John I, Holy Orenian Emperor

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John I Frederick
john I.jpg
Holy Orenian Emperor
Reign: 1526-1547
Coronation: 17 Grand Harvest 1526
Praha Palace, Felsen, Oren
Predecessor: Title created
Guy
(As King of Oren)
Alexander (As Holy Orenian Emperor)
Successor: John II
Archchancellors:
Born: 10 Snow's Maiden 1498
Pronce, Agathor, Aeldinic Empire
Died: 12 Grand Harvest 1547 (aged 49)
Eroch River, Vandoria
Spouse: Adelheid of Istria
(m. 1519; d. 1535)
Issue: Emperor John II
Prince Alexander, Duke of Marna
Philippa, Princess Imperial
John I of Vandoria
(Illegitimate)
High Pontiff Daniel III
Princess Charlotte
Princess Eleanor
Princess Catherine
House: Horen
Father: Charles Henry Horen
Mother: Clara de Sola

John Frederick, also known as John I (High Imperial: Johannes Fridericus; Savoyard: Johann Frederic) (10th of Snow’s Maiden, 1498 – 12th of Grand Harvest, 1547) called the Relentless, of the House of Horen, was the first Holy Orenian Emperor of the restored Fifth Empire from 1526 until his death. A scion of the Horen dynasty, his accession to the crown of Oren with the signing of the Treaty of Metz during the Horen Restoration returned the line of Exalted Godfrey to the throne and restored the Holy Orenian Empire which had been dissolved with the deposition of Alexander I almost half a century earlier in 1482.

John’s rule was shaped by several key factors: the bloody Eighteen Years' War, (the fourth such global conflict between the dwarven states and the human empire in the last century) internal religious and political turmoil as a lasting legacy of the Dukes' War and a return to the Imperial doctrine of enlightened absolutism espoused by his distant ancestor, Godfrey I. His aim to bring a sense of unity and purpose to the troubled factions within Oren was fulfilled for a brief time, however his efforts would prove flimsy and be temporarily unravelled shortly before his death. His twenty-one year reign proved second-longest of any emperor at the time of his death, falling short of his distant predecessor Godfrey’s rule by fifteen years.

Despite for a time successfully prosecuting a war against the dwarven fiefdoms, the end of John’s reign was tarnished by internal insurrections on the part of the militant Savoyards who still blamed him for the regicide of their king, Guy de Bar, in 1526. After a string of humiliating defeats to the Urguanites originating from the withdrawal of necessary Savoyard support on account of the Taxman's Conspiracy, the Emperor was forced to shamefully de-escalate the war. Refusing to make peace, he was killed in rout, the Eighteen Years War being ended months afterwards by his son, John II.

Regarded as highly educated, speaking several languages and of unparalleled pedigree at the time, John Frederick’s legacy is a mixed one. The scholar Patrick Henry Rusden writes that he was ‘irrevocably flawed and haughty, though arguably an improvement to his predecessors’ but also that ‘his reign was not only characterized by his selflessness, fairness and incomparable dedication to the betterment of his country and his people, but also by his inability to attain their love and approval’. Nevertheless, while unable to achieve the status of his peers as a cherished and beloved sovereign, he held the respect of his subjects for the way he embodied the idea of monarchship; as a soldier, an administrator and a man of faith. Historians are divided on the total assessment of John I, while some have praised him for his contribution for law and bureaucratic reforms, others have held his uncompromising attitude to the nobility as the reason for internal civil strife for decades to come. He would maintain a lifelong friendship with his cousin, brother-in-law and chief adviser, Augustus d'Amaury, until his death. Approximately twenty five years after the end of his reign, his grandson, John III, would name the Imperial capital city Johannesburg in his honor.

Biography

Early Life

John was born in exile as John Frederick Horen in Pronce, Agathor (Upon the continent of Aeldin) as the only son of Clara de Sola, daughter to Vibius de Sola, the renowned Imperial field-marshal and military dictator, and Charles Henry Horen, nicknamed the Old Pretender, who would later be forced into a monastery by King Andrew. Charles Henry was himself the son of Prince John of Marna, second son to Horen V and I, the last of the Horen emperors who abdicated for Aeldin in the year 1420. The childless death of Horen V’s first son, Owyn of Alstion, meant that the strongest Horen claim fell to the line of his second son John of Marna.

His parent’s marriage was arranged for what is thought to be political reasons. In 1498, Charles Henry left his pregnant wife behind in Agathor and endeavoured to travel around the Aeldinic provinces to raise a host against the Horosid emperor, aided by many of his wife’s de Sola kin. This attempt to claim the throne of the Aeldinic Empire led to his nickname as the Old Pretender and ended in utmost failure. He would attempt to take refuge in Oren, ruled at the time by King Andrew, however wary of his blood claims the Vydra monarch forced him into a monastery to take the name Polycarp. Charles Henry was freed from his imprisonment months later with Andrew’s assassination, however the label stuck even after he returned to Aeldin to find that his wife had birthed a son and heir.

John Frederick was born, educated and raised in Aeldin, and did not learn Common while he was young. Much of his tutelage was undertaken at the court of Benda Chivay, Governor of Agathor, where he was educated personally by the dissident Couentran cleric and favorite of the governor, Iosif of Roiye. It was there that the young John would be exposed to the high Imperial teachings in absolutism and the divine right of emperors. Under Benda Chivay’s influence, he would also grow a nascent hatred for mages and sorcerers, who he considered scheming and cutthroat, a dislike which would only be fully made manifest at the very end of his life. From the age of 14, he gained some experience of warfare during the Exeter War (Where he served alongside a much younger Athirius Roke) of his maternal great-uncle the general Marcus Antipatros against King Arnulf of Gaekrin in 1512, and also in the War of Banardian Succession.

From both his patrilineal and matrilineal ancestors he inherited an ambiguous relationship with both the far-off Orenian states and the Aeldinic Empire itself. His great-grandfather Horen V and I had departed Oren with much of his court and nobility in 1420 to establish a dynasty ruling over the western half of the continent of Aeldin, however exactly forty years later Horen rule ended in Aeldin as well with the death of Emperor Owyn and the rise of Emperor Horos the Usurper. The rightful heir to the childless Owyn was his brother, (John Frederick’s then-aged grandfather) Prince John of Marna, however with the support of much of the nobility Prince John and his infant son, Charles Henry, were cast into exile to the province of Agathor by Horos, where they would be ‘guests’ of Benda Chivay. His mother’s brother, Titus de Sola, was Duke of Istria in the Kingdom of Oren ruled over by Olivier de Savoie, and his grandfather on that side, Vibius de Sola, had crossed the Nocibur, dethroned Emperor Robert and perished for it in the year 1467. Thus the boy John Frederick was regarded as having one of the most extensive blood claims in contemporary times, to the empires of both Oren and Aeldin.

Marriage

Empress Adelheid around 1538, by Ser James Louis Hightower

In early 1519, the twenty-one year old John Frederick was married via proxy to his first cousin, Adelheid of Istria, the daughter of his maternal uncle Titus, Duke of Istria. The clandestine ceremony was conducted in the chapel of Dour Watch by Pentarch Edmond de Montfort, with Helton Chivay standing in John’s place for the ceremony as the groom conducted some business in Aeldin. He would not actually meet his bride and consummate their marriage until 1520 when he sailed to Oren for the first time in his adult life, and in 1521 their first child was born - a son named John Sigismund. In the early days of their marriage, John spent little time with his new bride, except in the monthly duties in the chambers, and gave way to an ultimately unhappy marriage. Throughout their time married, Adelheid frequently mettled into the affairs of her own family's estates, such as the Duchy of Istria and her brother's Archduchy of Lorraine.

Although marriage of first cousins was not prohibited by any clerical or moral law, the union still came under heavy scrutiny by some of the Orenian clerics, including one of John's most vocal opponents Archbishop Adrian of Kaedrin. Later, the Bishop Piers of Istria also cited in the incestial marriage as one of his qualms against the Emperor, before being executed after the Second Diet of Metz.

Accession

See Also: Horen Restoration

John Frederick’s accession to the crown of Oren was largely the result of a long-term conspiracy by several nobles and clergymen to restore the exalted Horen dynasty to the throne and recreate the great empire which had been lost forty-five years earlier. Originating in roughly 1515, John was the obvious claimant against King Olivier, however their plotting was halted and stalled by the outbreak of the Duke’s War a year later. The conspirators were from diverse background and had equally diverse motives. Imperial patriots such as Helton Chivay and Titus de Sola had grown disillusioned with Savoyard rule, which they considered a regression from the high Imperial days of yore. The belief that King Olivier’s inability to recreate the empire despite multiple decades of rule had paralyzed the country was an extremely common view, held even (Though on different terms entirely) by the king’s eventual successor and greatest supporter, Guy de Bar.

Similarly, Titus de Sola would attain a double motive in the conspiracy in wedding his daughter to their claimant, the young John Frederick, who was also his nephew. The clerical dissident Iosif of Roiye - John’s tutor and a leading plotter, who influenced much of his political thought until his death - aspired to bring about Church reformation, an end he could easily have achieved with an emperor’s ear. On the other end of the spectrum, Edmond de Montfort (Who would later become High Pontiff Everard II) had seen the brunt of Savoyard excesses in the Duke’s War and had come to the conclusion that Oren could only be successfully and peacefully governed by a Horen. The plot was more or less led by the then seventy-three old Charles Henry Polycarp, whose failed attempts to gain a throne for himself had made him all the more determined to attain a different one for his firstborn son. John himself was not included in any of the conspiratorial negotiations or meetings, not even becoming aware of the plot until 1523 with King Olivier’s death, and would even grow to resent being used as a pawn by his ambitious father, prickly uncle and Helton Chivay.

Majority of the plot itself took place away from mainland Oren; indeed rarely the conspirators would meet within its borders, instead working within the Church-controlled Balain to the south or in Aeldin. Many supporters of the plot covered their deeds through clerical works, including bloody Tarchar Crusade (while unbeknownst to many of its leaders was heavily supported by both Charles Henry and the Duke of Istria) and a plurality of the agents and manpower used by Polycarp was pulled from the crusader retinue.

The plot did not go into full swing, however, till the planned assassination of King Guy in 1526- orchestrated between Polycarp and numerous bishops- in which the monarch was stabbed to death within his own royal gardens. John had landed on the mainland a few weeks prior from the port of Balain-Visigia. He was rushed to the capital by an entourage of his own Nauzica Brigade followed by numerous mercenaries and other retainers. He soundly reached the capital before the arrival of the bulk of the Savoyard army (Which was stalled by weather towards east in Drusco, under the command of Guy's second son Sergius) and parleyed with the incumbent regent, Prince Gereon. After three days of negotiations, both parties signed the Treaty of Metz, effectively ending the Savoyard rule and proclaiming John Frederick as Holy Orenian Emperor.

Hunt in Honour of Emperor John at the Castle of Franzenburg, by John Montney, 1570

Reign

One of the new emperor’s first actions was to invest Percival Staunton with the Duchy of Courland in 1527, elevating the relatively new noble Staunton family to the prestigious ducal level. In addition to this, John’s cousin Godwine was wed to the nascent duke’s daughter, cementing the ties between the crown and the North. This elevation was perceived mostly negatively by the old aristocracy, who saw the Stauntons as little more than uneducated merchants, however the emperor justified his sponsorship of them by citing their loyal service to him. This decision would form the crucible for the already-developing Northern Question and the decades later Riga War, fought between the later Duke Alexander of Courland and the Duchy of Carnatia under Petyr Barbanov and Jan Kovachev.

In 1531, during the midst of the reconstruction of Felsen, the yeoman Geoffrey Myre took up arms against the emperor, supported by malcontent and underpaid members of the City Watch as well as several riotous peasants. They succeeded in storming the outer palace using keys stolen from a chamberlain Myre was acquainted with, however, the emperor was absent from Felsen upon his flagship Empress Adelheid. Loyalists from Istria and Courland appeared in the city a day later and massacred the revolters, taking back the palace in the Emperor’s name, with Myre himself slain in a confrontation with the young Edmond Cross. Myre’s hands and tongue were nailed to a display above the Painted Gate as a show to the fate of treacherous bureaucrats, however, his actions only five years into the new emperor’s reign greatly troubled John, who had considered the captain to be a personal friend of his. This incident is widely considered to be the foundation of John the Relentless’ legendary paranoia and mistrust in dealing with his human subjects, as well as further entrusting his personal protection and that of his estates to his Nauzica Brigade.

Though Imperials may have given him the appellation of 'the Relentless', in life John was known to his dwarven adversaries as 'Soldier John', a mocking epithet reflective of his destructive obsession for military campaigns and their associated pomp and ceremony. This was especially contrasted with his son and heir, who would become known as 'Gardener John' during his early reign on an equally satirical account of his passion for the mundane matters of gardening and agriculture over those of politics.

Edward of Istria was his loyal court chaplain and illegitimate half-brother.

The Praha Scandal

Main Article: Praha Scandal

One of the first scandals erupting in John's newly established court was the affair between his cousin's (Godwine, of the branch Horen-Marna) wife and the then Count of Drusco, Sergius de Bar (second and eldest living son of the former King Guy) in 1527, barely a year into his reign. The precarious situation gave some in the Emperor's council, namely John's father Charles and Vanderus, the opportunity to eliminate Guy's last living child and claimant to the throne (Guy's youngest Joachim had joined the priesthood in 1524). The scandal was exposed after the interrogation of Godwine's wife by Lord Vanderus and fellow council-members, including Godwine himself and the chamberlain Vytenis of Visigia.

Sergius de Bar was summoned to the Imperial Count on 7 Grand Harvest 1527, arriving with a cohort of soldiers joined by numerous other Savoyard lords, including the Baron de Viri and the incumbent Prince Gereon of Savoy. Despite the advice given to the Duke Drusco, Sergius entered the court alone without guards, to which John subsequently placed him on tribunal with himself, Lord Vanderus and John's father Bishop Charles Polycarp. Sergius was sentenced to have his eyes removed, however he as shortly found executed within his own jail cell following the conviction.

The dead duke raised many suspicions against Emperor John and his privy (Which many have thought he had been executed by Lord Godwine and his fellow peers), but without any centered commander and Prince Gereon's unwillingness to take action, his death created nothing more than rumors and further aggressiveness between House Horen and House Ashford. To Emperor John, the death of the claimant proved fruitful to his attempt to stay upon the Imperial throne, with the last of the de Bar pretenders either dead, in the cloisters, or in hiding and the de Savoie not willing to make any move until much later in 1547, during the Taxman's Conspiracy.

Relations with Uldar Irongut

John I circa 1534, at the time of the Second Diet of Metz

Soon after John’s accession to the throne in 1526, the Matron Superior of the Order of Saint Julia, Lorina Carrion, avowed her position as a nun in objection to his claim, eloping with Jace Bracchus, the son of the Imperial Archchancellor Publius Bracchus. This affront was intended as a direct insult to the authority of the crown and the Church of the Canon, who had dispatched agents to apprehend the former Julian sister. By the time they arrived in the dwarven capital, Uldar Irongut had secured a landslide victory in the election for the crown. Under pressure from the aristocracy, the Emperor took a direct approach to resolving it, personally penning a missive to the new Grand King of Urguan, thereby beginning a lengthy, documented correspondence lasting the entirety of the dwarven king’s reign.

 
 
That You, good King Uldar, would know that One cannot and will not abide such lewd pretenses, that this Fornicatrix espouses […] She hath led astray a Gentleman, the eldest son of My First Minister, and broken Her vows to the Convent of Saint Julia thrice over, and to grant Her refuge in Your City from My Imperial Agents would be to cause great Injury to Me and my Government [...] This I implore You most humbly as one Sovereign to another, grant this Devil’s Whore no Succor and I shall see to it that no Imperial gives an Urguanite patriot so much as an awry glance as long as We sit on Our respective Thrones.
 

 

Subsequent to Uldar’s coronation in the Sanctuary of the Brathmordakin at the turn of that year, an Imperial representative in the form of Publius Bracchus arrived in the dwarven capital to discuss a potential alliance with the new king. While cautious at first, Uldar received the Imperial delegation in a conciliatory fashion unprecedented by any dwarven monarch, even expelling Lorina Carrion into Church custody as a show of good faith. After much private negotiation and discussion between representatives and missives, Uldar and John came to a tacit concurrence and signed documents both public and clandestine testifying to this agreement. As the rulers both faced unrest, they bolstered one another with whichever resources they had available, often to the displeasure of their own subjects. This proved more than necessary for Uldar’s government when revolts began to become widespread around Urguan, and an attempted assassination attempt upon the Grand King was closed prevented with the aid of Imperial intelligence. The most renowned document from this period was the emperor’s Seventh Letter, an excerpt of which described their partnership as:

 
 
A most Noble Alliance to the benefit of Us both, and Our Countries [...] Where Cooperation, Brotherhood and Respect would be paramount, with the vile conspiracies of My Predecessors and Yours forgotten, entirely, with the shared goal of Mutual Profit, economic, social and political, as well as the Reforms necessary to achieve Such.
 

 

In 1528, Uldar had begun to tire of the affronts of Prince Aelthir Tundrak, an elven princeling with much support among the dwarven bureaucracy who ruled over the city of Fenn, in Urguan’s borderlands. By the first month of that year, Tundrak’s plots to unseat Uldar had become publicly known. The king retaliated by naming him an enemy of the state and declaring war against the elves of Fenland, beginning the Second Fennic War. Though Uldar had made several reforms to Urguan’s infrastructure, the foreign and internal crises Urguan had been suffering compounded by various conspiring dwarven functionaries (as well as the great support Tundrak enjoyed in the Senate of Hammers) rendered Irongut utterly unable to muster an army for a campaign. With hostile soldiers on his border and his own military completely unable to march, Uldar requested military aid from Emperor John. Eager to prove himself as a man of his word, John intervened in the Second Fennic War on the side of Grand King Uldar, marching several thousand soldiers south to Outremer. With their combined armies, they defeated Tundrak at the first Battle of Fenn, forcing him to sign the humiliating Treaty of Fenland in the Grand Harvest of 1528. At the summit in Felsen, ironically the first and last time the two monarchs would ever meet face to face, Emperor John famously remarked to his dwarven contemporary:

 
 
As long as there is government, there will be differences of opinion. Everyone takes his side in favour of the many or the few. Nothing new could be added by you and me to what has been said by others and will be said in every age. We may have ample disagreements, but the very meaning of respect is that neither me nor you are each other’s master.
 

 

Despite this, not every figure at John’s court viewed his relationship with Uldar in a positive light. Figures in opposition to ‘the Dwarven match’ as it would come to be known were chiefed by Vanderus de Sola, the Emperor’s own brother-in-law, who infamously remarked to his aide that the dwarves ‘have no business breathing our very air’. Similarly, many Urguanite courtiers, several of which had been fighting against the empire for decades, looked upon the alliance with disdain. Dagran Grandaxe writes in his Musings from Kal’Akash:

 
 
Our king Uldar Irongut uses his dwarven subjects like oranges, squeezing the juice and discarding the peel, all for the benefit of his mannish friend, the emperor.
 

 

Historically, the emperor's relations with Uldar Irongut were significant in an era where past events had made cooperation between the two powers politically unacceptable in both Oren and Urguan. Despite a few brief years of prosperity, the consequences of the popular sentiment against the alliance as well as inveterate hatred between the two races would culminate in the Eighteen Years' War with Uldar's deposition by Midgor Ireheart.

Divorce

The marriage between the Emperor and the Empress was remarked a cold one, and John was known to hold little love for his consort as told by his former advisers and companions. As time furthered, Adelheid, while initially a solemn consort, began to continuously hold extravagant parties and assembled a small gathering of minor lordlings, some of whom it is suspected she maintained multiple affairs with. To John's more stoic privy members, this came at both an outrage and a security risk, with even John's brother-in-law Lord Vanderus suggesting a divorce in a private letter. Her meddling the affairs of her family's holdings also angered many of the more traditional lords, especially after her attempt to install her third son Prince Charles de Furnestock as the incumbent Archduke of Lorraine as her brother was incapacitated in illness.

In the spring of 1535, as John prepared his invasion of the Urguani mainland, the Emperor sent a request to High Pontiff Everard II for a divorce, to which was granted after a back and forth correspondence of around three months. Adelheid, now no longer Empress, was granted a multitude of estates and retired to the Abbey of Saint Julia along with many of her retainers and ladies-in-waiting. She still maintained a strong influence over her sons, especially her third and youngest son, although her power she once held as Empress would never again be achieved.

Into the Valley of Flowers (1535-1538)

Main Article: Eighteen Years' War

After the meeting between the two crowned leaders, John Frederick and Midgor, in 1531, war between the Holy Orenian Empire and the Grand Kingdom was officially declared. With Oren currently in a divided and depleted state, many dwarven aristocrats believed a successful invasion of the Oren heartlands could be achieved, and that John Frederick had not achieved the needed unity among his vassals to support an all out war. Indeed, John faced many issues garnering the loyalty of his established lords and landowners. Following the dwarven declaration, however, human patriotism spiked, with many historians accrediting such drive, as Patrick Rusden put it, "...to the fleeting memories of the glorious Schism War not four decades before." The Savoyard chronicler and Oren critic Amaury de Vermois also wrote,

 
 
[...] the bloodiest war in recent years, the Eighteen Years' War, saw the most destruction fighting and bloodshed in centuries, pulled through the relentless and doomed struggle of Emperor John. Before such war, he was not loved by the people or hailed as a grandeur savior, and ultimately his war would cost him his very life. However, if it were not for the thought of foreign invasion and dwarven encroachment, John would have never stayed upon his throne. The war which tore his family apart and took him into the world beyond saved his empire. And, God-forbid, you might claim King Midgor, in his bumbling diplomacy, saved Oren from itself.
 

 

For first eight years of the war, either nation had yet to meet upon the fields. Midgor, in the opening years of the war, had died from clenching at his heart; many suspected foul play, either from the Uldarist anti-war faction or the imperialistic pro-war faction (Who believed Midgor too hesitant in entering full battle against Oren). The dwarves under command of the Urguani general Belegar Ireheart had committed to a raiding policy against the human colonies in the south, including Erochland and Balain-Visigia. The first years floated by with neither side making any true military excursion against each other- while human colonists in the southern reaches of the Empire fought in guerrilla warfare against the dwarven skirmishers, the main bodies of both the Imperial army and the dwarven army remained at home.

It was not till the end of 1535 that any amassing for a frontal assault began. Under Lord Henry Horen-Rothesay, an army was gathered consisting mainly of heartlander soldiers and an assortment of feudal levies drawn from the Imperial nobility. In the early winter, Emperor John and Lord Rothesay landed with their army upon the banks of Erochland and began a slow march to the first of the dwarven fortresses. They were eventually met on the field by the dwarven commander Belegar Ireheart, near Kal'Rhewen (Common: Rhewengrad), where they scored a decisive victory at the Battle of White Mountain. The army continued their advance onto Kal'Rhewen, having it fall to Imperial forces in 1537. John's advance would halt at his defeat at the Iron Mountain, the dwarven lord Azaghal Doomforged successfully rallying a defense against the poorly planned assault. With the assault failed, the remaining Imperial army retreated eastwards back to the base at Erochland.

Although never formally removing Lord Henry Rothesay as commander after the defeat at the walls of the Iron Mountain, the Emperor left the marshal to defend the recently-conquered lands as a pseudo-punishment, replacing him for Lord Josef Vladov in the following stages of the war.

The Saltstone Plot

Main Article: Saltstone Plot

One of the most maligned scandals of the emperor’s rule was the Saltstone Plot (Sometimes known as the Saltstone Affair) of 1540, an incident which would dramatically reduce his popularity among much the nobility and commoners alike and culminate in the downfall and death of the Viscount of Alamar, Bryce Vimmark, John’s own cousin and former favorite. His reputation only barely recovering several years later, the misconduct on the emperor’s part was due largely to the manipulations of several of his other favorites along with the Duke of Courland, Richard Staunton, however John took the brunt of the blame in public opinion and later grew to strongly regret his haranguing actions against Lord Vimmark, though he would never admit to desiring his cousin’s death.

Bryce Vimmark was originally one of Emperor John’s foremost favorites and a staunch supporter of the Horen cause. His father had been John’s paternal great-uncle, and the bastard line of Vimmark claimed distant descent from Emperor Godfrey. Lord Vimmark maintained the citadel of Saltstone, one of the largest and most defendable fortresses in the Orenian North. According to ducal ledgers, the land itself belonged to the Duke of Courland, at this time being Duke Richard, and became a demanded right for the fortress to fall under the Duke's control. The Emperor, however, maintained Saltstone and Lord Vimmark as Imperial immediacies. With Lord Vimmark influence over the Emperor, his ambitions grew and soon plotted to see himself as the Duke of Courland, hopeful in garnering support from the rivals of Duke Courland (such as the Duke of Carnatia at the time, Duke Otto II and the recently appointed southern Duke Arthur of Istria).

His ambitions, however, proved futile in the attempt to convince his Emperor and fellow lords, as the Emperor refused to support such an endevour and the Duke Carnatia casting out Bryce's son Rendon from his court.

Avar War (1540-1544)

Victors of Hoar Hill, by Edmond Manston, 1567. From right to left, Duke Augustus, Emperor John, and Field Marshal Rothesay.

Marnadal Offensive (1544-1547)

Death

The Taxman's Conspiracy reached its zenith in the middle of the month of the First Seed in 1547. A session of the Imperial Diet turned bloody when Savoyard assassins attempted to ambush the emperor, led by Elias of Savoy. They were defeated, however, in an uncommon show of mercy, the emperor only executed a single member of the plot, Ser Emery of Felsen. The remainder were released hastily, John keen to resume his campaign in the south, to which he traveled immediately thereafter.

Drowning of John, by Hemming de Morle, 1568

However, the Savoyards had withdrawn vital economic and military support for the campaign, implicitly resulting in a crushing defeat at the Battle of Fort Dunamis. The Imperial besiegers, starved, diseased and poorly equipped, were repelled with ease by the Urguanite army and their mercenaries, led by Grand King Rhewen Frostbeard. The Imperials were forced to retreat north towards Erochland, with several war-bands of dwarven soldiers in dedicated pursuit. Though the emperor wished for he and his soldiers to continue fighting to the death at Fort Dunamis, he was begrudgingly persuaded of the necessity of retreat by Jan Kovachev, the Duke of Carnatia. This pragmatic action by the duke was believed to have saved the Imperial forces from total annihilation at the hands of their adversaries in the southern campaign.

On 12th of the Grand Harvest, 1547, Emperor John drowned near the border of Vandoria and Erochland while attempting to ford the Eroch River. Accounts of the event are conflicting, however, he was believed to have been thrown from his warhorse after dwarven arbalestiers harassed it with bolts, causing it to rear upwards. His heavy armor weighed him down and ensured his men could not rescue him in time, his body being washed away by the strong flow of the river.

In an almost apocryphal story, his body was found by a merchant of spirits, who preserved it in a cask of dark rum to send to the capital. Ever since, that particular type of rum has been known as 'Johnsblood' in reference to this fable.

Impact and Legacy

John's untimely death effectively ended any major Orenian incursions into Urguan for years to come. John's son and heir, John Sigismund, would negotiate a treaty with the dwarven nation, effectively ending the Eighteen Years' War, and successfully put down the Second Rurikid Uprising at the Battle of Seahelm in the same year of his father's death in 1547. The power vacuum which ensued would cause the period known as "The Anarchy", a series of civil wars and political turmoil which rocked the Empire to its very core. His rapid militarization during the majority of his reign garnered his family many enemies, and feuding between his descendants and the Savoyard nobility would continue for decades. Many critics and anti-Orenist thinkers have pointed to his rise of power through regicide, as well as absolute despotic nature described as bordering on tyranny, in contrary to the traditional human feudalism and decentralized freedoms. His large-scale taxation of his vassals strained the rural economy and the rich plantations and vineyards located within central Savoy and Lorraine suffered under the burden. The nobility, which enjoyed many privileges under the Ashford monarchs, now were shunned in the bureaucratic Imperial Oren. His and his father's actions in the deaths of multiple Ashford dynasts, as well as the Ashfords' support in rebel groups and insurgency against the empire, sparked a shakeless dynamic conflict between the two clans of Horen and Ashford.

However, supporters of a united humanity acknowledge the Emperor as a pinnacle of the Oren state, scoring multiple victories over his enemies and nearly doubling the size and economy of the Empire. The imperial capital under himself and his successors would grow to become the largest city in the world, including both Felsen and Johannesburg. His house's support in architecture and the arts led to the construction of multiple palaces and castles, including the mosaic St. Adrian's Palace and later the fortress of Death's End (Which now serves as the capital to the Horens of Vandoria). His conquests would not be finished till Emperor John III, which annexed the Orcish Clans and conquered the last of the human rebels in the early 1560s. At the peak of the empire at the death of John III, the incorporated lands would include nearly two-thirds of the known world (not including the tributary and allied elven states) and therefore the largest nation in history.

John's firm establishment of succession would become the norm for many human states, as well as his granting of appendage titles to the monarch's children. The double-naming tradition of his line would also become a staple in the human nobility, with a plethora of lords emulating the practice. His direct line would remain the unbroken rulers of the Empire for over fifty years, until the death of Emperor Philip during the Coalition War- the longest continuous strain of united human emperors in history.

The playwright Edmond Manston's last (and unfinished) work, John, is based off his life and death during the Eighteen Year's War.

Character and personality

Through John's life, many companions and rivals detailed him in personal envoys or journals. Most of his reign consisted of him serving on the field with his armies in the south, earning him the moniker 'Soldier John' by his soldiers. He was described well by his generals, such Lord Rothesay and Lord Vladov, who greatly admired John's stern and martial nature. In contrast, the developing paranoia which enveloped him through his reign grew greater, and soon John rarely left the presence of his own guard. He began mistrusting many of the lords around him, including much of his less fervent supporters, and soon many of the less militaristic-aligned nobles lost his favor.

Titles, Styles and Honors

Titles and Styles

  • 10 Snow's Maiden 1498 - 9 First Seed 1503: His Highness The Hereditary Prince of Alstion
  • 9 First Seed 1503 - 17 Grand Harvest 1526: His Serenity The Prince of Alstion
  • 17 Grand Harvest 1526 - 12 Grand Harvest 1547: His Imperial Majesty The Holy Orenian Emperor

Full title as Holy Orenian Emperor

The titles of John I changed throughout his reign. At the time of his death, his full Imperial title was: His Imperial Majesty John I Frederick of the House of Horen, by the Grace of GOD, Holy Orenian Emperor and rightful Emperor of Aeldin, forever August, Apostolic King in Oren, of Savoy, Kaedrin, Haense, Renatus and Salvus, Defender of the Faith, Duke of the Crownlands, Carimea, Erochland, Kingston and Leone, Margrave of Greater Kreden, Count of Felsen, Louvain, Beauclair, Wett and Metz, Sovereign of Humanity and Protector of the Elves, etcetera.

Issue

John sired seven children (Three sons and four daughters) with Empress Adelheid before their divorce. John also had a bastard by the name of John Godfrey to an unknown mistress, which he raised to king in the client state of the Kingdom of Vandoria.

Name Birth Death Marriage Notes
John II, Holy Orenian Emperor 1st of Malin's Welcome, 1521 25th of Malin's Welcome, 1595 First Marriage: Amelie of Courland (Her death: 10th of the Amber Cold, 1547)
Second Marriage: Ari of Leone (Her death: 23rd of Sun's Smile, 1565)
Successor of John I, abdicated in 1568.
Prince Alexander, Duke of Marna 23rd of the Amber Cold, 1522 6th of the Deep Cold, 1572 Aurelia de Bar (Her death: 10th of the Grand Harvest, 1564) Served as Governor of Erochland between 1539 till his death.
Princess Philippa Maria of Alstion 3rd of the Grand Harvest, 1523 11th of Snow's Maiden, 1570 Betrothal: Philip, Duke of Istria (His death: 10th of the Grand Harvest, 1539)
First Marriage: Vespasian, Count of Lewes (His death: 12th of the First Seed, 1540)
Second Marriage: Alexander, Duke of Courland (Annulment: 19th of the Grand Harvest, 1563)
First betrothed to Philip de Sola, then married his cousin Vespasian de Sola, and finally to Alexander Staunton, son of Duke Percival of Courland.
Daniel of Furnestock 17th of Malin's Welcome, 1526 1601 Helaine Sarkozic (Her death: 17th of the First Seed, 1544) Served as High Pontiff from 1552 till his abdication in 1562. Before, he was Duke of Furnestock at his birth and in 1542 was Duke of Banard.
Princess Charlotte Sophia of Alstion 6th of the Sun's Smile, 1528 11th of the Deep Cold, 1542 Never married Died of consumption.
Princess Eleanor Elizabeth of Alstion 14th of the Grand Harvest, 1530 Deceased Ser Maric Vimmark N/A
Princess Catherine Francesca of Alstion 15th of the Amber Cold, 1532 4th of the Sun's Smile, 1574 Stephen de Beaufort (Her death: 4th of the Sun's Smile, 1574) Died of consumption.

Ancestors

See Also