Manuel V Comnenus
|Emperor Manuel V "le Franc"|
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Manuel V (called le Franc) came to the throne at the age of 7. His reign was ended in its prime, and had probably the single most profound impact on Pantocratorian culture since the nation was established.
Manuel V came to the throne as a mere child of 7 - his mother Maria Comnena ruled as regent until 1710, when Manuel reached the age of 18 and proclaimed himself an adult. Manuel's youth was a period of great change and modernisation in Pantocratoria - full contact had been re-established with much of Europe through chance encounters with France and Spain at sea. In the halls of the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, built in the Byzantine style of 1000 years before, excitement filled the air as the Old Palace was suddenly abuzz with foreign ambassadors, exotic spices, and new fashions. On nobody did this have a greater impact than the young Manuel, who was so taken with this new wave that he developed a disdain for the old Byzantine way of doing things.
When he proclaimed himself an adult, his first task was to send ambassadors to the courts of Europe. He ordered that Pantocratorian sailors adopt Spanish navigation techniques so that they could actually find their way through their own archipelago and into the open seas, establishing trade routes. He was amazed at the sketches of styles and fashions from the French court of Versailles, and hired French architects to redesign the Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator, creating the style of architecture Pantocratoria is (in)famous for - that clash of Byzantine with Baroque, of Gothic with Rococo, totally supplanting the old Pantobyzantine style. He created a dazzling court, and was determined that he should be dazzling to match - imported French master painters depicted him as various gods of Ancient Rome (in the box to the right, he is depicted as Apollo, holding court, with his wife, Empress Isabelle, depicted as Venus).
In 1712, he made a decision that perhaps only a man of his youth and inexperience could've made - he decreed that Greek be abandoned, and that French become the national language. This decision's repercussions are still felt today, with a large minority of Pantocratoria's population still only speaking Greek. Having already introduced modern techniques of navigation, Manuel hired the greatest French shipwrights, and spent vast quantities of money on rebuilding the Pantocratorian Imperial Navy. While the country groaned under the financial strain of supporting the Emperor's lavish renovations and building programs and naval rearmament, and while the peasants seethed with disgust at their government abandoning the language of the people, Manuel's achievements were immediately apparent, and would endure, strengthening the prestige of the monarchy enormously.
In 1713 Manuel determined to show off his modern navy (although it wasn't yet finished), and provoked the Second War of Insolence with Knootoss, a war which would see the restoration of Pantocratoria's martial pride and prowess, and which would shine reflected glory over the glittering monarch. He appeared as the god Neptune at a public celebration in New Constantinople celebrating the capture of the Knootian merchantman Meerpaal (which would be the instrument through which he provoked the war). He emerged from the Second War of Insolence in 1715 coated in the glory of a conquering hero, and Pantocratoria emerged as a nation confident once again in its own strength (although neither the Emperor nor Pantocratoria were significantly militarily or economically better off as a result of the peace settlement).
He was deeply unpopular for his attempts at modernisation, and was called "that Barbarian" or "the Frank" by his Greek subjects. He revelled in the title, feeling that being called "le Franc" was recognition of his modernising reforms. Still, he employed the new styles of art as a form of 18th century propaganda in an effort to improve his image. He was nevertheless assassinated by poisoned tobacco, dying with his pipe in his mouth in the midst of the massive baroque ballroom which was still under construction in his new Imperial Court of Christ Pantocrator. Some say he haunts those few parts of the Old Palace which are still left, pipe in his mouth, spewing profanity in French about how they've not been pulled down yet.
Artwork as Propaganda
Manuel V depicted as King David, having slain Goliath, a metaphor for his victory over the once demonstrably superior Knootian navy. (1715 by François Velbeau)
Manuel V with his wife and young son, receiving a petition from a poor woman representing the poor of Pantocratoria, whilst overhead an angel carries the bounty of Heaven, God's gift to Manuel and his Empire. (1716 by François Velbeau)
Manuel IV Comnenus
|Emperor of Pantocratoria
Manuel VI Comnenus