Alternate History

Sigismund II of Luxembourg (The Kalmar Union)

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Sigismund II
Sigismund II Luxem (The Kalmar Union).png
Sigismund II
King of Bohemia & Duke of Luxembourg
Reign 18th December, 1478 - 12th March, 1502
Predecessor John II
Successor John III
King of Hungary
Reign 18th December, 1478 - 12th March, 1502
Predecessor John II
Successor John III
Margrave of Brandenburg
Reign 18th December, 1478 - 12th March, 1502
Predecessor John II
Successor John III
Holy Roman Emperor
Reign 1st April, 1484 - 12th March, 1502
Predecessor Frederick IV
Successor John I
Spouse Eleanor of Foix

Sophia of Poland

Issue Elizabeth

John III

House Luxembourg-Limburg
Father John II
Mother Sophia of Varna
Born 7th February, 1446
Buda, Hungary
Died 12th March, 1502
Keyle, Luxembourg

Sigismund II, the Spider, restored the fortunes of the Luxembourg after the mostly lacklustre events of the early 15th century. Extremely focused and energetic he restoring authority over Bohemia and Hungary as well securing the Imperial throne, scheming against numerous opponents, and looking to seize Anglia too.

Whilst his elder brother and heir, Charles of Buda, had been groomed as a military leader. Sigismund had been tutored as an administrator, a vocation he appeared to excel at, grasping intuitively the mechanisms of state and how to bend them to his benefit without straining them. He was disinterested in martial skills, preferring to promote trusted and able nobles to command his armies. In Charles had died in 1475, falling from his horse in an hunting accident in Nový Hrádek. This left Sigismund as heir, a situation which apparently disappointed John II who had doted on the children of his first marriage to Catherine of Ferrara over and above those of his Bulgarian wife Sophia of Varna. This possibly goes some way to explaining Sigismund's great drive, a pathological desire to prove his detractors wrong.

The opinion that Sigimund was very much the lesser heir was hard to shake and when John II died in 1478 the nobles of Bohemia and Hungary attempted to prise considerable rights out of the new king-elect in the form of charters which would reduce the royal hand in government to a bare minimum. Sigismund did not rush into giving ground however. Instead he secured the other parts of his realm; Luxembourg and Brandenburg (where he had governed competently for several years and was well-trusted). Next he pin-pointed the fault-lines within the nobility and offered Brandenburgian military support for one of the factions as well as a mounting a passionate defensive of the Hussite agreements already in place in Bohemia, which his ministers spun as being under threat by the nobles' demands. The threat of civil war was dangled over the kingdoms and Bohemia buckled first. He would be crowned in Prague in the Spring of 1479 before embarking on a remarkably restrained and legally water-tight (and hence above reproach) removal of his most fiercest critics. He picked the supremely able Alexander Kruschina of Lichtenburg as his chancellor in Bohemia, supposedly the only man in Bohemia who could beat Sigismund at chess.

Hungary would a harder nut to crack and there was no religious angle here for Sigismund to pursue. However there was large mass of lower nobility virtually excluded from government. Here Sigismund saw his advantage and argued that he could hardly accept the authority of a select group of nobles which excluded the Croatians as well as most of his knights. Instead he advocated a parliament of sorts with jurisdiction over legal matters and aspects of taxation. And to show he was serious he initiated something similar in the smaller but generally more fairly governed Duchy of Luxembourg in what many saw a cynical move to show the Hungarians up. With the weight of the lower nobles, as well as the veiled threat of use of the Bohemian army, by now thoroughly behind him, he secured the Hungarian throne without ceding one right to the conspiring nobles. The new 'Great Council' would function as a semi-independent focus of authority in the kingdom for three centuries before being thoroughly reformed by Josef II.

His father had spent much of his reign in a fruitless attempt to conquer Naples and almost too late had realised he would need a much stronger position in Germany before he could guarantee at least some leeway in Italia. Sigismund would not make the same mistake. The previous Emperor, Frederick IV, had died in 1471 but the throne remained unfilled, divisions between Bavaria, Austria and the Luxembourgs split the electoral vote and none of the parties appeared to want to dedicate the presumably large costs to field the armies necessary to end the interegnum. In typical fashion Sigismund, while certainly ensuring his armies were ready, spread his diplomatic web rather than blundering into a war. By 1484 he had a definite majority and was confident enough to call a meeting of the electors in Frankfurt, couched in an attempt to pacify the ongoing crisis in Basel and the Decapole War. Here, at the end of the conference he would be elected Emperor and was crowned three months later. However, the Imperial crown came with its own set of issues and he would put any Neapolitan plans back while he secured his German base.

In the south the growth and increasing confidence of the Swiss Confederation threatened many long-standing states. However Sigismund was tacitly supportive of the Swiss, mostly because they kept his opponents in Bavaria and Austria busy. Ultimately this double-standard failed to achieve any good. The Confederation expanded thanks to their defense of the Decapole cities and the opposing Swabian League saw through Sigismund's ruses enough to remain hostile to his future dealings.

Great Venetian War

French troops and artillery entering Naples 1495

Bohemian troops before the Siege of Udine

Attempts to restart operations in Naples would be poleaxed thanks to renewed disagreements with Venice and Byzantium over the Adriatic. Seeing Venice's mainland territory as its weakness Sigismund forged a 'Holy Alliance' with Pope Paul III and Castilian interests in Milan. Initially the alliance scored considerable success over Venice however the alliance soon broke down as Aragon entered the peninsula too and the Papacy switched sides to support Venice. Byzantium's eastern fringes now almost fully reconquered from the Turks the Emperors could give far more attention to Europe, raising an army in Albania and threatening Hungary itself. The campaign against Byzantium, the Travunian War, satisfied few on either side and only really served to further weaken Serbia's tenuous independence. More disturbing was a revolt in Hungary which meant Sigimund would have withdraw the Bohemian army from Italia.

Sigismund would indeed continue to sponsor expeditions to Naples, however these were under aegis of the semi-autonomous Hungarian 'Black Legion' rather than the crown and the army had limited success at engaging the Neapolitan forces of Martin I and James III.

In the North France had been unable to support their Milanese allies directly but struck out against the Duchy of Luxembourg. In return, exploiting Henry II's succession issues, Sigismund would fund several attempts by Auvergne to seize Paris. Their efforts would be unsuccessful but this did help cement an alliance between the two and shored up his western front. Dynastic success in Arles improved his position too, thanks to the marriage of Sigismund's sister Joanna Katherine into the ruling dynasty. Her son Charles I would inherit the kingdom in 1500. Further potential gains in the West would fuel the war which would dominate the rest of his reign.

War of Anglian Succession

In 1493 William II of Anglia died, leaving no direct heir. His will stipulated that any male child of his sister, Anna of Norfolk, would inherit Anglia's territory but she had only a daughter. Many nobles argued that due to Salian Law Anna had no authority to claim or even pass the claim on to any future son. They demanded a king now.

The Anglian Witenage elected her cousin Eric IX as king, however Sigismund chose to dispute this. He had virtually the same claim to the Anglian throne as Eric IX and eyed the wealthy territories of Flanders and Brabant covetously. He could call upon some support at least; William I, as Elector of Flanders, had voted for him in the Imperial election and there was enough anti-French sympathies to make many Flemish nobles pro-Luxembourg.

Sigismund voided Eric's claims over the Low Countries with an Imperial Ban and claimed them for himself along with the Anglian crown, with the implied potential to force the Danish out of Pomerania too. The ensuing war would eclipse any of his previous campaigns in terms of bloodshed or length. Denmark and its Kalmar allies successfully took over a portion of northern Germany, threatening Brandenburg and even Bohemia. Bavaria, with its holdings in Holland, joined the Danish side and proved an implacable foe in the centre too. When the pride of the Imperial forces were unceremoniously destroyed at Lens by an Anglian army half its size in 1497 Sigismund fell into a sulk 'from which he never recovered'. However Kalmar's apparent supremacy on the battlefield never translated into long-term success and the Rhineland cities remained stubbornly loyal to Sigismund.


Sigismund would die in 1502 and was succeeded by his only son John, who would not only have to contend with the ongoing Anglian War but the rise of new breed of Christianity too.

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