Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 38

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 38

So she contacted Marx Conrad Rehlinger–the grand duke’s merchant banker and most important financier, from an old Augsburg family, currently residing in Basel, and also, not precisely accidentally, the uncle of the grand duke’s chancellor, Hans Ulrich Rehlinger. Bernhard had told her that Rehlinger was probably the only man who entirely understood his complicated financial affairs, and that she could rely on him.

Rehlinger’s own pride had been somewhat offended by the decision of the Gustavus Adolphus and, subsequently, the USE to rely upon the Abrabanel banking network, as if the Germanies’ own bankers were not good enough.

It only made sense to rely on him. If someone as arrogant, incredibly demanding, suspicious, touchy, and sometimes, truth be told, generally a pain in the butt as her current lord and husband regarded Rehlinger as a reliable friend, she would, until she learned something to the contrary, accept that as true.

Then there were the Hervart brothers in Lyon–also descended from an old Augsburg banking family, the Herwarths, on their father’s side and an even older one, the Welsers, on their paternal grandmother’s side, they handled much of the business associated with the French subsidies. War was a business, after all, on the scale that Bernhard conducted it. Under the French agreement, he had promised to keep a certain number of men in the field. French inspectors took regular musters and deducted from the subsidy payments twelve livres for every missing infantryman, forty livres for every missing cavalryman, and correspondingly more for any shortfall in regimental staff and officers.

The Hervarts would have ears in the French court–possibly even ears on Richelieu’s staff. Not to mention that Jean Henri Hervart, who also served as Bernhard’s purchasing agent in France, was married to one of Rehlinger’s daughters. All in the family. That was how the world worked. Things were all in the family.

Purchasing agent because if munitions and food were to be had at a reasonable price in France, they would do the army a lot more good than coins, so he was authorized to buy and ship.

Well, more good than coins as long as enough coins arrived to pay the men.

Mostly. Barthélemi Hervart was more of a free spirit. Well, as bankers went. Barthélemi enjoyed playing politics. Père Joseph and the dévots hated the sight of a Protestant with that much influence on the French court. Mazarin, rumor reported, loved him.

Not Jan Hoeufft. A Dutch Calvinist by birth, he was nonetheless a naturalized French citizen. For Bernhard, he mainly acted as a transfer agent for the payment of the subsidies the court owed under the contract He performed some additional services, always taking his cut and profit, of course. He might exchange silver coins for gold, since gold was less bulky and saved on transportation costs. Occasionally, when the court gave him “assignations” on future income rather than cold, hard, cash, he even made advances on the subsidies from his bank’s own funds. But he was Richelieu’s man, not Bernhard’s.

Not Hoeufft. If a single word about this reached Hoeufft, heads would roll.

There were deposits in a Paris bank, too. Not large, but they were there.

Joachim van Vikvoort in Amsterdam. The French called him de Wiqueforte. He held most of Bernhard’s emergency funds–the kind of thing a prudent high officer kept in reserve in case of such emergencies as being captured on the battlefield and having to come up with an outrageously high ransom on very short order. He also kept safely what Bernhard called his “hoard.” That’s what it was–unset gems, jewelry, ceremonial gifts received from conquered cities as the price for tolerable treatment. Bernhard kept some of that sort of thing with him in a safe in one of the baggage wagons, just in case, but most of it he had sufficient sense to keep in a vault in Amsterdam.

Otherwise one risked, like de Guébriant after Ahrensbök, the possibility of either an indefinite captivity or the unlikely decision of someone else to ransom you for his own purposes.

As Bernhard had done for de Guébriant.

Who wasn’t supposed to know it.

****

She needed her own cabinet, Claudia decided. Her own equivalent of Der Kloster.

De Melon. She liked the man, he was competent, and he spoke Italian as well as he did German.

Bernhard had summoned his chancellor, Hans Ulrich Rehlinger, a nephew of the banker, to Lorraine, so he wasn’t available.

Georg Wölcker, the army’s general auditor. She would need him at her side this summer, even though his first loyalty would not be to her.

Tobias von Ponikau, also, would forever be Bernhard’s man. In any case, he was in Brussels for the continuing negotiations in regard to cooperation with the Low Countries.

Johann Christoph von der Grün. For this campaign, Bernhard had left his general adjutant and chief ordonnance officer at Dôle with Hattstein. He was far from trusting in regard to what the French might do on the western frontiers of the county if they thought he was tied up elsewhere. An organized, careful, meticulous man. She could use him, but he, too, was one of the grand duke’s long-time, reliable, servants.

Bernhard’s general counsel. The lawyer who read all the fine print in his contracts and crossed out the questionable passages. Could she rely on him? Was he competent? She would have to check in regard to both.

Too bad that de Guébriant was in Lorraine.

Claudia smiled suddenly. Bernhard now called the French count, who had started as a Breton country gentlemen with even fewer resources than Bernhard himself, “friend.”

Sometimes he called him “brother,” but given Bernhard’s relationship with his brothers, that was a more questionable description.

De Guébriant’s wife, though.

Renée du Bec-Crespin.

At some point, Bernhard had mentioned that his brother Albrecht had found out, from the up-time encyclopedias, that his marriage to Dorothea had been childless, but went right ahead and married her anyway. They’d known one another for years, of course.

De Guébriant had done the same with Renée. The two of them were so close that they even wrote joint letters, taking alternate paragraphs.

Perhaps some men did regard their wives as more than, or at least other than, brood mares.

Claudia had found a friend of her own. The only woman who, in the other world, had become a plenipotentiary ambassador for the French crown in this century.

Renée definitely went on the list of people to consult.

****

“A letter from Cardinal Richelieu, Your Grace.”

Claudia took it. Read it. Cocked her head.

“Reproachful?” Renee asked.

“More than a little. But, perhaps, a way to test the competence of that general counsel fellow.” Claudia waved at her secretary. “Make two clean copies, one for Forstenhauser and one for Motzel.”

Forstenhauser came back with an extensive and detailed analysis of the validity of the representations that the French court was making in this letter under the terms of their original agreement with the grand duke.

Volpert Motzel, the young legal officer she brought from Tyrol on Dr. Bienner’s recommendation, pointed out the loophole in the original agreement with a happily piratical expression. “Since the French have never kept up the contractual payments on schedule or in the defined amounts,” he chanted happily, “the grand duke is not legally bound by it at all.”

Forstenhauser answered that the French had not been obliged to pay the full amount, because the grand duke had never managed to get his roster men in the field up to prescribed strength.

Motzel replied that this was because as he had just said the French had never paid on schedule, which hampered the grand duke’s recruiting efforts. Muttering “poorly drafted,” he waved a copy of the original agreement in the air and concluded happily that, “There’s enough potential for trouble just in one subordinate clause here to keep a lawsuit going for a half-century.”

Claudia concluded that she would rely on Motzel rather than on Bernhard’s more pedestrian legal eagle.

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