Part 2: Crusader Kings: Chapter 2 - County to Duchy: 1076-1088
1076 - 1088: County to Duchy
In March of 1076, Duke Rudolf von Rheinfelden dies suddenly and unexpectedly after a short time of illness. Though the rumors speak of poisoning, the truth is that his death could not have come at a worse time for the Hohenzollerns. While the Duchy of Swabia is now theirs, its new ruler is the six-month old Mathias, and the Swabian vassals are likely to exploit this opportunity to break away from their new liege. A somewhat amusing side occurance is the need for Friedrich von Hohenzollern to publicly pledge allegiance to his own infant son.
As Friedrich feared, one of Mathias' vassals, the Bishop of Chur, refuses to pledge allegiance to his new liege and revolts. Troops loyal to King Heinrich quickly put down the revolt, but predictably enough, the shrewd monarch uses the opportunity to incorporate Chur into his demesne rather than returning it to Swabia.
News spread to Schwaben that the Orthodox empire of Byzantium is in the throes of civil war and dissolution. The Emperor has been run out of Constantinople and forced to seek refuge in Iraklion. A mere minor prince now rules the Second Rome. The Seljuk Turks have used the opportunity to grab considerable amounts of land in Asia Minor, and there seems to be little hope that the gateway to the holy lands will remain shut for much longer.
In the wake of the brutal surpession of the Tuscan rebels, more revolts have sparked across Italy, and almost all of the rulers on the Peninsula have joined arms against the german crown. Heinrich, perhaps realizing that if he continues the campaigns in Italy he may very well lose the rest of Germany, makes peace with the rebels, ending all infighting in his domain.
In times of peace, there are few things for a red-blooded ruler to do other than secure the succession line of his dynasty, and Friedrich does that job all too well.
He also takes some time to impart the Hohenzollern ways to his older bastards, and secure their education so that they may prove to be useful advisors to their House in the future.
A foresty is constructed using most of what remains of the taxes levied between 66 and 75. Access to quality timber will speed up any further constructions in Schwaben, as well as provide welcome revenue for its Count.
Tragedy strikes in 1078, as young Helene von Hohenzollern contracts a high fever and dies in her mother's arms.
Schwaben is stable and relatively prosperous, and hungering for recognition from his peers, Friedrich shares much of the wealth among the local barons, significantly improving his prestige.
As if to punish him for such excesses, an epidemic begins to spread across Schwaben and tax income slows to a trickle. Many of Friedrich's soldiers fall ill and die, and his Marshal, Henry, already in advanced years and failing health, succumbs as well.
In the height of the epidemic, Friedrich's wife demands that he purchase her a dress made from a new type of cloth invented in Lombardy. Short on money, Friedrich compromises and buys her a fine silver necklace instead.
More unwelcome news follow in 1079, as King Heinrich puts his grubby mitts on Aargau, the only land besides Schwaben that Friedrich has a direct claim to.
Shortly thereafter, Friedrich's good friend the Duke of Carinthia pays him a visit, ostensibly to hunt for boars. While riding through the forest, he speaks a dire warning to Friedrich in a hushed voice - King Heinrich's claim to Aargau was only the beginning. The German monarch is attempting to recoup his losses in Italy by expanding his personal demesne, attacking any vassal that could even be suspected of housing rebellious thoughts. The Duke of Carinthia strongly advises Friedrich to swear a public oath of loyalty to Heinrich, lest Swabia be added to the royal demesne. Friedrich reluctantly agrees. A short time later, the decision proves wise, as Heinrich invades and conquers the neighbouring county of Baden, whose ruler refused to take such an oath.
A new marshal is found, Leopold, the landless younger son of a wealthy North German duchy. A cultivated and charming young man, his knowledge of war is somewhat limited however.
Unfortunately, the new marshal proves to be a little too cultivated and charming, as Friedrich finds out when he spots Leopold alone with Adelaide in the castle garden, telling jokes and composing poetry. The interloper is quickly sent back to his father's court under armed escort. Despite yelling and tears, Adelaide gets over the incident, resuming the role of the dutiful wife.
The marshal found to replace Leopold is the older, uglier and even less competent Rupprecht, ex-captain of Friedrich's castle guard. Composed of barely two hundred men and led by a dull old geezer, Schwaben's army is now the laughingstock of central Germany.
With a new true-born Hohenzollern child joining the court each and every year, it is not easy being a marginalized bastard son.
The Pope has taken notice of the lack of a man of the word at Friedrich's court, and a landless bishop from Bohemia is quickly found and given the role of Diocese Bishop of Schwaben.
Spy Master Ursula passes away after a long life of covert service to the Hohenzollerns. Schwaben may be small and poor, but the Hohenzollerns are obviously attracting notice among the courts of Germany, for a skilled spymaster makes his services available to Friedrich within a month of her passing.
In 1084, Friedrich, happy over his newfound status, experiences a period of unusually righteous behaviour. He remains faithful to his wife, spends time with his sons, and is even seen in church at other times than the requisite monthly mass. Friedrich is Friedrich, however, and soon enough he is back to his old self.
The personalities of the older bastards have begun to mature, with fairly predictable results.
In November of 1084, the Kingdom of Bohemia proclaims its rule on the border between Poland, Hungary and Germany, incorporating the previously German Duchy of Bohemia. Heinrich, busy reclaiming the lands of 'disloyal' vassals, does nothing.
By 1085, Byzantium has dissolved completely. Emperor Romanos has been forced to flee again, this time to an isolated province on the Croatian border, and only four minor counts are still loyal to the Byzantine crown, meaning that the Byzantine Emperor is now weaker than even some of his former vassals.
As Orthodox power wanes, Catholic power waxes. Jerusalem is free!
After several relatively quiet years in europe, in late 1087 the French King declares war on England. He is joined by his ally, Heinrich of Germany, and soon most of Germany has been mobilized, including the troops loyal to Friedrich's now twelve-year old son Mathias. Noone bothers to ask Friedrich's dysentry-ridden army to join in the war.
The initial fighting goes badly for the English, as French troops sack their way through Essex and Bedford, and a french count lays claim to Sussex. German troops have also secured a foothold on English soil.
Shortly following the tales of the victories in England are even more welcome news: Schwaben has recovered from the disease and economical slumps that have plagued it for the last decade.
In March, as French armies push ever deeper into England, Count Friedrich rides out to celebrate Schwaben's prosperity with the year's first boar hunt. As he rides through the forest idly conversing with his ever more decrepid marshal, a snake emerges from the undergrowth, hissing at Friedrich's steed and causing it to rear. Friedrich hits his head hard on a rock and loses consciousness. He is quickly put over a horse and carted back to the castle.
Once back in his bed, however, a fever sets in. Friedrich regains his consciousness only briefly, ranting and raving about a Hohenzollern German Empire inbetween fits and shakes. He slips back into unconsciousness as the fever runs ever higher, and within days of recieving his injury, Friedrich von Hohenzollern, Count of Schwaben, rightful Count of Aargau, father to Mathias, Duke of Swabia, passes away.
He is succeeded by his son, the fourteen-year old Duke of Swabia. Raised away from his father's court and influence, young Mathias is maturing into a very different person than his father. Kind, diplomatic, and zealously religious, he has attracted the ire of the German King for his denouncements of Heinrich's opposition to the Pacapy and failure to contribute to the Crusades. He also has eleven sisters and brothers, many of which are bastards and all of which have inherited a good deal more of Friedrich's scheming nature, to contend with. Only time will tell if Mathias von Hohenzollern will prove able to defend his title against his own liege and the scheming machinations of his family.