1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 03

“The proposed province of Hesse-Kassel is quite a lot larger than Hessen was in the American world,” said Eleonore mildly, “and your husband is going to be its representative in the Chamber of Princes.”

“Larger, yes.” Amalie looked cross. “But mountainous and rural except for the north-western part of Mark, and Gustavus Adolphus might end up selling that to De Geer in Essen.”

“I see,” said Eleonore. “So, are you planning to expand all the way to the Rhine? The Rhine trade is valuable and likely to grow even more so.”

“Yes.” Amalie shrugged. “We would have preferred Essen, but Gustavus Adolphus apparently prefer De Geer to my husband, and expansion in that direction would be too costly, at least while De Geer is in power.”

“Any indications that De Geer is falling? I’ve got quite a lot of investments in Essen.” The abbess put down her cup.

“No. But the favors of princes are fickle — and that goes double for kings and triple for emperors. Wilhelm was once Gustavus’ most favored ally, now he is apparently to be reduced to just another provincial governor. Sooner or later De Geer’s star is bound to drop as well.”

“How about the Düsseldorf area?” Eleonore asked, “It was as important as Essen to the Americans. And while Duke Wolfgang’s second wife, Katharina Charlotte, is Gustavus’ cousin by marriage, Wolfgang has made himself so unpopular with absolutely everyone within the last few years, that I cannot imagine much opposition to taking him down. Especially since Wolfgang’s heir is by his Bavarian first wife.”

“Hesse mentioned the possibility in passing to Chancellor Oxenstierna after Brandenburg’s betrayal, and the answer was a clear refusal. Princess Katharina of Sweden is Gustavus’ favorite sister, and she is very fond of her niece and namesake. Unless Wolfgang does something very stupid, taking Berg from him is not an option. That Archbishop Ferdinand has sent his pet-torturer to talk to Wolfgang in secret seems promising, but I need more details. What do you know, Eleonore?”

“You’re going to owe me for this, Amalie.” Eleonore gazed sternly at her friend. “This information only arrived last night, and even the government hasn’t yet been told.”

“I see.” Amalie smiled. “From Moses Abrabanel, then. Well, I don’t want to go try to squeeze it out of him, so: debt accepted with the abbess as witness, for one political favor of your choice.”

“Archbishop Ferdinand has hired four regiments of cavalry with money received from Richelieu. It seems to be related to those French military movements south of Trier that been worrying the government lately.”

“And their target?” Amalie leaned forward.

“Unknown. But if some kind of a deal has been struck between Richelieu and Archbishop Ferdinand, then there is nothing capable of stopping a French army from striking north and taking Jülich from a base within the diocese.”

“How about Báner?” the abbess interrupted.

“He cannot move that far west unless it’s in response to an attack. The situation to the east and south is simply too unstable.” Amalie shook her head and tapped her fingernail on her teacup again.

“And with an alliance with Don Fernando in the Low Countries they would be able to take Rheinland Pfalz at their leisure and make everything west of the Rhine Catholic.” The abbess sighed. “Most of the USE regiments are already occupied far to the east and north. Any information about timing?”

“No. But Don Francisco Nasi put another interpretation on the news last night.” Eleonore leaned back, her stomach every bit as round as Amalie’s. “That Felix Gruyard has been visiting Wolfgang may suggest that there is an alliance there as well. And that puts the combined forces in position to attack Essen.”

“Yes. Or Hesse-Kassel.” Amalie suddenly looked very alert, and put down her cup hard enough to chip the saucer.

“No offence intended my dear,” the abbess smiled, “but Essen is actually the more valuable area.”

“Yes.” Amalie leaned back again and smiled at the abbess. “But not even Oxenstierna could blame us for defending our land against a Catholic conspiracy.”

Bonn, Archbishop’s Palace

“Ah! Please come in, Father Johannes. Did you have a pleasant journey here from Grantville?” Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt of Würzburg rose from his desk, and greeted the tall ascetic looking priest with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Yes, thank you. The roads have dried out nicely, and I even had the opportunity to ride the new railroad for a short stretch. A most comfortable way of travelling once you get used to the speed.” Father Johannes gave a quick look around the room, while sitting down on the chair his new patron indicated. Dark oak panels, dark oak furniture, dark and slightly shabby velvet upholstery, all in all a quite depressive room for a man in exile.

Father Johannes had met Bishop Franz while doing some paintings in Bamberg several years ago. At the time Franz von Hatzfeldt had been a diplomat in the service of the Prince-Bishop Johan Georg of Bamberg, and a full member of the Church administration in both Bamberg and Würzburg. Father Johannes remembered him as a calm and likeable man with a keen eye for beauty. Now, however, the man fiddling with his pen on the other side of the desk seemed filled with a kind of restless worry that made Father Johannes wondered if Francisco Nasi was right, and there was more going on in Cologne than a group of exiled clerics wanting their bishoprics back. Franz von Hatzfeldt had proved himself an excellent diplomat in negotiations with Tilly, and had slowly gained more and more influence until he was elected Bishop of Würzburg just a few months before the Protestant conquest of that diocese. Surely the loss of land and power should not mean that much of a setback to a competent diplomat with proven skills and contacts that would make anyone with ambitions want to hire him?

“I have the pardon signed by Archbishop Ferdinand for your behavior against your superiors after the sack of Magdeburg. As I believe my secretary Otto Tweimal explained to you: the pardon will officially be a part of your payment for your work on my family’s property in Cologne. The property is several old houses — all of which are worn and drab — so officially I’m hiring you to paint murals for the ladies, and advise on the restoration and decorations. I know of old that your taste is unerring.” Bishop Franz took a deep breath and forced another smile. “Unofficially I want you to tell me all that you can about the Americans and how they are likely to affect the political situation. You are not to mention the unofficial part of your duties to anyone without my permission. I’ll be coming to Cologne from time to time, to see my family and to follow your progress with the house.”

“Are you considering approaching somebody in Magdeburg about a wish to return to you bishopric?” Johannes asked. “I have no interest in politics, but I have heard mentions of people of importance in the new administrations. Even met a few during my stay in Grantville.”

Bishop Franz sat for a while without answering. “I make no secret of my wish to return to Würzburg, but there are various ways in which that can be accomplished. Some naturally more attractive to me than others.” He rose from his chair. “I’ll ride with you to Cologne, and introduce you to Sister Maximilane. She is Archbishop Ferdinand’s cousin, originally Countess Maria Maximilane von Wartenberg, and she is to take up residence in my house along with most of the women in my family. Your luggage can follow in a wagon. Otto Tweimal mentioned that you were involved in developing a European porcelain industry. Perhaps you would tell me more about this. Würzburg and Bamberg are traditionally winemaking areas, but it might be an idea to diversify a little.”