I'm building a world for a novel I'm working on, which is a new experience for me. On a continent I have two former kingdom capitals that are inland roughly 150 miles from the coast. Both on major rivers. At the mouth of these rivers are two more cities. Given that they are sea ports and entries inland along the rivers I am supposing that they will be major commercial centers. I'm wondering if that is realistic or if the old kings would have moved their capitals to where the action is. Then I'm thinking of New York City vs Albany. Am I over thinking this? Any thoughts would be appreciated!
Trade vs. Agriculture
Say the old capital was placed in the middle of fertile farmlands. Yes, the merchants at the seaport are important, and getting more so year by year. But grain and turnips matter, too. The kings remember that they're one bad harvest away from a revolution and decide to keep an eye on the "heartland" of the realm. If they were to move, so would the noble landowners, leaving stewards to look after the manors.
For centuries the kings have been crowned in the inland cathedral, and they have resided in the inland palace. A couple of civil wars and dynastic struggles have been decided by who could hold the palace and the cathedral. The importance of the "heartland" has diminished over the centuries, but the people -- both commoners and nobles -- don't realize it. A king who does not reside in the palace for most of they year is suspect.
The seaports grew because of location and also because the merchants in that place had been granted privileges by the king. The king has promised to protect the merchants from greedy/stupid nobles who wouldn't know a reinvestment if it hit them squarely between the eyes, and the merchants have promised to pay a steady capital gains tax to the king's coffers. As part of the deal, the merchants have promised to stay clear from the political power games in the old capital.
Don't forget that depending on where the action takes place, the king might actually decide to move his Government, and thus political capital, to another city (than the economical capital, for instance), i. e. away from the action. Real life examples for this are :
- The French royalty moving out of Paris/Orleans in the course if the Hundred Years War ; Charles VII reigned in Bourges before being crowned, for example.
- King Louis XIV deciding to move his court from Paris to Versailles so as to avoid being situated in one of Europe's (and hence the world's) most populated cities in case of an uprising, as well as a means to unite as many noblemen as possible under his control (which he successfully achieved) within his new domain.
Unsure if both, but at least one of the kings can pull off Peter the Great: just found a new capital because of:
- wanting change,
- waging reforms,
- shifting the focus of the country in a different direction (towards West in this case),
- having a military stronghold closeby
- just because.
At least for Peter it turned out great.
A side note: commercial cities tend to fold down if their trade route importance is diminished, think Silk Road.
Bigger army Diplomacy
My thought in seeing this is that if these arose from old kingdoms. Middle ages European kingdoms. Bigger army Diplomacy will prevail and to back up a bigger army you need a more coin, and holding the bigger commercial center along with a strangle hold on a possible rivals main economic source leads to really bad odds of the up river city winning any sort of rivalry in a real way.