Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Elisenda I

Barcelona, 21st March 1714

For the coronation ceremony, it was chosen the barcelonese church of Santa Maria del Mar. This was an intentional choice, for it was the same emplacement used seven years ago by Archduke Charles. Ceremony was marked by austerity, for Princess Elisenda rejected any wealth ostentation in these post-war times, not to offend the people. Thus, her own princely crown was little more than a nice diadem, while the orbs globe she would hold on left hand during ceremony was made of gold plated copper. Not even her robes differed that much from those she used to wear in other circumstances.

The only important expense that Elisenda considered essential was the Royal Sword she ought to hold in the right hand, the legendary «Tisó» of James I the Conqueror. As the original Kings of Aragon ceremonial sword had long ago passed to thicken Spain's own Royal Treasury, Princess Elisenda ordered a most faithful copy to be forged in best steel and gold plated grip, to be well balanced too as if conceived for war. She was unwilling to hold just a jewel piece there but a perceivably powerful weapon, so as to convey among attendants a feeling of strength and determination --her own determination to preserve the Nation's regained independence.

Ceremony took place on March 21 in the morning as scheduled, with abundant presence of local authorities and common people –but enjoying very scarce attendance of foreign dignataries, even from the Holy Empire itself or other Allied Nations. Princess Elisenda could have grieved by such absences --but she didn't at all, for in fact she already expected such setback. The new Nation would be carefully tested and observed from now on, so that a long, solitary journey was expected from them for a while. Her people were alone, she was alone herself.

“Well, as the saying says, better off alone than in bad companies”, Princess Elisenda ironically thought. “No need to continually waste time in explanations for everything we do. And it's the time now to start doing the things by ourselves”.


(Official portrait of Princess Elisenda I)

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Exposed coast

Cagliari (Sardinia), 18th March 1714

Colonel Carles Llorach taps nervously on the table without a word, while Lieutenant Colonel Josep d'Erill glances at him with concern. It's this latter who in the end dares to break silence:

--Something should be done, Carles --Erill cautiously points out.

--I know I know, Josep --the alluded promptly answers--. The matter is "what" can be done, current circumstances given. Since your father had to resign for health reasons, this island misses a much needed viceroy. We aren't empowered for taking measures other than using our scarce resources as wisely as we can. How is the Regiment deployed right now?

When Countess Francesca arrived in Cagliari a few days ago, bringing with her terrible news about a Barbary pirate attack on a Southeastern village, Cagliaritan society was plunged into shock. Pirate activity on Sardinian shores had declined in previous years, something that likely had much to do with the lately proliferation of large warships in the Mediterranean. Now that War of the Spanish Succesion was over and most powers had begun downsizing their armies and withdrawing their fleets, pirates had seen a new opportunity and re-started operations on the already overpunished coastal villages. The small force garrisoning the island wasn't prepared for this --not that soon, while still awaiting arrival of a new viceroy.

--Well, our Regiment's deployment is still conceived for facing an eventual major menace from overseas. The Two Crowns, I mean. Four companies here in Cagliari, while the other five companies are garrisoning walled towns such as Alghero, Sassari, Oristano, Bosa and Castel Aragonès. --Erill opens arms wide, as meaning he understands in advance what Llorach might reply to him.

Llorach simply nods: --We must change it. Cagliari no longer needs four companies inside. Let's reassign one in the Southwest, and split another two companies along the Eastern coast. Word should be sent to sheriffs and local Lords requesting them to properly allocate the troops.

Erill nods too and answers: --This should help --his face showing some skepticism, though.

Colonel Llorach stops silent again, thinking for a while before adding: --Let's do something else: I'm going to sail aboard one of our galleys with a small detachment, with the aim to inspect each one of the watchtowers along the Eastern coast, for I suspect some must have been neglected. Otherwise those damned pirates wouldn't have been able to fall that unadverted upon those unfortunate villagers. Please send a courier to Alghero town, ordering their garrison to perform a similar inspection along the Western coast using their own galley.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Building a scale fleet

One of the campaigns we are planning for a future in our Defiant Principality setting is supposed to run around the adventures of a group of Catalan settlers in the Spanish Main. Having this in mind I've calmly started to build a fleet of 1/450 scale ships from various Nations. The idea there is to reach a point where I can put on tabletop some of the most likely ships the adventurers may meet in the Antilles. I've started with the traditional arch-enemy of the Principality, whose ships are the most prone to get engaged by our revengeful gamers... I've managed to complete a first batch of three models: a brig, a full-rigged ship and a sloop. Three else are on the way --I'm finishing assembly process right now.

Here you have the Spanish brig:



And this is the full-rigged ship:



Some captions of the growing fleet:


After some trial and error, this has been my first ever serious experience at assemblying and painting scale sailships, so plentiful of some unavoidable planning mistakes, palette misjudgements and other kinds of error. Nevertheless, I'm quite satisfied with them --take it as the newbie satisfaction at the mere thing of having survived the experience!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fealty or expropriation

From now on, I'll be always including a small map like this, on top of each scene where any of our characters appears. Its purpose is to emphasize graphically where the scene is located, and thus to help our campaign gamers determine if the scene contents can be of his own interest. As this one is showing, current scene is located in the Principality of Catalonia --while the previous scene was located in Sardinia Kingdom.


Barcelona, 17th March 1714

Around noon as agreed the day before, Princess Elisenda enters the General Deputation Palace and heads to the boardroom, preceded by a solicitous usher. All six Deputies(*) are already awaiting there for Her, expectant. The Princess responds to their shows of respect showing a warm smile:

--I'm most honored Sirs, please sit down. --and She sits at the same time.

After a few polite preliminaries, then Princess Elisenda asks: --So Mr. Solanell, have you taken a decision about your current appointment?

--I'm afraid I have no margin for deciding myself, Your Highness --the alluded responds--. It's General Deputation's own Bylaw that prescribes charges term to a maximum of three years. We were elected by the Parliament on July 1710 and only the exceptional war status has allowed us to extend the appointment for some months; but now we should resign in the shortest possible time. As a matter of fact --he concludes--, the Parliament has already sheduled the poll date. Next April 23rd, if not wrong. --the other Deputies nod.

--Oh I understand. If such is prescribed, it must be followed- --She quickly nods too--. Have you had time for thinking around the decree I told you about, then?

The man remains silent for a few seconds, then turns gaze around his fellow Deputies and nods: --Yes Your Highness, we have. The extensive fiefs belonging to pro-Bourbon nobiliary lineages were seized by your predecessor King Charles III (God Saves Him) some years ago, and have thenceforth been administered by the General Deputation, as you know. We believe it makes sense to formally require those Lords to pledge their fealty to Your Highness as well as their allegiance to the Parliament, under penalty of being definitely expropriated from their fiefs...

Princess Elisenda is about to sigh of relief, but something makes her to hold breath: --...but...

--...we have been doing consultations among Parliament members, and they all think it fair your offer, in exchange for their support, of converting into free municipalities the main towns so far belonging to these feuds such as Sort, Cardona, Solsona, Cambrils and Palamós, but those deputies belonging to the Busca party also request a general emancipation of serfs, whatever the ultimate fate of those fiefs...

Princess Elisenda keeps silent for a while, thoughtful. Then she suddenly nods: --I do commit to this, Sirs. But it wouldn't be wise from myself to use this decree for extending the measure to all fiefs, inclusive to pro-Habsburg noblemen altogether with those who sided with the enemy. If Parliament consents, it will be done in a separate piece of Law establishing an orderly emancipation program, similar to that already running in my own Estates. You can start writing the draft at will, Sirs. We shall present both projects at once, just before your formal resignation.


(*) The General Deputation of Catalonia was composed by 3 Deputies elected by the Parliament amongst its members, one for each Arm (ecclesiastical, military or aristocratic, and royal or popular). This triad was complemented by another 3 members as "oïdors" or accountants. Traditionally, the ecclesiastical deputy was also the General Deputation speaker, or President. If curious, this is the list of Catalonia Generality Presidents between 1359-1714, and again 1931-2016.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pirates!

Southeastern Sardinia, 14th March 1714

It was a beautiful sunny and calm Spring day in Sardinia. Taking advantage of the forecast splendid weather, Lady Francesca Countess of Santa Sofia had arranged a 2-day archaeologic excursion in countryside, along with a small entourage of scholars and friends of her, with the aim to explore some of the mysterious local nuraghi megaliths Lady Francesca was so keen of.

As a matter of fact, some of those young Countess friends weren't as interested in such "chaotic accumulations of old stones" (as they used to say privately) as in Lady Francesca herself. Not strangely though, because she was of that kind of women always attracting all eyes like a magnet. Besides of being a countess, she was still unmarried at her 27 age, so one of two among these young men were actually hanging around, expecting she could take a decision at regard one day or another. For she'd have to, or wouldn't she?

She knew and didn't care. Her time for such things hadn't arrived yet, albeit... well, there was one not that ugly in the end, or even two perhaps! She discreetely smiled at her own shamelessness and quickly forgot it, for the imposing nuraghe was already at their sight, on top of a hill a few hundred yards ahead. She excitedly accelerated pace:

--Here you have the nuraghe I told you about, Sirs! Isn't it beautiful? --She said triumphantly.

Little afterwards, the group had arrived in the megalith vicinity and started scattering around, in search of the small archaeological remains an eventual old flood might have revealed. Suddenly, one of the entourage scholars stopped and started looking in the distance, far beyond the hill where they stood.

--Isn't that a smoke column? --he asked loud enough to be heard by anyone.

The man was pointing to a hill extending to their right, between their own location and the coast line that one could guess should be some half mile away. A tall, dense column of black smoke was lazily rising up skyward.

--It seems as if from shore itself, doesn't it? --Francesca asked.

--Hum --one answered--. Unless wrong, there's a village in that direction.

Prisoner of an odd feeling, the group hurriedly climbed up the hill adjacent to theirs, and watched the landscape that stretched at their feet. As some of them had started suspecting, the small village below was burning in flames while a myriad of small black dots ran in all directions, as frightened ants whose nest had just been smashed. By the shore, two large galleys moored indolently. Several large boats roamed around, apparently carrying people from the village aboard the war sharks. Deep red ensigns waved at sterns, and bright green pennants hanged from masts, both showing a strange white device that looked like a scissor in the distance.

--"Zulfiqar", the double bladed sword --one muttered.

--Oh Lord, Barbary pirates? --a terrified Francesca asked.

--Let's go, go away!! --another one shouted-- Before they can spot us! ...authorities must be warned. Hurry up, for the sake of God!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Adventure begins

Palma town (Majorca), 11th March 1714

Having sailed from Barcelona with destination Gibraltar, Marquis of Vilana has taken advantage from a short stop in Palma harbour in Majorca, for visiting his friend Josep A. Boixadors Marquis of Rubí, who is currently Imperial Viceroy of the insular kingdom. Now they are calmly walking along the beach, while awaiting ship's departure.

At some stage of their walk, Rubí extracts a document from his pocket and handles it to Vilana: --By the way Ramon, I've just been delivered this --showing a wide smile on face.

Vilana takes the document and unfolds it, while asks: --Is it what I think? --he smiles too.

--It is indeed! His Imperial Majesty Charles VI has just commissioned me as Viceroy of Sardinia.

--This is really great news, Josep --Vilana answers--. So it means that Princess Elisenda's own commission for replacing you here is likely on the way too. When do you expect to travel to Sardinia?

Rubí thinks a moment before answering: --The soonest than I can, honestly. Along with Emperor Charles' own document, I have also been delivered a second letter; this one from the Viceroyalty Secretary urging me to take office at my soonest convenience, for unspecified reasons. I'm afraid not to be able to await Princess Elisenda's arrival and proceed adequately to her own taking over.

Vilana shrugs and simles: --Don't worry for Princess Elisenda's demeanour, she will know how to keep up. Actually, our dear Eli is exceeding our expectations at Her new job. And anyway, you have performed oustandingly as Viceroy of Majorca: neatly sound finances, social calm and a lot of defence works in due course. She will have to face little troubles to complete your work here, Ramon.

Marquis of Rubí smiles again and resumes the walk. --And you Ramon? What odd kind of diplomatic issue is awaiting you in Gibraltar?

--No diplomacy this time, but business --Vilana replies--. That affair I talked you about some weeks ago, do you remember? Are you still reluctant to get involved in it?

--Don't wait for me Ramon. Currently it would be too risky for me to make such an investment. Maybe later, once I start feeling comfortable in Sardinia. No one knows if my current savings will be needed in Sardinia more than in Gibraltar. Good luck with your venture --and he simply winks.


This is the real start of Adventure. Perhaps just one adventure, maybe two. Our starring character from now on will be the just introduced Marquis of Rubí, who is due to overtake the Viceroyalty of Sardinia on behalf of Emperor Charles --just as he historically did, only that a couple of years earlier.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A lot of work

Barcelona, 9th March 1714

Ermengol Amill entered the room with some embarrassment, due to the amount of great men clad in bright red coats at sight. For what he knew, there were standing face to him all the Army active generals, that had been summoned by Marshall Villarroel at the "Casa del General" (a building in Barcelona traditionally used as military headquarters). When some of the attendants turned toward him, Ermengol felt the impulse to stand at attention and salute them, but after noticing their relaxed attitude he suddenly recalled he was himself dressed in red too --due to having just been promoted to Lieutenant General the week before.

--Oh welcome Amill, I believe there's nobody left now --Marshall Villarroel greeted from a stage at the opposite side of room, and then started his speech without delay.

--Sirs, first of all I would like to express on behalf of Her Highness Princess Elisenda the gratitude to you all, for your tireless commitment and performance to the cause of Liberty, as well as for your readiness to stay in active service for the times to come. As far as She has let me know, each one of you deserves an award She will make public soon.

He coughed before continuing, now using his usual sharp tone of voice: --Praises end here, Sirs. We've got a lot of work still. As you all know, our Army is in process of being drastically reduced, so the overall command structure must change too. Please take a look at the diagram next.

Some rumors abruptly arose, especially among the Navy commanders. --Yes I know Sirs, I know --Villarroel cut off rumors harshly-- But this is what we have at hand right now. It would be useless to devise a command structure at our own convenience, to rule just a couple of dozens regiments and half a dozen ships. We'll have to get accustomed to this for some time.

--Whatever the case, it will be the duty of us all --YOUR duty, Sirs-- to squeeze ourselves for bringing Army and Navy to an excellence pattern in spite of size. God willing, the time will come when the Navy can assume the outstanding role it deserves. Moreover if we retain in mind that no clausule in Rastatt binds us to keep the Navy small. It's up to your wit to make it grow and gain strength, Sir Admiral.

--The coming days, our main job has to consist in producing a complete set of new Ordinances. Our Army is still ruled by those published by His Majesty King Charles eight years ago, and must be updated to the new situation. Economy and efficiency are key concepts there, Sirs. We've got a lot of work to do.


I'm not going to tell here the story about the Infantry reduction, or its inspection by the Two Crowns legates. However, this one has been quite significant --even humiliatingly drastical to many eyes. Please judge by yourselves:

As with the Cavalry, for the Infantry I've also rolled one D6 for each individual figure, to see if the men it represents get licensed, are to be considered as invalids or are willing to stay in the Army. Prior to this, I put aside the four regiments that ought to be returned back to their respective homelands' control (Majorca and Sardinia). Dice rolling results were:
  • Licensed: 83
  • Invalids: 16
  • Active: 110
Even after merging troops from disbanded regiments, I realized I wouldn't be able to keep all the Regiments I had predetermined at first, not at full strength at least. So I would have to do the Mountain Fusiliers reform too and draw men among these to fill the ranks of the Line --despite risking some troop quality downgrading. As for the remaining girls of Fiona McGregor Regiment, they couldn't be merged into a male regiment, so that I decided to keep the 7 figures staying as a separate battalion of the Princely Guard.