Part 1: Crusader Kings: Chapter 1 - Prologue: Germany, Anno Domini 1067
Prologue: Germany, Anno Domini 1067
In 1067, there was little to indicate that House Hohenzollern would become the future rulers of a truly unified Germany. Poor and insignificant, situated in the midst of Germany and neighbouring several powerful Duchies, the Hohenzollern County of Schawben offers a particularily ill-suited base for any sort of expansion through conquest.
Friedrich I is its young ruler, a proud and lustful young man with far more charm than scruples, who has spent most of his youth training with arms rather than preparing himself for the task of leading his dynasty. Regardless, he has some talent in the ways of intrigue and politics, and is at least a competent if unenthusiastic administrator and diplomat. A dozen or so armored knights and a few hundred peasants with spears or bows is all the troops that he can call on as ruler of Schwaben.
Schwaben is ruled according to the traditional laws that most rulers in Germany follow. Inheritance is traced through both male and female children, though only males can hold titles, and a balanced approach towards both the church and the power of the noble class is in place. As a small and poor County, Schawben can only afford a skeleton court, and has no marshal for its forces. Friedrich recently raised taxes to the highest levels allowed by the law, and simulatenously reduced his donations to local monasteries, offering a variety of excuses citing the 'dire need in the realm' while the gold piles up in the vaults of Castle Schwaben.
Heinrich IV is the King of Germany. Known to history as the excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor who lost the century-old power struggle with the Papacy, he is a largely disliked king whose diplomatic inability is bound to inspire risings among his vassals.
Friedrich is a vassal of the neighbouring Duchy of Swabia, and has pledged to supply armed men and scutage in exchange for the protection offered by Rudolf von Rheinfelden. Though openly maintaining the guise of a loyal vassal, Friedrich secretly considers House Hohenzollern the rightful rulers of all Swabia and would like nothing more than to wrest Wurtemburg, Ulm and Furstenburg from his liege.
There is currently only one promising prospect for fulfilling that secret dream: Rudolf von Rheinfelden has two children - a son aged 7, and a daughter aged 9. Being a fairly old man with a hunchbacked wife, it is unlikely that he will produce another heir, and under semisalic law, a son of Adelaide von Rheinfelden would inherit the Duchy if something were to happen to Rudolf's son. Even if that grandchild happened to be named von Hohenzollern. But for now, she is just a child, and marriage propositions must wait...
On the topic of marriage, suitors from all over Germany have begun flocking to Schwaben, asking for the hand of the unwed Steward Richenza. All offers are politely declined, as Schwaben needs its steward to manage its growing treasury.
The tiny County of Neuchatel on the border to France has risen in revolt against King Heinrich, perhaps hoping that other fellow vassals will do the same. The revolt fails to spread and the county is swiftly defeated by Heinrich and made a part of the royal demesne.
Friedrich completes his education, having learning little more from it than how to wield a lance and ride a warhorse.
Perhaps inspired by the Count of Neuchatel, the Duchess of Toscana has incited a revolt in Italy. Despite the backing of the pope and a fairly large army, it is doubtful that Toscana can stand against the already mobilized armies of the King for long.
Schwaben continues its decline into poverty, as a county-wide lack of manure has produced a particularily poor crop this year.
After a few months of fighting, the revolt in Italy is all but over, though a couple armies loyal to the Duchess stubbornly fight on.
Seeking allies for a potential bid on his liege's Duchy, Friedrich befriends the ruler of the neighbouring County of Baden on a hunting trip.
Though the months and years drag on as Friedrich waits for Adelaide to come of age, the Count at least knows how to keep busy. A score of bastards may not endear him to the church, but asides from undeniable proof of the virility of the Hohenzollerns, it will be a valuable source of reliable courtiers in the future.
The year turns to 1072, and while she is still too young for marriage, Friedrich begins to visit Adelaide at the court of Niederbayern where she is being fostered. As his growing number of bastards can attest to, Friedrich owns a certain amount of charm, and young Adelaide is soon head-over-heels in love, though her father has made it clear that she will not marry a lowly Count, let alone one of his vassals.
In 1073, Friedrich is visiting his liege's castle to settle a minor border dispute with his friend, Lord Adalbert of Baden. The minor dispute turns into a bitter argument over the logging rights to a particularily rich stretch of forest, and right in front of the Duke of Swabia, the Lord of Baden suggests that Friedrich's ancestry is traced from a french goat farmer. Harsh words and demands for recompense follow, though nothing comes of it, and the two friends eventually settle their differences with vast quantities of german ale.
The local Archbishop, unhappy with the low donations and perhaps catching wind of the gold piling up in Friedrich's basement, requests a large donation for the building of a new church. Not wishing to be seen as a skeptic or opponent to the powerful church, Friedrich reluctantly agrees and levies extra taxes. Fortunately this has no adverse effect on the County's stability.
More bad news follow, as the still fervertly courted Richenza catches an illness from one of her suitors. Despite rattling coughs and a runny nose, she continues to fulfill her duties as steward, as there is noone to replace her.
A grizzled veteran from the fighting in Italy comes to Schwaben seeking asylum. Friedrich agrees, and appoints him marshal of the small Schwabian army.
1074 comes around, and with it, Adelaide of Swabia has finally reached maritable age. She sends a letter to her father expressing her wish to be bethroted to Friedrich von Hozenhollern. Her father replies with a letter demanding she immediately return to his court. Somehow, the messenger bearing this letter fails to arrive in Niederbayern, though another letter bearing the Swabian seal where Rudolf grants the marriage his blessing is delivered to Count Otto of Niederbayern.
A few weeks later, Friedrich arrives in Niederbayern to escort his bethroted back to Schwaben, where the two are wed. Attempts by the Duke to nullify the marriage end in nothing, particularily after it is revealed that Adelaide is with child.
In 1075, the Duke of Swabia is struck by another misfortune as his only heir, Adelaide's brother, dies in a tragical accident involving a fall out of a tower window. Though ill tongues claim that the Hohenzollerns were responsible for the death, Friedrich makes sure such vile lies are not spoken where his wife can hear them. Besides, the Hohenzollern Count has his own share of misfortunes: A large amount of the gold amassed in the treasure chamber is missing, though noone knows what it could have possibly been spent on.
Richenza's illness progresses into pneumonia, and as she becomes too ill to carry out her duties, Friedrich appoints his wife as the new steward. Richenza dies later the same year.
An ancient document in which a Hohenzollern ancestor is proclaimed protector of the lands currently making up the County of Aargau is found in the castle library. Aargau is currently ruled by the child-count of House Habsburg, historically the future rulers of Austria, Spain and innumerable minor kingdoms, duchies and fiefs. As the Habsburg House are loyal subjects of Germany, any declaration of war would be met with a harsh response from King Heinrich, and so there is little that can be done to enforce the claim for now.
A crusade is called to liberate Jerusalem. Even if he desired to participate, there is little that the barely half a thousand men under Friedrich can do to change the course of the holy war, and so they can be put to better use back home in Schwaben, or so he argues.
Late in 1075, the news that everyone at the court have been anxiously awaiting are heralded: Adelaide has born a healthy boy, named Mathias von Hohenzollern. Though he is but an infant for now, if Mathias lives to see adulthood he will inherit not only his father's county but also the entire Duchy of Swabia, elevating the Hohenzollerns to a real position of power in Germany.
All hail Mathias von Hohenzollern, future Count of Schwaben, future Duke of Swabia!