|People of The Kalmar Union|
|The Kalmar Union|
Born into a moderately wealthy farming family in Corruna, Leon in 1796, Enrique del Olmo, the 'Leonese Tiger', became one of the most feared, and most respected, military commanders of the 19th century.
The third son out of eight children, Enrique's parents died (reportedly as a result of a bolting horse) when he was nine years of age leaving his eldest brother Francisco to inherit the family farm. Considered weak by his two elder brothers he was enrolled in the Leonese army at the tender age of 11. Serving as an gunner in the artillery he soon proved his worth and his tutors, recognising a keen analytical mind, soon had him commanding his own unit. By 1816 he had been made a captain. By this point at home the farm was struggling. Crop harvests had been poor for several years and then came 1816 - the 'year without summer'. The family farm could no longer cope with the mouths to feed. Enrique gladly supported his younger brother and sisters and they moved with him to modest lodgings in Oviedo, paying for their education.
By the end of 1816, however, his skills as a commander were called for as revolts sparked by rising food prices were springing up across Leon. Most were put down with little ceremony but in the Asturias a significant peasant army had taken hold. Led by King Alfonso XIII, unpopular by any measure, the royal army slowly wore away the rebellion and by 1819 had broken it up. Ignoring his advisors Alfonso drove the army on into Castile which had failed to deal with their own peasant rebellions and was now in the grip of a democratic tyranny. Expectations that the Leonese would be welcomed as liberators were sorely misguided. By midsummer the Leonese were in full retreat and by November Alfonso had fled the country. His brother, the meek Duke of Galicia, was placed on the throne. While Ferdinand IX relaxed policies his government was totally unprepared for the pent-up anti-monarchy feeling of the populace and freedom of the press was soon revoked, to even more anger. However much they rejoiced in the exile of Alfonso they were absolutely appalled by the execution of Castile's King, Henry VIII, and Ferdinand was damned by association. Del Olmo for his part was ambivalent about the politics at the top. Writing to his brothers in 1820 he said as long as the army continued to pay him a wage he cared little who was in charge.
By the winter of 1820, however, the Leonese government was falling apart. Castile intervened again, this time annexing the kingdom, abolishing the monarchy and introducing conscription. Earlier in the year Europe had begun to wake up to the commotion in Iberia and had started making plans for invasion. The Leonese and Granadan armies were incorporated into the greater Castilian one and, recognised as one of Leon's brightest commanders, del Olmo soon found his way into the command of a small battalion tasked with defence of the eastern approaches of Madrid. He was also tasked with the unenviable position of seizing eastern Madrid and imposing martial law if things ever got out of control. The military was increasingly calling the shots in the Cortes anyway. The grandees and deputies had largely lapsed into directionless squabbling which had spilled out on to the streets and different factions took turns to butcher each other.
While the government turned in on itself the European powers were advancing. Aragon and Portugal invaded on the same day as the Granadan Emirate was officially dissolved. While their advance was slow it was steady. Behind the lines del Olmo was tasked with creating a last-ditch army, almost from scratch with little logistical support. 'The Winter Army' as it was called was formed of thousands of hastily conscripted peasantry. But del Olmo was careful to sprinkle trusted and battle hardened men through the ranks ensuring discipline and morale. After barely two month's training they met the Aragonese at Cifuentes on 6th March 1822. Numerically superior, though nowhere near as well supplied, the Winter Army did enough to force the Aragonese into retreat, buying the other armies enough time to deal with Portugal. Del Olmo, now officially a general and increasingly well-supplied, marched the Winter Army into Aragon, capturing Valencia and then advancing on Aragon. When the Aragonese sued for peace del Olmo dictated terms on the spot, not waiting for official word to come back from Madrid. He was already well aware Iberia's manpower could not hold out forever against Europe. Lengthening the war unnecessarily would only ensure the Republic's demise.
His attitude in the peace proceedings annoyed many back in Madrid but after his army's victories against the Aragonese and rebels in the North, plus the annexation of Navarre in late 1822, public opinion was with him. He returned to Madrid at the head of the now well-trained and battle-hardened army and given a hero's welcome. With his army on the streets he effectively took power out of the hands of the still fractured Cortes and formed a triumvirate to give clear guidance to the Cortes. Leaving the instructions that the joint fleet made from Leon and Castile's fleet be bolstered with more top-of-the-line vessels he headed west into Portugal and had conquered it by the winter, setting up a sister republic. Seeing off a military coup by the remnants of the royalist old guard he now reformed the army, carefully maneuvering those he saw as loyal and tactically innovative into choice positions. He once again defeated Aragon and strung the allies out in the Pyrenees whilst the reforms at home took root. They did not take root as quickly as he liked and by the end of 1824 he had installed himself as First Minister, doing away with the triumvirate.
The year after a string of military victories left Hispania in control of the Pyrenean states, which del Olmo reorganised into a single sovereign republic, and much of southern Francia, which was annexed outright after the death of the last Duke of Aquitaine. By now del Olmo was spending more and more time away from the front lines; attempting to wrangle the Cortes took up most of his time, but still Hispania's armies were successful. Attempting to root the Portuguese Royalist troops out of North Africa the Andalusian army reached Alexandria in a blistering campaign. It took the combined Byzantine navy and main Caliphate African army to force them into a retreat. Meanwhile Aragon and its considerable Francian territory was annexed. The navy too began to enjoy successes, defeating Portugal at Trafalgar in 1828. That year the war broadened with the Kalmar Union, Wessex and the Empire formally declaring war. Del Olmo privately feared the worst but nonetheless he resumed direct command of the Winter army, personally overseeing the defeat of Arles and Milan. Reorganising Northern Italy into the Savonese Republic, he then turned North to defeat a coalition army at the Battle of Nancy. The coalition's defeat was so heavy that Luxembourg and Burgundy were forced to exit the war, suing for peace. Paris was occupied and for a moment it looked like del Olmo would earn a final peace treaty.
While the coalition dithered, recruiting Poland to make up the loss of Luxembourg, del Olmo returned to Madrid. Tired of the constant infighting in the Cortes which he believed was hampering his ability to conduct the war, on New Year's Day 1830 del Olmo had several high ranking grandees arrested. By January 25th he had the remainder so cowed by the populace that the chamber fell into line and rubber stamped whatever was put in front of them. On the 1st of February he proclaimed himself King of Hispania, taking the name Henry I.
A peace treaty was forthcoming, though not the one he wished for, this one was merely with France. Accompanying it, though not a clause in it as many have argued, France gave del Olmo the hand of Princess Catherine of Evry in marriage. This was in part designed to keep del Olmo from interfering too much in Northern Francia. Catherine disliked Madrid and preferred to reside in 'Francia' at Bordeaux in the recently annexed Duchy of Aquitaine. While their marriage may have been one of convenience there does seem to be have been some affection between the two. Del Olmo doted on her, showering her with gifts, while Catherine herself appeared to have enjoyed being out from under her mother's slightly oppressive gaze. The rest of his family he steered into inoffensive ducal-governmental roles around Hispania. Enrique made sure to limit their power and incomes, and while none displayed quite the same degree of force of personality that their brother on the whole they were highly regarded.
Meanwhile the military situation began to falter. His navy was defeated at the Battle of Alderney by Kalmar. This prevented him defeating Brittany-Maine which still held out in the North and even stopped him invading Naples. In 1832 the Empire once again declared war, this time drawing del Olmo into Germany to sap manpower and morale. At the Battle of Colmar he was wounded and lost his left arm, a blow which made him cautious and defensive, lashing out at his advisors. Still, however, the army was successful. Ignoring pleas to rest and consolidate he continued the advance, hoping to take Poland and Kalmar out of the war. Tired and harassed his army was caught and destroyed in the Prussian marshes in May 1833. Del Olmo escaped south, visibly shaken by his first real defeat. After that the powers of Europe slowly twisted the knife, advancing toward the Pyrenees. Del Olmo arranged his final victory at Vitoria in September 1834 but by then it was too late. Granada and Leon ceded from Hispania before the surrender and del Olmo was captured by the citizens of Madrid and handed over to the coalition in return for keeping their city safe.
Imprisoned on Heligoland after 1835, del Olmo wrote prodigiously on military matters and completed a nine-volume memoir. It is even believed he was asked for military advice by Kalmar commanders. He wrote a letter a day to his ex-wife Catherine too, though these were never sent. His family were quietly dispatched back to Leon where they faded into obscurity. The Iberian states made a great show of removing his prominent appointees and reversing his reforms but many were brought back in quietly over the next few decades.
He would die on May 29th 1849, a date now revered by 'Olmists' wishing to see the reunification of Iberia and/or restoration of all Castile's territory.