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5 January Austenasian coup attempt
|5 January Austenasian coup attempt|
The location of the coup attempt
An attempted coup d'état took place within the Austenasian government on Wednesday 5 January 2011; Emperor Esmond III attempted to overthrow the constitutional Austenasian monarchy and replace it with a nominally communist dictatorship with the support of the Austenasian Army, while the then Crown Prince Jonathan simultaneously attempted to trick Esmond III into abdicating the Throne. Both attempts were unsuccessful, and information on the event was not published until 19 December 2011, the anniversary of Declan's accession.
On 8 December 2010, Emperor Esmond III announced that he wished to transform Austenasia into a "communist dictatorship". Crown Prince Jonathan, desperate to prevent this, put an emergency contingency plan for the removal of Esmond III from power into effect by abdicating from the position of Lord Regent of the Grove. After much political dispute and diplomatic intrigue, the secretly orchestrated War of the Orlian Reunification got underway, and by 19 December 2010 the Austenasian Throne was shared between Esmond III and a new co-Emperor, Declan I, II & V.
The ascension of Declan I to the Throne was intended to act as a counter-weight, preventing Esmond III from using his authority as Monarch to transform the Empire into a communist dictatorship, as any power of the Throne exercised by Esmond III could be vetoed by Declan I. However, upon learning of his new co-Monarch, Esmond III reacted by proclaiming himself Premier of a communist Austenasia live in the Micropolitan Lounge over Skype. He was persuaded to retract this statement by the Crown Prince and Lord Marshal William a few minutes later, but it had become apparent that merely having a co-Monarch would not be enough to stop Esmond's plans - his willingness to act outside of the Constitution, together with the Austenasian Army's loyalty to him, made a revolution led by himself and the army seem imminent.
In the weeks before the outbreak of the War of the Orlian Reunification, Crown Prince Jonathan had looked amongst the Austenasian Army for prospective supporters of the Empire against Esmond's proposed dictatorship, but the only officer whom he had persuaded to support him in his attempt to remove Esmond III from power was Colonel Robert. The Crown Prince arranged for Colonel Robert to be appointed a Counsellor of State upon Declan's ascension to the Throne, and also conspired with Lord Marshal William and the then Princess Caroline - both also Counsellors of State - to depose Esmond III.
The four Counsellors conspired to pre-empt Esmond's expected declaration of a communist dictatorship by interpreting his assumption of a communist title as an abdication. An Act of Parliament was secretly drafted which recognised said abdication, making Declan I sole Emperor and granting Colonel Robert a title of nobility; the Crown Prince and Lord Marshal passed the Act through Cabinet (what is now the House of Representatives), and then the Lord Marshal and Princess Caroline signed it as Counsellors of State. A final signature of an appointed Counsellor of State would be needed to make the Act law, and so Crown Prince Jonathan planned to sign it (with Robert able to do so as a back-up plan) after the declaration of a communist Austenasia in order to effectively depose Esmond III.
On 5 January 2011, Esmond III, Crown Prince Jonathan and Colonel Robert returned to school after the Christmas holidays; for the first time in over two weeks, Esmond III had direct access to a large proportion of the Austenasian Army. While many of the unofficial courtiers and attendants at the informal school-based "Imperial Court" of Esmond III received news of the ascension of Declan I with relative indifference (many welcoming it, having been persuaded by the Crown Prince that Declan I was a capable monarch), the majority of Austenasian soldiers at the school did not welcome the news. Most had been recruited at the start of the Austenasian Civil War, and while they held the Throne and government of Austenasia in great respect, many held more loyalty to Esmond III personally than to his office.
The main topic of conversation that morning had been Esmond's vision of a communist Austenasia, and sure enough at roughly 13:00 he asked Crown Prince Jonathan if there was any constitutional way of making himself a communist dictator that same day; the Crown Prince honestly replied that there was not, and half-joked that the only way to have that happen would be to have a revolution. As expected, Esmond III took that option, and gathering various officers of the Austenasian Army announced that he was transforming Austenasia into a communist state, with himself as dictator. The Crown Prince spoke up in front of the soldiers, asking if this meant that Esmond was no longer Emperor but "Premier". Esmond replied ambiguously, but the Crown Prince took it to mean yes and so ordered Colonel Robert to protect him while he signed the Act.
The Act was signed, and Crown Prince Jonathan declared that Esmond III had abdicated. A stand-off commenced: Esmond ordered the Crown Prince to give him the Act, who refused. Colonel Robert stood between the Crown Prince and Esmond's soldiers.
None of Esmond's soldiers were were willing to risk attacking the Prime Minister and a senior officer, and many were also uncomfortable with the concept of an abolition of the monarchy. They therefore limited themselves to holding back several of the non-military courtiers (most of whom stood well back anyway, apparently unsure which side to support) while Esmond grew increasingly impatient. The sudden arrival of a group of students from the year below loyal to Esmond who were his self-appointed "bodyguard" increased the morale of Esmond's soldiers to the point where they seemed about to attack the Prime Minister, while Colonel Robert defected from the Crown Prince in return for a title within Esmond's proto-religion of ERtism.
With Robert no longer supporting him, Crown Prince Jonathan was forced to hand over the Act, which was promptly torn up. He also admitted before the crowd that Esmond III had not specifically abdicated the Throne, and so therefore was still legally Emperor.
The immediate aftermath of this event was that Esmond III stopped attempting to transform the Empire into a communist dictatorship. Although the Crown Prince's attempt at tricking Esmond into abdicating had failed, it was clear that the constitutional government would not be going down without a fight. From then onwards until the loss of his powers at the end of March, Esmond III relied on the strength of the military to retain influence, rather than the charisma which he had used to control his followers beforehand. However, the coup attempt also decreased the reverance in which the Austenasian Army held Esmond III; although he still had many supporters in the military by the end of March, witnessing him forced to bargain with Colonel Robert by offering him a title in return for loyalty seems to have been seen as a very weak move, and the uncertainty as to whether or not Esmond would have discarded his monarchical title led to great discomfort amongst those whose loyalty to him had been based around the idea of Imperium.
Eight days after the coup attempt, a set of military reforms were enacted, renaming units and the titles of officers to model the Empire's military more on the imperial Roman army. This served as a reminder to the military that they were ultimately controlled by Parliament and the Ministry of Defence, and not the Emperor. Most officers also approved of the structural reforms to the military which had been enacted, increasing their regard for Declan I - with whom they associated the "new" army - over Esmond III.
Increasingly wary of the instability of his position, Esmond III made no real effort to punish the Crown Prince, Princess Caroline, or Lord Marshal William for conspiring to remove him from power. Two weeks after the coup attempt, Esmond III attempted to arrest Crown Prince Jonathan for high treason, but a text from Declan I pardoned the Crown Prince for any offences committed. This foiled what was most likely the last attempt of Esmond III to regain the power which he held before he had started to express wishes to become a dictator. On 31 March, Parliament removed the powers of Esmond III through a Vote of No Confidence (Robert was dismissed as a Counsellor of State by Parliament on the same date). From then on, what was formerly the unofficial Imperial Court became less and less relevant, effectively disbanding in May with the majority of the students at the school leaving for study leave before exams. Esmond III was finally removed as Emperor by the implementation of the Austenasian Constitution of 2011 on 20 September.