My second alternate timeline, this time based on the notes I took playing as the Kingdom of France in Medieval II: Total War. Honestly, I think the Kingdom of England is a more interesting read, however I think the quality of the written content is better in this document, as I have altered some things from my previous write.
Honestly, I think the Kingdom of England is a more interesting read, however I think the quality of the written content is better in this document, as I have altered some things from my previous write.
Again, there may be a few mistakes - but this is not proof read.
___________________________________(Take a look at my Kingdom of England document as well!)__________________________________
The Kingdom of France
A Brief History: Up to 1080
The Kingdom of France had only recently come into existence, emerging from the old Frankish Kingdom under Charlemagne to become a modern European state. France; while being strong and reasonably successful into its transition from the dark ages, lacks one thing that some of its European neighbours; Unity. France itself is made up of a number of different dynasties and kingdoms, The Kingdom of Rennes, Bruges, The Republic of Antwerp and the Duchy of Bordeaux. And these different kingdoms, while being French, do not consider themselves part of the Kingdom of France. A noble example of this is the Normans, who have recently taken England for themselves and are clearly serving their best interests. While the Normans cannot begin to think about conquering France, they have no doubt made it clear they wish to hold a place in England for themselves. These new 'English' Knights still retained their French land also, which was terrible for French national security, as they had the potential enemy at their gates in the north as well as the east.
France's economy is not the strongest in Europe, but she makes up for this with her armies and potential fighting force that she holds. France's land covers a wide area of Western Europe, which is the perfect temperate climate for crops to grow, and therefore the population to grow with it. While this may not sound like much, a content population is everything when it comes to sustaining a war effort abroad, with few troops being able to occupy the towns with the majority of the armed forces on the frontlines. A growing population also means more men to work in Smithing, mining, and to be recruited into the army to fight France's enemies.
By 1080, France holds reasonable land in west Europe, but if they wish to keep the expansionist Milanese and Portuguese at bay, they may wish to consider expanding these lands and taking their 'French' neighbours under their wing. These small states are not France's main problem however, as their problem lies eastwards, with the Holy Roman Empire. The H.R.E fields a German might that cannot be denied by anyone in Europe, and by 1080 has the most powerful military in the known world. This sends a clear message to France that with a number of potential enemies and friends nearby, they must stand their ground and choose their next few moves wisely if they are to stand a chance of holding a firm hand in European affairs.
With this in mind, France set out in 1080 with a confident, headstrong approach, but this may not be all that is needed to get her through the Middle Ages.
The Wars of French Reclamation
Sticking true to her plans, France besieged Dijon and Bordeaux in 1082, in an attempt to halt Milanese and Portuguese plans of expansion before they had begun. This was safe to do sooner rather than later, as both states would not be annoyed as they would not have thought the lands theirs until they had the force necessary to take it. France, luckily, had her large force left over from Charlemagne distributed around the country by 1080, and this was what was used in the efforts of French Reclamation. These efforts paid off, as by 1084, both settlements had fallen with little effort on the French part. These victories, along with the taking of Rennes in 1086, made France the largest Kingdom in Western Europe, sending a clear message to the Holy Romans that France's military was a force to be reckoned with. The victory at Rennes suggested otherwise however, as France's general, Adenet de Toulouse, fell within the first few minutes of the battle, due to a catastrophic cavalry charge that was cut down by crossbowmen. Over half of France's army that was sent to Rennes fell, leaving less than 300 men to occupy a town consisting of over 4,000 foreigners.
This was luckily a minor hiccup in France's conquest, as the heir to the French throne Prince Louis besieged and took Bruges in the same year, with Antwerp falling not three months after that in 1100. Prince Louis had begun to make a name for himself in Europe, and this was one reason further that the Germans would not be invading France any time soon.
French Reforms, Political Unrest, Agriculture and Industry
The newly claimed lands now encompassed into the Kingdom of France were populous, healthy, relatively large, their land was good for farming and they were economically stable. This proved well for France as it increased her overall economy size while enlarging her trading aspects. These new regions did not come without their problems however. The population was not happy with French rule, as they were used to their freedom. It is understandable that they would not be content with foreign rule; however France was not ready to listen to their demands which could cost time and money. The best France could do was to keep the towns firmly garrisoned with men and build a few luxury buildings to keep the population happy. Brothels and Taverns were being built slowly, as the main work force of these towns was being put to a much more specific use.
France by 1108 had achieved trade agreements with every nation in Western Europe, as well as some further a field. She had also agreed an alliance with many nations, including the Holy Roman Empire. This alliance was not as strong as those of say, Portugal and Scotland, but the Holy Roman Empire would not be viewed kindly upon by Europe or the Pope if it were to break its alliance with France and betray her trust. This was then a small confidence boost to France that she could rest easily knowing she was for the moment safe.
This low threat of foreign attack allowed France to focus upon her Agriculture, Industry, Military and overall her economy. By 1114, new agricultural reforms had gone underway in France, with every province being utilised with Crop Rotation by 1120, and Irrigation by 1130. This plan was to make the Kingdom able to hold out for long periods of oppression and war, which was bound to come in the coming years. The Crop rotation would also be a strong boast to the rest of Europe, and make France seem like an agricultural complex, with near future technology when it came to farming.
Once the agricultural scheme was under way, by 1126, France could begin her new scheme of 'Industrial-Military'. This was the use of newly constructed armouries, blacksmiths, and leather tanners to upgrade the existing army's equipment with stronger spears, shields and most importantly, armour. This was very effective as it allowed France to save money by not recruiting, training and waging new soldiers, but strengthening the capabilities of the existing ones. This meant that when France was to wage war on a neighbouring nation, she would be able to have more money to spend on other priorities, and not just the military.
The Third scheme being put into effect by the year 1130 was France's new trading scheme with almost every nation in Europe. This was to be France's main source of money, which was a good thing as there was much money to be made in trade, but there was however a loose end that France did not foresee. This flaw in the plan was that trade was based upon people with whom you can trade, and only your friends will want to trade with you. The ever-impending war in Europe then was to be a disaster for France and her economy, as this would cut off trading partners, and therefore a percentage of her income. By investing money in trade, France was effectively putting her economy in the hands of foreigners.
However, these three new schemes being put into their Level one stages of effectiveness were only the beginning of what France saw as her dawning of a new age. She believed that by doing these things, she was setting her way into the future and was planning to enlarge her economy to that of the Holy Roman Empire; whose economy was fairing one of the strongest in Europe.
Growing Tensions, Arms Race and the European Confrontation
By 1132, France's new schemes were well underway, and with time France would see her kingdom develop into a prospering and rich nation. Time however, was not Europe's friend. Although France was allied with almost every nation in Western and Central Europe, some alliances were stronger than others, and it was usually the stronger nations with whom the alliances were the weakest.
France was allied to both England and Scotland, but these two nations were growing ever more hostile towards one another, with Scottish merchant's 'stealing' English trade, and English trading lanes being pirated by Pirates who they said were under Scottish bribes to do so. If this growing tension were ever to blossom into anything other than war, it would have benefited France, however with a sick twist of fate it lead to the English invasion of Scotland in 1136, which put France in an awkward situation.
The Holy Roman Empire was quick to side with England in her war, and Portugal hastily cancelled her alliance with England and side with Scotland. France had to choose between siding with the Holy Roman Empire in a chance to better her economy further and avoid a conflict, or side with Scotland and take out that last bit of Norman land sitting in the north of France, threatening French home security.
King Philip of the French decided that if he was to break his alliance with the English, but not wage war, he would stand a slim chance of avoiding a war with the H.R.E until they were at their weakest moment, and he would then attack them with a pre-emptive strike.
This plan was short lived; however, as the Scottish King Malcolm came to King Philip and asked him to attack the English for a rather hefty fee. France knew that her eastern front would be exposed, but she decided to oblige, as she expected the English to be too worried fighting the Scottish to launch a counter attack to regain northern France. France, therefore accepted, and by 1138, Prince Louis had taken Caen from the English and France could now truly call her lands French.
With this victory, France is hailed as the strongest power in Europe, however the very same year numerous inventions including the Trebuchet get Germany the name of Europe's most advanced technological power. This did no worry the French tremendously, but it did say something to the German's allies that The Holy Roman Empire would be a side worth allying with.
By 1140, France's economy was beginning to crumble under military spending, and therefore offered England an honourable ceasefire. England were very appreciative, but were ordered to pay France large sums of reparation money in an attempt to put France's finance back on track. This was an unfortunate agreement on England's part, as in 1142, Portugal invaded Ireland in an attempt to get a further trading 'colony' and in an attempt to better Portugal's alliance with France and Scotland.
The alliance with Scotland did not prove as strong as France had thought however, as in 1144, Scotland besieged Bruges. This was a disaster for France, as she had to then shift some of her forces from the Eastern border with the Germans up to Bruges in an attempt to fight off the Scottish barbarians. This also meant that Scotland would forge an alliance with the Holy Romans and possibly try to do with them what they had done with France eight years before, and ask the Holy Roman Empire for assistance in their war efforts. As was predicted, the Scottish asked the German forces for aid, and Germany obliged. Thus leading to what became known as the War of European Betrayal – aptly named so due to the large amount of side switching taking place leading up to and during the conflict.
The War of European Betrayal
A war beginning with the Might of France's armies taking on the small kingdom of Scotland quickly became a war waged throughout Europe, with almost every catholic nation being involved.
The war began in 1144 when Bruges was besieged by the Scots in an attempt to obtain a province in mainland Europe. Bruges, being the home of Prince Louis, was well equipped with Louis's men, and Louis himself was a well respected general in Europe. Prince Louis wasted no time with the siege, and marched out of the city's gates to attack the Scottish army head on. This was a bold move, as it was leaving the city unprotected and open to Scottish attack from the flanks. The bold move paid off, however and Prince Louis massacred the Scottish army and their General 'Mac Moughn' in relatively no time at all. This left Scotland's armed forces crippled and unable to try an invasion again any time soon, having to focus on the escalating conflict with England.
The victory at Bruges, however, was not celebrated for long, because in 1145 the Holy Romans kept true to their deal and besieged Antwerp – a large town with a tremendous income from mining. Antwerp was also severely undermanned by French forces as five years prior in 1140; the Pope tested France's faith and ordered that King Philip join the crusade to Jerusalem, with fear of excommunication if this was not done. This meant that France was directly under the command of Prince Louis, and he was the only man that stood between a French Germany and a German France.
The small war was quickly turning into a full scale conflict between superpowers in Europe, and sides were already being taken by the smaller European states; with Denmark and Milan breaking their alliances with France, and Portugal breaking her strong alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope also favoured the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig over King Philip of the French, but was not however keen on either heretical nation.
The Battle of Metz, and the Siege of Antwerp
Prince Louis amassed many men under his command and led two armies out of French territory. One was sent to the besieged Antwerp, and the other marched to Metz, a small Germanic castle, but of strategic importance to both sides. King Louis was the commanding general of the Metz army, and put the trusted Guile de Lombard in control of the second French army marching upon Antwerp. De Lombard's army arrived at Antwerp and took up ground on a hill behind the besieging forces. He then sent a scouting unit into the city, and told the men inside, that were little more than town militia and peasants, to march out and engage the much larger, and much stronger German army. By doing this, the Romans would not be aware of the charging army that was closing in from the rear and have time to mobilise against it. The Antwerp militia obliged to De Lombard's commands, trusting in him as a commander. The engaged the German army with tenacity and force, but only one in five men remained alive after the battle. This was a sacrifice that had to be made, however, as it allowed De Lombard's army (mainly consisting of cavalry) to charge the German's flank and cut down their lines of infantry. This tactical move caused chaos among the German army, and many men were hacked down while attempting to flee. From De Lombard's army, 12 men fell at the hands of the Germans. The Holy Roman Empire lost 1,347 men with only 42 men managing to flee. The town militia was not as lucky as De Lombard's forces, however, and managed to lose 200 of its 260 strong defence unit. Many of the men lost were husbands of the women of the city, and the lack of men caused a population growth stunt that the town only recovered from many years later.
The Army at Metz was not as fortunate as De Lombard's men; however, as Metz itself was extremely well fortified and garrisoned, due to its strategic importance. A nearby German army had been created and ordered to attack Dijon, was told to turn and march upon Prince Louis's army once it had been spotted, also, which meant that Louis's large invasion force now seemed much smaller in comparison to the strength of the Reich. Louis knew, however, that if he were to pull back, the German armies would then be free to attack French towns and cities, and France would be crippled in her defences. With this in mind, Prince Louis pressed onwards and marched towards Metz. After only one month of besieging Metz, the Second army of the Reich arrived to confront Louis along with the army occupying Metz, which lead to the Battle of Metz.
It was midday and there was a blistering blizzard blinding everyman's vision from just a few feet. The French forces were frozen, and were waiting for the first sight of the German armies from their scouts. Both armies were spotted merging not far from the French position, and Louis ordered his men to ready themselves for the carefully planned defence tactic that awaited the German armies. When the Germans had closed the gap between both forces, they sent their spearmen to march quickly and charge at the bulk of the French forces. Prince Louis ordered his own bodyguard unit along with the other cavalry to charge on the spearmen. The cavalry charge was a success, but Prince Louis's men were quickly being chased down by the German General Unsel von Bruden and his cavalry unit. Louis's cavalry forces then fled into the nearby woodland, with Von Bruden's men hastily following. This was the cunning plan that allowed the Germans to be crushed and make Louis known as the greatest general in Europe. When Von Bruden's men were in the woodland, they quickly became disorganised and panicky due to the crossbow bolts and arrows fleeting into their horses and their own bodies, the trees that were blocking their mobility, and the increasingly intense snowstorm that was blinding their view. Von Bruden attempted to rally his men out of the woods, but became disorientated himself, and was killed by a crossbow bolt to the chest. The few men that did escape the woodland were pursued by the French forces, and seeing the cavalry flee sent the German spearmen fighting the bulk of the French army into panic, and caused the entire Roman army to turn tail and run, even though they continued to out number the French units Three to One. This victory left both German armies with not more than 100 men combined, and Prince Louis's men losing only 145 men himself.
These two victories sent a clear message to The Holy Roman Empire and to Europe that France was moving from Superpower to Hyperpower.
After these two battles, The Holy Roman Empire knew that she could not take on France head-on, and must concentrate on smaller nations nearby, and use the resources belonging to them in order to conquer France. Thus leading to:
The War of The Swiss Confederacy
Switzerland, by 1150, was the only Republic existing in Europe, as the Republic of Valencia was taken by Spain in 1126, and the Crimean Confederacy, although claiming to be a republic, was little less than a dictatorship with a hereditary 'President' in power. It was also a well respected nation in Europe, as it was not land-greedy or power hungry, but it was however the wealthiest state in Europe and had a large defence force consisting of mainly pikes and crossbowmen.
It was this wealth and 'power' that attracted The Holy Roman Empire into occupying their lands by force, and a number of battles in and around Switzerland between The Holy Roman Empire and the Swiss Confederacy, which ultimately, after initial success, the Swiss had been defeated and exhausted.
The Holy Roman Empire never officially occupied Switzerland however, as this invasion sparked up political tensions that had been lurking in the country for some time. A civil war broke out between the royalist Swiss, who wished there to be a monarchy in Switzerland, and would instate the most powerful military general as King, and the Republican Swiss, who were backed by the Holy Roman Empire. The Republicans wished for a free Swiss Republic, which was a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire. The royalist Swiss believed that they would never be truly free under the Holy Roman Emperor's 'protection' however, and, knowing that they would not be able to defeat the Holy Roman Empire on their own, asked France for military support.
The French knew that if the Holy Romans took Switzerland, then there would be a huge risk to french homeland security. They sent a respected general in France – Jean Torent – to fight alongside the royalists in a large scale battle that would be known as the Battle of Bern Moors. Jean Torent arrived to confront the German forces of the Reich on the hills above Bern moors early in the morning. The Royalists would then attack the small and disorganised republican army being shielded by the large army of the Reich. Germany however, had seen this trick before, and had a small ambush militia wait in the forests outside the moors. This ambushing force massacred the Royalists army, and then joined in the battle with the French. Torent, knowing that he could not win the battle with simple confrontation, led his cavalry units and his feudal knights southwards into the moors, to try and entice some of the German army into following. The risk paid off, when a large bulk of men-at-arms ran down the moors to attack Torent. The cavalry fiercely fought off the pursuing Germans, and charged back up the hill in an attempt to kill the German general. Torent, however, was killed in the cavalry charge by a stray arrow; nevertheless; his unit charged forward and after only seconds of fighting, managed to decapitate the German general in front of the rest of his army. The Germans were in panic, and began to flee into the forest. The French army did not pursue, as they were exhausted from the battle – instead they buried the body of Jean Torent in the very spot he was slain on, for without his tactics and courage; The Kingdom of France would not have prevailed in the War of The Swiss Confederacy.
After the battle, the German army retreated deep into Holy Roman territory, and as the royalist and republican forces had both been massacred, France peacefully occupied Switzerland. The Swiss people were grateful, as while they were now French, they had been freed from the German forces, which had pillaged and raped across the lands as they went. The Swiss council of noblemen donated 6000 florins to the French government because of their aid, which the French respectfully used to improve the farmland and industry that had been destroyed by the battles in Swiss territory.
The End of the war of European betrayal
After both Metz and Bern had been taken by France, Prince Louis by 1160, had sustained a large enough force to send to Nuremburg, the heart of the Holy Roman Empire's finance, while Guile De Lombard commanded a second army sent to Frankfurt, the German capital. After many months of marching, the armies reached their respective cities, and found there to be relatively little resistance within these settlements. This was shocking for the French forces, as they expected these cities to be the most occupied by forces. France discovered from the local German and Austrian farmers, however, that there had been an attempted uprising in every state of the Holy Roman Empire, with many men being slaughtered in their homes so the Kaiser could remain in power. The farmers said that the Swiss republicans had been sheltered in Nuremburg and had been made German citizens. These men, however, were appalled by the very high taxation rate, and caused civil unrest in town halls, brothels, pubs and even the local churches. These men were eventually defeated, but only after a long campaign by Kaiser Wilhelm II, as many of his men were still on their way to Jerusalem in the first Crusade. It was for this reason that the Kaiser kept the civil disorder very secret from the rest of Europe.
Prince Louis took advantage of the situation immediately, by lowering taxes in these towns and then extracting large percentages of the occupying soldiers to march on other towns – Vienna and Prague.
It should be noted at this point of the other significant occurrences in Europe. The Spanish now occupied most of Spain, with only the Portuguese and a small Moorish settlement in the south sharing the land. The Venetian Empire was growing in power and size, winning their war against the Byzantines and Hungary. Poland, who was allied with the Holy Roman Empire, were spreading eastwards into Russia, and was the only Kingdom comparable in size to France once France had taken Vienna and Prague. England was losing her war with Scotland, despite some heroic victories, and she had lost the town of York, with the Scots still threatening to go further south and into Wales. Denmark had also taken advantage of the Holy Roman civil war, and had taken Hamburg, and was now bordering France, with whom they were not on good terms. The Papal States also, were not on good terms with the French, and had been defeating Milan in their war.
These relationship worries were now France's new priority, with the Holy Roman Empire not posing any threat. And with King Philip deceased in foreign territory after the Crusade was over in 1194, the newly crowned King Louis would have to prove his authority as well as command with these new problems having to be addressed. As the irony began to unfold that as France became more powerful, the chance of a much larger war with many nations increased. This war would be something that she would struggle coping with. And this war was the Eastern War of Europe.
From One war to the Next
The Eastern War of Europe, while being named so, was not only fought in the East of Europe, but on nearly all of France's land borders, except that with Portugal. It was named the Eastern war of Europe, however, because the main conflict was between the nations of France and Venice, Hungary, Poland.
The war began in 1200, directly after peace was declared with the Holy Roman Empire. France was then pulled into another costly war; one that she believed would lead to her downfall and make her cease to exist. She was partly right.
In 1200, although France could easily crush the Holy Roman Empire (bar the small bit of land in Italy) this would have left her bordering Hungary, and the new rival superpower in Europe – Venice. Venice had been conquering the Byzantine Empire and was the richest state in Europe; France's economy was not in any trouble, but she could not compete with the wealth that the Venetians maintained. Sicily too, was becoming quite powerful, and had always claimed Italy as her own. The Papal States, however, were far too powerful and influential for Sicily to go it alone.
Venice declared war on France in 1200, blockading her ports in the Mediterranean of Marseille and Toulouse. She had recently agreed military access with the Holy Roman Empire, so that she could march across their lands with no fear of being attacked. Venice also had a strong alliance with Poland who was allied with Hungary – this being the oldest alliance in Europe, created originally to stop Russia from entering Europe – however Hungary and Venice were not on good terms, and their relations were terrible since their minor conflict about Hungary's access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea, which Venice denied.
Venice, however, had their eyes set on Paris, and they believed that if France were to no longer control Paris, then the French people would go into chaos, and then France would not be a huge problem in Europe. Another thing that Venice had in their favour was that the recently elected pope – Urban I – was Venetian, and had little guilt when France was excommunicated in 1198.
In 1204, The Holy Roman Empire became a client Kingdom with Venice, and marched onto Prague, Nuremburg and Vienna with German generals, but a large majority of mercenary and Venetian soldiers. France had to cut back on her military at the end of the War of European Betrayal in order to maintain a strong income, and she did not expect another war so soon. Despite this, France managed to hold on to Nuremburg and Vienna, but Prague fell after a long and bloody battle, with King Louis being the last man slain in the battle. He himself was deemed a hero among the French and a noble man among the Germans, for they respected the French as they were strong fighters and loyal enemies.
The Venetians were not so respective of their enemies, having sacked most of their Byzantine cities that they captured, along with 'ethnic cleansing' of the land. Most of the Venetian generals knew nothing of chivalry and being a prisoner of war in a Venetian camp meant almost certain death.
After the loss of Prague and the death of King Louis, France went into chaos as the heir to the French throne was a weak leader and had no authority over people. Guile de Lombard was becoming an elderly man and was not much of a fighter; the French people nevertheless relied on him to keep the Venetians at bay.
In 1210, the German coalition armies then launched a second assault on Nuremburg, Metz, Bruges and Antwerp; with the Venetians marching upon Bern to take Switzerland. De Lombard personally commanded the Antwerp defence army, with the newly crowned King Charles defending Bruges. Antwerp was a quick victory for De Lombard, and Charles defended Bruges with more tenacity than most expected, partly due to his patriotism and partly to prove himself to the French people. 1218 saw the fall of Bern after an 18 hour battle, whereby the peasants chose to fight out of their freewill as they had a love for the French; and in 1224, after a 14 year siege, Metz finally fell back into the hands of the Holy Roman Empire.
In these first years of war, to Europe it looked as if France would fall within the century and the years of ascension under the now named Louissian era would be nothing but a memory. The western European states began to realise however, that Venice was getting too powerful and was threatening every nation in Europe. At this stage, this was just a minor worry for the other European states, as they had their own wars to fight. Spain was defeating the Portuguese in the War of Spanish Retribution, and the English were finally turning the tide against the Scots in the excruciatingly long Anglo-Scot war. There were a number of uprisings taking place around Europe also, with the Welsh fighting their way to independence, and the Danes and Russians fighting their own civil wars in an attempt to secure a monarch with power. The Moors were the only nation that had not had a war in over 100 years, and held no allegiances to any nation. They were however a backward and retarded nation, with a miniscule military and relatively no income. The Venetians were now under severe pressure as they were fighting on two fronts; they had wiped out the Hungarian nation with Poland's approval due to their fear of Venice, but in doing so had lost land in the south to the Byzantines, who had been preparing to retake land for some time.
In 1136, the Holy Roman Empire launched their third assault, this time into France itself. They besieged Antwerp and Bruges, Paris and Marseille – hoping to take all of these settlements and organise a peace treaty with the French, as they did not see the need to exterminate the nation.
By 1142, the second battle of Antwerp and the Siege of Marseille were over, and resulted in a disaster in German co-ordination, whereby half of the hired mercenaries did not show up for the battle, and robbed the German generals blind. The relatively nationalised armies at Paris and Bruges were more successful, however, as there was initial success in both battles. The Germans successfully took Bruges and occupied it relatively freely. The French Parisians however were not as happy with the German occupation, and re-instated the city as French after a revolution in which the Parisians murdered over 400 German and Venetian guards, and burned down the General's lodge, killing him. The French government then held an emergency meeting, whereby they decided upon conscription into the army by every man, who would be trained by Guile De Lombard's son – Philip. This program proved affective, as it allowed the entire army to be retrained at relatively little cost. The schemes undertaken at the very start of the Kingdom of France's birth were helping sustain her, as most of the crops laid westwards, near the Atlantic.
By 1250 then, the French army had deterred the Germans and the Venetians enough to be able to go on the offensive, and they were ready for a war.
The Turn of the War to the Turn of the Century
By 1256, Most of the European conflicts had been resolved, and the only war that was present in Europe was the most catastrophic in its history, which seemed as if France would cease to exist. It was however, through devotion of the European states to their allegiances that France would continue to exist.
In 1260, England had just attained a crushing victory over Scottish forces not far from Edinburgh; it was this that allowed England to declare war on The Holy Roman Empire and sail across the channel to attack two of their settlements. This surprised France as she did not think that England would have the confidence or indeed strength to crush the power of the Reich. England's devotion and talent for fighting, however proved worthy enough to overcome the might of the German armies, and attained numerous victories in the Rhine, Frankfurt, Bern, and Metz, while only receiving a single defeat at the hands of the Venetians. This campaign of the Allied French and Germans' forces gave France some hope of perhaps not total victory similar to that she had seen in the past, but at least not complete defeat.
The English also brought across the channel the latest in gunpowder equipment, with large bombards and small hand gunners. While these were not devastating in the damage they caused, the sheer sound of these machines was so intense that it made German and Venetian cavalry turn tail and run before they had sustained any casualties. There was a large force extracted from France also, that had sustained few injuries from the previous Franco-Germanic battles but had the experience that dated back to Prince Louis. This experience combined with England's technology made the Allied force nearly impossible to overthrow. The formation of the French National Guard also allowed civilians to protect and organise themselves with little or no actual military presence needed. The French peasants were well equipped and experienced to sustain plentiful supplies of healthy crops to keep the populace fed, which kept the populace happy. And while it is highly unlikely that this National Guard would be able to hold out against a professional army if one were to attack, it did indeed mean that the towns and cities far from the frontline could be almost military-free zones. This allowed the French government to send the large majority of the French military into battle, which kept a large amount of pressure on the Venetians and the Germans, who did not have such a system of government.
By 1276, the Allied campaigns had been exhausted and the troops were resting just behind French territorial lines. While they had not gained any significant land in the campaign, they had successfully crippled the German military machine, and left the Venetian army in chaos – it seemed that the Venetian military was a highly corrupt and unstable one, whereby only victories would keep the men fighting. The German military was still organised by the end of the campaign, however the numbers were not comparable to that of the French and English militaries. This led to the treaty of Nuremburg in 1278, where The Holy Roman Empire pulled out of the war and returned Metz to the French.
The Tide Turns
The Venetians were disgusted by The Holy Roman Empire's cowardice, and believed that if the German armies truly were as weak as they suggested, they could be crushed by Venice and occupied to extend her small border with the French, as the Holy Romans would no longer allow Venice military access into France. Another problem that Venice faced was her southern border, which was now being overrun by Byzantine armies and sacked at an alarming rate. Venice had spent too much focus on her western front and ignored what she believed was a war already won against the Byzantines. Now that Venice was facing a significant threat of a war lost on two fronts, she turned to the Papacy and the Poles for assistance. The Polish declined due to their war with Russia that had now been going on for almost a century. The Pope, however, agreed to attack France on the grounds that Venice would donate a huge amount of money to the church. With this new alliance in place, The Papal States readied her forces for attack. The French were aware that this would at some point happen and therefore made a pre-emptive strike by besieging Milan and Genoa, while the majority English army under the command of General Louis de Bordeaux marched to Venice itself.
In 1280, France took Milan easily from the Papacy, with only a small militia holding out in the city square and the majority of the Pope's forces surrendering without much of a fight. Genoa was a harder fight for the French, as the city was up a steep hill that made moving any siege equipment except ladders suicidal. The eventual fall of the city took over 2 hours of battle, with the French sustaining many injuries.
1284 saw the fall of Venice with the execution of the Venetian government and Grand Duke Franco II, along with his family. There was much civil unrest in Venice initially, due to the English knights raping and pillaging in much of the city. General Louis however, came down harshly on these acts that undermined his chivalrous nature. He helped re-build Venice to that of its previous glory and managed to get the majority of the population on his side. With the execution of the government, the rest of the Venetian land was in chaos. The catholic minority provinces under Venetian control such as those in Orthodox Greece and Slavic Hungary became hostile towards their neighbours of other faiths and developed a great xenophobia towards them. His was partly due to the lack of a distinct government in the regions, but also due to general hostility between Venice and their multi-cultural nations. Cultural diversity something that France, Germany and England had accepted very early on in their existence, due to their long histories of foreign occupation and regional disputes. Venice, however, began its life as a city-state with a 100% white, Italian, Catholic population. It was for this reason that she became very cautious of those who were of a different ethnicity or religion.
The xenophobia eventually turned into violence, with the country undertaking several revolutions in order to achieve a popular government with a firm grip of power. This proved impossible; however, as Venice was at war with many nations and her allies of Poland and the Papacy were becoming weaker and could not aid her in her troubles. As expected, France and England took advantage of this unrest and began to occupy several Venetian regions deep into orthodox-majority territory, with the Byzantines occupying several of their own lands. With the fall of Venice imminent by 1294, another war fought between religious groups of Catholic France and Orthodox Byzantium seemed almost imminent, however France did not want a repeat of the early years of The Eastern War of Europe, and offered the Byzantine Empire a number of territories in and around Hungary. The Byzantine Empire was very appreciative and accepted, even insisting that they pay a small sum of money to the French Kingdom. The French were initially surprised with the acceptance and gratitude of the Byzantines, but soon realised that they had worries that lay eastwards, beyond Turkey that were lurking, namely, The Mongolian Empire.
In 1296, The Holy Roman Empire invaded Denmark in order to take the land that was originally stolen from them during the War of European Betrayal. France aided the German armies (not that it was needed) and agreed upon a military, financial and political alliance, with trading and military access granted. The war with Denmark lasted only two years, when in 1298, the Danish surrendered unconditionally. In 1300, the last of the Papal States land was taken in Italy by a joint French and Spanish attack, with the land being divided equally. The Papal States now lay in the small island of Corsica, with the Pope holding no influence over any Catholic nation. In 1300, after the fall of Rome to the Sicilians, the Treaty of Rome was signed by every head of state in Europe, as the Eastern War of Europe had involved some sort of territorial change for every nation.
The full terms of the Treaty were thus:
Spain will cease hostilities with Portugal and Sicily
France will give Nuremburg and Prague to The Holy Roman Empire in return for Hamburg and Stuaren
England will give her mainland Europe settlements in Venice to France
France will give Sofia, Bucharest and Thessalonica to The Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantines will cease hostilities with Turkey
The Moors will give The Papal States Corsica, in return for a donated 4,000 florins from Sicily.
Spain will occupy all of mainland Italy except Milan and Venice (French) and Rome (Sicilian)
The Egyptian Empire Sultan will sign over all land rights to the Turks and The Sicilians, Sicily holding all land west of the Suez, Turkey holding all east of it.
Russia will cease hostilities with the Danish in exchange for the Finnish Forest territories.
This treaty brought Europe into an entire state of ceasefire, and while it was heavily in favour of France, they were now once again the most powerful nation in Europe. They had strong alliances with England and The Holy Roman Empire, although both maintained independence and were strong powers themselves. The Byzantine Empire, along with Turkey and Sicily were capable powers, with all three holding large stretches of land. England was the richest nation financially, with a wealth that seemed almost boundless. Spain was a Very strong and influential power in the Mediterranean, but was not near the strength of France and Germany militarily. She was however, bordering Portugal, who she had just come out of a long war with, and appeared as the victor, taking Lisbon. The Moors, beyond Portugal, were still in a state of decline and collapse, but were rich in Iron, Steel and Coal which the Moorish Sultans failed to utilise time and time again. It is not as strange as it would appear to the eye that France would agree to give back land to the Germans, as she was much appreciative of the Holy Roman Empire's respect for the French organisation and cooperation between peasantry and military, and the Germans looked up to this almost futuristic achievement as something to follow.
While Europe was now in a state of relative peace, there was no doubt that relations were still tense between nations and ethnic groups. If prosperity among France was to continue, it would seem that there would have to be a further conflict in the near future in which she would eliminate her rivals that posed a threat to her.
The Golden Age of Europe
After the Treaty of Rome, the 14th Century marked a point in European history, whereby war would for once not be at the forefront of European states' minds. The Golden Age however, was by no means prosperous for every nation in Europe in every way possible. While there were no wars being fought, military spending was at an all time high out of paranoia that one nation would attack another. This paranoia of foreign invasion was also present due to the increasing threat of the Mongols, who had only recently appeared near Baghdad, and was posing a threat to Europe's entire economic stability, for all Western European nations had trading agreements with the Byzantine Empire, Turkey and Egypt which was allowing such military spending to be sustained. This money also, was funding the Turkish army by itself – and if the Mongols were to push further into the Middle East, many economies around Europe would crumble under their own weight.
The Kingdom of France, now being the superpower of Europe, was not in as much need of these supplies from the Middle East due to being almost entirely isolated and self-sufficient (this was arguably the reason she was able to turn the tide in the war with Venice, and was now the most powerful nation in Europe). However France did rely on the ports on the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea that were controlled by the Turks for ship maintenance and large amounts of sugar trade that she brought back to France. While this was not essential to her ever expanding empire, she was not a Kingdom that liked to be denied her luxuries, and decreed that if it were to come to it, war would be a formidable option that she would take.
The invaders from the far east were not the only foreigners worrying the French and threatening European peace, as the Kingdom of Spain was growing ever more tenacious and while their economy was miniscule compared to that of England, France and The Holy Roman Empire, her knowledge of the sea and shipbuilding was far superior to any other nation in Europe. Her armies too, were ones not to be aggravated as they had already been witnessed crushing the Portuguese in Lisbon, and even launching a successful conquest against the Papal armies.
If France was to eventually go to war with the Spanish, she would also be fighting on two fronts – something that she had always feared, but never actually been forced into.
The increasingly aggravated tensions were only a part of this Golden Age of Europe, however, as there was much industrialisation of the military taking place in many states. France, while having a relatively modest army in comparison to her land mass, boasted the most advanced technology in warfare. She had created the Grande Bombard, along with the Culverins (A larger, more versatile variety of cannon) and she had developed the handgun to an extent that left armour no more effective than the flesh itself. The Spanish (and to a lesser extent the Germans) did not have the patience or money to spend on upgrading and researching new technologies and developments in warfare, so the government was 'restricted' to mass conscription into the army, and by 1310, the Spaniards maintained the largest military in the world. However knowing whether larger numbers or better technology would give the most advantages could only be solidly known through a conflict between nations; and this was something that most nations were working to avoid.
The balance of power in Europe was heavily tilted and indeed unbalanced by about 1320. There were a strict number of 'ruling powers' as it were, with an even stricter number of 'peasantry powers' (as it was far more likely for a poor power to develop into a great power, than for a great power to slip into decline at this state of global neutrality). These 'Ruling Powers' (France, England, Spain, Russia and The Byzantines) were in control of how Europe was governed. Most of these powers did not take into consideration the views of the smaller powers for the majority of the time. These smaller powers (Sicily, Denmark, Turkey, The Papal States and The Moors) were to some extent at the mercy of the Great Powers, and if a war was to break out, there would be little stopping these small powers from being completely obliterated.
By 1345, Europe was at breaking point. Spain and The Byzantines had been disputing many things since the Treaty of Rome took place, and the Spanish were disputing over which regions of Sicily belonged to Spain and which were Byzantine soil. These disputes enforce the idea that little consideration was given to the smaller powers and their right to independence, and it also enforces the land greedy and power hungry nations that were only being kept in check through fear of French and English intervention against them – for neither side knew who Europe would side with if war was to break out.
The English too, had made claims on Oslo, while Russia claimed Finland as Russian land. This put Denmark in an undeniably tough situation, with two Great Powers threatening to invade and occupy their land. The English and Spanish economies had been slowing in years leading up to 1345, and this provoked even more of a push to take foreign land, and while France did not need a war to keep her economy steady, there was much dispute in France about whether or not a war should be fought to end these rivalries once and for all. It was this then, and not the quest for power, money or land that led France into her final war. It was the quest for peace that began the Fifty Year War.
The 50 Year War
The Spanish Invasion
In 1348, Spain sent a large navy filled with Spanish swordsmen, spearmen, cavalry, archers and Generals from Valencia to occupy the Sicilian lands of Tunisia, Sardinia, Sicily and Rome. Much to the Spaniards surprise, the Sicilians resisted not half as much as they had predicted, allowing Spain to occupy Rome, Sardinia and Tunisia with relatively few casualties. It was the island of Sicily, however, that proved to be a disaster for Spain's military. A large storm had formed above the Spanish fleet and destroyed over half of the ships, taking almost a third of the army with it. When the fleet finally did reach Sicily then, it was even more of a shock that the Byzantines had landed there first, and had occupied a small farm outside Palermo. The Spanish and Byzantine armies met with the Byzantines having fewer men but three cannons which she used to punch holes in the Spanish line of defence. When they engaged in battle, the Spanish were overrun and the Byzantines lost no more than 100 men. The first collision of the Great Powers had been witnessed and it took place entirely on foreign soil. The Byzantines went on after this battle to capture Palermo making Sicily a memory of Europe. With this, Europe awaited France's decision.
France delayed her decision until after the Sicilian's had been destroyed because she wished to not get involved in what would seem like a petty war. When the Byzantines defeated Spain, it sent a message (even if a very vague one) that technology was advantageous over larger numbers. France, then, believed she could take out Spain as a major power or perhaps even all together, and let her not worry about being attacked on two land fronts ever again.
In 1350, France officially declared war on Spain and formed an alliance with the Byzantines; first concentrating on Italy, as this was where the gap between Byzantine and French land was at its smallest. France sent small numbers of forces with their evolved gunpowder weapons to take Florence in Spain, which was well known for keeping a large military garrisoned within its walls. This large military was indeed over four times as large as the French force; and this spurred on the Spanish to leave their walls behind them, and charge the French force. Leading the Spanish straight into their trap, the French opened fire with devastating force. She fired her culverins and grand bombards into the front lines of charging cavalry, rendering them corpses. When in range, the musketeers then opened fire on the men-at-arms running towards them, and just as expected the first and second lines of infantry were wiped out in a matter of seconds. The musketeers had finished reloading their weapons when the men-at-arms were no more than 100 yards away, and they fired once more, depleting the Spanish numbers significantly. When they began to flee back behind their walls, the French forces followed in after them, taking to the walls and overlooking the city – firing down upon the men who approached them.
This tactic was used time and time again by Byzantine and French forces against their foes in the 50 Year War, and the enemy rarely interpreted their moves due to not having the technology themselves.
After the fall of Florence in 1350, France controlled the north of Italy and had made an agreement to invade Spain itself on France's southern border once Byzantium had captured all Spanish occupation in the Mediterranean. This meant that France could invade mainland Spain (no doubt the most protected part of the Kingdom) without fears of aid from across the Mediterranean. It also meant on a lighter note, that France's southern border was now agreed to shift for the first time since the War of French Reclamation over 250 years previous to this. The Byzantine Empire happily occupied Sardinia, Tunisia, Rome and was pushing into southern Italy using the tactics mentioned earlier when France launched her two part assault on mainland Spain.
The first part of the plan would be to attack where Spain did not expect – in the northwest via the sea. France suspected marching through the Pyrenees into Spain would be a great mistake as this would have given the Spanish the high ground, and was no doubt what she was expecting. The French, therefore, attempted to sail and invade from the northwest, which would shift the majority of the armed forces to fight them, thus leaving the Pyrenees free to be able to march through. The French prepared for this plan and by 1354 she had landed in Spain. The plan was a relative success for the French, as she was able to gain some ground in the northwest but was held off by the sheer size of the Spanish waves of attack marching to their death. It nevertheless enabled the second French Army to march quickly through the Pyrenees and occupy the cities of Zaragoza and Pamplona. This fight on two fronts sent the Spanish armies into chaos, and allowed the first Spanish Army to occupy Leon after a small fight.
By the end of 1356, the first part of the Spanish Invasion was complete and Europe was thrown once again into a state of war. With France involved in her own war, Europe saw this as an opportunity to fight and get away with it. England and Russia then led a joint invasion of the Danish lands, and England had taken Stockholm and Oslo as well as all of the land north of this bordering Finland, which was not Russian. Denmark was on the brink of collapse in almost the exact same circumstances as Sicily had been under. It is also worth noting, that the Mongolian invasion was no more than a dog's bark far larger than its bite. The Mongols occupied Baghdad was then overthrown by the townspeople, unhappy with their barbaric nature. The Mongols then retreated back into Asia, and were no longer Turkey's problem.
A brief ceasefire was agreed between Spain and the Allied nations in 1356 until 1360 due to an uprising occurring within Constantinople whereby Muslims were publicly rioting and killing Orthodox inhabitants. The Byzantine government began slaughtering all Muslims in the country, and attempted a full 'ethnic-cleansing' programme whereby not only Muslims but some Christians were publicly executed for crimes against religion. This upset many of the Catholic nations, especially the Holy Roman Empire, who had seen religion tear apart its own nation and openly condemned the Byzantines for their segregation and persecution.
This temporary ceasefire was pleaded by the Spanish as they would not unconditionally surrender, but needed time to re-establish control and order within the army. France grudgingly accepted the peace, due to the Byzantines wishes, and sat idly by watching the Spanish rebuild all that the French had worked to destroy, all the while knowing that they would have to destroy it once more. By 1360, the Byzantines were in a position where they could now effectively be at war once more, and returned to attack the Spanish in Italy, eventually pushing up to the French border and settling.
Evaporating the Spanish Army
The problem the Byzantines and French soon established was that fighting when outnumbered, even when attaining victory, was a long and monotonous task. It required much repetition and patience to do, as well as much stamina in an army, who could spend the most part of a day operating heavy weapons under the full heat of a Mediterranean summer.
This problem grew worse as the Spanish army withered away, and there were ordinary peasants fighting alongside and against fully trained and well-equipped soldiers. The irony emerged that the more men that France and the Byzantine Empire killed, the more men there were to fight in the next battle. Even though victory seemed inevitable on occasions for the French, the French army became de-moralised due to the heat and laborious task of firing, reloading, cocking, firing, reloading etc. It was this that made Spain come close to victory in some situations, and it was this that showed the weakness in the devotion of the French army. This was more of a problem for the French than the Byzantines also, because France relied more on gunpowder and had less men-at-arms and melee infantry. The traditional way of fighting battles that had existed for 2 millennia was now changing, and the transition from one generation of warfare to the next was a slow one, but one that France had all faith in working. The Byzantine transition into the inevitable widespread use of gunpowder would be slower therefore, as they relied on ranged weaponry far less than melee combat – in which she was one of the best skilled in Europe, only to be comparable to that of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Spanish army nevertheless, stood no chance against the French armies and began to flee into their North African territories, hoping that France would not pursue immediately, having to deal with the unrest that would no doubt ensue from Spanish Catholics as well as Spanish Muslims. France however, took a zero tolerance policy to unrest, and instated curfews on the urban populations, with anyone out after dark, or anyone causing disruption to be shot on sight by guards. While this kept civil unrest down, many saw this as an eclipse of what the Byzantines were still doing in their lands, killing people of other faiths who caused disturbance. The French however were not "ethnic cleansing", rather protecting their own interests by keeping control of the streets with force.
By 1366, Spain was entirely occupied by France, with only Marrakesh being the last major stronghold for the Spanish people. The French took no time to rest, and sent the force (now known as The Spanish Inquisitor legion – due to their ruthlessness) across into North Africa, with the Byzantines attempting to break through the Moorish lines of defence and take as much of North Africa as they could. While France met little resistance that proved troublesome on her way through Africa, the Byzantines were met with fierce tenacity from the Moors, who while were weak, were proud and fiercely protective of the small land they occupied. When Spain was finally defeated in 1367, the Byzantines asked for assistance, knowing that the Moors could not keep up this tenacity on two fronts. The French accepted the proposal, pushing further into Africa than she had intended to, and while the Byzantines were aided in the war, they had not in fact gained any land in Africa past Tunisia, and when the Byzantines demanded Algeria from the French after the war and the French denied, the Byzantines were disgusted.
Allies Turned Enemies
With the refusal to turn over Algeria to the Byzantines, France readied herself for what she assumed would be an even longer war with an even more formidable foe. The Byzantines, however, were not as confident in themselves as the French were in them, having struggled against the Moors and still politically split in the country and the capital. There were many rebellious armies springing up around the Byzantine lands, with Muslims fighting and overtaking villages and even large towns. The Byzantines were not confident that they would be able to fight themselves as well as France, but were too proud a nation to refuse to fight in a war and accept the consequences. Because of this, war ensued.
In 1370, the French planned to invade from the western Mediterranean first, taking out the now Byzantine islands and Italy, so they could then focus on Greece. This plan was carried out in 1372, with the French armies pushing southwards in Italy, and 'island hopping' across the Med, eventually taking all of Italy and Malta. The only real challenge was taking Tunisia, as much of the Byzantine army in Italy had been extracted and was now in Greece and Eastern Europe trying to suppress the rebellious armies, with varying degrees of success. The Tunisian army, however, was the Byzantines most veteran and took some tactical skill on the French part to overcome the struggle with minimal casualties. Nevertheless, the French army succeeded in their efforts and now looked upon eventually taking Constantinople, and finally conquering their last enemy in Europe. They were however, beaten.
When I say beaten, I do not mean defeated, I mean that they were simply beaten to taking Constantinople and the Byzantine lands. In 1378, The Turkish armies swept across The Byzantine Empire capturing numerous settlements and were met with almost no witnessed resistance. This was due to a large percentage of the Byzantine army fleeing into Turkish or Russian lands and disbanding due to the problems the country was in. This, with the aid of Muslim militias, allowed the Turks to march in and capture the majority of the Byzantine lands freely. This was accomplished by 1384, with France quickly acting to take as much of the land for themselves as they could, which was a formidable amount when compared to the speed of the Turkish armies. The Byzantines were no more, and the Turks had worked to become a Great Power in Europe alongside the likes of England, France and Russia.
The Kingdom Of France
This complete obliteration of a Great Power, as it was, and the formation of another went to show the delicate balance of power being kept in Europe, but it also went to show the rest of the world the power of the French armies. One thing that it did show also, was that large underdeveloped armies were not powerful enough to stop small technologically superior 'militias' as they became to be known. The force of the culverins and bombards as well as the effectiveness of the hand-gunners against the Spanish had shown the world that Gunpowder was making its way into the world as the new way of fighting wars. This theory had been secured by the success of the French armies over the Byzantines, who while having developed gunpowder technology, did not rely on it as much as their men-at-arms infantry. This was shown time and time again, for example in Turkey in 1406, when the a huge Timurid army accompanied by heavy cavalry and elephants charged a relatively small Turkish army which had in its armoury sixteen large Six-Shot cannons which alone massacred the entire Timurid army.
With this, the French fielded the most technologically advanced, the largest and the most powerful army. France's wealth was boundless after the fall of Byzantium, and The French held over 70 territories in Europe by 1400. And this is where the Story of the Kingdom of France ends. Charlemagne set out the guidelines for the Kingdom of France when he commanded the Frankish Kingdoms at the end of the dark ages. In 1080, the Kingdom Of France wished for a peaceful Europe, where she could develop and prosper within her borders while exercising trade with other nations. She was soon overwhelmed with enemies however, and was turned against her will into a warring nation, a nation that's quest for peace revolved around the winning of wars. A quest for peace that was eventually acquired.