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 700 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.
A line of mediocre kings has left the Cerdicing line on unsteady ground. Yet, as an old king’s eugenics program begins to bear fruit, is there hope still left?
Raegenweald - 1295 - 1296
Raegenweald is an old man when the crown of England (and Ireland) passes to him. He’s 63, with a brood of genius children (thanks to his predecessor’s matching skills). There’s not much time for philosophising though, as there’s a fight to win. England is at war with Scotland over Shropshire. Raegenweald, no stranger to command, easily defeats the weakened king of Scotland, Rory. That job done, the king decides he’s had enough and dies of old age the following year.
Byrhtnoth II - 1296 - 1306
The young king Byrhtnoth climbs atop the poisoned chalice that is the throne of England. At 23, he’s a genius diplomat with genius children, though all of them are girls. Early into his reign the earls and dukes of England demand that gavelkind succession be put back into place in the realm. Byrhtnoth agrees, as there are no major titles he stands to lose.
Rory of Scotland hasn’t got enough of having his arse handed to him and declares war for Shropshire again in 1297. Byrhtnoth promptly kicks the Scottish king out of England and decides to rub salt in the wound. He assassinates Rory’s son-in-law and marries the Scot’s now-widowed daughter. Byrhtnoth’s wife wasn’t too happy to hear of the plans, but thankfully, the Fraticelli religion having no pope, it’s easy for Byrhtnoth to give her the boot.
After ten years of relative peace, prosperity and (no doubt) intense study, Byrhtnoth decides it’s time to invade Wales. Too long has Scotland held onto lands which rightfully belong to his new wife, who is confusingly also Scottish. As it turns out, fighting for someone’s hereditary title is pretty damn romantic, as the two fall madly in love. Aww. Unfortunately, Byrhtnoth is a bit crap at command, and loses the war through a technicality. His love is carted off to be imprisoned in Edinburgh.
Byrhtnoth pays the ransom almost instantaneously. His wife arrives back pregnant. Eyebrows are raised but some quick maths confirms the child is the king’s. The duke of Kent rebels in 1302, while others declare for Byrhtnoth’s distant cousin, Aelfred. Both rebellions are put down swiftly, the offenders thrown into a very deep cell.
King Rory, obviously feeling brave after the Wales victory, tries to nab Shropshire again in 1303. Trying to work out what’s so important in Shropshire, Byrhtnoth adopts that most traditional pastime of the Cerdicing line (other than dying from illness) and goes completely mad. The black death is also sweeping Europe, which is a bit rubbish. Amidst swarms of flies, heaps of bodies and streets full of blokes with those long-beaked masks, Wales declares independence from Rory of Scotland. Byrhtnoth decides to go two-for-two on family traits and dies of “poor health” aged 33 in 1306.
Raegenweald II - 1306 - 1384
Raeg 2: Electric Boogaloo is only one year old when someone plonks the crown at his feet. Byrhtnoth, being a foresighted bloke, had already betrothed Raeg to the new Queen of Wales - who also happens to be the young king’s cousin. Any children of their union would inherit both crowns, so it’s crucial that she remain queen until Raegenweald comes of age.
Unfortunately it’s a man’s world and the Welsh aren’t happy to have a woman running things. A rebellion erupts in 1310 but is quickly put down with the help of England’s gargantuan army. Undeterred, the Welsh revolt again in 1319 and are again smashed thoroughly. Raegenweald, another inheritor of genius, grows up a studious, diligent man. At this point few have any idea the future this young king has in store for him.
In 1321 the new king comes of age, marries his new queen and crushes another Welsh revolt. The pair have a daughter in 1322, and Raegenweald, being the forward-thinking man he is, changes the succession laws so that women may rule as well as men. Whether the kingdom will last that long is another matter.
The Queen of Wales is an uppity sort, and it doesn’t take long to realise why the Welsh people wanted her gone. In 1334 she declares a Holy War against France for control of Brittany - for some reason - and insists her husband follow her into battle. Thankfully for the Welsh army, which is tiny after all those rebellions, the Cedicing personal forces are massive in size. Brittany is won, though half the country is Sunni Muslim after 200 years of Caliphate rule earlier in the game.
The Queen isn’t content, though. Through some shady shenanigans, she takes control of the Scottish highlands, giving an extremely old King Rory a nasty headache. Suddenly, the Cerdicing line is extremely close to being able to control the entire British Isles. The key is Raegenweald’s daughter and inheritor of all the necessary titles, Ceinwyn.
Raegenweald’s wife dies in 1337, the Welsh crown passing to Ceinwyn. An attractive, quick-witted human, all of the king’s [and my] hopes are pinned on her. She marries a man from the Cerdicing family - about seven times removed - and settles down to administer her kingdom… For about six months.
In 1338 an assassination attempt leaves Ceinwyn comatose and horribly disfigured. She dies in 1339, taking all of Raegenweald’s dreams of conquest with her. Wales, which has the weirdest inheritance laws I’ve ever seen, is now ruled by the king’s own mother. Being an old lady with no other children, the crown can now pass straight to Raegenweald. Dear old mum dies in 1350, giving all of Wales (and parts of Scotland) over to Ragin’ Cagin’ Raegenweald.
Like a great white shark, Raegenweald can smell the blood in the water. In 1353 he wrestles control of Northumbria from Scotland, then defeats the mighty Byzantine Empire to regain Northumberland. By 1356, all of England is under Cerdicing control. The Pope, who has finally realised most of Europe is actually Fraticelli now, calls a crusade. Nobody answers him.
In 1360, the 54-year old Raegenwald amasses his armies on the Scottish border. Finally he has a casus belli for the conquest of the auld enemy. A 55,000-strong horde crosses the Irish border ransacking everything in its way. A smaller strike force, led by the king, heads straight for Edinburgh and finds the King of Scotland hiding behind a curtain. Within three years the war is won and all of Scotland is handed over to its new Cerdicing rulers.
Raegenweald, who inherited a fractured kingdom at the age of one, has united it all. After 594 years, the Cerdicing line has grasped its manifest destiny. From lowly petty kings of a single county, the family has risen to become mighty on the world stage. Defensive pacts spring up across the continent, wary of the new king’s power. Except now he’s not a king. Raegenweald summons all of his vassals to Winchester, a sprawling, labyrinthine fortress after near-600 years of development. In front of the massed nobles and the jealous eyes of all the minor families of England, he is declared Emperor of Britannia.
[Raegenweald will go on to earn the moniker “the prideful”. To me, this amazing man will always be know as Raegenweald “the absolute lad”. I’ve never had a character rise from obscurity to fame so quickly and with such skill in Crusader Kings in all the hundreds of hours I’ve put into it. It’s almost a shame he stems from such a mediocre dynasty].
The Emperor spends the next twenty years consolidating his vassals, improving infrastructure and embedding the Fraticelli religion in his countrymen. While the battle between Muslim and Christian rages on the continent, Britannia experiences a never-before seen era of peace. In 1384, after 78 years at the top, the Emperor finally dies.
Eadulf - 1384 - 1453
Eadulf, the legitimised bastard son of the Greatest of all Time, has a lot to live up to. Fortunately for him, there’s not a lot to do. The legacy of his father does seem to get to the new Emperor, somewhat, as he spends his entire life depressed. Behind that cloudy disposition is a man who cares for his Empire, though. Eadulf’s reign is long and almost entirely peaceful. He is still sat atop the throne when I hit the end-game date and Crusader Kings II decides to kick me out.
After 657 years controlling one family, I can only say it’s been an experience. Watching decisions made hundreds of years in the past affect the present was something I hadn’t expected and gave incredible depth to the experience of playing Crusader Kings. There were times I thought the entire dynasty would come crashing down. Yet, despite their propensity for going mad or dying from minor colds, the members of House Cerdicing didn’t just survive, they thrived. Perhaps this isn’t such a crappy chronicle, after all.