1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 01

1635: The Wars For The Rhine

Anette Pedersen



April 1, 1634




Two of the three men at the table stood up, bowed, and left, while the third refilled his glass with wine and took it to the east facing window. There were no lights visible on the ground. The moon was still up, turning the Rhine River into a glittering band of silver, but in the horizon the first pale traces of the false dawn were beginning to show.

Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne sipped slowly of the wine, and looked towards the section of the Rhine once known as Bishop’s Alley. The Protestant conquest had not stopped until Mainz had fallen, and now only the archbishopric of Cologne remained. But that would change. The Rhine formed the link between central Europe and the western oceans, but Cologne sat as the gate, and Cologne was still his. Tonight he had irrevocably joined in on a desperate and dangerous gamble, but he would win. Not just what had been lost, but all of the middle Rhine, proving to the entire world his might as a statesman of the church. At whatever cost.

Chapter 1

Düsseldorf, the Castle

May, 1634

“Katharina Charlotte, you cannot desert your God-given husband!”

“I’m not going to, Elisabeth,” Charlotte replied, without turning from the window to look at her sister. “I’m simply considering making a short journey up the Rhine to Cologne to ask our mother’s old friend, Archbishop Ferdinand, to help me pray for the safety of my husband and his heir. That I also don’t trust Marshal Turenne, and think that he is making my husband attack Essen for some secret French purpose is entirely beside the point, and probably just one of those funny ideas pregnant women sometimes get.”

“You keep looking for excuses to leave your home and husband, Charlotte, but he was quite within his rights to beat you. It is your duty to obey him in all things, and you told me yourself that you had talked back to him.”

Charlotte shrugged. Three years ago at the barely nubile age of sixteen her father had married her off to his old first cousin Duke Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg. As the third of six daughters she had looked forward to having a household of her own, and all things considered it hadn’t been a bad marriage until the previous autumn, when Ferdinand Phillip, the son she had so proudly — and painfully — born, had died, and her husband had berated her for her weakness in bearing such a fragile wimp. Her answer: that bearing children before she was fully grown was not her idea, had cost her a front tooth, the most unpleasant night she had ever spent, and daily beatings until she showed pregnant again. A plea to her father for protection had resulted only in a lecture on obedience, but now her father was dead, and her husband was taking his heir and his army to try to conquer the rich industrial area of Essen just north of his own land.

Charlotte felt no grief for the death of her father, and certainly didn’t expect to feel any if her husband got himself killed. All scraps of daughterly — never mind wifely — duty and affection had long since been worn away, but if Philipp, her stepson, died she would be carrying the heir to not only some of the Neuburg lands on the Danube, but also the lands of Jülich and Berg here on the Rhine. If that happened, then the guardianship of a living son would be a windfall wanted by every German prince, and that of a living daughter only slightly less so. And if the child died — thus leaving Wolfgang without an heir — then the codicil to her marriage contract that her father had somehow talked Wolfgang into signing meant that Charlotte herself became the trophy. She would be hunted like a twelve-point stag unless she was safely within the protection of someone she could trust. Preferably that would be her young brother, Friedrich. He had been in Italy on his Grand Tour when their father had suddenly died, but he should be coming home by now. Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne was another possibility, but if she could not reach Friedrich, it might actually be safer just to hide herself somewhere in the City of Cologne. Especially if Wolfgang didn’t do her the favor of getting himself killed. The archbishop would certainly just send her back to Wolfgang, but darling Friedrich was now Count Palatine of Zweibrücken and the new head of her family, and he had quarreled bitterly with their father, when he had agreed to the marriage in return for that mine near Saarbrucken.

Wolfgang of course expected to return in triumph with the gold of Essen at his disposal and all the lands once belonging to his mother’s family firmly within his grasp. This, he believed, would enable him to strike west and start taking the Protestant holdings within the USE. In Charlotte’s opinion that made as much sense as the mad fantasies of Wolfgang’s maternal uncle, Phillip the Insane, whose lack of an heir cost them the lands in the first place.

The campaign had been proposed by the French Marshal Turenne, who had first gotten both the archbishop’s and Wolfgang’s permission to move French troops a few at a time across their lands to gather in Düsseldorf before striking northward. Turenne had paid well for the privilege, and then talked Wolfgang into joining the undertaking of some complex maneuvers that would supposedly take the army of Essen completely by surprise. Charlotte didn’t know enough about warfare to judge whether the plan stood a chance of success, but her question about what the French would actually be gaining in return for their money and men had only resulted in yet another black eye.

As the sound of shouting reached her, Charlotte moved her eyes from the harbor to the street below her window. Cavalrymen wearing her husband’s colors were forcing what was obviously the last speed out of lathered horses. Charlotte opened the casement and leaned out.

“They are dead! They are all dead! The French betrayed us, and the army of Essen is right on our heel!”

“Elisabeth.” Charlotte turned from the window. “Send Harbel to see that the boat is ready, and Maria to attend me in my bedchamber. Then go pack your most valuable possessions, but only what you can carry yourself. We are leaving in as soon as I am ready.”

Vienna, The Palace

“I assure you, the child is mine.” Melchior von Hatzfeldt, Count and General of the Holy Roman Empire, looked with frustration at the man he expected to soon become his liege-lord and emperor.

“I do not doubt you,” Archduke Ferdinand of Austria said with a slight bow of his head, “but it was born less than ten months after old Mansfeld’s death and allowing you to claim it would create a nasty heritage squabble. And I do want their goodwill.  I’m sorry, my dear general, but it is in the best interest of the HRE that you allow your child to be reared as the heir to a quite sizable fortune, and an apparently ever growing influence within the Catholic world. And talking about the Catholic world: I have a task for you.”

Melchior swallowed his protests and rubbed his eyes before nodding. “As you wish.”

“I want you to pay a visit to your family in Cologne, look around the area and report to me when you return. My sister’s marriage to Duke Maximilian should ensure our alliance with Bavaria, but Cologne is an important link to our Spanish cousin in the Netherlands.” Archduke Ferdinand rose from his chair in the sun, and went to pick up a stack of papers on a nearby table. “The furlough, permits, etc. should all be in order. Didn’t you mention that your brother was marrying into the von Worms-Dalberg family this summer?”