Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlefolk.

This blog will be devoted to my literary and cosplay interests and stories set in my own alternative historical steampunk background. I hope people enjoy the stories, as much as I enjoy devising and writing them and that it stimulates their own artistic interests, entertains them or if nothing else fires their own imaginations.

A special note to new readers of this blog, the entries "Nation States" are gazetteers of the nations as they exist in the An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron background, each with a few remarks/observations about each nation as they exist within. Any post headed by the title containing the words "Story Snippet" or "Fragments" is a stand alone, snapshot of the background, they will be developed into fuller stories in future, but at present they serve to give the viewer/reader a measure of what this world is like, what is going on in it and who some of the players are. Full stories, will be headed by their title and a roman number, as they will generally be in several parts.

Comments, suggestions or remarks by readers are welcomed.

I would like to thank the following people:

Yaya Han, for getting me seriously interested in cosplay at a time when things were looking very glum for me back in 2006 with several extended stays in hospital due to illness, and motivating me to get actively involved.

Ashley Du aka UndeadDu, for her unfailing friendship and cheerful support since we first met in 2014 at the Hamilton Comic Con, and for being my Cosplay mentor and advisor.

Sara Marly, for her interest in and support for my writings, since we first met in 2016 at the Hamilton Comic Con and incidently helping me make up my mind to finally do this.

Stephen Thomson, my friend, for his advise and assistance with creating and setting up this blog.

Daniel Cote, my friend and co-worker for his advise and friendship over the years.

The People of the The Aegy's Gathering (particularly Jonathan Cresswell-Jones, Scott Washburn and Jenny Dolfen, all of whom I have kept in contact with over the years), who were brought together in friendship by a certain randomness of chance and a common interest in the Honor Harrington books and stayed together despite distance and the strains of life.

The People of the Wesworld Alternative History website, who gave me the opportunity to sharpen my writing and story telling skills while directing the affairs of Lithuania and briefly France during their 1930s timelines.

My parents Mary Ellen and Logan, my siblings Adam and Danika and various friends both online and at work and play for putting up with me, encouraging and supporting me both in the very good times and the very bad times.

I remain as always yours very sincerely, your obedient servant, Matthew Baird aka Sir Leopold Stanley Worthing-Topper

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Nation States in An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron: Part One

Europe: 1889

Great Britain, ruled by Her Majesty Queen-Empress Victoria I, with it's globe spanning empire in the Americas, Africa and Asia holds the delicate balance of power amongst the nations of the world. The incomparable Royal Navy gives Great Britain virtual control of the World's oceans and sea ways as well as it's skies. It is the era of the Pax Britannica. British naval supremacy however rests upon the continued and stupefyingly expensive maintenance of the "four powers standard", meaning that the Royal Navy is the match in strength for any combination of up to four of it's potential rivals. Proud, seemingly impregnable and fabulously prosperous, Britain's dominace of world affairs both economically and politically seems all but assured. While a great many Britions for their part view this enviable state of affairs as their birthright, others are not so inclined and are prepared to use any means at their disposal, fair or foul, to redress the power imbalance to their own advantage.

France, whether ruled by a revolutionary republic, a Bourbon ancient regime, a d'Orleans constitutional monarchy, a Napoleonic empire or the dreaded Paris Communards, struggles towards a renaissance of power. Humbled in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 by the military might of the North German Confederation and its allies the South German states. A defeated France bore mute and anguished witness to the birth of the Second Reich: the new German Empire. France also had to endure the wholesale annexation of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and a crushing indemnity and three years of military occupation with ill grace and an impotent desire for revenge. A new Franco-German war broke out in 1881-82, when France directed by a militaristic and expansionistic regime of generals tried to take back the lost provinces and humiliate the Germans: The result was an even greater national disaster, costing France not only another war but still more territory both at home and from it's colonies abroad and the permanent union of the Kingdoms of the Netherlands and Belgium (both long term targets of French territorial ambitions whatever the government in power) into the Second Reich as full member states. Frustrated in the terrible desire for revenge for both national calamities by political and military circumstances beyond it's current control, France has turned to internal economic and colonial developments in the Americas, Africa and Asia as a form of consolation and compensation.

Russia, ruled by the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II, has finally turned his attention from the complicated affairs of Central Asia. The gaze of Imperial Russia is once again turned outwards beyond it's own borders. The Kingdom of Poland to the west and the sprawling Ottoman Empire to the south now find themselves under that gaze. In the far east, semi-independent Mongolia and the Empire of China and the Japanese Empire's considerable holdings in Manchuria, Korea and Sakhalin, as does Great Britain's colonial possessions in the Indian sub-continent and Burma offer themselves as tempting prizes for the Tsar.

Germany, ruled by the mute Kaiser Friedrich III, a confederation of the 'German' States (seven kingdoms: Prussia, Bavaria, Wuerttemburg, Saxony, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, eight sovereign grand duchies: Oldenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Sterlitz, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt (Hesse und bei Rhine), Luxembourg, Anhalt and Brunswick, four independent and sovereign principalities: Waldeck, Lippe-Detmold, Schaumburg-Lippe, and Hohenzollern and four free city-states: Luebeck, Bremen, Hamburg and Frankfurt-am-Main and the Reichland of Alsace-Lorraine and Bar) is quietly and industriously developing into the dominant power within Europe and perhaps the World. Already possessing the most powerful army in the world, Germany is rapidly developing the second most powerful navy and merchant marine in the world. Further, Germany has developed an extensive colonial empire to rival both Britain and France in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific.

Austria-Hungary, ruled by Kaiser and Koenig Franz Josef I, the Danubian Monarchy is the product of nearly 700 years of continuous rule by the Habsburg dynasty. A feudal realm rather then a country in the modern sense of the word, notable for it's diversity of language (the official languages alone are German, Hungarian and Latin: in total there are at least fourteen officially recognized languages within the empire), religion (Orthodox, Eastern Rites and Roman Catholicism, Protestant Lutherans, Calvinists and Hussites, Sunni Muslims and Orthodox, Conservative and Liberal Judiasm) and ethnicity (Albanian, German, Magyar, Szekekys, Czech, Slovak, Serb, Croat, Slovene, Italian, Roumanian, Ruthene/Rusyns, Ukrainian, Polish, Armenian, Bulgarian, Roma and Jewish) held together by the almost feudal authority and loyalty accorded to a single ancient dynasty. The Habsburgs, unlike some of their fellow European dynasties are actually content to merely hold the ring, to consolidate what they have and have shown a marked indifference to foreign colonial adventurism (the Kaiserliche und Koenigliche Ministry of the Marine and Colonies oversees only four overseas colonial enclaves: the Diu island enclave in India; (Indic, Portuguese, Arab, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh); the Austro-Hungarian Virgin Islands (Hispanic, Carib, African, Roman Catholic, Animist) in the Northeastern Carribbean sea; and Austro-Hungarian North Borneo in the East Indies islands (Kadazan-Dusan, Murat, Bajau, Bruneian, Illunan, Kedayan, Suluk, Christian, Roman Catholic, Muslim, animist) and the Austro-Hungarian Nicobar Islands (Nicobarese, Shompen, Danish, Christian, Muslim and Animist) . Further territorial conquests both within Europe and the wider world are largely ignored: the prevailing attitude at present in the capital, Vienna, being that they have quite enough trouble within the confines of their own borders why should they borrow still more?

Italy, ruled by King Umberto I, is amongst the newest of nations, having only been created from a not altogether harmonious union of the formerly diverse and independent Italian states through the 1859-71 unification wars and the co-current briganti wars of 1860-70, under the aegis of the Royal House of Savoy. This new state thirsts for both the recognition and prestige that many Italians feel is their due as the heirs of the ancient Roman Empire. The fact that Rome is still independently held by the Pope is still a sore point with many within the new nation. The current capital of Italy is Florence in the formerly Habsburg Grand Duchy of Tuscany.  It's relations with it's powerful northern neighbor Germany are at times cool, sometimes distant but at least workmanlike. Relations with Austria-Hungary to the northeast and east are at best strained and as oft as not at cross-purposes. Italian territorial ambitions both in Europe and the wider world have been repeatedly thwarted by the Great Powers, leaving Italy only two small holdings in Africa: the Italian Eritrea (taken from the Ottomans in 1882) and the Italian Somaliland (acquired in parts through 1881-84, although Britain holds the other half, while France holds the French Somaliland/Djibouti between them). The Fabled Empire of Abyssina has fixed the attentions of the Italian colonial expansionist lobby, when they are not drifting towards the Ottoman Empire's holdings in North Africa (Tunisia, Libya and the Egypt-Sudan) or the Ottoman Balkans.

Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Padishah Sultan Abdulhamid II, development and control of the Suez Canal and the exportation of petroleum (crude oil, natural gas and refined gasoline and diesel fuels) products has proven a financial boon to the Sublime Porte, fuelling massive infrastructure and economic development and a military resurgence. Ottoman interests are turned inwards at present, expansionism for it's own sake is neither required nor encouraged. The former Balkan vassal states of Wallachia, Moldavia, Bessarabia and the Dobrudja have been unified into the Kingdom of Roumania, while Bulgaria has emerged as a semi-independent principality under a German princeling. The self-styled Kingdom of the Hellenes, Greece, which has clawed it's freedom from the empire in the 1820s with the connivance of Great Britain, France and Russia, remains a constant irritant with it's grandiose claims to the Ottoman possessions in the rest of the Balkans and the Aegean islands.

Spain, ruled by King Alfonso XII, it's past grandeur somewhat diminished by ruinous internal political quarrels within the Royal House and the Cortes (the Spanish Parliament) and equally disasterous civil wars (three in the last century) is still after it's own fashion a power to be reckoned with. Spain holds onto the remains of it's once vast and glittering colonial empire in the Carribbean (the islands of the Spanish West Indies: Cuba and Puerto Rico), West Africa (Spanish Morocco and the Spanish Sahara/Rio de Oro and Ifni Protectorate) and East Asia (the islands of the Spanish East Indies: the Philippines and Guam) and the Atlantic (the Canary islands) with a stubborn tenacity that compels respect and frustration in equal measure. The current liberal monarchy offers some chance of redress for the future and perhaps a recovery of Spain's prospects if the internal peace lasts.

Portugal, ruled by King Luis I, is like it's larger Iberian neighbor a power in sad although perhaps not irredeemable decline: like Spain, Portugal was once reckoned amongst the great powers of Europe. The Kingdom still clings to it's few remaining island holdings in the Atlantic: the Azores, the Madeira and the Cape Verde islands and it's three remaining African possessions: the Portugese West Africa and East Africa and Portuguese Guinea as well as the eastern half of the island of Timor in the East Indies and the Macao and Goa enclaves in China and India respectively.

Scandinavia, ruled by Kejsare/Keiser Oscar II, is composed of the permanent union of the Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway and the northern Arctic islands of Jan Mayen, Bear and Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. This empire of the north, was founded in 1814 by Jean Bernadotte, Marshal of France and King of Sweden, and subsequently King of Norway. Maintaining a stubborn and heavily armed neutrality with the Great Powers of Europe, Oscar II reigns over a broadly contented and prosperous realm, careful to balance the sometimes conflicting ethnic Swedish and Norwegian and Inuit aspirations and needs. Dreams of a "true" Greater Scandinavia: unifying Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland persist both within certain segments of the government and the populace at large. The House of Bernadotte while in sympathy with some of these aspirations, is all too aware of the practical difficulties they present. Emperor Oscar II is content for the moment however to build up his nation's political connections, it's economy, it's army and navy, while awaiting developments behind a shield of professed and wary neutrality.

Poland, ruled by King Stanislaus III of House Poniatowski, stands dangerously isolated between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia. The reconstituted kingdom (based on the borders of a somewhat reduced Congressional Poland) is the product of the complex geopolitical negotiations of the Congresses of Vienna in 1814-21 that marked the final end of the Napoleonic Wars. Poland has historic aspirations upon German (West Prussia, East Prussia, Posen and Prussian Silesia), Austrian (Austrian Silesia and Galicia) and Russian territories (Lithuania, White Russia and the Ukraine) which have been part of the Polish kingdoms of the past. Poland is however currently and dangerously isolated: politically, militarily and economically, only France and to a lesser extent Scandinavia is interested in offering any meaningful assistance.

Roumania, ruled by King Carol I, the country is a recent entity, formed by the political, economic and military union of the formerly Ottoman principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, Dobrudja and Bessarabia in 1853-55 and 1859. Caught between the ambitions of Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottomans and their Balkan neighbours Greece and Bulgaria, the country walks a tight rope to achieve both military security, economic prosperity and territorial cohesion.

Bulgaria, ruled by Prince Alexander I of Battenberg, freed from it's Ottoman overlords in 1877 and 1878 as a result of Russian and Austro-Hungarian intervention and having achieved a good measure of national, economic and military stability.  Now the Prince and his advisors work to add whatever Ottoman or Roumanian territories it can pry loose either by careful negotiations or outright war to recreate the Bulgarian empire of the ancient past.

i>Greece, ruled by King Otho II of Wittelsbach, is in the extremely unpleasant position of being financially and politically beholden to no less then three of the Great Powers: Great Britain, France and Russia. Having clawed it's way to independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s with connivance of the aforesaid great powers, and had its existence ratified and borders determined by the Treaties of 1828 and 1832. The Greeks dream of further expansion into the Aegean islands to the south and east and< northwards into the Ottoman held Balkans proper. Their expansionistic policies are naturally opposed by the Ottomans, as well as the Bulgarians, the Roumanians and Austro-Hungarians who all have their own designs on the remaining Ottoman provinces of the Balkans.

Andorra, A tiny sovereign kingdom, ruled by King Karl Eduard I von Neuhoff, located in the eastern portion of the mountain ranges that separate France and Spain.

Monaco, A moderately sized sovereign kingdom between France and Italy, ruled by King Albert I, which has prospered from the misadventures of both nations against their own enemies in the past two centuries. The nation maintains itself through a studied neutrality and catering to the whims and fancies of the world's famous, wealthy and free spending individuals.

Sealand, A tiny sovereign island nation off the eastern coast of Great Britain. Founded by exiled Anglo-Danish huscarls and an adventurous band of Jomsburg Vikings in 1066. The small nation has stubbornly maintained it's position against all past attempts to annex it by either the French, the Dutch or the English for the last eight hundred and twenty-three years.

Ruritania, A small German-Slavic kingdom, ruled by King Rudolf V of the ancient House of Elphberg, wedged between the provinces of Austro-Hungarian Bohemia and German Silesia. Descendants of Wends and Sorbs mixed with Czechs and Germans who settled the region around what is now the capital of Streslau, the Germanic element quickly became the dominant ethnic group within the close knit tribal kingdom that developed. The Ruritanian kings became vassals of Emperor Charlemagne and eventually his successors as he extended both his empire's borders eastward and Christianity amougst the pagan Saxons beyond the waters of the Rhine. The Elphbergs early converts to the Roman Catholic faith, although many of their subjects still followed a mix of pagan and Arian Catholic traditions. The Elphbergs were gradually raised to the dignity of Electors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, a title they retained with pride even after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1804. Long a steadfast ally to the Habsburgs emperors, they did not desert them even during the turmoil of 1848, the year of revolutions which nearly over turned all the crowned heads of Europe. During the Holstein-Schleswig conflicts and following Austro-Prussian war of 1866, in which the Royal Ruritanian Army played a distinguished part both at home and alongside their Austrian allies during the battles against the Prussian Army in Bohemia. Ruritanian soldiers were to astonish the world with their dauntless courage yet again, during the conflicts in the Balkans once again alongside the Austro-Hungarians against the Ottoman Empire during the 1870s and 1880s.

Switzerland, the home of brotherly love, democracy, peace and the cuckoo clock. It's permanent neutrality guaranteed by the Congresses of Vienna, and it's own national army's vast system of fortresses securing all the mountain passes that lead to their heartlands. The Swiss enjoy a quiet cultured life, considerable economic prosperity and act as bankers and financiers to much of the known world. They also act as the mercenary capital of the known world, a fact the Swiss are very discrete about and will play down if it comes up in casual conversation.

Vatican/Papal State, ruled by Pope Leo XIII, the remains of the once considerable Papal States which occupied much of central Italy. Centered on the Vatican city and the municipal lands of the City of Rome, this theocratic state overseen by the Roman Catholic Church stands isolated from the rest of the world being surrounded by the Kingdom of Italy. Relations between the Holy See and the House of Savoy, are at best tense and often out rightly hostile. Rome, is ensconced within several rings of fortifications manned by the Papal State Army and it's associated Roman Catholic knightly and military orders.

San Marino, an enclave or micro nation which covers just some twenty-four square miles of the northeastern side of the Apennine mountain range, within but independent of the Kingdom of Italy. It is also one of the oldest constitutional republics within Europe, the constitution which governs the country's affairs and established its governmental norms was written in 1600. The national economy is largely devoted to financial affairs, industry, services and tourism. The country is ruled by two Captains Regent, who are elected to serve for six month periods.

Tavolara, a tiny kingdom off the north eastern coast of the island of Sardinia. Formed from the islands of the Tavolara Archipelgao (consisting of the Tavolara, Molara, Molarotto islands, Ogliastra, Proratora and Tuaredda, and the Russo, Rujia, Ratti Islets and Quirra Skerry) Founded by Giuseppe Bertoleoni following his appointment as ruler of the island by King Charles Albert I of Sardinia-Piedmont. Charles Albert of Sardinia, also verbally sanctioned the creation of an island peerage, with the title of Prince going, to the "king's"oldest male heir, and the titles of Lord of the Islands and Lady of the Sea for the younger offspring of the ruler.

King Giuseppe I (1836-1845) was followed by his son Paolo I (1845 - 1886) and grandson Carlo I (1886 -). The island kingdom supports itself mainly with limited animal husbandry, green house/market garden farming, coastal fishing and lobster trapping and a subsidy from the Kingdom of Italy to maintain and operate a lighthouse on northeastern end of the island for the Italian government starting in 1868. A telegraphic cable from Olbia, Sardinia, runs to Tavolara and connects the two islands to the Italian mainland.  Tourism is also becoming an important component of the island kingdom's economy. The pleasant climate, sparkling waters and two quiet pleasant beaches attract a small but steady number of visitors every year. A hotel and a summer restaurant have been built to cater to this growing industry.

Grand Fenwick, A tiny soveriegn duchy located in the Alps, Grand Fenwick was founded by the English knight and mercenary captain, Sir Roger Fenwick, in 1370 when he settled in the region with his followers as a reward for his services as a soldier and military commander to the Kingdom of France. In consequence the national language of Grand Fenwick is english and the state religion is Roman Catholic. The country, lies in a fold in the Northern Alps, featuring several valleys, a river, and a mountain with an elevation of 2,000 feet (610 m). The slopes of the valleys are dominated by local vineyards and orchards. The hillsides where the ground is less fertile typcially support flocks of sheep that provide meat, dairy products, and wool. The majority of the region's inhabitants live in the City of Fenwick, which is clustered around Fenwick Castle, the seat of government. Some 2 miles (3 km) from the City of Fenwick is a 500 acres Ducal Forest Preserve that features a 20-foot (6.1 m) waterfall and attracts many birds that Many Fenwickians claim as their own native birds. A Roman Catholic monastery on the border of the Ducal forest houses the country's only school, college and university.

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