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Snaedis II of Vinland (The Kalmar Union)

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Snaedis II
Snaedis II (The Kalmar Union).png
Snaedis II in Orange and Green, 16th c. portrait by Giovanni Odoni
Queen of Vinland
Reign 1st February, 1355 - 4th October, 1390
Predecessor Geirfrithur
Successor Kristjana V
Spouse Oláf Valdemarsson
Issue Bjarni Oláfsson

Otto Oláfsson
Kristjana Oláfsdottír
Sigrun Oláfsdottír

Full name
Snaedis II Vilhjálmursdottír
House Eiriksdottír
Father Vilhjálmur Magnusson
Mother Geirfrithur Elvarsdottír
Born 29th March, 1333
Fjallasay, Vinland
Died 4th October, 1390
Fjallasay, Vinland

Depending on your stance on the role of the monarchy in Vinlandic society, Snaedis II was either one of the finest Vinlandic queens, or one of the worst. Her reign was defined by a constant struggle against the Althing and the church to the sole benefit of her own power and influence. Whatever your opinions it can not be denied that Vinland at the end of her reign, a re-occurrence of the Black Death notwithstanding, was in much stronger position than it had been at the start.

Early Life

Born in 1338 Snaedis was brought up in full knowledge that she would, barring the Althing's intervention, eventually inherit Vinland. Kristjana IV, her aunt, had married Prince Otto of Denmark, and whilst he had died in 1326 the Danish advisors he had brought with him still and would tutor Snaedis and her brothers in state-craft, effectively imbuing them with a sense Vinland would be better off as a full-blown monarchy rather than a republic with an awkward royal family attached.

Sharp-eyed and thoughtful, Snaedis was well-regarded as a princess whilst her riding skills made her a star of hunts and no doubt made her allies within the ranks of earls that she would later call on.

By the turn of her coronation in spring 1355 she was married to the heir to the Earldom of Gudridsaeyjar, Oláf Valdemarsson, and had had two sons, Bjarni and Otto.

The Althing

After the Althing's triumphant outmaneuvering of the earls and royal family in the 1280s it had been in slow decline as a force. The dilution that occurred during the Long Althing of 1312 only promoted more career politicians whom owed their allegiance to earls in far-off Hafsvaedaland. While this increased the hand of the monarchs and the earls it left an important gap. Generally the Althing collected enough tax to keep itself ticking over. Any more was felt to be extravagant or even ungodly. Without regular state taxation the earls tended to hoard their money impoverishing the crown which usually reliant solely on trade income through Fjallasay. Kristjana IV had wanted to campaign against a faltering Aniyunwiya but was frustrated by a lack of funds. Snaedis intended to be different.

Snaedis looked to both strengthen the assembly but at the same time make it fully answerable to herself. In 1357 she called for a general taxation to test the limits of the Althing's reach. She was, of course rebuffed, both by the Althing and the church. Thereafter she tried to limit the freedoms of the speakers, or the Althing's ability to appoint its own men to the position. Eventually she was able to get her own advisors appointed the role which strengthened her ability to control the assembly.

The Peasant's Revolt

Vinlandic Sheep Farming (The Kalmar Union)

Sheep farming in Fjallasay, from the Árstíthirnabók

In many ways a dry run for the Vinlandic Civil War the Peasant's Revolt of 1367-68 showed the absolute split in how Vinland's territories were governed and taxed, and would prove the most substantial threat to Snaedis's rule. Whilst the farmers of the maritime provinces were largely free, well represented and governed by the Althing, those in the interior provinces were mostly enserfed to the crown, the earls or the church. Even if the Althing couldn't enforce centralised taxation those landowners in the west certainly could and did so liberally. The populace of the Hafsvaedaland were therefore greatly annoyed by endless taxation, alongside with other complaints. In the slightly more urban areas a conscious feeling of injustice was developing. Despite the periodical visitations of itinerant courts the heavy-handed rule of the lords of the quickly growing towns was felt to be onerous. Many looked to the more established towns of Álengiamark with their dearly held town charters and virtual independence from the earls as examples to follow.

All this came to a head in June 1367 when a large peasant army from the lands of the Earl of Eikland (including many from the barely integrated Tahontanrat people) raided the fort at Svortubirkisett in response to yet another visitation from the Earl's tax collectors. Turfing out the guard and freeing those in the gaol they armed themselves and then set about prising open other forts, slowly building a significant following. The earls' forces stuck to their own forts ready to repel any attacks but Karantóborg was left undefended and the city was occupied. Snaedis and her court in Fjallasay were informed six days later. Heavily pregnant she was unable to appear in person as she had preferred to do so in other potential flashpoints and sent her brother Runólf to negotiate with and pacify the rebels. Yet he and a small force of crossbowmen were turned back from the city.

The peasant forces were soon joined by another band, those led by the lay-preacher Mattias Massaikasson and events began to turn ugly. While churches were certainly plentiful in the rural areas the numbers of priests was severely lacking. This led to many churches simply standing empty, pagan gods being worshiped in consecrated buildings or, potentially more disturbing to authorities; lay preachers (like Mattias) attempting to interpret the scripture themselves. Despite this the relentless taxation by the church continued unabated. Mattias and his followers demanded the wealth of the church be returned to its rightful owners and when the deacon of Karantóborg declined he was defrocked, then executed after a mock trial. The churches of Karantóborg were raided and their treasuries confiscated. Those clergy who opposed the revolt were generally killed. The summer revolt disbanded to a small degree during the harvests but by winter had reconvened in greater numbers. In December a rumour reached the revolt that Snaedis had called in Icelandic mercenaries leading to more deaths and rioting. Snaedis had done no such thing however, the Icelandic mercenary army was at that time in Germany campaigning on behalf of Olaf III and anyway she did not have the necessary money to pay for it thanks to the Althing's intransigence.

Many of the representatives from the maritime counties had been taking notice of developments in Europe, especially in Britannia and Denmark where successive kings had had their power curtailed by Magna Carta or Haandfaestning agreements. The disruption caused by the Peasant's Revolt seemed to give them the opportunity and motive to institute their own limits on royal power. They attempted therefore to lure Snaedis into such an agreement by agreeing a general tax to raise an army in return for certain limits on royal and noble power, namely being unable to raise taxes without the Althing's say so and a levy on moveable goods: effectively a monopoly on Vinland's trade. There were other clauses ensuring freedoms of forests and lakes. If the Althing had had support of the earls then the ploy may have been successful however the earls were as much aggravated by the events as the crown and to a large degree rallied around Snaedis. At least she appeared to still command respect amongst the peasantry. As a result the Althing could not put up much resistance when Snaedis appeared at the Althing with a force gathered from Markland and Kyrejya and advanced on Isafjordhur. The assembly gave in quickly and agreed to a general tax without the strings attached. Realising when to give way, the Bishop of Vinland Nikulás of Jönköping contributed his share too. With a force collected and paid for Snaedis waited for the Briedurass to melt while those trouble making Althing members were carefully watched. Her own personal chancellor, Dagur Gunnlaugursson was made speaker and, despite his royal appointment, was charismatic enough to carry the Althing with him for many years to come.

When the Breidurass melted the army moved upriver to Fjallasay. There Snaedis declared an amnesty in April 1368 merely asking for the leaders of the revolt, namely Jakob Ívarsson and his deputy, Oláf Thórarinnsson, and Mattias Massaikasson and three of his acolytes. All others would be allowed home without charge and taxes would not be collected for a year. In return Bishop Nikulás agreed to forego three years tax as well. Failure to agree to the terms would result in war. The revolt facilitated. Those loyal to Thórarinnsson quickly abandoned him and had to fight their way out of the city. With the revolt collapsing the army moved into Gaesírsey ready to assault the city if a last stand was called for. It would not. Ívarsson was killed by his own men on the 20th May whilst Massaiksson was caught attempting to escape at Nordurhlidith and subsequently hung, drawn and quartered. Thórarinnsson and Ívarsson's bodies were strung up in gibbets on Karantóborg's central church. The rest of the band dispersed and true to her word Snaedis ensured not a single one was tried in the courts for their role in the revolt.

War

Having been granted a tax to raise an army for a war against the revolt Snaedis and her advisors intended to use it, to further cement her role and also to provide relief for the pressured peasants and lords alike. A useful target was found in the Sauk on the western bank of the Breidurass who despite their semi-vassal status frequently raided into the more settled Hafsvaedaland. In summer of 1368 the army crossed the narrow strait to the north of Wawetanoog Vatn and began a siege of Saginaw. The Sauk quickly made peace, eager to avoid a repeat of the massacre of 1281 and, to show that this time the Vinlanders were there to stay, Snaedis parceled out the land. A third went to the crown, a sixth went to the church (Bishop Nikulás complained bitterly at this perceived snub) and the rest was divided up between the earls. Three new earldoms were created while the Althing received eight new counties and jurisdiction over the courts. The army was then immediately sent against the Ohio tribes which lay between Saukland and the faltering Aniyunwiyan Empire. This and further incursions later in Snaedis's reign were less successful in capturing new areas for the crown but they did achieve their aim in holding off tribal attacks on the main Hafsvaedaland settlements.

The Church

The church in Leifia had various issues. Chief among them was the presence of only one bishop. While the temporal powers of Europe were gradually seeing the opportunities available in Leifia, the papacy, stung by poor remittances to Rome and repeated failures to convert its population, had largely gone off the boil when it came to Leifia. This left the entire church system across Vinland, Álengiamark, Abernakriga, Passamaquoddia, Algonquinland and those Erie and Dasamongueponk who professed Christianity all looking to the sole Bishop of Vinland for guidance. This only made the opportunites for corruption much more tempting for those so inclined.

Nikulás of Jönköping certainly did take advantage of the situation he found himself in. Promoted to the see in 1350 he quickly found he could milk the political fracturing in Álengiamark to line his own pockets whilst ignoring the decrees of the Althings. If one state found him too onerous he would simply move on to the next one until tempers calmed down. He appeared not to care that Leifia was in dire need of new priests to replace those who had died during the Black Death and simply funneled the donations from the nobility that were meant to pay for private chapels to ensure the passage of their souls, into his own treasury. In 1357 Snaedis passed a law to make the Althing responsible for ratifying the donations. Knowing full well the Althing cared little for the bishop it cut his Vinlandic income at a stroke. This pushed him off to wealthier Álengiamark but also angered the nobility who felt Snaedis was gambling with their souls.

Instead of pocketing donations from the rich he turned his attentions the peasants on church land, taxing them to the hilt to pay for his extravagant lifestyle, and indeed, his own private Álengsk army. As clergy were severely lacking in much of the Hafsvaedaland the collection of tax by absentee clergy fed into the general disaffection. His private army did little to prevent occasional raiding from the Sauk or Ohio to the west and stirred up much anger and resentment, leading into the Peasant's Revolt. Nikulás backed down over taxes which certainly helped dampen the revolt. Deciding a change of tactics was called for, he used his own treasury to build the long-awaiting chapels and seminaries to save the souls of the nobles and properly administer to the needs of the peasants. The numbers of clergy certainly did rise thanks to those graduating from the seminaries, though there was still a reluctance to serve in the most rural parishes and the change was slow. Throughout much of Vinland pagan gods were venerated in Christian churches, even in the grand cathedral in Fjallasay there were altars to Odinist and Leifian deities. This seems to have been accepted as simple fact by most levels of society but was most prevalent in those areas ill-served by the clergy, and the expansion of the chapels and their colleges tended to divert priests away from rural areas.

Meanwhile both Snaedis and Elin III were constantly sending letters to the church centres of Europe for assistance and, potentially, the removal of their vampiric bishop. Snaedis used any means at her disposal to confront Nikulás but would inevitably back down once excommunication was threatened. In 1372 she confronted him about a liturgical issue and, refusing to re-pledge his fealty to her she simply promoted the deacon of Markland, Jórundr, to bishop in his place. For fourteen months the church taxes of Vinland flowed into the royal treasury rather than Nikulás's pocket but eventually they were reconciled after Jórundr's death and Rome's intervention.

Another dispute in 1378-9 resulted in a stand off in the Briedurass between their respective ships. Eventually however it would be his dealings in Álengiamark which proved the final straw. In 1380 after a particularly blatant display of corruption a band kidnapped him and drowned him in a sack. Snaedis, without caring to wait for Rome to appoint a successor, promoted her personal confessor to bishop. Vilhjálmur of Rakvélvik's appointment was confirmed by Emperor Olaf's pope John XXIII and a papal legate was assigned to assess the needs of the Leifian see. At the Congress of Fjallasay Sneadis finally got her wish.

The First Congress of Fjallasay

Vinland 1390 (The Kalmar Union)

Vinland and its surroundings in 1390

In early 1387 Álengiamark to all intents and purposes fell apart. The wave of unrest in its western lands usually known as the Great Unami Revolt (1385-87) proved too much for the divided state to bear and at the Battle of Kristjanabae, though victorious in the end, cost too much in terms of life and momentum. Queen Elin III, bereft at the loss of three of her brothers in the battle, died soon after of apparent heartbreak. The Álengsk nobles were soon squabbling over the succession even as their rule over the Unami lands collapsed. Snaedis, though sad to hear of the death of her long-time ally but was eager to show her dominance by settling the borders of the revolts and as some have suggested even coveted the Álengsk province of Ontario for herself.

Officially Vinland's armies were busy fighting a renewed Ohio threat during the Great Unami Revolt and could not assist Álengiamark in its own efforts and the second outbreak of Black Death may have contributed too. However many have suggested Snaedis deliberately avoided involving Vinlandic troops in the revolt to ensure Vinland, and not a potentially victorious Álengiamark, would remain the premier Leifian power.

The arrival of foreign delegates gave Snaedis the opportunity to show off Fjallasay to the world. Despite the recent ravaging of the Black Death the city was still populous, wealthy and had many fine buildings such as the Kaupmatúrshaal which hosted the congress. While perhaps slightly underwhelming to the Danish, Vikene and Portuguese it probably gave the right impression to the other Leifian nations which attended. With Álengiamark divided (it sent seven separate delegates who variously did not recognise one other) Vinland could effectively divide the Unami lands without much dissent.

  • The Erie were confirmed as a separate nation, as were the Susquehanock.
  • The other free Unami tribes generally fought as a whole so with agreement form the Confederation of Six Nations†.
  • The Southern Unami remain a part of Álengiamark as did the Earldom of Ontario. Both were split into counties to be represented at the Álengsk Althing.
  • The remaining old Aniyunwiyan lands are given freedom but they quickly rejoined the rump of their empire.
  • Vinland's ownership of Greenland is recognised by Denmark and Viken-Svealand (who promise to prevent Hordaland from reprisals).
  • Vinland's ownership of Hafsvaedaland is reconfirmed.
  • Portugal was confirmed as having full control of the 'Southern Route', as well as their ownership of Verão Island and their fort just off the Leifian mainland at Ocracoke.
  • The northern and western borders of Vinland were deliberately left vague.
  • Asthurdur II was crowned queen of Álengiamark on the final day of the congress

As for the Leifian church; Fjallasay was elevated to an archbishopric no longer beholden to Lund or Nidaros and a new set of bishoprics were created to administer the separate churches of the christian lands.

Denmark meanwhile presented several symbols of state including its flag and banner to the church at Fjallasay. Both Vinland and Álengiamark soon had their own versions. Blue with white cross for Vinland, green with white cross for Álengiamark. Snaedis's flair for pageantry had done the trick. With both Aniyunwiya and Álengiamark in decline, and with Snaedis casually dividing up the disputed lands, Vinland assumed the position of premier Leifian power.

†This was actually a misnomer for several centuries as Vinlandic scribes added the quite separate and unconquered Kanien'gehuga to the 'Six Nations' in error. Until the Northern Tuscaron were split off from the Seneca there were only 'five' nations.

Death and Succession

Prior to the Congress Vinland was swept with another wave of the Black Death from 1381-83. This would be much more deadly than the original outbreak in 1350. While the cities were badly hit by the initial wave this time it was the rural areas which bore the brunt. Even considering the 30-40% drop in thanks to the 1380s re-occurrence of the Black Death the population of Vinland probably doubled during Snaedis's reign. Its 300,000 people were still largely subsistence farmers or fishermen strung out hugging the coastlines of windswept islands, or enserfed peasants at the other end of a barely defendable river, but the country would enter the 1390s confident; economically and military stronger than any of its neighbours.

Snaedis would die in October 1390, possibly of a cerebral haemorrhage, though some have accused certain members of her family of murder. She would be succeeded by her brooding and ultimately deeply unpopular daughter Kristjana V.

Descendants

Snaedis married Oláf Valdemarsson in 1350. They had four children before his death in 1368. Snaedis did not remarry although she was courted by several European states. She is understood to have had a romantic relationship with prince Témiscamin of Abernakriga and several 'pretenders' claiming to be their descendents appeared in future generations.

  • Bjarni Oláfsson - Born 1351. Married Princess Órlaith of Connaght in 1368. Bjarni died in 1371. Órlaith remained prominent at court, would marry another emigre, Guðni Hörðursson of Iceland, and would have several children. The 'Órlaithssons' would subsequently support Asdis during the Civil War and were eventually rewarded with the title of Earl of Grálamborg by Jakobina II.
  • Otto Oláfsson - Born 1352. Died in 1360.
  • Kristjana Oláfsdottír - Born 1356. Proclaimed queen following Snaedis' death. Married Steinar Hannesson and had four children. Was deposed by the Althing during the Vinlandic Civil War. Died in Portuguese Verão in 1406.
  • Sigrun Ólafsdottír - Born in 1367 - Died in 1380. Had been mooted as a potential bride to Anglia.

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