1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 07

One other question Father Johannes had not been able to answer was just what Bishop Franz was planning to do? The bishop had the backing of his wealthy and powerful family, so in Father Johannes’ estimate Bishop Franz wasn’t likely to settle for anything less than a major part of his former power and riches. He certainly wasn’t likely to accept a powerless return like Prince-Abbot Schweinsberg’s. And if Bishop Franz wanted better terms, he’d had to have something to offer the USE in return. A peaceful deal for the entire Cologne area might involve something for Würzburg — and Bamberg too given the bishop’s strong connections to that diocese as well — but Bishop Franz had not asked who to approach for an official peace conference. Which fairly much left him either double-crossing the Archbishop to gain favor with the USE, or riding the Archbishop’s coat-tails on a military campaign and hope to win back his diocese that way. The ladies, Lucie and Maria, had asked far more directly about Bishop Franz’s plans than Father Johannes ever could, but received only evasions.

Claude Beauville personally opened the door beside the window. “Ah! Bon Matin, Father Johannes. Monsieur Abrabanel is here and would like a few words with you in private about the materials available.”

* * *

The muniment room in the basement of Hatzfeldt House was packed with crates and leather-wrapped bundles. Not much light entered from the windows high on the walls, but several bright lamps turned the big table in the center of the room into a suitable place for paperwork. Thick pillows and a sheepskin were heaped in a big armchair to support the crippled hip and back of Lucie von Hatzfeldt. The young widow had gladly accepted Maxie’s suggestion about sorting and listing the many papers in the crates and now spent several hours each day in the silent, whitewashed room — usually with one of her husband’s children sitting by her feet to run errands.

Lucie had been the last of the nine children of Sebastian von Hatzfeldt’s first marriage, and had been born only a few weeks before her mother’s death. Four years later her father had acquired a papal dispensation to marry his cousin, Maria von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg, a widow with a son and two daughters from her first marriage, and Sebastian’s second wife had simply added all Sebastian’s children and wards to her household and raised them absolutely equally with her own children.

Sebastian’s third marriage — to Margaretha von Backenfoerde, widow of the wealthy Franz Wilhelm von Hatzfeldt-Merten — had been much less fortunate for his children, and despite Lucie’s handicap, all her four brothers had flatly refused to place Margaretha in control of the new Hatzfeldt House. That Backenfoerde Woman had her widow’s seat at Zeppenfeld, and that was all she was getting from this branch of the family! Margaretha was a great favorite of Archbishop Ferdinand, who had arranged her marriage to Sebastian, so Franz had been less vocal than his brothers in his denunciations of his stepmother. His asking Sister Maximiliane, who was nursing her cousin in Bonn, to come to Cologne and take command of the household had been an almost Solomonic solution that pleased everybody — except of course Margaretha.

Normally it would have been Lucie, as her father’s only adult daughter, who had taken command over her unmarried brother’s household, but she had suffered a carriage accident after her wedding to a fellow officer and friend of her brother, Melchior, and had never healed beyond the ability to limp slowly and carefully with the aid of a cane. As she healed, she had patiently handled the papers and finances of her husband’s estates in Jülich, while overseeing the upbringing of his increasing brood of illegitimate children. Melchior — her favorite brother — had at first violently protested this arrangement and even challenged his friend to a duel, but Lucie had told her family that she didn’t mind the arrangement: she liked children, but apparently the damage to her back and hip made it impossible for her to carry a child to term. Less than a year ago her husband had been killed in Bohemia, and she had now left her estates in the hands of Johann Adrian von Hatzfeldt-Werther, her distant cousin and her father’s former ward, and moved to Cologne with all her husband’s five surviving children.

Father Johannes liked her. She seemed a bit dull next to the impressive Maxie, but Lucie’s ready sense of humor and genuine kindness had brought back much of the joy and mischief Father Johannes had lost during his years with the Catholic army. It might be a bit hard on his dignity that she sometimes seemed to regard him as just another of the children she was caring for — she was after all more than ten years his junior — but all in all it was nice to be teased a little again. And she did take his worries about Paul Moreau completely seriously, and told him every little bit in the papers referring to painters.

“Lady Lucie? Your stepmother Margaretha has arrived with her daughter Dame Anna and her niece Lady Sophia von Backenfoerde.” Father Johannes came into the muniment room to aid Lucie in rising from her chair. Normally the child on page duty would have done that, but a Spring Fair was held today, and all the children had been allowed to go there with Thomas, the old head groom.

“Thank you, Father Johannes.” Lucie lifted a cat from her lap, stretched slowly and looked down on the papers on the table. “This is slow work. Everything was just gathered helter-skelter in Fulda as well as Würzburg, and mixing the two lots in this room haven’t helped. We have only just managed get the origin of the last bundles identified, and some of the papers my brother has asked for don’t seem to be here. I’m sorting the Würzburg papers first, but there is nothing so far about your friend.”

“Is Captain Eltz mentioned?”

“My brother hiring cousin Bobo and his men to defend Würzburg is all I’ve found so far. Bobo was killed there by the Swedish attack, you know.”

“Yes.” Father Johannes walked slowly beside Lucie along the basement corridor pushing away the cat trying to twine around the lady’s legs. “Did you know him well?”

“Not really. A rowdy, young boy. He was very eager to become a soldier, never really wanted anything else. The war didn’t seem to bother him the way it does my brothers, Melchior and Hermann. They are good fighters, competent officers, but dislike the violence and gore of the battles.” Lucie climbed the stair, one step at the time. “Bobo on the other hand once told a story about the rats on a battlefield. He found it funny.” Lucie shuddered. “Talking about rats: have you seen Otto Zweimal lately?”

“In Bonn, on my way here this winter. I think, he was just leaving for Bavaria. Why?” Father Johannes stopped on the narrow stairs and smiled down on Lucie; she really was a nice woman.

“Zweimal does Franz’s dirty work the way Felix Gruyard does Archbishop Ferdinand’s. Having Franz mention Zweimal and Gruyard in the same letter makes me smell rats. Dirty little rats scuttling around behind the panels.” Lucie whacked her cane against the wall before hoisting herself up the next step. “Some kind of pamphlets against the Americans and Hesse. Drawings were mentioned, but nothing about your friend. By the way, has Sobby had her baby yet?”


“Lady Sophia. She’s Margaretha’s niece, and expecting her first baby within the next month. The two of them are staying at the old Wolfer Hof. Sobby doesn’t just cry over spilled milk, she turns it into a major passion-play. Complete with fireworks in the end. My maid told me there was a fire at Wolfer Hof last night, but if Sobby is going to stay here — not to mention Margaretha — I think I’ll have my future meals in the muniment room. Care to join me?”

“With the greatest delight, Lady Lucie.”