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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter One

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 23:26 EST




January-February, 1634

Pietas Austriaca
Vienna, Austria

    Having just come from early mass, Maria Anna should have been meditating upon the bloody wounds as displayed upon the crucifix. Instead, as she strode down the corridors to her own quarters, the archduchess of Austria was humming Edelweiss and thinking about the upcoming morning of birdwatching that she had scheduled with her beloved stepmother. Birdwatching would be followed, inevitably, by being poured into yet another elaborate court dress. Today, however, the afternoon concert promised something special.

    She heard a slight protest behind her and, feeling a twinge of guilt, slowed down. Maria Anna had been walking in the brisk manner that she tended to fall into when her attention wandered. She was a young woman and, thanks to that same stepmother, physically vigorous and in better health than most members of European royal families. Female members, for a certainty.

    Alas, the same could not be said of her chief attendant, Dona Mencia de Mendoza. Dona Mencia’s spirits were certainly perky enough, but her body was that of a woman nearing sixty and she had rheumatic knees, to boot.

    Dona Mencia caught up with her. “Sorry,” Maria Anna murmured, glancing down at the older woman. “I’m afraid I was quite caught up by that marvelous music.”

    “There’s the whole afternoon to look forward to then, Your Highness,” Dona Mencia replied, smiling. “You really don’t have to rush to meet it.”

    “It’s not likely to top The Sound of Music,” Maria Anna pointed out.

    Dona Mencia kept smiling, but didn’t argue the point. She’d never say so, but the archduchess was quite sure that her attendant shared her own musical tastes-as unconventional as those tastes might seem, to some people in the Austrian court. Not, of course, that anyone was likely to criticize her for it. There were advantages to being the eldest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, after all.

    One of those advantages was the quality of the musicians who appeared in the court. Claudia de Medici, widow of Maria Anna’s cousin Leopold and regent of the Duchy of Austria-Tirol for her minor sons, had sent her troop of musicians to Vienna to cheer the spirits of Maria Anna’s papa. (All fourteen of them-the Duchess Claudia had been economizing since she was widowed.) What with the problems in Bohemia and the ingratitude of Wallenstein, the spirits of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, were currently in dire need of being cheered. Yesterday, Claudia’s musicians, with the assistance of many persons borrowed from the Vienna court personnel, had performed the most marvelous commedia that Maria Anna had ever seen.

    She had to restrain herself from striding again. Turning her head, she commented to Dona Mencia: “Such beautiful music! How amazing that those American heretics brought along such a magnificent tribute to the Austrian spirit. So morally uplifting. The Baroness Maria was so admirably pious. The marriage must have been morganatic, of course, but that is all right, since the baron had plenty of legally acceptable heirs from his first marriage. Not quite the opera that Mama so loves, but very close. How can they trump it, as they have promised to do?”

    Edelweiss, Edelweiss. Maria Anna’s hum expanded to a whistle.

    Discovering that she had overshot the doorway to her own apartments while meditating on yesterday’s play, Maria Anna maintained her dignity by managing to give the impression that she had intended to drop in on her younger sister all along.

    Cecelia was eating pancakes topped with fruit preserves, and making no visible progress toward getting into riding clothes. “Up, lazybones!” came the serenely illustrious and highly well-born sisterly admonition.

    “I’m not going.” Archduchess Cecelia Renata snuggled back down into her pillows. “You may think it’s refreshing and invigorating, but I say it’s cold out there. If you and Mama want to freeze your ears off, be my guest.”

    “Sloth is a deadly sin,” retorted Maria Anna with a grin.

    It was not really said in jest. Not that Cecelia was particularly slothful. It was just that, well, a younger sister ought to follow her older sister’s lead. Cecilia’s tendency to have a mind of her own-well, to be more than a little pigheaded-and direct her undoubted energy into her own projects was a constant irritant to Maria Anna, if for no other reason than the personal aggravation it often caused her.

    An Austrian archduchess couldn’t go anywhere unaccompanied, of course. Mama was often occupied with court functions. If Cecelia would only agree with Maria Anna’s ideas, sometimes...

    “Oh, all right. Stay here, then. But tomorrow morning it’s tennis and you are getting up for that. The courts are walled and when the sun shines on the brick, it should be warm enough even for you. No excuses.”

    Maria Anna headed into her own apartment. There, instead of a maid waiting with her riding habit, she found a dressmaker, with full train of assistants, waiting with the costume she would be wearing this afternoon. Even Maria Anna’s good humor sagged a little at the sight.

    “It needs one more fitting. Unquestionably! Without any doubt. It must be done, Your Highness!”

    Thus spake the redoubtable Frau Stecher, the court’s chief seamstress. Maria Anna managed to suppress a sigh. The young archduchess’ life had been filled with it must be done! followed by it is your clear duty! or it is God’s will! for as long as she could remember. Obediently, she stood for the fitting.

    “Ach,” said Frau Stecher. “Where are my tack pins? Susanna, go get them. A round box, light blue enamel, with an iris on the top. It should be on the far end of the cutting table.” One of the assistants rose from where she had been holding a hem, curtsied, and backed neatly out of the room. The girl was new, Maria Anna remembered, the most junior of Frau Stecher’s senior apprentices. She, too, had arrived last week with the group sent from Tirol by the Duchess Claudia, with the highest recommendations-daughter of Claudia’s own seamstress, stepdaughter of the head court tailor in the Tirol. At eighteen, she had already acquired all the fundamentals for a successful career in luxury and couture clothing, but would benefit from two or three more years of experience at an even more distinguished court. All the proper flourishes for a letter of recommendation. The Vienna Hofstaat had been delighted to add her to its personnel roster.

    What is her name? the archduchess asked herself. Oh, yes. Allegretti. Susanna Allegretti. Unlike many highborn ladies, Maria Anna was punctilious about knowing the names of all of her staff.

    After all the challenges associated with tack pins had been resolved, Maria Anna did manage to get into her habit and out the door, where the empress, Eleonora Gonzaga, was waiting for her. As she curtsied, Maria Anna’s mind went back to The Sound of Music. There were probably people who thought that her stepmother wasn’t an equal match for her father the emperor, either. When Papa had been simply archduke of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, no one had thought it amiss that he’d married Maria Anna’s mother, who was a sister of the Duke of Bavaria. That was equal enough. But by the time he’d married Eleonora Gonzaga, he was already Ferdinand II, king of Hungary, king of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperor-and she was just a collateral relative of the duke of Mantua.

    But the Jesuits said they were both faithful, virtuous, and religious; that they would be happy together, so the match went through. Lucky for him; lucky for us, Maria Anna mused, not for the first time. She always thought of her stepmother as “Mama,” and-now having seen that marvelous American play-knew that Eleonora Gonzaga had blessed the House of Habsburg as much as Maria had blessed the von Trapp house.

    Curtsey completed, she gave her stepmother a hug and an enthusiastic kiss on both cheeks. Maria Anna adored the pious, childless, woman who, as that young, orphaned, Mantuan duchess, had come to Austria from a modern education in an Ursuline convent. Eleonora Gonzaga had dug her stepchildren out of the clutches of Spanish-model court protocol, and, in line with the best and most progressive Italian views on bringing up children, took them outdoors to run in sunshine and rain, dig in the gardens, hike, ride, and, yes, birdwatch.

    There was no doubt about it, Maria Anna realized. She herself, her brothers, and her sister were now the most abundantly healthy young adults the Habsburgs had produced in a long time. Papa himself proclaimed to anyone who would listen that, “Under God, it is to Eleonora’s care that I owe my continued life and such health as I have.”

    And he was quite right!



    Dona Mencia de Mendoza and her rheumatic knees did not join the birdwatching expedition. Dona Mencia had come from Spain three years before, in 1630, in the entourage of the Infanta Mariana, Maria Anna’s sister-in-law, wife of Maria Anna’s brother Ferdinand.

    Almost at once, she and the older of the two archduchesses had liked one another. She had found it no hardship whatsoever to transfer to Maria Anna’s household, even though working for that energetic young woman was sometimes strenuous.

    “After all,” she thought with some humor, “if I weren’t doing it, some other equally elderly woman would be. What is the function of a chief attendant if not to squelch, when necessary, the youthful exuberance and ebullience to which even Habsburgs are sometimes prone?”

    Blessed with two to three hours of quiet time, now, she wrapped those aching knees in tubes of toweling loosely stuffed with dried beans that her maid had warmed in front of the fire and settled in to catch up on her correspondence. First, from her mother in Spain. Dona Elvira was not far from her eightieth birthday. If not immortal, she appeared to be giving immortality a good chase. The contents were predictable: land and finances, estates and household, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Not to mention a new recipe for melon relish.

    Duty done, Dona Mencia proceeded to a long letter and thick packet of attachments from her brother, Cardinal Bedmar.

    Oh, my! Alfonso would be having an interesting year, what with having been assigned to represent the Cardinal Infante’s interests in Venice while the Americans were there! He would be leaving soon; her next letter should be addressed to him in Venice.

    Dona Mencia leaned back, anticipating a good read.



    The Duchess Claudia’s Kapellmeister, Johann Stadelmayr, had just completed reading a short biography of a great Austrian composer named Franz Joseph Haydn. This had been located, the master of musicians explained to the audience, in a great compendium of knowledge called an encyclopedia.

    Everybody in the audience realized, without question, that this compendium must have been located by someone who had been sent to visit the pestilential ally of the misbegotten Swedish king and the miserably ungrateful Bohemian rebel. The music master tactfully refrained from saying so, of course. But the dates of birth and death that he had listed for the composer made it impossible to doubt that someone from the court of Tirol, or hired by the court of Tirol, had been to this Grantville.

    It probably hadn’t been the music master himself, however, Maria Anna thought. He didn’t speak much German, so he had read the biography in Italian. That was fine with the Viennese Hof. Everybody in the upper levels of Austrian society spoke Italian. In Tirol, it was the official language of the court. Maria Anna usually spoke Italian herself, by preference. Her German was fluent but it was also an Austrian dialect; it had never been considered necessary to provide her with formal training in the language. She had learned French and Spanish, of course-those were only prudent preparation for the countries into which she would most probably be married. She had a working reading knowledge of Latin, but didn’t find it easy to produce Latin compositions.

    Most of the music was instrumental. For the final piece, however, the singers who had presented The Sound of Music yesterday-and who, by popular demand, would present it again on Thursday, on Saturday, and three times during the following week-returned to the stage. The manager of the Duchess Claudia’s musicians was explaining the custom of the “national anthem” as it was called, and that the loyal, outstanding, and pious Haydn had composed such a “national anthem” for Austria. Unfortunately, they had not yet found a copy of the words that were properly sung to this anthem and it appeared that they might not be available. However, they had found a score for “Austria” in which the music had been used as the setting for a Te Deum written, apparently, by an Englishman. In any case, the author was one Christopher Idle. The manager descended from the podium. The music began.

    After the introductory measures, the hairs on Archduchess Maria Anna’s arms stood up. Halfway through, the hairs on her head were trying to do the same. For the sheer glory of the thing!

    Throughout her afternoon eucharistic devotions before the reserved Host, the melody continued to replay itself in her head. Perhaps a bit guiltily, she assured herself that it was, after all, a hymn.



    “I want to know,” Maria Anna said firmly to Father Wilhelm Lamormaini, S.J., her father’s confessor. “It is a reasonable question.”

    “How can you expect me to find out?”

    “There are Jesuits in this Grantville. Write them. Ask them. Do these words in English, set to this music by Haydn, this Te Deum, mean that in those later days, England had been returned to the fold of the Church? And, if so, how? When? By whom? Through what means? And, if not, why was this man writing a Te Deum in English? Using Austrian music?”

    Father Lamormaini looked at the archduchess rather cautiously. He understood the political motives that had caused the emperor to delay arranging marriages for his daughters. However...

    Maria Anna was twenty-five years old. By this time, she should have long since been transferred from the authority of a father to that of a husband. She should have been too busy bearing and rearing babies to fret her mind about philosophical and political problems. But, having been permitted to reach adulthood and maturity while still unmarried, she was showing an unfortunate tendency to think for herself and to ask disconcerting questions.

    Caution was unquestionably the best tactic.

    “In this Grantville itself, as I understand it...” Father Lamormaini began.

    “Yes?” The undertone was impatient.

    So. Speed up the response somewhat. “The origins of this town were from the continent of North America. The settlers who came were from all parts of Europe, and were permitted to retain their faith upon settlement. The country became confessionally mixed, as in the case, for example, of the Imperial City of Augsburg. As we know, there are Catholics there...”

    “Considering,” interrupted Maria Anna with clear exasperation, “that their priest has been sent as head of the United States of Europe’s delegation to Venice, I think we may presume that. Please answer my question. Had England, which is here in Europe, been returned to the Church?”

    “To the best of my knowledge...” Father Lamormaini started again.

    “Upon what is your knowledge based?”


    “Thank you, Father.” Maria Anna nodded. “Now, please, what do these reports say about England?”

    “The entire country had not, as a unit, been returned to the fold of the Church. However, it had granted freedom of worship with no civil disabilities to Roman Catholics and had a fairly large number of citizens who belonged to the Church.” Father Lamormaini’s face expressed distaste for the next statement. “However, it was forbidden for the monarch to be Catholic.”

    “And in this America or United States? Was it also forbidden there for the president to be a Catholic?”

    “Well, of course, their president was not properly a monarch. He was elected.”

    Maria Anna frowned. “What is wrong with that? My father was elected. God willing, my brother will be elected, and my nephew after him. So have all the Holy Roman Emperors been elected. So are bishops and abbots. And abbesses. So is the pope. Since God is omnipotent, He can certainly ensure that the electors follow his will when they make their choice.”

    Again, the Emperor’s confessor found himself wishing Maria Anna had been married off at a much younger age. Wherever the archduchess’s train of thought might be going-he could anticipate at least three possible goals-Father Lamormaini found it worrisome. Each one of the possibilities he envisioned somehow managed to be more unnerving than the both the others, which was a remarkable logical achievement.

    “Was it forbidden for this president to be a Catholic?” Maria Anna had not lost track of her original thought. As usual. In a way, Father Lamormaini was proud of her tutors. They had been Jesuits, of course.

    “Ah, no. It was not forbidden,” Father Lamormaini said uncomfortably. “It is my understanding that on one occasion a Catholic had been elected to that office. Once. Out of about forty men chosen over a span of almost two and a quarter centuries. In a country with a population that was almost one-quarter Catholic. Though it is only fair to say that at the level of the provinces, the ‘states,’ Catholics held a higher proportion of the offices.”

    By 1634, one of the proudest and most useful possessions of the Jesuit Order was a 1988 World Almanac and Book of Facts. Friedrich von Spee had found it in a box at a yard sale and sent it to Rome immediately.

    “Was it forbidden, either in England or this America, for the Church to own property? To hold Corpus Christi and other public processions? To establish religious orders? To instruct children in schools?”

    “The Church was permitted to carry on all those functions. Indeed, I understand, in America the constitution was written in such a way that it prohibited the civil administration from interfering in them.”

    “Do you have a copy of this document?”

    Father Lamormaini did. However, he had no intention of corrupting the young archduchess’ mind with it. “I am not in a position to provide you with a copy, Your Highness.”



    Maria Anna appreciated the diplomatic wording of his answer. She’d really just been probing Father Lamormaini, as she often did, to discover the limits she would be officially permitted. As it happened, she already had a copy. In fact, she had read it many times. She wondered if Father Lamormaini realized just how many copies were available in the world as it now was in the year 1634. It seemed like half the presses in Europe were printing them by the thousands. Sometimes spiritual advisors, even Jesuits, were just so...unworldly.

    She reminded herself, as firmly as possible, that that was after all their job. To draw people to God, especially those in positions of power. At least, that was what they were supposed to be for.

    So, her reply was also carefully worded. “I will not press you to get one for me.”

    She paused. “I do have another question, though. Father Lamormaini, I know that you were one of Papa’s advisors who most strongly supported having him issue the Edict of Restitution four years ago. True, this defended the rights of the Church to its temporal goods, to its worldly property. But by demanding that the princes of Germany restore all of the...things...”

    She waved her hand expressively at the top of the table at which they were seated, its golden and bejeweled crucifix, its mother-of-pearl-inlaid box of writing materials, its globe of the world. “By demanding restoration of all of the real estate-which is a form of material things-that the German princes confiscated during the Reformation, back to the way things were in the year 1552, some say that it really caused the intervention of the King of Sweden. He would scarcely have come to defend the free exercise of religion by the Calvinists and sectarians, I should think. The Lutherans like them little more than the Holy Church does. It was the provisions in regard to material things that really, some people say, restarted a war that otherwise might have ended on endurable terms.”

    She picked up a piece of paper and wrote a line on it: What does it profit a man, if he gains the world and loses his soul?

    She handed it to him. “Is it more important that the Church regain all the temporal worldly goods that she once held? Or that she be free to practice her faith unhindered in Protestant territories? If these were placed before a Catholic ruler as a choice, which way should he go?”

    Father Lamormaini swallowed. “I am not your confessor,” he pointed out.

    “I’m not asking you to provide me with guidance, Father,” Maria Anna answered impatiently. “I’m just asking a simple question. A question for people who live in a world where you can’t have exactly what you want-not all of the time; not even most of the time. That’s just as true for emperors and archduchesses as it is for shopkeepers and peasants. So. Which one is more important?”



    After the archduchess left, Father Lamormaini heaved a sigh of relief.

    “We must get her married off,” he muttered to himself. “To the right man. And the sooner the better!”



    “Dona Mencia,” Maria Anna asked. “Would you do something for me?”

    “Of course, if it is within my capacities.”

    “Would you please write to your brother, Cardinal Bedmar, and ask him this question: ‘Is it more important that the Church regain all the temporal worldly goods that she once held? Or that she be free to practice her faith unhindered in Protestant territories? If these were placed before a Catholic ruler as a choice, which way should he go?’”

    “Certainly, Your Highness.”



    Dona Mencia personally saw her letter placed into a diplomatic pouch within the hour.

    Not, however, into the diplomatic pouch going out from the imperial chancery to Venice-although that, also, contained a nice, chatty, letter from Dona Mencia to her brother, covering nieces and nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, and a new recipe for melon relish. She felt quite sure that the emperor’s intelligence agents would try to decipher it. She wished them great joy in their attempts, for it contained nothing other than what she had written on the surface. There was not one veiled reference or cryptic allusion, much less a code. She hoped, with considerable relish that was not made from melons, that someone in the imperial intelligence office wasted hours and hours and hours on it. And on the one she would send the next week. And the week after that.

    This other letter, however, went into the pouch that had come in from Brussels and would be returned there by the Cardinal Infante Don Fernando’s own courier. Brussels could send it on to Alfonso. Among the attachments to Alfonso’s letter had been a sealed certification from the Infante authorizing her to use his pouch at her own discretion.

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