1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 47

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 47

Chapter 17

Luebeck, USE naval base

“Please, have a seat.” Admiral Simpson gestured toward a comfortable looking divan with four equally-comfortable-looking chairs clustered around a low table. The ensemble was located in one half of what Ulrik took to be the admiral’s office. Part of his suite, rather. He could see other rooms connected to it, in one of which he spotted an up-time computer perched on a long desk.

The walls were decorated with paintings, but they were seascapes rather than the usual portraits. Three of them were representations of sailing vessels underway.

The variation from custom in the decor was a subtle reminder of the differences between the American and down-timers. At least, down-timers who could afford to commission art work in the first place. For such down-timers, the art’s purpose was in large part to remind anyone who looked — perhaps themselves, first and foremost — of their lineage. To a very large degree, though not always and not entirely, it was that ancestry which explained and justified their present status.

Americans also cherished their ancestry, Ulrik had discovered, but the logic behind that esteem was often peculiar from a down-timer’s standpoint. He’d been struck, for instance, by the fact that several Americans with whom he’d discussed the matter claimed — with great obvious pride — to number a “Cherokee” among their ancestors. In one case, a “Choctaw.” Curious, Ulrik had looked up the references and discovered the Cherokees and Choctaws were barbarian tribes who’d been conquered by the white settlers of North America. Conquered, and then driven entirely off their land into the wilderness.

All Americans who could do so — which many couldn’t, since they were the product of recent immigration — boasted of their polyglot lineage. Father’s side is mostly Polish, but with some Irish mixed in there. Mother’s side is part-Italian, part-Pennsylvania Dutch — those were actually Germans, not Dutch — and part Scots-Irish.

Something along those lines was what you generally heard, where a European nobleman would stress the narrowness of his line. Its purity, to look at it another way.

Not royal families, of course. There simply weren’t enough of them to avoid constant marriages across national lines. But that simply reinforced the status of royal blood as a special category of its own.

For the up-timers, the pride they took in their lineage had very little to do with their present status. That was defined almost entirely by their occupation. Indeed, it was considered a mark of honor for a man to have achieved a high position without the benefit of family patronage, although such patronage was certainly common and not derided.

So, John Chandler Simpson’s walls had paintings of ships and the sea on them. As well he might, given the ships in question. Ulrik had enjoyed this second crossing of the Baltic in an ironclad even less than the first. The warships were tolerable enough in calm waters, if you could ignore their acrid stench. But any sort of rough seas — and it didn’t take much, for a sea to be rough for an ironclad — made them thoroughly unpleasant. On two occasions, Ulrik had begun to worry that they might sink.

The one thing he hadn’t been worried about, however, was Chancellor Oxenstierna. Had a Swedish warship crossed their path and tried to prevent the Union of Kalmar from taking its royal passengers to their destination…

But its commander never would have tried in the first place. No more would a mouse try to impede a bull crossing a pasture. The ironclads completely dominated any patch of the seas they passed through.

Simpson’s ironclads — and, as the diagrams and designs on some of the walls in the anteroom showed, the same man was now creating a new line of warships. Sailing ships, these, but Ulrik didn’t doubt they would overshadow any sailing ships that currently existed in any navy in the world.

Once they were seated, Simpson asked: “Would you care for any refreshments?” He looked at Caroline Platzer. “I have some real coffee, I might mention.”

Platzer’s hand flew to her throat, her expression one of histrionic relief and pleasure. “Oh, thank Go — gosh. Yes, admiral, please. A bit of cream, if you have it.”

“Sugar? I have some actual sugar, too, it’s not the usual honey.”

“Really? Then, yes, I’d appreciate some sugar also.”

The admiral turned to the down-timers. “Your Highnesses? Mister… ah…”

“Baldur Norddahl,” said Ulrik. “He is my… ah…”

The admiral smiled thinly. “I’m familiar with Mr. Norddahl, at least by reputation.”

Baldur looked a bit alarmed. Perhaps for that reason, he asked for nothing. Ulrik and Kristina both settled on broth.

The admiral rang a small bell that had been sitting on a side table. A moment later, a servant appeared. A naval enlisted man, judging from the uniform, not a house servant.

And there was another variation in custom. Americans used servants — indeed, ones who’d been wealthy like Simpson were quite accustomed to doing so — but they used them differently. Even a man as powerful and prestigious as Simpson did not think twice about asking his guests for their preferences, as if he were a mere waiter in a restaurant. The orders taken, he would then summon a servant to do the actual work — but he would have to summon them. Usually, with a bell of some sort. He couldn’t simply crook his finger at one of the servants already in the room. There weren’t any.

This was an American custom that Ulrik had already adopted for his own, and had every intention of expanding into imperial practice once he and Kristina were married. He would gladly exchange the trivial chore of having to ring a bell for the great advantage of having some privacy — the one commodity that was in shortest supply for a royal family.

There were two other advantages to the custom, as well, both of them cold-bloodedly practical. The first was that it made it more difficult for enemies to spy on you. They couldn’t just suborn one of the servants. The second was that it would add a bit to the patina of egalitarianism that Ulrik intended to slather all over the new dynasty.

In truth, Ulrik was not burdened with any high regard for egalitarianism. But that sentiment was already burgeoning in this new world and he knew it would only continue to swell. Establishing the new dynasty’s friendliness toward the sentiment — perhaps no more than a tip of the hat, here and there, but polite formalities were important — was just part of the surfing process.

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30 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 47

  1. Peter says:

    Interesting that Simpson spoke to Caroline first, and not Kristina or Ulrik. Does this have significance for the conversation that is about to follow?

  2. robert says:

    Perhaps “ladies first,” royals second and then everyone else? Especially ladies who are betrothed to war heroes. And have great influence on certain royals.

  3. Simpson is a stranger in a strage land.He can never go home. The land is becomming stranger and stranger.There are fewer and fewer Americans left.Those who are left are spread over larger and larger geographic areas. He greeted Caroline first because she was a bit of home.He offered her up time hospitality because he new she would be delighted and that delighted him. She cant be craving coffee after all this time .She responded as she did because it represented home.The Rothes were just as delighted to have Mike in ther home because thay will never be part of the 17th centery. Thease are some lonly people.Thay prefer uptimers company .

  4. robert says:

    @3 mike
    But his wife seems to able to accommodate quite well to this “strange land.” And he is really having a professional life much more enjoyable than the one he had uptime. One gets the impression that he is reveling in his job.
    An interesting analysis, mike, but I can’t quite agree. Ever since Eddie came to Mike with the plans for a ship, and Mike went to Simpson, Simpson has seemed to undergo a, er, sea change. Forgive me…

  5. Matthew says:

    Even if he doesn’t feel that loneliness because he’s got a few uptimers around, he’s got to know that Caroline certainly does. She’s a royal nanny and has spent months being an afterthought relative to the Prince and Princess without any Americans for company. Simpson is enough of a gentleman to know that treating Caroline first and like a normal American is something that she has been missing.

  6. Stanley Leghorn says:

    Any real engineer would revel in a chance to do projects that make a real difference rather than just money for someone else. ESPECIALLY a man like Simpson who must have chafed at being forced into being a manager/executive and denied the use of his skills.

    As to the order of precedence, I think it was a clever ploy to emphasise who HE thought more important. Tho, it just could have been the “Ladies First” mentality. Kristina is still a child, even tho she is a Royal.

  7. Willem Meijer says:

    Seascapes and sailing vessels were quite common genres, even with specialised (Dutch) painters doing nothing else. The first Dutch specialist (Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom) started his series of ‘Ships in a storm’ after surviving a storm at sea.

  8. Janet B says:

    I don’t see that he asked Caroline first. It seemed to me that he offered everyone something to drink and then looked at Caroline to offer her, as well as the others, something that couldn’t easily be gotten downtime – coffee with sugar, all of which had to be imported at some expense. She replied, then he made sure that the others also made their preferences known. It seems he used more of an uptime casual style, than a politically savvy downtime order of precedence.

  9. PeterZ says:

    @6 Stanley Leghorn. Simpson ran a large company prior to the RoF. That’s pretty much what he is doing now, except that the “company” he is running is a wholey owned subsidiary of potentially the most powerful nation on earth. One of the most important divisions no less.

    I think Mr. Simpson is having a whale of a time doing what he does best for purposes he can passionately support.

  10. PeterZ says:

    Poor Ulrik, his betrothed shows all the signs of being an idealist. In our timeline she followed her ideals away from the thone and into a vocation. In this one the CoC’s have provided her with an ideal to really follow, egalitarianism. Ulrik will be dragged kicking and screaming into one uncomfortable situation after another by his dear wife in future years.

    Their marriage has all the earmarks of a more refined “Honeymooners” sort of relationship. Where their underlying love and respect for eachother are thinly covered by a petina of annoyance and picque. A real pitty they couldn’t have been older in this stage of the story.

  11. ET1swaw says:

    I agree it it mostly a matter of ‘ladies first. But a second string to his bow is to subtly place Caroline on a level playing field with Kristine and Ulrich: a full and adult participant in the discussion to come, not a glorified servant (governess or nanny). And he got Baldur off-balance and guilty with a single sentence, Bravo Zulo.
    Ulrich may consider himself advanced, but he’s making a major frame of reference mistake. The enlisted man answering the summons is -not in any way- a personal servant! Most likely the Admiral’s Steward or possibly just a Yeoman designated as ‘gopher'(high profile VIPs, probably the Steward). The job description may at times veer towards personal service(much like an Army officer’s ‘batman’), but is more akin to the innocuous sounding ‘Captain’s Clerk’ (basically executive administrative assistant). He likes the privacy allowed by the ‘American’ treatment of servants, but I wonder if he will frame-change so far as to treat them (as ideally ‘Americans’ do) as near-equals/employees not conveniences in 2-legged form. Baldur is no clear indication as he was companion/fellow traveller from the start (and Caroline is an uptimer).
    Simpson’s wife Mary is a religious orphan like Caroline Platzer (Mary a Unitarian (considered Socinian ATT, Unitarian (England/USA) founded 1780s), Caroline a Quaker (founder George Fox is 11 ATT)). (the Admiral and his son Tom are Episcopalian, hence Veleda Riddle’s request for Tom’s ordination while in England) He may also wish some time later with her to see how she is handling that. And setting her at ease at the outset goes a long way towards later open discussion.
    As for his office decor, that is fairly ‘Standard Navy Issue’.

  12. LenS says:

    Following on 8, perhaps Simpson’s offer is just a practicality. He could assume that Caroline is the only person there who might want to drink coffee. An aquired taste for most folks that is very unlikely to have been picked up by the others. According to Wikipedia, the first European coffee house would not open until 1645 in Italy. While earlier ROF stories touch on the arrival of Grantvill stimulating trade in coffee, its not likely there’s been enough time for it to catch on very much – even with someone like Ulrick, and definitely not the others.

  13. Robert H. Woodman says:

    All pleasantries aside, I wonder if (and if so, to what extent) Admiral Simpson and/or his staff will brief Ulrik and Kristina on the political situation in the USE. Ulrik and Kristina need to move boldly, but not foolishly or blindly, to secure to their advantage the people’s loyalty and willingness to stand up to Oxenstierna and company.

    Regarding servants, I wonder to what extent Caroline Platzer will be able to influence Kristina to treat servants the way up-time Americans do. I know that she has had some positive influence, but IIRC from previous books and snippets, Kristina is still quite a bit of a down-time royal in the way she treats servants.

  14. Sean says:

    Simpson would have known Baldur by more than reputation as he was rescued/captured along with Ulrich during Simpson’s assault on Copenhagen. In addition, the two were present together during the conference in Copenhagen narrated in the Baltic War.

  15. Robert Krawitz says:

    @Robert (13), Caroline dealt very effectively with that in the Baltic War: when Kristina ordered the people in the castle (or whatever) to shift the signs around as a prank, Caroline ordered Kristina to personally give directions to anyone who got lost. And there were other incidents in that book when Kristina was acting too “royal” and Caroline firmly took her in hand.

    Caroline is a lot more of a stepmother than an attendant.

  16. Mike Davis says:

    For someone of the admiral’s age and background the order of precedence would be women first, oldest first, then men, also in order of age, then girls, with boys last. That is, unless anyone is military, then in order of rank. Royals may or may not get precedent; they wouldn’t with me.

  17. Ulick may be a bit optimistic as to his place in the Court of the Queen-Empress Kristina of Sweden, Lamar, Germany, the Americas, Africa, South Asia, Australia, Antarctica, and the Stellar Spheres. The first three are givens, and Admiralissimo Simpson will in time give her the rest.

  18. Peter says:

    @17 – Lamar? What do you mean?

  19. PeterZ says:

    @18 Kalmar as in the Union of.

  20. Randy says:

    @16 less anyone forget, I believe Kristina is a lieutenant general in the USE Army, second in rank only to GAII. I’m not sure what her rank, if any, in the Swedish Army is, something comparable I suspect. Even LT is subordinate to her in the USE Army. I’m not sure how it works in the Swedish Army since I believe Baner was given his command directly by GAII. Then again GAII is incapacitated and Kristina is his heir. I believe AO as chancellor has authority over Swedish civil and maybe judicial affairs. I wonder if he has any legal authority over military affairs. I don’t believe there is either a USE or Swedish Minister of War since GAII controlled both directly. The role should devolve to Kristina given his incapacity. I don’t believe AO or WW have the legal authority to remove anyone from any office that was granted directly by GAII. Technically, any order either AO or WW want to issue to their respective armies should/must go through her. Chain of command and all that. I don’t believe either AO or WW have any rank in their respective armies. Wouldn’t that be fun if they did, Kristina could issue them orders and if they refused to obey issue warrants for their arrest for gross insubordination. I suspect Harry Lefferts would just love to serve those warrants. Too bad they resisted arrest, but then again the warrants wouldn’t say anything about them being taken alive.

    Since her commissions/ranks were granted directly by GAII and I believe in the case of the USE written into the constitution and given her position as GAII’s heir, any attempt to remove or bypass her would be an explicit act of treason. AO and WW have grossly overstepped their legal authorities. I’d be surprised if Mike was unaware of that. He must be biding his time until Kristina is safe in Madgeburg. I’m “sure” she would follow any advice he might give with respect to military precedence.

  21. ET1swaw says:

    @20 Randy: Jacob de La Gardie (married to G2A’s first love (Ebba Brahe) and first cousin to PLC king (his mother-illegitimate half sister to Sigismund))is Lord High Constable and as such is the land forces equivalent to the sea forces Lord High Admiral (G2A’s illegitimate half brother Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm). First in precedence is the Lord High Steward/Justiciar (OTL was Magnus Brahe (father of Ebba and uncle of Nils (USE Province of the Main Administrator and Swedish General) and Per (Governor General of Finland 1637))until he died 1633, then Axel’s brother Gabriel Gustafsson Oxenstierna; NTL no one is in canon after the canon unconfirmed deathdate of Brahe) who is in charge of the court system and Internals (i.e. President of Riksdag)). Axel is fourth in line after the LH Constable and LH Admiral, and in charge of bureaucracy and Foriegn Affairs. He only outranks the LH Treasurer (OTL was G2A’s brother-in-law until replaced in 1634 by Axel’s cousin Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstierna). OTL Axel even got his cousins appointed as Governor-Generals for most of the Dominions (Axel had Swedish Prussia until lost 1635, Gabriel Bengtson had Finland until lost to Per Brahe 1637, Bengt Bengtsson had Ingria, Karelia, and Livonia) (after Johan Skytte (G2A’s tutor) held it 1629-1634).
    Enforcing a coutesy rank is a novel idea, but IMO won’t fly.

  22. Randy says:

    @20 If the USE Army chooses to enforce her courtesy rank with the points of its bayonets then it ceases to be a courtesy rank. Much like the German mercenaries of the Praetorian Guard deciding to make Claudius emperor regardless of what the Roman Senate and patrician class thought/wanted. As Derek Jacobi in I Claudius so aptly pointed out to the dismissive Senators, if they didn’t like it they could take it up with the PG, which pretty ended that discussion. Ultimately the Legions will decide who will rule. Any body want to bet who that is going to be.

  23. robert says:

    And then look what happened to the Roman Empire.

  24. Stanley Leghorn says:

    23 Robert: In regard to Rome, we are looking at someone who has a power base outside the army. In fact, the loyalty of the army comes from the prior loyalty the soldiers felt before they joined. Also, she has far more legitimacy than Claudius did. So, the situation is quite a bit different.
    The army will be defending her legal position as heir, not creating a new lineage.

  25. Yes, Kalmar, and neither my eye nor the Spiel Cheque caught it.

  26. tim says:

    As I understand it, Kristina is the Lieutenant-General of the SoTF, just as her daddy is the Captain-General. A legal fiction created by Gustav and Mike so that the uptimers can claim they are still republicans. Again, as I understand it, the moment Gustav and Kristina set foot within the state boundaries of Thuringia-Franconia under no circumstances can they legally be called anything but Captain-General Gars or Lieutenant-General Kristina.

  27. @23 Yes, it lasted for centuries. About fifteen of them, my Byzantine ancestors would note. More if you count the Holy Roman Empire.

    However, it would be interesting for Kristina to have figured this out for herself rather than to have to function as a sock puppet for someone else.

    Something like — No, I have not read the earc — Admiral Simpson, order the Army to escort my father to Magdeberg for treatment.

    Can’t do that, being an Admiral.

    But I can. Can’t I.

    Ulrick: Forgive me, Princess, but while you are heir, you are a bit young, and there isn’t a regent in the USE. I think.

    Ulrick, Dear, He felt a small hand resting firmly on his arm. *Princess* Kristina cant. Lieutenant-General Kristina can. After all, I outrank everyone in the Army except Daddy, don’t I, Admiral?

    Various looks on faces

    Admiral, would you please help me write those orders?

  28. VernonNemitz says:

    I wonder if those sailing ship designs on the wall are actually clipper ships and not, especially, warships. With a port on the Baltic, the USE could become a global trading power, if only it had ships fast enough to outrun the sailing warships of the other nations. After all, to get to the spice markets of the East, you need to run the gauntlet of Atlantic waters full of English, French, and Spanish warships.

  29. jakob says:

    I wonder if modern ship design is going into the new sailing ships, like bulkhead and compartmentalization, multihulls for speed, etc.

    I could see an ocean going catamaran as a fast scout, and bamboo construction for strength (harvest it from Africa maybe… or put a plantation south of the Alps). And with bulkhead construction, you needn’t have old growth wood for ship framing, standard growth trees will do (actually… that Chinese fleet that discovered America used such construction methods to make ships as big as a modern battleship, back in the 1400’s) They could then also be counterflooded.

  30. dave o says:

    I don’t want to get into ship construction and design this late on Sunday. Hamburg is on the North Sea, not the Baltic. The North Sea and Atlantic fisheries are the traditional nursery of seamen. If they don’t start close to home, they’re fools.

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