In this series I’m attempting to chronicle the fortunes of a single dynasty through the entire timeline of Crusader Kings II - which can last almost 500 years. Having selected the House of Cerdicing - the descendants of the Anglo-Saxon invaders of England, I will track every move, mistake and success of the dynasty's kings as they come and go.
In Part 1 the first five kings of the petty kingdom of Wessex came and went without much fanfare. Most succumbed to what seems to be a familial trait of catching deadly diseases. Part 2 saw a succession of slightly-more-competent rulers come into their own and Part 3 saw the creation of the Kingdom of England under Cerdicing rule. Yet, with the dukes controlling the strings, how will things play out?
Beorhthelm - 1038 - 1071
Beorhthelm is a smart, diplomatic and gregarious ruler. A man well-liked by all, his positive demeanour doesn’t stop him from also being a zealous christian and arbitrary lawmaker. The new king decides to curb the expansion of the accursed Picts, who by now control vast swathes of land that should, by right, belong to the crown of England. He declares war on the troublesome northerners for Derby in 1041.
The king of Germany, a newly-founded nation striding the border between modern-day France and Belgium, offers to join the war in exchange for an alliance and help in his war with Saxony. Beorhthelm accepts. Soon the Picts are on the ropes, their coffers empty and their grain stores dry. A company of mercenaries, employed by the Pictish king, change sides following non-payment of their wages. Beorhthelm uses them to crush Edinburgh.
With Derby back under English control, Beorhthelm gets back to good Christian business like praying, amassing wealth and, as a rather unfortunate trait appears, going quite mad. Despite his bouts of gibbering, capering and generally being strange, he finds time to tend to a garden and becomes a skilled falconer… somehow.
When scanning over a map one evening the king notices that Chester, another county that should belong to England, is coloured in the blue of Pictish colours. Time for another war, then! The second de jure war for Chester is a bloody affair, and lasts many long years. The mad king is injured so badly in battle in 1060 that he has to have a limb amputated. The war itself finishes inconclusively as the county rebels against both Pictland and England, cancelling the original casus belli. Beorhthelm can only sulk as Chester is brutally repressed by the Picts in revenge.
After a half-decade of peace the king succumbs to the family propensity for deadly disease. Beorhthelm dies age 58 in 1077. Despite having a number of sons, the crown passes to a distant relative of his, one of the powerful dukes of England.
Aelfwald - 1071 - 1077
For a long time the dukes of England have controlled the crown by proxy, so they’re pretty delighted to finally have one of their number take the hotseat. Aelfwald is duke of both Deira and Essex, and holds a lot of elector titles, meaning he can rig succession quite easily. It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for the country, though, as Aeflwald is another stark raving lunatic.
The king forms an alliance with France in 1074 and builds a new castle in Winchester to bump up the amount of troops available to the crown at any one time. With the dukes as powerful as they are, the king needs an army capable of matching them. Aeflwald doesn’t live long enough to see the fruits of his labour, though, as he dies in his sleep in 1077.
Oscytel - 1077 - 1096
57-year old Oscytel breaks the streak of having thoroughly Anglo-Saxon kings. His name (and ancestry) is a mixture of Danish and Saxon, having sliced off the troublesome “ae” grapheme. That tiny grammatical quibble out of the way, the exorbitantly wealthy Oscytel gets down to business distributing his absolute boatload of titles. The king cannot control too many tracts of land in Crusader Kings or risk unhappy vassals, so the king hands out seven of them to his court.
Oscytel, an extremely godly man, gets off to a good start by simply not being a headcase. It's the first time someone from his branch of the family gets a crack at the top job and he’s determined not to waste it. War is declared on the newly-formed Scotland, once more for the right to Chester, in 1081. The poorfolk of Chester, having only just rebuilt their villages, sigh and get ready for more ravaging.
The English are thrashed. Oscytel is so roundly beaten that the war is lost within a year. Scottish armies are both better equipped and led by more experienced generals. The wake-up call is a stark one for the king, who immediately begins upgrading training grounds across the kingdom.
There’s more trouble brewing at home, however, as Oscytel’s wife is found plotting to kill him. The king tries to imprison his mischievous partner yet the woman escapes and flees to former ally Germany. All requests to send her back are denied, so Oscytel settles with sulking. A few years later his wife dies of “suspicious circumstances” having shacked up with the German king.
With infrastructure still under construction and the English armies well and truly embarrassed by the Scots, Oscytel contents himself with attending church and sending rose-scented letters to the Pope. The king passes away at the grand age of 76 after an uneventful reign.
Aethelhere - 1096
Aethelhere resurrects the “ae” grapheme, but that’s about all he does. Within a few days of his coronation he falls into a coma and dies.
Aelfwald II - 1096 - 1136
At age 17 Aelfwald II is already an accomplished diplomat. His skills in debate and oratory don’t really help him when dealing with the dukes of the realm, however, as they rebel in 1104 to lower the authority of the crown some more. Unable to cope with the sheer number of rebel dukes, Aelfwald wisely surrenders to their demands.
Determined to be seen as a strong, capable ruler and quash the (true) rumours about his homosexuality, the king refuses Bavarian demands for recently-freed Suffolk. As if to put an exclamation point on his intentions, he fathers twin boys in 1105. Then a massive invasion fleet is spotted off the coast.
A Bavarian army 7,000 strong wades ashore and Aelfwald meets them head on in a battle across the sand dunes of Suffolk. Likely the bloodiest battle the Kingdom of England has ever seen, three dukes are killed in the melee. Hwice, Oxford and Northampton all fall to Bavarian blades before victory is finally wrenched from the bloody jaws of defeat. Suffolk returns to English control in 1113.
Aelfwald’s wife is found to be playing away, but the king doesn’t really mind. The next few years of his reign are spent tutoring his twin boys, who have both inherited their mother’s dark mediterranean skin and curly hair. Some in court baulk at the idea one of the boys might be king in future, yet as they grow older they prove to be capable men.
Unfortunately for both, Aelfwald and his wife father one more son, named Ecgrith. A marked genius, the young man is smarter than both his elder siblings before he is in his teens. A good swordsman, scholar, treasurer and an exceptional diplomat, there is no doubt who the next ruler of England should be. Accordingly, all the elector counts in the country opt for Ecgrith, who enjoys immense popularity.
Aelfwald, who clearly has a talent for fathering good children despite being attracted to men, decides to give it one more go at the age of 67. Unfortunately, the family curse strikes. The king contracts syphilis from his adulterous wife and dies of the disease in 1136. The crown passes to the young Ecgrith, much to the ire of his older brothers.
A genius ascends to the throne of England. Can the young king help push the house of Cerdicing to greater heights or will his meddling brothers have something to say about it?