With the recent official launch of Mechwarrior Online, your esteemed editor thought it might be worthwhile for someone to write an article on the state of things in the Inner Sphere on the cusp of the Clan Invasion. Volumes could (and have) been written about all the history leading up to this point in the Battletech universe however, and none of us have that kind of time. Instead, I'm going to skip over the colonization of the Inner Sphere, the founding of the Great Houses, the Star League, the Usurper, the Exodus, and three more centuries of warfare to just talk about what happened in the early part of the 31st Century. This period is important because it was in this time that the centuries of decline stopped, and the Inner Sphere started to regain what was lost. Hanse Davion
In 3013, Hanse Davion - nicknamed "The Fox" for his strategic cunning - became First Prince of the Federated Suns following his brother Ian's death in battle. Hanse's first major action as Prince was a successful strike on Halstead Station in the Draconis Combine, where a Star League university had recently been uncovered. The treasure trove of lost information retrieved from there was an inspiration to the young Prince. Sensing an opportunity to revitalize the economy and industry of his realm, Hanse used the Halstead cache to found the New Avalon Institute of Science, which quickly became one of the preeminent research institutions in the entire Inner Sphere.
But Hanse would not be satisfied with so small a step forward. Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth Katrina Steiner had grown tired of endless warfare, and in 3020 she issued a peace proposal to the other Great Houses. Most nations rejected her overture, but Hanse again saw opportunity. A series of delicate and top secret negotiations resulted, and the outcome would change the course of history. Hanse Davion would wed Melissa, daughter of Archon Katrina, and their two realms would become one.The 4th Succession War
First Prince Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner invited all the leaders of the Great Houses to their wedding on Terra in August of 3028. It was the first time in centuries that these men and women had all been on the same planet, let alone the same room. It was the social event of a lifetime, and that was well because Hanse wanted all eyes on him. At the reception, the bride and groom exchanged gifts. Melissa gave Hanse a regiment of Battlemechs, and Hanse announced that he was giving her the Capellan Confederation. With that declaration, the Lyran and Davion forces began their assaults. The 4th Succession War had begun.
Hanse and Katrina had cunningly disguised their troop movements as a series of excercises, and so the invasion came as a complete surprise. Operations Rat and Götterdämmerung had been meticulously planned to open a wide corrider connected the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth by carving worlds primarily out of the Draconis Combine and the Capellan Confederation. Both invaded nations tried to defend their territory, but had little success. Coordinator Takashi Kurita was too hidebound and inflexible to respond effectively to the multi-pronged assault, and Chancellor Maximillian Liao's intelligence services had been thoroughly compromised by Federated Suns agents. Within three years, the Combine and Confederation had lost dozens of worlds, and the Capellan Confederation in particular was shattered. By the end of the war in 3030, Hanse Davion was closer to uniting the Inner Sphere than anyone since the fall of the Star League.Free Rasalhague
The former Principality of Rasalhague worlds had long been a thorn in the Draconis Combine's side. Indeed, Takashi Kurita's father Urizen had been assassinated by Tyr terrorists seeking independence. Consequently, when Primus Myndo Waterly of Comstar approached the Combine in 3030 about establishing a free Rasalhague state, it lept at the chance. Not only would the Dragon be rid of a serious annoyance, it would also gain a buffer state between itself and the Lyran Commonwealth, and Comstar would also be granting it access to war materiel to prepare for a seemingly inevitable attack from the Federated Suns. Four years later, the Free Rasalhague Republic was born, and the Rasalhague worlds had their independence for the first time in centuries.
Rasalhague's birth was not bloodless, however. A number of senior Combine military officials refused to accept the secession of those worlds, and took it upon themselves to recapture them. The Ronin Wars, as they were called, did not have a chance of success and were short-lived, but they served as a proving ground for young Theodore Kurita, preparing him for his next big test.The War of 3039
The 4th Succession War had not ended by treaty, but rather because the economic drain of such a huge conflict had finally caught up with the Federated Suns, and Hanse knew his nation needed time to recover. With the Capellans so soundly defeated, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the First Prince turned his armies on the Dragon. So it was in March of 3039 that the first allied forces crossed the border into the Draconis Combine. Despite having had a decade to rebuild, the Combine's military was still weak. An easy allied victory seemed assured.
But as good as Hanse Davion was, he was no longer facing the conservative Takashi Kurita and his warlords. Takashi's son Theodore had risen to command the Dragon's military in 3031, and he was much more clever and flexible than his father. Theodore struck out on a daring counter-invasion of the Federated Suns' Draconis March, surprising the Federated Suns analysts who did not think the Combine capable of such an act.
Hanse could not figure out where Theodore's forces had come from. Were these deep strikes a last, desperate ploy or a real threat to Federated Suns worlds? Ultimately, the First Prince decided that was a risk he could not take, and so he sued for peace. Theodore Kurita had been bluffing, and he succeeded in becoming the first commander to truly stymie The Fox. The War of 3039 ended in a stalemate, with no more than a handful of worlds changing hands.The Way Things Are
After all the tumult of the century to that point, the 3040s would prove to be largely peaceful, and by 3049 little had changed except a solidifying of the status quo.
- Federated Commonwealth - Katrina Steiner's abdication in 3039 left the two allied realms largely under the control of Hanse Davion. Eschewing further adventurism, he has focused on consolidating the alliance between his and his wife's realms. The Commonwealth is stronger than ever, and he and Melissa are beloved by their subjects.
- Draconis Combine - Recognizing the dire straits the Combine was in after the recent wars, Gunji-no-Kanrei Theodore Kurita has spent the 3040s rebuilding and instituting further reforms to strengthen the Dragon's military. While Theodore is generally popular with his soldiers, his reforms and willingness to deal with unsavory elements of society are upsetting to the more traditional-minded members of the military and to his father, the Coordinator.
- Free Worlds League - Thomas Marik's father Janos had presided over a series of painful civil wars which left him a wreck and mostly kept the League out of the 4th Succession War. After Thomas became Captain-General, he spent the time strengthening his office in order to prevent such internecine conflict in the future. In 3049 he is the strongest Captain-General in history, and his realm is firmly united behind him.
- Capellan Confederation - In addition to being militarily, economically, and geographically devastated by the 4th Succession War, the Confederation's morale had been shattered. Romano Liao's ascencion to the Celestial Throne did not help, as she started instituting brutal purges. The Capellan spirit would only start to recover when an invasion by the Magistracy of Canopus and the rogue Free Worlds League's Andurien province was successfully pushed back in 3033. In 3049, Romano holds her nation in a death grip, and the Confederation is on its way back.
- Free Rasalhague Republic - The Republic has had near-total peace since the end of the Ronin Wars, and Prince Magnusson has used that time wisely. Carefully maintained neutrality between the Lyrans and the Combine has allowed the fledgling nation to thrive and establish its own military traditions.
The first half of the 31st century was full of conflict, but it also saw the long technological decay of the first three Succession Wars reverse itself. The recovery of the Halstead Station cache and the Helm memory core combined with new initiatives like the NAIS to start a technological renaissance, bringing rediscovered technologies both to the battlefield and civilian life. The posting of the heirs to the Federated Commonwealth and Draconis Combine to the periphery signalled that those realms were done with war for the time being, and the future of the Inner Sphere as 3050 approached looked bright.
But all that was about to change.