As an honest and god-fearing Englishman, I have nothing but undying respect for the Crown. Every day I wake up in my Royal Family-branded pyjamas and swear my own personal oath of allegiance to the British monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history, and her public approval ratings have never been higher. I have to admit, however, that in my darkest hours my faith in one of the core tenets of British society – that it is the divine right of the House of Windsor to rule over us in perpetuity – is shaken. Can the Windsor’s remarkable skill at unveiling plaques really be taken as proof of the divine right of the monarchy?
To put these fears to bed, I launched a very simple – and highly scientific – investigation to test this. I inserted Elizabeth II into Crusader Kings 2, Paradox’s superb dynasty simulator set in the Middle Ages. If she can survive the court intrigue and bloody battlefields of Medieval Europe, then it is confirmed for us that she truly has God on her side.
Elizabeth’s in-game reign begins in similar circumstances to the beginning of her reign in the real world. She is a 25-year-old woman with a husband and two young children when she takes the throne. From this starting point, I attempt to flesh out her character.
For a lifetime of service to the realm in royal tours and public engagements, I create a Queen who is diligent and gregarious while giving her a large increase to her base diplomacy skills. However, given her lack of any real influence in British life beyond the ceremonial, I keep Liz’s other skills low. I am also happy to replicate her love of corgis within Crusader Kings 2 by granting her a faithful hound as a companion.
To the great credit of Buckingham Palace, they manage Her Majesty’s public image exceptionally well and it is a struggle to find any faults in her character. So I label our in-game Elizabeth a drunkard. A bit of a stretch? In the real world, the Queen enjoys as many as four alcoholic drinks a day, apparently, which puts her well above the UK guidelines on healthy drinking. Liz is technically a binge drinker, so I feel comfortable labelling her a drunk in Crusader Kings 2.
Satisfied with my creation – Prince Philip, Charles and Princess Anne are all present but in less defined roles – I arbitrarily settle upon 1066 as the starting date for our experiment and place her on the throne of England, leaving us with nothing left to do but to begin our investigation.
When Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952 she was still, albeit briefly, the head of the largest empire on the planet. In 1066 she finds herself monarch of a backwater on the periphery of events in Europe, which is a situation not too dissimilar to what she finds herself in now. In fact, her virtual kingdom is even more diminished than her real-world counterpart with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all being independent.
Within days of the start of her reign, Elizabeth, horrified by the situation she finds herself in, is diagnosed with stress, and my doubts about whether she is really cut out for the realities of medieval life spark into life.
She also has little time to adjust as thousands of Scots, fired up on a heady cocktail of Buckfast and nationalism, spill across the border and claim Cumberland in the name of their king, Malcolm III. Elizabeth faces the first test of her leadership but takes the bold step to personally march her armies to the border and confront her rowdy neighbours head-on.
Incredibly, within a year of the beginning of her Scottish campaign, Elizabeth emerges triumphant over her foes without losing a single battle. Her nation’s borders are expanded and secure. She has begun to prove both myself and her more critical courtiers wrong.
Real world Elizabeth II is said to be a woman of varied interests (it’s not all about flying around the world or attending formal events, don’t you know). She has a long-held passion for racehorses and enjoys the simple pleasure of a drive around her estates. But the crucible of 11th century Europe has forged into being a woman with a very different idea of how to spend her downtime. No longer bound by the checks and balances of the British constitution, Liz’s uglier side emerges; Elizabeth II has a number of her most senior vassals murdered for the most arbitrary of reasons.
Elizabeth isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to go off the deep end in Crusader Kings 2. Over 900 years before My Chemical Romance release their first record, Prince Charles’ teenage emo phase takes a turn for the dramatic as he falls in with a cult attempting to summon the devil. When this emerges, the Vatican swiftly excommunicates Charles and he is promptly grounded for a month. This is probably something that has happened in real life, it’s just we don’t know about it because of the cover up.
After a few years of relative peace, 1070 England is the target of invasions from both Duke Robert II of Normandy and King Olav III of Norway. Clearly, the two would-be conquerors had their fragile egos dented by the success of a woman – oh, and they weren’t pleased by my decision to murder their fathers, William the Conquerer and Harald Hardrada, using the console commands. Elizabeth, knowing her people will never accept labouring under the oppression of the foreign yoke, prepares for a long and bitter struggle to escape the clutches of her European neighbours, even if it means tanking her nation’s economy and draining it of its manpower.
The war drags on for five long years, but eventually Elizabeth does prevail. Unfortunately, victory comes at a great cost to both the nation and her own family: her children are captured by Robert and upon their return to her at the war’s end in 1075, Liz is horrified to discover they have been raised French, and now turn their noses up at good old Anglo-Saxon fare, such as boiled beef and offal, and snicker at Elizabeth and Phillip behind their backs.
In nine years, Elizabeth II has repelled two foreign invasions, expanded her realm and sired several heirs who through marriage have secured alliances with a number of foreign powers. All this without a single rebellion from unruly vassals! Barring a sudden and catastrophic reversal in fortunes, it is safe to assume this investigation has proven without a shadow of a doubt that Elizabeth II and her descendants have truly earned their right to rule over me and my offspring for years to come.
Sadly, life in the 11th century is cruel. When England is ravaged by an epidemic of dysentery in 1084, the best efforts of the Queen’s court physicians are not enough to prevent the 43-year-old Elizabeth from contracting the disease. After weeks of excruciating pain, valets find Liz infirm and disfigured in her bedchamber after a particularly violent episode causes her to fall off the chamber pot. Within days Elizabeth II has passed, an undignified and unbefitting end to a great life and an 18-year reign as Queen of England.
The Queen is dead, long live the King.