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1634: The Wars for the Rhine: Chapter Eighteen

       Last updated: Monday, November 28, 2016 23:06 EST



October 1, 1634

    “Mother Dorothea, did you know uncle Hesse intended to attack Cologne? Is he acting on the emperor’s behalf?” Elisabeth turned her head to look at the abbess and managed to step with both feet into a big puddle of dirty water. The paving was fairly good on the streets around the palace but the drainage could quite handle the recent heavy rain.

    “No, I didn’t know. And officially the campaign is entirely Hesse’s own idea, and no one knew his plans. Unofficially?” The abbess waved at the two following footmen to carry her and the two girls across the puddle, and continued on the other side. “Unofficially, somebody might have known or guessed why the Hessian army went west this summer. It is only natural for Hesse and Amalie to be concerned about the future prominence of their new province. Those maps from the American’s future show Kassel as the only major town in a not very important area. At the moment Hesse’s prominence depends on political favors, but to ensure that the prominence continues they need a future important industrial area or trading centre. And Cologne is the only target that is not guaranteed to land them in more trouble than they can handle. Cologne is not a natural expansion of Hessen, but — as a von Hanau — Amalie understands the importance of the Rhine. And that the importance of Cologne will only increase when American ships increase the ocean trade.”

    “Huh! I mean: why that? Cologne doesn’t produce that much, and it is not on a coast.” Now it was Johanna’s turn to get her feet wet. “We really should have borrowed the carriage.”

    “It’s only three streets, my dear, and we have all been sitting around too much. The Americans are the healthiest people I have ever seen, and all their medical books emphasize the importance of movement and fresh air.” The abbess stopped and sniffed. “Fresher outside towns, of course, but at least the cold keeps the malodor down. And as for your question: small ocean ships may travel up the Rhine as far inland as Cologne, but from there they must reload to boats, barges or wagons. And Cologne gets its share of every load. Here’s Maximiliane’s house now.”



    Much to the annoyance of his brother Wilhelm the Holy, Duke of Bavaria, the late Archbishop Ernst of Cologne had fathered a number of illegitimate children, and legitimized four of them. Maximilienne, his second daughter with his long-time mistress Magdalena Possinger, had married the second son of one of her father’s French advisers, but left him after one too many quarrels with her Spanish mother-in-law. It wasn’t that Maximilienne objected to pray for her father’s salvation, but he had been a grown man who presumably knew what he did. She felt no obligation to spend all her days and half her nights on her knees in the small dank chapel on the family estate. So after an especially acrimonious evening she had packed up her belongings, dowry and children, and left. She took along two highly gifted silversmith brothers from her husband’s estate, and went to Aachen to set up a workshop soon famous for its delicate silver filigree objects. An energetic woman in her late thirties, she had gone first to Grantville to see what new methods the Americans had to teach, and then on to Magdeburg to create jewelry for the nobs in what looked to become the capital of the new leading area in Europe.

    Maximilienne had bought a new well-build house in the business district nearest the palace and paid the owner — a cloth merchant — more than market-price to vacate the prime location. Now the shop filled the entire ground floor of the front house, and she lived with her two daughters and youngest son in the spacious rooms above.

    Not as opulent as the houses of Wettin and Hessen — Elisabeth looked around while two maids gathered the short, fur-trimmed cloaks from the visitors — but with everything in good taste and quality. Neither Mistress Maximilienne nor Maxie were apparently the kind to sit idly waiting for visitors, but by the time the abbess and the two girls were seated in the inglenook to warm their feet at the fire, their hostess and her cousin arrived from other parts of the house, and conversation took off at full speed immediately.

    Once the initial chatter of introductions, inquiries regarding family and friends, and exchange of news and rumors from the war was over, the abbess turned to her old friend, near contemporary and sometimes colleague, and asked, “Dear Maxie, you wrote to me — several times — about Father Johannes the painter, and mentioned a connection to the Simplicissimus Magazine. Litsa here is interested in the who’s and how’s of writing news; can you help her?”

    “Father Johannes is here in Magdeburg.” Maxie smirked. “He is heavily involved with the new porcelain manufacturing, but I expect he is also sending news to his nephew, who is the publisher of the magazine.”

    “Maxie!” the abbess interrupted, frowning. “I know that smirk of yours. Didn’t you decide to devote yourself to enabling women to enter seclusion and spend their lives in prayer and contemplation? When we last met three years ago you even planned to enter seclusion yourself.”

    “I did and I did.” Maxie’s smile turned bitter and her eyes briefly showed her fury. “That my relatives were reluctant to lose my skills as a nurse and hospital leader, and therefore never gave me much support was one thing, but that they sent me to nurse cousin Ferdinand in Cologne and then used my absence to sabotage the support I’d found elsewhere was too much. I’m never going back to Munich! It’ll be years — no, probably decades! — before my temper has cooled enough to let me enter any kind of contemplation.”

    “And in the meantime you’re planning to scandalize your family as much as possible? You know, dear Maxie, converting to Lutheranism would probably be more effective — not to mention dignified — than following in the footsteps of your male prelate relatives.”

    “I didn’t know either of them ever lived in sin with a Jesuit priest, dear Dotty.” Maxie went back to grinning broadly at the abbess, who gave an irritated wave in answer. “But that’s not really what and why I’m doing it.” Her smile faded a little. “We both know my temper and that my fury is a mortal sin. But when I’m with Father Johannes I’m not angry. I’m just happy, and my family’s betrayal doesn’t really seem so important.”

    “Hmpf! I realize you have grown most fond of this priestly painter, and heaven knows I’m not opposed to clerical marriages, but you are both Catholics and your habit of forming the most unsuitable alliances has been an embarrassment to your friends — never mind your family — for far too long. It’s becoming undignified. It really is time you settled down and stopped upsetting everybody.”

    “But I am planning to settle down.” Maxie kept smiling. “My archbishop cousin paid me quite handsomely for my nursing, and I#8217;m planning to buy a house and settle down right here with Father Johannes, Lucie von Hatzfeldt and Lucie’s late husband’s bastard children. Father Johannes is quite serious about his faith, and probably isn’t going to abandon it to marry either of us.” She shrugged. “But he isn’t totally opposed to getting seduced, and everybody need something to confess. I’m not likely to get a bastard at my age, and even if I do that wouldn’t be so bad.” She accepted an enameled tankard of warm spiced wine from the maid and raised it in a smiling salute to her hostess before drinking.



    “Maxie!” The abbess shook her head before drinking, and Elisabeth pretended to cough to keep from laughing at Maxie’s audacity. The abbess couldn’t even protest or continue this line of conversation without being rude toward their hostess. Besides, the abbess had told the two girls that her dear friend had never seemed quite happy running that cloister in Munich, and she certainly seemed happy now.

    Maxie now turned her infectious smile on Elisabeth. “I’ll introduce you to Father Johannes, so he can tell you more, but I do know that monthly magazines like Simplicissimus buy both news and written articles from a large number of people. A weekly or biweekly newspaper is different. I’m not sure exactly how, except that they employ people to seek out and write down enough news to fill every number of the newspaper.”

    “Thank you, Sister Maximiliane.” Elisabeth smiled and nodded. “And so: to a newspaper it’s probably more important to find enough interesting news for an issue than it is to make certain that the person writing it knows what he is talking about.”

    “Exactly. I suppose you have seen the recent edition of Magdeburg News?” Maxie laughed. “I would actually gladly forgive them their mistake about me, if I could only have seen Anna Marie’s face when she read the part about darling young Zweibrücken being the head of her family.”

    “Maxie! Not Zweibrücken too. He could be your son.” The abbess spilled wine on her embroidered dress front and started rubbing it with a handkerchief, while a nod from her hostess sent the maid standing by the door hurrying to assist.

    “Of course not, Dotty. He is just a darling boy; handsome, earnest, wanting to be a hero and save the world. He was in Verona on his Grand Tour when his father suddenly died, and when he hurried home, it was to hear the news of his sister’s capture by my mad cousin the archbishop.”

    “H-how tragic.” Johanna had always been the lively one, both in her family and at school, but Maxie seemed to leave her almost stunned with delighted awe.

    “Well, he absolutely despised his father for marrying Charlotte off to old Duke Wolfgang, and rushing to his sister’s aid gave the young Sir Knight all the excuse for adventure a young man could want.”

    “I saw the brief message the Americans sent from Mainz.” The abbess accepted a damp cloth brought by a second maid. “– saying that Cologne and Bonn has broken with your cousin and want to join the USE, but are under attack from Hesse. Amalie confirmed the attack, and said that it was to free Charlotte and her baby, and to establish a safe western border for the USE. She also claimed that Cologne’s petition for membership was just a plot to gain time for the archbishop’s Bavarian relatives to come to his aid. Prime Minister Stearns and his supporters wanted to stop Hesse immediately, and the Chamber of Princes was split down the middle until the emperor finally cut the knot and ordered Hesse to stop, but not withdraw his troops until the matter was settled. Hesse doesn’t have a radio with him, so the order probably hasn’t reached him yet, but should do so soon. No one is certain if Hesse attacked with or without the emperor’s knowledge, and is in or out of the emperor’s favor. Certainly, Hesse stepped on a lot of toes this summer, when he tried to become both guardian and heir to Charlotte’s child, but that was a possible solution to the problem at the time — and Hesse is one of the emperor’s oldest supporters. So, start at the beginning, Maxie, and tell me what you know.”

    Maxie smiled. “As far as I know the emperor, or at least somebody high in the government, knew Hesse wanted to take his regiments towards Berg and Cologne this spring, but not the details. After running around all summer chasing shadows, Hesse sent his cavalry down the Sieg Valley last month to try to take Bonn. That’s where Charlotte and her baby were rumored to be. But he had to move his infantry and artillery by way of Düsseldorf, getting De Geer’s permission in return for promising undisputed annexation of Western Mark and Kleve.”

    “What!” The abbess nearly spilled her second serving of wine too. “Are you asking me to believe that Hesse and Amalie agreed to make a deal that involved promising the emperor’s land to somebody else?”

    “Lucie von Hatzfeldt’s youngest brother Hermann has a lot of contacts in Essen, and that’s what he discovered just before he left for Mainz, and we went here to Magdeburg.” Maxie shrugged. “Hesse and De Geer are both in good favor with the emperor, and if they can bring him Jülich, Berg and Cologne, he might well let them keep those lands, and add Mark and Kleve too. And while Essen’s present claim on Kleve might be based on a rather suspect ‘public vote’…”

    She shrugged again. “Actually it isn’t — or wasn’t — such a bad plan. Only, when Hesse arrived at Bonn, Charlotte and her son had disappeared, and the two councils of Cologne and Bonn decided they’d rather join USE than get conquered. Before the sieges enclosed the towns, they managed to send out two delegations. Hermann von Hatzfeldt was in charge of the one heading for Mainz, and from what you tell he obviously managed to reach the Americans there. Zweibrücken had arrived in Cologne just before Hesse surrounded the town, and once assured that his sister and nephew were safe and sound beyond the archbishop’s reach, the darling boy accepted leading the delegation here. He is to spend today with Axel Oxenstierna, but meet with the Chamber of Princes tomorrow.”

    “But how about Charlotte and her baby? Where are they?” Johanna looked excited, and Elisabeth suspected her friend found this almost as good as those American novels. Zweibrücken had to be the hero, but then his sister could not be the heroine. Still, this was good.

    “I’ve been told that they are still in Bonn, but my archbishop cousin believes them to have escaped into Berg, and wasted an awful lot of time and money searching for them before the siege. Lucie’s older brother, General Melchior von Hatzfeldt, has taken command of Bonn’s defenses, so they are as safe as anyone can be in that area. Hesse, I’m sure, doesn’t know where they are.” Maxie smiled. “But who’s in town right now? Zweibrücken is to be introduced to the emperor tonight, and I’m invited to the soiree at the palace and need to plan my strategy. I assume you’ll be willing to support Zweibrücken as his nephew’s guardian, Dorothea, but what else is on your agenda, and who can we bully, bribe and blackmail for support?”

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