1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 54
“For pity’s sake, we’re about to launch our great campaign!” It was all Oxenstierna could not to snarl openly. “Your Grace,” he added, in an attempt to remain polite.
A pointless attempt. “I remind you again that I’m no longer a duke,” said Wilhelm Wettin stiffly. “And as for the other, I think a plot to commit treason in collusion with a hostile foreign power needs to take precedence over our domestic concerns.”
The Swedish chancellor stared down at the smaller man. For a moment, he was disoriented by a clutter of disconnected thoughts. He hadn’t foreseen this development.
We’re dealing with a matter of internal treason, you idiot, which is far more dangerous than anything else.
Maximilian is playing over his head, anyway. We can get the Oberpfalz back soon enough, once order is established.
One of the first things we’ll do once we’ve consolidated power is get rid of that “house of commons” nonsense. Can there be anything more absurd than a duke having to give up his title in order to rule?
How in God’s name did he find out?
The answer to the last question was probably the simplest. The problem with working through men like Johann Ludwig was that they were… well, men like Johann Ludwig. The count of Nassau-Hadamar had none of the great virtues, so why should it be surprising that he lacked the lesser ones as well? Such as being able to keep his mouth shut and refrain from bragging.
No matter. Johann Ludwig was playing over his head too. Oxenstierna had been careful not to deal with the man directly. When the time came, and Duke Maximilian of Bavaria needed to be humbled again, the count of Nassau-Hadamar’s treasonous role could be exposed and the man sent to the executioner’s block.
For the moment, there was this much greater problem of Wettin to deal with. The USE’s prime minister had been balking more and more at the necessary measures to be taken, as time went by. He’d become a nuisance to everyone, especially Oxenstierna.
Perhaps more to the point, he’d also by now thoroughly aggravated most of his own followers. The staunch ones, by his vacillations; those even more inclined toward compromise, such as the landgravine of Hesse-Kassel, by his accommodations.
So, perhaps not such a great problem after all.
He placed a hand on Wettin’s shoulder. “There’s someone you need to speak to, who is intimately familiar with the Bavarian situation. The information you’ve received, from whatever source that might be” — which you’ve refused to tell me, but he left that unsaid — “has grossly misrepresented the true state of affairs.”
Again, the prime minister nodded stiffly. “I assure you, Chancellor, that no one would be happier to be proven wrong than myself, with regard to this matter.”
“Please wait here, then, while I fetch the person. If won’t take but a moment.”
Wettin’s head inclined toward the sound of the crowd in the nearby assembly hall. No one was orating or shouting slogans, at the moment, since they were all waiting for Oxenstierna and Wettin to appear. But that large a crowd makes a lot of noise just standing around and talking to each other.
Understanding the gesture, Oxenstierna gave the prime minister’s shoulder a friendly little squeeze. “The mob can wait, Wilhelm. Reassuring you regarding this Bavarian business is more important.” And with that, he left.
As he’d promised the prime minister, he returned very quickly. Within less than a minute, in fact. For weeks, the chancellor had made sure that the Swedish soldiers who served Wettin as bodyguards were completely reliable. The two he found currently on duty just outside the prime minister’s quarters would do as well as any.
“I’m afraid I have to put you under arrest, Your Grace,” Oxenstierna announced, quietly and coldly.
Wettin stared at the two guards approaching him. At the last minute, he tried to draw the sword scabbarded to his waist. It was a valiant if pointless gesture. The sword was a ceremonial blade; capable of killing a man, to be sure, but not really well-suited to the task. The soldiers, in contrast, were armed with halberds and pistols.
They were also quite a bit larger than the prime minister and in much better physical condition. Wettin was a fairly young man, still, not even forty years of age. But he’d spent the past few years in sedentary pursuits, where these men were in their twenties and had remained physically active. It was the work of but a few seconds to subdue him.
Wettin began shouting. Curses at Oxenstierna, at the moment, but it wouldn’t be long before he began calling for help.
In all likelihood, none would come. But there was no point taking the risk.
“Gag him,” Oxenstierna commanded. “Place him for the moment in my chambers. Keep him gagged and under close watch until I return.”
That wouldn’t be for some hours, which would be most unpleasant for Wettin. Having a cloth gag in one’s mouth was a nuisance for a short time; uncomfortable, for an hour; and the cause of bleeding sores after several. But the man had made his choice, so let him live with it.
On his way to the assembly hall, Oxenstierna pondered the prime minister’s — no, the former prime minister’s — final disposition.
Executing him would be unwise. That would stiffen the resistance of such people as Amalie Elizabeth of Hesse-Kassel and Duke George of Brunswick, not to mention the man’s two brothers still in the USE. Ernst Wettin had to be replaced in Saxony anyway, of course, since he’d also proven unreliable. But he and Albrecht would remain influential in some circles regardless of the positions they currently held.
There was no way of knowing what reaction Wilhelm’s execution would elicit from his youngest brother Bernhard. But for the moment, that was another pot that Oxenstierna would just as soon leave unstirred.
And there was no need for such drastic action, anyway. Oxenstierna was not given to killing people for the sake of it. Exiling Wettin to one of the more isolated castles in Sweden — even better, Finland — would serve the chancellor’s purposes perfectly well. The former prime minister really had worn out his welcome even with his own followers. A popular pretender kept in exile always posed a potential threat. Wilhelm Wettin would not.