1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 13:
The young secretary nodded gratefully. He was learning fast, but he still was nowhere as close to being on top of the political developments of the past quarter century as his employer, who had been born to the job.
Duke Ernst was still dictating. “Wolfgang Wilhelm, seems, for the moment, to have no immediate intentions of undertaking military action to reclaim those parts of his Neuburg lands that are up here, north of the Danube, intermixed with those of the Upper Palatinate. That’s probably because Gustav’s main theater of military operation this spring and summer will be against the League of Ostend in the north and thus uncomfortably close to Wolfgang’s lands on the lower Rhine and Düsseldorf itself. However, his local administrators are still in place in the Neuburg lands south of the Danube and he has filed a complaint against us with the Imperial Supreme Court on grounds that we have ‘unjustifiably dispossessed’ him of the north-Danubian lands that interpenetrate those of the Upper Palatinate.”
Böcler mentally thanked his father for making him learn shorthand, because Duke Ernst wasn’t even pausing between sentences.
“And, I expect, whether the acknowledged emperor of the Germanies be Swedish or Austrian, Lutheran or Catholic, in Magdeburg or Vienna, the imperial chamber court will hear the case. But what is immediately important to us as we sit in Amberg is that most certainly, given the slightest chance, Duke Maximilian will seize upon Wolfgang Wilhelm’s grievances as an excuse to invade the Upper Palatinate, citing noble defense of the unjustly dispossessed as the casus belli of a just war.”
Banér chimed in. “You can add to your notes that Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg is a son of a bitch—or would be, if his mother hadn’t been a perfectly respectable woman. Still, he qualifies as a son of a bitch even when his mother had been impeccably virtuous. His character has the kind of son-of-a-bitchiness that overrides such minor impediments. He….”
“What do you think of his brothers—the Lutheran dukes of the Junge-Pfalz? August at Sulzbach—well, he died a couple of years ago, so it’s his widow as regent—and Johann Friedrich at Hilpoltstein?” Duke Ernst interrupted Banér’s spiel with some apparently genuine curiosity. These cadets of the Pfalz-Neuburg ruling house held appanages, independently-administered lands that checkerboarded with those of the Upper Palatinate. Böcler knew that he dealt with them, or, at least, with their officials, on an almost daily basis.
“Honestly?” Banér asked. “I think that the ‘ruling high nobility’ of all of these crappy bits and pieces of the Palatinate would be a lot improved if someone did to them what the kings of Sweden did to their own nobility two generations ago. Namely, chop off their shitting heads. And keep chopping until the ones left alive become obedient servants of the crown instead of hopped-up would-be-independent rulers. Which applies even though all four of my great-grandfathers were among the ones who ended up a head shorter than they’d been the day before. Turn this running asshole of a place into something that looks like a country instead of this little mini-state here and that little mini-state there.”
“Oh,” Duke Ernst said. From his tone, it seemed that the comment that he had just heard was something new.
Böcler had been taking shorthand “a mile a minute” as the up-timers put it. After the, “Oh,” there was a pause, during which his mind wandered. He wished he knew what Duke Ernst was thinking. Although the Wettin family were natives of Thuringia and Saxony rather than of the Palatinate, there was little doubt in Böcler’s mind that it probably fell into Banér’s category of should-be-choppees. Particularly Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, of course, given that he was a traitor who had taken service with the French.
But the other Saxe-Weimar brothers were, more or less voluntarily, serving Gustavus II Adolphus because he appeared to offer the best option available to them as former Protestant rulers. Wilhelm had even abdicated his title as duke and become plain William Wettin in order to run for the House of Commons in the USE’s new Parliament. Still, they were still nobles by up-bringing and temperament. This was always clear to Böcler, considering that he himself certainly was not.
While Wilhelm and Ernst had agreed rather gracefully when the up-timers “slid” Saxe-Weimar itself into the New United States, Wilhelm had been more than compensated—from the gritty standpoint of economics—by Gustav’s giving him the Eichsfeld to administer. Ernst, through his long-standing betrothal to the little heiress of Saxe-Altenburg, had prospects for a prosperous future as well, presuming that she survived for a few more years and reached marriageable age. Plus, their brother Albrecht had stayed home to cultivate their remaining economic interests and private property in what had once been an independent Saxe-Weimar.
“Oh,” the duke said again. Whatever he might have been thinking after Banér’s diatribe, he introduced a change of subject-matter. “You asked for this special meeting,” he said. “What is the topic?”
Böcler snapped to attention, pencil at the ready.
“I want to take Ingolstadt,” Banér said baldly. “Letting the Bavarians keep a garrisoned fortress on the north bank of the Danube is a boil on our rump. And a danger to Horn’s flank in Swabia. Which means that it’s a threat to the king. I’m sick of it. And my men damned well need something more to do. I’m tired of having half my available men just sitting there, investing it. That bridge, the way the piers are built, is practically indestructible. Even when we manage to get rid of the planking temporarily—which , believe me, is not easy—we know perfectly well that it’s being re-provisioned almost every night by those fleets of little boats that run through those multiple channels of the river to the south. And if you want us to keep the Bavarians off Wallenstein’s back and make sure Maximilian is too busy to invade the Upper Palatinate this summer, a major campaign at Ingolstadt will give them something else to think about—actually pull Max’s troops to the west, probably. A fair number of them, anyway.”
“I am sure,” Duke Ernst said judiciously, “that the fact that we hold Regensburg is just as much of an irritant to the Bavarians as their possession of Ingolstadt is to us.”
Banér glared. He was not by temperament favorably inclined toward an even-handed, fair-minded assessment of the rights and wrongs of the military situation. From his standpoint, the ideal situation would be for Sweden to have every military stronghold in the Germanies firmly within its grasp.
“If you take all the rest of your regulars—or most of them—to Ingolstadt, what do I do about the rest of the borders?” asked the duke. “I’m still not so sure that we were smart to take that neck of hill and forest running down from Regensburg to Passau, just because it was north of the Danube and just because we could, right then, since the Bavarians were in full retreat after we took Regensburg. Admittedly, it’s one of the few things that we’ve done that actually helps Wallenstein—giving him a fairly secure southwestern border against the USE rather than against the Bavarians as far down as Passau. But it’s not an easy place to patrol. Plus the whole river, from Donauwörth to Passau. That’s two hundred fifty miles by itself. Not counting the twists and turns.”
Duke Ernst assumed a righteous expression—one that came to him rather easily because of extensive practice.
Banér’s countering expression was closer to “Gotcha!”
“Hill and forest, you say? Then use your oh-so-valuable hillbillies and foresters. River bank, you say? Then use your precious river rats and their barges. Don’t look so sanctimoniously at me, Duke. I know what you’ve been doing, training whole squads of non-soldiers to patrol the regions they know best. And you’ve been doing it because you fucking well believe that the first chance I have, I’m going to pull out of this twice-damned, thrice-cursed, totally-abandoned-by-God place and get my men back to my king and his war in the Baltic, which is where I belong and where I might, just might, have a chance to get a fucking promotion. Which is what I am going to do. For a general, it is a thoroughly career-destroying move to be stuck in a backwater where nothing is going boom. Be grateful that I’m solving Ingolstadt for you first.”
Banér drained his tankard and stood up without the regent’s permission.
Duke Ernst was used to that.
The general slammed the door on his way out.
Duke Ernst was used to that, too.
As Böcler duly noted in the margin. Of course, the clean copies of the minutes that he submitted to the duke never included his marginal notes.