The Trouble with Huguenots

Duke Henri de Rohan is the leader of the French Protestants, known as the Huguenots, and he has a lot on his hands. The new king of France, Gaston, is hostile and his estranged wife and brother are plotting with the usurper against him. A still more urgent problem is that his only heir is his nineteen-year-old daughter Marguerite, and he needs to find her a suitable husband before all is lost.

 

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Ever since the assassination of King Louis XIII and the overthrow of his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, France has been in political and military turmoil. The possibility—even the likelihood—of revolution hovers in the background.

The new king Gaston, whom many consider an usurper, is no friend of France’s Protestants, known as the Huguenots. The fears and hostility of the Huguenots toward the French crown have only been heightened by the knowledge brought back in time by the Americans of the town of Grantville. Half a century in the future, the French king of the time would revoke the Edict of Nantes of 1598, which proclaimed that the rights of Huguenots would be respected.

At the center of all this turmoil is the universally recognized leader of the Huguenots: Duke Henri de Rohan. He knows from the same up-time history books that he is “scheduled” to die less than two years in the future and he has pressing problem on his hands.

His estranged wife and brother are siding with the usurper Gaston and plotting against him. Still worse, his sole child and heir is his nineteen-year-old daughter Marguerite. He believes he has less than two years to find a suitable husband for her—but acceptable Calvinist noblemen, French or foreign, are sparse at the moment.

What’s a father to do?

Besançon
July 1635

“May I remind you that I was already in England.” Benjamin de Soubise sat down on a high stool that was usually used by one of Henri de Rohan’s clerks. “You’re the one who sent me a rather peremptory summons to come to Frankfurt am Main to deal with Ducos’ men. Now you’ve hauled me here and say you want me to go back to England. I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“You’re young enough,” his brother said. “Moreover, in spite of your allegedly advanced age, you keep yourself in good condition. I have intelligence that Ducos and his followers will be moving to England next. Not great intelligence, but better than nothing.”

“It’s not just Ducos, you know.”

“I can keep an eye on the rest of it from here. Two eyes. One on the Netherlands. One on the USE. I don’t have a third eye that I can focus on England.”

“What do you want me to do with Sandrart? He was useful in Frankfurt.”

“Keep him on retainer; a modest retainer, nothing extravagant.  Otherwise dismiss him to go do his artistic things. He was useful in Frankfurt am Main, since he has family connections there. That won’t be the case elsewhere. If he should overhear anything important in the households where he receives his commissions, I’ll be glad to have the information and will see to it that he’s recompensed. Right now, though, I don’t see any real reason to keep him on my staff. Nor on yours. The great noble houses of England are in Van Dyke mode; staged poses and yards of satin draperies all over the place. Sandrart wouldn’t be popular there if you took him along; his canvases aren’t in that mode at all. So having him with you would not help us gain entry at the level where you would need it to monitor King Charles’ unsteady policies and Cork’s machinations, either.”

Laubach, County of Solms-Laubach

August 1635

Countess Katharina Juliana–Käthe to her own family–once upon a time she had been their “little Katie”–sucked on the top of her new pen. It had been a bit of an adjustment to learn to use it, since she had grown up with quills, but made the whole process of writing much less messy. With a reasonable amount of practice, not excessive, the calligraphy that resulted was as attractive. Not to mention that she could rub her tongue over it when in doubt, rather than chewing on her fingernails.

Amalie Elisabeth had sent it as a gift when Elisabeth Albertine–they called her Berta–was born in March.

A nice and thoughtful gift.

Amalie Elisabeth was a good sister. A somewhat overwhelming personality, perhaps, but a good sister. Who had produced another living, apparently healthy, son.

Young Wilhelm had come as such a relief to the family, after her sister’s ten years of marriage and the early deaths of the first four children she had borne. Then Philipp for a spare the next year, and Adolf for good measure the year after that. A fourth was almost too much of a good thing, not to mention the three now-living girls.  As her brother-in-law knew, a mass of younger siblings got expensive for a territorial ruler with limited resources. If Amalie Elisabeth didn’t stop this reproductive surge soon . . . No, children were divine blessings. The Bible said so.

If she examined her conscience, she would have to admit that she had trouble working up much interest in the three she had produced. Not that she wasn’t grateful for them and for the Lord’s mercy in permitting her to fulfil her duty to Albert Otto, but they were so messy. There was nothing to be done about diapers and drool. No equivalent to replacing a quill with a pretty glass pen.

Well, there were wet nurses and nursemaids, thanks be to God!

Congratulations were in order, along with a nice christening present.

In Magdeburg, Amalie Elisabeth had easy access to all the new technology.  It would not have been a challenge for her to send a servant to buy a modern pen to celebrate the birth of a niece.

What on earth was there in beyond-the-backwoods Laubach, on the far southwestern border of Hesse, that would stand out among the dozens of gifts that little Karl would be receiving?

Besançon
September 1635

“I can read an encyclopedia as well as anyone else.” Henri, duc de Rohan, continued to pace around the room. “In less than three years, I will be dead.”

“You were killed in a battle we fought at Rheinfelden,” Grand Duke Bernhard countered. “which is an encounter I see no need to fight in this world. You’re pushing paper rather than commanding cavalry. How old are you? Fifty-five or so? You could live another thirty years.”

“Fifty-seven. I could be thrown off my horse while I’m going up to the Citadelle on routine business and be dead next month. The Word of God admonishes that we should not seek to know our times. However, I have read the encyclopedias and I am determined to see my daughter married to a Protestant while I am still alive.”

“To about any Protestant in your more frantic moments. To a suitable French noble of the Reformed persuasion in your more rational ones. If not that, then to a foreign Protestant prince, preferably Calvinist. Or . . .” Bernhard rotated his shoulders. “Are there Protestant space aliens in this up-time ‘science fiction’ you have been reading these past few months? One of them might be the best choice.”

“I am not in a mood for raillery,” Rohan grumped. “Even if my young friend Ron Stone claims that I am ‘fixated,’ I died and the French crown controlled her. For years, they did not let her marry at all. Then they gave her a list of Catholic nonentities acceptable to them and she picked one because ‘at least he’s handsome and a good dancer.’ That is not a potential son-in-law acceptable to me. Neither are grandchildren who will be reared Catholic as a condition of the king’s permitting my daughter to marry at all. So . . .”

“So what do you plan to do about it.”

“With your permission, O Sovereign Lord of the Free County of Burgundy, I will bring my wife and daughter to join me here in Besançon. Or, if you prefer, I can return to Berne and have them join me there.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” the grand duke answered, clasping his hands behind his back as he took his turn with pacing. “Berne does not need you. You have accepted duties to Burgundy. Think of the piles of paper on your desk. Think of the hordes of petitioners who will be devastated if you do not hold personal meetings with them.” His smile turned feral. “Think of the committee meetings that you are scheduled to chair, which will spare me or Erlach from chairing them. In the best of circumstances, it will take some time to get your ladies here. You can borrow a couple of my better officers for such a mission.”

Rohan leaned on his standing desk and steepled his fingers. “Ruvigny, then.”

“What?” Bernhard raised his eyebrows at this apparent non sequitur.

“Ruvigny. He’s an officer in your service and I know him well.”

“The redhead? The one with the remarkable nose?”

Rohan nodded. “And freckles. Don’t forget the freckles. Yes, that’s Henri de Massué de Ruvigny.”

“Why him?”

“His family are clients of my father-in-law. They have been since long before Sully even became my father-in-law. Thus, they are in a way clients of my wife, so it’s mostly a matter of entré. She will receive him at least, possibly as a welcome rather than unwelcome guest, and, perhaps, if I am fortunate, even pay some attention to the message he presents on my behalf. Maybe.”

Bernhard unclasped his hands and fingered the little goatee he was wearing. “Not a bad choice. He’s a good officer, but he’ll make a better diplomat someday, if he ever has the money to support an ambassadorial career. Someone ought to find him a wife with a decent dowry. Who else do you want?”

“Ask him. He knows the younger officers better than either of us do. He’ll make a good choice.”

Bernhard’s private secretary stuck his head around the doorpost as a signal for the meeting to break up.

“What’s next on the agenda?” Rohan asked.

“Smallpox vaccinations, continued plague-fighting measures, and other aspects of public sanitation, with a special presentation by the up-time nurse Frau Dunn and information on what assistance can be obtained through the resources of Lothlorien Pharmaceuticals in Grantville.” Bernhard appeared to be working up to one of his famous rants.

“I believe,” Rohan said, backing out of the room, “that I hear the papers stacked beside my desk emitting a call as tempting as the voice of any siren singing to passing sailors.”

✽✽✽

Ruvigny chose August von Bismarck. Bismarck, he told the duke, was reliable and solid. Unflappable. The kind of officer a commander could depend on.

They also happened to be good friends, on first name terms, and, so far, said friend hadn’t had any luck at all when it came to promotions. This kind of expedition could give August a chance to bring himself to the favorable attention of more powerful people. But there was no point in mentioning that to the duke and grand duke yet.

Whereupon Rohan wrote letters, and they begged the best horses that the regiment would let them take. Bismarck’s horse turned out to be reliable and solid. The kind of horse a man could depend on. Ruvigny’s horse went lame four days out, so he had to hire a far less satisfactory one.

“So,” August said the next afternoon. “Did you find out anything about yourself from the famous up-time encyclopedias?”

Henri dropped his reins onto the gelding’s neck and stared out toward the peasants who were still harvesting in the fields, weeks after the end of this unsatisfactory summer. “Britannica 1911. On what I’m paid, I asked the researcher I hired in Grantville to look up the main article for my family name, if there was one. It’s not as if I can afford to pay for a thorough search. There was an article about my oldest son, who became a general for the king of England–who was a Dutchman, absurdly enough; one has to wonder what became of the Stuarts–and received an Irish title, Earl of Galway. King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, crushing everything I attempted to achieve after I retired from the army. I served as Deputy General of the Huguenot Synods to the royal court from 1653 onwards, trying to maintain our rights. I failed, so I went into exile and died in England. Not one of my three sons married. No descendants, male or female. The French crown confiscated our estates. The Teacher had it right, I guess. ‘Useless, useless; everything is useless.’ Or, maybe, ‘Futile, futile, everything is futile.'” He picked up the reins again. “But for some reason, I keep working.” He raised his eyebrows. “You?”

August grinned. “Same encyclopedia, same procedure, same reason, since I’m always broke. I got less detail but more optimism. About two hundred fifty years from now, somebody named von Bismarck, Otto to be specific, had worked his way up in rank from country gentleman to Graf, Herzog, und Fürst. He guided the multitude of small German states into becoming a united country. He wasn’t nice about the nation building; Gustav Adolf and Stearns have proceeded with more tact. Whether or not he was related to me in the direct line, I have no idea, but since we were both born at Schönhausen in Brandenburg’s Altmark, there’s likely to be some connection. I’m going to assume that one of my brothers or cousins managed to hang onto the land, such as it is, paid off the mortgages our father loaded on it in pursuit of such luxuries as family portraits and comfortable beds, and kept begetting heirs.” August sighed. “My lord father wasn’t frugal. He kept trying to press additional new fees out of the peasants, the peasants kept suing him, and the courts kept deciding in their favor. He left a huge mess for my mother to deal with after he died.”

Ruvigny shifted in the hired saddle. It didn’t fit him right. “There are millions of people, I suppose, who wouldn’t find anything at all in those books. My son received an article because he became a general.”

The sun was shifting into the west. August pulled his hat down to protect the pale forehead that his receding auburn hair seemed to be enlarging with every day that passed. “Rise high in the army and qualify for the small immortality of an encyclopedia entry. At the rate I’m receiving promotions, which is not at all, it’s no wonder the up-timers never heard of me. It looks like I’ll die still a captain, whether it’s next summer or twenty summers from now.”

They plodded onwards toward Paris.

Brussels
October 1635

From: Susanna Allegretti, Brussels
To: M. Leopold Cavriani, Geneva

Most honored patron and friend,

I regret that I must request a favor from you. Because of certain difficulties that have arisen here in the household of the king and queen in the Netherlands, I feel that it will not be wise for me to remain in my current situation any longer than absolutely necessary. If it would be possible for you to arrange for me to transfer to the household of the Stadthouder in the northern provinces, I would be sincerely grateful.

Your devoted friend and servant,

 

From: Susanna, in Brussels

To: Marc, wherever you may be (c/o M. Leopold Cavriani, Geneva)

 

My dearest heart,

I’m getting so mad about all of this that if I weren’t a seamstress who can’t afford snags in the lace and satin that earn me my daily bread, I’d be biting my fingernails right to the quick. Or kicking the non-gentleman colonel from Lorraine where it would hurt him the most. Which I can’t, because he has “important connections.” Of course, with all the excitement about the expected baby, nobody could expect the queen to have time to worry about the trials and tribulations of one of her dressmakers. Not even if she is an outstanding dressmaker, which I have become if I may be so bold as to say so.

No matter how impeccable the personal conduct of the king and queen in the Netherlands is, its impact on the court as a whole is not strong. Of course, one could say the same about decades of impeccable conduct on the part of the marvelous Archduchess, who is, alas, still old and still ill.

So. This obnoxious exile, even after the truly entertaining demise of his duke last spring, will not take no for an answer, and what’s worse, most of my colleagues in haute couture don’t see why I’m not willing to say yes to his demands (which are more demands in the English usage than requests in the French usage). He’s offered generous terms, they say, and it’s not as if I’m some petite bourgeoise, subject to the rules of German guilds. When he ended an arrangement with a generous settlement (they say, they say, they all say, or at least most of them say), not that I think that he has enough money to do that, apart from any considerations of morality, then I would have a bigger dowry than I do now and could make an even better match than expected with some other upper servant in the court than I can now aspire to.

But I don’t want to do this, so I have written your father asking him to get me sent to the court of Fredrik Hendrik and his wife in The Hague.

I miss you so much.

Where are you?

2 reviews for The Trouble with Huguenots

  1. William Scott (verified owner)

    And we think politics is complicated in the 21st century! Side trips in the ROF universe, such as this and others by DeMarce, are always entertaining and informative. As many of my fellow ROF addicts know, much of the Trouble suffered by many in 17th century Europe was religious intolerance used too often as a weapon of the state.

  2. Hal Porter (verified owner)

    I love DeMarce,s complex plot twists and historical details. But some may not. Also lots of characters roaming about including that decidedly odd Danish Princess. For me, sort of like sipping Benedictine.

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