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The Holy Britannian Empire (also known as the Britannian Empire or just Britannia) is a superpower and one of the 5 Great Powers that largely influence Earth in the early 21st century, the others being the United Hispanian States, the European Union, the Chinese Federation, and the Russian Federation.

History[]

Britannia Gratam []

The story of Britannia is a long and complicated one, affecting not just the British Isles, but the wider English-speaking world. Even today, historians still debate exactly when Britannia was founded, whether it be 55 BC or 1813 AD. Nevertheless, Britannia’s story begins in a series of kingdoms established in the British Isles. One of these kingdoms was supposedly led by a Celtic warlord named Alwyn or Eowyn.

Said warlord lead an army of various Celtic tribes to repel a Roman invasion of his kingdom led by Julius Caesar in the year 55 BC. According to the Britannian Legend, Alwyn’s actions are regarded as the "true" beginning of the Holy Britannian Empire, with Alwyn being the first designated Emperor.

However, scholars still debate whether he even existed, as the majority view the tale to be as fictitious as the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology. Indeed, many of the so-called facts about Azor Ahai came at the behest of Emperor Ricardo I of Britannia during the early 19th Century. Much like King Arthur, the Alwyn of British/Britannian tradition may have been a single person, the combined exploits of multiple persons, or merely a legend.

As a result, other historians have argued that a more plausible beginning for Britannia occurred in the early 5th to the early 7th century known as Sub-Roman Britannia, or more poetically as the Dark Ages. It is in this period that the legends of King Arthur, with whom many Britannians strongly identify themselves, are generally taken to have occurred. The stories of Arthur and his exploits are numerous and varied, but the Britannian Legend holds that it was Arthur, who claimed to be a descendant of Alwyn, who managed to reunite a fragmented and war-torn Roman Britannia. The legend states that rather naming himself Rex Britanniae (King of the Britannians), his bastard brother, a man named Aurelian Britannicus convinced him to name himself Imperator Britanniae (Emperor of the Britannians), as a means of continuing the legacy of Rome.

This so-called “First Britannian Empire” or the “Old Empire” was so strong that it was able to force its will on Scotland and Ireland also. It was short-lived, however, and was ultimately brought down by infighting and Anglo-Saxon invasions, culminating in Arthur’s death at the hands of Mordred shortly before his death at the Battle of Camlann in 537 AD, while Aurelian vanished from history, thus paving the way for the rise of the Kingdom of England. However, Aurelian's descendants, a family known as the House of Bretan, would play a vital role in English, British, and later Britannian history in the centuries to come.

From Anglo-Saxons to Plantagenets []

The deaths of Arthur and Mordred marked the end of Romano-British dominance in what would become England, and the beginning of the rise Anglo-Saxon dominance in said region, though they would be divided into numerous petty kingdoms. Regardless, the Anglo-Saxons would grow in numbers over the fifth century, their territories battling, merging, and metastasizing into powerful kingdoms. Those Romano-Britons they encountered were either killed or absorbed into their societies, the old Celtic tongue being gradually abandoned in favor of Old English. As their power grew, the Anglo-Saxons pushed north and west, driving the remaining Romano-Britons back into what are now Cornwall, Wales, northern England, and southern Scotland.

The result was a blend of Anglo-Saxon and Romano-British cultures, with Romano-British scholars helping Anglo-Saxon kings to govern their lands, and Romano-British priests gradually converting them to Christianity. Over time, the Anglo-Saxons became the dominant culture in the British Isles, though they remained divided into seven petty kingdoms known as the Heptarchy. Despite this division, the idea of a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom began to persist as time passed, as several Anglo-Saxon Kings would style themselves as "King of the Saxons" and even try to unite all of England, but with little success. The kingdom that nearly succeeded in uniting England was Mercia, under its king Offa. In what came to be known as the Mercian Supremacy, Offa would assert control over much of southern and central England. The Mercian Supremacy lasted from 626 AD until 825 AD, when King Eghbert of Wessex defeated the Mercians at the Battle of Ellandun, thus dividing England once more.

This division came to an end in 871, with the enthroning of Alfred as King of Wessex. Alfred was an unlikely hero, a sickly intellectual with a reputation for piety. However, with Scandinavian warriors known as Vikings ravaging the coasts of England, and now on the verge of conquering said land, it seemed as if Alfred and his kingdom were doomed to fall like the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. But despite everything, he managed not only to protect Wessex from Viking conquest but even to expand his domain at their expense. By the time of his death in 899, he controlled most of southern England, while the Viking-controlled portion to the north and east was called the Danelaw. His son Edward the Elder conquered a part of the Danelaw, and his grandson Aethelstan completed the process by 927, reigning as Rex Anglorum or King of the English. Such was his power, he was even able to invade and subject the young kingdom of Scotland to his overlordship; only for the resentful Scots to ally with the Vikings and invade his kingdom, leading to the epic battle of Brunanburh. Aethelstan's victory cemented the existence of England as a kingdom, though the same can be said of Scotland too. 

The House of Wessex would rule England until 1002, when Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark and Norway, invaded the kingdom supposedly in retaliation against the massacre of Danes living in England by King Aethelred the Unready, but his true intent was almost certainly conquest. He would die in 1014, however, resulting in his son, Cnut, completing the conquest by 1016. He would rule his three kingdoms until 1035, is sometimes called Canute the Great. His dynasty would collapse by 1042 however, with the death of his sons Harthacnut and Harald Harefoot.  His replacement was Edward, heir to the House of Wessex, raised in exile in Normandy. King Edward's rule was defined by his attempts to oust Godwin, who had betrayed his brother Alfred to torture and death at the hands of Harald Harefoot, from power. When these attempts failed, a disempowered Edward turned to religion, becoming known as the Confessor.  When he died without an heir in 1066, Godwin's son Harold took the throne with the approval of the nobles. In doing so he enraged William, Duke of Normandy, who regarded the throne as rightfully his. William famously invaded England in that same year, while Harold was occupied fighting off an invasion of northern England led by Harald Hardrada, King of Norway.

It is at that moment when one of Harold's vassals, a Briton nobleman named Ellyll de Bretan finally made his move. His family, the House of Bretan, was one of many noble families who claimed some connection to the “Old Empire” via one Aurelian Britannicus although their precise origins are unclear. Regardless, le Bretan had seen both the threat and opportunity William presented. Therefore, he secretly sent a letter to William, promising to aid him in his conquest of England in exchange that he keeps his lands and titles. William agreed to de Bretan’s terms. After Harold miraculously managed to defeat and kill Harald at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, he headed south to face William. This culminated in the Battle of Hastings. in which Harold was betrayed and killed by Ellyll de Bretan, resulting in the destruction of his army. William, after making de Bretan the Duke of Hastings, then took the throne and spent the rest of his life bending England to his will. He would be remembered as William the Conqueror.

The House of Normandy was a relatively short-lived dynasty; only ruling England until 1154. But there can be little doubt that it changed the country forever. The enforcement of Norman-style feudalism led to a more formal class structure, with social mobility becoming even more difficult if not impossible. Anglo-Saxon nobles were, with some exceptions, replaced with Norman knights. These new nobles no longer owned the land, but merely held it from the King in return for military service. The bulk of the population were peasant farmers, either free or Villeins bound to their land, living in small self-sufficient villages; a system that first appeared under the Anglo-Saxons, but became dominant under the Normans.

The Catholic Church also played an important role in Norman-English society. Though already Christian, the Norman Kings decisively subordinated the Church to the will of Rome, though the requisite changes in liturgy and practices were relatively minor. Many new monasteries were established, and existing ones grew in wealth and standing; indeed, the monasteries and the wider Church were among the few institutions where Normans and Anglo-Saxons could meet on equal terms.  

The Norman dynasty was replaced by the Plantagenet Dynasty in 1154, following a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.  The cause of the war was a succession conflict between Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and her cousin Stephen of Blois.  Matilda fought with the help of her second husband, Geoffrey Count of Anjou; called 'Plantagenet' for the spring of Common Broom he wore in his helmet.  Though she was unable to defeat Stephen, Matilda ensured via the Treaty of Winchester that her son Henry would succeed Stephen.  This he did in 1154, becoming King Henry II of England.  His patrimony was impressive indeed, including not only England but his father's Angevin Empire, which consisted of half of France.  Henry was a great reformer in his time, forging a coherent legal system out of a confused mixture of Anglo-Saxon tradition and Norman edict.  But he is primarily remembered for the death of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in Canterbury Cathedral supposedly on Henry's orders.  Thomas' martyrdom and subsequent sainthood blocked Henry from making a series of extensive reforms to the Church, which included depriving it of its judicial powers.  Much of the continental empire he inherited from his father was lost by his sons, though later Plantagenets managed to temporarily win it back.  

The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England from 1154 to 1485, being finally brought down by a period of internecine conflict remembered as the Wars of the Roses; this came to an end in 1485, when King Richard III met his end at the Battle of Bosworth Field.  His replacement as King, Henry Tudor, was the first of what would prove a mighty dynasty.    

The Golden Age []

He was succeeded in 1491 by his son Henry VIII, whose long and tumultuous reign would see England remove itself from the Roman Catholic Church.  He, in turn, was succeeded by his son Edward VI in 1547, who is remembered primarily for his extreme Protestantism, and his attempt to remove his half-sisters from the succession in favor of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey.  His death by tuberculosis in 1553 brought his half-sister Mary to the throne, who sought to reverse his religious reforms in favor of Roman Catholicism.  It is for her ruthless brutality in this cause that she is remembered, perhaps unfairly.  She was succeeded in 1558 by her half-sister Elizabeth, who in the course of her reign managed to stabilize England and lead it to power and prosperity.

It was during Mary I's reign that the name of Britannia rose once again in the form of Ellyll de Bretan's descendant, Edward de Bretan, Duke of Hastings. Despite being a southern noble, he was a Catholic and professed undying devotion to Mary.  But he was also ambitious, and when Mary commanded in 1558 that he marry her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Edward jumped at the chance.  Mary was dying, and the marriage was a last-ditch attempt to preserve her re-Catholicization of England.  But despite this, Mary had no intention of allowing Edward to become King of England, as a letter to Elizabeth shows;

...he shall not have from my hand the crown of England, and I charge you never to grant it.  For he is of that northern race that were Kings in ancient time, and would fain be Kings again.

The marriage went ahead, with Edward attempting to get Elizabeth pregnant per the marriage customs. This he failed to do, leading to rumors both of his own impotence and that Elizabeth was using various underhand means to prevent pregnancy.  He eventually succeeded in impregnating Elizabeth, but too late, for Mary died in November of 1558; Elizabeth was subsequently crowned Queen in her own right, with the pregnancy remaining unconfirmed until several weeks later. Elizabeth gave birth to a healthy son in August of 1559, naming him Henry. Edward was permitted to see the child but would have a limited part in his upbringing. Surprisingly, Edward voiced no opposition to this edict, as proven in one of his journal entries:

“I do not care about trying to gain more power via my marriage to her Majesty. The only thing that matters is my dear son, Henry, for he is precious to me, and all that I ask of my son is for him to be a good and just king. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Perhaps it is because of this mentality, that Elizabeth allowed Edward to be more active in Henry’s upbringing. Despite this, however, he found himself to be ridiculed by other nobles due to his refusal to make a move for the crown. Thomas Howard, Earl of Norfolk, is said to have mockingly dubbed him the Duke of Britannia, referring to both his boasted heritage and the Ducal title he already had as the Duke of Hastings. In response, Edward embraced the title and took it with pride and dignity, an act that would pride the House of Bretan for centuries to come.  

Elizabeth's reign was, for the most part, a story of exultant success.  She successfully steered her country through forty-five difficult and vulnerable years, seeing off multiple rebellions and at least one major invasion attempt.  Henry took the throne on his mother's death in 1603, by which point he was already married and the father of three children. His Queen was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James Stuart, Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland, giving him and his descendants a blood tie to the throne of Scotland; a choice that had not gone well with his mother.

Henry IX's reign is remembered primarily for colonial expansion. Under his rule, English colonies and trading posts in North America and India were expanded, and a large-scale program of colonization begun in Ireland; this was known as the Plantation of Ulster. North America was colonized in a series of individual efforts, led by a mixture of private individuals and companies.  The most famous of these was the Virginia Company, which established Henrytown in 1604 as part of their Virginia colony.  The success rate of these early colonies was mixed, but Henry's determination drove the project on, to the point of personally financing several Caribbean colonies.  Experiments in the cultivation of cash crops such as sugar and tobacco proved highly profitable, providing the Crown with a lucrative source of income. 

It is in this context that Henry's reign took a dark turn.  One problem that had consistently dogged colonization of the New World was a shortage of willing manpower.  Europeans had been traveling to North America throughout his and his mother's reigns in a steady trickle; their number included religious minorities such as the Puritans, the latter best remembered for those who arrived in 1620 aboard the Mayflower.  Though some were willing to accept the authority of the English Crown, they were not enough to meet England's needs.  During his mother's reign, Henry had found two methods to be effective, and he expanded both during his own reign.   

One was to offer incentives, such as money or land; a policy Henry limited to would-be colonists with vital skills due to the expense involved.  The other was the enforced transportation of convicted criminals, a practice Henry would come to depend on.  He greatly expanded the number of crimes punishable by transportation, until his laws were popularly known as the Sail Code. The experience of these unfortunates depended on the severity of their crimes. Those convicted of lesser offenses, such as theft or vagrancy, would step off the ships as free men, able to seek their own fortunes.  Those found guilty of more serious crimes were sent as indentured labor, regarded even at the time as slavery by any other name. 

Crown and Commonwealth[]

By the time Henry died in 1625, England was a prosperous and powerful state, one of Europe's rising stars.  But success concealed deep-rooted and festering divisions, both political and religious.  As the threat of invasion receded, the unity of English and Scottish Protestantism began to break down as old divisions resurfaced.  Though the Anglican Church encompassed a broad majority, there existed a substantial and growing minority of more extreme Protestants, notably the Puritans. They rejected the religious settlement the Church represented; its bishops, vestments, and ceremonies were a little too Catholic for their liking. Their ill-feeling was given greater vehemence by a regular stream of horror stories from Europe, itself in the grip of a series of conflicts that would come to be known as the Thirty Years War.  Hard-line Protestants were outraged by reports of atrocities against their co-religionists and infuriated by the unwillingness of Crown or Parliament to do anything about it. To many, the only possible answer was a Catholic conspiracy at the heart of government.

The ascension of Henry's son Edward to the throne in 1625 brought this conflict to the surface.  Edward VII was different from his father and grandmother in many respects. A childhood spent caught in the middle between his parents and his formidable grandmother had bred in him a tendency to be charming, to tell others what they wanted to hear in order to extricate himself from hard choices. This could be useful at times, but it also gained him a reputation for being two-faced and untrustworthy. He had a horror of conflict and recoiled from what he saw as the bigotry and intolerance of the hardliners, taking refuge in the color and ritual of high-church Christianity. Worse, in the eyes of hardliners, was his support for Charles I, then King of Scotland.  The two Kings were second cousins via their grandparents - Mary Queen of Scots and her half-brother James - and brothers-in-law via Charles' sister Margaret, who married Edward in 1615.  Charles, like his father James VI, sought to rule as an absolute monarch and shared Edward's high-church tastes.  This, along with his marriage to the French Princess Henrietta Maria, put him at odds with hardline Protestants in Scotland. 

The other center of resistance to the Crown was Parliament, an institution whose power had grown over the past century.  By this point, it was bicameral, with the nobility being represented in the House of Lords and everyone else being represented in the House of Commons. In practice, the Commons were represented by a relative minority of rural gentry, elected via a limited franchise system developed in the 13th century.  It could only be summoned by the King, and its primary purpose was to levy new taxes, granting the Crown revenue far in excess of what it would normally collect. The Commons had come to realize their importance over the years; the gentry, in particular, were the only ones with the authority and ability to collect new taxes at the local level.  When combined with new religious and political ideals rising from the Reformation and the Renaissance respectively, the Parliamentarians began to get ideas. These included the notion, radical at the time, that Parliament should meet continuously whether the King summoned it or not. Even more radical was the idea that the King should be able to pass no new laws of any kind without Parliament's consent. 

The stage was set for a clash of personalities and ideas, with tragic consequences for all concerned.  Edward found himself faced with a Parliament that protested loyalty while barraging him with demands he found both unreasonable and insulting. These included the dismissal of many of his closest servants and allies, an end to his high church policies, and that he give up his Caribbean monopolies. The latter was particularly important, for it was the one thing allowing Edward to govern without Parliamentary taxes, as well as maintaining the guard regiments left to him by his father.  Edward responded by dismissing Parliament in 1629 and ruling alone for eleven years.  The crisis came in 1638 when Scottish Presbyterians formed a 'National Covenant' and rose in arms against Charles. Forced to flee to England with his family and closest supporters, Charles turned to Edward for help,   

But Edward did not have the funds to raise a large enough army to oppose the Covenanters and was forced to summon Parliament in 1640.  Parliament proved less than sympathetic, with many MPs siding openly with the Covenanters.  Far from voting money and troops to support Charles, they raised a case against Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Edward's Lord-Lieutenant in Ireland, who commanded the only real army at Edward's disposal.  When an attempted impeachment failed for lack of evidence, Pym resorted to an Act of Attainder, which needed less evidence but required the King's seal.  Edward initially refused, unwilling to destroy a loyal and capable servant on the basis of hearsay.  His resistance confirmed all of Parliament's suspicions, while Parliament's determination to destroy Strafford confirmed all of Edward's prejudices in turn.  In the end, Strafford wrote to Edward asking him to sign the attainder and condemn him to death for the unity of the nation.  Edward would neither forgive nor forget.   

Strafford's execution in 1641 sparked off of a full-scale uprising in Ireland.  The revolt began as a coup attempt by Catholic Irish gentry, such as Phelim O'Neill and Rory O'Moore; their goal was to gain control of Ireland and negotiate for religious toleration and legal equality between the native Irish, the Catholic Old English, and the Protestant New English. The authorities in Dublin over-reacted convinced that it heralded a general uprising by Catholic Irish against Protestant settlers. The brutality of their response merely widened the confrontation, and the prophecy became self-fulfilling as Catholic peasants attacked Protestant settlers; generally robbing and expelling them, in some cases killing them. The death toll is thought to have reached around twelve thousand, but English and Scottish pamphleteers put the number at anything up to two hundred thousand.   

The killings provoked a wave of hysteria throughout England, and whatever calming effect had arisen from Strafford's execution was undone. Amid the hysteria arose old stories of indestructible men, and witches with mind-controlling powers.  In January 1641 Edward attempted to arrest five Parliamentary leaders, only to discover that they had fled. Fearing for his and his family's lives, Edward fled the city and met up with his guard regiments, which Parliament had forbidden him to bring into London. Seeing no alternative, Edward raised the Royal standard at Nottingham. 

The English Civil War had begun.

The English Civil War[]

The war began at a slow pace, as large pitched battles were comparatively rare in the early years, with much of the violence consisting of small-scale local clashes; in many cases little more than gang-fights. With their armies numbering only around 15,000 men each, neither side was willing to risk all on a decisive engagement. The first pitched battle, at Edgehill in October of 1642, was an indecisive affair. During 1643, Yorkshire and the West Country emerged as the major theatres of war; located as they were between the Royalist heartland of the North, Wales, and Cornwall, and the Parliamentarian heartland of London and much of the south. Edward rather cautiously kept his main army at Oxford, at the center of a Royalist salient. On the whole, the major cities tended to favor Parliament, while rural areas favored the King.

1643 saw a gradual shift in territory as both sides sought to consolidate their heartlands and isolate enemy territories. The Royalists consolidated their position in Wales and secured the West Country through to Cornwall; creating a Royalist crescent from northern Wales down to the south coast. Meanwhile, the Parliamentarians managed to push north and take Lancashire, cutting the Royalists off from their territory in the north and north-east. All the while, the war remained a curiously genteel affair; as both sides sought to end the war by negotiation. Even relatively hardline Parliamentarians sought to keep the King on his throne, while Edward knew that his best hope of re-establishing acceptable civil government after the war was with the cooperation of Parliament. This only added to the general indecisiveness of the conflict and stoked frustration in certain quarters.

The tribulations of the Parliamentarian cause saw the rise of one of the great names in British history, Oliver Cromwell.  A Puritan MP who had fought in the war from the beginning, Cromwell had no time for the endless squabbling of the Parliamentarian leadership.  Unlike most of them, he understood that the Royalists believed in the monarchy and were willing to fight and die for it, giving them an advantage over the disunited Parliamentarian forces. His answer was to create an organized, professional army, with hardline Puritanism as its ideological glue. Cromwell first tested these ideas with his own regiment of cavalry, dubbed the Ironsides.  Combining the dash and valor of the Royalist cavalry with iron discipline and religious fervor, they swept all before them. 

This approach was expanded to the entire army in 1645, when Parliament established the New Model Army, with Cromwell as second-in-command. The New Model saw its first major victory at Naseby, forcing Edward to retreat north while the New Model conquered Royalist territory in the south-west. A subsequent victory at Langport destroyed the last Royalist field army. Edward was forced to flee north and spent the next year vainly attempting to replenish his forces. In May of 1646, he surrendered himself to a Scottish Covenanter army in Nottinghamshire.

To the Parliamentarians, it must have seemed like a victory. But it was not to be. Edward's cousin Charles remained free and was even then in secret negotiation with the Covenanters. Fearful of being sidelined by the hardline Puritan faction growing amid the Parliamentarians, the Covenanters signed a treaty with Charles in December of 1647, agreeing to restore him to his throne in return for religious freedom. Despite this, Charles had difficulty in convincing his people to attack England on behalf of his cousin. His desire to do so was driven as much by dynastic ambitions as a sense of loyalty to Edward, as his son Charles was betrothed to Edward's youngest sister Elizabeth. But the Scots were war-weary and reluctant to invade England for the sake of a King who did not share their faith; even if that King's enemies were little better. It would take a drastic turn of events in England to change their minds.

For Parliament, the growing influence of Puritan hardliners was bad enough. But a new force was rising in the shadow of the New Model Army, and gaining an ever greater hold over the Puritan movement. It was a group of officers, theologians, and political thinkers, who sought to reconcile the reformist zeal of the Puritans with the practical necessities of government. Coming to be known as the Conclave of Saints, or simply the Conclave, their plan was to take total control of the country and reorganize it into a perfect society in which a purified church and a godly state were ones and the same, and every man was equal under God. Their ideas won them support in the New Model Army, and they took advantage of the suffering wrought by the war to build a popular militia of sorts, known simply as the Poor Men. Edward's capture in 1646 was a turning point for the Conclave, who called loudest of all for the death of the King. Their numbers alone made them difficult to ignore, but the willingness of the Poor Men to riot on their behalf made them downright dangerous. Suspicious, but realizing that he could not afford to fight the Conclave, Cromwell went along with their policy.

Edward was put on trial, charged with personal responsibility for all the death and destruction inflicted by the war. The death toll is thought to have been around three hundred thousand, or six percent of the population. Perhaps knowing that he was doomed, with a mob of Poor Men surrounding the High Court of Justice, Edward did not even offer a plea. Needless to say, he was found guilty, in a trial that was by both contemporary and modern standards a farce, and executed by beheading on August 10, 1647. His death sent shockwaves across a Europe nigh-inured to bloodshed by the horrors of the Thirty Years War. None was more horrified than his cousin Charles, who is said to have turned deathly pale and collapsed in his seat upon hearing the news. This, combined with word of the excesses of the Conclave and the Poor Men, was finally enough to win the support of the Scottish Parliament, and the people, for war against England.

The war proved a disaster for the Scots. Despite the horror at Edward's execution and widespread fears of possible English aggression, neither the Scottish Parliament nor Charles' advisors could agree on the best course of action. As a result, the Scottish invasion of April 1648 was a confused, overly-cautious affair; despite the best efforts of its leader, the Crown Prince Charles. The Scottish army was large and comparatively well-armed, but political divisions between its commanders, especially between Covenanters and former Royalists such as the Marquis of Montrose, weakened its cohesion. Contradictory orders from Edinburgh led to slow progress; though Charles was able to persuade the traditionally Royalist city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to open its gates to him. This was ironic, for the city had twice endured capture by the Scots since the beginning of the crisis; first in 1640, and again in 1644 after a seven-month siege. Cromwell responded by marching north at the head of the New Model Army, defeating the Scots near Durham and forcing them to retreat north. In no mood to besiege Newcastle, Cromwell bypassed the city and pursued the Scots, destroying their army at Dunbar and taking Edinburgh shortly afterward. King Charles and his family were forced to flee abroad.

As Cromwell mopped up in Scotland and turned his attention to Ireland, the Conclave continued to grow in power. Taking advantage of its ability to intimidate Parliament and raise popular agitation, the Conclave took effective control of the Church of England, executing or imprisoning any clergy who refused to cooperate. Church and state were reorganized, with all civic and religious authority being centralized in the traditional Bishoprics (and new Bishoprics established where necessary). The Conclave's members took the title of Bishop for themselves; justifying it on the basis that it was a title used by the early pre-Roman Church. Though Parliament was technically the highest authority in the land, by 1651 the Conclave had taken effective control of the administrative structure of England; and would soon do the same for Scotland and Ireland. The British Isles would be, by the middle of the 1650s, under the control of an organized theocracy.

Cromwell's campaign in Ireland is by far his most notorious and is remembered primarily for the siege (and subsequent massacre) of the town of Drogheda, from 3rd to 11th September 1649. Despite fierce resistance, and considerable losses to hunger and disease - made worse by his army's primitive logistical system - Cromwell brought Ireland under effective control by 1652. Even then, this was facilitated by allowing Irish soldiers to seek employment abroad, in any army not currently at war with the Commonwealth of England. It was at that point that Cromwell began to truly realize the depth of the Conclave's ambitions. Though he approved of its efficient organization and many of its goals, he was unsettled by some of its more extreme activities; including the banning of Christmas and various public entertainments.

Rumors that the Conclave was reorganizing the Poor Men into a formal army under its own control finally drew Cromwell back to London. He spent the next year attempting to rally Parliament and moderate the Conclave's activities, all to no avail. On 20 April 1653, the Conclave finally made its move, ordering soldiers to arrest Cromwell and shut down Parliament. As he was arrested Cromwell made his last great speech;

You say you are saints and righteous men, keepers of the peace of England. You who have made God a tyrant, Christ the jailor of mankind, and his holy word a lash upon the backs of honest men. You are no saints. I say you are no saints, nor righteous men. God have mercy on us. God save England from you.

Oliver Cromwell, one of the most unlikely and arguably among the greatest generals and statesmen in British history, was unceremoniously executed two days later.

The rule of the Conclave would continue for seven more years; a period regarded as one of the darkest in British history. Without the political instincts of Cromwell, or someone like him, no one remained to stand between the Conclave and its ideals of a perfect, godly society. This, as much as anything else, would prove its downfall. Though later comparisons to totalitarianism are exaggerated, the Conclave's interest could reach almost every aspect of daily life, with local Bishops having almost complete discretion to act as they saw fit. Royalist plots, both real and imagined, were a constant concern, and some Bishops were known to have burned whole villages in order to stamp them out. Even without this, ordinary people were annoyed by the endless interference of the Conclave in their daily lives, backed as it was by the power of life and death. Traditional celebrations and feast days were forbidden, as were activities such as gambling, drinking alcohol, attending theatres, wrestling, and horse-racing. Death penalty offenses included atheism, blasphemy, holding 'obscene' opinions, and even adultery.

However, a backlash was all but inevitable, and the signs were clear by 1658. The Conclave's army, on which it depended to maintain control, was overgrown, ideologically contaminated, and growing mutinous. The remaining nobility found themselves under increasing suspicion, as the most likely leaders of a revolt. But the real symbol of resistance and the Conclave's eventual downfall was a mysterious green-haired woman known as Claire Cathcart. Like many such figures, such as Robin Hood or Ned Ludd, she may have been nothing but a legend. But at the time she was linked to a rash of attacks on the Conclave, which included the assassination of Bishops, and the burning of Churches, tithe barns, and Bishop's Palaces. The Conclave reacted in the only way it knew how by lashing out in a paranoid rage. Even Conclave members, those moderates regarded as dangerous backsliders by the hardliners, were not safe.

Claire Cathcart's identity, assuming she even existed, remains a mystery. As for her motives, many different stories circulated. Of these, the most popular was that she was an orphan girl, taken in by a noble family who was secret Royalists. A visiting Bishop attempted to trick or terrorize young Claire into telling all she knew, only for the latter to flee and tell the family what had happened. When the Bishop arrived with his men determined to finish what he started, the noble family and its guards fought back, killing the Bishop and most of his men in the process. The noble family, knowing that the survivors would report back to the Conclave on what happened, told Claire to flee, but not before the nobleman gave Claire his sword as a farewell gift, a sword that she would use to kill many Bishops and their followers. The story is fanciful, but not entirely incredible. Several such police actions took place at that time, as Bishops lashed out at noble families judged politically unreliable. This had the effect of radicalizing the nobility and driving them to rebellion.

The eventual leader of the resistance and the object of all its hopes was Charles Stuart, son of King Charles I of Scotland, and husband of Elizabeth Tudor, the rightful Queen of England. By this point, the couple was holed up in the Netherlands, the center of a small but growing Royalist exile movement and plotting his eventual return. Charles I had died, some say of a broken heart, shortly after his arrival in exile. But their resources were limited, and the Conclave's assassins relentless. The man who truly made their return possible was Major General George Monck, commander of the Conclave's Army of Scotland. Originally a Royalist, and later a friend of Cromwell, Monck had survived the Conclave's suspicious attentions by carefully cultivating the image of a blunt, ale-swilling soldier's soldier; a man too stupid and simple-minded to pose a threat. But this image concealed a shrewd political mind and a deep-rooted sense of honor. Like many of his fellow generals, he was growing weary of the Conclave's tyranny and incompetence, and fearful of the civil disorder that its seemingly inevitable collapse would unleash.

By the time the final collapse began, in October of 1659, Monck was in effective control of Scotland. This was, as much as anything else, due to the weakness of the Scottish Bishops, who had become dependent upon him to maintain order. Precisely what started the final crisis is unclear, but the most commonly accepted narrative is a series of riots in London, sparked off when a soldier shot dead a child whom, he claimed, had been singing Claire Cathcart will have her due. The riots spread throughout the city, to the point where the garrison could not contain them. Several members of the Conclave were killed, and the rest forced to flee, only to be captured by soldiers under the command of Major General John Lambert. Lambert was part of a clique of hardline anti-Royalists known as the Wallingford House Party; named for the home of another member, Major General Charles Fleetwood, in which they met. Seeing that the Conclave was running England into the ground, yet fearing for their lives if the Monarchy were restored, they launched a coup-d'état; establishing a Committee of Safety on 26 October.

It was obvious to Monck that the Committee was exchanging one tyranny for another: a tyranny no more acceptable to the public than that of the Conclave. His response was to lead his army south, crossing the River Tweed at Coldstream on 2 January 1660. The early part of his march took him through Berwick, Newcastle, and York; whose garrisons he added to his army. Lambert tried to gather his garrisons and mobile units into a usable field army but had insufficient funds with which to pay them. Monck, apparently aware of this, continued his advance while carefully avoiding Lambert's forces; denying him the pitched battle he desperately needed. On 3 February, Monck's army entered London; Lambert's forces melting away ahead of him. Once in control of the city, he began communicating with Charles and Elizabeth in Brussels, who hoped to use his takeover as a vehicle for their own return.

Matters immediately became complicated, as the differing personalities of the two co-sovereigns-in-exile asserted themselves forcefully. Charles proved the more forgiving of the couple, expressing a willingness both to forgive those who had fought against his father and father-in-law (though not anyone directly involved in Edward's regicide) and to reign in cooperation with Parliament, at least up to a point. But Elizabeth was having none of it; her kill-list was considerably longer than her husband's, and she was determined to reclaim absolute power without condition. It took two months of tense negotiations before Charles was able to issue the Declaration of Breda in April, promising amnesty to all who would swear allegiance to the co-sovereigns and freedom of religion. Charles and Elizabeth returned to England in May, arriving in London on the 29th; their quarrels kept firmly in private. The couple was formally crowned as King and Queen of England and Scotland, their reigns backdated to the deaths of their respective fathers.

Saeculo Gloriae[]

Ruling over the now-united kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Charles, and Elizabeth would preside over a long and much-needed period of peace and stability. With England and Scotland's governing institutions ruined by the political chaos of the past two decades, the co-rulers took the opportunity to rebuild them from the ground up. The Church was stripped of its legal and administrative authority, though certain taxes would still be collected on its behalf. The administration was reorganized around the traditional Counties, led by the restored Lord Lieutenants with the assistance of County Councils. Their responsibilities included the administration of justice, the collection of taxes, the organization of the militia, and the maintenance of vital infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

Society reacted quickly to the return of the two monarchs, throwing off Puritan restrictions in favor of a new age of pleasure, artistic expression, and scientific inquiry. The Restoration spawned whole new genres of art, music, theatre, literature, and even fashion. It would even provide England with a reborn capital, as the Great Fire of London in 1666 largely destroyed the old city; leading Charles and Elizabeth to appoint Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild it on a new, European-style street plan. The Restoration laid the foundations for the aristocratic culture of modern Britain, along with many aspects of its political and military systems. Charles initially disbanded the New Model Army, regarding it as politically unreliable and constitutionally dangerous. But subsequent circumstances would force him to reform it, in effect founding the modern British army and navy.

Though internal revolt and plots by anti-monarchist elements were constant threats, the greatest threat of all was the Sun King Louis XIV of France, whose professional army and navy were the terror of Europe. Charles and Elizabeth were personally on good terms with Louis, and many aspects of their military organization were based on those of France, including the practice of putting regiments under the command of proprietary colonels. But the anti-French feeling was widespread, and the co-rulers' difficult relations with the Dutch Republic, which spilled over into a series of small wars, were deeply unpopular. The friendship between the British Isles and France was, for all the Royal goodwill, politically impossible.

Charles finally died in 1685, possibly of uremia; though in practice he was all but tortured to death by his physicians, whose medical knowledge was woefully lacking by modern standards. Elizabeth ruled alone for five more years, finally dying in 1690. In accordance with his mother's last wishes, Parliament passed the 1690 Act of Union in time for her son Richard's coronation, allowing him to take the throne as King Richard IV of Great Britain. His first challenge was what history would call the Nine Years War with France, which had been ongoing since 1688. The primary cause of the war was France's attempts to acquire neighboring territory, with a view to creating an impregnable fortress network designed by Sébastien de Vauban. Aside from the new Britain, five other powers would take the field against France, eventually leading to a compromise peace in 1697. It would not be the last of the so-called 'Cabinet Wars' to end so indecisively.

Richard IV's death in 1735 revealed the only great failure of his reign, his lack of an heir. Despite two marriages, none of his many children survived to adulthood. His heir presumptive, therefore, was his cousin James Francis, son of James Stuart and his second wife Mary of Modena. The only problem was that James had been baptized and raised a Catholic; at the ardent wish of his father, who had converted to the Roman church in 1669. But since his father's death in 1701, James had fallen under the influence of his various Protestant relations; notably his aunts Mary and Anne, and Mary's husband William, Prince of Orange; not to mention the King himself. With Richard's death, the pressure to convert to Anglicanism and thereby silence a rising tide of popular discontent grew all the stronger. Eventually, declaring that he found his late cousin's High Church Anglicanism "quite tolerable", he gave in.

James II's reign was, for the most part, a great success. It was under his rule that British power was first established in India, as Britain and France struggled for control of lucrative trade with the various Indian Princes; nominally presided over by a decaying Mughal Empire. British policy decisively changed in 1757, when Mir Jafar, commander of the armies of the Nawab of Bengal, plotted with the British to overthrow his French-leaning master, with whom he had quarreled. The result was the Battle of Palashi, in which a small British army under Robert Clive trounced the Nawab's much larger army; a feat greatly assisted by the Nawab's premature retreat from the battlefield, and Mir Jafar keeping his division out of the fighting. This was only the beginning of a series of wars and conquests that would, by the end of the century, bring a substantial portion of the Indian subcontinent briefly under British rule. British power was also expanded in North America, during the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763; a war remembered in North America mostly for the acquisition of Quebec, and the victory and martyrdom of General James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

When James died in 1766, he was succeeded by his son Henry Edward, who ruled as Henry X. In sharp contrast to his father, who had grown dour in his later years, Henry was handsome and charismatic, with a reputation for instinctive charm and at times a fine turn of phrase. But like those who went before him he was a devout believer in the Divine Right of Kings; that as King it was his right, and sacred responsibility, to wield absolute power for the good of all. On the face of it, this was no great problem, for Britain had enjoyed decades of prosperity and military glory under the rule of absolute monarchs; and bad memories of the alternative still lingered. Few if any wanted a return to the chaos of civil war or the tyranny of the Conclave. Beyond a deep-rooted but gradually fading fear of Catholicism, religious fervor had few attractions for the British people.

Washington's Rebellion []

However, in the British colonies in North America, the situation was very different. Though Puritanism had once exerted a powerful hold over the American mindset, it was gradually being replaced by a new set of ideas. Educated colonists, men of the Enlightenment such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin - to name but a few - had come to dream of a new kind of government and society. Being largely Deists, they rejected the idea of a 'Godly' society, preferring instead a secular society in which Church and State would be separate.  They also tended to regard Parliament's defeat in the civil war to be a disaster, though opinions varied as the to the ultimate cause, and constructed many of their ideas for a new government on the basis of correcting Parliament's mistakes. They were also adherents of classical republicanism, holding selfless service to the state to be a citizen's highest duty and honor, in return for which he enjoyed a citizen's rights and privileges.  In this they set themselves against the Versailles-influenced court culture developing in Britain; a culture of extravagance, flattery, backbiting, and influence-peddling, with the all-powerful King at the center of everything.

For decades, fear of outside enemies - notably the French, Spanish, and Indians - had kept the colonists loyal. But the final defeat of France by 1763 removed this outside threat and left many colonists wondering why they paid such high taxes for an army and navy they neither wanted nor needed, controlled by a government that paid them little attention. Matters came to a head when Henry sought to bring colonial taxation in line with that of Britain, with the 1765 Stamp Act. In practice, this meant imposing a series of completely new taxes while enforcing others that had been quietly neglected by the more considerate Royal governors. This caused great anger among the colonists, who were reminded of the distinctly Parliamentarian notion that they could not, and should not, be taxed without their own consent. 

The situation was made worse by Henry’s obstinacy; he was determined that the colonists should pay what he saw as their fair share towards the upkeep and security of the empire that protected and nurtured them.  Matters reached a head in December of 1773, when citizens of the port of Boston, Massachusetts, boarded a merchant ship and threw its cargo of tea into the harbor in a protest against government taxation policies. Royal authorities reacted by closing the harbor until the tea was paid for, and by expanding the powers of Royal governors. Henceforth they could appoint or dismiss officials, appoint jurors, and restrict public assembly at will. Outraged colonists responded by forming a Continental Congress on September 1774, to form a united front against Royal tyranny. Henry responded in turn by dispatching troops to the colonies.

What would come to be known as Washington's Rebellion began when government troops attempted to disarm the colonists. Of these, the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775 are arguably the most significant. The British discovered that while American militia could not stand against them in open field, they were not so easily defeated when able to take advantage of buildings or difficult terrain. As a result, they quickly found that while they could maintain control of the towns, the countryside belonged to the rebels.  By the same token, rebel forces were unable to oust loyalist troops from fortified positions, as they lacked heavy artillery. It took Benedict Arnold's capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and the transfer of its heavy guns, before newly-appointed General George Washington was able to capture Boston for the rebels. When British troops evacuated on March 17, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies fell under effective rebel control.   

Henry's response to these outrages was to order a full-scale deployment of warships and troops to North America.  After landing near New York in August 1776, Howe managed to defeat Washington at Long Island and then capture New York itself. This might have been the end of the rebellion, if not for the failure of the Saratoga Campaign in October 1777. It was the rebel victory at Saratoga that finally convinced France to give more than the covert assistance they had thus far provided. This defeat also caused the British to abandon the central colonies and focus on the south. Primarily commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis, British forces inflicted numerous defeats on the rebels, but all of them came at a terrible cost in casualties; a cost that could not be sustained. With French and possibly Spanish support, and with the British army suffering an unsustainable manpower drain, the rebels might have been able to wear the loyalists down and achieve victory. Indeed, this possibility was predicted in some quarters at the time.

But then a young man would come around and be remembered as the man who defied the odds and achieved British victory.

This man was named Ricardo de Bretan.

Ricardo was born in Gibraltar in 1752, to William de Bretan, Duke of Hastings, and Sofia Lopez, a Spanish nurse. William was stationed at Gibraltar in 1750 and was wounded while apprehending a wanted criminal. At the hospital, a nurse named Sofia, treated his wound, and though he was set to marry another woman early on as per British noble tradition, William fell in love with Sofia not long after he recovered and began a relationship with her, much to his family's ire. Ricardo was a natural product of that relationship. Despite the love that existed between them, however, William, at both his family's and Sofia's great behest, would be forced to send her and their son away to keep the Bretan name from falling into scandal back in the British homeland, as well as follow-on his arranged marriage to the wealthy Jessica de Lacy.

Despite this, William tried his hardest to be in Ricardo’s life by writing letters to him, sending gifts, and spending time with him in Gibraltar every few years under the public pretense of inspecting new recruits in the army. Tragedy struck when Sofia fell ill with pneumonia in 1758 and died a few weeks later. At her deathbed, William promised to take care of Ricardo, who was only nine years old. The two then travelled to the American colonies to live in the Bretan estates in New York City. Joining a light infantry regiment as a gentleman cadet at the age of thirteen - the youngest age permissible - he is believed to have served during Pontiac's War and possibly the War of the Regulation at various points, as well as engaging in a series of police actions against restive natives. He was accounted a good soldier, and rose to the rank of captain, only to leave in 1771 after the unexpected death of his father; ostensibly to settle his family's affairs and to enjoy his inheritance, which included the title of Duke of Hastings.

There, Ricardo focused on improving and expanding his New York estates, while at the same time, he began to fall in with progressive circles, even befriending the noted gentleman-scientist Benjamin Franklin. In another life, Ricardo might have become an American revolutionary. But Franklin's circle scorned Ricardo’s ideas, and their growing anti-British and anti-monarchy feeling eventually drove Ricardo away.

With revolution underway, by late 1775, Ricardo had begun raising a network of spies and agents reaching across the colonies. The inner circle of this movement was a circle of twelve loyal followers, led by his army friend Richard Hector, jokingly dubbed, but later officially known as, as the Knights of the Round Table. They made it their business to suppress revolutionary agitation through espionage and assassination, but they also targeted corrupt and unpopular loyalists; whose misdeeds were fueling revolutionary sentiment.  

As the war intensified, Ricardo raised a regiment of cavalry for the loyalists, with several of his knights as its officers. He is also thought to have inserted some of his agents into the rebel forces and high command, tasked with rooting out their spy networks, passing false information, and generally causing trouble. Ricardo's regiment performed well, but he became disillusioned after the failure of the Saratoga Campaign. Concluding that the generals did not understand the situation they were in, he took his regiment and a growing band of followers off on a private war west of the Appalachian Mountains; putting down rebels and assisting loyalists and pro-British natives, and even finding time to assist Major Patrick Ferguson to victory at King's Mountain. His ruthless violence along the frontier earned him the nickname Bloody Ricky, in sharp contrast to the good-natured Ferguson. 

Flushed with success, Ricardo began a new campaign in the spring of 1781. With the British forces suffering heavy casualties, French support resulting in victory after victory for the Continental Army, and loyalists unwilling to serve in sufficient numbers, Ricardo's attention had lighted on a new source of manpower, the south's considerable slave population. Many slaves had already been recruited - by British and rebel forces alike - but Ricardo put his own spin on this process. His cavalry raided deep into rebel-held areas, burning plantations and setting slaves loose, taking back as many willing recruits as possible and leaving the rest to their own devices. Ricardo paid particular attention to the estates of prominent rebels, but loyalists who had not taken up arms were targeted also; with the small courtesy of taking his pick of their slaves in return for not burning their estates. 

These raids spread panic across the south; for whom slave uprisings were a constant dread. They also earned him powerful enemies even among loyalists - notably the notorious Banastre Tarleton. But his protection lay in the simple fact that he was getting results. Not merely was he providing a regular stream of fresh recruits, but his attacks also caused division in the rebel ranks. When local militias failed to halt the raids, Washington came under increasing pressure to act against Ricardo. Not wanting to cause disunity within his men, Washington reluctantly gave the order to deploy some of his troops to deal with Ricardo.

Seeing an opportunity, Cornwallis led his army north into Virginia; hoping to deprive the southern rebel forces of their supplies and catch Washington while he was vulnerable. After forcing back, the smaller army of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, Cornwallis received orders from General Sir Henry Clinton to establish a coastal strongpoint at which large warships could safely land. This left him vulnerable, and Washington launched a desperate plan of his own; to catch Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown, between his own Franco-American army and a French fleet under Admiral de Grasse.  

The plan might well have worked, but for unfortunate timing and the efforts of a British fleet under the command of Admiral Thomas Graves. Encountering de Grasse's fleet off the mouth of the Chesapeake, Graves's subordinate - Sir Samuel Hood - took the initiative and led the vanguard straight at the French ships while they lay at anchor; an irritated Graves following on behind. Caught flat-footed, de Grasse's fleet was devastated, and Washington's army marched on Yorktown to find the French fleet scattered, and the British resupplying; but nevertheless, not ready for him. Concluding that he was too close to turn away and seeing a chance to take the British by surprise, Washington launched a desperate attack. The Battle of Yorktown that followed was a brutal and confusing affair and might well have been the victory Washington hoped for. But the troops he had sent to engage Ricardo had yet to return, as they were annihilated by Ricardo and his forces. Without these crucial troops, the fate of the rebellion was effectively sealed, as Washington was fatally wounded at the height of the battle and died a few hours later. His death tore the heart out of the rebellion, and with de Grasse's French fleet destroyed and an obstinate King Henry pouring more and more troops into North America despite Parliament's complaints, a British victory was only a matter of time.  

Washington's Rebellion was largely over by 1783, but it would cast a long shadow. Resentful colonists and would-be revolutionaries cast about for someone to blame for the tragedy, and much of the opprobrium fell on the unfortunate shoulders of Benjamin Franklin. It had been his mission to win French support for the rebellion, and in this, he had seemingly failed miserably. Rumors spread that he had been bought or blackmailed by Ricardo into betraying the rebellion, and although no solid evidence has emerged for any betrayal on his part, the label tragically stuck. Though he was granted the title of Earl by a sympathetic King Henry and attained a degree of rehabilitation as a gentleman scientist - and the inventor of the Franklin Battery - the name of Benjamin Franklin would, for generations of revolutionaries and patriots, be synonymous with treachery.  

For Ricardo de Bretan, the rewards would come thick and fast upon his return to Britain. News of his exciting exploits had made him something of a war hero, and his contributions earned him the attention not only of the King but of his eldest daughter Elizabeth. It was she, more than anyone else, who convinced her father to make Ricardo Viceroy of British North America in 1785. It was the beginning of a partnership that would change the course of history.   

The Setting of the Sun[]

Washington's Rebellion may have ended in defeat, but it would cast a long shadow. The total defeat of the American rebels divided the British people more deeply than was immediately apparent. To most of the aristocracy, the victory was proof of the superiority of Britain's social structure and way of life, as well of their ultimate fitness to enjoy preeminence in that system. By the same token, they saw little reason to change any particular part of it; an attitude that would have serious consequences later. By contrast, many in the educated middle classes - notably the merchant and artisan classes - were dismayed by the rebellion's defeat. For those hoping for reform - and for a system in which the mercantile classes would enjoy political power commensurate with their wealth and economic importance - the failure of the rebellion, and the social and political complacency it induced, was a cutting blow.

As in France, the rebellion and the wider war it provoked represented an enormous financial liability for Great Britain. Though the Tudor-Stuart kings had brought Britain great prosperity, it had done so through a combination of profitable conquest and economic policies that favored the mercantile classes. Also, good relations with the Dutch Republic allowed for easy access to low-interest loans from the Dutch banking system. Under Richard IV, this was reinforced by a strict policy of fiscal conservatism and making interest payments on time. This made Britain a more trustworthy debtor than many of its neighbors, notably France, and as such kept interest rates on loans comfortably low. The result was an easy supply of credit to fuel Britain's war machine and burgeoning economy.

But these policies began to fray under James and Henry; in part due to the enormous expense of their various wars. But both were absolute monarchs de facto if not de jure - a matter that had never been decisively resolved - and both chafed under the restrictions imposed by Richard's policies. Faced with unwanted expenses, the father and later the son turned increasingly to deficit spending, maintaining an ever-growing national debt with ever more loans and increased taxes on the mercantile and artisan classes. Though sustainable at first, the ever-growing cost of debt maintenance required ever greater loans and ever-higher taxes, or else ever more profitable conquests. Britain was trapped in a spiral from which it seemingly could not escape.

Britain's victory in Washington's Rebellion had come at an enormous expense, and, as a result, brought the matter to ahead. Ageing, unwell, and possibly senile, Henry failed to react effectively to the situation. Real power increasingly lay with his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, who was widely known to be opposed to her father and grandfather's profligacy. By the late 1780s, as her father grew increasingly ill, Elizabeth had matured from a turbulent young princess with a reputation for sexual voracity to a shrewd political operator, ably assisted by her protege and friend - some said, lover - and Ricardo de Bretan. When her father finally died on January 31st, 1788, it was widely expected that she would take the throne in his place.

But this did not happen. Instead, the Council, the court, and much of the higher nobility united to keep her off the throne, raising instead her uncle, Henry's younger brother George Benedict, who took the throne as George I. No official reason was given, though it was widely rumored that a desire to keep Ricardo as far from the throne as possible was among the main concerns. Elizabeth seems to have taken her thwarting with equanimity, perhaps willing to let her uncle discredit himself before making her move. If that was her intent, she would not have to wait long. Faced with ever-increasing maintenance payments on the national debt, and an overstrained economy, George resorted to the dynasty's nuclear option; to repudiate debts at his whim, daring his or the country's creditors to seek redress against a sovereign King of one of the mightiest empires on Earth.

His decision was not as cataclysmic as it might have been. Repudiations took place on specific debts to specific creditors individually over the first years of his reign. But the inevitable effect was to destroy what remained of Britain's reputation as a reliable debtor, and as a safe and profitable investment. The repudiations were initially popular, with a public uninterested in the rights of foreign bankers and provided brief financial relief for an overtaxed government. But reduced investment took its toll, and by 1790 the economy was in serious crisis. With unemployment rising, and food shortages occurring in some areas, George's government was left with only one serious option: a short, victorious war.

And in February 1793, Revolutionary France conveniently provided one by declaring war on Great Britain.

Britain's involvement in the War of the First Coalition was a distinctly mixed affair. The Royal Army was no longer the superlative weapon it had once been, having been weakened by a decade of neglect and complacency. In the Flanders Campaign of 1792 to 1795, the British contingent was poorly organized and supplied, its commanders' small-minded martinets. Regiments were still owned by their colonels, who bitterly resisted any attempts by higher authority to intervene in any matter of their administration; be it training, supply, discipline, or any other. British troops were able to perform well in small-scale conventional actions - where their training gave them the greatest advantage - but suffered in larger engagements and when dealing with large numbers of French light troops. The Royal Navy, by contrast, performed much better, due to a culture of compulsory technical training and promotion on merit.

Repeated military failures, combined with the economic strain inflicted by the wider war and Henry's pre-war policies served to radicalize an already restive populace. As in France, rumors of official incompetence or treachery angered the public, especially in London. The embarrassments of 1795 proved the last straw, and Parliament was deluged with petitions demanding anything from changes in policy to the removal of certain officers to immediate peace with France. When such deputations were rejected out of hand, Londoners sought to make their point with angry demonstrations, many of which spilled over into an outright riot. As word of the disorder spread, large numbers of people from surrounding counties began moving into the city, making the situation much worse.

Matters came to a head on July 14th, 1796, when a group of pro-French intellectuals and journalists openly celebrated Bastille Day, sparking off a series of pro and anti-French demonstrations and riots. Some of the pro-French and revolutionary groups are known to have been influenced and assisted by French agents. Holed up in Windsor Castle with the seemingly incapacitated King, George's councilors unleashed the Royal Guard onto the streets to restore order, to little effect. When ordered to open fire, some units obeyed while others refused, causing even more confusion. For a few brief hours, it looked as if the British monarchy would fall in much the same way as its French counterpart had.

The monarchy's savior was none other than Elizabeth, whose hand was finally forced. With the help of supporters on the inside, Elizabeth and a group of followers - Ricardo and Sir Richard Hector among them - managed to storm Windsor Castle and capture most of the government and senior courtiers, including the King. Finding the King bedridden and seemingly unresponsive, Elizabeth declared herself Regent and ordered the Royal Guards to withdraw. The next morning, she issued a formal proclamation, blaming several of her uncle's closest supporters for the violence and promising reform. For the moment, at least, the crisis was averted.

It was at this point that Elizabeth arguably made her worst mistake. With her position seemingly secure, she went on to declare that her uncle's taking the throne had been illegal and took advantage of his incapacity (and probable senility) to have him formally deposed by Parliament, who then granted her the crown as Queen Elizabeth III. Though her own supporters, the London mob, and the merchant classes reacted well to this development, the high aristocracy and many others regarded the move as illegal and treasonous. Tensions would simmer for many years, finally erupting in 1805, when the Royal Navy suffered arguably its worst tragedy. On October 21st, a British fleet under the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson faced a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar. In the battle that followed, the British fleet was narrowly defeated, and Admiral Nelson killed.

News of his death plunged Britain into mourning, but grief soon turned to anger when rumors spread that Nelson had been betrayed. The rumors were only strengthened when a British warship, HMS Cadmus, returned to Portsmouth with most of its officers missing. The surviving officers and crew claimed that the captain and senior officers had withdrawn Cadmus from the battle line contrary to Nelson's orders and that several other ships had done likewise. The Admiralty denounced their accusations and arraigned the surviving officers and several members of the crew on charges of mutiny and murder, finding all guilty. The resulting public outcry led Elizabeth to intervene, overturning the judgment and accusing the Admiralty of covering up a treasonous conspiracy. Arrests followed, and hundreds of officers resigned their commissions in protest, throwing both the navy and later the army into chaos.

But worse was to come in June of 1807, when Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France, finally launched his long-dreaded invasion of Britain; delayed by Prussia's unexpected declaration of war in that same year. With Napoleon occupied in the east, the invasion was led by Admiral Pierre Villeneuve - the victor of Trafalgar - and Emmanuel de Grouchy; along with Rafael del Riego commanding a substantial Spanish contingent. The first landings were made along the Kent coast, despite heavy resistance by coastal fortifications. Within two days of the first landings, Dover was surrounded and under siege, while more and more troops came ashore at smaller ports.

Elizabeth activated her defense plans and ordered troops to gather at the major cities and towns. But the south-eastern nobles dithered; some of them dismissing the warnings as an invasion scare, while others even believed that the warnings were a scheme by Elizabeth to seize their estates and enforce martial law. So great was their distrust of Elizabeth that a great many refused to cooperate, even pulling militia or regular army units off the line to protect their estates, or to form local self-defense leagues. These leagues quickly fell prey to Napoleon's troops, and within a week of the first landings, London itself was threatened.

The Humiliation of Edinburgh[]

Elizabeth was forced to flee London, accompanied by her government, the Royal Guard, and the treasury's gold reserves loaded onto wagons. She halted first at Cambridge, staying to oversee the fortification of the city and organize the raising of fresh troops. As word of the failed self-defense leagues spread, nobles and commoners alike began to rally behind their Queen. As French troops stormed London and spread out west, with the less reliable Spanish troops mopping up behind, British troops and militia retreated north and west, gathering in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, and Northamptonshire, as well as Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

Realizing that the British could still muster significant forces against him, and uncertain of the Spanish and other allied troops under his command, Grouchy decided on a cautious policy. His allied troops were tasked with creating a defensible zone in the south-east, securing ports and cities to make landing reinforcements as easy as possible, and to secure against a British counterattack. Having learned that Elizabeth was at Cambridge, he nevertheless deployed an army of 30,000 troops in an attempt to take the city and kill or capture her. But a British army under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley - a young but talented general of Irish noble stock - halted its advance near Great Chesterford.  

Buoyed by this much-needed victory, Elizabeth headed north on a tour of inspection, overseeing the fortification of cities and towns, and organizing troops and supplies. Meanwhile, having learned that Napoleon was less than impressed with his cautious strategy, Grouchy turned his attentions west, seeking to win a major victory before Napoleon finished his business in the east. In this goal he succeeded, catching and destroying Elizabeth's Army of the West near the town of Andover; allowing him to swing south and take Southampton, and then besiege Portsmouth; whose defenses were much more formidable. After a two-week siege, including repeated naval attacks, and despite a heroic defense, Portsmouth fell on July 28th.  

Napoleon himself arrived in London on August 10, receiving a rapturous welcome from pro-French Britons who had gathered in the city. Sufficiently impressed to let Grouchy keep his army, Napoleon nevertheless took overall command. Tasking Grouchy with a push on Bristol and the west, Napoleon launched a full-scale offensive north, forcing the defending armies under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Lord Lewis de Bourgh, and Sir David Baird to withdraw. With British Volunteer units slowing Napoleon's advance with guerilla attacks, the three armies successfully withdrew behind the River Trent, taking up fortified positions along the river. But such battles were grist to Napoleon's mill, and he planned a three-pronged attack on Nottingham, Derby, and Newark-on-Trent.  

The attack began on August 26th, with Napoleon once again doing the unexpected. Taking command of the eastern column supposedly targetting Newark-on-Trent, he actually turned north and marched on Lincoln, which was defended only by militia. Despite a desperate defense, Lincoln fell in the space of a day, and Napoleon quickly headed north towards Gainsborough, where he could cross the Trent and outflank the main British armies opposing him. By this point, Wellesley had guessed Napoleon's intentions, and rushed his army north to Gainsborough, pleading with De Bourgh and Baird to support him. Baird insisted on holding his position at Nottingham - where he was successfully holding the French at bay - and De Bourgh was too slow to react. All Wellesley could do was delay Napoleon's vanguard at Gainsborough, before superior numbers forced him to withdraw to Doncaster. 

The situation was grave, but by no means fatal. Napoleon was at the limit of his supply lines, and more British troops were gathering around York. Wellesley planned to dig in at Doncaster and throw Napoleon back if he tried to advance further, or else counter-attack in force once sufficient troops had arrived. But his plan was ultimately ruined by De Bourgh, and a coterie of high nobles of which he was part. Angry at having to abandon and even destroy their estates on Elizabeth's orders, and ashamed at the progress of the war, de Bourgh and his allies were determined to strike back at Napoleon and succeeding in forcing Wellesley to support them. The armies clashed at Bawtry, along the River Idle, on September 2nd. The battle was a disaster for the British, with an 80,000 strong army largely destroyed.  

At the same time, the ultimate disaster of the war was taking place in Edinburgh. Elizabeth had stopped in the city as part of her tour, only to become trapped in Edinburgh castle as law and order broke down. Worse, she had left her Foot Guards behind in Newcastle, to form the core of a new Army of the North as well as to convince the citizens that she meant to fight. With food supplies to the city disrupted, and revolutionary sentiment still widespread, it was a simple matter for French agents and revolutionary clubs to stir up the city. One of these, the so-called Edinburgh Revolutionary Council, demanded Elizabeth's abdication and peace with France. Trapped in the castle, physically and psychologically exhausted, with food running low, and without even Ricardo's support, Elizabeth finally hit her breaking point when news of the Battle of Bawtry reached her via her spies. Telling a tearful Sir Walter Scott "get you gone, Sir Walter, I will not see you hang,", Elizabeth signed the abdication on September 14th, 1807.  

The news sent shockwaves across Britain. Napoleon, who had not wanted this, could only watch in disbelief as Britain violently disintegrated around him. Revolutionary mobs and army deserters ran wild, while the citizenry barricaded their streets and shouldered muskets to defend their homes and property. The populace rapidly broke down into factions, some favoring the French and revolution, others violently opposing them, while yet more were interested only in self-defense. Foreigners of any kind, ethnic and religious minorities, were all targets. In some areas, anyone wearing a uniform was killed or forced to flee. Law and order, and society itself were breaking down.  

But all was not lost for Elizabeth. Ricardo and his Round Table Knights were still at large, and they were quick to respond. Two weeks after the abdication, Ricardo personally led a mission to Edinburgh; stealing into the castle and snatching Elizabeth and several of her fellow prisoners. By the time anyone realized what had happened, Elizabeth and her rescuers were safely out of the city, and on their way to Dunbar. There, they boarded the warship HMS Aeneas - an irony that was doubtless not lost on their small party - and sailed north, rejoining what remained of the Royal Navy on the way. Convinced that Britain was lost, Ricardo persuaded Elizabeth to escape with him to North America. Neither of them would ever see the British Isles again.  

As for Napoleon, it was increasingly apparent that only he had the power to restore order, and in September of 1807, a deputation of surviving notables - a mixture of nobles, gentry, civic leaders, bishops, and military officers of one sort or another - asked him to do just that.  Their leader was Victor Tudor, Elizabeth III's youngest half-brother, in whom Napoleon saw a future leader for Great Britain.  Not wanting to remain in Britain any longer than necessary - lest his enemies elsewhere get ideas - he persuaded Victor to accept the temporary title of Regent, on the understanding that his position would be subject to democratic election as soon as practicable.  Stationing just enough troops behind to help the Regent and his government restore order, Napoleon returned to France, leaving the traumatized country in peace.   

Ignem Imperium Natum[]

If the sun had set on the British Empire, then it had just begun to rise on Britannia. From her new capital at the city of Pendragon (OTL Washington D.C.) - built by Ricardo as a hub for colonial administration - Elizabeth worked to bring British North America into line, though many problems were rapidly becoming apparent. Though she had around 50,000 regular troops available, they tended to be poorly trained raw recruits; all better units having been transferred to the British Isles years earlier. She could also raise around 40,000 militia, but these varied considerably in their capabilities; ranging from the excellent colonial dragoons - kept in practice by hunting down troublemakers and keeping order on the frontier - to the generally poor infantry battalions. A steady stream of loyalists and other refugees followed her into exile, but these tended to be nobles; the first wave being mostly penniless unfortunates fleeing for their lives, while those after1813 were embittered emigrants bringing their property with them. Ricardo swiftly established himself as Elizabeth's Chancellor and right-hand man, drawing on local connections and his own resources to establish a functioning government. The new government was, needless to say, packed with Ricardo's own partisans; a mixture of British nobles and local dignitaries he had established relationships with over the years.

On October 18th, 1813, Queen Elizabeth III, breathed her last, surrounded by her most senior courtiers.  To the shock of her blood relatives present, she named Ricardo as her successor. As it was, the declaration sent shockwaves through the court, and through British North America as a whole. Ricardo was widely respected, having proven himself as an effective administrator and Chancellor when Elizabeth III began to fall gravely ill, but his stern personality, somewhat harsh rule, and darker tendencies prevented him from being truly loved by the people. On top of that, he was being granted the crown over Elizabeth's surviving blood relatives. Though only a few distant relatives remained, this act became a serious breach of both tradition and practice. Despite all of this, it became clear that Ricardo would have the crown no matter what. Backed by a majority of the army and his own court faction, Ricardo was effectively in control in a matter of days, though the violence unleashed by his ascension would drag on for many months.

It was expected that Ricardo would be enthroned as King Richard V of Great Britain and Ireland and make plans to retake the British Isles from the French via using British North America as a springboard to do so. Ricardo, however, had other plans. Through a series of pamphlets titled Ignem Imperium Natum (Latin for "Through Fire, the Empire is Born"), Ricardo outlined his plan for a magnificent new empire that would last for a thousand generations. He won over nobles and commoners alike with the promise of untold riches, of an empire in which everyone would live in unity. In addition to the pamphlets, Ricardo launched nationalistic propaganda to legitimize his ascension. This included promoting the tale of Alwyn as the first great defender of the British Isles. Ricardo also said that the Humiliation of Edinburgh was a sign by God to start fresh in the New World and away from the Old World. For his new society would be a holy empire, based on divinely ordained authority answerable to none but God. Therefore, Ricardo de Bretan proclaimed British North America as the Holy Britannian Empire.

This became known as the Imperial Proclamation.

Needless to say, this proclamation did not go without resistance. The first backlash came from other court factions, generally centered around Elizabeth's surviving relatives. Though there was no Imperial Guard at this stage, Ricardo had several knightly orders at his disposal; chief among them the Knights of the Round Table. Led by Sir Richard Hector, these knights moved swiftly against Ricardo's enemies, killing dozens in a single night. Those of Elizabeth's relations not killed were forced to flee, some of them all the way back to Britain. In addition, riots broke out in many towns and cities. All such resistance was bloodily suppressed, as Ricardo again reminded people why he was called Bloody Ricky during Washington’s Rebellion.

By the time of Emperor Ricardo von Britannia I’s magnificent coronation in June 1814, the newborn empire appeared to be completely pacified. Ricardo further solidified his legitimacy by posthumously proclaiming the Kings/Queens of England/Great Britain up to Alwyn as "Emperors/Empresses of the Holy Britannian Empire." As Alwyn was now the 1st Emperor of Britannia, Ricardo was now the 89th Emperor of Britannia. To keep any would-be revolutionaries in line, Ricardo had a constitution written up in order to keep any would-be revolutionaries in line. The Ricardian Constitution stated that the armed forces were loyal and answerable only to the Emperor and that an Imperial Senate consisting of a non-elected House of Lords and an elected House of Commons (both led by a Chancellor) would be established. State legislatures also consisting of elected officials were set up to oversee parts of the empire. However, only the landowning wealthy elite was given voting rights. In addition, Pendragon was also proclaimed as the new capital.  Emperor Ricardo then laid out his intentions for the future empire; a program of imperial expansion that would bring all of North America under Britannian rule. Dazzled by the prospect of land and wealth beyond imagining, the nobles fell over themselves to pledge their wealth to Ricardo's cause.

In 1815, in what would come to be known as the Ricardian Wars, Ricardo unleashed his armies against French Louisiana as well as initiating a series of much smaller campaigns against French possessions in the Caribbean Islands, many of which had previously been British colonies. The Imperial Britannian Navy, formed from the remnants of the British Royal Navy and local colonial navies, excelled itself in this theatre, winning a major victory over a French fleet at the Battle of Guadeloupe. In addition, Ricardo also unleashed his forces upon the remaining Spanish colonies of Florida, Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico. The Imperial Britannian Marine Corps won fame here as well, especially in the conquest of Cuba. Assisting the Britannian invasion of the Caribbean was Henri Christophe, the self-styled King of Haiti; an effective but unpopular ruler, notorious for using forced labor on his various construction projects. In return the title of Duke of Hispaniola, Christophe pledged allegiance to the Britannian crown; overrunning neighboring Santo Domingo with the help of Britannian marines. The resulting victories marked the end of European influence in North and Central America, with Europe turning its attention elsewhere in subsequent decades. Despite this, the process of conquering and consolidating these territories, which combined, was almost as large as Britannia itself, would last until 1822.

Distracted by the work of consolidating his own European empire, Napoleon's reaction was muted.  His fleets and armies were considerable, but a full-scale war against Britannia would require moving tens or hundreds of thousands of soldiers across the Atlantic, a logistical feat beyond imagination at the time. The conquests were a resounding success, giving the newborn Britannia a much-needed confidence boost while adding vast new territories to the empire. French and Spanish colonists, as well as Native Americans in the new territories, faced a stark choice; accept the Britannian allegiance, or become second-class citizens in their respective homelands. The majority of the French and Spanish colonists did the former, as did many native tribes. Those that did not, notably the Comanche, which would remain a thorn on Britannia’s side for many decades.

Riding high on the prestige of conquest, and the great wealth that Britannia had gained, Ricardo spent the rest of his reign consolidating what he had gained, organizing the land into a vast new peerage. The former colonies and new territories were reorganized into a series of duchies and grand duchies, which were in turn divided into smaller territories in turn.  The main exception to this system was those territories held by the Emperor personally, which were known as Providences. This in practice included any town or city possessing an Imperial charter.  The other notable exception was the marches, a term referring to territories judged so dangerous as to warrant military control. These included the Mexican border and so-called Indian country, where Native Americans still lived in significant numbers outside of Imperial control. The dukes and grand dukes were the most significant nobles in this new system, for they held not only feudal rights over their territories but the formal legal powers of the former colonial governors.  This helped to bind the nobles to the crown, but the temptations of such power would prove an ever-present threat. The most common issue at the time was over so-called livery and maintenance, namely whether or not nobles should have the right to maintain armed retinues.  This was one issue that Ricardo could not silence with words. For some nobles, it was merely a question of aristocratic dignity, but for others, it ran far deeper; they had seen their homes, their countries, and their very way of life destroyed by riotous commoners and were determined not to be so helpless again. With the nobles providing the bulk of the army and navy's officers, and the newly formed Imperial Guard cuirassiers being made up entirely of nobles, this issue marked the beginning of a power struggle between aristocracy and crown; what one historian described as patrician and praetorian factions. Ricardo, desperate not to see his beloved Britannia tear itself apart, conceded the point. It was a decision that would come back to haunt his descendants.

Emperor Ricardo von Britannia I, 89th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, eventually died of natural causes in 1832. By that time, his empire was prosperous and reasonably stable. His own family was the exact opposite. In an extraordinary move, Ricardo had broken with centuries of custom and law and granted himself and his descendants the right to marry multiple wives. Under this arrangement, perhaps inspired by the practices of the Ottoman Sultans, any child of his by any wife would be considered legitimate and Imperial, with the right to inherit the throne. With his beloved Elizabeth and his first wife Joanna Benbridge both dead, he married no less than six consorts in the first year of his reign, with each one bearing him a child; Alexander la Britannia, Laura li Britannia, John el Britannia, Phillip vi Britannia, Abigail mel Britannia, and Mary zi Britannia. This curious naming system had been an invention of Ricardo's, a means of separating their bloodlines while acknowledging their connection to the main household. But he also had an adult son, Crown Prince Michael de Britannia (formerly Michael de Bretan), by his first wife. The relationship between father and son was initially well prior to Britannia’s founding, only for it to be strained afterward via his multiple marriages and his increasingly autocratic behavior. Regardless, Ricardo knew for a fact that Michael was the only possible candidate to succeed him as Emperor, as his other children were simply too young to do so. As such, he named Michael as his successor while on his deathbed. The latter, however, would initially have trouble securing his claim.

His late father’s decision to marry multiple wives was deeply controversial, but he was riding high on the prestige of the Ricardian Wars, and it passed with little or no overt resistance. This new approach allowed Ricardo to cement ties with powerful noble families, but it also granted him a bevy of Imperial children, of whom only the most capable need ascend to the throne. The inevitable and tragic side-effect was a court riven with intrigue, as Ricardo's consorts squabbled for prestige and influence, both for themselves and for their children. In a pattern that would repeat itself in later centuries, the contest became dominated by a handful of likely candidates, while other less capable or merely less confident princes and princesses formed into factions around them, along with any number of nobles and other interested parties. Ricardo's death, and the struggle for the throne that followed laid down the rules and practicalities of the contests to come, as his six Queen-Consorts were already plotting to secure the throne for their respective children. But while fighting among themselves, they weakened their collective position, and when Michael - already having the support of the Imperial Guard, the officer corps of the Imperial Britannian Army, and a majority of the Grand Dukes - soon arrived at the Imperial Palace with his forces, their support quickly evaporated, forcing them to capitulate. In return, the newly crowned Emperor Michael le Britannia I, 90th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, officially recognized their children as his stepsiblings, assuring the Queen-Consorts that their children’s claims to the throne would be left intact. His ascension to the throne is considered one of the least bloody ascensions in Britannian history.

The Mexican-Britannian War[]

Britannia’s victory in the Ricardian Wars arguably made the conquest of Mexico inevitable, as it was deemed a powerful threat to Britannia’s newly conquered territories. Officially known as the Mexican Empire, the country was a substantial chunk of the former Spanish Empire that had achieved independence in 1821. Seeing an opportunity to balance Britannia's rising power in North America, Bonaparte recognized the new state and opened trade links with it, a state of affairs that continued even when Agustin de Iturbide was named Emperor in 1822. European trade brought Mexico much needed wealth, allowing Agustin to stabilize his regime and fund a powerful army. Britannians, needless to say, did not take this well. Mexico was widely seen both as a strategic threat in its own right and a European proxy, a potential springboard for a full-scale invasion.

What ultimately started the countdown, however, was Emperor Michael's policies towards the Indians. Almost certainly influenced by his friendship with the maverick lawyer Samuel Houston (who sought to enlist his support in protecting the rights of the Cherokee people), Michael sought to improve conditions for the Indians. By this point, the Indians remaining in Britannian territory were the so-called Five Civilized Tribes; the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole. Of the five tribes, the Cherokee were regarded with the greatest interest by Britannians. In the years since the Imperial Proclamation, they had created their own written language and established what amounted to their own state in the territory of Georgia, with its own police force, newspapers, and legislature.           

The worryingly republican character of the Cherokee government fueled Britannian paranoia and was a convenient excuse for land-hungry Georgians to oppress and mistreat them. The discovery of gold in 1829 only made matters worse. Attempts early in his reign to calm tensions and protect the Indians were largely ineffective, forcing Michael to consider a more radical solution. If his white subjects wanted the Indians expelled, then he would expel them; on his terms. In 1826, he issued what would come to be known as the Indian Relocation Decree; under which the five tribes would be relocated to a new territory along the Arkansas River. Under this decree, the Indians were required to sell their land to Imperial agents at market price and were permitted to carry their property away with them.           

The transfer of the Indians took several years and did not always go smoothly. In some areas, white mobs attacked Indian communities, and even the Imperial agents sent to oversee the property sales. Such violence was met with armed force, as the local nobles unleashed their household guards upon the troublemakers, backed by Imperial troops. Nevertheless, the transfers went ahead, with tens of thousands of Indians traveling west over eight years. The land in which they found themselves was vast and fertile, and it did not take the Indians long to establish themselves and prosper. The Cherokees soon rose to prominence in Arkansas, led by their Principal Chief, John Ross. Although he was of mixed Cherokee and Scottish ancestry, Ross was regarded as the acceptable face of the Indians by Britannians, and even full-blooded Cherokee looked to him for protection. Michael showed his approval by making Ross a Marquess and naming him as governor of the Arkansas territory in 1830 and 1st Duke of Arkansas not long after.           

But if the establishment of the Arkansas territory was a success for Britannia, it was a red rag to the Mexicans; for it occupied the gap between their respective territories north of Louisiana. Indeed, it was assumed by many on both sides - including the Indians themselves - that the territory's purpose was to secure the unclaimed land for Britannia. Among Britannians, the territory became known as the Arkansas Marches for that very reason. Its existence contributed significantly to an ongoing breakdown of relations between Britannia and Mexico, further complicated by the presence of Britannian settlers in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. The first of them had arrived during the reign of Emperor Agustin and had become Mexican citizens.

But Mexico's increasing hostility, not to mention its increasing centralization of power, left them vulnerable. Precisely what passed between Michael's agents and the Texian colonists is, for the most part, a mystery. However, it is apparent that he made contact with prominent empresario Stephen F. Austin at some point between 1828 and 1832, almost certainly using Samuel Houston as a go-between. His purpose in doing so, it is hard to doubt, was to organize a revolt against the Mexican government. Perhaps suspecting this, Mexican authorities arrested Austin in January of 1834. Michael responded by issuing a formal ultimatum, demanding his release and an end to the oppression of the Texians. Emperor Agustin, under pressure from anti-war Mexican nobles and commoners, had no other choice but to release Austin. This would mark the beginning of the end of Agustin’s reign, as he was overthrown by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna the next year, taking his place as Emperor Antonio. Though charismatic and much loved in Mexico, Antonio was portrayed in Britannia as a dangerous usurper and warmonger. The powder keg was at last ignited in February 1836, when the State of Coahuila y Tejas seceded from Mexico. Citing a need to protect Britannian settlers from Mexican tyranny, Michael declared war.

With what is now known as the Mexican-Britannian War underway, Michael's intent was nothing less than the conquest of Mexico, and his strategy reflected this. A small force was sent east under Sir Jonas Landstrom with a view to securing Alta California. Another, larger army invaded Nuevo Mexico, under the command of General Sir Winfield Scott, accompanied by John Ross and four of the Indian regiments. This force had a double purpose; both to secure territory for the Empire and to win over the local Indian populations, whose relationship with the Mexican authorities was stormy at best, outright hostile at worst. Scott was himself a relative newcomer, regarded with suspicion in some quarters because of his North American birth and for not being one of Ricardo's own; the clique of nobles and officers who had been close to Emperor Ricardo from the beginning. But Michael was far more open-minded, and Scott's skill as both general and diplomat would amply justify his trust. The third army was led by the emperor himself, moving south-west along the coast towards Matamoros. After defeating a Mexican army at Palo Alto on May 8th, he captured Matamoros a week later. With this port secured as a supply base, Michael pushed inland, taking Monterrey after a costly battle taking three days. With disease further weakening his forces, Michael paused at Monterrey, allowing Mexican forces to withdraw south. Hoping to catch the Britannian emperor napping, a desperate Emperor Antonio led an army of twenty thousand north in late July, via the mountain roads towards the town of Saltillo.

But Michael was already moving and would meet Santa Anna to the south of Saltillo, near the village of Buena Vista. Despite being weakened by desertion, the Mexican army won a costly victory, forcing Michael to withdraw to Monterrey. But news of an uprising in Mexico City forced an enraged Antonio to withdraw south, giving Michael crucial time to summon reinforcements. In February of 1837, taking advantage of Scott's capture of Zacatecas, he advanced south and took Cuidad Victoria, then headed southwest to capture San Luis Potosi, meeting Scott there in early April. Weary of what was proving a costly war, Michael immediately pushed south towards Mexico City, which he captured after a heroic defense in May of 1837, thus ending the Mexican-Britannian War. In the aftermath of Mexico’s conquest, Antonio was stripped of his crown but allowed to live out his life in a comfortable retirement.  Many upper-class Mexicans pledged allegiance to Britannia, receiving titles and lands in return.  The spring and summer of 1840 saw a spate of weddings, as young officers married the daughters of well-to-do Mexican families.  For the elite, the process of assimilation had begun. 

But for the rest of Mexico, the ending would be nothing like as happy. The bulk of the Mexican population at the time were rural peasants, living in what amounted to serfdom on hacienda estates; much as they had done under Spanish rule. Apathetic and largely illiterate, the peasantry did little to help or hinder the Britannian invaders, even as it became obvious that they had no intention of leaving. Their situation would continue under Britannian rule, with Mexican peons working under the same conditions, on the same haciendas, in many cases for the same landlords as before. Perhaps Britannia's greatest mistake was in failing to take advantage of their apathy to cement their control. Though appreciative of Mexico's relatively sophisticated urban culture, Britannian officers and nobles cared little for the peasants; one officer described them as worse than Injuns, but less violent. As such, they thought little of using violence to bring recalcitrant peasants into line and turned a blind eye to crimes committed by their soldiers.   

Riled by this treatment, many peasants joined the guerilla, the little war, against the Britannians. As a result, many Britannian officers pressured Michael to utilize brutal methods to put down the rebels such as the burning of villages, taking hostages, and reprisal killings. Michael’s response to the guerilla, however, was to use to rangers to hunt rebel forces on their own turf, as well as the creation of a rural militia to maintain security. Made up in part of captured bandits - for whom the alternative was the firing squad - this force came to be known as the Rurales. Leading this force was General George Marion, who was, most ironically, a descendant of the former Continental Army's legendary General Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion. Armed with rifles and equipped with the new cylinder-conoidal bullet, the Rurales were all but unbeatable in combat and would have far more success in hunting rebels and bandits than other units as a result. Even then, military control of the former rebel territories would not end until 1850, a success Emperor Michael would not live to see.

Marion’s success eventually persuaded Michael to give the latter a knighthood in 1844, but only after having defeated and killed one of his political opponents, a certain General Franklin Pierce, in a duel. Outraged by his refusal to punish Marion, relatives of Franklin Pierce assassinated Emperor Michael le Britannia I, 90th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, in 1845; the entire family was wiped out in retaliation. Michael was the first Britannian emperor to be assassinated. He would not be the last. 

The Calm Before the Storm[]

As he had no children to succeed him, Michael’s death led to a bout of conflict among his half-siblings and their extended families, as they struggled to secure the crown. When the conflict suddenly turned violent, the Royal families were persuaded to choose a new Emperor from among themselves. The candidate upon whom they settled was Prince Alexander 'Alec' la Britannia. Born in 1813, he was only 32 at the time; but he had served in Michael's government since he was eighteen and had fought under his command in Mexico. A quiet, somewhat unassuming character, he was widely regarded as a compromise candidate; someone insufficiently offensive to provoke any interested parties to violence. He took the throne in August of 1845 as the 91st Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, in a coronation as magnificent as those of his father and half-brother before him.

Emperor Alec ruled in a time when, to all outward appearances, Britannia in the mid-1800s was going from strength to strength, as its territory now stretched from the Arctic Circle to Panama, and from ocean to ocean; though substantial areas were only sparsely inhabited. It enjoyed a growing population, both through natural growth and immigration and wealth beyond imagination. Its urban life grew ever more sophisticated, enriched by a blending of primarily European high cultures. Other towns and cities were centers of industry, their foundries, and factories fed by an ever-expanding network of railroads. Britannia's aristocrats lived in a splendor not seen since before the French Revolution, while a rising middle class of merchants and professionals enriched Britannia as they enriched themselves.  

But there were rumblings under the surface, as Britannians of all classes disagreed on how best to lead the country onward; and even on what it meant to be a Britannian. The aristocracy itself was divided, both politically and culturally. The southern aristocracy based their wealth on agriculture, and their self-image on their position as landowners. They held most strongly to the chivalric ideals that had spread through Britannia since Ricardo's time and were most likely to oppose social change. Their northern counterparts, for whom agriculture was not such a reliable source of wealth, had sought other ways to enrich themselves. They turned increasingly to science and industry, investing their money in the ever-spreading factories and railroads, developing industrial projects within their territories, and even becoming involved in the running of such projects. For more conservative nobles this was a travesty, an abandonment of what it meant to be an aristocrat. Nobles found guilty of the sin of commerce could find themselves stripped of their status and titles by a jury of their peers. This fed into the geographic split between the industrial north and agrarian south, as nobles sought friendly company in which to pursue their interests.

The best that can be said for Alec was that he kept the peace in a difficult time. At worst, he merely staved off the inevitable. His reign was comparatively brief, lasting only twelve years from 1845 to 1857. Despite being often labeled the Britannian Claudius, there is nevertheless a good reason to argue that he was quite aware of the growing rift within Britannian society and that he understood its nature better than most of his relatives. His great failure lay in the profound naivete, or perhaps cynicism, with which he attempted to resolve it. Alec acquired himself the nickname Nine Parts because of one of his best-remembered sayings; that rulership was one-part ideology and nine parts economic policy. Though valid in more tranquil times, it betrayed either a failure to understand or a high-handed dismissal of, the depth of feeling on both sides. The conflict between northern and southern nobles was intimately connected to a much wider issue; that of slavery. Slavery was the linchpin not only of the southern economy but of its very way of life. But abolitionist sentiment had long been spreading in the north, feeding into a cultural and ideological conflict that reached from the highest to the lowest levels of Britannian society.

Emperor Alexander ‘Alec’ la Britannia I, 91st Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire eventually died in 1857 at the age of only 44. The official reason was illness, but foul play was widely suspected. Alec had fathered three children: Alfred la Britannia, Jessica la Britannia, and Stephen la Britannia. None of them were of age, however, and as a result, his throne was taken by his cousin Aurelian zi Britannia, who became the 92nd Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire. To many, Emperor Aurelian's accession was a breath of fresh air, as he was young, vigorous, and passionate, whereas Alec had been quiet, studious, and something of a workaholic. His coronation was celebrated with lavish parties and public entertainments, with a heavy focus both on the chivalric culture of Britannia, and the Hispanic culture of his Empress; the Mexican noblewoman Alejandra he Britannia (formerly Alejandra Herrera de la Fuente). They already had an adult son, Crown Prince Basilio he Britannia, who was seen as a good omen for the dynasty; strengthened by the fact that Basilio had his own son, the sickly two-year-old Prince Carlos he Britannia.

But the honeymoon could not last, and Aurelian was soon forced to face the conflict developing at the heart of his empire, or more specifically, closer to home. On one side was his Empress Alejandra, an ambitious woman of formidable will and intellect, who would tolerate no threat or challenge - however small - to the dynasty she and her husband were in the process of perpetuating. On the other was Abraham Lincoln, destined to go down in history as one of Britannia's greatest statesmen.

Born in 1809 to a poor family in the Duchy of Kentucky, Lincoln made a name for himself as a self-taught lawyer with a gift for oratory. It was in this capacity that he drew the attention of the Grand Duke of Illinois, who recruited Lincoln onto his legal team. This move brought him wealth and success but was as nothing compared to the turn his life would take in 1834 when he first met the Grand Duke's most important business partner. Princess Louisa li Britannia was something of a nobody in the Imperial family, a lesser princess with little hope of the throne, who alternated between pursuing the cause of abolition and enjoying the high life; both funded by a substantial land portfolio. Louisa regularly made use of Lincoln's services, and at first, their relationship appeared to be purely professional. But at some point, they did the unthinkable; they fell in love. Their relationship was put on a pause however, as later that year, the Mexican-Britannian War soon broke out, with Lincoln soon enlisting in the army. He quickly moved through the ranks to the point where he caught the attention of Queen Consort Arabella, Emperor Alexander's mother, whom the Grand Duke of Illinois was good friends with. As a result, Lincoln became a close confidante to his mistress' son, serving as his Majordomo throughout the Mexican-Britannian War. The skill and sprezzatura with which he managed his master's affairs caught even Michael’s eye, and Alec - after much cajoling - allowed him to be transferred to the Ministry of Public Works. This move made his career; not simply due to the skill with which he managed countless projects, but also his grasp of office politics. When the ministry was gripped with scandal in 1845, leading to the forced retirement of the minister and the imprisonment of several of his favorites, Lincoln remained untainted. Impressed, Alexander promoted him to the Ministry.

But it was under Aurelian that Lincoln’s career reached its height. Impressed by 's ability to manage ungodly amounts of information under pressure, Albert went so far as to make Lincoln his Chancellor in late 1857. Though in many respects a fine choice before long Lincoln found himself in conflict with the Empress and her faction. The causes of this conflict are unclear, but considering the enormous influence both wielded, and their direct access to the Emperor, it was perhaps inevitable. Historians, politicians, and even novelists and screenwriters have argued for decades as to who was the villain of the piece; with Alejandra as often as not getting the blame. There can be no denying that she ruffled aristocratic feathers by using her influence to appoint her relatives and allies to high positions, but this was far from unusual. Lincoln, in turn, took similar advantage of his position to increase his own clientage; undeniably destabilizing a court already riven with factions. His conflict with the Empress, which some observers compared to the battles between Cardinal Richelieu and the Queen of France in the pages of Dumas' The Three Musketeers, earned him the nickname The Cardinal of Pendragon.

However, it wasn’t just factions at court Aurelian had to deal with. Though it had been nearly 80 years since Washington’s Rebellion was crushed, the spirit of said rebellion never truly went away; and all although some embraced the idea of an independent North America that Britannia had now become, many others were appalled by how it was achieved. But these ideological, idealistic opponents of the empire were vastly outnumbered by those who hated it for deeper, more direct reasons. The heartland of rebellion was in the old South; during Washington's Rebellion, Ricardo had wrought havoc upon the southern colonies; burning plantations, recruiting slaves as soldiers, and letting the rest loose. Many freed slaves had simply tried to escape, heading south into Florida or north into more sympathetic regions. But others had taken up arms and run riot, seeking revenge on their former oppressors. To southern whites, these distinctions were meaningless, for their worst nightmare was made manifest. The revolts were suppressed but left a bitter legacy in the south.

As a result, a secret faction was gathering in the shadows, determined to finish what George Washington had started. Said faction called itself the Brotherhood of Liberty. Made up of descendants of the Continental Army, the Brotherhood used Washington’s defeat to develop a new approach. Secret cadres operated in urban areas, communicating via couriers and drops, a war of subversion, secret messages, daggers in the dark, and bombs. In addition to their urban cadres, rural cadres formed companies of riflemen; hidden away in isolated areas where arms and supplies could be safely stockpiled, and new recruits trained, without the authorities noticing. It was even said that several nobles, especially those from the old South, were sympathetic to the Brotherhood’s cause, largely due to them being descended from the Continental Army, and thus turned a blind eye to their activities. These nobles, whom history would soon refer to as the “High Republicans”, were impressed by the Brotherhood but thought their focus on irregular warfare naive. Conventional troops would be needed, and they knew how to get them.

By 1859, the situation in Britannia was a powder keg just waiting to go off. The ignition would come via Alejandra’s reaction to the tragic events of that year. On May 15th, in an incident that has never been satisfactorily explained, Emperor Aurelian zi Britannia I, 92nd Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, alongside Prince Basilio were murdered; seemingly by the latter’s personal knight, Ganelon D'Angelo, who promptly disappeared. As a result, in what came to be known as The Fuente Trials, Alejandra and her family, wild with grief, turned their wrath not only on the D'Angelo family but anyone remotely associated with their treacherous scion, in most cases on circumstantial or tainted evidence. Among them were, suspiciously to some, several of Lincoln's allies and supporters. To his credit, Lincoln fought hard to protect those caught up in the affair, even if they were not among his party. But despite his efforts, dozens of probably innocent men and women went to the guillotine on Alejandra's orders. For a time, it seemed as though the Cardinal of Pendragon was defeated, and Alejandra in control.

But even in a state of terrible grief, Alejandra quickly realized she had overreached herself, for her death list included Ganelon's best friend and fiancé, brother and sister Andreas and Annette Weinberg respectively. Lincoln fought particularly in the case of the Weinberg children, and Imperial prosecutors could find no meaningful evidence of involvement. As much she wanted the Weinberg siblings dead, Alejandra knew that she could go no further; to kill them would not only antagonize Lincoln and the Britannian populace in general, but also destroy any chance of her grandson becoming emperor, as a significant amount of nobles saw the late Aurelian as a usurper, and would quickly seize the opportunity to depose her grandson Carlos and replace him with one of Alec’s children. As such, a very reluctant Alejandra ordered the release of the Weinberg siblings, thus ending the Fuente Trials.

Pandora’s Box had already been opened, however, as the murders of Emperor Aurelian and Prince Basilio and the resulting Fuente Trials quickly threw the court into chaos, and within days imperial blood would be shed. The first to die was Duncan de Britannia, the darling of the chivalric class and favored candidate of the south. He was followed only days later by his main rival, Joshua sui Britannia, the north's favored candidate; murdered by one of Duncan's supporters. Southerners were outraged by Duncan's murder, seeing it as evidence of a conspiracy against their interests. Their anger only deepened when Minister of War Jefferson Davis, Duke of Mississippi, was arraigned before the House of Lords on charges of treasonous conspiracy, misappropriation of state funds, and Joshua's murder. The collapse of the trial after one week did little to calm the situation.   

Within the court, the conflict was bloody but brief, as Lincoln, despite his animosity towards Alejandra, alongside Aurelian's former councilors worked desperately to bring the feuding imperial families together and work out a compromise. The obvious candidate was Basilio’s son, Carlos, but his grandmother’s actions in the Fuente Trials, his young age, and his sickly nature had severely lowered his chances of becoming emperor, worsened by the attempted trial of the Weinberg children. Regardless, Alejandra lobbied hard to be named as Regent but found herself opposed not only by her rival consorts but the House of Lords itself. Their preferred candidate was none other than Jefferson Davis, riding high on a wave of sympathy following his trial. The thought of Davis as Regent horrified northerners, especially abolitionists, who feared that he would use the sovereign power to enforce pro-slavery laws. The council stalled but could not sufficiently dent Davis' support in the lords, while northern nobles and politicians made it clear that they would not tolerate a Davis regency. The only alternative was none other than Lincoln’s wife, Princess Louisa li Britannia.

Empress Louisa li Britannia I, 93rd Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire, is considered by many to be the unlikeliest monarch in all Britannian history. As stated previously, Louisa was something of a nobody in the Imperial family, a lesser princess with little hope of the throne, who alternated between pursuing the cause of abolition and enjoying the high life. Her marriage to Lincoln in 1840 scandalized the court but attracted little attention outside of it. Their relationship blossomed even further when, in 1847, Abraham and Louisa had their first and only child: Princess Claire li Britannia. The family might have lived out their lives in luxurious obscurity if not for the Fuente Trials and the resulting 1859 succession crisis. 

Louisa was crowned Empress in the autumn of 1860, with Claire as Crown Princess and Lincoln as her Chancellor. Though the popular reaction was mixed, the aristocracy reacted almost universally with horror and disgust. But this paled in comparison to the reaction of Alejandra, as she was furious that her grandson, a boy of real blood was passed over in favor of a woman whose daughter’s blood was tainted by her plebeyo father. As a result, she made plans on usurp the throne for her grandson. However, events would force her to set it aside for now.

The Brotherhood of Liberty, smelling blood in the water, made itself know the public by releasing a series of pamphlets titled E Pluribus Unum (Latin for “Out of many, one”). The pamphlets were essentially a rehash of ideas from the time of Washington’s Rebellion, calling for all North America to rise in revolution against monarchism, and bring true liberty in the form of republicanism. While the north was largely indifferent to the release of the pamphlets, the south, which had at best tolerated the Britannian monarchy for the sake of stability as well as preserving their own interests, bought it hook, line, and sinker.

To their credit, Louisa and Lincoln worked hard to seal the breach between north and south. However, Louisa made the crucial error of declaring the Brotherhood of Liberty a treasonous organization. This, in addition to the accession of a known abolitionist to the throne with her half-bred daughter for an heiress was more than the south could bear.

In 1860, a group of southern aristocrats and knights publicly renounced their titles, declared full support for the Brotherhood of Liberty, and put their names to an undertaking to overthrow their unwanted sovereigns by force. In a public declaration on December 20th, the so-called High Republicans declared the Holy Britannian Empire illegitimate as well as their intention to defend their rights and property by force. Nobles and knights flocked to join them from all over the empire, including the north, renouncing their titles in the process; all the while, the Brotherhood of Liberty accelerated the uprising. Militia and even some regular battalions, their officers and men suborned by Pro-Brotherhood agents, abandoned their barracks, and headed for pre-arranged rally points. Committed rebels, secretly trained in hidden camps, fled their homes and workplaces, and rushed to take up arms. Rifle companies raided depots and captured bridges, and urban cadres planted bombs and carried out assassinations. Nobles, Imperial officials, and prominent loyalists of any sort were targeted. Within a few days, the south was in flames.

By the time hostilities broke out in April of 1861, the High Republicans’ territory included the former duchies (now States) of South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee, as well as Virginia, Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana alongside the Mexican territories. The Dukes of Missouri and Kentucky attempted to align their territories with the High Republicans, only to be overthrown and forced to flee by loyalist nobles.

And so, on February 4, 1861, the New United States of America (NUSA) (named after the short-lived “Old” United States of America formed during Washington’s Rebellion) was formed, with Jefferson Davis serving as President of the newborn nation. In addition, he would be bestowed the title of Defender of the Americas.

This was more of a public declaration of the High Republicans’ true intent: to conquer the north, destroy Britannia, and reunify the country into a new America, one built upon the country's true values. As if to further capitalize on contrast, the Republicans re-adopted the so-called Traitor’s Banner (a flag consisting of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing a circle of thirteen small stars) as their standard.

And so, the battle for the soul of the continent had begun. One would stand, and one would fall. Victory would either go the Holy Britannian Empire, now known as the "Empire", or the New United States of America, now known as the "Republic".

The North-South War (or alternately the Britannian Civil War), was underway. 

The North-South War[]

To those in the know, Louisa, Lincoln, and the rest of the government faced an impossible challenge.  Of an army officially numbering forty thousand, just under thirty thousand were available for service; the rest were either lost to desertion or trapped in Imperial forts and bases inside Republican territory. Even worse, the navy's Caribbean fleet based at Mobile declared for the rebels, and several Imperial warships mutinied and headed south.  As a result, the Imperial navy's strength of sixty modern steam ironclads and eighty-six steam frigates were reduced to only thirty-four and forty-nine respectively. Despite the jingoism of the northern press and public, Louisa and Lincoln quickly realized that the coming war would not be a short one and made their plans accordingly. Due to having virtually no experience in warfare, Louisa gave Lincoln nearly full control of the war effort in her name, with his first General Order of the war was for the raising of new regiments, with junior regiments being split to provide trained cadres. Northern nobles pledged their retinues, which were incorporated into the Imperial forces under these provisions. It would nevertheless take many months to mold these disparate forces into a unified army.  

The Brotherhood of Liberty was immediately rechristened as the New United States Army though it was a colorful affair. The bulk of its strength in 1861 was made up of former Brotherhood members as well as ex-noble retinues; the larger forming their own regiments while the smaller were combined together. The rest were volunteers, hurriedly raised in the early months of 1861. Perhaps, the most colorful, and controversial, units of the Republican army were the so-called Liberty Legions. Made up of former nobles and knights, the legions rode into battle dressed in a combination of Roman-style armor and Washington's Rebellion-era military clothing, charging with couched lance. This phenomenon can be explained in part as an expression of the Republic's chivalric ideals, but it also represented something much deeper and more painful. It was in many respects a desperate lashing out against the encroachment of modernity, an anguished yearning to prove that the warrior ways of old could prevail against modern industrial warfare. They were at times able to pull off upsets, such as at First Bull Run and Chancellorsville; however, they tended to suffer against Imperial firepower.

The war officially began with an Imperial attempt to invade Virginia in July of 1861.  Its target was Richmond, Virginia's foremost city and the seat of the Republican government, along with the vital Tredegar Ironworks and the naval base at Hampton Roads to the south-east.  The campaign came to a sudden and violent end as the Imperial army attempted to cross the Bull Run river near Manassas Junction, in the face of Republican opposition.  This was the first major battle of the war and set the tone of much that was to follow.   Both armies deployed and fought in the Napoleonic fashion, with battalions arranged in thin lines, screened by clouds of skirmishers.  Despite the efforts of reformers, this was the only way of battle the majority of Britannian officers knew, and their stubborn adherence to it would cost many lives. 

The root of the problem was that this doctrine was designed for the muzzle-loading flintlock musket, which could manage only three or four shots a minute on average.  Imperial infantry was armed primarily with the new Springfield rifle, a breech-loading bolt-action rifle developed from examples of Johann von Dreyse's Zündnadelgewehr; acquired from Europe in the 1850s.  Years of tinkering had made the Springfield a far superior weapon, which in tests could manage as many as fifteen shots per minute.  Reformist officers had spent years lobbying for changes in infantry tactics, but a combination of organizational inertia and stubborn pride confounded their efforts.  At Bull Run, the price of this short-sightedness was made brutally clear.  Republican infantry, who unlike their Imperial counterparts were often permitted to fire at will, inflicted terrible damage on the advancing Imperial troops.  The advance collapsed when Republican infantry counter-attacked, accompanied by a charge by three companies made up ex-knights; the Southern Cross, the Golden Wreath, and the Grey Shield. A complete rout was prevented only by the intervention of the Imperial Guard brigade, which following normal practice had been kept in reserve. 

Imperial forces would have little more luck on the sea than on the land. Outraged by the defections and fearful of what the New United States might do with so many modern ironclads, many Imperial admirals pushed for an all-out attack; to crush the rebel fleet while the Imperials still had a numerical advantage. The result was a full-scale naval battle near Hampton Roads, with both sides deploying all of their available ironclads and most of their steam frigates. Far from the decisive victory the Imperials hoped for, the battle proved a tactical draw.  The armor of the ironclads proved too much for their own weapons, with many captains resorting to firing shrapnel over the enemy decks on the hope of killing the crews.  While several frigates were sunk, and many of the ironclads damaged, no ironclads were sunk or captured, and the Republican fleet was able to escape south to fight another day.  The one comfort of the day was that the Imperial fleet was able to blockade Hampton Roads, a major port and one of only two Republican shipyards - the other being Mobile - capable of building large ironclads.  For all that, the Republican fleet was free to roam the high seas, attacking Imperial shipping while shielding its own from Imperial interference. Sea trade was vital to Republican survival, as Republican agents were even then sourcing and purchasing weapons from both European and Hispanian arms manufacturers, while EU President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte - nephew to the EU's first President – and Hispanian President Benito Juárez turned a blind eye respectively. 

On land, Imperial fortunes took a turn for the better in 1862, as Imperial armies grew ever larger.  A Republican advance was halted at Shiloh in April, giving the Imperial cause a much-needed confidence boost.  In the east, Imperial forces laid an ambitious plan to land George McClellan's Army of the Potomac on the Virginia peninsula, allowing it to bypass the Republican defenses and attack Richmond.  The plan was initially successful but complicated by one of the most famous events of the entire war.  For in March of 1862 the Republicans, hoping to break the Imperial blockade of Hampton Roads, had unleashed their latest warship.  The NUS Virginia was ground-breaking in many respects, with an all-steel hull, sloped casemate superstructure, and the most powerful guns ever fitted to a warship at the time of her launch.  Imperial admirals were aware of her existence but did not believe the Republicans would risk it under such circumstances.  On her first foray, the Virginia sank the ironclads Emperor Ricardo and Emperor Michael and damaged several others before ammunition shortage - a consequence of its hasty deployment - forced it to withdraw.  Shocked by this, the Imperial Britannian Navy was forced to deploy its own newest warship, the HIMS MonitorMonitor was a very different animal, being designed as a bombardment platform rather than a high-seas warship, with her guns - which were fewer in number than her intended opponent's but of larger size and rating - in a set of fully armored turrets.   When she finally faced Virginia on March 9th, her armor proved enough to resist the Virginia's guns, though her own guns were unable to do much damage.  Heavier and slower due to her heavy turrets and lower draft, Monitor could not prevent Virginia from fleeing the battle.  But the blockade was saved, and McClellan was able to advance up the Virginia peninsula; only to be halted in a series of clashes in late June, known as the Seven Days Battles.  Virginia was able to escape the blockade in May, taking up temporary residence in Charleston.

Flushed with success, and with a new commander in the form of Robert E. Lee, the Republican Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Imperial territory, defeating Imperial armies at Second Bull Run and Chantilly.  These successes left Lee in a position to advance further north into Maryland, which he did in September.  In a strange incident, McClellan acquired Lee's campaign plans, found by Imperial soldiers wrapped around three cigars.  McClellan went on the offensive, successfully taking the South Mountain passes from Republican forces.  These victories were in part due to new artillery tactics, developed by the artillery corps in response to the tactical problem of the Springfield rifle, as well as the sheer number of the latest rifled guns McClellan had requisitioned for his army.  The southern troops had nevertheless delayed McClellan long enough for Lee to gather his army near Sharpsburg.  The battle that followed, named Antietam for the river alongside which it was fought, was one of the bloodiest of the entire war.  McClellan's artillery provided effective support to the infantry, but a shortage of shells prevented it from performing as he wished.  His attacks against the Republican left and center were initially successful, but the attacking corps were not properly coordinated, and opportunities to decisively break Republican resistance were missed.  An attack further south, commanded by Ambrose Burnside, was initially successful but failed for want of support.  By the end of the day, the death toll ran into the tens of thousands on both sides, and McClellan was unable to prevent Lee from withdrawing south. 

Antietam marked the end of McClellan's career, his failings as a commanding general having been exposed.  His replacement was a reluctant Ambrose Burnside, in a large part due to the legend of Burnside's Bridge at Antietam.  Taking the technical victory as divine providence, Lincoln began drafting what history would name the Emancipation Decree, which Empress Louisa would issue on January 1st, 1863; freeing all slaves held in rebel territories or owned by rebels. The bloodshed had nevertheless convinced him of the need for major military reforms, though it would be many months, and many hard battles, before these reforms bore fruit.  Historians have tended to mark the Battle of Fredericksburg, fought in December of 1862, as the final turning point.  Burnside's attempt to slip across the Rappahannock River in mid-November was stymied when the pontoon bridges he needed failed to arrive in time.  By the time he was able to cross the river in force, at the town of Fredericksburg, Lee had managed to array his army along the heights overlooking the town.  With the effectiveness of Imperial artillery reduced by low-lying mist, Imperial infantry was forced to advance into the withering fire against Republican infantry defending a stone wall lining a sunken lane.  The Imperial Guard division won fame at Fredericksburg, its courage and sacrifice matched only by the Irish Brigade, and its reputation as a pack of pampered good-for-nothings finally scotched.  That the guard included a disproportionate number of the most promising young officers and NCOs, for whom the guard acted as an informal fast-track system, made its losses all the more tragic. 

Having lost around thirty thousand dead or wounded, a third of his army, Burnside was forced to withdraw.   Fredericksburg was the last battle in which Britannian infantry fought in the Napoleonic style.  Lincoln used the slaughter as a pretext to force a new doctrine on the army, which essentially extended the practices of the Ranger Corps to the army as a whole.  From then on, the infantry would advance in loose formation, and accurate individual fire was to be encouraged; practices already taking hold in the Republican army. A disaster such as Fredericksburg could not go unpunished, and Burnside was replaced by Joseph Hooker in January of 1863.  A far more aggressive commander than either of his predecessors, Hooker planned to bypass Fredericksburg to the West, near the town of Chancellorsville.  In this he succeeded, only to hesitate on May 1st, for reasons that are not entirely clear.  This bought Lee vital time to redeploy his army, leading to one of the war's bloodiest battles and arguably his greatest victory.  The Battle of Chancellorsville nevertheless cost Lee one of his most trusted subordinates, Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, along with tens of thousands of casualties.  But the victory presented an opportunity, and in June Lee led his army north into Pennsylvania.  When the Imperial Army of the Potomac headed north to oppose him, Lee sought to concentrate his army on the high ground surrounding the town of Gettysburg.  This he failed to do, in part due to resistance by dismounted Imperial cavalry, later supported by infantry.  The Battle of Gettysburg would last for three days, culminating in a full-scale attack led by Major General George Pickett, for which the battle is mostly remembered.  The mutual slaughter was made all the worse by the presence of Gatling guns; appearing for the first time in a major battle. 

Gettysburg is widely regarded as the turning point in the civil war, from which the New United States would never recover.  It coincided with the fall of Vicksburg, allowing Imperial troops to march further south and gain control of the entire Mississippi River, effectively cutting the New Republic in two.  These defeats also marked a shift in the psychology of the South, with previously suppressed divisions flaring into life.  Ironically, the arguments over slavery took a back seat to much broader issues of identity.  Many southerners believed that the war could be won only through the full and ruthless application of military technology, using firepower to overcome the South's nigh-insurmountable disadvantage in manpower.  But others, especially the Liberty Legions, feared that this approach would cause the New United States to lose its soul even if it won. Also, a defensive war based on firepower could only realistically result in a Republican secession, putting an end to any hope of reuniting the continent and restoring its true values.  They found themselves outvoted by the Southern public, in whom the slaughter and privations of war had bred a growing bitterness.  Political infighting within the Republican leadership would nevertheless weaken the New United States at this crucial time and contribute to what to some seemed even then like its inevitable defeat.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Republican military science also made its first appearance in 1863. Named for its inventor, who drowned during its second sinking, the submarine H.L. Hunley included some of Britannia's latest technologies. Most important among these was an electric engine powered by sakuradite, the largest and most powerful ever made.  The sakuradite itself was largely imported from Japan, over the increasingly intemperate protests of Imperial ambassadors, at considerable expense.  But the Hunley itself did not carry this engine, being only a prototype; instead, she made do with a hand-cranked propeller.  The project very nearly fell victim to the political and cultural conflicts of the Republic, aside from the difficulty many politicians had in grasping why they were paying for a ship that was designed to sink.  Sent into combat in February of 1864, the Hunley managed to sink the Imperial sloop HIMS Housatonic, only to be caught in the explosion and sunk itself.  But the concept was proven and given a morale boost by the Hunley's sacrifice.  The New United States' second and third submarines, the NUS Kraken and NUS Scylla, showed what the new technology was capable of.  Unlike the Hunley, both were equipped with experimental self-propelled torpedoes - also powered by sakuradite - which the New United States Navy hoped would allow it to defeat the Imperial navy's newest battleships.

Their test soon came about in September of 1864.  Despite Imperial successes on land, victory seemed as far away as ever.  Ringed with larger and ever more elaborate earthworks, and defended by Gatling guns, Republican cities had become all but impregnable.  Command of all Imperial armies had by this time been given to Ulysses S. Grant, who already had a reputation for hard-nosed ruthlessness.  He knew that Imperial control of the Mississippi meant little so long as the Republicans could ship supplies and men across the Gulf of Mexico and that the Republican cities would never fall unless they could be isolated.  The latter was to be solved by an amphibious invasion of Cuba - cutting off the bulk of the Republic's sea trade - followed by the recapture of all the other Caribbean islands.  The initial attack, under the command of Vice-Admiral David Farragut, consisted of the HIMS Monitor, accompanied by two of the Imperial navy's new high-seas battleships, the Conqueror and the Dominator.  The task force encountered the Republican battleships Virginia and Houston in the Straits of Florida, forcing them to disengage after several hours of fighting.  The Kraken and Scylla took no part in the battle, despite having been towed to Havana only days earlier.  The Monitor wrought terrible damage on the shore defenses with her batteries, leaving the way clear for landings near Havana. 

It was only as the main force approached Cuba that the Kraken and Scylla took action, targeting the vulnerable transports and their escorting ironclads.  The first attack of the Kraken sunk the ironclad Warspite and a transport - the first successful torpedo attack in naval history - while the Scylla bypassed the escorts and sunk three additional transports.  But the landings continued regardless, and Havana's defenders turned their attention to the Monitor.  The Kraken attacked on September 15th, hitting the Monitor with two torpedoes. Though one failed to penetrate the Monitor's armor, the other struck the stern, disabling the rudder and propellers.  Monitor responded with a desperate fusillade along the torpedoes' vector, and by cruel chance hit and sunk the Kraken. A desperate attack by the Republican fleet on September 30th ended in failure, with the Virginia, Houston, and seven ironclads sunk, compared to two ironclads on the Imperial side.  Havana surrendered the next day, as did the crew of the Scylla not long after, thus effectively securing Cuba within a week. The remaining Caribbean islands followed over the coming month. 

The fall of Cuba, led to a decisive split within the Republican leadership, as several southern politicians quickly concluded that the eastern territories were lost, and so fled to the Mexican territories while there was still time.  This did not seriously alter the outcome of the war, but it arguably hastened the Republic's looming defeat.  Grant spent the first months of 1865 isolating Republican strong points and fighting-off Republican counterattacks.  The fall of Petersburg in April led in turn to the surrender of Richmond, and Lee was forced to surrender his army at Appomattox on April 11th.  What remained of the Republic's eastern territories fell to Imperial forces within a few months.

The New United States of America was dead and gone, but the war was far from over.

In an attempt to stir up support among ordinary Mexicans and gain international recognition, as well as potentially end the war with some semblance of their original values, the remaining High Republicans declared Mexico's independence once more, establishing the United Mexican States with Alexander Stephens, former Grand Duke of Georgia, being sworn in as President.  The only real change this brought on the international stage, however, was for the Tokugawa Shogunate to finally bow to Imperial requests and end sakuradite sales, while all attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Britannia were bluntly rejected. Much more, Lincoln himself declaring the war would not end until "the last traitor is dead and buried deep". Despite Mexico's dire situation, however, it would take Imperial forces four more years to finally subdue it.  This was in part due to the sheer scale of the campaign, with over a hundred thousand men and their supplies needing to be moved over ravaged or underdeveloped territory.  The remnants of the New United States military, now the Mexican Armed Forces, fought with a fatalistic stubbornness, knowing if bullet or bayonet did not take then, the noose and the axe awaited. 

Beside land campaign, the Imperials found themselves with another problem: the remnants of the New United States Navy, following their leaders' example, soon declared themselves the Mexican Navy and arranged themselves along the Mexican coast - effectively a reverse of the previous Imperial blockade - to prevent landing attempts from the Gulf. Though the Imperial Britannian Navy remained a potent force by this point, the Admiralty was hesitant to break their own blockade around the former Republican territories and potentially open them up for Mexican reprisal and/or European intrusion. Additionally, while the Imperial Britannian Navy retained its Pacific Squadron, the shortages at the onset of the war had resulted in the bulk of its forces being reassigned to the Atlantic; as such, the Pacific Squadron was too small and underequipped to stage a repeat of the western landings seen in the Mexican-Britannian War.

Thus, in one of the most ironic twists in Britannian history, the Admiralty chose to deploy the Scylla, now rechristened as the HIMS Leviathan, against her former fleet. Under the command of Lieutenant Commander Horatio Nelson Farragut - Admiral Farragut's eldest son from his first wife Susan - the Leviathan launched an essential repeat of the Battle of Hampton Roads, systematically eliminating the blockade ships in a series of hit-and-run attacks. Unlike the Confederates' run at Hampton Roads, however, the Leviathan was completely unchallenged throughout her run, thus allowing her to succeed - again unlike at Hampton Roads - in breaking both the blockade and the Mexican Navy in only a matter of weeks, effectively paving the way for the eventual Marine landings. As a side effect of this, however, the European Union, the United Hispanian States, and by extension the rest of the world, would realize the effectiveness of the submarine, and so pursue the development of their own submarine forces. Alongside, the Leviathan's raids would inspire French writer Jules Verne to write what is largely considered his magnum opus, the science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The campaign to reconquer Mexico, however, would continue to remain an arduous one, and it would take the most unlikely person imaginable to finally end the North-South War. In 1868, on the coast of the Grand Duchy of California, a single ship arrived from across the Pacific Ocean, carrying within it a motley band of adventurers, most of them hailing from the distant island of Japan. Their leader was a taciturn warrior named Renya Jiyukaze, but he, in turn, was acting on behalf of another; a young woman with blonde hair and purple eyes, who had come to save her country.

Said woman was none other than Crown Princess Claire li Britannia. It is widely fact now that, with civil war underway, Louisa knew that the Republic would target her family, especially Clarie, for assassination to cripple the Empire and hasten its conquest. Lincoln also knew this, and as such, after much pleading, he convinced a very reluctant Louisa to send Claire, despite the latter's protests, to the most unlikely place he could think of: Japan. Claire disappeared from the historical record at that point; she would not reappear for eight years. How she was able to arrive in Japan remains unclear, but regardless, she was known to have been living in the isolated village of Eimei in the Iga Province of Japan by 1861. By all accounts, her time in Eimei Village was a happy one. Doubtless, as a foreigner, she would have been an object of curiosity, but Eimei had long been a refuge for waifs and strays of all kinds. This happy time came to an end in or around 1868, when Japan was wracked by conflict between followers of the Tokugawa Shogunate and partisans of the Isshin Shishi faction; a conflict remembered as the Boshin War. In the course of the conflict, Eimei was destroyed by a warband of the Sumeragi Clan, and the villagers enslaved. The warband was defeated by Renya, and by the unlikely help of a certain Andreas Weinberg, a guest of the Sumeragi. Andreas was tasked by both Lincoln and Empress Louisa to ostensibly treat with the Shogunate and the Japanese clans to purchase Sakuradite, but his real mission was to track down Claire. Finding his princess among the captives, Alto - as Claire and her companions would come to call him - turned on his hosts and helped Renya win the day.

After a series of adventures - which took her even to the EU colony of Nueva Espana - Claire finally returned to Britannia. Though no warrior herself, her life and adventures had strengthened her in many ways and given her a determination to stop the North-South War and change Britannia for the better. She displayed this determination in her early actions; establishing herself in California with the help of local Imperial forces led by Prince Alfred la Britannia. Unpretentious and even kind, she treated the common people with humanity and patience, and nobles and knights with grace and consideration.

It did not take long for both Britannia and Mexico to notice her presence in California, and in November of 1868, both sides acted. While Louisa sent her best guards to retrieve Claire and escort her to Pendragon, the remaining High Republicans, embittered by the premature demise of the New United States and their resulting retreat to Mexico, sent assassins after Claire to spite the Empire. When this failed, they sent an entire army commanded by the infamous Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, against her. But word reached Claire of the army's coming; according to legend, from members of the Mormon sect. Her forces, commanded by Prince Alfred, faced Forrest’s army on a field south of San Diego, California. The battle that followed was a resounding victory for Claire and cemented Alfred’s reputation as a commander, while Forrest fled with what remained with his army back to Mexico.

What came to be known as the Battle of San Diego marked the beginning of the end of the North-South War, as word of the battle quickly spread throughout the continent, severely boosting the morale of the Britannian soldiers who were suffering from a war of attrition, while utterly demoralizing the Mexicans. With her morale given a much-need boost, Britannia aggressively resumed its campaign to reconquer Mexico, devouring it one province after another. As a result, the capital city of Mexico City would at last fall on February 19, 1869. The remaining High Republicans as well as President Stephens would be hunted down and summarily executed soon after, and though certain ex-Republican commanders, namely the Nathan Bedford Forrest, would continue to stage organized resistances, these would only last for a few more months at most. Thus, on April 9, 1869, the North-South War came to its official end.   

Old Habits Die Hard[]

Not long after the Battle of San Diego, the guards sent by Louisa finally reached Claire, safely escorting her and her group, whom she convinced the guards to let them come with her, back to Pendragon. During their journey to the capital, Claire knew that, although Britannia was now at peace, the empire had been devastated by nearly a decade of civil war.

Indeed, the North-South War had left behind painful scars on Britannia and her people.  The south's defeat was not merely political, but cultural and even demographic.  Many hundreds of thousands of southerners, mostly men, had died in the fighting, with some communities losing all their menfolk.  But far more deep-rooted was the sense of social and cultural defeat.  Having gone to war to restore what its people saw as true North American values, many southerners felt that it was as if those very values had been themselves defeated.  Contemporary accounts refer to a widespread sense of despair and resentment, almost like the feelings accompanying the defeat of Washington's Rebellion.  Even in the north, there was little sense of triumph, as people were more aware of how much blood was spilled during the war.  The dominant feeling felt by many northerners was a determination to take the empire forward, and to ensure that such a tragedy could never happen again.  For generations to come, the North-South War would stand as a warning of what would happen if Britannian ever turned on Britannian. 

Buoyed by victory and this new determination, Lincoln and Empress Louisa took the lead with a program of reform that encompassed the entire empire. Dubbed Reconstruction in the press, it aimed to repair both the physical and psychological damage wrought by the war, reuniting the Britannian people with a common culture and interest.  The first order of business was to settle the empire's finances; war expenses and trade disruption had left Britannia with a national debt of over three billion dollars, or around thirty percent of GDP. Lincoln's response was to completely reorganize the lower and mid-levels of the Britannian government, which included stripping nobles of all their seigneurial powers; including those related to tax collection.  The civil service was expanded in order to cope, with the choicest positions going to loyalist nobles in compensation for their lost privileges. The new revenues were quickly put to use, expanding, and improving the empire's infrastructure. New railway routes spread across the empire, including a long-awaited transcontinental line. Ruined cities were rebuilt and expanded, while the ravaged countryside was reorganized to better suit the empire's new needs.  The estates and smallholdings of the old south were refashioned into vast factory farms, producing food and cash crops for trade and domestic consumption alike. 

These changes did not come without resistance.  Rural southerners deeply resented these changes, especially the destitution caused by the expansion of the factory farms.  Countless smallholders were driven to the breadline or forced to sell up and seek their fortunes elsewhere, in the newly industrialized cities or the distant frontier.  Some lashed out at the government with campaigns of civil disobedience or sabotage, while others took out their frustration on those they saw as the beneficiaries of their misery; the newly freed African-Britannian slaves.  The result was a semi-covert race war across the south, organized and perpetuated by defeated knightly orders, notably the Southern Cross and the White Camelia. But the order that did the most damage in the insurgency was the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group founded in 1865 following the collapse of the New United States of America and the resulting birth of the United Mexican States. The KKK’s actions alone resulted in the slaughter of thousands of freed African-Britannians. As a result, the government tasked tens of thousands of Imperial troops - many of them former slaves - to suppress the violence and hunt down the insurgents, starting with the KKK. 

Yet for all the brutality and terror of the southern insurgency, the worst shock of all came in April of 1870.  On the night of April 14th, with the exception of a recently fever-stricken Empress Louisa and Princess Claire (the latter was caring for her mother at that time), Lincoln attended a performance of Our Britannian Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Pendragon, accompanied by several courtiers alongside other members of the Imperial family.  Among the company was a noted actor named John Wilkes Booth, who acted as the inside man for a team of assassins, bent on avenging the south with the blood of the Great Emancipator. As actor Harry Hawk began to deliver the following line: "Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!", the assassins threw improvised bombs into the antechamber of the Imperial box and then stormed the box with guns blazing. Abraham Lincoln, Chancellor of the Holy Britannian Empire, husband of Empress Louisa li Britannia I, and father of Princess Claire li Britannia, was killed, along with two ministers and a half-dozen senior courtiers. The assassins were themselves gunned down by newly arrived guards within minutes. The killings shocked an already traumatized Britannia, eliciting grief and rage in equal measure.  The southern insurgents, especially the KKK, though they denied involvement, were blamed for the outrage.  The insurgents were hunted ever more harshly, with the slightest resistance ruthlessly punished. Reconstruction would go ahead, buoyed by the memory of its Imperial martyr.

As for Louisa, she was already worn out with everything that had happened since her ascension to the throne, and the loss of her husband was the straw that broke the camel’s back. On April 22nd, 1870, Empress Louisa li Britannia I, 93rd Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire, after publicly confirming Claire’s status as heiress to the throne, shocked the empire by abdicating her throne. As a result, Claire was crowned as the 94th Empress of the Holy Britannian Empire the following day.

Claire's first order of business was to stamp out the southern insurgency and bring true peace to Britannia. On May 4th, in a rare act of ruthlessness, she issued the Ku Klux Klan Decree, which declared the KKK and other similar organizations to be illegal, and members were given an ultimatum: leave their respective organizations and renounce its beliefs and ideals or be branded an enemy of Britannia and face the empire's wrath. Those who revealed the names of members of white supremacist organizations and cooperated with authorities would be rewarded appropriately. This sped up the demise of the southern insurgency, as those who loved Lincoln had sought to avenge his murder and were more than willing to return the favor to the insurgents. As a result, the southern insurgency was largely over by 1877.

With the insurgency taken care of, Claire continued her father's work, successfully completing Reconstruction by 1880. During that period, she married the war hero Prince Alfred la Britannia, mostly for political reasons but their relationship would soon blossom into genuine love. On July 18th, 1871, Claire secured her legacy by bearing Alfred a son, Prince Lawrence li Britannia. Two more children would follow: Prince Edward li Britannia in 1877, and Princess Jessica li Britannia in 1880. Both Claire and Alfred doted on their children, raising them in the safety of a royal hunting lodge and visiting them whenever they could. When they were busy with imperial duties, they entrusted Empress Dowager Louisa li Britannia and Sir Renya Jiyukaze (rumored to be the true biological father of Claire's children) in raising the children.

In addition to her trueborn children, Claire would end up adopting another child into the family. In time, he would be formally known as Emperor Joseph li Britannia I, 95th Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, but history would know him by another name:

Joe Steele.

Joseph Vissarionovich Jughashvili was born on December 6th, 1878, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Besarion Jughashvili and Ekaterine "Keke" Geladze, who were Georgian immigrants who came from the Russian Empire to Britannia in 1873 search of a better life. The couple were fortunate enough to be hired by the Grand Duke of Pennsylvania, with them working as servants. This would go on until February 8th of 1879, two months after the birth of their son, Joseph. When Empress Claire visited the Grand Duke's palace for a ball, a bomb would go off, killing 57 people, including both Besarion and the Grand Duke. The Empress would have been one of the casualties had Keke not shielded her from the blast, fatally wounding herself in the process. Grateful for this, Claire promised to take care of Keke's son, Joseph before she died in her arms. Upon hunting down and executing the perpetrator, who was yet another lone wolf Republican sympathizer, Claire would adopt the infant Joseph as her own, and raised him in the Imperial Palace in Pendragon.

From 1879 to 1888, Joseph's childhood was, by all accounts, a time of love and happiness; Claire and Alfred raised Joseph as if he was one of their own children, and he got along well with Crown Prince Lawrence and Prince Edward despite the former's initial misgivings over his status as a commoner and was very close with Princess Jessica after her birth. In addition, Empress-Dowager Louisa would become a surrogate grandmother to Joseph, tutoring him in math and science. However, it was combat that he would have a passion for, with Sir Renya training him in hand-to-hand combat as well as sword fighting, even him gifting him a katana named Chikage (Japanese for "Blood Shadow"), which was said to have been used by Oda Nobunaga himself and was his favorite weapon during the Sengoku Jidai.

However, not everyone in the palace appreciated Joseph's presence as well as his status as the adopted son of the Empress. The Dowager Empress Alejandra he Britannia had endured being on the sidelines for years. She barely tolerated Claire's ascension to the throne due to the sheer amount of support for her at the outbreak of the North-South War. Following the end of said war, Alejandra attempted to gain some measure of her power back; she proposed to Claire that she and Prince Carlos marry.

More to come..

At the same time, Claire had notably ended two of Britannia's long-standing strategic gripes; specifically, Alaska and Greenland, which were then part of the Russian Empire and the EU respectively. Unwilling to use force, Claire got around the problem by simply purchasing the territories, in 1875 and 1877 respectively.

But perhaps the most memorable part of Claire's reign was the beginning of a new age of science and invention that would share her name: the Clairesian Era. In turn, one name stood out above all others within that line.  Thomas Alva Edison was in many respects a uniquely Britannian success story; a man who rose from relative obscurity to the heights of fame and fortune, an inventor beyond compare, and one of Britannian history's most idiosyncratic personalities.  Edison began his career as a telegraph operator and freelance researcher, with many of his first patents being relevant to the former.  His success as an inventor gave him the resources he needed to establish his own laboratory in Menlo Park, in the Duchy of New Jersey. Though Edison acquired over a thousand patents in the course of his career, arguably his most significant achievement was the development of a viable sakuradite alloy.  Sakuradite was something of an obsession for Edison, to the point where it was said that if electricity was his true love, sakuradite was his mistress.  Sakuradite's bizarre properties had long mystified scientists, though it was acknowledged as the most perfectly conductive substance known to man.  It was also extremely expensive and extremely dangerous, with all too many experiments ending in large and violent explosions.  But Edison persevered, and in 1880 he finally perfected his formula.  It was this that drew the attention of Empress Claire, who invited Edison to contribute to a project of her own; the construction of a hydroelectric power station near Niagra Falls.  Edison's involvement in the project earned him a knighthood in 1881 and led him to build his own hydroelectric plant at Vulcan Street in the following year.  The decade would see a veritable explosion of new technologies, transforming Britannia beyond recognition.

Rewrite underway...

The Man of Steele[]

Rewrite underway..

Into the New Century[]

More to come...

World War I[]

Boom and Bust[]

World War II[]

A New Britannia[]

Emblem of Blood[]

The Balance Shifts[]

A New Millenium []

The Oriental Incident[]

The Second Pacific War[]

Wrath of the Lions[]

Trouble in Area 11[]

Geography []

Home Territory[]

Britannia's modern home territory, formally known as the Imperial Homeland or just the Homeland, consists entirely of the North American continent. These were acquired before the Imperial Area Act, yet, in reference to the British Isles as the original Homeland, are designated as Areas regardless. The territories in the Homeland are in turn divided along feudal lines, providing Britannia with a truly vast peerage. Despite that, Britannia does practice some elements of modern democracy, as local legislatures are elected in addition to their ruling nobility. This was instituted when Emperor Ricardo ratified the Ricardian Constitution in 1815 to balance the power of said nobility and would become more prioritized after the end of the North-South War in 1869. The largest of these territories are the Duchies, which are in turn divided downward into Marquessates, Margravates, Earldoms, Viscounties, and Baronies. The size, population, and economic importance can vary considerably. For example, the Grand Duchy of California includes the Earldom of Los Angeles, and the Duchy of Ontario includes the Margravate of Toronto.

As a side note, certain Duchies, ones that have gained considerable importance to the Empire or whose Duke or Duchess have gained recognition from the Crown, hold the special rank of Grand Duchy. These Duchies enjoy a great deal of influence within the Imperial government while their Grand Dukes/Duchesses hold the highest-ranking amongst the nobility, being second only to members of the Imperial family. As such, the title is perhaps the most difficult to obtain within Britannia's nobility system; similar to ascension to the Knights of the Round, only the Emperor or Empress can grant the title, and he/she only does so to the most worthy of subjects.   

Areas[]

An Area is a nation or group of nations that has been conquered by Britannia and made into a colony. Each Area is designated with a number, and its people are referred to by that number (ex: after the southern half of Japan was conquered and made into Area 11, the southern Japanese were known as Elevens). For the most part, they correspond to their pre-conquest borders, though in some cases, such as with the Homeland Areas, the former individual territories may be merged together to form a whole Area.

Areas 1-7 are what make up the Homeland, and so are only treated as Areas in name; they are only classified as Areas in recognition of their not being the "true" Homeland (which remain the British Isles), but de jure colonies. Area 9, the Queen Elizabeth Islands, lays off the northern coast of the Homeland and was originally part of Area 2 (Canada), having been divided into its own Area in recognition of its role as a penitentiary state for the Homeland's worst criminals; as such, it too is treated as an Area in name only. Any territory not apart of these is recognized as a "true" Area, a la colonial state, and governed accordingly.

(Non-Homeland) Areas are divided into three categories: Reformation, Developing, and Satellite. An Area gains greater autonomy as it proceeds through these categories, though it may be demoted to Reformation in the case of a serious setback. In Reformation and Developing Areas, the Viceroy acts as the Emperor's proxy, controlling the Area as all but an Absolute Monarch in his or her own right. The Areas also attract ill-feeling from other countries, especially the EU, Australia, and Gran Hispania, which regard the Numbers as oppressed peoples and give refuge to escapees.    

Major Cities and Settlements[]

The Imperial Capital is the city of Pendragon (Washington D.C.), which is located in the Grand Duchy of the same name. The Imperial Palace is located at the center of the city, from which extends Saint Darwin Boulevard, to which the Palaces and Villas of the Imperial Consorts are connected. Pendragon is Britannia's political and administrative hub, as well as being the Capital in the symbolic sense, making control of it vital to the control of Britannia as a whole. West of the city, parts of the Appalachian mountains are riddled with underground bunkers manned by combat units of the Imperial Guard.

Imperial Britannian Armed Forces[]

The Imperial Britannian Armed Forces, otherwise known as His/Her (Imperial) Majesty's Armed Forces or the Armed Forces of the Crown, are one of the most powerful and technologically advanced in the world as of 2017. On top of this is the Colonial Security Forces, consisting of lesser-quality army personnel tasked with holding down the Areas.

Organization[]

The Britannian Armed Forces are organized into four primary branches: Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Though theoretically a part of the army, the Imperial Guard functions independently in practice.

Uniforms[]

Like the military forces of Gran Hispania, Europe, China, Russia, and other nationa, modern Britannia has all of its branches utilize a single, unified design of service attire. The main uniform color is traditional Britannian (Prussian) blue, while variations are based on position and role. For example, members of the Night's Watch wear a black version of the standard uniform.

The standard officer's uniform primarily consists of a traditional military tunic or jacket, the latter oft accompanied with white collared shirt and necktie. Male personnel wear trousers as standard, while female personnel are permitted either trousers or knee-length skirts. A complimenting greatcoat, cape or cloak may also be issued, either to defend the wearer from colder climates or simply to display prestige. Headgear is generally optional, with commissar caps, flight caps and kepis being available to all ranks and berets being reserved for special forces or certain high profile commanders. Jackboots are standard footwear.

Rank insignia is displayed on shoulder boards (officers) and shoulder sleeves (enlisted). Said insignia varies between officer level. Enlisted grades utilize the Chevron with supplementing insignia to designate assigned specializations. Subaltern officers (2nd Lieutenant to Captain / Ensign to Lieutenant) are adorned with the Bath Star (one to three total), while senior officers (Major to Brigadier / Lieutenant Commander to Commodore) are adorned with an Imperial Crown and supplementing Bath Stars (again one to three total). Upper echelon officers are adorned with Crossed Sword and Baton with supplementing Bath Star (Major General), Imperial Crown (Lieutenant General) or both (full General).

Similar to certain European practices, service branch is indicated by designated color on the uniform collar. The Imperial Army is green, the Imperial Navy is dark blue, the Imperial Air Force is light blue and the Imperial Marine Corps is red. Additional insignia, such as sub-branch, unit or service, may be applied to other areas as well.

Imperial Guard[]

The Imperial Guard is an elite formation within the Imperial forces, answering directly to the Emperor. It was first embodied in 1814 as Horse and Foot Guards to Emperor Ricardo I. The Guard would grow in number and scope over the years, as the need of the Crown for a politically reliable military force became apparent. By the Emblem of Blood (1963-1964), the Guard had become a bloated, corrupt institution, its usefulness nonexistent beyond providing employment for unemployed (or unemployable) aristocrats. Following that era, descending Emperors would take care to continually reorganize the Guard with their most loyal followers.

As opposed to the Standard Uniform, the Imperial Guard possesses its own unique stylings. Its uniform is colored grey, with a red sash running across the tunic (from the right shoulder to the left of the waist) and elbow-length black capes. Guards stationed around Imperial Palace traditionally wear plumed helmets and are armed with long rifles equipped with elaborate bayonets. Guardsmen on combat duties are equipped in the same manner as regular infantry, and have access to the full range of equipment, including knightmares.

Imperial Britannian Army[]

The Imperial Britannian Army (IBA) is one of the two oldest branches of the Imperial forces, and the largest, tracing its origins to the British Royal Army. Since the time of Emperor Ricardo it has served two essential roles; to maintain control over Britannian territories and to engage in offensive operations. The first-line forces, considered the elite of the army, are tasked with the latter role. The former role goes to the Colonial Security Forces, consisting of any recruits who did not meet the standard for the mobile forces. Both are organized in the same fashion.  

Current Imperial Army doctrine gives center-stage to the knightmare frame. With its unique combination of mobility and firepower, knightmares act as both the reconnaissance and mobile striking elements of any Britannian ground force. To use an old world analogy, knightmares are the light cavalry while the role of heavy cavalry is played by tanks. Similar to the Hispanian forces, the other main branches of the ground forces - artillery, armor, mechanized infantry - tend to operate in single-type units, with mixing taking place only at the corps level. A typical corps for open-field operations will number three tank divisions, one mechanised infantry division, and one artillery division; the ratio of tanks to infantry is usually reversed for urban operations.

In a typical open-field operation, knightmares will operate ahead and to the flanks of the main force. Special Dragoon Squadrons are permitted to act independently, with minimal input from their superiors, but otherwise knightmares tend to function at the company level. Their role in the early stages of an engagement is both reconnaissance and direct action; they must find the enemy, keep the commander informed of his movements, then blind him by isolating and destroying his forward recon units. Once this is done, the knightmares will begin to isolate larger formations, surrounding and cutting them off, while launching hit-and-run attacks to disrupt their cohesion and weaken morale. Once they are suitably softened, the tank formations strike the final blow.

Imperial Britannian Navy[]

The Imperial Britannian Navy (IBN) is, alongside the Army, the oldest branch of the Imperial forces, tracing its origins to the British Royal Navy. The Navy's roles are to ensure the security of Britannia's coastlines, territorial waters, and sea trade, as well as to take offensive action in the event of war. The Imperial Navy is supported by the Imperial Navy Auxiliary, which acts in a logistical and transport role.

Imperial Britannian Marine Corps[]

The Imperial Britannian Marine Corps (IBMC) are, as their name implies, marine infantry, linked to both the Army and the Navy (though officially a subset of the Navy). They specialize in amphibious, arctic, and littoral warfare, also providing armed complements for warships and security for Naval bases. The implementation of amphibious knightmare frames, namely the Portman, has made them all but completely unstoppable in littoral warfare. The 2nd Brigade is currently assigned to Area 11, assisting Vicereine Cornelia with her counter-insurgency campaign.

Imperial Britannian Air Force[]

The Imperial Britannian Air Force (IBAF) had its origins in the years before the Second Hispanian War. Founded as the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, a component of the Imperial Britannian Army Signal Corps, it consisted of a few squadrons of biplanes. The IBAF got its name in a large-scale reorganization under Emperor Theseus, being divided into separate Fighter, Bomber, and Transport Commands. The modern IBAF serves in much the same capacity as it did then, adding SIGINT Commands.

Much like the ground forces, the Air Force favors aggression and taking the fight to the enemy. Unlike its sibling branches, the Air Force lacks its own knightmare forces, and so it retains its original doctrine, which was built primarily around multirole aircraft as well as dedicated fighters and bombers. This doctrine focuses on three primary missions; air dominance, close air support, and strategic air strike. Of these, the air force considers air dominance to be the most important, and tends to resent being called on to perform other operations before this has been achieved.

The other major change in recent years has been the appearance of airships. After a relatively slow start, the IBAF has embraced the airship as its premiere weapon of choice, if only to "even the ship score" with the Army and Navy. Though the fallout of float technology has greatly limited their potential - such that these so-called "air dreadnoughts" are less like traditional warships and more like greatly expanded bomber/transport craft - airships remain a valued force to be reckoned with, their superior mobility and range easily granting them a fair measure of prestige over their land and sea based counterparts.

Intelligence Agencies[]

Imperial Bureau of Investigation[]

The Imperial Bureau of Investigation (IBI) was established in 1909 as Britannia's main domestic intelligence service after the Panama Crisis of 1908. It answers mostly to the Chancellor, and sometimes the Emperor or Empress if the latter demands it. Its original purpose was to provide the Chancellery with complete and accurate information on any particular subject, allowing the Chancellor to make informed decisions. Over time, the IBI evolved into a modern espionage agency, its roles including Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, and Internal Security.

Central Intelligence Agency[]

The Central Intelligince Agency (CIA) was established in 1947 as Britannia's main international intelligence service in the aftermath of World War II. Like the Imperial Guard, to which it is indirectly linked, it answers only to the Emperor or Empress. Its original purpose was to provide the Crown with complete and accurate information on any particular subject, allowing the Emperor or Empress to make informed decisions. Over time, the CIA evolved into a modern espionage agency, its roles including Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, and Special Operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has officially shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations.

Imperial Anthem[]

The Anthem of the Empire is called "All Hail Britannia", after the Britannic Salute.

Truth and hope in our Fatherland!
And death to every foe!
Our soldiers shall not pause to rest
Vow our loyalty
Old traditions they will abide
Arise young heroes!
Our past inspires noble deeds
All Hail Britannia!
Immortal beacon shows the way
Step forth, seek glory!
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Britannia!
Our Emperor stands astride this world
He’ll vanquish every foe!
His truth and justice shine so bright
All hail his brilliant light!
Never will he be overthrown
Like mountains and sea
His bloodline immortal and pure
All Hail Britannia!
So let his wisdom guide our way
Go forth and seek glory
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Britannia!

List of Britannian Emperors[]

Emperor Ricardo von Britannia I (1813 - 1832) (alias "Bloody Ricky")[]

Emperor Michael le Britannia I (1832 - 1844)[]

Emperor Alexander la Britannia I (1844 - 1857) (alias "Nine Parts Alec")[]

Emperor Aurelian zi Britannia I (1857 - 1859)[]

Empress Louisa li Britannia I (1860 - 1870 (abdicated))[]

Empress Claire li Britannia I (1870 - 1893)[]

Emperor Joseph li Britannia I (1893 - 1963) (alias "Joe Steele")[]

Emperor George la Britannia I (1964 - 1974)[]

Emperor Edgar la Britannia I (1974 - 1997)[]

Emperor Charles zi Britannia I (1997 - present)[]

Flags[]

There are two flags that have been used throughout Britannia's history. The Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union Jack, consisting of the crosses of St. Patrick (Northern Ireland), St. Andrew (Scotland), and St. George (England), was the official flag of the Holy Britannian Empire from 1813 to 1831. In 1831, Emperor Ricardo von Britannia I commissioned the Vexillum Ricardium, consisting of both the (once-jokingly dubbed, now official) St. Ricardo's Cross and the Imperial Coat of Arms, as the new flag of Britannia as to symbolize the empire's shared past with Great Britain. From 1831 onwards, this would be the official flag of the Holy Britannian Empire.

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