1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 23

Four provinces had heads of state who had been appointed by Emperor Gustav II Adolf. However, they were no longer under direct imperial administration and were at least technically self-governing:

Westphalia, whose administrator was Prince Frederik of Denmark. He’d been appointed in June of 1634 as a result of the Council of Copenhagen. They were still wrangling over the title. Frederik wanted “Prince of Westphalia” but the emperor was reluctant to agree and preferred “Governor.” Gustav Adolf would probably give in eventually, though, since his misgivings were general in nature whereas the Danes — both Frederik and his father Christian IV, the king of Denmark — were quite keen on the matter.

The Province of the Upper Rhine, whose administrator was Wilhelm Ludwig of Nassau-Saarbrucken. He’d also been appointed in June of 1634 during the proceedings at Copenhagen. Wilhelm Ludwig, not of royal birth, had been happy enough to settle for the title of governor. His position as the Upper Rhine’s head of state was something of a formality, anyway, since he was spending most of his time assisting his father-in-law in Swabia. The actual management of the province was in the hands of his deputy, Johann Moritz of Nassau-Siegen.

The “self-governing” aspect of the remaining two provinces in this category was questionable, since their official head of state was the emperor himself. Gustav II Adolf, never loathe to use medieval precedents, had cheerfully appointed himself the duke of both Mecklenburg and Pomerania.

The provincial independence of Pomerania was pretty much a myth. For all practical purposes, Pomerania was still being ruled by direct imperial fiat. True, Pomeranians did elect members to Parliament. But all of them were vetted by the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna. Insofar as the province had any independent politics at all, it tended to be a bastion of the reactionary wing of the Crown Loyalists.

Mecklenburg was quite different. That province had been transformed in the course of the civil war which had taken place there following the Dreeson Incident. With a handful of exceptions, the nobility had fled the province. The Committees of Correspondence were now as dominant on the ground as they were in Magdeburg and the State of Thuringia-Franconia.

Of course, they didn’t have the same influence as they did in Magdeburg and the SoTF, since Gustav Adolf was quite a bit more resistant to them than the Fourth of July Party. To make things still more complicated, Mecklenburg’s representatives in the USE House of Commons had all been elected before the civil war, and were — each and every one of them — part of the diehard reactionary faction in parliament.

The CoCs and the Fourth of July Party were contesting the validity of those elections in court. Leaving aside the changes in the province’s politics, the elections were suspect on other grounds. All of Mecklenburg’s official representatives in the House of Commons had a “von” in front of their name. They were only classified as “commoners” due to a special dispensation by the province’s supreme court — all of whose justices also had a “von” in front of their name. So, you had the peculiar contradiction of having one of the USE’s most radical provinces matched to a parliamentary delegation which was ultra-reactionary.

A couple of provinces were “self-governing” in the sense that they could elect representatives to Parliament: the Province of the Main and the Oberpfalz. But their heads of state of state were still appointees of the emperor and answered to him directly. The administrator of the Province of the Main was the Swedish general Nils Abrahamsson Brahe. The administrator of the Oberpfalz was the new prime minister’s younger brother, Ernst Wettin.

The provinces were split politically. The Province of the Main was solidly Crown Loyalist whereas the Upper Palatinate leaned toward the Fourth of July Party.

Two more provinces would have fallen into the category of “heads of state, not elected, but established by the provinces themselves” except that their rulers had betrayed the emperor when the Ostend War broke out. That, at least, was how Gustav Adolf saw the matter. Needless to say, the rulers of Saxony and Brandenburg — the Electors John George and George William — had a different view. Within a few weeks, the dispute would be settled on the battlefield — and most people figured Gustav Adolf would emerge triumphant.

What would happen then was a matter of speculation. In social and economic terms, Brandenburg was much like Pomerania: relatively backward, with poor farmland and not much in the way of industry. Berlin’s position as Germany’s premier city was still a long way in the future — and, in the new universe created by the Ring of Fire, might never happen at all. In the year 1635, the city’s population was no greater than twelve thousand people.

Furthermore, the Elector of Brandenburg was Gustav Adolf’s brother-in-law. The emperor was influenced enough by his wife — more precisely, was reluctant enough to upset her — that while he would certainly depose George William he wouldn’t strip his family of its political position. The Elector would be forced into what amounted to house arrest, and his fifteen-year-old son Frederick William would become the new Elector — or, more likely, the new duke. With the effective collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the title of “Elector” was now meaningless. Until Frederick William reached his majority, of course, Brandenburg would actually be ruled by a regent appointed by the emperor. That might very well wind up being Sweden’s own chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna.

In short, Brandenburg would probably wind up playing the same sort of role in the internal politics of the USE that Pomerania did and Mecklenburg used to play: a stronghold of the most conservative elements in the nation.

Saxony was quite different. Its capital city of Dresden was both older and more populous than Berlin. So was its other major city, Leipzig. Dresden was becoming an industrial center and Leipzig had long been commercially prominent — the Leipzig Trade Fair went back well into the middle ages.

The province was far more advanced culturally than Brandenburg, as well. Two of central Europe’s major universities were located there: the University of Wittenberg, which produced the great theologians Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, and the even older University of Leipzig.

Most people who paid attention to political affairs thought the situation in Saxony would become very unsettled once Gustav Adolf conquered the province. No one doubted that he would dispossess John George and his family altogether and replace them with his own imperial administration. Nor did anyone doubt that the Committees of Correspondence would be pushing hard to establish the sort of republican structure for the province that already existed in Magdeburg and the State of Thuringia-Franconia.

That left the so-called “Province of Swabia” which had been provided for less than year earlier by the Council of Copenhagen. The province was to be created once the region was “fully pacified,” with Margrave Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach already named as the administrator. But what would actually happen was anyone’s guess. The largest single chunk of the projected Province of Swabia was Württemberg, which young duke Eberhard had willed to its population on his deathbed. Lawyers working for the Fourth of July Party were arguing that Württemberg should become its own republican province. Meanwhile, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar — or “Bernhard, Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy” as he was now styling himself — still had an army nearby and made no secret of his desire to incorporate as much of Swabia as he could into the new independent realm he was busy creating. And just to throw another monkey wrench into the works, several of the cities and towns in the region were now making noises about “turning Swiss.”

So, as of July of 1635, the United States of Europe had eleven provinces, with presumably two more to be added soon — or “returned,” if you accepted Gustav Adolf’s interpretation of the status of Saxony and Brandenburg — and at least one more to be added whenever the situation in Swabia settled down.

In addition, there were the seven imperial cities: Hamburg, Luebeck, Augsburg, Frankfurt am Main, Strassburg, Ulm — and Magdeburg itself. The city was simultaneously the national capital of the USE, the capital of the province of Magdeburg, and an imperial city in its own right. As such, its mayor was Otto Gericke.

It was all very complicated — and, if this latest news was accurate, was going to get still more complicated. Not to mention unsettled and upheaved.

“Is he out of his mind?” Ed demanded.