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In a medieval (essentially without fantasy) world, the King of a country has some problems.

Due to its geography, the economy is strongly oriented towards commerce with foreign countries. They have a decent army, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The King is the head of the state, but his forefathers accepted the creation of a council, which gathers the richest land owners in the country. And due to some situations in his own accession on the throne, he had to accept to increased power of that council, to the extend that he cannot take any large decision on his own.

He still has to accept the power of the council because of his half-brother claim, by whom he feels threatened. Some judges that his brother had the better claim. The council never fails to remind that fact to the King. But never too bluntly.

The said brother fled when the King got on the throne and took refuge in a neighbouring country. That country has virtually no riches and no army to speak of. From his father, he inherited a longing obsession with expanding the kingdom by invading their neighbour. And that obsession got multiplied by the cover they provide to his brother.

He is convinced that the invasion of the country, and killing his brother would help him regain the power he lost. He is building some excuse: essentially claiming the others attacked first. But he knows the council won't be fooled because it is pretty weak, and won't authorised it. So he needs the support of the population.

How does a King gets around getting the support of the population for his war project, without raising suspicion of the King's Council? Or at least without giving them a chance to interfere.

The King is pretty lazy and not terribly clever, so simpler, easier and faster solutions would be preferred.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think something along the lines of: "They shamelessly abducted my half brother. Let's rescue him!" should do the trick. Don't forget to send an assassin to kill the half brother during the war, so the army believes the enemy country executed their hostage. If the brother is killed after his rescue, it'd raise suspicions. $\endgroup$ – Nolonar Oct 30 '15 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds a tiny bit like King John: The acceptance of the Magna Carta, the sibling (Richard) in another country (France), not-so-great relationship with the ruling elite. . . $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 30 '15 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Secretly murders a few of yr own people and litter their corpses overseas, hire pros to exaggerate how the corpses were being treated and you have the recipe for war, main ingredient is angry mods + no csi + science is virtually non existent at that time. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 31 '15 at 2:15
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First, fanaticize your population.

First, denounce your enemy by creating an us-vs-then mentality. I wrote a lot of possible topics for this in this answer which I could all repeat here. tl;dr version: Convince your population that the population of the other country are unholy heretics, have no morals, are culturally unrefined and their leader is an idiot.

How could you do that?

In medieval times, there were no newspapers. The people had three information sources about what happened in the world:

  • Rumors
  • Public announcements by government officials during market.
  • What they got told during mass at the church

Having the kings lackeys go around taverns and spread rumors might not be very efficient and scalable, but it is very easy for your king to maintain plausible deniability. After all, even he can not control what his lackeys blabber about in a drunken stupor.

Paying some market criers to announce their agenda should be under the direct control of your king, but it is a very obvious method of influencing the public opinion. When the king wants to avoid suspicion that his goal is to start a war, their messages must be subtle.

The church might or might not be able to be persuaded to help - it depends. In medieval times, the relationship between nobility and clergy was complex. It was often quite unclear which had authority over the other in which matters. Sometimes the church cooperated with the plans of the government, and sometimes they didn't. When dealing with Catholic clergymen, your king has to remember that they are not completely autonomous but have to answer to the pope (or currently popular antipope). But when your king can persuade the clergy to publicly denounce the population of the other country as heretics, it would be an immensely powerful tool to manipulate the masses. To avoid suspicion, the king should make it look as if this was the clergies idea, not his.

Then, make them afraid

When the population is sufficiently convinced that they are the good guys and the other country is the evilness which embodies everything they don't embody, make your population believe that the other country is a direct threat to them. Use the tools listed above to tell them about actions the other county has already taken against their well-being (framing them is also a good excuse for any problems you created yourself through bad rulership). Also drop hints that they might be planning a large-scale invasion.

Finally, start your crusade

Now that your population believes that the evil will destroy them soon, most of them will support you when you speak of taking military actions. Volunteers will line up at your garrisons. With the current climate, you can easily denounce any pacifists - among the peasants and also among your council - as collaborators and traitors and have them executed. This will make people think twice about opposing you.

But my king is too lazy and stupid for all of this

The secret of efficient leadership is delegation. No king can manage a whole kingdom all by themselves. When your king's father taught him anything at all, it should be that. When he hasn't got the time and talent to execute this plan or even come up with it, he might have a clever and diligent subordinate to do it for him.

Take King Henry VIII, for example. Without people like Thomas Wolsey to get stuff done for him, he would have just been a footnote in history. While Henry VIII spend most of the first decade of his regency fooling around, Wolsey acted in his name and achieved more for him than most actual kings achieved in their whole lifetime.

A proper motivation for that subordinate could be a promise to become the lord of the newly conquered lands. This should get the loyal subordinate a council position which looks like a win-win situation for the king (a sufficiently clever subordinate will likely do a 180° turn after actually getting the position, but your king might be too naive to realize that).

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  • $\begingroup$ Obvious statement is obvious, but this is a pretty efficacious process for today as well. $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Sep 11 '18 at 17:36
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  1. Marry a common woman that the people adore.

  2. Frame the other country for her kidnap/murder.

  3. Hope this woman isn't the true love of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

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    $\begingroup$ In medieval times, marrying below their stand was a really bad thing for a noble. It would undermine the authority of the king even further. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Oct 31 '15 at 15:04
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This strikes me as a classic Crusader Kings question.

You, as the king, hold some strong title to your throne and the subsequent lands (all political skepticism aside). After all, without this you would not be able to maintain your power. Your half brother, who is clearly a blood relation, now has control of the throne in a neighboring nation that you desire.

The number one question you need to ask is not how to convince your country to go to war, but rather: "Who will inherit my brother's kingdom in the event of his devastatingly untimely death?". The answer, particularly in the case of the common (and often desired) primogeniture laws, are your brother's children. Whether you intend to conquer by force or through intrigue, these blood relatives of the "true" king will need to die. Why bloody up your army when you could send assassins to do the job instead? With enough of your half-brother's descendants dead, you will become the entitled legal ruler of the nation. Even if the commoners rebel, you have a valid Casus Belli to protect your claim and defend yourself from international aggression when you take over.

The king, as described, cannot win in open war -- so look to the shadows instead.

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  • $\begingroup$ You forgot the part where war was used for personal profit of yourself and your supporters. Wars could be vastly profitable to the small class of people actually making the decisions. The fact that it was a negative to the nation as a whole was not really considered relevant. Totally agree on assassins, though. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Oct 31 '15 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. The last paragraph seems useless and wrong in hindsight, so I've removed it. $\endgroup$ – Avernium Oct 31 '15 at 5:47
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The king's problems could disappear thusly: The building in which the council meets "tragically" collapses before king arrives, none of the council survive. The king announces "evidence" that several of the heirs of the council members conspired to commit this terrible murder for their own gain, and arrests are made almost before the dust settles, certainly before the heirs can organize. Under "questioning", it is "discovered" that the murderers were offered lands and money by the evil neighboring kingdom to commit their crime. News of a bloody massacre on the border arrives soon afterward (surely its the evil neighboring kingdom, who else could it be?). The king reports more evidence of spys and saboteurs employed by the evil neighboring kingdom. In all the fuss, the news that the king's half-brother has suffered a fatal "accident" after being seen with unidentified foreigners goes unnoticed. With the help of an ambitious, clever, morally-flexible servant (captain of the guard?) eager to earn the king's favor, even a lazy, dull king could make this happen.

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Propoganda. That is the very method that has always been used. Although most people have been willing to go to war when we have 'wars', ie WWII, WWI, keeping your propaganda vague, and convincing, will make your population want to go to war. Say Trump declares war on China in the near future, and you want to get people to go to war. Of course, the first option is drafting, but say there isn't any drafting, you can make it seem essential that they go to war. If you explain that if not enough people go to war, then they'll die or get drafted anyways, they will be much more motivated to actually join your cause.

In short, the answer is propaganda; specifically demonization, because you mentioned "He is building some excuse: essentially claiming the others attacked first."

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