|Alev I Lepitamatu|
|Duke of Livonia, Count of Oeselia|
|Reign||1415 - 1440|
|Mother||Johanna of Guelders|
|Born|| 1396 |
Alev I, sometimes called the Drunkard, was Duke of Livonia from 1415 to 1428. One of the least competent but most amusing Livonian rulers, he was notorious for his lechery, drunkenness, and love of (albeit a lack of skill at) violence. He is commonly known for introducing two significant innovations, modern brewing techniques and the pike, to Livonia; he is perhaps the best known of Livonia's dukes, mainly for his drunken exploits, but also for laying the foundations of Livonia's military successes over the next century through the introduction of Flemish infantry tactics and a militia system.
The son of Thaarason I, the second Livonian Duke, Alev was from his birth in 1396 a boisterous, violent and widely disliked child. His mother, Johanna of Guelders, was the illegitimate daughter of a Flemish magnate, who rapidly abandoned the Christianity of her birth for paganism, which lacked the same stigma around illegitimacy, and she raised Alev as a fervent pagan as well. Alev was not especially religious, but attempts to convert him to Christianity by papal envoys failed decisively, as they attempted to press temperance and abstinence on the teenage Alev, concepts of which he was not fond. Alev was, however, fond of Flemish beer, and, when he succeeded to the Duchy at the age of nineteen, following his father's death in 1315, he gave numerous Flemings, descended from the merchant community in Livonia, high places in his administration. He relied heavily on his half-Flemish ducal secretary, Jaan Brouwer, a brewer's son, who continued Thaarason I's work of organizing a literate Livonian bureaucracy. Indeed, Brouwer effectively governed the kingdom for most of Alev's reign, while Alev focused on his favourite pastimes of casual border raids on the Teutonic Knights, gluttony, lechery, heavy drinking, and mocking priests sent to attempt his conversion. A bad rider, likely due to his immense girth, Alev enthusiastically adopted Brouwer's suggestion that Livonian troops be organized into Flemish-style pike columns, as it enabled him to avoid the humiliating experience of attempting to ride during military exercises.
Alev is also known as the only individual to have been the subject of multiple critical papal encyclicals, while scholars estimate that he also singlehandedly provoked more crusades (at least 3, in 1417, 1420 and 1428) than any other ruler in history. As a warrior, however, he was relatively unsuccessful, failing in multiple attempts to regain the city of Riga, which had been lost in the Ingrian War. The crippling Livonian defeat in the first siege of Riga in 1417, by a Crusader army, nearly destroyed the Livonian state. Only subsequent military reorganizations along Flemish lines, and the implementation of a militia system, allowed Livonia to withstand its enemies. Alev also failed to maintain the stability of the state, permitting his legitimate son and heir, Artur, to convert to Christianity. On his deathbed, Alev legitimized his three illegitimate children and declared his son Thaarason his choice as heir, ultimately leading to a destabilizing civil war which placed Livonia at odds with its feudal overlord, Denmark.
Nevertheless, Alev is a popular figure in Livonian national culture, and, like his grandfather Vesse, a figure of some folkloric importance. Alev's decision to serve a papal envoy wine in a cup made from the skull of Charles, Dauphin of France, which provoked the Third Couronian Crusade of 1428, is widely remembered a symbol of Livonia's national spirit. To this day, Livonians refer to those shocked or surprised as "like a churchman offered a skull".