1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 7
Duke Albrecht of Bavaria, as he fingered his rosary, thanked God for his brother’s long and happy marriage. Thirty-nine years it would have been, next month, since Elisabeth Renee of Lorraine came to Bavaria as a bride and accepted the Germanized name of Elisabeth Renata. He, himself, had been not quite eleven years old, then. And it was true. As a new bride, she had brought a light-hearted spirit into the rigid Bavarian court, which had been anything but light-hearted under the rule of their father.
Duke Wilhelm “the Pious” had attended mass every day, when possible several times a day. He had also devoted four hours daily to prayer, one to contemplation, and all his spare time to devotional reading. He had received holy communion every week, and twice a week during Advent and Lent. He had taken part in public devotions, processions, and pilgrimages. One ambassador had called Bavaria a monastery in their father’s day. It had not been just the court, or even Munich, either. His father had turned Bavaria itself into a monastery, as far as could be done. In 1634, it was far different from the half-Lutheran society it had been in the 1560s.
In the past half-century, Bavaria had been Catholicized: it was a land of saints and shrines, healing images and miraculous relics, pilgrimages and processions, the daily routine of its people marked by the tolling of church bells and recital of litanies. People who would not conform had been forced to leave. Nearly twenty years ago already, Father Matthaeus Rader, who was still teaching in Munich, had published his Bavaria Sancta—Holy Bavaria. It was a really hefty tome, praising the duchy’s historic and sacred destiny, listing its saints and martyrs, its holy monks; its pious rulers, culminating in the current members of the House of Wittelsbach.
The rulers of Bavaria knew, well enough, that making Bavaria a Holy Land was far too important to be left to the church alone. Their intent was to create a Catholic state. In addition to the privy council, which administered secular affairs, and the treasury, which ensured financial stability, the dukes had formed the Geistlicher Rat, the ecclesiastical council. As much as any Lutheran prince’s consistory, it supervised and disciplined the duchy’s Catholic clergy through regular visitations; it controlled the Catholicism of all the state’s officials by issuing certificates documenting annual confession and communion as strictly as the Church of England did under Elizabeth; it funded new Catholic schools, new Catholic colleges, new houses of religious orders, especially the missionary and educational ones, such as the Jesuits and Capuchins for men, the Ursulines for women.
Elisabeth Renata. Maximilian had insisted on having her—no “crook-backed Habsburg bride” for him, he had proclaimed. So she had come, slender and elegant. Not a frivolous spirit, never. Her life had been untiringly devoted to works of charity. But she had performed them out of sheer love of God and others—not from a sense of grim duty. “Hail Mary, full of grace.”
Albrecht’s mind wandered. Maximilian’s marriage had been so ideal—a pattern of that prescribed by God for a Christian couple. Except that there were no children. No pregnancies. After some years, their father, Duke Wilhelm V, concluded that her childlessness was the result of some spell that witches and heretics, and possibly also Jews, had cast upon his oldest son’s wife. Perhaps, his father had thought, God had permitted the young duchess to be bewitched because he had not persecuted the heretics zealously enough. Perhaps, even during his great campaign against them in 1590, he had shown too much mercy, had demonstrated too little firmness in exterminating the witches who ruined harvests, who destroyed cattle and crops, and who brought pestilence, plague, and sickness into Bavaria. Or, on the other hand, perhaps, Duke Wilhelm had persecuted the heretics in his realm so zealously, had shown so little mercy in burning the witches, had served the cause of Christ so plainly, that the bitter hatred of the Devil had descended directly on himself and his family. There had been prayers to break the spell; there had been devotional exercises. Duke Wilhelm had brought the general of the Barnabite friars, Michael Marrano, to Munich. He was a celebrated expert in removing spells from princely personages.
All to no avail. Elisabeth Renata had remained childless.
Which turned Duke Albrecht’s thoughts to his own marriage. By that time, the Estates of Bavaria had already forced their father to abdicate. That happened two years after Maximilian’s marriage. Father had built too much—palaces, churches, Jesuit colleges. He had contributed generously to Catholic missions in China and Japan. There had been accusations of extravagance; threats of an impending state bankruptcy. Maximilian had assumed rule in Bavaria. By then, their father’s piety had gotten for Munich the name of the “German Rome” for its advocacy of Counter-Reformation piety. The two brothers between Maximilian and himself had already been placed in the clergy. Philipp Wilhelm, who had been made the bishop of Regensburg the same year that Max married and a cardinal of the Church two years after that, was already dead. Ferdinand had been, and still was, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne.
So. Albrecht must marry. He did. He had been twenty-seven, at the time; his bride Mechthilde, four years younger. The marriage had been followed by—four years of childlessness. He added in a couple of additional prayers for their first child, Maria Renata, who had died at the age of fourteen. Then God’s mercy had prevailed. They had four sons; three had survived. Karl Johann Franz was a little rash and reckless at the age of fifteen, but surely he would become steadier. Maximilian Heinrich, twelve; Sigmund Albrecht, ten. Both intensely intelligent and promising; all carefully educated for the responsibilities which, he and Maximilian believed, were due to fall upon them.
Mechthilde was the younger of the two children of Landgrave Georg Ludwig of Leuchtenberg, imperial privy councilor and president of the imperial aulic council. He had been a tireless supporter of the Catholic cause, although his struggle with the tendency of his subjects to sneak across the borders and go to Protestant church services in the Upper Palatinate had worn him thin. He had also been rather well known for demanding and frequently getting a salary three times higher than anyone else would have received for doing exactly the same job.
Leuchtenberg had long been a nuisance, from the viewpoint of Bavaria. Albrecht’s marriage to Mechthilde had brought the possibility that, should her brother die without heirs, the last non-Wittelsbach principality in the region of the Upper Palatinate could be incorporated into Bavaria’s ever expanding boundaries.
Unfortunately, that eventuality did not appear likely at present. Her brother Wilhelm Georg was still alive, even though his health was very shaky, and he had two surviving sons. Too bad that the youngest Leuchtenberg boy had died at Halberstadt eighteen months ago, but he had died in the service of his emperor and his church. Those were the risks that went with being born into the nobility.
He would need to talk to Mechthilde. To listen to Mechthilde.
Their rosaries completed, the privy councillors were looking at him. He called the meeting to order.
Landgrave Hermann of Hessen-Rotenburg hated politics. Unfortunately for him, however, his older half-brother Landgrave William of Hesse-Kassel was one of Gustav Adolf’s primary allies in Germany. That gave Hesse-Kassel, for all practical purposes, the nomination right to at least one of the cabinet posts under the new prime minister.
So, William had nominated his younger brother Herman as Secretary of State. And, of course, Hermann would do his duty, as a good Calvinist should. He was working morning, noon, and night to be an honor to his brother’s choice and ensure that the Emperor Gustav Adolf had no regrets about agreeing to find a place for Calvinists in the new government.
But he didn’t have to like it. Hermann was only twenty-seven years old. He yearned for his home, for the newly-married wife who had stayed behind to run the place, for his study, and for his project of producing a complete physical geography and topography of Hesse.
The prime minister looked at him impatiently. “Hermann,” Mike Stearns said, “will you please sit down?”
Embarrassed, suspecting that this was a concession to the prosthesis that he wore in place of one foot—not because of a respectable wound obtained in war but because of a birth defect—the landgrave sat. He wished that his brother had nominated someone else. But there wasn’t anyone else. Of the surviving sons of Moritz of Hesse, he was the oldest after Wilhelm himself.