The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 16
Her sister was becoming quite well-known.
She was sitting at a breakfast table in Laubach reading about it.
She spent a lot of time reading. Thanks be to God that Albert Otto’s great-grandfather had been a friend of Philip Melanchthon, who inspired him to found a Latin school in the town and establish a decent libraryâ€“one that continued to purchase recent books because it had an endowment for acquisitions. A person could learn a lot by reading, but it wasn’t the same thing as being there.
Albert Otto was a stick-in-the-mud. “Homebody” would be a nicer way to put it. She had to exercise a lot of persuasion to get him to go visit relatives in the western part of Hesse, much less do a little shopping in Wetzlar, five miles away. He talked as if an occasional trip to Kassel was equivalent to some medieval pilgrimage to the Holy Land, rife with hardships and difficulties. He was not happy that Amalie Elisabeth as regent was starting to call upon him to carry out certain missions on her behalf. In his view, he was suffering from interference in his life by one more bossy older sister. Or, in this instance, sister-in-law.
She sniffed. He rode farther on an ordinary day when he was out hunting than he had to ride when they went to Wetzlar. But, things were what they were. Getting him to Magdeburg so that she could have even a small taste of the exciting things happening at Hesse House would be far beyond her powers.
But at least they would go to Kassel next month. For a little while.
“It’s frustrating.” Henri de Rohan tugged on the queue into which he tamed the remains of his frizzy hair when he was working.
Grand Duke Bernhard murmured words of mild sympathy; words that were accompanied by a sarcastic, utterly unsympathetic, expression.
“It seemed to be a reasonable enough option for Marguerite when Captain Lefferts and Eva of Anhalt-Dessau came in to discuss the next things to be done in regard to Ducos. Her brother Georg Aribert is a reasonable age, still in his twenties. He’s German Hochadel; Calvinist….”
“And, according to his sister at least, reasonably intelligent and not utterly obstreperous.” Bernhard smirked.
Rohan slammed the sheaf of papers he was holding down on his work table. “Yet, which that sneaky sister glossed over, obstreperous enough that he is utterly determined to make a morganatic marriage with some insignificant lady-in-waiting, no matter what objections his older brother, as head of the family, may raise to the idea!”
“That could be a problem,” Bernhard admitted, “if he’s as stubborn as everyone else in the Anhalt-Dessau line. Are any other brothers on the market? Johann Kasimir is a couple of years short of my age and has been married close to fifteen years now. I don’t know the younger children well.”
“No others. The two boys in between Kasimir and Aribert died young. All the rest are girls.”
“Cousins? I’m pretty sure there are cousins. Eva of Anhalt-Dessau wouldn’t have mentioned them, of course; not when she was pitching the cause of a closer relative, but Christian of Anhalt-Bernberg had a couple of sons in the right age range, I think. Even better….”
Rohan raised one eyebrow. “Better?”
“Amalie Elisabeth has two unmarried younger brothers. I’ve….”
“…always liked Amalie Elisabeth. As you have said many times. What do you know of them?”
“Heinrich Ludwig must be in his mid-twenties. He holds a canonry in Bremenâ€“of course the city is Calvinist even though the prince-bishop is Lutheran. It’s a nice sinecure that brings him a substantial income. He’s on Frederik Hendrik’s staff. Jakob Johann is a few years younger; a godson of the late King James of England. He was under my command for a while before….” Bernhard waved one hand at the view out the window. “…before all this came up. He opted not to join me and is serving under Wilhelm in one of the Hessian regiments. If you asked me, I would say he’s the more competent of the two.
“So don’t give up yet, my friend. You may yet manage to unearth a suitable candidate for son-in-law if you are willing to look at the German principalities. Eva’s suggestion did, at least, open your mind to that possibility. The Calvinist world as a whole is much wider than that of the French Huguenot high nobility.”
Rohan perched on a stool and leaned one elbow on his standing desk. “That much, at least, I have learned from our friend Cavriani.”
A carefully worded inquiry directed to Amalie Elisabeth, however, elicited a courteous reply that as a result of the current delicate political problems of the United States of Europe, neither Hanau-MÃ¼nzenberg nor Hesse-Kassel could envision it as a favorable time for any of the immediate members of the two families to become entangled in foreign alliances.
Acts of royal magnanimity such as those King Gaston had extended to Soubise and Sully rarely occurred without some expectation of quid pro quo. As June turned toward July, his advisers floated a suggestion to the duchesse de Rohan that it would be delightful if her daughter Marguerite married one of the king’s close supporters.
“For supporters,” the duchess snorted, “think sycophants. Favorites. Not mignons, at least, since he doesn’t tilt that way.”
“Can he make her do that?” Gerry asked Ruvigny later. “Can’t her father refuse?”
“Not if the king is involves himself. French kings can make marriages for the country’s important nobles, as Gaston’s father did for Rohan himself and the duchess. Kings can unmake marriages, for that matter, just as Louis XIII refused for years to acknowledge Gaston’s own marriage to the current queen. Right now he’s being tactful, but if the king decides to press the issue, our Marguerite will marry his candidate and no one else. At least, if she’s still in France.”
The king demanded that the two Marguerites be in near-constant attendance upon his wife or daughter. The Royal Guards placed a respectful watch on the HÃ´tel de Sully, disguised as security forces, and accompanied their carriage every time it left the mews.
“Can you do anything?” Marguerite asked Ruvigny. “Maman brought her little bastard TancrÃ¨de back from Normandy three years ago. At first, she secluded him there with one of her old servants. After all, what can one do with an infant but send it to the country in hopes of more healthful air? When he got old enough not to need a wet nurse or have diapers to change any more, she changed her mind. With the uncertainties that arose around the activities of the League of Ostend, she was uneasy about having him so near the coast. Since then, she goes to visit him clandestinely at the home of his foster parents. Not now and then, but regularly, dressed as an ordinary Parisian bourgeoise. She doesn’t take the carriage with our crest on the door, but all this surveillance may uncover this and give the king another lever to use in pressuring us.”
* * * *
Ruvigny knocked on the door of the small home in a Parisian suburb.
The maid-of-all-work who answered wore a cap that was askew, an apron with its strings half-untied, and one shoe. She didn’t appear to be dirty or a slattern. She was just disheveled.
“Madame LeBon, s’il vous plaÃ®t.”
It appeared that Madame, may the Lord in Highest Heaven reward her, had taken the boy to the park.
Ruvigny raised an eyebrow.
The maid pulled her cap straight and reached behind her to secure the apron strings into a bow.
“Madame‘s ward is a very…active…child.”
“Might Monsieur Lebon be at home?”
“HÃ©las, non. Monsieur LeBon is at work. If he has finished speaking with the head of the new school, that is.”
“The boy has been deemed old enough for lessons. As I said, he is…active. The former school could not deal with it when he crawled under the desks, climbed up the bookshelves, or pulled the pages out of his cahier and folded them into air gliders.”
“Neither could the school before that. Or the school before that one. Madame will not permit the child to be caned, oh perish the thought, so….” She stopped talking and opened the door a little farther. “But would you like to come in? Let me see if I can find where he hid my shoe…he thinks it is so funny to hide things.”
Ruvigny followed her. In this house, no space was devoted to a vestibule. The door opened into the room in which the family sat, ate, prayed, and slept. Because of the compact space, it didn’t take the maid long to retrieve her shoe from the storage bench that provided the main seating area.
The maid rattled on. “So there is to be a new school, if one can be found that will accept him. Teachers talk to one another, you know.” She made this sound as if it were the deepest of dangerous conspiracies.