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The fight is not an inconsiderable one. It is a struggle for the right to rule the world - Attributed to Sigismund II, Holy Roman Emperor
The War of Anglian Succession was a thirty year power-struggle for the right to rule Anglia and its vastly wealthy provinces in the Low Countries, focusing on the dynastic rivalry of the Danish Estridsson and the Imperial Luxembourg families but eventually drawing in various other families eager to carve up the riches. It would exhaust Denmark, cause a huge disruption to the Low Countries and the Rhineland but prepare the way for the Luxembourg family's United Netherlands and Denmark's control of Northern Germany.
The most immediate cause of the war was the death of the Anglian King; William II died suddenly without a clear male heir, his own daughter and younger brother having pre-deceased him. He had however devoted much time to solving the issue; his will called for the creation of a regency council which would govern the kingdom until his half-sister Anna of Norfolk had a male heir. In the event Anna was broadly accepted by the Anglian nobility who controlled the Witenage however Anglia's territories on the continent practiced Salian Law and in effect could refuse to acknowledge her or any of her descendants as the rightful heir.
Anglia had built up an impressive array of property in the Low Countries. Starting with Charles I's inheritance of Flanders in 1119 the Anglian branch of the Estridsson family had added Hainault, Brabant, Artois and Zeeland. The Bishopric of Liege was a vassal and Anglia had already gone to war with the Luxembourgs twice over it. Hugely wealthy thanks to their position at the head of the Rhine and proximity to Anglia's wool production the territories were the 'jewels in the crown'. Some Anglian monarchs barely set foot in Anglia proper, preferring to spend their time on the continent. Electors, thanks to the Electorate of Flanders, they had frequently opposed the election of the Luxembourg Emperors while conferring on the Kings considerable sway within the Empire.
|Henry III||Richard I||Katherine|
|William II||Anna I||Eric IX|
This gave the Anglian nobles, often with large estates on the continent themselves, cause to withhold their support of Anna. The War of the Lions (1458-1465) which had briefly threatened to unseat William I had caused severe disruption to Flanders and the increasing centralisation and paranoia that characterised his later years had made several enemies amongst the Flemish nobility. Sensing a chance to reassert their rights the Flemish members of the regency council refused to acknowledge Anna or any of her putative heirs. After some heated discussion, and a long summer of negotiations alternating between delicate and vicious, the nobles came out in support of Eric IX of Denmark. However Sigismund II of Luxembourg had an almost equal claim to the Anglian throne it soon became clear that he had no intention of backing down from the chance to seize the Low Countries.
The Early Years
On 12th September 1493 Sigismund II placed an Imperial ban on Eric IX with the intent of dividing the territories between himself and his liege lords and in effect declaring war on him.
With their alliance to Denmark and their own vested interests in Anglian trade both Hordaland and Gothenland began to gather an army while Denmark raised levies from Svealand and Finland. Sigismund II however was distracted by a series of campaigns in Italia, specifically the Great Venetian War which was dragging out to its messy conclusion, a dispute with France which was spilling out into yet another war between it and Auvergne and a revolt in his own Kingdom of Hungary.
The Kalmar states therefore took the advantage. From Pomerania Danish and Gothenlandic troops invaded Brandenburg and brutally swept an Imperial army aside at the Battle of Kyritz. The Kalmar forces wintered in Brandenburg, besieging various cities and fortresses. Hordaland meanwhile had landed a considerable force of Norwegian, Irish and Manx at the mouth of the Elbe and began to reduce various Imperial cities.
Early in 1494 with Svealandic forces joining the main armies the Brandenburg cities were reduced and the Kalmar forces began to move south towards the heart of the Luxembourg realm: Prague. A siege was begun in May but abandoned six weeks later after a Saxon army threatened Kalmar's lines of communication. Kalmar fell back in an orderly fashion and Sorbia, long a Danish ally, joined their side taking the opportunity to challenge various Imperial rulings which had curtailed the power of the local dukes. This largely stopped the Imperial troops following up into Pomerania and instead a line of control was established joining Hamburg to Dresden over which the Imperial forces were largely excluded.
The Imperial side was further damaged by Bavaria-Landshut allying with Denmark. The Bavarian Wittelsbachs had long opposed Luxembourg power within the Empire and, with a branch of the family ruling in Holland, the Landshut branch were looking to cement their hold over the other Bavarian duchies. Without the necessary manpower to deal with Bavaria properly Sigismund sent a division of Hungarian cavalry into Bavaria where they would spend the next two years devastating the countryside. The Bavarian army was meanwhile engaging Saxony and had even attempted a siege of Prague in summer of 1496. That year the Kalmar armies attempted to relieve the Anglian garrisons held out in the Low Countries but were repeated blocked from moving beyond Bremen. Anglia itself landed a well-equipped force at Oostend in 1497 and made good headway through occupied territory, relieving several beleaguered cities. Their overwhelming victory at the Battle of Lens against an Imperial army almost twice their size threw Sigismund into a sulk which 'he never recovered from'. Several high ranking Imperial knights were killed in the battle and subsequent succession crises paralysed Brunswick and Nassau for several years.
With no one to oppose them the Anglian army joined up with the Dutch Wittelsbach army and entered into the Rhineland but they became bogged down around Cologne. The commanders hoped to be able to link up with the Kalmar forces to the North but, showing the military incompetence that would soon paralyse the Kalmar side Eric IX dithered. As it was Anglia lost the momentum and, unable to open Cologne by force, contented itself with merely raiding the Rhineland before Sigismund forced them back into the heartland of Flanders and attrition slowly wore them down. By 1501 Imperial forces were once again back in Hainault picking up their sieges where they had left off.
Widening the War
The French aspect to the situation in Flanders stretched back centuries. Traditionally overlords of Flanders, their domination had been broken by successive wars between them and Anglia from the 1110s onwards. So the loosening of Anglian and Imperial power there was extremely tempting to Henry II. Having scored a confident victory over Auvergne in 1498 Henry was in the mood to reverse the settlement of the Bar Wars and regain a semblance of domination over Northern Francia once more. Figuring a Danish king in Flanders would be more amenable than the Luxembourgs he enthusiastically received the diplomats Denmark were sending out. Eric IX had no wish to share any of his nominal Flemish territory with France, though he thought there would be some territory to the east that Henry could be compensated with. In addition his youngest daughter Marianna was betrothed to Prince Philip. France's subsequent declaration of war in 1502 was almost immediately checked by Wessex-Normandy who had been carefully courted by Luxembourgoise diplomats for a year or so. France's troops were therefore split, the triumphant march into Flanders never materialised and the army settled into interminable sieges in Lorraine, Bar and Normandy. Meanwhile the powerful Wessexian army threatened Anglia itself. Sigismund II himself died toward the end of the year. His son, John III, was quickly proclaimed Emperor by those electors in the Luxembourgs' pocket.
Eric IX landed in Anglia in mid 1502, and was warmly received by his cousin Anna who had been acting as his regent for the previous nine years. After being crowned in Lincoln on 8th September he took command of the Anglian army and settled down to the badly conducted Siege of London and many Anglian nobles disassociated themselves from it, preferring to conduct operations further North. Several battles in the Trentmark appeared to save Anglia from immediate defeat and forced a temporary peace on the two sides in Britannia, though they did not change the view that the war was generally being badly conducted and most of funds were disappearing into the pockets of mercenary generals on the continent. A significant 'Luxembourg' party had began to coalesce amongst the Anglian nobility who started to see John III as the better candidate. Accusations that they were in the pay of Wessex were proved unfounded and their cause began to build momentum. Sensing he was losing hearts and minds Eric IX eventually abandoned the siege taking a significant portion of the troops into the Low Countries though his campaign there was barely more coherent.
An assassination attempt on Henry II in April 1504 meanwhile distracted France. The plot had been cooked up between Luxembourg and Auvergne to exploit Henry II's tenuous claim on the French throne and take them out of the war. However all it resulted in was a massive wave of patriotism in France and once more Auvergne was defeated on the battlefield.
Kalmar Bows Out
By 1509 the Kalmar finances could barely support its armies in the field. It still nominally held most of Brandenburg and several cities held out in Flanders thanks to the tireless efforts of various Anglian nobles but an advance on Prague was out of the question. Eric IX died in August. He was succeeded by Christopher II, a much more competent and decisive leader who immediately recognised Denmark was bankrupt. Briefly considering selling Estonia to Livonia or Novgorod he proceeded to leverage more taxes out of Svealand and Lade receiving nothing but a series of revolts for his troubles. Hordaland meanwhile was busy pursuing its own agenda for Atlantic domination (see the Icelandic War), unsuccessfully as it turned out, but it cut supplies of Leifian and Icelandic mercenaries as well as lessening the pressure on Wessex.As the revolts built up, Svealand in 1510, Lade in 1512 and Viken in 1513 Christopher realised his options were slowly disappearing. He would finally relinquish his claim to the Anglian throne in 1517. The Peace of Berchem led to an almost complete reversal of Kalmar's position. Those Kalmar armies still in the Low Countries, largely made up of Dutch anyway were now paid for by Luxembourg and directed at France, still very much a threat to the South. Meanwhile across the North Sea the death of Anna had led the Anglian nobles, with Anna's son William chief among them, to offer the throne to John III of Luxembourg. As they were still at war with Wessex William led the army to a decisive victory at the Battle of Stafford. The death of the Wessexian king, William IV as a result of injuries sustained in the battle, forced it out of the war.
Christopher II would eventually come to terms with the Ladish rebels allowing them to setup a republic in Northern Scandinavia in return for their assistance in quashing the Svealandic revolts.
The Treaty of Cleves
John III was eager to finish the war without delay. He was severely stretching the lines of his credit with the great banking families and needed the wealth of Flanders to replenish his coffers. The fevered situation in Magdeburg and Thuringia where Luther's theories were gaining ground fast needed his attention and his authority had declined dramatically in the south where Bavarian armies had been undefeated for a decade. Added to this his lords in Hungary were once again becoming restless. In 1521 a massive Anglian contingent landed at Antwerp to face France which they did with brutal efficiency, approaching Paris by May 1523. Meanwhile the Bavarias were defeated in a series of campaigns led by Philip of Hesse, soon to use the same tactics against the Protestant peasants of Northern Germany.
With his new realm now secure John III set about organising the peace. The Treaty of Cleves cemented Luxembourg's supremacy but made important concessions.
- Anglia's continental properties would become a part of the Luxembourg crown. All existing property held by Anglian nobles is safeguarded. This continuation was largely disrupted by the Anglian Civil War and many families simply divided their Anglian estates from their continental ones.
- John III's son Wenceslaus was recognised as the rightful heir to Holland and Champagne. This represented a massive gain in territory around the family's traditional county of Luxembourg and would form the basis of the future United Netherlands.
- William III, regent of Anglia in John III's stead, was recognised as the rightful king of Anglia. He marries Elizabeth of Luxembourg to secure the succession. The vacant duchy of Fryslân was given to William as a dowry.
Sorbia was given various special rights exempting it from certain Imperial decrees. Though this only lasted until the death of the reigning duke, Boleslaw III, it restored the corridor between Brandenburg and Bohemia.
John III was now the direct elector in two electorates and had his cousin in a third. This was technically forbidden by the Golden Bull of 1355 but a brief war, again using the remains of the Kalmar forces led his opponents to back down. Opposition to John III's reign did not end with the 'Electoral War' and many German princes began to look towards Lutheranism as a solution to regaining their liberties and replenishing their treasuries. Realising he would have to concede power somewhere a further three electorates were set up under the Imperial Bull of 1531. It was not enough however. A league of Lutheran princes, the Schmalkaldic League, was not far behind. On John's death the Imperial throne went, not to his son Wenceslaus II, but to the Wettin Albert.
The Battle of Stafford is widely recognised as the last 'medieval' battle between massed ranks of armoured knights. The army that Anglia took to France in the 1520s were heavily equipped with arquebusiers and in general gunpowder weapons were soon to revolutionise warfare.
The premature death of William IV of Wessex unleashed a long struggle between the descendants of his brother Hugh I and those of his as yet unborn son, Duke Henry of Gloucester. This would come to a head during the Wessex War of Religion (1568-1580) but generally kept it busy with revolts in Normandy and clashes with France.