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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Friday, January 14, 2005 10:56 EST



Bavaria Sancta

Munich, Bavaria

    Duke Albrecht of Bavaria, as he fingered his rosary, thanked God for his brother’s long and happy marriage. Thirty-nine years it would have been, next month, since Elisabeth Renee of Lorraine came to Bavaria as a bride and accepted the Germanized name of Elisabeth Renata. He, himself, had been not quite eleven years old, then. And it was true. As a new bride, she had brought a light-hearted spirit into the rigid Bavarian court, where their father, Duke Wilhelm “the Pious” had attended mass every day, when possible several times a day; he had devoted four hours daily to prayer, one to contemplation, and all his spare time to devotional reading. He had received holy communion every week, and twice a week during Advent and Lent. He had taken part in public devotions, processions, and pilgrimages. One ambassador had called Bavaria a monastery in their father’s day. It had not been just the court, or even Munich; his father had turned Bavaria itself into a monastery, as far as could be done. In 1634, it was far different from the half-Lutheran society it had been in the 1560s.

    In the past half-century, Bavaria had been Catholicized: it was a land of saints and shrines, healing images and miraculous relics, pilgrimages and processions, the daily routine of its people marked by the tolling of church bells and recital of litanies. People who would not conform had been forced to leave. Nearly twenty years ago already, Father Matthaeus Rader, who was still teaching in Munich, had published his Bavaria Sancta-Holy Bavaria. It was a really hefty tome, praising the duchy’s historic and sacred destiny, listing its saints and martyrs, its holy monks; its pious rulers, culminating in the current members of the House of Wittelsbach.

    The rulers of Bavaria knew, well enough, that making Bavaria a Holy Land was far too important to be left to the church alone. Their intent was to create a Catholic state. In addition to the privy council, which administered secular affairs, and the treasury, which ensured financial stability, the dukes had formed the Geistlicher Rat, the ecclesiastical council. As much as any Lutheran prince’s consistory, it supervised and disciplined the duchy’s Catholic clergy through regular visitations; it controlled the Catholicism of all the state’s officials by issuing certificates documenting annual confession and communion as strictly as the Church of England did under Elizabeth; it funded new Catholic schools, new Catholic colleges, new houses of religious orders, especially the missionary and educational ones, such as the Jesuits and Capuchins for men, the Ursulines for women.

    Elisabeth Renata. Maximilian had insisted on having her-no “crook-backed Habsburg bride” for him, he had proclaimed. So she had come, slender and elegant. Not a frivolous spirit, never. Her life had been untiringly devoted to works of charity. But she had performed them out of sheer love of God and others-not for a sense of grim duty. “Hail Mary, full of grace.”

    Albrecht’s mind wandered. Maximilian’s marriage had been so ideal-a pattern of that prescribed by God for a Christian couple. Except that there were no children. No pregnancies. After some years, their father, Duke Wilhelm V, concluded that her childlessness was the result of some spell that witches and heretics, and possibly also Jews, had cast upon his oldest son’s wife. Perhaps, his father had thought, God had permitted the young duchess to be bewitched because he had not persecuted the heretics zealously enough; perhaps, even during his great campaign against them in 1590, he had shown too much mercy, had demonstrated too little firmness in exterminating the witches who ruined harvests, who destroyed cattle and crops, and who brought pestilence, plague, and sickness into Bavaria. Or, on the other hand, perhaps, Duke Wilhelm had persecuted the heretics in his realm so zealously, had shown so little mercy in burning the witches, had served the cause of Christ so plainly, that the bitter hatred of the Devil had descended directly on himself and his family. There had been prayers to break the spell; there had been devotional exercises. Duke Wilhelm had brought the general of the Barnabite friars, Michael Marrano, to Munich. He was a celebrated expert in removing spells from princely personages.

    All to no avail. Elisabeth Renata had remained childless.

    Which turned Duke Albrecht’s thoughts to his own marriage. By that time the Estates of Bavaria had already forced their father to abdicate. That happened two years after Maximilian’s marriage. Father had built too much-palaces, churches, Jesuit colleges. He had contributed generously to Catholic missions in China and Japan. There had been accusations of extravagance; threats of an impending state bankruptcy. Maximilian had assumed rule in Bavaria. By then, their father’s piety had gotten for Munich the name of the “German Rome” for its advocacy of Counter-Reformation piety. The two brothers between Maximilian and himself had already been placed in the clergy-Philipp Wilhelm, made Bishop of Regensburg the same year that Max married and Cardinal of the Church two years after that, was already dead; Ferdinand had been, and still was, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne.

    So. Albrecht must marry. He did. He had been twenty-seven; Mechthilde four years younger. The marriage had been followed by-four years of childlessness. He added in a couple of additional prayers for their first child, Maria Renata, who had died at the age of fourteen. Then God’s mercy had prevailed. They had four sons; three had survived. Karl Johann Franz-a little rash and reckless at the age of fifteen, but surely he would become steadier. Maximilian Heinrich, twelve; Sigmund Albrecht, ten. Both intensely intelligent and promising; all carefully educated for the responsibilities which, he and Maximilian believed, were due to fall upon them.

    Mechthilde. Younger of the two children of Landgrave Georg Ludwig of Leuchtenberg, imperial privy councilor and president of the imperial aulic council. He had been a tireless supporter of the Catholic cause, although his struggle with the tendency of his subjects to sneak across the borders and go to Protestant church services in the Upper Palatinate had worn him thin. He had also been rather well known for demanding and frequently getting a salary three times higher than anyone else would have received for doing exactly the same job.

    Mechthilde, representing in her body, when they married, the possibility that, should her brother die without heirs, the last irritating non-Wittelsbach principality in the region of the Upper Palatinate could be incorporated into Bavaria’s ever expanding boundaries. Not that such an eventuality appeared likely at present. Her brother Georg Wilhelm was still alive, even though his health was very shaky, and he had two surviving sons. Too bad that the youngest boy had died at Halberstadt eighteen months ago, but he had died in the service of his emperor and his church. Those were the risks that went with being born into the nobility.

    He would need to talk to Mechthilde. To talk with Mechthilde. To listen to Mechthilde.

    Their rosaries completed, the privy councillors were looking at him. He called the meeting to order.





    Landgrave Hermann of Hessen-Rotenburg hated politics. His older half-brother, Landgrave William of Hesse-Kassel, as one of Gustavus Adolphus’ primary allies in Germany, had for all practical purposes the nomination right to at least one of the cabinet posts under the new prime minister. He had nominated his younger brother as Secretary of State. Hermann was twenty-seven. He would do his duty, as a good Calvinist should; he was working morning, noon, and night to be an honor to his brother’s choice and ensure that the Emperor Gustavus Adolphus had no regrets about agreeing to find a place for Calvinists in the new government.

    But he didn’t have to like it. He yearned for his home, for the newly-married wife who had stayed behind to run the place, for his study, and for his project of producing a complete physical geography and topography of Hesse.

    The prime minister looked at him impatiently. “Hermann,” Mike Stearns said, “will you please sit down.”

    Embarrassed, suspecting that this was a concession to the prosthesis that he wore in place of one foot-not because of a respectable wound obtained in war but because of a birth defect-the landgrave sat. He wished that his brother had nominated someone else. But there wasn’t anyone else. Of the surviving sons of Moritz of Hesse, he was, after Wilhelm himself, the oldest.

    Mike Stearns sighed. Arnold Bellamy back home in Grantville; Hermann here. Why did diplomacy seem to produce so many stiff-necked, stiff-backed, and thoroughly uptight types? Not that either of them was dumb, just... God, how he missed Ed Piazza.

    “Let the briefing begin.” He hated these third-person down-time formulas of speech, too.

    Hermann gestured at Philipp Sattler, who was serving as Gustavus Adolphus’ personal liaison to the prime minister. Sattler, an experienced diplomat, was originally from Kempten, which gave him a considerable advantage in understanding the crazy quilt that was the political geography of the Germanies south of the Main river. Sattler had been brought in mainly to deal with Swabian issues, but was doubling as the Bavarian expert as well.

    Sattler started out. “Bavaria has fifty privy councillors, more or less. Most are administrative functionaries, with only minor influence. If you will forgive me, I have prepared summaries only on those whom I consider to be of political importance.”

    Mike snorted. “You are forgiven. Even better, you are commended. Go on.”

    “The chancellor is Dr. Joachim Donnersberger. He has been the most important political official in the duchy, the supreme court chancellor, since 1599. That means, naturally, that he isn’t by any means a young man any more; he’ll be seventy next year. He’s a commoner, from a prominent Munich family, with a law degree. It’s probably about time for the dukes to put a seal of approval on those long years of service by raising him to the nobility and changing his name to von Donnersberg, but they haven’t done it yet. Don’t count him out on grounds of age-he’s been at Duke Maximilian’s right hand ever since he took over the administration of Bavaria from his father.”

    Mike nodded. “I think that I get the picture.”

    “Alright, then just about equally influential, you have Duke Maximilian’s confessor, Father Adam Contzen. He’s a Jesuit, in his early sixties, originally from Jülich. He’s been a Jesuit since 1591. Duke Maximilian places unlimited confidence in the Jesuits, so he tends to push the limits that their order places on them just a little further than he ought to. He requires the Jesuits at his court to provide him not just with spiritual and political advice, but also with diplomatic services.”

    Mike nodded. “What’s Contzen’s position, then, when he hands out political advice.”

    Sattler laughed. “Ah, Herr Stearns, you are very lucky. In 1620, Father Contzen wrote a nice long treatise, Ten Books Concerning Politics. Sometimes translated as Ten Books on Political Economy I will, of course, be happy to summarize it for you. Possibly the most famous sentence is, ‘Hymni Lutheri animos plures, quam scripta et declamationes occiderunt.’” He paused, recalling the warning he had received that the up-timers rarely had a decent foundation in the classical languages. “That is, ‘Luther has murdered more souls with his hymns than with his writings and sermons.’ This does not mean in the least that he doubts the effectiveness of other Protestant writings and sermons in murdering souls. Throughout the 1620s, he was the leading spokesman for the Jesuit extremist party in Bavaria. The zealots, as they were known.”

    “A delightful man, I am sure,” Mike muttered.

    Sattler frowned. “He is a religious bigot. However, I want to be fair. It is no service to you if I show you only a caricature of the men with whom you will be dealing, Herr Stearns.”

    Mike nodded.

    Sattler continued. “The Ten Books also lay out the obligations of a ruler to his subjects. The ideal Christian commonwealth. In the book, he advocated tax reform; freeing the peasants from excessive burdens while placing tax levies on objects of luxury; that the state should itself own certain industries for the purpose of enhancing its revenue. Maximilian invited Contzen to become his confessor largely as a result of that publication. The parts you would consider good as well as those you would not like.”

    Duke Hermann interrupted. “What about Richel?”

    “Bartholomaeus Richel. Also a commoner, a lawyer. He has been Donnersberger’s deputy since 1623. Before that, he was chancellor of the diocese of Eichstätt. He left because of a slightly difficult episode. His wife Maria, a member of the patrician Bonschab family, was burned as a witch in December 1620. Richel transferred to the service of Bavaria very quickly after that-not a bad move in view of the fact that six other Bonschab family members were burned as witches in Eichstätt between 1617 and 1627. That included the town’s mayor, Lorenz Bonschab, and his wife and daughter. Being related to the Bonschabs, even by marriage was not exactly a career-enhancing item on a man’s resume in Eichstätt.”

    “Well,” Mike said. “I guess I can see that. Why did Duke Maximilian hire him?”

    “He’s very competent. And his wife was dead.” Sattler’s expression was sour.

    “What is concerning Landgrave Hermann, I think, is that Richel was Maximilian’s emissary to Ferdinand II last year. He was right in the middle of the attempt to assassinate Wallenstein, egging Ferdinand on. Richel served Maximilian very well during his term as ambassador in Vienna. From what we have been able to learn, his correspondence supplied Munich with large quantities of very useful information, which Maximilian has been using to gain additional leverage with the pope against the Austrian Habsburgs.”

    “I keep reminding myelf of that,” Mike said. “Not to regard the powers that were in the Catholic League as some sort of a monolith against the Protestants. They are just as fractious among themselves as Gustavus Adolphus’ German allies. Okay, Donnersberger, Contzen, Richel. Anyone else I should know about?”

    “It’s a little questionable, but perhaps Father Johannes Vervaux. Duke Francis II sent him down from Lorraine to Munich just two years ago with a recommendation. He became confessor to Duchess Elisabeth Renata, Duke Francis’ sister. I say that it’s questionable because now that she is dead, it’s hard to tell whether he will be keeping his position on the privy council or will be looking for another job. We will have to wait and see. He is just as much a Jesuit as Contzen, but almost a generation separates the two men. Vervaux is in his mid-forties and he did not join the order until 1618. A full generation separates their spiritual formation. It isn’t that he is less devout than Contzen; just that their modes of expressing that piety diverge widely, from what I hear.”

    Mike looked at Hermann. “Is there anything that we can do about the Bavarian situation, one way or the other?”

    “Not barring direct military intervention. Which we cannot possibly afford when everything needs to be focused on the League of Ostend. Diplomatically, not a thing.”

    “Then, I guess, we just tell Francisco Nasi to keep on top of developments as best he can. And let me know if anything changes.”



Munich, Bavaria

    Duke Albrecht looked around the table. He had not invited the functionaries this morning; the men facing him would be the ones whose opinions guided the setting of Bavarian policy.

    If, indeed, his brother could be brought to think about policy. Duke Albrecht glanced toward the door. A servant silently signaled that Duke Maximilian was again closed away in the chapel.

    In the privy council chamber, the discussion rose and fell. Could the duke be persuaded not to abdicate? Should he be? How would an abdication impact the problems in Bohemia? How would it affect the League of Ostend’s efforts against the Swede?

    Chancellor Donnersberger was inclined to think that the duke should be allowed to abide by his choice. It was far from unprecedented. The Emperor Charles V, himself, had abdicated and spent his last years in a monastery. Every man had the right to take thought for his soul.

    It was Contzen, at the last, who was adamant. “An abdication by the man who for so many years has been the general and guiding force of the Catholic League must necessarily have an adverse impact on efforts against the Swedish heretic. It will be perceived as a sign of weakness, and will undermine the church’s efforts to reclaim souls. The effect on public relations will also be horrible; we must dissuade him from this at all costs.”

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