Designed to Fail

Frederik of Denmark, the son of King Christian IV, has been made the governor of the new province of Westphalia, which seems to have been designed to fail. Problems abound everywhere—not the least of which is that he has developed a passion for the younger sister of Gretchen Richter.

Yes, that Gretchen Richter.



Formats: pdf, epub, rtf, zip, mobi,


Frederik of Denmark, the son of King Christian IV, is the new governor of the new province of Westphalia, and harbors the dark suspicion that the Swedes who now dominate central Europe deliberately designed the province so that he would not succeed in his assignment, thus undermining his father’s position.

Problems are everywhere! Religious fragmentation, cities demanding imperial status, jurisdictional disputes among the nobility and between the nobility and the common folk—there’s no end to it.

And then matters get still more complicated. Annalise Richter, a student at the famous Abbey of Quedlinburg, wants Frederik to correct an injustice. Her mentor, the Abbess of Quedlinburg, is being prevented from running for a seat in the House of Commons because she is, well, not a commoner.

Surely Frederik can do something to fix this wrong!

The prince is of two minds. On the one hand—being very much his father’s son—he has developed a great passion for the marvelous young woman. He is determined to marry her. On the other hand…

She’s Catholic. A bit of a problem, that, for a Lutheran prince.

But there’s worse. She’s also the younger sister of Gretchen Richter.

Yes, that Gretchen Richter.

Bremen, July 1634

Frederik, son of King Christian IV of Denmark, duke of Holstein, and still archbishop if no longer prince-archbishop of Bremen, drew up his horse as he approached the bridge that crossed the moat. His small retinue—extraordinarily small for a provincial governor appointed by the emperor of the United States of Europe—paused behind him.

He looked toward the Ansgarii Tor. By the standards of a medieval Hanseatic city, Bremen was not heavily fortified. Not by the standards of a world in which a city’s walls were perceived as defining its honor. But, certainly, it was heavily enough fortified to present a significant obstacle if the city fathers decided not to let him in; those walls had kept quite a few armies out during the past fifteen years.

He had been appointed governor of the new Province of Westphalia by Gustav Adolf less than a month ago.

He had been the designated successor to the prince-archbishop of Bremen, thanks to the political maneuvering of his father, for considerably longer. Prince-archbishop of the Erzstift Bremen, by virtue of which he would have had a seat in the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire—if that entity still existed. Which it might or might not. The Habsburgs were unlikely to give up without a further fight, if one gave any thought to the tenacity with which they had been waging war since 1618.

The city of Bremen was de facto not under the authority of the prince-archbishop. Things had been that way for a while—for about 450 years, if a person wanted to be picky about it. This meant that local politics were often more than a little bit touchy, since de jure it still was.

Instead of smiling, he drew his rather thick lips inward, pinching them between his teeth. He had watched at the Congress of Copenhagen rather than talking. One of his conclusions was that the complexities and nuances of contemporary politics made Michael Stearns, the up-time leader so precipitously catapulted into the position of prime minister of the newly organized USE, restless. Restless, impatient, and more than a little contemptuous. He did not appear to be a man who would live with a legally ambivalent situation for four and a half centuries. Probably not for four and a half years. Quite possibly not for four and a half days.

Still, whether Bremen was under the jurisdiction of the prince-archbishop or not, it was most certainly, by fiat of Gustav Adolf, king of Sweden, high king of the Union of Kalmar, emperor of the United States of Europe, and commander of the largest army around, under the jurisdiction of the governor of the Province of Westphalia.

As such, he intended to enter through the Ansgar Quarter gate. St. Ansgarius, who had lived and died not too far short of a thousand years ago—well, probably nearer to eight hundred years ago—had been the first archbishop of Bremen. And—Frederik quirked one eyebrow slightly—of Hamburg.

His horse shifted under him, restless.

The slight creaks of leather and metal behind him, the occasional raising and clopping of a hoof on cobblestones, might mean that his retinue was restless. Or uneasy. If the city fathers of Bremen chose to refuse him admission at this first juncture of his new calling…

But the gate opened. He proceeded slowly toward the market square, through crooked streets and between tall brick houses that were probably, given the small windows, drearily dark inside; past the new guildhall of the cloth merchants, doing everything decently and in order, giving the people lining the streets a chance to see him. Wishing that Gustav Adolf had seen fit to delegate a somewhat larger company of the largest army around to escort him.

“Nobody’s ever going to call him handsome,” a watching woman commented.

“Impressive nose, though,” her friend Jutta answered. “What would Herr Jensen say? The old man at the bookstore who loves to use such long words? A prominent proboscis.”

“That lump in the middle could mean that he’s broken it at some time.” Trinke stood on tiptoe and craned her neck. “Good seat on a horse. He’s not fat, but he shouldn’t be developing jowls yet, as young as he is.”

“I thought Scandinavians were supposed to be blonds. His hair’s dark brown. And so curly.”

“There’s a lot of it though, not thin or stringy, so he’s not likely to go bald. He’s probably one of those children who were born blond, but their hair gets dark when they grow up. I sort of like that feather in his hat.”

“I like the hat. It looks like crushed velvet. I wouldn’t mind having one like it myself. He’d be better off without the mustache and little goatee.”

The gubernatorial procession was moving on toward the city hall.

“It’s hard to tell from here, but it looks like his lips are sort of full and puffy. Maybe he’s trying to hide that.”

“Overall, though, there are a lot of worse-looking men in the world.”

Jutta laughed. “A lot of better-looking ones, too.”

He entered by the side of the ancient guildhall, the Schütting. On the opposite, northeastern, side of the square, the four Bürgermeister, one from each quarter of the city, were waiting for him, lined up in front of the arches that were the main feature of the remodeled Flemish Renaissance facade of the originally Gothic city hall, flanked by the twenty members of the city council, the Hochedler Hochweiser Rath, five from each quarter of the city: Liebfrauen, Ansgarii, Martini und Stephani.

They were arrayed below the statues of the Holy Roman Emperor and the empire’s seven electors that proclaimed Bremen’s centuries-long ambition to become a free imperial city, independent of the prince-archbishops, owing allegiance only to the emperor, and with its own vote in the Reichstag. An ambition that had never become fact.

He rode past the eighteen-foot-high Roland statue that symbolized the council’s right to supreme criminal jurisdiction as well as the medieval Hansa’s commitment to free commerce and trade, hoping that upon this occasion, the highly noble, highly wise, councillors would be more noble and wise than was customarily the case when it came to their dealings with the prince-archbishops.

He dismounted.

The protocol was stiff.

As governor, he officially broke the news to the city council of Bremen—the Calvinist city council of the Calvinist city of Bremen—about the guarantee of religious toleration in the constitution of the United States of Europe.

He glanced to the side of the square at the ancient cathedral of St. Peter, so old that the lower portions of the mixed stone and brick construction were Romanesque in style, and the archbishop’s palace. Then, leaving his official retinue under Captain von Bargen with the city councillors, he mounted up and rode out by himself through the gate by which he had entered and part way around the wall. He dismounted and walked in through the narrow Bishop’s Needle gate that the council had imposed on the archbishops during those parlous 450 years: a gate too low to admit a mounted, armored rider. This time, he was followed by a line of Lutheran diocesan officials, pastors, and school teachers, headed by those among the noble canons of the cathedral’s collegiate chapter whom he had been able to rouse from their normal lethargy. The majority of them did not qualify as theologians, having gained their seats through family connections.

Arriving back at the city hall, he announced the establishment of regularly scheduled Lutheran services at the cathedral, the Dom, St. Petri. The impending church services were his own innovation. The cathedral had been the church of the canons, used for special religious celebrations and special events of the archdiocese. But since the parish churches of the city were Calvinist, had been for forty years, and at this point it did not seem prudent to stress relations with the city council further by demanding them back, it would become a parish. Given how long St. Peter’s had been essentially abandoned, there would be a lot of cleaning to do in its Gothic interior.

He would have liked to accompany this by a ceremonial opening of the cathedral doors. However, after nearly a half-century of being closed, they were probably stuck, and it would take a great deal of huffing and puffing on the part of construction workers to get the hinges loose. That would have been neither impressive nor edifying. Not to mention that the south tower looked so shaky that it might fall down any day if vibrations disturbed its perilous equilibrium.

Now wasn’t that going to be an expensive construction project? Reconstruction project—one for which he would have to find funds, if he didn’t want to risk having it come down on the worshippers now that the building would be back in use. He made a mental note to recommend that Bremen’s Lutherans should use the entrance near the sacristan’s house on the north side for the time being and concentrate their activities at the rear of the building.

They could. There weren’t a lot of Lutherans left in Bremen. He wiped off these mental cobwebs and announced that, additionally, he was establishing a Lutheran Latin School at St. Peter’s. Mental note—again, for the time being, put the school in the adjoining archbishop’s palace, currently unused for any other purpose. Eventually construct a modern building in the Domshof on the north side. And a public library. With an equestrian statue of Gustav II Adolf looking heroic in the middle of the square.

Bowing slightly to the gathering of Lutheran clerics, he turned himself into the provincial governor again, informing the mayors and council that if they proved to be reasonably cooperative in the future, he would negotiate with that same Gustav II Adolf, who was now their emperor, for an imperial charter that would turn their Calvinist Gymnasium Illustre into a degree-granting university. This was accompanied by a few terse words about his intentions to support the expansion of educational institutions in general within the new province.

Getting such an imperial charter would be a trick if he could manage it, given that the future Lutheran imperial reluctance to license Calvinist establishments would most likely be as strong as the past Catholic imperial reluctance to license them (all having to do with the fact that Calvinism had not been comprised within the Peace of Augsburg of 1555). Given the short timing of managing this day, though, the prospect was something he could dangle in front of their noses as an enticement that might get the mule-stubborn patricians of this place to modify their natural tendency toward recalcitrance. For now.

July 1634

The abbess of Quedlinburg, bones groaning, descended from her carriage. The roads from Copenhagen to southern Brunswick had not been in good condition. The roads from Lübeck to Quedlinburg, to be more precise; she had naturally covered the first half of the trip by taking a ship, as anyone with common sense would do. And broken the land journey twice, once in Hamburg to see what the city, physically and politically, was looking like since the end of the war. Then again in Calenberg for a week to see darling Anna Eleanora and play with her children. Still, nearly 225 miles of sitting on a carriage bench left a person stiff and sore.

She moved her shoulders to loosen them up. A person who, if not yet old, was no longer as young as she used to be.

If she was stiff, the Stift’s prioress, her second-in-command, was standing even more stiffly. Radiating stiffness.


“While you were gone, the foreign woman arrived.”

“Which foreign woman?” That was not an unreasonable question. Quedlinburg received international guests with some frequency.

“The one you have brought here as a teacher. The one who is one of those up-timers. Who are not noble, whatever their flatterers and fawners may say about them.”

The abbess looked down her prominent, pointed, nose and nodded. “I will see her.”

Then she considered her groaning bones. “After I have had a hot bath.”

That turned into, after the bath, a bowl of soup and a nap as well. And fresh clothing. The sedate dark colors she considered appropriate to her quasi-religious status as a canoness of the Stift accumulated road dust visibly.

“Oh, I didn’t mind waiting,” Iona Nelson said cheerfully. “I’ve been busy unpacking crates and getting my classroom organized ever since I got here. I brought a whole wagon load of stuff. I have so many ideas about what I can do with the girls.”

The abbess thought that breezy up-time good cheer was probably part of what so irritated the prioress. The idea that someone of lower status might possibly have a right to mind waiting to be received by someone of higher status would be hard for her to grasp. Mind waiting to be received by a born duchess of Saxe-Altenburg? Mind waiting to be received by a half-sister of the current duke, a cousin of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar, the holder (until the recent series of unfortunate events, as the prioress undoubtedly thought of them) of a voting seat in the Imperial Diet?

Personally, she did not consider the events since the Ring of Fire so unfortunate, even if she would not have a vote anymore. The Congress of Copenhagen had subordinated Quedlinburg to the duke of Brunswick: darling Anna Eleanora’s husband, in fact. There were a lot of worse possible superiors if one must be mediatized. She had assumed office in 1618; her entire tenure had been marked by the war.

She reflected a moment on the shape of the new provinces of the United States of Europe as depicted on the rather generalized map that Chancellor Oxenstierna had distributed. Her copy was tucked away in her luggage, safe from road hazards; the maid would unpack it and bring the papers to her office tomorrow. Her memory of it was clear, though. Somebody had done some fancy juggling with the borders to get Quedlinburg tucked in where it would be safe, into comfortably Lutheran Brunswick rather than uncomfortably radical Magdeburg. Or Saxony. While Saxony was Lutheran, of course, her relationship with John George and his officials over the years had often been uncomfortable. Because. Because John George thought everyone else should always agree with him, whereas she frequently did not, and said so. He was of the Albertine line of the Wettins, of course, which did not help. She, as a Saxe-Altenburg, was Ernestine.

She hadn’t hinted about the desirability of Brunswick as a placement, of course. Not exactly. Perish the very thought. But who could even guess what kind of map-making mayhem one of Oxenstierna’s Swedish subordinates might have achieved if not given some gentle guidance, given how rapidly and, in the final analysis, haphazardly, everything had been thrown together.

Michael Stearns, however fine a man the up-timer might be, simply did not understand the nuances. Didn’t want to, she suspected. Rebecca Abrabanel, on the other hand, did. She chose Rebecca as her segue into conversation with Mrs. Nelson. “Melissa Mailey, I’m sure you know her, has Rebecca reading an author named Hannah Arendt. At one point, at the Congress, she laid a quotation from her on the table, reminding us that ‘those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.’ It was not particularly well received.”

“I’ve met Melissa, of course, but didn’t know her well. She was at the high school, not the middle school. And we didn’t have much in common. She was intense, I always thought. Not my kind of teacher. I’ve always been more of the type to coax the kids that I teach into realizing the point I’m trying to make rather than to drive them into it. Or it into them. Let them have a peek at the future rather than throw it right into their faces. My kids were younger, of course, at the middle school.”

“Well I am glad, for the sake of the future of the students at this particular school, that you decided to come.” The abbess set her cup down on the table. “So sorry for the circumstances that led up to that decision.”

They observed a moment of silence in memory of the late Billy Nelson.

“He’s in a better place, of course. Just no longer here with us.” Then Iona laughed a little. “Archie Clinter, the principal, doesn’t think I’ll stick it out; almost the last thing he said when I left was that he’d make it clear to my replacement that it will be a one-year appointment, in case I decide to come back to Grantville. No matter how much I tried to explain to him why I think the things you are doing are so important, when you come right down to it, Archie thinks that Grantville is more important than anywhere else.”

She placed her hands flat against one another, resting her chin against the thumbs, slowly opening and closing her fingers. “He’s not the only one who thinks that way. It’s a kind of arrogance. It could come to be a problem for us—the up-timers—in the long run.”

“Arrogance,” the abbess replied, “is not something that you from Grantville, you from the future, are uniquely privileged to possess. In fact, it may be one of the reasons that so many of us have assumed that all of your people are nobles.”

“And how,” Iona continued more briskly, could I resist coming to the Stift when the new college that you are adding on top of the existing school is going to be named for Katharina von Bora?” She looked out the window. “But please, can you tell me exactly what happened in Copenhagen. As much as you can, that is, if some has to be kept confidential. It might help me … deal with … some of the opinions … cope … um, attitudes …” Her voice trailed off.

“That would take more than one conversation. Likely more than ten or a dozen. It might be better if I present it to all of the canonesses in a series of talks. But if you are being confronted by opinions and attitudes serious enough that you think you need to ‘deal with’ them, I can give you a preview, at least. Since the Stift here is Lutheran and has lost its political independence, that’s what most of the canonesses will be concerned with?” She raised her eyebrows.

Iona nodded.

“I’m not surprised. Nor that they blame it on the up-timers and are taking umbrage. The students, when they arrive for the new term, should be less inclined to do so. But not entirely uninclined to be resentful, so let’s start with what has happened to the various Lutheran ecclesiastical principalities, not just Quedlinburg. I suspect that not a single one of our canonesses will be distressed that the independent Catholic principalities have also lost their political independence. If anything, they will regard that development with a certain amount of glee.” She started in on a summary.

“And then there’s the appointment of Frederik of Denmark as governor of the Province of Westphalia. His position is tricky. He’s wearing a lot of hats. It’s not just the problem of dealing with the city of Bremen, but, for example, even more confusingly, not only does the religious authority of the archdiocese extend far beyond the secular territory of the Erzstift, but also parts of the secular territory of the prince-archbishopric are under the religious authority of the diocese of Verden. In fact, they’re about ten percent of Verden’s parishes. It will help some that Frederik is prince-bishop of Verden as well as prince-archbishop of Bremen—he has been since 1623, subject to the vicissitudes of war as to whether he was actually in possession or not—but probably not a lot. Human beings are naturally as territorial as, well, some animal that is territorial. The administrative staff of the two jurisdictions will constantly snap and nip at one another.

“Since 1623? He was how old?”

The abbess frowned. “Ah. Fourteen, I believe.”

“That’s just sick! When I was instructed as a Lutheran, when I was getting ready to be confirmed, one of the things that they taught me was that part of the reason that the Reformation happened, besides sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura, was to get rid of that sort of thing. Pluralism. Children being put into positions of church leadership because of politics and money. That sort of thing.”

“Martin Luther undoubtedly had good intentions,” the abbess conceded. “They did not, however, survive the reality of royal and Hochadel politics in northern Germany and Scandinavia. Christian Wilhelm of Brandenburg was two years old when he was elected as the Lutheran archbishop of Magdeburg. He’s still alive, although the cathedral chapter deposed him in 1628. Nor, at lower but still exalted levels, were the local nobles willing to give up the advantages that came with being able to drop a younger son or unmarriageable daughter into a clerical slot—a cathedral canonry or a foundation. If you want to understand the reality of how government bureaucracies function, even if they are church bureaucracies, it’s always a good idea to keep a firm grasp on the doctrine of original sin.”

“If the same man usually held them both, Bremen and Verden, since they became Lutheran, why didn’t they combine them?” Iona asked.

“To maintain the two separate votes in the Reichstag, of course,” the abbess answered. The Catholics did the same thing with Münster and Osnabrück, for example. In theory, they weren’t supposed to any more after the Council of Trent; in real life, the practice persisted with little change. I believe that the younger son of the late Ferdinand II is technically the bishop of four or five dioceses. Gustav Adolf is doing it now, in the secular world, with his own votes in the USE House of Lords as duke of Pomerania and duke of Mecklenburg.

“The two votes are why Christian IV maneuvered so hard and so long to get one of his sons installed in both dioceses. And young Ulrik as prince-bishop of Schwerin, of course, though nobody quite knows what’s going to come of that now that the Union of Kalmar has been reestablished and he’s betrothed to Princess Kristina. He’ll hardly have time to worry about Schwerin. Frederik’s two separate votes in the Imperial Diet are votes that are gone, now, of course. Along with Schwerin’s. And mine. Bremen and Verden have been subsumed into the Province of Westphalia; Quedlinburg into the Province of Brunswick. At least Frederik has the consolation that he’ll still be voting in the USE House of Lords, which I will not.”

She leaned back and smiled ruefully. “It probably shows too much vanity and worldly ambition that I regret the loss quite a bit.” Then reached for her wine glass. “The city of Verden is going to be snappish for the same reason, the same regret, since it, unlike Bremen, managed to become an imperial city in the fifteenth century and has now lost that status.

“Additionally, we have absolutely no idea what the emperor—Gustav Adolf, I mean, not young Ferdinand III over in Austria—plans to do about the Imperial Circles. They’ve been the main way the various principalities in the Holy Roman Empire have managed to work cooperatively—on the comparatively rare occasions that they have ever managed to work cooperatively—for well over a century. The prince-archdiocese of Bremen, like Holstein, belongs to the Lower Saxon Circle—Niedersächsischer Kreis. The Prince-Bishopric of Verden, on the other hand, belonged to the old Westphalian Circle—Niederrheinisch-Westfälischer Kreis, as did Münster and Osnabrück, also Minden, which are now in the new Province of Westphalia. The circle also included quite a few territories that were in the Holy Roman Empire but aren’t in the USE. We can blame it all on Charlemagne, I suppose, if we go back far enough, even though the circles the way they exist today—or existed until a couple of years ago—weren’t introduced until 1500. Does Gustav Adolf plan to abolish the circles? Somehow remodel the circles to match the new provinces? Ignore the circles? Nobody knows.”

She shook her head. “I read that book about the Thirty Years War by Frau Wedgwood.”

Iona smiled ruefully. “A lot of us have read it since May of 1631. Many who never expected to read it. Or even knew that it existed. Including me. It was one of the early reprints that came out of Jena.”

The abbess nodded. “I do not understand at all why she classified the intervention of Christian IV as a ‘Danish phase.’ He didn’t intervene as king of Denmark. He intervened because as duke of Holstein, he was a member of the Niedersächsischer Kreis and effectively its head. That he was also king of Denmark at the same time was entirely an accident. Except, of course, that the tolls for shipping through the Sound as the king of Denmark meant that he could afford to mount armies.”

The silence dragged on for a few moments. “It might be interesting for both of you if I introduce you to Frederik some time.”

“I don’t think it’s likely that our paths will ever cross,” Iona said. “I’m sure it’s the ambition of every important young nobleman to meet a middle school music teacher who is closer to sixty than to fifty.”

The abbess looked at her consideringly. “I’m not so sure. It could be important, to use your word, for him to acquire a better understanding of you; of the up-timers generally, I mean. There are two kinds of politicians, in my experience. Those who subscribe to ‘those who are not with me are against me’ as their general principle of operations; the other more likely to assume that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Or, if not a friend, at least a potential temporary ally with whom one can reach a potential temporary consensus until the next turn of fate’s wheel.

“I don’t know precisely where Frederik will fall; I am not sure that he does, either. He’s still young. His Aunt Hedwig is one of my best friends. I visit her whenever I can; often enough that one of the rooms in her dower residence, Schloß Lichtenberg, is referred to as ‘the abbess’ room’.” She laughed. “I hope that I don’t show up so often that I make a nuisance of myself. In any case, she maintains that he is clever. Not brilliant, but shrewd. If he ever comes to understand, as I have, that the up-timers might, sometimes, be … not comrades, precisely, but persons with whom he could forge some precarious areas, limited areas, of common interest …”

Since Iona had never heard of Aunt Hedwig, whoever she might be, she let this last flow lightly over the surface of her mind and kept a hold on fate’s wheel. “Do you know what a kaleidoscope is? Or a carousel? There was a song I loved: Joni Mitchell’s ‘Circle Game.’1 We’re being spun around in time. I’m to the point that when I go to bed in the evening, I wonder what turn the next morning will bring. Much less the next week. Or month. Or year.”


July 1634

Before he did anything else, Frederik had a funeral to attend. His predecessor as prince-archbishop of Bremen, Johann Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp, had died in April. What with the war and all, his body had been embalmed and put in storage rather than interred with appropriate pomp and ceremony.

Before he could attend the funeral, he would have to organize it. Have it organized; the administrative staff of the Erzstift would do the detailed work, of course, but he had to decide how he wanted them to handle it. While he might not yet have acquired a staff when he was wearing his hat as governor of Westphalia, he did at least have one to administer the secular jurisdiction of the Erzstift.

In theory. If he could take control of it. The canons of the Bremen cathedral had been, at best, apathetic in regard to the innovations in the city; most of the administrative staff reported to them individually. The middle managers were displaying minimal enthusiasm for episcopal initiatives that might require them to give up their comfortable lives as country gentlemen and actually exert themselves.

As the duly elected coadjutor, Frederik had succeeded his great-uncle in Bremen quite independently of having been appointed governor of the province of Westphalia by Gustav Adolf two months later. The prince-archbishopric’s lands, those under its civil administration, consisted of only about a third of the ecclesiastical archdiocesan territory. Most of them lay in the area to the north of the city, between the Weser and Elbe rivers.

He was, he presumed, still responsible for the spiritual welfare of all Lutherans within the larger limits. Nobody had told him anything to the contrary. That had little in common with running the Erzstift. He would have district superintendents and consistories to deal with, pastoral appointments to approve, trial sermons delivered by candidates for those parish appointments to listen to—all the familiar routines of a bishop for which he had been educated.

In addition to his new political duties as governor of Westphalia, which were almost overwhelmingly more extensive than those of a prince-archbishop of Bremen and prince-bishop of Verden would have been.

He had a funeral to attend and some Augean Stables to sluice out. He would combine the funeral for his predecessor with the matter of dealing with “his own” cathedral canons in Erzstift Bremen. Who most certainly needed to be dealt with. First things first. I think that I’d better clean my own house before I start trying to sluice out everyone else’s, no matter how extensive the problems of the rest of Gustav Adolf’s new province are.


This time, he was setting up his easel in Schloß Bremervörde. Also called Vörde Castle, in the town of Bremervörde, about forty miles northeast of Bremen in the direction of Stade, it was the largest fortification in the region as well as having been the effective capital city of the Erzstift since the thirteenth century.

It would be a nice place to live, if all he needed was a nice place to live. Damp, of course, but no more so than anywhere else in northern Germany or Denmark. The castle was located on a fortified island in the Oste River. Those fortifications protected the residence itself, a house with several wings, designed to impress, built in the modern Renaissance style, with both formal gardens and more practical vegetable gardens.

It would not do for his permanent residence as governor of Westphalia, being too far north. He would need to choose a place where neither Bremen nor Hamburg could so easily isolate him from the remainder of the province if, for some reason, they decided it was expedient to cut him off. Which meant that he was going to have to appoint an administrator for Bremen. It might no longer have a vote in the Imperial Diet, but somebody had to run the local government. It wouldn’t run itself.

He made a note to leave Captain von Bargen here when he went south, along with half of the company that he had brought from Copenhagen. Appoint him Statthalter. Charge him with responsibility to poke and prod the canons to keep things moving. Promote Lieutenant Meyer.

But that was tangential to the moment.

It was going to be more than a trifle touchy to put together a satisfactory guest list for the funeral. The mothers of both Gustav Adolf, now emperor of the USE and his own superior when he was being the governor of Westphalia, and Count Ulrich II of Ostfriesland had been duchesses of Holstein-Gottorp, sisters of old Johann Friedrich. By virtue of that, both men, the deceased’s nephews and one another’s first cousins, certainly should be invited.

Ideally, neither of them would come.

Frederik pulled his lips inward, chewing on them. He could not brush over the numerous implications of the successful petition of Ulrich II of Ostfriesland to join the United Provinces—he’d done that already before the Congress of Copenhagen. Gustav Adolf certainly would not be inclined to overlook it. By adding Ostfriesland—and Bentheim, but that was smaller and not of significance for this particular funeral—the United Provinces had become larger. The two counts had set an effective limit on imperial Swedish ambitions in that particular direction unless Gustav was willing to spend more on the conquest than would be practical.

Because the United Provinces were part of Don Fernando’s “Low Countries.” There were times when Frederik hoped that it bothered Oxenstierna, when he was trying to go to sleep at night, that the new Province of Westphalia that he had constituted also had a low-lying coast. Nobody yet had a reliable gauge of how ambitious the former Cardinal-Infante of Spain might be.

And there was still Oldenburg to consider. He would have to invite Count Anton Günther, who was his own cousin. Not to mention a cousin of Emelie, who was now married to Count Ludwig Guenther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, who was prominently associated with the up-timers. The count and Emelie had both been at the Congress of Copenhagen; ideally, it was to be hoped, they would deem it too far to return north so soon for a funeral.

He turned his attention back to the prospective guest list.

In the end, it didn’t suit anybody, but almost everybody, both those who attended in person and those who did not, was about equally dissatisfied. That was probably the best he could have hoped for.


Be the first to review “Designed to Fail”

Upcoming Events

  1. SleuthFest

    July 7 - July 10
  2. National Book Festival 2022

    September 3 - September 4
  3. Fan Expo New Orleans

    January 6, 2023 - January 8, 2023
  4. MarsCon 2023

    January 13, 2023 - January 15, 2023
  5. Chattacon 2023

    January 13, 2023 - January 15, 2023