Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 48
“She’s not married, is she?” Wettin asked. “Just at the moment, I mean? Johann Friedrich isn’t married, either. I know that Gustavus instructed him to propose to the oldest sister of the young dukes of Württemberg, with which he duly complied, but she firmly refused, both for herself and on behalf of her sisters as they reach marriageable age. His cousin Georg Otto isn’t married either, but he’s marginally too young for an ideal match with Henriette and Leopold Ludwig is still a child.”
“It would help guarantee the rights of the Protestants in that part of Lorraine.”
Wettin shrugged. “The Pfalz-Veldenz line is Protestant, true. But Calvinist–Reformed, not Lutheran.”
“Oh,” Amalie commented. “What a pity.”
“You do not find it a pity, my dear landgravine,” Wettin said.
“That’s why the counts built up those territories and founded the new towns to start with–as sanctuaries for the Huguenots expelled from France. I’m sure that one of Ferdinand II’s designs when he approved Pfalzburg for that Lorraine girl at the time of her marriage to Guise’s bastard was to have them introduce the Catholic Reformation there.”
“Which, you must admit, la Henriette has done only most indolently, if at all.”
“Sattler,” Wettin. “See to it. The next time I see you in this room, I will expect news of a betrothal, if not an actual marriage. The marriage would be better. The emperor will be happy enough to achieve the same effect without having to spend any money on it, and letting her keep them, even if jointly and under some kind of protective pre-nuptial contract, should help to sweeten the pot for Fernando once we explain what the emperor’s original intentions were.”
He rose. “Not to mention that she will still be available, in the immediate vicinity of Burgundy, to annoy my baby brother.”
Hermann smiled. “It’s just as well Michael Stearns is not in the room this morning. Just as well he isn’t serving as prime minister any longer. He would never have understood.”
Philipp Sattler nodded. “We understand, but he would never have understood. Not on his own. And since the emperor just sprang it on us, Rebecca wouldn’t have had time to explain. At the very idea of deliberately setting up a brand new independent principality on the USE border, he might have said something that would have undone all the hard work that’s gone into the modus vivendi.”
It was a working lunch.
Coal. Steel. Corporate law. Agreement that the papal split between Urban and Borja was, at least for the time being, a problem for people other than themselves. Most likely a problem for people other than Grand Duke Bernhard and Johann Aldringen. Sufficient unto the day was the evil thereof.
Henriette de Lorraine-Vaudémont, ruling princess of Pfalzburg, or princesse de Phalsbourg if one preferred French, glared at the newspaper over her bowl of cold soup. She wasn’t fond of the things, with their nasty cartoons and rude editorials, but sometimes, at least, they provided advance warning of looming disaster.
“They plan to marry me off again,” she said. “I have no desire whatsoever for a husband who will rule over me, but it looks like the damned Swede has it set up so I either give up Phalsbourg or give up my freedom.”
“For various reasons which I’m sure you understand,” the deputy administrator of the Province of the Upper Rhine said, “I do not want a wife at all. However, a wife who lived somewhere other than with me and had interests of her own would certainly be the most tolerable of the category.”
“One advantage of marrying a widow is that they”–Henriette gestured vaguely to indicate the existence of the generic “they” who made a person’s life such a hassle–can hardly send midwives to examine the female party to the marriage for evidences of virginity in the case that someone should challenge the validity of the union on the grounds of non-consummation.”
“Johann Friedrich of Pfalz-Veldenz is in Mainz.”
“He’s not likely to hurry.”
“Yes. It should be several days at least before he and that damned Sattler get here.”
“The Swede has already signed the modus vivendi. Do you suppose that Wettin would rather see my principality’s resources handed over to Pfalz-Veldenz or inside the borders of the USE?”
“If it were a fait accompli, I have little doubt that he would prefer the USE placement.”
A couple of shrewd people could get a lot done during a working lunch.
On the Eastern Front
Mike Stearns looked at the newspaper with a certain degree of glee.
He was really rather pleased that it was Wettin rather than himself who had to co-sign the modus vivendi with Bernhard in regard to Burgundy rather than himself.
His eyes lit on the last paragraph of the article. “What in hell is this provision about some dinky little new principality that Gustavus set up inside Lorraine?”
Frank Jackson snorted.
Francisco Nasi’s eyes twinkled behind his spectacles.
“To be honest,” Amalie said to Wettin’s wife, “there’s a considerable amount of Schadenfreude going around inside the Fourth of July party, even if Bernhard’s various annexations actually did take place on their watch. After all, in the next USE election, there should be plenty of conspiracy rumors going around to the effect that somehow the Crown Loyalists were complicit in the loss of part of Swabia because of their leader’s family connections.”
Eleonore Dorothea, wife of the prime minister and sister-in-law of Europe’s newest grand duke, moaned dramatically.
Kunigunde Juliane, Eleonore’s younger sister, shook her head. “Bernhard and I used to go wading together when we were little. The nursemaids were always having to pull us out of the creek by Hornstein and dry us off. I’ve never understood why Wilhelm gets so irritated with him. He could always come up with something new to do. I thought he was a lot of fun.”
“‘Something new to do’ is what everyone is afraid of,” Eleanor said repressively.
“Tell me more about what he’s like, Kuni,” Sofie Elisabeth ordered–most inappropriately for a girl her age in the presence of her elders.
They looked at her with disapproval.
“Well, I need to know. If Ernst ever has time to come home, pretty soon I’ll be Bernhard’s sister-in-law, too.”
They gave her “that look” again.
“Well, I will,” she said. “I’ll be sixteen next month and Ernst will be thirty-four in December. I don’t want to wait to get married until he has one foot in the grave, for heaven’s sake.”
“The last letter I got from him…” Kuni said to Sofie. “If you’re as pleased with the married state as he is, you’ll be okay.”
The looks turned to her.
“You have been writing to Bernhard? All these years since he broke with the emperor?” Eleonore was clearly horrified.
Kuni put both hands out, palms up, in the universal gesture of placating angry deities. “I’ve been writing to Bernhard since I learned how to write. Nobody told me to stop. We’ve always been friends. I like Bernhard. Philipp liked him, too. They were exactly the same age.”
Philipp was–had been–Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel’s younger brother, Hermann of Hesse-Rotenburg’s older brother, killed in action at Lutter am Barenburg under Christian IV. Everybody had expected that he and Kuni would get married some day. After nearly ten years, Kuni didn’t show signs of wanting to marry anyone else.
So many dead young men since this war started…
“It will work out,” the abbess of Quedlinburg, aunt or cousin of them all and imperial politician of note, said. “Things may be uneasy right now, but we can work them out.”
“Don’t we hope,” Eleonore muttered, only half under her breath.