In Regia Principatum (On the Principality Imperial) is a book written by the former Asgarnian Emperor Varis the Old Magnificent some way through the reign of Varissa the Young Magnificent, and takes an overarching look at the role of kingship and expressing how he believed it should be conducted. Copies of the book would be rare, having only been printed a few times for the personal libraries of fellow Greys rather than openly distributed.
From the hand of Varis, Third of His Name; Emperor and Autocrat of the Asgarn
On the Principality Imperial - The Enlightened & Absolute Imperator
When the ancient and sceptered realm of Asgarnia, tempered by war and politics, passed into my protectorship as the successor to my pious and patient brother, I was but a young man. Though I had seen conflict, and had accrued deep scars in the face of those adverse to the unity and dignity of Asgarnia’s peace, I had yet - in those early days - formed for myself a programme of good government by which I could administer the lands of Gielinor’s most majestic and puissant realm. Thus, in calling upon the wisdom of my ancestors, James the Conqueror and Varis the Great, and in innovations of my own, I did create a single movement, a single doctrine, by which Asgarnia carried itself - with strength, with nobility and with sensibility throughout.
In this essay, I shall detail this doctrine, which I have called One Asgarnia Nationalism, and hope that those who follow me will find solace and confirmation from these simple tenets by which a secure and confident stature can be held by Asgarnia, and its primacy amongst nations never impugned.
Absolutism - the steady foundation of state
What must always lie, at the heart of an Asgarn Empire, is a throne by which unlimited authority can be exercised, without valid question or complaint. This throne, graced by the presence of a legitimate Grey descendant of Raddallin, must be so in order to ensure that all other policies are carried out. The sovereign must be the keystone to all the arches of state, and to this end, one must take great care to select their close courtiers. Feudalism must be exchanged for royal governors, and the privileged, landed classes must be kept close, marshalled as an advisory circle rather than granted privilege over territory. Flatter them with titular distinctions and vague promises of influence, but it must be firmly established that there can be no territorial rival or pretender to the legitimate sovereign. You may, of course, choose from these gilded butterflies to form up your lieutenancy, but in all my experience, I have found the new classes, the advanced leaders of a regular military, to be the most loyal and most true of supporters. Discharge the duties of the day to day management of one’s treasuries and bureaucracy, but do not ignore them, for any errant mistreatment of these offices could lead to the surest disaster.
Most primary to this, however, is the insurance of the royal eminence. When a command is given, a policy ordered, you must ensure that whilst it may be tempered by some mild amendment by advisors, it must not be outrightly opposed. To that end, you must nurture a cult of personality, and nurse the attitude that those who oppose your will, therefore oppose Asgarnia. To this end, I recall the execution of Lord Harawood by mine own sword at the first Imperial Diet, with which I replaced the Imperial Parliament. The man was an otherwise unremarkable particularist and republican. Without serious following, he was - alone - of little threat to my Crown. However, he broke ranks from his peers and attempted to discredit and denounce the royal eminence, and for that, he had to die, and in his death, he made example of the opponent of the Crown as the enemy, and thus, the royal eminence was protected.
This leaves the only form of resistance to your will to be by means of rebellion, and by the other tenets of this One Asgarnia Nationalist doctrine, you shall be able to prevent and obstruct that rebellion to as great an extent as any ruler can achieve. Therein, you have one nation under God, and make no mistake, for that God is not Saradomin, but yourself. Whilst I entertained an illusion of piety, an illusion of the Saradominist sovereign, the Saradomin which I invoked was a device - not a deity. These two things must be made very clear, for if you try to make headway with genuine fondness for a God, then you must subject yourself to that most baselessly power-crazed class - the clergy. You must position your relationship with the God directly, as their ordained governor on the plane, and not through any alternate path - and most certainly not to make yourself beholden to a foreign sovereign, that most disgusting of despots, the Divine Rectorate.
Beneficence - the noblesse oblige of the throne
If one is to counter the movement of political liberalism of the ilk that Harawood championed, then one must be prepared to make concessions where it will not affect your throne, but people feel that they are best served. In this, I refer to the protection of the personal liberties of the citizen - and we must look upon the people with a modern viewpoint as citizens as much as they are subjects - where you can ensure that whilst they may not be represented, or advocated, to their sovereign, but their sovereign does clearly care for them. Though some diktats were handed down from my throne to this effect, no one person has made greater achievement in this than my own daughter Catherine, who as Erysail the Confessor did constitute Gielinor’s greatest code of laws and rights. Your ideals must appear radical, and enlightened, whilst also taking great securities to make sure that your power is not curbed or contained.
The other part of beneficence is that it attracts others to your cause - it creates a sense of your realm as a land of milk and honey - and therein, the loyalty of even the most hard-hearted foreign nationalist can be bend and twisted into a believer of a single Asgarnia, united and powerful in its single law. No longer is the sovereign the thief of rights, but their guarantor. What will become of the rights secured if the kind and noble monarch has been cast aside for some other tawdry despot or oligarchy? The hopes and dreams of the common people must rest on you, and only you, as the source of their salvation. At no point in our history was this more prevalent than when the Kinshra razed swathes of our farmland. I passed ordinances to restrict all people, noble and ignoble, and even myself and my kindred, to a rationed diet, so that all the food Asgarnia could still produce and could import was shared fairly. There was grumbling on the part of the privileged classes and I did feel hunger on such limited bread, but in doing this, the common man was convinced that it was I that represented them. Entertain your gilded butterflies all you like, but without the stinger of the wasp who toils at its paper nest, you will be but an ornament.
Tolerance - the choice of victory before the combat
Although the circumstances of the wars I faced were best served by sanctions against those of a Zamorakian or Bandosian faith, it is only truthfully the Godless conviction, with its anarchist principles and subversive methods, which need be fully suppressed. In times of peace, it is best not to have to fight large swathes of one’s own population, and so a policy of tolerance, an edict of indulgence, best serves the needs of the many and thus the needs of yourself. This is true both in the domestic, as you prevent unnecessary insurrection; and in the foreign, as you prevent frictions with foreign courts. Asgarnia is a fractured land, divided between many faiths, and to pretend that it is to the contrary is folly. You will have subjects that are Saradominist, and to them the masque of the priestly King shall be effective, but to your Guthixian, Armadylean and Zamorakian subjects, you must - with conviction - consent to their private worships and conducts, and protect those practices, so that those meetings - which will happen with or without your bidding - will not be twisted and turned against your eminence.
When it comes to tolerance in the sphere of foreign affairs, you will find much greater purchase with those who neighbour you, in usual circumstances, if you are flexible and open to them. Asgarnia, for decades, found no purchase with the Kharid because of its open and haughty disdain towards the Menaphite saracen. Dislike them all you like in public, but the saracen is wealthy, and puissant, and so to entertain them with tolerance helps clear a barrier to the prosperity of your realm, which will appease your bourgeois classes, and will line your own privy purse.
Tolerating the Zamorakian, as distasteful as that may be to the zealous in your Kingdom, is the best way to prevent the heretic from adhering to that most ancient foe, the Kinshra, and will aid you in forcing them into righteous submission, as it is to the King that their loyalty is owed, and their arm shall be twisted if they cannot accrue the bannermen to resist your own forces. Without an appeal to freedom, they are stripped naked of their disguise, and exposed in all nude villainy which you can condemn with fanciful ease.
Censure - the hammer to the steel
Rigorous justice, unbridled by excessive mercy, is the only way to ensure that the eminence permeates from the very top of your society to the bottom, and thus you must be a forgiving King, but only once. Let any man know that you are not beyond clemency towards those who may impugn your will and character, but should these warnings not be heeded, do not bother and trifle with the stocks or the gaol, but put them straight to the stake. Death is the only guarantee of the criminal’s end, and so you must always put them to death. Display the bodies as confirmation that your confident governance cannot and will not be countermanded, and for the ridicule of the foul enemy. One of my first royal acts was to hang the bodies of northern traitors from the walls of the city of Falador, and since then, I had made a policy of having the criminal impaled. This forest of corpses, macabre as it was, was a weapon of terror by which I enforced a constant reminder of my potence. The King must appear omnipotent and omnicompetent, and so the justice system must source its authority and charge from your law, the King’s law, a singular law upon which all Asgarnia - a single, united Asgarnia - is governed. You must stand above this system as its guardian, and so you are now not only the protector of the people’s rights, but also the protector of its just and proper deliverance.
Therefore, you conduct a dual function through the swift application of justice - you present an irrevocable and absolute will once more, without which governance becomes increasingly impossible, and you generate a new masque to wear: the mask of the impartial and trustworthy justice.
Machtpolitik - the art of diplomacy
The greatest folly one can make, in the art of diplomacy, is to let any illusion appear of your weakness or incapacity. Whilst you must be aware of where your deficiencies lie, for to deceive yourself of your deficiencies is in itself folly, you must present a hand that is sturdy to your competitors in the world. No competitor is more dangerous to the Grey Asgarn than the perfidious Vekon, and so no tangible concession must be made to them. Though I surrendered claims to the west of White Wolf Mountain, I restored those claims to my bloodline by my marriage to an Aerendyl Princess, and so it was of no real loss to me. By comparison, Vergil of Kandarin and his whore wife remain without any legitimacy to the Principality of Burthorpe. Though I was hasty and rash in my earlier reign, I later took a more calculative approach to my foreign affairs, and this is how you must always conduct yourself. Balance risks, and make treaties carefully. If your treaties are conducted with patience and willpower, then your diplomatic power shall increase. If you carelessly make alliances which you shatter and crack for punitive purposes, then your word shall not be trusted and you will be weakened. Act when it is most convenient and advantageous to act, and otherwise, hold your hand. Let others burn and preserve your majesty only for when victory will be most resounding.
With this approach, Grey diplomacy is at its most powerful, and the best example of this was after my granddaughter Varissa’s installation of Thaylon Grey as King of Camelot. This action was swift and potent, but its resolution came not purely from the superiority of Asgarnia’s strength, but also from the value of its guarantees. By offering guarantees to Kandarin, they have not only ensured the continued safety of Camelot, but also afforded pressure over Kandarin - the perfidious Vekon now answered, whether they like it or not, to the Throne of St Edward. As Asgarnian promises are made only when there is confidence they can be upheld, others recognise that they will be upheld, and so the diplomatic actions of a Grey King, compared to all others, are paramount, and people will strive to seek and honour those promises and pacts above all others.
The most key element, however, is that your diplomacy is always conducted from a position of strength. Enter into negotiation only after it has been made clear that you have the capacity to press terms by force. This forces a favourable deal, for many know that the price of resistance is just too high. Use this sparingly, however, so that you may be seen as erstwhile and tactical, and not singled out as a diplomatic bully, else you may see factions form against you in assembly. Build your foreign policy portfolio on few strong pacts, rather than scattered but plentiful mini-alliances, and you will control the weight of the world. If possible, divide enemies, and install dynasts from branches of your house. You must, in this, construct a full and proper sphere of influence. Others will attempt the same, and it is your obligation to frustrate this, through espionage and counter-diplomacy. There must be one world power, and that must be you.
Militarism - the bronze of the crown
Of course, none of the above is possible unless you embrace militarism, and in this, you must be wary to the construction and formulation of your military forces. Be careful with knight forces, for they will play ideology before loyalty, and will become a sticking point - maintain a small force of knights, for appearance and grandeur, but the bulk of your military should be a regular professional army, augmented by fencible regiments in times of crisis.
Ideally, your professional army should come from the lower and middle classes, and prospects of ascendancy and nobility must be floated for high performance. To your bosom, collect loyal officers through whom you exercise total control of the men, and these men shall be indoctrinated to carry out your orders without question. You are their sovereign, the source of their rise, and thus the beneficent god to their own designs.
The military must be wielded openly and often, be they training exercises or gendarmery, you must ensure the ubiquity of the soldier, as the iron of your will. By their strength and strict doctrine, you convince potential enemies and realpolitikal opponents of your might; but they also provide the greatest security against civil wars and coups. Save your own life, by coward’s means if necessary, and these men will die for you, fight the putschists and restore order in your name. Nothing must be allowed to convince you to sacrifice yourself and your state. Wife and children may be helped if you can, but you must be prepared to abandon them, for you have the tools with which to acquire more. Government comes first.
So, by the establishment of a proud, loyal and dependent military class, you have your enforcers, and a fresh and open pool of talent from which you can enhance your councils and governorates. Your realm becomes total and absolute in you. Indivisible therein, are the throne and the kingdom.
Thus detailed is the doctrine of One Asgarnia Nationalism. Although this can be adapted for use on other sovereignities, it best suits Asgarnia, and I pray that my successors, for so long as the House of Grey reigns, shall persist in the mastery of these arts. Take these lessons of past and circumstance, imbibe them, adapt them, and continue to evolve. I built my policies on those of my great predecessors, and so I conclude this on a final note.
You may stand on the shoulders of giants, but giants are inconstant and moveable. Construct for yourself a fortress, and it may be sieged down. Twist nature to your advantage, and you have a mountain, and with such vantage your order shall never be torn asunder.