1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 35

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 35

“The real military threat lies elsewhere,” continued Constantin. “First and foremost, in the provincial armies — real armies, those are — that can be raised by the provincial rulers. Stop worrying about Freiherr Feckless and Reichsritter Holes-in-His-Boots. Start worrying about the Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel and the Duke of Brunswick and the Prince of Westphalia, instead.”

“They never made that Danish bastard a prince,” said Keller sullenly.

Rebecca wondered how long Constantin could keep that sneer on his face.

“Who didn’t?” sneered Ableidinger. “They didn’t make him a prince because Gustav Adolf put his foot down. But what do you think are the odds that Oxenstierna won’t hand him the title, if Frederick gets pissed at us and makes friendly noises toward Berlin?”

There was silence in the room. Ableidinger maintained the sneer right through it.

“Then there’s the other serious threat,” he went on. “Those are the town militias, especially the ones from the bigger towns. They won’t fight in the countryside, but they’ll keep their towns solid against us –”

“Not Hamburg!” protested its mayor.

“No, you’re right. Not Hamburg. Not Luebeck or Frankfurt, either. But they’ll hold Augsburg and Ulm, won’t they? And probably Strassburg, too — and what’s more important, they’ll hold at least three-quarters of the smaller towns in every province except Magdeburg, the SoTF and Mecklenburg. All right, fine. Only two-thirds of the towns in the Oberpfalz. How parochial can you be, Albert? You think the world begins and ends in Hamburg?”

Rebecca decided to intervene before Ableidinger’s abrasive manner set off a pointless eruption.

“I think we need to consider Constantin’s points carefully,” she said. “He’s right that if there’s a full-scale civil war most of the official militias will be arrayed against us — and that’s especially true if they believe we are the ones who started the war. If they hold the towns against us and our CoC contingents have to face regular provincial armies in the field, we will lose. It is as simple as that.”

Achterhof scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. “In effect, you’re saying we’ve lost the war already.”

“She said a full-scale civil war, Gunther.” That came from Ulbrecht Riemann, who had been silent up until this point. He was a central figure in the Fourth of July Party in Westphalia, although he held no post in government.

“As opposed to what?” asked Keller.

Riemann shrugged. “There are lots of different kinds of wars, Anselm. So why shouldn’t there be different types of civil wars? The thing some of you don’t seem to grasp is that Oxenstierna has to win this conflict outright. We don’t. Why? Because we’re winning every day as it is, day in and day out. Week by week, month by month, our cause advances and his cause retreats. That’s why he’s taking this opportunity, for all the risks involved. I don’t know if he realizes it consciously or not, but on some level Oxenstierna — all those reactionary swine — have to sense they’re losing.”

Achterhof was staring at him, practically cross-eyed. Rebecca had to stifle a smile.

Riemann was right, though, whether Achterhof understood his point or not. Her husband had said much the same thing to her, many times. He’d used different words, but the gist was the same.

The aristocracy and the city patricians needed formal power in order to maintain their control over the Germanies. The democratic movement didn’t — although holding such power was certainly helpful. Its influence spread everywhere, every day, down a thousand channels. Schools, unions, insurance associations, all manner of co-operatives and granges. Steadily, if sometimes slowly, the strength of the reactionaries faded.

Constantin could see it also, probably because he came from Franconia. Achterhof and the other Magdeburg militants suffered from a perhaps inevitable myopia. Say rather, tunnel vision. Everything in the nation’s capital was clear, crisp, sharp. Magdeburg was a place of factories and working-class apartments. Over here were the toiling masses, who constituted the city’s great majority. Over there, in the palaces, were the class enemies.

There were not many of them, either. So why not just sweep them aside?

Franconia — still more so, Thuringia — was a very different place. The USE’s most populous province had many political shadings, and well-nigh innumerable layers in its populace. The Americans and their allies had been able to politically dominate it since the Ring of Fire primarily because they had provided stability and security. They had put a stop to mercenary plundering, fostered the economy, built and maintained roads, schools and hospitals.

Whether or not they agreed with the Fourth of July Party’s program — and a great many of them didn’t — the majority of the population of the State of Thuringia-Franconia kept voting for them, election after election. For some, out of radical conviction. But for just as many, for the opposite reason — a conservative reluctance to upset the applecart. The very full applecart.

It helped a great deal, too, that the president of the SoTF was Ed Piazza. He was not a flamboyant, exciting, romantic — and rather scary — figure like Mike Stearns. Rather, he exuded steadiness and stability. He governed his province much the same way, as a high school principal, he had governed his teaching staff and his students, with relaxed confidence and equanimity.

So, despite the many features of Thuringian and Franconian society that resisted the democratic movement, even resented it bitterly, that movement continued to broaden and deepen its influence.

“Don’t give them a clear target,” Michael had told her. “Let them wear themselves out for a while. They haven’t got the wind for a long fight. As long as you keep them from winning by knockout, you’re staying ahead on points.”

Her husband was fond of boxing analogies. She decided to share one of them with the group.

“We’ve been discussing this for hours,” she said. “I think we are ready to take a vote.”

She looked around the table and was greeted by nods. From Gunther, Anselm and Albert, also. They’d been the most intransigent of her opponents.

“Very well. All in favor of Gunther’s proposal to seize official power in Magdeburg, raise your hands.”

The number was clearly short of a majority.

“Very well. All in favor of my approach — which, following my husband’s guidance, I shall call ‘rope-a-dope’ — raise your hands.”

The jest was perhaps unwise, since there was an immediate outcry to explain it that delayed the vote. But in the end, her viewpoint was adopted.

Afterward, Achterhof grunted and leaned back in his chair. “Easy for us to say ‘rope-a-dope.’ But it’ll be Gretchen and her people in Dresden who have to take the punches.”

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33 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 35

  1. Peter says:

    “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” I love it – the COCs and the democracy movements are slowly cutting the ground out from under the aristocracy. They are in essence already doing just what Scaglia recommends the Aristocracy should voluntarily do – transfer power slowly, so that those who gain it have time to adjust to the responsibility of weilding it.

  2. Rubbarb1954 says:

    If the king of Denmark is #2 in the government as specified in the Baltic War settlement, where is he in this whole matter? If the king of Sweden aka #1 is unable to carry out his duties it seems likely #2 would get involved. It has been made clear that he is a drunk not a dope.

  3. Ian Chapman says:

    I think King Christian is going to ultimately come in on the side of the CoC/4JP or more accurately on the side of his future daughter-in-law Kristina. Why? Because the king is a smart cookie when not completely plastered, and he sees a good thing for his family and doesn’t want that idiot Ox messing it up….and full blown civil wars have a way of being messy and spreading and Christian won’t want that.

    Let’s also not forget on a personal note that he is rather fond of a certain future son-in-law who once went by the moniker “James Bond 007” ;)

    That last won’t be the deciding factor, but I do think it will be an influence.

  4. Ed says:

    Also, Christian of Denmark is #2 in the Union of Kalmar — basically a joint kingdom of Denmark and Sweden. But the leadership of the Union of Kalmar has nothing to do with the USE, that’s a completely different organization, even if Christian’s kid runs one of the provinces.

  5. Stephen says:

    Christian is #2 only in the Union of Kalmar. The prince has already been trading on that power….

  6. dave o says:

    Is it time to start talking about Gretchen and her people in Dresden? Remember that Baner couldn’t take Ingolstadt in his siege; he had to buy it. There’s been nothing to suggest that anyone in Dresden is willing to sell. Well, maybe Wettin, but I don’t believe it.

  7. morgulknight says:

    @6, Wilhelm Wettin maybe, but not Ernst; Ernst was the man holding Baner’s leash in the Oberpfalz. Besides which, it’s probably physically impossible for Ernst to do anything to compromise Dresden’s defenses without getting himself killed in the process, and I don’t see Ernst Wettin getting himself killed to clear a path for Johann Baner.

  8. Ian Chapman says:

    Don’t forget that Ernst and Baner have a mutual loathing for each other, and Ernst has to know what will happen if Baner marches into Dresden. Baner isn’t Holk but he’s pretty close. I think Ernst’s reasoning will be that he’s rather deal with a devil he can tolerate (Gretchen and the CoCs) rather than the devil he personally despises (Baner) and his brother can go to hell because his brother isn’t their holding the dirty end of the stick.

  9. Todd Bloss says:

    About a third of the way through this book; -are we going to see some action soon?

    The last time I smelled gunpowder was a book and a half ago…

    Sorry, but the “Eastern Uprising” (as I’ve come to think of the two volumes -since they read as one book), is reading less like an alternative history novel and more like an alternative history textbook.

    At least in DeMarce’s books, SOMEONE gets knifed or hit with a frying pan every hundred pages or so.

  10. dave o says:

    #7 & 8 I mentioned Ernst Wettin because he’s the only named character in Dresden who MIGHT have divided loyalties. He’s been described as conscientious and I think he’ll dither some before he comes down on Gretchen’s side. Of course, Flint can always introduce a new character to open a gate.

    #9 Wait. The way the story is developing, there should be enough blood and gore to satisfy anyone soon.

  11. robert says:

    @10 At least Baner’s blood…

    Where have the rebels and their mercenary cavalry got to by now?

  12. Doug Lampert says:

    Someone is more or less always willing to open a gate. The trick is to make sure they can’t make the arangments.

    But if there is any chance whatsoever that Baner can break in then there’s the threat of a sack. And if there’s the threat of a sack then there are people willing to do whatever they can to keep their own family out of it. People don’t just sell out for money. “I’m not letting my three year old get burned to death, my thirteen year old get raped and killed, my wife be tortured to death because someone doesn’t believe she’s already told them where all the silver is” is enough reason to open a gate.

    Everyone in the town knows all this. Which means they all know that there’s a real risk that someone ELSE will sell out first (betray a gate early, avoid the Christmas rush). You have to arrange things so this doesn’t happen. This is one of the very real values to those 800 or so “invalids” left behind by Mike. It gives you 800 reasonably reliable men for whom “I have to protect my family from this” probably isn’t a concern. You make sure each gate has enough men that if someone wants to sneak out and negotiate a deal three others will notice, and that at least one or two of the men who’ll notice DON’T have their entire family in town.

  13. G Bayrit says:

    #9 – Todd, the only time anything exciting ever happened in a DeMarce book is those few times E.F. added a few words.

    DeMarce writes books that make “War and Peace” look like an easy read!
    For “War and Peace” you may need a map to keep track of the characters, but in a DeMarce book, you need an atlas, an encyclopedia and a 200 gigabyte computer with a massive DataBase, just to read the first couple of chapters, and then she starts to get complicated.

    I keep one of her books on my bedside table for nights when I can’t sleep. Five pages and I’m sawing logs!

  14. robert says:

    @1 Where is that quote from, Peter?

    @12 I would rather take a Tylenol PM. Less painful.

    Does anyone know when David Weber is supposed to post his first sneak snerk of the Rolling Thunder (or whatever it is called) book? ‘Sposed to be a present for the holidays. Drak?

  15. Peter says:

    @ 13 – The original Star Wars. Leia says it to Grand Moff Tarkin early in the movie. I thought the concept was appropriate. The harder Ox tries to grip the old aristocratic order, the more the populace will turn against him and accept the COCs. Assuming the COCs don’t scare everybody by being _too_ pushy.

  16. @9 There is a great deal of exciting action. It just isn’t fools with guns for the most part.

  17. Stanley Leghorn says:

    The real action is political. If Kristina makes it to Magdeburg, she becomes the head of the USE and probably has the right to summon Wettin to Magdeburg to account for his actions. If he heads her way with an army, that will be seen as rebellion againts the lawful ruler. Add in the foraging that army would have to do to get there, and you get a lot of the average folks turning on Ox and company. Not pretty in the short run for those in the way of the armies, but a long term win for the Commons against the Aristocracy. And we don’t know yet where the Pope is so the Catholic countries outside of Bavaria and Spain might be swayed by his decision.

    Has there been any mention of a Spanish Pope being set up in Rome? Last mention of it was that the King of Spain did not want the church to be split in so obviously a political way and leave him in the same position as England.

  18. Randal says:

    Thanks largely to Virginia, Grantville feels like a real place to me. A rather strange place, since I’ve never lived in a small town, but solid and understandable.
    She’s a major factor in doing the same for the 17th C Germanies.

  19. Matt Denham says:

    @16 re: Spanish Pope – As far as I know, there hasn’t – but if there were, it’d probably be leading into a three-way breakdown of the Catholic Church because… well, because while Richelieu doesn’t want to be following an apparently-led-by-the-Americans Catholic Church, he _really_ doesn’t want to be following one under the most likely candidate for the papacy given by Spain. So you end up with France going its own way, the Spanish (anti)pope, and Urban VIII. The antipope situation probably clears up in a decade or two. (Possibly longer. I haven’t done any checking of ages to see just _how_ long it could potentially continue.) France… eh, maybe at that time they rejoin, but that gets kind of touchy depending on who’s in charge at the time.

  20. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Stanley, actually IRRC the situation at the end of _Cannon Law_ was that the Spanish King was officially supporting Borja as Pope but was “wishing Borja would drop dead”.

    So Europe has two Popes at this time, Pope Urban VIII and “Pope” Borja.

    Oh, at last report Pope Urban is in Venice.

  21. Todd Bloss says:

    @17 -I was a bit confused after Cannon Law; exactly which Pope is the “Black Pope”, Urban or Borja?

  22. Sean Maxwell says:

    @18: Neither one. “Black Pope” is the nickname of the head of the Jesuits, Father-General Muzio Vitelleschi.

    According to canon law, Urban (Barberini) is pope, Borja is the anti-pope.

    According to “cannon” law, Borja is pope, and Barberini is the anti-pope.


  23. Peter says:

    Borja’s rowing upstream against a waterfall. None of the anti-popes succeeded in the end, they all had rather ugly ends to their reigns. The mass of the secular and religious hierarchy know this; with the RoF as a very recent and public reminder that God still does miracles, an anti-pope has even less chance of hanging onto power than before. He’ll find himself the target of ten thousand little acts of sabotage by displeased clergyp and down the vatican’s chain of command. He might as well be blind and deaf – no-one will tell him any truth that he can’t find out for himself.

  24. Bret Hooper says:

    What’s all this trashing of Virginia DeMarce? Ok, she is not quite as good as Eric Flint, David Weber, Lois Bujold, Octavia Butler, Robert Heinlein, Edgar Pangborn, or Isaac Asimov, but she is still damn good! So I’ve only read The Tangled Web twice, as opposed to 5 for 1632, 4 for 1633, and 3 for The Baltic War. Still, she is one of my favorite authors, and the author of one of my favorite quotes “People don’t need an important issue to fight about; they’ll take whatever is available and inflate it to the size they need.”

  25. morgulknight says:

    @20, it gets even better when you realize that Vitelleschi stuck with Urban, meaning there’s a lovely potential channel for crippling Borja or drawing him into bad positions with a disinformation campaign.
    @16, how likely do you think it that when Oxenstierna realizes that Kristina’s headed for Magdeburg, either he or someone close to him panics and does something rash?

  26. Doug Lampert says:

    @17, How does Kristina get the authority to summon Wettin if she reaches Magdenburg?!

    If GA were DEAD she wouldn’t have that authority, because she’s a minor and there’d be a regency. Does anyone SERIOUSLY think Mike signed onto a constitution where a nine year old can inherit that much real power? Not one of the other countries she stands to inherit give a nine year old soveriegn any real authority, why would USE be so different in a way that makes sense only if you FAVOR hereditary power?

    And even if the USE doesn’t have any form of regency written into law and she’d inherit all of GAs athority on his death, SO WHAT? The king isn’t dead so we’d STILL be in a situation with a regency and Kristina has no authority to declare herself regent.

    Given that GA is ALIVE and Wettin is in the same city as his king it is likely that he has every right to summon HER in the king’s name. Ox did so, arguably SHE’S already guilty of treason in Sweeden for avoiding his summons. Fortunately the legalities of that are unlikely to ever matter to anyone much.

  27. ET1swaw says:

    @20 @21: Don’t forget Borja has the backing, however grudging, of the Spanish Empire (which includes most of Italy excluding Venice, Tuscany, Mantua, and Savoy and all of the Portuguese Worldwide Holdings (South and Central America, Africa (Angola and others), India (Goa and others), and Southeast Asia (including Chinese and Japanese holdings)). And reactionaries within the church and rabid counter-reformationists would tend to support Borja as well (Urban is too chummy with USE and progressive factions). In canon as well (‘This’ll Be The Day’), even Jesuits are schisming between the ‘Popes’.

  28. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @22 – Doug Lampert

    I agree that Kristina won’t have any real authority. What she will have is symbolic and moral authority. What she can do is proclaim herself (with Ulrik’s advice, assistance, and presence) the legitimate heir to three crowns and demand publicly an accounting from both Wilhelm Wettin and Axel Oxenstierna. Both will argue that they have no need to answer to a minor, and technically they will be correct. In the eyes of the public, though, they will start to lose credibility when they refuse to answer tough and embarrassing questions, such as:

    Why has the Gustavus Adolphus not been moved to Magdeburg to receive the very best medical care? Or why has the very best medical care available been kept in Berlin?

    What is the purpose of the gathering of Hochadel and Niederadel in Berlin?

    Why is General Baner besieging Dresden when Dresden has done nothing to merit a siege?

    and so forth.

    If W.W. and A.O. refuse to answer, or if they tell the truth, then they will be seen as rebels to lawful authority (USE/G2A). If they give evasive answers or seem to be hedging their answers, they risk losing the trust and support of the Hochadel and Niederadel. Kristina can create a situation, simply by her presence and her symbolic (or moral, if you will) authority, where the reactionaries have no chance at succeeding in gaining the trust, or at least acquiescence, of the larger society while maintaining the power, trust, and active support of the Hochadel and Niederadel. Kristina and Ulrik in Magdeburg will be a game-changing force. If G2A recovers in time, he will be a game-changing force (unless he is assassinated by the reactionaries).

  29. Robert H. Woodman says:


    The first embarrassing question has an embarrassing typo. It should read:

    … Or why has not the very best medical care available been kept in Berlin?

    Apologies for the typo.

  30. Matt Denham says:

    @24 – Assuming the three-way breakdown I mentioned in #17 comes to pass (which is basically entirely dependent upon Richelieu’s reaction to the situation), most of the reactionary/counter-reformation forces (and Austria/Hungary) seem most likely to ally themselves with France, because Borja’s rocking the boat in a way they don’t particularly want either.

    And considering that Spain is (as of the end of TCL) trying to ally themselves with Monsieur Gaston, Richelieu _really_ needs to get himself out of the incredibly awkward position he’s in, which makes “The Church of France” (the Austro-Gallic Church?) somewhat inevitable unless he’s willing to eat a lot of crow over his general reaction towards the USE.

  31. JaneDB says:

    @1 Very appropriate quote – I can’t believe someone didn’t recognize it. What’s happened to the younger generation?;-)
    @19 very cute! canon vs. cannon. To me the quote of @1 should be required canon for all fantasy/sci-fi geeks, along with “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

  32. erick says:

    What is going to be Ox’s big mistake? From these snippetts, I think a major pivotal point of the plot will be what “illegal” action will Ox-Wittin commit that allows the good guys to react “legally” thus pulling in everyone who is loyal to the USE (Simpson) and sways Torstensson and at least keeps the moderate leaders like H&K neutral.

    In S#23 Simpson says: “Not… exactly. I think what’s going to happen is that Prime Minister Wettin is going to start breaking the law — the spirit of it, for damn sure — and then Mike will toss the rules overboard himself. Depending on the circumstances, I don’t know that I’d take Mike’s side.” Simpson is bound by his oath to the constitution.

    Tostensson (S#25) can forgive OX his strategic failures and reactionary policies but not throwing away the lives of his troops. Torst swore an oath to the USE constitution. One of the few downtimers to begin to think in terms of nation, though I think the personnal notion of the oath is stronger. Torst like Simpson is bound by honor to do the right thing by his given word. Torst is going to come in on the good guy side but he needs Ox to violate the constitution.

    These last 3 snippetts show how the conflict between the CoC acting now and waiting for OX’s mistake will build tension. As will Baner besieging Dresden and committing atrocities but those will be in Saxony committed by a subordinate general pacifying enemy territory. Baner will be good enough for Mike to move back north to defeat the crazy general but Baner is not the one to fling the haymaker. Will the CoC hold back long enough. Ox’s action will have to be illegal in fact and go beyond spirit. Until that point much will seem to be going against Mike and Co. what will OX mistake be? Will Mike and the CoC be clever enough to provoke the mistake?

    I worry for GA, if he recovers enough he becomes a threat to the reactionaries and from a plot point of view he is in the way. Would just holding a GA in protective custody if word of his recovery was made public be a big enough mistake? What If Ox says “who will rid me of this troublesome emperor” and 4 guys do a Beckett. That would sway Trost and Simpson, killing the legal head of state. What about trying to intercept Ulrik and Kristina with force at sea, opportunity for a little sea battle, maybe pulling Simpson out neutrality at Luebeck?

    Some where in this mess is the Polish Vasa dynasty. they are holding everyone back. There have been American agitator working with the polish people since the early days of the RoF, the country may be ready for revolution. Koniecpolski is conflicted because of his loyalty to the king of Poland. Could Ox make a deal with the polish Vasa against GA?
    Thank you for the snippits

  33. Butch Clor says:

    I wonder which way things will drop when a Prince and Princess arrive in Germany. As to Crossing the Baltic..someone commented that Ox would send someone to intercept them..First he has to find out they have left Stockholm, then get an intercept force there, then the intercept force is decimated or out run because the couple are as per an earlier chapter travelling in the Danish flagged ironclad.

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