The first European settlements of the Island were the so-called “privateer” settlements in the south-eastern portion of the Island. The first of these was Drago; it was first settled in 1786. Others in this area include Cresca and Driscoll, which were founded a few years later. The use of the term “privateer” is misleading because the settlers of these places were a mixture of freed indentured servants, fugitive criminals and religious dissenters. The everglade hinterlands prohibited a great deal of growth but these communities were nevertheless peaceful and prosperous under most conditions through fishing and trade.
The few indigenous peoples on the Island mostly lived on its southwestern regions, where there was real “terra firma.” The Europeans quickly discovered this fact; the indigenous population suffered the same fate as many others that were exposed to new diseases. The first European settlement here was Collina, which was established in 1798. It was similar to the other settlements, but the terrain made for easier growth through cultivation of cash crops. The Republic of Collina was formally established in 1821; it was the Island’s first proper nation-state. Its territory roughly corresponded with its territory shown above but including Point Collina.
Rise of Verecunda and Beran
The two greatest nations on the Island were started in an entirely different way than the other small communities.
Verecunda was started as a chartered business venture; the town itself was first settled at what is now the port in 1816. Most of the peninsula was farmed for cash crops, these farms quickly expanded into what is now Uranus, which was however in need of drainage for proper cultivation. This need—along with defence considerations—slowed the settlement of Uranus. Verecunda grew to the point where the company that started it could no longer govern a population whose desire and ability for self-government grew with its number. In 1828 the charter was broken and the Republic of Verecunda was established. A representative government was established with freedom of speech, the press and religion. Nevertheless the civic life of the city-state was dominated by its propertied and merchant class, a common state of affairs in this part of the nineteenth century.
Beran was another matter altogether. It was established up on the Beran Bay by a group of people whose objective was to establish a non-Christian state in the wake of the Restoration. Beran was first settled in 1819, and quickly made two discoveries. The first was that a true anarchy—an objective of some of the settlers—was a recipe for chaos. The second was that, although there many who wanted to get away from Christianity, those who would embrace outright atheism were fewer in number than real anarchists. The problems were solved by the rise of Aaron Maxwell, who first instituted an extreme—or debased depending upon your point of view—form of Masonry as the only permitted religion in the realm, then had himself crowned King Aaron of Beran in 1825. Beran was an absolute monarchy without any democratic institutions or even peerage.
Beran’s embracing of the Lodge attracted settlers; the King’s deft handling of patronage made it possible to keep them. To insure an adequate labour force, Beran began the importation of African slaves almost from the beginning of the Kingdom. This freed up the European settlers for fighting and oversight. Without any Christian presence, Beran’s slave system was extraordinarily cruel and not subject to abolition; this sowed the seed for the downfall of Beran in the next century.
The growth of both Beran and Verecunda placed them as rivals for the largest territory between them, Uranus. Both of these powers fought several wars for this territory. Although Beran had the better quality military, the numerically larger citizen army of Verecunda was backed with a stronger economy, along with its alliance with Collina. The end of these wars came in 1867, with the Treaty of Hallett, which made Uranus an “independent protectorate” of Verecunda while allowing Beran certain trading rights in the territory. The same year King Aaron of Beran died; his son Aaron II succeeded him.
The Zenith of Beran
The settlement of the Uranus question also settled another one: Verecunda acknowledged Beran’s control over what is now Vidamera and areas north and east. The city itself was established as a military outpost of Beran in 1841. Throughout its history, Beran had been interested in the central and eastern portions of the Island, but with the end of hope for taking Uranus its expansionism there became in earnest. The history of the East Island under Beran is complicated, punctuated by revolts and administrative changes which foreshadowed the nations which followed Beran’s collapse.
Aaron II died in 1887, and was succeeded by his son Hiram. By then the glory days of Beran were in full swing; their military had taken control of the rest of the Island during the 1870’s. Both the cities of Claudia and Serelia were started as military outposts during this period.
Beran prohibited slavery outside of Beran’s proper territory, which was what is now Aloxa, so those who actually established plantations (and there weren’t many) were forced to import paid labour from wherever they could. Moreover, although Beran’s administration was rigidly centralised, they realised that their ability to control the existing settlements, which had commercial ties with Verecunda and the mainland, were limited. So it was Beran’s policy to grant these cities special charters, which gave them internal self government, continuation of their religious liberties and some special trading rights with each other and other powers while placing them under Beran’s sovereignty. These included Drago, Cresca, and what was then named Cavittown (now Fort Albert), where citrus cultivation had begun. It also included Alemara, which had began as a breakaway city-state from Driscoll in 1832 and which eclipsed and ultimately annexed Driscoll in 1860. These special charters would play an important role long after Beran was gone.
Beran’s takeover of the rest of the Island effectively split the Island into two separate regions with differing social, economic and political traditions. This separation was still very much in evidence at the time of The Ten Weeks.
In 1910 Beran began construction of its “North Road,” which extended around the northern perimeter of the Island from Beran to Drago. This was the last great Island wide public works project for the rest of the century. The road was completed in 1920, just in time for the collapse of Beran itself.
Verecunda during these years was, like Beran, prosperous and growing, but in a different way. Having Uranus for a hinterland and Collina for a neighbour tended to isolate the city from the rest of the Island. During the last part of the nineteenth century, Verecunda constructed Uranus’ canal system and thus insured proper irrigation and drainage of the territory. Governments were elected and changed in an orderly way. Verecunda was very much aware, however, that Beran had designs to finish its conquest of the Island, so it began to take steps to counter this. These steps, helped by other events, proved more successful than Verecunda had hoped.
Hiram had three sons and two daughters; his oldest daughter Ophelia married Theodore Amherst, Beran’s largest landholder and the descendant of one of the original settlers, in 1896. They had three sons in rapid succession; the third, Elton, was born in 1899. Elton realised that, with Beran’s strict rules of primogeniture, he would never inherit any of the family estate. So he plotted with some of the family’s slaves to overthrow his father and elder brothers and take over the estate. The plot was revealed; although he had committed a capital offence, as a member of the royal family Elton was exiled to the eastern part of the Island in 1921. By that time everyone—including the Verecundans—were aware of the high level of discontent amongst Beran’s large slave population, which outnumbered the white population in Beran almost two to one. Verecundan agents began their work but things didn’t need much encouragement; in June 1923 (during Summer Court) the slave revolt exploded in Beran. The slaves won their freedom by slaughtering virtually the entire white population. None of the royal family escaped and neither did any of the notables, including the Amhersts, except those that were living outside of Beran at the time. The black people established the Kingdom of Aloxa, with King Andrew as first king. Ironically its governance was as centralised as Beran’s had been; this was certainly the case at the time of The Ten Weeks.
The destruction of Beran in its homeland did not simultaneously involve the rest of Beran’s vast holdings on the Island. However, everyone would soon find to their grief a central truth about highly centralised organisations and nations: once decapitated, it is very difficult to keep the pieces together. The individual who was in the best position to do this was Mahlon Mansfield, younger brother of Beran’s last queen Adrienne. In August he proclaimed himself King of Beran and made his goal to keep the existing empire together and to then reconquer old Beran. His efforts were dogged by disaster from the very beginning.
The first setbacks took place before the year 1923 was out; in November Alemara, fearing Mahlon would revoke its charter, declared its full independence. Verecunda, who sent military aid, backed it up immediately. By the 1930’s Alemara was the entrepôt of the eastern part of the Island. It was set up as a free city republic with a representative form of government, which varied in form over the years but not in basic principle.
The second body blow to Mahlon’s vision came early the following month when a young army officer in the far northeast named Albert Serelia proclaimed the Serelian Kingdom. He had made a compact with five of the large landowning families in the northeast to create the Kingdom, including the Amhersts, who lived west of what is now Serelia city, and the Serlins, who lived on the eastern end of Lake Morris. Elton Amherst, as King Hiram’s grandson, had the strongest claim of anyone on the Island to the throne of Beran, but feared exercising the claim for the backlash it would create at home and elsewhere.
Mahlon decided to leave Alemara for the time being and deal with Serelia. Mahlon probably would have succeeded in eliminating his rival except for two very strong events in Serelia’s favour: the help of Verecunda which, freed from having to extensively garrison the Aloxan border, had more resources to put into adventures like this, and the additional support of communities like Drago and Cresca. To win their support Albert reaffirmed their charters from Beran; this also was a plus with Verecunda.
The first part of the war was a direct invasion of Serelia down the North Road. It was stopped with difficulty by a combined force lead by the King and Elton Amherst. The situation became a stalemate until 1926 when Hiram Abiff Masters, patriarch of one of Serelia’s “first families,” came to Albert with a plan. Understanding both the weak support the Claudian monarchy had around Alemara and Vidamera and getting some support from the Hallett region (led by Arthur Stanley, whose descendants play a key role in The Ten Weeks,) he lead an expedition that came just north of Alemara, and attacked the important Claudian base of Fort Arlo. Stanley was killed in the conflict but Masters’ forces won and Mahlon suffered a disastrous defeat. Faced with his remaining realm to be split in half, Mahlon acknowledged Serelia’s independence and the border was drawn roughly at the western Serelian border today shown above.
Mahlon’s fears about the southern part of his realm came true two years later, when Claude Deram, another scion of a prominent Beran family (from what is now Williamstown) who had happened to be in Vidamera for the Revolt, declared Vidamera’s independence and set himself up as King Claude. Mahlon attempted to regain yet another breakaway monarchy but his attempt was easily repulsed. Again Verecunda aided the new nation, along with Alemara, whose independence Vidamera recognised in perpetuity.
By the time Mahlon died in 1931, his dreams of rebuilding Beran were in ruins. His son Solomon recognised this, and proclaimed the Claudian Kingdom with his remaining realm, naming it after the islands he shared with Serelia and which were named after the first queen of Beran. He set up his nation as a “mini-Beran” complete with the Lodge. Except for an abortive invasion of Aloxa in 1936, Claudia’s military activities were mostly defensive during Solomon’s reign.
Verecunda’s ability to abet the rebels in the old Beran empire made it possible for it to become the Island’s pre-eminent nation by the mid-1920’s. In addition to these advances, Verecunda made progress on a number of fronts.
The first one was Collina. Without a common enemy, Collina was no longer as important to Verecunda as it had been. Verecunda’s main concern with Collina was the Point, which continually threatened Verecunda’s use of its own port. After an enormous amount of political pressure and the veiled threat of war, Verecunda got what it wanted: in 1927, Collina agreed to a land swap of the Point for farming country in western Uranus. Collina never really accepted this arrangement, which was reflected in its seizure of the Point during the Aloxan invasion.
The main story in Verecunda centred on its economic development. Subject to the ups and downs of the world around it and the occasional hurricane, Verecunda enjoyed overall economic growth in the fifty years following Beran’s collapse. In addition to the usual farming and fishing activities, the growth of tourism fuelled a boom (albeit inconsistent) in the economy of the country. The course of this growth led directly to the situation at the time of The Ten Weeks; that is described in its introduction.
An Island Divided
Once the wars following Beran’s collapse ended, most of the rest of the Island went into a long period of suspended animation, interrupted by the occasional border war. Some of these stories have already been told; the rest are briefly summarised here.
Aloxa enjoyed smooth development and continuity. King Andrew I died in 1936, succeeded by his son Andrew II, who reigned until 1961. Under these kings the Aloxan system of farming and fishing became well established and, with some of the Island’s best land, the Aloxans enjoyed a sort of prosperity that was ahead of the rest of the Island.
Andrew III, Andrew II’s son, succeeded him; however, he was assassinated in a political dispute in 1967. This brought to the throne his son Leslie, an energetic ruler who continued his ancestors’ policies.
Vidamera had the advantage of being in the Island’s effective trade centre, and next door to Alemara. King Claude, however, never took full advantage of this, partially because he feared the creation of rivals to his rule. Things became so restless, however, that in 1958 he created the first landed peerage. The long-term effect of this was to create a system of “warlords” in the country. As long as a strong monarch was on the throne, the system worked reasonably well
Except for Claudia, Serelia slept the most soundly during most of the century. Albert’s long reign was a replica of Beran in almost every way except for the Lodge; one autocrat with a collection of powerful families that were both his chief supporters and rivals at the same time. Fishing and cash crops of various kinds dominated the economy; only the St. Anne’s School, established with the convent in 1937, served as a place where outsiders might want to come for any reason other than minor trading.
No account of the history of the Island would be complete without some dealings with the religious development. Many things have been said about this already; this section should fill in some gaps.
The “privateer” communities that started the island had some settlers who came for religious freedom or as missionaries. In the east, these were mostly Methodists; in the west, Baptists and other independent groups. The Methodists’ centralised organisation did well in the environment in the east; they provided a religion people could believe in and an ecclesiastical structure that could survive the rigours of the political climate, which ultimately included Beran.
In Verecunda and Collina the scene was further complicated by the arrival of other groups, including the Anglicans, who established the Anglican Church of Verecunda, the Presbyterians, Methodists and Roman Catholics. Both Collina and Verecunda had freedom of religion in their constitutions, but neither country had an especially strong religious tradition.
When we speak of “the Lodge” in Beran, we are not just talking about the Grand Lodge in Beran proper, but the whole Masonic system spread out through the realm. This even extended to the chartered towns. Although officers in the Grand Lodge and other were subject to royal approval, the Lodge was the only institution in Beran with any democratic machinery.
The collapse of Beran saw two developments of great import for the present narrative: the Pentecostal churches and the Church of Serelia. Pentecostal missionaries first came to the Island about the time of Beran’s collapse; the first Pentecostal church was in Driscoll, established in 1926. They experienced the usual kinds of opposition, even though some places had holiness churches that had come out of Methodism. In the east their initial growth was slow, but picked up during the 1950’s. The Crescan Pentecostal Fellowship, which included churches in Alemara, Vidamera and the chartered cities, was organised from existing churches in 1954. The Alemaran and Vidameran churches pulled out of this in 1965, at the insistence of the Serelian government, to form the Sangler River Pentecostal Fellowship, which also included churches in Uranus as well. The remaining churches in what became Drahla were important in the country’s independence movement.
Pentecostal churches fared best in Aloxa; after Albert I’s edict of toleration, they grew rapidly, especially in the north. They were the only competitors to the shamanism that became rooted in Aloxan society. These kinds of churches were never popular in Verecunda or Collina. The Charismatic Renewal made a considerable impact in the 1960’s and early 1970’s in many churches in Verecunda, but it was one of the first victims of the new regime’s religious policies.
The church of Serelia was established, as was its mother church, by the desire of the sovereign, and it was extended to the entire realm. Except in the chartered cities, it was the only church permitted. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Vidamera and Alemara became something of a “battleground” between the Serelian and Verecundan Anglican churches; to settle the matter, the Anglican churches (both of them) in these countries were organised into their own autonomous diocese and province in 1934. This diocese got a shot in the arm upon Drahlan independence, as the Serelian churches in Drahla were added to it.