Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strathearn Dynasty Pt.4 - King Kenneth IV the Blind of Scotland

King Kenneth IV the Blind of Scotland
As the first King in the Strathearn Dynasty, Kenneth's reign marked the culmination of Muiredach's dream. They were still small fry compared to the European powerhouses, so there was still much to do outside Scottish borders. The control of Ireland is the next goal on the table.

A generation of sowing Strathearns into potential seats of power had only reaped one county leader, so Kenneth turned to another strategy; bring in claimants, win them to his side (with possible Strathearn blood ties), then gift them their title through the pointy end of a stick. Oriel and Tyrconnell succumbed to this strategy while also becoming vassals of Scotland. With 1/2 the Duchy of Ulster under Scottish control, the title was created and then used to attack Tyrone, who also fell quickly. Although Ulster county itself was led by Countess Eua, a Strathearn descendant, poor marriage choices meant that her rule would be the last for the Strathearns, so she too was forced to bend the knee and join the Scottish Kingdom. All the southern duchies of Ireland were also contested by Scottish claimants at some point, but they continued to evade Kenneth's machinations and remain independent.

Even though the wars were swift, Kenneth's reputation for staying behind grew into rumours of cowardice. When a rebellious Malcolm Dunkeld of Gowrie took leave of his senses and strived for independance alone, Kenneth saw an opportunity to lead the burgeoning Strathearn Guard himself. With almost 2000 men under his direct control the outcome of the battle for Gowrie was never in doubt, but as Kenneth led the final assault, he took a viscious slash that dislodged his helmet and almost decapitated him. Bleeding, he stayed in the fray until victory was complete, but the damage was done. He would lose an eye and bear the scars of battle to his grave. No longer would the King be seen as craven, but instead was to be known as Kenneth the Blind.

In his 40's, Kenneth's kingom was looking in control. Minor claims into English territory went the same way as the southern tip of Ireland, with more luck of increasing Scottish land going to existing earls and Dukes rather than outside claimants. The potential death blow for Strathearn dominance came from within as Kenneth's only son 'little Kenneth' passed away, exposing a severe lack of rightful male Strathearn heirs within the electorate Duchies. Kenneth considered many options to bring his brother, the king of Denmark, to the throne, but eventually settled on a more wide ranging solution to change the succession law for females to claim the throne if no male heirs were available. Many of our line rejoiced at the change, while the Island and Lothien Dukes cried foul. Their names were soon to be removed from power anyway.

With somewhat of an impasse in Ireland with the independent dukes happy to keep slaying each other, and England seeming to miraculously come back from wave after wave of internal splits, Kenneth turned south for territorial expansion. Far south. While the Pope had proclaimed a crusade to Darum (near Jerusalem), there were still holy wars raging on the Iberian peninsula. Kenneth set sail with eager troops and laid claim to Granada to help rip apart the Andalusian Sultanate. Over 5000 set sail, and barely met more than 1500 troops on the field of battle to make good their claim. Cultural and spiritual differences took their toll on any hope of making productive use of the land, but it served as a convenient place to hide away heretics and claimants outstaying their welcome at court.

Succumbing to illness, King Kenneth the Blind finally departed at a venerable 55. His wife had borne him another son when both were in their 40's, so King Archibald took over at only 10 years of age with Kenneth's doting wife, Queen Eilionora, acting as regent.