Crusader Kings 2 by Paradox Interactive is a game which has slowly been growing on me over recent months. Since I wrote the official MMGaming review of the game I have been picking it back up again every now and again and continuing a dynasty I started months ago. As I now am nearing the passing of the 200th in-game year I have had some cause to reflect on my dynasty and the success it has had, and I have come to the decision that it is a story I would like to share, because my noble house has indeed had great success. This is not a review or anything of the sort about CK2 but is simply a tale of how a noble house in Scotland has come to rule one of the most powerful nations in the entire world.
It should be noted that most of this story is told from memory, so unfortunately there are no screenshots of most of my progress through the game. I also will be talking about my progress in a way that might not always make sense to someone who hasn’t played CK2, but for the most part I hope it will be easy to follow.
Our story starts in Scotland in 1066, England is in turmoil as the great houses De Normandie and Godwin (the houses of William the Conqueror and Harold Godwinson) go to war to determine the country’s fate. In Scotland things are less dire, but are no less complex. Malcolm the III of the house of Dunkeld sits on the throne of Scone but wields very little power over a petty and squabbling nation of malcontent Dukes and Counts. Worse: of the 17 De Jure Counties of Scotland, the Isle of Man is an independent state in it’s own right, the west coast counties of Søreyar, Galloway, Argyll and Carrick lie in the control of the independent Duke of Søreyar of house Croven. And even more concerning is that the northernmost county of Katanes actually lies in the control of the Viking Kingdom of Norawy. The only gain Scotland has made is to the South where they have control over the county of Cumberland (a county which oft switches hands between England and Scotland).
It is in these trying times that the house of Duke Dunbar, in the hands of Duke Gospatrick I, holds sway as one of the most powerful families in Scotland. As well as being the Duke of Lothian, a Duchy of three counties, Gospatrick I also has the vassalage the Counts of Cumberland and Clydesdale. Thus, despite not really knowing what family to choose or who would have a decent starting position, I actually ended up starting my game with nearly half of the Kingdom of Scotland under my control (of 17 counties in Scotland, 6 were independent and I owned an additional English county).
The goal of the family of Dunbar has always been the shining purpose of unification, the Empire of Britannia under one single banner would be an unstoppable force. It would be necessary to start small though and so Gospatrick set his eyes upon the Scottish throne first.
The early game was incredibly and frustratingly slow and very worrying. Slow because progress was difficult and worrying because I was very much aware of how, to the south, armies easily 4 times the size of anything I could muster were battling it out for supremacy over England. Very early on I set my sights upon the independent county of The Isle of Man, and overthrew the count within 4 years of starting the game. Next though came the greater target of Duchy of Søreyar, where I sent my Chancellor forth to fabricate claims on the neighbouring counties of Carrick and Galloway. Due to the low power held by King Malcolm, I was free to wage war against the Duke of Søreyar myself if the need be, but I was fortunate in this regard. The King seemed to think, like myself, that Scotland should be united, probably so that we could stand united against a united England. So the King declared war for the Dukedom and I declared war for the counties. As well as this, the southern counts actually managed to become independent of Søreyar, which made defeating them even easier. Overall, the first few years were ones of peace between Dunkeld and Dunbar as we worked in harmony to bring the lost Dukedom back to the fold. Of course, even with all of Scotland behind him, Malcolm did not wish to anger Norway, and so Katanes remained firmly in their hands.
It was around this time that I turned the bright and scheming eyes of a now ageing Gospatrick to the throne of Scotland itself. Scotland as a whole had been lucky again, England was now a mass of counties, many independent from the King, all struggling for supremacy. There was no victor in sight and so we were able to completely ignore the Kingdom which should have been our greatest threat. Gospatrick had not only been busy making war, but had also been busy making babies. I had half a dozen children and married them every which way in order to try and gain alliances and prestige. This included marrying into the house of several Dukes, the King of Sweden and, even rather amusingly, the son of King Malcolm. King Duncan II was indeed married to my daughter.
The Duchy of Søreyar was finally completely conquered, every one of the counties in it’s control brought under the banner of Dunkeld in the year 1091. It is a point of some amusement to me now as I look through the game’s history that house of Croven, a great house of the Duchy of Søreyar and and one which was one of my mortal enemies for 30 years, actually has no more living members. In fact, they died out long ago, a fact which provides me with no small amount of satisfaction.
A scant 2 years after myself and King Duncan overthrew the Duke from his perch outside of our control, King Gospatrick I ascended to the throne of Scotland… And yes, that is correct, King Gospatrick the I was indeed my grandson. The next few years were not kind to Gospatrick I, in many ways his rule was plagued with difficulties. His rule was between the years of 1093 and 1101, a few weeks over 8 years, and there were three contributing factors to his downfall.
The first was that he overreached himself. If my memory serves he decided to join the Pope on a Crusade to the Holy Land, sending the majority of his troops overseas, only to lose them all. Following the disaster that was this first Crusade, there came the second calamity for the house of Dunkeld. The Duke of Moray decided to rebel against the King, bringing with him another Duke. The rebellion was only a few counties of the nearly full strength of Scotland, but the already weakened state of the King meant that putting down this rebellion took every last man he had. And then, just as the rebellion was quelled, I struck.
I had been plotting for years by this stage, desperately bargaining with the other counts to join my cause. I decided that with absolutely no men left able to fight, the anvil was hottest and the time was right. Men flocked to my banner as I called in allies across Scotland and (I am no longer certain about this part) possibly from overseas as well. In the end, I think I had half of Scotland rallying to me and my Grandson didn’t stand a chance and in the year 1101, the house of Dunbar ascended to the throne of Scotland. Looking back on it now, Gospatrick I was only 21 when I overthrew him, and rather sadly it appears that he died a scant three years later. And I simply cannot remember that happening.
So came the rule of Gospatrick II “The Drunkard” of Scotland. Part of my success was quite likely down to the fact that I apparently was able to raise enough taxes to supply a group of mercenaries to help me overthrow Gospatrick I. Indeed, since the beginning, the family of Dunbar has always been a rich one and we can solve a lot of problems by throwing money at them. It worries me that I am all too often comparing myself to the Lannisters these days.
The next few years were ones of great strife for both Scotland and myself. In the first instance of this, the Dukes of Moray and Albany actually rebelled against me, attempting to put Moray on the throne again (or it might have been another Dunkeld). This war was one they actually won, and I rage-quit the game at the time. When I next picked it up (and loaded from a previous save like a scrub), the rebellion happened again, but this time I was ready for it. Not only did I have enough money to supply more troops, but I had enough luck that this time Moray was not able to gather as much support (for whatever reason). And, to my glee, I overthrew Duke Hector of Moray and took his Duchy in 1104.
In the end I think I fought off two rebellions for the throne over the course of a few years, for the most part simply consolidating my power and attempting to keep the nobles in line. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place at some point before the year 1119, as Katanes left the independent Duchy of Orkney and became part of the Kingdom of Scotland (whether we won it by war or diplomacy, I have no idea).
Since those early days there has not been a single rebellion in Scotland, indeed I have been very careful about preventing any rebellion at all across my lands. The house of Dunkeld still holds some power in Scotland. Indeed, direct descendants of Gospatrick the I still hold the Duchy of Atholl, and have since I overthrew the King. With over 100 living members, I doubt I will ever see the end of the house of Dunkeld, but at this stage it is far, far too late for them. Their age is over. Indeed, even so recently as in the past couple of years, the county of Innse Gall passed from the hands of the Dunkelds to the house of Ivar (a house which begins with a single county and now boasts at least two Dukes amongst my vassals).
I spent some time scrolling back and forth through my family tree to try and remind myself of what happened in the past. Two additional things I discovered which are of great amusement to me are that first: I married Gospatrick’s youngest daughter (Clara) to the King of Sweden and her descendants became the Kings of Sicily (I don’t know how they didn’t become Kings of Sweden and I shall be explaining why this is amusing at another time). I also married one of my sons, Maedivh, to the Duchess of Pest in Hungary. Looking through his lineage now I discover that his ancestors actually became the King of Hungary. So… If all else fails, I apparently have blood relatives of the line Dunbar (and it IS the house of Dunbar to my astonishment) on the throne of Hungary. I have always wondered why they are my allies.
In the next instalment I shall detail the rise of Scottish power in Britain as we expand beyond our borders, hungry eyes turning towards Ireland and the South.