1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 8:
As he watched his Secretary of State take a seat, Mike Stearns sighed. Arnold Bellamy back home in Grantville; Hermann here. Why did diplomacy seem to produce so many stiff-necked, stiff-backed, and thoroughly uptight types? Not that either of them was dumb, just…
God, how he missed Ed Piazza.
“Let the briefing begin.” He hated these third-person down-time formulas of speech, too.
Hermann gestured at Philipp Sattler, who was serving as Gustav Adolf’s personal liaison to the prime minister. Sattler, an experienced diplomat, was originally from Kempten, which gave him a considerable advantage in understanding the crazy quilt that was the political geography of the Germanies south of the Main river. Sattler had been brought in mainly to deal with Swabian issues, but was doubling as the Bavarian expert as well.
Sattler started out. “Bavaria has fifty privy councillors, more or less. Most are administrative functionaries, with only minor influence. If you will forgive me, I have prepared summaries only on those whom I consider to be of political importance.”
Mike snorted. “You are forgiven. Even better, you are commended. Go on.”
“The chancellor is Dr. Joachim Donnersberger. He has been the most important political official in the duchy, the supreme court chancellor, since 1599. That means, naturally, that he isn’t by any means a young man any more; he’ll be seventy next year. He’s a commoner, from a prominent Munich family, with a law degree. It’s probably about time for the dukes to put a seal of approval on those long years of service by raising him to the nobility and changing his name to von Donnersberg, but they haven’t done it yet. Don’t count him out on grounds of age—he’s been at Duke Maximilian’s right hand ever since he took over the administration of Bavaria from his father.”
Mike nodded. “I think that I get the picture.”
“Just about equally influential, you have Duke Maximilian’s confessor, Father Adam Contzen. He’s a Jesuit, in his early sixties, originally from Jülich. He’s been a Jesuit since 1591. Duke Maximilian places unlimited confidence in the Jesuits, so he tends to push the limits that their order places on them just a little further than he ought to. He requires the Jesuits at his court to provide him not just with spiritual and political advice, but also with diplomatic services.”
“What’s Contzen’s position, then, when he hands out political advice.”
Sattler laughed. “Ah, Herr Stearns, you are very lucky. In 1620, Father Contzen wrote a nice long treatise, Ten Books Concerning Politics. Sometimes translated as Ten Books on Political Economy I will, of course, be happy to summarize it for you. Possibly the most famous sentence is, ‘Hymni Lutheri animos plures, quam scripta et declamationes occiderunt.’”
He paused, probably recalling the warning he must have received that the up-timers rarely had a decent foundation in the classical languages. “That is, ‘Luther has murdered more souls with his hymns than with his writings and sermons.’ This does not mean in the least that he doubts the effectiveness of other Protestant writings and sermons in murdering souls. Throughout the 1620s, he was the leading spokesman for the Jesuit extremist party in Bavaria. The zealots, as they were known.”
“A delightful man, I am sure,” Mike muttered.
“He is a religious bigot. However, I want to be fair. It is no service to you if I show you only a caricature of the men with whom you will be dealing, Herr Stearns.”
Sattler continued. “The Ten Books also lay out the obligations of a ruler to his subjects. The ideal Christian commonwealth. In the book, he advocated tax reform; freeing the peasants from excessive burdens while placing tax levies on objects of luxury; that the state should itself own certain industries for the purpose of enhancing its revenue. Maximilian invited Contzen to become his confessor largely as a result of that publication. The parts you would consider good as well as those you would not like.”
Duke Hermann interrupted. “What about Richel?”
“Bartholomaeus Richel. Also a commoner, a lawyer. He has been Donnersberger’s deputy since 1623. Before that, he was chancellor of the diocese of Eichstätt. He left because of a slightly difficult episode. His wife Maria, a member of the patrician Bonschab family, was burned as a witch in December 1620. Richel transferred to the service of Bavaria very quickly after that—not a bad move in view of the fact that six other Bonschab family members were burned as witches in Eichstätt between 1617 and 1627. That included the town’s mayor, Lorenz Bonschab, and his wife and daughter. Being related to the Bonschabs, even by marriage, was not exactly a career-enhancing item on a man’s resume in Eichstätt.”
“No kidding,” Mike said. “Why did Duke Maximilian hire him?”
“He’s very competent. And his wife was dead.” Sattler’s expression was sour.
“What is concerning Landgrave Hermann, I think, is that Richel was Maximilian’s emissary to Ferdinand II last year. He was right in the middle of the attempt to assassinate Wallenstein, egging Ferdinand on. Richel served Maximilian very well during his term as ambassador in Vienna. From what we have been able to learn, his correspondence supplied Munich with large quantities of very useful information, which Maximilian has been using to gain additional leverage with the pope against the Austrian Habsburgs.”
“I keep reminding myself of that,” Mike said. “Not to regard the powers that were in the Catholic League as some sort of a monolith against the Protestants. They are just as fractious among themselves as Gustav Adolf’s German allies. Okay, Donnersberger, Contzen, Richel. Anyone else I should know about?”
“It’s a little questionable, but perhaps Father Johannes Vervaux. Duke Francis II sent him down from Lorraine to Munich just two years ago with a recommendation. He became confessor to Duchess Elisabeth Renata, Duke Francis’ sister. I say that it’s questionable because now that she is dead, it’s hard to tell whether he will be keeping his position on the privy council or will be looking for another job. We will have to wait and see. He is just as much a Jesuit as Contzen, but almost a generation separates the two men. Vervaux is in his mid-forties and he did not join the order until 1618. A full generation separates their spiritual formation. It isn’t that he is less devout than Contzen; just that their modes of expressing that piety diverge widely, from what I hear.”
Mike looked at Hermann. “Is there anything that we can do about the Bavarian situation, one way or the other?”
“Not barring direct military intervention. Which we cannot possibly afford when everything needs to be focused on the League of Ostend. Diplomatically, not a thing.”
“Then, I guess, we just tell Francisco Nasi to keep on top of developments as best he can. And let me know if anything changes.”
Duke Albrecht looked around the table. He had not invited the functionaries this morning; the men facing him would be the ones whose opinions guided the setting of Bavarian policy.
If, indeed, his brother could be brought to think about policy. Duke Albrecht glanced toward the door. A servant silently signaled that Duke Maximilian was again closed away in the chapel.
In the privy council chamber, the discussion rose and fell. Could the duke be persuaded not to abdicate? Should he be? How would an abdication impact the problems in Bohemia? How would it affect the League of Ostend’s efforts against the Swede?
Chancellor Donnersberger was inclined to think that the duke should be allowed to abide by his choice. It was far from unprecedented. The Emperor Charles V, himself, had abdicated and spent his last years in a monastery. Every man had the right to take thought for his soul.
It was Contzen, at the last, who was adamant. “An abdication by the man who for so many years has been the general and guiding force of the Catholic League must necessarily have an adverse impact on efforts against the Swedish heretic. It will be perceived as a sign of weakness, and will undermine the church’s efforts to reclaim souls. The effect on public relations will also be horrible; we must dissuade him from this at all costs.”