1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 09

And then all the material on how Scotland ought, in the future when her soldiers came home from the wars, be best served by a united government that settled secular affairs securely and left the divines alone. That he was entirely silent on how the divines would be involved in secular affairs was surely just an oversight, a matter he had chosen not to deal with at that time. The fact that he had said nothing about whom the government of Scotland might be united under, well, only a fool would see that he was not taking it entirely as read that that meant a United Kingdom under the House of Stuart. To suggest otherwise, well, that would be to accuse Reay of rankest treason. Only the rankest traitor would compass his words in that way, surely?

Mackay smiled. Donald Mackay, Lord Reay and chief of Clan Mackay might act the bluff soldier, but he was chief of one of Scotland’s greater clans — even in numbers; in quality there was none finer than Clan Mackay — and as such bore a heavy weight of political responsibility. Under such a weight, a man grew cunning or failed, and Reay hadn’t failed yet. He and several of his sons were now senior commanders under Gustavus Adolphus, their estates in Caithness and Sutherland doing well by all accounts and, in the event of clan strife, able to be defended by several thousand veteran soldiers with the latest in modern arms and tactics.

The Ring of Fire had been an opportunity that the Mackays had been well placed to grasp — not least because it was a Mackay who was the first of Gustav Adolf’s soldiers who’d encountered the Americans. Robert Mackay’s own son Alex, in fact. Who’d found himself a bride into the bargain, now a baroness of Sweden, which was a weight off Robert’s mind. It would not do for a man to leave his legitimate issue short to support his bastard, so seeing young Alex make his own way in the world with great success was a fine thing. And it meant that the fast friendship between Alex and his other sons would never be troubled by vexatious disputes over property. The boy even had his own retainers, when those lads finished their terms of service with the USE. He’d be a credit and an asset to the clan, and none would give him grief over his bastard birth. Not lightly, anyway. Julie’s rifle was a thing of legend from one end of Europe to another, and a man who could treat your death as so minor a matter as to leave it to his wife was nobody’s whipping-boy. As he’d pointed out to several idiots who’d made snide remarks.

How the Mackays would have fared if their patron had died at Lutzen was a detail Grantville hadn’t brought back, although Donald had backed the losing side in the civil war that would have happened. It looked as though he was minded not to make that mistake again. Or the first time, if a fellow wanted to be particular about it. So, Reay was sending oblique communications. Assuming that your opponent had the intelligence to read your mail was a good one, so you’d to couch it in terms you’d both understand that could be explained away as innocent. Using a cipher was a dead giveaway, of course. There’d be room and time to clear up misunderstandings later, at need. Unless Mackay missed his guess, this fellow Lennox who’d be coming over to Scotland soon, was one of his son’s hard crew of borderer cavalry. A reliable fellow, to hear Alex speak of it.

Lennox would no doubt have been been briefed in full by Lord Reay. Though he was not a Mackay clansman by birth, but a border reiver who’d decided to take up respectable soldiering, Lennox had come to enjoy the security of a clan loyalty.

For the time being, though, Lord Reay wrote of curbing the secular power of the divines and uniting Scotland’s leadership. So. Who was most likely the target, here? The trick with Scots politics, of course, was to stand back and squint a little, to get the broad strokes of the picture. Once you started in on the details of clan and family feuding, litigation and lesser disputes, you’d never be stopping. You had two main lots, though: the presbyterians who disagreed with James VI’s dictum no bishop, no king — they were quite happy to do without bishops and treated monarchy as a separate matter — and the episcopalians, who supported bishops in order to support the king. There weren’t many in Scotland, other than the bishops themselves, who regarded episcopacy as a good idea in and of itself. Of course, there were plenty of smaller factions looking for more independence for the various independents, but mostly it was the adherents of the covenant of 1580 against the episcopalians. Call it covenant against royalist, but it was more shaded than that.

And then you had the highland-lowland rivalry, what with the highlanders still counting plenty of papists among their number. The chances of actually extirpating the old religion in the wilder places were remote at best, whatever the Covenant might say on the matter. And when you got right to it, more than a few of the greater lords of the Scots peerage, Reay of the Mackays included, counted thousands of highlanders among their people, and if put to it could raise fine private armies of savage light troops more than willing to wreak plentiful havoc for the promise of plunder. Of course, that’d have the lowlanders taking up arms against the prospect of thieving, drunken highland savages let loose in their midst.

Mackay shook his head ruefully. He was letting himself get drawn in. Covenant and Episcopal parties. Stick with that. It was a matter on which everyone had a mind which side he was on, and there were real political consequences to it. Not quite crown against parliament the way the English did it, but close enough. Lord Reay — and who else? A question for another time, that — was looking to add a third faction to the mix. Taking over one or another of the first two or recruiting from both to get bigger than either? From the hints Reay had scattered through his letter, he was looking to unite a new faction behind the idea of loyalty to Scotland first and only. Which was interesting, but any fool could see there was a reason Scotland had ended up the subordinate kingdom after the Union of the Crowns in the person of James the Sixth and First. It wasn’t simply the inability of Scotsmen in the mass to agree on anything no matter how trivial, although that had certainly contributed heavily. It was the plain fact that Scotland, as a country, had no resources save the flower of her manhood with which to make her way in the world. Three quarters of the country was good for hard-scrabble herding and little else. There were mines here and there, but precious few of those, no great ports, no towns with long traditions of manufacture. If you couldn’t butcher it or sell its wool, Scotland produced very little of it.

There might be a hint in the shape of the digression Reay had made about the value of the Wietze oil-fields, where they were mining the oil that made the fuel for the wonderful machines Grantville designed and Magdeburg built. Was there a source of that under Scotland? If so, there was something reduced the matter to the irreducible. Or irreducible when it came to Scotland, say. The factions. Who to talk to about that? Mackay decided it was time to make some notes, and rang for his secretary.