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The Álengsk Civil War was a struggle between its leading earls for control over the monarchy of Álengiamark. The children of Elisiv had produced no surviving females to inherit the throne leading to disputes between the Earls of Langaeyjar, Sudervik and Margirhaedeyja over who should have the right to decide the succession. After a tumultuous three years of warfare, disposings and disorder a period of relative peace ensued. When in the end this settlement failed Vinland felt there was no other option but to invade.
Elisiv had spent her reign attempting to wrangle a cohesive country out of the lands she inherited. She was severely hampered in her ability to do so as the 'Álengsk people' (the term did not appear until the 15th century) were an even 50-50 split between the Norse-Cornish settlers streaming in from Vinland and the native tribes of the Quiripi, Pequot, Mohegan and Wampanoag (collectively known as the Suderfolk) who quickly realised solidarity was needed on their part to hold on to their rights.
She was related, distantly, by blood to the Norse earls and again, distantly, by marriage to the Suderfolk earls and as far as she was concerned she gave an equal ear to each party. Her daughter, Dogg, was less successful in this. Plagued by increasingly incessant raids from the tribes to the North and West, and disliking Langaeyjar and Sudervik's political and personal dominance over her she began to favour the western half of the country, promoting her half-brother Karl to Earl of Margirhaedeyja. Her half-sister Elin I was even less successful. Though recognising the need to rebalance the power between the earls she was incapable to breaking the dominance Karl had over her. The other earls chafed at Margirhaedeyja's rise and were perfectly willing to see its downfall.
Meanwhile the splintering of central power and constant threat of raid had led many towns to fortify and arm themselves completely independently of the Althing or the earls. This gave them the opportunity to completely ignore decrees or calls for levies of men of money.
Three Years, Three Queens
The death of Elin I in early 1182 left Álengiamark in somewhat of a dilemma. There were no female candidates for the throne amongst the descendants of Elisiv. This exposed the Earl of Margirhaedeyja, Thorgeir Karlsson. Elin I had already tried to start a process of rebalancing the Althing and he was fearful that if a successor was found amongst the other earl's families they would finish the job, depriving him of power. A tense week-long session of the Althing finally agreed to send a delegation to Vinland for their mediation. The nobles and clergy of Vinland kept the Álengsk waiting for three months before sending them Elin II, daughter of Thorvald, Earl of Ingolfursey.
A blank slate effectively, with no allegience to any of the earls, but equally with no experience of power (or on appearance, much inclination to wield it), Elin II took almost a year to appear before her first Althing in St. Hafdiss in May 1183 and by then it was almost too late. Thorgeir had spent the interegnum demanding, and getting, fresh levies for 'the defense of the Western River'. The earls meanwhile knew however he had been deliberately fermenting trouble on his borders to not only extend his lands but in effect disarm his opponents by concentrating the bulk of Álengiamark's armed forces under his command.
In June the Althing disbanded, almost permanently, as the supporters of Margirhaedeyja clashed with those of Sudervik and Langaeyjar. Elin fled North into Moheganland whilst the Earl of Langaeyjar, with help from Thorgeir's uncle Grímur, Lord of Ílaekjurland, positioned his own 8-year old daughter on the throne. Thorey I was nothing more than a cypher through which Langaeyjar could rule. He rewarded his supporters handsomely and, gathering troops, marched on Margirhaedeyja. Two battles in August 1183 near Hálsinnsvidi were inconclusive and Langaeyjar called on more support, mostly from the near-independent towns.
At this point Langaeyjar overstepped the mark. To extract the troops he needed he offered a wide-spread of rights to the towns which further increased their independence. The Earl of Sudervik claimed many of those towns as his own fief and could not accept their freedoms. The two previously allied earls clashed at the Battle of St. Hafdiss with Langaeyjar fleeing the field after four hours of slaughter. Although the relative size of the opposing forces was low (around 2,000 men on each side) Langaeyjar's army was virtually wiped out amid 'sickening' butchery. This may have been due to Sudervik employing large numbers of Wampanoag warriors, not known for giving much quarter in the best of times. With his force wiped out Langaeyjar retreated to his fief. The earldom would not be in any position to field another army for a generation.
On 3rd November 1184 Thorey I was deposed and she was replaced by Asthurdur I, Sudervik's 3 year old daughter. Even more of a puppet than Thorey, in his role as regent Sudervik effectively did away with the Althing, ruling through a series of direct deals with the earls. Again using Wampanoag levies he defeated Margirhaedeyja in May 1185, this time without the slaughter and sufficiently cowed the others to rule unopposed. Then in early 1186 he turned his attention to the unruly towns. The brutal siege and sack of Ekkifelduráskott turned opinion against him and slowly his area of influence shrank as the towns barred their doors and the earls refused to co-operate.
Asthudur I's and Sudervik's rule tottered on until her death in April 1188. The three Norse earldoms were exhausted and divided. The three Suderfolk earls recalled Elin II from her exile in Passamaquoddia and she was recrowned on Midsummer's Day in front of a reformed Althing. Brokering a peace deal between the earls of Sudervik and Langaeyjar she appeared, at first, to be healing the country. But in fact she was just papering the cracks.
Electing not to touch the obviously raw nerve of the earldoms or town rights until things calmed down she instead ploughed on with things everyone could agree on, small farming disputes, trade with ever further lands and bolstering the church. She would rule for another nine years; during which the Álengsk remarkably did not raise their axes against each other but instead projected their power outwards once more, defending the Kanien'gehaga River again and assisting the Passamaquoddy and Abernaki against various tribes. The severe disruption to the country had the effect of making settlers think twice before moving southwards from Vinland. This in turn gave the Suderfolk earls, almost sidelined in the war between the Norse earls, far more power. They used this originally to recall Elin II and extract various rights and guarantees from the Althing but on her death they planned something even more daring: elevating one of their own to the throne.
Álengiamark v. Vinland
Elin II died in December 1197, possibly of pneumonia. Once again the Althing convened to elect an heir with no ideal candidates. Thorey I was in Europe (possibly Anglia or Flanders by this point) and there was no hope in recalling her even if there had been any support for her. The Norse urged the Althing to send a delegation to Vinland once more however this was blocked. The Suderfolk had their own candidate. The daughter of the Earl of Quiripiland, Yrsa I was proclaimed queen in front of a rather diminished Althing on Christmas Day. She was half Norse and well-liked by many of the leading families but was only distantly related to the House of Eirik. Meanwhile Thorgeir Karlsson had sent his own delegation to Vinland asking Iofridr and her advisers to settle the succession. The Althing in Isafjordhur rejected any notion of simply picking a candidate seeing how well their previous intervention had gone, instead the Bishop of Vinland simply crowned Iofridr as Queen of Álengiamark.
Sometimes called the 'Leifian Civil War', the two states were immediately on a collision course. The Vinlanders slowly gathered an army and attempted to negotiate safe passage through Passamaquoddia. The Passamaquoddy refused, friends as they were with the Norse they were not willing to be sandwiched between a unified country. Instead the Vinlandic force had to go by sea; building the ships required took another six months to prepare during which Yrsa's supporters could dig themselves in further, defeating Margirhaedeyja in the 3rd Battle of Hálsinnsvidi. Eventually in mid-1198 the Vinlanders landed on Fiskuhalvóyar but were held by sustained opposition for almost three months. Breaching the cordon took the Mohegan lords out of action and a subsequent siege of Misquamiscutt, though a close run thing, gave the Vinlanders a safe port. Another year would go past with the Álengsk using hit and run tactics and a fine knowledge of the terrain to keep the Vinlanders at bay but eventually they were pinned down at the Battle of Nordbrégjur.
After the battle the Vinlanders broke out into open country. They surrounded the remaining Álengsk forces at Nahigavik in May 1199 and the remaining unaligned earls sued for peace. Yrsa I was captured, and in front of a large crowd of St. Hafdiss peasants was executed on 3rd June. This was a slightly extreme action considering all of her deposed predecessors had simply been exiled but Iofridr had made it very clear only rule by the House of Eirik was permitted. Iofridr herself was crowned but it soon became clear this was simply a personal union, neither of the Althings could bare to contemplate an actual union of the two states. Iofridr soon returned to Vinland leaving her eldest daughter Eydis as regent. Eydis would reign as queen in her own right from 1201.
All but the most partisan accounts accept Eydis as an excellent queen and true heir (as far as legacy goes) of Elisiv. Álengiamark was expanded, the tribes to the west forced into submission and for a time it appeared that the country's troubles were in the past. However she did nothing to prevent the ebb of central power. The towns gained even more rights, the church gathered even more land and the earls, bristling at their losses to these two sectors retreated ever more into self-rule and self-interest. Eydis proved adept at playing these sides off against each other to force through what she thought best for the Althing but did nothing to challenge the divisions. And in the end, although outwardly powerful, the state was weak and within a generation all the old structures would be shown as utterly incapable by the all-conquering Aniyunwiyan Empire.
Why did the earls simply not abandon the Vinlandic idea of a Speaker-Queen and revert to a more classical centrist King-led monarchy?
Possibly because the question of male succession was as equally fraught as the female one. Thorgeir Karlsson, earl of Margirhaedeyja, could have claimed the throne as grandson of Elisiv but he would have faced competition from his uncle Grímur, Lord of Ílaekjurland. The earls of Sudervik and Langaeyjar had equally good claims of legitimacy with descent from Sigrun. The earls of Moheganland, Pequotland and Quiripiland, although married into the Eiriksson/dottír line would have been disenfranchised completely by a male ruler.
At this point the Speaker-Queen role was more of a mouthpiece for the Althing rather than a European-style monarch with their own land and she derived much of her power and independence from hearing all sides to the argument. Although the queens of this period (with the exception of Elin II) were simple façades for their relatives to project power there was the hope that they could attempt to be more than that, to at least listen to the needs of the entire country. This gave them a sheen of legitimacy which the self-interested earls did not share. All in all a direct rule by a King would probably have only made the situation worse.
Why did Iofridr and Vinland not intervene sooner?
As long as Elin II remained alive the Vinlandic Althing had no reason to. As far as they were concerned she was the rightful claimant. There was evidence that they were working amongst the Passamquoddy to provide her with an army to reclaim the throne, but the events of 1184 moved too quickly for them. As it was only when the Álengsk attempted to position a non-Eiriksdottír on the throne that sympathies were really stoked into concrete actions.