1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 46

Ulrik, however, was not subject to the same insanity. And he had, by his estimate, at least a decade in which to persuade his future wife to forego it as well.

He thought he could succeed in that project. True, Kristina had an imperious temperament. But she was not engrossed with power, as such. She just liked the end results she could obtain from it. Even at the age of nine, her basic character was already evident — and Ulrik had confirmed his assessment by consulting the American history books to see how she’d turned out in that alternate universe. By now, very quietly, he’d had every single item of information Grantville possessed about Kristina stored in his private records, and had studied them to the point of having them memorized.

There was quite a bit, as it turned out. The up-timers had even once made a movie about her with someone named Greta Garbo cast as Kristina. There was no copy of it in Grantville, but that was probably just as well. When he inquired, he was told by one of the librarians that the Garbo woman had been a famous actress in her day. She had some photographs of her in one of their books and had shown them to Ulrik.

The Garbo woman was quite beautiful. That had been enough, right there, to tell Ulrik that the movie had fictionalized Kristina’s life to the point of absurdity. The only thing that would save the Swedish princess from being downright ugly when she grew up was that her vibrant personality would outshine her features.

Still, there had been a number of mentions of her in the various history texts. Far more than almost any other royal of the time period outside of Britain, even male ones.

Vibrant personality, indeed. Glimmers of it had lasted through four centuries and even made their way to another continent. But what people remembered was not her rule, but her discomfort with that rule. The simple truth was that Kristina had no natural aptitude or inclination to be a monarch. That was evident even now. In that other universe, her discomfort had eventually led her to abdicate the throne of Sweden, convert to Catholicism, and move to Rome.

Ulrik thought they could avoid the worst of that, in this universe. Kristine had already told him that her great ambition was to emulate someone named Elkhart and be the first woman to fly an airplane all the way around the world. He would encourage her in that direction — smoothing away the absurd edges, of course. Circumnavigating the earth herself was out of the question, but Kristina had an active intellect as well as an adventurous spirit. There was no reason she couldn’t become this world’s equivalent of Henry the Navigator, was there? Exceed him, in fact.

Ever since the Congress of Copenhagen, Ulrik had been pondering these matters. What sort of USE should they aim for? What would his role be? Kristina’s?

Much remained unclear and uncertain, but Ulrik had reached some conclusions already.

First. The USE would soon — it already did, in many ways — surpass all other European lands as a center of population, industry, commerce, education and culture. It would certainly surpass the Scandinavian nations, regardless of political formalities.

Second. It would be a German nation. Not the only one, since Germans were a colonizing folk. But it would be the center of the German people.

Three. This was more in the way of a goal than a conclusion. In the universe the Americans had come from, the Germans had been politically fragmented until very late in their history. The vacuum that had created in European affairs had been disastrous. In the short run, disastrous for Germans. In the long run, disastrous for everyone.

It would not be so in this universe. Ulrik had spoken enough to Mike Stearns to know that the former prime minister was determined to avoid that at all costs. On that if nothing else, Ulrik agreed with him completely. That was one of the reasons he would oppose his father if Christian tried to pull the USE apart in Denmark’s narrow immediate interest.

Europe needed a stable, powerful, secure and prosperous Germany at its center. Without that, there would always be chaos. Lurking right under the surface if not always in the open.

Four. The national sentiments of the German people, long dormant, were now rising very rapidly. The Ring of Fire had accelerated the process greatly. Something that had taken decades in the Americans’ universe was happening in this one in a handful of years.

Five. Most importantly for Ulrik and Kristina’s own situation, what all of this meant was that the USE’s ruling dynasty would only survive if it transformed itself into a German dynasty. “German,” at least, insofar as the populace accepted Kristina and Ulrik as legitimate and not foreign. Their Scandinavian roots would then be a moot point. Many European dynasties had origins outside their own countries; people took that much in stride as long as they felt the monarch was theirs and not the instrument of another power.

Six. This was his latest conclusion and still a bit tentative, but he was now almost certain that in order to accomplish any of his goals he — and Kristina; without her it would be impossible — had to accept that the future belonged to democracy and not monarchy. He’d read some of Scaglia’s writings and agreed with him at least that far.

The Americans had had a peculiar sport, of which he’d watched videotapes. “Surfing,” they called it.

Needless to say, Ulrik had no intention of half-freezing in the Baltic and risking his life on a flimsy little board. But stripped of the physical aspect and transformed into a political metaphor, “surfing” was exactly what he and Kristina would have to do for the rest of their lives. Ride the ever-growing, thundering waves of Germany and democracy toward the shore; understanding that they did not and could not control it. No one could, really. But they could learn to surf well. They — their children; grandchildren — could reach the shore safely. And if they did it well enough, help many other people to get there safely as well. Perhaps entire nations.

The Union of Kalmar had reached the dock, been tied up, and a gangway laid. Admiral Simpson started to come across.

“What did you say?” asked Kristina.

Ulrik realized he’d been muttering. “Ah…”

“He said, ‘and here comes the big one.'” Baldur was grinning. He’d spent hours discussing these issues with Ulrik. “But he’s quite wrong. This is just the outrider wave. The big one will be riding into Magdeburg.”

“What is he talking about?” She glared up at Ulrik. “You’re keeping things from me again, aren’t you? And you promised you wouldn’t!”

So. Once again, Baldur Norddahl demonstrated his perfidious, foul, treacherous nature. On the brighter side, once again Kristina dispelled any fears that he might have dimwitted children.