1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 34

“Maxie!” The abbess shook her head before drinking, and Elisabeth pretended to cough to keep from laughing at Maxie’s audacity. The abbess couldn’t even protest or continue this line of conversation without being rude toward their hostess. Besides, the abbess had told the two girls that her dear friend had never seemed quite happy running that cloister in Munich, and she certainly seemed happy now.

Maxie now turned her infectious smile on Elisabeth. “I’ll introduce you to Father Johannes, so he can tell you more, but I do know that monthly magazines like Simplicissimus buy both news and written articles from a large number of people. A weekly or biweekly newspaper is different. I’m not sure exactly how, except that they employ people to seek out and write down enough news to fill every number of the newspaper.”

“Thank you, Sister Maximiliane.” Elisabeth smiled and nodded. “And so: to a newspaper it’s probably more important to find enough interesting news for an issue than it is to make certain that the person writing it knows what he is talking about.”

“Exactly. I suppose you have seen the recent edition of Magdeburg News?” Maxie laughed. “I would actually gladly forgive them their mistake about me, if I could only have seen Anna Marie’s face when she read the part about darling young Zweibrücken being the head of her family.”

“Maxie! Not Zweibrücken too. He could be your son.” The abbess spilled wine on her embroidered dress front and started rubbing it with a handkerchief, while a nod from her hostess sent the maid standing by the door hurrying to assist.

“Of course not, Dotty. He is just a darling boy; handsome, earnest, wanting to be a hero and save the world. He was in Verona on his Grand Tour when his father suddenly died, and when he hurried home, it was to hear the news of his sister’s capture by my mad cousin the archbishop.”

“H-how tragic.” Johanna had always been the lively one, both in her family and at school, but Maxie seemed to leave her almost stunned with delighted awe.

“Well, he absolutely despised his father for marrying Charlotte off to old Duke Wolfgang, and rushing to his sister’s aid gave the young Sir Knight all the excuse for adventure a young man could want.”

“I saw the brief message the Americans sent from Mainz.” The abbess accepted a damp cloth brought by a second maid. “– saying that Cologne and Bonn has broken with your cousin and want to join the USE, but are under attack from Hesse. Amalie confirmed the attack, and said that it was to free Charlotte and her baby, and to establish a safe western border for the USE. She also claimed that Cologne’s petition for membership was just a plot to gain time for the archbishop’s Bavarian relatives to come to his aid. Prime Minister Stearns and his supporters wanted to stop Hesse immediately, and the Chamber of Princes was split down the middle until the emperor finally cut the knot and ordered Hesse to stop, but not withdraw his troops until the matter was settled. Hesse doesn’t have a radio with him, so the order probably hasn’t reached him yet, but should do so soon. No one is certain if Hesse attacked with or without the emperor’s knowledge, and is in or out of the emperor’s favor. Certainly, Hesse stepped on a lot of toes this summer, when he tried to become both guardian and heir to Charlotte’s child, but that was a possible solution to the problem at the time — and Hesse is one of the emperor’s oldest supporters. So, start at the beginning, Maxie, and tell me what you know.”

Maxie smiled. “As far as I know the emperor, or at least somebody high in the government, knew Hesse wanted to take his regiments towards Berg and Cologne this spring, but not the details. After running around all summer chasing shadows, Hesse sent his cavalry down the Sieg Valley last month to try to take Bonn. That’s where Charlotte and her baby were rumored to be. But he had to move his infantry and artillery by way of Düsseldorf, getting De Geer’s permission in return for promising undisputed annexation of Western Mark and Kleve.”

“What!” The abbess nearly spilled her second serving of wine too. “Are you asking me to believe that Hesse and Amalie agreed to make a deal that involved promising the emperor’s land to somebody else?”

“Lucie von Hatzfeldt’s youngest brother Hermann has a lot of contacts in Essen, and that’s what he discovered just before he left for Mainz, and we went here to Magdeburg.” Maxie shrugged. “Hesse and De Geer are both in good favor with the emperor, and if they can bring him Jülich, Berg and Cologne, he might well let them keep those lands, and add Mark and Kleve too. And while Essen’s present claim on Kleve might be based on a rather suspect ‘public vote’…”

She shrugged again. “Actually it isn’t — or wasn’t — such a bad plan. Only, when Hesse arrived at Bonn, Charlotte and her son had disappeared, and the two councils of Cologne and Bonn decided they’d rather join USE than get conquered. Before the sieges enclosed the towns, they managed to send out two delegations. Hermann von Hatzfeldt was in charge of the one heading for Mainz, and from what you tell he obviously managed to reach the Americans there. Zweibrücken had arrived in Cologne just before Hesse surrounded the town, and once assured that his sister and nephew were safe and sound beyond the archbishop’s reach, the darling boy accepted leading the delegation here. He is to spend today with Axel Oxenstierna, but meet with the Chamber of Princes tomorrow.”

“But how about Charlotte and her baby? Where are they?” Johanna looked excited, and Elisabeth suspected her friend found this almost as good as those American novels. Zweibrücken had to be the hero, but then his sister could not be the heroine. Still, this was good.

“I’ve been told that they are still in Bonn, but my archbishop cousin believes them to have escaped into Berg, and wasted an awful lot of time and money searching for them before the siege. Lucie’s older brother, General Melchior von Hatzfeldt, has taken command of Bonn’s defenses, so they are as safe as anyone can be in that area. Hesse, I’m sure, doesn’t know where they are.” Maxie smiled. “But who’s in town right now? Zweibrücken is to be introduced to the emperor tonight, and I’m invited to the soiree at the palace and need to plan my strategy. I assume you’ll be willing to support Zweibrücken as his nephew’s guardian, Dorothea, but what else is on your agenda, and who can we bully, bribe and blackmail for support?”