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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Five

       Last updated: Thursday, January 20, 2005 00:45 EST



Gymnasium Patentiae

Munich, Bavaria

    “So you would have me break my vow to God?”

    Duke Maximilian looked around the council table. Three weeks after the duchess’ death, this was his first return to the chamber.

    Contzen’s views aside, almost all of the privy council, his staff and advisors, had-after some reflection-been appalled by Maximilian’s decision to with draw from secular life. For Contzen his position was based on a very strong belief that the duke was more valuable to the Church as head of the Catholic League than in a monastery. For most of them, however, the tipping point had been the almost universal perception of bureaucrats that a change in bosses (followed, inevitably, by a change in personnel on the staff) is a catastrophe. They had immediately started to cast around for ways to persuade the duke to abandon his decision.

    Within the past two hours, depending on the individual, Maximilian had been told that he had a duty to stand by Ferdinand II against the problems that Wallenstein was causing him in Bohemia, that he had a duty to attempt to expel the heretical Swedes from the Upper Palatinate and once more take up the cause of restoring its population to Catholicism, that various prior treaty obligations could be interpreted as requiring him to defer carrying out the most recent vow until he had completed them; that, in fact, he must not abdicate.

    “Albrecht?” Maximilian looked at his brother.

    “I will not attempt to constrain your conscience.” Duke Albrecht considered himself to be in a very tight spot. He would, after all, from a worldly perspective, be the primary beneficiary of Maximilian’s decision to retire.

    “Dr. Donnersberger?”

    Joachim Donnersberger’s decision had not been easy; at heart, he still believed that the duke should follow his conscience. Still, there had been so many occasions over the years when Duke Albrecht had intervened with the privy council on behalf of the less progressive party. Donnersberger was strongly committed to Father Contzen’s views on the proper nature of governance. Peace could exist only where there was one universal Catholic faith. But, once that one true faith had been ensured, once there was harmony within a realm, rulers had duties to their subjects. Donnersberger was not yet quite willing to give up the dream of an ideal Christian commonwealth. Reluctantly, he replied, “Your Grace. Bavaria still has need of you.”


    “You cannot abdicate, Your Grace. Not without taking upon your conscience the guilt of once more plunging the Austrian lands into chaos and permitting the rampant spread of heresy. Wallenstein has proclaimed free exercise of religion; the walls of the ghetto are down. We need your decisiveness, your unswerving dedication, the power of your convictions.”

    “Father Contzen?”

    Adam Contzen laid two pieces of paper upon the table. “Your Grace, if I may. These are copies, sent me from this Grantville, from the encyclopedias of the men from the future.”

    Duke Maximilian frowned.

    Encyclopedias, Duke Albrecht thought, the wondrous encyclopedias.

    If the future had learned nothing else from the Jesuits, he mused wryly, it had learned the Art of Extraction that they taught so painstakingly to their students-how to go through a nearly unmanageable body of material, reduce it to its essence, and take notes with marginal indices that enable one to find the needed reference again without immense waste of time. The books of the up-timers were all very well, but Father Contzen had complained to him more than once that finding something in them was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Which book might have it, if, indeed, any book had it at all? But the encyclopedias, all of them: alphabetically arranged, with cross references at the end of one article indicating where the researcher may find related material in the compendium. Not just the great one, which they guarded so carefully, but all of them-World Book and Americana, Columbia, and Funk and Wagnalls, old and new, large and small. Some more useful than others, but each one a treasure trove.

    Duke Albrecht had been told that Father Kircher devoted all the time that he could spare to encyclopedias. But more, there were a half dozen other young Jesuits, five of them from the English College and thus able to handle the language more effectively, whom the order was subsidizing to spend their days sitting in Grantville’s libraries. Once they translated their valuable discoveries into Latin, of course, the information was available to every man of learning in Europe.

    “If I may?” Contzen repeated. Maximilian nodded his head.

    “These are two short biographies of the life that you lived in that world. In that world, you did not abdicate.”

    “Perhaps, in that world, I had not taken a vow to enter a monastery?”

    “There is not sufficient detail here to tell us whether you did or not.”

    “What became of the rest of my life?”

    “You took a second wife, who bore you sons. The elder succeeded you as duke and elector. You defended the Catholic cause to the end.”

    Duke Maximilian bowed his head.

    Duke Albrecht sat, his face impassive. Why didn’t anyone bring this to my attention? Mechthilde. What will Mechthilde say to this; that all her efforts in bearing and rearing our children are to be made irrelevant to the future of Bavaria? Can I get a copy of those from Contzen? Or from someone else?

    Duke Maximilian looked up again. “Father Vervaux?”

    Johannes Vervaux looked at the duke, making sure that his face hid the pity that he felt. It did not do to pity Maximilian of Bavaria. “Your Grace. Reluctantly, I concur with Dr. Donnersberger. Bavaria still needs you, at whatever sacrifice of yourself.”

    “Thank you, gentlemen. I shall now retire to my meditations. Please be assured that I will take the advice of each of you into account.” The duke rose, the councillors rising with him. As he prepared to withdraw to his oratory, Duke Maximilian asked, “What did I name my sons?”

    He did not ask, “Who was my second wife?” That, apparently, was a matter of complete indifference to him.




    There was nowhere in Munich that Duke Maximilian’s decision to delay his abdication was greeted with more relief than in the convent of the “English Ladies” or “Jesuitesses,” formerly the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The dozen or so members in the Munich house-forbidden, at present, to designate themselves as nuns or even as sisters-waited for a signal from Mary Ward to begin their after-supper devotions.

    Mary Ward-not Mother Mary Ward, they were not a religious order any longer, she had to remember that-waited, her hands folded quietly in her lap. She was nearly fifty. In the almost thirty years since she had left England in pursuit of a religious vocation, she had been as far south as Rome and as far east as Bratislava. She and her sisters had founded schools for girls from Liege to Naples in the Spanish lands, from Cologne to Vienna in those of the Holy Roman Empire, farther east in the Habsburg possessions. She had tried the traditional contemplative convent life of the Colettine Poor Clares and found it not to be her vocation. After a year spent with her family, assisting people in need and people who were experiencing difficulties with their faith, she had returned to the Netherlands with a group of other young Catholic Englishwomen she had gathered around her. She had developed the concept of a new kind of women’s religious order whose members would be able to travel, to work and live among the people who needed their services most, wearing not a habit but the ordinary clothing of the laity, living according to the Jesuit rule.

    The difficulties, most of them, had arisen there. Since long before the days of Chaucer’s pilgrim prioress, the idea of nuns “gadding about” in public had irritated ecclesiastical conservatives. Ideally, for them, not only would a nun never leave the walls of her convent, but no lay person would ever enter within them, either. It was the only way to control the dangerous females of the species: immure them.

    The Council of Trent had declared that all religious orders of women must take solemn vows and observe strict enclosure. Pope Pius V had confirmed this resolution. Given how many other declarations of Trent were observed more in the breach than to the letter in the first third of the seventeenth century, it was astonishing how many members of the College of Cardinals, how many officials in the Holy Office, insisted that this one could not be breached in the least.

    Mary Ward nodded. “Let us pray. Sister Winifred, please lead us. Sister Frances, please provide the tones for the chant.”

    Against the background of the familiar evening prayers, her tired mind wandered. In 1615, she had requested papal confirmation of her institute; the hearings process had outlasted two popes and continued into the tenure of a third. Although the Jesuit rule specifically prohibited them from undertaking the direction of women’s orders, nevertheless Father Mutio Vitelleschi, General of the Society of Jesus, found that there would be no objection to, and much to be gained from, the establishment of a parallel but unconnected institution. During the next ten years, in spite of the opposition of clergy who objected to the idea of a women’s order directly subject to the pope rather than under the authority of the diocesan bishops, she had established several branches in the Spanish Netherlands (with the patronage of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia), the Germanies (with the approval of the archbishop of Cologne), Naples, and Perugia. In Rome itself, there had been-well, there now was again-a school for poor girls. But in 1624, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith issued its ruling: accept enclosure or the institute would be dissolved. One by one, the schools in Italy closed; many of her sisters had entered other, more conventional, orders.

    In Munich, however, Duke Maximilian and Duchess Elisabeth Renata were among the most sturdy of the Catholic rulers in supporting the idea of unenclosed orders of women who could teach and do social work. In 1627, Mary Ward had come to Munich; the duke assigned them a house, appropriately enough on Paradise Street; they opened a school. At the duke’s recommendation, Ferdinand II invited the English Ladies to Vienna; they opened a school for girls. Its success had demonstrated that she was right-that this order met a need within the church. The girls’ school that they opened in the imperial capital attracted four hundred sixty-five pupils the first year.

    On July 7, 1628, the Holy Office had declared the institute disbanded because of its refusal to accept claustration. Mother Mary Ward had met with the nuncio in Vienna, then with the nuncio in Munich. In May of 1629, Pope Urban VIII had granted her an audience; early the next winter, she defended her foundation before a commission of the College of Cardinals-speaking in Latin. She returned to the house on Paradise Street. In the background, the ecclesiastical bureaucracy continued to carry out its assignment to disband the order’s houses. The schools in the Netherlands were closed; also the one in Cologne. Because of the efforts of the inspector whom Mary Ward sent to the Netherlands to reopen the school at Liege, the case was transferred to the Inquisition. The charge: disobedience. Well-it was true. Winifred Wigmore’s actions had been imprudent at best and insubordinate at worst. Her own defense of her sister in Christ had been intemperate. In January 1631, Urban VIII issued a bull “definitively” abolishing the institute; she herself had been “imprisoned” by the Inquisition in Munich, albeit that imprisonment consisted of a stay in the infirmary at the Poor Clare convent, with a sister from her own order to keep her company, her meals delivered from outside, and lax enough supervision that the lunch baskets included notes, incoming and outgoing, written on napkins with lemon juice serving the place of invisible ink.

    In March of 1632, she went to Rome once more; met with the Pope once more. In that other world, the encyclopedias said, the pope had furnished her with a residence in Rome, where she and her companions lived on a modest income that appeared from somewhere deep in the recesses of the Barberini family’s revenues.

    In this world, he had sent them back to Munich, where under Duke Maximilian’s patronage they had reopened their school, but as lay teachers. It was not what Mary Ward wanted; she wanted recognition that the institute was a religious body. It appeared to be, for the time being, all that she could get. It certainly appeared that the English Ladies would never become, formally, a Papal Institute.

    They might, however, Cardinal Francesco Barberini had suggested, tentatively, in a private conversation before her return, possibly be reconstituted as a diocesan order that fulfilled the same function. Serving only in those dioceses where the bishops wanted them; not in those where their existence would be an irritant. Yes, he knew that was not what she had wanted. It was not as prestigious as being a papal institute; it would not provide the leaders of the order with the same independence. But, then, it was widely recognized that humility was good for the soul. One diocese at a time; it would be possible to insert in the document allowing such foundations a clause that the bishop must guarantee to respect their rule and would not subsequently attempt to impose enclosure; should a successor wish to withdraw his approbation of the foundations, the ladies would be allowed to transfer to another diocese-with their property.

    Cardinal Francesco had suggested that this experiment might preferably begin with dioceses some distance from Italy and Spain. There was, of course the example of Vincent de Paul and his Sisters of Charity in France. Cardinal Francesco, with whom Mazarini had shared the delightful story of the original name of the Catholic parish in Grantville, had laughed at that point in the conversation. Mary Ward had wondered why.

    The murmured litany came to its end. “Now,” Mary Ward said, let us each say an additional rosary for the soul of the Duchess Elisabeth Renata.” If her own rosary included a petition that some benefactor might appear to substitute for the generous charity that the late duchess had extended to the English Ladies and their school, she did not say so.



    On the other hand, there was nowhere in Munich that Duke Maximilian’s decision to delay his abdication was greeted with more disappointment than in the apartments of Mechthilde of Leuchtenberg, Duke Albrecht’s wife. Nor anywhere that it was greeted with more fury.

    Duke Albrecht had been afraid of that.

    What he said was, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Face it, Tilda. It’s as good a principle as any for taking life one day at a time.”

    “I will not see my sons shunted into insignificance. I have endured for more than twenty years now, living in Bavaria as a dependent of the court. Maximilian has never assigned you an appanage of your own. We have been nothing but upper servants, all our lives. I have endured it for the sake of our children. Who will now be tossed away. Nothing for you, nothing for them.”

    “Maximilian has no intention of breaking up Bavaria into something that resembles the absurd little Saxonies and Anhalts. Primogeniture was put in force in 1506. There hasn’t been an independent territory for a Bavarian cadet line since Kunigunde of Austria forced her older son to create one for her younger son in 1516, no matter what their father’s will said. That’s more than a century ago. And Ludwig X had the grace not to marry.”

    “Don’t ever dream that I don’t know what she asked the Estates, then. ‘Isn’t my younger son as nobly born as his brother? Didn’t I bring him forth from the same womb, set from the same seed?’ The Estates, the Landtag, agreed with her. They awarded him a third of the duchy. You are Maximilian’s full brother: same womb, same seed. What is it that brings him to rule and you to be no more than any one of the others on his council-men who have no more nobility than can be garnered by attending a university and getting a law degree?”

    “Power,” Albrecht answered tersely. “Unified, Bavaria is a strong force within the empire. Break it up, and each part will be no more than, say, one of the pieces of Baden or of Hesse.”

    “Power,” said Mechthilde. “Do not doubt for one moment that this means that our sons will have none.”

    They looked at one another.

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