Still the quintessential Crusading nation, and the one with which the Saracens identify all the Westerners they call Franks, the Kingdom of France provides much of the manpower –- and especially the knighthood -– of Outremer. France refers not to the modern country, but the medieval Kingdom; Ile-de-France under direct royal control and most of northern and central France under a looser, sometimes even nominal vassalage. Its power and wealth is growing under an able King, Philip II.
France has historic ties to the Order of the Temple -– founded by French knights and employed by the King as a bank since the Second Crusade –- but during the Third Crusade Philip instead formed an alliance with the Hospital.
French characters will thus be favoured by the Hospital, the Ibelins, and many other local barons, but distrusted at present by the Temple, the Lusignans, and English characters. They speak Langue d’oeuil and, in the case of the educated, Latin.
Nowhere distinguished itself in the First Crusade as much as the Low Countries, and Flanders is the richest of these. Two of Outremer’s oldest noble families, the Greniers and the Saint-Omers, have their roots in Flanders, while the Royal House itself originates in nearby Boulogne and Rethel. Recently, the Counts of Flanders have been less helpful; Count Philip’s arrival to campaign in Outremer turned out to be merely a ruse to arrange royal marriages for his vassals, though he redeemed himself for some by dying in diseased pain at the Siege of Acre.
Mercantile Flemings will be at an advantage; Flemish characters will be well-regarded by the Saint-Omers and Greniers, and lack particular enemies. They speak Flemish, Langue d’oeuil, and, if educated, Latin.
More properly ‘Plantagenet’ than ‘English’, the Kingdom of England is currently the richest and highest ranking component in the west’s greatest power, the Angevin Empire. The King of England controls not only Britain, including the rich east of Ireland, the Welsh marches and the north up to Scotland’s border, but much more importantly Normandy, Anjou, Brittany and Aquitaine. Notionally he is a vassal for these lands of his perennial enemy, the King of France, but this is coming to resemble an elaborate joke.
The Royal House of Jerusalem is technically a cadet line of the Plantagenets, and King Richard the Lionheart threw his energy and treasure into the Third Crusade. After backing his one-time vassal Guy de Lusignan until that cause was manifestly lost, Richard still managed to arrange a King and Grand Master to his liking in Outremer. The French say that he stooped to murder to achieve this, and blame him besides for failing to retake Jerusalem; English partisans reply that he was hardly helped by the King of France abandoning the Crusade and attacking Richard’s lands in his absence.
English characters will be allied to the Lusignans, Henry of Champagne, and the Temple -– but viscerally loathed by practically everyone else. They speak Langue d’oeuil, Latin if educated, and also perhaps Provençal, English, Welsh, Gaelic, or Breton depending on background.
The southern French have a proud, distinct culture, the cradle of chivalry (by their own account), courtly love, and extremely dubious levels of religious purity – pious, but also, whispers and more than whispers report, ridden with heresy. The rich County of Toulouse looks in practice neither to England nor France, and one Count, Raymond, was a major leader of the First Crusade. His son captured Tripoli and became its Count. While Provençals are as a result most welcome there, they are to be found all over Outremer; it’s well known, for example, that they make the best troubadours. Their combination of culture and asceticism also makes Provençal knights and noblemen natural recruits for the Temple in later life.
Provençal characters will be favourable to the Temple and to Tripoli, and, in general, well educated and artistic. They may be distrusted by clerical characters. They speak Provençal and almost invariably Latin -– though proud as ever, often affect to esteem it less than their own tongue.
Italy is of course utterly fragmented at this point, but although they despise each other, the Venetians, Genoese, Pisans and Amalfitans have more in common than they’d admit. All are seafaring people, and famous merchants. Acre has a quarter devoted to each of these trading cities, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi. Italian characters will be far more likely to be merchants, or lower down the scale courtesans, tradesmen, craftsmen, and anything lesser, than noble. As merchants they surpass even the Flemings. Many of their skilled immigrants have settled in the coastal cities of Outremer.
Italian characters will be generally well-liked and thought to be useful, though they will often despise each other. They have a historical affinity with the Hospital, founded by Amalfitans, and with Antioch, ruled by an originally Norman line from Sicily. Of all Christian characters, they are the most multi-lingual and likely to befriend Muslims. They speak the Italian of their native city –- which exists on a continuum of mutual intelligibility with the other dialects –- Latin, and often Greek and Arabic.
The Germans have taken part in as many crusades as the French and English, but have not garnered equivalent glory or lands – though they can arguably claim the first Frank ruler of Jerusalem, Godfrey of Bouillon, as one of their own. The Teutonic Order has recently been founded to encourage German knights to defend Outremer. During the Third Crusade King Richard grossly insulted the German leader, Leopold of Austria, leading to a lasting grudge.
German characters are short on allies at present, with the exception of the Teutonic Knights. They are on very bad terms with English characters and may quarrel with Italian and clerical characters over German claims to temporal supremacy over the Pope in Italy. They speak High Dutch, in the case of nobility the Langue d’oueil, and if educated Latin.
Of all the local Christians of Outremer, the community that has stayed true to the Greek Orthodox rite is the richest and best-organised. The Greeks tend to be of the opinion that no government or civilisation can be carried on without them, and occasionally Saracens and Franks are ruefully compelled to agree with that assessment. Clever traders, mystical artists, deep scholars, obscure theologians, and ‘as supreme in philosophy as are the Turks in warfare’, Greeks are masters of all fields from medicine to diplomacy. They are not, except in emergency, encouraged to bear arms in Frankish states -– and arms are not their way.
Greek characters will be viewed as suspicious but useful by Franks and Muslims and resented by other local Christians. They have close cultural ties to Antioch, Cyprus, and, of course, Byzantium. They speak only Greek by choice but are capable of learning a multiplicity of other tongues when they deign to try.
Most of the common populace of Outremer, especially in rural areas, observe the Syriac rite, whose mass is spoken in a language close to Aramaic, and whose doctrine has been considered heresy by the Greeks since before the time of Mahomet. Rumour has it that these Syrians preferred Muslim rule to that of the Greeks, but that they think the Franks are a relatively acceptable change for the better. There is hope that their abnormal faith may be brought into accord with the Latin rite.
The Franks look on the Syrians with somewhat condescending paternalism, but also hope to protect them from falling back under Islamic persecution. The Syrians speak mainly their own tongue but are quick to learn the langue d’oeuil when they must have dealings with their new lords.
Cilicia is the core of an ever-shifting Armenian principality, mountain warriors with their own Church and nobility. Their princes have married frequently among the aristocracy of Outremer (assisted perhaps by the beauty of Armenian women), and they form several trading enclaves along the coast. Warriors and traders both, the Armenians are as versatile as they are independent.
Armenian characters will hate, and be hated by in return, both Greeks and Turks; Armenian nobles are on good terms with the Royal House, the Courtenays, and Antioch. Armenians speak their own tongue supplemented by whatever else they need or desire.
The oldest inhabitants of the Holy Land (or so they say) have long been some of the least fortunate. Whoever rules Palestine is rarely very kind to the Chosen People, and they are at constant risk of persecution, occasional or sustained. In fact, however, a rash of ugly episodes during the First Crusade has given way to relative stability for the Jews under the Franks – though by no means equality.
As intellectually distinguished as the Greeks, the Jews still tend to be far less prosperous or appreciated. They will inevitably be distrusted by practically all Gentile characters. They speak Syriac and Hebrew (for religious rites).
Though the adherents of Islam are many, various, and becoming ever more so, few enough Saracens enter Outremer in the wake of the Third Crusade to summarise them under one heading. Most Muslims live in Arab tribes, but nearly all are now subject to Turkish, or since Saladin sometimes Kurdish, rule, and their warriors in particular are usually Turks.
Those seen in Outremer will be overwhelmingly Arab traders, craftsmen, and scribes, or else nobly born Turkish envoys. They unite Christians and Jews in fear and distrust, but dealing altogether without them is impossible. All speak Arabic, the language of the Koran, to some degree, and Turks will also speak Turkish and Persian.