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.
After the boy-king Ealdraed is pushed from the window of a tower, the under-the-thumb title of King of England passes on to another member of the Cerdicing dynasty.
Byrhtnoth “the Brute” - 1209 - 1222
Byrhtnoth takes the crown from the not-yet-cold body of a nine year-old. This is much to the ire of chroniclers everywhere, who’ll have to spell his name for the foreseeable future. The 46 year-old is strong, warlike and ready to conquer more of that definitely-not-worth-the-trouble land of Ireland. The king declares the Third Holy War for Munster in 1209, conquering the province in 1211. Due to his violent nature and predisposition towards removing perfectly working limbs from his enemies, Byrhtnoth is named “the brute” by the people.
The Earl of Cornwall has enough of slipping on bloody flagstones in the capital and decides to hatch a plot against the king. Unfortunately for the Cornish lord he’s discovered. Byrhtnoth tries to imprison him, but fails. The earl raises an army in rebellion and is summarily crushed in 1214.
Meanwhile, the Fraticelli heresy continues apace across England and Scotland. North of the border the religion has taken a real hold on the people. Englishmen aren’t so sure, preferring to hide their catholic crosses in the cupboard for when the Pope arrives. Arrive he does, as in 1222 the Pope declares a holy crusade for Edinburgh. Knights across Europe, expecting to work on their tans, are sorely disappointed.
Byrhtnoth is stunned by the news. After all, England is a (mostly) Fraticelli country. He is so stunned, in fact, that he falls into a coma and dies.
Beorhtwine “the Repulsive” - 1222 - 1247
There’s not much to say about King Beorhtwine, except that he’s awful in almost every way imaginable. The 40 year-old is well-known as the murderer of the child-king Ealdred. He’s ugly, fat and a kinslayer. It doesn't take too long for his new nickname, “the repulsive”, to make the rounds.
Across the border in Scotland the knights of Europe catch colds, get their armour rusty and generally feel ill from having to eat haggis for two years. The crusade for Edinburgh fails miserably. Beorhtwine, keen to shore up the strength of the Fraticelli kingdoms, intermarries his children with the King of Scotland.
The land is in relative peace for some years, aside from a few peasant revolts here and there put down by the all-too-powerful earls of England. In 1233, Beorhtwine’s brother Aelfwig revolts in Chester. Scholars across the nation roll their eyes at having to deal with the bloody “ae” sign again. Luckily for them, the rebellion is crushed in rapid-time. Beorhtwine spends the rest of his days peacefully, ignoring everyone’s hateful glances in Winchester. He dies of sickness in 1247, aged 64.
Ealdmund - 1247 - 1264
Ealdmund is more competent than his father, and doesn't enjoy killing children, so that’s a bonus. Aged 34, he raises the authority of the crown in the hope of changing the succession rules to seniority and keeping the crown in the family. His 43 year-old wife is barren, so Ealdmund divorces the unlucky woman and marries her younger, hotter and Scottish-kingdom-inheriting sister.
The Pope hasn’t had enough of sending knights to Scotland, and calls another crusade in 1254. Familiar caravans of depressed-looking crusaders wind their way up Watling Street. Ealdmund allows them through, but keeps one eye on the procession. He has other things on his mind, as his first-born child is a sickly hunchback. Worries over his fertility cause the lords of the realm to enforce an elective system of government. The king nominates his son and the lords shrug their shoulders and agree.
Scotland is becoming a rather painful thorn in the Pope’s side. He declares the Third Crusade for Scotland in 1258. Catholics all over the highlands suddenly spring forth to attack the Scottish king. All this crusading and rebelling has got Ealdmund thinking - maybe it’s best to just go with the flow when it comes to religion. The king starts secretly practicing Catholicism again.
The Earl of Chester decides that the Earl of Essex would be a better king than Ealdmund and rebels in 1263. Ealdmund disagrees quite vehemently and raises his armies. War rages across England, and eventually moves into Ireland as well. There, where his ancestor was peppered with arrows, Ealdmund is cut down by a rebellious soldier. He’s the third king of England to die in battle.
Gamall - 1264 - 1295
Gamall is nowhere to be seen when it's announced he’ll be king. The cowardly 24 year-old is in hiding, and refusing to come out. As such, a council of regents take over for him. With growing dread, members of the Cerdicing line watch the earls of England take control of administrative decisions.
The Earl of Chester’s rebellion is crushed in 1266. On Gamall’s orders (from exile), he and his co-conspirators are imprisoned in the oubliette. The king next destroys the title “King of Ireland” to remove any possibility of it passing from the Cerdicing line. That’s about as far as his decisions make it, though. The earls of England lower the crown authority to rock bottom in his absence. Now they have their own petty kingdoms within England and can act with complete autonomy.
Gamall, with nothing better to do, starts a eugenics program. His successor, Raegenweald, is a genius. Gamall marries the man to a minor Scottish noblewoman who also happens to be a genius. Within two years the newly-weds have popped out four kids, of whom half inherited their parent’s smarts. The future of the Cerdicing line is very much in their hands.
Yet another rebellion breaks out in 1279. The Earl of Kent decides to make a break for Winchester. Almost all of the realm’s lords join him. Surrounded by enemies, Gamall splashes the family fortune on a gargantuan mercenary force. In a titanic battle, the largest England has ever seen, more than 60,000 men clash in the fields around Ely. It’s a crushing victory for the king, who spends the next five years organising mop-up actions from his hiding place.
As things calm down, a message arrives from Scotland. Having recovered from multiple rebellions and crusades, the Scottish king decides that he’d like Shropshire, thanks very much. Gamall barely sees the start of the conflict before he falls ill and dies, aged 49.
The Cerdicing line has fallen into mediocrity. A line of awful kings have been controlled by a group of equally-awful earls grasping for power. Will Gamall’s bid to create a dynasty of geniuses bear fruit?