Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 51


The next time the two of them got together, several months later, Gerry told Ron that he wasn’t a bit sorry that they’d left Besançon so fast that he missed the assassination of the pope. Well, he probably wouldn’t have been right there watching it this time, considering how long the authorities had managed to cover up the whole business, but still. One papal assassination per lifetime, successful or not, was enough for any guy. Especially when it was the same pope.

Chapter 31


April-May 1636

Pope Urban VIII, having survived a succession of perils, summoned a Europe-wide theological conclave for the spring of 1636. Not a council of the Catholic Church, as Trent had been or as Vatican II would have been in the other world, but a meeting of the most prominent theologians of all the continent’s fractured faiths. A surprising number agreed to come, the concept of all mainly excluding the Spanish and Borja’s adherents on the Italian peninsula.

Bernhard, Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy, perceived several thousand potential pitfalls that might be associated with a continental conclave that Urban decided to summon to, or all unreasonable locations, his newly chosen capital city of Besançon. Oh, there were reasons enough from the embattled pope’s perspective, one of them being it’s comparatively central location and another that there were not, just at the moment, any warring armies occupying the immediate surroundings.

This was clearly an opportunity for the city’s municipal officials to demonstrate their mettle and capabilities. They mayor and council should clearly be in charge of making the local arrangements. (“You want responsibility?” the grand duke asked. “You get responsibility.”) When speaking to one another, out of grand ducal hearing, the designated and afflicted city officials described this procedure as “shoving it all off on us.” Still, the conclave would bring in a lot of revenue. Income from outside sources was nothing to be scorned. They and a multitude of clerks, many of them borrowed temporarily from other towns, buckled down to work.

“But,” Dr. Guarinonius protested, “What about the quarantine provisions?”

“You deal with it. Do the best you can. Yes, the foreigners will be violating the restrictions. It’s like the movement of produce wagons and cattle drives. There’s no feasible way to stop them from coming. At least, plague hasn’t been as bad this summer as it was last year.”

Grand Duke Bernhard himself found that his duties as co-protector of Lorraine were very onerous at the end of April and during the early part of May. Leaving Rehlinger to deal with the day-to-day administrative matters of the duchy and Erlach to keep an eye on the internal military situation, he relocated to Lorraine. Châtel-sur-Moselle was really a very nice fortress. Also, he was not precisely lying. He really did have a lot to do.

Grand Duchess Claudia, no sooner than she had returned from what would have to be the last visit she made to her children in Tyrol for quite some time, barely passed through the city. At the end of April, she left with little Ernst Wilhelm, proclaiming that she needed to protect the heir’s health from diseases that might be carried by all the out-of-town people coming to the conclave. She took up temporary quarters in Dole, the second-most-important city of Burgundy.

Bernhard, temporarily, stayed in Lorraine, calling two more regiments up out of Burgundy to reinforce his garrisons, and communicating regularly with the king in the Low Countries about what might be expected next, given what Gaston was doing in France.

At the middle of May, Claudia, leaving Ernst Wilhelm with his entourage of nurses, wet nurses, nannies, noble governesses, and bodyguards in Dole, promptly came back to Besancon to provide stronger direction as the town coped with the chaotic aftermath of the conclave, which had, inevitably, significantly raised the prevalence of disease in the capital.

Chapter 32



What Gaston did, an act more disastrous than a direct military invasion of Lorraine would have been as far as Bernhard’s long-range plans were concerned, was reveal to an interested public the secret agreements pertaining to the subsidy that Cardinal Richelieu had paid out to  Bernhard for the past few years. Gaston achieved this by announcing the information very publicly in a meeting with every foreign ambassador in Paris, accompanied by copies of the relevant, previously secret, documents and a newspaper release. He immediately followed up with a proclamation that he was cancelling the subsidy.

This caused a very real specter of imminent bankruptcy for Burgundy if Bernhard wasn’t able to find some new source of income. He returned from Châtel-sur-Moselle as quickly as he could, leaving Kanoffski in overall charge of his regiments in Lorraine, under strict orders not to do anything without consulting with Aldringen first. He also sent Sydenham Poyntz back to Brussels.


“There’s a proverb,” Kamala Dunn said. “I’m pretty sure there’s a proverb, about someday, you have to pay the piper.”

“That was a German story, wasn’t it?” Dominique Bell asked. “Something about musicians from Bremen.”

Dominique’s mother shook her head. “That was a different one, about abused animals, I think,” Carey Calagna said. “Maybe you’re thinking about the Pied Piper of Hamlin, Kamala. That was German, too.”

“What does ‘pied’ mean?” Kamala’s daughter Shae Horton asked. “Cherry or pecan?  Pumpkin or gooseberry? I always wondered when our teacher read the story out loud to us in school, but I didn’t want to make myself look stupid by asking.”

Carey tilted her head. “You’re ahead of me, just by wondering. I never thought about it–what pied was, I mean. I sure don’t know. But I think that’s still the wrong story. Or, at least, it’s a story with the wrong moral for what’s going on here. It was about the employers who would need to pay the piper or he’d march off with their kids and lead them over a cliff. That was sort of what happened to Richelieu. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t expect that when he didn’t pay everything he’d promised, Bernhard would use the part that he had actually paid out to take over Burgundy.”

Nods. “Yep,” Lisa Lund said. “There’s some other proverb, about how he who pays the piper is — the guy who has the money is — I’m sort of stumbling around here. He’s the one who calls the tune. He says, he tells the hired musician, what song is going to be played at a dance or party. Richelieu wasn’t exactly calling Bernhard’s tune; at least, he wasn’t calling it very efficiently. But he wasn’t paying very efficiently, either, so he got about what he paid for.”


The plague came back in Lorraine, not as bad as the year before. Second waves were always weaker, since there was some “herd immunity” among the survivors of the first wave, Kamala Dunn told him. Bernhard reckoned the plague as a minus and herd immunity as a plus. Erlach, from somewhere, found enough money to send the plague fighters back north.

A couple of French regiments started to move toward the Lorraine frontier, which Bernhard reckoned as a minus, but pulled back after Spanish tercios invaded France itself. Bernhard counted that as a plus. The Lorraine protectorate in general, Carey Calagna said in a lecture she gave some of his staff, should be classified as an “unfunded mandate” as far as Burgundy’s budget was concerned. Bernhard coordinated with Aldringen and Fernando to see what extent Lorraine could fund its own problems, now that French occupying forces had stopped extracting as much as possible of the duchy’s revenues.

A couple of French regiments moved near the frontier with Burgundy itself and didn’t go away. A definite minus, because three of Bernhard’s regiments moved near the frontier with France, where they had to be supplied. That left him without much in the way of reserves, so he would need to start recruiting again. Any new regiments, additional regiments, would need to be trained. Officered, largely by men he wasn’t accustomed to working with. And paid.

Burgundy’s economy was doing, all things considered, quite well. The tax revenues from the territory would fund the needs of the territory. The tax revenues from Burgundy would not fund his obligations in Lorraine, much less an expanded army.

Money. Where was the money coming from?  From June into the next winter, Bernhard continually, rather frantically, kept looking for money to replace the French subsidy, as unsatisfactory as it had been. Gaston in France meant that his former banking connections in Lyons were now a washout.


“Who?” Erlach asked at the next gathering of Der Kloster. “Who is the most ticked-off at Monsieur Gaston right at this very minute?”

Erlach, on principle, refused to refer to Gaston as the king of France. “That’s where the money will come from.”

“Not really, Kanoffski said. “One thing doesn’t directly equal the other. Obviously, Spain is out as a source for us, no matter how ticked-off Philip IV and Olivares are with Gaston. Can we get anything more from Fernando? What strings would be attached?”

“No hope,” Bernhard answered, “not with all the repercussions he’s going to get from giving sanctuary to Anne of Austria and her son.” He waved at Michael John, who started writing bullet points on the large easel at the front of the conference room.

Lorraine is already a drain on his treasury, just like it is on ours.

Plus, he’s going to have to be keeping an eye on Spain. He has to be thinking that if his brother and Olivares actually sent tercios into France–well, there’s plenty of precedent in the long war for Spain’s sending tercios into the Netherlands.

And he’s still trying to digest the new territories he annexed from the archbishop of Cologne.”

“Is there any way to get more funds on credit out of Switzerland?” Ohm asked.

Rehlinger shook his head. “No, I’ve talked to my uncle. The bankers are too aware of just how close to the margin Burgundy is. They are strongly disinclined to throw good money after bad.”