Thursday, 21 April 2016

A timeline of Syldavian history - Part 2: From the founding of the Kingdom until the arrival of the Ottomans

1127: Muscarius Hivegiorum (Muskar Hveghi or Muskar of the Hvegs), later King Muskar I, with the help of Venetian and Carinthian mercenaries defeats the last Turkic khan of Lower Syldavia and his army at the Battle of Zileheroum. Legend tells that the night before the battle Muskar dreams of a giant black pelican who flies out of the dawn bearing in its beak a scroll inscribed with the words “hoc signo vinces nigrum onocrotalus”.

A cabal of Klovinian and Zympathian nobles invite him to join an uprising against Jaskvar and after a short campaign Muskar and his allies are victorious. He marries the widowed Caterina and is proclaimed King Muskar I of All Syldavia. At his coronation, Muskar adopts the black pelican as his coat of arms.

1132: The Treaty of Perpetual Friendship between Syldavia and Venice is signed. The port city of Dobronium (Dbrnouk) sees the building of a Venetian fondaco (fontego) and regular trade develops.
1147: The Second Crusade begins. Modvar of Istrow and a retinue of 24 knights and 200 footsoldiers sets off for Vienna to join the army of Conrad III, Rex Romanorum. Modvar and most of his troops perish at the Battle of Dorylaeum. The sole survivor is Petar of Klip, who makes his way home via Constantinople where he is imprisoned for several months. He eventually reaches Klip in October 1148.
1169: Muskar I dies of the plague. He is succeeded by his son, who is crowned Muskar II on Christmas Day in the Cathedral of St Budvar in Klovinus, or Klow as it is now known.
1178: The Revolt of the Barons. Tired of the weak and vacillating king, the barons of Istrow, Tesznik, Klip and Douma, led by the elderly Petar of Klip force Muskar to accept the 12 Terms of Niedzdrow, named for the battle where the Royal Army is defeated and Muskar is captured. Muskar continues on the throne but is forced to accept the imposition of a Council of State to actually run the kingdom. Petar of Klip assumes the title Lord Councillor. Concerns are raised that the King has no male heirs and that a woman may not inherit the throne.
1183: Petar of Klip is assassinated by a rival baron, Foskar of Nokosz. The Council falls apart and Muskar resumes control with the aid of army of Italian and Bordurian mercenaries. Dragomir of Peshod, the leader of the Bordurians marries Alicia, the eldest of Muskar's three daughters.
1184: Queen Maria dies from food poisoning.
1186: Muskar II marries Agnes of Neckerstadt, a member of the Hohenstaufen family.
1187: Queen Agnes gives birth to a son, christened Joskar. He is given the title of Dux Hivegiorum, signifying that he is the heir apparent to the crown.
1190: Joskar dies of the plague. There is now a real succession crisis. Dragomir of Peshod becomes the de facto heir, via his wife Alicia.
1195. Agnes gives birth to a second son, christened Amilkar. Dragomir of Peshod, now Voivode of Szohôd invades Syldavia and deposes Muskar, who is imprisoned in the fortress of Poliszchov, across the Bordurian border.
1197: Muskar is strangled while incarcerated. Dragomir installs his son, also Dragomir as Ban of Syldva. Queen Agnes and the Royal Family flee and seek asylum in Venice. The pro-Bordurian Foskar of Nokosz seizes control of Klow, while Dragomir fortifies Niedzdrow, which he makes his capital.
1197-1275: Syldavia remains under Bordurian rule, which becomes more and more oppressive. Many Syldavian noble families leave the country. Amilkar, Duke of the Hvegs reaches maturity and in 1220 is betrothed to the 6 year-old Elizavetna of Svinjske, the half-sister of Vlad, Baron Almaszout, a Syldavian noble who has maintained his independence from the Banat of Syldva in his mountain stronghold.
1240: Amilkar and Elizaveta are married in Venice.
1243: Vlad of Almaszout is mortally wounded in battle against Bela of Klip, Duke of Klow. Being childless, he bequeathes his lands and title to his brother-in-law Amilkar, to be held in perpetuity.
1245: Birth of Ottokar to Amilkar and Elizavetna of Almaszout.
1270: Ottokar succeeds his father as Baron Almaszout. Immediately, he lays claim to the vacant throne of Syldavia, being the last member of the bloodline of Muskar the Hveg. 
1271: With the aid of Venetian and Carinthian mercenaries, Ottokar invades Syldavia amd four years of war ensues.
1274: Ottokar defeats Bela II of Klip at the Battle of the Wladir. He gains control of much of Upper Syldavia. Many surviving Syldavian nobles flock to his banner.
1275: Ottokar defeats Foskar III of Klow and Petar of Douma in quick succession. He besieges the city of Niedzdrow, which surrenders after a siege of 60 days. Dragomir III, Ban of Syldva is hanged from the castle walls and his head sent to Szohôd in a barrel of salt. Ottokar is proclaimed King of Syldavia, first of the House of Almaszout. He takes the title “Ottokar I, Scion of the House of Almaszout, by Divine Will and by Right of Arms King of Syldavia, Protector of the Hvegs, Tervings, Syldavians, Ghogs and Istrovians and Master of the Order of the Black Pelican.”
1305: Death of Ottokar I. He is succeeded by his eldest son, who rules as Ottokar II until 1332, when he dies in mysterious circumstances.
1332: Accession of Ottokar III, brother of Ottokar II. Ottokar is an unpopular king, paranoid and unpredictable. He is unable to control the rising power of the nobility. 
1346-53: The Black Death devastates Syldavia. Tens of thousands die. The country descends into chaos and intercommunal fighting.
1356: Ottokar III exiles his son, also Ottokar, because he believes that the Prince is plotting to depose him
1358: Ottokar III is deposed by Baron Mazolnik who assumes the title of King but is unable to gain support from many nobles. Ottokar IV returns from exile.
1360: Ottokar IV becomes King after defeating Mazolnik. He has several nobles executed for treason and breaks the power of others in a brutal military campaign. Eventually, peace is restored and the rebellious nobles swear fealty to the Crown. When the last rebel lord, Baron Staszrvitch draws his sword and tries to kill the king, Ottokar strikes him with the Royal Sceptre, killing him instantly.

1389: The Battle of Kosovo. The Ottomans expand across the Balkans and force Ottokar IV to become a vassal of the Sultan, Murad I.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A timeline of Syldavian history - Part One: From earliest times to the founding of the Kingdom

Prior to 2000 BCE: the region is populated by a Neolithic culture known as the Bucket Burial Culture after numerous grave finds of dismembered skeletons buried in large bucket-shaped clay pots.

2000-1000 BCE: Bronze tools, elaborately engraved stone stele and amber and jet beads indicate the arrival of a more sophisticated culture from eastern and central Europe. The remains of stone-walled villages from this date were found by archaeological digs carried out in the 1950s. Some later Mycenaean pottery has been found along the coast, particularly around the southern town of Nokosz (ancient Neocosa).

c. 900 BCE: Artefacts, elsewhere in the Balkans associated with Illyrian tribes are found in the regions of Klow, Tesznik and Douma.

5th century BCE: a fragment of a lost work attributed to Herodotus records that black pelican feathers from the Land of the Sylvans are much sought out for helmet plumes and that the tribes of the country are “warlike, tall, well-built and fond of feasting, hunting and drinking in the manner of the ancient heroes of the long-haired Achaeans”, their lords live in “great hill-top palaces girt with tall walls built by the Cyclopes” and that the people “honour Chthonic gods unknown to the citizens of the cities of Hellas”.

c. 337 BCE: Alexander the Great is said to have campaigned against a number of tribes of the region. These are listed as being the Goganidae, the Calippians and the Donantae.

281 BCE: an army sent by King Pyrrhus of Epirus is defeated by the Goganidae in a battle in a place known as Xalippium.

87 BCE: The tribes of the north are defeated and subjugated by the legions of Gaius Hilarius Pollo.

86 BCE: The region is split into two provinces, Syldavia Superior and Syldavia Inferior. The cities (colonia) of Klovinus (Klow) and Istriodunum (later Istrow, modern Istow) are founded by veterans of Legio XXXXII Invictus.

171 CE: An incursion by the Marcomanni and Quadi lays waste to much of Syldavia Superior. The tribes are defeated in 172 CE by a Roman army led by Quintus Nasus Pendulus.

268-270: Syldavia Superior and Syldavia Inferior become part of the shortlived breakaway Imperium Illyriorum. This is ended when Gaius Fabulus Maximus defeats the pretender Marius Asinus Fatuus.

271: Gaius Fabulus Maximus is raised to the purple by his legions. Six months later he is defeated in battle by the Emperor Aurelian and commits suicide.

306: Severus II orders the rebuilding of the walls of Klovinus, which had fallen into disrepair.

313: Constantine the Great visits Istriodunum and dedicates a temple to Sol Invictus and to the Kyrios Christos. A plaque celebrating event this is now in the Museum of Antiquities in Klow.

329: Both Syldavian provinces are incorporated into the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum.

379: Syldavia Inferior is laid waste by Gothic and Sarmatian tribes. The Sarmatians settle in the north of the region.

401: The Christian basilica of Christ Pantocrator is built in Klovinus. This church was destroyed in the earthquake of 1134 and rebuilt between 1135-44 as the cathedral of St Budvar.

411: A Gothic army attacks the Sarmatian tribes in Syldavia Inferior and defeats their leader. Gothic settlement follows.

447-8: Syldavia Superior is occupied by the armies of Attila the Hun.

494: The provinces of Syldavia are incorporated into the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Theoderic the Great.

Early 6th century: Slavic tribes, described by Procopius as Sclavini begin to attack deep into Syldavian lands. By the middle of the century, Slavic and Avar tribes settle in Syldavia. The city of Klovinus becomes the capital of the Slavic ruler Budvar (recorded as Budvarios Sclavenios in a document from the reign of the eastern Roman emperor Tiberius II Constantine).

614: A document from the reign of Heraclius mentions the visit of an envoy from “the Klovinioi” to Constantinople. There is also a mention in the Vatican archives of a mission to “the Klovinians and Istrovians” by a friar called Mendacius.

723: The Notitia Syldaviarum (copies in the National Library of Klow, the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna) proclaims that the peoples (populi Syldavari) of Upper and Lower Syldavia are comprised of the Illyrian Ghogs, the Syldavi, descended from Romans colonists, the Gothic Tervingi and the Slavic Istrovni and Hvegi.

807: A Carolingian manuscript chronicles the submission of Muscarius, Dux Kloviniorum to Charlemagne. The manuscript records that Muscarius rules over the duchies of Klovinia, Zympathia and Istrovia.

937: Invading tribes of Turkic-speakers sweep westwards from the Black Sea and defeat the Slavic rulers of Klovinia, Zympathia and Istrovia.

942: First documented record of the Khanate of Klopçu.

981: Modbag, Khan of Klopçu is defeated in battle by Pandulf of Ragusa, following his unsuccessful siege of the city. He dies of his wounds and is succeeded by his son Subar.

981-1009: Subar extends the borders of Klopçu to the north and west, capturing the coastal city of Dobronium from its Lombard rulers and accepts the vassalage of the tribes to the east of Istrovia.

1009: Subar is assassinated by his son, Grum, who is proclaimed Khan Grum.

1015: The people of Klovinia rise up against the rule of Khan Grum and proclaim their leader Ottonicus, who claims descent from an old Roman patrician family, Dux Syldavianum. An army led by Grum is defeated. Grum is killed. The Khanate splits into separate entities and by 1024 almost all of old Roman Syldavia Superior is reunited under the rule of Ottonius.

1125: The last male descendant of Dux Ottonius dies in a hunting accident without leaving an heir. His young Venetian wife Caterina Faliero is locked up in a nunnery by Baron Jaskvar Olmaszny, the most powerful magnate in the Duchy of Klovinia. Jaskvar takes control of the Duchy but his oppressive rule turns the people against him

1127: Muscarius Hivegiorum (Muskar Hveghi or Muskar of the Hvegs), later King Muskar I, with the help of Venetian and Carinthian mercenaries defeats the last Turkic khan of Lower Syldavia and his army at the Battle of Zileheroum. Legend tells that the night before the battle Muskar dreams of a giant black pelican who flies out of the dawn bearing in its beak a scroll inscribed with the words “in hoc signo vinces nigrum onocrotalus”.

A cabal of Klovinian and Zympathian nobles invite him to join an uprising against Jaskvar and after a short campaign Muskar and his allies are victorious. He marries the widowed Duchess Caterina and is proclaimed King Muskar I of All Syldavia. At his coronation, Muskar adopts the black pelican as his coat of arms.

The Life and times of Aphra Lügenmärchen, Part One

So, we now know something of the hitherto-unknown nations of Syldavia and Borduria as they existed in the 18th century. I shall return to their histories and cultures again, but I really need to start populating them with a cast of colourful characters. I have already mentioned the celebrated Wilhelm Tischdecke, Ercole di Grissini, Frans Schtroumpf and others, so here is a deeper look at a character who will go on to play a role in the destinies of the two nations.

What follows is the introduction to the extremely rare early 20th century work The Life and times of Aphra Lügenmärchen from the pen of a certain Constanza, Herzogin von Obernthal und Drötten, apparently a member of the Imperial Austrian aristocracy. 

The book is subtitled " Being a true account of the life, exploits and adventures of Aphra Lügenmärchen, sometime lady's maid, companion, traveller, soldier, highwaywoman, author and woman of ingenuity and resourcefulness."


When I first began reading these journals, I had no knowledge of the existence of the authoress nor of the small country in which she made her home. I found her papers in a chest in my grandfather's house near Klagenfurt some 10 or 11 years ago. It was not until two years later that I was able to begin reading them and putting the various manuscripts together into a coherent narrative. Unfortunately, the archive is not complete and there are several gaps in the story. Researches that I have undertaken in numerous public and private libraries have allowed me to fill in some of the gaps and I am indebted to the assistance of M. Henri Bouillion-Juste of Lyons who allowed me to read some of his private family papers that refer to events in 18th century Syldavia.

Aphra Lügenmärchen opens her journal by stating that she was born in in 1729 in the unremarkable market town of Sankt Nikolai bei Nirgends in Thuringia, the illegitimate daughter of the late Erbherr von Reneklode, a penniless and dissolute minor Thuringian nobleman and sometime soldier, who she claims taught her how to “read at an early age, ride a horse by the age of eight, shoot a pistol and handle a sabre before my 11th birthday", that "knowledge is more valuable than money" and that "honour and prestige won't fill an empty stomach or keep the bailiffs from your door, before he expired from a combination of strong drink and a fever caught in a Leipzig debtors' prison when she was 14. From her mother, Amelie Trumbauer, a seamstress, she says that she was taught “how to cook, sew, present myself in a winsome but modest manner, beguile a man, steal his purse and leave him penniless before he wakes. Almost everything else she claims to know, she says she learnt from her experiences as a single woman living by her wits in a world of dissemblers, liars, poltroons, blusterers, fools, libertines and all manner of ne'er-do-wells, rake-hells and opportunists of every imaginable kind”.

Leaving her mother's home when she is 15, Aphra starts out in life as kitchen maid in the home of the elderly Freiherr Albrecht von Brühwurst and his young and beautiful, but libidinous wife Anne-Sophie von Reichlich, who soon plucks the young Aphra from the kitchens to be her personal maid and companion. When the venerable von Brühwurst passes away, allegedly from a surfeit of effort in his wife's bedchamber, Aphra and her mistress, together with a fine wardrobe of clothes, the Freiherr's bank balance and a number of small but valuable items, soon find themselves living in Erfurt, the capital of the region. Within the year, Anne-Sophie manages to gain the attentions of a number of suitors and, at Christmas 1747 marries the rich, bookish and elderly Markgraf von Reißverschluss, a nobleman from the Syldavian province of Zympathia. Aphra writes in her journal that “Milady has captured herself a husband of considerable wealth and influence but of an elderly and quite unworldly mien. She informs me, in her teasing and humorous manner that our new master is of an intellectual and spiritual bent. I infer from her meaning in this matter that the Markgraf is unlikely to make the same recourse to milady's chamber as caused the demise of her previous husband. So geht es, I think. Milady and I managed to organise our affairs together quite happily in Erfurt before her marriage and I see no reason why matters should change in the future. Let the noble lord tend to his books and I shall tend to Milady, as befits her status and happiness.

Thus, at the age of 19, Aphra finds herself living in the palatial surroundings of the Schloss Reißverschluss, situated in the vineyards that sustain the economy of the nearby town of Shmok, famous for a red wine called szprädj.

Writing many years later, Aphra looks back, recording that;

In the Spring of 1748, Milady, her new husband and I arrive at the Castle of Reissverschluss in the county of Zympathia. The lands around about are hilly and of a productive nature, being largely given over to the production of grapes, dairy farms and smallholdings. The Castle is a former fortress, now made over to a more peaceful existence but retaining its attractive pepperpot towers and tall, well-built walls. Inside, replacing the donjon of more warlike times there is a pleasant great house in the ornamented Austrian style, popularly called Rococo. Inside the house are many fine rooms, each well-appointed and replete with all manner of paintings, books and diverse statuary. My own room, adjacent to that of Milady the Markgräfin, has silk-lined walls adorned with painted birds and pagodas in the Chinese fashion. There is a connecting door between rooms, so that I may visit my mistress at any time of the day or night to minister to her needs, pleasures and whims, which are diverse and frequently demanding. Milady's chamber is, in truth, a full suite of rooms, all magnificently decorated with many gilded putti, paintings of classical subjects in the Italianate style and fine Murano glass mirrors. Milord the Markgraf has a separate suite in the other wing of the castle, where he is attended by his gentleman, Herr Dreyer.

My duties provide me with a modicum of free time and, when I am not otherwise engaged, I spend my time becoming acquainted with the numerous staff of the castle. The House is ordered by Herr Frotz, the Majordomo or Chamberlain, and under him are Frau Ning, the cook, Frau Pliss, the housekeeper and Iskander Effendi, the Markgraf's dragoman and library keeper. I cultivate this latter gentleman, who despite being a Turk is a honourable and kindly soul who allows me access to our master's books. There are also numerous kitchen and chambermaids, porters and footmen. The Castle servants all wear uniforms in the traditional Syldavian style, but, as milady's companion I am allowed to costume myself in the German style, which she finds more pleasing. My eyes are drawn to several of the footmen, who are all strapping young men of a martial appearance in their tight green hussar breeches and frogged dolman tunics. I discover that it is one of Milord's fancies to have his male servants trained to drill and march in the military manner of the armies of the Austrian Kaiser, in whose armies the Markgraf served as a young man, distinguishing himself, it is said, under the command of the great Prinz Eugen himself in the wars against the barbaric Turks and the perfidious and rapacious Frenchmen. I soon decide that milady's convenient marriage has brought me to a place where I might profit greatly. I set out to learn as much as possible about the customs, language and traditions of this land of Syldavia, and the ways of its diverse peoples.

This entry is is followed by several long and rather dull passages of Aphra's recollections of life in the Schloss Reißverschluss, before she recounts that she has formed a friendly attachment with a certain Willi Langengriff, the Markgraf's dashing Carinthian riding master. She draws a veil over the details of this affaire, but does hint that her interests were other than simply those of the stable and paddock, although she does record that she had always enjoyed horse-riding. She writes thatat the Markgräfin's pleasure, I am issued with a finely-tailored dove grey riding costume in the hussar style, complete with fur-trimmed pelisse and tight breeches”. She continues that “From time to time, it pleases Milady greatly to see me dress in my hussar costume and put my fine Lipizzaner mare through her paces. She will watch me ride for at least an hour and insists that I visit her in my riding habit once my horse is exercised and stabled again.” One can draw one's own conclusions regarding this passage. Aphra closes the passage with the sentence, “What with the one thing and the other, my equestrian exercises always leave me with a feeling of langour and contentment.

However, this bucolic life of contentment and pleasure ends in 1752 while Aphra and her mistress are residing in Venice with the Markgraf. While sailing on the Lagoon, the Markgraf suffers a heart attack and plunges over the side of the boat. His body is swiftly recovered but it is too late for the elderly nobleman. On their return to Syldavia, Aphra and her mistress discover that the Markgraf had, surprisingly perhaps, produced an heir who swiftly takes possession of the estates and installs his wife and brood of several children in the castle. Regretfully, Aphra and her mistress are forced to part company, with the dowager Markgräfin setting out for Vienna and Aphra, complete with hussar uniform, choosing to seek her fortunes in Klow, the capital of Syldavia. She writes that “While it was with a pang of regret and a heaviness in my heart that milady and I parted, we did so on felicitous terms. My mistress and dear friend Anne-Sophie had provided me with a charming and liberal education in the ways of the aristocracy and a number of years of unburdensome service and much happiness, not to mention a comfortable sum of gold and jewels deposited in the Royal Bank of Klow. We embraced warmly and took to our separate paths. I knew not whether we should ever join those paths together again in the future.

So these, dear reader, were the humble beginnings of the life and exploits of an interesting, if unfairly neglected, adventuress, occasional soldier, spy, courtesan (of polyamorous and heterodox tastes), occasional courtier and authoress of the 18th century.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Small, far-away countries of which we know little.

It is certainly the case that both Syldavia and Borduria were, and still are small countries. It was even more true in the 18th century that little was known of them, particularly so in the case of Borduria, by the people of Great Britain. It is fair to say that both countries were virtually unknown in Tudor times, although it has been suggested that in The Winter's tale, Shakespeare originally had Lord Antigonus abandon the daughter of Queen Hermione on the “Coast of Syldavia” but this was later altered because no one knew where Syldavia was and therefore he changed it to be the coast of Bohemia.

During the centuries of the Grand Tours that were popular with young English noblemen neither Syldavia nor Borduria were on the accepted routes and were therefore left unvisited. The first verifiable record we have of an English visitor to Syldavia dates to 1712, when a Catholic English soldier of fortune, Sir Thomas Foxe wrote that while en route from Venice to Corinth with a body of soldiers to reinforce the garrison, the ship in which he was travelling put into the city of Dbrnouk or, as he spelt it, Dubrynook. He described it as “a down-at-heel sort of place, with many fine old buildings much in need of repair, but with an excellent enclosed harbour and a strong fortress of an antique style on the hill overlooking the town”.

He went on to record that the local wine was “dark and rich, but quarrelsome and likely to provoke headaches” and that the local cuisine was “coarse and fiery and the cause of many upsets to the stomach”. His journal tells us that the local inhabitants were of a “buccaneering” appearance and spoke in a “barbarous jabber of Venetian, Slavonic and Greek” but were "excellent seamen and doughty fighters".

The next record we have of an English traveller in Syldavia comes from the private journals and archives of Captain Sir William Huntley-Palmer, late of the 11th Dragoons, who travelled widely in Savoy, Piedmont, Carinthia and Hungary in the 1750s as some kind of undefined agent of the British government. 

Huntley-Palmer is known to have first visited Syldavia in 1753, for purposes unknown, and seems to have been a semi-permanent resident of the country between 1756 and 1764. He describes Klow as being an "ancient but well-preserved city, constructed of pale yellow limestone", with "several grand palacioes in the Venetian style" and a number of fine antique ruins from the Roman period. He writes that the Basilica of St Budvar, which “gives the appearance of great antiquity and was surely constructed by mighty engineers from imperial Rome or Constantinople in the years of its glory” is decorated in the Byzantine manner, with many mosaics and icons and that the building has a “great dome of ancient and ingenious construction”. He also comments on the still-functional Roman aqueduct and notes that Klow Castle, the seat of the Royal Court was of “a stern aspect and strongly built in the old Italian manner, with all manner of machicolations, arrow slits, round towers and fortified gateways”.

Huntley-Palmer writes of the Syldavian army as “reasonably well turned out, of tolerable quality and stout manners” but records that “the regiments of light Horse are impetuous, difficult to restrain and prone to looting”. Although his journals are somewhat opaque on the subject, it seems that he served the Syldavian kingdom in a military capacity of some kind. What is certain is that he was created a Knight of Order of the Black Pelican in 1761 and was awarded the honorary colonelcy of the Piskot Cuirassiers in the following year. In 1763, he married Doroteja, the daughter of a local noble family, the House of Svinjske-Klobase. He and his bride were known to have been living in Trieste in 1765 and they eventually retired to his country estates in Somerset in 1768, which he inherited on the death of his father.

If there is little documentary evidence of British travellers in Syldavia, the situation is even worse when it comes to Borduria. The only proven record of anyone from the British Isles venturing to Borduria in the 18th century is the case of Michael Patrick O'Neill who, dispossessed of his ancestral lands in 1745, enlisted in the French service and fought in the last few campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession. Resigning his French commission, he travelled to Prussia, where he managed to enlist in the Prussian army and somehow ended up as part of the military entourage of Wilhelm von Schmodt, Landgraf of Blotten-Papen, who was appointed Grand Marshal of Borduria in 1750. Known to the Bordurians variously as Mikhail O'Neill, Mikhail Patrikov, Michalis O'Neill and Michalis Patrikios, O'Neill remained in the service of the Autocrat, Constantine II until his death in 1781. Michalis Square in Szohôd and Boulevard Patrikov in Szmak, Borduria's second city commemorate his life.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The cultures and demographics of Syldavia and Borduria

In ancient times, the entire region was dominated by Illyrian tribes in the west, Thracians and Dacians in the east and Greek speakers in the south. The lands that later became northern Borduria were raided incessantly by the Scythians of the steppes to the north of the Black Sea and later became a client of the Greek-speaking Macedonians. Alexander the Great is rumoured to have campaigned against the local tribes before his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire.

The future Syldavia was incorporated into the Roman empire in the later Republican period and from then on looked westwards and northwards for inspiration. In the period before Diocletian ended the chaos and initiated the Dominate period of the Roman empire, a general named Gaius Fabulus Maximus was raised to the purple by his legions, but was defeated in battle by the Emperor Aurelian. 

In Late Antiquity the entire region, including both Syldavia and Borduria came under assault from various barbarian groups; Goths, Avars, Slavs, Huns and Magyars all passed through the area. 

Sarmatians in the 4th century and Goths in the 5th settled in northern Borduria, initially under Roman rule but later as a separate entity. However, southern Borduria remained under the rule of Constantinople until it was conquered in the 10th century by Bulgar tribes and was ruled by a series of warlords who styled themselves as Tsars. This kingdom was conquered by the Ottomans in the middle of the 14th century and remained an Ottoman possession until the end of the 17th century.

Syldavia was first mentioned as a separate and distinct location in the 11th century, when a Venetian document refers to a certain Ottonicus as Dux Syldavianum, who sent an embassy to Venice seeking trade and an alliance. Later Syldavian manuscripts in the state archives, dated to the 12th century mention a possibly legendary Budvarius, a Rex Syldavianum who had built a castle in the city of "Klovus" and founded a dynasty in the centuries after the end of Roman rule. Several Syldavian rulers are recorded in the Venetian state archives, all bearing the names of Ottonicus (Ottokar), Muscarius (Muskar) and Budvarius (Budvar). Although Syldavia spent a number of centuries as an Ottoman vassal, as well as an earlier period under direct rule from Borduria (1195-1275), it was never incorporated into the Ottoman empire and there is a text in Klow Castle, dating from the 15th century that commemorates the visit of King Matthias Corvinus to Klow during the reign of Budvar V on the occasion of his marriage to Anne de Lusignan in 1459.

There are many similarities between the two countries. Both have largely-South Slav populations with communities of other ethnicities and both speak dialects of the same Southern Slav language.

The region has long been a melting pot and this is reflected in the populations of both countries.

In Syldavia, in addition to the Slav population, there are communities of Saxons, Venetians (on the coast) and Carinthians, as well as people who trace their ancestry back to the ancient Illyrians who lived in the region before Roman times. Apart from Syldavian Slav, the other languages spoken in Syldavia are German, the Venetian dialect of Italian and an ancient Illyrian language in some of the more isolated regions in the south of the country.

Syldavia is a predominantly Roman Catholic, but with a large Orthodox population in the east of the country, some Lutherans in the north and a few communities of Muslims in the south-east of the country. These are descended from converts made during the Ottoman period.

The Syldavian aristocracy consists of three main groups. There are some families who claim Illyrian ancestry, others are descended from the Slavonic people who settled in the region in the early medieval period and a third, larger group who have southern German origins. Historically, the lingua franca of the aristocracy was German, with various languages being spoken when dealing with their subjects but in recent decades French has become more commonly-spoken by the nobility, especially at court.

The population of Borduria is broadly similar, but with notable differences. There is a quite large Turkish Muslim presence in southern Borduria, along with Greeks and some Poles, Magyars and Ruthenians in the north. There are also communities who claim descent from the ancient Dacians, Thracians and Scythians of Antiquity. There are few German communities in Borduria, except in the capital city, Szohôd, which has had a community of German merchants since the 14th century.

The Bordurian nobility is mainly descended from the Greeks of Constantinople, but there are also families of South Slav and Polish origins. Greek and German are the main languages of the aristocracy and Bordurian Slav, Ruthenian, Greek, Turkish, Magyar and an obscure Romanian dialect are spoken by the general population.

The state religion of Borduria is Orthodox Christianity, but the Roman Church and Islam are tolerated.

The Bordurian Army in the 18th century

Until 1697 Borduria was garrisoned by Ottoman troops and Bordurians were conscripted into Ottoman service or served as auxiliaries and levies in Ottoman field armies. In the more mountainous south of the country, most Bordurians fought on foot and were equipped with a variety of muskets, bows, crossbows and edged weapons. In the north, where it was flatter and where there was a stronger influence from the countries to the north there was a tradition of mounted warfare, with armoured lancers and mounted bowmen forming the bulk of fighting units, supported by units of musketeers and polearm-equipped infantry in the Polish style.

After the accession of Constantine Cantacuzene as Voivode and later Autocrat, there was a gradual westernisation of the forces available to Borduria. With the humbling of the Boyars, feudal levies were abolished and all forces were slowly brought under royal control. The first formal regiments formed were organised as musketeers with Polish-style uniforms and were termed Hajduks. These were recruited from across the country and were initially supplemented by locally-raised companies of soldier-peasants known as Militani. Cavalry continued to use the lance, but armour soon fell from favour. Units of dragoons were also raised and these were equipped in the western style from the beginning.

By 1730, western-style infantry regiments were supplementing or replacing the traditional Hajduks. Eventually, most of the remaining Hajduk regiments were converted to become Jägers and light infantry. Three regiments of Hajduks were merged with the existing Militani militia units, to serve as light infantry and skirmishers wearing western-style uniforms but keeping their traditional title of Hajduks. In times of peace, these Hajduks served as gendarmerie as well as border guards. In the south of the country, irregular militias continued to exist along the border with the Ottoman empire, musket-armed but dressed in their local, Ottoman-influenced style.

The cavalry also westernised, with hussars and dragoons forming the bulk of the mounted arm, but with some lancer units remaining. In 1735, the first regiments of western-style line cuirassiers were raised.

Prussian influence became clear in the uniforms that the Bordurian army adopted, with the fusilier cap becoming popular with most infantry units, eventually becoming the standard for all Bordurian line regiments. Hussars wore the mirliton cap, in the Prussian style, as did the regiments of Hajduks. The lancers retained a more traditional, eastern-style uniform.

Uniform colours were slowly standardised and by 1740 consisted of green coats and red or buff small clothes for line infantry and grey for jägers. The Hajduks wore red, green or brown uniforms. Artillery also had red uniforms. Dragoons wore green coats, with buff small clothes and cuirassiers adopted red. The hussars and lancers retained a variety of colourful uniforms with no standardisation.

The Pazniks were the Autocrat's Life Guards and consisted of three regiments of musketeers, one of lancers and one of cuirassiers. The foot guards wore white uniforms with red facings and small clothes and black tricorn hats and the cuirassiers white with green facings. The lancers wore black and red uniforms in the traditional style.

In addition to the locally recruited regiments, there were a number of regiments of troops recruited elsewhere, mainly in the German states, but also in the Low Countries and from Russia. These Freikorps (Frajkorps in the local tongue) were the Von Schtupp, Schmodt, Blotten and Schtroumf regiments of infantry and the Schtroumpf and Swedzaky Hussar regiments. Freikorps infantry regiments were distinguished from Bordurian ones by their predominantly white uniforms. The uniforms of the Freikorps Hussar regiments also contained some white.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Syldavian Army in the 18th century.

When Syldavia was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, the local Ottoman governor, the Gospodar ensured that the army of the kingdom was small and unable to mount serious military actions. For example, artillery was not allowed, except for six small cannon in the Royal castle in Klow. Only five regiments of foot and four squadrons of cavalry were permitted, plus 20 companies of border guards, known as Pandurs. In addition, the Prince-Archbishop of Smyntz*, a city in the north of the country famed for the excellence of its pastry cooks and pies, was allowed a body guard of two companies of foot and one of horse.

After independence, King Muskar V asked the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, for assistance in creating a modern army. The result was the arrival of the Graf von Seltzer and a number of Austrian officers who set about the business of raising the standards of the troops available and increasing numbers.

Their first act was the abolition of pikemen in Syldavian foot regiments and the establishment of six new infantry regiments (each with one company of grenadiers and another of “scouts”, later renamed jägers), six regiments of horse (known as reitars) and three of dragoons. The existing soldiery were dispersed amongst the new establishments, except for the oldest regiment of foot and two of the squadrons of horse who became the core of the new Royal Life Guard, to consist of one regiment of grenadiers and one of cuirassiers. The existing rag-tag Pandur units were reorganised into four regiments of foot and one mounted regiment. These were given the role of border guards and garrison troops along the border with Borduria, and known in the local dialect as limitanyi. Pandurs fought as light infantry.

Uniforms were standardised along Austrian lines, with infantry wearing light grey coats and breeches with red, blue or green facings, Pandurs in green, red or light blue, cavalry in grey and dragoons in pale blue. Later on, once a corps of Artillery had come into existence, this was given a darker blue uniform. In time, two hussars regiments were formed from the existing cavalry, and these chose colourful uniforms. Jäger companies, later full regiments, were given green uniforms and a distinction was made between Royal regiments in yellow coats and line ones in grey. A notable exception to the standard dragoon blue was the pale brown and sky blue of the famous De Bourbon dragoon regiment, which was created in 1740 as a personal regiment for the Queen from one of the existing regiments, and which wore French-style dragoon bonnets instead of the standard tricorne hat.

The troops of the Prince-Archbishop were similarly expanded into full size regiments. The first regiment was allowed to wear red, following the elevation of Archbishop Filip Balonyi (1668-1754) to the rank of cardinal. The second regiment wore buff coats with blue facings and small clothes, the single cavalry regiment wearing grey and red hussar-style uniforms.

The army underwent two expansions. First in the years after the accession of Ottokar IX in 1735, with the creation of two new regiments of infantry and one of Pandurs (pale blue uniforms), the expansion of the existing jäger companies into three separate regiments, a regiment of grenadiers and a single regiment of cuirassiers. The existing Royal Life Guard was also extended to consist of two regiment of grenadiers, one of jägers and two of cuirassiers.

The next expansion was in 1748-51 when three further infantry regiments, two of Pandurs, one grenadier regiment, two dragoon ones, two of heavy cavalry Reitars and one of hussars were added.

At this point, the regiments of the Prince-Archbishop came under the control of the Royal Army, but retained their existing uniforms. The senior infantry regiment was added to the Royal Lifeguards as the Cardinal Fusilier Regiment.

* Smyntz pies are justly famous across the country and as far afield as Venice, Salzburg and Budapest.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Syldavia and Borduria in the 18th century

History tells us that Syldavia resisted the Ottoman yoke in the Middle Ages and, apart from a period when it fell under Bordurian rule, remained an independent kingdom. What it does not say is that both Syldavia and Borduria were both effectively dominated by the Sublime Porte, with Borduria being directly ruled by Phanariot Greek Hospodars and the Syldavian Royal House paying tribute to remain a semi-separate vassal state.

Despite this subordinate status, Syldavia was able to form a trading relationship across the Adriatic with Venice and there was significant Venetian influence at court. Nothing much changed until the later years of the 17th century, following the 1683 Siege of Vienna and the subsequent Ottoman withdrawal.

After the Second Battle of Mohács in 1687, Syldavia was freed from Ottoman rule and the current head of the House of Almaszout, King Muskar V (1662-1731) forged a new alliance with the Austrian Habsburgs and Habsburg influence gradually replaced that of the Venetians across the country. The Syldavian infantry were reorganised along Habsburg lines in the first decades of the 18th century, with the Austrian Graf von Seltzer, appointed Captain-General of Syldavia in 1699 playing a key role.

Muskar V was succeeded by his grandson Ottokar IX (1715-1776) on his death. Until he came of age in 1735, Syldavia was ruled by the Queen Dowager Elizabeth Augusta and her favourite Count Sszsenyhawkz. Ottokar married the French princess Octavie de Bourbon in 1734.  The de Bourbon Dragoon regiment is named after her, and they are a distinctive sight in their pale brown and sky blue French-style uniforms. French and Austrian influence held sway throughout the 18th century.

Syldavia, as a border kingdom, soon began to attract soldiers of fortune and some of these achieved wealth and fame in the service of the Black Pelican. Ercole di Grissini, a political exile from the Papal States fought several campaigns along the Military Border with Borduria in the 1750s and 60s, eventually being granted estates in the region of the town of Splitz in 1771. Fifty-one years later, a grand-daughter of his, Lucrezia di Grissini became Queen of Syldavia when she married Crown Prince Johannes, who became king in 1822.

The most famous Syldavian soldier of fortune of this period was probably Wilhelm Tischdecke, who claimed to be an illegitimate son of Frederick Augustus II, the Elector of Saxony, but was in reality the son of a humble pastry chef from Linz. Tischdecke enlisted in a Syldavian Pandur regiment in 1747 when he was 18 years old. Within three years he had been promoted to sergeant and two years after that became a lieutenant and by the age of 26, captain and commander of the regimental jäger company. Shortly afterwards, He transferred to the fashionable Strelec Regiment of Jägers, which was based in the city of Klow. His dashing good looks and almost insane bravery brought him to the attention of Marie Sophie von Sprudel, the daughter of General Graf von Sprudel, the Commandant of the Royal Life Brigade, and before long he found himself promoted to Major in the Royal Jäger regiment. Being both cunning and politically alert, Tischdecke soon managed to become Colonel of the regiment, following the disgrace of the previous colonel, who was found in fragrante delicto with the wife of the Ritter von Sportz, the cousin of Queen Octavie. Military glory followed at the Third Battle of Lake Pollishoff in 1762, when the Syldavian army defeated a much larger Bordurian one, largely due to Tischdecke, who took command of the Life Guards Brigade following the battlefield death of Graf von Sprudel and led a counter-attack that routed the Bordurian centre.

Tischdecke, created Margraf von Schornstein-Aufsatz, was given permanent command of the Life Guards and later became Inspector of Light Troops and finally Marshal of Syldavia in 1778. His later victories included the Battle of Treppenteppich in 1774, where he routed a combined Bordurian and Ottoman invasion force and the Relief of Gepäckträger, a border city which was under siege from the Bordurians. Wilhelm Tischdecke died in 1811, aged 82, the richest man in the kingdom and bearer of the title of Saviour of the Nation.

Borduria was freed from Ottoman control after the Battle of Zenta in 1697 when the Ottoman garrisons fled and the Phanariot Hospodar Demetrios Mavrocordatos was deposed. The following interregnum ended in 1705 when the Duma (formerly the Divan) elected Constantine Cantacuzene (1672-1747), Boyar of Kardouk, as Voivode of Szohôd, effectively the ruler of the whole country. After a short campaign against the boyars of southern Borduria, Cantacuzene assumed the title of Autocrat of the Bordurian Realm in addition to his existing titles. He abolished the Duma and replaced it with a council of appointed boyars, known as the Samovar.

Borduria looked northwards and eastwards for protection. The rising power of the Kingdom of Prussia attracted the Autocrat, but he also sought alliances with the Tsar of Russia. Constantine's son, Constantine II (1714-1798) married a minor Hohenzollen margravine, Anne-Sophie von Schtupp in 1742. Constantine succeeded his father in 1747. Prussian and Russian influences continued to struggle to dominate at the Bordurian court but Constantine II was a wily politician and neither side managed to gain dominance.

With a largely Orthodox Slavic population, Borduria naturally looked eastwards but Constantine was enamoured with the military prowess of Frederick the Great and appointed August Wilhelm von Schmodt, Landgraf of Blotten-Papen as Grand Marshal of Borduria in 1750. As a counter balance, he also appointed a Russian nobleman, Baron Fyodor Tchestikov as his Master of Horse.

Another famous Bordurian military leader was the Flemish soldier of fortune Frans Schtroumpf. He led a volunteer Hussar regiment named after him. They wear blue and white uniforms.

Although there is a strong Prussian influence on the Bordurian military, there is still a lingering influence from the days of the Ottomans, mainly seen in the use of light lancers in the cavalry and in certain military terms. Infantry are still known as Sekban in the south of the country, a common slang name for the artillery is the Topcu and irregular forces are generally known as Bashi-Bazouks. These last often present a distinctly Ottoman appearance in their dress.