1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 05

Chapter 3

Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe

The large room in Rebecca’s town house in Magdeburg — she much preferred that term to “mansion” — was fuller than she’d ever seen it, even at the height of the recent crisis that was often described as a semi-civil war. The room had been designed as a salon, but over the past six months it had wound up being pressed into service as the unofficial meeting place of the top leadership of the Fourth of July Party — the members of Ed Piazza’s “shadow cabinet” along with whatever FoJP provincial leaders happened to be in the capital. At least one or two prominent Committee of Correspondence figures usually attended also, including Gunther Achterhof, the central figure in Magdeburg’s CoC.

Every seat at the large conference table in the center was occupied except the one reserved for her at the south end. There were also people standing against all the walls except the eastern one, which had a row of windows. The windows didn’t provide much of a view, since the town house was located toward the northern end of the Aldstadt, away from the river. But Rebecca still enjoyed the daylight the windows provided.

The edifice hadn’t been chosen for the view, in any event. It had been chosen for much more cold-blooded reasons. The big building would be easy to defend against possible attack. Given the disastrous outcome of Oxenstierna’s attempted coup d’etat, such an assault in the middle of the capital was now extremely unlikely. But, happily, the sunlight flooding the room remained.

“I apologize for my tardiness,” she said, after entering the room and closing the door behind her.

“Pressing matters of state, no doubt!” said Constantin Ableidinger, grinning. As always, his voice bore a fair resemblance to a fog horn.

“Insofar as the term is defined by a three-and-a-half-year-old girl incensed by her brother’s encroachment on what she considers her rightful territory, yes.” Rebecca took her seat and folded her hands together on the table. “I am pleased to report that I was able to forestall the outbreak of actual hostilities.”

That was good for a laugh around the table, echoed by the standing-room-only participants.

“Why was this meeting called on such short notice?” asked one of the men standing against the wall facing Rebecca. That was Anselm Keller, an MP from the Province of the Main. His tone wasn’t hostile, just brusque, as was the nature of the man.

Ed Piazza, seated about midway down the table and facing the windows, provided the answer. “Wilhelm Wettin has just called for elections to be held toward the end of July. They will begin on Friday the 18th and conclude on Sunday the 27th. Ten days in all.”

“It should be two weeks,” complained another man standing against a wall. This was the wall to Rebecca’s left, right next to the door she’d come in. The speaker was Werner von Dalberg, the central leader of the Fourth of July Party in the Oberpfalz — or Upper Palatinate, as it was also called. He held no position in government but that was, hopefully, about to change. Von Dalberg would be the FoJ Party’s candidate for governor of the province.

Like the State of Thuringia-Franconia and Magdeburg Province, the Oberpfalz now had a republican structure. Those three were, so far, the only provinces of the United States of Europe of which that was true. All the other provinces had one or another type of hereditary executive or were still under direct imperial administration.

The Oberpfalz had also been under direct imperial administration until very recently. As part of the informal negotiations between Gustav II Adolf and Michael Stearns after the end of what was now being called either the Dresden Crisis or — by the Committees of Correspondence — the Oxenstierna Plot, the emperor had agreed to relinquish imperial administration of the Oberpfalz and accept a republican structure for the province.

Stearns had no formal standing in those negotiations. Technically speaking, he was just one of the divisional commanders in the USE army and subordinate to General Lennart Torstensson, not someone who had any business negotiating much of anything with the USE’s head of state.

But formalities were one thing, realities another. After the emperor’s months-long incapacitation and Stearns’ defeat of the Swedish general Báner at the Battle of Ostra, which had effectively ended the Dresden Crisis, there was no way Gustav Adolf could have re-established his authority without making a wide-ranging series of agreements with Stearns — and doing so quite openly and visibly. If the emperor didn’t cut a deal with Stearns he knew he’d eventually wind up having to negotiate with the Committees of Correspondence, which he’d much rather avoid altogether.

The emperor’s decision to give the Upper Palatinate a republican structure would probably cause trouble for him in the future with sections of the nobility, who were not pleased by the decision, to put it mildly. The “Upper” part of the Upper Palatinate referred to the fact that it had been traditionally part of the Palatinate, just separated geographically. The Palatinate as a whole had been ruled by Frederick V, the Elector Palatine — the very same man who accepted the Bohemian offer to make him their king and thereby triggered off the Thirty Years War.

Having been driven out of Bohemia by the Austrians after the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, Frederick — now often known as “the Winter King” — soon lost the Palatinate as well when it was conquered by Spanish forces under the command of Tilly. He spent the last ten years of his life in exile in the Netherlands, trying without success to get his lands restored.

In the universe the Americans came from, Frederick V would die of disease — something diagnosed as “a pestilential fever” — on November 29, 1632. In one of the many ironies produced by the Ring of Fire, he would die in his new universe at almost exactly the same time, on December 5, 1632. Again, the cause was disease, but the diagnosis was less imprecise. He slipped on the ice one morning and broke his collarbone. In and of itself the injury was not at all life-threatening, but he made the mistake of taking the medical advice of his doctor. This Dutch worthy was aware of the new medical theories coming out of Grantville but was a stout fellow who’d have no truck with such nonsense. So he prescribed bed rest — nonstop, and weeks of it. Soon enough, the Winter King contracted pneumonia and died.

His passing left the inheritance of his lands something of a mess. His widow, Elizabeth Stuart, was the sister of King Charles of England. She could not rule in her own right but only as regent for their children. The oldest son, Frederick Henry, had died in a boating accident in 1629. In the Americans’ universe the second son, Karl Ludwig, would eventually be restored as the Elector Palatine by the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that finally ended the Thirty Years War — but only the Lower Palatinate. The Oberpfalz, the Upper Palatinate, would remain in the hands of the Bavarians.

In the new universe, however, even that partial restoration seemed unlikely because Karl Ludwig had converted to Catholicism in the course of his exile at the court of King Fernando of the reunited Netherlands. The Palatinate was now a Calvinist region and that seemed to preclude any possibility that Karl Ludwig could ever regain the territory — barring, at least, some now-highly-unlikely conquest of the area by a Catholic power.

The next two oldest sons, Rupert and Moritz, were both teenagers and seemed more interested in the affairs of their mother’s homeland than those of the Palatinate. In the universe the Americans came from, the older of the two would gain much fame as “Prince Rupert of the Rhine,” the royalist partisan who figured so prominently in the English Civil War. In this universe the young man had come under the influence of the exiled Thomas Wentworth and was more inclined toward the parliamentary side in the coming conflict. In any event, he seemed to have no interest at all in regaining his ancestral lands in the Germanies.