1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 74

” ‘Foolish’ isn’t exactly the right word,” Ulrik said. “A ruler can seem foolish to his subjects and still have legitimacy, because he had it to begin with. But the day Chancellor Oxenstierna started breaking the laws — which he did when he unilaterally moved the capital to Berlin; when he summoned a convention that had no legal authority to act; most of all, when he arrested Prime Minister Wettin — then he placed himself in a position where he had to establish his legitimacy.”

The prince shrugged. “Not an impossible project, by any means. Every usurper in history has faced the same problem — and history is full of successful usurpers. Still, it has to be done. It’s not something that can be allowed to drift. And that’s exactly what Oxenstierna has let happen. He’s drifted. Been set adrift, rather, by the shrewd tactics of his opponents. By now, many people — including many of those who followed him initially, and especially those who followed Wettin — are beginning to doubt him. That means they’ll be relieved to see someone re-establish legitimacy, since the usurper apparently can’t.”

By now, the princess had gotten interested — always the best way, of course, to get Kristina off a tantrum. “Isn’t there anything Uncle Axel can do?”

“Oh, certainly. But it would have to be something very dramatic — even more so once you arrive in Magdeburg.”

“Like what?”

Ulrik didn’t have to think about it. He lay awake at nights worrying — about all things, and he a prince! — that the continent’s most notorious agitator would fail of her purpose.

“Dresden. He has to take Dresden, Kristina. Has to, now — and soon. Dresden has become the symbol of his weakness. Every day that Dresden defies him, he loses legitimacy.”

The girl’s expression got very intent. Eager. “Maybe we should –”

“No! We are not going to Dresden.”

“But it’d be fun!”

Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe

There was never any question, Rebecca knew, where they would stay once they got here. It would have to be the royal palace. To stay anywhere else would work at cross-purposes.

That was a pity, in some ways. The palace was still not finished, for one thing. But enough of it was to serve the purpose. An entire wing already had plumbing and electricity. The bigger problem was security. The palace, as you’d expect of a structure designed for Gustav II Adolf, was immense. It had always been assumed, of course, that plenty of troops would be available to guard it. Most likely, given the Swedish king’s nature, different units would be rotated through the assignment. An army base was being constructed very near the palace that would be large enough to accommodate up to an entire battalion, although it would be crowded.

Usually they’d be units from the USE army, but Rebecca was fairly sure that Gustav Adolf had planned to occasionally rotate Swedish and even Danish units into the prestigious assignment.

But none of that could be done now. There were no USE soldiers left in the city, beyond a skeleton cadre at the large training base outside the city. Using Swedish troops was out of the question, of course. Using Danish troops…might be possible, but it would be political unwise.

Rebecca looked around at the very large foyer of her house. It was really too bad they couldn’t just move Ulrik and Kristina here. This townhouse had been designed with security in mind. For all practical purposes, it was a small fortress. And she already had a superb security staff in place, the clan of former Yeoman Warders whom her husband had brought back from England.

But that would be just as politically unwise as using Danish troops for security. Two things were critical, above all.

First, everything possible had to be done to enforce the legitimacy of the pair of royals. That was the whole reason, of course, they couldn’t just smuggle Kristina and Ulrik into the city. As a technical exercise, that would be extremely easy to do and almost entirely risk-free. But legitimate heirs do not skulk about. Their arrival into the capital — their capital — had to be public. Indeed, it had to be turned into a public spectacle.

Second, they had to appear as impartial as possible. In one sense, of course, the mere fact of their coming here would throw impartiality to the winds. They were choosing sides, quite obviously. But choosing sides was one side; favoring factions, something else entirely.

By coming here, Kristina and Ulrik would place their stamp of legitimacy on the existing capital. They would be thumbing their nose at Oxenstierna’s bastard capital in Berlin — and, by implication at least, everything Oxenstierna had done.

But it was still essential that they be seen by most citizens as not being the tools of the Committees of Correspondence. In the end, this peculiar civil war — this half-civil-war, as she often thought of it — would be won because large numbers of the people who voted for the Crown Loyalists in the election would withdraw their support. Some of them would then be willing to give their support to the Fourth of July Party.

Not all. Not even most, in her estimation. But they would be willing to give their support to the dynasty, which would appear to them to be the only thing stable that still remained. Their willingness to do so, however, would depend on the dynasty not looking as if it were anybody’s puppet.

Which meant — once again she was back to squaring the circle — they couldn’t be too closely associated with the Fourth of July Party, much less the Committees of Correspondence.

Who, unfortunately, were the only people in Magdeburg who could provide reliable security for Ulrik and Kristina. Certainly if they moved into that huge palace.

Her daughter Sepharad came charging in, followed by her brother Baruch. “Mommy, Barry and I want to go to the navy yards!”

Rebecca frowned. “Why? The big ironclads are all gone. There’s really not much to see there anymore.”

“Not true,” pronounced Baruch. Despite just having celebrated his third birthday, he spoke with the same surety — so she hoped, at any rate — with which he would someday speak on the most profound questions of metaphysics and ethics. “The Marines change the guard every day at noon. It’s not noon yet.”

Maria Susanna came into the room, smiling. “I can take them, Frau Abrabanel. It’s very nice out today, for January. Sunny and not too cold.”

Maria Susanna was one of the children whom Gretchen Richter had informally adopted in her days as an army camp follower. Once it had become clear that Gretchen was going to be stuck in Dresden for months, the children’s great-grandmother had come to Rebecca.

“I’m not doing it again,” Veronica Richter said firmly. “Enough! I took care of those children the last time my grand-daughter went gallivanting about Europe tossing over apple carts. I’m not doing it again.”

She’d then given Rebecca that stern look that no one could do as well as Veronica. “I think you should do it, this time. Because it’s your fault, ultimately. Well, your husband’s. But he’s off gallivanting around too.”

The logic involved had been circuitous at best. But Rebecca saw no reason to argue the matter. There was enough room in the townhouse to fit four more children into it. The three boys could share a single room, and there was a small room on the top floor that would be suitable for Maria Susanna.

None of them were so young as to require constant supervision. They ranged in ages from twelve to fifteen or so. A very rambunctious age, to be sure, but Rebecca wasn’t concerned about that problem. Not with all the Yeoman Warders and their womenfolk living in the mansion, and their matriarch Patricia Hayes managing the household’s daily affairs.

Then, as it turned out, Maria Susanna made an excellent companion for the younger children. Partly, an older sibling; partly a governess. She had the right temperament for the task.

“Please, Momma!” said Baruch. “I really like to watch the Marines marching around. They’ve got the best uniforms of anybody!”

The Marines…

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

“Yes, fine,” Rebecca said, nodding. “Maria Susanna, please have them back no later than two o’clock.”

As soon as the children left, she headed for the radio room upstairs.

Admiral, can we have the use of your Marines here in Magdeburg? I would need as many as possible.

She didn’t need to specify the purpose. Simpson would understand. The political logic would be as clear to him as it was to her.

The navy needed to stay neutral. But the Marines…weren’t exactly the navy. And if he were pressed, Simpson could fall back on his own traditions. In the world he’d come from, Rebecca knew, the Marines had been used for such purposes.

The answer came back almost immediately.

Yes. Will instruct navy yards commander to place all Marines there at your disposal. Will send more from the units I have here in Luebeck, and the entire units from Wismar and Hamburg. And anywhere else I can scrape them up.

They’ll need their dress uniforms, which many of them don’t have. You’ll have to bear that cost.

She thought about that for a moment. How far could she push the admiral…?

It was worth a try.

I can have new uniforms designed for the purpose. Very dressy.

Again, the answer came back quickly.

Grudgingly agree. But no tricorns. Silly damn things.