1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 10

1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 10

“But he is not France, young lady. What he does places my country in peril and twists the commands and endangers the rule of my royal brother.”

“Didn’t he also exile you?”

Gaston’s face hardened. “His Majesty exiled me at Richelieu’s direction. You are correct . . . but even that cannot stand forever.”

Terrye Jo didn’t answer.

“It is my desire to reconcile with the king,” he said. “I know that if I have a chance I can do so. But Richelieu must go.”

“As you say, Highness.”

“I am sure . . .” Gaston’s voice, which had become harsh and angry, softened and warmed. “I am sure, Madame, that the relations between my country and yours could become much more cordial in the absence of the cardinal.”

“Your Royal Highness,” Terrye Jo said carefully, “That sort of thing is way above my pay grade.”

Gaston frowned for a moment; she thought perhaps she’d messed up the translation into French. Then he smiled again, like the sun breaking through clouds. “Yes. Of course. That is something that would have to be negotiated. I am sure that I could find common ground with your Emperor.”

“I . . . imagine the king and Emperor Gustav could find a way.”

Gaston did not answer for a moment, then said, “Yes, of course. If God wills it I may someday be king of France, but in the meanwhile my royal brother might be able to make progress toward friendship and peace, free of the malign influence of the cardinal.”

“Peace is better than war, for sure.”

“Yes. Of course it is.” The beatific Guy Fawkes smile came back. “Now, I do not wish to keep you much longer from all the young men who wait to dance with you, Mademoiselle. I wish only to confirm for my own satisfaction that your radio equipment has been brought to the standard I require, and that you can personally handle the task.”

“I’ve been able to pick up traffic all the way from Magdeburg and Venice. I expect that if the other station is transmitting, the equipment here can communicate with it.”

“I’m counting on it.”

“I am at your service, Your Royal Highness, with the permission of His Grace the Duke.”

“Excellent.” He made a very formal leg. “I shall call upon you personally when the time comes.”

“I look forward to it, Your Highness.”

“Yes,” he said as he turned away, smiling. “I am sure you do.”

As Monsieur Gaston walked back among the many visitors to the Castello del Valentino, Terrye Jo Tillman wondered to herself just what that had been about.


“So.” The duke of Savoy gestured with his wine glass, which caught the firelight and sparkled. “You seem impressed with our resident up-timer.”

They were sitting in the dimly-lit library. Victor Amadeus had dismissed the servant, choosing to serve personally as cupbearer for his brother-in-law.

“What makes you think that?”

“You paid court to her, Highness,” he said.

Gaston leaned back in his armchair and stretched like a hunting cat. “Is that what you call it?”

“You were very charming.”

“I am always very charming. She is a comely one, though to be honest, she knows very little about how to enhance it. A wig might have been in order to cover that man’s haircut, and — I don’t know, some face powder or some such. I can imagine that under her gloves there are a pair of laborer’s hands.”

“She was a soldier, Gaston.”

“Ah. That explains it, I suppose, but it does not excuse it. Still, she is no Helen.”

“My wife rather likes her.”

Gaston shook his head. “My dear sister, the duchess, sees a rose under every thorn. Has she taken this up-timer as a pet?”

“That’s a bit disparaging.”

“Gentle birth — royal birth — has its privileges, Victor.” He patted his stomach. “But in all earnest: doesn’t she have something else more important to think about?”

“I don’t think it’s ever far from her mind.”

“Then she should stick to it,” Gaston said, shrugging off all pretense of conviviality. “Christina is neither qualified to involve herself in ducal — or royal — affairs, nor aware of the pitfalls of befriending these up-timers. She should stick to the affairs of women, Victor, and nothing else.”

The duke of Savoy did not answer. Perhaps Gaston expected him to agree, or object, but Victor Amadeus said nothing.

“I suspect that you have not given much thought to up-timers, brother-in-law,” he continued. “I know what I think of them. Holy Mother Church has been very cautious about the Ring of Fire: what it is, why it happened, and what we should think about it. But as for the up-timers themselves, they are not to be trusted.

Victor Amadeus drank his wine and set the goblet on a sideboard. “I will vouch for Mademoiselle Tillman. She is trustworthy, honest, hard-working and reliable.”

“And you stand behind her.”

“I do.”

“Then, my dear Victor Amadeus, you are gullible. The up-timers are a tightly-knit society: three thousand men and women who speak the same language.”

“Many people speak English or — what is it they call it? — Amideutsch.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Gaston leaned forward and jabbed the air with his finger toward his brother-in-law. “I’m talking about their common culture, their context. They are all a part of the same world and not our world. They think differently than we do.”

“Of course they do. They’re from the future, Gaston.”

“But not our future.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“Oh, don’t you.” Gaston stood up and walked across the library to a table, where a map of Europe was spread. “Look at this, Victor. Our world, from the Pillars of Hercules to the mountains of Russia. And right in the middle of it, squatting like a big, fat toad, is the United States of Europe. For the last four and a half years it has been growing and growing, sending its agents and its . . . ideas in every direction. The future that the up-timers come from, the one in which France becomes the greatest power in the world, is never going to happen.

“Have you read the up-time histories, Victor? Have you? In their world — what do they call it? Time line? In their time line, France allies with the king of Sweden, and he is killed at a battle at Lützen in 1632. It continues in alliance with Sweden against the Imperial forces for years afterward and ultimately wins a great battle.” He poked at the map, at a place in the Netherlands. “A place called Rocroi, about seven years from now — if now hadn’t been destroyed by the Ring. Of. Fire.” The last three words were punctuated by raps of his knuckles.

“But it’s not going to happen. It is never going to happen. Instead, we have the fat toad squatting in the middle of the Germanies, spreading their ideas of democracy and freedom.”

He fell silent for a moment. “I cannot change the past,” Gaston said at last. “But I can help mold the present. The up-timers can help with that task — even this soldier and telegrapher that you favor so much. But they will never be allies. They cannot be trusted, Victor. I trust that you will never, ever forget it.”

“Is that a royal command?”

“I am not your king.”

“No,” the duke said. “You are my brother-in-law, and heir to the French throne.” He walked back to the sideboard and poured another glass of wine. He took a moment to contemplate it, then drank it down like water.


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27 Responses to 1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 10

  1. Lyttenstadt says:

    Ugh. They decided to turn Gaston into a Card Carrying Villain ™. How… unimaginative.

    • daveo says:

      They are doing nothing more than portraying him as he was. His career consisted largely of conspiring, and betraying his co-conspirators when he failed. His royal blood saved him. I think the combination of incompetence and treachery makes a good definition of Villain. Of course there are others.

      • Lyttenstadt says:

        I just have trouble with his motivation – as presented here. Gaston is just not smart enough for such plotting and rationalizing. If someone else, some “man behind the man” voiced these reasons, I’d okay. But Gaston is just too… dumb (okay, okay – “immature”) for that.

        Insted of using such words as democracy and republicanism (which he vert well might not know how to pronounce ;) he might have a beef with Grantvillers because they are a bunch of non-French uppity peasants and townsfolk, denying the God ordained Natural Order.

        And he will become even more angry after reading “their” histories, after finding out, that he won’t become a king – not because their arrival “stole” the glory of France.

        Tl;dr: IMHO, Gaston is ill-suited to be the main villain of the book – he lacks mental capabilities for that.

        • daveo says:

          From the title, I rather suspect Borja will be the main villain. Gaston may be too stupid to come up with this himself. He is not too stupid to parrot what someone told him. And credulous enough to believe it.

  2. vikingted says:

    This is a very curious Snippet. We see two faces of Gaston.

    I wonder if a Disney writer used the name Gaston in one of their movies based on some writers knowledge of the history.

    • Tweeky says:

      Maybe Gaston’s new nickname should be “Janus”.

    • John Cowan says:

      It’s not a common name in France, but not so rare either. The Glock pistol and the Julia set were invented by people whose first name was Gaston. Up-timers probably associate it with Governor Gaston Caperton of WV (1989-97).

    • Terranovan says:

      I don’t think so – there isn’t enough historical connection, and they have entirely different – “unpleasant personality traits” is probably the best phrase to describe what I’m trying to say. Monsieur Gaston is a backstabbing conspirator, while the bad guy in Beauty and the Beast is a self-centered, stuck-up jock.

  3. Randomiser says:

    Well, they are quickly establishing that Gaston is two-faced for those who don’t know the history. Doesn’t look like he is going to be a very nuanced character though.

    • Escape Zeppelin says:

      It’s not that he doesn’t know the history, by this point I’m sure he’s read as much as possible. It seems more that he has the delusions of grandeur and self denial that seem to have afflicted many of the absolute monarchs in European history. Look at Russian or French history for example, when democracy reared it’s head they doubled down on autocracy despite all the evidence that it was going to get them killed. And Gaston historically was treacherous and two-faced and not very good at it. But with all the changes happening it’s natural that radical conservatives should be attracted to Gaston considering his position and political leanings.

      From what we’ve seen in the Gazettes Richelieu is planning not just for today or tomorrow but going out of his way to ensure France’s cultural dominance a century or two from this point either with or without the monarchy. His purchase of the English North American colonies and the conversion of the Louvre to a museum to soften the Crown’s image all indicate that he understands democracy and exporting French culture should be France’s priorities. There will never be a French Revolution in this history. A dollar says France ends up a constitutional monarchy by the end of this book.

  4. Terranovan says:

    Monsieur Gaston and Richelieu’s need to counter his conspiracies, hidden agendas, and general backstabbing is the 1632verse’s best advertisement yet for Richelieu – even the fictitious, villainous one we have seen here. Well, that and he is at worst an intelligent, pragmatic villain who treats his servants with courtesy and respect.

    • Jeff Ehlers says:

      I wouldn’t really consider Richelieu a villain, even in the 1632-verse. He’s an antagonist, for sure, and an effective one, but what he does, he does for the perceived good of his country. One of the defining traits of a villain is that their actions or motives are evil. For example, Scar (from the Lion King) sought power for his own personal benefit, rather than the benefit of his people, as evidenced by his unwillingness to leave the despoiled pridelands even though it would mean that they would all starve.

      • Escape Zeppelin says:

        I agree. Richelieu seems like the stereotypical evil vizier except that in both history and the 1632 series everything he’s done has been for the good of France.

        • Doug Lampert says:

          Note that seeming to be the “evil visor” is in fact part of the chief minister’s JOB.

          The King can be above all this, a benevolent and distant figure, it’s that evil prime-minister or grand-visor we all hate and who’s responsible for everything wrong with the current regime.

          Doing this enhances use of the sovereign as a unifying symbol for the kingdom. It results in fewer assassins aiming at the sovereign (and his job requires public appearances, the minister’s really doesn’t). It allows the sovereign to jettison the minister if revolution seems imminent as a way of calming things down for a few months or years while you find a more permanent solution to the unrest.

          That people still think of Richelieu as nasty, and Louis XIII as nice, centuries after the events, is partly Dumas, but also a tribute to Richelieu’s ability at one part of his job.

      • Books first, food later. says:

        plenty of evil men -and women- did terrible, horrific things in the name of their “just” and “righteous” causes. Indeed, if you look through history, the greatest atrocities and evil are generally attributable to people who thought what they were doing was the “right thing” for their country, for the world, or for their people. The greatest wickedness and evil is perpetrated by those who feel their enemy is the evil one, and they are on the side of right. See Stalin, or Hitler, or the American eugenics enthusiasts, for example. The road to hell may not be *paved* with good intentions, but rebar made from good intentions certainly strengthens that road. If you know what I mean. Richelieu may be seeking the good if France more than he serves himself; that doesn’t immunize him against the risk of committing evil acts in the course of that service. Selfless men can still be evil. ;)

        • Lyttenstadt says:

          Really, what a tyrant this Richelieu! Forbade nobles to kill each other in duels! ;)

          • Bibliotheca Servare says:

            I don’t recall saying that he *was* a tyrant; rather, I said that good intentions did not immunize him -or anyone- against the risk of committing evil acts. In other words, he may or may not be a tyrannical, wicked, naughty villain. But whichever it may be, one cannot accurately base their opinion as to which is true upon the question of whether he is driven by selfless, or selfish, motives. If that makes sense…? I’m a bit tired so pardon if this post is nonsensical, please. ;)

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              IMO you look at his/her actions based on the “morals” of the time.

              No matter what the historical Richelieu’s motives, his actions should be judged by the mindset of his times.

              IMO Eric Flint’s Richelieu has shown that he’s willing to “step” back from actions that would have a dangerous response.

              By the way, I thought somebody commented about Richelieu and the Prince of Orange, IIRC the assassination of the Prince of Orange was believed ordered by Spain not Richelieu. [Smile]

              • Cobbler says:

                In universe, France had a long history of supporting the House of Orange against Spain. That’s why Frederick Henry ignored Rebecca’s warnings.

                Then Richelieu got clever and arranged the Battle of Dunkirk.

                Put not your trust in an éminence grise.

  5. Tweeky says:

    ” The future that the up-timers come from, the one in which France becomes the greatest power in the world, is never going to happen.”

    Either he’s been reading edited uptime copies of history or he’s willfully blind as while France was a great continental power (Until the England and its allies squashed Napolean) and had a sizable colonial empire it was not the biggest that belongs to the British-empire however the idea of Britain holding a larger empire and having a greater military than France would grate on the nerves of a French nobleman.

    • Stewart says:

      A carefully drawn map from either the 18th, 19th or early 20th century would show an impressive display of French Overseas Territories

      18th / 19th showing New France, either in its Quebec manifestation or the Louisiana Territories (or even Maxamillian’s short-lived Mexican Empire).

      20th Century showing French Algeria and Morocco, Central Africa and SE Asia.

      Just don’t show him a map of the OTL USA or the British Empire under Victoria.

      Oops, likely too late.

      — Stewart

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