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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Thirty Four

       Last updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2005 19:04 EDT



Servus Mori

Munich, Bavaria

    The captain of the guards motioned for one of his men to hold the back door of Archduchess Maria Anna’s apartments in the Residenz open for Dekan Golla and the Capuchin friar who accompanied him; he permitted them to precede him.

    Dekan Golla looked up and down with some dissatisfaction. “While the duke’s servants are certainly to be commended for their zeal for cleanliness, just in this instance it would have been nice to have some dust. Containing a few footprints, perhaps.”

    The floors, alas, were immaculate.

    “Let the servants be questioned,” the Capuchin said. “Not, at present, under torture. Just to determine whether any of them passed through this corridor at about the time the physician made his report. Only the footman was in the rooms during the day, according to what I have heard thus far. No one saw two male servants walking through the main corridors toward these rooms, so they must have come in this way.”



    Three servants admitted to having passed through the corridor shortly before the alarm was roused. All three denied having seen the two men. They maintained these denials even under strict questioning, which was very disappointing.

    One stated that she had seen two women, but had not particularly noticed them. In any case, they had not been near the door to the archduchess’ apartment, but had been walking, quite slowly, close to the far end. She had only seen them from the rear.

    “Two women?” one of the guards asked. “If they came from here, which two?”

    “No way to tell.” His companion shook his head. “Only a few people came into the archduchess’ apartments during the day. Dona Mencia de Mendoza was certainly present, but we know that she escaped with the three men. All we can say, really, is two of those who are not still here. If, of course, they were not just two tired servants, walking slowly at the end of the day.”

    It was scarcely feasible to question every servant in the Residenz about every corridor. It was a large building; with the wedding preparations, there had been a great deal of coming and going that did not follow the ordinary daily routines.



    It was early in the morning, even for a meeting of the Bavarian privy council. “Is this really all that they have been able to find out?” Duke Maximilian was clearly displeased.

    Duke Albrecht, who had been recalled to the privy council meetings more or less on sufferance, looked very uncomfortable. “Yes.”

    “We are not pleased.”

    They were interrupted by a soft knock at the door. The duke’s secretary motioned for a servant to open it. The court physician stood there, holding his hat. Impatiently, Maximilian beckoned him in.

    “Your Grace. I would not be here if it were not important. I am very sorry to inform Your Grace that Father Contzen did not survive the night. If Your Grace could direct the Hofmeister to coordinate with the Jesuits in regard to the requiem mass and whether there shall be a procession?” His voice trailed off.

    The duke looked at his secretary. “Let it be done.” The secretary left immediately. Maximilian stood up.

    “This meeting is adjourned. I am retiring to my oratory and do not wish to be interrupted. By anybody, for any reason. Father Forer, I will have you called when I need you. The rest of you may leave.”



    The funeral was elaborate. Duke Maximilian ordered that all of the food prepared in expectation of the wedding be presented to the poor in Father Contzen’s honor. That the clothing prepared in expectation of the wedding festivities be sold, and the proceeds given to the poor in memory of Father Contzen.

    He attended the obsequies in the role of chief mourner. The next day, he directed that the apartments that were being prepared in the Residenz for a new duchess and her household were to be permanently walled off from the remainder of the building. They were to be occupied by an order of fully cloistered contemplative nuns, whose time was to be devoted solely to prayer for the repose of the soul of the late Duchess Elisabeth Renata.

    The news from Ingolstadt was not good.



    Dr. Donnersberger was the first member of the privy council executed. He was not the last. Abegg was gone, too. Both chanceries were in chaos.

    The duke concluded that those most responsible for the debacle were the members of the privy council who had at first been inclined to oppose his remarriage, but had subsequently changed their minds. They were guilty of not having provided a counterpoise to those who directly urged him to remarry. They were guilty of not having made him listen to the words of his own vow.

    The formal charge was misprision of treason.

    Their estates, of course, escheated to the duchy-after payment of court costs.

    Dr. Richel had performed some rather deft footwork to bring the duke to this point of view; he was now generally regarded as the most influential among the lay councillors, second only to Father Forer. The duke was known to be listening to the Spanish ambassador, as well.

    In the week that led up to Dr. Donnersberger’s execution, quite a few of the lower nobility who held seats on the privy council sent their families out of Munich, to their country estates. Followed, as quickly as they could make arrangements, by themselves.

    Maximilian told the captain of the garrison not to worry about it; he could take care of them later, at leisure. There were more immediate tasks; more important ones.



    It was clear, Duke Maximilian concluded, that Ferdinand II, from the beginning, had intended to make a fool of him. He ordered the members of the archduchess’ household who had remained in Munich interned; questioned; then ordered them executed.

    With due attention to protocol, of course. Countess Polyxena and the other three ladies-in-waiting who had remained behind were beheaded; the remainder, Frau Stecher among them, hanged in the Schrannenplatz. The seamstress had protested to the last that she had been a faithful informant to the inquisition and had no part in the departure of the archduchess. This was manifestly contradicted by the note from the Countess Polyxena that Dekan Golla’s associate had found. The countess had first denied writing it, as was to be expected, but had later admitted it under torture.

    Their heads were sent to join those of the privy councillors, lining the outer walls of Munich, above the gates.



Vienna, Austria

    “Mama,” Cecelia Renata asked anxiously. “What are we going to do. Papa is practically apoplectic.”

    Empress Eleonora looked at her stepdaughter wearily. “I know. I have used very soothing and cooling potion that I know, but they are not doing him any good. Not even the poultices. I have had snow and ice brought down from the mountains, but even so, it is clear that every day his humors are a little more choleric.”

    Mariana leaned over and kissed her cheek, giving her a comforting hug.

    “I can’t nurse him. But I can, and have, written to my Ferdinand. Telling him that he needs to come home from the Hungarian border now. Whether Papa and the privy council authorize him to or not.”

    She leaned back on the bench in the empress’ private garden. “If only it weren’t so hot.”



    “Maximilian has done this, you are telling me, in spite of Our official assurances, sent to him in the diplomatic pouch, that these members of the archduchess’ household were personally loyal to Us?

    “Yes, Your Majesty.”

    “They were personally loyal to Us, weren’t they?”

    Father Lamormaini looked very unhappy. “Most of them, certainly. With the exception of a few, such as Countess Polyxena. She was not disloyal, but no reasonable man would have attempted to use her as an agent or informant. Though we could not avoid including her among the appointments, given how essential her husband is to the proper operation of the imperial treasury.”

    Cardinal Dietrichstein nodded. “She was completely useless-not a thought in her head beyond clothes and getting a high-status position at court. Little idiot. Pretty, though.”

    “Is it true that We do not have any information at all in regard to the archduchess and the remainder of her household?”

    The emperor had ceased to refer to Maria Anna as his daughter.

    “Yes. Freiherrin Lukretia, who left Munich a couple of days before the disappearance to return to Vienna for her expected confinement, has taken refuge with the Count of Ortenburg. She is afraid to proceed on to Passau, for fear of being arrested by Maximilian’s agents, which is not unreasonable, under the circumstances. Ortenburg sent a courier to Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. According to the Freiherrin, all the other members of the household were going about their usual tasks at the time she left.”

    “Is that all she knows?”

    “It is all the information that was in the letter that the courier brought.”

    “Is there ambivalence in your sentence?”

    “Freiherrin Lukretia is far from being a pretty little idiot. It may well have occurred to her that as long as she stays in Ortenburg, Maximilian cannot question her-but, then, neither can we.”



Munich, Bavaria

    Cardinal Carafa, the papal nuncio, prudently withdrew from Munich to Passau; from there, he went to Vienna.

    As Richel noted, it still had not been explained just how come the cardinal had happened to leave his mule so conveniently tethered that it had been readily available for use in Dona Mencia de Mendoza’s escape from the archduchess’ apartments.

    The Spanish ambassador did not miss the opportunity to point out to Duke Maximilian that the withdrawal of the nuncio necessarily gave rise to a suspicion that Urban VIII might have been in league with the Austrians. Ungrateful wretch that he was, not to appreciate all that the duke had done for the papacy and for the cause of the church.

    The duke was inclined to listen to this theory, especially in view of the pope’s recent appointment of a cardinal-protector for the heretical United States of Europe. One of the up-timers, no less.



    A cardinal-protector from Grantville. Which is where the two damnable women with whom Mechthilde of Leuchtenberg had saddled him came from. He needed to look into that more deeply. It would have been easier if Landgrave Wilhelm Georg had not finally died the week before.

    It was entirely proper that Albrecht and Mechthilde, with their sons and much of their household, had left Munich to attend his funeral and arrange for the transportation of his body to Pfreimd, where it would be interred in the family crypt. It would be a normal courtesy for Gustavus Adolphus’ regent to permit the transport of the coffin through the Upper Palatinate to reach it.

    It was not entirely appropriate that they had left Munich for Johann Franz Hörwarth von Hohenberg’s estate near Planegg a week ago and had not yet returned. Hörwarth, the son of Dr. Donnersberger’s predecessor as the Bavarian supreme court chancellor, had been, for some time now, the landgrave’s rather unwilling host.

    The Leuchtenberger, no matter what Mechtilde said, were the ones who had saddled him with the Grantville women. Possibly witch women. Certainly servants of the Swede.

    Maximilian ordered the extension of questioning to those of his brother’s servants who remained in Munich. Not, at first, strict questioning.



    Even without strict questioning, one of the maids provided very troubling testimony. She stated that beginning the day of the archduchess’ disappearance, she had been instructed to deliver food, clean towels, soap, and various other amenities to the unused rooms which had served as nurseries for Duke Albrecht’s sons. This had continued until the day that the household left Munich, when she was told that they would no longer be needed.

    “Surely,” Dr. Richel said, “they cannot have been keeping the archduchess imprisoned.”

    The question returned to Duke Maximilian’s mind. “Who would benefit most?”

    He ordered one of the guards to bring the maid back. Under a repetition of questioning, still without torture, the maid stated that she had never seen the woman who was apparently staying in the rooms. Whenever she brought supplies, except for the first day, she had left them in the outer nursery. The woman must have been in the small room once used by the wet nurses.

    “You are sure that it was a woman?” Father Forer asked.

    “Yes, sir.” She provided some explanation of the different types of supplies and food that gentlemen and ladies often used. At request, she made a list of everything she had delivered. And everything that she had removed.

    “In the brushes, were there curly, black, hairs?”

    “No sir. The only hairs that I saw were straight; some were black, others gray. Very long, even for a woman.”

    “Gray.” Richel was thumbing through the list. “What are ‘wraps’?”

    “Strips of cloth, sir,” the maid answered.

    “Strips of cloth?”

    The court physician leaned forward. “They are often used by people who have injuries or pain in their joints. Bad ankles. Bad knees. They provide some support. In the case of rheumatism or arthritis, they can reduce the swelling somewhat.”

    “Good God,” Richel exclaimed. “Dona Mencia.”

    “But she was seen to escape,” Father Forer exclaimed.

    “An old woman dressed in black was seen to escape. No one has heard of her since.” The Capuchin frowned.

    “But what connection would there have been between Duke Albrecht and Dona Mencia?” Richel meant it as a hypothetical question.

    Dekan Golla answered. “The English Ladies. Who stand in the shadow of the inquisition. Duchess Mechthilde was serving as their patron; the archduchess Maria Anna offered to become their patron. There must have been a taint of heresy in both households. And in Vienna, as well; it is widely known that Ferdinand II supports them.”

    Dr. Richel opened his mouth, then closed it again. This was not a suitable occasion to mention that Duke Maximilian himself and the late Duchess Elisabeth Renata had also supported them. Times had changed.

    “Not to mention,” the Dominican said, “that many of the families of Munich’s patriciate-a class of which Dr. Donnersberger was a member-sent their daughters to the school that the English Ladies conducted. It may be desirable to widen the scope of your investigation.”

    The Capuchin suggested, on the basis of information received from the man who delivered produce to the English Ladies, that it might be prudent to question their cook.



    The guard stood quietly behind the maid, listening to the entire conversation. They had forgotten to order him to take her from the room.

    He completed his shift on duty and said to his sergeant that he thought he would drop by St. Peter’s for vespers. It was something that he did regularly.

    The sergeant waved him away.

    He went to St. Peter’s for vespers; then, on his way back to the barracks, stopped at his mother’s house. Where he gave his brother a note and urged him to take it to Duke Albrecht in the country right away.



    The English Ladies’ cook could not be found. Neighbors stated that she and her family had not been seen for a week. The inquisition noted it as a suspicious circumstance.

    Many of the families who had sent their daughters to the English Ladies’ school could be found. They were questioned, as were their daughters.

    They confirmed the reports of the inquisition’s agents. Both Dona Mencia de Mendoza and the Duchess Mechthilde had been visitors at the house of the English Ladies with some frequency. Upon several occasions, their visits had overlapped.

    The inquisition began an extensive investigation of suspicion of heresy within many of the city’s most influential families. It was expected to take some time. The affected families were placed under house arrest. This did not prevent four of them from admitting their guilt by fleeing from the city.



    Duke Maximilian signed the charges against his brother and Mechthilde. Conspiracy to commit treason. That would suffice for the time being. Dekan Golla was preparing charges that would provide a basis for an investigation in regard to heresy and witchcraft.

    He dispatched four full companies of troops to Freiherr Hörwarth’s residence near Planegg. That should be more than adequate; he was informed that they had taken only the usual complement of household guards when they left Munich.

    Their first task was to secure the boys and bring them back to Munich. Bavaria still needed heirs; he had no others.

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