The Grand Dutchy of Pallamara
Motto: "The Seas are Our highways!"
and largest city
• Grand Duke
• VOC Formed
• VOC's Downfall
• The Revolt
|Time zone||UTC +4|
The Grand Dutchy of Pallamara is a prosperous, orderly nation. By and large, the Pallamarans enjoy a high standard of living, affordable health care, and an excellent educational system. Taxation is high, but most would agree (sometimes grudgingly) that they get their money's worth. While high labor costs mean that many consumer goods are brought in from elsewhere, a good bit of local manufacturing does exist, primarily in the form of heavy, or complex things like industrial machinery, and defense-related gear. Otherwise, fishing, agriculture, tourism, information technology, offshore natural gas, banking, pharmaceuticals, and environmental tech are just a few of the many industries which drive a strong economy.
The island that became known as Pallamara, was documented by a foreign navigator, Piccolo Palamara, during the 1500s. He described a pleasant land with numerous rivers and a comfortable climate, exploring much the island on his expedition of discovery, before returning and publishing his findings, though, with so many other islands in the region, his discovery didn't attract a lot of notice, however, cartographers did name the place after him, though through some sort of transcription error, the name gradually ended up rendered as "Pallamara" on Variotan maps.
In Variota itself, during the latter part of that century, there was a good deal of political unrest, with various factions agitating for power. One of these factions, centered around the rather powerful Oranje family was promoting the idea of a more centralized, imperialistic government, which was at odds with the present leadership of the nation. Although the "Oranje Parti" publicly spoke in terms of reform to promote their agenda, the truth was their behavior was bordering on sedition, and many of these adherents were armed and rather vocal in nature. Not wanting their influence to spread, but also fearing that moving against them without provocation would be tremendously unpopular, and possibly spark off a larger uprising, the ruling government secretly met with the head of the Oranje Parti, making it clear, that they were unwilling to tolerate the behavior of the house and its followers, but if they were willing to go elsewhere, ostensibly to spread Variotan culture around the globe, then the government would provide the ships for the expedition, and recognize wherever they settled as a semi-autonomous province.
The head of the family was Willem, who in contrast with most of his followers, was a rather taciturn individual. Though he was possessed of strong belief in the ideals of his house, and party, he preferred to let others do the talking, though when he did speak, it was always to weigh in on important matters. A veteran of many border conflicts, Willem was both a soldier and a scholar, and had read the accounts of Palamara's expedition, during his younger days, and was intrigued by the island named for the man.
The small fleet departed in 1601, arriving at their destination in the early part of 1602. It wouldn't take the Variotans long to conquer the island and its native population, though, in truth, the disease did more damage than the Variotans themselves, which sped along the conquest of the island. Records indicate within a year of settlement, 2/3rds of the native's population had perished in such a fashion. The natives were put to work on farms and doing menial labor, activities which virtually ensured contact with the foreign pathogens. Another factor, which led to the near destruction of native society and civilization, was the fact the colony contained a good number more male colonists, than females, and finding the Marenesian women attractive, a large number of these Variotans took wives from the native population, further diluting the remaining bloodline even more.
The first settlement on the island was Vrijpoort, or "Freeport" and the settlers lost no time securing the best land for themselves. Though technically a province of Variota, the colonists promptly put Willem in charge, and he declared the island an independent nation. Some of his followers urged him to take the title of king, but Willem felt this too pretentious, and instead settled for Grand Duke, proclaiming the place to now be the Grand Duchy of Pallamara. What the Variotan government thought of this isn't recorded, but appeared to have ignored the whole thing, probably being a case of "out of sight, out of mind."
Willem had a plan for seeing to the fledgling nation's prosperity. For some time, exotic spices had been making their way to Europa and elsewhere, but were only available in small quantities, with nobody knew exactly where they'd come from until rather recently, when it was discovered the most valuable sorts came from various small Marenesian islands, which Pallamara, due to its locale was in a prime position to take advantage of.
Seeking to capitalize on this, in 1612, the Vereenigde Oostzees Compagnie, (United East Seas company) or VOC was formed to facilitate this trade. At first, the company concentrated on putting together military expeditions to seize the small islands on which the spices grew, but when it was found that these would grow in Pallamara itself, the emphasis changed to establishing local plantations, instead. Once this was established, however, trade began to balloon, as demand in Europa and elsewhere created a ready market, and the VOC's fortunes grew in leaps and bounds, and suddenly Pallamara was virtually awash with the money generated.
Seeking to protect its interests, and not wishing to become completely dependent on the spice trade, as profitable as it was, the VOC diversified its holdings, branching into many other areas, such as banking, foreign investment, shipping, and many others, being granted various monopolies in Pallamara, which the company took full advantage of. To protect its spices the VOC maintained its own naval and land forces, surpassing those of the crown, which in any case was a major shareholder in the enterprise. So powerful did it become the company seized territory to provide ports for replenishing its vessels, conducted its own treaties, struck its own coinage, and even waged war, sometimes hiring its vessels out as a mercenary navy. In addition, it also funded a number of voyages of exploration. Besides territories it seized for these purposes, it also maintained offices in many other nations, often negotiating very favorable terms through bribery.
For the next two centuries, this would create a golden age for Pallamara, that would see it go from an obscure island that nobody thought about to a major mercantile power. Although located pretty far from most anyone, Pallamarans enjoyed a standard of living easily equivalent to that of the most advanced nations of Europa. Being the headquarters of the VOC, many foreign employees of the company settled there, and the population was increased by further immigration, especially from Variota.
Still, all good things must end, and with the coming of the early 19th century, the VOC found itself in decline due to a number of factors, including competition with other, larger nations, disastrous speculative ventures, corruption, low employee morale, and poor dividend policy would eventually spell the VOC's downfall, in 1830 very nearly taking the entire economy of the nation with it. Only the crown's nearly bankrupting itself taking on the debt of the VOC prevented complete economic collapse, as it reorganized what was left into the crown owned entity known as Oranje, which operates to this day. Many of the VOC's overseas possessions were sold off or abandoned, its military forces were absorbed into those of the nation, and for the next three decades, the island went into an era of decline, certainly compared to what had gone before.
Still, the effects of the fall of the VOC were not all negative. The company had both stifled competition through the many monopolies it enjoyed, and by providing relatively cheap goods from other places, had discouraged much in the way of local industry. Now, because these goods were much more expensive, not benefiting from the network the VOC had provided, there became more of a movement towards self reliance, though it would take some time to bear fruit, as efforts in the direction of industrialization were delayed by the intervention of the governing assembly, the Staatsraad, which was dominated by conservative, agrarian landowners.
Finally, in 1859, this period of relative stagnation was interrupted, by the discovery of gold, bringing some short-lived prosperity to the nation, but also its share of problems, by all the foreigners who flocked to its shores, and most of whom stayed there afterwards. In short, the issue was these arrivals found they had very few rights under the law, which didn't sit well with most of them, and who made common cause with the Marenesian population, many of which had been imported to work the plantations during the VOC's heyday. While not exactly slaves, they constituted a considerable underclass. Even worse, some of the foreigners included agitators for dangerous ideas like communism, which was something of a new idea at the time, and very dangerous to the established order. Besides the foreign and Maranesian underclass, some of these ideas also found traction with the poorer elements of the Pallamaran populace, creating a potential time bomb.
Despite this, the Staatsraad was resistant to any efforts to reform, even in the face of a situation the crown feared would eventually lead to a revolution. At last, exasperated with that body's refusal to pass any reforms, the Grand Duchess, Esme, relatively new to the throne at the time, disbanded the Staatsraad, and issued her own edicts, in 1870, creating an immediate backlash.
At the time, the militia, the Laandsweer, was mostly led by the landowners, who formed the officer corps. Besides a few regiments of the Ducal Guard, and some marines, that meant most of the land forces were under the control of these landowners, who promptly rallied those of the militia who could be persuaded to follow them to march on the capital, to demand the reinstatement of the Staatsraad, picking up more as they went. At some point during this march, the goal changed to that of forming a republic, after deposing the monarchy. The landowners were quite confident as their numbers surpassed those of the Ducal Guard by a large margin, and in any case expected the young Esme to capitulate to their demands.
Of course, such a thing could not go unnoticed, and the Grand Duchess rallied her supporters to her cause, including some loyal militia, but the majority of her defenders were the Ducal Guard, the Marines, and the navy, who considerably bolstered the ranks with landed crew and more importantly, gunners and artillery. Even so, they found themselves outnumbered three to one.
Things weren't perfect on the side of the militia either, as most were equipped with a variety of muzzleloading rifles and even muskets, a lack of artillery, all of which consisted of obsolete smoothbores, in comparison to the modern pieces used by the Ducal Horse Artillery and the naval contingents, who also had breechloading, single shot rifles. Even worse, however, was the organization of the militia, most of whom had never drilled at anything more than a company level, and whose ranks were any case incomplete, as not all had chosen to join. To avoid confusion with government troops, most weren't even wearing uniforms, giving more the appearance of an unruly mob, in contrast with the smartly attired Monarchist forces. Both sides sent out delegations to meet with the other, to persuade them to disband and disperse to no avail, and when no agreement could be reached battle was joined on the outskirts of Vrijpoort.
From the beginning, things went bad for the militia, with their artillery quickly silenced by monarchist counterbattery fire, and taking heavy casualties from the better armed and trained professional troops, particularly the marines. Realizing that their only hope for winning lie in bringing their superior numbers to bear, the militia made a mass charge for the monarchist lines, which would prove to be a deadly mistake, as the naval detachments were armed with the relatively newfangled Gatling gun. Seen as a weapon more suited to naval than land warfare, each ship of the Staatszeemacht was armed with between 2 and 4 of these weapons, meant to sweep the decks of enemy vessels clear. In the Battle of Vrijpoort, their use proved decisive, and devastating, with the guard commander finally ordering the batteries to cease firing, so sickened was he by the resulting carnage.
Decisively defeated, the remaining militia forces surrendered, handing the monarchy a total victory. Afterward, Esme announced by Ducal Decree, universal suffrage and equality under the law for all Pallamaran citizens, and also that a new constitution would be drafted, to ensure those rights would be protected. This had the effect of putting an end to the revolutionary sentiment. As for those behind the revolt, the central ringleaders were executed for treason, (by hanging) and the rest were generally pardoned. A year later, the new constitution was unveiled to wide acclaim of the citizenry, and the Grand Duchess would henceforth become known as "Esme the Reformer".
Under the new document, the Monarchy would form the executive branch, while the legislature would be formed by two houses, the Laandsraad, and the Staatsraad. A judicial branch was also formed with its members being appointed by the monarchy. Indeed, the monarchy was arguably more powerful after the constitution than before it, a result of the victory in what history calls "The Revolt of 1870".
Pallamara is governed by The Constitution of 1870. In practice the monarchy, in the form of Grand Duke Valentinian III, handles most matters related to foreign policy and defense, while domestic and trade issues are the province of The Assemblies, though to become law, legislation must receive the Ducal Seal, while any treaties or major initiatives agreed to by the monarchy must be ratified by The Assemblies, however in practice, this is a rubber stamp process.
The present government would rather tax than outlaw most vices. While hard drugs are illegal, softer ones like marijuana are legal. Smoking is legal, but the heavy taxes make most tobacco products extremely expensive. Alcohol is likewise legal, with the drinking age for light spirits being 16, and 18 or hard ones, though the latter, like tobacco, is heavily taxed. Gambling is legal, though heavily regulated, as is prostitution, though such establishments must conform to a variety of laws to protect both the customers and sex workers.
Law and Order
Crime tends to be low, and the government would rather rehabilitate than simply lock away most offenders, though the death penalty does exist for cases of rape, murder, treason, and (in wartime) sedition. Policing is largely left in the hands of local municipalities, (called cantons) and over the last few decades, more autonomy with regard to local affairs has been granted to these prefects, so long as they don't contradict higher laws. A national police force does exist, however, in the form of the Pallamaran Paramilitary Police, which investigates serious crimes, and handles internal security. In times of war, it has a civil defense and urban warfare role, as well, and has access to military grade gear, such as heavy weapons, and armored vehicles, including tanks and assault guns, making riots practically unheard of. The "P3" as they are often called also handle domestic intelligence, and it's rumored also on occasion function as a secret police force.
The nation's military is grouped into three branches, the Rijkszeemacht, (navy) Luchtmacht (air force) and the Laandsweer (army), with the first two branches getting the larger share of the defense budget. Besides these, there is also the Korps Marinier, which is part of the navy, and the Ducal Guard, which is part of the Laandsweer, but culturally distinct from it, and includes most of the heavy combat units, while the rest of the force is mainly part-time reserves, except for a modest training cadre. The general attitude among Pallamarans is if the Luchtmacht and Rijkszeemacht do their job, the Laandsweer won't be required. The most important branch is the navy, which is charged with not only protecting Pallamara, but also the maritime trade upon which it relies.
The largest company in the nation is Oranje, which is partially owned by the crown, being what was left after the VOC was taken over and nationalized in 1831. today, it's a massive shipping conglomerate, dispatching aircraft and vessels to all corners of the globe, and though the largest of its type, it's not the only such business based in the nation. Also notable is Brugman's, a large insurance market (Very much comparable to Lloyd's of London). Pallamaran Luchtvaartindustrieën (PLI) is a major aerospace firm that handles both civilian and military designs, and its maritime counterpart is Koninklijke Schelde, which handles mostly military shipbuilding as well as specialized civilian designs, such as luxury yachts, heavy lift, and other less common designs. (the high labor costs in the nation make most, mundane mercantile shipbuilding uneconomical)
Domestic industry must contend with strict safety regulations and environmental laws. The last half-century has seen the latter grow considerably, with the Green Party wielding considerable influence in The Assemblies. In particular, there has been a strong emphasis on reclaiming abandoned industrial facilities and converting these to parks. Gas prices tend to be rather high, resulting in mass transit via buses or trains to be the preferred method of getting around the island. Many of the former are hybrid vehicles. Investments in alternative energy sources, most particularly wind, biofuels, natural gas (which Pallamara is blessed with large offshore deposits of) tidal/wave energy, and Solar energy are all heavy, and the nation has become a center for technology involving these. Nuclear energy is also highly important and is preferred to coal or oil for large-scale power generation.
A darker side to all this environmentally friendly attitude exists, however, in that these laws only apply to Pallamaran firms operating *in* Pallamara itself. A number of firms, for this reason, prefer to operate in other nations where the attitude towards such things is laxer (or even nonexistent), also taking advantage of lower labor costs. Such companies will locate their headquarters in Pallamara, (a legal requirement, as it were) but production facilities elsewhere. Otherwise, the nation as a whole has frequently been accused of following ruthlessly neocolonial policies with regard to the developing world, particularly on the continent of Alharu, where many maintain a presence, partially due to strong ties with Variota.