Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 31
May God Be with Us
“Gott mit uns.”
Mike Stearns had promised both himself and Becky that he would be good at the final transition meeting for the two USE administrations. Dignified. Gracious. So far, he had followed the prescribed pattern.
Philipp Sattler picked up a sheaf of paper. “The final item on the agenda is an overview of the situation in Swabia.”
“Being a native myself, I dare to say this. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply pretend it isn’t there. May God be with us.”
“Not as bad as it could be.”
“So, then, Philipp, where do things stand.”
The current situation won’t make the political geography of Swabia as simple as was projected at the Congress of Copenhagen last year, but it appears as though we will end up with Swabia’s having been reduced from over eight hundred independent lordships and imperial knight-ships to less than a dozen major components.”
“Oh,” Mike said. “Gee whiz, and all that. I was aiming for one.”
“You were never going to get just one. Already at the Congress of Copenhagen, of course, it was provided that the two largest former imperial cities of Ulm and Augsburg would as USE city-states with their own representation in Parliament, rather than being incorporated into the proposed province. Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach insists on maintaining, at least for the time being, a Swedish garrison in Augsburg on the grounds that it is also still the administrative capital of the Province of Swabia, and has one in Ulm, as well. Thus far, the city councils have been cooperative in regard to these. I don’t guarantee that situation will continue indefinitely, particularly if the military threats in the region, from either Bernhard or Bavaria, taper off.”
“Sufficient unto the day…” Hermann of Hesse-Rotenberg waved one hand. Wettin had already announced his intention of retaining Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel’s younger brother as secretary of state, so, like Sattler, he would carry over into the new Crown Loyalist regime. “We’ll worry about that when and if it happens.”
“Then there’s the Province of Swabia, with as many territories as we have been able to funnel into it. This includes as of the date of this conversation the former diocese of Augsburg as well and a lot of the smaller counties and imperial knights, mostly Protestant. It also comprises the parts of Baden that Bernhard hasn’t made off with. The margraves are prepared to live with this. We have an extensive settlement that Frau Jackson in Basel negotiated, by which the margraves will continue to hold as subordinate lords in the County of Burgundy those parts of Baden that are now under Bernhard’s sovereignty.”
“Just a minute there,” Mike Stearns yelled. “Are you trying to tell me that Gustavus Adolphus’ administrator of our Province of Swabia is now a subject of Bernhard? Or also a subject of Bernhard?”
Sattler frowned. “Not…precisely.”
“Make it ‘precisely,’ then.”
“It’s more as if, ummm, one of your international corporations, up-time, was incorporated in the United States of America, but also had extensive industrial holdings in Mexico, or…”
Mike smirked at Wilhelm Wettin. “I am so glad I lost that election.”
Sattler shook his sheaf of papers. Then there are, fourthly, the County of Tyrol’s Swabian holdings, which remain part of Tyrol, thus being in the USE but not in the Province of Swabia. They are non-contiguous and scattered throughout and among the entities included in the Province of Swabia. These include Vorarlberg, Vorderösterreich, and miscellaneous smaller holdings.”
“I may even be delighted that I lost the election.”
Then the fifth Swabian entity to be incorporated into the USE is the Duchy of Württemberg.”
“Duchy?” This time, Stearns banged a fist on the table. “Eberhard gave them the right of self-determination and they voted to bring in another duke when they set up their constitution?”
“No.” Philipp Sattler sighed. “Michael, you have to realize. These are Swabians. They don’t think like up-timers. They don’t even think like other Germans. They think like Swabians.”
“The draft constitution approved in this first election, subject to technical corrections, sets up the late Eberhard III as ‘Eternal Duke of Württemberg.’ Sort of like Friedrich Barbarossa and his men supposedly sleeping under that hill up in northern Thuringia until the empire needs him. Practically, it also serves the function of excluding the greedy uncles and cousins from filing claims to be duke, since the citizens can always point out that they already have a duke in office, thank you.”
“I think I’m getting a headache. I know I’m getting a headache.”
“So the actual elected head of state of the USE Duchy of Württemberg (administratively, you do realize that it will be just another province, with the head of state sitting in the USE House of Lords and elected delegates to the House of Commons?) will hold the title of ‘Perpetual Regent’ and the next in line will be the ‘Vice Regent.’ They’re setting up an Upper House and Lower House–but the Upper House is no House of Lords. Everyone figured that since the Württemberg dukes had long since succeeded in mediatizing the local nobility and turning them into bureaucratic staff, what was the point in putting back the clock? The Upper House will have representatives from the universities, the big abbey schools, and the larger cities.”
“So it’s a province.”
“With differences. The Duchy includes all of Württemberg’s exclaves. It does not look like one of the American states with all rectangular lines. It looks more like the ones that developed in your colonial era, with odd shapes. Do not even think of it’s shape as a square or circle or oval. Think of it as an–amoeba in the process of multiple division.”
“Why, oh Lord? Why do they do these things to me? To themselves?”
Sattler shrugged. “What can I say? It’s Swabia.”
Nobody else responded.
He put down that sheaf of papers and picked up another one. “Now, we need to have at least a brief overview of the parts of Swabia which, at least at present, will not be either in the Province or any other USE entity in the region.
He and Francisco Nasi exchanged feral smiles. Chess was such a delightful game when played on a European board.
“There are the sections that Grand Duke Bernhard has already incorporated into the County of Burgundy, including, as noted above, certain portions of Baden. Bernhard, in the proposed modus vivendi, will agree not to acquire any now-USE Swabian territories.”
Hermann of Hesse-Rotenburg looked up from contemplating a knothole in the polished wood of the table. “I see a loophole. In the draft modus vivendi, he has made no long-term promises not to acquire any additional non-USE Swabian territories.”
“In some ways,” Wettin said, “I have to admire my baby brother. He’s one crafty lad. We can take it up with him before the final signing.”
Sattler nodded. “Then there is the Independent Confederation of the Imperial County of Fürstenberg, which includes just oceans of the tiny Reichsritterschaften and minor Catholic Freiherren and even a couple of other minor Catholic Grafschaften in southern Swabia, close to the Swiss border. It’s a lot bigger than Egon’s little principality of Heiligenberg was before he started this, but it’s still far from large–less than a fifth of the size of the County of Burgundy. It’s also, rather, ah, amoeba-like. With polka dots. It also has adopted a constitution in which the principles of representation are, if anything even more esoteric than those of the now-expired Holy Roman Empire’s late, unlamented, Reichstag.”
“Will it last?” Stearns asked.
“It may,” Hermann said judiciously. “The Holy Roman Empire managed to last for eight hundred years. Or it may disintegrate. The area is economically backward, to say the least. Very few people other than the inhabitants really care, I suspect. If it doesn’t last, the USE administrator in the Province of Swabia should stand ready to pick up the pieces–one by one, if necessary.”
“Ouch. So we just let him have it?”
Wettin nodded agreement. “At this point, it would be outrageously difficult to dig Egon von Fürstenberg out of the little mini-state he has carved for himself in the mountains. As Philipp said, it’s economically backward. Scarcely worth the while of expending USE resources when we have so many other calls on them. Certainly not for no better reason than the creation of neater borders.”
Amalie, Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel’s wife, nodded. “Another problem for another day, then.”
“Finally…” Sattler tapped on the table.
“That’s how many?” Stearns asked.
“This is the eighth category.”
“Which is?” Wettin raised an eyebrow. The mannerism was remarkably like Bernhard’s. For that matter, the eyebrow was remarkably like Bernhard’s. With the exception of Ernst, fairer, smaller, and wirier, the Saxe-Weimar dukes had turned out remarkably like peas in a pod.
“Whatever Swabian former imperial cities that have turned or will ‘turn Swiss.’ It is my considered opinion that this process is not yet complete. City councils are deliberative bodies that usually require quite some time to reach definite conclusions. The ones that have already decided in favor of this procedure have not come into the Swiss Confederacy as individual cantons, but as a collective ‘Canton of the Swabian Imperial Cities,’ polka-dotted in among the other developments in Swabia, with the right of individual self-government within that canton.”
“Which ones, so far?”
“Well, it’s right on the border,” Amalie said. “Contiguous, in fact. The temptation must have been irresistible.”
“Lindau is on the border as well, so that’s not surprising.” Sattler made a check on his notepad. “Biberach, though–that one surprised me. It’s on the Ravensburg trade route, of course.”
“Ravensburg took the Swiss option mainly because the USE system would have upset the paritetic city council division,” Hermann said. “They would have had to let religions other than Catholic and Lutheran participate. Wangen followed their lead, of course.”
“What in the name of hell is ‘paritetic’?” That was Stearns again.
Francesco Nasi smiled. “After the Reformation, Ravensburg came to a confessional compromise. It means that they guarantee an equal distribution of public offices between the Catholics and the Protestants. The city council is one half each Protestant and Catholic, too. There’s one Catholic and one Protestant mayor at the same time.”
Sattler nodded. “Augsburg has the same system, for what it’s worth. Even though it’s in the Province of Swabia, for city government purposes it will undoubtedly take some time to dislodge it and give other confessions, such as the Reformed, a role on the council. Biberach is also paritetic. So is Dinkelsbühl, which has not come to any decision.”
He made another check. “Überlingen is close to the border and was pulled along by Ravensburg. The same goes for Isny and Leutkirch.”
“What are your predictions in regard to the towns–pardon me, cities–that haven’t made up their minds, yet?” Mike asked.
“Esslingen won’t follow them, I think–though it yet may, if the ongoing discussions with Margrave George Friedrich become difficult. On the other hand, it may well decide to throw in its lot with the Duchy of Württemberg if the USE won’t recognize it as an independent city state–which we won’t, given that it’s far smaller than the others in Swabia which have achieved that status. In Württemberg, it would at least get a seat in the duchy’s upper house. There are a lot of imperial cities in Swabia, going back to the middle ages, but none of the others come close to the importance of Ulm and Augsburg. They’re all going to be hunting for the best deal they can negotiate and taking advantage of anything the larger territories will offer them.”
“Is there any way of reversing this?” Mike asked.
Wilhelm Wettin shook his head. “There’s no point in running your horses and riders into the ground. That’s what it would take if Gustavus were set Horn to trying to take all of this back. Right now, in any case.”
Rebecca Abrabanel massaged her husband’s tension-filled neck. “It isn’t what you dreamed of, Michael, in the way of total simplification of the political geography of the southwest. But really, neither is it bad in the way of a Napoleonic Gordian-knot-cutting. Everything will be far easier than it was before.”
Mike shook his head. “Remember that stuff that Donna Bates used to have hanging all over in her house, before Brandy and Vlad got rid of most of the ruffles and kitch?”
Becky nodded. “They call it ‘macramé.'”
“Whatever the hell they call it–that’s what Sattler’s new map of Swabia still looks like to me.” He shook his head. “Francisco absolutely thrives on this stuff. Me, I was never meant to be a bureaucrat.”