The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 13

“There’s no need for you to go with Marguerite and her daughter if they should leave,” Mademoiselle Anne said. “You are always welcome to stay with me, for as long as necessary.”

“I don’t think his joints ache all that much,” Marc commented as they walked back to the Palais Rohan. “He wasn’t any worse off than the rest of us while we were riding in the mud; he was a lot better off than his valet. He may have gotten a bit soft while he was in London, but he’s been in the salle every morning since we got to Mademoiselle Anne’s.”

“Where has Colonel Raudegen gone this morning?” Marguerite asked the next day.

“To start making overtures, more or less.” Ruvigny cocked his head to one side. “Put out feelers at the court by way of military men who know Grand Duke Bernhard, get some sense of the mood from former associates of your Grand-père Sully, that sort of thing. Marc is speaking to various associates of his father–bankers, financiers, people that Gaston will need if the government is to have funds. This all has to be done before your aunt starts hinting at salons and soirées that the allegiances of the Rohans would be more likely to move in the king’s favor if he revoked the exile decree. The king has a lot of popular support right now, but it’s still far from universal support. If quite a few people start murmuring about how it would be desirable for your uncle to come back to France, he and his advisers may conclude that it is their own idea.”

Marguerite rested her chin on the heel of one hand. “Yes, it would be harder if we were asking him to allow Papa to come, because they know that Papa is calculating and ambitious. He shows it. I suspect that Uncle is also. He just isn’t obvious. But Uncle is already here.”

“You know that,” Susanna said. “I know that.” She waved one hand. “Colonel Raudegen knows that; your mother and aunt know that. I don’t doubt that several dozen royal spies know that. The new king does not officially know that. Right now, it will be a lot better if he and his advisers don’t officially know that.”

“If he reverses the edict as a ‘gesture of magnanimity,'” Raudegen interrupted, “then we will wait a couple of weeks of discreet ‘travel time’ before your uncle ‘arrives.’ Otherwise, if the king won’t reverse his exile, we’ll have to take him on to Burgundy. But if the hints to the court receive favorable hints from the court, then your Maman and Tante can make a formal request.”

Will the king let Uncle Soubise stay?”

That was also a question that Soubise was discussing with Mademoiselle Anne, but not the only one. Assuming that Gaston did give permission for him to “return” to Paris and he would be able to reside there openly, his choice of residence would have implications. Ramifications. Connotations. Public relations considerations. He would be far more comfortable if he remained with Anne. He had never liked his sister-in-law and never would. But….

“I think you should take up residence at the townhouse,” Anne said. “Residing with the duchess and Marguerite would make you seem to be accepting charity from Sully and perhaps appear to lend substance to any rumors that we are in financial difficulties. However, occupying Rohan’s townhouse on the Place Royale will make a statement that you are now the senior adult representative of the family in France; a member of the house by birth rather than marriage.” Further discussion ensued. And ensued. And ensued.

* * * *

“This is the morning that Soubise is to ‘arrive’?” Susanna asked a few days later. “In public, that is, and take up residence at the townhouse?”

Marc nodded. “We ‘expect’ him shortly before noon. The king issued his proclamation. I–well, people I know–planted quite true reports in the Amsterdam newspapers that he had left England some time earlier this spring and met with the Stadthouder in The Hague. We discreetly avoided pinning down when this occurred. Vague is your friend. The Paris papers picked that up, of course. Raudegen has managed to cobble together a decent-sized retinue to ‘accompany’ him, since he would not be expected to travel with just a secretary, cook, and valet. He’s hired several plain but good quality carriages and a half dozen bodyguards, and rented a couple of dozen trunks. The trunks are empty, but as far as the reporters and the gawkers along the street are concerned, he’ll have about as much luggage as would be expected if he were coming from the Low Countries. He’ll hold a news conference, of course.”

“Will Sully and his wife be coming? Not today, but eventually?”

Monsieur Gaston, not one to lose a public relations opportunity, had not only revoked Soubise’s exile, but also added a lagniappe by ending the house arrest of his father’s former first minister.

“No.” It was Marguerite who replied to Susanna. “My grandfather is old; my grandmother asserts that she is not well, though she may outlive us all. In their case, it’s the appearance that they are again welcome at court that matters. My grandfather is happy and grateful, but they won’t return to Paris.”

“Your uncle’s servants that he brought from London will ‘come’ with him as part of his public entourage. That’s obvious.” Susanna turned to Marc. “Are we moving? You and I and Colonel Raudegen?”

“We’re not moving as part of this morning’s entourage,” Marc said. “Think! Just think! In the public narrative, Soubise has no association with any of us. And shouldn’t have. I rather doubt that Mademoiselle Anne has any wish to extend us her hospitality an instant longer than she must. I assume that Raudegen will find us an apartment. The rest of us will transfer to wherever it may be in a couple more days, with no fanfare whatsoever. Or, perhaps, simply go on to Burgundy.”

“But I want Susanna,” Marguerite squealed.

Marc quirked a smile. “I want Susanna, too, but I hardly ever get her.”

“I will ask Maman.” She looked at Marc. “If she agrees, you could ask the colonel if you could come to us. Henri and Bismarck are staying with us. There’s an immense amount of space. Please come. It would be such fun to have you.”

“It will also save us a significant amount of money,” was Raudegen’s contribution to the plan. “We are instructed to remain here for the time being and render all due assistance to Rohan’s emissaries.”

Laubach, Solms-Laubach

May 1636

Katharina Juliana opened the letter from Albert Otto’s Aunt Sofie that had arrived in the mail sack, addressed to her rather than to him. The widow of Margrave Joachim Ernst von Brandenburg-Ansbach, Aunt Sofie had been regent since his death. It had been a heavy responsibility in these times of war. Friedrich would have come of age next year, but with his death last fall at Warta, in the same battle that took the life of Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel, Sofie would continue to bear the burden until Albrecht, now sixteen, came of age. That had required another letter of condolence last November, among many others. Warta had not been merciful to Gustavus’ officer corps.

She started to nibble on her right thumbnail; then pulled it out of her mouth, made a face, and pulled on a glove to remind herself not to do that.

In another world, its King Louis XIV of France had revoked the Edict of Nantes that granted toleration to the French Huguenots, their fellow Calvinists. Sofie had learned that in that other world, the ruler of Ansbach had opened its borders to the refugees, bringing in large numbers of skilled workers in specialized trades that redounded to the economic advantage of the territory for centuries thereafter.

Käthe’s hand came up involuntarily and she got a mouthful of fabric. Wincing, she pulled it out of her mouth.

If there should be such a revocation in this world, Aunt Sofie was making generous plans to take maximum advantage of the Huguenots’ misfortune. She had also written to Amalie Elisabeth suggesting that, in case of necessity in this world, Hesse might do likewise, given its precarious economy. Pharmaceuticals would help Kassel, and the revival of the university at Marburg should attract talent, but having more resources available never hurt anyone.

It’s time for Amalie Elisabeth to require Albert Otto to start representing her to the Estates or on committees of the confidential council, or something. He’s old enough now. The rest of the world should see that the male members of the family support her regency.