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England is a country that is part of the British Isles. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west. The Irish Sea lies north west of England, whilst the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. The North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separate England from continental Europe. The country covers much of the central and southern part of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic; and includes over 100 smaller islands such as the Isles of Scilly, and the Isle of Wight.
England is a realm in conflict, and the struggles among the Kindred have occasionally made themselves felt in the mortal world, especially over the last two decades. The British Isles are small and relatively densely populated, and friction arises between fiefs as well as between clans.
The Endless ConflictEdit
For centuries London has been racked by a power struggle between the Ventrue and Tremere, which constantly threatens to spill over into the rest of the country. Though recent years have plagued Britain with many new threats, including a volatile anarch situation and a growing Sabbat presence, the Ventrue/Tremere rivalry continues apace. As far as anyone knows, the rivalry between Tremere and Ventrue dates back to about the 13th century - the time, some say significantly, when the fief of Winchester moved from Glastonbury. The powers attributed to Winchester's Tremere elders are immense. However, no direct connection has ever been proved between Winchester and subsequent events in London.
The growing power of London over the rest of the country, through Ventrue control of the monarchy, led to various of the smaller fiefs sponsoring the Barons' Revolt of 1258. Efforts to circumvent the effects of Ventrue power over the king - of which the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 was one result - had come to nothing, and although the revolt was not planned or orchestrated by the lesser fiefs in concert, one by one almost all of them encouraged their mortal pawns to join in. Vampiric support of Simon de Montfort's institution of the English Parliament was a clear message to the Ventrue of London that expansion would not go unchecked.
The Black Death of the mid-14th century helped create more distrust among the Kindred. London's ancient prince, Mithras, and his followers had already decided that the Barons' Revolt was a nationwide conspiracy against London, and rumors that the plague had been created deliberately by an unholy alliance of Tremere and Setites raised Ventrue feelings in London to the pitch of paranoid hysteria.
The situation became even worse when it was discovered that the Black Death could affect Kindred directly, as well as threatening their food supply; the ninth and 10th generations in London were all but wiped out when they caught the plague by feeding on tainted mortals. A few of earlier generations also succumbed, but the thinner, younger Blood was most susceptible. As the country's largest city, London was naturally hardest hit by the plague, and reports of extensive damage in other fiefs were largely ignored as conspiracy panic ran wild.
Mithras siezed the opportunity to rid himself of an obstructive Tremere faction on the London primogen, and through pawns he orchestrated a popular outcry against the Tremere. In a major military and political coup, Ventrue agents instigated a series of witch-trials. These trials robbed the Tremere of most of their mortal agents, and although appeals for aid were sent to Vienna, the Council of Seven did nothing. For a century or so, the Tremere of London went into hiding; some, it is said, made their way to safe exile in Winchester.
For the next couple of centuries, the Ventrue grip on London - and thus on much of England - was secure. The Tremere were too weak and scattered to fight openly, but they followed the example of the rest of their clan in Europe by subtly gaining control of a number of important trade guilds as the middle classes rose in power. Their most notable success throughout Europe was with the stonemasons. The Ventrue had concentrated their efforts on the throne and the nobility, and as the feudal system declined they found the economic power of the middle classes an ever-present annoyance. The Tremere continued to shape the craft guilds into more flexible organizations, creating a potent political weapon as guild membership became instrumental in selecting the Lord Mayor of London and various other mortal dignitaries. Eventually, the power of the crown and nobility in London was effectively short-circuited.
In mainland Europe, the Reformation was in full swing as nation after nation broke from Rome and embraced Protestantism. Henry VIII of England did so for his own reasons and without any Kindred involvement, although elsewhere in Europe the Reformation was encouraged as a means of beaking free of a growing Ventrue stranglehold on power, articulated in the breathing world through the Church. London Brujah seized the chance to remove a number of Ventrue and their mortal pawns, and strip others of their power, through the Act of Supremacy which made the king - ironically now abandoned by the London Ventrue - head of Church and State at once, and held Catholic sentiment as treason. European connections were also held to be suspect, weakening the Tremere further as all hope of aid from Vienna was cut off.
A further dimension was added to the turmoil as Clan Toreador formally entered the fray. With London's Ventrue weak, local Toreador recruited help from their traditional stronghold of Edinburgh; as Brujah and Ventrue fought each other to place their mortal pawns on the throne, the matter was suddenly settled when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Both Brujah and Ventrue suspected each other of complicity in this move, but it was simply a naked move for power by the Toreador.
The Toreador coup had been well planned, and for a while all was comparatively peaceful. The Ventrue lay low and regrouped, while the Brujah were divided by suspicion and recrimination and briefly lost all unity and cohesion. Fresh witch-trials, fuelled by an antiwitchcraft tract published under King James' name, held the Tremere down, although the Catholic Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is believed by many to have been backed by the Tremere.
Toreador rule came to an end mainly because of political naivete. Clinging singlemindedly to their control of the king, they found themselves outmaneuvered and isolated by a popular antiroyalist movement. The Ventrue had learned the bitter lesson about the power of the commons, and were able to deal Toreador power a severe blow with the execution of Charles I and the rise of Cromwell's Roundheads.
The English Civil War was fought by night as well as by day. Ventrue specialists had assisted in the creation of a near unstoppable force in the New Model Army, and in the person of Oliver Cromwell they had their most effective mortal agent for some centuries. The Toreador continued to fight for the throne, and the flamboyant Royalist Cavaliers reflected their idea of an army as much as the Roundheads reflected the Ventrue preference for effectiveness at any cost. A decade of struggle ensued, with early Ventrue gains being effectively consolidated until the death of Cromwell in 1658.
The Toreador-now said to be backed by the regrouped power of the Tremere - were able to restore the monarchy after a series of tense peace negotiations with the Ventrue, but the peace was fragile and conspiracies were exposed among Kindred and kine alike. The Great Fire of London in 1666, though widely suspected to be the work of anarchs, was thought by some Kindred to have been Tremere-inspired. The plague which swept the city in the previous year raised the spectre of a Tremere-Setite alliance. Both Toreador and Ventrue were weakened by the events of the past century, and the time was ripe for a coup. It was the Ventrue, however, who prevailed with the founding of the House of Orange, and the Act of Union which joined Scotland to England and Wales and created the United Kingdom was a clear signal to the Edinburgh Toreador that London was not to be trifled with.
The 1693 Treaty of Durham will not be found in any mortal history books, but was a turning-point for the Kindred of the British Isles. The Toreador were effectively routed, and in exchange for Ventrue guarantees not to attack their stronghold in Edinburgh they agreed to seek no power in London beyond Elysium, and never to conspire with or offer support to the Tremere. The Toreador emissaries in London were deemed to have the status of hostages to guarantee the treaty, and a smaller number of Edinburgh Ventrue were likewise agreed to stand surety against any Ventrue attack or encroachment. The Tremere, for their part, were thought to have been broken by the witch-trials of the previous century.
But certain factions within Clan Toreador chafed at the humiliation of this forced treaty, and in 1715 several Edinburgh Ventrue were slaughtered and a Scottish uprising sought to put James Stewart, "The Old Pretender," on the throne of England. This rising failed, but the Toreador tried again 30 years later and came closer to success with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The Ventrue of London had their hands full at this time, trying to repair an incident two years earlier in which an anarch named Rutherfurd had made a misguided attempt to take over a prominent Masonic lodge by openly revealing himself and a certain amount of Kindred lore. While the uprisings were put down, London made no move against Edinburgh, and although a few of the Toreador hostages in London were destroyed in reprisal, most renounced any attachment to Edinburgh and some even voluntarily Blood Bound themselves to Mithras.
The end of the century saw a great influx of French Kindred into London. The French Revolution decimated the mortal aristocracy, and the chateau havens of many French Kindred had been destroyed. Most of the refugees were Ventrue and willingly swore allegiance to Mithras, strengthening the Ventrue in London even further. With Mithras in undisputed command of London, a period of stability began which was to last almost until the end of the 19th century. The growing industrial towns of the north developed into lesser fiefs, and many looked to London rather than nearby York for a lead; some were even colonized from London by Mithras' own progeny. Britain reached the height of its imperial power, and Mithras became one of the most respected Kindred in the world. The anarchs were growing in power throughout the islands, but their main strength remained in the industrial north, where they had a part in the early history of the Labour movement, cashing in on the disruption caused by the Luddite and Chartist movements. London was largely untouched.
Though cowed, the Tremere were far from defeated. In the latter part of the 19th century, there was a surge in popular interest in spiritualism and other occult matters, which Britain's Tremere (and Britain's mages) did much to encourage. Table-rappers and palm-readers flourished, and so many small organizations grew up that it was impossible to tell the genuine from the charlatans, much less discover which group -if any-was Tremere-sponsored. This effective smokescreen kept the genuine Tremere operations largely safe from Ventrue agents, and before long chantries were established in all but the smallest of the new fiefs.
Mithras was enraged by the resurgence of the Tremere, and frustrated by their tactics which made his agents search through hundreds of suspects without finding a trace of Tremere involvement. After a few abortive actions in which it was clear that the Masquerade would fall before the Tremere did, Mithras changed his tack, and used a Malkavian pawn to Embrace a rebellious occultist named Aleister Crowley.
Convinced that he belonged to a clan of vampires called Tremere, Crowley ran wild, appalling mortal society, threatening the Masquerade at every turn and sickening the Kindred of Britain. His actions seriously embarrassed the Tremere and weakened their political position severely. The occult revival was stalled, and even after the truth of the matter was discovered, the ruse had done its work. The Tremere ceased most of their activities, and by the end of World War I they were once more almost invisible.
The rocky economic history of the interwar years was entirely a mortal phenomenon, but it had an effect on the Kindred in most parts of the world. The Ventrue tried to maintain their grip, but anarchs saw their chance and staged an impressive show of strength which left the Ventrue unable to stop the General Strike of 1926. Over the next decade Mithras tried to reverse the trend, but by the outbreak of World War II London was torn by dissention. The Ventrue suspected that the Tremere lay behind the anarch gains of the last 20 years, but were unable to find evidence of direct involvement.
London suffered terribly in the war, being not only the capital but the largest industrial city within range of German bombers. Much of the heart of the city was razed, and Mithras has not been seen or heard from since the bombing began. Some think he was destroyed in his haven, while others suspect that he is lying in wait, ready to pounce when the Tremere reveal themselves openly.
The English FiefsEdit
England consists mainly of fertile lowlands in the south and east, with hills and moorland in the north and west. The highest point is Scafell in Cumbria, at 978 meters (approx. 3180 feet). Major river systems are the Thames in the southeast, the Severn in the southwest, and the Humber, Tees and Tyne in the north.
Below there is a brief description of the English Fiefs (note that the fiefs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ulster and Connachta are not described in this page for they are not english. For additional information you might also check: British Isles (cWOD).
London is by far the largest fief in the British Isles, and many Kindred think of it as the oldest. (In fact, the small fief of Winchester is older.) London has a resident population of over 15 million kine in its 610 square miles, and a commuting population which also numbers in the millions. Founded, according to legend, in Roman times, the fief of London regards itself as the most important (indeed, the only important) Kindred community in the British Isles. The Prince of London used to be one of the most powerful Cainites in the world, but over recent years the fief has been torn by instability and strife.
Since Prince Mithras' disappearance during the London Blitz, London has been ruled by Lady Anne, a Ventrue elder backed by a slight majority of Ventrue. Her position is far from secure, for there are would-be princes among her Ventrue Kindred as well as in other clans. The Queen of London, as she styles herself, is desperately trying to consolidate her position and restore some kind of order to the fief. After some initial setbacks, the Ventrue have reestablished their control of most of the city's governmental and commercial apparatus, but the damage done by anarchs has been considerable.
The Anarch Movement has become extremely strong in London, and so well-organized that if it is stamped out in one place it immediately springs up somewhere else. At the same time, the Tremere have established a measure of control in the police forces and judiciary of London and other fiefs through their infiltration of the Freemasons; while they themselves are elusive, the Tremere can pull strings to reverse Ventrue gains and embarrass Ventrue interests.
Britain's second-largest city in terms of mortal population, Birmingham is a comparatively modern fief, and its Kindred are regarded as upstarts by their cousins in London-many of whom can remember the nights before the Industrial Revolution when Birmingham was a village with pretensions of being a local market town. It is a little more peaceful and better organized than London, and the rapid growth of its mortal population over the last century, together with careful regulation by its prince, has helped Birmingham avoid the unfortunate incidents in London. Birmingham is currently in the throes of an establishment crackdown organized mainly by the Ventrue. Unwilling to allow a civil war to arise as it has in London, the Prince of Birmingham is taking active steps, with the full support of his small primogen, to crush any dissent and instability. An attempted anarch rising in the early '70s was ruthlessly put down, and the city has been ruled by an iron hand ever since. Small, isolated cells of anarchs still plot and fret in various parts of the city, but all are too nervous and distrustful to organize. However, Sabbat agents in the area have made recent overtures of aid, and Birmingham's anarchs have tenatively expressed interest.
Originally separate and very small fiefs, Manchester and Liverpool united in the mid-1970s, when it became apparent that they would shortly become one continuous urban sprawl. Unifying the two fiefs was a major political coup, creating a new domain with a sufficient population of Kindred to be reckoned with.
Liverpool is exceptional - some say unique - in the fact that its prince is from the Brujah clan. The Ventrue presence in the city has always been small and weak, and many Ventrue have chosen to leave the fief, seeing no possibility there to further the interests of their clan. This has had a deep effect on the character of the city, on both sides of the sunrise. Liverpool has always been an eclectic, creative and freewheeling city, and it has also been wracked by tremendous internal conflicts from time to time. Practically ignored by the authorities "down south," Liverpool has had to make its own way in the world, and has developed a strong personality in the process. Its people - "Scousers" to the rest of Britain - are known for their quick wits, eye to the main chance and sly humor.
Manchester grew up as one of many northern industrial cities in the 19th century, and is still seen as a city of factories. It has one of the largest Chinese populations in Britain, with an extensive Chinatown which would not look out of place in San Francisco. For some time the city was a free domain, without a prince or primogen; Kindred could come and go there as they pleased. By the end of the 19th century, though, so many Cainites had been attracted by the city's growing mortal population that some kind of organization was necessary. The freedom of the city had attracted a large Brujah contingent from all over Europe, and while princes of various clans came and went, they always ruled at the pleasure of a primogen which was largely Brujah-controlled. This Brujah dominance was one factor which made the unification of Manchester and Liverpool a comparatively peaceful affair, and the fief now attracts Brujah and anarchs from all points of the compass.
The fief is still called York, and it is one of the oldest in the land. Effectively, though, it has shifted to the Leeds/Bradford metropolitan area, following the expansion of the mortal population there. The fief of York was founded, according to tradition, less than a century after London, as the Roman fortress-city of Eburacum began to attract a large population. Once briefly the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the city was one of the few Roman settlements to survive into Saxon times - as Eoforwic, a thriving riverport. When the Danes took over northern England, this port was a natural choice for their capital, although they had trouble pronouncing the Saxon name and changed it to Jorvik. After the fall of the Danelaw, York continued in its prominence - the second archbishopric after Canterbury, and the capital of the powerful county of Yorkshire.
The Kindred of York strove constantly to live in harmony with the fief of London while maintaining their independence. One local tradition maintains that the Danes were invited to York as a buffer to the Ventrue-sponsored expansion and consolidation of the southern Saxon kingdoms. Through the Middle Ages, the two fiefs of London and York were the main powers in the land, and the others - save Winchester - always looked to them for a lead.
Even today, York is a fief of considerable influence, blessed with a stability which dates back centuries. To some, York is conservative - even reactionary - but it prides itself on having weathered almost two millennia without serious strife. The Ventrue Prince of York has achieved a masterly balance and harmony with the city's primogen, and so far each clan has been able to pursue its interests in harmony with all the others.
Industry and security are almost exclusively in Ventrue and Tremere hands, with a significant Toreador contingent - mostly resident in the "old city" of York - busying itself with all manner of artistic events. Gangrelare said to have the run of York's extensive and beautiful countryside, and there are even rumors of a nonaggression pact with the Lupines of the area. The Malkavian population is small and for the most part easily amused, and in a major diplomatic coup the Brujah of York are in full support of the established system, acting as tribunes to check any unseemly growth of power in any faction, and as guardians to prevent outside problems coming in. Anarchs are not welcome in York, and even the younger Kindred are more or less in agreement that the system works and should not be changed.
It is said that there is a small Assamite base somewhere in the fief, probably sheltered by the area's large Indo-Pakistani population; some are worried by this news, but others believe that the Assamites were invited here by the primogen, to help maintain the fiefs stability.
- A World of Darkness Second Edition, p. 51-53