Assassin’s Creed has always featured a wide assortment of characters to diversify its cast, and never strayed away from featuring famous kings, queens, and generals. With rumors of the next game featuring Richard I, I want to explore the reign of a few famous kings and queens that could make for amazing AC games including Clovis I, founder of the Merovingian Empire, Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus, the first true King of Poland, Boleslaw the Brave, the wars of Richard the Lionheart, expansion under Catherine the Great, and Prithvi Narayan Shah, the unifier of Nepal.
The collapse of the Western Roman Empire was not swift, and as the empire began retreating into itself during the 5th century, the Great Migration period began. Germanic Tribes would conquer previously Roman areas. Notably, this is when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes settled in Scandinavia and then began invading England, and also when the Franks entered modern-day France and Germany, displacing the Gauls and other Germanic Tribes. Clovis was born to the king of a Salian Frankish tribe that settled in modern-day Belgium and inherited the title from his father at the age of 16 in 481ce. Most of Gaul had been lost to the Romans by that point for a few decades and the western Empire collapsed just 5 years prior; leaving the Visigoths and Burgundians to fight for power. The only Roman influence left was an isolated “kingdom” ruled by Syagrius.
In 486, Clovis allied himself with Ragnachar, a relative who ruled Cambrai, and Chararic, another Frankish King. Together, they amassed an army to march on Syagrius. At the same time, Clovis was allying himself with more Frankish kings, like Sigobert who controlled a large area around Cologne. Syagrius met the Frankish army at Soissons, only to witness an embarrassing defeat, leading him to flee to Toulouse, where he was assassinated. Despite the victory, Chararic did not participate in the battle, fleeing instead, leading Clovis and Ragnachar to march into his city and capture him and his son. Not being Christian, many Christian areas continued to refuse the rule of Clovis. Verdun was captured after a brief siege, and Paris withheld 5 years before finally giving in and becoming the new capital for Clovis’ Empire. In 491 Clovis converted to Catholicism and married a catholic woman, gaining much support throughout the Frankish Empire.
In 493, the Burgundian Kingdom in the south East began collapsing. Gundobad, son of King Gundioc murdered his father and usurped the throne. After murdering his sister in law, and forcing his niece into a convent, a second niece fled to Gundobad’s brother, Godegisel, who began attempting to wage civil war over the throne. Despite trying to enlist Clovis, the Frankish King was busy fighting Swabians outside Cologne in the battle of Tolbiac in 496. This battle led to the crippling of king Sigobert. With this dealt with, Clovis forced Chariac, who was then still in prison, to convert and become a monk, along with his son. In 500, he allied with Godegisel, on the condition that Burgundy would essentially be a vassal of the Frankish Empire. Godegisel agreed, and they hastily defeated Gundobad, forcing him to flee, and peace was declared in 501.
Clovis spent a few years negotiating with Armonici in the northwest of France and declared an invasion of the Visigoths shortly after. Due to the Visigoths controlling mostly Christian lands, Clovis ordered there to be no looting or sacking, as this was meant to be a liberation of the Christians from the Visigoths. They marched for Toulouse, and in August of 507, met King Alaric II in battle at Vouille, killing the Visigoth king and conquering all of Aquitaine. On his march back, he learned Charaic was planning on escaping his imprisonment and had him assassinated. He then had his spies sent to Cologne to meet with Chlodoric, Sigobert’s son, and convinced Chlodoric to murder his father. Clovis arrived in Cologne in 509, to learn that Chlodoric has assassins kill his father, and then had Chlodoric executed for murder, then announcing the assassinations to the people of Cologne as a plot from Chlodoric, and making himself the rightful king.
Clovis then returned to Paris, stopping in Cambrai along the way, finding his last ally, Ragnachar betrayed him, and would not let him in. As a result, Clovis bribed the city guards to betray Ragnachar, and they tricked Ragnachar into meeting Clovis in battle, where Ragnachar and his brother Ricchar were captured in battle, while their third brother escaped. Clovis met with Ragnachar and asked “Why have you humiliated our family in permitting yourself to be bound? It would have been better for you to die.” Clovis then executed him with an ax, following up with a remark to Ricchar “If you had aided your brother, he would not have been bound” and executed him as well. Their third brother was then executed in Le Mans. Clovis remarked that he regretted killing his family, though he would die just 2 years later, having begun the Merovingian Dynasty which would last another 200+ years, despite political disunity. While there’s next to no lore on Clovis right now, letters from the Hidden Ones bureaus stated they left Britain for Cologne, meaning the Hidden Ones were likely active. This could also be the time period when they were starting their exodus, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, not just the withdrawal from Britain in 410 ce.
Vladimir the Great
Kievan Rus was the building block of what would become Russia, founded by the Viking Rurik (potentially Rorik of Dorestad). In 862, the people of Novgorod were at the brink of civil war, so Rurik was hired to help, and instead founded the federation, which would be expanded by his son to Kyiv, and take the name Kievan Rus, led by Vikings who took the name Varangian from the Byzantines who after some conflict became an ally and the Varangians became leading guards of the Byzantines.
Fast forward to 958 and the Kievan Grand Prince Sviatoslav I had a son named Vladimir with his housekeeper and famous prophetess. Vladimir, despite being illegitimate, was raised and tutored by his mother’s brother, a fierce warrior named Dobrynya. Following the Siege of Kyiv led by the Bulgarians in 968, Dobrynya convinced Sviatoslav to invade the Bulgarian Empire and make Pereyaslavets, a city likely in Bulgaria or on the border of it, his new capital. With the capital moving in 969, Sviatoslav was convinced to make Vladimir the Prince of Novgorod at age 11, and his first true son, Yaropolk was made Prince of Kyiv while his second son, Oleg, became Prince of Drevlians. Sviatoslav cut his way through the Balkans with the new allies of the Pechenegs, devastating the Bulgarian empire and taking its capital in 971. By this point, he had also been attacking Thrace, angering the new Ottoman Emperor. The two settled on a peace agreement, though the Ottoman Emperor fearing the worst allied with the Pecheneg Khan, Kurya, and had them attack and kill Sviatoslav in 972, with his skull allegedly becoming a goblet for the Khan. It’s unknown what happened to Kurya, though it is known he was dead by 988. This sounds like a great assassination opportunity.
Tensions rose for a few years between Oleg and Yaropolk, with them finally breaking into a civil war in 976. Oleg had killed the son of an advisor of Yaropolk’s for illegal hunting, and Yaropolk sent an army to kill him. Oleg fled and was killed while fleeing in 977. Yaropolk then seized Novgorod, and Vladimir fearing for his life fled to Norway where he allied with relative Haakon Sigurdsson, returning later that year. His first act was to reclaim Novgorod before marching towards Polotsk where he had sent ambassadors with Dobrynya to arranged the marriage of Rogneda, a young woman who belonged to a powerful family. Her father’s refusal, however, insulted Vladimir and Dobrynya while also confirming that she had been betrothed to Yarpolk. As a result, Dobrynya arranged for her, her two brothers, and her parents to be bound, and forced to watch Vladimir rape her. Vladimir then had her parents and brothers executed, forced Rogneda to marry him, and then marched on Smolensk. In June of 978, he took Kyiv, and killed his brother, declaring himself knyaz of all of Kievan Rus.
Vladimir continued what his father started, and in 981 he seized the Cherven towns from the Poles; in 981–982 he suppressed a Vyatichi rebellion; in 983 he subdued the Yatvingians; in 984 he conquered the Radimichs, and in 985 he conducted a military campaign against the Volga Bulgars with Dobrynya. Following the campaigns, two Christians who had come to spread their faith in Kievan Rus were killed by a mob of people, angry about their pagan religions slowly fading away. The Orthodox church canonized them as martyrs, violence against Christians grew in the Rus. This inspired Vladimir to send envoys to all neighboring countries to better understand their religions. They returned telling him of the simplicity of the German Churches, but the magnificence of the Ottoman Empire and Hagia Sophia. In 988, after taking a port in Crimea, he sailed down to Constantinople, meeting Emperor Basil II, and negotiating with him to marry his daughter Anna (a first for the Byzantine and Rus). In awe of the city, and on the marriage condition of baptism, Vladimir converted to Christianity and began tearing down pagan monuments and building more churches across Kievan Rus. This continued throughout the 990s, and conversions were forced upon the population, with some records saying Dobrynya set fire to dissidents. This culminated in Dobrynya being attacked by an angry mob and forced into his house, where the mob burnt the house down, killing him and his family inside.
Vladimir continued some minor wars with the Pechenegs, while trying to convert them, and allied with Saint Stephen I of Hungary and Boleslaw the Brave. Around 1000, his first son was sent to rule Polotsk with his Rogneda, who tried to convince her son to assassinate Vladimir. He never got the chance, though, as both died soon after by 1003. In 1014, his son Yaroslav the wise stopped paying tribute, and after gathering an army to chastise him, became ill, and died in 1015, leading Yaroslav to civil war with his remaining brothers. Despite the horrific actions Vladimir took, his name “The Great” likely comes from the Christianization of Kievan Rus, meaning in lore, he may have allied with the Poor Soldiers of Christ. By this point, Ahmed ibn Fadlan already came to Kievan Rus, so it’s likely the assassin order had too. Perhaps the assassins ally with enemies of Vladimir, or we could see a Templar dominated game again. Even better, we could see a game set in Kievan Rus during the early years of Vladimir’s Reign (like 976-988) and then have a direct sequel with Boleslaw the Brave. Maybe Vladimir wasn’t a Templar until he converted in Constantinople, forcing the Assassins to flee to Poland.
Boleslaw I the Brave
Bolesław was born in 967 to Mieszko I, a member of the Piast Dynasty and founder of the first independent Polish state, the Duchy of Poland. Around 980, following the death of his mother, Boleslaw came to rule Lesser Poland, an area to the south of the Duchy around Krakow, ruling with the help of his father, uncle, and local lords approval. Upon Mieszko’s death in 992, Boleslaw exiled his stepmother and brothers, then going on a campaign for 3 years, unifying much of Poland.
In 995, he aided Otto III in an invasion of Veleti, where he also learned that a rival from Bohemia, Sobeslav was away, allowing Boleslaw to move in and swiftly conquering the lands, and killing most of the family, but sparing Sobeslav due to the pleas of Bishop Aldebert of Prague, who became a friend of Boleslaw. Both Sobeslav and Aldebert would move to Poland in 996. Aldabert would leave Poland in 997 to proselytize to Prussia, only to be murdered by Pagans in April of that year. Perhaps he too was a Templar influence.
Otto III, a friend of Aldebert had him canonized as a saint in March of 999, and soon afterward left to go to Gniezno, where Boleslaw had him buried. During his time in Gniezno, Otto became very good friends with Boleslaw, placing his diadem on Boleslaw’s head, and gifting him the Lance of St Maurice and a nail alleged to have used to crucify Jesus Christ. I could definitely see these being a PoE, or perhaps Boleslaw had gained one of the prongs of the Trident of Eden. Boleslaw traveled back to Germany with Otto for Palm Sunday on March 25th, 1000ce. While in Germany, Otto gifted Charlemagne’s golden throne from his tomb to Boleslaw and made Poland and Hungary eastern foederatus (client states) of the (Holy) Roman Empire. Boleslaw contacted the pope to set up a new archdiocese and the cities of Kolobrzeg, Krakow, and Wroclaw had new diocese set up.
Otto died in 1002, leading to a brief civil war that Boleslaw was asked to help with by Henry IV. Before Boleslaw could make up his mind, Henry basically won the war, so Boleslaw invaded Germany, and was basically just granted it. Over the next 16 years, there was a lot of back and forth between the Holy Roman Empire and Boleslaw, though much of the ground he had taken was won back by the Germans. In January of 1018, the two kingdoms signed the Peace of Bautzen, and Boleslaw married (his 4th wife), a German noblewoman named Oda to secure the peace, at which point he turned on his former ally of Kievan Rus. He was called by his son-in-law, Sviatopolk in aid of battling his brother Yaroslav. Sviatopolk had allegedly killed 3 of his other brothers, and Yaroslav intended on ruling after the death of their father. Boleslaw came marching in 1018 with up to 5000 Polish Warriors and another 2000 foreign soldiers he enlisted. He defeated Yaroslav at the Battle of Bug river near Wolyn, allowing him to march straight to Kyiv as Yaroslav fled to Novgorod. Sviatopolk believed himself to be safe, and Boleslaw marched back to Poland, seizing the land known as the “Red Strongholds” along the way. Yaroslav once again came down to Kyiv, winning in battle, forcing Sviatopolk to flee. He attempted to come back again in 1019, only to lose a second battle and attempt to flee to Poland, and was assassinated on the way.
Finally, after years of petitioning the pope, Boleslaw was granted permission to be crowned, and likely on December 24th, 1024, Boleslaw was crowned as the first king of Poland in Gniezno, only to die 6 months later. Personally, I think a game focusing on Boleslaw from 992-1019 would be pretty great, and could easily be a two-part game between Vladimir and Boleslaw as major historical characters.
Richard the Lionheart
Richard was born in 1157 in England, son of Henry II part of the Plantagenet House from France that controlled Aquitaine and Normandy. By 16, Richard was leading on the battlefield and putting down rebellions, spending much of his early adult life in Aquitaine. He ascended to the throne in 1189 following Saladin’s capture of Jerusalem and Guy of Lusignan who was the King of Jerusalem. Guy was also the son of an important lord in Aquitaine and close to Richard. Saladin did let Guy free, only for Guy to besiege Acre, which caused the death of his wife. The capture and siege is what caused Richard to call for the 3rd crusade.
Conrad of Montferrat held the defense of Tyre and attempted to help break the siege of Acre, though it only broke a month after Richard’s arrival in June of 1191 (following the annexation of Cyprus in 1190). Richard and the crusaders wound up capturing about 2700 Muslim PoW who were offered back to Saladin should he arrive at a certain time. Saladin arrived an hour late, however, and Richard made him watch as all 2700 men were executed and piled outside Acre. We all know from AC1 that Richard would try to march on Jerusalem next (though he actually was trying to go for Jaffa as a staging ground), only to be met by Saladin at Arsuf. The crusader victory there and at Jaffa in November of 1191 was a huge step, though Saladin’s refusal to surrender made the army refortify at Ascalon in early 1192. While there, Guy was presumed to be the King of Jerusalem once reconquered, though many of the French men preferred Conrad of Montferrat, son of William and defender of Tyre. An official vote was held in April of 1192, and Conrad won by a wide margin, only to be assassinated by assassins 3 days later, with many believing Richard had ordered it. After several more skirmishes with Saladin, Richard came to an agreement in September of 1192 allowing Christians to pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and in October, feeling ill, he began his journey back to England.
Richard first landed in Corfu, which was controlled by Byzantine Emperor Isaac II who was angry about the annexation of Cyprus. Realizing he had enemies everywhere, he sought out help and learned that King Philip of France and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI had a secret meeting and planned to arrest Richard as soon as they could. Richard sailed next for Sicily only to learn Count Raymond of Toulouse had all the ports of Italy and Southern France searching for him. Realizing there was no escape, he sailed back to Corfu and following a scuffle with pirates disguised himself as a normal Templar Knight and with a few trusted attendants, figured out a plan to sail to Aquileia on the border of Italy and sneak to Henry the Lion’s territory in Germany, who was his brother-in-law. Plans never really work, and they were shipwrecked near Ragusa, modern-day Dubrovnik. From there they snuck up into Germany but were captured by Duke Leopold of Austria near Vienna around Christmas 1192. Richard was held in Dürnstein Castle for conspiracy to murder Leopold’s cousin, Conrad. The pope immediately excommunicated Leopold, and a few months later, Richard was handed over to Henry VI, where his conditions worsened. Henry demanded 150,000 marks be paid to him for the release of Richard, but John who was acting as King in place of Richard offered 80,000 to hold him for another 2 years while his ally Philip of France retook Normandy. The money was eventually paid, and Richard was released in February of 1194. Richard returned to Winchester by March of 1194 and forgave John for his trespasses, and was recrowned as king to erase the embarrassment of his capture.
Philip had been preparing for war with the Angevin Empire (read England) for several years prior to the crusade, due to the Capetian-Plantagenet Rivalry that lasted for generations of control of parts of France. Richard immediately went to war with Philip, and decisively defeated him at the Battle of Freteval. Philip backed down for a few years, only to launch an attack again in 1196. The Battle of Gisors was Richard’s next decisive victory, forcing a temporary truce, and giving the British crown the motto “Dieu et Mon Droit” or “God and my right” meaning that all the land owned by England was only subject to God and Richard, and not the French King. Being at the top of his game, Richard then ordered the siege of Chalus, a French castle on the border of Aquitaine in April of 1199. The castle was not prepared for a siege, and allegedly only had two knights defending it. His hubris and needing to get his chainmail repaired meant Richard charged into the siege without all of his armor. Pierre Basile, one of the two knights who fashioned himself armor from scrap and had a frying pan for a shield managed to shoot Richard with a crossbow bolt. This didn’t kill Richard directly, and he ordered the boy be let live and paid 100 marks for managing to shoot him. Several days later, though, Richard died from an infection from the bolt, and Richard’s mercenaries killed Pierre anyway.
With Richard dead, John entered a conflict with his 12-year-old nephew, Arthur. King Philip of France exploited this and made a peace treaty with John in 1200 to hand over most of the English territories except Aquitaine to France. John agreed, but Philip then allied with Arthur and John subsequently decided to ignore the treaty. This continued fighting put the fourth crusade on hold that was called for by the Pope, the effects of which you can read about here. In 1202, Normandy became home to a three-way war. John invaded Normandy and attacked Philip at Chateau Gaillard, then moving south to meet Arthur at the Battle of Mirabeau. He would move back North, failing to secure Chateau Gaillard, and in 1203, returning to England, allowing Philip to take Normandy. John would continue to lose land in France for another decade, collapsing the Angevin Empire, and leading to the Baron’s War. In AC Lore, however, Altair was successfully traveling across parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia between 1197 and 1204 spreading the Assassin ideology as he went, only failing with the Siege of Constantinople at the end of the fourth crusade, and returning home bitter.
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great was married to Peter III who became Emperor of Russia in 1762 following literally a book’s worth of politicking. Catherine, however, never intended to play second-fiddle and was scheming behind the scenes before she was even married, cuckolding her husband and refusing to consummate the marriage for a while. Following their ascension, she put into plans to become the sole Empress, and executed a coup d’etat in July, just 6 months after their coronation. Catherine was made the sole Empress of Russia on July 9th, and Peter was assassinated a week later, which promotional material for the AC movie suggests was done by the Assassins. Ivan VI was then locked up, with Catherine suspecting he might make a play at the throne, and when he tried in 1764, she had him assassinated as well. While Catherine was not a Romanov, she did have family dating back to the Rurik dynasty, allowing her to be accepted as Empress. Some years later, Princess Tarakanova, an entertainer, became a pretender to the throne, and she allegedly died in 1775. It’s possible that she faked her death and took the name Dosifea and lived in a convent until she died in 1810, a conspiracy that AC would likely love to take part in.
While most of this post has been dedicated to militaries and wars, I’d rather discuss Catherine’s internal politics, a setting where more nuanced politics could really shine like some older games. Catherine did, however, have multiple campaigns in her 34-year reign, including the Russo-Turkish War, Russo-Persian War, and partitions of the Poland-Lithuania commonwealth, which had started under Peter The great. The Russian Empire was at one of its greatest extent under Catherine, attempting negotiations with China and Japan, and trying to be recognized as an “enlightened nation” by Western Europe.
While Catherine was ruthless, and a game where we take on assassinations hired by her, knowing or not, would be very interesting. But beyond this, she also set up a huge number of reforms and innovations. In 1768 she created the Assignation Bank, tasked with creating the first Russian Paper Currency, which it began in St Petersburg and Moscow. Catherine always made public health a priority as well. In 1762 she forced the military to update medical service, and in 1764 began opening hospitals. Soon afterward she created a centralized health administration for governing health policies and pushed the new inoculations against smallpox, which she took herself. By 1800, over 2 million people, or 6% of the Empire had inoculations, saving many lives. During this time, she also appointed 132 men to the Russian Senate to act as a coordinating agency of domestic administration.
Serfs and the impoverished made up a major part of Russian Society. Serfs were essentially slaves, being indentured servants bound to the land and having next to no rights. In 1762, Catherine owned 500,000 serfs, while the rest of Russia had 2,800,000. Her lack of connection to the serfs and crop failure combined with the epidemic of 1771 put serfs and other poor Russians on edge, leading to Pugachev’s Rebellion in 1773. Pugachev was a former lieutenant in the Russian Military, and seeing the discontent, promised an end to Serfdom while pretending to be the (late) Peter III. Throughout 1773, he proved to be a nuisance, with Catherine putting a 500 ruble bounty on his head while his generals sowed discontent and grew their ranks among the peasants, cossacks, and Old Ritualists. In 1774 he took Kazan, leading to Tsarist troops being sent where he was defeated. He escaped down the Volga river where he tried to take Tsaritsyn only to be betrayed by his own men and captured by Guards. He was tortured for months and executed in January of 1775. This rebellion did inspire some minor reforms to Serf rule, allowing them to sue their masters for not holding up their end of the bargain with basic needs, but she refused to liberate Serfs altogether. I could definitely see a game in St Petersburg and Moscow surrounding her early rule, assassinations to get to the top, and then the rebellion, and several Templar assassinations afterward, like the Pazzi Conspiracy, leading to a confrontation with Princess Tarakanova. That feels like a very Assassin’s Creed way to interpret the setting, and if done right, could be fantastic.
Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah was born to the King of the Kingdom of Gorkha, though his father had lost a series of wars and allowed Nepal to fragment further, losing major cities like Nuwakot and Kathmandu. From an early age, Prithvi desired to get these cities back for his father, and when he took the throne at age 20 in 1743, he did just that. His first battle was Nuwakot in late September of 1744, finally winning by splitting his army into 3 sections and storming the city, killing the ruler, Jayant Rana, a vassal of Jaya Prakash Malla, who ruled from Kathmandu. Soon afterward, he pushed for Kirtipur, but with defeat retreated
Prithvi, realizing Jaya was too strong to take head-on began using diplomacy to ally with small kingdoms around the Kathmandu Valley and conquering key strongholds, seeking to create economic turmoil and make his invasion easier. His second attempt to take the stronghold of Kirtipur in 1757 was a devastating defeat that cost the life of Prithvi's closest commander, Kalu Pande. Which took 6 years to fully recover from. In 1763, Makwanpur was conquered, and once again marched on Kirtipur in 1765. The third time's the charm, and he finally conquered it. This would lead to 6 months of constant battle near Chaukot, and despite losing several hundred men and important generals, the victory was the last thing needed to open up a pathway to Kathmandu.
Likely in late 1766 during the street festival of Indrjafta, Prithvi stormed the city of Kathmandu, taking it quickly and causing Jaya to flee. In April of 1767, Jaya attempted to open communications with the British East India Company, attempting to ally with them to stop Prithvi. The British commanders Thomas Rumbold and George Kinloch would end up sitting down for a discussion with both Jaya and Prithvi, agreeing on an expedition to Nepal to investigate for riches and trade deals with China, only to see famine, have their carts destroyed by guerilla warriors, and have many troops fall ill. As a result, they left Nepal, leaving Prithvi to clean up, and finishing conquering Bara, Parsa, Kathmandu, and Hilwall. Jaya would live for another year, acting as a devotee of Bhagwan. This was the first step to the unification of Nepal, and Prithvi would be crowned the King of Nepal, and thus was the last king of Gorkha. He would die a few months later in 1768, with his sons carrying his legacy, and finishing the unification of Nepal. Personally, this sounds like a great setting to continue the arc story idea that Valhalla tried with conquering and allying with various regions. Maybe Valhalla combined with Far Cry 5 in Nepal? (I guess that would just be Far Cry 4 then…)
- Winged Hussars and the Great Turkish War as a setting
- [RUMOR] Next Assassin´s Creed is returning to the Third Crusade? I try to decipher Jonathan´s Code.
- Somewhere in an alternate universe
More about Assassin's CreedPost: "The Reign of Great and Famous Monarchs in future AC Games" specifically for the game Assassin's Creed. Other useful information about this game:
- Noob Questions and opinions after getting to Athens for the first time.
- Assassin’s Creed 2: secret codes found in glyphs
- Assassin’s Creed III would have worked better as a linear game. [SPOILERS from a 9 years old game… God I feel old]
- New setting regarding rumours about future games and the AC writer comments on a setting in Brazil and Conquistadors.
- My definitive ranking of every AC game
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