A Bloodless Coup

IndustrialWorldPowers was a text-based geopolitical alternate history roleplaying game loosely based on Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy titles Europa Universalis IV and Victoria II. Players claimed the head of state in a nation of their choice and ‘played’ that character and their successors throughout the nineteenth century.

Here, Chancellor Alexander Estridsen of the newly-created Crown Republic of Norway, a semi-autonomous ‘equal relation’ within the Kingdom of Sweden-Norway, is faced with a constitutional crisis: the King of Sweden has lost a war against the Russian Empire, and signed away Norwegian territory in the peace treaty. The crisis has accelerated the development of factions in Norway’s young legislature, ultimately resulting in refusal to accept the terms of the treaty, because both the Storting and the people feel that Norway neither wanted nor started the war. With public opinion enraged and the geopolitical arena incredibly tense, Estridsen’s moderate policies are swiftly losing popularity… and the once-fringe hyper-nationalist ‘Viking Party’, led by a general of the Crown Army, Count Johannes Freberg, is becoming increasingly strident.

The Russian threat over the Finnmark Question was received solemnly in Christiania. With Norwegian troops on their way to Vardø, and the Storting’s refusal to recognise the Treaty of Gothenburg both public and official, there is no longer any choice but to hold the course.

Chancellor Estridsen rises to address the assembled Storting and Herrenting. His moderate New Norway party, who made the initial offer to mortgage Norway’s paltry wealth in exchange for Finnmark, has dwindled horribly. A few weeks ago the Blues made up almost half of the Storting, but now just four men stand around Estridsen’s seat. The pro-Swedish Orthodox party, who sat directly behind Estridsen and the Blues, has completely vanished.

Estridsen looks at the faces of the Assembly and the ranks of onlookers behind them, all of them pale with worry and grim determination. With an effort, he doesn’t look at the east wing. Estridsen hates the east wing, where Count Freberg and his uniformed ‘Viking Party’ sit in serried ranks. He clears his throat, noticing in a strangely detached way that his hands are trembling, and steps up to the lectern.

“Brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of Norway, we are convened on a dark day in our young nation’s history–”

A figure in a stark red-and-blue uniform strides out of the east wing and shoulders him aside. Estridsen opens his mouth to order Freberg away, but he’s drowned out by a roar of approval from the Viking seats. Just in front of him, Sven Iversson winces sympathetically. Estridsen dithers for a moment, then Johannes starts to speak and he sidles away, defeated.

“Quiet!” bellows Johannes Freberg as another roar of approval echoes through the Storting. A reluctant silence falls and he draws himself up to his full height.

“Estridsen is weak!” he yells. “He has tried to placate the bear with trinkets and promises of gold. He has danced to the Swedish tune. Well,” he waves an arm in a broad gesture to the north, “Look how that has worked! Even now, there are Cossacks marching on Vardø; there are Russian armies massing to strike once again at our lands, and spill more Norwegian blood. And all this for the King of Sweden. I will have none of it!”

Freberg pauses for a moment, taking deep breaths. His face is glowing as red as his uniform. He brushes a hand across the braid and medals dripping off his chest.

“I have fought for this nation before!” he says, “I have fought for the freedom of our people. I fought against Bonaparte, I fought alongside Grimstad, and I will fight again if needs be. But I will not fight for the King of Sweden. Norway has lived for too long under Gustaf’s boot, and the Swedes have brought us nothing but pain and misery and empty promises. I tell you now that Sweden has failed. They have failed in their duty to protect our nation. Norway can entrust her defence to none but the Norwegians themselves. So I say: take up arms. Take up arms to defend Vardø against the Russians. Take up arms to win our freedom from Stockholm once and for all. Take up arms for Norway. The coming weeks and months–the coming years–will be hard, but is that not the very motto of our great nation? Per Angusta Ad Augusta, my friends. Through hardship to glory.”

He pauses. The ringing silence echoes for a long moment, and his eyes settle on Estridsen, huddled among the last few Blues with his head in his hands.

“And glory will come, my friends.” Freberg says in the hush, so quietly that everyone in the room leans in to hear it. “Freedom will come.”

After the speech, Count Freberg calls a vote of confidence to impeach Chancellor Estridsen. With many a murmured apology and half-hearted explanation, the Storting passes the motion, 123-6. In just a few weeks, Freberg’s ultra-nationalist Viking party has gone from a fringe faction on the radical edge of Norwegian politics, to the government of the day.

Freberg’s first action as Chancellor of the Republic and Duke of Christiania is to call for the recruitment of 3,000 more riflemen and order every male in Norway between 16 and 45 to undergo military training. In the wake of his election, he appoints himself First General of the Crown Army. Although several members of the Storting express concern over the militaristic implications of Freberg’s takeover, his Bills are passed without debate or delay.