Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 24
“Aldringen?” Wettin exhaled with surprise. “That’s… Really, that’s a brilliant choice. If I were still a field commander, mind you, I’d prefer not to be facing off against Aldringen. But with Franz von Mercy out of the picture–if Aldringen is going to be facing off against someone, I’d far rather see him in Lorraine opposing the French than also working for Ferdinand III with the prospect that he might be facing Gustavus some time soon.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s really convenient for the USE military,” Mike Stearns said. “But why so brilliant?”
“Born at Thionville and his father worked as a municipal lawyer in Luxemburg, so acceptable to Isabella Clara Eugenia,” Nasi said. “Former imperial commander, loyal to Ferdinand II, so acceptable to Fernando–or, at least, to Maria Anna. He fought in the Netherlands, of course.”
Mike snorted. “Didn’t everybody?”
“That war did go on for eighty years,” Hermann of Hesse-Rotenburg said mildly. “It’s not surprising that so many professionals got their early training in that theater.”
“There’s even more than what Francisco has told you. He worked for Archduke Leopold at the Tyrol court in Innsbruck, so he’ll be acceptable to Claudia, not to mention that he’s fluent in Italian. He’s experienced in both flatland and mountain fighting. Experience under Wallenstein, though the king of Bohemia never liked him–called him an ‘ink drinker’ because he started as Madruzzi’s secretary rather than as a fighter. Since his wife died last year, he’s no longer tied to Gallas because they married sisters, not that he was ever given to wine, women, and song the way Gallas is.” Wettin laughed suddenly. “And once upon a time, in your other world, he was roundly defeated by one Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. His grace in dying in battle under those particular circumstances should make him acceptable even to my brother.”
“How old is he?” Stearns asked.
“Close to fifty,” Nasi answered.
“Children whose interest he’ll be pushing?”
“His own children, two boys, died as an infants. Brothers and sisters, though not as many nephews and nieces as you might expect from a family that large.” Nasi looked around. “Are there any?”
Hermann made a vaguely negative motion. “One of his brothers–Paul, I think his name is–is the suffragan bishop of Strassburg. That means he does all the diocesan work for Maria Anna’s little brother Leopold Wilhelm, who’s been the politically appointed bishop there since he was twelve years old. That should make coordinating with Bernhard and Claudia when it comes to confessional problems easier. The other brother is also a bishop, but not of a wealthy or prominent see.” He glanced around for assistance.
“Marcus,” Philipp Sattler said. “He’s bishop of Seckau, over in Austria. Out of the picture for us. There were several sisters, but I think that only two married. One is a nun in Cologne. At least one of the girls who married has children and she’s still young enough to have more.”
“Not highly born, then?”
Amalie shook her head. “Respectable, certainly. Middle-class. Snobs tend to refer to his father as a ‘city clerk,’ and not to mean it as a compliment.”
“Hell,” Mike said. “Maybe he really is a brilliant choice.”
“We down-timers do have our moments.” Francisco Nasi took off his glasses and polished the lenses.
“It’s a formal letter of congratulations on your marriage, from Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel and Landgravine Amalie.” Michael John entered it into his ledger of letters received and placed it on the desk.
“Anything special?” Bernhard grunted absentmindedly.
“The landgravine references your prior occasions of working together with her brother Philipp Moritz, and encloses a separate letter for the grand duchess.”
Claudia reached out a slender hand. “Let me see.” She read aloud:
Please call upon Philipp if he can be of assistance to either Bernhard or Fernando in Lorraine, since he is still in Metz. His wife Sybille Christine has left Metz and gone to Jena, to see if the physicians at the new hospital there can enable her to bear stronger children, since only the one little girl born two years ago is still alive and she is expected to deliver soon. I hope the up-timers can be of assistance, for if our line fails, Münzenburg will fall to the Hanau-Lichtenberg line, which is Lutheran. With the new USE constitution’s requirement for freedom of religion, that might not be so disastrous to our people’s Reformed faith as it would have been otherwise, in that other world, but still, I would prefer to see the succession of my nephews. Wilhelm Wettin’s wife Eleonore strongly recommended this course of action to her sister, which I find generous, considering the religious situation in the principality.
She laughed. “Layers of political implications in and beneath every word.”
Bernhard nodded. “As always.” He paused. “I really like Amalie.” Then he stretched. “I’ll be so glad to get back to Schwarzach. I just loathe getting dressed up for these diplomatic things.”
“What is this?” Claudia asked.
She, Bernhard’s French correspondence secretary Feret, and the monks of Schwarzach were deeply involved in writing thank-you letters for wedding presents. There may not have been many guests, as important weddings went, but there most certainly were a lot of presents. As the courts of Europe caught up with the news, the presents kept arriving, piled in the abbey’s corridors and, once acknowledged, shipped on to Besançon, where more of the grand duke’s clerical staff, under the leadership of another secretary, were doing the same.
At some time, they would have to coordinate the two lists.
“Hmmn.” Bernhard picked up the package. “It’s a book, from Friedrich Hortleder and wife Catharina. Why am I not surprised that it’s a book? Hortleder is my old tutor. He’s head of the County of Saxe-Weimar chancery now, working out of Jena.” He gave her one of his rare smiles. “And doing double-duty by still providing all of us Saxe-Weimar boys with a constant stream of indubitably excellent advice. I have no doubt that he will continue that practice until he dies, which he shows no sign of doing–he kindly double-checked all the legalities having to do with the modus vivendi after my own staff thought it was finished and caught a couple little points. Certainly, he would like to have seen me better educated than I am.” He pulled off the remainder of the wrappings and thumbed through the pages.
“A hymnal.” He looked more carefully at the title page. “University of Jena, Printed for the Ducal Saxe-Weimar Academy of Evangelical Church Music, 1635. Hot off the press, too.” He leaned against the wall.
“What is the, aahh…?”
“Academy. One of Ernst and Albrecht’s inspirations, if I recall rightly. One of the up-timers had a Lutheran hymnal, with an accompanying handbook. The compilers were thorough. Kind enough, from our perspective, to provide not only the names of the authors of the lyrics–including the Bible verses on which each set of lyrics was based–and composers of the melodies, but also their dates of birth and death, with short biographies containing such useful information as where they were born. So we–well, they, since I am not directly involved–are out beating the bushes for the already-born-but-still-very-young leading hymn writers of the century, in order to provide them with the best possible musical education that can possibly be afforded. We–they–are planning to bring in the best poets and musicians of this generation to teach them. The theory, I believe, is that since they will not be called upon to write what is in this book–he waved the hymnal in the air–having already done so in that other world, we will prepare them to do even better.”
He pushed himself away the wall again. “Ah, Teschner’s music for Valet will ich dir geben. One of my favorite tunes. I learned it when I was with Great-Uncle Johann Casimir at Coburg, between Jena and the army. After our mother died, that was, I guess, the best year of my life. The music was brand new then–he kept wonderful musicians in his Kapelle. I’m sorry the old man is gone.”
He examined the page more closely. “But new words, and based on my own motto from Romans: Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos? by some fellow named Paul Gerhardt who’s working in Magdeburg since the rebuilding got started and in that other world would have written this”–he peered more closely at the tiny print of the notes at the bottom of the page–some twenty years from now.”
He started to hum, then to sing in a surprisingly tuneful baritone,
If God Himself be for me,
I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me,
My foes, confounded, fly.
“Now there’s a sentiment with which I can concur wholeheartedly. I only wish it worked that way. It would be a lot less effort than making sure every single man in every single regiment knows exactly where he is supposed to be when the assault starts. Give me a piece of paper, Lady Wife, and I will thank the Hortleders in person. And borrow the book.”
He scratched a note in his own imitable scrawl while Father Bonifacius wrote the names of the donors on his list and then checked the entry off.
“Fifteen verses and no refrain.” Bernhard produced a grin that sat rather unexpectedly on his usually rather grim face. “That’s what I call a hymn with meat on its bones. I don’t have much patience with the kind where you sing one line and then the choir goes off into six or eight repeats of Alleluia, alleluia, allelu-u-u-u-u-u-i-i-i-a-a-a. How can any author fit doctrinal teaching into that sort of thing?” He meandered out the door, hymnal in hand, still singing. His spurs clanked on the tile flooring as he made his way down the cloister walk, past the rounded arches with their worn Romanesque pillars.