1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 45
“Good news, finally,” said Matthias Strigel, as soon as he entered the room. The governor of Magdeburg province closed the door behind him and came over to the large table in the center. Rebecca, Constantin Ableidinger, Helene Gundelfinger and Werner von Dalberg were already seated there.
Strigel pulled out a chair and sat down. “I have it on good authority that Wilhelm Wettin has decided to postpone introducing the new legislation his allies have been demanding. Specifically, the bills dealing with citizenship and an established church.”
Rebecca leaned back, her eyes widening a little. “That is good news.”
Ableidinger was more skeptical. “What ‘good authority’? And postpone for how long?”
“As for the first, as good as such authority gets.” Matthias’ expression was on the smug side. “I heard it directly from Amalie Elisabeth von Hanau-Munzenberg.”
“The landgravine herself?” von Dalberg asked sharply.
Now, all five people in the room leaned back in their chairs. The Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel was, along with her husband Wilhelm V, the recognized national leader of what the people in that room thought of as the moderate wing of the Crown Loyalist Party. Nowadays, in fact, Amalie Elisabeth held that position alone, for all immediate purposes. Wilhelm V had taken the army of Hesse-Kassel to join Gustav Adolf’s Swedish forces and would presumably be marching into Poland soon. No doubt he and his wife stayed in touch using the emperor’s radio resources, but those resources were still limited enough that the landgravine would be operating on her own for the most part.
That was fine with the leaders of the Fourth of July Party, certainly. No one would be so impolitic as to say so aloud, but it was the private opinion of all the people sitting in that room that Amalie Elisabeth was considerably more astute than her husband.
The ramifications wereâ€¦ interesting, to say the least. If Amalie Elisabeth was prepared to go so far as to impart such delicate information to one of the central figures in the oppositionâ€¦
“She’s trying to keep the peace,” said Rebecca. “She must be quite worried.”
Ableidinger snorted. Like every sound issued by the former Franconian teacher, it was loud. “No shit, Sherlock, as you up-timers say.”
Rebecca looked serene, as she could do so very well. Helene Gundelfinger issued her own snort, which was a far gentler and more ladylike thing. “There is not a single up-timer in the room, Constantin.”
“Wellâ€¦” Ableidinger might have been slightly — oh, so very slightly — abashed. He waved his hand in a vague sort of gesture. “Well. Rebecca, you know. She always seemsâ€¦”
“I was born in London, actually, and spent most of my life in Amsterdam. All of that, moreover, in this century. Not –” Her own gesture was equally vague. “That other, much later one.”
Then, just as serenely, she added: “However, as you say, no shit. It is obvious that the landgravine thinks it unwise to risk stirring up unrest –”
Ableidinger snorted again. “Say better, riot, rebellion and revolution.”
Rebecca ignored him. “– while most of the reliable military forces available in the USE are off fighting the Poles and what is left of Brandenburg. And she must have persuaded Wettin of that, as well.”
She cocked her head slightly. “As for the question of ‘how long,’ I think the answer is the same. Wilhelm will stall his allies until he feels he has a secure military force at his disposal.”
Werner von Dalberg grimaced skeptically. “I don’t know, Rebecca. Given the realities of the USE’s own army, ‘secure military force’ means Gustav Adolf and his Swedes. And I need hardly remind anyone here that the” — he took a dramatically deep breath — “King of Sweden, Emperor of the United States of Europe and High King of the Union of Kalmar does not take orders from Wilhelm Wettin. His chancellor Axel Oxenstierna may be a resolute supporter of aristocratic privileges and power, but Gustav Adolf himself is not.”
Helene made a little face. “It would probably be more accurate to say that while Gustav Adolf agrees with Oxenstierna in the abstract, he is far more flexible in the concrete.”
Ableidinger looked back and forth between them. “Meaning? Please remember, I’m a simple country boy.”
“What it means,” Rebecca interjected, “is that the king, emperor, high king etc. etc. is far more interested in maintaining his position as the pre-eminent monarch in Europe — which he certainly is today, even if the Habsburgs might shriek to hear it — than he is in supporting the petty perquisites of every nobleman and patrician in the Germanies.”
“Not so petty as all that,” said Ableidinger.
“They’re petty from Gustav Adolf’s standpoint, Constantin,” said Dalberg. “He simply doesn’t have Oxenstierna’s rigidity on the matter. It’s obvious, especially if you watch what he does rather that what he says. Is Gustav Adolf going to risk losing his control over the USE — which is now the heart of his power, don’t forget, not Sweden and certainly not Denmark — because a pack of Hochadel and Niederadel and city and town patricians can’t bear to lose their right to lord it over their lessers? I don’t think so.”
For all his frequent claims of being a rural bumpkin, Ableidinger was just as politically astute as anyone else in the room. “What you’re suggesting, in short, is that the Crown Loyalists are at an impasse. Tied up in knots, as I believe the up-timers say.” He smiled. “None of whom, of course, are in the room to correct my possible misquotation.”
. “That has always been the logic of the situation,” said Rebecca. “But it is nice to see that the landgravine has apparently been able to get the prime minister to finally see it.”
“To put it another way,” said Strigel, “you think there will be no major changes in the political equation until something gets resolved on the military front.”
Rebecca’s normal serenity seemed perhaps a bit frayed at the edges. Her hands were now clasped on the table in front of her.
“I understand that congratulations are in order,” said Constantin. “With regard to your husband’s exploits at Zwenkau.”
“Hardly that.” She unclasped her hands long enough to make a little wiggling gesture with the fingers of her right. “Michael tells me he did very little except to avoid doing anything stupid.”
Ableidinger studied her, for a moment. He didn’t miss the speed at which the hands got reclasped. “Perhaps so. But I suspect being a successful general is not as simple as it seems.”