1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 45

Chapter 16

Luebeck, USE naval base

“Look! There’s the admiral!” Kristina pointed excitedly to a figure standing on the dock toward which the Union of Kalmar was slowly moving. “He came down to meet us himself.”

Prince Ulrik nodded sagely. That seemed wiser, under the circumstances, than stating openly that he’d have been astonished if the admiral hadn’t come down to greet them in person as soon as they arrived. Merely as a matter of protocol, being the heir apparent to his own nation as well as two others, the princess outranked the admiral by a considerable margin.

Still, she was only eight years old — no, nine now, he reminded himself. Her birthday was still a few days away, on December 18, but Kristina was already referring to herself as nine years old in the same manner in which she’d say the sun and the moon were in the sky. A fact, an established truth, a philosophical and ethical axiom.

You contradicted her at your peril. In less than a week, it would be true anyway, so why not accept the inevitable? If ever there lived a prince who was the diametric opposite of Don Quixote, it was Ulrik of Denmark — a land that was almost entirely flat, windy, and had plenty of windmills going about their useful business. What sort of fool would want to knock one down?

Ulrik had assumed that Simpson would greet them at the dock, but his purpose in doing so remained to be seen. From the very pleased expression on Kristina’s face, it was obvious the princess simply assumed that Simpson was there to extend a welcome. Ulrik, on the other hand, would not be at all surprised if the American admiral had come down to order them to steam right back out of the harbor.

He could enforce such orders, too, if it came to that. Simpson had seen to it that his naval base in Luebeck would not suffer the same ignominious fate as the ironclads had visited on Copenhagen and Hamburg. In the year and a half that had passed since Denmark’s capitulation, the admiral had overseen the creation of a ship-building and armaments industrial complex in Luebeck. It might be better to say, he’d completed what Gustav Adolf had begun during the months the emperor had stayed in Luebeck while it was being besieged by the Ostend armies.

Some of the fruits of that project were quite visible from the deck of the Union of Kalmar: a battery of four guns positioned behind thick fortifications that commanded the entire harbor. From a distance, their precise size couldn’t be determined. At a guess, Ulrik thought they probably didn’t quite match the Union of Kalmar’s ten-inch main guns. But they didn’t really need to, either. At this range, rifled eight-inch guns firing explosive shells could destroy the ironclad long before its own fire could do much damage to the harbor’s fortifications. Even six-inch guns would probably manage the job.

It wouldn’t come to that, of course. If Simpson ordered them to steam out of Luebeck, Ulrik would not argue the matter. He’d do it and head north for Copenhagen.

He really wanted to avoid that option, though, if at all possible. He and Kristina would certainly be safe from Oxenstierna in Copenhagen. But Ulrik was almost as anxious to stay out of his father’s grasp as he was to stay out of the Swedish chancellor’s.

Rather to Ulrik’s surprise and certainly to his relief, King Christian IV of Denmark had kept what the Americans called a low profile since the beginning of the political crisis produced by Gustav Adolf’s incapacitation. Why? The prince didn’t know, he could only guess. He wouldn’t have been astonished if his mercurial father had been reckless enough to announce that he was dissolving the Union of Kalmar and reasserting Denmark’s complete independence.

Thankfully, he hadn’t. At a guess, because Christian was a very intelligent man, beneath the grandiose ambitions and consumption of alcohol. He could even be shrewd, from time to time. Perhaps he’d calculated that the crisis was just as likely to enhance Denmark’s status as diminish it — which was Ulrik’s own assessment — and so it would be wiser to let things unfold for a while without meddling.

If Ulrik and Kristina had to seek refuge in Copenhagen, however, he thought his father’s prudence would fly right out the window and head south for the winter. The temptation would be too great. Christian could…

God only knew what might come to his mind, especially when he was drunk. Declaring himself the new ruler of the Union of Kalmar would be almost certain. Gustav Adolf had had his wits addled two months ago and there was no sign of recovery.

Long enough! Long live the new High King!

A few tankards later, the blessed parent might decide his offspring should now be declared the regent of the USE on the grounds that her father’s incapacity had made Kristina the rightful empress — but since she was a mere child, could not rule on her own behalf, and who was the most suitable person to become regent other than the prince to whom she was betrothed?

Unless, of course — let’s say, three tankards later — the king of Denmark decided that his son Ulrik was after all a mere stripling — but twenty-four years of age; pfah! barely weaned — and so Christian himself should assume the burden of regency.

The worst of such schemes is that they would actually work… for a while. No matter who won the civil war in the USE that Oxenstierna and Wilhelm Wettin seemed determined to precipitate, both the USE and Sweden would be greatly weakened. In the case of Sweden, quite possibly weakened enough that Denmark could regain its former dominance of Scandinavia.

Scandinavians! Ulrik supposed it was inevitable that people were parochial, and found it hard to see the world except through their own lenses and prisms. Still, even allowing for that natural bias, did Scandinavian princes have to set the standard for myopic stupidity? Couldn’t they at least strive for the status of mere dullards?

There were today a total of perhaps five million people in all of the Scandinavian lands. There was nothing close to what the Americans would consider a real census, to be sure, but for these purposes the figure was accurate enough. Say, two million each in Denmark and Sweden, and a half million each in Norway and Finland.

There were already at least fifteen million Germans.

And the disparity would simply get worse, as time passed. Ulrik had taken the opportunity on one of his visits to Grantville to look up the figures for himself in one of their “almanacs.” According to the latest almanac in their possession, that of the year 1999 — the Ring of Fire had happened in May of 2000, by their reckoning — the population of Germany had been slightly over eighty million people. It was the most populous nation in Europe outside of gigantic Russia.

That same year, Denmark had a little more than five million people; Sweden was the largest of the Scandinavian countries with almost nine million; Norway, four and a half million; and Finland was about the same as Denmark. In other words, in less than four centuries a three-to-one population disparity would becomes four-to-one.

And that was the least of it. The German lands were rich; the Scandinavian, poor, outside of a few important resources such as iron. And petroleum, at a much later date when technology had advanced far enough to drill for oil in the sea beds.

But the one critical resource that was lacking in Scandinavia — was lacking today; would be lacking centuries from now; would always be lacking short of a great climatic transformation — was arable soil. The Scandinavian lands had and would always have a much smaller population than the Germanies. That was a reality dictated by nature, not by any human factor that might be subject to change.

The historical end result was inevitable. It had been inevitable in the world the Americans came from; it was just as inevitable in this one. The Germanies were the center of gravity of Europe. Not Denmark, not Sweden — not even France. Only the Russias would emerge as a true counter-weight, once they were united. But Russia was too far to the east to really dominate European political affairs. It was almost as much an Asian country as a European one.

So what sort of madman would imagine that a Scandinavian ruler could maintain his control of the Germans for more than a few years?

A rhetorical question, of course. Two answers sprang immediately forward: His own father and Gustav II Adolf. If Ulrik could round up a Lapp chieftain somewhere in northern Finland, they’d make the same claim.

Well, maybe not. They had the advantage of being illiterate.