1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 06

The Americans too wanted to use him, and as Father Johannes walked through the early morning streets of Cologne on his way to Claude Beauville’s Emporium of Fine Arts, he enjoyed the peace away from the constant hustle and bustle of the Hatzfeldt House, and thought about his talks with Don Francisco Nasi the previous autumn. The young head of the Abrabanel family’s financial network in Germany had also become the unofficial head of the Americans’ information network, and after Father Johannes had accepted Franz von Hatzfeldt’s offer of employment, Father Johannes had also agreed to pass along information about the situation in Cologne to Don Francisco. Not due to pressure or in return for money, but because Father Johannes shared Don Francisco’s belief in the benefits of the American influence.

Father Johannes stopped and looked at the new Mocha House; during his two years in Grantville, he had grown used to the American habit of drinking coffee in the morning, but this was still too early for the coffee shop to be open, and it was still the only one of its kind in Cologne.

The Americans had brought so many changes in so few years; from a new budding empire to the habit of drinking coffee. Still — fads and empires had always come and gone, what lasted was the ideas that grew from and in people’s minds — and the American had brought an unbelievable treasure of those. Father Johannes smiled a little bitterly as he continued his walk: officially Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt had hired him to oversee the restoration of Hatzfeldt House, unofficially the bishop had wanted Father Johannes to tell him about the American ideas in return for a pardon for Father Johannes’ rebellion at Magdeburg, but privately Father Johannes was certain that the bishop’s ultimate goal was to get his diocese back, and never mind the cost. That Father Johannes had a private line to negotiations with the USE, might eventually be of more value to the bishop than anything else. And in the mean time Father Johannes had no qualms at all about keeping Don Francisco informed about Archbishop Ferdinand’s intrigues. Ruthlessness was expected of a man of power, but the uses the Archbishop had made of his personal torturer, Felix Gruyard had gone way beyond what was acceptable.

* * *

Claude Beauville’s office was fully lit when Father Johannes arrived. The Beauvilles had once been an important family in Toulouse in Southern France, but the collapse in the woad dye trade had brought the family to near ruin. Monsieur Claude had since done quite well for himself by trading in all kinds of dyes as well as paints, paper and fine textiles, and his new emporium occupied an entire house in the center of Cologne. Father Johannes had bought a lot from him during his years with the Catholic army, and now, since Father Johannes had started working on Hatzfeldt House, he had gone to the emporium at least once a week to use the Beauville family’s many contacts to acquire the materials he needed — and even to order a few of the exiting new colors from the Americans. The business didn’t usually open this early, but the night before a note had arrived at Hatzfeldt House: the American cargo had arrived under the aegis of Herr Moses Abrabanel, and if the honored Father Johannes would come as early after dawn as convenient, he would be given first choice among the many fine marvels.

So Father Johannes had risen before dawn, and as he stood admiring the new smooth glass in the windows shining in the first rays of the morning sun, he considered exactly what to say to Moses Abrabanel. The general situation was well known: most of the dioceses in the Rhine Valley — also called Bishops Alley — had been conquered by the Swedes in 1631, and most of the exiled bishops were now in Bonn planning heaven-knows-what with Archbishop Ferdinand. Prince-Abbot Schweinsberg of Fulda had defected — made a deal with the USE — and was back in Fulda, but with little of his former power and riches. And Archbishop Ferdinand’s fury at the defection made it totally clear that Schweinsberg had burned all his bridges behind him.

During his meals with his sister Lucie, Maxie and Father Johannes, Bishop Franz had talked freely about his fellow refugees and about his host in Bonn. The bishop of Trier had quarreled with Archbishop Ferdinand and left, so the most important clerics remaining were Archbishop Anselm of Mainz and Maxie’s brother, Bishop Franz Wilhelm of Minden. According to Bishop Franz, his old friend Franz Wilhelm seemed to be patiently waiting for something, but Archbishop Anselm was visibly chafing under the patronizing charity of Archbishop Ferdinand. None of this was really secret, and could readily be picked up among the gossip at The Mocha House, but at least Father Johannes could send confirmations of those rumors back to Don Francisco. And perhaps Archbishop Anselm of Mainz was ready for an approach from the USE.

In the end, though, it really all depended on the most powerful cleric in the area; what was Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne going to do? A treaty between him and the USE could mean peace along almost the entire western front of the USE, greatly strengthening the chances for at least an armistice with the Spanish occupation in Holland, hinder the French in stirring up trouble, and generally add greatly to the USE’s security. For the Archbishop it would be a chance to save what he could before he was negotiating with a knife on his throat. Or at least with a USE army coming down the Rhine from Frankfurt.

On the other hand the archbishop was a member of the strongly Catholic and ambitious ducal family of Bavaria, so was he instead planning to re-conquer the lost dioceses? The French agents had been sniffing around all spring, and according to Bishop Franz the newly arrived dragoons at Bonn had been paid for with French money. Officially the dragoons were a warning to Wolfgang von Neuburg, Duke of Jülich-Berg, never the safest of neighbors, but considering Duke Maximilian of Bavaria’s upcoming marriage to a Habsburg princess, the Holy Roman Empire might also get behind an attempt to push the USE away from the Rhine — with Richelieu stirring up troubles on the sideline.

No one expected Father Johannes to actually spy to discover military plans — not least because the archbishop lived in Bonn and Father Johannes was in Cologne — but Bishop Franz had come from Bonn to watch the progress Father Johannes was making on the house. And incidentally to delivered to Father Johannes the promised full pardon for his “momentary loss of reason” at Magdeburg. In return Father Johannes had answered as many questions about the Americans as the bishop had cared to ask.

Father Johannes sat down on the horse-plinth outside the entrance to the emporium’s office to consider a point: what Bishop Franz had really been interested in was, what kind of people had gained power — and how — in the American’s home world. In fact the only here-and-now political or military subject the bishop had asked about had been Fulda and the American team there. Why no questions about Würzburg, the bishop’s own diocese? The Americans were there too.