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The Anglo-Dutch Empire is a long and detailed timeline developed by Flocculencio with a POD in the 17th Century. It is notable for the inclusion of detailed information on various cultural aspects of the TL through contributions from various members, notably Akiyama.
In 2006 and 2007 the timeline won Turtledoves for best Renaissance/Reformation Timeline.
With the Glorious Revolution, Wilhelm van Oranje-Nassau and his wife Mary took the throne of England. He was also the Stadthouder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
WI Wilhelm and Mary had a child who could claim overlordship of both realms? Could we see, after a time, the Netherlands being united with England and Scotland forming the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelre, Overijssel, Friesland and Groningen?
How would this affect their colonial policy? Possibly the English style of colonisation could soften the rather hard-headed purely mercantile drive of the Dutch.
1688: William of Oranje and his wife Mary take the British throne. They leave their son Alexander (born 1678) in Amsterdam in the care of relatives.
1702: William dies. Alexander succeeds to the thrones of England and Scotland, and to the position of Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
1705: Act of Union passed. United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands formed. Unrest in the Netherlands quelled by guarantees of respect for the Calvinist Church and assurances that VOC monopoly areas would not be passed over to the EIC. Also through sheer force of personality from Alexander himself, an extremely congenial, very Protestant young man.
1705-1744: The UK settles down to its new situation. A flood of immigration hits South Africa which, under Dutch policy had not been very open for settlement. Emigration also flow into New England and the New Netherlands in N. America.
1745: The Jacobite Rebellion/Scottish War of Independence. Backed by French and Spanish interests, alarmed at the military and commercial power of the UK, Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland and raises an army. Aided by Franco-Spanish troops, he succeeds in driving back the Anglo-Dutch, who are also preoccupied in defending the Netherlands. The French are crushed in a series of battles in the Netherlands, reassuring the Dutch that the English ARE actually taking the Union seriously. The effect of this, however, is that Scotland is lost. Many English are distressed by this but the general feeling is that the trade off of Scotland for the Netherlands is a good one.
1750-1800: A period of relative peace in Western Europe. The UK, France, Spain and Portugal consolidate their territories and fight only limited colonial wars. France and Spain grow ever closer while the Portuguese reach a tacit understanding with the Anglo-Dutch giving up most of their colonies in the East Indies in return for Anglo-dutch protection.
In Central Europe, Austrian aggression begins gnawing away at the German principalities and kingdoms. There is increased migration of German protestants to the UK and thence to South Africa and Anglo-Dutch N. America.
In a parallel development, the incredibly harsh campaign to crush any sign of unrest in Ireland, now a viceroyalty separate from the UK, leads to a constant stream of Irish Catholics to French and Spanish territories in the New World. The Viceroy of Ireland, Detleev, Graf van Hogensdorp did nothing to stop them. Graf Detleev himself often said that their emigration gave him less work to do.
Meanwhile in England, the first stirrings of the Industrial revolution begin.
1799: Anglo-Dutch North America is proclaimed the Viceroyalty of New England and the New Netherlands, governed from Nieuw Amsterdam.
1800: The Great French Rebellion. French peasants and artisans rise against the King, Louis XVI. Louis flees Paris, heading South for Provence. The French army is divided but the King's nephew, Carlos of Spain lands troops at Brest and in Provence. With this Spanish aid, Louis retakes Paris. Carlos is acting in his own interests for he is heir to the childless Louis. Losing a potential second realm is not a good idea.
1810: Anglo-Dutch rule in India reaches what will ultimately be its final borders. the UK holds the entire Eastern coast and the rich trading ports of Kerala. Farther up on the Western coast, Portugal had expanded inland while the French push into the Maharatta Confederacy, finally conquering it through their alliance with the Moghuls. They begin to expand their interests in some Iranian ports too.
1828: Anglo-Dutch India is proclaimed a Viceroyalty. The East India Company cedes its governmental functions to the Crown but retains its lucrative Opium monopoly in the China trade.
The Anglo-Dutch East Indies remain under the control of the VOC with the exception of Malacca, handed over to the jurisdiction of the Viceregal government in Madras due to its importance as a port for the China trade. The VOC continues to rule the Indonesian Archipelago from Batavia.
Meanwhile, tensions in Europe are pulling all the Powers closer to the brink of a major war.
Throughout the early 19th Century, the Ottoman Empire had been slowly decaying, rocked by unrest in its Arab territories and by Russian aggression in the Caucasus. This came to a head in 1831 when Russia and her allies, Hungary, Sicily and Venice declared open war. Russian troops came pouring into the Carpathians and the Caucasus while the Venetians, Sicily and Hungary wreaked havoc in the Mediterranean. At first the Ottomans withstood the onslaught but in 1832, a charismatic Arab leader, Iskander ibn Taufiq raised an army from the Arab clans and in a lightning campaign, aided by local uprisings and defection of regular troops proclaimed himself Caliph. The Ottomans fought on but in a largely futile series of campaigns from 1833-34 lost almost all their territories save for Thrace and Anatolia itself.
In 1834, a coalition of Russian, Hungarian, Sicilian and Venetian troops laid siege to Constantinople itself and took the city on December the 23rd. The Ottoman Emperor, having fled to Konya sued for peace and was forced to cede his European territories and some of his North African ones to the victorious Powers. Russia now extended to the Aegean Sea and through the Caucasus, though in later years many of these territories would rebel. Constantinople itself, however, was declared the capital of the Empire of all the Russias and Tsar Nikolai was crowned Pantokrator, vice-regent of God on Earth, in Constantinople in 1836.
The Ottomans were now restricted to Anatolia- although they had not conceded defeat to Iskandar, it was he who was the de facto ruler of all the Arab lands from Baghdad to the Sahara. He made Alexandria his capital and began negotiating with France to provide him with military advisors.
Meanwhile in the Emirate of Oman, Emir Muzaffar III had noticed French encroachment on Iranian territory with dismay and sought close ties with the Anglo-Dutch Empire. He embarked on a stringent programme of modernisation and though this brought him into disfavour with some of the more conservative elements of society, he had many of these ringleaders exiled to Persia.
Muzaffar himself had his eldest son, Mansoor, sent to England for his education. In later years, once the unrest had died down, he would be known as Muzaffar the Great, the only Arab leader to properly modernise his country.
The earth is full of anger, The seas are dark with wrath, The Nations in their harness Go up against our path: Ere yet we loose the legions – Ere yet we draw the blade, Jehovah of the Thunders, Lord God of Battles, aid!- Kipling
1837: King-Emperor William IV of England and II of the Netherlands makes a speech before Parliament declaring that official Anglo-Dutch policy will be to phase out slavery in its territories by 1847. This is a step up from the previous policy which banned the importation of new slaves to Anglo-Dutch territories.
This Emancipation Proclamation is greeted with murmurs of unrest, mostly from the southern provinces of Anglo-Dutch North America. However, any idea of a rebellion is quelled when a somewhat disorganised “army” of Irishmen begins raiding into Anglo-Dutch territory from the Duchy of Louisiana. They are crushed by Anglo-Dutch troops but provide a lesson to the now terrified planters of Maryland and Nieuw Brabant(1).
London makes a strong protest to Paris about alleged French funding for but this is somewhat rudely rebuffed and slowly but surely, Europe slips into a state of war.
The two sides are generally as follows:
France, Spain, Venice, Mogul Empire, Poland (with the Iskandiri Caliphate as a friendly Neutral)
UK, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Oman
Though the Netherlands seemed vulnerable to attack from France, the UK possessed an excellent source of fighting men- the vast numbers of Protestant Germans streaming out of the Austrian occupied German Principalities. Over the past few decades, the Franco-Dutch border had been extensively fortified by the Anglo-Dutch government and the French were unable to make significant breakthroughs. A similar situation prevailed in Portugal where Lisbon came under siege multiple times but never fell.
The situation in the Pacific was very different. The Portuguese and Anglo-Dutch had been expecting to make easy gains in Indo-China and the Philippines. To everyone's surprise, however, Spain seemed to shake itself from slumber and recall a shadow of its past glory. A great armada sailed from San Francisco in Nueva Espana to defend the Philippines and wreak havoc in the East Indies. The VOC and the Portuguese fought back, but at best were merely holding their ground.
In India, the Moghuls proved a poor ally for France- their troops were driven back from their Bengal holdings by the Anglo-Dutch and the Portuguese pushed deeper into Maharashtra.
The French did, however, succeed in taking Madagascar from the Omanis and Portuguese and in holding the main centres of the island against all further assaults.
Though the Danes and Swedes did assist the Anglo-Dutch in supplying the Netherlands and sweeping the French from the Channel, their main energies were dedicated to assaulting Franco-Spanish in Guinea and the Congo.
North America, however, was by far the most hotly contested battlefield of the War of the Powers. Great armies stormed back and forth across the Appalachians, the Anglo-Dutch bringing to bear their technological advantages. The Iroquois Confederacy came to grips with a mainly Irish-based French army sent to defend the Great Lakes and pushed them back from Wisconsin. In Quebec, the French were soundly defeated by overwhelming forces dispatched from Boston and Nieuw Amsterdam.
In the Caribbean, a titanic naval campaign was decisively won by Admiral Theunis van Troxel at the Battle of Bermuda. With Franco-Spanish naval power in the Atlantic effectively destroyed, Paris and Madrid began to consider seeking terms. This attitude was confirmed when a Franco-Spanish army was soundly defeated by a combined army of Anglo-Dutch, Portuguese and Scandinavian troops in 1843. This army was personally led by the dashing Prince Harald of Oranje-Nassau(2) ending the Third Siege of Lisbon.
In 1844, the Austrian Emperor hosted the Congress of Vienna where the various Powers came to the table.
France and Spain were forced to make numerous concessions in Quebec, the Caribbean and West Africa, but retained their Indo-Chinese and Philippine possessions. France got one notable prize- Madagascar, though the Omanis retained their ports in East Africa and Northern Madagascar.
(1)OTL Maryland region and Georgia
(2)In TTL, the UK's Crown Prince is the Prince of Oranje-Nassau and Wales. Since Oranje-Nassau takes precedence, he is generally referred to by that title alone. Harald's name is an example of the effect of “Germanic Romanticism” on Anglo-Dutch culture.
By the mid 19th C, the influence of these Companies had been greatly diminished. The EIC was now specifically involved in the Opium trade to China and the VOC, though still influential in the Spice trade and with a monopoly on Anglo-Dutch trade with Japan retained hardly any of its governmental powers in Indonesia. The head offices of these companies, however, had moved from Europe to Madras and Batavia respectively.
With the colonial spheres of influence having been demarcated throughout much of the world, Anglo-Dutch attention now turned to Japan. Though missionary work was generally discouraged by the VOC, a number of determined preachers had settled in Japan and had won converts in Honshu, most notably to the Anglican church. In Kyushu, the Portuguese had been even more active resulting in a strong Catholic minority. In a belated attempt to curb Western influence, the Japanese government began a pogrom against all Christians and placed severe restrictions on Portuguese traders and the VOC. Infuriated, both at the Japanese and the missionaries, a delegation from the VOC argued their case in Parliament. In conjunction with the Portuguese government, the United Kingdom determined to secure Japan once and for all.
This was, perhaps, the first war in which the full strength of the Anglo-Dutch Empire was displayed. Cavalry from India, stolid Anglo-Dutch infantry from the homelands and North America, skillful Javanese skirmishers and the wild erratic Afrikaner cavalry regiments were all represented in the expeditionary force, transported across half a planet by the most powerful navy ever built by Mankind, many of whose ships were the new steam-powered Ironclad models.
There had been much talk of the warrior ethos of the Japanese and many misgivings about the Japanese Question but in the event, the actual campaign was almost an anticlimax. As it happened, many among the samurai had converted to various forms of Christianity and these leaders sowed rebellion amongst the peasantry.
An Anglo-Dutch-Portuguese army, once again led by the irrepressible Prince of Oranje-Nassau, stormed Edo and seized the Emperor. The Shogun committed seppuku moments before English troopers broke down his door.
There were a few bloody campaigns against hardline patriotic Japanese nobles but they proved no match for the stunning array of technology brought to bear on them.
Much of Japan was parceled out amongst the nobles who had taken the side of the invaders or who had stayed neutral, Christian and Buddhist alike. The Portuguese went one step further and chose to directly govern Kyushu. In the North, the Russians had seized their chance and occupied Hokkaido where they would lose thousands of men in a constantly simmering low intensity rebellion.
As the effective ruler of most of Japan, the Anglo-Dutch Crown also assumed the title of Emperor of Japan. An Anglican Japanese noble, Hyuuga Togo was appointed Shogun of Anglo-Dutch Japan, an office equal to a Viceroy in other Anglo-Dutch Dominions. The activities of missionaries were more strictly curtailed and religious freedom was guaranteed to any Japanese Buddhist, Protestant or Catholic (to placate Portugal) so long as they did not work against the Imperial Government.
For many years, the Qing government had strongly protested the continued importation of Opium into China by the EIC. Although many Anglo-Dutch notables shook their heads and agreed that something had to be done, everyone was making far too much money out of the Opium trade for any practical steps to be taken.
In the early 1860's the Qing government found that it had far more pressing matters on its hands- an uprising by a group of cultists called the Tai'ping. Led by a scholar who had been converted to Christianity (and who had put his own spin on it) in the EIC's mandate port of Shanghai, the Tai'ping swept across Southern China completely destabilising it and inflicting numerous defeats on the Qing government.
The Tai'ping, however, were even more firmly opposed to opium trading and laid siege to Shanghai in March 1871. The EIC's Governor of Shanghai, Sir William Shenton dispatched a sloop to Tokyo in order to request aid from Lord Hyuuga. Hyuuga had proved a sterling viceroy and in the decade since the Anglo-Dutch annexation of Japan had turned it into one of the more progressive domains of the Empire. He ordered a fleet to send supplies to Shanghai with the assurance of forces to follow as soon as a sufficient number could be mobilised.
July-August 1871: Lord Hyuuga's son, General Hyuuga Neji, raises the seige of Shanghai, driving the Tai'ping from the lower Yangtze Delta. In August, a second relief expedition arrives from India and the East Indies, under the command of the distinguished General Sir Harry Flashman.
Sept 1871: General Flashman, with orders from London to break the Tai'ping, decided to march on their capital, Nanjing, while General Hyuuga struck South into Tai'ping-held Zheijiang Province towards the Tai'ping's major port at Wenzhou.
Oct 1871-July 1872: Siege of Nanjing. One of the longest-drawn and bloodiest sieges that Anglo-Dutch forces ever faced. Much of the countryside around the city was depopulated, the peasantry mostly fleeing south towards Shanghai. For almost a year, the Tai'ping heroically resisted the invaders drawing in forces from all over their Southern provinces to reinforce Nanjing.
King Harald 'the Hammer', angered at the slow progress of the siege is said to have threatened to sail for China and take personal command of the campaign. He was dissuaded by strong opposition from Parliament and his own family.
Meanwhile in the South, the drawing off of Tai'ping troops to defend Nanjing had made General Hyuuga's job that much easier. Zheijiang Province was conquered by May 1872 and Hyuuga headed back North to intercept a fresh Tai'ping army bound to reinforce Nanjing. Hyuuga defeated the Tai'ping in the field and soon after, low on supplies and manpower, Nanjing fell to General Flashman's army. The Tai'ping's Heavenly King fled North to join the bulk of his remaining troops still on campaign against the Qing. The fall of Nanjing, however, had knocked the wind out of the Tai'ping Rebellion and the Qing would finally destroy them in 1878.
In January 1873, fresh orders reached Shanghai and both Nanjing and Zheijiang Province were annexed to the Empire. The Qin protested but were too dependent on Anglo-Dutch aid against the Tai'ping to do much about it.
The annexation of these territories proved the end of the First China War although constant skirmishing against the Tai'ping on the border of Anglo-Dutch held territory continued until the rebels were finally crushed by the Qing.
Perhaps the most ironic effect of the First China War was the effect on the East India Company. Since sale of opium was forbidden within the Empire, the EIC found that it no longer had a legal market in the Yangtze Delta or Zheijiang Province, both now Anglo-Dutch territory. Protesting and grumbling, they moved their regional headquarters upriver to Nanjing and continued trading further up the Yangtze.
In the early 1880's the Qing had finally managed to stabilise their realm and were looking for a chance to regain what their saw as their rightful territory in Anglo-Dutch China. They possessed the advantages of a battle-hardened army, some regiments of which had been trained by Russian advisors along with Cossack mercenary contingents. In February 1883, with the interception and arrest of a large convoy of EIC ships trading opium up the Yangtze, they saw their chance for redress.
Feb 1883: A Qing ambassador arrives at Shanghai stating that the arrested merchants would be executed, beginning with the leader of the convoy, Charles Thompson, if the opium trade were not immediately halted. Although steps were already in place to phase out the trade, this ultimatum, when relayed by the new telegraph line to London, was met with fury in Parliament. The pugnacious monarch, Harald III, never one to back down from a fight was more than willing to go along with the belligerent mood. A counter-ultimatum was delivered stating that if the prisoners were not released by the 1st of April, a state of war would be declared between the Anglo-Dutch Empire and the Qing.
Mar 1883: Harald shocked Parliament by declaring that in the event of war, he would personally travel to China to take command of the campaign. No amount of persuasion could deflect him from this cause and his bellicose statements, reprinted in the press, made the monarch the darling of the populace in general. When it was suggested that he might be a bit elderly to personally command a field army, he paraphrased scripture, growling, “My eye is not dimmed nor my natural force abated!”
April 1883: The Qing government executes Charles Thompson. Almost immediately, elite Qing Bannerman regiments being probing across the border. They are met by the units of the Anglo-Dutch Army of China, still under the command of General Flashman. The General, never a very aggressive warrior, halted their advances but refrained from advancing into Qing territory.
Harald immediately boarded the Royal Yatch, Alexandra and, heavily escorted by warships steamed post-haste for China. Accompanying him, is a large Press Corps, the first of its kind in a modern war. The telegraph would enable them to send their reports back to London for reprinting within days.
Back in London, he had his daughter, Astrid, installed as Princess-Regent.
June 1883: Harald arrives in Shanghai to a reception of great pomp and circumstance but, in the words of the Nieuw Amsterdam Telegraaf' correspondent “His Majesty swept ashore like a thunderstorm, d–ning the proposed grand balls; eager to get to the front and have at the heathen Chinee”.
July 1883-October 1885: Just as he had in the War of the Powers, Harald showed that his entire military philosophy could be summed up with the philosophy of a constant offensive. He hurled his divisions forward as fast as his logistics trains could keep up, even having a railhead constructed in his wake to enable supplies to be hauled in faster. Also in his wake trudged the dependable General Flashman, tasked with reducing any enemy strong points that the King left behind.
A second army was also dispatched, once again under the command of General Hyuuga, with the death of his father, the new Lord Hyuuga. Hyuuga's army traveled westward up the Yangtze with the expressed intention of dividing Northern and Southern China.
The Qing placed their finest regiments in his path but Harald engaged them in head on combat and step by step drove further towards Peking. It was in this campaign that Harald gained his popular sobriquet of 'the Hammer'. He was christened as such by a daring Times correspondent. There was some complaint that this was an improper way to refer to a Monarch but such comments evaporated when it became known that Harald himself was thrilled to bits and had invited the correspondent to dine with him and his generals.
November 1885: With Anglo-Dutch artillery shelling the outer districts of Peking and Afrikaner light cavalry raiding some districts with impunity, the Qing Emperor was finally forced to seek terms. His forces were tied up in conflict, not only with the other Anglo-Dutch forces but also with the Portuguese in Southern China and Korea and the Moghuls in Central Asia
Jan 1886: The Treaty of Peking ceded, in perpetuity, almost all of the South Eastern Chinese provinces to the Portuguese and the British. The Qing Emperor agreed to allow British advisors to be stationed in Peking. However, the Opium trade was finally banned.
Feb-August 1886: King Harald 'the Hammer' made a triumphal tour of the Empire on his way home, visiting almost all the major cities of the Empire from Tokyo to Nieuw Amsterdam, culminating in a great parade through the streets of London, the streets lined with citizens cheering themselves hoarse. Many households throughout the Empire soon were the proud owners of copies of a photograph of the old monarch towering six-foot-four in the royal carriage, waving to his people.
King Harald was by far the most well-traveled Monarch of the United Kingdom to date and he hit upon the idea of dispatching his daughter on a Grand Tour of all the lands she would one day reign over as Queen-Empress.
Princess Astrid, 21 at the time, had amused and shocked the home nations during her three years as Princess-Regent with her cutting-edge fashions, scandalous love-life and startling informality and the King felt that a world tour might help her win the hearts of the Empire.
Accordingly, Astrid set out on a glittering two year long tour of the Empire accompanied by various fashionable members of Society like the tail of a comet. and hounded by the Press.
She addressed the North American Parliament in Nieuw Amsterdam, hunted bears in the Iroquois Confederacy, daringly swam in the sea on a public beach in the Caribbean, went on Safari in Zuid-Afrika, held a Durbar in India and climbed all over the ruins of Borobudur in the East Indies. In India, she broke new ground by getting engaged to one Tjaart van Eisen. Although the marriage was arranged by Harald, this was the first time a royal of the United Kingdom had been engaged to a commoner, albeit a commoner whose father was a Knight of the Realm and probably the richest private individual in Asia and who held positions on both the boards of the EIC and the VOC which, while sadly fallen from their past glory were still the richest corporations in the world, their fingers in spices, rubber, coal, petroleum and all kinds of other goods.
Harald, when asked about his reasoning by a trusted friend is rumored to have grunted: “Need some fresh blood. Two more generations and all the royal women in Christendom will look like horses.”
The engaged couple proceeded on the tour up to Shanghai and thence to Japan. Finally, they were to head down to visit Zuid Geldre, the capital of Van Diemensland. In a parade through the streets of Zuid Geldre, two young men leaped from the crowd. The first threw a grenade while the other shouted, “Death to the Whore of Babylon! Freedom for van Diemensland!”
A courageous functionary threw himself on the grenade, absorbing the blast. The Princess was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries and shock. The next day, however, she insisted that she would finish the tour, carrying on to Nieuw Zeeland and across the Pacific to Patagonia before heading home.
The Empire, in the meantime was stunned. The interior of Vandiemensland had always been a lawless place and many strange religious sects and political groups had bases in the outback but this was the first ever assault on anyone above the level of local sheriff. It was the first instance in which the ominous words “Vandiemenslander Seperatist” would appear in headlines Empire-wide. It would not be the last.
Throughout the years from Princess Astrid's Grand Tour, the Empire generally settled into a pattern of peace and prosperity. The Qing had been cowed and were busy fighting endless undeclared border wars against the Mughals and the Russians, who were nibbling away at their Western and Northern borders respectively.
King Harald 'the Hammer' remained in robust health, watching developments in Parliament with a benevolent eye, especially those regarding the ever-increasing extension of the right to vote. He was sometimes heard to deplore the lack of a good war to fight but was generally content to play the role of father to the nation, as his subjects generally saw him.
Princess Astrid herself, returned to many of the places she had visited on the Tour, basking in the adulation of her future subjects. If Harald was regarded as a benevolent father figure, his daughter was almost an object of worship. Her fashions, tastes and interests set the pattern for Society not just through the Empire but throughout the civilised world. If matrons in Nieuw Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid felt that perhaps the cut of the latest Season's skirts was just a bit too short, they were ignored. Astrid, whether consciously or unconsciously modeled herself on Elizabeth Tudor and traveled from port to port in splendour and paegentry.
The Prince Consort, Tjaart van Eisen rarely if ever accompanied her- Astrid had dutifully provided the House of Oranje-Nassau with an heir and a spare and had gone back to her intellectual and social pursuits. Her husband occupied his interests with various mistresses and an excellent post in the Foreign Office where many of his initiatives benefited the Empire greatly, chief among which were the negotiations with Scotland regarding the construction of two canals in Panama and Nicaragua, both of which were effectively in Anglo-Dutch hands.
Astrid was incorrigibly interested in new technological developments, especially if they were exciting and seemingly dangerous. The Portuguese invention of a radio transmitter she left to the Admiralty but Helmut Deiter, the eccentric inventor of the aeroplane was repeatedly feted by her on her visits to Durban. It seemed that she herself invested in his fledgling company dedicated to the improvement of powered flight and it was her influence that convinced the Ministry of War to subsidise Deiter's corporation.
Meanwhile in the industrialised cities like London, Amsterdam and Boston, the middle classes experiences growth like never before as the Anglo-Dutch Empire occupied its position as workshop to the world. Tobacco, cotton, ores flowed into the maws of the factories and out the other end came cigarettes, cloth, battleships.
In those years, the French and Spanish struggled to combat the separatist movements in their colonies, Russia languished in theocratic slumber. The Iskandri built their canal from the Nile to the Red Sea only to find themselves locked in a power game between France and Russia. Oman learned from the West and, under Anglo-Dutch tutelage built railways, roads and a proper system of government. The Mughals, setting aside old quarrels did the same and with Anglo-Dutch finance and expertise linked Delhi to Samarkand by rail and pushed ever further into the crumbling Central Asian provinces of the Qing.
Muzaffar Khan, the new Moghul Emperor, educated at Eton and Cambridge himself, invited Princess Astrid to his coronation in 1894 and there was much gossip about the actual relationship between the two royals.
Only one thing disturbed the repose of the Empire in those years- the ever present threat of the Vrijlanders. These hardline Calvinists wanted freedom for Vandiemensland. The whites, mostly Dutch and German Calvinist had a slight majority and many of them wanted absolute rule over the large minority of what they called 'Kaffirs' a mix between imported Black slaves and the aboriginal population of the continent, along with a small percentage of Indonesians, Indians and Chinese.
They seemed to turn up all over the Empire, setting off bombs, shooting politicians, while winning more and more of the white population of Vandiemensland over to their side. Finally, in 1904, the Parliament of Vandiemensland called a referendum of all voting citizens (i.e. whites and those few nonwhites not stripped of their voting privileges) and got a majority vote in favour of independence. They declared the United Provinces of Vrijland a sovereign nation that selfsame day. King Harald, by now an old man of 79 is said to have rampaged through the halls of St. James' Palace upon hearing of Parliaments decision to acknowledge the Vrijlanders wishes and then, stormed off to Windsor castle with his mistress, Lady Marta deBeers. King Harald had learned not to judge a man by the colour of his skin in the Japan War and indeed had developed a close personal friendship with Lord Hyuuga who had actually settled in England after the Second China War. He was disgusted by the actions of the Vrijlanders in their campaign to disenfranchise close to forty percent of their population.
He did, however, exercise considerable personal restraint and chose not to condemn the actions of Parliament to the Press. even though, had he done so, he would undoubtedly have been able to rally the support of the people to pressure Parliament into declaring war against the wayward Dominion.
However, even his legendary constitution was not invulnerable to his long years of hard drinking, smoking and whoring and this was exacerbated by ignoring his physician's instructions to keep warm. One of Harald's favourite pastimes was reenacting Anglo-Saxon military techniques, hauling in all the able-bodied young men of the villages surrounding Windsor to participate. In November after a cold and wet re-enactment where he had slept rough for a week, the King collapsed on the “battlefield”.
He was carried to Windsor where doctors began treating him for pneumonia. He rallied somewhat in the middle of December and felt well enough to give the customary Christmas address via wireless to the Empire. Copies of the address would be sent out across the Empire and broadcast in the town squares of many towns and cities where the majority of the populations still did not own a radio. By this time, Princess Astrid had rushed to Windsor and remained at his side as he took a turn for the worse after New Year's Day. King Harald 'the Hammer' possibly one of the greatest rulers the Empire ever had, died on the 5th of January 1905, at the age of 80, plunging the entire Empire into a month of mourning.
Queen Astrid's coronation was in June 1905, attended by representatives of almost every significant nation on the planet, including the King of France and the Austrian Kaiser. A notable exception was the President of Vrijland who had not been invited.
The Empire had mourned Harald but they accepted his successor with open arms. In many homes across the Empire, photographs of the strikingly beautiful 39-year old monarch were patriotically placed on mantelpieces next to black-bordered photos of her deceased father.
Astrid's reign would be remembered as an era of great advances in technology. Her interest in flight did not diminish with her accession to the throne and she was sure to champion any proposed flight-related project. In 1906, she rewarded the first pilot to complete a transatlantic crossing with a knighthood (George Fraser, a Scottish engineer and pilot who had settled in England) and issued a challenge to any pilot and engineering team daring enough to attempt the first airborne journey from Tokyo to London.
As a result, the British Navy had a well-funded Aeronautics Division who at this time were experimenting with the possibilities of using aeroplanes at sea for reconnaissance missions. They were tinkering with old battleships, retired from the active fleet, modifying their decks to provide planes with a runway. At the same time, another think-tank was trying to perfect an aeroplane which could carry a torpedo.
In 1894, Amsterdam had become the first city in the world to be completely lit by electric light and ten years later, it was fast becoming the norm in most major cities of the Empire.
The streets of these cities were fast becoming choked with motorised transport as in 1904, an enterprising New Englander named William Melville had begun producing the first mass-production motorised, the Melville Chariot, affordable for most small businesses. As land prices in cities like London, Madras and Nieuw Amsterdam grew as did engineering technology, massive skyscrapers had risen above the horizon although the burghers of Amsterdam enacted ordinances against such structures aided by the engineering problems of constructing tall buildings on their swampy substrata.
The tallest building in the world was the headquarters of the East India Company (which had moved back to London). It's magnificent 102-story bulk, with sweeping lines covered in geometric designs dominated the city and appeared on all of the Company's products from East India Tobacco to East India Vulcanised-Rubber Vehicular Tyres. The Imperial Club, the finest in the Empire occupied the topmost floors and the finest members of Society, including the Queen herself could often be found attending gala balls there.
In 1912, France went to war with Austria and Poland. The French seized control of Fredericksburg, at the mouth of the Kongo, thus effectively dominating the vast hinterland. However, they received crushing defeats on the home front and at the end of a slow, painful three year campaign were forced to seek terms when the Austrian armies began shelling Paris itself. France was forced to concede her territories in Indochina and her German territories across the Rhine to Austria and the Ivory Coast to Poland. The world was astounded when the French Army, which had suffered and bled in the trenches for three years revolted and turfed the King out of Paris. This time, Spain was powerless to intervene, having recently been forced to give its Mexican colonies independence after an exhausting guerrilla war and the world watched as a Republic was declared in France. King Louis XXI fled in exile to Madrid.
At the same time, Louisiana, with a large Royalist population, notable among whom were the large Irish community took the opportunity to declare itself independent of France. They invited King Louis to New Orleans. He gratefully accepted and took the throne there, a much humbled and chastened man.
The nations of the world looked with horror on the first real demonstration of what modern warfare between two Great Powers was like. They began to take steps to develop tactics that might help avoid the crushing brutality of the trenches and the French Republic and the Anglo-Dutch were foremost in such research.
In 1919, the Scottish Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority to join the Anglo-Dutch Empire. For generations, the Scots had been de facto members of the Empire and now they sought formal admission. In effect, they became another Dominion with the Scottish monarch as Head of State instead of a Viceroy appointed by Astrid.
In the winter of 1920, Queen Astrid attended the launch of the Royal Navy's newest ship, the King Harald a pioneering design known as the 'aircraft carrier' specifically constructed to be, in effect, a floating airbase. Earlier experiments with the design had involved converting obsolete battleships but King Harald had been expressly designed as an aircraft carrier. Dubbed the Great Harry by the Press (after Henry VIII's flagship), it set off on a world tour with other newly constructed battleships, all of these traditional in design but larger and more powerful than any battleships yet built by man. Great Harry as the flagship of the Grand Fleet proudly paraded the flag from Boston to Batavia.
Throughout the 1920's the extension of the network of telephone and telegraph cables served to bind the far-flung Viceroyalties of the Empire even closer together. In the latter half of the decade, a proposal was mooted by many influential figures throughout the Empire, led by Professor Shaji Nair of the University of Bangalore, that took advantage of this speed of communication and increased interconnectivity.
Although the majority of the Viceroyalties had control of their internal affairs, many decisions were still made by the Imperial Office and the Anglo-Dutch Parliament in London. Nair and his supporters advocated the creation of an elected body, the Imperial Parliament, that would serve as an overarching representative body for the entire Empire. This view gained great support throughout the Empire and in 1932, the formation of the Anglo-Dutch Commonwealth was announced.
The Imperial Parliament was constructed on the Isle of Dogs, most of that district's warehouses and docks having shifted downriver over the previous decades. It was a huge, neoclassical structure* that was opened by Queen Astrid in 1935. Within, Members of the Imperial Parliament from all over the Commonwealth met to discuss the issues which concerned them all. Most were elected although in some cases, Viceroyalty governments chose to send appointed representatives.
The Dominions represented were
-The United Kingdom of England and the Netherlands -The Kingdom of Scotland -The Viceroyalty of Ireland -The Viceroyalty of New England and the New Netherlands -The Viceroyalty of Guyana -The Viceroyalty of Zuid Afrika -The Viceroyalty of Natal -The Viceroyalty of India -The Viceroyalty of the East Indies -The Viceroyalty of Japan
Other nations, not part of the Empire but closely connected to it financially or politically accepted observer seats in the Imperial Parliament
-The Emirate of Oman -The Kingdom of Persia -The Republic of Mexico -The Moghul Empire
In the mid-30's, uprisings broke out all across Europe, fomented by the radical government in France. Austria struggled to put down rebellions by peasants and workers as did Spain, Poland, Portugal and Russia.
In Portugal, the government was forced to seek compromise with the rebels in a a peace deal brokered by the Anglo-Dutch Government. Laws regarding workers rights and the like were liberalised in a manner similar to what was already law in the Empire. The Portuguese government also agreed to give Brazil and Transzambezia autonomy to the extent that the Anglo-Dutch viceroyalties enjoyed.
Austria brutally enforced governmental rule in unruly districts and sent troops into Poland to support the government there.
Spain, however, fell to pieces. The royal family was dragged from the Escorial and executed by firing squad. this situation was exacerbated by local uprisings in the rest of the Spanish Empire, notably South America and the Philippines where the various local independence movements cast off the Spanish administration and declared themselves free republics.
Many of the dissidents in Venezuela were Anglo-Dutch subjects who had been mixing with the Venezuelan population across the borders of Darien and Guyana. As such, the Empire, taking advantage of the chaos in S. America, annexed Venezuela to the Darien colonies in exchange for diplomatic recognition of and financial aid to the government of the new Republic of Gran Colombia.
In July 1937, that the revolutionary government in France gave independence to their Indian domains. The Republic of Maharashtra was brought into being and immediately fell into a long drawn out civil war between the Hindu and Muslim populations.
The Empire itself had been relatively untouched by the turbulence of the Thirties. London became a haven for exiled dissidents from all over the world and a new wave of emigration began from the Russian Empire as the Czar's theocratic government began to crack down on discontented elements, especially in Greece where a group on nationalists chafed under Russian domination. A flood of Greeks and Russian Jews emigrated to the UK itself and many more went on to the various other Dominions.
Though the cinematographic theatre was a popular form of entertainment throughout the Empire, supplied with films from the thriving South African cinema industry, a new technology started to become available in the mid-40's: the home cinematoviewer (or CV for short, though many purists deplored the use of this vulgar acronym). These allowed people to view broadcasted cinematographic shows. Though there was little content in the early years, mostly newsreels from the Imperial Broadcasting Corporation, as the popularity of these sets grew (many neighbourhoods buying a communal one for use in a community centre, while richer families could afford a personal model), the variety of viewing fare increased.
In 1943, Queen-Empress Astrid decided to abdicate in favour of her son Harald who assumed the throne at the age of 47. Harald II was very different from his flamboyant mother and his larger-than-life grandfather. Like his father, he was an intelligent and competent man and a conscientious King-Emperor. He left more daring escapades to his brother William, five years younger than he and the most renowned playboy in the shining constellation of stars that made up the Society of the Empire.
William's antics spanned entire continents as he was whisked from city to city by the new generation of passenger airlines brought into service by Imperial Airways. Now, Nieuw Amsterdam was a mere 12 hours away from London and even the most distant parts of the Empire could be reached in days. Although passenger travel on the airliners was still limited to the rich and those on government business, it served to bring the various parts of the Empire even closer together.
1947: Scientists working in Zuid-Africa claimed to have used new theories of physics to develop a efficient new source of electrical energy from nuclear fission of uranium. They built an experimental reactor and were soon treasured assets of the Imperial Ministry of War which were interested in using the technology to develop a bomb that could theoretically destroy entire cities.
1950: First nuclear weapons test carried out in the deserts of Northern Zuid-Afrika. The onlookers included a group of scientists, military officials and the extremely excited Dowager Queen-Empress Astrid who had badgered the Ministry of War into letting her watch.
1951: Queen Astrid died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 90 at her country estate in Natal. The Empire entered into a two month period of mourning.
In the 1950's other nations began to move into the nuclear age. Russia, through some excellent espionage and with highly motivated scientists detonated a nuclear bomb in Siberia in 1954 a year after Austria had done so at a test site in the Kongo. The world was now in a state of uneasy peace, the non-nuclear powers desperately aligning themselves with nuclear-capable nations.
Meanwhile, in another example of the Empire's obsession with technology, the Anglo-Dutch government declared that within fifty years, the Imperial Banner would be planted upon the surface of the Moon itself.
The Russians, coming out of their two-century long backwardness responded to this challenge as a means of showing the world that they were finally a fully modernised nation. Austria half-heartedly declared that it would claim the Moon but couldn't really spend the resources for a full-fledged space programme.
Modern rocket technology had first been developed in Spain and during the Spanish Revolution, the few working rockets possessed by the Spanish government had been used against distant rebel strongholds. They hadn't proved very useful but the Imperial Ministry of War had seen the advantages of these for theoretical nuclear bomb delivery and had been developing the technology since the early 1940's. When the Zuid-Afrikan scientists had proved that nuclear fission was workable, the rocketry project had developed even faster with a large budget increase.
From 1951, at the naval base of Singapore, rockets were designed and launched to try to fly higher and longer than they ever had before. Many large Imperial corporations also invested in the project, eager to cash in on the commercial prospects of space.
A special division of the Imperial government was formed to handle all space-related matters- and, so the population of the Empire presumed, to handle the eventual Imperial governance of space if that could be achieved. The Ministry of Space was headquartered in East India House but the bulk of its staff were in Singapore at the Singaporean Space Launch Facility.
1958: The Anglo-Dutch rocket Drake-II put a satellite into orbit. This flight was followed by a number of unmanned missions, some involving animals. A dog, Lucky, was feted all around the Empire as the first living creature in space. She was given a good home with a family at Windsor. It is probable that Lucky was preceded by a number of deceased animals. However any animal casualties were kept classified for fear of incurring the wrath of the Anglo-Dutch public- only success stories like Lucky were made public.
At the same time, the Russians were sending up manned capsules. The first person in space was most likely a terrified Russian serf who died of exhaustion and dehydration or perished upon re-entry.
Officially, though, the first person in space was CPT Hari Mondal (later Sir Hari Mondal), an Imperial Air Force pilot on secondment to the MoS on July 12th 1962. Hari Mondal was feted just as Lucky had been and traveled all over the Empire where his trademark hand-rolled beedi (an Indian cigarette rolled in leaf and tied with a thread) made the fashionable world abandon its cigars and cigarettes for a Season.
Less sensational but more importantly, the first telecommunications satellites were being launched during this period along with other unmanned satellites for scientific purposes.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, both Persia and Oman joined the Imperial Commonwealth on terms similar to those of Scotland.
The Qing Dynasty finally collapsed and after a bloody Civil War, a new dynasty came to power - the Lauw. During the war both the Russians and the Moghuls had taken over more of Chinese Central Asia and the new Son of Heaven, trying to hold his realm together was forced to agree to these concessions. The Moghuls, secure in their alliance with the Empire brokered a deal with the Russians to fix their mutual boundaries.
In 1962, the King of Haw'ai hosted the heads of states of the Imperial Commonwealth in a gala celebration to mark the 30th Anniversary of its establishment. In the same year, Harald II abdicated in favour of his son George I.
In 1968, the Republic of Vrijland detonated its first atomic device, announced this to the world and retreated to its customary surly isolation.
And on Christmas Day 1969, a manned Anglo-Dutch mission landed on the surface of the Moon, planting an Imperial banner and claiming Luna for the Empire.
The Moon landing wildly excited the Imperial public and some say that it gave a much needed boost to the Liberal Party. In the General Elections held throughout the Empire that year, the Liberals swept to victory in all the Parliaments except that of the East Indies which, as usual, voted Conservative. It was this Liberal dominance that enabled them to push a controversial plan involving the setting up of a viable base upon the surface of the Moon.
The public was very much in favour of this Project, named SERENITY, and Sir Hari Mondal, the newly appointed Minister of Space was able to present his subordinates with a hefty budget. The Ministry had already overseen Project ASTRA which involved the maintenance of a manned orbiting space station. ASTRA had been active since 1968 and the boffins at the Ministry intended to use findings from it to design SERENITY. The Ministry of War was also heavily involved in this plan, seeing a chance to extend the dominance of the Imperial Navy* into space itself. Crude designs had already been produced for what they termed Project CATAPHRACT, to be built in Low-Earth Orbit armed with nuclear warheads and with thrusters that would allow it to maneuver to deliver a nuclear strike to any point on the globe. Although this was still, as yet, simply in the planning stages, it would be a goal that the Ministries of Space and War would work towards.
Throughout the early Seventies, many more Moon landings took place. Each mission brought along materials and assembled a bit more of a mid-sized pressurised structure. When this was completed, photos were released to the Press, declaring that the first building of Moonbase SERENITY had been completed. At the same time, ASTRA had been expanded and was now being used as a waypoint for supplies to SERENITY. In the years that followed, SERENITY was expanded greatly and soon was continually manned by between 4 and 10 astronauts. All personnel selected for long-term (i.e. >6 months) duty on SERENITY were married couples.
All these developments contributed to the public interest in and popularity of anything to do with Space. Science fiction flourished in these years and many of the major cinematographs produced in the Newlands suburb of Kaapstad, centre of the world's cinema industry were science fiction themed.
Meanwhile, the Russian Space Programme was put on hold due to huge peasant uprisings throughout the Tsar's Empire. Rumours leaked out of Russia of tactical nuclear weapons used on towns that were rebel strongholds. No nukes were used in Greece, however, possibly due to fear of repercussions from the other Powers and an insurgency and terror campaign continued to flourish there.
At the same time, Austria was finally forced to make reforms (much as Poland had in the 1950's and early '60's) to quiet its dissidents and became a constitutional monarchy, much more like the Anglo-Dutch or Scandinavian nations.
All the Powers in Europe, were beginning to acknowledge that the Russian Empire was a common enemy and in 1978, representatives from Austria, Poland, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Venice, Sicily, Hungary, Portugal, the Moghul Empire, the Holy See and the Anglo-Dutch Empire met in Rome, as guests of the Pope, to sign a Treaty of Non-Aggression. The Council of Rome marked the start of the European nations beginning to cluster under the shadow of the Anglo-Dutch Empire, a marked change from their historical hostility towards it.
The Press had a field day, proclaiming that the empire had established a Pax Imperia- adhered to by the Lesser Powers and preserved by sheer Imperial might.
The Imperial Commonwealth expanded again in the '70's, joined by Siam and Gran Colombia (which was fearful of encroachment on its sparsely-populated interior by Portugal, Argentina, Chile and Peru).
During the '80's, Astra was expanded greatly- a nuclear power plant was added, located at the end of a long connecting segment a good way from the rest of the station. A rotational module is added, allowing the inhabitants to exercise in Earth-normal gravity.
Serenity too, was expanded, its population growing to around one hundred and fifty, most of whom conducted scientific research, connected to earth by a wireless computer network (don't know the terminology- you know what I mean). They grow much of their own food in underground hydroponic farms and now generally serve year-long terms, with two months compulsory furlough on Earth in between each term. Serenity and Astra are proving the perfect environments for the new field of nanotechnology and the major corporations of the Empire are pushing to be allowed to fund even more of this research.
In a landmark expedition, the new Queen, Mary, allowed her younger son, Prince Edmund, to visit Serenity. He spent a week there, inspecting the facilities and came back afire with new ideas for settling a civilian population on Luna.
In 1984, Russia was shaken by a massive civil war. Units of the Russian Army, led by a cabal of Generals based in Moscow, demanded that the Tsar abdicate. Other units, remaining loyal to the Pantocrater engaged them in combat across the Empire.
It was a bloody war, tactical nuclear weapons being used by both sides as the battles raged across the Russian steppes.
The Greeks, funded heavily by the Greek population of the Anglo-Dutch Emperor, rose against the Russian garrisons in Greece and Macedonia and declared their independence in 1989.
The Tsar was not in Constantinople, having gone to Kiev to oversee the campaign against the Generals. Anglo-Dutch Intelligence sources informed Parliament that he was prepared to order a nuclear strike against Athens. The Imperial Ambassador to the Tsar's court met with him and told him in no uncertain terms that any use of nuclear weapons in the Greek territories would be regarded by the Empire as a declaration of war. In a desperate struggle against his rebellious subjects, the Tsar was forced to concede to the Greek demands.
The Republic of Greece quickly joined the Imperial Commonwealth, eager to maintain their independence from Russian rule.
An Anglo-Dutch Imperial Expeditionary Force landed in Thessaloniki to safeguard the new member nation and was cheered through the streets by the Greek populace.
The war in Russia dragged on- few details reached the other nations but satellite pictures picked up the worst of the devastation and judging from that, it seemed like one of the most terrible campaigns ever fought. Every now and then, seismometers at observatories around the world would pick up the vibrations from a nuclear explosion.
It was in 1987 that the Moghuls and Persians decided to intervene to stop Maharashtra from collapsing into civil war yet another time. Moghul and Persian troops came across the borders to restore order and the failed state was divided between these two nations. It was after the support received from the Anglo-Dutch Empire during the turbulent period that followed the Moghul takeover that the Moghul Empire decided that its destiny would be better served as a part of the Imperial Commonwealth.
1990: The Republic of Mexico, deciding that the economic benefits were worth it, joined the Imperial Commonwealth.
An Imperial Exhibition was held in London in 1990 showcasing the various cultures and nations that made up the Empire. A striking modernistic exhibition hall was built on the South Bank of the Thames, just upriver from the Imperial Palace at Greenwich. It was designed in the shape of a huge dome, reminiscent of the newest Imperial colony, Serenity. Queen Mary II opened the Exhibition among much pomp and ceremony and for a year tourists from all over the Empire came to visit. London, the most populous city on Earth with a population of 18 million drawn from almost every ethnic group in the world eagerly accomodated the influx of visitors and after the exhibition was ended the Dome was converted into a huge shopping mall which stores each specialising in products from a different country. It became a well-known fact that almost anything you might care to think of could be bought at the Dome.
Also of note, 1991 was the year in which Serenity returned her first MP to the Anglo-Dutch Parliament. Henry Chan Ming Hua, a former employee of the East India Company's Space Division and now a Tory backbencher proudly took his seat in Parliament.
Serenity was now a thriving colony of a thousand people most of whom were researchers either employed by the Ministry of Space or one of the corporations with an interest in Serenity but some whose contracts had finished elected to stay on Luna and worked as administrators in various departments in the colony. Henry Chan, a computer programmer, was one of these and he had run against another administrator, a Liberal engineer, during a tiny but exciting campaign. All the inhabitants of Serenity had welcomed the election as a diversion and there had been a 100% voter turnout.
Some had criticised the election of Serenity arguing that since it was a purely commercial and research establishment there was no need for any political shenanigans but Prince Edmund had led the opposing side of the debate arguing that it was within the great tradition of Anglo-Dutch liberal democracy that all colonies be given the chance to participate in the democratic process, no matter what the cost or inconvenience might be. Edmund had founded the Selenite Trust, an organization dedicated to pushing the establishment of a fully-fledged colony on the Moon with civilian inhabitants. Many had signed up as potential colonists once the initiative could get off the ground. The major corporations were already interested in the idea of mining and manufacturing in a weightless, vacuum environment and Edmund was pushing them to move faster. The automated mining equipment would need many educated civilians to run it and these would need others to take care of their day to day needs.
The Press was divided on the issue, some ridiculing him, others pointing out the validity of his ideas but soon all had given him the nickname of Edward, Prince of Luna.
In 1994, the Russian Civil War finally came to an end after ten years of gruelling combat. The cabal of Generals had Tsar Alexi exiled to Aleskya and placed a minor cousin of his on the Throne as Tsar Michael. Although the powers of the Tsar were theoretically unaltered, it would be the generals who were the power behind the throne. The lives of the serfs remained fundamentally unaltered and massive resettlement programmes were initiated to break up any possibility of organised rebellion against the government.
With Russia pulling herself together, the governments of the world were distressed by the possibility that she might begin to look outward once more. Under the arrangement initiated by the Treaty of Rome, the Anglo-Dutch government began deploying vast numbers of troops to bases in Greece, Hungary, Poland, Sweden and Nueva Espana. The borders of these countries were heavily fortified already and the presence of Anglo-Dutch troops (along with other detachments from participating nations including France, Austria and Portugal) was meant to act as a deterrent. As Austrian general Karl von Starkenberg said, “A wall of steel has been erected, from Äänislinna in the frozen North to Thessaloniki on the Mediterranean, ready to defend the Free World from Tsarist tyranny”.
In 1998, the Russian army began to build up troops along the Line of Steel while making diplomatic threats to the Empire regarding the status of Greece. Imperial diplomats returned a rather high-handed statement to Moscow, warning the Generals that any assault upon one of the constituent parts of the Empire would be treated as an attack on all of them.
Desperate to focus the rebellious potential of the serfs outward, the Generals resolved to commit themselves to war and on the 12th of August 1998, Russian troops crossed the Greek border.
Although the Russian generals trumpeted that fact that they had no territorial desires in Europe beyond Greece, the other members of the Treaty of Rome rose to their obligations and declared war. Russian troops swarmed Westwards where Polish and Hungarian forces were the first to take the brunt of the fighting. Even with Anglo-Dutch reinforcements, the numerical superiority of the Tsarist forces was too much and slowly, the Allied units fell back to the waiting fortresses and emplacements of the Line of Steel. Meanwhile, in the skies above, the Russian air force was finding itself ripped to shreds by the more advanced Western fighters.
On the 1st of November, despite the heavy losses on the Line of Steel, the Anglo-Dutch Air Corps scored a propaganda victory by raiding Constantinople. The Generals received word that the Alliance would consider a return to peace if the Russians were to cede some territory but as yet the Generals were still reasonably certain that if they could break through the Line of Steel and onto the Northern European Plain, the Alliance of Rome would sue for peace terms.
1st January 1999
Faced with increasing clamour from the public about the casualties suffered on the Line of Steel, the Imperial Parliament authorises the use of the Empire's most secret project.
High above Earth, two spacecraft of the Imperial Space Command maneuvered into position above the Russian province of Muscovy. These spacecraft, HMSS Victory and HMSS Valiant made history that day. They performed the first orbital bombardment of Earth. Fitted with primitive mass drivers, the two battleships dropped small chunks of rock upon the Russian lines.
At the same time, the Imperial Ambassador to Constantinople confronted the Tsar and the ruling generals with realtime satellite footage from the assault.
He promised that any nuclear assault upon Allied territory would be repaid many times over and left them to mull things over.
Awed by the destructive power of these new weapons, the Russian generals call for a ceasefire. They are faced with a dilemma. With the end of the Civil War, the nuclear capabilities of Russia were not what they used to be. However, they had three choices- they could launch a desperate onslaught on the Line of Steel, hoping to breakthrough and gaining some territorial concessions, they could launch a nuclear assault on the Alliance and destroy a few cities but face annihilation from the Anglo-Dutch mass drivers as well as the nuclear arsenals of the Alliance…or they could ask for an armistice and withdraw their troops.
The third option was the only tenable one.
On the 15th of February, 1999, the Russians agreed to withdraw from the Line of Steel. They made minor border concessions to Austria, Greece and Hungary while ceding Sakhalin, Hokkaido and Alyeska to the Anglo-Dutch.
Six months later, a cabal of officers rose against the Generals and Russia was once more plunged into a Civil War- though this time neither side resorted to nuclear weapons.
The year 2000 saw more nations join the Imperial Commonwealth. The first was the former Cushite Empire which had been simmering in discontent since Russian aid to it had been cut off. The nobles had finally been overthrown in a revolution aided by Anglo-Dutch finance and arms.
The second two were Venice and the Two Sicilies both deeming that the economic benefits of joining made sense.