1636 The Vatican Sanctions – Snippet 08

1636 The Vatican Sanctions – Snippet 08

Chapter 5

As the sand in his hourglass passed the two-o’clock mark, Javier de Requesens y Ercilla put down his midday meal — a small, fantastically expensive roll — and glanced up at the thick, almost basilicate, bell-tower of St. Paul’s. When he had started reviewing the reports to synopsize for his next transmission to Madrid, it had been eleven AM. The tip of the church’s shadow had been upon the sill of his window as he opened the cedar shutters upon a day in which the sun proved elusive, capriciously flitting in and out of the clouds like a coquette changing dance partners at a court ball.

However, despite his lesser grandee origins, Javier had not spent much time at any court or attending balls. Which was a pity, because he was quite sure that his graceful footwork, deft conversational skills, and ability to convince dull social superiors that they were in fact every bit as fascinating and compelling as they believed (or hoped) themselves to be would have won him much favor in any of the ducal courts or even those at Madrid itself.

He looked out his window, ostensibly the best view (and room) in L’Auberge de Boucle d’Argent. Beyond St. Paul’s bluff sides and steeple, beyond the curtain wall that encircled Besançon, he stared at the northern horn of the River Doub’s oxbow curve. The water was streaked and speckled by white, there: the current picked up speed as it flowed around the corner and made for the Pont Battant. It was truly a shame, he thought with a sigh, that instead of a life as a courtier, he had be compelled to make his way in the world by serving as an incognito factotum for any one of a dozen intelligencers to whom Olivares commended his services. His education at Salamanca and facility with languages made him an excellent foreign agent, and his aristocratic background and ambitions made him somewhat less susceptible to outright treachery, although it was presumed that a man in his position would of course accept the gratuities and gifts that, in any other line of work, would have been known by a more distasteful (if accurate) term: bribe.

It wasn’t very hard work, gathering intelligence and relaying orders with reasonable subtlety. And what was often the greatest inconvenience of all — relocating and establishing a legitimate reason for being in the environs to which he’d been assigned — had been unnecessary this time. One of Olivares’ innumerable international intelligencers had been tasked with developing a portfolio on the new power in what had formerly been the Imperial city of Besançon, but which Bernhard had then grabbed during the extraordinary cascades of unforeseeable developments that had followed the up-timers’ arrival at more or less the epicenter of the Thirty Years’ War. It had been, in their world as well as here, not so much one war as a flurry of separate disputes that roared, sputtered, and roared again in rhythm with the changing fortunes and desires of various states and faiths, all of which draped themselves in high-sounding language and testimonies of holy purpose.

But by late 1634, those guttering fires had all but burned and Bernhard Wettin seized Besançon as his capital. That it had been, for centuries, a free city of the Holy Roman Empire under the protection of the Hapsburgs had not served as a brake upon his ambitions.

Subsequent political events proved Bernhard’s usurpation to have been as canny as it was bold. The city had passed from Spanish to Austrian oversight at the end of the last century, and the Austrians were now preoccupied with the looming likelihood of an Ottoman incursion. Between that concern, their decision not to garrison the city with foreign troops, and the expanses of very rough — and unallied — terrain between their country and Burgundy, the Austrians had accepted its loss with something approaching aplomb.

This put the onus of a decisive reaction back upon Spain’s shoulders. But the same turmoil that had allowed Bernhard to grab Franche-Comté had cut the famous Spanish Road which had led from Spanish holdings in Italy all the way through to the Lowlands. Now interdicted at multiple points by multiple potential antagonists, Madrid had conceded that for any foreseeable future, and perhaps for all time, the overland artery that had fueled her European possessions with the blood of once-feared Spanish tercios had been irreparably severed.

However, that did not mean Spain ceased to have any interests in Besançon. There was no shortage of Spanish money and trade still invested in the city, as well as loyal allies who lamented the recent, final passing of the Hapsburg dominion over the place. And besides, Bernhard was unlikely to remain sated with the scope of his conquest for long. Like a shark, he was likely to die if he did not keep moving and devouring more of the land that provided the sustenance sought by all rulers: resources, taxes, young men who would take an army’s coin.

And so, Javier de Requesens y Ercilla had arrived in Besançon in late September, 1634, shortly after the open hostilities between Bernhard’s forces and those of the Swedish general Horn had diminished to sullen border-watching and occasional skirmishes when patrols by overly ambitious young officers blundered into each other. War was, Javier affirmed as he ordered the reports he had been busy emending for maximum brevity, a very foolish business.

However, if it were not for the acquisitive nature of kings, who knows what employ he himself might have? He was but the fourth son of a branch of the Requesens that had watched their fortunes fall along with their increasing distance from the House of Zuñiga, one of the twenty-five families made Immemorial Grandees of Spain and a frequent source of Madrid’s leading ambassadors and intelligencers. Indeed, if Philip IV had not called Don Pedro de Zuñiga out of retirement in 1632 to provide a practiced Anglophone perspective upon the newly arrived up-timers, Javier feared he might have wound up overseeing some miserable collection of fincas where tenant farmers tilled the soil on one of his family’s dwindling tracts.

But Don Pedro had remembered the Zuñiga connection to both the Requesens and Ercillas, and discovered Javier: a suitably tactful individual, fluent in four languages, and eager to advance but without the delusions of grandeur that would make him more a liability than an asset. And so he had been plucked from his nuclear family’s fate of increasing obscurity and became an object of pride. His branch of the Requesens might still be counting fewer silver coins every year, but one of their number was once again carrying out important business for the Empire, had put the family name on the lips of counselors and courtiers in Madrid. In the status-obsessed society of seventeenth-century Spain, that was almost as good as currency itself.

Javier glanced at the sundial; it would be time to turn on the radio soon. But not to communicate with the obscure factotum that Zuñiga trusted with matters in Besançon, but to his second, surreptitious employer: Cardinal Gaspard de Borja y Velasco. How the would-be pope learned of Requesens’ fortuitous presence in Besançon was as great a mystery as how he had learned, earlier than most, of Urban’s presence in the town. But that was immaterial to Javier. Borja paid good coin for the simplest of services: to relay reports from, and convey coded orders to, some creature of his who was currently in the city.

The sand in the glass ran out with the invariable appearance of suddenly increased speed. Javier reflected that life probably felt like that, too, when one came closer to its end. He reached over, turned on the radio, waited for the first signal, and hoped the earlier clouds did not portend difficult weather to the south and equally difficult transmissions. If so, he might be here for as long as four hours, working the same signals over and over again until the messages were complete. The mere prospect of such a dull routine drew forth a great sigh from him, and Javier de Requesens y Ercilla freely admitted to himself that he sighed a lot. It was, after all, the inevitable burden of a refined and sensitive soul such as his.

The radio crackled and began emitting a stream of coded signals, the first of which was a cipher that indicated that he was to receive a message before sending his report.

Javier rolled his eyes. More work. Well, at least the signal was clear, so he might not have to endure the additional burden of suffering through the monotony of oft-repeated messages.

* * *

Estève Gasquet glanced at sudden movement in the narrow street that separated his attic rooms and the small chapel that stood beside the entry to the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. It was one of his men — Peyre, from the size of him — who disappeared beneath his field of view, no doubt soon to pound up the narrow and rickety stair. Sure enough, the accomplished Pyreneeian strangler’s heavy tread began thumping closer. Which meant that an incoming message from Rome was likely.

Gasquet turned his back to the narrow dormer window, wishing he could shut out the smell of fish and infrequently removed garbage that were the hallmark aromas of the hospital district: an overcrowded cluster of shabby buildings shoved up against the walls separating them from the quays where the northern curve of the Doub’s oxbow bent the river and accelerated its flow toward the bridge. Still, as flophouses went, this was better than most. It was clean, if dingy, and while the neighborhood was anything but appealing, it was mostly safe. The much maligned Protestants of the city had increasingly drifted into this quarter since the failed Huguenot attack half a century ago, paying a price in prejudice for an incident that few of them had supported, much less welcomed. Those Jews who did not make their living out in the Battant congregated here also, probably because the presence of the hospital seemed to prick the consciences of most of those whose prejudices might boil over into violence. Somehow, the typical bigot’s dusk-stimulated appetite for thrashing or raping a few nonbelievers was undermined when they could hear the Hospitallers just a few doors away, murmuring vespers and beseeching the Holy Spirit to fill them with greater depths of charity and humility. Gasquet did not quite sneer at that thought: what idiots they all were, one half sacrificing themselves to help those half in the grave, and the other half risking violence without any hope of gain. All fools driven by ideas, beliefs, urges as insubstantial as the dead ancestors who had imposed these rituals upon them, rather than inculcating them with an appreciation for the only thing that mattered, the only thing that was tangible in this material world: material gain.

Beyond the old sheet that he had hung as a privacy blind — no sane leader ever lived without some physical boundary that reminded his men of the separation in their status and station — Gasquet heard Peyre emerge into the attic, breathing heavily. “News,” he gasped.

Estève pushed around the side of the sheet, strode toward Peyre. “Let’s have it, then.”

“Two things,” Peyre panted. “There’s a message at the drop.”

Gasquet nodded, glanced at the smallest of his six men, Chimo. “Get it.”

The little Catalan was on the narrow stairs and heading down before Peyre could wheeze out. “Not yet.”

Gasquet frowned. “Why?”

“You’ll want to send a message of your own. Now. Before decoding the new instructions from Rome.”

“I’m guessing that’s due to the second bit of news you have for me.”

Peyre nodded, finally straightening back up. “The Swiss. They’re on the way.”

“All of them?”

“No, no. Just the ones who know to look for us. I saw them all come into town a while ago. They split into two groups to look for lodging. One group is headed this way.”

“So they found the message drop outside the Battant. Good.”

“Very good,” Peyre suggested. “Word is there are no rooms left in the Buckle. Everything is taken. Stables, attics, cellars.”

Gasquet’s lieutenant, Donat Faur, drew alongside, nodding. “Makes sense,” murmured Estève’s fellow Prouvènço. “The militia has been warning people that, after today, there will be no new entries allowed.”

“You mean they’re closing the city?” Chimo squawked.

“No,” Peyre corrected irritably. “Anyone who has been allowed to enter up until now is either known personally or has been given a written pass with a seal. Same thing for boats on the Doub: they either have papers or they have to find mooring over in the Battant. The last of those permissions were issued today. And anyone with a pass has been told to expect to be detained at the Porte Boucle until someone can be found who remembers providing them with the pass. Personally.”

“So we won’t be sneaking anyone else into the city by using a ‘borrowed’ pass, then,” Faur muttered with a bitter smile.

“Not unless we want to attract attention. No: we have all the forces we’re going to have.”

“Which is why I figured you’d want to speak with the Swiss, find out how many more bodies we can count on.”

Gasquet nodded, heard faint voices in the street, threw back his privacy sheet, glanced down.

“Looks like they’re here. Brenguier,” he said, gesturing to the swart, rangy Occitan lounging in the far shadows. “You speak the best German and spent time in Geneva, so you’ll meet them downstairs. Make your greeting of them public, like they’re friends, people you’ve known for years.”

Brenguier nodded, shifted the scabbard of his large dagger to his back, pulled his loose shirttails over it, and pattered down the stairs quietly.

Chimo chewed determinedly on one unwashed cuticle. “I hope there are lots of them.” He looked around the attic. “But then they won’t fit.”

Gasquet managed not to roll his eyes. “They are not staying with us. We need to stay separated until we act. We will coordinate through drops, but we have to set them up first, get an idea of their numbers, agree upon a new code.”

“Why? No one’s found our messages, so how would the pope’s men know our code?”

Donat breathed deeply, as if sucking in an extra reserve of patience for Chimo. “No one’s found our messages so far as we know. But if they have, then now is when we must change the code: the one time we will see our allies and make our plans face to face. Otherwise, if the opposition has deciphered the code we’ve been using thus far, they would begin learning our true intents.”

“Yeah, okay — but wouldn’t it be safer not to meet at all then? Just to tell them to use a new code when we put out the next drop?”

Gasquet heard the sound of more feet mounting the stairs; three pairs, if he was correct. And he did not want Chimo to still be displaying his ignorance — and stupidity — when the Swiss came through the door, so he explained the matter sharply: “We don’t have any jointly agreed upon drop point in this city, dolt, so how would that work? And even if we did, how would they know the first message from us wasn’t actually from the opposition, using our code, to trick the assassins among the Swiss to reveal themselves?”

Chimo’s mouth was hanging open slightly. “But –”

“No more questions, Chimo. We don’t have the time to get it all through your thick skull. Now, we meet our allies.” Which means I have another job to do: to let them know that I’m in charge, and that they’re here to follow orders, not give them.

 

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20 Responses to 1636 The Vatican Sanctions – Snippet 08

  1. bret hooper says:

    As Randall Garret once wrote:

    “Now the plot begins to thicken, as it should.
    It’s the thickening in plots that makes ’em good.”

  2. Robert Krawitz says:

    Spain must have gotten radios in rather of a hurry. As of at least winter 1636, the Spanish court didn’t have any radio (per Ottoman Onslaught).

    • hank says:

      The Court is not, in spite of pretensions to the contrary, all of Spain. I would not be surprised to find that those in charge of Spanish spys had got a few radios and somehow forgotten to mention the fact to their nominal superiors.
      hank

    • Tweeky says:

      IIRC Olivares has a radio.

  3. zak ryerson says:

    Two obscure(?) references:

    “From the sunny Spanish shore,
    The most noble Duke of Plaza–Tor …”

    and

    Given a reference to Malta:
    Where is THE FALCON?
    (and Spade and Archer)?

  4. Terranovan says:

    I wonder how many of the “stupid-minion” mistakes on the Evil Overlord list the Spanish will be making in this book.

  5. dave o says:

    So far we have Wilbur Craigson, aka Pedro Dolor, de Requesens, Gasquet and his thugs, and now the Swiss. It will be interesting to see if they’re connected, or working independently, or maybe even at cross purposes

  6. Lyttenburgh says:

    “But the same turmoil that had allowed Bernhard to grab Franche-Comté had cut the famous Spanish Road which had led from Spanish holdings in Italy all the way through to the Lowlands. Now interdicted at multiple points by multiple potential antagonists, Madrid had conceded that for any foreseeable future, and perhaps for all time, the overland artery that had fueled her European possessions with the blood of once-feared Spanish tercios had been irreparably severed.”

    Well, that’s it. They basically conceded that Spain will cease to be the European super-power decades earlier than it ought to be in the OTM. From here it’s only road downward. In the OTM Spain fought tooth and nail to keep the Spanish Road, but here it SUDDENLY concedes without a fight. Why?

    The rest of the snipped is just boring info-dump.

    • Bjorn Hasseler says:

      It’s not sudden at all. A full two years ago (May, 1634), Bernhard stated, “That leaves the Spaniards and their possessions in Italy. Hard to know, yet, exactly how that situation will unfold. But the way things are looking in the Netherlands, more and more, I think the Spanish crown will also have bigger issues to deal with than what happens to a part of their Spanish Road—which they haven’t been able to use in years, anyway.” (_1634: The Baltic War_, chapter 64)

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        Question – what prevents Spanish from demanding “freedom of navigation” for their troops along the whole length of the Spanish Road from Bernhard? After (predictably) negative answer, what prevents them from marching on him, while declaring don Fernando to assists, or, as a bare minimum, not to lend any assistance to the upstart pretender and a heretic?

        Bernhard is in semi-isolation thanks to his aggressive “acquisition policy”. No one is ready on his behalf.

        • Bjorn Hasseler says:

          No, Bernhard has a modus vivendi in place with Gustav Adolphus. (“Make Mine Macramé,” _Ring of Fire III_, March, 1635 near the end of the story)

          Should Spain strip the French border to find these troops or weaken their forces in the Italies when that area is a powder keg?

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “No, Bernhard has a modus vivendi in place with Gustav Adolphus.”

            Yes – an ambivalent benevolent neutrality. Not an official alliance.

            “Should Spain strip the French border to find these troops or weaken their forces in the Italies when that area is a powder keg?”

            Spain never lacked in the power projection during this era. They won’t strip the French border, because the war with France (under unhinged Gaston, plunging his country into a dynastic/civil war) is a given. And what about Italy? Who, realistically, threatens Spanish holding there? Italy (especially the North) has a long tradition of supplying the Crown of Spain with soldiers. How is Italy a “powder keg”?

  7. Mark L says:

    “How is Italy a “powder keg”?”

    Well . . . There is this Spanish pope whom man Italians believe is an antipope. That includes some of those in northern Italian states that traditionally support Spain, but kind of believe Borgia is a bit too much.

    Right now those Italians are walking very quietly because of all the Spanish troops in Italy. As long as Spanish troops remain in Italy these Italians will stay quiet. Have those troops go haring up the Spanish Road to face Bernhard? Could get interesting.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Well . . . There is this Spanish pope whom man Italians believe is an antipope. That includes some of those in northern Italian states that traditionally support Spain, but kind of believe Borgia is a bit too much.”

      Pardon the quote, but “how many army divisions have they”? Also – they do not “support Spain”. For intends and purposes, they have been occupied for decades – and will stay occupied. Why? See the first question.

      “Right now those Italians are walking very quietly because of all the Spanish troops in Italy. As long as Spanish troops remain in Italy these Italians will stay quiet. Have those troops go haring up the Spanish Road to face Bernhard? Could get interesting.”

      First of all – the Italian princes are loyal to Spain because they have no alternative and zero aspirations for independent policy.

      Next – you presume that occupational forces of Spain in Italy are the entirety of its cadre recourses – they are not. Once again – Spain musters big, *loyal* formations OUT of Italy’s population. Plus there is Spain itself with its own homeland potential for mobilization. Mustering yearly an army of c. 15-18 000 strong to be sent fight elsewhere, depleted by hunger, illness, attrition and desertion only to be replaced with the same amount of soldiers on the next year – that’s how Spain fought both during the 30 Years War and with France till 1659 peace.

      • Bjorn Hasseler says:

        Why is Italy restive?

        1. Osuna in Naples
        2. Albanians trying to launch a crusade
        3. Campanella
        4. Cavriani trying to set things off.
        5. Borja’s seizure of Rome using Spanish troops

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “1. Osuna in Naples”

          I.e. in the longtime held colonial holding of Spain.

          “2. Albanians trying to launch a crusade”

          […]

          Oh, you are serious? Let me laugh even harder!

          “3. Campanella”

          One, perfectly mortal, men, who in OTL did not accomplish anything so earth-shattering at all.

          “4. Cavriani trying to set things off.”

          Key word – “trying”. Also – how many army divisions do they have?

          “5. Borja’s seizure of Rome using Spanish troops”

          That stuff happens. Key word here – “seizure”. No one wants to be next.

          In short – nothing really, compared to the general state of Italies. With France as the chief great power contender for the power in the region out of play for any considerable period, Spanish Habsburgs have the free hand here.

      • Francis Beard says:

        The only region owned by Spain in Northern Italy during that period is Milan. The rest Savoy, Genoa, Venice, Parma, Modena, Ferrara, Florence and Siena were independent principalities who only supported Spain when it was in their own interest (e.g. at risk of a French or Turk invasion).

        To recruit formations out of Italians the Crown of Spain nearly always had to get the money from somewhere else, as local laws and exemptions made it quite difficult to raise higher taxes from Milan. With the loss of the Spanish Netherlands and the projected interdiction of American Silver it is doubtful that Spain has enough money to muster large formations out of Italians.

        The recruitment of soldiers in the motherland is also problematic as most of the available recruits in Spain are pikemen trained for combat in Tercios, which have been made obsolete, with the introduction of better fire-weapons and the bayonet in this timeline. Furthermore as the Crown of Spain knows about upcoming rebellions in Portugal and Catalonia it can be expected that they will keep a larger army back in Spain.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “The rest Savoy, Genoa, Venice, Parma, Modena, Ferrara, Florence and Siena were independent principalities who only supported Spain when it was in their own interest (e.g. at risk of a French or Turk invasion). “

          “Independent”? That’s funny way to spell “totally depended, please, Spain, stop beating me, I will do whatever you say!”. Genoa and Milan in particular were slavishly pro-Spanish (does the name Spinola ring any bells?). Florence was, technically, pro-French, but with the… “stuff”… kicking in the high gear there after Gaston’s (still think that the authors were wrong, and the he’d choose a different throne name) ascension to the throne, they can no longer count on that support. Parma, Modena and Ferrara are pint-sized countries, whose past status as Papal allies just paints a target on their backs – so for them it’s paramount to placate the regional Hegemony (that’s Spain) lest it decides to pwn them. Just because.

          “With the loss of the Spanish Netherlands and the projected interdiction of American Silver it is doubtful that Spain has enough money to muster large formations out of Italians.”

          Spanish did not control most of the Netherlands when they did just that – raised year after year tens of thousands of Northern Italy mercs. Even without constant supply of American Silver they (which is not a given long-term) they still have large overseas colonial empire, which means that, yes, they will still get surplus income to be spent on hiring cannon fodder. Bernhard does not have that – his reserve and resource pool is much thinner. He will most surely loose the war of attrition in just couple of years. Spain can outspend him.

          “The recruitment of soldiers in the motherland is also problematic as most of the available recruits in Spain are pikemen trained for combat in Tercios, which have been made obsolete, with the introduction of better fire-weapons and the bayonet in this timeline”

          Which Bernhard does not have. His army is still old fashioned. And he has neither time, nor resources, nor specialists to re-train and modernize it.

          “Furthermore as the Crown of Spain knows about upcoming rebellions in Portugal and Catalonia it can be expected that they will keep a larger army back in Spain.”

          Which won’t receive any sufficient outside help with France (and England) out of picture.

          • Francis Beard says:

            Having a regional hegemony does not mean that Spain can simply push around everyone. Even these pint-sized countries had at least one modern fortress and could muster 10.000 soldiers each, making it difficult/impossible to simply seize them without a yearlong siege. The bigger ones Venice, Florence and Savoy at times operated armies of 30.000 soldiers and could therefore operate more aggressive. Spinola indeed rings a bell however as he died in 1630 and his home town Genoa did not pay for his soldiers I do not see the relevance. In the end Spinola was a large scale mercenary who was lavishly compensated with titles and land for his initial expenditures.

            Spain did control the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern Belgium) when they raised these Italian mercs. There was a strong basis at the end of the Spanish Road from which they could start the conquest of the rest of the Netherlands. Without such a strong basis any forces that have just crossed the Alps will not be able to fight well. Having a large overseas colonial empire does not necessarily result in a surplus of income. Spain is a premier example for this as without the American silver they made no profits. Even while they were at war with them most of the profits were made by the Netherlands, as Spain depended on their ships for its colonial trade. Spain may still be able to outspend Bernhard, however the only reason Spain has to attack Bernhard is to reopen the Spanish Road in preparation of an attack on Ferdinando. In which case Ferdinando will support Bernhard at least with weapons and money, if not a declaration of war on Spain.

            “Which Bernhard does not have. His army is still old fashioned. And he has neither time, nor resources, nor specialists to re-train and modernize it.”

            Bernhard’s background means that his troops are at least trained according to the Swedish order, which is more modern than the Spanish order. It has been emphasised in previous books that he has surrounded himself with a group of forward thinking officers, making it highly probable that he is already in the process of further improving his troops. If their resistance to the use of radios and their actions in OTL are an indication, the same can hardly be said about the Spanish. As indicated above an attack across the Alps will be difficult and further delayed by the fortresses in Bernhard’s territory.

            “Which won’t receive any sufficient outside help with France (and England) out of picture.”

            If Spain starts trouble at the border of Ferdinando’s and Gustav’s territories there is a good chance that they will provide the outside help.

            • Lyttenburgh says:

              “Having a regional hegemony does not mean that Spain can simply push around everyone.”

              But that’s exactly what either Spanish, or German Habsburgs have been doing here since 15 c. Their push could only be stopped by another would be Hegemony, i.e. France, but not the local squabbling princelings.

              “Even these pint-sized countries had at least one modern fortress and could muster 10.000 soldiers each, making it difficult/impossible to simply seize them without a yearlong siege.”

              Yes – but cease them at the end, meaning that this would be anti-Spanish potentate will no longer have his “modern” (that’s questionable btw) fortresses, nor the money, nor the population enough to muster another “valiant stand”. Why they didn’t do just that in the OTL? Maybe, because they knew the price of incurring the Spanish wrath and, all things considered, had simply decided to agree on the status quo?

              Frankly, even 10 000 mustered by any ONE of these princelings is likely to be of low quality, or they could not get enough money to retain them for any considerable time. Besides – the memory (and simmering mutual hatred) is still fresh of the War for Mantuan Succession. Mantua was sacked for 3 days by the Imperial army.

              “The bigger ones Venice, Florence and Savoy at times operated armies of 30.000 soldiers and could therefore operate more aggressive.”

              Oh, sometimes even more than that. The problem here – both are effectively put out of the picture due to the outside events, that require all of their attention. The king of Savoy now watches with dread at king “Gaston”, whom he helped to ascend to the throne, and, understandably, is wary of any developments in French South. He has no desire for his realm to be occupied by either side again. Venice has always been traditionally one of the “king makers/breakers” in Italian power plays, and their armies, indeed, proved themselves instrumental. But right now there is a little something called the Ottoman Turkey on a full offensive which preoccupies their fears slightly more than anything else.

              “Spinola indeed rings a bell however as he died in 1630 and his home town Genoa did not pay for his soldiers I do not see the relevance. In the end Spinola was a large scale mercenary who was lavishly compensated with titles and land for his initial expenditures.”

              Who operated so effectively and managed the “human resources” not only because of the Spanish gold, but due to the facts I’ve mentioned above, i.e. of the North-Western Italy stance re: Spain.

              “Spain did control the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern Belgium) when they raised these Italian mercs.”

              I said – “not entirely”. Which year are you talking about anyway?

              “There was a strong basis at the end of the Spanish Road from which they could start the conquest of the rest of the Netherlands. Without such a strong basis any forces that have just crossed the Alps will not be able to fight well.”

              Once again – I refer you to Spinola and his campaign in Lower Palatinate. Forces being more or less equal, the campaign was a tremendous success, despite all the troubles and having to operate out of the “comfort zone”. Look at the map of the Spanish road – Bernhard is right on its way. And he was busy conquering largely Catholic population lately.

              “Having a large overseas colonial empire does not necessarily result in a surplus of income. Spain is a premier example for this as without the American silver they made no profits. Even while they were at war with them most of the profits were made by the Netherlands, as Spain depended on their ships for its colonial trade.”

              You forgot the Portuguese. Precious metals from Americas were only one of the “three pillars” of the colonial fortune, supplying the Spanish Empire, with other two being Brazilian sugar and Malayan species. First half of 17 c. was the pinnacle of its power.

              “In which case Ferdinando will support Bernhard at least with weapons and money, if not a declaration of war on Spain.”

              No – too early and Bernhard is simply not worthy of that. More likely, is that for USE and the kingdom of Netherlands to one way or another partition between themselves his anachronistic “Burgundy”, as the prerequisite of lending him any help. But only several years in the future, after weighting in all pros and cons of supporting him even nominally.

              “Bernhard’s background means that his troops are at least trained according to the Swedish order, which is more modern than the Spanish order.”

              That we don’t know for sure – all books describing Bernhard and his military campaigns are not written with the emphasis on the military measures. Yes, that’s a real, working hypothesis of “what Bernhard wants”. But what he really gets? And, more importantly, does he have the dough to afford that?

              “If Spain starts trouble at the border of Ferdinando’s and Gustav’s territories there is a good chance that they will provide the outside help.”

              But to what extent?

              P.S. I’m really enjoying the debate, btw :). See? That’s what I call a real discussion, when both sides are familiar with the thing they are talking about, and can cite various references.

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