Crusader Kings Chronicle, part 1: 1066 - 1076 A.D.

T.J. Hafer


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. Last week, I took control of House ua Brian of Munster with one goal: unite Ireland under one High King and secure its independence, laughing in the Norman face of actual history. My banners are raised, and my rightful claim on County Desmond awaits as the first step toward forging a crown. Onward!

In case you missed it, here's The Prologue .

Two weddings and a war

To recap: After Earl Muiredach of Desmond, a county that is mine by rights, refused to become my vassal, I declared him a rebel and raised my feudal levies to take County Desmond by force of arms. My army counts 389 strong, and Muiredach has raised 225 traitors to oppose me.

We're now embroiled in what's called a "de jure" war. What this means is that, since I am Duke of Munster, and County Desomond is "de jure" (by law) part of the Duchy of Munster, I have a rightful claim to it. Crusader Kings II doesn't let me declare war for no reason. I need either a de jure, marital, religious, or fabricated claim to declare war.

To win the war, I need to increase my warscore. It's a value that goes from negative 100 to 100 percent, and the higher it is, the greater the chance my enemy will accept a demand for surrender. If it gets high enough, he might offer surrender himself. My warscore increases every time I win a battle or capture a castle, and goes up over time for whichever side occupies the disputed territory.

Brian macMurchad, heir to the Duchy of Munster, and Princess Sigrid of Denmark, second eldest daughter of King Svend II, are married. The day after, Brian's father, Duke Murchad I, is married to Alfhild of Rogaland, daughter of a Norwegian count. Great celebrations are held across Munster, with Irishmen from the grooms' lands and Norsemen from the bride's sharing drinks, tales, and more than a few brawls.

Success! My house is now married into a noble line from Norway, and the ruling Danish royal house of Ylving. Since King Svend has one daughter and three sons who are older than my heir's new bride, it's still unlikely that an ua Brian will ever inherit the Kingdom of Denmark. But as a consolation, I can now call on the mighty Danes in times of war. They aren't guaranteed to answer, but protecting his daughter will cause King Svend to consider such a request very seriously.

The flipside is that I've given ammunition to Irish loyalists who were already wary of me allowing a Norseman (Lord Mayor Ragnvald of Ormond) to hold my most important vassalage. From this day forward, House ua Brian's heirs apparent will all be either married to or descended from Norse nobility.

My son's new bride, Princess Sigrid, is an 18-year-old charismatic negotiator, humble and diligent, but also said to be cruel and short-tempered.

My (second) wife Alfhild, the new Duchess of Munster, is an underhanded rogue, though also just, temperate, patient, and kind in spite of it all. She also has a harelip, which wasn't in the brochure.

With marriage checked off, it's time for me to pick a new Ambition. Of those available, "Have a Daughter" seems like the best choice. With any luck, my 36-year-old wife will conceive.

October 3, 1066: Desmondian forces led by the pretender Earl Muiredach besiege Waterford, Ormond. Knowing the defenders there are capable of holding out for many weeks, Duke Murchad marches his armies from the wedding pavilions, around the Desmondians, and toward the traitor Earl's holdings.

William of Normandy earns his name

October 7, 1066: Duke Murchad's forces besiege Dunasead, the seat of County Desmond. Meanwhile, a marriage is arranged between Murchaid macConchobar (Murchad's half-nephew and spymaster) and Gwenllian ferch Bleddyn, daughter of the Welsh Duke Bleddyn of Gwynned.

Unmarried members of my house will almost always eventually ask me to find them a match. Since Murchaid is unlikely to ever inherit anything, I went with a mid-level noble's daughter. Gwynned is the strongest duchy of the Kingdom of Wales (which, like Ireland, doesn't currently have a High King), and fairly close by. Duke Bleddyn, if I ever need to call on him as an ally, could send me troops very quickly.

November, 1066: Word reaches Duke Murchad that the siege of Waterford is not going well, and the garrison is in danger of falling to the Desmondians. His army abandons Dunasead and turns to meet the traitors on the field at last. In the midst of it all, a marriage is arranged between Murchad's half-brother, Lorcán, and Duchess Alfhild's younger sister, Ingebjørg of Rogaland.

Toward the end of the month, as winter is setting in, Murchad's army arrives to find that Muiredach has fled north, to County Ossory, rather than meet the Munster forces in the field.

January, 1067: Word reaches Ireland that King Harold Godwinson of England has been deposed by William the Bastard, now being called William the Conqueror. The former Duke of Normandy has styled himself King of England, and his Norman armies clash with those of King Harald Hardrada of Norway.

This played out in almost exactly the timeframe as in real life. 1067 dawns with King William I, a Norman, defeating the ruling Anglo-Saxons and declaring himself King of England. There's a wrinkle, though. The turning point that this historical scenario was based on - the Battle of Stamford Bridge - went differently. While in real life, the Anglo-Saxons defeated Harald Hardrada's Norwegians at Stamford Bridge, it seems the Norsemen won in this alternate timeline. That has left them with a lot of troops and a very strong claim on the Northeast of England, and William's throne will not be secure until he evicts them.

While none of this has affected me directly yet, it surely will in the future. The Kingdom of Denmark, the royal line of which my son has married into, is backing Harald of Norway's claim. That means I may be called on to fight William in England, and soon. Additionally, whoever wins control of England is very likely to repeat history and try to unite the British Isles by conquering Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. One of my key goals is to keep Ireland fully independent, so obviously, this is a concern.

Lord Mayor Ragnvald of Ormond requests to be made Court Chaplain of Munster, replacing Bishop Fogartach of Killaloe. Duke Murchad approves this request.

There are two ways I can go about filling council positions: pick the person best for the job, or use the seats to appease relatives and vassals. I'm aiming for almost a total meritocracy, so I don't really care that much about pissing off Bishop Fogartach. Not only is Ragnvald a higher-ranking and more important vassal, his stats also make him a better Chaplain. Also, he doesn't have syphilis, an affliction that has had me doubting Fogartach's piety since I met him.

On the march

March, 1067: After chasing them across the countryside, Duke Murchad's armies finally catch up with those of Earl Muiredach and force a confrontation at the Battle of Nenagh.

Freaking FINALLY! I've been dogging these craven fools in a circle around Southern Ireland for months. The AI clearly knows they can't beat my main force, but if I leave them alone, they'll just go back to besieging Waterford. I was eventually able to juke them into a battle in Ormond. Muiredach has also called in fresh levies, but it's only 34 more men.

April, 1067: Victory! The Battle of Nenagh concludes in a decisive win for Munster. 124 Desmondian pretenders, nearly half of Muiredach's army, are killed. Only 36 of Duke Murchad's loyal men are lost. Muiredach flees South to regroup with his meager reinforcements, but Murchad is close on his heels.

On the 26th of the month, Murchad catches up to the wavering Desmondians, forcing them to turn and fight on their own soil at the Battle of Cloyne.

May 4, 1067: The day is won at Cloyne upon the fragrant fields of spring. Five traitors are slain for every one of Murchad's loyal men, leaving less that 100 Desmondians to flee into the hills. The siege of Dunasead is resumed, as Duke Murchad knows that the earl's remaining forces are too few to threaten any of his holdings.

For a siege to be effective, you need to have more men outside the castle than inside. Even with my levies raised, all of my holds now have more defenders than troops Muiredach has left. There is essentially nothing he can do now. Dunasead will fall, and my claim will be complete.

July, 1067: Duchess Alfhild is found to be pregnant, bringing much joy to House ua Brian.

Near mid-month, the defenders at Dunasead attempt to sally forth and break the Munsterian siege. They are unsuccessful, and many are cut down.

This will be the first of three sallies. The second comes on the 15th of September, marking the one year anniversary of the Munsterian-Desmondian War. It is slightly more successful, but fails to break the siege all the same. It is followed by a final sally in November, which is even less effective than the first.

December 8, 1067: Dunasead falls to Murchad as a brutal winter sets in, after seven months of siege.

I now occupy County Desmond, but it won't be officially mine until Earl Muiredach officially surrenders. The chances of him doing so are based on my warscore (see page 2), which is already well over 40 percent, and will steadily climb the longer I occupy the territory.

Time to clean up Muiredach and what remains of his 90-some glorified bandits!

One war down

New Year's Eve, 1067: A one-sided slaughter at the Second Battle of Nenagh leaves only 28 Desmondian rebels alive.

February 2, 1068: While Muiredach's brigands, outnumbered nearly ten-to-one and with nowhere to run, are being cut down, Duchess Alfhild gives birth. Murchad's second son, and first by Alfhild, is named Donnchad. Separated from his half-brother Brian by 20 years, he seems more a nephew than a sibling to Murchad's eldest.

On the 4th of the month, Muiredach's forces are killed to a man at Cloyne. The earl himself is nowhere to be found, but lacks any means of retaking Desmond short of a miracle.

May, 1068: Muiredach comes out of hiding and surrenders to Duke Murchad. County Desmond becomes a vassal, and the Duchy of Munster is made whole under one liege. The 252 brave survivors of the war are allowed to return to their homes and families. The 137 who gave their lives for their lord pass on into song and legend.

Thus concludes the first great undertaking of my reign. I now rule all three of the de jure counties of Munster, and the ua Brians have risen to be the most powerful family in Ireland. In my quest to become a king, however, I've hit a wall. I hold no valid claim, whether from law, marriage, or the church, to any further lands of the Emerald Isle. That means I'll need to put my chancellor, old Toirrdelbach, to work fabricating such claims.

I select spacious Connacht, to my north, which will yield impressive troop levies from its prosperous fields once captured. For this same reason, of course, it will be hard to capture. It is ruled by Duke Áed ua Conchobair. His son, Ruaidri macÁed, is a formidable warrior, and will present quite a challenge.

For every year that Toirrdelbach stays in Connacht, he'll have a small chance of fabricating a claim I can press. Until then, Munster shall have peace. I begin this tranquil era by betrothing my infant son to marry the newborn daughter of Earl Gofraid ua Ímair of the Isle of Man.

Now I have a final order of business to deal with: what is to become of the rebel Earl Muiredach? He defied me, but now that I have won the war, his opinion of me is quite high. This means he is likely to send me lots of troops when I press a claim on Connacht, and it's not worth the hassle and unrest that would come with stripping him of his lands and titles. I risk gaining a reputation for being lenient of rebels, but as long as he's so unlikely to defy me again, I'm willing to take that risk.

My former enemy and now-vassal is a misguided warrior, cowardly and prone to stress. To his credit, he is also patient, just, and content with his position as my vassal. He has four sons: Tadg, Cormac, Donnchad, and Cellachan, as well as a younger brother named Donnchad. His vassals (now mine by extension) are Mayor Fedlimid of Cork and Bishop Éamonn of Cloyne. Both are good Irishmen who seem to think highly of me. For those keeping track, that makes eight sworn bannermen.

Forbidden texts

December, 1068: Duke Murchad comes across a strange book...

To be honest, I haven't played CK2 long enough to have the slightest idea what these events do. So, by default, I'm always going to pick the more radical option and see what happens. Worst-case, I summon some kind of elder horror that sweeps all Ireland into the sea. And if that's not actually a possibility... your move, modders.

Meanwhile, Duchess Alfhild is found pregnant with hers and Murchad's second child.

April, 1069: After long study, Duke Murchad decides the book is a madman's ramblings.

So, no elder horrors or even minor heresies. That's a little anticlimactic, but I did pick up the Scholar trait. Not as exciting, but better for the realm than the alternative.

The pages have barely begun to settle when Murchad gets word that his half-brother, Lorcán, has died of natural caueses at 40. His wife and two sons join in the grieving of his passing, and a search begins for someone new to mind Munster's coffers.

My half-brother was a fine steward, and our treasuries were the better for him. Oh, and I guess he was a nice guy, too. To my chagrin, it seems the once-rebel Earl Muiredach is the next best man for the job, and I give him Lorcán's old seat on my council grudgingly.

April, 1069: Murchad's third son, and second by Alfhild, is born. He is named Amalgaid, and along with his brother Donnchad, efforts are made to find him a worthy betrothal.

It seems the right time to betroth my two younger sons. I had been holding off on this since they stand to inherit if Brian dies childless, but Toirrdelbach is taking his sweet, ever-loving time fabricating my claim on Connacht, and I'd like to be king before I'm dead and buried. For Donnchad, I've selected Órlaith nic Diarmait, daughter of Duke Diarmait of Leinster. For Amalgaid, I've selected Der-Lugdach nic Áed, daughter of Earl Áed of Breifne.

In both cases, a marriage will allow me to press a claim on an Irish county, but not until both bride and groom reach the age of 16, and can be formally married. If I can win either of these counties, I can declare myself Duke of its constituent duchy, and holding two duchies is the next step on the road to being able to proclaim myself High King of Ireland. It will also assure more pure, Irish blood in my family line, with both Donnchad and Amalgaid being half Norwegian.

Joy and tragedy

September 24, 1069: Duke Murchad's first grandson is born to Brian and Sigrid, named Murchad after his grandfather. He is of a similar age with his uncles Donnchad and Amalgaid, and the three babes spend much time in one another's company.

As Brain's heir, little Murchad, is now third in line to rule my lands, so I will have to consider his betrothal extremely carefully. None of the currently available options meet my standards, so for now, he shall remain promised to none.

1070: A year of peace, prosperity, and few events of note for House ua Brian.

January 2, 1071: A daughter, Ben-Míde, is born to Duke Murchad's half-nephew, Concobar macLorcán. She is betrothed to the three-year-old Baron Stigand of Richmond, a Saxon whose rightful lands are currently under the oversight of a Lord Protector after the death of his father.

February 9, 1071: Great tragedy strikes House ua Brian. The duke's second son, Donnchad, dies of natural causes before his fourth birthday.

Alas, the death of the very young was not at all uncommon in the Middle Ages. I've lost a son before he came of age, and his betrothal (upon which stood my claim to County Leinster) is broken. I can only hope that young Amalgaid and my grandson Murchad have much longer lives ahead of them.

July 8, 1071: A second son is born to Brian and Sigrid, named Énna. In the space of months, Duke Murchad has lost a son, but gained a grandson.

Brian now has "an heir and a spare," as the saying goes. My line is quite secure for the moment. While little Murchad still lacks a match, I feel comfortable lowering my standards for Énna as he is not my heir's heir apparent. I choose Earl Áed of Breifne's newborn daughter, strengthening my claim on Breifne. Amalgaid and Énna, uncle and nephew, are now betrothed to two sisters of House Ruairc.

August 17, 1071: Mayor Dúngal of Limerick dies of syphilis.

What is it with my bannermen and syphilis? Clothe your mast, that's all I'm saying, jeez...

Anyway, the good mayor had no sons, so a new mayor is elected in his place: a lowborn man named Máel-Mádóc, winner of the most recent Munster Áccént Márk Fáíré. He is an intricate webweaver and an able soldier, paranoid, short-tempered, and shy. Though, to his credit, he is also quite charitable.

November 14, 1071: Murchad's hapless cousin and chancellor Toirrdelbach outlives another wife, as Sisuile dies of an illness at the mere age of 20.

Wow, it is not fun times to be this guy. I married him to a young courtier as a reward for his service and to keep him happy in his old age, and she keeled over before he did.

A wife wisely chosen

April 1, 1072: Though initially taken as a fool's prank, it is discovered that another of Murchad's bannermen is actually quite dead. Lord Mayor Ragnvald has passed in the night to natural causes, at 51. His lands and titles are inherited by Lord Mayor Skofte, a 36-year-old Norwegian who is not a big fan of Duke Murchad.

Ragnvald had a 6-year-old son, Olav, but apparently Lord Mayor is not a hereditary title. My new bannerman, Lord Mayor Skofte of Ormond, is an indulgent man: slothful, ill-tempered, cynical, and prone to arbitrary decisions. Despite this, he is a temperate soul and in possession of a genius intellect, far above most men. I send the new Lord Mayor a gift of gold and grant him Ragnvald's honorary title of Cupbearer to start off on the right foot.

As to Ragnvald's seat on my council, I give the title of Court Chaplain back to its original holder: Bishop Fogartach of Killaloe.

Later in the month, a marriage is arranged between Duke Murchad's half-brother Conchobar, brother to the late Lorcán, and Lorcán's widow, Ingebjørg. The two have bonded in mutual grief over Lorcán's death, and the Duke supports their desire to be wed wholeheartedly.

June 11, 1072: Earl Áed of Breifne dies of an illness at 32, and County Breifne is inherited by his 3-year-old firstborn daughter, Der-Lugdach. The girl is betrothed to Amalgaid, son of Duke Murchad of Munster, making it apparent that the ruling houses of Breifne and Munster will be merged when the two are wed. Breifne comes under the stewardship of Flaithbertach macRuaidri, the late Áed's spymaster.

Three cheers for arranged marriage! This is exactly the kind of long-term play you aim for in CK2, but the inheritance is far from assured. A number of things could go wrong. First, Der-Lugdach could die before she and Amalgaid are wed, which would leave House ua Brian with no claim. Second, the Breifneans might fail to recognize Amalgaid as their lord, in which case a war would be necessary to bring them to heel. And thirdly, if Amalgaid and his wife inherit Breifne, and I die, they may elect not to accept Brian, my successor, as their liege. This would pit brother against brother in a succession war for Breifne's independence from the Duchy of Munster, which is a little more family drama than I'd like to indulge in.

October 30, 1072: Lord Mayor Skofte wishes to take his predecessor's council seat as Duke Murchad's Court Chaplain. Bishop "Syphilis" Fogartach is doing an awful job, so the Duke consents.

I have more to gain from being on good terms with the lord of my most important vassalage than some poxy priest who isn't that great at his job anyway. It's seemingly becoming a tradition that the Lord Mayor of Ormond is also my Cupbearer and Court Chaplain.

Scheming Sigrid

May 16, 1072: On order's from Brian's wife, Princess Sigrid of Denmark, Duke Murchad's nephew and spymaster, Murchaid, is murdered.

Well, that was certainly unexpected. Apparently my dear daughter in law has a penchant for plots and murder. The worst part is, I can't afford to jail or reprimand her. Not without risking the freaking King of Denmark bringing the hammer down on my skull. I decide to keep quiet the fact that I know it was her, and appoint Mayor Máel-Mádóc of Limerick as my new Spymaster. Both of my half-brother Conchobar's sons are now dead, though he is survived by two grandsons: Flaithbertach and Donal.

November 28, 1072: A second daughter is born to Duke Murchad's half-nephew, Concobar macLorcán, named Mairead.

1073: Another mercifully uneventful year passes for House ua Brian.

March 17, 1074: Duke Murchad takes very ill at age 47.

Well, there are two ways this could play out. I might die, or I might not. But I guess you could technically say that about any given day.

May 12, 1074: Young Flaithbertach grows old enough to be educated. He is sent to his dour but dutiful grandfather, Toirrdelbach, to learn politics.

While Toirrdelbach has still not fabricated a claim for me on Connacht (which is why there has been so much peace and so little stabbing in the last several years), he is still the most savvy at statecraft of my entire court. He is also older than dirt, and I will need to replace him someday soon. By having him foster Flaithbertach, the boy will likely grow to have similar skills and personality traits. Plus, for a man who has seen two wives and two sons die, spending time with his grandson might make his last years a little more bearable.

June, 1074: Duke Murchad overcomes his illness.

And what do we say to Death? "Not today."

January 3, 1075: Princess Sigrid's plotting continues. Mayor Máel-Mádóc of Limerick becomes the second Munsterian Spymaster to die by her machinations. Duke Murchad begins to regret marrying her to his son.

That scheming Danish harlot! She seems to be going after my Spymasters specifically. Almost as if she, I don't know, doesn't want anyone keeping tabs on her plots. Alas, I still dare not anger her father by imprisoning the girl. Máel-Mádóc had no heirs, and a lowborn man named Gilla-Patraic is elected to his former office. The 36-year-old has a talent for intrigue, but is equal parts cruel, lustful, gluttonous, and ugly. I give him his predecessors seat on my council as Master of Spies, hoping that he might not be caught on the wrong foot by Sigrid like the men who came before him.

A decade in

April 12, 1075: The Duchy of Meath is created when Earl Diarmait conquers Dublin, becoming the second Irish noble to hold sway over multiple counties.

July 14, 1075: Mayor Gilla-Patraic evades an assassination attempt by Princess Sigrid's conspirators. Duke Murchad confronts his daughter-in-law with the evidence, and makes her swear to end these schemes or risk banishment.

Since my Spymaster did his job this time (instead of dying), I had the option to demand that Sigrid abandon her current plot (goals that work like Ambitions, but are more private.) As far as I know, she will be forced to do so. A thought did strike me, however. Given that Sigrid has consistently targeted my Spymasters, I could one day use the position as a covert, fully deniable means of execution. Unlike the in-game "plot" mechanic, no NPC would ever be able to prove that I appointed the deceased Spymaster specifically to have them targeted for death by Sigrid. Something to keep in mind...

August, 1075: Duke Murchad's son Amalgaid and grandson Murchad grow old enough to be educated. They are sent to the Duke's long-time Marshal and the greatest fighter in Munster, Tadg macDiarmait, to be trained in the ways of war.

September 27, 1075: William the Conqueror, the first and last Norman King of England, is dead at 48. His end came at the sword of Brian macMurchad's father-in-law, King Svend II of Denmark. The Norsemen look poised to take England.

Say goodbye to actual history. We have officially gone off the deep end.

July, 1076: By now, a vast majority of England has fallen to 61-year-old King Harald the Conqueror of Norway. Only Gloucester and Northumberland remain under Norman rule.

August, 1076: All of England has fallen to Harald, and most of Great Britain is now the lawful domain of the Kingdom of Norway.

Wulfryth, wife to Earl Muiredach of Desmond, dies under suspicious circumstances.

She probably gave Sigrid a dirty look at a feast.

September 15, 1076

I have reigned for 10 years. My 50th birthday is nearing, and I am hardly a young man anymore. My son Brian has grown into a capable man of 28, while my youngest Amalgaid is a boy of 7 whom I expect will be a great warrior someday. My wife and I still grieve for Donnchad, taken from us in his fourth year. My... dutiful Chancellor, Toirrdelbach, has yet to "come across" any workable claim for me on Connacht, halting my ambitions of becoming king for a time. We cannot say what the future holds, however. If I have anything to do with it, it shall hold a united Ireland. At the very least, I will make sure the histories note that I died trying.

Check back next week to see what becomes of me in the latter years of my reign!

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