Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 23
Everyone is Feeling so Cooperative and Enthusiastic
Unser volck ist dermassen obedient und behertzt gewesen, das ich es nicht genuch beschreiben kan.”
“Newspapers,” Doña Mencia de Mendoza announced happily. “Frankfurt on top.” The lady-in-waiting cum shrewd political advisor deposited the pile in front of the queen in the Low Countries.
As a response to the Irish colonels’ raid upon Pechelbronn — ostensibly, at least — the King in the Low Countries has proclaimed his annexation of the left-bank territories of the archdiocese of Cologne, their former employer, and moved his army into them, despite some previous rumors to the effect that they, like Cologne city-state itself, would join the USE. He has reached a detente with the USE, negotiated by the Republic of Essen, in regard to this move, by promising not to make any effort to annex the city state of Cologne itself (with hinterland) which is already a city-province of the USE.
Maria Anna looked up from her reading. “Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?”
Claudia de’ Medici, formerly regent of Tyrol and currently grand duchess of the County of Burgundy by virtue of her third marriage, which had taken place a scant couple of weeks before, giggled. “Wait until you get to the next paragraph. The writer becomes more opinionated.”
That accomplished, this upstart “king” has extended his “protectorate” over Metz, Toul, Verdun, and northern Lorraine while the emperor of the USE is preoccupied by the campaigns in the east. He has accompanied this action with many sanctimonious statements in regard to how the ineffective government of the Lorraine duke creates openings for such events as the recent passage of the Irish dragoons formerly in the employ of Ferdinand of Bavaria through Lorraine and beyond through the Palatinate and into Swabia (see editorial below in regard to the scandalous lack of alertness on the part of the USE military that permitted the Pechelbronn raid) and the incursion by Gaston d’Orleans.
“Not bad,” Maria Anna said judiciously. “A person can almost envision the editor frothing with righteous indignation as he writes.”
Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, brother of the new USE prime minister who has so ineffectively responded to the recent spate of Committee of Correspondence-instigated riots, with equal sanctimony, has seen fit to occupy southern Lorraine. Officially, he also has disguised this act of sheer political opportunism as a response to the Pechelbronn raid and Monsieur Gaston’s adventurousness. What the USE now faces, therefore, is a bastardized “joint protectorate” over Lorraine, the specific terms of which were, we hear, negotiated by Maria Anna quondam archduchess of Austria now claiming the title of queen and Claudia de’ Medici quondam grand duchess of Tuscany, now claiming the title of grand duchess of the county of Burgundy.
This time, it was Maria Anna who giggled. “Is that why Bernhard picked that particular title, really? So he would be equal to the one you had by birth?”
“It’s as good an explanation as any. Personally, I think it’s the result of being the youngest of the surviving sons. He wants to score off his older brothers by ending up with more than they have. More land. More prestige. Umm–not more endless forms of address on his correspondence. More, more, more. It’s one of those tendencies I will have to try to moderate with time. He’s really quite brilliant in his own way,” Claudia said kindly. “He was just at the wrong age when his mother died–not quite thirteen. He needs a woman’s influence.”
Both participants in this travesty have stationed occupying forces in Lorraine.
Maria Anna peeked out the window at streets filled with marching men. “Why, what do you know? So they have.”
Jacques Callot produced a series of engravings to supplement the one of some years earlier, The Horrors of War.
The past couple of years had created enough new horrors to make it worth his while. Now there were such things as the death of Hans Richter in his flying machine, the death of the diver in Copenhagen, the sinking of the ironclad ship–the new technologies to insert as a counterpoint to the continuation of the “traditional” types of horror in this spring’s Lorraine campaign.
Balthasar Moncornet produced a series of not-necessarily-flattering engraved portraits of the important guests and visitors. Like van de Passe, he had purchased the copies of Daumier drawings that were published from photographs taken in Grantville.
Both did reasonably well from the current turn of events. As Moncornet said, the van de Passes weren’t the only people in Europe who were capable of producing graphical comments on society and politics. Both sets also sold quite well at the Frankfurter Buchmesse, making a substantial profit for both the artists and the publisher–their very own Lorraine ducal court printer, right here in town.
Nancy had its own resources when it came to satire.
Bernhard strode into Claudia’s private room. “My Lady Wife, we have a guest. A rather unwilling guest, but a guest nonetheless.”
Claudia looked up. “Dr. Volmar?”
Dr. Volmar, formerly chancellor of the Tyrolese administration in Alsatian Ensisheim, was clearly rather unwilling to be a guest. Each of his arms was firmly held by a rather large member of the grand duke’s uniformed bodyguard.
“We–well, Moscherosch, to be precise, along with some of his friends who are prone to publish the occasional supposedly funny political commentary–have determined that he is the author of the satires.” Bernhard did not seem inclined to be amused.
“The ones about the new constitution in Tyrol? I suspected as much, but aren’t they covered under the new ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of the press’ provisions?”
“Those,” Bernhard said, “And yes, they are. But that is not all.”
Volmar was looking sicker and sicker.
“He also wrote the rude satires on our marriage,” Bernhard said. “The obscene ones. The ones which insulted your dignity, your…”
“My decision to marry a French-allied Lutheran,” Claudia said. “Dr. Volmar’s pro-Austrian sympathies are well-known.”
“Your honor, your virtue…”
“The fact that I have been married three times now, with some unfortunately spicy allusions to the probable events of our wedding night.”
“I found the allegations based upon the fact that several years ago, the Tyrolese commander of Breisach had named two of the bastions ‘Leopold’ and ‘Claudia,’ combined with his comments on my conquest of the fortress, particularly rude and offensive. He will now,” Bernhard said, “do penance. Very suitable, since he is, after all, a Catholic, and thus may regard it as an opportunity for contrition on his part rather than retribution on my part. Let us move this discussion to the grand salon and send for every important person who is still in this city.”
The grand duke had copies of the satires. All of them. No individual pamphlet was particularly thick, but together they amounted to quite a pile of ink-printed rag paper.
The personal satires, only. The grand duke invited impartial witnesses to observe that the purely political satires on Tyrol’s entry into the USE, no matter how venomous, were not included in the stack.
“No,” the grand duke said in answer to the chancellor’s stammered request. “You may not boil them. You do not deserve the courtesy of a kitchen. Neither may you have water, beer, or wine with which to wash them down.”
“My Lord and Husband,” Claudia protested. “The man is past fifty years of age.”
“Old enough to think before he picks up his pen to write. He will swallow his literary productions uncooked.”
In the presence of the assembled dignitaries, Dr. Isaac Volmar ate his words.
“So Charles IV remains titular Duke of Lorraine,” Philipp Sattler said.
“God in heavens, why?” Prime Minister Stearns was not happy.
“Something to do with the principle of legitimacy,” Francisco Nasi answered. “Both Claudia and Maria Anna apparently consider it to be important. Would you care to apply your excellent mind, Michael, to figuring out why that is the case?”
Sattler kept going. “He’s titular duke of a Lorraine which somehow during the negotiations has absorbed the intermixed former ecclesiastical principalities of Metz, Toul, and Verdun and any number of French enclaves. Their bishops will remain bishops, but no longer sovereign princes–not that they have actually been sovereign princes since the French occupation, in any case. That’s old news. The French have held all three dioceses since 1552–the Holy Roman Empire has just refused to recognize the occupation as legal for the past eighty years.”
Nasi nodded. “I’m sure that seemed familiar enough to the king in the Low Countries. He’s already absorbed Liège. I expect the left-bank territories of the Archdiocese of Cologne to vanish in the same direction just any minute now, since Gustavus is preoccupied in the east. If Essen doesn’t nibble some of them up, of course.”
“I agree,” Sattler said. “The emperor has been made aware of these developments.” His face took on a frustrated expression. “By the time the emperor has time to consider the implications, it will probably be too late for him to intervene outside of outright war.”
“Which the USE cannot afford. No two fronts.” Stearns said it, but Wilhelm Wettin would have if Stearns hadn’t gotten there first. If neither of them had said it, Hermann of Hesse-Rotenburg would have. There were a few topics on which the USE cabinets, current and shadow, were pretty much unanimous.
Nasi kept going with his original train of thought. “The Spanish don’t have these independent ecclesiastical principalities that were dotted through the old Holy Roman Empire. Fernando doesn’t like them. Plus, being a Habsburg, he can make a colorable claim that he’s merely righting a past injustice to imperial principalities.”
Sattler cleared his throat. “A very pastel shade, to be sure. I assure you that neither Fernando nor Bernhard had, from the beginning, the slightest intention of returning Charles IV from Brussels to his hypothetical domains. Not given his rather clear lack of talent for either civil administration or military enterprise, combined with his overweening self-esteem, not to mention his matrimonial and extra-matrimonial tangles. Duchess Nicole has indeed, as rumored, petitioned for a legal separation.”
“So?” Stearns drummed his fingers on the table.
“For the time being, they have established Lorraine under a ‘joint protectorate’ of the king in the Low Countries and Grand Duke Bernhard, with Claudia de’ Medici as the official regent. Not only is her mother Christine of Lorraine, which makes her the first cousin of this whole generation of the ducal house, but the theory appears to be that she’s likely to look out for the interests of both her current husband and the Habsburg relatives of her prior husband and her children–the king and queen in the Low Countries being among such relatives. For day-to-day administrative purposes, she will be represented on-site and in practical military matters by Johann Aldringen. They’ve hired him jointly.”