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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Fifty Seven

       Last updated: Monday, December 19, 2005 22:36 EST



Felix Austria


    “Overall,” Rebecca said, “I am rather proud of our handiwork. They make a handsome couple.”

    “They are leaving tomorrow?” Frederik Hendrik asked.

    “Yes,” Rebecca said. “They want the wedding to take place as soon as possible, naturally. Don Fernando, the king, that is, wants very much to be married at the Cathedral in Brussels, he says. I think that he wants, even more, to present Maria Anna to the Infanta, to Isabella Clara Eugenia. Everyone knows that the time remaining to her is very short; indeed, everyone is astonished that she has lived this long. Since it is a hundred twenty-five miles, even though they will be traveling with minimal pomp and almost no luggage, just the necessary staff personnel and a really big security detail, it will take several days for them to make the trip. That allows time for the great nobles of the southern Netherlands to get to Brussels, though scarcely time for any of them to get new clothes.”

    “The death of Ferdinand II, of course, provides Fernando and Maria Anna with every excuse for marrying quietly, since the bride will be in official mourning. The extensive formal processions and such can come later,” Frederik Hendrik said.

    “True,” Rebecca replied. “And Gretchen gave them advice on how to get married in a hurry.”

    The Stadholder raised his eyebrows.

    Rebecca winked. “Borrow the dress.”

    Mike laughed raucously.

    “That is exactly what Maria Anna plans to do. Gretchen and Jeff gave her a wedding present, too. I didn’t expect Gretchen to do that, given her grumbling against nobility in general and Habsburgs in particular.”

    “Dare I ask?”

    “Jeff went shopping and bought an Indian sari in the oriental imports section of the Amsterdam marketplace. It is red chiffon sprinkled with gilt stars and a fancy gilt border. Practically transparent. The color should look great on Maria Anna, she’s so brunette. That would have been okay by itself, but Gretchen did some minimal stitching and turned it into a sort of regency-style nightgown. Gathers over the bosom and floating panels. No seams down the sides below the high waistline. It’s really, ah, very...” Rebecca paused.

    “Victoria’s Secret?” Mike completed her sentence.

    Rebecca looked blank.

    “The kind of thing to inspire a husband to go shopping in the oriental bazaar.”


    “I might,” he said, “just do that. Now that you have brought the matter up.”




    There had been several busy, but comparatively quiet days. Contrary to protocol, Fernando and Maria Anna had ridden side by side during the trip to Brussels. He had justified this by saying that he did not really have enough guards along to provide two separate details. Dona Mencia had contributed a special request that her brother be allowed to have a seat in the carriage, which gave Maria Anna an opportunity to volunteer to ride-and Don Fernando the chance to give her a really gorgeous horse as a first wedding present.

    “Given that you are coming to me without a sixty-eight clause treaty protecting your interests, dower, and everything else,” he said frankly, “I might as well start making it very clear to your brother that you will receive from me, voluntarily, every perquisite that normally it would have taken our diplomats months to negotiate.”

    “I doubt that it’s been the first thing on his mind lately,” Maria Anna said. “But, of course, it will be one more item that he doesn’t have to worry about, so he will be properly grateful.”

    Without pomp was a relative concept, of course. They had created time for two noon meals with local nobility, regional officials, and municipal officers, one at Utrecht in the new kingdom’s northern provinces, the second at Antwerp and the old southern provinces, so neither the could claim to have been disadvantaged. There had been a third formal meal today, after their arrival at Brussels. Don Fernando had reserved the afternoon for catching up on paperwork; the evening, he had kept free for an unofficial dinner with the members of his privy council. Maria Anna had spent the afternoon being fitted for a trousseau. That left the twilight.



    Dona Mencia, was, it had to be said, dozing. Perhaps even sleeping-certainly, her chin had dropped somewhat, although it would have been unkind to describe her breathing as a snore. Don Fernando’s secretary, making the most of an autumn evening in the Netherlands, was writing at his desk in the back of the room, next to the windows that faced onto the street.

    “Shall we walk along the terraces?” Fernando asked.

    “That would be nice. It seems to have stopped raining.” Maria Anna picked up her shawl.

    The first traverse along the arcades, which covered almost a quarter of a mile facing the gardens, was devoted to the day’s events. At the end, they noted that Dona Mencia still appeared content, while the secretary had lit a lamp to supplement the fading light of the sun.

    The second traverse through the colonnades was devoted to Don Fernando’s request for an update on the escape from Bavaria and Maria Anna’s intervening adventures, along with what they might mean. “Somewhat more open than you have felt it possible to give me when a half dozen other people were listening,” he specified.

    “I had a lot of time to think,” Maria Anna said. “Walking and riding for so many weeks, that is almost all that I did. Think and pray. My information is not good, of course. I really only know what I read in the newspapers, so you must forgive me if some of my premises are incorrect.”

    “Of course,” Fernando said. “That is understood.”

    “The most important for us, in the long run, should be that there were two betrayals-the one at Ingolstadt against Duke Maximilian and then that by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar against the French.”

    “You see them as linked?”

    “Not in their origins, I believe. But in the way that the pamphleteers will show them, because both Colonel von Farensbach and Duke Bernhard were, at one time, in the employ of the Swede. Someone who does not see them as simple opportunists can discern a whole pattern, deeply laid, by which Gustavus Adolphus has been employing double agents, infiltrating them deeply into the councils of his opponents-the French, the Bavarians, our own. In the case of Farensbach, since his family is from the Baltic, a writer might well argue that the roots go far back in time, a decade or more before the Swede intervened in the German wars. Mary Simpson says that they called such writers ‘conspiracy theorists’ up-time.”

    Fernando nodded.

    “The most important reaction immediately, I think, will be in France. Duke Bernhard’s action in opening the lines across from Mainz will give Monsieur Gaston and his supporters opportunities for endless publicity.” She smiled. “I could almost write the pamphlets myself, if they employed me to do so. ‘Bernhard’s joining the French was a feint all along.’ That would be the first section. Then, depending upon the pamphleteer’s preference, either, ‘Richelieu fell for it, which means that he is incompetent and must be replaced by a minister who will better serve Louis XIII,’ or, ‘Richelieu knew it all along, which means that he is a traitor, Louis XIII was duped by him, and he must be replaced by those who will serve the king more faithfully.’ Either of those, of course, can be capped by a call to place Monsieur Gaston as his brother’s chief minister, with Gaston’s supporters filling the privy council.”



    What a keen mind, Fernando thought. How trenchant her observations are. How clear and to the point. How marvellously... political she is! He glanced down briefly. And a bosom, too.

    They moved on to the question of more specifically family politics. Vienna, first; then Madrid.

    “As things stand,” Maria Anna said, “I do not believe that Ferdinand, my brother, will be able to call a diet any time soon. That may change, of course, once there is peace in the Germanies.” She squeezed Fernando’s arm. “I am so glad that you provided me with the copy of the alternate peace treaty draft that he is distributing. He has worked on it so hard and so long. We loved Papa so much, but he simply could not understand that things had to change now. Not so much would not as simply could not.”

    “I know the problem,” Don Fernando said. “We find it in the Spanish branch of the family also, here and there.”

    “Without a diet, there is no way he can be elected as Holy Roman Emperor to succeed Papa. I do not think it likely that he will quietly just not be an emperor, though. We can read encyclopedias as well as anyone. Before I left Vienna, when Papa sent Ferdinand to inspect the defenses in Hungary, Mariana and I were already talking. I love Mariana; your sister is so darling and I am so glad that Ferdinand married her. But we were talking that if the Swede can simply name himself an ‘emperor’ in the Germanies, then there is no reason that Ferdinand should not be emperor of an ‘Austro-Hungarian’ empire as happened many years later in that other world. It would be a balance.”

    Fernando nodded again. “A very good balance.”

    “It also makes sense. Austria’s primary responsibility will always be to hold against the Turks. Always. No matter what happens in the Germanies, Austria must look toward the Balkans.”

    “Perhaps,” Fernando said, “some day he and I will meet with our armies and win a great victory. Not at Nördlingen against the Swede, as we did in that other world, but against the Ottomans. A united Habsburg initiative against the Turks, bringing Spain’s resources into play on that front and thus reuniting the family.”

    “That would be wonderful. It is just too bad that Papa could not live to see such a victory,” Maria Anna said rather wistfully. “Although, of course, he is in heaven with the saints and angels, so he will see it if it happens. But I know that Mariana had her confessor translate the parts about Nördlingen that we found in the encyclopedias, so maybe he had time to read those before he died. Maybe he knew, even if it won’t happen the same way.” She blinked. “But what about Philip?”

    “The exact status of my relationship with my brother of Spain is unclear right now. ‘Tense’ is not adequate to describe the situation. But I bear him no ill will and I will attempt to demonstrate that in every way possible.”

    Fernando frowned. “Tante Isabella’s old court physician was impossible. He attended her for years. The man was so obsessed with his hatred of the Jesuits that, as far as I can tell, he spent most of his time intriguing against them and had little time for medical practice. He left a legacy of that attitude to his successors. I have cleaned out the whole nest of them. I have also sent several shipments of cats, on different ships. Kittens sick with cat pox, pregnant females expecting kittens, all in the same cage. With letters to explain it all. Clearly, it was a dispensation of divine providence that the Spanish Netherlands is the core place in all of Europe where this remedy is to be found. Perhaps, this time, Balthasar Carlos will not die young, at least not of smallpox. Philip has to be concerned. He has too much sense not to be. We cannot let Spain fall to the French.”

    “Clearly,” Maria Anna said, “the Habsburgs need more heirs. Healthy ones.”

    Fernando glanced down at her bosom again, his eyes lingering somewhat. “I will be quite happy,” he said, “to devote my most vigorous efforts to siring a third, abundantly healthy, Habsburg family line.”

    Maria Anna looked at him. First down; then up at his face. “Your efforts to make this project sound like a rather prim dedication to familial duty are falling rather short.” Then she added, rather mischievously, “Or, possibly, quite the reverse.” She moved a little closer to him and tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow.

    Fernando devoted the third traverse to a briefing on the situation in the Netherlands, both north and south, an assessment of Frederick Hendrik, the momentary potential for revolutions, and what measures he might, he feared, be called upon to take. As they once more glanced into the reception room, noting no change in the status quo, he added a little ruefully, “Of course, if the ruler has the choice between being feared and loved, it is certainly more secure for him to be feared. But, still....”

    A watery full moon broke through the dispersing clouds, as they prepared for a fourth traverse of walkway. “Ah,” she said, “But there are two of us, so perhaps we can have both. Not at the same time for each, of course, but, as you say, still... Let me tell you about this wonderful game that I learned in from Tony Adducci while I was in Basel. The Americans had almost developed formal rules for it. It’s called, ‘Good cop, bad cop.’”



    “I think,” Maria Anna said after Fernando had gone to sup with the privy council, “that I am in love. Or, at least, falling in love. Truly, I always thought that Mariana was perhaps a little peculiar for falling in love with my brother Ferdinand at first sight. Of course, there is nothing romantic about Ferdinand, as far as I can tell. He has a double chin. He did even when he was a child. And even though he is very athletic, he is developing a paunch. My honored cousin does not have a paunch. And his hair is so pretty.”

    Dona Mencia smiled benevolently.

    Maria Anna looked at her a little doubtfully. “Do you think that I could get him to love me?”

    “He is a young man,” Dona Mencia answered. “According to my brother Bedmar, he has been chaperoned right up to the tip of his nose ever since reaching puberty, because of his father’s intent to have him take priestly vows. If he is anything like his brother...” Dona Mencia paused a moment, considering Philip IV’s growing gaggle of illegitimate children by several different women, and closed her mouth with a snap. This certainly was not an opportune moment to bring them up. “Well, that’s neither here nor there. At the moment, Don Fernando appears to be rather enthusiastic about the whole matrimonial project. My brother says that he has been showing a distinct, if thus far theoretical, interest in female bosoms. Happily, you are quite well endowed. Cheerful cooperation on your part, Your Highness, ought to be quite adequate to nudge him over the edge into personal as well as political alliance.”


    “If he kisses you, kiss back. Repeat that at each stage of the subsequent events, no matter how strange or improbable they may seem. Some of them will seem very odd at first, I am afraid. Your sound knowledge of horse breeding will not be much help, because men and women do it rather differently. Try to ignore the official witnesses on your wedding night; their presence is a necessary confirmation of the canonical validity of the marriage. They are there for your protection, after all-think of all the claims that Henry VIII raised in England in regard to the consummation or non-consummation of his various marriages. After the first time, they’ll be gone.”

    “Do you suppose that, maybe, Fernando might be interested in arranging the palace here the way Papa and Mama did? So that they had apartments that opened into one another and out on the private garden? So that everyone in the corridors won’t be marking down every time he comes to my rooms to couple?”

    “Marking the record, is important, my dear, when a royal pair rarely couple. In that case it is necessary in order to validate the wife’s pregnancies. It is not really necessary when the spouses are known to couple regularly. Don Fernando is Spanish, of course. He may be old-fashioned about this, but you might suggest a more modern arrangement.” Dona Mencia thought a moment. “If he does much paperwork by candle light in the evenings, having adjoining apartments would really save him time. They would be quite convenient. Not to mention avoiding chilly corridors while he is dressed in his nightshirt, which is more of a consideration here in the Netherlands than it would be in Spain. Yes, I see nothing wrong in suggesting a more modern arrangement, since he certainly does want heirs.”

    Dona Mencia smiled. “Particularly if you suggest it while you are wearing the nightgown that Gretchen Richter gave you. I do not recommend wearing it on your wedding night, although it is very becoming, Your Highness. Even though you may really, really, want Don Fernando to see you in it, even though I am also sure that he would be favorably impressed, it is probably not the course of prudence for you to wear it in front of the rest of the court. There are some things that the official witnesses do not need to see.

    “And, of course, there would be political implications if you wore a gift from die Richterin on your wedding night. Later on, everyone will know you wear it, of course-maids do gossip-but knowing and seeing are two different things.”




    “And what is the news from Brussels?” Urban VIII asked. “Has the radio at the USE Embassy received messages from Amsterdam, that is?”

    “The wedding took place without any further impediments, Your Holiness,” Cardinal Francesco Barberini said. “The Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia commanded that she be dressed in the habit of the Order of Poor Clares, placed on a litter, and taken to the cathedral that she might be present at the nuptial mass. To almost everyone’s surprise, she survived the experience.”

    “I was greatly relieved by the news that the bride had been safely retrieved from Basel. I am even more relieved to hear this.” The pope inclined his head. “I wonder whether I will live long enough to see the miracle of an airplane for myself. Father General Vitelleschi, do you have any additional news?”

    “I have been asked to transmit to you a request from the bride and groom. As a special favor upon the occasion of their marriage, they would appreciate it very much if you do not require the English Ladies still in the Spanish Netherlands to remove to the USE. Rather, they ask that you extend the reversal of the dissolution of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary to all of the dioceses of the new kingdom and permit them to resume their valuable labors unhampered.”

    “Your sense is?”

    “While the Jesuit Order is forbidden by its rule to accept the spiritual direction of women’s orders, we of course are prepared to provide the English Ladies with advice and counsel in ways that are appropriate under the rule.”

    “I think,” the pope said, “that we might as well let the queen in the Low Countries keep her golden rose.”

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