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What If Harold won at Hastings?

by Alison Brooks




This was an ambitious attempt to plot the history of the world, or at least those parts touched by the Europeans, following a single change in history: Harold II of England winning the Battle of Hastings, as he so nearly did in reality.


1066: 12 feet of earth

An island nation


Very civil behaviour


Scots wha'-ha' anchor!

Wooden Walls

Wood cuts rock

Flanders and Svein

Greenland's farthest mountains

Now go to part 2!



1066: 12 feet of earth

The year is 1066AD. After a march of epic proportions (London to York in four days), King Harold Godwinsson has defeated the Norse at Stamford Bridge, killing King Harald Hardrada of Norway (and giving him the promised six feet of earth, or as much as he is taller), and also killing Tostig Godwinsson, Harold's brother who had sided with Harald. The Norse army is eliminated as a fighting force.

While the celebrations are on, news of William the Bastard's landing in southern England arrives in York, and Harold and his huscarls promptly begin the march south. William is burning the south, and Harold feels compelled to bring him to battle as quickly as possible.

So far, no change from OTL. Harold and his huscarls, after a second epic march, face William and his Normans at the hill later to be called Battle. Harold's army is formed up on the top of a long hill, with William's formed at the bottom. In OTL, the battle went on through most of the day, past sunset, when the Saxon line broke.

The PoD here is the first retreat by the Breton forces in William's army, which most historians believe was not a deliberate ploy. Panic started to ripple through William's army, when the cry went up that William was slain. In OTL, William was able to rally his shaken army. In this AH, the Bretons are not rallied, although William is able to hold his centre and right firm. Gyrth and Leofwine Godwinsson (more brothers of Harold (seemingly Earl Godwin and Gytha didn't have television to distract them at night - Svein, the eldest son, had already died after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem)) were with the advanced right flank of the Saxon army, while Harold was with the centre.

William was now in a tricky spot, with his left flank open. He launched a fierce assault on the Saxon right flank, which did not have the slope advantage. Heavy fighting followed as William tried to eliminate this flank threat. Gyrth and Leofwin both fell, but a very heavy toll was taken of both sides. When both sides were fully committed to this fight, Harold advanced down the slope, sweeping aside the Norman infantry on the left, and William's centre broke.

Military historians have long pondered why it was that Harold took so long to advance. Some say it was caution over abandoning a strong defensive site, and hindsight is a good thing, but it wasn't clear to Harold that such a move would win so effectively. Others have suggested unscrupulous motives - the memory of betrayal by his brother Tostig may have been in his mind, and now the last two brothers had paid the ultimate price to prove their loyalty.

The Norman cavalry was able to escape; William survived. The riders didn't draw rein before reaching the stockade at Hastings. William was in a quandry. He could embark and return to Normandy - safe, but with his tail thoroughly between his legs. Or he could stay and force Harold to attack him in this strong defensive site. Luckily, he had time to think it through, and let his troops and horses catch their breath. Cavalry travel faster than infantry.

He wasn't the first to underestimate the strategic marching power of the huscarls, however. William had taken half a day to decide to withdraw, and his troops were embarking, when the hard-marching huscarls approached the beach. It wasn't a battle. King William of Normandy received the same deal as Harald Hardrada, and Harold had kept the English throne secure.


An island nation

King Harold had, at some cost, destroyed the powers of Harald and William. England was now no longer threatened by invasion.

The changes to the coinage that he had started to introduce carried on, easing trade both within the country, and allowed the wool trade to expand. Having dealt with the two major threats external to the islands, Harold turned his attention to the two threats from within the islands - Wales and Scotland.

First was Wales. Welsh raiders had been problems from time to time, and had indeed enabled Harold to develop the forced march as an effective strategy in the days of Edward the Confessor. During the troubles of 1066, Welsh raiding increased. There was, as always, one simple solution to this - the reprisal raid.

English confidence was high - having thrown off two powers, Wales would prove rather easier.

That was the theory. In practise, it was not quite that simple. Defeating the Welsh forces in battle wasn't difficult, so the Welsh avoided battle. In the hills, which they knew and the English didn't, the English learned the lessons that the Romans before them had found. Subjugating the Welsh was to prove to be rather longer and harder than expected.

Welsh raids diminished, but the English presence was never made easy. Still, the raids had been stopped, and the bloodshed and devastation now took place on Welsh soil. Thus began the Welsh Question.

When stability, of a sort, had settled down on this border, Harold turned his attention to his northern neighbour, Scotland. This looked, on the face of it, a harder problem than the Welsh. However, England appeared to hold all the cards - much greater population, and much greater wealth. The border, at this time, reached Edinburgh; a strong force of huscarls went north, and won a major victory at what is now called Dunbarton.

The Scots responded in a variety of ways. Some of the Higland clans saw the English as foes of their lowland foes, and welcomed them. Some saw the English as a threat, and fought them. Most highlanders, however, took comfort in their remoteness, and ignored the battles that were nothing to do with them. The wealth of England, and the poverty of Scotland, was a deciding factor. England could pay bribes to turn the clans, and England could ensure that the traders made money. Scotland became quiet, and accepted a status of a collection of groups acknowledging the English King as an Over-King. There were regular rebellions against this, but these were opposed by most Scots.

The English Steel we could disdain
Secure in valour's station
But English gold has been our bane;
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation

lamented one Scottish patriot. Or so the ballads say - the ballad was a much later retelling of this time.

With Scotland secure, Harold's grip on north and south was firm. He died in 1075, having set up a foundation of trade, and started development of overseas trade.

Harold's death led to a dispute among the Witan about the succession. Harold's son Godwin (by his wife Edith) was only 6. His son Edwin (by his mistress Edith - it gets confusing) was older, and had inherited much of his father's drive. Morcar from the north was angling for the position of king, and a strange monk Magnus was also suggesting that, as he was the son of Svein Godwinson and a nun that Svein had famously abducted, he should be the holder of the throne.

The politics got very confused, and numerous suggestions (breaking up England back into Earldoms to allow each contender a slice failed when no-one could agree on who should be the Over-King; Morcar holding the throne until Edwin (or Godwin) came of age failed when doubts were raised regarding the chances of Edwin/Godwin surviving to adulthood under these conditions).

These were times when the Welsh raiding took off in a big way, and Owen Cledwyn led a raid that took him through Carlisle, York and Nottingham and back. It shocked the English. Citing the case of Aethaelflaed of the Mercians, Queen Edith proposed a suggestion that the Witan found unacceptable. She suggested that she would take the throne of England and Scotland, marry Owen Cledwyn, and thus bring peace to the island. The Witan said no. Edith married Owen anyway. Magnus had died of drink; Morcar was bought off with the north (essentially everything north of what is now Liverpool) as his under Edith and Owen. Edwin and Godwin were too young, and so the Witan found the solution acceptable after all. Edith and Owen ruled Britain jointly; this was the third king Edith had been married to; the first, Gryffyd in Wales, had been killed by Harold.

Things settled down. Until Edwin came of age.



Things had been happening outside of England following Harold's victory at Hastings.

In Norway, the army that had come over in 300 ships had returned in 20. This destruction of its best warriors left it in no condition to be an immediate threat. No change from OTL here.

As England started to swallow up Scotland, it left the Norse islands off Scotland rather more vulnerable than they might have liked. The islanders didn't want to be part of the enlarging England, but could no longer expect to receive much in the way of support from Norway. They did what was to be expected under these circumstances - they promised not to raid England too much, and promised to carry foreign trade to and from England. It actually made sense for these Norse to be the intermediaries for a rich country, rather than a poorer one. In return, the islands remained Norse.

Of course, there was a lot of commerce between the islands and England, leading to a lot of ties, and a growing intermingling of the two separate entities. The islands became, to all intents and purposes, independent of Norway. Olaf the White, one of the principal traders of his day, and with great political influence among the islands, described the relationship between the Islands and England as: "Two nations, undivided."

The details of internal affairs in Norway itself for a while can be summarised in one word - recovering.

Elsewhere, there were rather more dramatic changes.

Pope Alexander II had given mild support to the Norman cause (the support was hardly full-blown, but he did say words to the effect that if William could win, it would probably be a good thing, and gave him a consecrated banner). That banner was now in English hands, and caused some consternation among the religious.

If God was on William's side, how could he lose? Yet lose he did.

If Harold could capture a consecrated banner, what good was a consecrated banner?

The English had not sought the support of the Pope, and won. William had, and lost.

This posed a number of problems, and raised questions that the Pope really didn't want raised.

An obvious explanation was at hand: William had received the blessing of the Pope when he set out. The evidence of God's favour could be seen in the way that the weather always turned favourable while he was waiting, and crossing. God was clearly on William's side up until then. However, when William landed, he began a systematic destruction of the land, burning and devastating in a decidedly non-Christian manner, and his behaviour caused God to turn His face from William's cause.

That was how the Pope rationalised the course of events. This led the Pope to say that Holy Wars must be fought with Holiness as a principal quality - which meant charity to the weak and the fallen and the non- combatants.

Such words were, of course, more often ignored than heeded. However, it would lead to a precedent being set for later on (the Crusades would take a markedly different course).

The public support that Archdeacon Hildebrand gave to William, and the fact that he advised the Pope utterly wrongly destroyed any ambitions he might have cherished of becoming Pope himself (and hence, he never becomes Pope Gregory 7).

In England, there was a definite growth in general feeling of antipathy towards the Pope - who had backed William and lost. The general feeling was that the Head Honcho in the Church got it Wrong; this led to the inexorable conclusion that the Head Honcho was not always right.

In Normandy, there now existed a power vacuum. Swein Estrithson of Denmark had promised William support, but had failed to deliver, preferring to keep his strength to take advantage of whatever might result. The Emperor Henry 4 had promised William German support, but had likewise kept it in reserve. In addition, Flanders, which had actively supported William, but still had strength, was looking to profit, as were France, Britanny and Anjou.

The vultures were gathering. William's eldest son, Robert, was 13 years old at the time, and the Norman warriors had been much depleted. Robert was undeniably brave, but he suffered from an unusual temprement among Normans - he was pleasant, easy-going and easily persuaded. For a couple of years, he was able to keep the Danes, Germans, French, Bretons, English, and the Flemish from actually invading by giving each the feeling that he would make a good puppet king. Unfortunately for each, he was able to play one off against the other, and maintained an impossible situation with remarkable skill.

It couldn't, and didn't last. The Pope, getting anxious about the growth of English power and English disrespectfulness, wanted a strong bulwark as a threat against England. As part of the process in getting a strong alternative to keep England in check, he persuaded Normandy and Britanny to form a dynastic marriage that would, on the death of the two current dukes, result in a linking of the two.

Robert's brothers did not like this. France did not like this. Robert's brothers went to France to start a revolt.


Very civil behaviour

In England, Edwin came of age. Edwin was turning out to be a bold, rash and ambitious youth. Edwin (son of Harold) felt he had a right to the throne. Unfortunately, for him, he wasn't on the throne. Owen and Edith were.

This led to unrest, which swiftly moved to civil war.

Owen and Edith had much of their support in Wales and the West Country; Edwin's strength was based in the south east. The north was largely indifferent, although Morcar (who also had an eye on the throne) was notionally pro-Owen/Edith. Not that it was easy to tell - Morcar's loyalty seemed to be predominantly directed towards Morcar.

The civil war turned increasingly bitter. There weren't the major battles of earlier years, but a huge number of skirmishes. By and large, the forces spent as much time devastating the land in order to force the other side to give battle on unfavourable terms, which they rarely did. The south central region of England, running roughly from Portsmouth to Birmingham, was much damaged.

Part of the problem was that Owen/Edith had good strategy and lousy tactics, while Edwin could fight battles, but not take advantage of them. Morcar stepped in when Edwin managed to bring Owen/Edith's forces to major battle, and beat them (despite being outnumbered). Morcar sided with Edwin, and they split the kingdom between them - Edwin with England and Wales, and Morcar with Scotland and the north.

For a year, 1087, things were quiet. The Witan, however, started to flex its muscles, and raising its own forces - or at least, the members of the Witan started working together. Owen/Edith made a comeback, and four-way fighting developed.

"God and his angels slept."

The Witan, the King's advisors, were at this time in something of a quandary. They had some power, but no King to advise. Nonetheless, some of them reasoned that they advised the Throne, and the fact that there was no-one on the Throne did not affect their role. Their first goal was to put the right person on the throne. Who is the right person? The one that they decide on.

Fighting was necessary to get the parties to agree to be bound by the choice of the Witan; in essence, the Witan used its strength to force the contenders to abide by its decision, or fail by default.

The meeting in 1093 of Owen, Edwin, Morcar and the Witan was stormy. It also showed the Witan that they had real power. Edwin had been the first of the three to accept the Witan and to deal with it, and that proved to be decisive. More or less. After having combined the nations of England, Scotland and Wales, the Witan made Owen King of Wales, Morcar king of Scotland, and Edwin King of England, and overall King of Britain.

Edith died in 1094, and Owen in 1095. The Kingship of Wales passed to Owen's son, Owen.



We have left England in the middle of a lengthy civil war. The rest of the world was, obviously, going to be affected to a greater or a lesser extent, according to distance and interactions.

France was also in the middle of a major power struggle, with Brittany/Normandy on one side, and the rest of France on the other. The Bretons and Normans had vigorous leadership, and support from Flanders and Germany and Denmark, while France had extensive resource superiority. This struggle caused the Normans and the Bretons to develop what advantages they had, one of which was their access to the Channel. As a result, they started to learn about sea power. The struggle was a long and damaging one; eventually, France was united under one King, Charles the Magnificent. Many Normans and Bretons left rather than submit. Some found their way to Constantinople; others went to Flanders, Germany, England and Denmark.

Italy was in an interesting position, with the Norman incursion. The Normans settled in a more determined manner, as a result of isolation and the feeling that, giving the death of William, and the troubles in France, Norman fortunes were dependent on them. A strong antipathy between the Normans in Italy (and hence southern Italy) and France was formed. The Ventians were developing their trade and shipping strengths, and learning the art of playing one side off against the other.

To the north of Europe, trade links between England (wool) and Scandinavia (wood) were growing, and the link to Russia was forming.

In Spain, Islam holds sway. France is too occupied to help against the heathen.

In the Far East, nothing much has changed. Yet.

In Africa, Islam is pushing along the coasts and down the Nile, less hampered than in OTL. The difference is not great. However, they ran into the Tuaregs settling in Timbuktoo, who were, at this time, raiders of note. They absorbed a lot of learning and wealth from the Islamic move, but the Arab development tended to leave this area alone, but concentrated rather more on the east coast.

In India, the developments of the Great Game began, as Islam and China were contending on its borders. Both Chinese and Arab attempted to make treaties with the tribes of Tibet, but to little effect. Yet.


Scots wha'-ha' anchor!

The pressures of the civil war in England (which of course includes Scotland and Wales), displaced a significant section of the population.

In addition, the Scottish islanders had become, by tradition, the Sea- Farers and traders of the main island (although competition was growing from Cornwall and, to a lesser but more specialised extent, from the towns along the North Sea coast). Trade was being carried by these vessels, and trading to the Baltic was common. There were, however, other directions to travel in, and Scottish ships were known to head into the Mediterranean to compete with the Venetians and Genoese. This latter competition caused several disturbances, but by an unspoken agreement, the waters in the Med were left to the Venetians and the Genoese, while the waters of the Atlantic were left to the Scots. This made Gibraltar amazingly strategically significant, and it was under Muslim control. The Genoese, Venetians and Scots could agree on little, but one thing they did agree on was that Muslim control of Gibraltar was Not a Good Thing.

One trouble that was faced by the Scots, increasingly, was a shortage of decent wood for their ships. They could get it from England, and the Baltic, but hauling lumps of wood all the way to the islands was getting to be too much hassle, when the ship building experts could be moved to the source of the wood. The trade with the Baltic, and the concern over the Norman/Breton contest of the Channel led to many shipyards springing up along the Channel and North Sea Coasts. The most successful were, inevitably, the ones with the best harbours. Thus came the rise of Falmouth, Southampton, Tilbury, Harwich, Hull, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, and Ellesemere. Others came and went with astonishing rapidity, but these nine proved more durable.

There was pressure from significant proportions of the population to move outwards. Iceland, at this time, had been colonised by the Norwegians, but had not yet been taken over by Hakon of Norway, and had its own government. Iceland was sparsely populated, and Norway in this AH is weakened. When English settlers came, there was little problem at first. Swiftly, the numbers of English settlers grew, and tensions in Iceland grew. Was Iceland to be Norwegian, English or independent? The decision was swayed by the fact that the English throne was quite happy for Iceland to be independent and simply acknowledge the English King as OverKing to the Iceland system of rule; the Norwegian King, suffering from a bout of Harald Hardrada-itis, declared that there was to be no compromise, and that the colony of Norway was to be Norwegian. A Norwegian fleet set out, and faced a Scots fleet just off Iceland. Negotiations proved not so much fruitless as inaudible, and the two sides met in battle. The Norwegian fleet contained larger ships; the Scots were more numerous. The Norwegians were considered better soldiers and raiders, while the Scots ships were faster and more manoeuvrable. Losses in the battle were remarkably light - the Norwegians couldn't board the Scot vessels, and the Scots couldn't damage the Norwegian ships. What did prove decisive was the weather turning nasty. The Scots were able to take refuge in Akureyri, while the locals blocked the Norwegian ships from taking refuge.

Iceland became another independent English colony.

Not that England was having a fun time of it. The civil war was throwing up some interesting developments. The fighting in Wales had taken on a more deadly turn for heavy infantry with the development of the longbow. Fortunately for everyone concerned, peace broke out soon afterwards, and Edwin, the King confirmed by the Witan (see part 4) pondered these new developments.


Wooden Walls

(Note. From here on, the following terms are being used thus:

England refers to mainland Britain.

Scotland refers to the western and northern isles off modern day Britain, including the Isle of Man.

Wales refers to what is currently modern-day Wales, but is becoming something of an anachronism (which is just as well, given the derivation of the word Welsh).

France refers to the same area, although the terms Breton and Norman tend to refer to members of the newly assimilated dukedoms. Norman, however, can also refer to the solidly occupied Southern Italy.

I trust this is clear. This will apply until further notice.)

We return to England. As described in part 4, Edwin had become overking of Britain in 1094, with Owen and Edith UnderKings of Wales, and Morcar UnderKing of Scotland. By 1096, both Owen and Edith had died, leaving Owen's son Owen in charge of Wales. Morcar of Scotland died, leaving this throne to his son William. The serious fighting during the civil war had affected Wales, bringing about the early development of the long bow.

By 1100, Iceland had started to come under English influence.

King Edwin was tactically bright, although strategically weak. He came across the Welsh long bow, and appreciated its effectiveness. With the onset of peace came time to consider this and other matters. The Witan was quite happy to encourage him in this, as it meant that while he was playing at soldiers, they could advise (read: run) the country.

The country needed running. Central England was approaching a desolate wasteland. For many miles, villages had been devastated, and trade greatly disrupted. The growth of shipbuilding encouraged development along the coasts and rivers; the interior lagged behind somewhat. With this pattern of development, it didn't take long before the coastal towns and cities needed an agricultural hinterland, and redevelopment of the interior tended to take place finger-like from here. Wool, the basis of English wealth in the past, suffered somewhat as a result, as hill- farms became less viable. England needed another source of wealth. The mines in Cornwall were one source, and Cornish miners started to come into demand for their knowledge.

It was a transitional time; English wealth and fortunes diminished, and the balance of power drifted away towards Germany and Italy; both comparatively unrent by war.

The fortunes of the German states changed in 1112, when the Pope in Avignon, getting concerned about the Muslims in Spain flexing their muscles, and with no strong France, decided to up and move. He moved to Munich, being comparatively Central in Europe, and about as safe as it was possible to be, and being close to what was seen as the wealthiest part of the Christian world, with the possible exception of Constantinople. Munich became the Holy See.

Which affected England not a great deal. Edwin considered the various things he could do with long bows and ships and huscarls, made a few suggestions in this, and then died. He was succeeded by William, Edwin's son, who, while not having Edwin's tactical skill, did have a strong sense of purpose and destiny, and who decided that a trip to the new Holy See was in order. He pointed out to the Pope the threat to Christendom of having Muslims in Spain, and especially Gibraltar. He wanted the Pope's blessing to try and deal with the Muslim situation. William rather hoped that the Genoese and Ventians wouldn't get wind of this too soon. He was disappointed: they did. He was agreeably surprised when both the Genoese and the Ventians found reasons not to get involved in the enterprise to free Gibraltar from the Muslims. "Let the English kill themselves weakening the Muslims. We will pick up the rewards afterwards" appeared to be their attitude.

Thus the Pope blessed the first Crusade, with William of England to lead it. William of England offered command to William of Scotland. The Normans in Italy offered their services, and William the Norman joined up.


Wood cuts rock

The first crusade had been blessed by the Pope from Munich, and was to have the goal of the reconquest of Gibraltar from the Muslims.

Part 1 of the crusade was the gathering of forces. William of England had been offered command, because it was he who had got the Pope's blessing for the venture. He chose not to go personally, but contributed some huscarls and archers, including some from Wales who had the long bow. He offered command to William of Scotland, who accepted, and who contributed ships and troops.

The Genoese and Venetians were interested in the affair, but weren't going to get involved.

In Italy, William the Norman heard of the adventure, had spoken of it to his brother Tancred, and his Uncle Bohemund, who reacted favourably. They came along, contributing a strong contingent of forces. This was regarded as a good omen, old enemies (Normans and English putting aside old enmities to face the common foe).

From Iceland came a small contingent, as a result of pure adventurism. This group was a mixture of the Norwegians and the Scots from the island; again, regarded as a good sign.

From France, Hugh of Vermandois agreed to join, but stated that he would go to Gibraltar through Spain. This was going to be a separate but related venture; he started busily gathering French support for this venture.

From Germany, many small groups, especially from southern Germany, because of the personal influence of the Pope, joined, wearing red crosses and having sworn to fight under the command of "God's chosen leaders".

From Scandinavia came a small group who appeared to see the adventure as an opportunity for a Papal-sanctioned Viking raid. However, most of Scandinavia was too busy watching either the north Atlantic or the Baltic to worry overmuch about Gibraltar. Nonetheless, one of the Scandinavians that came was from Norway, one Egil Grimmson, also known as Egil the Bold (although some records have suggested that this should have been Egil the Bald).

The Pope blessed the endeavour in 1114. 1115 was spent gathering forces.

Coordination and cooperation were not the easiest of tasks. Feeding and supporting these forces was proving to be a struggle. Deciding on a leader was difficult, as the national groups tended to prefer to take orders from their own leaders, except the Germans, who took orders from no-one in particular but did follow the instructions of their priests, and except for the Icelanders, who appeared to argue among themselves who they would follow as leader.

In late 1115, Hugh started the ball rolling from France, crossing the Pyrenees along the Mediterranean coast, and following the coast round. Giving the blessing of the Pope, confidence was high. Confidence was still high when the troops passed through Muslim-held villages, which became rather smaller Christian villages soon after. Confidence was high after taking Barcelona. Confidence was high when meeting a large Muslim force in mid 1116 just north of Castellon. Battle was joined, and Hugh won a clear-cut victory. This caused the Muslims concern, and they pulled together another, larger army to face Hugh. Hugh advanced to Alicante, but was starting to have problems. Muslim forces had got behind him and had cut off his supply line back to France. While the Genoese and Ventians were happy to bring him supplies by sea, this wasn't a problem. It started to become a problem when the Genoese and Venetians stopped bringing supplies. Hugh accused them of having been bought off by the Muslims, pointing to the obvious fact that moneylenders were Jews, the Venetians and Genoese were arch traders, which meant that logically they were close to being Jews, which meant that logically, they were undoubtedly in league with the Muslims. A second battle was joined near Alicante, and this time, the French lost. Casualties on both sides were heavy.

Meanwhile, in 1116, the Crusade Consortium (for want of a better term) squabbled its way onto ships, and headed towards Gibraltar. A number of storms arose, but few ships were lost. After a great deal of sea- sickness, and the loss of nearly all the horses, the Crusade landed at Gibraltar. Muslim attention had been facing towards the French incursion, and the forces left to protect Gibraltar were few. Gibraltar, however, is not an easy place to capture when it is defended, especially by a squabbling band of sea-sick warriors who haven't even managed to agree on a clear leader. It didn't help that there was lust for glory among the different groups, all of whom wanted the glory of being the first to land and capture the rock.

As a result, the battle 'plan' was essentially each group of ships would arrive as quickly as it could, land its troops, who would then immediately attack the rock. This was not a good plan.

The Germans landed first. To start with, they made good progress - they weren't expected. The assault lost direction and momentum, and was stopped. Several days were spent in ever smaller actions.

Egil decided that one Muslim port was much like another, and was the next to see action, landing and taking Cadiz. It might not be Gibraltar, but who cared?

The main body of the fleet arrived at Gibraltar, and the overwhelming numbers of English, Scots, Icelanders and Normans simply swamped the defences. The effectiveness and weaknesses of the longbow were tried and tested.

Gibraltar was now in the hands of the Christians. The landing forces now faced the biggest challenge. Working out who was to hold it.


Flanders and Svein

The Crusaders had taken Gibraltar, and had promptly started debating among themselves as to who should hold Gibraltar, and what they should do now. In general, the Scots wanted to hold Gibraltar, and didn't care who else did what. However, the Norman Italians didn't want to leave Gibraltar in the hands of the Scots, and neither did the English, although the English would prefer the Scots to the Norman Italians holding it. The Norse held Cadiz, and reckoned that they had done their part; this was a concern for the English and the Scots, who didn't want seafaring competition.

The Germans wanted to deal with the Muslims, and weren't terribly fussed about which direction to go; the Genoese and Venetians, who weren't involved but had an interest didn't want the Scots to hold Gibraltar. The Icelanders wanted to go home, but didn't want to leave empty-handed, and the French wanted to get parts of the Spanish Med coast.

Discussions would have been relatively straightforward if the Muslims had left them alone to discuss matters. This did not happen, and a number of attempts to recapture Gibraltar were made. A number of battles were fought, most of which were unmemorable in detail, except for the battle of Torremalinos, in which the Muslims faced Norman cavalry, and both attempted a favoured tactic of theirs, the feigned retreat. The Icelandic and English infantry, left in possession of the field, are said to have been confused.

A summary of the next 20 years is that the Norse held Cadiz; the Scots held Gibraltar; Bohemund took and held Malaga; the English took and lost a number of ports, but held on to Lisbon; the French took and held the Med coast as far as Alicante; and the Germans stomped around the interior of Spain being a pain to everyone they met.

However, the Muslims held North Africa, and began developments of sea power in order to contest the Christian strength. This was a development that worried the Genoese and Venetians.

Tancred was in Spain, and had the interests of his family to look out for, and a permit from the Pope to get the Muslims out of Spain. He took a small force to Seville, captured it, and proclaimed himself Prince there.

The Icelanders asked what reward they had, and were told, in essence, your reward is what you can take. That proved easy for them to accept, so they took payment from the Muslims, and went home.

Things reached a stalemate, and settled down. It wasn't exactly peace, and it wasn't exactly war.

Meanwhile, there were ripples elsewhere. A lot of the French strength was in Spain. Flanders saw a chance to strengthen its hand, and encouraged a revolt in Brittany. The Bretons were astonishingly successful; partly because of the weakened condition of France, and partly because of English, Flemish and Norwegian aid. Brittany became independent, and, in what some have described as a shrewd move, gave Guernsey to England, Jersey to Flanders, and Sark to Norway.


Greenland's farthest mountains

The 1st Crusade was more or less over, and things in Spain had settled down. Questions were being asked as to why Christian efforts to dealing with the infidel were centred on good ports in Spain, when there were holier places under infidel control at the other end of the Med, but, as yet, no one was proposing the sequel to the 1st Crusade.

Iceland had sent people out on crusade, who had come back with riches. Population pressure in Iceland was such that many of the more adventurous spirits, such as those recently back from Spain, started looking further afield. The colony on Greenland was an obvious step, and so there was a sudden influx in Greenland of confident and well-equipped adventuring types.

Greenland was in the strange position of being nominally dependent on Denmark, and also dependent on Iceland, which was nominally dependent on England. Edwin of England had died, to be replaced by the highly ambitious Svein; the King of Denmark, Jan, was keen on promoting Danish relations with Germany. The relationship between the two was cordial, but no stronger. Jan didn't particularly want Greenland, but he didn't want the English to have it, and he certainly didn't want to give it up without nothing in return. Svein wanted it, but he didn't want to give anything for it. Jan let it be known that he didn't mind if the Icelanders bought Greenland, and for a while, it looked as though that might end up being the solution. However, the Witan unexpectedly caused problems when Earl Peter of Cornwall opposed this plan vehemently. His objection appeared to stem from his fear that this would make the already effectively independent Icelanders too strong. His solution was that the Witan should buy Greenland. This was rejected out of hand by Jan, who objected to the Englishness of the Witan, and Svein, who objected to the Witanishness of the Witan. For a while, war looked possible.

Eventually, the solution that was agreed upon was that Jyrkki, a Danish nobleman who disliked Jan's German policy, was made Earl of Greenland, after swearing allegiance to Svein of England as his King, and to Magnus, Earl of Iceland, and to Peter of Cornwall. Thus Greenland was ruled by a Dane who owed allegiance to England. It got a political opponent of Jan's out of the way, and it made the Byzantine web of friendships and enmities even more complex.


Spanish main force

Spain saw a fluctuation of allegiances and shifts; the Muslims were building up naval strength with which to challenge Christian rule in Gibraltar. The Venetians and the Genoese, as was becoming standard for them, were staying out of this, although they were in general supportive of the Muslims - the Scots and the Norwegians represented too much in the way of competition for sea trade.

The Scots held Gibraltar, the Norse Cadiz, the English held Lisbon, and Tancred held Seville. This unusual combination, so far from their respective homes, retained a high level of loyalty to their homelands, but were also well aware of their need to act together. Nonetheless, the Muslims retook Gibraltar after a daring raid severely damaged a lot of Scottish ships. The Norse raided Muslim shipping, straining the Muslim capacity to hold Gibraltar.

Then things went pear-shaped when a Scottish ship, engaging in the now- common practice of raiding, went into Melilla on the African coast, burnt a few Muslim ships, and escaped with a few prisoners taken from land. The problem was that among these prisoners was a Genoese trader. This linked the Genoese with the Muslims, especially when the Venetians were able to provide convincing documentary evidence that the Genoese had attempted to enlist help for the Muslims against the Christians doing the work of the Church. Some sceptics have pointed out that this evidence was extremely convenient for the Venetians, but it proved to be convincing enough for it to become accepted wisdom that the battle lines were Genoese and Muslims versus Norse, Scots, English and Norman Italians.

Gibraltar became a yo-yo. The Norse took it and lost it; the English took it and lost it. Then the Scots took and held it.

The English, under a new king, Andrew, were getting tired of warfare, and negotiated a separate peace with the Muslims. The Muslims recognised the English rights to Lisbon, Oporto and Vigo, while the English recognised Muslim rights to ports on the North African coast. The Scots signed a separate peace, keeping Gibraltar in return for trading rights along the coast of Africa. The Norse held Cadiz, which they sold to Tancred in return for unspecified aid. This worried the Genoese.

All of this was of moderate indifference in Germany. The Emperor was powerful. The main troublemakers were elsewhere; the Pope was in his pocket. Northern competitors were tied up in Spain. The Emperor became quite wealthy and powerful. Part 1 Series 2 follows the action in Germany.


The best laid plans

While the north European nations were busy involved in Spain, Germany and central Europe were prospering. The Emperor had gained the clear upper hand in his machinations with the Papal authority. This gave him the chance to ensure the solidity of his Empire.

Similarly, Constantinople represented a major wealth centre and an efficient bureaucracy. Trade and knowledge moved between these two centres, leading to a flourishing culture and wealth.

The Baltic and the North Sea were becoming warmly contested by traders and explorers and adventurers. The Norse, the English (who were becoming significant ship builders in their own right, although the best sailors traditionally came from Cornwall - which was turning English eyes to the south and west), the Scots, the Danes and the Flemish were all extremely active in these regions. With the growth of wealth in Central Europe, strong trade routes in the Baltic and North Sea were developing.

This led to some severe competition and tensions between the trading nations; the great desire of all was to get exclusivity in these areas. Germany and Byzantium were rather more concerned to ensure that the skilled traders were competing with each other, and didn't interfere with the development of their own infrastructure.

There were two parallel threads developing; the competition between the traders, and the growing wealth and power of the two Empires.

Relations between the Norwegians and the Danes grew slowly but steadily worse. The dispute was simple - whichever controlled both sides of the Kattegat controlled entry to and from the Baltic. It was equally obvious that the other trading nations didn't want one or the other to get total control. The details of this period are complex. Warfare wasn't open, but raiding was common. Alliances shifted with bewildering frequency. The only common factor was that the Danes remained on one side, and the Norwegians on the other. Germany didn't want either Denmark or Norway to come on top, and gave significant subsidies to whichever seemed the most appropriate. In the end, the southern part of what is now Sweden was taken over by Russians, providing a three-way division of the entry into the Baltic.

The other thread - the growth of the wealth and power of the two Empires - led slowly to competition between the two. Neither were wanting to go to war, but were happy to pursue the competition through intermediaries and client states. It was generally accepted that the North European Plain was Germany's area of interest, and that Byzantine interest reached as far as the Carpathians. The two giants of Europe were watching each other closely.

Meanwhile, in the northern seas, Greenland (ruled by a Dane with allegiance to both Iceland and England; and Iceland owed nominal allegiance to England and Scotland; Scotland owed allegiance to England. England favoured Norway over Denmark for most of the Baltic troubles, which meant that Earl Jyrrki of Greenland was enmeshed in a tangled web of allegiances) was starting to get colder. Earl Jyrrki did what any sensible Earl would do under such circumstances. He made his son Anci Earl of "The Western Lands", with personal allegiance to him, gave him a handful of ships and adventuring spirits, and pointed them towards the West.

It was not a time of keeping national secrets, and Iceland, Scotland and England got to hear of this adventure. In each country, opinions were divided about the wisdom of the adventure. King Andrew of England and Earl Magnus of Iceland both took the attitude that "it may come to something; it may come to nothing. If it comes to something, we want a part of it. If it comes to nothing, a couple of ships will be a small loss." Both sent a small contingent, first to Greenland to remind Jyrrki of where his allegiances lay, and then on to the Western Lands. Neither Earl Snorri of Iceland, nor Earl Cuthbert (known as Cutter) of England found any trace of Anci; neither did they find any trace of each other. Their adventures will be related in a future part.


Genoa? Never met her

Genoa and Venice were the great trading ports of the Mediterranean of the period. By and large, they competed in trade, but they didn't challenge each other directly.

However, Tancred of Seville had acquired Cadiz from the Norse in exchange for Norse aid in an adventure that was unspecified. One concern was that a significant amount of brokering of this deal was carried out by Venetian traders.

In short, the Norse wanted a stab at the wealth of Genoa, and the Norman Italians were also interested in such an adventure. Genoa was aware that Something Was Up, and started talking to neighbours to see what protection might be available. The French King, Chauvin, was happy to provide protection in exchange for trading advantages.

The result was that the Norse carried out yet another of their traditional raids on Genoa, which sailed right into the port. It quickly became apparent that the port was well-defended, and so the Norsemen left fairly quickly, and hurried along the coast of France to find an alternate target. The Norse fell upon Toulon, which was less well- prepared, and suffered accordingly. With the riches thus gained, the Norse ships trundled to the Balearic Islands, and settled to use this as a base for future adventures.

The Norman Italians, with considerable experience from the wars in Spain, marched to Genoa to fight the French, who also had considerable experience from the wars in Spain. Being experienced soldiers, and realising that looting a rich city was more profitable than dying, there was a great deal more looting and pillaging than fighting. The Normans came, burnt, looted and killed citizens, before being driven off by French soldiers who were more keen to loot and butcher citizens than face experienced warriors. The end result was that Genoa burnt.

Venice rose in importance, and was doing well from trade with Byzantine.

In Spain, the withdrawal of Norman, French and Norse warriors eased the pressure on the Muslims, who had settled into a semi-peace with the other nationalities. Spain, therefore, was relatively quiet. Nonetheless, the Muslims were getting increasingly unhappy with Christian incursions. It wasn't long before the Muslims worked out where a great deal of Christian wealth was very close to Muslim land - Constantinople. The Muslims had fair relations with Constantinople, so this wealth was courted through diplomacy and trade and exchange of information and knowledge, rather than military pressure.


Skaeling the heights

We had left three groups heading west from Greenland: Anci, son of Earl Jyrrki of Greenland; Earl Snorri of Iceland; and Earl Cuthbert (Cutter) of England. None of them found any trace of each other, but they did find things of significance.

The general route each took started off much the same; heading west from the southern tip of Greenland while remaining at the same latitude.

Anci hit the Hudson Strait, continued west, and followed the coast round into Hudson Bay (NB - those terms are for convenience. Hereinafter, they are referred to as Anci Strait and Anci Bay. Anci followed the Bay round as far as the southern tip of James Bay (aka Saija Bay, named after Anci's wife in Greenland). He stopped here, met some of the local people, and decided to set up a settlement. He remained with some of his men - the others returned to Greenland, but were lost at sea.

Snorri came to Anci strait, turned south, and followed the coast for some 400 miles, when a storm blew up, and he was forced to take shelter in a large river estuary, landing at Goose Bay. His ships were damaged, so he and his men set to repairing them.

Cutter, meanwhile, came to Anci Strait, turned south, followed the coast, landed, set sail again for parts further south, sailed around the island of Newfoundland (called Holy Island), and he set up a post here for those of his men who wanted to stay. He sailed back with the news, taking the gamble of following latitude back, making landfall off of Brest. The Bretons welcomed Cutter, and a collection of local worthies discussed the options with Cutter. The discussion was essentially: "Do we tell our respective Kings, who will reward us somewhat, or do we go for the whole lot and set ourselves up?" The spirit of the times was such that it was an easy choice. One owed loyalty to the King, and loyalty was a fine virtue. Everyone agreed that this was how things should be. Well, maybe that's how they should be, but the decision to go for broke was an easy one. Cutter and George, who commanded a Breton ship, set sail for Holy Island.


The rise of the cities

The year is 1145.

Spain suffered an incursion in 1115 of a large variety of Christian barbarians intent on all sorts of personal gain. For the next 20 years, it suffered from armies and raids in a variety of directions, all chomping stuff out of the landscape.

Tancred took and held Seville and Cadiz, and passed it on to his son Georges. Georges was half Spanish, and gained control in 1143. Georges had an overriding concern for the wealth, power and well-being of Georges. His loyalty to Norman Italy was unquestioned - next to none.

Gibraltar was held by Ilan Cledwyn of Scotland; Ilan favoured Scotland in general, but also got on rather well with the Muslims. Provided he held Gibraltar, he was happy.

France had held the Mediterranean coast of Spain as far as Alicante, but this area suffered from constant raids, especially from the Norse who had settled in the Balearic Islands. France proved unable to protect the coastline, and effectively control passed to the French in Spain.

England held Lisbon, Oporto and Vigo. Strangely enough, these were distant enough from England that they swiftly became independent city states nominally dependent on England, and as much dependent in reality on the Muslims.

In short, Spain is a patchwork.

Still, for the last decade, it has been a relatively quiet patchwork.

This situation lasted until 1150; in that year, France required the French in Spain to send tribute to the French King; this was rejected on the basis that France hadn't provided protection, and that feudal obligations works two ways. France insisted that protection was available, and to prove it, sent an army as protection and to get the tribute this due.

The leader of the French in Spain, one Albe, asked fellow Lords in Spain for aid. Albe was well-known to them, and skilled at persuasion. The French army was met by a collection of Albe's forces, along with some fairly cheap mercenaries that had a great deal of knowledge of the area. The French army won the initial engagements, but found that they could move through areas, but get nowhere. Eventually, they were brought to battle at Valencia. The combination of the Spanish conglomerate was ill-coordinated, but effective. The combination of longbows and heavy infantry - even though the English commander of the longbows was not speaking with the Norman commander of the heavy infantry - proved effective.

The French army was beaten, and the city states of Spain took note. So to did the notional sponsors of the city states.


The 1906 factor

The year is 1150. The place is Italy. The Normans, French and Norse have made something of a mess of Genoa, leaving Venice with supremacy in the trading stakes in the Med; although Scots and Norse and other assorted hairy barbarians are starting to muscle in from the western Med.

In addition, the Muslims are becoming a significant force again after their troubles (now resolved) in Spain.

The two Big powers in Europe, Germany and Byzantine, are settling down with strong central authority.

Things, in short are quiet. A little piracy from North Africa, a little raid/counter-raid between competing factions. But, in general, something of a renaissance.

We look, therefore, at Italy. Strongly held in the south by the Normans (with a Cadiz and Seville held in nominal control for the Normans in Spain - although effectively these were independent). In the North of Italy, the Holy Roman Empire has strong influence.

King Roger, head of the Norman Italians, was looking to expand his influence. North into Italy would bring him into conflict with the HRE. Not a good idea. Genoa was possible, but not a great deal to gain. Venice was possible, but had the problem of potential conflict with the Byzantine Empire. The islands of the Med were possible, but were just too small for such a potent king as himself. "Don't bother me with plans for SMALL conquest. I want a conquest that will mark me as another Alexander."

That left the North African coast, held, sort of, by the Fatamids. This endeavour was smiled upon by the Spanish Muslims. Roger gathered a large force, and hired ships from the Spanish Muslims, the Scots, the Norse, and the Venetians to transport them, and set sail in 1152.

It was a fairly simple task, in theory. Sail due south until Africa, find somewhere to land, and then get in to capture mode. Reality proved different. The ships were swept off course by winds, and, as they gathered together in little groups (largely, but not entirely, relating to ship nationalities), they arrived scattered along a great deal of the North African coast. The landings were not expected, and proved successful, by and large. One group managed to drift as far east as within 50 miles of Alexandria. This group did rather less well than it might have hoped, and the Fatamids dealt with it abruptly.

Nonetheless, Benghazi, Derna, Beida, Sollum and Matruh fell to the Normans. Roger was pleased.

Roger was less pleased when the Norse, Scots, Spanish Muslims and Venetians presented the bill for payment. The price for non-payment was stark - no supplies to the North African adventure (and any that were run by the Normans would be intercepted). Roger didn't have the wherewithall to actually pay.

What's an impoverished King with delusions of grandeur and bills to pay to do? Correct - you take it from people who have it.


The Alex files

The year is 1153; the place is North Africa.

The Norman Italians have landed and taken over various bits of the coast, and are King Roger is now desperately looking around to find the cash to pay off the ship owners.

The most tempting target was Alexandria. It seemed appropriate to a King who fancied himself as another Alexander. It also seemed the most effective way of dealing with the problem. He left Italy under the control of his son, Geoffrey, and went along to each of the Norman armed camps (settlements would be phrasing it too strongly). He reminded each of them of their oaths of loyalty, which impressed them slightly less than his pointing out that to the East lay Alexandria, and untold riches.

Roger went through Benghazi, Derna, Beida, Sollum and Matruh, collecting his forces, and headed towards Alexandria. Talk of revenge of the brutal massacre of the Norman landing near Alexandria was common. ("Remember the Alexo!").

This force was different to those the Fatamids were used to. Heavily armoured, and on seriously heavy horses, the Normans were pretty much invulnerable to any force that stood before them. These Normans were also pretty used to warfare in various forms, and they moved, slowly but surely, along the coast. Heat was a problem, as was thirst and supplies. Horses and men died from these; few men died from fighting.

The fate of the Norman encampments left behind, however, was another matter. The ship owners and the English squabbled over them at a parlay on Malta. Getting agreement was an interesting matter, and the bargaining and deal-brokering would have impressed a Tammany Hall politician. The Venetians didn't want them, but didn't want anyone else to have them. The Muslims wanted them, but didn't want to give up anything for them. The English had no real involvement, but Earl Leofwine of Lisbon was a good friend of the Earl Robert of Gibraltar, and wasn't going to be left out. Leofwine also got on well with Emir Mulik of the Spanish Muslims.

The end result of the negotiations were that the Scots got Malta, on the proviso that they and the Norse were responsible for cutting down on piracy, and ensuring good trade. Leofwine's son, Ethelbert, was to marry Mulik's daughter Farrah, with the agreement that children of the union would be brought up alternately as Muslim and Christian (the first born was to be a Muslim, the second born Christian, and so on. Survival of the children was expected to be high, as it was placing the relative faiths on test - and neither religion could be seen to be inferior by god). Ethelbert and Farrah were given the coast from Casablanca to Rabat as a home, with fairly clear instructions that any incursion from here into English or Muslim territory would be a Bad Thing. The Muslims were allowed one year to take the absented encampments, and that any they failed to take by the end of the year became "free targets". The Norse, in exchange for their activities in cutting down on piracy, were given permission to take a slap at the Russian settlements on southern Sweden, and reopening the whole Baltic debate. The Venetians were given the right to act as sole traders for Roger if he proved capable of taking Alexandria.

This digression from the activities of Roger was regrettable, but necessary. Roger advanced along the coast, slowly but surely. Presently, he faced an army that outnumbered him significantly. There was little subtlety to the Norman tactics, and a great deal of subtlety in those of the Fatamids. The light horse swirled around the Norman cavalry, which charged. The light horse withdrew twice, and on the third charge, the Fatamids believed the Norman cavalry was out of steam. This proved to be the wrong guess, and the Norman cavalry struck home.

Roger then sent a message to Georges for his aid. Georges passed this message on to Leofwine, who passed it on to Earl John of Vigo, who had a number of longbowmen getting restless. Earl John's son Godwin and his wife Maude set sail with a number of longbowmen to aid Roger. They used English ships, and were attacked by pirates which bore a strong resemblance to Norse ships. The pirates were driven off, but Godwin was slain. Maude took the name Matilda, and continued as commander of the longbowmen. On reaching Roger, there was a brief discussion as to what a woman was doing with longbowmen.

"Coming to your aid. I, and my archers, are rescuing you. If you want the heathen horse brought down, it's my grey geese that will do it. If you want to die, that's fine by me."

The Norman cavalry and English archers went forward, met the Fatamid cavalry. The Fatamid cavalry found that light horse die in large numbers when standing off against longbows, and they die in large numbers when trying to get to grips with heavy cavalry.

The Venetians supplied the Norman/English force, but there were a remarkably high number of pirates operating. There were also, coincidentally, a lot of Scottish/Norse/Venetian clashes.

Roger and Matilda reached the outskirts of Alexandria.


War sings Matilda

The year is 1154, the place is still North Africa, but a bit further to the right than previously.

Roger of Italy and Matilda of Vigo were on the outskirts of Alexandria, with a comparatively small force of English longbowmen and Norman Cavalry. Big place, Alexandria. The English/Norman force sat and thought about this for a while. The Venetians were bringing supplies, although piracy was oddly high, given that the Scots and the Norse were supposed to be cutting down on piracy. Strange that, as the Venetians stood to gain if Roger/Matilda took Alex, and the Scots and Norse stood to gain if they didn't.

Not that the Fatamids in Alexandria were anxious to come to grips with an enemy that had proven deadly. "We can't fight them at a distance, because their archers are better than ours; we can't fight them close up, because their cavalry is better than ours. Therefore we must let them fight thirst and each other."

What is any self-respecting warrior leader to do when the foe won't give battle? Force them to give battle. Thus Roger and Matilda, at a Council of War, began a series of raids to make sure that Alexandria was isolated from the land, and that the villages in the hinterland became best described as ashes. Any feudal lord has a duty to protect their people. It was a theory, but one based on Norman/English perceptions. For whatever reason, the foe stayed within Alexandria.

Thirst was doing the work for the Fatamids. The Norman cavalry was losing horses rapidly. The soldiers were becoming weaker. After a while, there was not a great deal of strength left. At a Council of War, Roger and Matilda had a major row, and both stalked off from the tent in a rage. A lieutenant, whose name was never recorded, but simply referred to as "One who loved them both", went out into the night. What transpired is not known, but the three returned within the hour with great excitement, and claimed that God had granted a miracle, for the Lieutenant had chanced upon a bullrush raft that had been miraculously preserved; this was the very raft that Moses had been carried along the Nile with. The discovery was clearly a sign that God intended the army to ride into Egypt, and through Egypt even unto Jerusalem itself.

The weak and dying army formed up in the morning, with the Raft to the fore, and advanced upon Alexandria. The Fatamids, surprised at the sight, formed up their army to meet them. Perhaps it was a miracle. It was certainly true that no reason could explain why a dying army, outnumbered more than 10 to 1, could even hold its own. Not merely did the Norman/English force hold its own, it massacred the Fatamids, and rode into the city in triumph, and took it in an orgy of blood.

The following day, the Christians saw what they had done, and what the cost was. Wounds were common, but fatalities remarkably light. One of the few fatalities was Roger, leaving Matilda in command of an inspired force in Alexandria. There were many witnesses who had seen Roger in the forefront of the battle, and who saw him die. None saw him die in the same way - some saw him cut down by sword, by javelin, by stone, by arrow or by some other means. The stories were in general agreement that, on his death, the wind blew, and the sun shone on his body, and the cloud of his spirit rose up to Heaven. The Christian warriors were certain that they had fought alongside a Saint.

The Venetians were quite pleased, as well.

Matilda announced that Roger, in his last living breath, had instructed her to hold Alexandria as a Christian base for warriors to move to retake Jerusalem.


Woe to be in England

The year is 1150, the place is England.

Brief summary of England to date:

Harold rules from 1066-75. Following his death, there was a succession crisis, which resulted in Civil War. Much destruction.

1075-85, ruled by various.

1085-1087. Ruled jointly by Owen and Edith.

1087, Harold's son Godwin comes of age, and the Civil War, which had been in danger of dying down, flares up again in 1088. Mainland Scotland is swallowed up, but islands Scotland remains staunchly independent with England as OverKing.

1093. King Edwin confirmed as King of England, and inherits Wales in 1094, and mainland Scotland in 1095.

1095. Things are quiet. Not much left to devastate.

1100(ish). English ports start to get into shipbuilding, helped by Scottish experts.

1102. Iceland becomes an independent English colony. Rules itself, swears allegiance to an overking.

1114-1134. Fighting in and around Spain. England picks up Vigo, Oporto and Lisbon as independent colonies. These become rather more independent than colony.

1113. Edwin dies, replaced by King Harold.

1113-1143. King Harold.

1143, Harold dies, replaced by Aelfred.

Greenland has become an independent colony of Iceland.

There is pressure in the Baltic, which pitches England, Scotland, Norway and Denmark against each other, with Russia muscling in on southern Sweden.

England has been terribly active abroad, despite (or perhaps because of) civil wars and unrest. As a result, there was a perception among the nearby nations that, perhaps England might be ripe for picking. Trade was picking up; England had become a plum.

In 1150, Wallace became King of Scotland.



Wallace and La Grande Mot

The year is 1150, the place is Scotland.

Wallace has become King of Scotland; he was an ambitious, passionate man skilled at leading men. He married a French noblewoman, known as La Grande Mot, due to her wise advice.

England was a plum, and the Scots had found much experience in raiding in the Med and Gibraltar and the Baltic and elsewhere. There was a shortage of men, but no shortage of spirit for loot and plunder and raid.

Thus began what later became known as "Wallace and La Grande Mot's Day Out Against the English Barbarians".

The raid began from the western isles, and hit successively: Glasgow, Carlisle, Liverpool, Dublin, and Bristol. In each place, the tactics were essentially the same. Sail in during the early light, land, grab anything grabbable, burn anything burnable (especially ships), and then depart.

This was, of course, not acceptable to King Aelfred. He quickly realised that trying to catch up with Wallace was not going to be easy. There was, however, an easier way to bring Wallace to book. That was by land. Aelfred gathered together an army, and marched up north to the islands of Scotland, picked one, and devastated it. His plan was simple; for every raid Wallace made against England, a Scottish island would be razed.

That put Wallace into a quandary. Raiding was one thing, and fine sport, but his men got to hear about the troubles back at their homes. The solution was, once more, simple. Go home, defeat the English invader, and make them go away.

Going home was simple. Finding the English army was harder. There was a long period of floundering around amidst the glooms and mists and never- ending rain.

Finally, the two forces found each other. They were remarkably balanced - the English were marginally larger in number, and better equipped; the Scots were in better health and more used to the conditions.

Inevitably, there was an attempt at a parley before the battle. Aelfred and Wallace found that they had much in common and could agree to many things. However, there were differences that had to be resolved; the devastation of England and Scotland "Must be paid for in Blood." Aelfred said: "I have sworn an oath that I will put an end forever your depradations, or die trying." Wallace had sworn a similar oath. They parted firm friends, but the battle was unavoidable, and the death of one or the other inevitable.

The battle began with the Scots charging the English positions. The grey goose cloud broke up the attack with ease, and the Scots pulled back. The English followed up, only to find themselves disorganised and at a disadvantage. The Scots turned, and pushed the English back with great slaughter. Then there followed what were called "Great Handstrokes." Casualties on both sides were heavy. Fighting broke down into smaller and smaller clumps, until the field resembled a massive brawl. Under such circumstances, the longbow lost much of its effectiveness, which relied on its use en masse. The Scots were winning: Wallace led the charge that would break the English invader once and for all. The English army was surrounded, and the end was in sight. Then Wallace fell, struck by the great axe of a huscarl of Aelfred, and he died.

"The Scottish threat is ended, for there will never be another Wallace," said Aelfred. Then the Scottish army over-ran the remaining English force, and Aelfred died with his army.

The best and the bravest on both sides died that day. La Grande Mot entered a nunnery. Wallace was succeeded by his brother, Andrew. Aelfred was succeeded by Michael, Earl of London.


Viking hard never hurt anyone

The year is 1155, the place is sort of in and around Norway.

The Norse, after recovering from their disastrous invasion of 1066, losing much of their bravest and best, had been active, like England, in picking up bits and pieces of land here and there (which promptly became pretty much independent) such as the Balearic Islands, Sark (in the Channel Islands), and major interests in the Baltic. The Norse, like many of the other Northern Seafaring Nations, was also heavily into Trading.

The Baltic was where eyes were becoming focused. The Danes, the Norwegians and the Balts (with settlements in what is now southern Sweden) were interested in controlling the Skaggerak. It served German interests for this area to be disputed between the various parties - a stranglehold would not have been good for business, and Germany was the Power of the Region.

King Poul of Norway, formerly known as Poul the Mule (although brave and intelligent, Poul was short-sighted, and unable to distinguish a horse from a mule at any distance), was keen to resolve the Baltic question in a favourable manner. This he set out to do so by avoiding the question. He made terms with the Danes and the Balts, and managed to get a sort of peace in the area. Essentially, the peace agreement came down to "Until the question between us is resolved, we will make sure no other nation gets involved."

Having got peace in this area, he then looked across the North Sea, to the troubled land of England. King Michael of London had recently gained the throne of England, and the English were greatly over-extended. The civil wars and the departures for foreign lands had taken their toll of English might. Nonetheless, Poul could see that England was potentially rich, and that these riches could belong to Norway.

His first step was to suggest a dynastic marriage between his son and Michael's daughter, in the knowledge that Michael was in the process of negotiating a marriage for his daughter to a German of influence. Inevitably, Michael was unable to give a positive response to Poul, which Poul was able to take amiss. The question of Sark was raised by Poul, which came down to "Guernsey and Sark are a natural unit; let us combine them to form a bulwark for us in the Channel. The Earls can arrange for whoever is the next born heir to inherit both." This was refused bluntly by Michael, who, knowing that the Earl of Guernsey was unlikely to ever have children, being given to "strange and unnatural practices", realised that this meant Sark taking over Guernsey.

Irritations led to a worsening of relations between England and Norway. Poul was heard to say that, whatever happened, he did not fear England because "Michael, unlike Aelfred, has no courage and no heart." Michael, aware that his position on the English throne was being questioned, and that the Witan was watching carefully, was being placed in a difficult position. If he ignored these comments, he might be seen as weak. If he sent an army to Norway without him, the glory would go to whoever led the army. If he left England, well, who knew what might happen to the throne. So he dithered, gathering together forces, without having decided exactly what to do.

Earl Harold of Northumbria was less patient, and set sail for Norway with an army to avenge the insults. "The honour of England is in question. In Northumbria, we know the way to deal with these Norsemen." Earl Harold set sail for Norway, landed, and Poul was delighted to have been invaded. Earl Harold marched his forces into an unfavourable battleground, and then met with Poul at the head of a larger army. The discussions were brief, and battle was averted. Harold surrendered to Poul, who promised him an enlarged Earldom if he joined in the invasion of England.

It was by now late 1157. Poul knew that delay until 1158 would be against his interests - he needed to strike while Michael was still dithering. Setting sail in October, he and Harold landed in Northumbria, and marched southwards. Poul ensured, with a great deal of difficulty, that the warriors in his army were careful not to upset the local people. "I may be asked to rule these people. I do not want them to hate me." King Michael gathered his forces, and hurried north to meet the invader.

They met at Rugby, formerly on the edge of the old Danelaw. Michael had more troops, but Harold and Poul had better troops. Poul and Harold had a brief discussion about the battle; Poul told Harold that: "My eyes are not good enough to allow me to see a battlefield as a leader of troops need to see it. You shall direct the battle; you shall be my sword." Harold, well aware of the fate that awaited him should he pick the losing side, was wondering whether to change sides (again) or not.

Meanwhile, back in London, the Witan was watching events with some concern. Obviously, they supported Michael to the hilt. However, if Michael should lose, well, they were not going to support a losing cause. Many options were considered, and the Witan couldn't decide on a solution. Nonetheless, the Witan did manage to agree to gather their forces, and stick together. Earl Peter of Portsmouth summarised their position briefly: "Let us hang together, else we shall hang separately."

At Rugby, battle was joined. Michael didn't have the nerve to push home a decisive attack, and Harold didn't have the decisiveness to follow-up the retreat. The battle ended in a dismal, disappointing skirmish, in which Michael pulled back towards London. Poul and Harold followed up, slowly. The armies faced each other at the Chiltern Hills, near Wendover. Another indecisive battle followed, with Michael deciding to draw the invaders as far as the walls of London, where the conclusive battle was to be fought.

The armies marched towards London. On the edges of London, a third factor entered play. The Witan had gathered its strength, and formed a large army of their own. Michael ordered it to join his own; Earl Peter refused. "We are for England. We do not know that you are. We will wait for this Poul, and for Harold. Then the matter will be decided."

Poul and Harold arrived with their forces. The army of the Witan was the strongest in the field, and growing stronger. The Witan then called a parley, having decided on their approach to this.

"We are the guardians of England; we appoint the King to rule wisely, and we advise the King. Each of you three desire to be King of England. Tell us why we should choose you."

Michael explained that, having been chosen as King, he was entitled to the loyalty of those that had sworn to serve him. The Witan said that as they choose, so it can unchoose. "We swore to serve the King of England. We have to decide if the King of England is worthy. We serve the King, but if the King is not worthy, then the King is not the King."

Harold explained that he was an honourable warrior who went to avenge the wrongs of England, but was taken at disadvantage; thereafter he had ensured that England was allowed the option of a peaceful resolution. His foray into Norway proved he was no coward; his actions since proved he was not foolishly rash. The Witan was not impressed.

Poul said that one crown was enough for one person, and that he didn't want the throne of England. What he did want was peace and friendship between the two nations. And he pointed out that he had two sons, Erik and Ljot. While neither were yet old enough to hold the throne for themselves, Poul suggested that the Witan hold the throne of England in trust for the elder, Erik. He also had a few suggestions regarding the future.

The Witan decided that it would hold the throne for Erik, with the understanding that it reserved the right to decide he was not worthy. Michael was livid, but his army had drifted away.

Harold asked who should be king in the meantime. Earl Peter replied that: "The Witan will hold it in trust; do you not trust the Witan?"

"Oh, I trust the Witan. No doubt about that. It's just, well, who is King?"

"The Witan is holding England in trust for the King. The Witan rules."

"But, um, who's in charge of the Witan?"


Blue Swede shoes

The year is 1160, the place is the Baltic.

Poul the Mule, King of Norway, had acquired an agreement from the Witan in England that his eldest son, Erik, would, when he reached manhood, become King of England. To say that this was setting up trouble for the future is something of an understatement - but with Erik just 8 years old at the moment, the future can be left to look after itself. Poul had bigger concerns rather closer to home.

The Danes and the Norwegians were squabbling over the control of the Skaggerak, and the Holy Roman Empire was happy to see this situation continue. Poul wanted control for Norway, however.

In Denmark, the King was Mattu I; Mattu was known to be rash, and had attempted with little success to wrest control for the Danes. His attempts had been beaten off with little trouble, but whenever the Norse attempted to take control, German influence ensured that the status quo was maintained. Poul saw that any solution would have to circumvent the influence of the Holy Roman Empire.

Poul made a start by offering a post to Earl Harold of Northumbria as his war chief, bringing with him a strong force of English archers and men-at-arms. The secret agreement was that Denmark would become Harold's; at least, that was the agreement that Harold understood. Poul had no intention of allowing someone of such flexible loyalty as Harold of Northumbria have this post. The Witan was happy to see Harold depart; he had fought against the King, and while the Witan held the crown in trust, it didn't trust Harold. With the Earl of Northumbria away for an obviously lengthy period, the Witan decided that the Monks of Holy Island could hold Northumbria in trust for Harold's return; if Harold died without issue, then the Witan would declare the Earldom vacant, and would decide upon its allocation.

Mattu I was prompted into action when he learnt what Harold understood the agreement to be. Mattu gathered a host, with the intention of dealing with Harold and Poul; he crossed the Skaggerak and began to fight his way towards Oslo. The durability of the Norsemen in combination with the longbowmen was inconvenient to Mattu's forces, but Mattu had such strength that he made slow but steady progress. This was something that was a surprise to many, but Poul's forces seemed much smaller than reputation had led one to believe.

Eventually, the Danes were laying siege to Oslo. The defences were strong, but it appeared to be just a matter of time. This worried the Holy Roman Empire; it looked as though the Danes were about to gain control of the Skaggerak, and 50 years of careful power broking were about to go out of the window. Poul asked the Holy Roman Empire for aid in order to "save Oslo and restore the situation; and to protect that which is rightfully mine." The Emperor, worried by the turn of events, agreed to this, and gave a large sum of money for Poul to use to buy soldiers.

Poul was happy with this, although the gamble of letting the Danes get close to Oslo was causing difficulties. Still, he had received the money that he needed. He spoke privately with a few of the leading Captains in Harold's force, to encourage them.

The next day, Harold led a large force to do battle with the Danes. At the height of the battle, the English and Norse troops broke and ran for the cover of the city, leaving Harold isolated and exposed on the battlefield. He died, although the Danes were unable to pursue effectively, as enough longbowmen retained cohesion to delay the pursuit. Nonetheless, Mattu was confident enough to order an immediate assault.

Confident, but wrong.

The retreat had been feigned, and Harold's men bought by Poul with German gold. The Danes died on the defences of Oslo, and Poul won a great victory. What made this more remarkable was that Poul had gambled, and won, by sending away part of his defensive forces to capture the Danish ships, which they duly did. The Danish force was eliminated. Luckily, Poul was prepared to accept the service of the survivors as mercenaries. The Danes were then asked if they wanted to raid the Balts in southern Sweden. They agreed.

Poul immediately ordered the troops to sail for Denmark, and a lightning raid towards Copenhagen drew the Danish defence in that direction. The main force, however, landed on the isthmus of Denmark, and promptly secured the border with the Holy Roman Empire, and made themselves known to the Empire's forces in the area. The gist of what they said was: "Thanks for your help. I think we've got things under control now, but it was close for a time. Boy, did we need your help. Thanks a lot."

The Balts were under pressure from a raiding force of Danish warriors, and meanwhile, in Denmark, Poul was doing two things; securing the border with the HRE, and getting troops into the capital before a defence could be organised. The first was straightforward - the Emperor couldn't react quickly enough to dump the agreement and start action against Poul; the second involved hard fighting, but Poul was successful.

Meanwhile, the Danes were devastating the Balts in Sweden. Poul had blandly proposed to the Emperor that, since Poul had troops in and around the area, he was the ideal person to deal with this problem, and return the area to stability. The Emperor was not fooled by this one, and took a blunt line. Denmark, Sweden and Norway were to be separate kingdoms. End of story.

Mattu and his family had been inconveniently killed during the war, which left the Kingdom of Denmark available. The Emperor insisted that one of his vassals be crowned King of Denmark. Poul then said that he was so grateful for the aid of the Emperor during the war that he wished his second son, Ljot, to become a vassal of the Emperor, and rule Denmark "when he matures to manhood". The Emperor agreed, with the proviso that the King of Denmark and the King of Norway could never be "blood relatives." The Emperor was aware that the Baltic trade was being interrupted, and that this was causing his powerful nobles concern. He was also aware that Poul could never agree to this.

Poul agreed. Consternation arose, but as hard as the Emperor looked (he no longer trusted Poul), he couldn't see what the catch was. Eventually, it was agreed that when Ljot was old enough to take the throne of Denmark, the King of Norway would cease to be a blood relative. In the meantime, Denmark would be ruled by the Church who had witnessed the oaths.

Five years later, Poul's wife died. Three years after this, he married the daughter of Earl Peter of Portsmouth. Three years after this, Ljot reached manhood, and ascended to the throne of Denmark. On that day, Poul abdicated the Kingship of Norway in favour of his wife.


You push, I'll Poul

The time is 1172, the place is the Baltic.

Poul has abdicated the throne of Norway in favour of his second wife, Godgifu, daughter of Earl Peter of Portsmouth, while Ljot (Poul's son) ascends the throne of Denmark. Norway is in the ascendant, as a result of Poul's machinations and trickery.

However, the Holy Roman Empire was not best pleased by this. The goal of the HRE was to ensure that no one power gained control of the Baltic: Norway now had a hold on the Skagerrak. England, while weakened, had a number of footholds here and there. There was also an agreement that Erik, Poul's second son, would ascend to the throne of England, which would make Poul's family very influential.

It came as no great surprise to many people when Poul died suddenly in early 1173. There was no major disruption in Norway or Denmark - both were ruled separately, and without any great disputes. Queen Godgifu held the throne of Norway at the age of 16, the daughter of "the most powerful man in England", and the widow of King Poul. It was assumed that she would be easily manipulated, and the Holy Roman Emperor was satisfied.

In 1175, Erik reached manhood, and attention turned to England. The Witan was split over this subject. On the one hand, Earl Peter of Portsmouth wanted Erik to become King. On the other hand, many of the Witan had got to rather like the idea of acting as "regent" for the King. A major power struggle was thus brewing in England and the Baltic. Scotland, meanwhile, on the fringes and with widely spread interests (including Gibraltar), was getting a little anxious over the possible consequences. Negotiations and discussions went on (and on). The Emperor made it clear that the unification of Denmark and Norway would not be acceptable - with Ljot on the throne of Denmark, Godgifu on the throne of Norway, and Erik on the throne of England, the Emperor was certain that Godgifu shouldn't marry either Ljot or Erik.

Tensions rose, especially in England, which appeared to be gearing up for yet another civil war. No-one appeared ready to start the war, however, so nothing much actually happened.

Scotland was getting heavily involved in the negotiations and debates, and Brin, King of Scotland, sent numbers of advisors to the three courts. One in particular, Kenneth Whale-Slayer (or, according to some sources, Raider into Wales) became well known at each of the courts. Meanwhile, the Emperor's attention was drawn southwards by the activities between the Muslims, the Byzantines, and the Mediterranean Situation (see an episode yet to come).

The solution to the Baltic situation proved to be quite simple: by changing nothing, and just allowing things to settle down, the status quo was maintained, and Norway and Denmark could grow closer together. Godgifu was courted by the Scots, without success.

The English situation was harder to deal with, as the Witan and the Erik/Peter alliance appeared to be on a collision course. This involved a lot of shouting; however, the Church pointed out that the Witan had promised to support Erik, and that the time had come for the Witan to support Erik. Concern was expressed over the power of Peter of Portsmouth, but in the end, the Church told the Witan, in effect, to either put up, overthrow the whole system of monarchy - and incidentally, their own basis of power (if the Witan can overturn a monarch, then who will support the earls who make up the Witan?) - and go against the rule of God and Monarch; or to shut up. This, combined with judicious bribes from Peter, brought the Witan back into line.

Erik was crowned king of England. Thus the Monarch of England was Norwegian; the Monarch of Norway was English; the Monarch of Denmark was Norwegian.

One other development that took place was in Scotland. The diplomacy of Brin, through Kenneth, had been effective in developing the ties of friendship and trade between Scotland and Denmark, Norway and England. All four parties were careful not to actually talk about an alliance. Not as such. The Emperor wouldn't like it.


Land of the three

The date is 1165, the place is North America.

We had left the continent with the following:

Anci, Earl of the Western Lands, and son of Earl Jyrrki of Greenland, had arrived in the southern tip of James bay (known now as Saija Bay) - he sent ships back to Greenland, but these were lost at sea, and the fate of his settlement was unknown in Greenland;

Earl Snorri of Iceland had arrived in Goose Bay, Newfoundland - his ships were damaged in a storm, so he was busy repairing them;

Earl Cuthbert (Cutter) of England landed on the Island of Newfoundland (known now as Holy Island). Cutter returned to Europe, arrived in Brittany, and enlisted the help of a Breton ship's captain, George, in setting up shop in America rather than handing it over to the King. Loyalty is all very well, but shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of a good profit.

Anci's settlement was the first to face the meeting of the local people. This was quite useful for them, as the local conditions were such that the settlement was in difficulty. There were tensions from time to time between the two groups, but these were eased by the fact that the winter weather was clearly a bigger threat than either. Nonetheless, the settlement spent some time on the verge of survival, simply because of the harsh conditions. There was a fair amount of intermarriage (and similar), although this was rather one-directional, as Anci's settlement consisted of restless, adventurous men. When the ships from Greenland failed to return, Anci became aware that his settlement was cut off, and on its own. Still, he had been duly appointed Earl of the Western Lands, and so he assumed this mantle. To all intents and purposes, his group had become another tribe, albeit one with a strange appearance and strange skills.

Disease started to spread among the local people. This travelled fairly slowly, as the population density in the region was thin, and transmission rates thus relatively low. It ensured that there were no major population pressures to cause antipathy between the Greenlanders and the Locals.

In the winter 1170, an accident in the forge caused a fire, which spread throughout the settlement, causing massive destruction. Many people died, some during the fire, and rather more soon after in the cold. Anci himself died, and the Greenlanders were left leaderless for a time.

Meanwhile, in Goose Bay, the Icelanders settled down for a short stay while they repaired their ships. While repairing the ships, they encountered Skraeling. Earl Snorri, familiar with the story of the wealth of Spain and the loot obtained by the Icelanders there, assumed (perhaps not unreasonably) that Locals meant Loot, Loot meant Wealth, and Wealth meant that the best way to acquire it was to take it by force. Fighting broke out, and the Icelanders went in search of cities to plunder. This proved to be quite difficult in Newfoundland, and after a lengthy adventure, heavy casualties (through accident, Skraeling action, exposure, and similar) and little gain, they returned to the ships. Or at least, to the burnt shells of the ships.

Bother, thought Earl Snorri. Now it was personal. He was bright enough to realise that the casualties of his previous approach were unsustainable; as a result, he took the approach of targeting a village, taking it over, killing the men, and using it as a base of operations. This was all very well, but it quickly became a siege; the Icelanders were safe enough inside the village, but as soon as they left (except in large groups) to get food, they became comparatively easy prey. Winter brought an end to the sorry episode.

Disease started, but contact between the Icelanders and the Locals was somewhat abbreviated.

To the south, on Holy Island, the English settlers had been left to their own devices while Earl Cuthbert returned to Europe. They came across the local people, and got on reasonably enough with them. It helped that the English were well-equipped and didn't want any trouble, and that there weren't that many local people anyway. There was plenty of fishing. What did become difficult was leadership. Cutter was away, and after a few months, questions began to be asked as to whether or not he would return. Cutter had named the loyal Gyrth to be in charge until his return - but Gyrth died after he injured himself chopping down a tree, and the wound became infected. This brought a leadership struggle, which was won by Ethelbert on the basis that he was getting on well with the local people - he had married well into the local hierarchy, and dynastic marriages were well understood by the English.

The winter was a hard one, and not without its losses. Disease was common among the local people, but mercifully, did not spread greatly beyond the island. The losses (largely English to the weather, and the Locals to the disease) produced a feeling of joint loss, and a greater sense of unity.

Then Cutter and George returned. With several ships, and the intention of staying and grabbing as much power and wealth as possible.


I ain't got no body

The year is 1171, the place is America (give or take).

Cutter (aka Earl Cuthbert) from England and George (from Britanny) returned to Holy Island, intent on the traditional profession of the nobility of grabbing as much wealth and power for themselves as possible.

Unfortunately, just as Cutter and George had overlooked the loyalties and oaths sworn to their respective monarchs, so too did the settlers on Holy Island feel that their loyalty was to the settlement, rather than the individuals who claimed to be at the top. Ethelbert, who had made his way to leadership of the settlement, and who had married into the local peoples, refused to stand down, which brought about a power conflict between the two.

There was an agreement between Ethelbert and Cutter to discuss the matter later; that night, however, Ethelbert was slain by person or persons unknown, the body being hacked severely. His wife was also killed.

The next morning, Cutter was accused of being responsible for these deaths, which he naturally denied, claiming that his goal was to resume his rightful place as leader of the settlement. "I am responsible for the well-being of all my people. I do not harm unnecessarily any of my people, even when they are being foolish. We would have reached agreement today. Look among the natives for the killer."

The settlers were, unsuprisingly, unconvinced of Cutter's claim. However, Cutter's men were occupying positions of strength, and none of the settlers were ready to be the first to die. Cutter then asked if any objected to his being in charge of the settlement.

No objections were raised.

Surprisngly enough, Cutter was able to avoid being killed in his sleep, and managed to gain effective control of the settlement. The settlers weren't happy, and the locals were even less happy, but Cutter was not attempting to win a popularity contest. The goal was to drag as much wealth as possible out of the new lands. George and the Bretons settled down to fishing, which was a task they knew, and did well at.

Cutter, however, was not happy with the wealth being produced by the settlement. It was not the same as becoming rich beyond his wildest dreams. The trouble was, he couldn't leave the settlement (or else it would rebel in his absence) and he couldn't get the riches he craved by staying. He did what any right-thinking despot does in such situations - send someone who has to remain loyal because you hold hostages to enforce their loyalty.

Thus it was that Piers of Holy Island led a small group to explore the coastline. He took with him some of the locals, and headed north. He encountered some of the locals who had had dealings with the Icelanders. The locals were getting the hang of the idea that these newcomers were not necessarily Good Guys. Piers was able to talk with the northern locals, and learnt of the surviving Icelandic settlement. He returned with this news, and this gave Cutter a target for raiding.

Off went the group of well-armed men under Cutter's command to raid the Icelanders. The Icelanders were surprised when they found themselves being assailed in the early morning light by armoured huscarls and longbowmen after years of struggle against the locals. The Icelander settlement burnt. Cutter faced the problem at the end of it that, having promised his men loot, they found, well, nothing. His men were not happy. However, there was no alternative. Loot was now a high priority for Cutter.

They set off southwards, to see what could be seen. Cutter's ship was lost in a storm, and his men went back to Holy Island. Cutter's body was, unsuprisingly, never found.

Meanwhile, on Holy Island, George had taken command, and was getting on rather better with the locals. The fishing was good, if dangerous. The settlement settled down.


Baltic ring saga

Place: The Baltic; time: 1180

Scotland, Denmark, Norway and England were getting on reasonably well, and trading with each other and intermingling Royal Blood, without using the Alliance word, for fear of annoying the Holy Roman Empire (which did not want any one power to control the Baltic, and the exits from the Baltic.

The King of England at the time was Erik, a Norwegian, chosen by the Witan and backed by Peter of Portsmouth, the "most powerful man in England"; Queen Godgifu ruled in Norway, the English wife of the former King Poul; King Ljot ruled in Denmark, Ljot being the second son of Poul (from his first wife, and Ljot was not related to Godgifu, other than the fact that she was his step-mother) (the first son was Erik, King of England); King Brin of Scotland was involved, but had no marriage ties to the family. He did, however, have Kenneth Whale-Slayer (or, according to some translators, Raider Into Wales) as an emissary at the Courts, and Kenneth was a very popular man. Indeed, many boys were being born and named Kenneth to honour the Scottish nobleman.

One can see why the Holy Roman Empire was suspicious of a cartel here, with one family controlling the thrones of Norway, Denmark and England.

It wasn't long before grumbles started emerging here and there around the four Kingdoms, and German Gold seemed to be drifting in to those areas which were showing thoughts of independence. Nothing much happened, but the forces of the reigning monarchs had to do a great deal of moving around to persuade outlying settlements that they really did not want independence. It was an expensive and frustrating time, and about the only good that came out of it was that the four nations learnt how to shift small armies around in the most efficient way. They made mistakes along the way - for example, one army landed with a large number of archers, but the resupply of arrows were lost at sea.

Lots of movement, but little bloodshed took place.

Peter of Portsmouth had managed to upset the Witan, (his daughter was on the throne of Norway, his son-in law on the throne of England, and he was the richest man in the Witan). This was not to the liking of the Witan, and the Witan appeared to have a great deal of money to throw at causing Peter problems. England started to resemble an armed camp, and it was obvious to most that yet another English Civil War was about due.

Then things changed dramatically when Godgifu announced that she intended to marry Kenneth of Scotland. That was too much for the HRE to accept, and an HRE army made its way slowly towards Denmark, with the intent of putting a stop, once and for all, to the alliance between these four little nations. Since the HRE had made no secret of its intentions, for once, the four nations worked together, and the alliance that Germany had so long worked to prevent came about.

The German forces moved into Denmark, slowly. The Alliance forces gave ground slowly, and were also able to move troops around to damage the Germans elsewhere.

There was a great deal of fighting, but eventually, Denmark was taken by the German forces, and the sole ownership of the Skagerak was ended. There were suggestions that the Germans should cross the Skagerak and deal with Norway, but this came to nothing when the disparity in shipping was considered.

The Alliance of the Four Nations was formed, although they only held three nations.


The French connection

For some time, France had been relatively quiet and untroubled. Britany was independent, but that had been accepted. Normandy was also independent, but very quiet, as the adventurous among the Normans had gone to Spain and Italy and Egypt.

The bulk of France was quiet and content and prosperous.

When Andre became King of France in 1180, he vowed that he would expand the borders of France and extend its glory. Spain was an unattractive proposition. Adventures across the sea were risky given the weakness of French maritime capability. The Alps formed a natural boundary to the south east. The Holy Roman Empire was too strong.

That left Flanders. In 1182, Andre led an army into Flanders. The Flemish forces did not come out to fight, and the war swiftly moved to a sequence of sieges. Disease began to take its toll of the French forces. After three years of futile siege and counter-siege, the two sides gave up, returning to the status quo.

Andre's next adventure was in conjunction with the Flemish fleet, and was aimed towards Ireland. The French landed near Cork, and got bogged down in difficult fighting. The French would win the battles, advance, and find that they had achieved very little, and gained nothing worth having. After a year, Andre returned to France, leaving a token force holding Cork, under Alaine, Lord of Cork (newly appointed by Andre, and not to be confused with Borin, the Irish Lord of Cork). Alaine and Borin presently agreed to cordially maintain the struggle, sending back reports to their respective masters, telling of the desperate fighting, and the terrible need for gold to win. Cork prospered.

Andre had gone north east and north west, and failed. By now, Germany was moving against Denmark, and Andre decided to gamble on the giant being distracted. He prepared an army, and was about to advance towards Munich, when he hesitated. The Holy Roman Empire asked him to remove the army, or else. It was phrased more tactfully, but the presence of a German army was less tactful. The implied insult was enough for the commander of the French army to advance, despite Andre's misgivings.

Oddly enough, the German army simply fell apart, and Andre found himself a surprised and rather worried victor. The French army occupied the land between the Rhine and the Mosel. Andre was worried over possible responses from the Germans, and was considerably surprised when he received an offer from the Byzantines to buy this newly acquired land.

He was even more surprised when the Holy Roman Emperor (worried himself over the difficulties in Denmark, and needing a swift resolution) entered a bidding war for the province.

Eventually, Andre agreed to accept an obscene amount of gold to return the province to the Holy Roman Empire. With this gold, he purchased Crete from the Byzantines, and then went to Crete to claim the land for France.

The Byzantines were happy - their skilled intelligence had, in effect, got the Holy Roman Emperor to give them a huge amount of gold in exchange for them giving up an island they didn't own to France.

The Holy Roman Emperor was, if not happy, at least content to have resolved the western situation so swiftly.

The Cretans were not aware that the island had been sold to France, but an infusion of gold quelled any concern they may have had. Andre died of a fever on Crete, and the French settled in for a long stay. Andre's brother, Charles, became King of France and Crete. Not that he had any intention of going there.


Pharaohs, Forth, Tyne and Dogger

Place: Egypt; time: 1165

We had left Alexandria in the hands of the Normans, after the miracle of the Moses' Bullrushes. The city was held, following the death of St Roger in battle, by Matilda (also known as Maud).

The opportunities - or threats - of further exploitation into Egypt were evident to all concerned. A number of attempts were made to expolit eastwards towards the Holy Land, with disappointing results (if you were a Norman).

Matilda was holding Alexandria as a strong base from which Normans - and other Christian adventurers - could operate. Indeed, Alexandria did quite well from the passing trade.

To the west of Alexandria, the Muslims watched with a noticeable lack of concern. The Christians weren't bothering them, and indeed, were providing a useful source of income. Provided the adventurers went eastwards, the Muslims to the west were content.

Christian strategy was simple. Move forward in as close to a straight line as possible, capture any cities in the way, and move on. This was all very well, but it did rather assume that cities fall, and that having fallen, they stay in Christian hands. This proved to be difficult, as it required troops to garrison a city, which meant fewer troops were available to assault the next city. Horses died in large numbers, and the problems of advancing were immense.

As long as there was a will to resist the incursions of the Christians, Christian incursions were temporary.

That was until Sir Yves began to think about the problem. He reasoned that while there were more Muslims than Christian Adventurers, there was a problem. The solution was to reduce the number of Muslims. Sword and lance and bow were all very well, but a knight's sword arm got tired. The solution was to find a way to kill Muslims in large numbers.

He realised that the Nile provided a lot of food. If this were cut off, famine would strike the Muslims, which would bring their numbers down handily.

He therefore led an expedition down the Nile. Rather than getting bogged down in sieges, he burnt crops. To start with, this had positive results. The crops burnt; Muslims came out to fight, fought, and died at the hands of his men. The Christians went away, satisfied with having destroyed the year's crop.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons the Nile was such a good food supply was that it gave several harvests a year. As a result, Yves and his men had to go out, time after time.

There were a number of consequences. There was little profit to be had in burning crops, so he suffered from desertions, leaving him with a core that believed in him and his methods. Furthermore, a great many people were being affected, and not just the Muslims in the Holy Land. Yves was asked to desist.

Naturally, such pressure convinced him that he was close to success - he was not one to distinguish between the political factions of various Muslims. Christians, such as those in Alexandria, who started to object were, to Yves way of thinking, traitors to the cause.

Sir Yves announced that the war against the Muslims was: "A war against Evil, and there was only the choice between Heaven and Hell." This brought him into conflict with the Pope. The Pope was significantly weaker in this AH than OTL, but nonetheless held some moral influence.

The Pope did not care for the Holy Roman Empire (something to do with one of his predecessors having been held captive by the HRE). The big challenge to the HRE came from Byzantines, and the Pope wanted the Byzantines looking north west towards HRE, and not south east towards the Holy Land. Officially, the Pope took the line that a conquest of the Holy Land could only be carried out by the pure of heart. This, of course, reflected the widespread view that the reason that William the Bastard failed in 1066 was because he lost God's Grace by despoiling the land.

Sir Yves recognised that this revealed the simple truth that the Pope was against him, and thus in league with the Devil.

Meanwhile, the depradations of Sir Yves was beginning to take effect, and famine started to stalk the land. The need to deal with Sir Yves resulted in what he regarded as an unholy alliance of Muslim and Christian to bring him to battle.

Bringing him to battle proved difficult. He and his men had become very adept at burning and departing. If the forces of retribution tried to cover all possible crops, they were spread to thinly. If they concentrated, Yves just struck against the crops that weren't protected. The local farmers tried to fight, and discovered the inadequacy of improvised agricultural implements against Frankish knights.

An attempt was made to use the Old Man of the Mountain, but this was a dismal failure, simply because Yves did not trust any strangers. An attempt to bribe his followers failed, as by now, all his followers were utterly loyal and believed in his cause.

It was a lowly monk that provided the clue to changing the situation. Brother Peter approached Sir Yves, and had converse with him.

"They tell me, Sir Yves, that you do God's work. They tell me that you are the scourge of the ungodly. And yet you are in Egypt, and you are not in the Holy Land. Did not Moses lead his people from Egypt to the Holy Land? Did not Jesus himself, after having been carried into Egypt, return to the Holy Land? Is it not the case that those who do God's work in Egypt must travel to the Holy Land?"

This was such obvious logic to Sir Yves that he led his men out of Egypt, and across the Sinai Desert towards the Holy Land. Brother Peter accompanied them. They trusted to God for supplies.

They were never seen by mortal eyes again, although tales persisted for long after of blue-eyed bandits who scourged the desert. The people of Egypt and of the Sinai say that when the wind blows in the wrong direction, you can hear the sound of burning, and the name of Yves.


The reign in Spain

Spain, 1175

Spain was a collection of city states. Theoretically, the following was the case:

Seville and Cadiz were held by the Normans

Gibraltar was held by Scotland

The east coast was sort of held by France

Lisbon, Oporto and Vigo were held by England

Bilbao was held by the Bretons

Coruna, Santander and Madrid were held by the Muslims

The growing independence of these city states was causing some concern to their nominal owners. Not that there was a great deal they could do, other than trust to loyalty and oaths.

While the city states had a number of conflicts of interest, at base, they had more in common with each other than they did with their host nation. The Muslim presence was a complicating factor, and there were a large number of short but sharp skirmishes between cities with disputes. These rapidly became almost ritual. Bloody, but ritual. Small, fiercely fighting armies became the order of the day.

It was Mordechai the Jew who introduced a new factor. Mordechai was a money-lender who had become quite wealthy through an accumulation of 'quality loans'. He saw that significant influence went to those people who had small, highly effective armies. As a result, he decided to acquire the most effective army in the region, and so became a power himself.

There was the problem of prejudice to overcome. As a Jew, Mordechai could not actually employ soldiers himself without running considerable risk. He needed a front man. This was where Sir Roger Blunte came in.

The title Sir was purely a courtesy one. By all accounts, he was the illegitimate son of a tanner who became a Man-At-Arms. After a couple of moves to new employers, Roger knighted himself. This was not strictly in accordance with the custom of the day, but Roger had learnt that might would make the title stick.

Mordechai offered to provide Roger with the necessary money in order for him to live like a Lord, on the condition that Roger forms a professional body of soldiers-for-hire. The initial step proved to be relatively straight forward. A number of soldiers appreciated the idea of being well-paid for their labours, rather than being expected to do the same thing as a matter of duty and for low remuneration.

Once he had a core group, Mordechai listened to his clients, to learn where trouble was brewing. He would inform Sir Roger, who appeared in the area, and offered to assist one side or the other (or sometimes both) in exchange for a significant sum of money.

For a while, the noble Lords were reluctant to employ such freelancers. However, once the first hurdle was breached, and it became clear that these mercenaries were effective, they received many more offers of employment.

Sir Roger was not out to overthrow the system. Far from it - it was the system that gave him his income. Nonetheless, he rapidly became very powerful indeed.

This development caused some concern among the 'host' nations. In particular, the Bretons put together an army to ensure that Bilbao understood where its allegiance lay.

The Breton army came by sea. Strong winds blew the ships to the west of the intended landing point, and they landed near the Muslim port of Santander. The Breton army, bereft of its commander (whose ship was still in the Bay of Biscay) saw a wealthy city occupied by non-believers with few defenders. The massacre of Muslims was, in retrospect, inevitable under the circumstances.

Sir Roger was not far away. He approached the Breton army, which by now had been rejoined by its commander. Words were exchanged between Sir Roger and the commander, and Sir Roger went away insulted. He went into a fury when the Bretons sent him some animal hides with the message: "Hides for the tanner".

That led to a battle. The Bretons were far more numerous; Sir Roger's men were much more experienced and hardened, and were familiar with the conditions. The Bretons attacked up a long hill, and were killed at the top of the slope. The Breton army was destroyed.

Mordechai the Jew was a little concerned at the possible consequences. He feared that the employers of Sir Roger might turn against him. It turned out that his fears were needless. The cities preferred their effective independence, and were prepared to work together to ensure they retained that.

They were not, however, prepared to trust each other. The obvious solution was to make use of someone who was not associated with any one city, and who knew how to fight.

Thus Sir Roger was asked to lead his men in the protection of "all the cities of Spain". With the troubles of the Baltic and Egypt, very few nations actually had a great deal of interest in enforcing their ownership.

It took less than a year before Sir Roger declared himself "Protector of the Cities of Spain". This was swiftly abbreviated to "King".

Unfortunately, Sir Roger's followers were mercenaries, and the twin problems of peace and no pay was upsetting them. Mordechai, not unreasonably, wanted the mercenaries to be paid off and disposed of. This was a problem, as without the mercenaries, Roger would have no power base, and with the mercenaries, Roger had an unruly nuisance.

Under the circumstances, there was only one thing that Roger could do. That was to order a massacre of the Jews in Spain. That disposed of a large number of debts conveniently.

Three years later, and the mercenaries were still restless and looking for trouble. They killed Roger, and several of the leading mercenaries offered their services to protect specific cities. The situation returned to the status quo.


Ex Africa

Time: 1170; place: North Atlantic coast of Africa

Casablanca was under the control of Ethelbert (son of Leofwine of Lisbon) and Farrah, daughter of Sultan Mulik. They had been given the land between Casablanca and Rabat to rule jointly, with their children being brought up as alternately Muslim and Christian (thus effectively placing both religions into a competitive situation). That was in 1154, and since then, Casablanca has become a melting pot city.

With Muslim and Christian co-rulers, both Christian and Muslims were welcome. Traders from the sea and from inland came, and sea-faring adventurers heading south made great use of the city.

Casablanca was a border city, and a busy, teeming mixture. Ships sailed southwards along the coast to seek new trading partners, or other ships to capture and plunder, or whatever happened to take the whim of the commander of the ship.

A number of these ships started to meet ships coming up from the south, originating from what is now (in OTL) Nigeria. These ships carried high quality bronzes. A brisk trade in bronzes for iron developed.

As a consequence, Benin grew in strength.

A number of trading posts were established around the coast, but casualties from disease at these posts was extremely high. After a couple of decades, it was noticed that people of mixed Benin/Casablanca parentage survived much better. This resulted in pressure to acquire people of mixed parentage, which in turn resulted in an economy of exchanging individuals to further such a goal. Hence a slave trade developed, with the offspring of the slaves being of considerable value.

The trading posts began to grow in importance. As they did so, the question of ownership started to arise.

Fighting over them was a bit of a non-starter. Northerners heading south died in large number from disease, while southerners heading north died in large numbers due to northern advantages in iron technology.

That left negotiations. These took a very long time, and essentially came to the conclusion that all trading posts north of Dakar were the responsibility of Casablanca, while those south were the responsibility of Benin.

West Africa grew slowly but steadily. Ships trundled further and further southwards, seeking new resources to plunder, with conspicuous lack of success. They did discover, however, that after a certain point, the weather did not become any more oppressively hot, and indeed, started to tail off. There were swamps, and then deserts, more familiar to those from Casablanca.

The fact was recorded, but ignored for the time being. Events in Spain, while not affecting Casablanca, held attention in that direction. At the same time, Benin was undergoing civil disruption following the death of an heirless King, and numerous ambitious would-be monarchs.

Years passed. Then, some bright spark in Casablanca, still a turbulent city, suggested that it would be nice to have somewhere to send some of the bloody nuisances that were around - the people who were an embarrassment, but who had too many contacts just to be quietly killed.

The latest King of Benin had similar ideas, so a joint expedition "To found a trading post on the far south of the land" was formed. Four ships, with supplies, trade goods and a collection of assorted embarrassments, headed south.

Three ships landed at Walvis Bay, which was called, for no readily explained reason, Carthage. The fourth ship was lost at sea. They set up a trading post, and the ships headed back north. The ships never reached home.

Another expedition was sent, the first having been a success - it had done what it was supposed to do. Two ships out of five reached Carthage. There was no sign of the trading post. The settlers formed another trading post on the site of the old, retained the name Carthage. This post survived, and was, theoretically, by the letter of the agreement, answerable to Benin. It was, however, predominantly ships from Casablanca that made the journey to Carthage.

Carthage barely survived. Survive it did, however, and the Carthaginians became known as a very hardy people.


There's no Byzantine like sure Byzantine

Place: Byzantium/Constantinople/Istambul/Etc; time: 1180

The internal politics of the Byzantine empire had been complicated. It is pointless to try and explain it, but it was full of checks and balances, and very shifting allegiances.

One area where the Byzantines did excel was in the creative use of individual emissaries. In particular, these emissaries got to understand the friends and enemies of various rulers, and thus how to undermine a ruler if required.

The Byzantine empire was also wealthy.

The two big concerns of the Empire were the powerful Holy Roman Empire to the north west, and the Muslims in the Holy Land.

One of the reasons for the wealth of the Byzantines was that it was a very convenient stopping point for pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. As a result, the efforts of the largely Norman adventurers in Egypt was both a concern (making Muslims less inclined to allow pilgrims) and a boon (making peaceful pilgrims less likely to take the Egypt route).

The famous Varangian Guard had fallen into a major decline. This had depended on recruiting adventurous foreigners. However, there were very many other attractions for adventurous foreigners - Spain and Egypt and Malta and the Baltic and... As a result, the power of the Byzantine Army was a lot weaker than that of its reputation.

Lacking both quality and quantity of troops, the Byzantines had no alternative but to focus on making the best use of inferior material. The effectiveness of fortifications was noted, and so emphasis was placed on fortifying cities with the best that human ingenuity could devise, and ensuring that the Byzantine field army learnt the science of field fortifications.

The importance of mathematics to these became obvious. Since many of the best mathematicians were Arabic, there was a determined attempt to attract them to the Empire.

Lots of highly intelligent people were gathered together, given large sums of money, and told to come up with good ideas. The result was a scientific renaissance in the city. All areas of science improved, especially in medicine.

However, the area that made the most spectacular progress was that of finding ways of measuring things. Accurate and repeatable measurements of length assisted in construction, which was the given reason for developing it. However, these techniques were put to the vastly more interesting task of trying to estimate how far away the moon, the sun and the stars were. No consensus on figures were obtained.

The debates over the sciences were illuminating and productive. These also attracted intelligentsia from far afield.

The Byzantine army, however, continued to founder.


All at sea with the pope

Place Holy Roman Empire; time:1195

Over a hundred years before this starts, the Pope had, unwisely, attempted to bring the Holy Roman Emperor under his control by a personal visit. The Holy Roman Emperor held on to the Pope, and was able to use his influence to, um, persuade the Pope to instruct Papal authorities to move to Munich.

This involved a lot of bluff and a weak Pope, but once it took place, the Papal authorities tried to retain face by indicating that this was a good idea.

The situation lasted for a century. The Holy Roman Empire was very powerful, and grew in strength because of the location of the Pope.

When Pope Gregor took over, he grew frustrated at being held in Munich. When the Germans began to have problems in Denmark, their attention was distracted.

This led to a bold decision by Pope Gregor, that he would take advantage of the opportunity to leave Germany.

In company with a couple of companions, Pope Gregor disguised himself as a merchant. A degree of excitement was involved in the escape (which would, much later, by glamorised by the film industry which modified history to the extent that the three escapees appeared much less like the overweight and elderly men that they in fact were).

There were a couple of close calls, but clearly God was on the Pope's side in leaving Munich. Once the word got out that the Pope had gone, the Empire made major efforts to find him. The roads south towards Rome were well covered. The Pope guessed that this would be the case, and made his way towards Flanders.

The journey brought the Pope into far closer contact with normal people than he had ever had before.

He reached Flanders. He was concerned about the closeness of pursuit (which was not justified, but he was fairly paranoid at this point). As a result, he caught the first ship out of Flanders. This ship was going first to Cornwall, and then up to Scotland and thence Iceland.

That was the plan. After leaving Cornwall, however, a wind blew up, and the ship had to take refuge in Ireland. The wind wasn't that serious, and there was never any great danger. However, the Pope was not familiar with matters nautical, and assumed that it was a lot more serious than it was. His perception may have been influenced by the state of his health during the storm.

He gave thanks to God for his safe deliverance, and announced that he would travel no more by sea. Ever. No exceptions. He set up in Dublin.

This was a problem as far as every one else was concerned. Dublin was remote, and had limited facilities, and was somewhat less sophisticated than either Rome or Munich. The Papal authorities were NOT happy. Pope Gregor, however, was adamant.

The French invasion at Cork had died down, and had become a ritual by this point. Both sides were persuaded to present themselves to Dublin, where the Pope settled the dispute. Alaine was confirmed as Lord of Cork, and Lord Borin invited to lead the Papal Guard.

The Papal Court settled down, amid a great deal of grumbling, in Dublin.

Eight years later, Pope Gregor died. The first decision made by his successor, Pope Thomas, was to return to Rome.


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