Politics of the Crusader State
This work tries to give an overview of where the politics of the Crusader State stand; it is current as of April of 5001.
Like all august bodies, the nobility of the Crusader State are divided into political factions, the constituents and cancer of politics. Two major axes divide the politics of the Shining Gulf at present. First, there is a split between the pro-Curia and pro-Crusader factions, with the first inclining more towards stability and gradual advance and the second agitating more radically for a new order and a focus on retaking the Holy City even at the cost of existing lands. Second, there is a divide between the Justinians and the De Moley, who despite being minor players in the larger Known Worlds have been emboriled in a struggle over Yathrib since Malcolm and Godfrey founded the Brother Battle.
Curia vs. Crusader
The first - and perhaps most important - political division is between the Curia faction and the Crusader faction.
The Curia faction is dominated by the Seven Seigneurs, or at least most of them, and many of the traditional landholding baronies of the western bank of the Gulf. Many of these lords have held their lands since before recontact and have been fighting the Kurgans for generations, and while they are interested in gaining more ground and retaking the Holy City they are also interested in protecting what they have.
Key to the Curia faction's conception of self is decentralized power; Yathrib has a tradition of counts who are extremely independent of a central government and barons who are extremely independent of their counts. In contrast, the first and second Emperor Wars forced a great deal of centralization among the Royal Houses as the needs of interstellar warfare demanded closer coordination. The Curia faction - both Yathribi lords with long histories in the Gulf and Known Worlders who have found a place of their own, out from under the knuckle of their houses for the first time, are jealous of this independence and fear giving it up.
In advocacy, then, the Curia faction seeks to protect the rights of the lords, strengthen the power of the Curia and the Guardian and moderate the influence of those seeking to reach too far and perhaps provoke another invasion. Landholders of any stripe - whether their families have been here for generations or they have just gained their barony - tend towards the Curia, which is interested in protecting what they have. The downside, however, is a tendency to be risk-averse, even indolent; there are those among the Curia faction that would make peace with the Kurgans, provided that some arrangement over the Holy City could be made.
The Crusader faction, on the other hand, is less concerned with what has been. Offworld Crusaders make up an important part of the faction, but the most vocal voices for rapid and radical change are the Exodites, wealthy freeman - many of them now clergy - who were cast out of Revelation when the Kurgans took the Holy City. There is Exodite nobility as well, lords from the Pale or the Pearl Cities who have now been without their lands for generations and advocate relentlessly for an effort to retake what is lost.
In some ways, the Exodites have given the more numerous offworld crusaders a moral heart. The Exodites have long distrusted the Guardian, the Curia, and the Crusader State, feeling as if they have routinely chosen to protect what they have rather than risk all to retake Revelation. The Spoiling of the Pearls - the virtual ababonment of those cities to the Kurgans - looms high in Exodite minds, and many of them question why the Justinians and De Moleys who have sat safely on the West Bank deserve the leadership of the planet.
The Crusaders do not see a great deal of virtue in protecting the traditional fiefs of the Cote-Leon; they feel that defending overmuch against raids and expanding territory to the north or south is just a waste of time, particularly because many Crusaders believe that another large Crusade will come soon. They believe that the Pancreator is on their side, and that he will reward them for a push towards the Holy City.
More than that, though, the Crusaders look at the decentralized nature of the Crusader State and scoff. The Curia receives particular scorn with its tradition of deliberation and consensus, and the general philosophy of the Crusader faction is that it should be replaced with a military governship focused on military aims. The currently-held fiefs should be dedicated towards supporting the war effort and when the Holy City is retaken they ought to be parceled out to those who did the taking. The old order, Crusaders reason, is flawed, and trying to maintain it is a recipe for more of the same failures to retake Revelation.
In addition to landless Crusaders and the Exodites, the Crusader faction also has the support of many elements in the Church, particularly the Swords of Lextius, who see themselves as natural leaders for a military coordination, and by many lords in Oultrejoyeaux or other front-line fiefs who conquered their lands as a stepping-stone towards the Holy City. Frontier lords would also be the beneficiaries of 'military first' policy, as resources of the Vale lords or inland barons like Arvin or Margat are presently investing in their own lands would instead flow towards crusader expeditions and the coffers of the towns that support those front-line forces.
Crusader policy goals are almost opposite those of the Curia; they wish a weak Curia and Guardian to ultimately be replaced by a government of their creation, and before that happens they want to see resources directed to the front and the independence of lords be curtailed in favor of making them contribute to military operations.
The Curia vs. Crusader conflict is at a head. At the last Curia, Sir William Gaheris, a Sword of Lextius and one of the most senior commanders of the Patriarchal armies during the Emperor Wars, was named Constable. His appointment was largely forced through by the Church, and since then he has developed a reputation as running roughshod over the counts and barons, most recently by trying to seize a barony belonging to Count Renaud, the Guardian's nephew.
This represents a bold - perhaps too bold - play; Sir William appears to be hell-bent on cementing and centralizing power, and the implicit threat of Church action or riots by the Crusaders if he is stopped puts the issue front and center.
Vale vs. Cote-Leon
Second to the division between the pro-Curia and pro-Crusader camps is the division between the Justinian and the De Moleys, often couched in terms of the 'Vale faction' and the 'Cote-Leon', 'Akko', or 'Guardian' factions.
The Cote-Leon - particularly the county of Leon itself as well as the approaches to Akko - has long been dominated by House De Moley, who have controlled Akko and the Guardianship for most of Yathrib's history. By temperament, the De Moley are a bold crew, and as Akko and the Cote-Leon have suffered the brunt of Kurgan raiding they tend to more in favor of aggressive action against the Kurgans.
The De Moley are also Yathrib's most native house, and as a consequence many of their attentions are local in nature. The Cote-Leon faction tends to be less concerned with the consequences of some action in broader Known Worlds politics and more with its consequences for the lords of the Gulf and for the effort to retake Revelation.
The Cote-Leon faction, then, tends to be more goal-oriented, asking about whether some plan is going to benefit the Crusader State and the war effort rather than how it will play to history or to some larger political audience.
The Vale faction is dominated by House Justinian, who have long controlled the Vale of Olives. Count Walker Justinian is the undoubted captain of this effort, and the Vale faction could be described as 'the Justinian faction' with a straight face, though the Count of the Bees is now a Hawkwood.
The Vale-dwellers have never really felt the brunt of war, and the Justinians have been focused traditionally on retaking the Guardianship from the De Moley and now - with recontact - on regaining their place as a Royal House. They see control of Yathrib as their ticket to that seat, and would delay successes by the De Moley if they might deny the Justinian the chance at a scepter and a Royal coronet.
This may make the Vale faction seem rather less attractive than the Cote-Leon faction, but the opposite is true. The Vale-lords are rich - very rich - and Walker is generous, and so those who support the Vale can expect support from the rear lines that Vale allies just do not receive. Vale armsmen go to aid their friends closer to the front lines, while food and cash from the Vale baronies helps prop up their allies while being denied to their enemies.
More than that, though, the Vale faction realizes that recontact has changed Yathrib's future. The De Moley and the Cote-Leon lords are not particularly focused on what will happen after the world is retaken, while the Vale lords are more interested in that question. They believe that the weight of numbers is on the side of the Known Worlds, and that the time to plan for peace is now.
As a consequence, the Vale faction is more likely to support plans that will help it remain in the good graces of the larger Known Worlds political community, and is much more open to making alliances with other groups that may offer it some opportunity.
With the Curia vs. Crusader conflit so prominent, the Vale vs. Cote-Leon conflict is less prominent - but it still exists. The Vale lords and their allies are weighing whether or not Sir William's attack on the De Moley and the Crusader State can be turned to their advantage, and they are also working to actively expand their allies outside the Vale.
A second important flashpoint is the dispute between the Bees and the Vine. Count Fredo Hawkwood has so far paid his respects to Count Walker, but Count Galen of the Vines is openly opposed to Count Fredo and is said to plan war. Such a conflict could open a rift in the Vale itself, or it could cement all of the Vale under Justinian control. Resolving this dispute is a high priority for Walker, while those few Cote-Leon lords who look at the larger political picture see opportunities in exacerbating it.