1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 34:
There had been a great spate of diplomatic activity, Maria Anna knew. Requests for the issuance of ecclesiastical dispensations for multiple lines of consanguineal and affinal relationships between the prospective bride and groom had gone from Vienna to Rome by the fastest post possible, accompanied by letters from the nuncio. Undoubtedly, similar requests and letters had been sent from Munich. After some very brief vacillation on the part of the pope—or, possibly on the part of the cardinals and other curial officials, which had scarcely been surprising, since Cousin Philip’s ambassador would almost certainly have been pressuring for a delay—they had received word. The pope would do all that was necessary and would do it as quickly as possible.
Thus, today’s audience, for Papa to announce a wedding date: July 15.
Thus, today’s mass, to give due thanks to God.
Papa upon his throne in the Hofburg was far more impressive than Papa at the breakfast table with crumbs in his beard. The principal public audience chamber, which went under the name of the Ratstube, which made it sound rather like a cozy little room, was really quite large. The throne was at one end, with a canopy or pavilion above it. This had curtains, which were withdrawn to reveal Papa’s presence. The court marshal, holding the sword of state, stood on his right. The chamberlain stood to his left, reading out the items on the agenda. He carried the symbols and introduced foreign representatives; it was his right to determine the sequence of the audiences. The right to determine the order in which those present would be heard gave him great power.
Also on Papa’s right, but on the side wall, was a smaller throne with a smaller canopy. The heir to the throne sat there when he was present, but Ferdinand was not present. He was inspecting fortifications against the Turks. There was a chair for Cardinal Dietrichstein. He was old, he was not well, and once the protocol people were persuaded to think of it the right way, being a Prince of the Church, he was a prince. So he got to sit.
Everyone else in the room stood, the men bare-headed in deference to the emperor. They also all wore heavy cloaks over their formal court dress. May or not, the high-ceilinged room was as cold as a wit… Oh, no. We don’t think those words.
If Papa looked impressive, the palace at Vienna was truly not very grand. The geographer Merian, in his book that described the Germanies, had said that it was “not particularly splendidly constructed, and rather small for such a mighty and supreme potentate.” Long ago, Maximilian I, the founder of Habsburg greatness, had preferred to reside at Innsbruck and even at Augsburg. Of course, so long ago, the Vorlande, the scattered Habsburg possessions in southwestern Germany, had been comparatively more important. That was before Hungary and Bohemia had come to the family. More recently, Rudolf II had preferred Prague. Vienna was, really, a provincial capital that Papa had pressed into service as an imperial seat of government—not that he still did not travel, to Linz and to Graz, to Pressburg and to Prague, taking the court and its major officials with him. Sometimes he took all of the court. With family, officials, councillors, chaplains, choristers, and pages, that was about five hundred people to move from one residence to another. The high steward supervised the people, but the master of the horse controlled the horses, wagons, and carriages, which sometimes made travel an interesting experience.
Maria Anna waited. The family members were to accompany Papa on a procession from the audience chamber to church. The Hofburg was not like the Spanish Escorial, with the great church as the center of the palace. In Vienna, unless using a small private chapel, the imperial family walked to church in public, just like anyone else.
In Munich, things would be much more grand. Uncle Max was only a duke, not an emperor, but he kept a court almost twice as large as that of Vienna. The Residenz in Munich was far more modern and elegant than the imperial palace in Vienna.
It was too bad that Uncle Max could not come to Vienna for the wedding, she thought. The more of her time that had been taken up with wedding preparations, the less opportunity she had for study. It had become more and more difficult for her to obtain information. If it hadn’t been for Doña Mencia, she would have had miserably little.
Doña Mencia, however, somehow, was obtaining copies of material from the up-time encyclopedias. Things were not the same; truly they were not. In some ways, it was the small things, rather than the great ones, that made this most real. In that other world, true, she had married Uncle Max. But in that world, Tante Elisabeth Renata had lived for one more year. In that world, the Cardinal-Infante had not gone to the Netherlands and defeated the heretic house of Orange there. In that other world, he had brought an army from Spain, via Italy, and had joined with the Austrian army led by her brother Ferdinand. Outside of the imperial city of Nördlingen, they had won a great victory over the Swedes. Papa had been so proud of Ferdinand that he had cried tears of joy.
Here, of course, no one had defeated the Swedes, yet. Their king, who led the armies of the heretics to achieve impossibilities, was not dead. Ferdinand had not achieved a great victory; Papa was not angry with him, but not especially proud of him, either—no more so than usual. The Catholic cause was not ascendant and secure.
Therefore, Uncle Max refused to come to Vienna for the wedding. He must, the Bavarians had said, remain at home, ensuring the security of the Danube frontier against the Swede’s regent and general who were occupying the Upper Palatinate and actively besieging his jewel fortress at Ingolstadt. The Bavarian diplomatic correspondence said that the duke had decided that he should not go so far from his army. He must remain available if needed to defend the cause of the Catholic League.
So Maria Anna would be married in Munich, not Vienna. If all was well at Ingolstadt, the duke would meet her at Passau and escort her from there to the Bavarian capital. Somehow, she mused, it would have been a little easier to be married at home. Turning her head slightly, she smiled at Doña Mencia, who was standing just behind her.
Doña Mencia had also, as it chanced, been thinking of the differences between the was and the is. Thank God for the dispatches from Brussels. She had quite deliberately been focusing the archduchess’ attention on the interesting discrepancies between the broader history narrated in the encyclopedias and what had happened since the spring of 1631.
She hoped that no one else had filled Maria Anna’s ears full of the disturbing reports from Munich. The ones about Duke Maximilian’s indifference to the marriage, and his plain statement to his privy council that if they wanted him to marry the girl, they could bring her here, because he saw no reason to take the trouble to go there. The ones which said that Duke Maximilian was not concentrating his attention on the threats from Duke Ernst and Banér; the ones which said that he left his chambers only to go to the chapel, and the chapel only to go to his chambers.
Another man moved forward to present his petition. Mentally, Maria Anna called up the wreath of blessings upon which she was still focusing her morning devotions. She hadn’t added any new roses to it for quite some time. She thought hard about blessings.
Although Duke Maximilian showed no interest in the arrangements for his forthcoming marriage, numerous other people were quite determined that Bavaria should not be disgraced by a shabby welcome for its new duchess. Many of the interests coalesced: Duchess Mechthilde, the city council, the Jesuit collegium. Among the various other items offered to celebrate her arrival in the city, there would be a play.
A play in Munich was not a modest undertaking. Long since, they had spilled out of the confining space of the courtyard of the Jesuit college and took place in the huge Schrannenplatz in front of the cathedral. It was not uncommon for a play to have one hundred fifty or two hundred actors with speaking parts; the costumed extras for crowd scenes could range from a thousand to more than fifteen hundred. They had huge painted sets; multiple special effects with waves and shipwrecks, guardian angels descending from heaven, music, and fireworks. They were in Latin, of course. For more than fifty years, however, it had been the custom to print German-language programs for the spectators that summarized the plot development of each act, pointed out the moral of the story, and sometimes even translated crucial passages of the major speeches. It was Father Matthaeus Rader, still teaching at the collegium, who had had that idea. The first such program had been printed in 1597 for the dedication of St. Michael’s church. Although for the past fifteen or more years he had been concentrating on a three-volume collection of the lives of Bavaria’s saints, he agreed to accept responsibility for the overall supervision of one more event.
There wouldn’t be time to commission an entirely new play for the wedding and have new music composed and rehearsed. Why, the wedding celebration this year between the son of the king of Denmark and the daughter of the elector of Saxony (heretics all) had required two years of preparation. Three months was quite hopeless for that. They would need to revive an existing play.
Of all the well-known Jesuit playwrights, one had taught for a time in Munich before being called to Rome to serve as a papal censor—Jakob Bidermann. Bidermann, like Father Drexel, the court preacher, was one of Rader’s former students. Rader suggested one of his works with, perhaps, a new and topical poetic introduction and epilogue.
The whole committee agreed that this would work. But which play? The most famous was the Cenodoxus. It was powerful, undoubtedly. When it was first performed, the actor who portrayed the protagonist had been moved to join the Jesuit order and more than a dozen Bavarian court officials had taken leave from their ordinary duties in order to make a retreat and perform St. Ignatius Loyola’s Exercises.
Mary Ward, who had been drawn into the committee on the presumption that her school would supply the many flower-petal-scattering girl children who constituted part of any celebration, remarked that this was not, perhaps, precisely the effect that one wished to achieve during a wedding celebration.
Josephus? Not quite right. Philemon the Martyr? Umm, no, not this time. Jacob the Usurer? Off-topic.
Patiently, Duchess Mechthilde let the discussion proceed along its inconclusive way until everyone was getting tired and would welcome a decisive intervention. They should make the play a compliment to Duke Maximilian, she suggested. A compliment to his generalship of the troops of the Catholic League. Of all of Bidermann’s plays, the best for this purpose would be…
Of course! Why hadn’t they thought of it in the first place. Some time during the week before the wedding, Munich would put on a spectacular performance of Belisarius, Christian General.
However, Father Rader had insisted, there should be a new poetical prologue and epilogue that specifically referenced the wedding. That could certainly be achieved within the allotted time. Who? Well, young Balde would be the best choice.
“But,” one of the city councilmen sputtered, “he’s in Amberg. In the Upper Palatinate. Imprisoned by the heretics.”
“He isn’t imprisoned,” Rader answered. “And the mails are going through. By somewhat roundabout routes, at times, but going through. The house of Thurn and Taxis is most ingenious. It shall be Balde.”
Once this had been decided, all of the committee members took up their tasks with little additional discussion; most of them had taken part in the staging of a dozen or more plays of this type. There are many advantages to fielding a veteran team.
Duchess Mechthilde saw no reason to remind them of the play’s full title. Not that her brother-in-law deserved to experience derision or misery. As far as Mechthilde could find out, based on the information she received from servants and various other informants she had placed judiciously here and there among the court personnel, Maximilian truly did wish to retire to a monastery. So, he clearly deserved all the assistance that she could give him in attaining his desire.
The misfortune was that there were others who were hindering his pursuit of that laudable and praiseworthy goal. Those others—yes, they did deserve whatever adverse fate could be brought to bear upon them. Munich would be performing A Tragi-Comedy of the Rise and Fall of Belisarius, Christian General, who Fell from the Highest Happiness of Fame into the Extreme Mockery of Misfortune under Emperor Justinian, about the Year of Christ 530.