1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 35:
Gustav Adolf, King of Sweden and Emperor of the United States of Europe was in a very good mood this day. Word had just come from General Torstensson that he and his army had reached the Wardersee, thereby cutting off the French line of retreat from the siege of Luebeck. And Admiral Simpson’s flotilla of ironclads would be entering the Bay of Luebeck very soon now.
That was perhaps just as well for General Johan Banér, reflected the emperor’s aide, Colonel Nils Ekstrom. Had Gustav Adolf been in a bad mood, he might well have reacted to the dispatches sent from the Upper Palatinate by Duke Ernst quite differently.
Banér could be… aggravating. Even at a distance, much less in person. At least, at a distance, you could pretend he was sober most of the time. And you didn’t have to listen to his constant profanity and blasphemy.
Gustav laid the despatches down on the desk in his office in the city’s Rathaus. “Well, why not? Johan’s capable in the field. He might even reduce Ingolstadt, which would be a very nice development.”
Ekstrom cleared his throat. Before he could utter words of caution, however, the emperor waved his hand. “Yes, yes, I know,” he said. “The odds of that happening are not so good. But they’re not impossible, either, and simply the attempt will keep the Bavarians pre-occupied. Which is all I really need at the moment.”
“Are not likely to take advantage of Banér’s withdrawal of troops from the border,” Gustav interrupted. “Not with Wallenstein allied to us and sitting close to their northern territories. Relax, Nils. It’s safe enough, I think.”
Ekstrom felt compelled to complete his duties. “That still leaves Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar.”
The emperor thought for a moment, and then shrugged. “Yes, but I can’t see where that’s a problem either. General Horn has enough men in Swabia to keep Bernhard from doing anything prodigious, so to speak—a term which would certainly qualify any attempt on his part to march into the Upper Palatinate. Horn’s not perhaps the most imaginative and daring commander you could ask for, but he’s never careless. Besides…”
For a moment, Gustav tapped his big fingers on the desktop. “Besides,” he continued, “I think Bernhard is now looking mainly to his own purposes. If that’s the case, why would he undertake such a risky gamble? Even if it were successful, he might advance the interests of France and Bavaria—but only at the expense of half-destroying his own army. No, I can’t see it, Nils. Everything we can determine about Bernhard’s actions leads me to believe his principal motive, at least for the time being, is simply to keep his army intact, and in place.”
He left off his finger-tapping and picked up the despatches. “So, we’ll allow Johan his independent campaign at Ingolstadt. Send a reply to that effect to the duke, if you please.”
“He’ll be somewhat exasperated, you realize.”
Gustav Adolf grinned. “Well, of course. It’s in Ernst’s nature to be exasperated, just as it is in Johan Banér’s to be exasperating. That’s part of the reason I thought they’d make a good match.”
Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar was in a foul mood, as he had been for days. What made the situation all the worse for his officers was that the young Saxe-Weimar duke’s irritation had nothing to do with the general political and military situation, which was developing quite favorably. It was simply due to indigestion.
Bernhard, unfortunately, had a rather delicate stomach, perhaps inherited from his mother. It often flared up when he was on campaign and making do with field provisions. To make things more difficult for his aides and adjutants, his pride usually got in the way. What sort of daring cavalry commander can’t go on campaign without getting an upset stomach? Any expression of sympathy was likely to trigger off an explosion of rage.
So, Friedrich and his associates had been treading carefully of late, around the duke. They’d been riding back and forth across the countryside for weeks. Not because they were trying to accomplish anything but simply because Bernhard had thought it prudent to act as if they were. Perhaps, after getting reports of their activities, Cardinal Richelieu might be fooled into thinking that Bernhard was contemplating—energetically, most energetically—a daring mission to come to the aid of the French army outside Luebeck.
Not likely, of course. It was exceedingly hard to fool the canny prelate who was the effective ruler of France. But, if nothing else, Bernhard had calculated that those reports would go unquestioned by Richelieu, however much they might cause him to seethe inwardly—for the good and simple reason that the cardinal’s own position was now precarious. Very soon, in Bernhard’s estimate, the French army at Luebeck would be coming to a disaster—and when it did, France’s simmering factional disputes would come to a boil. Outright civil war was by no means impossible, and major unrest was a certainty.
The king’s younger brother Monsieur Gaston and his sycophants would be laying many charges at Richelieu’s feet—nailing them to his door, more like. One of them was sure to be the accusation that he had squandered money on that useless Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar and his mercenary army in the Franche-Comté, which had played no role at all in the Ostend war.
Under the circumstances, Richelieu could hardly admit that his opponents were quite right!
Which, indeed, they were. The last thing Bernhard and his close associates intended was to see their preciously assembled army battered into pieces in an all-out campaign against the Swede and the American technical wizards who had provided him with such a fearsome array of weaponry.
No, no. They’d have a much better use for that army soon enough.
There had been a time when Johann Philipp Cratz von Scharffenstein had been thankful to have the position of the commander of the Ingolstadt garrison bestowed upon him by the duke of Bavaria. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own—Wallenstein’s malice was to blame, as well as the fecklessness of the authorities of Lorraine—the Rhenish count’s military record as a professional soldier was…
His enemies, of which he had many, would no doubt have used a less neutral term. But they were motivated by spite and envy, usually combined with ignorance.
It was hardly Cratz von Scharffenstein’s fault that, while he’d been in Wallenstein’s service, his troops had committed some depredations upon the populace. Mercenary troops were always rough on civilians, including those they were hired to protect. Any professional officer knew that perfectly well. Wallenstein’s anger had simply been the naiveté of a man who was really just a lowly merchant who’d applied his talent for avarice to military affairs. And a nasty bastard to boot. He was not a genuine soldier, like Cratz himself.
The complaints of the Lorraines had been even more absurd. Was Cratz a baker or a tailor or a saddler, obliged to keep meticulous and finicky financial books because he lived on the edge of destitution? An officer and a nobleman, by nature of the very temperament that made him suited to his position in life, of necessity had a sanguine attitude toward these things.
They’d been incredibly unreasonable. Had even dissolved his regiment!
Thereafter, there’d been almost two years of penury, while the imperials dilly-dallied about employing him. That was Wallenstein’s malevolence at work, of course. And didn’t it serve the Emperor right, that in the end it would be Wallenstein who betrayed him? While Cratz von Scharffenstein took his services to the Bavarians.
Even with Tilly’s recommendation, before the old man’s blunder at the Lech that cost him his life, the best Cratz had managed to get was a garrison post. Still, by then he’d been thankful enough. If nothing else, being the military commander of a walled and fortified city like Ingolstadt made it exceedingly difficult for his creditors to pester him.
Cratz von Scharffenstein was no longer thankful, however. Garrison duty was boring, and provided little opportunity as a rule for an officer to distinguish himself. On the positive side, there were many avenues for enrichment that were far superior to the measly salary his Bavarian commission brought in—and it was usually not dangerous work.
Alas, “usually” was a term that could be quickly buried when an enemy commander like Johan Banér was in the vicinity, damn the drunken Swedish pig. How did a man who consumed as much liquor as his reputation said he did manage to be so energetic at the same time?
Gloomily, Cratz pushed aside the scout reports on the desk in his headquarters. It was just more of the same. Banér’s men here, Banér’s men there, the Swedes seemed to be everywhere.
That done, he eyed another little stack of papers on the desk. Even more gloomily. Those were the latest despatches from General Franz von Mercy, the man whom Duke Maximilian—God knows what he could have been thinking—had chosen to place in command of Bavarian field forces in the vicinity of Ingolstadt.
Cratz was tempted to shove those aside as well, but…
Cavalry scouts and their captains could be ignored, safely enough. Generals couldn’t, even if—there was this small ray of light—Maximilian had not been mad enough to place von Mercy in command of the garrison as well.
So, sighing, he picked up the first one. As he expected, it was… vigorous… in tone. Urging Cratz to do this and do that and do the other. And who was to pay for all this? Even assuming there were enough hours in a day, days in a weeks, and weeks in a month.
He set that despatch aside, for the moment. Picked up the next.
This one was even worse. Beneath a short note from von Mercy “strongly recommending” that the measures in the attached report be applied, the report itself had been penned by von Mercy’s subordinate, Colonel Johann von Werth.
Cratz von Scharffenstein lapsed into the vulgar patois of his Rhenish upbringing for a moment. Of all the officers in Bavarian service in or near Ingolstadt, the one he detested the most was Johann von Werth.
Jan van Wierdt, to call the arrogant ass by his right name. He was no more of a genuine nobleman than the simpleton corporal standing guard just outside the door. Unfortunately, by sheer good fortune, van Wierdt had “distinguished” himself in the recent wars. Much the way a peasant might blunder across a buried treasure.
Von Mercy thought most highly of the bastard. Still worse, so did Duke Maximilian. Cratz had even heard that the duke had once remarked that van Wierdt was as good a cavalry commander as Pappenheim. Which was absurd on the face of it, of course.
Reluctantly, Cratz began reading the report. His gloom grew by the minute.
The Swedes are doing this and that and this and that and the other.
We must do this and that and this and that and the other and yet another.
Just reading the damn thing was exhausting.
Brussels, the Spanish Netherlands
Stiffly, in the manner of a stern young prince bound and determined to be faithful to his duty, Don Fernando resumed his seat. Then, stone-faced, gave the portraits one last quick examination.
“Anna de’ Medici, then?”
Rubens inclined his head. “All things considered, Your Highness, I think she would make the best choice. Now that the rumors of Claude of Lorraine’s involvement with her cousin have been confirmed, she’s obviously out of the question. Claudia de’ Medici and her sister Maria Maddalena, as we already discussed, are too old. The Polish girl is only fifteen, and… ah…”
“Ugly,” the prince grunted. He gave her portrait a glance. Then, gave the portrait of Anna de’ Medici a glance that was only slightly less brief.
That was odd, in a way, since the de’ Medici girl was actually quite attractive, even if you allowed for a certain amount of artistic license by the artist who’d done the portrait.
Rubens knew the reason, and had to suppress a sigh. As impossible as it might be, for political reasons, Don Fernando had concluded that either of the Austrian archduchesses would make a good match. Especially the older one, Maria Anna. The arrival of their portraits had simply solidified his opinion. Both young women were very attractive.
It was true enough—had the world been other than it was. A marriage with one of the Austrian Habsburgs would bring real power and influence, unlike a match with the Tuscan girl. But with Ferdinand II still on the throne in Vienna, there was no chance that he’d agree. Not even to a match with Cecelia Renata, who was still at liberty, so to speak.
With Maria Anna, of course, there was no chance at all. She was already betrothed to Maximilian of Bavarian, and the wedding was supposed to take place in July.
“Shall I begin the negotiations with the Tuscans?” he asked the prince.
After perhaps half a minute, the answer was “Not yet.”
Rubens was not surprised. Nor was there any point in arguing the matter for a while. Don Fernando could do “stubborn” as well as any Habsburg who ever lived, when he was of a mind.
“Very well, Your Highness.”
On his way out of the cardinal-infante’s chamber, Rubens made a mental note to himself. As soon as possible, hide the portraits of the Austrian archduchesses.