Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Sixteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 23:11 EST



Luebeck, USE naval base

    “Look! There’s the admiral!” Kristina pointed excitedly to a figure standing on the dock toward which the Union of Kalmar was slowly moving. “He came down to meet us himself.”

    Prince Ulrik nodded sagely. That seemed wiser, under the circumstances, than stating openly that he’d have been astonished if the admiral hadn’t come down to greet them in person as soon as they arrived. Merely as a matter of protocol, being the heir apparent to his own nation as well as two others, the princess outranked the admiral by a considerable margin.

    Still, she was only eight years old — no, nine now, he reminded himself. Her birthday was still a few days away, on December 18, but Kristina was already referring to herself as nine years old in the same manner in which she’d say the sun and the moon were in the sky. A fact, an established truth, a philosophical and ethical axiom.

    You contradicted her at your peril. In less than a week, it would be true anyway, so why not accept the inevitable? If ever there lived a prince who was the diametric opposite of Don Quixote, it was Ulrik of Denmark — a land that was almost entirely flat, windy, and had plenty of windmills going about their useful business. What sort of fool would want to knock one down?

    Ulrik had assumed that Simpson would greet them at the dock, but his purpose in doing so remained to be seen. From the very pleased expression on Kristina’s face, it was obvious the princess simply assumed that Simpson was there to extend a welcome. Ulrik, on the other hand, would not be at all surprised if the American admiral had come down to order them to steam right back out of the harbor.

    He could enforce such orders, too, if it came to that. Simpson had seen to it that his naval base in Luebeck would not suffer the same ignominious fate as the ironclads had visited on Copenhagen and Hamburg. In the year and a half that had passed since Denmark’s capitulation, the admiral had overseen the creation of a ship-building and armaments industrial complex in Luebeck. It might be better to say, he’d completed what Gustav Adolf had begun during the months the emperor had stayed in Luebeck while it was being besieged by the Ostend armies.

    Some of the fruits of that project were quite visible from the deck of the Union of Kalmar: a battery of four guns positioned behind thick fortifications that commanded the entire harbor. From a distance, their precise size couldn’t be determined. At a guess, Ulrik thought they probably didn’t quite match the Union of Kalmar’s ten-inch main guns. But they didn’t really need to, either. At this range, rifled eight-inch guns firing explosive shells could destroy the ironclad long before its own fire could do much damage to the harbor’s fortifications. Even six-inch guns would probably manage the job.

    It wouldn’t come to that, of course. If Simpson ordered them to steam out of Luebeck, Ulrik would not argue the matter. He’d do it and head north for Copenhagen.

    He really wanted to avoid that option, though, if at all possible. He and Kristina would certainly be safe from Oxenstierna in Copenhagen. But Ulrik was almost as anxious to stay out of his father’s grasp as he was to stay out of the Swedish chancellor’s.

    Rather to Ulrik’s surprise and certainly to his relief, King Christian IV of Denmark had kept what the Americans called a low profile since the beginning of the political crisis produced by Gustav Adolf’s incapacitation. Why? The prince didn’t know, he could only guess. He wouldn’t have been astonished if his mercurial father had been reckless enough to announce that he was dissolving the Union of Kalmar and reasserting Denmark’s complete independence.

    Thankfully, he hadn’t. At a guess, because Christian was a very intelligent man, beneath the grandiose ambitions and consumption of alcohol. He could even be shrewd, from time to time. Perhaps he’d calculated that the crisis was just as likely to enhance Denmark’s status as diminish it — which was Ulrik’s own assessment — and so it would be wiser to let things unfold for a while without meddling.

    If Ulrik and Kristina had to seek refuge in Copenhagen, however, he thought his father’s prudence would fly right out the window and head south for the winter. The temptation would be too great. Christian could…

    God only knew what might come to his mind, especially when he was drunk. Declaring himself the new ruler of the Union of Kalmar would be almost certain. Gustav Adolf had had his wits addled two months ago and there was no sign of recovery.

    Long enough! Long live the new High King!

    A few tankards later, the blessed parent might decide his offspring should now be declared the regent of the USE on the grounds that her father’s incapacity had made Kristina the rightful empress — but since she was a mere child, could not rule on her own behalf, and who was the most suitable person to become regent other than the prince to whom she was betrothed?

    Unless, of course — let’s say, three tankards later — the king of Denmark decided that his son Ulrik was after all a mere stripling — but twenty-four years of age; pfah! barely weaned — and so Christian himself should assume the burden of regency.

    The worst of such schemes is that they would actually work… for a while. No matter who won the civil war in the USE that Oxenstierna and Wilhelm Wettin seemed determined to precipitate, both the USE and Sweden would be greatly weakened. In the case of Sweden, quite possibly weakened enough that Denmark could regain its former dominance of Scandinavia.

    Scandinavians! Ulrik supposed it was inevitable that people were parochial, and found it hard to see the world except through their own lenses and prisms. Still, even allowing for that natural bias, did Scandinavian princes have to set the standard for myopic stupidity? Couldn’t they at least strive for the status of mere dullards?

    There were today a total of perhaps five million people in all of the Scandinavian lands. There was nothing close to what the Americans would consider a real census, to be sure, but for these purposes the figure was accurate enough. Say, two million each in Denmark and Sweden, and a half million each in Norway and Finland.

    There were already at least fifteen million Germans.

    And the disparity would simply get worse, as time passed. Ulrik had taken the opportunity on one of his visits to Grantville to look up the figures for himself in one of their “almanacs.” According to the latest almanac in their possession, that of the year 1999 — the Ring of Fire had happened in May of 2000, by their reckoning — the population of Germany had been slightly over eighty million people. It was the most populous nation in Europe outside of gigantic Russia.

    That same year, Denmark had a little more than five million people; Sweden was the largest of the Scandinavian countries with almost nine million; Norway, four and a half million; and Finland was about the same as Denmark. In other words, in less than four centuries a three-to-one population disparity would becomes four-to-one.

    And that was the least of it. The German lands were rich; the Scandinavian, poor, outside of a few important resources such as iron. And petroleum, at a much later date when technology had advanced far enough to drill for oil in the sea beds.

    But the one critical resource that was lacking in Scandinavia — was lacking today; would be lacking centuries from now; would always be lacking short of a great climatic transformation — was arable soil. The Scandinavian lands had and would always have a much smaller population than the Germanies. That was a reality dictated by nature, not by any human factor that might be subject to change.

    The historical end result was inevitable. It had been inevitable in the world the Americans came from; it was just as inevitable in this one. The Germanies were the center of gravity of Europe. Not Denmark, not Sweden — not even France. Only the Russias would emerge as a true counter-weight, once they were united. But Russia was too far to the east to really dominate European political affairs. It was almost as much an Asian country as a European one.

    So what sort of madman would imagine that a Scandinavian ruler could maintain his control of the Germans for more than a few years?

    A rhetorical question, of course. Two answers sprang immediately forward: His own father and Gustav II Adolf. If Ulrik could round up a Lapp chieftain somewhere in northern Finland, they’d make the same claim.

    Well, maybe not. They had the advantage of being illiterate.



    Ulrik, however, was not subject to the same insanity. And he had, by his estimate, at least a decade in which to persuade his future wife to forego it as well.

    He thought he could succeed in that project. True, Kristina had an imperious temperament. But she was not engrossed with power, as such. She just liked the end results she could obtain from it. Even at the age of nine, her basic character was already evident — and Ulrik had confirmed his assessment by consulting the American history books to see how she’d turned out in that alternate universe. By now, very quietly, he’d had every single item of information Grantville possessed about Kristina stored in his private records, and had studied them to the point of having them memorized.

    There was quite a bit, as it turned out. The up-timers had even once made a movie about her with someone named Greta Garbo cast as Kristina. There was no copy of it in Grantville, but that was probably just as well. When he inquired, he was told by one of the librarians that the Garbo woman had been a famous actress in her day. She had some photographs of her in one of their books and had shown them to Ulrik.

    The Garbo woman was quite beautiful. That had been enough, right there, to tell Ulrik that the movie had fictionalized Kristina’s life to the point of absurdity. The only thing that would save the Swedish princess from being downright ugly when she grew up was that her vibrant personality would outshine her features.

    Still, there had been a number of mentions of her in the various history texts. Far more than almost any other royal of the time period outside of Britain, even male ones.

    Vibrant personality, indeed. Glimmers of it had lasted through four centuries and even made their way to another continent. But what people remembered was not her rule, but her discomfort with that rule. The simple truth was that Kristina had no natural aptitude or inclination to be a monarch. That was evident even now. In that other universe, her discomfort had eventually led her to abdicate the throne of Sweden, convert to Catholicism, and move to Rome.

    Ulrik thought they could avoid the worst of that, in this universe. Kristine had already told him that her great ambition was to emulate someone named Elkhart and be the first woman to fly an airplane all the way around the world. He would encourage her in that direction — smoothing away the absurd edges, of course. Circumnavigating the earth herself was out of the question, but Kristina had an active intellect as well as an adventurous spirit. There was no reason she couldn’t become this world’s equivalent of Henry the Navigator, was there? Exceed him, in fact.

    Ever since the Congress of Copenhagen, Ulrik had been pondering these matters. What sort of USE should they aim for? What would his role be? Kristina’s?

    Much remained unclear and uncertain, but Ulrik had reached some conclusions already.

    First. The USE would soon — it already did, in many ways — surpass all other European lands as a center of population, industry, commerce, education and culture. It would certainly surpass the Scandinavian nations, regardless of political formalities.

    Second. It would be a German nation. Not the only one, since Germans were a colonizing folk. But it would be the center of the German people.

    Three. This was more in the way of a goal than a conclusion. In the universe the Americans had come from, the Germans had been politically fragmented until very late in their history. The vacuum that had created in European affairs had been disastrous. In the short run, disastrous for Germans. In the long run, disastrous for everyone.

    It would not be so in this universe. Ulrik had spoken enough to Mike Stearns to know that the former prime minister was determined to avoid that at all costs. On that if nothing else, Ulrik agreed with him completely. That was one of the reasons he would oppose his father if Christian tried to pull the USE apart in Denmark’s narrow immediate interest.

    Europe needed a stable, powerful, secure and prosperous Germany at its center. Without that, there would always be chaos. Lurking right under the surface if not always in the open.

    Four. The national sentiments of the German people, long dormant, were now rising very rapidly. The Ring of Fire had accelerated the process greatly. Something that had taken decades in the Americans’ universe was happening in this one in a handful of years.

    Five. Most importantly for Ulrik and Kristina’s own situation, what all of this meant was that the USE’s ruling dynasty would only survive if it transformed itself into a German dynasty. “German,” at least, insofar as the populace accepted Kristina and Ulrik as legitimate and not foreign. Their Scandinavian roots would then be a moot point. Many European dynasties had origins outside their own countries; people took that much in stride as long as they felt the monarch was theirs and not the instrument of another power.

    Six. This was his latest conclusion and still a bit tentative, but he was now almost certain that in order to accomplish any of his goals he — and Kristina; without her it would be impossible — had to accept that the future belonged to democracy and not monarchy. He’d read some of Scaglia’s writings and agreed with him at least that far.

    The Americans had had a peculiar sport, of which he’d watched videotapes. “Surfing,” they called it.

    Needless to say, Ulrik had no intention of half-freezing in the Baltic and risking his life on a flimsy little board. But stripped of the physical aspect and transformed into a political metaphor, “surfing” was exactly what he and Kristina would have to do for the rest of their lives. Ride the ever-growing, thundering waves of Germany and democracy toward the shore; understanding that they did not and could not control it. No one could, really. But they could learn to surf well. They — their children; grandchildren — could reach the shore safely. And if they did it well enough, help many other people to get there safely as well. Perhaps entire nations.

    The Union of Kalmar had reached the dock, been tied up, and a gangway laid. Admiral Simpson started to come across.

    “What did you say?” asked Kristina.

    Ulrik realized he’d been muttering. “Ah…”

    “He said, ‘and here comes the big one.’” Baldur was grinning. He’d spent hours discussing these issues with Ulrik. “But he’s quite wrong. This is just the outrider wave. The big one will be riding into Magdeburg.”

    “What is he talking about?” She glared up at Ulrik. “You’re keeping things from me again, aren’t you? And you promised you wouldn’t!”

    So. Once again, Baldur Norddahl demonstrated his perfidious, foul, treacherous nature. On the brighter side, once again Kristina dispelled any fears that he might have dimwitted children.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image