Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 02
“Ah,” Friedrich Ludwig Kanoffski von Langendorff said after banquet, after reception, after, finally, the celebrations of the day had wound to an end and the newly installed grand duke had gone off to bed. “Ah.” He twirled his wine glass.
The others of the inner circle of der Kloster, Bernhard’s closest advisers who had, the year before, adopted their totally inappropriate nickname of ‘the cloister’ from his temporary headquarters at the Benedictine monastery at Schwarzach, looked at him, then at one another.
“You do still have the list, I hope,” Reinhold von Rosen said.
“List?” Kanoffski asked, his face blank.
“The impromptu list of things to be done that our new grand duke issued while we were getting lined up for the procession into the banquet room?”
“Oh, that list. Yes, right here.” He pretended to feel around the inside of his doublet. “Somewhere.”
“Pest, Kanoffski. You are a pest. It’s a good list. I am quite gratified by Bernhard’s willingness to propose a modus vivendi agreement to the USE in addition to his forthcoming marriage. It looks like things may be stabilizing, which can only be beneficial to our long-term prospects.”
“This would have nothing to do with the long-term prospect named Anne Marguerite? The prospect of settling down, long-term, with estates in Alsace, would it?” Kanoffski, as usual for him, punctuated his speech and emphasized his points with a wide array of gestures. He claimed that the technique worked in any language.
“You married, you formerly wild Bohemian. You married almost two years ago. You married a nice, respectable girl from a nice, respectable family in Freiburg. She’s Catholic, but what the hell! We are all sinners in the eyes of God and that must be hers, since otherwise she seems to be ideally virtuous. You are rapidly settling into being nice and respectable yourself.” Rosen spread his hands widely. “When a nice Alsatian girl is so very…there…and willing to risk her life and estates on a wandering soldier of fortune from Latvia… Why not? Why not sons and daughters? Why not hostages to fortune under better circumstances than I could have offered them in the past? Poyntz here is also already married. I am not the last bachelor among us, but almost.”
Sydenham Poyntz nodded. “Under other circumstances, I might have wanted to go home some day, but England has become a disaster. In any case, Anna Eleanora prefers to stay in the Germanies.”
“Don’t look at me,” Johann Ludwig von Erlach refilled his glass. “Being from Bern, I’m not so far from home. I’m ten years older than the rest of you except for Kanoffski here–he has a couple of years on me–and married to a cousin since before the Ring of Fire. I have spent my adult life as a soldier and done well from it. But, yes, if Bernhard’s overture to Gustavus succeeds, if there can be, may be, will be, even an uneasy kind of peace, I will be entirely content to wait at home until the war comes to find me again. ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.’ I am not so much a warrior that I would go in search of a different Kriegsherr who is recruiting.”
Dr. Wilhelm Bienner, chancellor of Tyrol, bowed to the regent. “You should be flattered, Your Grace. The grand duke wrote to you personally, in his own hand, rather than dictating the message to a secretary.”
Claudia de Medici glanced once more at the letter she held, rose from the table, and walked to the window, in hopes of getting better light than the flickering candles were giving late in the afternoon on this gray day in late winter. “In the matter of correspondence from Grand Duke Bernhard…” She paused. “We conclude that ‘written in person’ can only be counted as a mixed blessing. We must say that he has one of the most difficult and illegible scripts it has ever been Our misfortune to attempt to read.” She laughed. “Still, We shall overcome these obstacles–by this time tomorrow, perhaps. But it appears that de Melon’s work with his agents in developing the details of Our very sketchy pre-nuptial agreement is proceeding smoothly. Now, if only word doesn’t leak out prematurely…”
She gave the chancellor a firm look. “If it does…”
“Everyone understands, Your Grace. This is in the same category as the proposed voluntary entry of Tyrol into the USE. Heads will roll.”
“Make sure that Dr. Volmar is aware that his head is included in the possible count.”
The lawyer who had headed Tyrol’s chancery in Alsace, now alas absorbed into the County of Burgundy, was not one of the regent’s favorite people. Vain, ambitious, and stubborn were not the most desirable characteristics in a bureaucrat, particularly when they were combined with a willingness to take bribes.”
One of the main reasons that she was still paying out his salary in distant Ensisheim, even though there was no longer any work for him to do there, was that she didn’t want him in Innsbruck.
“Your Grace.” Henri de Rohan bowed to a suitable depth.
“Your Grace.” Bernhard bowed back.
Both of them smiled.
“You requested to visit me? Rather than requesting that I visit you? There must be a matter of some import at hand.”
Bernhard cleared his throat. “At Schwarzach…” he began. “During the meeting that recently took place at Schwarzach with the regent of Tyrol…”
This was awkward.
Still, he had chosen to deliver the news in person.
Rohan, twenty-five years the older and inured to intrigue not only through his status as a French nobleman but by his years of service to the Serenissima of Venice, waited.
“The regent of Tyrol is…” Bernhard stopped and made another short bow.
“I wished to do you the courtesy of providing this information in person, rather than by letter or through an intermediary. Claudia de Medici has done me the honor of agreeing to become my wife.”
Rohan was not certain precisely what he had expected from this meeting. He was certain that he had not expected this. He turned away, stiffly. “In the face of the honor that I had already done you, by suggesting my daughter as your wife?”
“Marguerite is, without doubt, eminently eligible.”
“Not to mention, suitably Protestant.”
“Of an ideal age.”
Bernhard thought a moment. Rohan, in his own day, had been saddled by King Henri IV of France with a bride who was barely ten years old. The Huguenot duke, currently his guest and ally, almost surely did consider that delaying negotiations for his daughter’s marriage until the girl was seventeen–nearly eighteen–was the height of political liberality and paternal indulgence.
He did not want Rohan to take his forthcoming marriage to Claudia de Medici as an offense to his honor.
Leopold Cavriani was in town–had been for some time, for that matter, going back and forth, planning, undoubtedly, obscure Calvinist things. In a pinch, maybe Cavriani could help.
He couldn’t afford for Rohan to break off the working alliance they had forged.
Did he need to apologize? It was not as if he were breaking off a betrothal. Their discussions had been tentative.
Could he afford to apologize? If the alternative were a break with Rohan, yes.
Could he get through this without apologizing? He certainly hoped so.
A politically necessary decision could look quite different when you were the maker of it and not the recipient of its impact.
A sneaking understanding of some of Gustavus Adolphus’ possible motives in allying with the up-timers at considerable cost to the dukes of Saxe-Weimar came creeping into his mind.
“Upon consideration,” Bernhard said. “Upon consideration, with all due respect, I am not the man you need as Marguerite’s husband. She is your only heir. She needs a husband who can become Rohan for her, and for you–a husband who can accept the Huguenot cause and its needs as his primary obligation.”
Who will fight your battles, he thought, the battles you choose. And possibly even let you lead him around by the nose, though a man who would accept that will be of little use to her.
“In my case, not only am I Lutheran rather than Calvinist, which would make me less than acceptable to many of the Huguenot theologians, but also the needs of the County of Burgundy would provide a constant distraction…”
Rohan did not stalk out.
It had been a near thing.