1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 01

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 01

1636: The Saxon Uprising


Eric Flint


An idle king

November, 1635


Colonel Erik Haakansson Hand gazed down at the man who was simultaneously King of Sweden, Emperor of the United States of Europe, and High King of the Union of Kalmar. There was no doubt any longer in Hand’s mind, as the year 1635 came to a close, that Gustav II Adolf was the pre-eminent monarch of Europe.

To be sure, the Habsburgs would dispute the claim. And if that powerful dynastic family could by some magic means recombine their splintered realms into the great empire ruled a century earlier by Charles V, they could probably made the claim stick. But the great Holy Roman Emperor was long gone. Today, it would take genuinely magical methods to reunite Spain and Austria — not to mention the newly emerged third branch of the dynasty in the Netherlands.

France was now weak, too. Gustav Adolf’s general Lennart Torstensson had crushed the French at the battle of Ahrensbök a year and a half ago. Since then, Cardinal Richelieu’s control of France had grown steadily shakier. King Louis XIII’s younger brother Gaston, the duke of Orleans — usually called “Monsieur Gaston” — was and always had been an inveterate schemer who hated Richelieu with a passion. In times past, the cardinal had easily out-maneuvered him. But the disaster to which Richelieu had led France in his ill-fated League of Ostend’s war against the United States of Europe had produced widespread dissatisfaction and unrest, especially along the nobility and the urban patrician class.

In short, Gustav Adolf ought to be basking in the most glorious sunlight of a life which had been filled with a great deal of glory since he was a teenage king. Instead, he was lying on a bed in a palace in one of the most wretched cities in the Germanies with his mind apparently gone.

Gustav Adolf’s blue eyes stared up at Hand. Did he recognize his cousin? It was hard to say.

You certainly couldn’t tell anything from his speech.

“Bandits have knighted almost walrus,” said the king of Sweden. “Is there jewel?”

It was very frustrating. Gustav Adolf didn’t seem addle-pated, exactly. His words made no sense, but they weren’t pure gibberish, either. This last sentence, for instance, had clearly been a question, and beneath all of the meaningless sentences you could detect a still intact grammar.

But what was he saying? It was as if his vocabulary was completely jumbled.

Before he left Magdeburg for Berlin, Colonel Hand had spent several hours with the American Moorish doctor, James Nichols. By now, four and a half years after the Ring of Fire which had brought the Moor into this world along with the other Americans in Grantville, it was the generally accepted opinion throughout Europe that Nichols was the continent’s greatest living doctor. Probably even the world’s.

One might ask, therefore, why Hand had had to interview Nichols in Magdeburg — instead of here in Berlin, at the bedside of Europe’s most powerful ruler and Nichols’ own sovereign. Or, perhaps even more to the point, why it was that Gustav Adolf had not been brought to Magdeburg with its superb medical facilities, instead of being kept in primitive Berlin.

He’d posed those questions directly, in fact. The answers had been… interesting.


“Ask your blessed chancellor,” replied Nichols. His tone was blunt, to the point of being almost hostile. “It was Axel Oxenstierna who insisted on keeping Gustav Adolf in Berlin. Just as it was he who insisted — oh, sure, politely, but he had about a dozen goons with him to enforce the matter — that I leave Berlin and come back here, once I eliminated the risk of peritonitis.”

“What reasons did he give for his decisions?”

“Bullpucky and hogwash.” Hand didn’t know those particular Americanisms, but their general meaning was clear enough.

“The bullpucky was that it was too risky to move the king to Magdeburg,” Nichols continued. “That’s nonsense because General Stearns had already transported Gustav Adolf by horse-litter to get him to Berlin in the first place. That took almost a week, in rough conditions — which the king still managed to survive, didn’t he? As opposed to spending another two days, tops, moving him to Magdeburg in a luxurious river barge.”

The black doctor took a deep breath. An angry breath, you could even say.

“As for the hogwash, it’s true that I told Oxenstierna that there wasn’t much that could be done for the king. But ‘much’ isn’t nothing, and however much or little can be done for Gustav Adolf in his present condition, you can be damn sure — to hell with false modesty — that I can do it better than that bunch of quacks he’s got up there in Berlin. For Christ’s sake, Colonel Hand, one of them is an outright astrologer! The jackass seriously thinks you can make diagnoses and prescriptions based on whether Mars is humping Venus or getting buggered by Jupiter while either Sagittarius or Pisces is making a porno movie about it.”

Erik burst into laughter. He was not fond of astrologers himself. As one of Gustav Adolf’s cousins, he had had close contact with many of Europe’s courts. True, he was the son of an illegitimate cousin, but the fact of his royal blood counted for a lot more in such high circles than the picayune matter of his mother’s bastardy. Europe’s courts were full of bastards, literally as well as figuratively.

Those same royal courts were also full of credulous people, who gave their trust to the advice of astrologers and soothsayers. Not all of them were mere courtiers, either. To name just one instance the colonel was personally familiar with, the new king of Bohemia was positively addicted to astrology. This, despite the fact that in all other respects Wallenstein was an extremely shrewd and intelligent man.

“Can you explain to me what’s wrong with my cousin?”

Nichols grimaced. “He suffered a bad head injury in that battle at Lake Bledno, and there was some brain damage done as a result. Whether it’s permanent or not, we just don’t know yet. And if it is permanent — or some of it, at least — we don’t know how much and in what areas.”

He shook his head. “Even back up-time, Colonel Hand, brain injuries were often mysterious.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Yes, in at least one respect: whatever other damage may have been done, the emperor clearly suffered damage to his right temporal lobe.” Nichols reached up and touched his head just above his right ear; then, moved the finger back and forth an inch or so. “It’s located here.”

“And this means…?”

“The temporal lobes play a major role in the way our brains process language.” Nichols cocked his head slightly. “I take it you haven’t seen your cousin yet?”

Hand shook his head. “No. I decided to stop off here on my way to Berlin. I was stationed in the Oberpfalz and Magdeburg was directly on my route.”

He hesitated; then, added: “I would appreciate it if you would not mention this visit to anyone, Doctor Nichols. I, ah… Let us say that my assignment from the king — given to me before his injury, of course — is of a very confidential nature.”

Nichols studied him for a moment. The Moor’s dark eyes seemed very shrewd, as Hand had feared they might be. He’d been hoping that Europe’s greatest medician would be a naïf in all other matters. No great hope, though, given what he knew of the doctor’s history.

Suddenly, Nichols smiled. “Do I take it that when you meet Chancellor Oxenstierna you will be equally discreet, Colonel?”

Erik stiffened. “Of course! It is well known among Sweden’s highest circles — it is certainly known to Axel — that I serve Gustav Adolf as his personal agent. My business is with the king, and the king alone.”

That was true enough, as far as it went. But Hand was fairly certain that Nichols saw through the subterfuge involved. Hand was now operating entirely on his own, a fact which he would try to conceal by referring to his longstanding and close relationship to his cousin.

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33 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 01

  1. Summercat says:

    Interesting. A simple blow to the head…

    …and the most powerful realm in Europe shattered.

    Well, not shattered, per se. But if this doesn’t break out into civil war… it would be because those who would let it go that far would choose not to. That would be… the CoC, Stearns…

  2. Jason says:

    I have a feeling that our good Colonel is going to have a hand in countering whatever Oxenstierna is up too.

  3. laclongquan says:

    It’s the nature of dynasties and empires held together by the personality of its founder. one blow at the head and they shatter. Alexander’s empire, Napoleon Bonaparte’s, the world know something about them.

    As for the coming civil war, dont hold your breath. It was hold off that long solely due to the role of Gustavus. He got a good starting capital of good will with the American and both him and them use that to the fullest. He used that to leverage his power into the strongest power in Europe. They used that to survive and prosper, from one little province Thuragian and its immediate neighbouring lands, to one slighly big-ish realm inside the empire. But that breathing period is gone. Now forces of opposing natures can clash to their heart’s content.

    The empire will fragment. The question, of course, is HOW and INTO WHAT FORM.

  4. M says:

    Gustav in this universe was really really thoughtless, negligent: as to his empire of USE, he did not arrange the succession nor the regency properly.
    Of course it then makes good reading, but such negligence is somewhat implausible. Any intelligent monarch in his that place, would have known that having -in that cultural context- only an underage female progeny, the succession must be arranged with solid formalities at place at least.
    OTL, the Swedish succession was formally enacted in a satisfactory manner – but now in NTL, the USE succession has no proper enactment.

    Okay, I gather it was thought that USE will be an elective monarchy. In that situation, Gustav should have had his successor elected (and crowned and anointed) already in his own lifetime.
    [this also means that it was not a legislatively arranged thing that the election of USE would pick the same who succeeds to Swedish throne – the two thrones may diverge to different persons]

    And as long as the intended heir is underage, it would have been in real life a real necessity to enact the regency of USE properly, with clear provisions.
    It will make interesting reading, but I think in real life, the real Gustav (an intelligent man who understood realities of his epoch) would not have done this sort of neglect (neglected to enact anything solid for USE regency). Actually, the real Gustav OTL was careful to enact the succession and provisions in Sweden when he departed for the war in Germanies. (so, why would the same man have neglected to do it as to his new empire, USE…)

  5. dave o says:

    G2A may recover. If he doesn’t Kristina inherits the whole thing, A child heir typically results in a lot of fighting amongst different factions. See Louis XIV’s minority and the Fronde for one. But I think she survives and wins.

    The Danish King probably wants to keep the Union of Kalmar, since Ulrick will be Kristina’s husband. Mike and the COC won’t allow Oxenstierna and Wettin run a white revolutionin the USE. Sweden may be a toss-up, but I’m betting on loyalty to the Vasas. Even lots of Swedish nobles won’t want to see Oxenstierna as a de facto dictator. Haakanson and Tostensson will probably support Kristina, and so will most, not all, of G2A’s other generals.

    It’s possible that some other power will fish in troubled waters. Poland? Bohemia? Austria? the Netherlands? France and Bavaria are in too much of a mess to try.

  6. Robert Krawitz says:

    He might just have felt himself invincible with the backing of uptime technology and the knowledge that he survived (avoided, really) a situation that killed him OTL.

  7. jorge says:

    as to succession rights, more to the point gustavus “will”, i think his cousin will have a hand on that. Pun intended.!

  8. robert says:

    @3 laclongquan, want to bet that the “empire”, which is not really an empire, but a very odd confederation of a monarchy, a “Union” of monarchies, and a constitutional monarchy, as concocted by Mike, Rebecca and GA, will survive?

    It is not just political forces that are at work. Ox does not realize that there are social & economic forces, even beyond the CoC, that are at work. The relative peace AND rising prosperity in the Germanies of the USE, the rise of an industrial system, a thriving mercantile class, a working class and rising middle class and a non-royal, strictly economic upper class, all pretty much in favor of Mike’s goals, will force Ox out. I predict Kristina’s popularity, with Ulrik as regent, will keep things together until GA recovers.

  9. AMMBD says:

    yet again i say AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

    looking to be interesting times. oh my yes.

    i wonder if the temporal lobe injury is the only injury? does GA2 still have his capacity to reason? if so, is there a way to re-route his circuits as it were or at least try to determine what the post-damage “language” is relative to undamaged as it were?

    then again there’s the overall sense of WTFH are they plotting that GA2 is being kept in Berlin undercare of quackery?!

  10. Jason says:

    because of Radio the People all over know that G2A was injured. My thinking is Oxenstierna does not wants certain peoples to know the extent if those energies, and the fact that with G2A totally out of commission that he;s acting essentially on his own. Oxenstierna on his own has no power in the Germanies that’s why hes been needling Wettin. IMO that also why he wants Mike Sterns as far away from Magdeburg as he can get him.

  11. Rekes says:

    No matter how exotic human civilization becomes, no matter the developments of life and society nor the complexity of the machine/human interface, there always come interludes of lonely power when the course of humankind, depends upon the relatively simple actions of single individuals.
    Tleilaxu Godbuk

  12. ronzo says:

    I havent had time to get off the ship to get eastern front yet but Im speculating on this Battle of lake Bledno, Did G2A allow him self to get mousetrapped like the Romans did by Hannibal at lake Trasimene. An Ambush like that would take away alot but not all of of the advantages that G2A would have,also it would allow the and might percipitate a Cavalry charge to begin the break out or allow the infantry and artillery time to come bear on the enemy and lead to G2A’s injury.

  13. Ed S says:

    @5 It’s not only a lack of rules that make successions a problem, its people with power who dont like fthose rules and want to make up new ones. For all we know the succession and regency for USE are as clearly spelled out as the (SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!)

    rules for the Union of Kalmar. Oxenstierna wants to ignore both and in the USE persuaded the Crown Loyalists and Prime Minister Wettin to join him. So the conflict will be between following the Constitution or following what the Swedish Chancellor (or any other faction head) wants — Eric has been setting up this conflict since the last chapters of 1632, just as long as he has been setting up Stearns as the Washington figure who will follow the Constitution even when it hurts his interests.

  14. Ed S says:

    Sorry I meant comment 13 as a response to @4

  15. ET1swaw says:

    @4 OTL Axel Oxenstierna’s Instrument of Government that formally delineated the Regency, the five Great and five Lesser Officers of the Realm was enacted 1634 G2A OTL died 1632. The succession was set by the Riksdag at Charles IX’s (G2A’s father) coronation. It barred non-Lutheran descendents, any female descendant marrying a non-Lutheran was removed from the succession, the line of Charles IX was raised to pre-eminent of Vasa, salic inheritance was allowed, and primogeniture was instituted. G2A, at his coronation, had to give up many Crown rights to the nobility increasing their power (arranged by Axel Oxenstierna). Axel also managed pre-ROF to get the Riksdag to pass laws restricting many government offices to the nobility alone.
    OTL as well as it seems NTL, he traded on G2A’s reputation to enact what he claimed were the wishes of the deceased (OTL) king. He was not without rivals OTL (the Brahes for one), but in Kristina’s Sweden he was the power (as Richelieu and Mazarin in France and De Olivares in Spain).
    As explained in ‘Eastern Front’, his power is restricted in the USE by the need of puppets. Wettin, legally, was his equal, not his subordinate. And the administrators were NOT in his chain of command.
    And he has no legal power under the framework of the Union of Kalmar
    How he managed to disperse the USE Armies I don’t know. The only rationale that I can think of is he has them following the last plan G2A promulgated (attack/beseige Poznan and send 3rd Army to help Wallenstein). With the change in circumstance (Hesse-Kassel dead with his forces destroyed, half of the Swedish forces destroyed, 1st and 2nd USE armies in dissarray, the remaining Swedish forces at the front blocked by terrain, and G2A critically injured) that move is blatantly political.
    His contrivance of pulling Baner (with his outspoken anti-CoC mindset) and his army of mercenaries from guarding against Bavaria into an occupying enemy force in Saxony seems not just pouring gasoline on a fire but pumping in pure oxygen as well.

  16. Alan says:

    It is probably just me, but a whole lot, perhaps too much, of the recent plot is driven by (1) forgetting to arrange a USE regency (2) forgetting to arrange a Kalmar regency (3) forgetting to define a USE franchise. That is a whole lot of forgetting. It must be something in the water.

  17. morgulknight says:

    Just finished reading “1635: The Eastern Front,” which on my list came on the heels of “Mission of Honor.” Is it coincidnece, do you think, that two of Baen’s biggest series, on both of which Eric Flint is either the co-author or the lead author, got really dark at around the same time?
    Anyway, I’m thinking either this book or the next one will feature Stearns and Oxenstierna facing off across a battlefield. I also don’t think we can rule out the USE and Sweden going their seperate ways now that Gustav Adolf is off the board, as the only way to undo the damage Oxenstierna, Wettin, and Baner are going to cause. Remember, in 1633 Mike remarked that Oxenstierna would cut the up-timer’s throats in an instant, and it looks like he’s getting out the knife now.

  18. laclongquan says:

    The forgeting to set up regency is not incidental. They are both unstable, politically, realm. The setup a regency by its nature is a thing of order and stability. I am sure Gustav want to set up both. I am also sure that political forces at work also prevent his wish. I mean, just look at USE. In 2-3 years it transform from a collection of German principalities into CPE, and then USE. Who can say how it will transform in next year?

    The issue of USE franchise is the explosive barrel of the current goverment. This is mentioned quite carefully in 1634 Baltic Wars and 1635 Dreeson Incident.

  19. Alan says:


    GA was one of the brightest men of his time. In 1634 he would have been on the throne for 23 years. He had instituted major reforms in Sweden and founded cities and universities. His legacy as a legislator was enormous and continues to sound in international humanitarian law. The Rigsdag ordinance of 1617 transformed the riksdag into a major organ of government. It did so by, among other things, um defining the franchise for each estate.

    Scandinavia (and Poland, the other Vasa realm) had been plagued with succession disputes and child monarchs throughout their history. GA had an incompetent wife and a very minor heir. I know both 1634 and 1635 say that everything was done in a hurry etc etc etc, but it’s really not all that persuasive that GA would have been quite that hurried. In any case, the regency issue does not depend on what was decided at Magdeburg and Copenhagen, but on what happens in Sweden. Whoever gets to be king or queen of Sweden picks up the empire and the union because they sit on the Swedish throne. When GA set out for Germany in 1630 he left extraordinarily detailed instructions for the regency if he died or was wounded. Historically, Oxenstierna became regent only when the riksdag confirmed GA’s instructions after his death.

    Wettin’s followers may choose to do as Oxenstierna says. It’s hard to see why the USE army, the Swedish army or the Swedish bureaucracy would do so. The idea of a total vacuum because of forgetting contradicts everything GA had done before 1632.

  20. Todd Bloss says:

    Armies have seated more kings and emperors than any parliment or popular vote -and right now, Stearns has the most powerful force in the USE. Stearns can afford to do a bit of politicing to resolve the issue, knowing (and the rest of Europe knowing) his army is the trump card. The biggest danger during all this will be the CoC -if they really blow, the USE could see the same kind of purging that followed the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. This would create a MUCH different government and Nation than Stearns envisioned.

    Pardon all errors -sent from my phone on the train.

  21. robert says:

    @17 “Is it coincidence, do you think, that two of Baen’s biggest series, on both of which Eric Flint is either the co-author or the lead author, got really dark at around the same time?”

    Eric is/was the co-author of only two books in the Honorverse, both concentrating on the issue of genetic slavery and the planet Torch. Those were not “dark” stories but rather uplifting ones. David Weber has said and written that he had planned the direction in which his series has been moving over the course of the last 3-4 years some time ago. David Weber has also co-written books in this series, so you could just as easily say that he is the source of your dark imaginings. However, I think before you let the dark overcome you, you should go to the Bar and read DeMarce’s snerk on Eric’s plans for where the series is heading.

    Gustav’s problem sounds very much like a stroke that has effected the part of the brain dealing with language/speech. People recover from that all the time–it isn’t easy or quick, but it does happen. I predict it will in this instance as well and that the result will be a defeat for the anti-democratic forces.

  22. morgulknight says:

    @21, I wasn’t meaning that as a criticism; after two or three volumes of DeMarce Geneaology Bits, I find “Eastern Front” a move back towards why I started reading this series in the first place, and the grittier, somewhat darker tone is entirely appropriate; I like the direction things are going.
    As for Honorverse, it’s true that series has always been less sunny than Ring of Fire-verse. But even at that, ever since “Crown of Slaves” Mr. Flint has been effectively the co-author of the whole series, otherwise there’s no way the events of “Crown,” “Torch of Freedom,” the dissappointing “Storm From the Shadows,” and “Mission of Honor” would tie together so smoothly. And again, I like the direction things are going in that series as well.

  23. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the blurb on Amazon about this book, G2A tells Stearns to go to Saxony to quell the uprising that was caused by General Baner. Stearns takes his army with him.

    From that, I infer that G2A gets over this head wound. He may not be back “fit as a fiddle” but he will be back.

    Whether Axel Oxenstierna and Wilhelm Wettin are handed their heads at the end of the book remains to be seen.

  24. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, Eric has already said that the blurb is wrong/misleading.

  25. Tweeky says:

    GA sounds like he is suffering from something called “Wernicke’s asphasia” which happens as a result of a stroke and/or injury to the left temporal lobe. Fortunately he doesn’t have Broca’s asphasia or all he could make would be inarticulate noises. I wonder if Dr. Nichols will have someone from Grantville teach GA, Kristina, Haakansson and a few other loyalists (including Mike) sign-language? This would enable GA to communicate in the interim until his speech has recovered.

  26. Cobbler says:

    @ 25, I would have thought the same thing. Except that Dr. Nichols clearly indicated the right temporal lobe. Presumably because GA got thumped there. Nichols sure never used a CAT scan in Berlin.

    Except, Broka’s area and Wernicke’s are aren’t necessarily fixed on the left side of the brain. They usually function on the dominant side. Was G2A a southpaw?

  27. Pul Ess says:

    Tho Gustav didn’t have full use of his right hand after taking a bullet at Dirschau (has any of the up-time doctors been able to remove it ?), I can’t find any indication of him being a lefty – images I can find show him with sword or pistol always in the right hand.

    Even so, according to Wikipedia: More than half of left-handers process speech in their left hemisphere, just like right-handers. However, about one fourth of left-handers process speech equally in both hemispheres. (Thus, only the remaining quarter would match Dr Nichols’ indication.)

    Also, sign language is generally controlled by the same area of the brain as spoken language. However, there’s a small chance of a language acquired as an adult surviving damage to the native language – so it’s possible that if someone tried to talk to the king in English or Latin, they might get thru.

  28. Tweeky says:

    @27 If you’re talking about the musket-ball that was lodged in his neck that prevented him from wearing a cuirass, then IIRC, Dr. Nichols removed it from his neck (it was lodged just under his skin). Although GA would’ve had access to skilled doctors, given where the ball was lodged and its close proximity to vital nerves and blood-vessels, I suspect that his doctors didn’t remove it out of fear of accidentally killing or crippling him.

  29. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @19 “Whoever gets to be king or queen of Sweden picks up the empire and the union because they sit on the Swedish throne.”

    But this is not correct. G2A is Emperor and High King of Kalmar in his person, not as King of Sweden. So each unit of the Emopire has its own unique succession law.

    The succession for Kalmar is very well laid out — After G2A comes Christian of Denmark, until Ulrik and Kristina marry and set up their lineage (So Kristina has to be closer to adulthood).

    The succession in USE is likely equally well mapped out — in the Constitution, which Eric hasn’t made public information to his eaders yet. But Wettin is *ignoring* the Consitution by taking his lead form Oxenstierna. Wettin may well get to do that legally because G2A isn’t dead — according to the best medical knowledge (Nichols), G2A isn’t even *permanenty* incapacitated (yet).

    Eric’s whole point is that constitutions and legal arrangements work only because people want to (and do) observe them. The USE doesn’t have that yet. Most countries going through a revolution don’t have that — distrust of the other faction is why revolutions happen in the first place.

    Not even the USA in OTL had certainty of succession until Washington actually handed the presidency over to Adams and went home to Mount Vernon (though Eric would point out that was 30+ years after the American Revolution started — counting from the first anti-tax protests in the mid 1760’s.) USA did not have a succession plan for incapacity until after the Kennedy assassination.

    Eric has set up a very clever situation. It will not be so simple for Our Heroes to get out of it.

  30. John Cowan says:

    A blow on the right side can cause brain injury on the left, as the rapidly moving brain impacts the more slowly moving skull. However, Nichols should be pointing to the left side of his head, just the same.

    Very few people, including left-handers, actually have Broca’s/Wernicke’s area on the right.

  31. John Cowan says:

    #29, there *is* no USE Constitution at present: see The Dreeson Incident and The Eastern Front itself.

  32. Summertime says:

    Col. Hand is the Emperor’s secret agent. Interesting! In STAR WARS, Luke Skywalker’s wife at one time
    worked as a secret agent for the Emperor and was known as the Emperor’s Hand.

  33. Crow says:

    I’d like to see some more of the king’s other cousins, namely Jacob de la Gardie (who once took Moscow and is married to Gustav’s old belle) and Åke Tott (nicknamed “the Snow Plow” by GA and a fierce opponent of Oxenstierna). Together with Hand and possibly (just for the sake of symmetry) a fourth cousin, Didrik Yxkull, (who’d becone commander of the royal life guard in 1636 OTL) and perhaps admiral Gyllenhielm they’d be an interesting counterweight – none of them has any claim but there’s an interesting set of temperaments, skills and possible inofficial political clout.

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