1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 61



Chapter 32


Festae Miraculique





            Papa and Mama, Cecelia and Mariana, were gone, back to Vienna. The wedding procession moved slowly toward Munich, the days punctuated by the ringing of bells calling people to prayer, the dismounting of everyone in the procession in response to the bells, and the recital of the liturgical offices. In between, it moved through villages that offered pantomimes in honor of the marriage and towns that had decorated their market squares. Every mayor welcomed her; every Latin school had a teacher who had written a poem in her honor; some towns had organists or choir directors who had set the poems to newly composed music. There were allegorical pageants, some classical and some biblical. Always, there were children with flowers; always, there were prayers that this marriage might prove fruitful.


            Every evening, they stopped as guests of one or another prominent nobleman. Maria Anna was beginning the process of learning all the names and connecting the names to the proper faces. Making polite conversation, she commented on the beauty of Bavaria’s children, elegantly comparing it to the beauty of the flowers they gave her.


            The courtier to whom she was speaking at the moment was Don Diego Saavedra Fajardo, a Spanish diplomat and literary figure who had been in residence at the Bavarian court for some time.


            “I am most glad that the future duchess duly appreciates that children are one of God’s greatest gifts,” he said. “You know, perhaps, that one of the most severe of the witch burnings in Bavaria in the preceding generation occurred when it dawned on Duke Maximilian’s father that his son’s first marriage was going to be permanently barren.”


            Maria Anna stared at him.  The Spanish courtier nodded solemnly. “Oh, yes. Duke Wilhelm decided that witches had hexed his daughter-in-law and set out to make them sorry. Which he certainly did.”


            The court chancellor, Johann Christoph Abegg, was standing next to Saavedra. Quickly, she reviewed what she knew about the man. Another jurist—Uncle Max, like Papa, gave positions of great honor to the nobility but tended to rely upon his academically trained advisers when it came to administration. Abegg had been in his position since 1625; he could probably stay as long as he wanted to, if he didn’t go too near to the edge. For a couple of years, he had teetered on that brink. In 1626, a relative of his wife, married to the town clerk of Eichstätt, had been executed as a witch. Many considered him to be an enemy of dealing firmly with the witch problems. On most matters, however, he was now neutral.


            Casually, quite matter-of-factly, Abegg assured her that if she was not fertile, he expected that the pyres would burn again.




            The geography of Bavaria made it somewhat difficult to go from Passau to Munich by land. True, the procession generally followed the course of the Vils, and would then cut across to the Isar at Landau. Still, the route involved crossing a number of small streams. Everything had been prepared in advance at the fords. For those that could not be conveniently forded by a procession of elaborately dressed people, ferries had been procured, but every ferry crossing ensured that the procession moved slowly. First a group of guards crossed; then the duke and his entourage, which, of course, included his brother’s family; then the nuncio and the bishop with theirs; then Maria Anna and her attendants; then the courtiers and officials who were not in the duke’s own entourage, with their wives; higher servants; lesser servants with the baggage; finally stablemen with remounts, followed by another troop of guards. Then the procession would re-form and move to the next village or town where a reception had been arranged.


            By the time they reached Freising, of course, everybody was talking about the attempt to assassinate the pope. And that the pope had appointed an up-time priest, an Italian by the name of Mazzare as cardinal-protector of the usurping United States of Europe. Cardinal-protector of a principality ruled by a heretic, by the Swede! How infuriating.


            Duke Maximilian was not in a good mood. The privy council met every evening, cutting the ceremonial banquets short. Each meeting began with a rosary, thanking God for preserving the pope’s life. No matter how—it appeared that it was a Scots Calvinist who had interposed himself between His Holiness and the gunman. Which was quite embarrassing.


            Richel, it appeared, had successfully infiltrated an informant into St. Mary’s in Grantville, in the guise of an apothecary who had come to learn from one of the up-time parishioners. The parishioner was another Italian, one Agostino Nobili. It was difficult to account for the presence of so many Italians in this up-time community; but, of course, Italians went everywhere. For the past three and a half centuries the peninsula had provided all of Europe with an unending stream of artists, architects, engineers, scientists, teachers, jurists, not to mention military commanders and common soldiers. If this town truly came from the future, there was no reason to presume that Italians would have ceased to be the intellectual leaders of the world three and a half centuries from now.


            That aside, according to Richel’s informant, this up-timer had a phrase that he used to describe himself. “More Catholic than the pope.”


            “It is possible, My Lord Duke,” Richel commented, “that this is a signal to us. We may be entering an era in which the work of God must be carried out by the secular rulers who serve Him. In these last days, it may be, the papacy itself will be corrupted by demonic forces.”


            Duke Maximilian stroked his goatee. At the next evening’s meeting, he omitted the rosary.


            The council members were treading very lightly in the duke’s presence. Each day, he rose well before dawn and withdrew to his oratory, heard mass, then withdrew to his oratory again before reading the despatches and preparing for the procession.


            Father Contzen heard the duke’s confessions, of course. Anxiety showed on Contzen’s face, no matter how he tried to control it. That made everyone else uneasy.


            And the news from Ingolstadt was not good. General Mercy and Colonel Werth had made it very plain in their communications to the duke and his council that they expected that the Swede, now that he had achieved his great victories in the north, would be diverting additional resources to the support of General Banér. They urged Duke Maximilian to do his utmost.





            Forst and Becker felt a profound sense of relief. When they arrived at Freising, the procession had not passed yet. It was due the following day, when there would be the most magnificent of all the receptions yet held.


            Freising was not officially part of the duchy of Bavaria. It was merely surrounded and enclosed by the duchy of Bavaria. Its bishop was a prince-bishop, legally, if not de facto, an independent ruler. De facto, if not legally, dependent upon the duke, yet to some extent capable of conducting an independent foreign policy and exercising jurisdiction within his own lands.


            Festivals and receptions were always chaotic, with too much going on for the local inspectors to keep track of. The two Leuchtenberger found out where the procession would pass. Placed the barrels on a corner. The landgrave’s steward had given them a little money toward expenses. They bought some decorative bunting from a vendor who had set up his shop early, and flowers from a peasant woman with an apron full of nosegays. They bought all the nosegays, to re-sell; the peasant woman, delighted, made another trip to where she had parked her cart outside the walls and refilled her apron. By the time the men were done, they thought that their little flower stand looked fairly pretty.


            The second man stopped a passing artist carrying his charcoals and chalks, ready to sketch visitors; had him write “Long Live Leuchtenberg” on the bunting. They would jump up and down; yell the slogan at the top of their lungs. If they were lucky, Landgravine Mechthilde would slow her pace and wave; maybe even pull up her horse. That would be their chance.


            They sold nosegays for two hours, at quite inflated prices. By mid-morning, they had recouped their investment and made a little money. Nobody had asked to see their vendor’s license. So far, so good.




            The procession was here. The duke had already passed. That meant that the main attention of his guards was directed ahead, at whatever dangers might be coming next; not at what was already safely behind them. Becker gathered the rest of the nosegays into a small pile; Forst pulled the tacks that held the bunting from blowing off the barrels, reached underneath, and loosened the lids. Duke Albrecht was coming; the crowd was yelling his name. With his wife, their lord’s sister, Landgravine Mechthilde herself.


            Forst and Becker waved and yelled. “Long Live Leuchtenberg!”


            She pulled up her horse and smiled at them graciously.


            They tipped the barrels and rolled them in front of her.


            The guards coming behind started to advance; people in the crowd started to scream; Duke Maximilian’s guards half-turned to get a look at the disturbance.


            So did the duke; then he turned his horse. The iron general of the Catholic League was not likely to be frightened by a minor disturbance during a civil festivity.


            The two bargemen dumped the barrels out at the feet of Mechthilde’s horse.




            Maria Anna, quite aware of both the possibility that barrels sometimes held explosives and the certainty that not all subjects adored their rulers, had prudently reined in when the men started to roll them. Now, she pushed forward. What on earth? Two old women?


            She and Duke Maximilian arrived on either side of Albrecht and Mechthilde simultaneously.




            Forst and Becker started to explain. It was, from Mechthilde’s perspective, a total farrago of nonsense. Her brother, an agent in Amberg, overcharges for ore barrels, delayed deliveries of ore barges, a mysterious attack on the two women when they were picnicking. The men said they knew that their lord had paid them to watch the one old lady, but they had not known what to do when the attack occurred. Then, when they crossed the Danube, the steward said that the landgrave was sick but they hadn’t known that.




            Mary Simpson was gradually straightening herself out. Since the pause at Prüfening, she and Veronica had been back in the barrels for several days now. Not, it was true, without being provided with food and water. The bargemen didn’t want them to die. However, ever since that break, they had been given food and water in the barrels. Always when the cart was in some location with nobody else around. With threats that if they tried to scream while their gags were off, there wouldn’t be any more. They had eaten and drunk.


            She got her legs unflexed; they were still tied together. Sat there, wiggling her feet and ankles, while people shouted over her head. Wondered if there was any way she could get up. Not without help, with her hands tied behind her back. Veronica was in the same plight, except worse. Her hands were not only tied, but her arms were roped to her body; her legs not just trussed at the ankles, but the ropes wound all the way up her legs.


            They were both filthy, stinking, dirty. Mary was stiff. Every muscle in her body ached. She was furious.


            It was safe to assume that Veronica shared her attitude.




            Mechthilde was not in a very good mood, either. Impatiently, she motioned to one of her guards to release the women’s ropes.


            The two bargemen threw themselves between her and the smaller one—the one who was more tightly tied. They were screaming protests that the woman was a witch; that they had undergone many hardships after they captured this witch that the landgrave was interested in. That had been in Grafenwöhr. They had not known, then, that she was a witch, but she must be very dangerous; the landgrave must have been worried that she was plotting against Leuchtenberg. They had been watching her for a month, they said.


            She had actually been living in the Schloss in Amberg, under the direct protection of the regent placed in the Upper Palatinate by the usurping Swede. Well, both of the women had, but they thought that this one was the main witch; the other was only her assistant. Surely, the bargemen insisted, there had been a plot against Leuchtenberg, which they had averted at great danger to themselves.


            In the time between the incident at Grafenwöhr and this day, they had speculated so long and hard, and told one another possible variants of the story so many times, that they now believed it.