1634: THE BALTIC WAR — snippet 32

 

1634: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 32:

 

 

            He lowered the hand and clasped the other behind his back. Then, began rocking on his feet a little. “Will you keep our discussions privy, Pieter? I mean, from my brother as well.”

 

            Rubens nodded. “Yes, Your Highness. I do that with all such discussions, in any event. But in this case…”

 

            The artist and diplomat gazed at Amsterdam. “In this case, I have been coming to many of the same conclusions myself. And being a Catholic and not a blithering Calvinist, I know that God gave us free will.”

 

            Now he looked at the prince directly. “And that good works will receive their reward in the afterlife.”

 

            The prince smiled. “Of course, the trick is defining ‘good works’ in the first place, isn’t it? And then, only being able to hope that the saints and the angels and the Lord Himself will agree with your definition. Which, alas, you won’t discover until it’s too late to correct whatever errors you made.”

 

            Rubens smiled back. “Yes, indeed. That is the difficulty. Inevitable, of course. Without that uncertainty, ‘free will’ would be meaningless.”

 

            There was silence, for a time, as the prince and his adviser both went back to their study of Amsterdam’s fortifications. It was a pointless study, really, just a means for the prince to finally steel his will. By this time, he knew every foot of those walls. And knew, as well, just how terrible the cost would be of passing through them. The heady and triumphal glory of the first weeks of the reconquest of the United Provinces had long gone. Ages past, it seemed, even though it had only been a few months.

 

            “Enough,” he said quietly. “Let my family rot in Spain, as they certainly will so long as they listen to Olivares and his ilk. With my brother and the Count-Duke demanding from me every week more and more treasure from the Low Countries. They insist I must despoil and ruin the Netherlands—and for what? So they can piss it away down a bottomless toilet, as they have done for a century with the New World’s silver? Let my cousins in Austria do the same, as they did in another world. I will start here, anew. My dynasty had six centuries in that other world. In this one…”

 

            He laughed softly. “What do you think, Pieter? If I claim a full millennium as my goal, would that constitute the sin of pride?”

 

            “I couldn’t say, Your Highness. I’m not a theologian. But I am an artist, and I can promise you some splendid portraits.”

 

            He eyed the prince’s costume, which was a purely martial one. “I assume you will not wish to pose in your cardinal’s robes.”

 

            Don Fernando grinned. “Be a bit awkward, wouldn’t it? Since the most important portraits will be of me and my future wife—whoever she might turn out to be—surrounded by our children. That is, after all, the first thing you need for a successful dynasty.”

 

            “Indeed.” The diplomat pursed his lips, for a moment, thinking. “Dispensing with the title of cardinal should not be too difficult, I think. The pope is generally quite practical about these things, and I know—I’ve spoken to him—that Urban is none too pleased with the endless war.” [NOTE: Check with Virginia and Andrew how this works. Who has the authority to un-make a cardinal? I have no idea, myself.]

 

            “I’ve come to the same conclusion,” the prince said. “As God Himself knows, it’s not as if I ever wanted a cardinal’s robes in the first place. My brother and his advisers insisted on it. That leaves…”

 

            His eyes became slightly unfocused, for a moment. “A wife. It will have to be someone acceptable to the haughtiest monarch or nobleman in Europe. That’s essential.”

 

            Rubens inclined his head. “Yes, of course. Under the circumstances, a morganatic marriage—anything that even had a whiff of it—would be out of the question.” He went back to pursing his lips. “I can begin some discreet inquiries. There are not really all that many options, you understand?”

 

            Don Fernando gave him a quick, stoic nod of the head. “Yes, Pieter, I know. Do your best to find someone reasonably pleasant and not too ugly, if you can. But what matters is that she be fertile and young enough to bear a number of children. The rest I can—will have to—just live with.”

 

            His expression brightened. “But what I am saying? First I have to win this war—or get a good enough settlement, at least. A wife can wait. Must wait, in fact. No suitable bride will be found for a prince who doesn’t have a realm to show for the title. Even the Germans would laugh at such a one.”

 

            Rubens was a little amused to see the way the prince—a man still in his early twenties—so obviously found the demands of war more congenial than the demands of marriage. Of course, for royalty, that attitude was not so unusual, even in much older men. Very rarely was congeniality, much less affection, a significant factor when it came to choosing spouses. As it would not be in this instance, either.

 

            Within seconds, after a polite but brief dismissal, Don Fernando was consulting with his officers over the best place to prepare what the Americans called a “landing field.” Before too long, Rubens was sure, the prince would come to the inevitable conclusion that—since neither he nor any of his officers had never so much as seen an airplane—they would need to send an envoy to Amsterdam to discreetly inquire if the up-timers residing in the city could provide them with some advice.

 

            Rubens himself would probably be the envoy chosen, in fact.

 

 

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2 Responses to 1634: THE BALTIC WAR — snippet 32

  1. Brockfield says:

    I’m sure you have someone in mind already as the bride for the Cardinal Infante, but just wanted to offer a suggestion.

    Frederick, the Winter King, recently had his family captured by the Cardinal Infante’s forces. Tom Simpson even contemplated what would happen to some of them now. Frederick’s eldest daughter, Elisabeth, the Princess Palatine, would be of suitable rank to avoid the question of it being an unequal marriage. Granted, her family is no position of power in 1634, but she is of proper rank. Historically she did refuse to marry a Polish King as he was Catholic, so that would be a problem. However, she also corresponded with Rene Descartes, so the Cardinal-Infante’s support of artists, philosophers is a common theme. Additionally, her claim to the Palatinate would be good diplomatic leverage with the USE. It’s also someone in the region of the new realm that the Cardinal Infante is trying to establish.

    Just a thought though. I’m sure that there are likely plans for the entire family of the Winter King as well as a bride picked out for the Cardinal-Infante.

  2. Willem Meijer says:

    I can be no help on the method of defrocking a cardinal (not in a way valid under canon law), but in Spanish history has a bit of a precedent for a cleric doing his bit for the royal bloodline. In the house of Aragon King Alfonso I died without heirs. To solve the problem of the sucession his brother was coaxed out of a monastery to become King, and was in the world long enough to beget an heiress. This Patronilla then went on to marry the heir of Catalonia, thereby making up the Aragon that later went into the Spanish mix of Castile, Aragon, and all the other bits when Ferdinand and Isabella married. Alas Ferdinand was no direct descendant of this Petronilla, as the line of Aragon died out and was replaced by a junior branch of the Castile house (thereby making the marriage of the Most Catholic Kings F and I a bit of a problem, being cousins and thus in need of Papal dispensation).

    May I take the opportunity to say that the seizing of Haarlem is a bit of a problem to me. I am Dutch, and that makes the idea ‘wrong’ somehow, but I also know that getting sea-going ships past Amsterdam and up the IJ towards Haarlem would have been a nightmare. To get from the upper IJ into the Spaarne river you also have to pass a fairly small lock, or debark the troops and march for several kilometers before you could get al the city proper.

    The last few years a few new books on the early military history of the Republic have been published (mostly in Dutch), books that do not give the traditional viewpoint of great men and great battles. They go into recruitment, discipline, payment of troops, standardization of weapons, drill, &c, &c, and the slow development of military logistics. The ‘historic’ army of the Cardinal Infante of 1632 was not able to field both the garrisons (in order to secure the Southern Netherlands) and the field army the generals of the time found necessary to mount a campaign on land controlled by the Estates General. The army of the Estates was large enough to conduct its campaigns in the south and to seize most of the initiative but still not large enough to out-manouver the army of Flanders and really make progress. And time and again it (the Estates’ army) could not take advantage of it’s opportunities because the logistics of feeding a field army several day’s maching away from the most forward supply bases was beyond their abilities. It was the French army of the late 17th and early 18th century that truly developed the prepared depots and the ways to get bread and forrage to the troops in such a way that the army could keep moving after seizing it’s first few towns or fortresses. If your early campaign was succesfull in the 1630’s, you entrenched and started to prepare for the counter-attack, you did not press on, at least not in the over-fortified lands of Flanders and Brabant.

    A lightning strike throught the most densely populated part of the Republic to join up with a naval attack on Haarlem (say, a 1630’s version of Operation Market Garden) I can’t really believe. A swift strike east of Utrecht towards Amersfoort and Naarden, thereby cutting the country in half is more feasible, it is what Louis XIV almost did in 1672.

    I hope the siege of Amsterdam will soon be over, because I take it that Amstelveen, where my parents live, is in Spanish hands. My sister (in the Watergraafsmeer) lives at this moment in danger of her life and honour from marauding troops, and the district where I live (the so-called Eastern Islands) is part of the soggy no-mans land in front of the city walls. The shelling is horrendous. The only good thing is that the land is so water-logged that the Dons in their armour drown if they take any step off the beaten path. Parts of these polders (even now) have a ground water level some 30 cm below the ground, and (in the 17th century) were
    unpassable swamps during autumn and winter.

    Yours,

    Willem Meijer
    Oostenburgergracht 41H
    1018 NB Amsterdam

    PS Malaria was endemic in some parts of North Holland until the 1950’s. Please make sure quinine is shipped in as soon as possible.

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