1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 20:
Bella Gerant Alii
“What we need, Prime Minister,” Landgrave Hermann of Hesse-Rotenberg began the morning briefing, “is to send someone to Basel. Margrave Georg of Baden-Durlach’s son Friedrich is running the government-in-exile there. He requests an envoy from the USE.”
“Surely,” said Mike Stearns, “this didn’t need to come to me. Send him an envoy.”
“He specifically requests that the envoy be an up-timer. His father saw, for himself, some of the up-timers at the Rudolstadt Colloquy. The son now wants to see an up-timer, or more than one, perhaps, for himself.”
“Remind me why this is worth our while. We don’t really have enough up-timers, or at least not enough who can find their way through the protocol of a down-time court, to waste them on the vanity of every minor princeling in Europe.”
Hermann gestured at Philipp Sattler, their expert on Germany south of the Main. Which was not quite the same world as Germany north of the Main.
“The location of Baden-Durlach is strategically important for General Horn’s campaigns in Swabia. Basel itself is important because…”
Sattler’s lengthy, accurate, important, and dull assessment of the importance of Baden-Durlach and Basel droned on for quite some time. Finally it ended.
“Let me think about it,” Mike said. “What else?”
“There is little else of significance that I see in today’s pouch” Landgrave Hermann said. “There is an official announcement of the planned Austro-Bavarian marriage; that was expected enough, and should not change any alignments.”
“Frank,” Mike said at dinner that evening. “It’s driving me nuts. We absolutely do not have a single up-timer we can spare to soothe the vanity of this guy. But we have to find someone. Someone whose rank won’t insult him.”
“Yes,” said Diane Jackson. “Yes, you have someone. Like you sent Becky, like you sent Rita. Because these dinosaurs see them as related to someone important. I don’t need to be here. When do I see Frank? While he is awake? One hour of the day, perhaps twice in the week? French I do speak. The man expects something strange, probably. How is he to know that the rest of you aren’t Vietnamese?”
“Diane!” Frank exploded.
“It is true,” she answered stubbornly. “You do not need me. In Grantville, I was helping. Here, there are plenty of secretaries to read the letters you get in French. I am,” she said firmly, “a fifth wheel. Use me. All you have to do is write out what I should say. I can say it for you.”
“Diane,” Mike started. “It’s just that we don’t want to send you into that mess down in Swabia. The front between Horn and Bernhard has been awfully fluid; for nearly two years now, between them, they’ve been turning the countryside into a wasteland. It’s a sideshow, I suppose, to the Baltic, but for somebody in it, it’s a damned dangerous sideshow.”
“You think,” Diane asked, “that I have not seen dangerous?”
Mike and Frank looked at one another. Finally, “Who could we send with her?” Mike asked.
“Tony Adducci—young Tony, that is. That will be another appeasement to their damned rank-consciousness, considering that his father is secretary of the treasury for the State of Thuringia-Franconia. With an up-time radio, since that’s his MOS. No radio, no go,” Frank said firmly. “And a full company of down-time bodyguards, at least. If things blow up in Swabia, we’re pulling you out of there, Diane.” Frank reached across the table and took her hand. “I need you more than Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar or Turenne does. Even if you have only been seeing me a couple of hours a week while I’m awake.”
Officially, Ed Piazza was in Magdeburg for a meeting of Parliament. As a head of one of the component states of the USE, he had a seat in the upper house, and would until they got around to adopting a constitution that provided some other form of representation. He could hardly wait for the elections.
Even though Mike might lose them. Wilhelm Wettin wouldn’t be all that bad. Though, of course, Ed thought, grinning as he looked at the decor in the prime minister’s office, it would require some redecoration. The incredible paintings of Stearns with Gustavus would be shipped to some outer corridor if Wettin moved into this room.
Mike, who had no qualms whatsoever about maintaining a “kitchen cabinet” with which he felt comfortable alongside his official set of appointees, had set apart two hours.
After providing Mike with a rundown on everything that he had heard from Venice, a lot of it along backchannels, Ed paused. Then, “There’s a lot of the Italian peninsula beyond Venice, you know.”
“Some of it’s Spanish.”
Ed continued. “I don’t want to pry, but the general rumor is that you have something bubbling away that involves the Cardinal-Infante in the Spanish Netherlands. Nothing specific, of course.”
“Can I nod to half of that? Agreeing only that there is a general rumor to that effect,” Mike asked.
“Certainly.” Ed suddenly looked a little more serious. “Would you be interested in background on some possible developments—not certain ones, by any means—that might soon drive a wedge, at least temporarily, between the papacy and Spain and, perhaps, provide Urban VIII with a little more room to maneuver?”
“Rumors, of course,” Mike said.
“Rumors, certainly,” Ed agreed. “Let’s start with Naples.”
Mike could make one very definite statement. “Naples is a long, long, way from here; the USE hasn’t been doing anything in Naples at all.”
“That doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening in Naples that may have an impact on the USE. It’s not the good old butterfly effect, again. Call it the ‘spaghetti effect,’ if you want to think of it that way. You have a pot of water on the stove, simmering away. Drop in one strand of spaghetti—just one—and all of a sudden the pot boils over in a roiling upsurge and you have a mess all over the top of your stove. Sorry, Mike, but we’ve dropped in the spaghetti, whether we meant to or not.”
“So tell me, what is going on.”
“First, there’s the actual piece of spaghetti, in the form of the Encyclopedia Britannica article about the Portuguese revolt of 1640. I know definitely that at least one copy of that is floating around in Naples. Probably more.”
“Definitely?” Mike raised his eyebrows.
“From Leopold Cavriani. Definitely.”
“Why is it causing trouble in Naples instead of Portugal?”
“‘Instead’ probably isn’t the right word. Perhaps, ‘as well as,’ but I don’t have anything current on Portugal,” Ed answered. “In that world, the world that wrote the encyclopedia, the duke of Osuna—the third one— who was stirring up trouble in Naples died in 1624 and his son, the fourth duke, didn’t follow up. In this time, however…”
Mike raised his eyebrows. “Yes.”
“Would it give you a clue if I said that the fourth duke’s mother is a granddaughter of Hernan Cortes?”
“The Mexico Cortes? Implying a certain inherited adventurousness?”
“Yes, that Cortes. Anyway, through his paternal grandmother, this Osuna the Fourth is also a cousin of João of Braganza—the man who will end up on the throne of Portugal six years from now if things go the same way here that they did in our old world. Osuna’s somehow gotten hold of the article.”
“Heaven forbid,” said Mike, “that our friend Leopold should have put a copy in the mail when he was in Grantville last year.”
“Heaven forbid,” Ed agreed piously. “Anyhow, he’s apparently thinking, ‘If Joao can do it, why can’t I? King of the Two Sicilies? Now that has a nice ring to it.’ The Spanish aren’t happy, as you can imagine.”
“Ed, where do you dig up all these connections?”
“Count Ludwig Guenther’s librarian, mostly—royal genealogies are his hobby. With some assistance from Cavriani.”
“Okay. That explains a lot. Is this project of Osuna’s going anywhere?”
“It probably wouldn’t by itself, but when it’s combined with all the other factors, it could. Conditions in Naples—not just the city but the whole Spanish viceroyalty—have been wretched for years. Antonio Alvarez de Toledo was there from 1622 to 1629 and actually tried to do something, but the crisis, both commercial and monetary, has kept rolling merrily along. His successor, the duke of Alcala, has taken some measures to try to solve the problem of grain supplies and storage for the city itself. That’s been popular enough. However, there have been a series of bad harvests. The famine situation is pretty grim.”
Ed grinned suddenly. “But they’ve recently invented a mechanical pasta machine that is about to make the cost of spaghetti, ziti, and many of the other staffs of life affordable to the average man. SoTF has sent formal enquiries about opening trade relations.”