1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 03
“King Albrecht must let us collect our rents and taxes from our lands. To do otherwise would be to declare before all the world that he doesn’t respect the rights of his nobles. But, with my uncles in Vienna and serving in Ferdinand II’s court, he is pointing out that he is not required to allow those monies to go to people who are actively at war with him.”
“But you’re not actively at war with him,” Judy the Elder said, nodding.
“Quite right. I am living here in Grantville, a prince in name, but acting as a businessman and not holding any government post for any state. I can collect family rents, tithes and taxes. My uncles can’t, not for lands that are in Bohemia or Silesia. Then there is the matter of my Aunt Beth. She is the duchess of Cieszyn, a duchy in Silesia. Aunt Beth is involved in two lawsuits in the Holy Roman Empire, one with the empire itself and one with my uncle, her husband. Aunt Beth is living in her duchy and daring Uncle Gundaker to come see her there. She appealed to King Albrecht on both cases and he has found for her in both cases. She, in return, has sworn loyalty to King Albrecht.”
“What are the cases about?” Judy the elder asked.
“In a sense both are about her being a woman. There was a privilege granted by King Władysław II Jagiellon to Duke Casimir II of Cieszyn in 1498, under which was secured the female succession over Cieszyn until the fourth generation. Aunt Beth is the fourth generation or her older brother was. Ferdinand II insists that she was disqualified by her gender. The lawsuit with Uncle Gundaker involves the wording of the marriage contract and who is the duke or duchess of those lands. And, as I said, when King Albrecht took Bohemia, she appealed both cases to him as her new liege. Albrecht confirmed her as duchess of Cieszyn. She swore fealty to him and has dropped all persecution of non-Catholics in Cieszyn.”
“Good for her,” Judy the Younger said.
“I agree, though I prefer not to say so in my uncle’s hearing,” Karl said.
“Makes sense. There’s lots of stuff I don’t like to talk about in front of Sarah, because she gets all high and mighty.”
“Judy,” Judy the Elder said, warningly. But Judy the Younger just grinned.
“Still, it seems simple enough,” Sarah said. “You appeal to King Albrecht about your rights and collect your rents.”
“Would that it were so simple. There are other issues. Among them that some of our lands are in the Holy Roman Empire — what’s left of it — and openly giving fealty to King Albrecht would be an act of treason against the empire. Not to mention the fact that both my uncles are in the service of the emperor.”
“Would it be taken that seriously?” Judy the Elder asked. “I’m no historian, but I seem to recall that it was . . . is . . . pretty standard practice to have part of the family on one side and the other part on the other, to cover all the bets, so to speak.”
“Yes, we do, so to speak, cover all the bets and the kings and emperors know it. But we are expected to be as discreet about it as we can. More importantly, we are expected to pay our taxes. By each side.”
“How unreasonable!” Judy the Younger said. Then laughed.
“My thoughts exactly,” Karl agreed. “Ferdinand is bringing considerable pressure on my family to support the government. And the family, in turn, are asking me to send them the money to do it with. It would be very convenient for me to not have that money available.
“It has always been my intention to invest in the family lands in Bohemia and Silesia. However, my plan was to do it gradually, in a systematic way, once the armies were out of the area. Now I need to rush things a bit and I am in need of advice.”
“What sort of advice?” Judy the Elder asked.
“What should I buy? Who should I buy it from? Understand, it’s not necessary that everything I buy be shipped immediately. In fact, it would be better in some ways if it were delayed. It will be more likely to get there if it waits till some of the armies have moved out of the area. At the same time, I have no desire to spend a great deal of money and then have the company I’m buying these products from go broke.”
“Part of that includes areas where it would be illegal for me to help you,” Mrs. Wendell said. “I can tell you what you need to buy but not which company to buy it from. It’s simply too easy for a conflict of interest to rear its ugly head if I recommend specific companies. This is a case where public officials have to be like Caesar’s wife, because any suspicion that we were endorsing a company for personal gain, or even for the general gain of Grantville, would endanger the whole industrialization project.
“The Grantville Better Business Bureau maintains a list of companies and their reputation. Beyond that, Sarah and Judy can probably tell you quite a bit about the economic health of most of the companies that are likely providers.
“As to what you will need, to a great extent that depends on the situation in Bohemia and Silesia, and that’s getting a bit far afield for my expertise. But, in general, the first issue is transport because good transport makes everything else easier and its lack makes everything else almost impossible. Whether that means Fresno scrapers for improving roads, small steam engines for barges, light rail, even wooden rail to get you through the next few years till you can replace it with steel, depends on your terrain and situation. There are also issues of where the roads should go, which depends on your relations with the neighboring landlords. It’s not going to do you that much good to put in a road if the goods are going to be stopped at the border anyway.”