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.


  1. This is really starting to come to life. I look forward to the armies appearing on the blog. Thanks Jimbo

    1. Thanks!

      I've got the figures for both armies now and they are quite close to the summit of my lead and plastic mountain, but I am busily painting up my ACW figures for Sharp Practice 2.

      I'll do a quick post about the figures next week, probably.

  2. I look forward to seeing your work.