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1634: The Wars for the Rhine: Chapter One

       Last updated: Sunday, September 25, 2016 10:42 EDT



Chapter 1
Düsseldorf, the Castle
May, 1634

    “Katharina Charlotte, you cannot desert your God-given husband!”

    “I’m not going to, Elisabeth,” Charlotte replied, without turning from the window to look at her sister. “I’m simply considering making a short journey up the Rhine to Cologne to ask our mother’s old friend, Archbishop Ferdinand, to help me pray for the safety of my husband and his heir. That I also don’t trust Marshal Turenne, and think that he is making my husband attack Essen for some secret French purpose is entirely beside the point, and probably just one of those funny ideas pregnant women sometimes get.”

    “You keep looking for excuses to leave your home and husband, Charlotte, but he was quite within his rights to beat you. It is your duty to obey him in all things, and you told me yourself that you had talked back to him.”

    Charlotte shrugged. Three years ago at the barely nubile age of sixteen her father had married her off to his old first cousin Duke Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg. As the third of six daughters she had looked forward to having a household of her own, and all things considered it hadn’t been a bad marriage until the previous autumn, when Ferdinand Phillip, the son she had so proudly — and painfully — born, had died, and her husband had berated her for her weakness in bearing such a fragile wimp. Her answer: that bearing children before she was fully grown was not her idea, had cost her a front tooth, the most unpleasant night she had ever spent, and daily beatings until she showed pregnant again. A plea to her father for protection had resulted only in a lecture on obedience, but now her father was dead, and her husband was taking his heir and his army to try to conquer the rich industrial area of Essen just north of his own land.

    Charlotte felt no grief for the death of her father, and certainly didn’t expect to feel any if her husband got himself killed. All scraps of daughterly — never mind wifely — duty and affection had long since been worn away, but if Philipp, her stepson, died she would be carrying the heir to not only some of the Neuburg lands on the Danube, but also the lands of Jülich and Berg here on the Rhine. If that happened, then the guardianship of a living son would be a windfall wanted by every German prince, and that of a living daughter only slightly less so. And if the child died — thus leaving Wolfgang without an heir — then the codicil to her marriage contract that her father had somehow talked Wolfgang into signing meant that Charlotte herself became the trophy. She would be hunted like a twelve-point stag unless she was safely within the protection of someone she could trust. Preferably that would be her young brother, Friedrich. He had been in Italy on his Grand Tour when their father had suddenly died, but he should be coming home by now. Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne was another possibility, but if she could not reach Friedrich, it might actually be safer just to hide herself somewhere in the City of Cologne. Especially if Wolfgang didn’t do her the favor of getting himself killed. The archbishop would certainly just send her back to Wolfgang, but darling Friedrich was now Count Palatine of Zweibrücken and the new head of her family, and he had quarreled bitterly with their father, when he had agreed to the marriage in return for that mine near Saarbrucken.

    Wolfgang of course expected to return in triumph with the gold of Essen at his disposal and all the lands once belonging to his mother’s family firmly within his grasp. This, he believed, would enable him to strike west and start taking the Protestant holdings within the USE. In Charlotte’s opinion that made as much sense as the mad fantasies of Wolfgang’s maternal uncle, Phillip the Insane, whose lack of an heir cost them the lands in the first place.

    The campaign had been proposed by the French Marshal Turenne, who had first gotten both the archbishop’s and Wolfgang’s permission to move French troops a few at a time across their lands to gather in Düsseldorf before striking northward. Turenne had paid well for the privilege, and then talked Wolfgang into joining the undertaking of some complex maneuvers that would supposedly take the army of Essen completely by surprise. Charlotte didn’t know enough about warfare to judge whether the plan stood a chance of success, but her question about what the French would actually be gaining in return for their money and men had only resulted in yet another black eye.

    As the sound of shouting reached her, Charlotte moved her eyes from the harbor to the street below her window. Cavalrymen wearing her husband’s colors were forcing what was obviously the last speed out of lathered horses. Charlotte opened the casement and leaned out.

    “They are dead! They are all dead! The French betrayed us, and the army of Essen is right on our heel!”

    “Elisabeth.” Charlotte turned from the window. “Send Harbel to see that the boat is ready, and Maria to attend me in my bedchamber. Then go pack your most valuable possessions, but only what you can carry yourself. We are leaving in as soon as I am ready.”



Vienna, The Palace

    “I assure you, the child is mine.” Melchior von Hatzfeldt, Count and General of the Holy Roman Empire, looked with frustration at the man he expected to soon become his liege-lord and emperor.

    “I do not doubt you,” Archduke Ferdinand of Austria said with a slight bow of his head, “but it was born less than ten months after old Mansfeld’s death and allowing you to claim it would create a nasty heritage squabble. And I do want their goodwill. I’m sorry, my dear general, but it is in the best interest of the HRE that you allow your child to be reared as the heir to a quite sizable fortune, and an apparently ever growing influence within the Catholic world. And talking about the Catholic world: I have a task for you.”

    Melchior swallowed his protests and rubbed his eyes before nodding. “As you wish.”

    “I want you to pay a visit to your family in Cologne, look around the area and report to me when you return. My sister’s marriage to Duke Maximilian should ensure our alliance with Bavaria, but Cologne is an important link to our Spanish cousin in the Netherlands.” Archduke Ferdinand rose from his chair in the sun, and went to pick up a stack of papers on a nearby table. “The furlough, permits, etc. should all be in order. Didn’t you mention that your brother was marrying into the von Worms-Dalberg family this summer?”



    Melchior nodded again, not quite trusting his voice.

    “Well, that should serve as a reason for your presence in any casual conversation.” Archduke Ferdinand looked directly at Melchior and sighed. “I truly am sorry, Melchior, both for you losing the one woman to break down that chaste reserve of yours, and for denying you the right to claim your child. But the child is more likely to be spoiled by doting aunts than mistreated, and the cost would simply be too high.”

    “I understand.”

    Melchior bowed himself out in the correct manner, and went slowly down the stairs to the entrance hall, absently nodding to colleagues and acquaintances. His mother had always predicted than when Melchior would finally fall in love, he’d fall hard, and sweet Maria with her big dark eyes and lively manner had completely stolen his heart. He had always been a firm believer in the sanctity of marriage and total fidelity, but even the fact that she had been a newly married woman when they first met had not been enough to completely kill his interest. Maria had clearly been unhappy in her marriage, as well as too young and impulsive to hide her dislike of her husband, but Melchior had very carefully kept their relations completely platonic for almost two years, playing the role of a friend and occasional escort whenever his duties took him to Vienna. Only when her husband had died, and Melchior had found her alone — except for her Nubian slave — when paying a condolence visit after the funeral, had he lost his head and his hold on his emotions. Maria had refused to publish their relationship with a betrothal before her mourning year was over, even when she proved pregnant with a child that she assured him could only be his. Instead she had promised that as soon as the child was born, she would come back to Vienna, and marry him before the summer was over. But she had never recovered from the birth, and when he had gone to the Mansfeld estate to attend her funeral, Melchior had been denied all access to the baby. And now his last frail hope of having the crown interfere on his behalf was gone as well.


    Melchior look blankly at Lieutenant Simon Pettenburg, the courier who had come with him to Vienna, then pulled himself together. “We’re leaving for Linz this afternoon. I need to talk with General Piccolomini first. Go pack our belongings, and I’ll meet you at the inn.”



Magdeburg, House of Hessen

    Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg, wife to Wilhelm V Duke of Hesse-Kassel, was widely acknowledged as one of the most astute players on the new political scene. So it was no wonder to anyone that she was having morning tea with the equally astute Abbess Dorothea of Quedlinburg and Princess Eleonore von Anhalt-Dessau, whose husband, Wilhelm Wettin, many people expected would become the next prime minister of the USE.

    That Amalie chose to hostess the small gathering in the only finished room of what was to become the new House of Hessen, rather than in her apartment in the government building, might seem a bit odd. But then all official areas were getting so overcrowded that there were no possibility for privacy. Besides, the noise of the carpenters putting up the wall panels in the next room served nicely to disguise anything being said over the tea cups.

    Both Dorothea and Eleonore were quite aware that Amalie had an extra agenda, so once the official business of inviting young female relatives to visit and benefit from the abbess’s political lessons was done with, the abbess asked with a smile in her eyes. “And if no one has anything else to talk about, I believe that we are finished?”

    “Very funny, Abbess Dorothea.” Amalie filled the cups again. “Have you ever known me not to want to run down the political situation as well?”

    “No, but sometimes you so want to be devious, that it takes you forever to get to what you really want to talk about. And I’ve had more than enough recently of rehashing the situation with that tiresome King Christian of Denmark and the situation in the Baltic.” The abbess grinned and suddenly looked several decades younger than her actual years. “But if you’ve got the wind of something new brewing? That is of course a different matter.”

    Amalie smiled and tapped a fingernail on the teacup making the fragile porcelain chime. “Cologne.”

    “Wha…” Eleonore coughed and swallowed her tea. “Amalie, do you have an army of small gnomes listening at keyholes all over town?”


    “Then what do you know about Archbishop Ferdinand?”

    “That the captain of his personal guard has travelled to hire some of Wallenstein’s former mercenary colonels, and that the archbishop’s personal torturer, Felix Gruyard, has been seen entering Duke Wolfgang von Neuburg’s castle in Düsseldorf late at night. Nothing conclusive.” Amalie leaned back in her chair, easing her stomach just beginning to swell in her tenth pregnancy. “Some members of the Bavarian ducal family have a tendency towards obsessions. Often religious, but not always. Archbishop Ferdinand has been obsessed with becoming a cardinal since the death of his brother Cardinal Philip. But since Ferdinand never had his brother’s intellectual and spiritual qualities, the only way he can achieve his ambition is by gathering power. The Protestant conquest of most of Bishop’s Alley along the Rhine has severely reduced his power, and with the USE looking to stabilize and consolidating their hold, it should be only a matter of time before he tries something desperate.”

    “And you are waiting like a cat outside a mouse hole for him to stick out his nose?” Eleonore frowned at her friend.

    “Fairly much so,” answered Amalie, quite unruffled. “My husband is going south to rattle his saber at the archbishop in the Wildenburg-Schönstein area. The branches of the Hatzfeldt family have long been divided between those looking towards Hessen and those owing alliance to Cologne or Mainz, but we hope to persuade that entire area to join the new Hesse-Kassel province.”

    “The newly elected Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, who went into exile when the Protestant army conquered that town, was a Hatzfeldt.” Eleonore mused. “Would it help if he had his diocese back?”

    “Could be. Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt is the younger brother of General Melchior von Hatzfeldt, whose second-in-command is his cousin, Wolf, who is one of the Wildenburg Hatzfeldts.” Amalie smiled. “My father knew old Sebastian, the father of Franz and Melchior, quite well, and I met the boys several times as a girl. Sebastian had five sons, but was the ward of several more, and usually had the three Wildenburger boys in tow as well. He was a very caring man, who loved children. He was very bookish too, and whenever he visited Hanau, he’d sit in the evening and tell stories.”

    Amalie shook her head. “I’d be hard pressed to put a name to any of the boys I remember, except for Melchior, whom I saw in uniform just before my marriage.”

    “I’ve heard that he is quite handsome.” The abbess held out her cup for a fresh cup of tea. ̶#8220;Have you been carrying a torch, my dear?”

    “Of course not,” Amalie answered, refilling their cups. “Melchior wasn’t ennobled at the time and a Catholic as well. It was just a girlish fancy.” She shrugged. “I’m quite satisfied with Wilhelm. We want the same and work well together.”

    “Hm. I realize that you cannot permit small enclaves in the new province that is under control of someone else, especially not Archbishop Ferdinand. But why not try for a deal?” the abbess asked.

    Amalie sighed. “I expect you have both studied the American books just as closely as I have. Do you remember what they said about Hessen?”

    “Actually, not very much,” said the abbess, frowning, while Eleonore looked thoughtful.

    “Exactly. A minor industrial area with Kassel as the only town with slightly more than local importance.” Amalie’s eyes suddenly glittered in anger and determination. “That is not acceptable.”



    “The proposed province of Hesse-Kassel is quite a lot larger than Hessen was in the American world,” said Eleonore mildly, “and your husband is going to be its representative in the Chamber of Princes.”

    “Larger, yes.” Amalie looked cross. “But mountainous and rural except for the north-western part of Mark, and Gustavus Adolphus might end up selling that to De Geer in Essen.”

    “I see,” said Eleonore. “So, are you planning to expand all the way to the Rhine? The Rhine trade is valuable and likely to grow even more so.”

    “Yes.” Amalie shrugged. “We would have preferred Essen, but Gustavus Adolphus apparently prefer De Geer to my husband, and expansion in that direction would be too costly, at least while De Geer is in power.”

    “Any indications that De Geer is falling? I’ve got quite a lot of investments in Essen.” The abbess put down her cup.

    “No. But the favors of princes are fickle — and that goes double for kings and triple for emperors. Wilhelm was once Gustavus’ most favored ally, now he is apparently to be reduced to just another provincial governor. Sooner or later De Geer’s star is bound to drop as well.”

    “How about the Düsseldorf area?” Eleonore asked, “It was as important as Essen to the Americans. And while Duke Wolfgang’s second wife, Katharina Charlotte, is Gustavus’ cousin by marriage, Wolfgang has made himself so unpopular with absolutely everyone within the last few years, that I cannot imagine much opposition to taking him down. Especially since Wolfgang’s heir is by his Bavarian first wife.”

    “Hesse mentioned the possibility in passing to Chancellor Oxenstierna after Brandenburg’s betrayal, and the answer was a clear refusal. Princess Katharina of Sweden is Gustavus’ favorite sister, and she is very fond of her niece and namesake. Unless Wolfgang does something very stupid, taking Berg from him is not an option. That Archbishop Ferdinand has sent his pet-torturer to talk to Wolfgang in secret seems promising, but I need more details. What do you know, Eleonore?”

    “You’re going to owe me for this, Amalie.” Eleonore gazed sternly at her friend. “This information only arrived last night, and even the government hasn’t yet been told.”

    “I see.” Amalie smiled. “From Moses Abrabanel, then. Well, I don’t want to go try to squeeze it out of him, so: debt accepted with the abbess as witness, for one political favor of your choice.”

    “Archbishop Ferdinand has hired four regiments of cavalry with money received from Richelieu. It seems to be related to those French military movements south of Trier that been worrying the government lately.”

    “And their target?” Amalie leaned forward.

    “Unknown. But if some kind of a deal has been struck between Richelieu and Archbishop Ferdinand, then there is nothing capable of stopping a French army from striking north and taking Jülich from a base within the diocese.”

    “How about Báner?” the abbess interrupted.

    “He cannot move that far west unless it’s in response to an attack. The situation to the east and south is simply too unstable.” Amalie shook her head and tapped her fingernail on her teacup again.

    “And with an alliance with Don Fernando in the Low Countries they would be able to take Rheinland Pfalz at their leisure and make everything west of the Rhine Catholic.” The abbess sighed. “Most of the USE regiments are already occupied far to the east and north. Any information about timing?”

    “No. But Don Francisco Nasi put another interpretation on the news last night.” Eleonore leaned back, her stomach every bit as round as Amalie’s. “That Felix Gruyard has been visiting Wolfgang may suggest that there is an alliance there as well. And that puts the combined forces in position to attack Essen.”

    “Yes. Or Hesse-Kassel.” Amalie suddenly looked very alert, and put down her cup hard enough to chip the saucer.

    “No offence intended my dear,” the abbess smiled, “but Essen is actually the more valuable area.”

    “Yes.” Amalie leaned back again and smiled at the abbess. “But not even Oxenstierna could blame us for defending our land against a Catholic conspiracy.”



Bonn, Archbishop’s Palace

    “Ah! Please come in, Father Johannes. Did you have a pleasant journey here from Grantville?” Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt of Würzburg rose from his desk, and greeted the tall ascetic looking priest with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

    “Yes, thank you. The roads have dried out nicely, and I even had the opportunity to ride the new railroad for a short stretch. A most comfortable way of travelling once you get used to the speed.” Father Johannes gave a quick look around the room, while sitting down on the chair his new patron indicated. Dark oak panels, dark oak furniture, dark and slightly shabby velvet upholstery, all in all a quite depressive room for a man in exile.

    Father Johannes had met Bishop Franz while doing some paintings in Bamberg several years ago. At the time Franz von Hatzfeldt had been a diplomat in the service of the Prince-Bishop Johan Georg of Bamberg, and a full member of the Church administration in both Bamberg and Würzburg. Father Johannes remembered him as a calm and likeable man with a keen eye for beauty. Now, however, the man fiddling with his pen on the other side of the desk seemed filled with a kind of restless worry that made Father Johannes wondered if Francisco Nasi was right, and there was more going on in Cologne than a group of exiled clerics wanting their bishoprics back. Franz von Hatzfeldt had proved himself an excellent diplomat in negotiations with Tilly, and had slowly gained more and more influence until he was elected Bishop of Würzburg just a few months before the Protestant conquest of that diocese. Surely the loss of land and power should not mean that much of a setback to a competent diplomat with proven skills and contacts that would make anyone with ambitions want to hire him?

    “I have the pardon signed by Archbishop Ferdinand for your behavior against your superiors after the sack of Magdeburg. As I believe my secretary Otto Tweimal explained to you: the pardon will officially be a part of your payment for your work on my family’s property in Cologne. The property is several old houses — all of which are worn and drab — so officially I’m hiring you to paint murals for the ladies, and advise on the restoration and decorations. I know of old that your taste is unerring.” Bishop Franz took a deep breath and forced another smile. “Unofficially I want you to tell me all that you can about the Americans and how they are likely to affect the political situation. You are not to mention the unofficial part of your duties to anyone without my permission. I’ll be coming to Cologne from time to time, to see my family and to follow your progress with the house.”

    “Are you considering approaching somebody in Magdeburg about a wish to return to you bishopric?” Johannes asked. “I have no interest in politics, but I have heard mentions of people of importance in the new administrations. Even met a few during my stay in Grantville.”

    Bishop Franz sat for a while without answering. “I make no secret of my wish to return to Würzburg, but there are various ways in which that can be accomplished. Some naturally more attractive to me than others.” He rose from his chair. “I’ll ride with you to Cologne, and introduce you to Sister Maximilane. She is Archbishop Ferdinand’s cousin, originally Countess Maria Maximilane von Wartenberg, and she is to take up residence in my house along with most of the women in my family. Your luggage can follow in a wagon. Otto Tweimal mentioned that you were involved in developing a European porcelain industry. Perhaps you would tell me more about this. Würzburg and Bamberg are traditionally winemaking areas, but it might be an idea to diversify a little.”

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