1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 22
After he entered the mansion, Ed Piazza took a moment to examine the huge vestibule. Then, he whistled softly.
“Wow. You guys have sure come up in the world.”
Rebecca got a long-suffering look on her face. “Just once, I would enjoy hearing someone come up with a different remark, the first time they come here.”
Piazza grinned. “You’ve got to admit, it’s impressive. Especially for a simple country boy like me.”
Rebecca’s look got more long-suffering. “‘Simple country boy,'” she mimicked. “I doubt you were ever that, Mr. Piazza, even as a toddler. I am firmly convinced you had mastered Machiavelli’s The Prince by the age of nine. Judging from the evidence.”
“Fourteen, actually — and I wouldn’t say I ‘mastered’ it. The truth is, I found it pretty boring.”
“Why did you read it, then?”
“I was on my Italian ethnic identity phase at the time. I worked my way through a bunch of stuff. I started with Dante. I read the whole trilogy, too, not just the Inferno. Damn near turned me into a lapsed Catholic. Heaven seemed deadly dull. Then I read Boccaccio’s Decameron, which I enjoyed a lot. Then I read Petrarch, which killed my interest in poetry for almost a decade. Then I plowed into Machiavelli. By then, though, I was pretty much going on stubborn determination and The Prince did me in. After that, I pursued the search for my cultural roots through the movies. El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Marriage Italian Style, Arabesque, The Countess From Hong Kong, stuff like that.”
Rebecca frowned. “Except for the marriage film — and I suppose the one about the Roman Empire — what is their relevance to Italian heritage?”
Piazza grinned. “Sophia Loren. She’s in all of them. I delved into quite a few Gina Lollobrigida classics too, although she was a bit before my time. Then I discovered Claudia Cardinale and Monica Vitti and my devotion to Italian culture became boundless. I even watched Red Desert three times, and that’s some ethnic solidarity, let me tell you. God, that movie’s dull. Except for Monica Vitti, of course.”
“I think I will not pursue this matter any further. Lest my image of you as an urbane and genteel man of the world suffers terminal harm.” Rebecca gestured toward a far door. “This way, please. The others are already here.”
Ed could hear Constantin Ableidinger when he was still twenty feet away from the door — which was closed, and thick. The former schoolteacher who’d been the central leader of the Ram Rebellion and was now Bamberg’s representative in the USE House of Commons was one of the loudest men Piazza had ever met. Ableidinger seemed to find it impossible to speak in any tone of voice softer than a fog horn.
“– he mad?” were the first two words Ed understood, followed by: “What would possess him to do such a thing?”
Melissa Mailey’s much softer response was muffled until Rebecca began opening the door. Ed caught the rest of it:
“– a shame, it really is. Wilhelm always seemed much shrewder than that.”
The discussion broke off as Piazza and Rebecca entered the room. The eight people already present turned to look at them. They were sitting at a meeting table made up of four separate tables arranged in a shallow “U” formation. The open end of the “U” was facing away from the door, allowing the participants to look out of a wall of windows which gave a view of Magdeburg’s scenery.
Ed wondered why they’d bothered. There was a lot to be said for the capital city of the United States of Europe. It was certainly dynamic — and not just in terms of the booming industries which produced the smoke and soot that turned the sky gray except after a rainfall. Under Mary Simpson’s leadership, Magdeburg was becoming the cultural center of the nation, as well. She and Otto Gericke were also been pushing hard to have a major university founded in the city.
Scenic, though, Magdeburg was not. The view through the windows was mostly that of blocks of the functional but dull apartment buildings which housed most of the city’s working class; with, in the distance, the ubiquitous smokestacks from Magdeburg’s many factories, mills, forges and foundries. It was probably the ugliest urban landscape Piazza had ever seen, except the mills lining the Monongahela southeast of Pittsburgh when he’d been a teenager.
Then again, those same working class districts were what gave the Fourth of July Party a political hammerlock over the city and province of Magdeburg. So there was a certain logic to the seating arrangement.
“Where’s Helene?” asked Charlotte Kienitz, one of the leaders of the Fourth of July Party from the province of Mecklenburg. She was referring to Helene Gundelfinger, the vice-president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia.
“She should be here by mid-afternoon. She had to sort something out with the Abbess of Quedlinburg.” Ed got a wry smile on his face. “Who’s here visiting Mary Simpson and Veronica Richter, so Helene has to deal with them too.”
Melissa, seated at the far end of the tables, barked a little laugh. “I swear, I’ve never seen anything that generates more wrangling over details than schools do. That’s one thing the two worlds on either side of the Ring of Fire have in common.”
There was an empty seat next to the mayor of Luebeck, Dieterich Matthesen. After removing a notepad and placing it on the desk, Ed set his briefcase on the floor, leaning it against one of the table legs. Then, pulled out the chair and sat down.
By the time he did so, Rebecca had resumed her own seat. “To bring Ed up to date on what everyone was discussing when he came in, we have received word from reliable sources that Wilhelm Wettin and his Crown Loyalists plan to impose the most sweeping possible variation of their citizenship program. What is sometimes colloquially referred to as Plan B.”
James Nichols, sitting next to Melissa, grunted sourly. “Otherwise known as The Bürgermeister’s Wet Dream.”
“Or the Hochadel Folly,” added Anselm Keller. He was an MP from the Province of the Main, and was sitting next to Albert Bugenhagen, the young newly-elected mayor of Hamburg. To their right, on the table that form the left end of the U, sat the two remaining attendees at the meeting: Matthias Strigel, the governor of Magdeburg province, and Werner von Dalberg.
Von Dalberg, like Melissa Mailey and James Nichols and Charlotte Kienitz, held no governmental position. His prominence in the Fourth of July Party stemmed from the fact that he was universally acknowledged as the central figure for the party in the Upper Palatinate. Given that he’d had to maneuver with the provincial administrator, Ernst Wettin, and — much worse — the Swedish general Johan Banér, he’d had to be a skilled politician as well as organizer. The political situation for the Fourth of July Party — every political party in the USE, actually — was always tricky in those area which were still under direct imperial administration.
As of July, 1635, there were eleven established provinces in the United States of Europe. The heads of state of each of those provinces, whether elected or appointed by the emperor or established by traditional custom, sat in the USE’s upper house, the House of Lords. (“The Senate,” in the stubborn parlance of the CoCs.) As such, all eleven of them added the official rank of Senator to whatever other posts and positions and titles they held.
Those eleven provinces were:
Magdeburg, which was the name of the province as well as the capital city. The province’s head of state was an elected governor.
The State of Thuringia-Franconia, whose capital had formerly been Grantville and was now Bamberg. Like Magdeburg, this state elected its own governor, although the title of the post — President — remained that of its predecessor, the New United States.
Those were the only two provinces which had a fully republican structure and elected their own heads of state. Not coincidentally, they were the strongholds of the Fourth of July Party and the Committees of Correspondence.
There were three provinces whose heads of state, while not elected, were established by the provinces themselves. Like Magdeburg and the SoTF, these provinces were entirely self-governing within the overall federal structure and laws of the USE. They were no longer, or had never been, under direct imperial administration.
Hesse-Kassel, still governed by its traditional ruler, Landgrave Wilhelm V. The Landgrave, along with his wife Amalie Elizabeth, were prominent leaders of the moderate wing of the Crown Loyalist Party that now controlled the USE Parliament and whose leader, Wilhelm Wettin, was the newly-elected prime minister.
Brunswick was also governed by its traditional ruler, Duke George of Brunswick-Lüneburg. However, since the duke was now serving as the commander of the USE army’s Second Division and was marching this very moment into Saxony, the province was being managed by one of his subordinates, Loring Schultz.
Most recently, the Tyrol had voluntarily joined the United States of Europe. The agreement made between the Tyrol’s regent Claudia de Medici and the USE’s envoy Philipp Sattler was that a regency council would be set up under Dr. Wilhelm Bienner, the chancellor of Tyrol, for Claudia’s two minor sons. Under the new constitution of the province, they and their heirs would be “hereditary governors.”