Apr 9, 2018

CKII: Mercia-on-the-Nile

Last time, I took Mercia from a petty kingdom to an empire spanning the British Isles and including the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The year is only 971, so there's still a lot of time left. The one continuing objectice I have is improving the status of women; it'd be pretty cool to get absolute cognatic succession. Other than that, though, my only major goal is to survive to the end, so I'm going to see what life throws at us.

We begin in the reign of Emperor Gedalbert the Cruel (971-978), first Emperor of Mercia, King of Mercia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Jerusalem. Of these, I was very happy to immediately give away the crown of England to one of my vassals and just not have to care about the dukes of Wessex and Hwicce and what have you. They're now someone else's problem. Instead, my immediate plan is to broaden our holdings in the Middle East. Islamic Egypt is currently squeezed between Abyssinia, Italian North Africa, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. I'm going to try to make it worse for them.

We succeeded in securing a foothold in the Nile delta. However, life did have something to throw at us.

Before the plague struck, I had the opportunity to vassalize the Knights Hospitallers, because I'm King of Jerusalem. I absolutely recommend doing this! A vassal holy order won't fight for anyone else, and requires no maintenance; it's simply fantastic, and exactly what I need in order to expand my realm at the expense of the infidels.


The Pope wasn't exactly helpful.

Eventually, even the Emperor himself caught the plague.

At the age of 57, freed from his demons, Emperor Gedalbert the Cruel, founder of the Mercian Empire, died of the Black Death.


Of Emperor Gedalbert's twelve children, only two survived to adulthood: his daughter Viviane and his successor, Emperor Gléowine the Fat (978-1002). Not that even that was immediately obvious, because Gléowine also caught the plague during an inconclusive campaign in the Sinai.

Unlike his father, however, Gléowine got better.

Now that I have the Reaper's Due, pandemics are really something. They don't just kill characters; they ravage provinces, decimating your levies and wrecking the economy, and even dropping the province's supply limit, meaning armies will just melt away. So the Black Death shut down our conquest of the Middle East completely.

Once the plague passed and everyone began to recover, we selected a slightly softer target for expansion: Portugal.

It was a success!

As you can see, we barely got in on the carving up of Muslim Iberia, with Acquitaine already making inroads on North Africa. I just like the idea of Portugal as a stopping-off point to the Holy Land. Soon after, we also completed the conquest of the Nile delta.

While this was happening, England somehow became a republic.

As near as I can figure it out, this is what happened. The King of England also ended up with a duchy in the Holy Land, because I only had so many Iceling men to hand all the titles to at the time. He launched a series of more or less ill-advised holy wars on his Muslim neighbors, and managed to deplete his treasury and forces so badly that the merchant republic of Man pressed a claim on England and won. Hence, the Most Serene Republic of England.

Meanwhile, Gléowine arranged a diplomatic marriage for his son, and went mad.

Even as a lunatic, he was able to consolidate our hold on Egypt.

The imperial demesne is now the duchies of Mercia (actually only the county of Leicester) and Damietta. Shortly after crowning himself King of Egypt, Emperor Gléowine passed away. He died King of Mercia, Ireland, Portugal, Asturias, Egypt and Jerusalem.


Emperor Mordred the Confessor (1002-1056) took the throne at the age of 7, with the Queen of Scotland as his regent. I don't know why the Mordreds get the cool nicknames, but I'm okay with it. This is what Mercian Egypt looked like on his accession:

In addition to expanding our holdings in Egypt, we were also able to raise the status of women to Notable, meaning I can now have a female marshal if I want to. This is actually the biggest thing holding me back from moving my capital to Egypt: as technology is county-based, I need one more level of Tolerance in Leicester to unlock full gender equality and cognatic succession in the empire. If I moved to Damietta, we'd be stuck with their tech levels. I'm actually not entirely sure how this works. If I achieve full equality, the realm law will stay in force even if I lose the underlying technology. However, if I do that and usurp an existing kingdom, I don't think I'd be able to change the succession to cognatic there. So that might be a problem. Luckily, technology does spread between demesne provinces, so we don't need to abandon all the tech points we invested in Leicester.

To speed our technological progress, I decided it would be a good idea for Emperor Mordred to join the Hermetic Society. This had some very tangible benefits:

I've complained before that warfare in Crusader Kings 2 isn't really all that interesting, and I stand by that. However, Mordred did manage to have an interesting war. While most of the great Muslim powers were waging an unsuccesful jihad against Abyssinia for Yemen, I figured this was a good time to make a grab for the duchy of Nefoud, i.e. the counties between the Syrian desert and the Empty Quarter, right in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula. As it turned out, Abyssinia defeated the jihad sooner than expected, and everyone turned on us instead. My army, including the Hospitallers, was soundly defeated by a gigantic Muslim force from as far as Nepal.

While they retreated back to the Holy Land, I rounded up all the available holy orders - the Knights of Santiago and Calatrava - and started shipping them to the Middle East. The Muslim forces started besieging my holdings in Arabia, and to be honest, I'd have taken a white peace, but my defeat put the warscore too far underwater. However, the Muslim army split up, and when the holy orders arrived, I figured I'd see if I could beat at least some of the isolated armies, maybe that would raise my warscore enough for a white peace.

Shockingly, we did rather better than that. The Muslim armies came at us piecemeal, and with our heavy cavalry, we were able to beat all of them one by one. After the last force was routed and a Nepalese nobleman captured, the warscore was so firmly on our side that I started besieging the target counties again, and ended up winning the whole thing.

Here's Mercian Arabia:

Also, while I was busy in Arabia, the Queen of Scotland launched a holy war on Prussia, and won.

And somehow, the Kingdom of Italy was taken over by the Byzantines, with the former Iceling kings of Italy now ruling the Kingdom of Africa.

Holding Nefoud let us create the Kingdom of Arabia.

Unfortunately, our expansion in Egypt and Arabia was so succesful that we accumulated a horrible threat score, which meant defensive pacts against us everywhere. So I figured Mordred could have a quiet semi-retirement, maybe writing a book:

Or splurging the entire treasury on some imperial regalia.

Meanwhile, an Iceling somehow secured the throne of Acquitaine.

So here I was, actually kinda enjoying the breather. Until the Pope had other ideas.

So off we went.

Eventually, after half a century on the throne, Emperor Mordred passed away during the crusade. Here he is after a disastrous and unsuccesful surgical intervention. Mordred leaves behind some pretty impressive regalia, a secure demesne in Egypt and the kingdom of Arabia.


So, in about a century, three Mercian emperors conquered Egypt and Arabia. The Muslim dynasties that used to control the Middle East are now pretty much gone, with the Arabian peninsula split between Mercia and the Abyssinians, with some Muslim provinces still clinging on to the coasts of the Persian Gulf. They're not the problem, though: the problem is that I now have a land border with the Seljuk empire. A massive Turkish realm stretching out into the steppes, the Seljuks can mobilize over 40 000 warriors. I won't be succesful against them on my own. If they get engaged elsewhere, however, I might have a chance at grabbing the last few provinces of Arabia.

To take full advantage of these opportunities, I've effectively moved the imperial demesne to Egypt. I'm still planning to move my capital there, as soon as we've finished researching Tolerance in Leicester. Right now, though, there's a crusade in Finland, and that will be the subject of my next post.

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