The Island of Albion in 1760

The Political Landscape of Albion

The Duchy of Charnwood exists in ‘some kind of an imaginary Britain’, sometime in the 1760s. This ersatz Britain is known to its continental cousins as being the island of Albion. It is a land rich in resources with a large population and a distinctive commercial culture but which remains hopelessly mired in a complex and heavily fractured political landscape.

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Being on the periphery of Europe’s mainstream politics, science, fashion and commerce, Albion’s nations are considered to be something of a cultural backwater. Attempts by other European countries to pull them into the orbit of mutually beneficial treaties and trade agreements have always been thwarted by the islanders entrenched xenophobic and isolationist attitudes towards all ‘continentals’. This obtuse pervading attitude is known to Europeans as ‘Brekschidt‘. It is so-named after the small and little-known German Principality of Breckschidt whose prince was once scandalously and unceremoniously tied to a small skiff and was pushed firmly back out across the channel by a mob of commoners in the Margraviate of Tunbridge Wells (all this apparently being simply on account of his obdurate refusal to lose his funny accent)!

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Wilhelm, Prince of Breckschidt

The Duchy of Charnwood is but a single part of a loose affiliation of similar micro-states which are collectively referred to as The League of Mercia. The Mercian states occasionally coalesce as a single force to counter threats from other similar Albion coalitions, each one usually being under the sway of a dominant nation or ruler. Other ‘leagues’ within the island of Albion are: Alba and Scotia (in Scotland); Powys and Cymru (in Wales); Northumbria, Medway, Wessex and Anglia (together with Mercia) in England. However, as soon as any external existential threat is dealt with, all the formerly allied micro-states get right back to feuding with each other.

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An Albion army on the march

Very occasionally, a majority of Albion will fight as a single entity when faced against continental threats. Decades ago, Albion famously formed a single cohesive force in the war against the mighty Austrian Emperor Adolfus Hilta, after initial setbacks the Albionian army finally destroyed the Imperial forces at the climactic ‘Battle of Wasser-Klo’. Defeating Hilta and liberating much of Europe is a source of very great pride to Albion’s people. It was a battle in which the Albionians only grudgingly admit their armies were assisted by Russia and some colonists from the Americas, amongst others. Rather than draw them together to play a greater role in European affairs, the consequence was to reaffirm an innate sense of pompous superiority over the continentals and to isolate them even further.

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The Battle of Wasser-Klo. A thumping victory for the combined forces of Albion which, even decades later, they simply will not stop harking back to again and again…

Albion Culture

Consequent to being an island of squabbling micro-states, the nations of Albion are considered somewhat culturally retarded in the fields of fashion, music and art, being usually a step behind prevailing European tastes. “En peu Albionais‘ is a common French insult to anything considered outdated or old-fashioned.

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Albion Warfare

Other nations in Europe are ever keen to seek advantages or exploit divisions between the micro-nations of Albion and, as such, Albion remains divided and constantly at war.

The near-constant presence of large and small-scale warfare across the island of Albion has, however, ensured that its experienced armies are considered amongst the most effective in Europe and Albion’s soldiers are much sought after as mercenaries.

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Albion soldiers fighting in Northern Europe, c.1755.

Likewise, its armies are occasionally hired by wealthy European nations to take part in wars which are often of no concern to any Albion state. Such mercenary activity has enabled most states to develop warfare into something resembling an industry. Smart uniforms and well-drilled troops can make armies appear that bit more attractive and effective to any other nations seeking to hire some troops for their next campaign season. Indeed, the Duchy of Charnwood has grown wealthy in recent decades from such activity.

This chronicle finds His Grace the Duke of Charnwood in the business of re-equipping his regiments to make them more attractive to other nations seeking to hire mercenary armies.


Charnwood: The Local Situation

Neighbouring states to the Duchy of Charnwood include reliable allies such as the Marquisate of Bosworth; neutral or unreliable states such as the Bishopric of Cannock or the Landgraviate of Warwick; and potentially hostile rivals such as the hated Electorate of Belvoir. The Duke of Charnwood is related by marriage to the Marquis of Bosworth, hence their long-standing close ties and cordiality.

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The Marquis of Bosworth reviews his Shackerstone Grenadiers, c.1858.

A lengthy dispute over the ownership of a triangle of fertile farming territory in Rutland is at the heart of ongoing hostility between our noble Duke and the perfidious Elector of Belvoir…


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The Charnwood Grenadiers – Completed

Although I’ve been notably absent from updating this blog over the past – ahem – 7 months, I’m finding some time to finally get on with some more figures. Figuring that it’s long since time to finish off those Charnwood Grenadiers, I have finally completed them all and they are now fully ensconced in barracks, fully trained and equipped.

 

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The Duke reviews his Charnwood Grenadiers, accompanied by his nephews.

Finally, work is now beginning on those Swithland Fusiliers, the second regiment in the Duke’s of Charnwood’s army. Dressed in green coats with red breeches, this elite light infantry regiment is 2nd in seniority in the Duke’s army.

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Work begins on the Swithland Fusiliers…

Also planned for the future are some musketeer regiments, at last. These will be dressed in the Charnwoodian white coats of the infantry but with different facings for each as follows;

  • 3rd (The Beacons) Regiment of Foot – yellow facings
  • 4th (Lady Eleanor’s Own Bradgate) Regiment of Foot – red facings
  • 6th (Mountsorrel) Regiment of Foot – blue facings

Regarding the missing fifth regiment from the list above, it is His Grace the Duke of Charnwood’s intention for it to be some kind of specialist corps tentatively identified at present as the Prestwold Rangers (being what the Prussians over in the continent might call ‘jaeger’), perfect troops for skirmishing in the wooded hills of Charnwood!

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A Swithland Fusilier

Finally, it is also the Duke’s intention to raise one final regiment of infantry, or more likely just a company. These will act as a personal bodyguard for the Duke, his family, and their retinue. Names currently under consideration include “The Ducal Lifeguard”, “The Ducal Guards”, “The Honourable Company of the Ducal Guard” and “The Ducal Household Guard”.

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Making plans…

Her Grace, Augusta Gracedieu, overhearing her husband in conference at their home with Lord Ulverscroft and Lt. General Poultney expressed some dissatisfaction at the use of the term ‘Ducal’. “Francis,”, averred his wife, “I believe the servants will insist on pronouncing it as “Doo-cull”, which to my ear sounds altogether unsatisfactory”.

The Duke patiently explained that he did not, as a rule, make it his business to listen to the servants a great deal anyway and furthermore he did not intend to begin doing so any time soon. “Dew-cull”, he suggested, “is a fine term”. The Duke turned to his Chief of Staff and said “Poultney, could you arrange for my army to receive some instruction on its correct pronunciation? I will endeavour to ensure the same for all my household servants.” He then smiled at the Duchess, hoping to have mollified her somewhat.

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“Elocution lessons instead of musketry drill? Whatever next…” sighed Ulverscroft to himself.

 

 

Flying the Flag

His Grace the Duke of Charnwood cordially sends his greetings!

What’s this? A post after a 7 month hiatus? Well, I’ve said before that this will be a slow-burn project. In the interim, I’ve been very busy with this blog’s big brother “Suburban Militarism“. But I’ve finally taken some time out this week to at last finish off the last of the Charnwood Grenadiers. The remaining figures to paint include four grenadiers and a drummer.

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In progress: drummer of the Charnwood Grenadiers

These are progressing well, but there was something else that I’ve been meaning to get around to – creating the Charnwood Grenadiers flag! And here it is:

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The flag is based on the Saxon Prinz Maximilian Infantry Regiment’s Leibfahne (the colonel’s flag) from 1760, information found on the excellent Kronskaf 7 Years War website. You may notice that I’ve added the name Charnwood discretely at the bottom in a fancy French script!

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An update is intended soon (really!) once the remaining grenadiers are completed. Next up will be the Swithland Fusiliers or the 3rd Regiment of Foot (The Beacons).

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Charnwood Grenadiers – more recruits!

Charnwood Grenadiers – more recruits!

Slowly but surely the Duke’s elite Charnwood Grenadiers regiment expands up to full strength. The sculpting of these figures make for a pleasurable painting experience. At present, I am only painting these figures when I get some spare time from my more usual 1/72 scale figures and when the mood takes me. I’ve said it before, The Duchy of Charnwood is a slow burn project! I have about 8 figures remaining before I move on to the next regiment; the Swithland Fusiliers.

One of the enjoyable aspects of painting these figures is the details and expressions on the faces of the figures, making it a regiment of individuals rather than identical copies of one template.

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Charnwood Grenadiers (12)

One of the figures is an officer. So allow me to introduce to you Captain Edward Carillon of the Charnwood Grenadiers. He wears a gorget (a crescent-shaped sign of rank beneath his neck), and a red sash about his waist. Unlike his grenadier cap wearing men, Captain Carillon also wears a tricorn hat and an expensive pair of knee-length boots. I like his features which suggest an unflappable presence on the battlefield, perhaps tainted however by a certain world-weary cynicism?

Also making an appearance is this axe-wielding maniac. I believe that he represents what is known as a pioneer sergeant. He wears a stout apron and carries an axe, he marches at the head of his company ostensibly to clear a path for all who follows. The apron serves to protect the pioneer sergeant’s uniform from the vicissitudes of hacking people to pieces. Again, one can see a ‘robust’ personality in his ‘resolute’ features. I for one wouldn’t dare describe him as murderously psychotic.

I’ve also painted this fellow below who appears to be carrying a very long halberd or pike. He’s actually missing a flag! I intend to add his standard shortly as soon as I’ve worked out what kind of flag I’m going to put on it.

Charnwood Grenadiers (9)

Finishing this batch of figures has given me the impetus to polish off the remainder of the regiment, so watch this space!

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The Charnwood Grenadiers

The De Lisle Files

Another interesting coincidence has occurred in the Duchy of Charnwood project. This augers well for my ImagiNation, I think. Today, through the post, has come the quarterly of the Victorian Military Society, “Soldiers of the Queen” (I’ve been a member for 3 decades now). Within the issue is an article on “A Leicestershire Naval Officer”, the officer in question being Lt Rudolph Edward Lisle March Phillipps De Lisle of the Royal Navy.

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Lieutenant Rudolph De Lisle RN

Lt De Lisle was born at Gracedieu Manor which is the inspiration for my fictional Duke of Charnwood’s country seat. The excellent article goes on to describe the young man’s life and tragically early death in the Sudanese desert (of all places for a young naval Lieutenant), at the brutal battle of Abu Klea. He was with the Naval Detachment’s Gardner Machine Gun when it jammed at a crucial moment. Sudanese warriors rushed up and before they were turned out of the British square, Lt. De Lisle was one of the casualties being ‘covered with more than fifty spear wounds’.

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The battle of Abu Klea, 1885.

Of his early life, it says;

“[Rudolph’s father] gave up Gracedieu in favour of his eldest son… and prepared to move to Garendon Hall, then undergoing refurbishment. During the interim of 18 months, home became Longcliffe in the Charnwood Forest, where Rudolph learnt to shoot and began to demonstrate his ability to draw and sketch picturesque views.”

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Garendon Hall, sometime home of the De Lisle family.

Nice to think of the real-life equivalent of my fictional Gracedieu family sketching the hills around Charnwood. In a recent post in fact, I used the name De Lisle for the baronet and colonel of the 1st Charnwood Grenadiers; Sir Arthur De Lisle. The real-life namesake De Lisle entered the navy and briefly joined HMS Victory in 1868 which was permanently moored at Portsmouth.

Which leads to another curious little coincidence. On board the HMS Victory around this time was an ancestor of mine. He was a 17-year old youth from Leicester who had the curious distinction of being the only trainee from the English midlands on board ship, (the remainder being boys from neighbouring sea ports and towns). I’ve always wondered what on earth my ancestor was doing on board HMS Victory; though they came from very different social strata, perhaps there was some link to this other Leicestershire resident, the young Lt Rudolph De Lisle…?

Too much demands upon my time of late to finish off the Charnwood Grenadiers I’ve been painting, much less turn my attention to the new Swithland Fusiliers. I hope, however, to post with some fresh soldiery sometime in the coming weeks…