Spain The greatest realm of Christendom, this great monarchy not only rules the entire Iberian Peninsula and parts of the low countries, it also has holdings in the New World and across the seas. The gold and silver of its American Empire fills the coffers of the great catholic monarch, the pious Philip III. The rulers belong to the imperial Habsburg dynasty, as is the Holy Roman Emperor who rules Austria, Hungary and many German lands. Heresy and revolution has come to the Spanish realm, and her majestic armies, the tercios, have been bogged down in the lowlands of Flanders for forty years, fighting protestant rebels of the Netherlands.
The Holy Roman Empire Dominating the German-, Slavic- and Hungarian-speaking lands of central Europe, the Empire is more of a confederation of autonomous principalities than a single state. The eccentric Rudolph II rules from his castle in Prague, like his relative Philip a catholic, but some say less devout. A long war against the Ottomans commits his southeastern frontier. The protestant lords and counts of the north have shown their rebellious nature, and fought his predecessor Charles V in the bitter Schmalkaldic war. The peace that was brokered is fragile...
The Ottoman Empire This great realm lives through a golden age, still more than able to take on any Christian power, it's New Troops, Janissaries, are excellent soldiers and officials. Uniting peoples, languages and faith from the far west of North Africa to the holy lands of the Levant and the Arab peninsula - it's capital of Istanbul was once Constantinople. The North African Barbary Pirates prey on Mediterranean and Atlantic trading and shipping, using fast galleys to strike with deadly speed and precision.
France The king of France was once a protestant. A long and bloody civil war and struggle for the crown between Catholics and Protestants, or Huguenots as they are known in France - only ended when one of the pretenders foreswore his faith. But some are suspicious of the depth of his faith, and plots abound in the weakened realm.
England The great Virgin Queen lies on her last, and the Kingdom of England is full of rumor and worry. Will she be succeeded by another protestant, or by a catholic? To her north, Scotland may yet offer a solution to such dynastic worries. Ireland is in the throes of war, as l local leaders seek to overthrow English rule of the island. To the English, this is rebellion and civil war. To the Irish it is a legitimate war against an occupier. A recent victory over a great Spanish armada has given this maritime nation renewed self confidence.
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth This great, joint “republic of nobles” dominates the north east of Europe, from the shores of the Baltic to the great steppes of the Cossacks. Known for the freedoms and privileges of its nobles, its republican constitution and its winged hussars.
The Czardom of Muscovy This great Russian realm was elevated to the from Duchy to Empire by Tsar Ivan the Terrible some fifty years ago. Stretching across the plains and woods of north-east Europe, it looks to Constantinople rather than Rome. Since that city fell, it has tried to take up the banner of orthodox christendom. It is currently in a state of great turmoil and anarchy since the last Czar died without an heir. Pretenders, imposters and foreign powers flock to the court at Moscow to benefit from this Time of Trouble.
The Papacy and Italy The italian peninsula is divided. To the south, Spain rules through the crown of Aragon. To the north, independent city states like Florence, Venice and Genoa are in their last great flourishing, great maritime powers to rival the empires of Europe. And in the middle, around the Eternal City of Rome, the lands held by the pope - a city of both the god and the devil were genuine faith rubs shoulders with intrigue and sin. Monastic orders, many of them military, contribute to the tapestry that is the central mediterranean- from the Knights of St John on Malta, the Order of St Stephen in Tuscany, to humble Franciscans and the newly formed, cosmopolitan order of the Jesuits.