Alternate History

Charles II of Anglia (The Kalmar Union)

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Charles II
Charles II Anglia (The Kalmar Union).png
Charles II
King of Anglia
Reign 16th December, 1212 - 17th July, 1236
Coronation 24th January, 1213
Predecessor Harold III
Successor John I
Spouse Laurette of Hainault
Issue Cnut Karlsson

John I
Catherine Karlsdotter
Caecilia Karlsdotter
Numerous illegitimate children

Full name
Charles Cnutsson
House Estridsson
Father Cnut IV
Mother Catherine of Denmark
Born 24th December, 1168
Bishopswearmouth, Anglia
Died 17th July, 1236

The second son of Cnut IV, Charles II is usually held in contrast to his elder brother Harold III. Despite his abrasive demeanour, frequent poor relations with his nobility and a lengthy revolt instigated by his queen he succeeded in expanding the Anglian realm northward into a pliant Scotland and westward farther into the Low Countries.

Whilst Harold was born in Flanders and retained a Flemish outlook throughout his life, Charles (born 1168) was Anglian 'to the bone'. Handed Northumbria and Durham as a fief in his teens to secure while his father attended to the needs of Flanders, he proved a poor administrator, and the Bishop of Durham made frequent cause to complain to Cnut IV about the neglect of fortresses. It is possibly this (as well as Charles' age) which led Cnut to sell Lancaster to his brother-in-law Haraldr, the King of Man, in 1183 rather than risk a greater loss during the war against France and Wessex.

Charles appears to have taken this to heart and engrossed himself in the study of arms and warfare. It was natural then that when Cnut IV could no longer taken up his crusading vow Charles (and his younger brother Sweyn) would see it through. Leaving Harold at home to inherit the kingdom on Cnut's death in 1191, Charles and Sweyn gathered a force of around a 1,000 men and made slow progress across Germany and western Hungary, eventually finding passage on Venetian ships out of Zara.

The brothers finally reached Acre just as it fell to the German crusaders in Spring of 1191. They would subsequently fall out with the commanders over who exactly should claim the title of King of Jerusalem but Sweyn made a name for himself in diplomatic dealing with Saladin, successfully arranging the swap of prisoners. Charles too proved his worth, supporting Leopold V of Austria's advance toward Jerusalem and forcing Saladin's army into a messy rout at Makmish. However the crusading force was now desperately short of men and, angrily showing his frustrations and falling out with Leopold, Charles took his remaining men and returned to Acre.

From there he and Sweyn decided to return home, however they were diverted by William II of Sicily. William had essentially arrived too late to be of use to the rapidly petering-out crusade however he was ambitious and eager for any success. Recruiting Charles and Sweyn and their diminished force, they fell upon Cyprus, then a client kingdom under Byzantine rule. The Byzantines had been largely unhelpful to the general crusade and the ruler of the island, Isaac Komnenos was related to Leopold V. Charles apparently eagerly leapt on the chance to even the score with the Austrian and at the head of the Anglian-Sicilian force, managed to conquer the island, taking advantage of dissent against Isaac's rule (which was apparently cruel and clumsy). Charles would remain on the island until 1195 organising a more Latin-friendly regime alongside the crusading orders. Sweyn would remain behind acting as regent for William II, until he was killed during a coup in 1203.

Charles meanwhile was captured by Byzantine forces as he made his way back up the Adriatic. Held for five years he was eventually released into the charge of Otto IV of Germany. Harold it seems did not appear to think the extortionate sum demanded by the Byzantines worth paying. Charles would work off his debt to Otto over the course of several years and multiple battles against Philip of Swabia, Otto's rival for the Imperial throne. His Danish connections helped formalise an alliance with first Cnut VI, then Magnus II of Denmark. It was also was during this time that he married Laurette of Hainault.

Laurette of Hainault (The Kalmar Union)

Laurette of Hainault arriving in Anglia in 1224 and securing the fealty of the Bishop of Suffolk

Otto was eager to secure the Low Countries as firm allies against Philip of Swabia and by arranging the marriage of Laurette to Charles he affectively weaned it off Anglia (Harold appeared to support Philip, though not overtly). Charles would be released from Otto's service in early 1208, apparently to go to Anglia and persuade his brother not to join Philip's side and Charles duly greeted his brother at Lincoln after some 19 years apart. Harold however did not appear to know what to do with him and had no intention of giving up his tacit support for Philip. Charles soon demanded his old Northumbrian lands back but Harold had entrusted them to his close allies the Magnusson family and he had to prise their grip off the lands. It was not long before the brothers were at each other's throats. Civil war gripped Anglia with Charles successfully throwing the Magnussons out of the north and knowing he could rely on Hainault while Harold held the south and Flanders.

Whilst holding the smaller territory, Charles was tactically superior to his brother and managed to hold and slowly improve on his position while Harold's greater treasury was used to lesser effect. The German succession angle was removed in 1210 when Philip was assassinated but the war would continue until Harold's death in December 1212. Charles quickly moved to secure the throne, and well he might, Scotland, tired of Charles' demands on the border-lands had decided to invade in Autumn of that year. This was the opening salvo of the Long Scottish War (1212-1290).

During 1213 the Scottish army made surprisingly good progress through Charles' Northumbria taking Jorvik by May before being routed at Leeds in June. Charles meanwhile had struggled somewhat to bring the southern Anglian nobles to his side. Flanders had come around more quickly however and by the end of 1213 a good number of Flemish troops were invested in Suffolk and Norfolk, largely bringing unity to the kingdom once more. In the following year Charles' army made good headway into Scotland itself capturing Stirling, outlawing King Malcolm V and effectively annexing the country. This done Charles turned his attentions to Flanders.

Harold had built several fine fortresses during his reign yet Charles was dissatisfied with the defenses of Flanders. He thought a castle on the size and scale of Acre would be appropriate and cast around for suitable land to build it one. This brought him into conflict with the monks at Pevelenberg whose land he felt perfect for such a castle. This led to another bout of revolt and dire warnings from the church. Charles it is said had little time for non-military matters. In fact his domestic policy was somewhat disastrous. During the civil war many of the Anglian nobles were willing to support him to push out continental newcomers whom Harold often favoured. However once in charge Charles had little interest in pushing out the Flemings and indeed relied on them more and more to keep the peace. Taxation too became chaotic as it fell into the hands of less than trustworthy men. Beyond that his appetite for extra-martial relations was well-remarked upon. He is known to have sired at least ten illegitimate children and was even rumoured to have bedded his brother's widow Adelaide of Guelders the night before she set sail for the continent. Charles however would have his way with Pevelenberg though the money required to build the spectacular fortress drained the coffers.

A revolt in Scotland in 1217 further pressed Charles's purse leading to another punitive tax and another round of revolt. This meant he could only hold the frontier rather than re-enter Scotland. A rather vague oath of fealty was sworn by the new king of Scotland, David II, in 1220 leading to a cessation in hostilities. By this point continental lords were fermenting revolt. Laurette soon became the figurehead of this movement. As well as Charles' predilection for any woman but herself (although contemporaries say she was extremely beautiful), she was angered by his continued snubbing of not only the nobles close to her court but also their three sons, Cnut, John I and Conrad whom were not given any of their own fiefs as might have been expected. Allied to her brother, Baldwin IV of Hainault, and bolstered by a spread of Flemish and Artesiën nobility the army under Cnut's name was soon in control throughout most of the Anglian lands on the continent. The half-finished, but still quite formidable, Pevelenberg was captured in 1222.

Charles fell back on the Anglian nobles he had to a large degree neglected and gave into a wide variety of demands to ensure their support. In 1224 Charles marched to Stirling 'to put down rebellion', although many have suggested this was merely a feint to put the Scots off of any potential trouble and draw Laurette into Anglia. If this was his plan then it worked: Laurette, Cnut and Baldwin crossed in late summer. They quickly secured the Suffolk coast but could make little headway after that, falling back to the continent in 1225.

A second jaunt into Anglia ended in utter failure. At the Battle of Holbeach in October 1227 both Cnut and Baldwin IV were killed, at a stroke ending the rebellion. Charles had not been present at the battle but grieved bitterly at the loss of his eldest son. It was only at this point that Charles attempted to divorce Laurette, however his continued conduct with the Anglian church and friendship with the apostate Emperor Frederick II removed any sympathy the papacy may have had and Charles had to be content with merely shutting her away in a Lincolnshire convent. Frederick did however mediate over the inheritance of Hainault (Laurette now being the only heir), handing it to the young Conrad who had not been involved in the rebellion. The Estridssons had therefore gained another realm.

Charles' rule staggered on until 1236, frequently beset by unnecessary quarrels but less so by armed conflict. He would be succeeded by John, who immediately had to face a resurgent Scotland and then by Conrad who would largely leave Anglia to govern itself.

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