Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Chapter 11 - Defeat & Victory
The Coronation of the Hapburgian Emperor Ferdinand was held two days later than originally intended, however the dignitaries and nobles that attended the Coronation did not mind at all as the week was full of festivities, balls and organised events.
However behind closed doors the Emperor elect Archduke Ferdinand was doing all he could to repair the damage done to Hapburgian prestige as well as securing his throne. The morning after Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella Ferdinand had fled Veronia, Ferdinand was surprised to discover his younger brother Archduke Eugene had remained behind.
Ferdinand had suspected that Konstantin and Arabella would flee, though he had half expected them and perhaps hoped that they would try and bluff their way out of the predicament they had made for themselves; however running away to save ones skin was what both Konstantin and Arabella were good at. The surprise however was Eugene staying, and as far as Ferdinand was concerned Eugene staying and accepting his part of the charade meant a lot to him as well as the Empire, he therefore decided this was a time for building bridges not seeking retribution.
There had been much heart to heart talking and in discussions with all those involved it soon became clear that almost the entire palace and indeed the Government had been duped by the charade Konstantin had evolved. It was worrying to all that such a simple plan could have had massive detrimental effects to the Empire. It seemed that his plan was to have Eugene made Emperor before Ferdinand had arrived back from Ulrichstein, once Eugene was Emperor clearly Konstantin was intending to manipulate and use Eugene to achieve his own ends, essentially he would have had Eugene create Wartenburg a Kingdom thus elevating Arabella and himself.
Konstantin’s plans relied on timing and everything falling into place. He had not expected Ferdinand to leave his army before he had settled the Rechburg issue, he was being kept informed by dispatch riders sent from Wartenburg’s General Romer who commanded a Brigade in Ferdinand’s Army, obviously he heard incorrectly as it turned out that Ferdinand would not advance on the Rechburg army for at least a week or more. Then Konstantin had been further encouraged by the news from the couriers that the first of the snows were falling on the high passes, so he assumed if Ferdinand was still in Ulrichstein for another week, preferably two he would not make the passes before the blizzards hit and cut the roads. The journey around the mountains was much longer and would have taken several more weeks and by that time Eugene would have been Emperor for several weeks or even months and in that time he would have convinced Eugene to elevate Wartenburg into a Kingdom.
All Konstantin had to do was replace the courier message with one that read Ferdinand was dead, and with no news for several weeks it would have been too late when it was discovered that Frederick was indeed still alive. Konstantin would not expect Ferdinand to try and start a civil war just to replace Eugene, he was far to loyal to the Empire to risk that. Besides regardless of what arrangements Ferdinand and Eugene would finally arrive at once Wartenburg was a Kingdom and independent of Hapburgia there was nothing the Emperor whoever he was could do, short of declaring war.
It was a plausible plan Ferdinand assumed, it really only went wrong because Ferdinand left the army the day after he received the summons from Charles to return immediately, he was confident General Kyler could handle the Rechburgians and Ferdinand was determined to see Charles before his brother passed away. As Ferdinand remarked to Eugene the morning after his return, Konstantin’s real mistake was not having Ferdinand assassinated and thus making his death a reality, he then would have been secure in his ambitions. He was willing to wager that fact there was no assassination attempt was most likely due to Arabella, even she could not sink as low as having a brother killed just to become a Queen.
During the week before the Coronation Eugene and Ferdinand had done much to repair the breach made by their sister and her husband, In the first instance Ferdinand summoned the Haulic Council and informed them that their approval of Eugene as Emperor had been as a result of intrigues, it was a simple matter from there to reverse their decision acknowledging Ferdinand as the true heir to the throne. Eugene accepted that now Ferdinand was back he must be Emperor, what Eugene worried about more was what would become of him.
So the discussions between the Haulic council and Eugene really centred less on Ferdinand and more what was to be done with Eugene and then later Konstantin and Arabella.
Ferdinand finally convinced the Haulic council that he and they should accept Eugene’s pledge of loyalty made both to him personally as well as at Ferdinands coronation. After the coronation Ferdinand appointed Eugene commander of the southern Army facing the Attaman Empire, it was a way of getting him out of Veronia without a loss of honour, plus it gave Ferdinand peace of mind at not being constantly reminded of how close he came to not being Emperor.
Emperor Ferdinand I of the Hapburgian Empire now had another problem to settle and that was the Papal throne. It was pivotal to the strength and security of the Hapburgian Empire, but it was the one throne that was elected and thus could not be taken for granted.
To test the strength of the remaining loyalty of Prince Konstantin and Arabella, Ferdinand had written to them that they were to contract a pledge to vote for Hapburgia for the Papal seat, if they did so he was prepared to forgive them their intrigues; he had not received an answer. In fact he learnt from other sources that Konstantin had been in negotiations with Franconia and to a lesser extent Iberia, so from that news he was prepared to accept the worse.
In fact as far as Ferdinand could predict the race for the Papal seat would be between Franconia and Iberia.
Iberia could count on its own vote as well as those of Bergatonia and Danemark.
Franconia had its own vote and as well as those of Buchenwald and Neider,
Hapburgia had its own vote and the Kingdom of Vandahalla, possibly but not likely Wartenburg, if Wartenburg did vote for Hapburgia then it would be a three way split for all the applicants and most likely a war if reason didn’t prevail; and when did reason ever prevail on Europia.
So with the assumption that Wartenburg would betray Hapburgia once again, it left Hapburgia as the maker of the Papal throne that is if Franconia were to enter the competition. Even if Wartenburg were to vote for Franconia, Ferdinand still had had two votes to add and that would give Iberia the Papal seat.
God help Europia then.
Of the two likely to become the seat of the papal throne Ferdinand preferred Iberia simply because it has fewer issues with Hapburgia than he would if Franconia become the seat of the Papal throne. He was equally sure that Franconia would soon make its claim for the Papal throne known. He based this assumption on the fact that as soon as Franconia could be sure of the Wartenburg vote then it really was being forced to try and gain the Papal throne. If only because Franconia had too many issues with Iberia already just to allow it to gain such a powerful leverage of its own ecclesiastical destiny.
Ferdinand then realised that his Empire could be on a point of where it would decline through the loss of income and prestige usually created by the Papal throne. On the positive side Hapburgia would not bear the responsibility of defending the faith and forever spending fortunes on wars to prevent the erosion of the true faith, another positive would be that he would at least be able to develop Hapburgia from the bottom up. Without the constant threat of wars erupting in areas of little interest to Hapburgia other than defending the faith, he could modernize Hapburgia through overhauling its economy; then at least his Empire could compete far more effectively that it has over the years that Charles reigned as Emperor.
To Ferdinand it came down to two issues, he was going to lose either the Papal throne or Wartenburg, but he would not lose both, if he must lose one is was better that it be the Papal throne.
Therefore Hapburgia’s destiny was really entwined with Franconia entering the Papal race; if they did he could barter his Hapburgian votes for Franconian neutrality in the argument between Wartenburg and his Empire. If on the other hand Franconia remained indifferent to the Papal seat as they have done in the past it would likely mean war with Wartenburg and possibly the Franconian Empire.
If he was to risk a war with Franconia and that was a big risk, for that he needed Iberia on his side, with Hapburgia to the Franconian east and Iberia and its ally Bergatonia to the north and south, then the Franconian war effort would be hopelessly divided.
The final key was what happens in Ulrichstein, if General Kyler can gather a victory, then perhaps the Rechburgians may be more receptive to a negotiated settlement. If there was no victory then any negotiations would mean loss of territory but more than that even more loss to Imperial prestige; that was not something Ferdinand would accept very easily.
The Papal vote was in two weeks, Ferdinand prayed he would hear from General Kyler before then, otherwise Ferdinand would have to play out a huge gamble.
News did arrive from General Kyler a week later.
He had been defeated at Ulrichsburg and had to retreat back to Quedinburg, the capital of Ulrichstein he had lost 2,500 men in the battle and his army was beyond any offensive capability, he intended to place his troops in winter quarters and await further instructions, a few days later more bad news arrived that General Romer had been defeated at a place called Penie near Newhausen.
This news came as a thunderbolt, Ferdinand was sure he had the troops to defeat that damned Rechburgian Prince, failure now meant a host of other ills would likely start to rise. Not the least being that he would have to negotiate with the Rechburgians, the worst likely effect was that this defeat could only encourage Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella to strike out on their own.
The defeat mixed with the likelihood of Hapburgia losing the Papal throne would in the eyes of many in Europia be seen as the beginning of the decline of the Hapburgian Empire, he would have to send a message in such a way that all of Europia would understand that Hapburgia was far from weak and declining.
It was just unfortunate that the timing of all these events occurred when Hapburgia could not strike out, all he could do until the campaign season resumed was negotiate and intrigue while he prepared for a war that must now come.
Herzog Constantine II sat at his desk, opposite him sat Rechburg’s Prime Minister Hienrich Schmettau, General Molyneaux the Army chief of staff who had recently returned from the Bergatonian border where he had been assisting Prince Leopold and finally there was his daughter Princess Caroline.
Constantine’s smile told volumes as he read the reports just received from his son and heir Prince Wilhelm, nodding with each sentence read and the grin was becoming infectious, now the others were smiling and grinning at each other and they did not have a clue what was in the dispatch.
“Well father, are you going to tell us, or must we all sit here waiting forever.” Caroline demanded.
Constantine placed the missive on his desk, he leaned back in his chair and looking at Caroline said
“Your brother has just won a major battle in Ulrichstein, he has clearly defeated the Imperial army, in fact the victory is so complete the Imperials have withdrawn back to the Ulrichstein capital of Quedinburg, which means most of Ulrichstein is now under our control. It appears General Walmoden has also gained a victory near Newhausen so the Imperils have only Quedinburg to call their own.”
Caroline squealed with delight, she had been so worried about Wilhelm she knew he would put every fibre of his essence in fighting these battles and she also was aware that he would not hesitate to put himself in danger if he had to, and for that reason she had always feared something awful would happen to him.
“Is Wilhelm alright father”?
Leopold nodded, “Yes, yes my dear he is fine and he sends you all his love.”
General Molyneaux was smiling as well, something of a rarity thought Constantine, he handed the General the statistics of the battle, while the General quickly read through the details Constantine turned to Prime Minister Schmettau.
“How do we take advantage of this victory Hienrich?”
The Prime Minister sat with his small brief case sitting firmly on his lap clutching it as if its contents were giving him reassurance. Staring at Constantine over those rather thick lenses in his spectacles he said,
“Naturally Sire this is excellent news, indeed most excellent. However it does rather emphasise that we find ourselves in an awkward situation, these victories that the two young Princes have gained for us will place the Herzogtum on top of the list for many nations in Europia, in some cases those lists will be good, and for others it will be bad.”
The Prime Minister paused for breath,
“Our allies will be heartened by these victories sire, so much so they may themselves be emboldened to chance their luck in wars, I am thinking in particular of Pomonia who has been making noises about the Kingdom of Vallahalla again. So perhaps one of our first requirements is to consult with the allies and try to keep them from doing anything foolish, especially something that will require us to step in and help. It does also places us in the dominant position in deciding what to do with Ulrichstein, and that will likely create its own dilemma’s. For example if the Emperor decides to drag negotiations out until the spring we will likely have a new war over there, so we need to negotiate with some urgency, it will require some delicate discussions for should we be too firm in our demands the Emperor will simply delay, too lax in them and we will one day have to do this all over again.
Finally sire, it means nations such as Bergatonia and even Danemark will look upon as an increased threat, which may prompt one of them to try and bring Rechburg back to size.”
General Molyneaux looked up from the papers he was reading, glancing at the Prime Minister he said
“Surely Heinrich you are not telling us that because we won these battles were are in greater danger than if we lost them”
“No. no General I am not inferring we are in greater danger, merely in a different type of danger, if we had lost we were vulnerable as a weak nation, so the more aggressive neighbours would have wasted no time attacking us for whatever pretext they wished. Now however we will be seen as a dominant and more powerful nation, so it is more likely that our enemies will unite against us, so it is the alliances developing we must watch out for, for in them we will most likely see our next enemies.”
The General nodded, and then pointing to one of the pages on his lap he said
“It says here Archduke Ferdinand was not commanding at Ulrichsburg, prisoners state that he was summoned home because the Emperor was dying, what do we know of that Heinrich.”
“Indeed general, the news we have from Veronia is that Emperor Charles I has indeed passed away and that Archduke Ferdinand is now Emperor, however I have reports from our agents that there was some sort of Coup attempt involving the Prince and Princess of Wartenburg.”
Constantine laughed, “Good god when it rains bad news for Hapburgia it does so by the bucket load. So Hienrich what do we know of this supposed Coup and how has it affected things there between the new Emperor and Wartenburg, by god I would love to be a fly on the wall in Ferdinand’s palace when he found out about that.”
“Well sire I gather that Hapburgia now has other issues as well and that involves the papal throne, I have been calculating the possible outcomes of the votes and as far as I can see, the most sure new seat for the throne would be Iberia; however if, and I do stipulate If Franconia throws in its hat, then it could go to them, for then it would depend on how the Hapburgian and Wartenburg cards are played.”
Constantine rose from his chair, he walked over to the window for a moment, a slight breeze was coming in, a definite winter chill, and he closed it and then returned to the desk.
Constantine spoke, perhaps more to himself than the others; but they all overheard him anyway.
“If Iberia gets the Papal seat, we could very well be in for a lot of trouble, not the least from that bloody mad Duke, but also from Danemark as they seem to have cuddled up with the Iberians over the voting issue, I can full well see that Danemark would seek Iberian help to regain Flensburg and that means a war for us.”
“Surely not father, these past few weeks I was sure things were improving with Danemark, I mean with the visits between you and Princess Charlotte becoming so frequent half Rechburg is expecting to hear the wedding announcement.”
Constantine smiled, he had heard the rumours and he wondered how many had been started as wishful thinking on behalf of his daughter, for she and Princess Charlotte and now become firm friends as well.
“Well my dear I can assure you there will be no wedding bells, far too much has happened for that, no Caroline and I are the dearest of friends but that is where it will stay. Oh I suspect her brother Olaf has been pushing the wedding idea along, if merely to gain Rechburg’s approval through a family alliance for his war against Flensburg. No there will be no wedding and no alliance, my commitment to Flensburg is as strong as the day I announced it.”
General Molyneaux then spoke up,
“So if Iberia gets the Papal seat we can expect troubles from Bergatonia and Danemark, that then means troubles for our colonies and the maritime trade, Sire we are not strong enough to deal with such combinations, we must increase the defense budget considerably.”
Constantine sat back down.
“Yes General and as Hienrich pointed out, as a result of our victory in Ulrichsburg and the papal seat possibly moving to Iberia we are moving into an era of new dangers and we must prepare for them, both militarily as well as diplomatically.”
Charlotte asked “So if we don’t want Iberia to have the Papal throne, who on earth is acceptable to us.”
“Oh I should think Franconia would be my preference, first of all Franconia is much more stable and reliable than Iberia, but also Franconia and Hapburgia will be a counter balance to each other in central Europia, especially as far as Wartenburg is concerned.”
Constantine looked at the three of them in turn, and then his eyes settled back on the Prime Minister,
“Hienrich we need to settle Ulrichstein and quickly, also I think we need to look at conscription in the spring, it won’t be popular but I don’t see we have any choice if we are to survive the next year.”
“Very well Sire” the Prime Minister replied “What will our conditions for Ulrichstein be?”
“The Hapburgians can no longer claim a ecclesiastical interest in Ulrichstein, particularly if they lose the throne, it will simply come down to a territorial issue, so this is what I demand.
Hapburgia gets to keep Quedinburg and we keep the rest under a new treaty where we will guarantee the protection of the Catholic subjects that choose to remain in our territory. It’s the same treaty they imposed on us last time, it’s merely this time we have the boot on their throat instead.”
Hienrich nodded, “I doubt the new Emperor will be keen to sign up to that Sire, being new he has to create an impression of strength to survive, and these demands will sound like a defeat to him.”
“Yes I know Hienrich, it will be galling for him I know, so let us see what he comes back with, but he does need to be reminded; regardless how we nicely we present this it was a defeat for him personally and for his Empire.”
“And the papal throne Sire, what should we do there?” Hienrich asked.
“We will wait and see, just wait and see who fights over the crumbs”.