1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 12

“As for winning by negotiations?” Father Johannes shrugged, “I don’t think that’s possible at all. Not because of the terms and deals that might be made, but because the American “land” will always be defined by ideas rather than borders; and those ideas are going to spread. Those Committees of Correspondence we discussed the other day are just a small part; no matter the result of a negotiation, people will sooner or later hear those ideas and chose for themselves among them.” Father Johannes gave a grin. “Of course people don’t always choose wisely, so I also want the church around to guide them. But guide, not dominate.”

“Hm!” Melchior kept pulling his beard. “The archbishop wants me to lead an army — nothing surprising in that — but those regiments he has been hiring don’t stand a chance of success even as far up the Rhine and Main as Frankfurt. My own regiments are quartered at Linz under temporary command of my cousin Wolf, ready to strike northwards if Wallenstein makes a move. Since it’s highly unlikely that Wallenstein would do anything so stupid, Archbishop Ferdinand want to borrow me and my men from the Emperor. If that cannot be done, he plans to use his own dragoons as a kind of decoy, to draw attention while he strikes in some other fashion. Wouldn’t give me the details, but hinted at discrediting the Americans in some way. One of the Bamberg clerics was very drunk and started giggling about a renegade Jesuit, spying and corrupting for the Americans: nurtured like a snake at the bosom of the church. The way Franz cut him off made me wonder if you might not better keep your saddlebags packed, Father Johannes. You could also come with me back to Linz.”

“I’m getting really annoyed with Ferdinand,” said Maxie tapping her fingernails against the table, “and THAT he can just forget about!”

“But Maxie,” Melchior’s broad grin was an open challenge, “since you are a nun, an archbishop is surely in a position to give you orders.”

“Nun, my bare arse!” Maxie suddenly slammed her hand against the table. “I’ve spend fifteen years trying to make it possible for nuns to enter seclusion for the contemplation of God same as it is for monks, and I’ve gotten nowhere! Nuns are supposed to work for their support. Teaching young girls and tending the sick. Not even studying medicine. Oh, no. Just cheap nursing. When Ferdinand sent for me last year I was this close,” she held up two fingers barely an inch apart, “from renouncing my wows, and telling my ducal relatives to go to hell. I’m sick and tired of trying to placate everybody to get their support. Playing by the rules while every male relative I’ve got are flaunting any that don’t suit them.”

“Well, I don’t blame you, dearest Maxie,” Melchior was openly laughing now, “and if you find yourself in need of gainful employment, I could certainly use an officer with your talent for organization.”

“No thanks. Trousers don’t become me, and I’ve got enough people owing me debts and favors to set myself up for any life I fancy. And now I want to get rid of this pearl-encrusted armor I’m wearing. Good night. Lucie, do you want to come?”

Magdeburg, Government Palace

June 26, 1634

“Welcome back to Magdeburg, Chancellor Oxenstierna.” Amalie smiled up at the spare face of the Swedish chancellor, while maneuvering in the crush of people attending the party celebrating the Congress of Copenhagen to place herself directly before him. “Did the journey go well?”

“Yes, thank you, My Lady.” The chancellor seemed to decide that escape was impossible, and that trying to direct the conversation was his best option. “And how is the organization of the new Hesse-Kassel province coming along? Are you having any trouble with getting the last commitments?”

“None whatsoever, Chancellor.” Amalie fixed the smile on her face. The chancellor was very good at keeping informed, even when travelling around the Baltic Sea. Some members of the Nassau family were indeed still making trouble. Oh, they’d agree in the end, but not until they had squeezed every bit of advantage out of the situation. She continued. “I assume that the whole of Berg is to be included in Hesse-Kassel, now that both Duke Wolfgang and his heir are dead.”

“I’m quite certain that the emperor does not wish to make a final decision on that question, until after Princess Katharina’s young cousin, Katharina Charlotte, has given birth to the child she is carrying.” The chancellor smiled back at Amalie. “So, you’ve got the final holdouts among the Nassau family to agree to the proposed structure for the province? Impressive.”

“Has a guardianship been settled for the unborn child?” Amalie headed into battle. “We have written Gustavus Adolphus offering our house for this. Katharina Charlotte is little more than a child herself, but with Hesse-Kassel as overlord we would have…”

“You over-step yourself, My Lady.” All traces of a social smile had now disappeared from the chancellor’s face. “The child has plenty of relatives on its mother’s side, and any guardianship for the child and the land will be settled within the Vasa and Zweibrücken families. Also, according to a codicil to the marriage contract the late Duke Wolfgang settled the entire Jülich-Berg on Katharina Charlotte as her dower and heritage, if the duke died without heirs of his body. So, whether the child lives or dies, Jülich and Berg are not necessarily included in your province. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go have a few words with Duchess Hedwig. Christian August, her oldest son, would be next in line for Jülich-Berg if it had not been for that peculiar marriage contract.”

“I think I’ll go with you, Chancellor. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to inquire after Christian August’s health. As you know, he had trouble recovering from the pox that killed his father and brothers. Quite a crush here tonight, don’t you think?” Amalie took the chancellor’s arm and thought quickly. Oxenstierna’s care for the interest of the Swedish royal family was well known, but he would never have spoken for Gustavus Adolphus like that unless he really was certain that this was the Emperor’s decision. Had she just made a major mistake? It was too late to stop the letter.

“Quite so, My Lady. And talking about crushes, there seems to be quite a lot of soldiers gathering west of the proposed borders of Hesse-Kassel, so I’ve sent a message for your husband to remind him not to engage in any combat with the army of Essen presently occupying Düsseldorf. The emperor does not want a battle with Essen.”

“Oh, and does Gustavus Adolphus intend to donate to his good friend De Geer the entire lot of land once belonging to Johann the Insane — or just those areas the Americans tell us potentially forms the most important industrial area of Europe?” Amalie very nearly lost control of her temper to see the chancellor silently laughing at her. With Wolfgang gone — and Brandenburg turned traitor — Jülich, Berg, Cleve, Mark and all the smaller areas should be up for grab. And to be blocked by the emperor, who owned Hesse so much for all those years of faithful support! Making Hesse-Kassel the center of a USE province was not enough, when it included nothing but rural backwaters.

“Good evening, Amalie, Good evening, Chancellor. You look a bit out of temper, my dear.” Hedwig of Holstein-Gottorp leaned forward to brush a kiss on Amalie’s cheek, and just looking into the kind eyes of her old friend made Amalie calm down. Hedwig was a very nice woman, even if they might now be rivals. It should be possible to reach some kind of accommodation with her.

“Good evening, Hedwig. I was just discussing the Jülich-Berg problem with the chancellor.” Amalie smiled. “I think he was needling me a bit. But, where do you stand my dear? Is Christian August well enough to handle that mess Wolfgang left behind?”

“A twelve year old, sickly boy?” Hedwig smiled wryly. “No, thank you. I may not have your interest in politics, Amalie, but I’m not a complete idiot. As soon as we got the information about the demise of both Wolfgang and his heir, I sat down and wrote a statement leaving all claims on behalf of my son to the emperor’s discretion.”

“I see.” Amalie looked up at the chancellor, whose eyes were still laughing in an otherwise completely somber face. “And do Wolfgang’s two other siblings agree with Hedwig, Chancellor?”

“Since Hilpoltstein’s wife, Sofie Agnes, is Hesse’s first cousin, I’m sure you know that she has been unable to carry a child to term. And that the American doctors couldn’t help. Anna Marie von Neuburg is still undecided, but little Elisabeth Sophia is her only living grandchild, so Saxe-Altenburg also plans to follow Hedwig’s example. Apparently some of your peers believe in trusting the emperor to do what is best, for their class as well as for the USE. Ladies, if you’ll excuse me.”

This time Amalie let the chancellor escape and sat down silently beside Hedwig, slowly using her fan to cool her face, while automatically nodding and smiling to the people passing by. Damn! It simply hadn’t occurred to her to seek the emperor’s favor by leaving the decision to him. If Gustavus Adolphus was heading towards becoming one of those absolute monarchs that the American books had told about, then the old ways of playing for power simply had to be dumped. Mary Simpson had more than indicated that the time for independent military conquests was over, but this quickly and with no protests? Amalie looked at Hedwig sitting serenely next to her. Jülich and Berg had come to the Neuburg family from Wolfgang’s mother, Anna, who was one of Johann the Insane’s four sisters. With all her other children out of the way there were none who could contest Wolfgang’s marriage contract on the basis of consanguinity, since the nearest male heir after the baby would be Katharina Charlotte’s brother, Count Palatine Friedrich von Zweibrücken.

Hesse’s artillery had been stalled for weeks crossing the mountains south of Ludenscheid, while the Hessian cavalry had wasted their time hunting French cavalry, which had not been attacking Essen, but rather coming rapidly first north and then south near Soest. With the army of Essen now firmly in control of Düsseldorf, this entire month of campaigning had been a total waste, and there didn’t seem to be anything else to do but go back to taking Cologne. Amalie rose from her seat with a brief invitation to Hedwig for a visit the next day, and headed for the door. She had to get another telegram off to Hesse, but first her bladder demanded a visit to a water closet.