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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (also known as the British Empire) was a former superpower and originally one of the key players in world affairs.

Following the invasion of the British Isles by the Empire of Japan during the Anglo-Japanese War on August 10, 2010, and subsequent capture of London about a month later, the United Kingdom collapsed, being rechristened as Area 11 by the Japanese.

History[]

Ancient Britain[]

The story of a group of islands off the north-western coast of Europe is a long one, affecting not just the British Isles, but the wider English-speaking world. Britain would make its first mark on the world sometime between the 7th and the 1st century BC when the British Isles came to be inhabited by a sub-group of a people whom history would call the Celts. Divided into various tribal groups, the Celts of ancient Britain possessed a civilization remarkably advanced for its time, with sophisticated agriculture, a system of wooden roads and even metal coinage.

The island would see a period of dramatic change beginning in 55 BC when Rome made its first real attempt to bring Britain under its control by sending Julius Caesar along with two legions to the island. The first landing was more of a reconnaissance than an invasion, as Caesar sought to confirm whether or not the Britons had been helping their Gallic cousins against him. He established a firm foothold, only to be forced to withdraw when bad weather in the English Channel threatened his supply lines. When he returned the next year with a larger force, it was ostensibly in support of Mandubracius, heir to the murdered King of the Trinovante tribe. Caesar defeated the warlord responsible, Cassivellaunus, and established Mandubracius as King of the Trinovantes; henceforth a loyal ally of Rome.

It is at that point that the man known as Alwyn enters the pages of history. Even to this day, scholars still debate whether or not he even existed. According to legend, a great leader arose among the Britons; a man named Alwyn, who defeated Caesar and drove the Romans from Britain once and for all. This account, though colorful, has no more inherent truth to it than the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth or Chretien du Troyes. Much like King Arthur, the Alwyn of British tradition may have been a single person, the combined exploits of multiple persons, or merely a legend. He is nevertheless regarded as the first of a line of Romano-British Kings and Queens thusly dubbed the Alwynids.

The nearest equivalent to the mythic Alwyn was a man called Aldeyrn, a warlord about whom even the Romans seem to have known little. He first appeared during Caesar's time in Britain and is noted by the Romans as one of several Brythonic warlords attempting to resist them. What made Aldeyrn stand out was what he did after Caesar withdrew. The Romans maintained an uneasy but profitable trading relationship with the Britons, and as such had some awareness of events there. According to Roman chroniclers, Aldeyrn raised a personal warband of well-trained, disciplined swordsmen; clearly modeled on the Roman legions. This warband apparently numbered only in the hundreds, but with it, Aldeyrn was able to overwhelm hostile tribes - despite them outnumbering him by a considerable margin - and force or persuade them to serve him. Two possible explanations have been suggested for this. One is that his elites were only the core of a larger, more conventional army, while the other was that Aldeyrn used his warriors' superior organization and discipline to wreak havoc on the lumbering tribal armies of his enemies.      

Either way, Aldeyrn was able to establish himself as a major player in south-eastern Britannia. The precise date of his death is unknown, but coins from the period suggest that he was able to establish a dynasty in the region, dominating the local tribes and forcing them into uneasy unity. This unity was ultimately challenged in 43 AD, when the Romans returned under Aulus Plautius, leading four legions to bring the Britons to heel in Emperor Claudius' name. One of Aldeyrn's descendants remembered as Cadeyrn, led the resistance; only to be defeated in a series of battles. Over-awed, the tribes submitted to Rome, but the Romans found the structure of the Brythonic kingdom sufficiently worthwhile to maintain; allowing Cadeyrn to keep his throne in return for accepting Roman overlordship. Over the following decades, Romano-British rule would be established as far north as the Firth of Forth, although its control was tenuous in some areas.  

The most ferocious resistance to the Romano-British Kingdom came in 60 AD, with the death of Prasutagus, client King of the Iceni tribe. Prastutagus had willed half his kingdom to the Romans in the hope that his family could keep the other half, but it was not to be. The Romano-Britons moved in, dispossessing the Iceni nobility and taking their lands. The fightback was led by Boudicca, Prasutagus' widow, who managed to grow her tribal rising into a full-scale revolt. In the battles that followed, many Romano-British warriors and Roman troops were killed, as was Cadeyrn himself. This forced a large Roman force, under Suetonius Paulinus, to return swiftly from an expedition in what is now Wales in order to put the revolt down. The location of the final battle is not known, except that it took place somewhere along Watling Street. Boudicca and her army were defeated, the survivors hunted down and killed or enslaved.  

From Anglo-Saxons to Plantagenets []

The line and kingdom of Eudeyrn died with Cadeyrn, but the idea of a united Britain did not. For nearly three centuries after Boudicca's death, Roman Britannia developed into both a relatively civilized and peaceful society, incorporating many aspects of Romanitas while maintaining more than a little of its Celtic tradition. But the Roman Empire of which it was a part was not destined to last forever. By 350, the crises that had tormented Rome for a century were catching up with Britannia, and the consequences would be dire. Repeated rebellions had damaged the Imperial economy, and disrupted the trade upon which Britannia had depended for its wealth. This was made worse by the Romano-British elite becoming involved in several of those rebellions, and suffering brutal purges in retaliation. From 350 to 420 AD, industry and commerce gradually shut down, and towns and cities shrank, their infrastructure falling into disrepair. Britannia's south-eastern heartland collapsed into chaos as its highly-integrated economy broke down. Only in the north and west, with its frontier garrisons and a simpler economy based on peasant farmers, did some sort of order survive.

Into the ravaged lands of the south-east came new arrivals, people from across the sea looking for land to settle. These people, from Germany and the Jutland peninsula, have come to be remembered as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, or more commonly as the Anglo-Saxons. Finding the land largely empty, except for scattered communities of survivors, the Saxons settled on the land with little resistance. Over the fifth century, they grew in numbers, 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. This nearly proved their undoing in the 9th century, when Scandinavian warriors began raiding the coasts of the British Isles. Known today as Vikings, these raiders took ruthless advantage both of Anglo-Saxon division and of a psychological inability to effectively respond. Anglo-Saxon kings and nobles attempted to use the Vikings against their enemies, or tried to buy them off with gifts of treasure; gestures guaranteed to bring more raids. Equally unhelpful in its own way was the influence of the Christian Church, which regarded the horrific raids as divine punishment that should not be resisted.  

The tide began to turn in 871, with the enthroning of Alfred as King of Wessex. Alfred was an unlikely hero, a sickly intellectual with a reputation for piety. But in spite of 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 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. 

But Scandinavia was not yet done with England. In 1002, a Danish and Norwegian army invaded England under the command of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark and Norway. His invasion was ostensibly a retaliation against the massacre of Danes living in England by King Aethelred 'the Unready', but his true intent was almost certainly conquest. After ten years of raiding, he launched a full-scale invasion in 1013, forcing Aethelred to flee to Normandy, only to die amid his triumph in February of 1014. His army pledged itself to his son, Cnut, but the English nobles persuaded Aethelred to return, forcing Cnut to withdraw; abandoning those English who had supported him to brutal reprisals. Cnut tried again in 1015, taking advantage of a dispute between Aethelred and his eldest surviving son, Edmund Ironside. When Aethelred finally died in 1016, Edmund was named as King, and he led a desperate last-ditch defense against Cnut, only to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Assandum, and later killed. Cnut would rule his three kingdoms until 1035, is sometimes called Canute the Great.  

Canute 'the Great' would rule until 1035, though his dynasty would be replaced in 1042. 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 ultimately unsuccessful enmity with Godwin, who had betrayed his brother Alfred to torture and death at the hands of Harald Harefoot.  After his attempt to force Godwin from power 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 le Bretan finally made his move. His family, the House of le Bretan, was one of many noble families who claimed some connection to the ancient Romano-British kingdom 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 keep his lands and titles. William agreed to le 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 le Bretan, resulting in the destruction of his army. William, after making Ellyll le 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 Norman conquest marked a turning point; the British Isles would not be successfully invaded again for nearly a thousand years.

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.  

William the Conqueror died in 1087 and was succeeded by his son, William Rufus. William II was a great soldier and at times an effective ruler, but never a popular one. He enjoyed considerable military success in France and succeeded in driving off a Scottish invasion. But extracting ten thousand marks in taxation to loan to his brother Robert to finance a crusade was a particularly unpopular gesture. William Rufus died in 1100, struck by an arrow while hunting. He was replaced on the throne by his brother Henry I - whom some say was responsible for the killing. Ruling for thirty-five years, he proved a more effective administrator than his older brother had been; improving the judicial and taxation systems, and resolving a series of theological contentions. He even managed to prevent his older brother Robert from taking his throne by force, and then captured him and conquered Normandy. Under his reign, men of obscure origin - some of then Anglo-Saxons - rose to power under his patronage, and his Queen was the daughter of an Anglo-Saxon princess. All in all, his reign represented a gradual coming-together of Normans and Anglo-Saxons.    

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 First 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 seeds of what historians now call the First Golden Age of the Tudor Dynasty were planted, beginning with Ellyll le Bretan's descendant, Edward le Bretan, Duke of Hastings. Like many of the northern nobles, he was a Catholic, and he 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 le Bretan for centuries to come.  

Elizabeth's reign was, for the most part, a story of exultant success.  Under her reign, England saw off multiple foreign invasion attempts, of which the Spanish Armada of 1588 is the most famous, and rose to become a major maritime power, with multiple colonies in North America and the Caribbean islands.  England also managed to survive the religious turmoil gripping Europe, though English Catholics endured popular mistrust and political discrimination that would last for more than two centuries.  The threat of Catholic European powers also helped foment unity between England's various Protestant sects, of which the largest was the middle-of-the-road Anglican Church of which Elizabeth was Head and the more hardline Presbyterian Church that had caught on in the north.  This unity would not last. 

Meanwhile, a lingering complication in Elizabeth's reign was her relationship with her son. Henry had inherited his mother's formidable intellect and his grandfather's hot blood; a dangerous combination at the best of times. Born in the year of her coronation, he would wait forty-five years to ascend the throne, a delay he endured with remarkable grace and patience. But for all that, there was tension aplenty between mother and son, though not over any great difference of opinion, or any wrong that Elizabeth might have done Henry. As William Cecil once quipped, the dread lieth not in their enmity, but in their likeness; mother and son were simply too similar to get along peacefully. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was broadly able to manage her brilliant and increasingly restless son, usually by the expedience of slowly expanding his responsibilities. The most significant of these was being responsible for overseeing the settling and maintenance of overseas colonies, a cause he pursued with great enthusiasm. 

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. 

The English Civil War[]

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 resulting conflict that would later come to be known as the English Civil War began at a slow pace. 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 the 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 hard-line 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'etat; 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.

The American Revolution[]

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 the American Revolution 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 came so close to achieving British victory.

This man was named Ricardo le Bretan. Born in 1752, he traveled with his family to the colonies in 1758. 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.  

But he had also become aware of growing revolutionary sentiment in the colonies and began raising a network of spies and agents reaching across the colonies. The inner circle of this movement was a circle of twelve knights, led by his friend Sir Thomas Hector, known as the Knights of the Round Table. These knights sought to suppress revolutionary agitation through espionage and assassination, but they also targeted corrupt and unpopular loyalists; whose misdeeds were fuelling revolutionary sentiment.  

When war finally broke out, 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. They even visited the home of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as they attempted to bribe and blackmail Franklin into betraying the rebellion, only for it to fail, resulting in Franklin departing for France, where he successfully convinced King Louis XVI to aid the Continental Army.    

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 Ricardo the Red; 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 targetted 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 worked. In what came to be known as the Siege of Yorktown, General George Washington, and the Continental Army dealt a crippling blow to the British army thanks to the timely arrival of southern rebel troops (who successfully drove Ricardo and his forces away from their lands), forcing Cornwallis to surrender to Washington. In the aftermath of such a catastrophic British defeat, Henry X was left with no other choice but to negotiate with the Americans. As for Ricardo le Bretan, despite not being able to successfully crush the rebellion, the rewards would come thick and fast upon his return to England. News of his exploits had made him something of a war hero in Britain, 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 North America (now Canada) in 1785. It was the beginning of a partnership that would change the course of history.  

As for the American Revolution itself, all conflict ceased on September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The end result was the birth of a new nation, a nation of liberty, equality, and democracy, a nation that would forever change the course of history, and a nation that would in time become one of the great superpowers on earth. It was called The United States of America.  

Trouble for Britain[]

The American Revolution may have ended in victory, but it would cast a long shadow. The victory of the American rebels and the birth of the United States divided the British people more deeply than was immediately apparent. To most of the aristocracy, the defeat showed the vulnerability of Britain's social structure and way of life, as well as their ultimate fitness to enjoy preeminence in that system. This left them embittered as a result, refusing to see any 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 surprised and delighted by the rebellion's success. 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 success of the rebellion and the social and political effects it induced was the first step toward realizing such reform.

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.

When Henry X finally died in 1788, it was at a time of increasing economic and political turmoil. Britain's failure to crush the American Revolution had come at an enormous, perhaps ruinous expense, and an aging and possibly senile Henry had proven increasingly incapable of handling the situation. At such a time, the King's children did not inspire universal confidence. Henry's two sons, Prince Charles and Prince James, had rendered themselves unpopular - if not outright unfit to take the throne - through dissolute living, publically unpleasant behavior, and secretly marrying their mistresses.  His eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was intelligent, well-educated, and driven; all-in-all a more impressive candidate. But she was let down by the simple fact of being a woman, as well as by her connection to the controversial Ricardo le Bretan, who was her closest confidante and possibly her love. The youngest Princess, Charlotte, was an intelligent and good-natured young woman, but had no great desire to rule, and had married a minor aristocrat named James Montague; who was considered unfit to be King.

The burden of kingship thus fell on Prince George Benedict, Henry's younger brother. At the age of fifty-eight, he was considered somewhat old, but he was inoffensive, respectable, and by all accounts reasonably sane; all-in-all a safe pair of hands. His celibate lifestyle nevertheless left him dogged with - entirely unfounded - rumors of homosexuality. After his coronation late in 1788, George was persuaded - after much cajoling - to marry Amelia de Lacy, a woman half his age; who in 1789 bore him a son, Prince George. King George I proved a well-intentioned, but a rather tragic figure. Under pressure from the council, made up of aristocrats determined to protect their privileges, he largely adhered to the old system of absolute monarchy and low land taxes; being forced to squeeze the merchant and artisan classes, and take loans wherever he could find them; usually at high rates of interest. As matters went from bad to worse, the strain took a heavy toll on George's physical and mental health, to the point where he was showing signs of senility as early as 1793. The council nevertheless hushed this up, and pushed for harsher measures to control the increasingly restive populace; many of them against George's better nature and judgment. But nothing worked, and all that remained to distract a poverty-stricken and angry public was a short victorious war.

And in February of 1793, Revolutionary France conveniently provided one by declaring war on 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 a mistake that nearly cost her the throne. 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 of Great Britain. 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 a few years as a result. Any chance of them exploding into civil war, however, would be crushed in 1805, when the British Royal Navy went through arguably one of its greatest triumphs. 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 defeated the Franco-Spanish fleet, though Admiral Nelson was killed in the fighting.

The Battle of Trafalgar, as it came to be known, proved to be the miracle that Elizabeth sorely needed, as it not only saved the Britsh Isles from potential invasion and/or annexation by the French, but it also confirmed the naval supremacy Britain had established over the course of the eighteenth century.

More to come...    

Geography[]

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