Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 25

Claudia looked at the big Benedictine monk who was currently her amanuensis. “My confessor, Father Malaspina, assured me that one of the benefits of this marriage, making it acceptable in the eyes of Mother Church, was the possibility that I might convert my heretical husband to the true faith. He based this hope on the conversion of the grand duke’s former tutor Nihusius by the Jesuits at Cologne.”

Bonifacius looked at the door rather than at the grand duchess. “We at Schwarzach have been acquainted with Grand Duke Bernhard longer than you have, Your Grace. Your confessor is an Italian Jesuit who does not know him at all. He is reasonable. His original contract with France provided that in the regions where he fought against Gustavus, he would neither prohibit the exercise of Catholic worship nor confiscate church property. Since establishing an independent county, he has continued to adhere to this–as you will note, he has not confiscated the Abbey of Schwarzach from us, although he is making rather free use of our buildings. But barring direct divine intervention, there is no more likelihood that he will be budged from his attachment to the Lutheran teachings than that the earth will end tomorrow. Of the two, the latter might be slightly more probable.”

She smiled. “I was beginning to suspect as much already. So, I guess, I can scratch one item off my ‘to do’ list altogether.”

She looked out at the now-empty walkway. “I suspect that the introduction of opera into the court of the County of Burgundy has just dropped to the bottom of my priority list as well. Do you suppose he would enjoy equestrian ballet?”


“Unfortunately,” Fernando said, “the message that was just dropped off for me says that Monsieur Gaston is no longer in our hands. He was here for the birth. I had every intention of putting him in stronger constraints than a very loose and polite house arrest once that was done with. However, he has slipped through my noose, along with Clicquot and Marchéville, and is, apparently, now out of the Low Countries.”

“Treachery?” Maria Anna asked.

“Undoubtedly. With all three of them gone, it can’t possibly have happened by accident. I suspect involvement on the part of his mother, although what she could have accomplished from Savoy, other than providing funds to someone else…

“The Lorrainers? Treachery there?”

“Possibly. Henriette is…still gone. Presumably with Puylaurens. I have placed the duke under a polite house arrest. I hate to do it to Nicolas and Claude, though. They seem to be conscientious. Honest, dutiful, and reasonably hard-working.

“All things considered, the best tilt I can put on it,” Isabella Clara Eugenia said, “is that at least Gaston’s wife and daughter are in Habsburg hands, here in Brussels. That is a considerable improvement, from our perspective, than having them in the hands of Louis XIII and Richelieu. Make sure that you keep them.”

“How are things progressing in regard to Cologne?” Isabella Clara Eugenia asked.

Fernando went into official mode. “We will extend Our formal protection to the left-bank territories next week, thus ensuring that a largely Catholic population will be protected from the annexation efforts of the Calvinist Hessians who have been acting, ostensibly, on behalf of the USE. Unfortunately, Our efforts to come to an amicable arrangement with Archbishop Ferdinand and arrange a comfortable retirement for him during his severe illness and impending old age have not been welcomed in the manner We would have wished. However…”

He stopped and smiled.

“The occupation is complete. I’ll make the announcement at Euskirchen.”

Maria Anna sighed. “Too bad that Cologne itself and its hinterland made it into the USE as a city state before the Low Countries could get there.”

“Some days, chicken,” Isabella Clara Eugenia said. “Some days, feathers.”

She was, after all, and old woman who had earned the right to say what she thought.


Claudia, coming from early mass, paused at the door of the monastery’s old-fashioned Romanesque cathedral.

Maybe, as a sign of gratitude for their hospitality, she should arrange for these impoverished Benedictines to receive a nice modern altar. A completely redecorated side chapel, perhaps.

Father Bonifacius was walking a couple of steps behind her.

She gestured toward the field where the grand duke’s regiments were drawn up. “German is not my best language, and with so many voices, it is hard to make out the words. What are they singing?”

He listened for a minute. “It’s an old folk tune, one of the grand duke’s favorites. The author of the words was a teacher from Thuringia.” He cleared his throat. “It is the day of the week that the grand duke’s field chaplains review the soldiers’ religious instruction under the unaltered Augsburg Confession. I hear that the grand duke is most particular about the word ‘unaltered.” They are singing,

Lord, help us ever to retain

The Catechism’s doctrine plain

As Luther taught the Word of truth

In simple style, to tender youth.

“Oh.” Claudia didn’t move.

“The grand duke’s chaplain holds morning prayers in front of his tent; evening prayers in front of his tent. He is assiduous in attending Sunday services, though I must say that not all of his colonels are equally dedicated in the matter. While a person does not wish to succumb to curiosity…he has been in residence here for some time.”

“Did, ah, someone succumb?”

“We are all fallible. If not, we would scarcely stand in need of divine mercy.”

“What did, ah, someone, find out?”

“He reads the Bible. He keeps a catechism, a small prayer book, and Johann Arndt’s True Christianity within easy reach. In many ways, if he had not been reared as a heretic, his temperament would seem to make him an ideal candidate for a military order such as the Knights of Malta or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. He was, however, reared as a heretic.”

“Father Bonifacius.”

“Yes, my child.”

“I married the grand duke in order, well, mostly in order to retain the revenues from Tyrol’s Swabian territories for my children. Mining rights…”

He nodded. “Nobody ever doubted it.”

“Was my decision over-hasty?”

“Only you can answer that question.” He looked up at a cloud that was floating along through the morning sky. “You may wish to contemplate the question in the light of what our Lord Jesus Christ has to say about putting the things of this world ahead of the kingdom of heaven.”

He looked down again, out at the field. “I only wish the religious theory could be observed to have more application in practice. Many of these men are quite raw in their daily behavior if anyone thwarts their wishes. Of course, the problem is not unique to the Lutherans. I must be fair. In 1622, after Wimpfen, the Catholic forces also behaved abominably. That was an annus horribilis for the people of this region.”


The grand duke of the County of Burgundy finished up the instructions that Michael John and Feret would find waiting the first thing in the morning.

“I am enclosing several letters of recommendation in regard to promotions for officers who have proved themselves competent. I have made the field promotions myself, but please arrange appropriately showy and multi-colored parchments. For the amount of good will those garner, they are cheap, and the monks at Schwarzach should be able to produce appropriate ones without recourse to the chancery in Besançon. As soon as they are finished, send them by courier. Otherwise…”

He walked across the room, dropped them on his secretary’s pedestal, and returned to his own.

“After last month’s direct military expenditures in Lorraine,” Bernhard wrote in a memo to himself, “not to mention the continuing costs associated with the occupation forces We felt obliged to leave there, ….”

He wasn’t about to send this one to Richelieu. There was no sense in letting one’s technical employer know precisely how close to the edge of bankruptcy one was wavering. Closer than he had been since the year he entered military service at eighteen, when the Kipper und Wipper inflation of 1622 had reduced the buying power of his already tiny income from Saxe-Weimar by half. Hell, he paid each of his colonels per month as much as he drew from Weimar per year.

There was especially no sense in letting your employer know that you were close to the edge when he owed you a lot of money–that was a very bad bargaining position. The French contract had been a constant irritation since he made it. He should have received a million livres each quarter.

First the French lawyers fiddled with the schedule and argued that the payments would be due at the end of each three-month period rather than at the beginning, which meant he had been working on credit from the start. Then they argued that garrison troops in important places should not be counted as the part of the number he had agreed to keep “in the field.”

He had never received the full amount, nor had he ever received a payment on time. They under paid him, every time. After he withdrew the cavalry from Mainz last year, France had withheld an entire quarterly payout. The resumption was at a sharply reduced rate.

He added and subtracted some figures. Overall, thus far, he had received not quite half of what was due him. Last quarter, Richelieu sent only three hundred thousand livres. There was the citadel. There was the fortress on the Rhine Island, near Solingen, with its bridgeheads. Once that was finished…never again would he find himself without a secured way to cross the winding multiple channels of the Rhine…

After the events of this March, he was not anticipating the arrival of any more subsidy installments from Paris. None at all.

He couldn’t share that news with the rest of Der Kloster. He needed every ounce of their confidence in his ability to bring off the firm and permanent establishment of a County of Burgundy.

John probably guessed, but would not have had time to do the precise calculations.