|People of The Kalmar Union|
|The Kalmar Union|
Reynir Óskarsson, the Spider, effectively ran Álengiamark during the First Mexic-Leifian War. His political efforts revived the moribund Álengsk Althing and is generally recognised as sowing the seeds of the country's unification in the later 18th century.
Born in 1584, Reynir was schooled with the expectation he would succeed to his family's title of 'Mayor of the Palace'. To all intents and purposes the 'Mayors of the Palace' were earls of the Royal Domain, the tracts of land which were supposedly owned by the Crown rather than the earls or the Church. Descended from Asthurdur II the title was herditary but they did not hold autocractic power like the other earls, instead they governed via what remained of the Althing keeping the lands under their regency above the petty squabbling of the earls and their often useless queens.
Barring a couple of less than stellar incumbants the office had been well run since its inception in around 1400. Queens, when they chose to reside in St. Hafdiss, were tolerated and advised. The land was farmed by free men rather than serfs which were prevalent in the other earldoms and this tended to allow for a higher degree of commerce than in its neighbours. A small merchant fleet operated out of Darstraurineykst which ensured a steady stream of valuable imports from the the Taino Sea and beyond. Meanwhile the disparate nature of the Royal Domain's territories allowed the Mayors' agents to keep a watchful eye on the entire country as they moved back and forth. Moreover it governed the city of St. Hafdiss itself, by far the largest city in the country at this time and which, despite a relatively free city charter, fell under the Mayors' scope. However the Mayors never got above their station; unlike the earls who spent their wealth adopting the trappings of royalty the mayors acted only as custodians of 'their' lands' wealth. Funds would be spent largely at the discretion of the Althing (of course, the mayors could influence the neutered chamber to a large degree) and the family lived in the modest Herragarðr on the Palace grounds rather than in the palace itself (which was kept more as a venue for foreign and intra-earldom diplomacy if the queens were not resident).
Following the death of his mostly unremarkable father, Óskar Þórðursson, in 1619, Reynir took the reigns of power and began attmepts to reinvigorate the deeply divided political nature of Álengiamark. Much of this work would be made easier by the event which dominated his early years in the office; the First Mexic-Leifian War and its fallout. Reviving the Althing which had slowly dwindled during his father's tenure he sought to build a critical mass of political unity. Rather than attempt to get the earls and their generally selfish motives to fit into the Althing's structures he reached out to the smaller independent cities and abbeys. These statelets had fiercely protected their independence for centuries but there was a growing sense in many of these smaller entities that they were becoming outmatched by the bigger earldoms in terms of military power and trading ambitions. To many, an opportunistic alliance with the Royal Domain could boost their clout when it came to disputes with their neighbours and submitting representatives to an Althing, which most regarded as useless, was a small price to pay. In this Reynir was aided by the influence of Steinar Ingisson, Lord of Reyrvatnstadh, who owned large estates on the Álengsk-Six Nations border and dominated much of the trade between the two.
The newly expanded Althing was remarkably united in its reaction to the outbreak of the First Mexic-Leifian War (1622-1632). At first the threat had been underestimated; the individual earls merely sent out the same-sized mercenary forces as they supplied every year, expecting news of victory and gold from the grateful towns and cities they made deals with. The Mexic army, crossing the Mets'ichi Chena at almost full-strength, obliterated these early mercenary forces and soon an urgent call for a proper armed response from Northern Leifia reached St. Hafdiss. The earls deliberated but the momentum was seized by Reynir and Steinar, forcefully arguing that Catholic Álengiamark should not be shown up by the apostate Vinlanders who were clearly building a large Lutheran army alongside its neighbours. The first proper Álengsk army, still relatively small, was formed-up in the Summer, was placed under the command of the energetic, if erratic, Stéfan Ágústsson, Lord of Rauðreyja.
Ágústsson was then sent to reinforce the Mississippi, helping to frustrate Mexica's attempts to cross and, on the occasion a Mexic breakout did occur, working well with the broad alliance now assembling to crush the interlopers. A second force assembled in 1623 was not given over to Álengsk command however, the urgency of the unfolding war led Reynir to hand control of this army to Franchim Lapawinsson, an Álengsk-Aniyunwiyan general already in command of a large Ániyunwiyan army. Whilst the Álengsk in this secondary army happily served alongside the pagan Aniyunwiyans they refused point-blank to serve alongside any Lutheran force. Hence when Vinland and its allies broke the Mexic advance at Kahoka in July 1623, at horrific cost to their own armies, not a single Álengsk soldier was present. The hollowing-out of Vinland's army left Álengiamark as the premier force in Leifia, an unintended result which few back home mourned. Meanwhile Reynir's furious-paced diplomacy had delivered Portugal's assistance (actually paid for by Susquehanockland) though this army would be tied up in the Taino Islands for several years.In early 1632 as the war trundled slowly to its unsatisfactory conclusion both the titular queen, Brynja II, and Steinar Ingisson would die. In their stead Reynir would forge a relationship with the new queen, Elin VI, in whom he saw a keen and adaptable personality under which a united Álengiamark could be promoted. At his request Elin would take up residence in St. Hafdiss, and for a time she appeared to grasp the need and advantages of centralising the state. Food prices had rocketed in the final years of the war as a shortage of workers led to near-famine conditions, accerbated by individual lordships attempting to fill their coffers with taxes. Meanwhile those returning from the war brought disease and disruption in their wake. A strong Crown and Althing working together would, Reynir argued, restore justice and prosperity to the entire realm and allow proper trade competition with its neighbours and Europe.
Elin VI's own brother's intransigence in ceding any power swayed her away from endorsing any meaningful reforms. Reynir would therefore be disappointed in his efforts to centralise the state, however his aim at strengthening the Althing was acheived to some extent, almost by accident. News of the seizure of the gold-fields of 'Snjorjamark' (see Atsugkriga) by a displaced Álengsk army in far western Leifia filtered back to St. Hafdiss by late 1635; the Earl of Moheganland, nominally this army's patron, cynically filled the 1636 Althing sessions with his own men to vote through various measures to secure the new colony, outflanking the other earls and Reynir in the process. Mohenganland had secured a considerable income, which the rest of the country was now tied into paying for, a move which increased participation in the Althing as the other earls crowded into the chamber to try and prise concessions back. Reynir, and to some degrees his son and successor Guðni, were adept at riding the passions of this reinvigorated chamber and, vitally, ensuring the representatives kept coming back rather than letting the chamber lapse into obscurity once more. So despite the chamber being riddled with 'rotten counties' and cronyism it did, at least on the surface function, as a debating and law-making chamber, lessening the disputes between the various lordships and offsetting the inherent weakness in the Crown.
Reynir would die in 1643. He had married Svafa Kristinnsdottír, a second-cousin, in 1601. The couple had three children; Guðni, Sigurbjörg and Hörður. Following Svafa's death in 1620 he would marry a commoner, Laufey Róbertsdottír, who acted as one of his secretaries during the war years.
Though Álengiamark would continue with its recent tradition of electing ineffectual queens the foundations of a well-governed united Álengiamark had been laid. In 1712 when the utterly devalued title of queen became free once more Reynir's great-granddaughter Herridr was picked to fill the vacancy, with the expectation that she would prove as ineffectual as her predecessors. The earls had not reckoned with the Althing's machinery now backing her up.