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. After a bloody and damaging succession war, I have emerged as Queen Áine I of Ireland. It falls to me to heal the broken nation my grandfather united and secure its independence. And, you know, if we end up conquering mainland Britain along the way, all the better. Onward!
The succession crisis that resulted from the death of my grandfather, King Brian I, unifier of Ireland, has finally settled down. The pretenders of House ua Brian of Munster and House ua Brian of Breifne are dead, the latter by my hand. As the only remaining child of Earl Fáelbe ua Brian of Breifne, I have become queen in lieu of any sons eligible to inherit. It is unlikely that all Ireland will accept my rule without a fight, so I'll need to put my mind toward doing a better job of securing the realm than my late brother and cousin did in their short kingships.
November 23, 1128: Duke Estmond, the Lion of Lancaster and long the de facto ruler of most of England (though he never proclaimed himself king) is assassinated at 78 by his own daughter, who becomes Duchess Ælfwyn I.
Well, well...now Ireland and Lancaster are ruled by women, joining the long-standing Duchy of Norfolk.
January 19, 1129: Queen Áine is found to be with child.
It seems like my preference for women (which is an in-game trait in Crusader Kings) hasn't stopped me from being dutiful in the creation of heirs with my rather ogrish husband. I suppose it would be a shame to let the crown default back to the ua Brians of Munster by shunning the possibility of children.
And so it begins. Luckily, I am well-loved among most of my people. Petty rebellions like this will simply help me identify who the traitors are.
August 20, 1129: The Queen's first child, a daughter, is born on the eve of the defeat of the Connachtian rebels at Roscommon. The babe is named Máire, after Queen Áine's mother.
October 25, 1129: The Queen is with child once again, as she receives Dubchoclaigh's formal surrender.
That didn't take long. Both in the case of the rebellion, and the second child. Maybe what I'm really turned on by is victory. Sweet, non-gender-specific victory.
May 26, 1130: Queen Áine's first son by her current husband, named Brian, is born.
Ireland's succession laws are Agnatic-Cognatic, meaning a female can only inherit if no eligible sons exist. So even though Brian is younger than Máire, he'll be ahead of her in the line of succession. Crusader Kings doesn't let you just adopt Absolute Cognatic succession (inheritance based on seniority, regardless of gender) unless your culture group supports it. As a Celt, mine doesn't. If it comes down to it, of course, she could always murder her brother like I did.
January 21, 1132: King Grim of England is murdered at 14 by his grandfather, who is crowned King Trond the Accursed. This spurs a new civil war in England, with the rebellion being led by Duke Åle of Oxford and Duke Erlend of Gloucester.
February 20, 1132: Queen Áine's spymaster discovers a plot by Duchess Alis of Leinster to undermine royal authority. The queen orders her seized, but the duchess escapes and raises a rebellion.
I'm starting to notice a pattern in Crusader Kings at this point. A powerful leader rises and captures a bunch of territory. That leader dies. His successors have to put down rebellions for the next several years and place loyal people in charge of all the important fiefdoms. Repeat.
April 14, 1133: After several decisive engagements in the field, the rebel stronghold of Leighlin is captured by the queen's men.
November 19, 1133: Duchess Alis surrenders, and is jailed for treason. She is stripped of the title Duchess of Connacht (which rightfully belongs to the queen anyway), but is allowed to retain her familial title, Duchess of Leinster. From prison, of course.
March 29, 1134: Queen Áine is pregnant for a third time.
What did I tell you about victory?
August 29, 1134: The Oxford-Gloucester rebellion in England is put down by King Trond.
October 28, 1134: The queen's third son is born, named Énna.
October 13, 1135: Queen Áine I dies a natural death at the young age of 34, having reigned for seven years. Lords from far and wide come to mourn the woman who put an end to the ua Brian civil war and brought years of peace to Ireland.
And she was just getting started, too. Well, you know what they say. Only the good die young.
I am now King Gilla-Íosa I of Ireland, a 12-year-old gregarious cynic. I was Queen Áine's first son, and her only child with her first husband, Brian macÉnna. My parents were first cousins, my father being the son of Énna macBrian and my mother that of Fáelbe macBrian. That puts me in a uniquely strong position to rule as, though my seat and inheritance is in Breifne, I am also directly descended from Énna's Munsterian branch of House ua Brian.
My Court Chaplain, Máel-Mórda of Ossory is named my regent until I come of age in four years time. I have no heir, which means, mechanically, that the game will end for this branch of House ua Brian if I die before I produce one. In terms of the chronicle, this would actually be a good thing, as it would allow me to transition back to playing as the Munsterian branch, where I started.
December, 1135: As King Gilla-Íosa's first act on the throne, he puts down a massive peasant revolt in under a month.
October 29, 1136: King Gilla-Íosa becomes honest.
This is the first time in this chronicle that I've played as a child ruler. As I grow up, I'll get to make some key decisions that influence my virtues and vices in adulthood.
April 23, 1139: Though the last one didn't go so well, the Pope calls a second crusade on Jerusalem. Though King Gilla-Íosa is too young to go to war himself, he and his similarly-aged cousin, Duke Murchad II of Munster, elect to send over 1400 Irishmen to reclaim the holy land.
May 12, 1140: Word returns to Ireland that the crusade is going well. The Christian forces vastly outnumber the Muslims, and they have claimed most of the outlying provinces around Jerusalem. The same messenger brings to the attention of the king that his aunt, Dubchoclaigh nicÉnna of Tyrconnel, seeks to kill him...
A plot to kill the king. Hmm. This is actually a great time to try to put the Munsterian branch back on the throne. I won't play dirty and sabotage Gilla-Íosa's credibility before I leave. Simply saving, quitting, and reloading back into the line I originally played as...
I am now Prince Murchad of Ireland, Duke of Munster and Meath. I am the only son of the deposed King Máel-Sechlainn I, and was briefly crowned king in my infancy before the Breifnean branch of House ua Brian won the succession war and usurped my title. I think it is high time to bring the crown back to Munster, where my great-grandfather Brian I united Ireland.
I am an ugly, short-tempered coward, but also just, charitable, and kind. In two years, I will turn 16 and my regency under Bishop Flaithbertach of Christ Church will end.
November 14, 1140: The crusade is successful, and Kaiser Siegmund of the Holy Roman Empire is declared King of Jerusalem. Only 81 of the 1400 Irishmen who set sail have survived.
January 4, 1141: Duke Murchad II becomes diligent.
Holy Blarney stones, I'm awesome! I've grown into a Brilliant Tactician, with the highest military score I've ever seen in this game. And I'm going to need every bit of it...
October 30, 1141: Duke Brian II of Munster declares war on his cousin, King Gilla-Íosa, proclaiming himself rightful King of Ireland as the original King Brian's most direct living heir. Duke Indrechtach of Ulster, the most powerful lord in Ireland, joins Murchad's claim.
November 8, 1141: Countess Catríona of Desmond joins the war on Murchad's side.
Well, it looks like I might not be as outnumbered as I thought. All of the same houses that went to war to depose my father and put the Breifnean ua Brians on the throne are now seemingly supporting me to reverse their previous error.
November 12, 1141: The first battle of the Second ua Brian Succession War takes places at Kildare, with nearly even numbers on each side.
November 21, 1141: Duke Máel Mórda of Leinster joins the war on Murchad's side.
November 30, 1141: Countess Caisséna of Kildare becomes the last of the pretender's vassals to join Murchad's side. Gilla-Íosa and Breifne are now alone against the might of the realm.
December 5, 1141: The fighting at Kildare concludes when the arrival of reinforcements from Dublin lead to a glorious Munsterian victory. 300 Ulster men are already besieging Gilla-Íosa's seat at Dromahair, and Murchad marches to meet them with the 2000 men he has gathered from the southern lords.
December 18, 1141: Dromahair falls. The army of the true king is united, over 6200 in number. It is the largest host ever raised on Irish soil, and only 300 rebels remain in the field.
February 1, 1142: Roscommon castle is taken, and all of Gilla-Íosa's holdings are occupied. Peasants flocking to Murchad's banners swell his numbers to nearly 7000.
Long live the House of Munster! Long live the king! Now that the crown has returned to its rightful resting place, I go about seeing that my other affairs are in order. I marry Gormlaith nic Dúnchad, only daughter of the legendary warrior maiden Máiread. We're distantly related, but not closely enough to be weird or anything. She is 12 years older than me, which is a little weird. But, I mean, my parents were first cousins. I'm not doing too bad. She's actually turned out to be a better fighter than her mother, and even me. Since my wife's stats add to the realm's stats, the two of us together are going to lead to a nigh-unstoppable military.
January 27, 1146: King Murchad buys Queen Gormlaith a very expensive warhorse, and the two fall in love.
Excellent. That will increase our chances of having children, in addition to almost instantly maxing out her opinion of me.
September 30, 1146: The king's mother, Thorborg, dies of syphilis at 50.
...Syphilis? Really? And did you absolutely NEED to tell me that? You couldn't have just told me she got sick? Had to throw in that bit that implies she was sleeping around on my dead father? Just couldn't hold it in? Yeah, you better leave. I'm the freaking king. I can have people's heads off.
May 5, 1147: Queen Gormlaith is found to be pregnant.
December 6, 1147: King Murchad and Queen Gormlaith's first child is born, a daughter who is, of course, named Máiread for her famous grandmother.
This is very good. Until now, my heir was Gilla-Íosa, also known as "That guy I just deposed." Now, the throne is set to remain with the ua Brians in Munster.
If you've kept up with this chronicle from the beginning, you'll know that House ua Brian of Ireland and House Ylving of Denmark have been steadfast allies, bound by deed and marriage for decades. Since nearly everyone who orchestrated those alliances is now dead, this marriage will allow it to continue into future generations.
September 28, 1148: Queen Gormlaith is found to be pregnant again.
April 39, 1149: King Murchad and Queen Gormlaith's second daughter is born, named Leigha.
Oddly enough, it genuinely didn't occur to me that she would be "Princess Leigha" until after the fact.
So, time to put the story on pause really quick. At this point in the game, the Legacy of Rome expansion came out, I installed it, and apparently it applies to all of your save files retroactively. This introduced two big mechanics that will have an effect on the game going forward.
First, it's now possible to have standing armies, called retinues, that are active all the time and don't have to be called and dismissed like army levies. Based on my realm size and tech level, I am able to raise two units for my retinue. Styling them as the Knights of Ireland, I chose one division of heavy cavalry and one division of heavy foot.
Second, players and NPCs can now form Factions to support certain causes, and if they get enough support, issue an ultimatum to their faction's opponents. Duke Gilla-Íosa, whom I deposed, has taken advantage of this immediately to form the "Gilla-Íosa for King of Ireland" faction, seeking to take back what I took from him... which his father took from my father and so is well and truly mine by right. I'll have to butter up all of the lords and ladies of Ireland to make sure they don't join him.
December 29, 1150: King Murchad elects to hold a Grand Tournament.
In addition to other benefits, this will increase all of my subjects' opinions of me by 10. It's a great way to make sure I stay ahead of Gilla-Íosa's machinations, as only kings can hold tournaments.
April, 1150: The Grand Tournament commences! In the midst of it, Countess Caisséne of Kildare announces her intention to back Gilla-Íosa for King of Ireland, and Queen Gormlaith announces her third pregnancy.
Well, I've lost one relatively unimportant vassal. That's not such a bad thing. The Duke of Ulster commands nearly half of Ireland's men that are not my own, so any rebellion is doomed without his support. And he really likes me a lot. (Because I sent him money and titles.)
Lorcán macÁed, son of previous grand champion Earl Áed of Tyrconnel, claims victory in the tournament.
November 19, 1050: King Murchad and Queen Gormlaith's first son is born. The new heir to Ireland is named Brian, for his great-great grandfather, the first King of Ireland.
July 6, 1154: The Kingdom of England has reached its weakest point in history. Under King Sigurd Yngling the Incapable, it has shrunk considerably due to successful independence movements in Norfolk and Sussex. King Murchad of Ireland discovers that, through his mother Thorborg, daughter of the renowned King Magnus II, his claim on what remains of England is stronger than Sigurd Yngling's. With Gilla-Íosa's brewing rebellion having lost steam, he proclaims himself rightful King of England, and raises the banners of Ireland to make it so.
And just when I though that marriage was never going to pay off. Magnus II's line has become so fragmented and diluted that King of England is going to become a contest of arms, not legitimacy. And guess who has the most arms?
August 21, 1154: 6600 Irishmen come ashore in Somerset, England, and besiege Sigurd's hold at Bath.
March 29, 1155: After Bath falls, King Murchad's men surges unopposed to Wiltshire, taking up the siege at Wilton. 700 men led by King Sigurd's marshal are raised to retake Bath. King Brian divides his forces, sending 1400 Ulster men to deal with them.
July 17, 1155: The Ulster men defeat the English under Mayor Æthelrad of Cambride at the Battle of Gloucester.
September 18, 1155: Wilton has fallen. The main Irish host takes up the siege of Reading, Oxford.
October 5, 1156: After a brutal siege lasting over a year and claiming nearly 1000 lives, Reading falls. The Irish march south to Winchester.
July 8, 1157: Winchester has fallen, and the Irishmen march north to the Lord Regent's home county of Gloucester. Over 2000 Irishmen have died in the war already, and the Lords and Ladies of Ireland are growing impatient.
It's been three years since this war started, and that's a long time to have all of the levies of my realm raised. I gain a stacking, temporary reputation penalty with all of them the longer their forces remain under my command, but to give up and go home now would just be a waste.
July 27, 1157: The boy king Enguerrand is killed by his own regent, who declares himself King Gudbrand of England.
And for some reason, I can only assume a bug, this has caused me to lose all of the territory in England I had occupied. I'll be honest, if I hadn't been in the PC Gamer offices when that happened, I probably would have thrown something heavy across the room. The private notes I take as I play for compiling these entries, for this particular event, would be at home in a George Carlin special. I actually tried reloading an autosave several times to see if I could get it to not happen, but alas. I could take my ball and go home, or reconquer England.
November 30, 1157: Duke Gilla-Íosa ua Brian of Breifne dies of an illness at 34. His faction to usurp the Kingdom of Ireland dissolves.
I swear, I actually had nothing to do with this. For real this time. I ended my plot to kill him YEARS ago.
May 17, 1158: Gloucester falls. King Murchad marches back west to retake all the castles he was pretty damn sure he already captured earlier.
June 1, 1158: Amongst the sounds of mass slaughter, King Murchad teaches his son, Prince Brian, an important lesson about kindness.
Choosing to tutor my own son opens up the parenting simulator portion of Crusader Kings. Every once in a while, I'll get to make a decision about the young prince's upbringing that will affect what kind of man he becomes.
August 1, 1158: 1000 Irish knights land in Somerset to bolster King Murchad's forces.
It's risky pulling my retinue from Ireland, but with Gilla-Íosa dead, there is a minimal enough threat of rebellion that I felt comfortable enough in doing so.
February 26, 1159: Prince Brian is being bullied by his older sister. King Murchad tells him to man up.
June 21, 1159: Prince Brian learns the value of justice, as Bath is retaken with the help of the Knights of Ireland.
October 8, 1159: King Gudbrand scrapes together 1100 men, the most England has ever managed over the course of the five year war...
December 7, 1159: ...and they are crushed utterly by Irish heavy cavalry at the Battle of St. Pauls.
August 1, 1160: King Murchad's chancellor, who has had exactly one job since the reign of Queen Áine, finally fabricates a workable claim on County Gwynned, the seat of the most powerful realm in Wales. Ireland goes broke arranging the claim.
Better late than never, I guess. So I'm completely out of money, but I now finally have the foothold I've been waiting for since I became King of Ireland to conquer Wales. And that's on top of the claim I'm soon to win on England, which was far less expected. If I can take and hold both against the inevitable rebellions, securing my realm on both the isles, I may just be able to challenge the juggernaut that is Lancaster, having long held a majority of Britain. Such would be the last major hurdle to becoming Emperor of Britannia.
But there's a catch. And that catch is that some of my vassal lords are currently at negative 40 because of how long I've had their levies raised. So my new plan is to get Gudbrand to surrender England to me as soon as possible, wait for my vassals to calm down, then sail for Wales. There is only one entry remaining in this chronicle. Come back next week to see if the epic tale of House ua Brian ends in celebration or conflagration!