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CKII: The Great Mercian Interregnum

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Last time, I chronicled the life of the Empress of Mercia, Éowyn the Great. Sadly, both of her daughters died before she did, leaving the throne to the least competent of her children, Emperor Cynewulf the Monk (1123-1155) . Cynewulf picked up where his mother left off: she had inherited a claim to the duchy of Orkney from her mother and, being Éowyn the Great, conquered it. Her son decided it might be nice to own more of Norway, and secured a foothold in Scandinavia. Frankly, Cynewulf's stats were useless, and it's a miracle there wasn't a revolution. I tried to use the theology focus to get rid of his slothfulness, but it didn't work. A pilgrimage to Rome helped a little, though. Cynewulf also joined the long line of Mercian hermetics, and I decided to break some new ground by creating a horoscope for his oldest child Eleanor. Apparently the horoscope picks an attribute for the character that you can then encourage, or not. Eleanor got Intrigue, and I went with it, which got her a bonus and (maybe?) the Deceitful trait. Meanwhile, through a sequence of events I don't fully understand, the Byzantine Emperor was a Taoist, and the Pope - driven from Rome to Germany by Byzantium - called a crusade on Byzantine Italy. Now, this was a little too Fourth Crusade for my taste, and with Taoist Byzantium capable of mobilizing 75 000 men, there was no way we were going to win this. I decided to participate by storming the strategically vital Byzantine stronghold of, um, Corsica. Handily getting everyone, including Cynewulf's oldest children, the twins Eleanor and Æthelflæd, the Crusader stat, and running away like hell as soon as the first massive Byzantine army showed up. Eventually the whole thing ended on an anticlimax when the Taoist emperor was overthrown and replaced by an Orthodox ruler. In other futile holy wars, the party of 'Ali tried again, but they made only a token effort and were easily defeated. Unfortunately, there were sad times ahead for the imperial family. Princess Eleanor died of disease, leaving her twin sister Æthelflæd first in line to the throne. A well-forged claim and a brief war gave Cynewulf the duchy of Vestlandet in Norway, but as he was fighting to secure the last of its counties from the King of Norway, he was killed in combat. As you can see, Emperor Cynewulf the Monk never did improve his miserable attributes. But he did his best for his children, left a larger realm for his daughter than he inherited himself, and seeing as how he went out with a sword in his hand, he died his mother's son. ** After Cynewulf's death, things became... complicated. He was succeeded by Empress Æthelflæd the Drunkard (1155-1162) , which was a completely unfair nickname because she became Temperate almost immediately after receiving it. She also found the Seljuk empire in surprisingly bad shape, and launched a holy war on the duchy of Bahrain. The war went well for the empire, but badly for her: she was terribly injured in battle and died shortly thereafter. Both of Æthelflæd's sons took monastic vows during her reign, so the throne went to their sister, Empress Æthelflæd II (1162-1166) , who was 14 when she became Empress. She brought the conquest of Bahrain to a succesful conclusion. Sadly, Æthelflæd II only reigned for two years until she was assassinated - I have no idea by whom. She was succeeded by her sister, Empress Cynehild (1166-1173) . Her reign started with another Sunni jihad on Arabia. She came of age defending the realm from the infidel. The Pope was distinctly unhelpful! Can you imagine excommunicating a ruler defending themselves against a holy war?! As the war was still raging, Empress Cynehild died giving birth to twin sons. The older of the twins then became Emperor Eadfrith the Great (1173- before his first birthday, losing his mother and getting credit for defeating the Sunni jihad. Some years into Eadfrith's regency, the Islamic world looked to be in enough trouble for us to try another holy war, this time on Basra. The former Seljuk empire had split in half, into a Seljuk realm and the Persian empire, and while they were fighting who knows who, we took advantage. This is what the map looked like after we captured Basra: the Persian empire is now the Taid empire, and they've lost a lot of territory to the Byzantines. With their holy places in Christian hands and their jihads failing, the moral authority of both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam has collapsed. Meanwhile, as my regency neared its end, the inevitable civil war broke out. During the war, Eadfrith came of age and turned out to be pretty decent at managing money. The civil war, though, was going very badly. My troops were mopping up the Middle East just fine, but we lost a couple of big battles in England and were running out of money to hire more mercenaries - until I had an amazing stroke of luck. With the leader of the rebellion in my hands, it was all over. ** The civil war ended in January 1189. So in total, the 35 years since Cynewulf's death saw the reigns of three empresses, and a sixteen-year regency for Eadfrith, capped off by a massive civil war that, frankly, I was going to lose. In retrospect, it's kind of amazing we got through all that with the imperial line and realm still intact. You think that with primogeniture and everything that you can plan the succession, but lol nope. Anyway, now that we have a young ruler with an impressive if somewhat unearned sobriquet on the throne, maybe we can achieve a little stability.

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