heyday of that legend that Catholics and their outlook on Africa could change quite a bit; but, first, it seemed they had to help Prestor Johnís successor.
Waldensians, of course, also sought to influence them. A few had been in among the crew of the ships Louis sent, and they explained their differences with Catholics. By this time, Catholics in France were torn between supporting the Pope and their king, but they were learning to be at least a little tolerant. They were dead set against the Waldensians forcing them to convert, but the peasants also didnít try to force the Waldensians to convert back. That could change, of course, with the wrong king coming into power.
The French tried to maintain an embassy in Ethiopia. An Abyssinian was in the court of Louis IX in the late 1250s and beyond.
Arthur, meanwhile, had heard about the Vikings and Vinland, and suggested that perhaps ships could try to find these lands. An expedition sent in the early 1250s explored down the coast from OTL St. Lawrence Seaway to OTLís Potomac. It still being the Medieval Warm Period, the weather didnít seem too inhospitable.
The French sent a group to start a small colony, too, in the 1260s, winding up in OTLís Florida, as sailing was a rather inexact science in those days; theyíd aimed for the Potomac. The English, too, founded a small colony in the region of OTLís Manhattan Island. Both countries felt it was a good idea to see if anything of value was there.
Each would find theirs quite valuable as the rather pleasant 13th century gave way to the wild 14th, and some actively tried to go there. But, despite the turmoil, Savoy would continue to be a great land of liberty, and England and even France would emerge from the Famine and Plague, like their colonies, to be Sweet Lands of Liberty.
(1) This dynasty came about in 1270 OTL, 18-20 years early is feasible.