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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Twenty

       Last updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2005 21:21 EDT




Late June-July, 1634
Germania sacra restaurata

Prüfening, Bavaria

    When Forst and Becker contacted Landgrave Wilhelm Georg of Leuchtenberg’s steward, Petrus Sartorius, in Prüfening, as directly across from the mouth of the Naab as one could get and still avoid Swedish-occupied Regensburg, for instructions, he told them that their lord was lying on his deathbed at the estate of Freiherr von Hörwarth at Planegg outside Munich and both his sons were both still away serving in the army. Sartorius protested that he knew nothing at all about the landgrave’s having taken any interest in anyone named Frau Veronica Dreeson.

    Not that he would, of course, he thought to himself; he had never been involved in any way with the landgrave’s collection of intelligence data or foreign activities, not even when the landgrave did such things. He no longer did such things. The landgrave’s health had been shaky for the past several years; extremely bad for the past year; serious for the past six months. Sartorius’ presence in Prüfening was for the purpose of looking out for the landgrave’s surviving economic interests in his Swedish-occupied lands. Also, of course, to transmit money and occasional messages back and forth. And to keep an eye on Regensburg. Almost everyone in Prüfening was keeping an eye on Regensburg these days.

    But still, he did not believe that the landgrave had been interested in Frau Dreeson. Unfortunately for the best laid plans of Forst and Becker, which were not, it had to be admitted, very good, the landgrave’s mind was not well; he had become senile. All of his stewards knew that he had not taking an interest in anything or anyone for a long time. Sartorius made it plain that he wanted nothing to do with these hare-brained idiots.

    This, of course, presented a problem for the bargemen. They still had the barrels.

    Well, only two of the barrels. Sartorius had at least been happy to take charge of the ones filled with iron ore. He could find a use for it one of these days, he said.

    He was also a cautious man. Although it did not seem probable on the basis of the reports he had received, it was possible that the landgrave might recover his health. Divine miracles were never to be discounted. Should he recover, it might also be possible that he had indeed instructed his agent in Amberg-what was the man’s name, oh yes, Arndt-to procure these women as hostages. If that did turn out to be the case-well, it couldn’t do any harm for him to offer facilities to the women that they might relieve themselves. And, ah, clean themselves.

    Sartorius assisted them to stand up; they were very cramped and stiff. He provided clean water; cold porridge left over from breakfast. The odd-looking one with her hair cut like a man’s had a bruise and small cut on her temple; he provided the other woman with cloths to clean it, and a salve. He told a stableboy to clean the barrels.

    Veronica cleaned Mary’s wound from hitting her head on the piling. Then she took out her false teeth, washed them, and tucked them into the pouch gathered onto a heavy string that she wore around her neck, beneath her clothing. For the last two days, she had been afraid that one of the times when the guard pushed the rag back into her mouth to gag her, he would push them out of place and cause her to choke.

    Sartorius assured himself that this much assistance was all that anyone could possibly expect of him. He gagged the women and tied their hands again before he led them back down to the warehouse, which opened on one side to the river and on the other side to the street. In spite of the gags, they managed to make it quite plain that they did not want to be put back in the barrels. He had to assist the other two by holding the smaller one while they tied the legs of the one with short hair. It took all three of them to retie the second woman’s legs; they used an extra length of rope on her.

    Forst and Becker insisted on the extra rope. By this time, both of them felt that they needed a lord’s protection badly. Sartorius’ obvious nervousness had only reinforced their own suspicions. They, in fact, had concluded during the journey down the Naab that they had two unusually powerful witches on their hands; or, at least, one powerful witch and her assistant. Why else would the landgrave have been concerned about a little old lady? They were not sure about the other, but they intended to take no chances.

    Particularly not since the steward had taken away the iron ore. Everybody knew that witchy powers did not work well in the presence of iron. Perhaps that was what had kept the witch under control on the trip down the Naab. Without that... On the other hand, there was no way that they could possibly have hauled a cart heavy with iron ore over land. It had been hard enough to persuade the steward to advance them money to buy a donkey cart.

    Sartorius did ask why they wanted the donkey cart.

    Well, the men said, if their lord was not available, then they needed the protection of a lady. The landgrave’s sister was in Bavaria. Somehow, they would take these women all the way to Munich, and consult Landgravine Mechthilde.

    Sartorius said rather stiffly that Landgravine Mechthilde, who was known in Bavaria as Duchess Mechthilde, if you please, since she was the wife of Duke Albrecht, was not in Munich. As the sister-in-law of Duke Maximilian and, until his remarriage, the first lady of Bavaria, she was taking a very important part in the wedding procession for the duke and Archduchess Maria Anna, which this very day would welcome the archduchess in Passau. When the ceremonies there were completed, it would start on its way from Passau to Munich. With, of course, the duchess continuing to play an important part.

    Forst and Becker found this to be good news. This meant that their very own Landgravine Mechthilde would soon be much, much, closer than Munich. Which meant much, much, less hauling. If they could haul the barrels south to the Isar, they ought to be able to intercept the procession.

    Even simple bargemen knew one thing. All formal processions moved very slowly. Their purpose was to let the people take a good look at the ruler.



At the Passau Border, Bavaria

    Father Johannes Vervaux, S.J., was standing behind his two charges. Within a month of Duchess Elisabeth Renata’s death, his position in the Bavarian court had changed rather significantly. From being the confessor of an elderly woman, he was now the tutor of two very, very, lively boys; of three, on the comparatively rare occasions when the eldest was in a mood to receive some academic instruction. Karl Johann Franz was fifteen; he was far more interested in fencing and riding, gymnastics and other “knightly arts” than in intellectual matters. He was aching for the day that he received permission to serve in Bavaria’s army. He would be sixteen in November; there would probably be no holding him back from a cavalry regiment once he passed that milestone.

    The two younger, though, showed much more promise in Vervaux’s opinion. Duke Albrecht and his wife had lost a child between Karl and the two younger boys; when he was nine years old, which often ached far more than losing an infant. Maximilian Heinrich was twelve; Sigmund Albrecht, ten. Both, whether Duke Maximilian’s new marriage proved fruitful with a quiver of sons or whether Karl did eventually succeed to the duchy, would be destined to lives in the highest offices of the Catholic church. The elder, almost certainly, would follow the in the sequence of Wittelsbachs who had become Archbishop-Electors of Cologne; for the younger, there was a wider range of possibilities: Freising, perhaps; Duke Maximilian really wanted Freising in the family. Regensburg or Passau would be possible; if Bavaria managed a real coup, Salzburg.

    It was, in any case, Vervaux’s assignment to form and mold them in such a way that they would be a credit to their vocations. All too many political appointees to high church office were not, nor had been since the earliest historical records of the Church. Consequently, he did not consider his new post to be a demotion. He would grant that it might be so in the eyes of worldly men; it certainly was not so in the eyes of God. Nor, if he succeeded in his task of providing them a good spiritual formation, in the eyes of the Jesuit Order.

    At the moment, however, his task was to see that they did not stand on tiptoe; neither squirmed nor wiggled, craned their heads, nor in other ways acted like boys. They were in the middle of a formal court ceremony. Their father, Duke Albrecht, ignored them, focused entirely on his role in the welcoming ceremony for Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria. Duchess Mechthilde, although carrying out an equally important part in the ceremony, flashed occasional glances their way, anxious to confirm that they were behaving themselves.

    This was not surprising, considering that they were boys, and at the moment their mother was occupied with stripping Archduchess Maria Anna down to her shift, in order to re-clothe her in garments of Bavarian manufacture. It was difficult to keep boys from displaying an unseemly interest in something like that.

    Vervaux smiled inwardly. It was difficult to keep even a middle-aged Jesuit from displaying an unseemly interest in something like that. The crowds who were attending the ceremony by which the archduchess was being transferred from the custody of her father to that of her future husband, beyond the limits of the enclosure for court personnel, were making no effort to refrain from unseemly interest. He gathered his errant thoughts up and disciplined them. Surely, there were more edifying topics to which he could devote his consideration than the degree of dress, or undress, of the future duchess of Bavaria as she stood surrounded by her ladies in waiting.

    Ladies. Yes. He would think about other ladies. Mary Ward’s English Ladies. The Ladies who were “not Jesuitesses,” since the Jesuit rule forbade it to accept the direction of women’s orders. The Ladies who, nonetheless, were shielded from the Inquisition by Father General Vitelleschi, even in the face of a papal bull dissolving them.

    Since Duchess Elisabeth Renata’s death, Duchess Mechthilde had assumed her role as their patron and benefactor in Bavaria. Well, officially, of course, Duke Maximilian was their patron. Effectively, however, it had been the duchess. Just as, in Vienna, the Emperor Ferdinand II was officially their patron and benefactor, but effectively it was Empress Eleonora whose interest and support had shielded them, thus far, from publication of the papal edict dissolving their order. In almost every place where the Ladies had established a foundation, they had received very extensive patronage from women of the highest nobility. In England, Queen Henrietta Maria herself protected their activities in a Protestant land. In the Netherlands, they had been under the sponsorship of the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia herself for as long as anyone could remember. That was in the face of the situation created by the fact that the court physician, Andrea Trevigi, had been a bitter opponent of the Jesuits and had tried for years to use the order’s support for the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring them down. Vervaux reminded himself that he should not be thankful that the man died last year (he would confess this thought) .

    That was a conflict that had pulled in Cardinal Carafa when he was nuncio in Cologne. Vervaux glanced up again. The cardinal, now nuncio in Munich, was here today, awaiting his role in the ceremony. In Naples, great noblewomen had exercised enough influence on the Spanish viceroy that he had, supposedly, pressured Cardinal Buoncompagni into consenting to the reopening of the Ladies’ school, in spite of the opposition of the Holy Office. It might be interesting to investigate what that constant support by great noblewomen signified. What was the attraction that the English Ladies exercised on them?

    In any case. Would Archduchess Maria Anna, as duchess of Bavaria, continue her predecessor’s interest in their endeavors? Her stepmother’s interest was a promising omen, but was not, of course, a guarantee.

    Would the new duchess be able to gain enough influence with her husband that she could establish a strong position at the court in her own right? Would her position enable her to provide such patronage? Almost involuntarily, Vervaux glanced up to see how the ceremony was progressing. Then he glanced back down again, placing his left hand rather firmly on Maximilian Heinrich’s shoulder. He hoped that this was about as far as they intended to go in the matter of unclothing the archduchess in public.

    Um. Perhaps, though. That was really a very impressive bosom. Vervaux glanced at Duke Maximilian. He was standing next to his brother, richly clothed in brocade. Black brocade, embroidered with black. He had refused to put off his mourning for the Duchess Elisabeth Renata. For all the interest he was displaying in his intended and at the moment largely unclothed bride, he might as well have stayed in Munich.

    Which he had wanted to do. It had taken the collective pressure of the entire privy council to persuade him to come to the border at Passau. Vervaux knew that he had risen before dawn, attended mass, devoted some time to private devotions, and then read despatches that had been delivered by a special courier until it had been time for him to prepare for the ceremony.

    From Ingolstadt, Vervaux presumed. He didn’t know of anything else that was happening at the moment that would require a special messenger. The regular couriers delivered information to the duke twice a day.



    Maria Anna stood passively, submitting to the protocol that required her to be undressed in public. Why flinch at this? After all, when they reached Munich, she would be married. Her wedding night would have witnesses who would take proofs of her virginity; she would give birth to her children with fifty or sixty people in the room, taking official notice of the event. Which was certainly not as bad as the long-ago Constance, who had given birth to the future Emperor Frederick II in a tent with its walls up in the city’s market square, just to make certain that those who might claim that she was too old for childbearing and assert that her child was an imposter could be confuted. The life of a ruler’s wife was by its very nature a public one.

    Mama stood behind her, receiving the Austrian garments in her arms. That did not mean, of course, that the glorious dress she had been wearing to cross the border would go to waste. Or even that it would be given to Cecilia Renata as a hand-me-down. The ceremony was largely a symbolic one; the seamstresses would check that it was still in good repair and pack in back into her trunks with the rest of her trousseau. Dona Mencia was standing behind Mama, waiting to take the discarded clothing from her hands when this part of the ceremony was over. Frau Stecher was standing inconspicuously behind Dona Mencia, waiting to remove it from the pavilion.

    There would be other occasions for her to wear the dress. She hoped. The Duchess Mechthilde was starting to reclothe her. The new dress was also quite luxurious, the bodice covered with lace and pearls. It was very beautiful. If you liked black brocade embroidered in black.

    She wished, with one last flicker of nostalgia, that Papa had chosen to marry her into the Spanish Netherlands. Then, she could have traveled a long way, seeing new things. Conditions in the Germanies being what they were at the moment, through Tirol and Switzerland; then France and Luxembourg, she supposed. She would have gotten to see something different. Marrying into Bavaria was just like, well, moving next door.

    Possibly Cecilia Renata would get to travel to the Spanish Netherlands. It was an open secret now, within the diplomatic community, that Don Fernando had privately written to Urban VIII asking whether a petition for laicization would be looked upon with favor. Maria Anna assured herself that she would not be envious of her sister if that happened. Envy was a mortal sin. She would not commit it. If she did unthinkingly commit it, she would repent of her error, confess it with contrition.

    She had learned her German from the servants. She had no difficulty in understanding the ribald cries and shouts coming from the crowd outside the pavilion.

    She was supposed to stand with her eyes modestly downcast throughout the reclothing. Quickly, she flicked them up. Uncle Max was not watching her.

    What would she call him when he was no longer her uncle, but rather her husband?



    Although Duke Maximilian was maintaining a passive indifference to the proceedings, this was not the case with any other person within the court pavilion. This marriage represented a crisis for every member of the Bavarian nobility, male or female; for every Bavarian government official, all male. If the Austrian managed to get pregnant, it would result in a shuffling of power structures and relationships at the Bavarian court that people had been setting up for nearly two decades. There was a great deal of curiosity; the courtiers pressed forward to view her.

    The next stage of the proceedings began. First, the prince-bishop of Passau stepped forward. Maria Anna looked at him affectionately. That was natural enough; he was her younger brother Leopold Wilhelm, just twenty years old. He had been a bishop since he was eleven. Like his older brother and sisters, he was the product of a Jesuit education. The pluralistic ecclesiastical offices that he held were a burden to his conscience already; more, undoubtedly, would be heaped upon him in the future in the interest of maintaining Habsburg political power. Papa’s plans for him included the dioceses of Strassburg, Halberstadt, Magdeburg, Olmuetz, Breslau, the headship of the order of the Teutonic Knights. Although he was devout, determined to conduct himself in a manner that would cause no personal scandal, he would be more than delighted if he could get rid of them and go into a secular, military or diplomatic, career.

    The canonical scandal of plurality itself was one that he could scarcely avoid. The lands, Maria Anna thought. So much of what we do, that we call “defending the church,” is directed at controlling the lands, the secular power and wealth that are in the hands of the church. Father Lamormaini had never really answered her question. If there must be a choice, was it more important for the church to hold its property or to care for the souls of its flock. The lands had not always been there. In the days of the early church, there had been no lands. “. . . the birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.” The apostles had not been prince-bishops.

    The prince-bishop of Freising stepped forward. Veit Adam von Gepeckh-well, he could scarcely have been excluded, no matter how furious Duke Maximilian had been in 1618 when the cathedral chapter elected him instead of one of the duke’s brothers. Duke Maximilian had no qualms at all about violating canon law by heaping up a plurality of benefices when it came to his brothers, although he had presented himself as extremely concerned by the allegations that Gepeckh had fathered more than one child. He had brought charges; initiated investigations. The papal investigator, the Bishop of Augsburg, had issued a finding that there was no bar to Gepeckh’s consecration. Eventually, he had sworn to lead a model life henceforth if confirmed, admitting only by implication that his conduct thus far had not been ideal. Reluctantly, the duke had consented to the papal confirmation of his election. As far as anyone knew, Gepeckh had done as he had promised and become the very model of an energetic and reforming Catholic Reformation bishop, not to mention introducing major measures of economic reform into his territories.

    It had been a lovely scandal while it lasted, though. And everybody present knew that Duke Maximilian had no intention of ever accepting the election of another prince-bishop of Freising who was not a member of his own immediate family.

    Bishop Gepeckh was accompanied by the papal nuncio, Cardinal Carlo Carafa. Maria Anna smiled at him. He had served as nuncio in Vienna in 1621; she had known him since she was a child.



    The cardinal smiled back. He moved steadily. Scheduled events went on, even when the morning’s despatches, delivered by a non-stop relay of couriers and horses from Rome to Passau, brought news of an attempt to assassinate the pope. That was not public yet, here in Bavaria. He assumed that the duke had received a message from his Roman agent, Francesco Crivelli, also, since a special courier had arrived for him this morning.



    Maria Anna had known that she was to receive the rose. She had not realized that it would be so beautiful. It was lying on a white satin cushion edged with braided gold thread; there were gold tassels dangling from the corners.

    She kneeled for the cardinal’s blessing; rather, for the pope’s blessing, delivered by the cardinal. Urban VIII had, for years, been a strong supporter of Uncle Max’s efforts to see that the Catholic church should be restored in the Germanies. Sometimes, even, perhaps, the pope had supported Uncle Max so strongly that he hadn’t shown enough appreciation of Papa’s efforts. Not because Papa was less zealous than Uncle Max; because Papa was a Habsburg and Urban VIII had quite a lot of conflicts with the Habsburgs in Italy. Even though those were Spanish Habsburgs; Cousin Philip. There were layers upon layers of diplomatic complexity, even when it came to things such as restoring the church.

    Maria Anna kneeled and bowed her head. She would continue to study hard, she promised God silently. She would master all of these complications. When her time came to be a regent, she would be prepared to serve Him to the fullest extent that lay within the capacity of the gifts of mind and body that He had given her.

    The cardinal prayed.

    Maria Anna rose; Bishop Gepeckh placed the rose in her hands.

    She held it out for Duke Maximilian to see. Waited. Prayed that he would not turn his face away from her in the presence of Papa and Mama, of the nuncio, of all these people.

    Maximilian turned to Cardinal Carafa, thanking the pope for bestowing this high honor on the Duchy of Bavaria and expressing his hope that Bavaria in turn would never fail in its duty to the church.

    Involuntarily, contrary to protocol, Maria Anna clutched the rose against her body, hugging it against the black brocade dress. It gleamed in the sunlight.

    Dona Mencia came forward and placed it back on the cushion.



    The excitement of the day was not limited to the courtiers. Assigned a place as far away from the archduchess as a person could get and still be inside the roped-off enclosure, Susanna Allegretti stood on tiptoe. She had never been so thrilled in her life.

    Behind her, a captain in Duke Maximilian’s bodyguard, assigned to ensure the safety of the archduchess’ household during the procession, checked his horse as it shifted restlessly. He glanced down, automatically noting the shape of the head, neck, and shoulders of the people inside the pavilion. He would not have risen to his present rank if he was not conscientious about his work.

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