For glory! I'm currently in the middle of an epic undertaking: chronicling an alternate history of Europe in Paradox's Crusader Kings II, with a new entry every Wednesday. I have just been crowned King Brian I of Ireland, and gathered the Lords of the Emerald Isle to offer them vassalage. Can I unify the realm and secure its independence? It's a mystery only time can reveal. Onward!
At 64, I've met all the conditions and paid the costs associate with creating a kingdom. That doesn't automatically make me sovereign over all of the lands that are considered Ireland, however. Six counties remain independent, and I'll have to secure the vassalage of their liege lords by contract or conquest.
February 25, 1112: King Brian assembles the lords of Ireland before his coronation pavilion, and asks each who would accept him as their rightful liege to step forth and kneel. Earl Donnchad of Ossory and Duke Domnall of Leinster stand firm. Earl Áed of Tyrconnel, who fought alongside Brian in the Crusade for Jerusalem, is the first to kneel. His northern allies, Earl Indrechtach of Tyron and Earl Eógan of Oriel, follow suit. The last of the northern Ulster lords, Earl Indrechtach of Ulster, hesitates.
Three immediate acceptances is not bad. At this point, now that I had more support, I went back to those who initially refused to ask again.
Seeing three of the four Ulster lords kneel, Donnchad of Ossory reconsiders and steps forth to kneel. Indrechtach of Ulster and Domnall of Leinster depart as the sole dissenters, clutching to the independence of their realms.
Well, it looks like I'll need to deal with two of the most powerful lords in the land before I am the undisputed king. Luckily, the armies of my four new vassals should make it an almost trivial task.
April 16, 1112: The Norwegian King Magnus II of England dies. His newborn son, Magnus III, becomes king. King Brian is dismayed to learn that Magnus managed to have a male heir just before his death, having hoped that his marriage to Princess Thorborg would produce the next King of England. He mentions some completely hypothetical solutions to this problem in a casual chat with his spymaster.
Murder a baby? I have no idea what would give you that crazy idea. Sure, Crusader Kings' plot mechanic supports it. And some powerful nobles such as Duke Åle of Oxford and Duke Ealdræd of Somerset seem willing to see such an awful deed done. I will even give you that little Magnus' own half-uncle, Prince Sigurd, and Sigurd's mother, Ragnhild, seem warm to the idea. But I only know that from rumor. It's not like I discussed it with them or anything.
Why are you looking at me like that?
April 17, 1112: King Brian names himself Duke of Ulster, adding to his existing titles as Duke of Munster, Connacht, and Meath. This effectively makes him not only king, but also direct liege of every duchy in Ireland but Leinster.
My vassals are starting to get annoyed with how many potentially giftable titles I hold, but I'm also getting a lot of prestige and, more importantly, more leverage over Earl Indrechtach of County Ulster, one of the two lords who have yet to proclaim me king.
Under the auspices of his new title, King Brian sends Earl Indrechtach of Ulster a gift of gold, and gives him one last chance to kneel before the throne and prevent war. The once reluctant lord accepts, leaving Domnall of Leinster alone in his defiance of the king.
July 18, 1112: Earl Indrechtach of Tyrone requests to be made Duke of Ulster. King Brian obliges, having only claimed the title to aid in bringing County Ulster to heel.
May 1, 1113: The petty kingdom of Norfolk is conquered by the babe King Magnus III's regent, making the Kingdoms of England and Lancaster the only two meaningful powers in England. Norman Kent continues to hold a small fiefdom in the southeast.
June 12, 1113: Just as England is growing more unified, the long-stable Scotland fractures at the death of King Malcolm the Cruel into the realms of Galloway, Atholl, Lothian, and Strathearn.
This can only be good for me. It makes Scotland a very real option for future conquests, which was never the case before.
July 15, 1113: Gormlaith, King Brian's mistress and mother of one of his daughters, dies bedridden at 63.
September 9, 1113: Duke Åle of Oxford gets drunk and makes up some wild and ridiculous story about being involved in a plot orchestrated by King Brian and Queen Thorborg of Ireland to kill the baby King Magnus.
What, you're going to listen to that raving boozehound? Come on! Would you believe him if he told you I was part manticore and had a holiday cottage on the moon? Let's be real. By the way, remind me to never involve Duke Åle in anything important again. For reasons totally unrelated to this incident.
September 26, 1113: At 39, Máiread, the Warrior Maiden of Munster, gives birth to her only daughter, Gormlaith. Shortly after, King Brian finds that his young second wife is pregnant.
Yep, still got it.
January 1, 1114: On New Year's Day, King Brian sends a strongly-worded letter to Duke Domnall of Leinster giving him one last chance to kneel before the armies of all Ireland are sent to make him. He still stubbornly refuses, and the banners of the Kingdom of Ireland are raised for the first time.
For the first time in this entire campaign, I see no need to go all in. Could I squash him under the weight of thousands? Sure. But there's really no need to. I call the levies of the counties surrounding Leinster and come up with 816 men. Sure enough, Domnall is only able to muster about 400 rebels.
February 3, 1114: Duke Domnall is able to raise an additional 150 men, so King Brian sends word to the Duchy of Ulster. They are happy to provide another 400 to the royalists to tip the scales further.
February 23, 1114: The Battle of Dublin is the first and last meaningful battle of the Leinster Rebellion, a bloody rout that leaves only 258 of the original 550 men under Duke Domnall, with the royalists suffering minimal casualties.
Infant King of England put to death by Irish royal conspiracy
5 April, 1114: The Leinster army regroups and sneaks past the advancing royalists to besiege Ath Cliath in Dublin. King Brian is confident that the defenders will hold, and orders his armies to storm Domnall's fortress at Leighlin and take the rebel lord alive immediately.
May 17, 1114: King Brian's first daughter by Thorborg is born. She is named Máiread, after the Warrior Maiden.
478 men are lost assaulting the heavy defenses at Leighlin, but the castle is taken and the remaining 800 royalists march north to deal with the besiegers at Dublin.
July 5, 1114: The remaining rebels are routed at the Battle of St. Brigit.
August 20, 1114: The infant King Magnus III is smothered by one of his maids, but she claims under duress (which is known to produce unreliable results) that she was put up to it by co-conspirators of the throne of Ireland before she is put to death.
She said what? Maids, am I right? Always making up preposterous tales. What can you do, huh? Hang on, now most of England actually believes I was involved? Because of a hammered buffoon and a peasant? Jeez, those guys are gullible. I should open up a bridge-selling business over there. No, this isn't nervous babbling. Just trying to make small talk, get off my back, okay? Heh heh. Heh...
So, to change the subject completely, the King of England is now Grim I, one of Magnus' cousins. His claim is weak enough that any trueborn sons of Thorborg would be able to contest his rule openly. It's almost like I planned it that way.
I said ALMOST.
December 10, 1114: Ferns, the last rebel stronghold in Leinster, falls to the royalists.
December 27, 1114: Earl Domnall of Leinster surrenders. Donnchad of Ossory becomes Duke of Leinster, and all the lands of Ireland are finally unified under the 67-year-old King Brian.
And thus ends this epic tale of...
No, I'm just kidding. As monumental an achievement as this was, there's still Emperor status up for grabs. Time to get my chancellor fabricating some claims on the Isle of Man.
January 15, 1115: King Brian elects to hold a Grand Tournament to celebrate the unification.
This will cost me a mountain of gold, give me back a mountain of prestige, and can only happen once during each monarch's reign.
March 16, 1115: King Brian's Grand Tournament begins!
Over the course of the next two months, Sir Muiredach, son of the Earl of Desmond, will be maimed. Men over 50 end up taking the top three prizes, with the oldest, 59-year-old Earl Áed of Tyrconnel, being named Grand Champion. The young men of Ireland hang their heads in shame.
May 12, 1115: King Brian discovers that his granddaughter, Dubchoclaigh, seeks to kill his grandson and heir, Máel-Sechlainn. He tells her not to do that.
June 24, 1115: After King Brian passes the Medium Crown Authority law, Domnall of Leinster usurps his former title of Duke of Leinster and raises his banners in rebellion.
Man, I love it when that happens. Since the last war I fought against this guy was a conquest, I couldn't strip him of his titles afterwards without pissing everyone off. Now he's officially a traitor to the realm, and after I step on him, I can take his titles and put him in jail until he rots. Meanwhile, my new crown authority law will give me tighter controls over my loyal vassals at the price of a small reduction in public opinion.
January 21, 1117: Ireland has been re-unified after what can hardly be called a war, and Domnall of Leinster is imprisoned. Scotland has also been restored under the rule of King Duncan II, son of Malcolm the Cruel.
August 21, 1117: King Brian aids his aging brother-in-law (by his late first wife) King Erik of Denmark once again, against the Mazovians. It is the first time he has sailed to a foreign war as King of Ireland, and his 1000 men arrive just in time to rescue a faltering Danish battalion at the Battle of Lyek. They turn the tide decisively and go on the offensive.
October 2, 1117: Máiread the Warrior Maiden dies of depression at 43, likely due to the social restrictions preventing her from seeking glory in war. Her daughter, Gormlaith, becomes an orphan at four.
November 22, 1117: Just after King Brian's 70th birthday, his last living son, Prince Énri, dies at age 35 fighting at Lyck. The King is left with only male grandsons to inherit his legacy. Énri is survived by a daughter, Caisséne, five, and two sons, two-year-old Flaithbertach and newborn Artgal.
January 8, 1118: Queen Thorborg is found to be pregnant, though the announcement is darkened by the widely spreading folklore that the children of Brian ua Brian are doomed to die young.
April 5, 1118: Lyck falls, and with it the hopes of the Mazovians. Denmark's borders expand once again, and the Irishmen return home less 391 men and one prince.
August 9, 1118: King Brian's first son by Thorborg is born, named Cennétig after the father of the first Duke Brian.
June 1, 1120: King Brian becomes known as King Brian the Fat.
O-FRIGGEN-KAY. YEAH, LET'S NOT GIVE ME A NICKNAME BASED ON BEING A FAMOUS CRUSADER, OR WINNING DOZENS OF BATTLES, OR UNITING IRELAND, OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. LET'S JUST FOCUS ON MY ONE NOTABLE VICE. THAT'S JUST GREAT. THANK YOU. GLAD TO HAVE ALL OF MY AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENTS SUMMED UP AND REMEMBERED SO SUCCINCTLY AND ACCURATELY. HERE'S A PULITZER PRIZE. CONGRATULATIONS. YOU SHOULD HANG IT ON YOUR [The rant goes on for another several pages.]
October 20, 1120: King Brian betroths his daughter Máiread to King Grim of England, two years her younger.
February 2, 1122: After over a year of infirmity, King Brian I ua Brian of Ireland dies in bed at 74. The lords of his realm gather together for the first time since the Grand Tournament to celebrate the accomplishments and mourn the passing of the High King. King Erik of Denmark is in attendance, as he was at the funeral of Brian's father, Duke Murchad. Prince Sigurd of England and King Duncan II of Scotland also make appearances. Vigil fires burn late into the night, and when dawn rises, the second High King is crowned...
I am now King Máel-Sechlainn I of Ireland, grandson of the newly-departed King Brian. By the supposed curse that befell all of the king's sons, the crown has skipped an entire generation and fallen to me. My father was Earl Énna of Connacht, notorious for reconciling with his father, the king, after a rebellion landed him in the dungeons. I had an older brother, Áed, who also fell prey to the ua Brian curse and died at 23. Needless to say, I was a dark horse successor.
At only 25, I am much younger than the two ua Brian patriarchs that preceded me. A misguided warrior with a slight lisp, I am charitable, content, diligent, and just... though sometimes taken to cruelty. My wife is Imag nic Tadg, granddaughter of Earl Muiredach of Desmond, whose subjugation began my house's march to royalty. We have one daughter, eight-year-old Imag.
Imag is older than I, ugly and chaste. That's not going to work. Clearly, this was a marriage made when no one had the faintest idea that I might one day be king. I request a divorce from the Pope, and he consents on the grounds of "consanguinity," which I imagine is just a more official way of saying, "I was bros with your grandfather, so I kind of like you, and you're both Irish and probably distantly related so I don't think God will mind."
Since one virtuous act deserves another, I remarry... my step-grandmother, Thorborg of England. To be fair, she's much closer to my age than she was to that of the previous king. And I want to help my house's chances of inheriting England. And... okay, I'm done trying to justify how this crap isn't creepy as hell. Judge away, I'm going to bed with a hot Norwegian princess who had kids with my grandfather.
July 30, 1122: King Máel-Sechlainn's confusingly-similarly-named cousin, Earl Máel-Sechnaill of Breifne, declares himself the true heir of King Brian, and raises his armies in rebellion. This is the beginning of an ongoing conflict between the Breifnean branch of House ua Brian, descended from King Brian's son Fáelbe, and the original Munsterian branch, descended from King Brian's son Énna.
Well, we've got a house divided and our own little War of the Roses-esque conflict here. Ironically enough, the sons of the once-rebel Énna are the defenders this time around.
September 1122: Earl Flaithbertach of Kildare, heir to King Brian's son Énri, backs the Breifnean rebel branch. Lord Mayor Bran of Ormond, Countess Dubchoclaigh of Connacht, Earl Máel-Brigte of Desmond, and Duke Indrechtach of Ulster, the most powerful of Ireland's lords, join with him. Now facing overwhelming odds, King Máel-Sechlainn becomes a coward.
October 12, 1122: Despite facing greater numbers, the Munsterians win the first major engagement of the war at the Battle of Kilkenny. They lose almost 500 men doing so. The King hires the 2200 mercenaries of the Breton Company to bolster his forces.
The rebels may have numbers, but I have money. I have to pay a large sum up-front and a monthly stipend to keep the mercs in my employ, but it's the only way I can hold out against the vast armies of Ulster.
November 7, 1122: While the King's last loyal vassal, the Duke of Leinster, holds the line valiantly against constant attack on Kilkenny, Máel-Sechlainn's host captures Lord Mayor Bran of Ormond, one of the principle rebel leaders, on the battlefield.
December 1, 1122: The Munsterian stronghold of Dublin is captured by rebels. King Máel-Sechlainn hires a much larger company of Breton mercenaries.
I'm officially on track to empty my treasury to these sellswords who now make up a vast majority of my army, but with luck, I can end the war before I run out of gold to pay them.
February 19, 1123: The Munsterians capture Waterford, Ormond, and march to meet the main host of 3000 rebels.
March 22, 1123: Over 1500 rebels are slain at the Battle of Leighlin in a resounding Munsterian victory. Just over 300 king's men are lost. The Breifneans disparage it as a "bought victory."
April 25, 1123: 1000 more rebels fall at Gowran, to only 119 Munsterians.
August 1, 1123: The remainder of the rebel host is crushed outside Dublin, over 1000 slain to only 60 king's men.
August 18, 1123: As the siege to retake Dublin begins, the king dismisses over 2000 mercenaries he can no longer pay for.
November 30, 1123: Pope Boniface the Crusader dies at 62, succeeded by Pope Leo X.
December 13, 1123: Dublin is brought back into Munsterian hands, but the realm is entirely bereft of coin to pay the mercenaries. The king sends his entire host to Thomond quickly, hoping to delay their wages long enough to win the war.
January 1124: Dublin falls to Breifnean reinforcements from Ulster. The House of Munster is beggared, and the Breton mercenaries depart in disgust. King Máel-Sechlainn discovers that his own sister is plotting to kill him...
Well, that was a disastrous, two year reign. So, here's what I'm going to do. Everyone else has backed House ua Brian of Breifne so...
So will I. With a quick save, quit, and reload, Crusader Kings lets me jump into the exact moment I left off as any noble on the map. I choose the pretender, and voila!
I am now Duke Máel-Sechnaill ua Brian of Breifne, seeking to depose my cousin, Máel-Sechlainn, and claim my rightful place as King of Ireland. All but the Duke of Leinster have backed my claim. I can hear you all calling shenanigans. Is this the "standard" or "default" way to play the game? No. But I rule fair play, as I'm still playing an ua Brian and a direct descendant with just as much connection to my original character as the one I left behind. I'm giving up all of the prestige score I accumulated as House ua Brian of Munster, but I'm not playing to win here. I'm playing to tell interesting stories. And as of now, this is where the more interesting story lies.
I am an underhanded rogue of 24, honest, kind, just, gregarious, and brave. It's easy to see why I am more liked than my cousin, though I have been criticized for my short temper and slothfulness. I have already been maimed in battle, losing several fingers to one of the Breton mercenaries the supposed king called in to cut down his good, Irish countrymen when they dared disagree with him. Nonetheless, he has been left with no recourse in this war. Over 500 of my loyal men from Ulster have been raised to replace the slain, and they now besiege the ancestral seat of our house in Thomond.
September 26, 1124: Thomond falls, for the first time in the history of House ua Brian, to Máel-Sechnaill's own host. The tide of the war has turned.
October 31, 1124: The last of the king's forces are crushed at the Battle of Clonmacnoise.
1125: Ossory falls in one of the bloodiest stalemates of the war.
May 12, 1126: The Breifneans storm the walls at Leighlin, Leinster, the last standing fortress of the Munsterians.
July 10, 1126: King Máel-Sechlainn is assassinated by his sister, Dubchoclaigh macÉnna. His newborn son, Murchad I, is briefly declared King of Ireland under Regent Lord Donnchad of Ossory. Donnchad refuses to surrender, even though his king is dead and his lands are occupied.
The commander of Máel-Sechlainn's forces, the Duke of Leinster, is slain in battle later that month. His title is inherited by Duchess Alis of Connacht, already embroiled in the war on the Breifnean side. Surrounded with no hope of aid from any direction, the Lord Regent finally surrenders.
Ireland is united once more, and Máel-Sechnaill ua Brian of Breifne is crowned king.
October 23, 1126: King Máel-Sechnaill I elects to hold a Grand Tournament, the first since the reign of Brian I, to celebrate the rightful ascendance of House ua Brian of Breifne to the throne. Donal ua Brian, a distant relation of Conchobar macDonnchad's line, is declared the grand champion.
June 15, 1127: Duke Estmond of Lancaster, de facto "king" of most of England (though the title is still held by Norwegians in the south) and still kicking at 77, conquers the south of Wales. Countess Ælfelda of Northumberland, resentful of aggression against the Welsh, secedes Northumberland from the Lancastrian realm.
February 19, 1128: After an even shorter reign than his deposed cousin, King Máel-Sechnaill I is killed by bandits when his carriage is ambushed in the woods, at the age of 29. He is succeeded by his sister, who innocently denies any knowledge of how one might hire bandits to ambush one's brother in the woods and stab him in the back of the neck so he would die quickly and painlessly, placing his sister on the throne.
Nope, I certainly don't know anything about that. I am now Queen Áine I of Ireland, 26, daughter of Fáelbe ua Brian and granddaughter of King Brian I. I am an elusive shadow, and a homosexual (though I dare not admit it as a medieval Catholic.) I am also an ambitious and gregarious scholar, short-tempered, greedy, and often arbitrary.
My husband, who I clearly only put up with for the sake of public scrutiny, is Gilla-Brígte, 27, a cynical, deceitful, intricate webweaver. He was blessed with patience, but not enough to keep him from being maimed in my brother's grand tournament. I have one son with my late first husband (and half-cousin), Brian macÉnna. His name is Gilla-Íosa, age four.
And I definitely had nothing to do with my dear brother's death. The initials on that knife must have stood for... Áilee ua Bannon. That's a person I totally didn't make up.
It has been a turbulent several years since my legendary grandfather died. The last two kings have done more harm than good for Ireland. It is time to show my people what a queen can do. And you as well. Come back next week, and stand witness.