Pieces Of Creation is an occasional recurring column at Campaign Mastery in which Mike offers game reference and other materials that he has created for his own campaigns.
Welcome to part two of this series of articles introducing the history of Earth-Regency. Part 1 showed how a small change in one weak Baron’s attitude enabled King John The Great (John II) to use the Magna Carta to strengthen the power of the monarchy instead of handing most of it over to his rebellious Barons, and how John II used the increased military strength to conquer most of France and force an Oath of Fealty from the King of France, who continued to rule in the south as the vassal of King John and Pope Innocent. John had direct rule over the northwest, while the north was “given” to The Germans, but was able to wrest its independence back quickly. They sought to return to the rule of the French King, who was undoubtedly tempted but did not have the forces required to hold the larger realm. At first, the only external impact of these changes was that France was unable to periodically bleed England of its best troops, and as a result, England’s military and political power grew.
The Rise Of Rivals
We begin this part at the opening of the Age Of Exploration. The German Empire has waned, and England controls continental Europe East to the Italian border, North to the Danish Empire and Holland, and South to the Spanish border. Hemmed in by the English, those powers are forced to seek other regions for expansion.
The Danish Empire become master traders, accepted as neutral by each of the other powers, and the perfect go-betweens – for a price. The other Empires, also with strong navies, began exploring further and further afield – first Africa, then the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. Of course, the British were not far behind; were they not cautious when it came to protecting what they had already claimed, they would have been the preeminent global power. As it was, they were merely the equals of the other seafaring nations. Thus the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch emerged as new rivals to British dominance.
It was a situation that was intolerable to a Kingdom which had grown accustomed to being the foremost power in the known world.
Increasingly, England began pouring resources into exploration and conquest overseas. While they had been preoccupied with internal security, the other great naval powers had been able to keep up; but once England committed to intercontinental exploration in force, they had little hope of maintaining parity.
The War Of The Roses
The balance between expansion and security was a delicate one, and inevitably, the Kingdom overstepped the mark, weakening its internal defenses sufficiently to tempt England’s enemies. A secret alliance between Spain, Portugal, France, and the King’s cousin, Henry Tudor, the Duke of Richmond, was formed in an attempt to exploit that weakness. So began the War Of The Roses. The year was 1455.
Twelve days later, it was over.
John the Great had learned the value of intelligence from the events surrounding the Magna Carta, and had vowed to never be reliant on blind chance again; it had been clear to him that if it were not for that one turncoat Baron, his planning and plotting would have failed in the end.
The commons could, for the most part, be ignored when it came to matters of conspiracy against the throne; it was amongst the nobles that sedition might succeed, and amongst his Continental Rivals that he must stand prepared. The King of France had sought to gain through treachery what he could not gain by force, and had come uncomfortably close to success.
After his victory against the Nobles, King John had commissioned the establishment of the Royal Order Of Intelligence Service Of Knights, which would in more modern times come to be known by the (abbreviated) acronym, RISK. Two branches were formed – one (the publicly known branch) of gifted commons and minor nobility, who were given special Knighthoods in exchange for loyal service; and the other, never revealed to the public, amongst the Nobility.
John knew that the latter group would not come to fruition for decades after his reign ended; but he left careful instructions to his successors, explaining the purpose of the hidden branch and the steps which had to be achieved to forge a group which could achieve that purpose.
Paramount amongst the interim goals which had to be completed before the second group could become an effective reality was the reconciliation of Crown and Peerage. Behind locked doors, King after King had made secret deals with Baron after Baron. Whatever any given Baron desired, so long as it was not the Throne, and was within the capacity of the Crown and the abilities of the noble, it was granted – once. A tax shelter? Done. A favorable marriage? Done. Public prominence? Done. Many of the seemingly weak monarchs who followed John The Great did not deserve the reputations they earned; instead of being weak, they parleyed short-term losses into long-term gains, following a plan they were incapable of having devised alone.
Most of these deals were kept very secret. By the time of Edward I, the Lords of England were united behind the throne, and the time had finally arrived for part two of the plans layed down so long ago by King John.
The reality of accord between Throne and Lords was kept secret, hidden behind false tales and rumors of disaffection. From each generation of Lords, four were chosen, by personality, for specific roles; in return for which they received a number of benefits not available to most. There was a designated hot-head, a designated vain fool, a designated ringleader, and a designated sly intellectual. None of them knew who the others were, enabling them to watch each other.
Their assignment was to each seem to be “perfect” for a given type of conspiracy. If approached, they were to play along, get the maximum information possible, and lay a trap for the conspirators. So effective were these two intelligence services that no matter how weak the King’s personality appeared – or was – there was no effective rebellion against the crown.
The War Of The Roses, Revisited
Henry Tudor had been the hot-head of his generation, one of the people who any foreign powers seeking to meddle in British Politics would naturally consider approaching to act as figurehead of a foreign-backed grab for the throne. The Spanish/Portuguese conspiracy took the bait.
No sooner had their representatives departed than Henry was in a carriage to Buckingham Palace. England had been forewarned that the two were up to something by their intelligence service’s more prosaic branch, which had by now infiltrated most of the other Governments on the continent.
The Price Of Victory
Henry bargained hard with King Edward IV, and Edward was forced to agree to the terms demanded; Henry was adopted as Edward’s “Son” and heir, but his line would not retain the throne; Edward’s son would in turn inherit from Henry VII. The final condition demanded by Henry was that Edward’s grandson marry Henry’s granddaughter, strengthening their position within the peerage to undisputed second in line of succession thereafter.
With the deal done, the trap was layed for the foreign soldiers being “lent” to support Henry’s “uprising”, and quickly sprung. The Spanish troops were captured and taken into custody as soon as they disembarked.
England now had all the justification it needed for it’s own foreign adventures against the nations which had conspired against it, and promptly declared war on Spain and Portugal.
The latter was the first to fall; it could not stand against the armies of the British. Spain could not come to their aid; it had its own problems.
Spain was already isolated along it’s northern borders; England began by blockading the Spanish seaports for two years while the Portugeuse were sacked. Having weakened the Spanish, and resisted all attempts by Spain to negotiate, the English invaded. There was a technical violation of the French Borders – which Charles II carefully failed to notice. (Arranging that had taken much of the two years). Over 500,000 men at arms swarmed through France and into Spain all along the Spanish-French border.
The Fall of Spain
Spain, as had France decades earlier, was forced to surrender. But always in the past it had been an international coalition of forces who had gone to war, and with whom England had been forced to share the spoils; this time, they stood – and conquered – alone. But so big, and so obvious, were the events that the secret order within the Royal Intelligence Service was exposed for the first time.
The Growth Of Empire
With the fall of the Spanish and Portuguese Kingdoms, their colonies were captured, one after another.
Most of the British colonies were not so much chosen for their settlement prospects as for their positioning with respect the colonies of other nations. Australia, for example, had been colonized as a knife at the throat of the Dutch in the East Indies. Britain conquered South America & Central America, settled North America, seized control of the entire African Coastline, and took Canada from the Dutch and French. Spanish expatriates held Central America, Portuguese dissidents held remote islands here and there and parts of the African Interior, and the Dutch had Indonesia; the rest of the colonies now flew the Union Jack.
Then came the US War Of Independence. In 1776 there was an uprising against the British Throne, or more specifically, against the remote administration. The locals hadn’t asked for much; it would have taken only a small effort at listening to their complaints and attempting to resolve them.
Trouble between England and its colonies had been inevitable since the time of John the Great. The Civil Service, whose roles were supposedly to assist and advise the King, had grown, in the nature of all bureaucracies, into a labyrinthine monstrosity. Gradually, they had become the conduit through which the Throne and Government exercised power. The colonist’s list of grievances – most of them petty and small in comparison to the scope of the Empire – had fallen between the cracks of this subcommittee and that committee-of-the-whole, and their pleas for relief had never reached the King’s ears.
The Enemy Within
In effect, a new struggle for power over the Empire had begun. The civil service bureaucracy had usurped power a little at a time, and it was not until their manifest failure to deal with the Colonists as equals under the British throne that the fact became apparent. The rebellion was suppressed quickly, but in the process, it had attracted the attention of the British Monarch to the position and failures of the Civil Service.
It was now that another of the long-term impacts of the influence of John the Great came home to roost; the King had almost-absolute power, but had rarely wielded it. Because the American Revolution involved a case of high treason, King George was required to hear the cases personally, and the rebels were at last in a position to put their case directly to the King.
An Empire In Name
After deliberating for 3 days, George found the rebels guilty, and sentenced them to form an independent government of the British Model under the English Throne; and to ensure that distance did not hinder swift and practical administration, he appointed a Regent to serve as King’s Representative In America. In the process, he made the transition from King To Emperor, acknowledging in Law what had been the case in fact for centuries.
On January 1, 1777, George III, King Of England and Greater Britain, declared himself Emperor George I of the British Empire. In effect, he created a new layer of Bureaucracy, giving each member of his Empire it’s own Regent, to rule on his behalf, as King, and elevated himself above them.
The Bureacratic Purge
He then preferred charges of High Treason and Negligence against various senior members of the Civil Service; the specifics being that they had been too busy empire-building and nest-feathering to perform the tasks appointed to them, and in the process had manifestly failed their oaths to him. One month later, the head of the Civil Service, the Chancellor Of The Exchequer, and various others were hung for high treason. He also cut the civil service payroll 40%.
The upheaval galvanized and revitalized an empire that had been growing moribund. George interviewed the descendants of the royal families of Portugal and Spain, and appointed the most able of them Regents of their countries, dismissing from service the bureaucrats who had formerly administered the conquered territories. Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and on and on, they all received their own Kings, preferably from amongst the traditional royal lines of the nation in question. Where there was no native royal line, a Regent was appointed. Another way to look at these developments is that George had invented a series of rewards for loyalty that had been considered impossible.
The French Revolution
King Louis XVI, knowing of the growing disaffection of his subjects, and uncomfortably aware of the fact that he was almost completely surrounded by the British, decided to have a revolution of his own before his people made him the focus of an undesired one; in 1782 he petitioned the Emperor Of Greater Britain, still George III, for direct admittance to the Empire – on condition that he be appointed the nation’s Regent.
This was another significant turning point; the remnants of France became the first conquest of the Empire achieved solely by political forces. They would not be the last. The Great Houses of Europe now numbered 4 – Britain, Germany, Italy and Prussia, with the first threatening to devour the others whole, one piece at a time. It was a situation not to be tolerated.
Meanwhile, to the British, the mysteries of the East beckoned. The road to Asia had been opened. Or so it seemed…
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part I: The Middle Ages – 1189-1220
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 2: The Road To Empire – 1220-1782
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 3: Birth Of An Empire – 1782-1910
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 4: An Empire At War – 1910-1945
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 5: The Cold War Begins – 1945-1959
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 6: Coming Apart At The Seams – 1960-1972
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 7: Disintegration And Repair – 1973-75
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 8: The Ascendancy Of The Peerage – 1978-1979
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 9: Peter Pan, The Saint, & The Fairy Princess – 1980-1997
- The Imperial History of Earth-Regency, Part 10: The Crumbling Of Icons – 1980-1997 continued
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency, Part 11: The Post-Modernist Dark Age – 1998-2015
- The Imperial History Of Earth-Regency Part 12: 1998