1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 30

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 30

Chapter 11


The applause of the crowd gathered in the assembly hall could be heard all the way across the palace. Colonel Erik Haakansson Hand paused at the entrance to the emperor’s rooms in order to listen for a moment.

He couldn’t quite make out the slogans being chanted by the mob, but he didn’t need to. He’d heard enough — more than enough — from the noblemen and urban patricians who’d been pouring into Berlin for the past month to know their complaints, grievances and proposed remedies. Stripped of the curlicues, they were simple enough:

Restore the upper classes to their rightful places in the Germanies.

Abase the pretensions to citizenship of the low orders.

Discipline the common citizenry.

Restore religious stability. (The exact prescriptions involved varied between Lutherans and Calvinists and Catholics, but they all wanted an end to chaos.)

Above all, crush the Committees of Correspondence.

Notably absent from the list were any anti-Semitic proposals. The hammer blows delivered on organized anti-Semitism by the CoCs during Operation Kristallnacht had effectively destroyed that variety of reaction. Sooner or later it would come back, of course; if for no other reason, because of the prominence of Mike Stearns’ Jewish wife in the political affairs of the United States of Europe. But for the moment, the Jew-baiters were silent.

Taking each proposition on its own merits, Hand was sympathetic to some of them. As a member of Sweden’s Vasa dynasty — a bastard member, but a member nonetheless; even one in good standing — he was hardly an ally of Gretchen Richter and her cohorts. But taking the program as a whole, as Oxenstierna was driving it forward, the colonel thought it bordered on lunacy.

Whether it did or not, however, he was sure of one thing: if Gustav Adolf still had his wits about him, none of this would be happening. The king of Sweden had his differences with Mike Stearns, and even larger differences with the Committees of Correspondence. But Erik had spoken with Gustav Adolf at length in times past and knew that his cousin viewed the compromises he’d made to become emperor of the USE as necessary parts of the bargain — a bargain that had made him the most powerful ruler in Europe.

What could Oxenstierna possibly hope to gain that would be worth the cost? Even if he triumphed in the civil war he was instigating, the USE that emerged would be far weaker than the one that currently existed. If for no other reason, because his triumph would necessitate abasing the Americans as well as the CoCs — and what did the damn fool chancellor think would happen then? Any American with any skills at all could get himself — herself, even — employed almost anywhere in Europe. The technical wizardry and mechanical ingenuity that had heretofore bolstered the position of the Vasa dynasty would soon become buttresses for the Habsburgs, the Bourbons, and most of the continent’s lesser houses as well.

The colonel opened the door, entered the emperor’s suite and passed through the outer rooms until he reached the bedroom. But Oxenstierna simply didn’t care, Hand had concluded. The man was so obsessed with restoring aristocratic dominance that he ignored the inevitable consequences if he succeeded.

The same was not true, however, of Hand himself — much less the man lying on the bed before him.

Gustav Adolf raised his head and looked up when he entered. The king’s blue eyes seemed perhaps a bit clearer today.

“Where is Kristina?” he asked.

Startled, Hand glanced at Erling Ljungberg. The big bodyguard shrugged. “Don’t know if it means anything,” he said. “But starting yesterday he began saying stuff that makes sense, now and then. Doesn’t last more than a sentence or two, though.”

Erik looked back down at his cousin. Gustav Adolf was still watching him.

“Why is my daughter rowing violets?” The king’s brows were furrowed.

Puzzled? Angry? It was impossible to tell.

“Under a kitchen some antlers jumped,” he continued. Clearly, the moment of coherence — if that’s what it had been at all — was over.

“Your tailor went thatch and flung,” said Gustav Adolf. Then he closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep.

Erik placed a hand on the king’s shoulder. The thick muscle was still there, at least. Physically, his cousin had largely recovered from his injuries at the battle of Lake Bledno. If only his mind…

He gave his head a little shake. No point in dwelling on that.

A particularly loud roar from the distant assembly hall penetrated the room. Ljungberg glanced in that direction and scowled slightly.

“Assholes,” he muttered.

That was the first indication Hand had ever gotten that the king’s new bodyguard wasn’t entirely pleased with the new dispensation. Ljungberg was normally as taciturn as a doorpost.

He decided to risk pursuing the matter. “Your loyalty is entirely to the king, I take it?”

The bodyguard gave him a look from under lowered brows. “The Vasas always sided with the common folk,” Ljungberg said. He nodded toward Gustav Adolf. “Him too, even if he did give the chancellor and his people most of what they wanted.”

Gustav Adolf’s father had died when he was only seventeen — too young, legally, to inherit the throne without a regent. Axel Oxenstierna, the leader of Sweden’s noblemen, had supported Gustav Adolf’s ascension to the throne in exchange for concessions that restored much of the nobility’s power taken away by the new king’s grandfather, who had founded the Vasa dynasty.

“So they did,” said Hand. “And will again, if my cousin recovers.”

For a moment, the two men stared at each other. Then Ljungberg looked away. “I’m the king’s man. No other.”

“And I as well,” said Erik.

A good day’s work, he thought. Best to leave things as they were, though, rather than rushing matters. Nothing could be done anyway unless Gustav Adolf regained his senses.

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40 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 30

  1. Tweeky says:

    Why do I get a feeling that aside from the fact GAII will recover, he’s also going to take back all those undeserved aristocratic entitlements Oxenstierna squeezed out of him when he ascended the throne?

  2. ET1swaw says:

    OTL Axel was an ’eminence grise’, especially during Kristina’s reign. NTL it looks like he is majorly overstepping. His manuevering in the USE may backfire enough, if G2A regains coherence, that the noble and Lutheran-only stranglehold on the Swedish Dominions and high positions in Sweden Proper may be eased. He might even screw up enough that G2A’s restrictions imposed at his crowning can be eased. Hand and the new bodyguard are not Axel supporters and might save the situation. Hooray!! Eric has made the OTL manueverings prior to ROF overt canon. He has always kept pre-ROF historically accurate and this informational nugget, for me, makes historical perspective available to everyone.

  3. robert says:

    @1 When GA recovers, he will have to send Oxenstierna out of the USE and probably out of the Germanies or Oxenstierna will become a target. So I guess it will be back to Sweden for him. And what will happen to the “assholes?” Will there be a purge/slaughter like what happened at the end of the Dreeson Affair to the anti-semites, or will GA just remove them from the picture altogether?

  4. robert says:

    Hand, in OTL, died 30 Aug 1632. Glad Eric retrieved him.

  5. Tweeky says:

    @3 maybe if there’s a “Dreeson incident” style revolt perhaps we might see the introduction of the Guillotine with the crowds shouting “Off with their heads”. I bet the CoC would love that lethal device and by now the utterance of the word “Guillotine” would be enough to cause any aristocrat to experience involuntary “Bowel movements”.

  6. Jluke says:

    Sounds like a work for Harry Leffert and his wrecking crew, expecially with inside help.

    Too bad, they have their hands already full in italy

  7. Scott says:

    @3 it would depend on how far things went. Political moves, exile or stripping of positions. Open warfare in the streets, trials for treason followed by execution. Call it a teachable moment. “Noone is above the law my lords.”

  8. Tweeky says:

    @6 So in other words Oxenstierna’s head would be on the chopping block?

  9. Karl-Johan says:

    “The Vasas always sided with the common folk,”

    No! Don’t fall for the Vasa propaganda! Remember Nils Dacke!

  10. ET1swaw says:

    @8 Karl-Johan: Dacke was during Gustav I Vasa’s reign. You might as well tack on the doings of G2A’s uncles Erik and Johan and his father’s actions putting down the supporters of Sigismund (i.e. look at what happened in Finland). Not to mention G2A’s own garrison slaughters (against Danish-Norwegian forces and in reprisal in TYW). OTL before his death in 1632 he did tend to have heavy support from the 3rd and 4th estates in the Riksdag. It might have been in reaction to what was coerced from him at coronation, but it was present. Axel’s (mis)-management and Kristina’s OTL excess p.o.’d them enough to allow her successors to push through the ‘Reductions’. And Gustav and his sons did muzzle Swedish nobility for a time. OTL policies in the Dominions OTOH seemed left to Axel’s dispensation (non-Lutheran persecution and limited representation seemed rampant).

  11. Karl-Johan says:

    Yes, you can tack on several more examples, but the Dacke uprising is the really blatant one (and I happen to hail from and live in that area of Sweden).

    I doubt Gustav Vasa or Karl IX had any regards for the common folk. They were among the most astute practitioners of machiavellian theory. They were masterful in propaganda and in playing the high nobility of against the lesser nobility, and the common folk against the nobility. The two main reasons for why they sided with the common folk relatively often was that they – at all costs – wanted to avoid a new Dacke uprising, and that they needed a lever against the nobility (especially the high).

  12. Jenn says:

    The first question should be: ‘what will Axel Ox do when he finds out that G2A is beginning to recover?’ IIRC from Saxon Uprising, Ulrik and Co. thought that Axel wouldn’t harm G2A or Kristina, but if they were uncooperative or inconvenient… Well, you can’t make a jewel-encrusted omelet fit for the nobility without cracking some Faberge eggs. Impaired, G2A is a potent symbol that Axel can use. Partially recovered, he’s much the same, depending on how many people know his condition and trust his judgment. Fully recovered, G2A is a powerhouse… and one who keeps his bargains. Soooo, I wonder if anyone has told Axel Ox about G2A’s improvement? Not yet, of course, but surely soon….

  13. morgulknight says:

    @12, who’s going to tell Oxenstierna anything about Gustav Adolf, at this point? The king’s bodyguard probably won’t, and Colonel Hand seems to be following his own agenda, so he almost certainly won’t. Oxenstierna’s already sent away the best doctor available, and between the two of them, the bodyguard and Hand can probably cow any other physician from being too specific about the king’s condition in his reports to the chancellor. After all, Gustav’s recovery will have that much more impact if it comes by surprise.

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Morgul, servants will be entering the room so in theory they could keep Oxenstierna informed.

    Of course, would they want to tell him anything or would he “lower himself” to question servants?

  15. Matthew says:

    @14 There is no way Ox is so incompetent as to not have spies among the servants but even if he was, the other European monarchs aren’t and Ox would end up hearing from his spy in Poland or France that their spies say the king of Sweden is recovering. I don’t see anyway for Hand or the bodyguard to keep this quiet, unless the king recovers very fast and then has the presence of mind to pretend he’s not recovered at all so he can take Oxenstierna by surprise.

  16. KimS says:

    Some real world things to keep ‘in mind’. Personality changes are not uncommon following serious head injuries. It’s not like ‘I’ve woken up and remember everything clearly.’ Oxenstierna won’t believe it even if G2A acts normal, because that’s not really how G2A would act according to Oxenstierna. G2A will have to be removed to a place of his power by his supporters, probably the USE army in Poland, although that has it’s own dangers. Oxenstierna will want to ‘protect’ G2A and will use all his resources to ‘lock him away for his own safety’.

  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    KimS, G2A’s supporters may not have to move G2A anywhere.

    The Swedish forces on hand may support G2A in spite of what Oxen says.

  18. dave o says:

    #12 to #17 It appears that G2A is recovering, but it seems that it’s a gradual recovery. I think Ox himself is personally loyal to G2A. But what about his supporters. These guys are loyal to themselves. Not each other, just themself. They’re also not too bright. I can see a situation where Ox is out running the counter-revolution, and the supporters in Berlin decide that they would be better off if G2A didn’t recover completely. I doubt Wettin or Ox will go along with them. If this happens, they lose even the pretense of legitimacy.

    Also, It looks like two parties of good guys are forming: The COC and the people who were impressed by Scaglia. Simpson, Hand, probably Torstensson, and maybe even Mike belong to this party. (See an earlier snippet where Gretchen has doubts about Mike). Lots of room for complications here.

  19. Tweeky says:

    Just as “1635: The Dreeson Incident” ended with the CoC purging some 20,000 of the anti-semitic reactionaries in Mecklenburg (no doubt to GA2’s secret relief and delight), does any one else here think that this novel is going to end with a similar purge of all the right-wing reactionary aristocrats a la “French revolution” style?

  20. robert says:

    Is it possible that Hand and Ljungberg, and maybe a few other loyal king’s men, could smuggle Gustav out of Berlin and get him out from under Oxenstierna’s “care?” Where to? Magdeburg seems closer than any other safe place.

  21. alejo says:

    Someone needs to make him sing. Bet he’d be coherent if he sang his thoughts. rowing violets. Interesting choice of words. wonder if anyone has spoken of Kristina in his hearing accidentally done a-purpose so to speak. Just to see what he might absorb on the off chance that the mind was still active though it can not express itself. A servant dropping a “chance” remark. That sort of thing.

  22. Alex says:

    I hope he doesn’t wrap this up all neat and tidy with an elected Stearns turning down a Regency, resigning his commission, and overseeing decades of republican expansion into a European superstate. Alternate history like this always has to strike a balance between believability and realistic conflict but Flint veers near the edge of each in every book. It’s only been five years since the RoF and its revolutionary effects are getting (to me) more improbable with each book.

  23. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @19 – Tweeky –

    Any uptime student of history should be as revolted by a “French revolution” in the USE as the nobility should be scared of it. The French Revolution was based on legitimate grievances, but it went way off the rails very quickly as the people in power needed to keep appeasing the mob, so that legitimate grievances gave way to making a public spectacle of anyone who had the least appearance of offending the revolution. The problem with mobs that get a taste for violence and blood is that they reach a point where they cannot be satisfied with anything except more violence and more blood.

  24. robert says:

    @22 Right! And demagoguery works real well in stirring up the ignorant (m)asses.

  25. Blackmoore says:

    Mike was already “on the record” in 1633 that he’s no fan of what happens in the french revolution. if he can force a soft landing he will – simply to reduce the number of civilian casualties. Ne’s also isn’t looking at it unrealistically. some people will have to be eliminated – and Operation Kristalnacht was a strike against one small group of the reactionary forces. He isn’t done. it’s early in the book, Eric is still putting his pieces onto the chess board.

  26. dac says:

    @19 and @24

    I was pondering the French Revolution myself today after reading this snippet.

    Will a restored GA come after them, and will Mike try to hold him back?

  27. bas says:

    @25 Granted G2A can bear a grudge, and there will be some blood-letting, but to eliminate almost an entire class in the social heirarchy could very will lead to mob violence, and a breakdown of social order, as #22 pointed out. Even if Mike allows a certain amount of “revenge,” the USE forces would have difficulty controlling events once they got started.

  28. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Bas, I agree.

    It is unlikely that G2A would purge all of the USE nobles (or other “upper-class” types).

    Now, the supporters of Oxen *might* be a different story.

    Only some of the “upper-class” of the USE are supporting Oxen.

    Still, it’s possible that G2A will only purge the worst of Oxen’s supporters.

  29. robert says:

    @27 So maybe Hand should note who is in that noisy audience. Ha, ha–Hand as Madam LeFarge…

  30. robert says:

    Argggg. Madam DeFarge not LeFarge.

  31. Jluke says:


    The french revolution was rather gentle (or more acurately not that bloody) in the first 2 years, up to the point that the king was awarded a veto right. It is as much the king and high nobility actions as the political infighting that lead to 1793 and the widomaker. From asking prussia help (december 1790) to vetoing the girondins ministers or the Varrenne escape, the king did all he could to stir anger.

    But Ox and Berlin’s mob actions are indeed very 1792, in which case shortening by the neck could be a likely outcome if they fail in this counterrevolution.

  32. Ed says:

    Mike, of all characters Eric has established, understands the dynamics of a revolution. There will be a reaction — there has to be a reaction, people don’t just give up rank and privilege without a fight. But Mike also knows that the really successful revolutions (the ones that lead to a long term viable society), are the ones that settle their reaction without ripping the society completely apart. Mostly that involves deferring some issues to the future, the way the US Revolution unfortunately did with slavery.

    In the USE, ‘soft landing’ probably means deferring the ‘hard core’ of fights over aristocratic and upper class privilege for later, and treating Ox and his merry band as just a set of conspirators. Bur Eric also has been fond of saying that vast social movements are impossible for one leader (or group of leaders) to control. So why Mike may be sympathetic to a ‘soft landing,’ the people at large may not settle for one.

    We’ll have to see what happens.

  33. Bret Hooper says:

    @9&11 Karl-Johan: It is good to have you among the commenters, because of your no doubt superior knowledge of Sweden and its history, as compared to most of the rest of us. But could it be that G2A has learned something from Mike Stearns, Julie Sims McKay, and/or from his visit to CoC HQ? Or maybe Eric Flint has given G2A a bit more credit than he deserves, so that the G2A of this universe is a little wiser than G2A of OTL? If so, can we not live with and even enjoy this G2A? I would like to think so.

  34. @31
    However, in 1776 slavery existed in every state. Only in 1780-1785 did the Massachusetts Judiciary lead the way in social progress — as it has done through to the present — to make slavery impractical, by finding that assault with bodily harm continued to be a tort when the assaulter was a slave owner and the person being assaulted was his slave. Slavery was then rolled up from north to south, so that by the 1850s slavery was gone from Pennsylvania, miniscule in number in Delaware, and fading in Maryland.

  35. dave o says:

    #31 For the record, there were about 6 slaves in New Jersey, according to the 1860 census. I’ve often wondered who they were, and what their story was.

  36. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Dave O, IIRC slavery in the northern states/colonies was much different than it was in the South.

    Those New Jersey slaves likely were household slaves and/or body servants.

  37. robert says:

    @35 and @36 A rose by any other name smells, in this case, lousy! What is most irksome is that here in the 21st century there is still slavery in the world. Even here in the USA, as recent prosecutions of sweatshop owners prove, there are those who would hold slaves.

    @32 and @33 Re: Gustavus II Adolphus. We are all to a very large extent, products of our times and so was he, prejudices, religious fervor and all. What Eric is showing is how new ideas and cultural attitudes can change people. Some people, anyway. The ones who do not change/adapt, e.g., Ox and the “assholes,” end up being swept away by the forces of change. They are usually called reactionaries, though, not assholes. Yay for Eric!

  38. @36 The PA slaves, at the time of the Revolution were from what I have read agricultural workers. The slaves in New York were employed as artisans at some level.

  39. Ed says:

    @34, the ‘reaction’ phase of the US revolution took place in the late 1780’s, culminating in the Constitution. In that document the ‘final decision’ about slavery in the US was deferred and a compromise adopted allowing states to determine whether slavery would remain legal or not. Various other compromises (1820, 1850) followed, and the ‘final decision’ of course was not made until the Civil War (or even later if you buy the argument that socio-economic conditions like sharecropping and Jim Crow laws were continuations of slavery intended to continue keeping blacks in a subservient role.)

    Re 38 and other general comments on slavery in the US: Slaves in all states worked at a variety of tasks. There may be sources that say, frex, slaves in PA were *mostly* agricultural labor, but that does not mean there were no artisans. Of course, the number of occupations would naturally dwindle as the number of slaves became less, but 80 years or so is a long time. In the north, emancipation was done either immediately, as in Massachusetts and Vermont, or gradually, as in the “New York Plan” that declared all children born after 1785 to be free. New Jersey followed a similar law, so the 6 slaves remaining in that state in 1860 were either very old or had been brought in from slave states — the state emancipation laws would not necessarily free someone who had been born a slave in a different state, though the master could voluntarily manumit slaves in most ‘free’ states. Eric discusses this in some depth in his Arkansas War, vol 2 of the 18xx series, which I highly recommend to any who have not yet read it.

    I agree with #37 that slavery is an unmitigated evil and it is a sad comment on our modern society that it has not yet been eradicated. Sweatshop owners aren’t the half of it — there are still people, outside of convicted felons, who are forced to do labor against their will and prevented from leaving their ‘jobs.’ Some are effectively bought and sold (or their contracts are ‘traded.)’ You can classify some of those people as peons or serfs if you want, but I prefer to follow Col. Baslim’s example and call evil by its proper name.

  40. Ed says:

    Correction of detail: The New York law freed all persons born after 1799, not 1785. Pennsylvania passed its gradual emancipation law in 1780, the earliest state emancipation law of that type.

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