Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fridericus Redivivus Praeludium

Apple of Our eye, 'tis the southern kingdom of Apulia. All earthly sweet is over-tasted by the loveliness of its soil, 'tis a harbor in floodings and among thorny brushwood a garden of pleasure.
A short span of time yet, which brings highest victory to Our titles as well as relief from your burden, augurs – by shared anticipation – undoubtedly Our homecoming. Then We, glad of mutual love, will permanently please you with Our countenance's serenity - you, whom We are now, if interruptedly, caressing in epistles.
Even if the multitude of peoples, breathing blissfully under Our rule in a state of peace, causes Us thought without cease, We, by a certain privilege of love, are still led to and are considering in persistent contemplation how to distinguish Our very own people of Sicily (for whom a distinct care keeps Us awake and whose heritage is more splendid to Us than any other possession) by the adornment of calmness, so that they will flourish in the occurrences of Caesar Augustus.

From letters of Emperor Frederick II to his people in South Italy and Sicily.

These few lines, originally in Latin and deplorably mutilated by my translation, originate from a period that has always fascinated me. It's the thirteenth century, and at least in German history this period is characterised by changes: The Imperial Hohenstaufen dynasty reaches both its climax and downfall with the reign of Frederick II (r. 1212–1250). A somewhat enigmatic character, he's heir to his father's and grandfather's achievements: great power as well as a number of sworn enemies. Frederick's grip to his possessions (which comprise large parts of Central and Southern Europe, namely the Holy Roman Empire, stretching from the North Sea to Northern Italy, and the formerly Norman kingdoms in Southern Italy) is never unchallenged. So, rather unsurprisingly, it all falls apart soon after his death.

Frederick II,
as portrayed in his book
"About the art of hunting with birds"

At the same time, as soon as it's gone, the reign of Frederick II becomes the stuff of legend. Thus, during the latter half of the century, which is marked by confusing struggles for power all over Europe, the desire for peace and unity transforms memory into myths. Now, the time of the Hohenstaufen emperors is glorified as the heyday of courtly culture and chivalry. This wishful thinking is famously expressed in the Codex Manesse, an illustrated songbook dating from the early 14th century.
The last "great emperor", Frederick II himself, is said to have just withdrawn to a secret place (like Mount Etna or the Kyffhäuser hills), ready to emerge from there if needed desperately enough. Consequently, several pretenders appear, "reclaiming" their position, while other rulers try to impersonate the last Hohenstaufen emperor.

Surely one of the latter was Konradin (1252–1268). Starting out as the last male heir to the Hohenstaufen legacy, he was an unlikely candidate to rise to Imperial power. However, there were many parallels to be drawn to his grandfather Frederick II: Both had inherited just a legal claim to the throne with almost no power to back them up. Both were neglected sons of nominally powerful if short-lived fathers. And both had been just underdogs who tried their luck against the odds, when they set out to recapture titles and territories alienated from their family. So, by many Konradin was seen as his revived grandfather, or Fridericus Redivivus.

Possible portrait of Konradin
("king Conrad the young")
in the Codex Manesse

Why tell us, you may ask. Well, it is this story that got me inspired to start a new hobby project. Over the course of the following weeks (or rather months) I'm going to build up an army themed on the adventures of young Konrad. All progresses will be posted here, and fortunately I've already completed some bits and pieces in order to avoid major backlogs or an untimely abandonment of the whole lot.

Talking of which, my set of choice will be - again - the Impetus rules. Some might remember my first approach to this via an army for the battle of Sempach in 1386. After a promising start the whole affair lost a lot of its initial – dare I say it? – impetus, due to several factors. A final blow to this might have been the guys from the Frankfurter Spieltrieb gaming club taking over with their truly inspirational participation game based on the local Kronberg feud in 1389 and finally presented at this year's Tactica show (pics here). I take pride in the fact that I contributed at least some humble bits of information on the period's fashion and historical background. But overall, it made my own efforts look shallow and smallish – the more since the "Spieltriebler" largely used miniatures from the very same Perry range like myself. In the end, I decided to lay things aside, at least until someone comes up with alacrity to build up a confederate opponent for my Habsburg forces.

So, this time no pretension to be inventive or exclusive, neither from historical background nor choice of miniatures. Having experienced Impetus in 28mm as a serious killer of space, both in regard of table sizes and storage capacities, I went down in scale as well. Looking at the wonderful work done by JET from Geektactica or by Chris over at Bunker Hill finally won me over to 15mm. So I ordered a large bag of figures from Legio Heroica (great customer service from them); future purchases might include the likes of Khurasan, Mirliton or Essex, but I'm fully equipped now for at least the Basic Impetus sized army (here's the list). And we'll see where we go from there.

That's all for this prelude, just a small teaser, I'm afraid. But stay tuned, the very next posting will contain miniatures again, that's for sure.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Thanks for the link! I generally do prefer 28mm and have some Impetus armies planned for that scale, but 15mm does have it's advantages in both space and in time needed to complete so I'll mix it up between the two scales. Probably bounce back and forth between the two.
BTW I agree Legio Heroica has great service in addition to their wonderful figures.
Looking forward to seeing your results!


Hendrid said...

A good read and an interesting project, good luck with that and I'll keep checking back to see the progress.

I understand the need to go 15mm but it's got to be 28mm for me, only because of the aesthetics really, but the Legio Heroica is nice and there are lots of great 15mm stuf out there, probably more in that scale than there is in 28mm for the period.

Thanks for the links too BTW.


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