The French have some other bloody name for my dominion, as do both the Italians and Germans, but I can pronounce none of them and don’t care to learn. That’s what I have scribes and administrators for after all! I have been told that it lies within the northeast region of Champagne on the Plateau de Haute-Sadne, all I know is that it shares borders with France to the south, west and north, Italy to the south-by-southeast, Switzerland to the southeast, and Baden-Baden to the east across the Rhine. It’s a bloody crossroads for armies and brigands is what it is, as it sits smack upon the river and adjacent to passes through the Alps, and offers lush farmland, abundant wildlife, and a generally genial populace. I should have known that demented, conniving, bloody sod Louis was up to something after he took Charlie Fitzjames recommendations for recognition to heart (after losing a battle, mind you) and christened my dukedom with the name of a swamp bordering the river at Minden! And all because I pulled that sod Charlie out of a brothel the morning of the battle and reminded “his grace” that he was supposed to be in command of the French cavalry center, a feat that would have been difficult to perform in his bedclothes and drunken stupor, although its said that its been done before. But enough of my meandering on about titles and their worth, that will come later. All of my titles are a joke in their own way, but then most of my superiors would probably agree that its just reward for a sarcastic Scots-Irish soldier of fortune who has gone through most his of life looking for something or someone to laugh at.
The Duchy of M’Eudail is named for my kinsmen and their collective dream, a homeland they could truly call their own, prosper from, and defend if called upon, all while free to follow their chosen faith. My GrandDa fled Ireland to Scotland after the rebellion there failed. He was accepted among the Highlanders as a good and brave Catholic freedom fighter should be, and raised a fine family with lands before his time was ended. He lived long enough to see his only surviving son wed the spirited Beverly of the MacKibben’s, Herself descended of the MacDonald’s of Glengarry and the MacGibben’s of County Mayo in Ireland. And he lived long enough to see me. In fact, my Da used to say that my early exploits probably shortened the old bugger’s life! My Da was an ardent Jacobite, and did not hide from it. Through my Sainted Mother’s influences, he also became a skilled trader and craftsman, though he still “rattled the swords” when the drink was upon him. As soon as the young Pretender, “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart, arrived on our shores, my Da was off to war with a vengeance, trade be damned. Emboldened by the early victories, and worn down by my constant pleadings, he took me with him that fateful day to Culloden at the ripe old age of 15. There I watched him die, and probably would have myself if one of the “Wild Geese” hadn’t carried me away with him back to France. I found out later that my name was known and that I had been branded a criminal and traitor to the Crown in absentia, and my Sainted Mother forced to fall back on her kinsmen for sustenance. So there was nothing for it, I took my place among the Wild Geese of Ireland (with a few Scots thrown in for good measure) who served France, and proceeded to learn my “craft” as a warrior.
I began my service as a private in the Regiment de Dillon of the famed French Irish Brigade, commanded then by the Honorable Sir Arthur Dillon, Comte d’Dillon. I myself thought my early career was rather unremarkable, but a family friend happened to mention to Sir Arthur that I was descended from landed folk in the old country (both of them), and I soon found myself elevated to Sous-Lieutenant with a section under my command. My next shock came when it was mentioned to the then-young Charlie Fitzjames, the 3rd Duc d’Fitzjames, that I knew my way around horses and came from a proud military family. That this was mentioned by a certain Chef de Bataillon who wanted me as far from the Dillon Regiment, and his daughter, as possible never seemed to matter. The next thing I knew, I was in the bloody Fitzjames Cavalry Regiment, trying my damndest to stay on a horse while still drunk. Well, Charlie and I became fast friends and drinking companions (beware your friendships, my Da used to say) and the next thing I know, my smiling Lieutenant-Colonel is informing me that he’s approved Charlie’s request to make me one of his Lordship’s personal aides. I never trusted that officer again, and took every opportunity to make sure his name did not appear favorably in dispatches! Mind you, this tale actually took 10 years to unfold, but today it still seems as if it happened in the blink of an eye, especially since I’d remained in garrison and not heard a shot fired in anger since Culloden.
Throughout this period, and indeed even today, I still do not consider myself to be a “proper soldier”, but I did discover something truly profound in my wanderings: “proper soldiers” don’t always win battles. Throughout my wanderings and postings, quite without any real effort on my part, I had learned how an army functioned. From my training in the different services I recognized the importance of combined arms, from my ancestors I had learned the value of a fanatic charge (at the right time, of course), and from my reading (a promise that I made and kept to my Sainted Mother) I had learned that commander’s of the past had recognized the importance of discipline, morale, supply and communications. Somehow, this allowed me to not only survive my questionable military exploits, but somehow be noticed in the process as being either very “lucky” or very good, it really didn’t matter which. Indeed, after the battle of Minden, my personal recognition from Charlie Fitzjames and Louis, and the virtual collapse of France as an aggressive power, I found that I was somewhat “in demand” and was “loaned out” for service as an advisor and aide in other lands so that Louis could put me on half-pay. And that, dear reader, is how I came to “earn” my other rather dubious titles.
I was first dispatched as an “advisor” to the Milanese, then fighting another of their incessant internal “wars of state” and dealing with border incursions, brigands and deserters in the Piedmont area. While on a diplomatic mission to the Lombardy region, my staff and I were enjoying the “hospitality” of an order of monks in the town of Saronno, along with mass quantities of a delicious local beverage made from a secret concoction of alcohol, apricot pits, sugar and herbs that the monks called “Amaretto”. Well, to make a long story somewhat shorter, a group of vile brigands attempted to seize the abbey of the order and my staff, all full of wonderful liquid courage, drove the bugger’s off without a single serious casualty. I simply accepted their thanks and a few barrels of their elixir and went on about my mission, but when the Duc d’Milan was approached by a Papal representative with the grand tales of my exploits, all “without apparent concern for his own safety at any time” (drunk), nothing would do but for the Duke to grant me the honorary title of “Protectore di Saronno”, which looks good on the old curriculum vitae and nets me an unending supply of barrels of that wonderful elixir to this day, along with a small annual stipend and some valuable friends. God love those crazy monks!
My next “honor” came while serving as an aide to the young Margrave of Baden-Baden, Ludwig Georg Simpert. The ancient region of Baden was split into various warring factions, all with the thinly-veiled support of Frederick and the mad Bavarians, and Georg had assumed the role of Margrave in a war-torn region determined to bring peace and unity. What a crazy sod poor old Georg was (He preferred to be called Georg so that he wouldn’t be confused with several raving mad other Ludwig’s that populated southern Germany at the time). Germans not fighting, why it would be like the Irish not drinking! At any rate, while on detached service there I met and married my lovely bride, the Lady Katherine von Lichte, known to the people of my duchy as “Saint Katherine the Patient” (The bloody French will give anybody a nickname, and I’m not that difficult to live with!). As a result of my marriage to a landed family, and pulling Georg out of a bedchamber in the nick of time the night before my nuptials (you do see a theme developing here?), nothing would have it but for Georg to name me as a “Lion of Baden” for my meritorious service, whatever the bloody hell that means. But it did grant me a share in the monies from Katherine’s estates, plus her dowry, plus a small annual stipend from Georg. Well, what can one say at such a time and still retain their apparent modesty?
When I returned to Louis’ court after my adventures, and he was trying to decipher the ramifications of the Treaty of Paris (The King has never been what I would call “smart”, but he is crafty and a right sneaky bastard to boot!), it was decided to present me with my duchy and an annual stipend to “manage it”, in service to France of course. I think Louis just wanted a hard-headed Scots-Irish arsehole in a position to deal with any annoying incursions into the Champagne region by its neighbors and I was the most likely candidate for cannon-fodder; and my friendship with the Margrave of Baden-Baden and family ties to the von Lichte’s probably helped as well. What Louis never counted on, nor any of the others in his court, was that my wanderings, my political and personal friendships, my annual income, and my knowledge of “The Art of War”, as some bloody fool has called it, all made this the perfect opportunity for an opportunistic Gaelic sod like myself. Louis did allow me to call for “volunteers” from the now under-employed Irish Brigade, and from this my personal “Guard” battalion was born. Several members of Charlie Fitzjames’ staff and some troopers also followed me as my “aides de camp” and mounted guards. I marched them all east to my new domain, and established the town of Vesoul as my capital, which I promptly christened “New Edinburgh” to honor my Sainted Mother’s people, a fact that the locals still only grudgingly accept and my Irish lads aren’t always too happy about either. As I had previously traveled in this region during my assignments in both Italy and Baden-Baden, I knew it to be fertile and full of promise, filled with hard-working folk, and with lines of supply and communication on the Rhine, through the mountain passes and along the reasonably good roads in the region.
However, I also knew that I was being “thrust into the breach” to some degree and that Louis fully expected me to be killed, deposed, or both in short order during the chaos that followed the Great War. I immediately sent my aides out as couriers to various friends in Scotland, the French troop depots, Milan and Baden with messages for my friends. Here, I glibly promised, was a land filled with opportunity, just waiting for a few stout men to help build and defend it. Since I also promised land-holdings and work for their camp-followers and wives (something every good commander should do and none since William of Normandy have adequately done), I was thus assuring their future’s and their son’s and daughter’s to follow, and good morale. Not all of my activity was military-related however. During my earlier travels, I had often come into contact with the people of the Low Countries and of Switzerland, and greatly admired the efficiency (and income) of their Trade Guilds. Indeed, one of my first administrative acts was to organize the people of my duchy into similar Guilds, each pledged to sell their products at an agreed-upon price and to share a percentage of the price for the upkeep and defense of the duchy. By doing so, they were personally exempted from military service, if they wished, except in case of a full-on invasion of the duchy, in which case it was every man for himself. Their products were many and of high quality; timber from the nearby forests, produce of nearly every variety, milling on the various waterways in the region, fat cattle, a wonderful sparkling wine that is very popular (I personally don’t care that much for it, but the Lady Katherine loves it), and some mining of copper, lead and iron. I also established trade agreements (and mutual non-aggression treaties) for our products with the Margrave of Baden-Baden and with the Duc d’Milan, and secured promises of the import of needed products from those regions as well, all at an established rate of exchange. I now had the seeds of a Dukedom and an army well-planted, and needed to start seriously planning my future endeavors and expenditures. But, ‘tis now time for drink, reflection and bed, then I will consider the resumtion of this narrative.