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The Last of The Romans
The POD begins in the year 475 when the Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos is deposed by his own general, Flavius Orestes, and flees with his followers to the island of Britannia. (Very similar to OTL, but Nepos goes to Britannia instead of his home in Dalmatia.) Although the island had already been abandoned by Rome in 410, Nepos is able to rally the native Romano-British people and drive the Saxons almost completely off the island. After the capital of Ravenna is sacked by Odoacer, and Nepos' successor, Romulus Augustus is deposed, Nepos declares the seat of government of the Western Roman Empire to be in Britannia. Backed by the Eastern Roman Empire, Nepos reigns over the traditional Roman half of the island until his death in 496 AD. During that time, he began a program of tolerance and assimilation for the native Celtic people of the island, in order to broaden his popular support base; the Roman settlers are ordered to treat the natives civilly, and slavery is abolished on the island. Although at first, the native Celts are reluctant to trust the Roman's word, they slowly begin to take greater part in the ever increasing Roman society in Britannia. Incoming Roman settlers from Italy and Gaul start a policy of intermarrying with the native Britons; a policy that will continue for centuries to come.
After the death of Julius Nepos, a charismatic Romano-British supporter of Nepos named, Ambrosius Aurelianus takes the mantle of Western Roman Emperor and officially establishes his capital at Londinium. In the summer of 500 AD, the Saxons return to the island and launch an invasion from the northeast. After securing the loyalty of the native Celtic Britons, Aurelianus organizes an army and meets the Saxons on the field; the confrontation would later be known as the Battle of Badon Hill. Although most accounts about the battle's specifics are lost, the one undisputed fact is that Aurelianus defeated the Saxons and completely drove them out of the Britannian isles. This moment was a crucial point in history for Britannia, as it forever ended the threat of Saxon invasions, and ensured the survival of this "reborn" Western Roman Empire in this small island outpost.
After he utterly destroyed the Saxons, Aurelianus set his sights on the northern lands of Caledonia. The inhabitants of these northern lands, the Picts, had never been successfully conquered by the original Imperium Romanum. They had also been the indirect cause of the Saxons coming to Britannia in the first place. When Rome first withdrew from the far-flung island, the Picts raided and plundered the Romano-British settlements, forcing them to call the Saxons to the islands as mercenaries to fight the Picts. Aurelianus wanted to eliminate this Barbarian threat, and in 503 AD he crossed the old Hadrian's Wall with an army of 60,000 men, comprising of Roman immigrants, native Celts, and even some Anglo-Saxons who pledged their loyalty to the Empire, and invaded Caledonia. After a bloody (and often called a merciless campaign by modern Non-Britannian historians), The Western Roman Emperor and his Romano-British army subjugated the Picts and annexed all of Caledonia, something the Romans had never accomplished before. After the six year conquest of the "Northern Barbarians", Aurelianus started the ever growing policy of Christianizing the islands of Britannia. Although Christianity had already taken root in the Britannian Isles, it had been slow to spread among the Celtic Britons. But the Emperor changed that by peacefully sending missionaries to convert the Britons, and adopted some of their customs into the Religion. Historians believe this is how the Sun-Cross or Celtic Cross came into existence, and it is considered both a Religious and National symbol by modern Britannians.Aurelianus reigned in peace for twelve years before setting his sights on further conquest. When Julius Nepos fled to Britannia, some parts of Northern Gaul remained loyal to him, but had been recently conquered by the Franks; who had started to consolidate their new home in Gaul. Aurelianus wanted to fulfill Nepos' dream of returning to mainland Europa, march through Gaul and Italy, and retake Rome. So in 521 AD, he organized another army, and crossed the body of water that would later be named "The Britannian Channel" and landed in northern Gaul. The locals, whom many were still ethnically Roman, joined Aurelianus and his army, and in less than a year conquered the area that are now separately known as Normandy and Brittany. However when he tried to invade the rest of Gaul, he met heavy resistance from the Franks and other Barbarians, so in 523 AD, Aurelianus signed a treaty with them, recognizing their control over most of Gaul, but the North and Northwest belonged to the "reborn" Western Roman Empire. After his Gallic venture, the noble Emperor Ambrosius Aurelianus returned to Londinium, where he took on the tasks of strengthening the Romano-British administration and economy. He built Britannia's own aqueducts, repaired, and built several more baths, and continued converting the Britons to the true Christian faith.
The Romano-British Emperor of the Western Empire, Ambrosius Aurelianus, died in his sleep in 534 AD. Although records of his date of birth are lost, he is believed to have lived to the age of 70; possibly being the oldest man in Britannia at that time. His reign is associated with saving the re-established Roman rule in Britannia from the Saxons, while expanding the Empire to include old and new provinces. Survival and Conquest. It is believed by scholars that these two aspects of Aurelianus' reign, inspired the modern National Motto of the Empire of Britannia.
Gratia Dei salva nos, Per voluntatem Dei vincimus.
By God's grace we survive, through God's will we conquer.
The False Empire
Aurelianus was succeeded by one of his Generals; a pure-blooded Roman named Flavius Novellus. He had been a veteran of the campaigns in Caledonia and Gaul, and was at one point Consul of the Western Empire from 527 - 530. He was a perfect candidate for Emperor, and Aurelianus had adopted him as a son and heir. Like his predecessor, the new Emperor wanted more conquests to fill the Western Empire's treasury, and to eliminate any possible enemies. After just two years on the throne, he set his sights to Britannia's neighboring island, known to the Romans as Hibernia.
So in 536, he organized an army and made landings in the Eastern points of the island (known to the locals as Ire.) As he predicted, the local Barbarians put up stiff resistance, but Novellus used superior strategy, and superior discipline to subjugate them. By late 537, most of the island was now Roman. But the Celtics had managed to hold on to a small piece of land in the Northwest corner of the island; it wouldn't be until 540, that the Barbarian enclave was crushed, and the whole of Hibernia secured. After his military victories, Emperor Novellus immediately sent missionaries to the Island, along with Roman settlers to "assimilate" the locals into the Empire.
While this war was going on in the Britannian Isles, in mainland Europe, the Eastern-Romans had successfully re-conquered North Africa and were waging a war in Italy against the Ostrogoths. Novellus believed that the Eastern Emperor Justinian was conquering Western-Roman lands for him; all he had to do now was successfully invade the rest of Gaul and take it from the Franks. But Novellus soon realized that he was wrong about his "supposed" Eastern-Roman ally, when he sent a message to Justinian, offering to abandon his campaign in Hibernia and instead march through Gaul and link up with the Eastern-Roman armies in Italy. Justinian, after reading this message sent a proclamation to Novellus and to his own Empire starting in Constantinople. The proclamation declared that the Western-Roman Empire had ceased to exist when Julius Nepos abandoned Italy and fled to a faraway island for safety. He also said that the state governing Britannia was a "false empire" and did not deserve to call itself Roman. This event in history would later be known as "The Betrayal of Justinian" and it put the two Empires at odds with each other. Emperor Novellus was shocked by the proclamation, and continued his conquest of Hibernia, realizing that Justinian wanted Italy and Rome for himself.
With the Betrayal of Justinian, Romans from Italy and even as far away as the Eastern Empire stopped coming to Britannia. The Roman citizens living in the Britannian Isles were unsure of themselves. If they weren't Roman as Justinian said, then what were they? But Flavius Novellus wasn't giving up on his dream of liberating Rome; a dream he inherited from his predecessors along with his title. In 540, the same year Hibernia had been pacified, the Eastern-Roman Empire was once again at war with the Sassanid Persians. Novellus felt an opportunity approaching him, if Justinian pulled enough troops out of Italy to fight the Persians, he could defeat what forces were left in Italy, and the people would surely welcome the Western-Romans with open arms. However there was an obstacle blocking the way between Britannia and Italy; Gaul. Still controlled by the Franks, Gaul was fast becoming the Barbarians' new homeland, and they had even driven other groups out of the area, like the Saxons, the Visigoths, and the Alamanni. But with fierce determination to take back his own homeland, the Western-Emperor Flavius Novellus ordered an invasion of Frankish Gaul in order to take back Italy away from their Eastern-Roman cousins.
With an army of 47,000 men, Novellus attempts to invade the rest of Gaul starting with the kingdom ruled by Chlothar, a son of Clovis I. Although the invasion is initially successful, the other Frankish kingdoms unite to drive the Romano-British out of their lands. The armies of Novellus are driven back into Normandy, and the Franks start an invasion of his lands in Northern Gaul. In late 542, sensing weakness from Roman arms, the Celts in Hibernia rebel against the Western-Roman Empire; the rebellion spreads through half the island, and the Senate in Londinium pleaded for their Emperor to return to deal with the situation. After another series of defeats, and hearing of the Hibernian Revolt, Western-Emperor Flavius Novellus quickly makes peace with the Franks, and takes his army to Hibernia were they defeat the rebellion in less than a year. As a condition of the peace, the Western-Roman Empire cedes the modern land of Normandy to the Frankish Kingdom, and pays a tribute of 3,000 pounds of gold. But modern day Brittany remains a part of Novellus' dominion.
Defeated and humiliated, Novellus focuses on internal affairs to take his mind off the dream that he inherited, but will never fulfill. He continues to Christianize Hibernia or Ire, and to make sure the local people don't rebel again, he orders the construction of various forts and settlements with a majority of Roman inhabitants. One of these early settlements is a small village on the Eastern coast of the island named in its native Celtic tongue, Dubh Linn. The settlement later becomes a bustling center of Roman culture mixed with the native Celtic population. For the next 22 years, Flavius Novellus reigns in seclusion in his capital of Londinium. Although a defeated and humiliated man, he proved to be a capable administrator, and although a pure-blooded Roman, he gains popularity among the Britons by marrying a Celtic woman from Caledonia.
In the year of 564, Novellus dies after getting injured in a riding accident near the region of East Anglia. He is largely remembered by modern Britannians as a good monarch, but one who got unlucky during his reign. It is said that on his death bed, the Western-Emperor cursed the name of Eastern-Emperor Justinian; and a year later, said Emperor died himself. The Eastern Roman Empire's conquest of Italy and North Africa did not produce lasting results, as those newly required provinces are slowly lost over time. Legend has it that Novellus haunted Justinian during the last year of his reign and made the Tyrant go through a living Hell, and after the Eastern-Emperor's death, the Emperor Novellus was taken into Heaven by a guild of Angels, while Justinian was dragged into the real Hell by a mob of Devils.
The Age of Isolation
During the period known as the Early Middle ages, The Western Roman Empire entered a period of isolation from the rest of Europe. While mainland Europe became divided by new countries and kingdoms, such as France - formerly Gaul, The Holy Roman Empire in Germania, and the Muslims having invaded Iberia and conquered most of it from the Visigoths. The Britannian Isles however remained tied to an old dream of reclaiming Italy and reuniting the Roman Empire. This dream however was slowly dying, as it was only maintained by the Emperors and the Roman Aristocrats in the Senate. For hundreds of years, the Western-Romans went through several wars with France over the possession of Normandy; in some wars they would gain most of the territory, only to lose it to the Franks a decade later. Despite these constant wars, the Western Roman Empire was able to hold onto the peninsula later known as Brittany (or little Britain). Around the 9th century, most of the pure-blooded Romans had intermarried with the native Britons of Celtic descent. Although ethnically, most of the population remained Celtic, a large minority of people claimed ancestry from both Roman and Celtic lineage. This resulted in a cultural mixture of the two peoples; almost all the Celts in Hibernia and Caledonia had been Christianized, most people knew (at least some) Latin, and even their way of waging war had become mixture of cultures.
Although most Britannians claim that Knights were created during the reign of Aurelianus, most of Europe had adopted the warrior class, and had remade warfare to be for the elite only. In the Britannian Isles however, their armies were divided into three main groups. The Knights, who were made up of Nobles, and who usually rode horseback. The Legions, who were made up of the Peasants and urban workers, formed the backbone of the Western-Roman military. They had seen many reforms in military doctrine, armor, and tactics, in order to keep up with the progressing armies of Europe. And finally the Berserkers, who were made up of Celtic warriors mostly from Caledonia, they formed the shock-troops of the army and were usually accompanied by dismounted Knights.
This cultural mix up also included the Language used by most Britannians. The Anglo-Saxons who were spared by Emperor Aurelianus had settled in Anglia on the eastern edge of the main island. Although their own culture was slowly dying out do to absorption of Celtic and Roman cultures, they had a major impact on the people by introducing their native language known as Old-English. This language had been learned by Roman Nobles and had spread to the native peoples on the island. With later heavy Latin influence, and even Celtic influence in Hibernia, the Language evolved into modern English that is spoken by 90% of modern Britannians today. (Similar to OTL English, but with more Latin influence replacing the Norman influence and the Celtic replacing the Norse influence.)
Starting from the 8th century, conflict with the French (still referred to as Franks by Britannians), had been replaced by conflict with the Vikings who were constantly raiding their shores. To prevent the Viking Norse from actually invading the islands, and to minimize their random raids, the Western-Emperor Joannes II ordered the construction of several outposts along the coasts of the main island. If Viking ships were spotted off the coast, these outposts would signal military forts using signal lamps and fires. This would result in fast counterattacks by Legionaries against the Norse and would hopefully discourage them from attacking Britannia. This did prove to be a successful strategy, and within 20 years, Viking raids decreased to the point that there were barely any at all. However this made the Barbarian Norse turn their attentions elsewhere for plunder and conquest. In the 9th century, a Viking group called the Normans conquered and settled in Northern France. After successfully taking the area from the French, they named the land Normandy and spread their culture throughout the region. (In this Alt. timeline, the Normans settling in Normandy happens a century earlier than OTL, due to failed Viking raids in Britannia.) This was taken as an indirect insult by the Western-Roman Empire, since they regularly laid claim to that region, and it had remained culturally Roman for centuries.
These centuries were marked by cultural and economic decline in mainland Europe, while Britannia excelled in different cultures & traditions. And despite taking a isolationist stance with Europe, the Western-Empire was able to maintain its economy mostly through increased domestic business and farming. On the onset of the 10th century, the stage had been set for new wars, and had been set for a powerful new country to emerge off the edge of Europe that would never decline, and to this day remain the greatest superpower on Earth.
Another Failed Invasion and The Rise of a New Empire
In the year 1064 AD, a young man was elected to the throne of the Western Roman Empire by the Senate. Lucius Decimus Murchad was the son of an influential Senator of Celtic origin; he is believed to be the first pure-blooded Celt to be an Emperor of one of the Roman Empires. A distant cousin by marriage named William I of Normandy laid claim to the throne of the Western-Empire over young Murchad. William sent emissaries to the Senate demanding that they anoint him Caesar and declare the young Emperor an upstart. The Senate was outraged and refused his raving demands. After their refusal, William prepared his forces for war, with support from Flanders and the Kingdom of the Franks (France). However Murchad was not incompetent as he was young; he sent messages to the Pope asking him to condemn William for his unsupported claims. The Papal States and the Western Roman Empire had been on good terms with each other, and in late 1065, Pope Alexander II gave his support to Emperor Lucius Murchad and his followers. Despite this, William went ahead with his invasion plans after the urging of the French; and he would soon get his opportunity to conquer the Western-Roman Empire.
In spring 1066 AD, the Viking King of Norway Harald Hardrada attempted to invade Britannia and add the fledgling Roman domain to his Kingdom. However the string of watchtowers set up years ago spotted the Norse fleet and signaled to the local Legions. They in-turn, sent the message to Londinium and to the Imperial Fleet which was arguably the most powerful in Europe. Poor weather prevented Harald from landing his army and forced him to anchor his fleet off the coast. This bought the Western-Roman fleet enough time to organize and prepare for engagement at sea. As soon as the weather cleared the Norse spotted a large fleet of Roman warships heading their way. Despite being renowned seafarers, the Norwegians' fleet consisted of transport ships and could not fight effectively against the Western-Romans. After a day of fierce naval warfare, the Viking fleet was utterly destroyed; thousands of men drowned, including King Harald. While this was a great victory against the dreaded Vikings, to the south, their cousins had already set sail for Britannia.
Emperor Murchad had anticipated William's move, and he ordered almost the entire army, comprising of Legionaries, Knights, and Berserkers to march south where the Normans would most likely land. On 28 September, the Normans lead by William himself landed on the southern coat of Britannia. They had also brought Flemish and French mercenaries to fight alongside them, but the actual invasion force comprised of only 12,000 men. William had not heard of Harald's defeat at sea, and he assumed the Roman Legions were far north, still fighting against the Norse. However he could not have been more shocked when he started creating a fort around the town of Hastings, and the full might of the Western-Roman Empire came bearing down on him. William quickly took command of his army and ordered his archers to begin firing arrows into the ranks of the Legions.
In command of the Romano-British army was Emperor Lucius Murchad himself. Despite his father’s and the Senate's warnings, the young man rode out to battle to fight alongside his Legions, and to defend his Empire. With an army of 18,000 men, The Emperor of just 16 years of age, ordered his men to take the hill around the town of Hastings; thus giving the Western-Romans an advantage against the Normans. William's archers fired continuous volleys of arrows into the tight ranks of the Romans, but it had little effect due to the Legions' protective shield wall. William then ordered his infantry to charge the hill and break the Romans while his heavy cavalry swept around to engage the Romano-British knights. However the Legionaries unleashed their javelins upon the approaching Normans, a reminiscent scene of the ancient Roman way of fighting, and Celtic archers began firing their own volleys against the vulnerable Norman infantrymen. It is believed by historians that during the fight on the hill around Hastings, Lucius Murchad entered the fray, and despite his small size, fought by his soldiers with impressive skill and vigor. He is reported to have cut down many "Barbarians", according to historical records. Meanwhile, the Norman heavy cavalry had engaged the Western-Roman knights, and were having a difficult time in beating them back. Apparently, the Romano-British had adopted many styles of mounted warfare, including those used by the Normans. In less than an hour, the Norman cavalry had been defeated and the knights of the Western-Empire remained on the field. After his cavalry defeat, William's Flemish and Frankish soldiers began to retreat after having failed to defeat the Legions. William then ordered a general retreat back to the town and expected a Roman charge, but the discipline of the Romano-British Legions made them stay in place. In a last ditch effort, William lead his remaining cavalry and infantry back up the hill; hoping to find and kill Emperor Murchad. However this proved to be the Normans' undoing, because after the second charge, Celtic Berserkers, and Roman Knights attacked the town of Hastings itself and cut William off from his supplies and means of escape. During all of this, the infantry battle had devolved into a bloody series of hand-to-hand duals with neither side gaining an advantage. William was still riding on horseback when he spotted a dismounted Murchad and he charged toward the young Emperor hoping to break the Romano-British army with his death. But as William drew closer to the boy, an arrow pierced him in the eye, killing him instantly. Seeing their great leader dead, the rest of the Normans routed, only to find their retreat cut off by the Western-Romans.
After the battle, Emperor Murchad is believed to have shouted to his men "Britannia Victor!" rather than the old saying of Roma Victor. This would lead to a proclamation that would be renowned as the founding of the modern Britannian nation. The surviving Normans were swiftly executed, save for a few who were shipped back to Normandy. Duke William of Normandy was given the name William the Failure, and his body would later be dragged through the streets of Londinium during Lucius Murchad's Triumph. After entering the Senate chamber, the young 'warrior' Emperor made a speech that would change the course of history. He told the Senate that for years, the common people of Britannia have forgotten the dream of retaking Rome, but when their homes in Britannia were threatened, they united in order to stop the threat of Barbarian aggression. He went on to say that many people both commoner, and aristocrats call themselves not Roman, but Britannian. Since most of Europe refused to recognize them anyway, Murchad proposed changing the Western-Roman Empire into a new nation, a new people, a new Empire that would continue to survive and conquer all who challenge them. He soon proclaimed the Empire of Britannia among the uproar of the Senate, and gave himself the Latin name Britannicus. Some pure-blooded Roman Senators opposed the change, but most of both Celtic and Roman origin agreed with the Emperor. And on 1 November 1066 AD, the Western-Roman Empire was officially dissolved and was replaced by the Empire of Britannia. Its people neither Roman nor Celtic, but Britannian!
The High Middle Ages and The Crusades
Soon after proclaiming the Empire of Britannia, Emperor Britannicus I gathered the rest of his forces and invaded Normandy with an army of 60,000 men. After William the Failure's death at the Battle of Hastings, the Normans entered a succession crisis, and soon broke out in civil war between William's children. However when the Britannians invaded, none of the warring factions were willing to come together in order to defend their land. Within a month after Britannicus landed with his army, the Norman Nobles offered the title 'Duke of Normandy' to the Britannian Emperor in order to spare their country from death and destruction. But the young Sovereign refused the title, and said that the only way to save the Norman people was to surrender all of Normandy to Britannia where it would become a province once more. The Nobles agreed, and by the next month, the Duchy of Normandy was no more.
But despite his warrior status, Lucius Murchad Britannicus was also a merciful ruler. He allowed the Normans to remain in their homeland, but they would not become Britannian citizens. The new Britannia still looked into the past of Rome for guidelines to their government, architecture, and even citizenship. Many Senators argued that the reason the Western Empire was overrun by Barbarians and forced to relocate to the Britannian Isles, was that it granted citizenship to almost everyone within the Empire's borders. Therefore, people were no longer motivated to join the Roman Military in order to gain citizenship, and the Empire was forced to rely on Barbarian mercenaries to defend Rome. Emperor Britannicus agreed with the Senators, and in the same year of proclaiming his new Empire, the Emperor passed into law that any people subjugated under Britannia would have to serve in the Imperial Military (specifically the Auxiliaries) in order to obtain citizenship. The people who did not join the Auxilia would be called Residents. They did not have the same rights as natural citizens, but neither were they slaves. The new province was to retain the name of its people, Normandy. And by the year 1068 AD, the sons of William the Failure, Robert & William III, were defeated and taken to Londinium to be executed. Thus began a new age in Europe; the Empire of Britannia was an emerging power, taking greater part in the affairs of Europe and moving away from its old isolationist stance. Lucius Murchad Britannicus would die 25 years later; besides his great victory over the Normans, and creating an entire new country, he is mostly remembered simply as the first Emperor of Britannia. His name would be used by other Emperors for centuries to come, and his descendants would continue to reign over the Empire until the year 1154 AD when the last Emperor of the Lucian Dynasty died childless.
During the High Middle Ages, the Empire of Britannia shed its isolationism and entered Medieval European politics. Now that Britannia no longer called itself the Roman Empire, it was able to enter into friendships and alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in Germany, the Spanish kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and even their old cousins The Eastern Roman Empire. Trade sprung up during this time, and Britannia's coffers swelled with gold. However relations with France remained strained, ever since Murchad I conquered Normandy, the French tried time and again to take the land along with Brittany away from the Island nation. Several conflicts in the region occurred, with France making little gain against the Britannians. This was due to the fact that despite conquering their home, the Normans earned the trust of their new masters by serving as Auxiliaries in battle. Although not as heavily armed or trained as the Knights or Legions, the Auxilia proved its effectiveness on the battlefield, and many Norman veterans earned their citizenship.
For centuries, these petty wars and conflicts would continue on and on until the year 1095, when Pope Urban II called for all of Christendom to take up the sword and the cross to go on Crusade against the Muslims in the Levant. The Eastern Romans were being pushed back by the Turks, and Egypt had conquered Holy Jerusalem some time before. Many men and women answered the Pope's call, and began journeying across Europe to defend Christianity against the Muslim horde. The Emperor of Britannia at the time, Valens II, offered to give 20,000 men to the Crusading army, but he was convinced by the Imperial Senate to simply send 600 Knights and 3,000 Legionaries. This was due to many French Knights taking control of the grand Crusading army, and many Britannians were suspicious of France. Their suspicions were proven mostly correct, as the Britannian Crusading force was mostly kept out of the fighting, and many men of the XII Legion (The Britannian Legion sent on Crusade) were harassed by French Knights and Normans from Sicily, who were angry at the conquest of of their northern brethren. Despite this, The Britannians played a pivotal role in the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted in a decisive Crusader victory, and left the Christians in control of the Holy Land. Like many Crusading men, the Britannians left Jerusalem after their victory and had no part in organizing the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This was because the French Crusading Knights had largely taken control of the Kingdom and started spreading their culture in the area. However when these men returned, they were given a hero's welcome from the people and their Emperor for their bravery and their service of Christianity.
Although conflicts continued in the Middle East between Christians and Muslims, Britannia paid little attention to them. In the year 1154 AD, the last Emperor of the Lucian Dynasty died without any children. The Imperial Senate decided to give the throne to a young man of Roman and Anglo-Saxon heritage, named Flavius Antonius Plantagenet. He took the Germanic name Henry and became Henry I of Britannia. (The real Henry Plantagenet was called Henry II; but the 1st Henry of England was a Norman. So that wouldn't happen for some time.) Although only 21, he was well educated, and many Senators at the time believed they could manipulate the young man, and become the power behind his throne. However these same Senators were quickly shaken of any schemes to take power by the young Emperor. Henry curled the power of the Nobles, and confiscated property belonging to anyone who could overthrow him. He also proved himself on the battlefield, by repulsing an invasion of Normandy by France in 1156. However he sent shockwaves throughout the Empire by marrying a Norman woman named Eleanor. Although she was a Noble herself, she was not legally considered a citizen until after her marriage to the Emperor. Henry would continue to agitate the Noble class of Britannia while introducing reforms that strengthened the legal system of the Empire; providing better rights to the commoners. But the just Emperor would soon face a challenger for his throne, in the form of his own son.
Marcus Constantius Richardus, or simply known as Richard, was an ideal man to rule over the Empire. He had the finest education available when he was a boy, he had a keen interest in strategy and tactics, and he was described as a cunning politician. Encouraged by his mother, Richard started to challenge his father's authority. He sought out allies from Germany and France, and he even fought amongst his own brothers. In 1183, Henry's eldest son, also named Henry died; leaving Richard as the eldest son, and heir to the throne. A few years later, in 1189 AD, Richard faced his father in battle and successfully defeated him. Henry, who had been ill for some time, realized his son was more worthy to rule than himself. So before his death in 1189, Henry I named his son Richardus as the next Emperor. He died on July 6, of that same year.
Richard was crowned in Londinium on July 20, 1189. Although the Nobles in the Senate were happy to see Henry out of the way, they despised Richard even more due to his Norman blood. Realizing this, Richard sought out allies throughout Britannia, including many prominent Jewish Britannians, who pledged their loyalty to the new Emperor in front of his entire court. Soon afterwards, Richard ordered the tolerance of all Jews throughout the Realm, earning him the respect of the Jewish scholar Jacob of Orleans. He also started creating tougher policies regarding the Nobles, whom he considered bigoted, and arrogant. He levied taxes on many of them, causing his popularity among the Senate (which was only comprised of Nobles at the time) to decrease considerably. However there was a reason besides distrust and hatred, for his heavy taxes on the nobility. Jerusalem had fallen to the Muslim Sultan Saladin in 1187, and the Pope had called for another Crusade to retake the Holy City from the powerful Islamic leader. Richard had pledged to go on Crusade even before he ascended the throne, and with his new Empire, he had a considerable amount of money to fund his Holy expedition. So in early 1190, Richard was able to organize and equip 16,000 Legionaries, 3,000 Knights, and 5,000 Norman Auxiliaries, and set out for the Holy Land. He had also coordinated with Philip II Augustus of France, in order to achieve a better united war front against the Muslims.
In September 1190 AD, Richard and Philip Augustus landed in Sicily on their way to the Levant. Although the Norman rulers of the island distrusted the Britannians at first, Richard was able to use his Norman Auxiliaries to convince their southern cousins to allow his army to use Sicily as a point of supply and operations for the future campaigns. After avoiding a confrontation in Sicily, Richard and his Crusading force left for the island of Cyprus. He landed on the island, and hoped to convince its local ruler Isaac Komnenos to allow the Crusaders to use Cyprus like they did in Sicily. But the Despot refused and even attacked Richard's army. The Britannian Legions easily defeated Isaac's forces, and by June 1st, the whole island was under Richard's control. Soon after his conquest, the Emperor of Britannia received an important guest. Guy de Lusignan, the defeated King of Jerusalem, had been released by Saladin, but while he was imprisoned in Damascus, he had contracted a fatal disease, and was on the brink of death. Because Richard was one of the few European Monarchs who still supported him, Guy decided to name the Emperor his heir to the throne of Jerusalem. On June 18, 1191, Guy De Lusignan died in Cyprus a defeated and humiliated King. This meant that Richard was now the Emperor of Britannia, and the King of Jerusalem. However he needed to eliminate a rival; Conrad of Montferrat was married to Isabella I, the de Jure Queen of Jerusalem, and he was there for the De Facto King. He was also supported by Philip II of France, who although was a fellow Crusader, was secretly trying to undermine Richard. But the Emperor would settle matters when he reached Acre, which had been besieged by Guy's army since August 1189. So on June 26, he left Cyprus, bound for Acre which would become Richard's first stepping stone toward becoming a legend.
He arrived in Acre a few days later, intent on capturing this city in the name of Christianity. The forces of Guy De Lusignan, who were demoralized after hearing of his death, had their spirits raised when the Britannian Emperor arrived and took control of the situation. With help from the French, Richard was able to batter down the gate of the city, and by mid July, the garrison had surrendered before Saladin could confront the Crusaders. Acre became a stronghold for Richard, and many soldiers of the Kingdom pledged their loyalty to the Britannian Monarch, abandoning Conrad who resided in Tyre. Along with his new surplus of troops, Richard had gained a formidable reputation, and was hailed as "The Lionhearted"; an epithet that would accompany his name for the rest of his life. However he still had to deal with the 3,000 Muslim prisoners who had formerly been the garrison of Acre. Negotiations between Richard and Saladin dragged on, and neither could come to a compromise. The Emperor believed that Saladin was stalling, and he realized he had to rid himself of these Muslims who were a drain on his resources. Many of his commanders were advocating the execution of the prisoners; but Richard was a skilled politician, and he decided to get rid of the Muslims without bloodshed on his part. All 3,000 prisoners were marched to Tyre, where King Philip II was temporarily residing. Richard asked Philip to continue the negotiations on his behalf, but the French King was angered by this audacity. He thought it beneath himself to look after "Heathens", so on August 20, he ordered the execution of all the prisoners in Tyre. (In this ALT universe, Richard deals with the prisoners without getting their blood on his hands. And Philip of France does not fall ill, and remains with the campaign.) When Saladin learned of this, he was infuriated, and ordered the execution of all Christian prisoners he had taken. Richard decided the time was right to strike against the Sultan before he marched north to confront Philip. But before he moved his army south, news arrived that Conrad of Montferrat had died in Tyre. Although it has never been proven, many historians believe that Richard ordered the assassination of Conrad in order to eliminate his rival for the throne of Jerusalem, and to undermine Philip and his power in the Holy Land. Conrad's wife, Queen Isabella officially recognized Richard as King, and she abdicated soon afterward. Now, with one of his rivals gone, Richard fully turned his attention to Saladin, and started marching down the coast to face him in late August.
Realizing he needed the port of Jaffa before capturing Jerusalem, Richard marched down the coastline with 14,000 Britannian Crusaders; along with 5,000 French Crusaders, and a combined force of 3,000 Templar and Hospitaller Knights. When the Crusaders neared the city of Caesarea, Saladin attacked Richard with an army of 20,000 men; slightly smaller than the Christian force. The battle of Arsuf began at dawn, and lasted the entire day. During the battle, the Hospitaller Knights broke rank and attacked the Muslims in order to save the crossbowmen from their order. Saladin saw a chance to break Richard's army now and forever, and he led a charge into the Hospitallers. The Emperor in turn organized his knights, and led a countercharge into Saladin's ranks, bringing the Sultan into battle. None of Saladin's commanders knew that their great leader was in danger, so they didn't send any reinforcements to help him. Even if they did, modern military historians believe that there was little they could do, because the Britannian Legions were pushing the Saracen infantry back, and their cavalry had failed to break the Emperor's warriors. Richard managed to corner Saladin after the Sultan was thrown from his horse; after losing his sword, the Lionhearted drew his mace and killed the leader of the Saracens on the field of battle. The rest of the Sultan's bodyguard panicked and retreated to their lines shouting out that Saladin had been killed. This panic turned into a general rout, as many of the Muslim warriors couldn't believe the "Hero of Islam" had been slain by the Crusader Emperor. Although the Sultan's Generals tried to rally their men in order to avenge his death, the rout couldn't be stopped. Richard then regrouped with more Knights and continued to charge the fleeing Muslims until they neared the border of Egypt.
After the battle, Richard had his men search for the body of Saladin. He was found a day later near a pile of dead men and horses. Being a devoted follower of the code of Chivalry, Richard paid his respects to the fallen Sultan, and sent his body to Egypt for a proper burial. Out of the 20,000 men in Saladin's army, 11,000 men were killed and another 5,000 taken prisoner. Out of Richard's army, only 2,600 men were lost, and another thousand wounded. Jaffa was quickly occupied, and the entire coast of the Levant belonged to the Crusaders. Richard was hesitant to march inland and take Jerusalem, since the Muslims still possessed large armies that could overwhelm his Crusading force. But by mid September, Richard learned that the Islamic world was in chaos. Almost immediately after Saladin's death, his Generals began to fight amongst themselves for control of his Empire. Syria declared its independence, and the rest of the Ayyubid Sultanate was on the verge of collapse. The Muslim garrison at Jerusalem found itself isolated and a perfect target for Richard to take. On December 3, 1191 AD, the Britannians began marching toward Jerusalem and arrived their two days later. Fearing another massacre like the one after the first Christian capture of Jerusalem, the garrison took the example of the Christians who negotiated with Saladin for the surrender of the city. The Saracens threatened to destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulcher if the Crusaders attacked. Richard agreed to allow the Muslims safe passage out of the city, if they officially surrendered it, and if they agreed to return the True Cross to the Christians. The garrison agreed to his terms, and on Christmas Day 1191 AD, Richard the Lionhearted, Emperor of Britannia and King of Jerusalem entered the City of Christ. The ultimate prize that two religions sought after so much, they would kill to possess it. Not only was Jerusalem back into Christian hands, but the True Cross as well, which had been captured by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin. The fact that Richard took back the city without spilling innocent blood made him an even greater legend.
His official coronation as King of Jerusalem was held in February 1192, with many Crusaders in attendance, except Philip of France, who quietly returned to his country after the success of the campaign. Hoping to stop future bloodshed between the two peoples and religions, Richard offered a truce with the various Muslim Kingdoms that were established after the chaos of Saladin's death. He would allow the Muslims to make their own pilgrimages to Jerusalem, if they recognized Christian Sovereignty over the Holy City. The Arabs agreed, and Muslims throughout the Middle East were allowed to enter the city where Mohammad ascended into Heaven. Jewish people within the Kingdom were also tolerated, and during Richard's reign, many Jews from Britannia returned to their ancestral homeland. However Richard could not remain in the Levant, as there were pressing matters in the Britannian islands that required his personal presence. In late 1192, Richard left his second domain bound for his native land, praying that the Arabs would honor the peace after he'd left.
Rest of Richard's Reign and Magna Carta
Richard began his trip back to Britannia, after being told of Senate plots to overthrow his government, and replace him with someone they could manipulate. However bad weather forced Richard's fleet to land in the Eastern Roman Empire. After being welcomed into the court of Emperor Isaac II Angelos, Richard officially made the Eastern Romans allies, after promising to return Cyprus to Constantinople and also giving them a hefty sum of gold found in the Holy Land. The Britannian Emperor was escorted through the Balkans all the way to the Hungarian border, where he continued to travel through central Europe, narrowly avoiding capture by Leopold V of Austria, who blamed Richard for the death of Conrad of Montferrat. After that ordeal, Richardus traveled through Northern Italy and into France where he would continue (unharmed surprisingly) all the way to Britannia-Normandy. Then he would board a ship with his entourage, including representatives from Jerusalem, and sail to Londinium.
After arriving back to his Empire, Richard the Lionhearted was giving a triumph and hailed as the greatest Emperor since Ambrosius Aurelianus. He quickly consolidated his rule from the Nobles, and (begrudgingly) lowered taxes on them. However many Barons and Patricians still despised Richard, and believed that they could dethrone him. But any thought of rebellion was quickly dashed after 1204, when France invaded Normandy. Richard personally led the Legions and successfully pushed the Franks back into France-proper. However Richard would not stop there; in August 1204 AD, he led an invasion of France in a attempt to break the power of Philip and his Barbarian Kingdom. After two bloody years of conflict, Richard crushed Philip's armies, and captured Anjou & other important counties. The defeated King of France agreed to pay a large tribute which nearly bankrupted France, and also agreed to have the County of Anjou become a vassal of Britannia. Emperor Richardus' popularity and influence skyrocketed among the common man, but many Barons were still upset, particularly since Richard did not annex French territory outright. Their discontent would continue to grow after Richard began dismissing Senators who were sympathetic to the Nobles' cause, and replaced them with his supporters. But the Emperor was aware of these Nobles' treachery, and what he did would shake the foundation of the entire Britannian way of life, and change the course of history.
In the year 1215 AD, weary of rebellion among the Barons, Dukes, and Patricians, Richard on the advice of some of his trustworthy Senators, drafted a document which would be named Magna Carta. This document would become the prototype of the Britannian Imperial Constitution, and it granted several rights to the people. Specifically, Magna Carta decreed that no person, regardless of status could be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The historical document also reformed the Senate, allowing people to actually elect Senators. It divided the Imperial Senate into Upper House, which was comprised of the Nobles, and the Lower House, which was comprised of elected commoners. Although this document limited Richard's political powers somewhat, the Empire was officially still an Absolute Monarchy, with future Emperors having the power to dismiss the Senate or simply reject their legislation. Magna Carta would also lay the foundations of the Imperial Constitution, which would be created in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell.
The Lionhearted Emperor would continue his reign until his death in 1222 AD. He is remembered as one of Britannia's greatest Emperors, and a champion of the people, for his role in creating Magna Carta. Richardus would not be succeeded by his brother Joannes, who died in 1216. The future Emperors of Britannia would not rule over the Kingdom of Jerusalem, due to the great distance between the domains. Islam would eventually reclaim the City of Christ and the Kingdom that Richard saved would fall in 1391 (a century later than OTL). However despite its fall, the Britannian Emperors would claim to be Titular Kings of Jerusalem for centuries to come. And the title has been added to the modern Official Title of the Emperor. For centuries, conflict would continue to ravage Europe, until the discovery of a new Continent. But soon after the initial explorations, conflict would spill over into the New World between old powers.
Age of Discovery
Since the 1300's, Europe continued to devolve into conflict. After the second fall of Jerusalem, more Crusades were launched, but Europeans lost their zeal to reclaim the Holy Land, and it was eventually abandoned to the Muslims. With no one else to direct their violence and aggression towards, the European Kingdoms turned on each other. France continued to attack Britannia's holdings in Normandy and Brittany, but every invasion was successfully repulsed. In the Middle East, war and strife continued even after the Muslim victory in the Levant. The Eastern Roman Empire became pressed from all sides by the Turks, until eventually they were left with a few scattered possessions in Greece and Anatolia. But even they were not spared, for in 1453, Holy Constantinople itself was besieged by the Ottoman Turks. Britannia, afraid that their Eastern cousins could not win the siege, pleaded with the Vatican to call a Crusade against the Turks. But the other countries of Europe just weren't willing to send their invaluable Knights to die for a country not their own. Eventually, Constantinople fell, and the Eastern Roman Empire became another memory in the afterthought of history. Britannian merchant ships that were anchored near Constantinople's harbors were able to evacuate several people from the city, including many Roman nobles and even the brothers of Constantine XI, the last Eastern Roman Emperor. Most of the survivors fled to Italy, where they helped start the Medieval Renaissance. While members of the former Imperial family sought refuge in Britannia. It was after the fall of Constantinople, that Britannia adopted their symbols and crests; most notably the Double Headed Eagle, which is displayed on the current flag of Britannia to this day.
During this time of unrest and conflict, Britannia subsequently became isolated once again to the rest of Europe. Not wanting to take part in the petty wars and politics of the mainland, the Emperor wanted to look toward something greater, something that made the other countries of Europe recognize Britannia as the legitimate Third Rome in both name and power. Only a few decades after the fall of Eastern Rome, Britannia would get its chance to prove its power to the world.
In the 1480's, a navigator from Genoa was traveling to the various courts of Europe, asking them to fund an expedition to travel around the world to reach India. Christopher Columbus wanted to find an alternative route to India, since the Ottomans had blocked all trade through the Middle East. He appealed to the court of Portugal, Venice, and even his own native Genoa, but none would accept his plan. In 1488, Columbus sought out the Emperor of Britannia, and asked his court to fund his naval expedition. (Instead of going to Portugal a second time, Columbus goes to Britannia to ask for funds.) Emperor Britannicus VI was interested in the idea of reaching India by sailing around the world. Despite the opinions of his advisors that Columbus' calculations were grossly understated, his enthusiasm was reassuring. If Columbus succeeded in his voyage, then Britannia could gain wealth and prestige among the other Kingdoms in Europe. Ignoring the possible cons of this expedition, the Emperor gave Columbus all of the required funds, and bestowed upon him the title of Dux Pelagi, meaning Duke of the Ocean, effectively the highest rank in the Imperial Navy. With only three ships, the Genoese Admiral set sail for the unknown with his Britannian crew, hoping to reach India, and claim it for the Third Rome.
After months at sea, and no land in sight, the Britannian sailors were getting worried that they'd never reach home again; and there were talks of mutiny against Columbus. But the Admiral urged his men onward into the unknown, hoping and praying that they would find India, so they could sail back to civilization. Finally, before mutiny spread further amongst the crew, land was sighted on October 12, 1488 AD (OTL Virginia coast). Columbus didn't explore much further up the coast, as he found a suitable landing point for all of his ships. He planted the Double-Headed Eagle on the shore and claimed the area for the Empire of Britannia. Soon he encountered natives of the continent, who he believed were Indians, and made attempts to trade with them. Admiral Columbus continued exploring the coast for a month before gathering native foods to resupply his ships and sailing back to Britannia. After months of sailing back across the Atlantic Ocean, Christopher Columbus, the Dux Pelagi, was welcomed back as a hero, and he was officially Knighted by the Emperor of Britannia. He would lead more voyages to "India" and in 1490 AD, he founded the settlement of Nova Londinium near the land he first explored; at a perfect spot for ships to anchor in (OTL Norfolk, Virginia) Columbus would also map out the coastline from the Chesapeake Bay to the coast of Transmarinis (OTL Florida). He also explored islands in the Caribbean sea, and founded another settlement named Ambrosium on the island of Paulum-Hibernia (OTL Hispaniola). Columbus was named Viceroy of the colonies and he used his power to establish trade and friendship with the Native Indians; though the priceless silk and spice that Columbus searched for was never found. He heard rumors of a greater people further west who were rich in gold and gems, but the Genoese explorer fell ill in 1504 and was relieved of his position in the colonies. Christopher Columbus died two years later in the city of Portus Adurni (Portsmouth) in southern Britannia. For years, he believed that he had reached Asia, but unknown to Columbus, he had discovered an entire new continent that was rich in resources that Britannia would conquer and exploit for years to come.
Soon after Columbus' journey, other countries started sending their own explorers west to "India," Most notably Portugal, Spain, and France. However, people leaving Europe and going to the colonies weren't sure that they were settling in Asia. In 1507, a map maker in Europe claimed that these were not the lands of India, but of an entirely new continent. Because Columbus' initial calculations on how to get to India were believed to be incorrect, the theory quickly became an accepted fact. Britannia, quick to lay claim to its discovery, officially named the continent Columbia, after Christopher Columbus. Portugal also discovered a new continent, that they named America, after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci; although there would be disputes later over who discovered the actual continent first. Since the land later known as Brazil was first charted by a Britannian navigator who had accompanied Columbus on his earlier voyages. For years, Europeans would believe that these were entirely separate continents, and it was still possible to sail around the world through the continents to reach the wealth of India.
The Portuguese created their first settlement on the coast of what they named Brazil, in 1509 AD. However the Britannian Emperor did not trust the Portuguese, and claimed that is was a Britannian explorer who first discovered the land, and claimed the entire continent for Britannia. The King of Portugal ignored these claims and continued to send navigators to explore the strange jungle infested coastline. However this did not bode well with the Imperial Court in Londinium. In 1513, the Imperial Britannian Navy sailed to the southern continent of America and captured or destroyed Portuguese settlements all along the coast. Because Portugal had been slower in sending colonists to the New World than other European countries, the operation was fairly easy, and it met with success. All Portuguese settlements that had a population over 200, were burned to the ground, and there colonists taken as prisoners of war. The Portuguese King was furious, but his navy could not compete with Britannia's, so he begrudgingly accepted a treaty that Britannia offered them. This treaty prevented a full scale war between the two nations, and Britannia agreed to purchase the land from Portugal, as well as release Portuguese settlers who were captured during the raids. Britannia now added a new colony to its Empire, and immediately sent more citizens to colonize this land called Brazil. But the Emperor was worried about his colonies on both continents. They were spread out, and vulnerable even more so than Portugal's colonies were in America. The Spanish had been conquering large swaths of territory, and had subjugated a native people called the Aztecs by 1519. Hoping to secure his position in both Columbia and America, the Emperor of Britannia signed a pact with Spain presided over by the Pope. This pact was the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the New World into Britannian and Spanish spheres of influence. With both countries agreeing to respect the other's claims, it was the perfect tool to prevent war.
However by 1520, it was discovered that the two continents of Columbia and America were actually connected. The Spanish had founded the settlement of Panama, and found out that the strip of land heading south was actually the land in America. The theory of a strait route toward Asia was tarnished. But Europe looked toward tow new continents for riches and influence. Spain had conquered the former Aztec Empire, as well as Central Columbia; and had made itself rich with the native gold. The Empire of Britannia had carved its sphere of influence on both continents, and had found riches not in gold, but in other resources. Finally, France had explored the northern regions of Columbia, and had colonized Newfoundland, and a region they claimed as Canada.
War, Religion, and Power
While the New World was prospering and growing with more settlers seeking a new life, Europe was continuing to slip toward war, strife, and anarchy. A new religious movement called Protestantism, had taken hold in many men's hearts. They were tired of the corruption within the Catholic Church, and abandoned the old philosophies of the Church, to embrace those taught by Martin Luther. Areas affected by the "Protestant Reformation" were Germany and France. A group influenced by the teachings of John Calvin, called the Huguenots, emerged in France and tore the country apart. By the mid 1500's, the Huguenots had gained much influence in France; and by the year 1572, had laid siege to La Rochelle, Lyon, & even the capital Paris, under the Protestant Noble, Louis, Prince of Conde. Despite support from Britannia, Spain, and even the Pope himself, the Catholic French forces lost the Wars of Religion. The Protestant Louis was proclaimed as King Clovis XIII of France. He gave support to Protestant forces in the Netherlands against Spain; and had also spoken about invading Italy in order to capture the Pope. But Britannia felt that a Protestant France was the greatest threat toward their security, and to the security and prosperity of the entire Catholic world. The Empire would not sit idle and let France spread its heresy throughout the rest of Europe.
By the 1580's, Spain had organized her armies in preparation for a Holy War against Protestant France. Philip II of Spain was considered the most powerful monarch in Europe, and his Kingdom's wealth and military might were considered more than a match for France. However the Spanish were cocky, and underestimated the determination of the new Protestant French monarchy. Also, Spain had failed to coordinate military efforts with the Empire of Britannia, who also bordered France via Normandy and Brittany.
Feeling that the time to strike was now, Philip launched a grand land invasion of France, intending to march all the way to Paris and dethrone the Protestant usurper Clovis XIII. However, the Spanish army had slowly been falling behind the rest of Europe. The Spanish military leaders failed to recognize this deterioration, and kept their confidence for victory high. Britannia, although feeling cheated because Spain was taking most of the glory, decided to aid their fellow Catholics nonetheless. The Imperial Navy blockaded strategic French ports (something the Spanish didn't bother with), and a combined French Catholic and Britannian army was organized in Normandy in order to surround France. But King Clovis was prepared; his forces were battle ready, well trained, and utterly devoted to their cause. The two forces met in Southern France, and committed to battle. Despite outnumbering the Protestants, the Spanish Tercios had proven ineffective against the French, and were utterly destroyed. By the end of the day, 14,000 Spaniards were dead, another 3,000 captured, the rest withdrew back to Spain. The great expedition against Protestant France had failed, not only was this a humiliating defeat for Spain, but it also gave the Protestants throughout Europe hope for victory. When news reached Londinium about the terrible Spanish defeat, the Britannian Emperor was afraid that his armies would meet the same fate. Despite many Generals pointing out that the French Royal army was crippled and could not defend against another invasion, the Emperor had made his choice. The Catholic French forces who sought refuge in Normandy went ahead with the attack, but without support from Britannia's Legions, they were easily defeated. This stunning victory for France created a turning point in history. A new power in Europe was on the rise, and now controlled the land with her vast armies. But the sea remained in control of the Catholic Empire of Britannia. These two powers were sure to come into conflict with each other very soon.
Monarchy by Merit
While Europe would continue to ravage itself over wars of religion; a rift was slowly growing in Britannia, between the Nobles and the Intellectuals. Members of the Senate, who had come from humble origins, complained that the Nobles held too much power in the Empire, and that they were clinging to the past, and ignoring the future of Britannia. Men such as these were plotting a rebellion to destroy the power of the aristocrats, and give more rights to the common man. However, one man, saw another solution to this problem. One which did not involve bloodshed, and would in the long-run, strengthen the Empire. Olivarius Antonius Cromwell, was a Senator of Anglo-Saxon descent, and had come from a long line of politicians who represented the small Saxon population in Britannia. He was a well-educated man, and had always believed in Magna Carta, and all the rights it gave to commoners.
Cromwell recognized the strain between the Nobles and the Intellectual Senators. He also realized that many Emperors in the past, had rivalries with the Aristocratic class, almost to the point where they almost led to all-out civil war. The current Emperor, Aulus Camillus, was well read in philosophy, and he too believed that the Nobles exerted too much control over his people. He realized that the Nobility was made up of pompous, lazy, and arrogant fools; not a good source for leadership. His Majesty was also well read in Roman history, and he realized that the biggest reason for Rome's decline was because of incompetent rulers and an arrogant aristocracy. It is said from sources at that time, that he would not allow Britannia to succumb to the same fate as her ancestor Empire. He wanted to make sure that future Emperors were able, and that they would rule in the name of their people. Again, like so many times before, Britannians looked to their Roman past for inspiration in times of crisis.
Emperor Camillus realized that men like Cromwell, wanted the same thing he wanted. To not just ensure the Empire's survival, but to ensure her domination over all her enemies and those who would seek to harm her people. Olivarius Cromwell soon gained favor in the Emperor's court, and became one of his top advisors. They exchanged philosophies and ideas on politics, and in 1642 AD, they put their ideas into action. A Constitution, the first of its kind in Europe, was drafted, and brought before the Senate. Realizing that the Nobles could block the proposition in the Senate, Emperor Camillus made some adjustments in the Constitution that would appease the Aristocrats.
After much debate, and some more readjusting, the Imperial Constitution of Britannia was finally made the supreme law of the land. It was heavily based off of Magna Carta, but the greatest component of the document was Article One. The Empire of Britannia was effectively an elective Monarchy, where the joint houses of the Senate would elect the most able person to the Imperial Throne, when the previous Emperor passed away. The Imperial Constitution also gave greater rights to the lower classes, while the Nobles retained their tittles and honor. Another article, was the official law stating that the only way Residents could gain citizenship in the Empire, would be to enter Military service in the Auxilia, or work in some other government service. Although Cromwell was personally against this amendment, it was passed by the Senate regardless.
Officially Britannia was now a Constitutional Monarchy, but the Emperor retained much control over the government. This was because both Cromwell and Emperor Camillus agreed that Britannia still needed a firm hand to overcome the bureaucracy that would no doubt plague the government. However, another amendment to the Constitution stated that if the Emperor overstepped his Constitutional powers, the Senate had the full authority to force the Emperor's abdication. This revolutionary idea was unheard of anywhere else in Europe. To please the Aristocrats of the Empire, Cromwell gave a speech before the Emperor and the Imperial Senate, stating that the Divine Right to Rule was only given to Monarchs who ruled in the name of their people. This was well received among the common Britannian citizens, as they were tired of being oppressed by the Nobles, but they still believed that the Emperor's authority came from God himself. This turning point in history would bring political stability to Britannia and her colonies; and would ensure that incompetent men would not inherit the throne.
Expansion and Colonial Resentment
For years after the signing of the Imperial Constitution, the Empire of Britannia continued to expand and develop its territory. In 1664 AD, the Venetian colony on the Colombian continent named Nuova Terra (new land), was annexed by Britannian colonists with assistance from the Imperial Navy. Venice had settled the area further north than the Britannians, and had named their first settlement Mela (apple). However, few people travelled to settle in the colony, and the project was deemed a failure by Venetian merchant companies. In 1665, Britannia officially declared Nuova Terra, a colony of the Empire. Venice was compensated for the land, and an apology was given to the Italian settlers from the city state; because of this, the Venetians did not press their claims on the continent, and friendly relations between Venice and Britannia were soon re-established. The settlement of Mela was renamed Nova Eboracum, but out of respect for their Romano-Italian cousins, the name for the entire colony Nuova Terra was kept. The colony would soon become a center of trade and commerce for the Empire, and centuries later, it would become the largest metropolis on the Colombian continent.
However, Britannia was not the only colonial power expanding in the new world. Their Protestant French enemies had carved a large piece of land in the north for themselves, but few people settled in the vast land due to a "Protestant settlers only" law enacted by the French King. But the land itself was rich with resources, and the fur trade became a large source of revenue for the Crown in Paris. Forts were constructed along the Mississippi Valley by the French, to present a buffer to Britannian expansion.
For years, tension built up among the people of both nations, especially their colonists, who would raided each other’s settlements, and engaged in small battles. But this tension finally exploded into fury, when the French built a fort on Britannian claimed territory, prompting the Britannian colonists to respond by demanding the fort be handed over. A war party of irregulars made up of colonists was sent to the fort to demand its surrender, but when the Britannians appeared before the Fort's wooden walls, the French commander panicked and opened fire upon the colonists. The battle ended in a massacre for the Britannians, and they were forced to retreat back to their territory.
Senators in Londinium were outraged by the attack, and promptly agreed that action needed to be taken. In 1754, with the entire Senate's support, the Emperor declared a state of war with France and her colonies; thus starting the Columbian War. Many Britannian colonists joined alongside their Legions and took the fight to the French. Because of the larger numbers of colonists, Britannia had, the French settlers were overwhelmed and driven out of the western areas. The various tribes of Indians, or Native Columbians, also took part in the war. But most fought with Britannia, due to the fact that many of them were Residents of the Empire, and were granted better rights than in New France. The sheer number of Britannians was too much for the French, and regular reinforcements could not be sent to the colonies, because the Imperial Navy of Britannia intercepted French fleets, and destroyed them in almost every battle.
By the year 1760, Britannian Legions XIV and XXIII, had invaded Canada, and besieged the French settlement of Quebec. With no supplies or reinforcements, the French governor was forced to surrender to the Britannians. The last great French city in Columbia had fallen, the Double-Eagle of Britannia flew atop her buildings, symbolizing the Empire's triumph over their hated enemy. The next year, France sued for peace, and in return for ceasing hostilities, France gave virtually all of her Columbian colonies to Britannia, including Canada, Louisiana, the Ohio River valley, and Terra Inventaque (Newfoundland). In return, Britannia gave France a small payment, and French settlers were allowed to safely travel back to their homeland. Now, Britannia controlled the entire eastern half of Columbia. The former French territory of Canada, was renamed Albion, which was the earliest known name for the Britannian Islands; and the lucrative fur trade was now controlled by colonial entrepreneurs. Colonists who fought in the war were granted land in the land of Ohio, and many Native Columbians were granted citizenship for serving the Empire in a time of war. But soon, more tensions would spark, this time among Britannian settlers and their government in Londinium. Some cried out for rebellion, and independence, while others were fearful of a civil war that would span throughout every inch of Britannian territory.
Starting in the year 1763, Britannia implemented heavy taxes upon her colonies in Columbia to help pay off her debts incurred during their war with the French. Many colonists were outraged by this; because they were not given representation in the Imperial Senate, their was little they could do. Many were also angry over the Emperor's practice of appointing Governors directly, rather than letting the colonists choose them. By 1768, many colonial committees were formed, and had rejected the Senate's harsh tax levies. The Emperor at the time, Claudius Valerius, contemplated sending Legions to Columbia, but he was met in opposition by members of the Senate. Tensions continued to rise, as the pleas of the colonists were ignored. By this time, Britannia's colony of Brazil, had also felt the effects of the large taxes, and had similar outcries against Londinium. The Imperial government was starting to worry, the Consul of the Empire, Lord Cormack, proposed to negotiate with the colonies, in order to prevent any rebellion. But ultimately, Emperor Valerius was too indecisive to select a appropriate reaction to the colonies' possible revolt.Things would change in 1772 however, when the Emperor died, and the Senate elected his son, who took the name Britannicus X. The new Emperor, although young, was a skilled statesman, and had been following the situation in the colonies for sometime now. Almost immediately after ascending the throne, His Majesty appointed new Governors in the Colombian Colonies who were more sympathetic to the colonists plight. He also invited representatives from all the colonies to Londinium, were they would list their demands to him and the Senate, and they could negotiate on the issues. In 1774, all the representatives had been chosen by their respective colonies, and sailed to the Britannian Islands for the negotiations. The Conference of Londinium had begun, and colonial authorities from Albion to Brazil gave their demands to the Emperor, and the Senate. They demanded that they be given seats of representation in the Imperial Senate, as well as the right to elect their own Governors, and an end to the heavy taxes imposed on them. Many Senators argued, that being colonists, they were subject to their Britannian homeland, and had no right to make such outrageous claims. But the Emperor felt different, he realized the cultural gap between the colonists, and the Britannian "mainlanders". He knew that the colonies would never fully accept a "rule by force" policy, and he intently listened to more of their demands.
The conference dragged out longer then intended, and many people thought it was going nowhere. Disgruntled people in Columbia advocated revolution against the Empire, while moderates put their faith in their new Emperor, who actually listened to their pleas. By the Spring of 1775, most people in the Senate chambers had come to an agreement. Now, only the Emperor had to give his opinion on the whole matter. Britannicus X, respected the colonial representatives for speaking their minds to their government. He believed that their rights as Britannian citizens, granted them the privileges they were so long denied. And utilizing the authority granted to him by the Imperial Constitution, His Majesty agreed to virtually all of the representatives demands. In order to satisfy the more radical factions in the Senate, Britannicus X ordered the entire colonial administration reformed, and declared the colonies "Overseas Provinces of the Empire". By doing this, the former colonies in Columbia and America were given representation within the Empire, and the citizens living in the Overseas Provinces became more integrated with their fellow Britannian citizens once more, allowing them to no longer be seen as outsiders. This seemed to please the entire Senate, and they agreed to add the amendment in the Imperial Constitution. The taxes previously levied against the Columbian and American colonies were lowered dramatically, allowing the Overseas Provinces to prosper more then ever. Celebrations were declared in Columbia, as most people were happy that a war was averted. In honor of Emperor Britannicus X, citizens in Columbia constructed a large Bell in the city of Saint George (Philadelphia), which latter became known as "The Emperor's Bell." For the following decade, peace reigned throughout the Empire of Britannia, thanks to an Emperor who listened to his subjects.
The French Revolution
However, another crisis would soon threaten to tear all of Europe apart. For in 1789 AD, the French monarchy would be overthrown, and a radical Republic would replace it. This event sent shockwaves throughout the Kingdoms of Europe, and Britannia started to strengthen its provinces in Normandy and Brittany, in case these revolutionaries decided to expand their new regime. Emperor Britannicus X was especially worried, and in order to protect his Empire and his people, he started to support French Royalists who were determined to overthrow the Republic and restore the old order. By 1793, the new French Republic wished to show Europe their strength, and had their former King Clovis XVI beheaded. This execution outraged many European rulers, and armies from Austria, Prussia, Spain, and Britannia, began massing on France's borders, ready to destroy the young republic while it was still in its infancy. Shortly after murdering their King, the radical French Republic declared war on Austria, resulting in Austria's allies declaring war on France.
The first campaign of the French Revolutionary War would start in Northern Italy; where Austria, supported by other Italian city-states, and Prussian volunteers, intended to invade France from the alps (because the Austrian Netherlands, i.e. Belgium, were taken from Spain by Protestant France years earlier.) Fighting in the Northern Italian region became bloody and neither side could gain an advantage. Emperor Britannicus X wanted his generals to take pressure off the Austrians by invading France from the North, along with their French Royalist allies. But the leaders of the Republic anticipated this move, and in early 1794 they invaded the less-defended province of Brittany. Despite being better trained, and better disciplined, the Legions in Brittany were overwhelmed by French forces, even though records at the time showed mass desertions and mutinies among the French army. The loss of Brittany was a humiliating defeat for the Empire of Britannia, and it only strengthened the Republic's resolve to fight to the bitter end. The year of 1794 also saw the French driving back the Austrians in Italy, and causing havoc among the local people; although the armies of Prussia had just started to invade France from across the Rhine, and were met only with victories against the French.In order to take back the advantage from the French, the Emperor with the consensus of the Imperial Senate, mobilized every soldier available, including the Auxiliary forces. The non-citizen Auxilia armies were to be deployed to Italy, to salvage the situation left by the defeated Austrians. While the veteran Legions were to reorganize, and prepare for an invasion of Brittany, and then, an offensive against France itself. In Italy, a young but brilliant commander in the Britannian Auxiliaries would rise to the challenge and eventually drive the French Republicans from the Italian Peninsula. Although a Corsican by birth, this man would quickly make a name for himself not just in Britannia, but across the whole of Europe.
The Rise of Buonaparte
By 1796, the war against Republican France had turned into a stalemate. Austria had been driven from the Italian Peninsula, and Britannia had been dealt a humiliating blow in the overseas province of Brittany. Prussia on the other-hand, was making good progress against the inferior Republican troops, but they soon ran into heavy resistance, and few believed that the Prussians could break through and reach Paris. But hope was not lost on the coalition, in mid 1795, the Empire of Britannia landed troops in Brittany from across the Britannian Channel. This move caught the French by surprise, who were expecting a land invasion from Normandy. The veteran legions of the Empire attacked the disorganized French rabble, and successfully drove them out of the province within 2 months.
Meanwhile, the Britannian Auxilia forces were landed in Italy to reinforce the collapsed front. Although by law, the non-citizen soldiers were commanded by natural born Britannian officers, there were some exceptions among those who showed promise among the military. One of these exceptions was a man from Corsica named Napoleone Buonaparte. An ethnic Italian, young Buonaparte's family fled Corsica when the French invaded, and they immigrated to Britannia. Being a Resident of the Empire and not a citizen, sparked a determination within him to always prove himself no matter what the cost. In 1785, Napoleone joined the Auxiliaries and was quickly commissioned as a low ranking officer; however, many of his superiors recognized the charisma and the tactical mind that Buonaparte possessed.While in Italy, he lead a small company comprised of immigrants who were mostly Italians, Germans, and even Native Columbians. While fighting in the Alps, he displayed strategic precision against his opponents; and while many other officers were killed, Napoleone took command and was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. His ability to lead, combined with his brilliant mind, earned him the love of his subordinates, and the respect of his superiors. Accordingly, on March 2, 1796, Napoleone Buonaparte was granted his citizenship and was promoted to Colonel. The young Corsican finally got his chance; he continued to lead his men to victory after victory against the French, and he was awarded many medals for his leadership, and service to God and Empire.
By the summer of 1797, the Britannians were victorious and had driven the French out of Italy, allowing their Austrian allies to reorganize and join the fight once more. Napoleone advocated an invasion of southern France, but he was dissuaded by his commanding officers. For a short time after his string of victories, young Buonaparte felt lost and confused, believing that despite reaching his goals, he was still not respected enough or trusted enough by Britannian Generals. After some months of inactivity, he contemplated suicide, but he quickly changed his mind when he was recalled to active duty and was promoted once again to Lieutenant-General, granting him the command of professional Legions. The now General Buonaparte was transferred to the northern front to participate in the invasion of France from Normandy. This new campaign would be the climax of Napoleone's career, and would make him a hero of the Empire he fought so long and hard for.
By the Spring of 1798 AD, Britannia was ready for a full scale invasion of the French Republic. Up until now, only the fear of their leaders, and a strong conviction to defeat their old enemies had allowed the French to keep fighting. But now, the odds were stacked against them. France was surrounded by Britannia, Austria, Prussia, and Spain. Now, even Russia was fully committing to the war effort, and sending their own armies to participate in the war. In May, Napoleone, leading over 70,000 professional Legionaries, crossed the border from Normandy into France proper. French resistance was minimal, and few reinforcements could be sent due to the Prussian invasion. A month later, Austria attacked southern French forces from Italy, and had brought volunteers from Russia led by General Alexander Suvorov. The noose was tightening around France's neck, and many leaders in the National Convention were replaced almost daily, because of failure to stop the invasions.General Buonaparte continued to advance toward Paris, hoping to reach the French capital before the Austrians or Prussians did. While marching through the French countryside, many of the rural people hailed Napoleon as a Hero, who would free them from the corrupt Republic. The young General for his part was enthralled by his new found fame, and spent much time basking in his glory. Finally on June 9, 1798, the Britannian army under Buonaparte reached the outskirts of Paris, defended by 23,000 soldiers and Parisian citizens. The battle for Paris lasted for weeks, resulting in thousands of casualties on both sides. House-to-house fighting occurred through the streets of Paris, and many French civilians fled the area. But on July 1st, When the Prussian army was closing in on Paris, Napoleon himself led an infantry charge through the city, capturing the National Convention building and having his cavalry cut off the French route of escape.
The French Republic officially surrendered on July 2, 1798 AD. Napoleon Buonaparte was given his own Triumph through the streets of Paris; with the Austrians and Prussians arriving not long after. The allies gave their own congratulations to Napoleone, while he was once again promoted and shortly called back to the Capital. On July 17, 1798, the "Hero of the Empire" was given a official Triumph in Londinium; the same day, Emperor Britannicus X knighted Napoleone and made him a member of the Nobility. The young General from Corsica had finally gotten his wish. He had glory and respect beyond measure, he was the greatest General of the world's greatest Empire, and he was not just a citizen, but an official Britannian Noble.
While Buonaparte was celebrating his victory, the allied coalition decided to occupy France to "ensure the peace". Their real intentions were to weaken France so that it could never rise up and threaten the peace of Europe again. The Bourbon Dynasty was restored, and soldiers from the various European countries were stationed in French territory until it was certain that France was no longer a threat. Napoleon was put in command of the Britannian occupation forces, and acted as the Empire's Ambassador to the French King's court. He was given many freedoms and powers separate from the Imperial Army Command, and many soldiers of the Legions were veterans of Buonaparte's campaigns. This new found freedom, combined with his fame and glory, caused Napoleone to make decisions without consulting Londinium. He treated the French King as a puppet, and passed many laws in France as if he was the country's ruler. This would later result in new tensions, and a new war that would devastate Britannia and the rest of Europe.