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|Part of the Alydian Wars|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Midrasian Contingent:|| Lhaeraidh Contingent:
The Western Crusades were a series of conflicts fought periodically from 1233 to 1340, between the numerous Alydian Holy orders and Kingdoms, against the Derwyedd lands of tir Lhaeraidd. The Western Crusades were the final conflicts fought as part of the Alydian Wars and contributed considerably to the decline in Alydian crusading.
The Western Crusades were called in 1233 by Pontiff Virgo III, and began as a campaign to convert the 'heathens' of west Asura to the Alydian faith following allegations of abuses against Alydian adherents and missionaries operating within tir Lhaeraidd and the surrounding regions. This call was quickly taken up by a number of Midrasian kingdoms and Holy Orders, with the Mydran Realms forming a pact of unity to campaign in the west. Additionally, several other kingdoms such as Aquidneck and Veleaz became involved, though their contributions were not as significant in the early stages compared to the Midrasians.
The Crusaders saw early success, quickly subduing Vaellenia before an extended conquest of Hlaanedd which concluding in 1236. Nevertheless, Alydian forces were unable to penetrate into central tir Lhaeraidd, owing to the poor terrain of the country, significantly hampering supply lines and cavalry based warfare. A truce was declared in 1240 seeing Hlaanedd come into the Alydian fold, though this would soon collapse around forty-five years later, precipitating a second crusade in the west. This campaign saw a considerable Derwyedd advance within the early stages of the war, before a counter-offensive as the fighting reached open terrain. By 1304 Vaellenia and Hlaanedd had been reconquered by the crusaders, whilst Arzvan was also subdued. Nevertheless, Hlaanedd fell once more in 1332, leading to a third crusade, though with several of the Midrasian kingdoms caught up in the Sixty Years' War the crusaders unable to push back the Lhaeraidh. A last ditch offensive in 1338 saw the crusaders break through Hlaanedd and into Llanggwyr, despite the issues of supply and unfavourable terrain. The siege of Caer Dunn proved a pivotal moment in the campaign, with the defeat of the siege leading to an Alydian retreat and the decimation of the army. By 1340 the Lhaeraidh had recaptured Hlaanedd, though were unable to break into Vaellenia or Arzvan, leading to the Treaty of Rondouh which concluded the conflict.
The Western Crusades left a considerable legacy in their wake, creating a considerable divide between the Alydian and Derwyedd worlds. Additionally, the inability of the crusaders to land a decisive blow against the Lhaeraidh led to a division between the Alydian kingdoms, further undermined by the outbreak of the Sixty Years' War and the various religious reformations. This division would effectively bring to an end the inter-Alydian peace of the crusading era, leading to the decline of Alydian church authority and power.
Difference in Forces and Strategy
The opposing forces in the Crusades were in stark contrast to one another. While the Crusaders favoured the military strategies and technologies of Central and Southern Asura, fielding large numbers of heavily armoured knights on horseback supported by armoured infantry and spear formations, the Lhaeraidh fielded forces centred around formations of heavy infantry known as Gallóglaigh supported by Ceithrenn. In open terrain with firm ground this gave the Alydian Crusaders a significant advantage over the Lhaeraidh defenders whose own spear formations were less well developed in tactics and overall doctrine than their Alydian counterparts; this advantage would play a major role in the swift advance of the Crusaders westward into Hlaanedd. However the difference in equipment and strategy cut both ways; Hlaanedd was a mountainous region and sparsely populated - though not the perfect setting for heavy cavalry due to its hilly nature the firm ground generally made up for this, however once they had taken Hlaanedd the Crusaders found it almost completely suicidal to advance beyond the mountains due to the combination of dense woodland and marshland which surrounds the region.
Within the confines of dense woodland the heavily armoured crusaders found it difficult to effectively respond to the hit and run tactics of the Lhaeraidh defenders, and after the significant defeats in the field in Hlaanedd the Lhaeraidh warlords saw no reason to oblige the Crusaders by fighting them directly in open battle. The general academic view is that had open country surrounded Hlaanedd the crusades would likely have spread far further than they in fact did, largely because, with the exception of the Gallóglaigh, the Lhaeraidh were fighting the war using technology and weapons which had seen little development in the past five hundred years. The Crusaders were well equipped with modern chain and plate mail made from steel and were supported by archers and a large cavalry contingent; by contrast at best the Lhaeraidh could field at the beginning of the crusades were heavy chainmail, studded leather, and the war darts which made the Ceithrenn famous.
There was a difference in strategy and doctrine too. The Crusading forces were formed of experienced soldiers led by a warrior aristocracy which had had years to develop and adapt; in open battle the Crusaders knew how to deploy and manoeuvre effectively in a way the Lhaeraidh forces did not. Additionally the Crusader forces were equipped and armed according to an overall tactical doctrine so that formations complemented one another, whereas the Lhaeraidh at the start of the crusades were largely equipped with their traditional arms rather than weapons issued to them which made them extremely inconsistent in terms of efficacy and quality. Prior to the crusades the Lhaeraidh had largely only participated in light warfare, periodic coastal and border raids against unsuspecting foes, but with the development of the Plutocracy they had seen a steady decline in military activity.
The Western Crusades had a major impact on the cultural, religious, demographic and political outlook of the Midrasian region of Vaellenia. Following the region's conquest by the Alydian crusaders and the creation of the Grand Duchy of Alpiens, Vaellenia was subject to an intense conversion effort carried out by Alydian missionaries and inquisitors primarily from the Midrasian kingdoms. With the Vaellenian mountains preventing any major Lhaeraidh campaigns into the region, Vaellenia came firmly under Alydian control, with significant portions of the region's population converting either willingly or forcefully. Though, estimates suggest as many as 200,000 people may have been killed in the persecutions which followed the crusade.
In subsequent years, Alpiens drifted further under Midrasian control, forming a personal union with the kingdom in 1472 as Louis VI acceded to the Midrasian throne. With the Midrasian Civil War and the region's incorporation into Midrasia proper, Alpiens became the source of significant tensions as a key royalist stronghold with significant Derwyedd minorities. As such, by the mid-Seventeenth Century plantation programs saw an influx of Midrasian settlers to the region and the suppression of the Vaellenian language. These cultural divides continue to play a prominent role in Vaellenia today with urban areas tending to predominantly use the Midrasian language, whilst rural regions lean to using Vaellenian and continue to hold small pockets of Derwyedd adherents. Additionally the divide between native Vaellenian and Midrasian settlers can also be seen in the Berghelling derby of Liga 1; with native Vaellenians tending to support Vaelleniana, whilst Hellingbourg tends to be supported by the descendants of Midrasian settlers. The rivalry between the two teams is one of the fiercest in Aeian football and has on many occasions resulting in riots or violence.
Impact on Lhaeraidh Martial History
The shortcomings of the Lhaeraidh military structure at the start of the Crusades would result in significant changes in how armies were raised and equipped within tir Lhaeraidd. At the start of the Crusades the right to raise armies was confined to the Crown and the Ducal rulers of the Eight Provinces. The system of knighthood and feudal homage worked very differently than it did in Central and Southern Asura, meaning that local landowners could not always be relied upon to raise and sufficiently arm soldiers. These factors meant that the Crown had to rely upon a relatively small professional army based in the capital, and upon the old clan system, in order to field its armies.
By c. 1260 following several years of conflict and the occupation of Hlaanedd by Crusader forcers it had become clear to the Lhaeraidh Teyrn and his warlord that changes needed to be made in the way they raised their armies and in how they were equipped. For the most part the Lhaeraidh armies were equipped with traditional weapons and were armed as individuals rather than units or formations; though the Lhaeraidh gallowglasses were some of the most effective heavy infantry of the period their lack of consistency rendered them unreliable on the battlefield. In the years following 1260 the Teyrn began a process of systematically rearming and enlarging his own professional army, laying the groundwork for what in a few centuries' time would become Rí-Airm, the organised standing army of tir Lhaeraidd.
The development of doctrines and military technologies, as well as the early industrialisation of weapons and armour manufacture did not change the basic truths of tir Lhaeraidd's climate and terrain. The Lhaeraidh knew well how ineffectual heavy cavalry and heavily armoured infantry were within the boggier or densely wooded terrain which made up much of the country, and so rather than seeking to copy the Crusaders they instead adapted their existing and traditional units with newer weapons and ideas. Pikes and halberds were among the first new additions to the Lhaeraidh armouries and newly trained formations are known to have entered combat by the Battle of Arnagh in 1278. Further changes of doctrine and strategy were still required if the Lhaeraidh were to stand toe to toe with modern Crusader armies in open battle however; it was quickly recognised that the traditional war darts of the Lhaeraidh light infantry were outdated and ineffective against heavily armoured opponents. The result was the widespread adoption of the bow.
In 1276 Teyrn Tyrone II instituted the first of the Archer's Laws, requiring all males aged 14 to 30 to undertake archery practice on a weekly basis. This law precipitated an explosion in archery strategy and technologies and by 1330 the first large scale deployment of the Lhaeraidh longbow were recorded.