The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 01

The Trouble With Huguenots

Virginia DeMarce


The purpose of this foreword is to provide a little orientation for readers of the series as to how this book fits into the timeline.

The beginning of the story derives from the decision made by Henri, duc de Rohan, in Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce, 1634: The Dreeson Incident (Baen: 2008) to send his younger brother, Benjamin duc de Soubise, to England to deal with Michel Ducos and his cadre of fanatical Huguenot assassins.

In the ten-plus years since that book came out, Eric developed another idea he wanted to use for dealing with Ducos and his people in the British Isles, which left the authorial team with the literary challenge of extricating Soubise from England in a plausible manner, so as to prevent his presence from interfering in the…well…what Eric is going to write about it. Tum-te-tum-tum, snerk collar, and all that.

That challenge led to my writing The Red Headed League, which came out in the Ring of Fire IV anthology (Baen: 2016), portions of which have been incorporated into The Trouble with Huguenots by gracious permission of Baen editor Toni Weisskopf. That reworked material makes up about a third of The Trouble with Huguenots. Another part has been adapted from the story “Les Futuriens,” which ran in the Grantville Gazette, Numbers 65 (May 2016) and 66 (June 2016). The sections of those publications not included in the book have not been thereby excluded from the 1632-verse canon; they just weren’t pertinent to this narrative. Approximately half of the material in the book is new.

The Trouble with Huguenots runs chronologically parallel to The Legions of Pestilence (Ring of Fire Press: 2019). It involves a number of the same characters and locations, especially Besançon, the capital chosen for his new country by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, Grand Duke of the Free County of Burgundy. However, aside from the high politics that float along in the background of both books, there is little duplication of events. Every major player on the European stage was trying to keep several balls in the air and a wary eye on several more which were for the time being lying placidly in a groove but any one of which might suddenly spring into the midst of the active ones.

For example, Henri de Ruvigny and his friend August von Bismarck play significant roles in the first half of this book. Then they disappear for much of the second half, because they are employees of Grand Duke Bernhard and in The Legions of Pestilence he pulls them back from being on loan to Henri de Rohan and sends them off to do two other sets of errands for himself.

Please do not be distressed, dear reader. It will all make sense in the end.

Section I

June 1635-January 1636

Roi ne puis, prince ne daigne, Rohan suis.1



June 1635

“All Huguenots are Calvinists, but that does not signify that all Calvinists are Huguenots. For which we may sincerely thank the Lord our God.”

Gary Lambert raised his eyebrows at Leopold Cavriani. “The duke of Rohan is a Huguenot, though. Do I have that right?”

“Not only a Huguenot, but the titular leader, certainly the most important lay figure, of that party in France.”

“Then why is he working for Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, who is Lutheran? I saw him when I went to Besançon in February for the installation of Bernhard as Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy. For that matter, if he’s that important a nobleman, why is he working for anybody? Why isn’t he rich?”

“He’s in exile, and has been for years. He and his brother–Soubise is a secondary title that the brother uses; he’s a Rohan also–simply led more rebellions than the French crown was ultimately willing to tolerate. Exile doesn’t mean that he no longer feels that it’s his responsibility to deal with fanatical criminals like Ducos and his men, given that they proclaim themselves to be representatives of the Huguenot cause.”

Gary picked up his beer. “They’re equal opportunity assassins, at least. First trying to off the pope last year; now succeeding in the attack on Henry Dreeson and Enoch Wiley in March. Two of their own. Two Presbyterians. Calvinists. Enoch a preacher. That’s what I don’t understand. If they’re all Calvinists….”

“Huguenots excel at internecine conflict.” Leopold slowly turned his wine glass around and around, watching the trail of light that reflected through the fluted stem onto the varnished table top at Tyler’s Family Restaurant. “Rohan regards Bernhard as a friend, I believe, as well as an employer. There was talk of a possible marriage between Bernhard and Rohan’s heiress, but it didn’t come to anything and then the Grand Duke married Claudia de’ Medici a couple of months ago, so that possibility is off the board.”

Chapter 1


July 1635

“May I remind you that I was already in England.” Benjamin de Soubise sat down on a high stool that was usually used by one of Henri de Rohan’s clerks. “You’re the one who sent me a rather peremptory summons to come to Frankfurt am Main to deal with Ducos’ men. Now you’ve hauled me here and say you want me to go back to England. I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“You’re young enough,” his brother said. “Moreover, in spite of your allegedly advanced age, you keep yourself in good condition. I have intelligence that Ducos and his followers will be moving to England next. Not great intelligence, but better than nothing.”

“It’s not just Ducos, you know.”

“I can keep an eye on the rest of it from here. Two eyes. One on the Netherlands. One on the USE. I don’t have a third eye that I can focus on England.”

“What do you want me to do with Sandrart? He was useful in Frankfurt.”

“Keep him on retainer; a modest retainer, nothing extravagant. Otherwise dismiss him to go do his artistic things. He was useful in Frankfurt am Main, since he has family connections there. That won’t be the case elsewhere. If he should overhear anything important in the households where he receives his commissions, I’ll be glad to have the information and will see to it that he’s recompensed. Right now, though, I don’t see any real reason to keep him on my staff. Nor on yours. The great noble houses of England are in Van Dyke mode; staged poses and yards of satin draperies all over the place. Sandrart wouldn’t be popular there if you took him along; his canvases aren’t in that mode at all. So having him with you would not help us gain entree at the level where you would need it to monitor King Charles’ unsteady policies and Cork’s machinations, either.”

Laubach, County of Solms-Laubach

August 1635

Countess Katharina Juliana–Käthe to her own family–once upon a time she had been their “little Katie”–sucked on the top of her new pen. It had been a bit of an adjustment to learn to use it, since she had grown up with quills, but made the whole process of writing much less messy. With a reasonable amount of practice, not excessive, the calligraphy that resulted was as attractive. Not to mention that she could rub her tongue over it when in doubt, rather than chewing on her fingernails.

Amalie Elisabeth had sent it as a gift when Elisabeth Albertine–they called her Berta–was born in March.

A nice and thoughtful gift.

Amalie Elisabeth was a good sister. A somewhat overwhelming personality, perhaps, but a good sister. Who had produced another living, apparently healthy, son.

Young Wilhelm had come as such a relief to the family, after her sister’s ten years of marriage and the early deaths of the first four children she had borne. Then Philipp for a spare the next year, and Adolf for good measure the year after that. A fourth was almost too much of a good thing, not to mention the three now-living girls. As her brother-in-law knew, a mass of younger siblings got expensive for a territorial ruler with limited resources. If Amalie Elisabeth didn’t stop this reproductive surge soon…. No, children were divine blessings. The Bible said so.

If she examined her conscience, she would have to admit that she had trouble working up much interest in the three she had produced. Not that she wasn’t grateful for them, and for the Lord’s mercy in permitting her to fulfil her duty to Albert Otto, but they were so messy. There was nothing to be done about diapers and drool. No equivalent to replacing a quill with a pretty glass pen.

Well, there were wet nurses and nursemaids, thanks be to God!

Congratulations were in order, along with a nice christening present.

In Magdeburg, Amalie Elisabeth had easy access to all the new technology. It would not have been a challenge for her to send out a servant to buy a modern pen to celebrate the birth of a niece.

What on earth was there in beyond-the-backwoods Laubach, on the far southwestern border of Hesse, that would stand out among the dozens of gifts that little Karl would be receiving?


1There have been many tries at making snappy English translations of this motto of the Rohan family, none of them very successful, partly because of the disparate meanings of the word “prince” in French and English and partly because the English word “deign” is obsolete but has no other one-syllable equivalent. The meaning, if not the pithiness, is conveyed by: I can’t be king; I don’t condescend to be a feudal subordinate; I am Rohan.