1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 63:
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Even for the heir to the duchy of Bavaria, it was practically impossible for a man to have a private word with his wife in the middle of a formal wedding procession traveling through the countryside. True, the room that Bishop Gepeckh had assigned Albrecht and Mechthilde was quite luxurious, the walls covered with tapestries, heavy brocade hangings on the bed.
They were also sharing it with wall to wall cots. A personal attendant for each of them; their three sons, their sons’ tutor, and a number of bodyguards. The bodyguards did not have cots and did a remarkably good job of staying awake throughout their shifts. All of which explained why the duke and duchess were sitting up in the middle of their bed, the hangings drawn closed in the middle of a hot July night, whispering to one another.
They couldn’t even check silently to see if the guards were trying to eavesdrop. Every time one of them moved, the ropes that supported the mattress creaked.
There was a lot that they needed to talk about.
First, the situation with Leuchtenberg. Landgrave Wilhelm Georg’s physician had written to say that his death was expected momentarily. Although he had lived several months beyond the reasonable expectations of his doctors, his time of grace was drawing to an end. The physician asked where the young landgraves might be.
The answer, for Maximilian Adam, was “somewhere south of Ingolstadt.” Phillip Rudolf, unfortunately, was in Hungary, touring defensive installations facing the Turks in the company of Ferdinand II’s son. Duke Maximilian had not been happy when he took service with the Habsburgs. There was no way that he could get back before his father’s expected death. There was no way that either of them could go to Leuchtenberg.
That meant that within the week, the subjects of the landgrave, enclosed as they were within the Upper Palatinate, would be free from their oaths of allegiance. Everyone had heard what the up-timers had done in Coburg when the duke died. They had oathed his former subjects to their “state constitution” before the Wettin heir could get there. It seemed likely that Duke Ernst would do the same in Leuchtenberg. Not that all of the landgrave’s subjects had been outstandingly loyal to begin with. Some of them were, but for over a generation, even before the Swedes came, a lot of them had been inclined to cross the borders into the Upper Palatinate to attend Protestant church services. But having them oathed elsewhere would mean that they were released from all obligations of loyalty to their hereditary lord.
Mechthilde insisted that they were going to have to interrogate those two bargemen.
“They are in the bishop’s custody, not ours,” Albrecht said, forcing himself not to let his anger cause his voice to rise above a whisper. “I am furious with Wilhelm Georg for landing us in this pickle. Your brother is, for all practical purposes, a penniless exile living in Bavaria by Maximilian’s grace. It was outrageous of him to have been conducting what amounted to an independent foreign policy without having consulted the duke and the privy council.”
Mechthilde shook her head. “That’s silly, husband,” she whispered. “My brother had been sick for months and in no position to arrange any such plot. You know it as well as I do. For the past half-year, at least, although Wilhelm Georg has been present on earth, his mind has been quite vacant.”
Reluctantly, Albrecht admitted that she was right.
Then what had led up to this? Mechthilde returned to the idea of interrogating the two bargemen.
Albrecht reminded her that they were in the custody of the Freising city authorities—not of Bavaria and most definitely not of Leuchtenberg.
“Then interrogate the women,” said Mechthilde.
Even more reluctantly Albrecht pointed out that they were in the custody of Archduchess Maria Anna, who was still, in spite of the ceremony at the border, an Austrian, and would be for another fortnight.
Mechthilde was not in a good mood.
Neither was Duke Maximilian when he summoned the two of them into his bedchamber the next morning. Before breakfast.
Prudently, Mechthilde tried the truth first—that she knew nothing at all about it and was sure that her brother had nothing to do with it. Nor did his sons.
The duke clearly was not going to believe the truth.
So Mechthilde explained it all. Starting with the bargemen’s presumption, she created an elaborate fiction involving secret informants, witch plots against her brother that had begun over a year before and sucked the mind from his body, involvement in the conspiracy by the highest authorities of the usurping United States of Europe who were sponsoring the witches, and accusations that Duke Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, the regent of the Upper Palatinate, was a warlock himself.
It was a good story, which had the additional merit of being somewhat more plausible than the truth. She concluded by demanding that the two witches be removed from the custody of the Austrian archduchess and placed in her own, stating that if they were allowed to be with the future duchess, they would certainly take the opportunity of placing an infertility spell on her.
In a last moment of inspiration, she stated that all the other things had probably only been done to give the two women that opportunity.
Maximilian just looked at the two of them. On the note pad in front of him, he scratched the date at which Landgrave Wilhelm Georg’s illness had begun, the date of Elisabeth Renata’s death, the date upon which the arrangements for his second marriage had been concluded, and the date, retrieved from the intelligence reports, upon which Mary Simpson and Veronica Dreeson had arrived in the Upper Palatinate.
He raised one eyebrow and dismissed them without further comment.
The women might be witches. He would not dismiss that possibility. But Mechthilde was lying through her teeth.
The Freising city authorities had already interrogated the bargemen, whose names proved to be Valentin Forst and Emmeram Becker. They had asserted under the most strict questioning (properly authorized by a judge, with the requisite number of witnesses, and a clerk present to record the testimony verbatim) that they had not been employed to observe the Dreeson woman until after the privy council had pushed him into agreeing to remarry. Both men were from the Landgraviate of Leuchtenberg.
Who would benefit most if the women were witches and they did successfully put an infertility spell on his niece?
For that matter, who would benefit most if they were not witches, but if a sufficient uproar could be raised now about their presence in Maria Anna’s household that his niece was tarred with the “witch” brush? Enough of an uproar that the marriage had to be cancelled?
He had no wish to remarry. Elisabeth Renata, my wife. Neither, however, did he hold any grudge against his sister’s daughter. Maria Anna could not in any way be blamed for being, at this moment, in Freising on her way to the Munich Residenz. It was not her fault that she had been sent to marry him. She was a good daughter, obedient to her father’s wishes.
In another world, the encyclopedias said, the girl had borne him two sons and been a good regent. Perhaps she would do the same in this world. That was in the hands of God.
Who would benefit most if she did not?
Regretfully, he added his brother and sister-in-law to his list of people who were not to be trusted. He was sorry to do it, for he and Albrecht had been close since they were children. The list was a long one, however. There were very few people whom he could trust.
Bishop Gepeckh agreed that Duke Maximilian could take the two foreign women to Munich, as long as they remained in the custody of the Austrian archduchess. That was a purely face-saving provision, of course. He was, diplomatically and militarily, in no position to retain them against Maximilian’s wishes, no matter what conclusion the legal consultants might eventually offer. Within ten days, Maria Anna would be married to the duke and they would be effectively in his custody. There wasn’t anything that Gepeckh could do about it.
The wedding procession moved on to Munich. Mary and Veronica traveled under guard, but among the members of the archduchess’ personal household. Compared to the past few days, they considered spending two more being carried in a sedan chair with its curtains drawn to be a restful interlude. They were also able to talk quite freely, given the general level of noise surrounding the procession.
Neither of them had the vaguest idea what had happened between the time they were attacked at the lock and the time they came to on the barge, which was disturbing.
Veronica’s best guess was that Kilian Richter, who was well-known to be a Bavarian collaborator, had sent the three men who came down the deer path with knives to force them backwards toward the lock, where the bargemen, who were Bavarian agents, were waiting for them. So, they presumed, the instigator of the snatch must have been Duke Maximilian. They explored Mary’s hostage theory at some length and concluded that it was the most likely explanation. Everything else that was going on was probably some diplomatic face-saving for the duke.
If they had a chance, the first thing they would do would be to smuggle out a message to Henry and John insisting that the reply from the USE to any concession that Maximilian demanded should be, “Keep them and be damned.”
Then they took another nap. The litter was big enough and they were both still exhausted.
Maria Anna rose early. She was conscientious about continuing her regime of devotional reading, even within the excitement of the worldly activities that surrounded her. If she was currently choosing to read works published by the spiritual advisors of her future husband—well, she also needed to familiarize herself with the nature of the Bavarian court.
Father Jeremias Drexel, S.J., was certainly the most famous preacher in Munich, as well as its most famous author. Father Lamormaini had given her this book; had told her that in Munich alone, more than a hundred thousand copies of Father Drexel’s works had been printed. This was one of the most recent editions, less than five years old. The School of Patience. Dedicated to Prince Radziwill, the great magnate of Poland. The illustrations were beautiful.
In the course of earthly existence, each person has his assigned role in the play, whether king or beggar, allotted to him by God. Yet none of them should forget, whether he is given the role of learned man or peasant, that it will last only as long as his temporal life endures. Each should play his part on earth well, so that the play may go on. If you have been assigned the role of prince, do not pride yourself in it, for it is only a part you are playing at the will of the director. If you are assigned the role of beggar, then play that person slyly and artfully. For, whatever the role, no one, in these times of crisis, will pass through life without sorrow and suffering.
What is life?
Life is a flower, passing smoke, a shadow, the shadow of a shadow, a bubble on the water, a piece of dust in a sunbeam, a bit of foam on the sea, a raindrop on the roof, an icicle, a rainbow, a spring day, the uncertain weather of April, one note in a melody.
Life is a wax candle about to gutter out, a sack full of holes, a broken pitcher, a decrepit house, a passing spark, a spider web, a treacherous fog.
Life is a thin thread, a helmet made of straw, a golden apple rotten at the core.
Life is a short comedy, a sleep, a frivolous dream, the parable of the wealthy man who built ever larger barns in which to heap up his riches, yet his soul was taken from him that night.
She read on, until Doña Mencia entered the room to remind her that it was time to dress for another day.