Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oddest commission

Barcelona, 4th August 1713

Haunted, President de Solanell leaped up from his seat as if pushed by an invisible resort: -A commission, you said?

-Yes I did, an Infantry commission. -Lady Elisenda de Cardona replied in calmly voice -I’d desire to raise a Regiment. -she graciously smiled- I have the necessary funds, of course.

Visibly alarmed, the General Deputation President looked all around the room, searching for a glance of complicity. In vain. General Villarroel stood insistently looking at a fixed point in front of him, in an attitude of apparent indiference as if the matter had nothing to do with him; in the meanwhile, General Prado found the chance to suffer an appropriately annoying coughing while the Treasurer of the General Deputation had suddenly gone quite intensely focused on an accounts book... From the rear, standing at a room’s corner, Loys d’Hauteville discretely stood wide-eyed looking at the distinguished, captivating lady -whose name he didn’t know yet. Only the Archbishop of Barcelona, present at the meeting too, gave back a glance to Lady Elisenda with eyes full of disapproval.

-Oh yes, er.... ehem... I know. -he finally found the words -However Milady, where are you planning to recruit the necessary men? The recent commission given to Colonel Corradó has barely achieved results so far, due to manpower shortage...

-Well... I was not thinking of men -Lady Elisenda replied quietly.

-What?? -it was the Archbishop who had so sharply protested.

-A Regiment of women -she confirmed in a firm voice, defiantly staring into the Archbishop's eyes. Caught by surprise, General Villarroel abandoned his indiference attitude, while the Treasurer dug himself deeper into his accounts book.

-Lady Elisenda, I wouldn’t doubt for even a moment the tenacity and virtues of women, -Villarroel intervened, as gently as he could, -but this is not a job for them, because women have no knowledge on its own instruments or common usages... that is, weapons or drill...

-It wouldn’t be a Regiment of common women, but of widows and invalids' wives instead, gentlemen. -in her sweetest voice- After so many years at war, there are hundreds of families that have been thrown into the deepest levels of poverty, after the death or disability of their household heads. There is a legion of women compelled to providing for their families with misery salaries, whose daily enemies are no other than starvation and disease... Is this the payment our Nation is deserving to them for their sacrifice? Misery?

-Such kind of women have accompanied their husbands through a number of campaigns, -she continued- they’ve had to share penalties with them and unavoidably have come to a perfect knowledge on weapons, powder, digging and surviving on the field. It will be infinitely easier to train any one of them than introducing into military life a notary’s son from the very start.

-This makes sense, Milady -General Villarroel agreed, after some hesitation moments- However, this idea of yours can meet a quite serious problem: where would you take officers from? There are no female officers yet, and forming a core of them for your Regiment would take a lot of time, perhaps too much...

-You are right, Sire. I had already thought about this. -Lady Elisenda agreed- For some time, my Regiment will need male offciers in charge, until the most excelling women can be identified, trained and promoted.

-We’re back to the start point, then. -President intervened- Men shortage. No capable man is available at present.

-Not even one? And what about all those foreign officers ociously spending their time at the Added Officers Company? -Lady Elisenda ironically replied. She then suddenly turned round towards Loys d’Hauteville and thoroughly examined the young Frenchman: -And you, gentleman? -she asked in a slight, seductive smile -Have you already resigned having an effective command charge?

-Er... Milady... Well, in fact...

-Do you have any command experience? -her voice was now sharp as a knife.

-Some, Milady.

-Would you accept a promotion to Major of my Regiment?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cervera in flames

Southern front, 4th August 1713

Simultaneously to the daring ride of the Military Deputy of Catalonia up to the gates of Tarragona city, the Two Crowns' Army Group South assaulted once again the perched town of Tivissa, whose defence consisted of an Imperial Dragoons Regiment, a Catalan Mountain Fusiliers battalion and the local militia. This time, a better co-ordinated assault was only repulsed after a heavy street fighting, that caused a terrible amount of losses on both sides. Decimated to less than half their initial strength, the defenders had nevertheless managed to hold the town and, therefore, stopping the Spanish progression towards Tarragona for one week else.

No better chance had General Velasco of Army Group Centre in his attempts to subjugate Montblanc town, which was defended only by their inhabitants in arms, who anyway managed to keep Velasco's three regiments at bay. However, defenders' losses were heavier than those of the attackers, so that Velasco took some patience and started preparing a third, likely definitive assault on the stubborn town.

On the other side, the main column of that same Army Group finally achieved the target of clearing the road from Lleida to Barcelona, after assaulting for second time the town of Cervera with heavy artillery support. The bloody street fighting that followed the asault resulted in a complete defeat of the decimated defenders, who were overhelmed by the fierce infantry attack. All the surviving defenders were afterwards executed, and fire set to the town, as ordered by King Philip.

The road to Barcelona was clear now.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Encamped in front of Tarragona

Southern front, 3rd August 1713

On this third week of campaign, the Catalans took advantage of the Two Crowns' immobility, so that, while our Mireia was aimlessly wandering behind the Tarragona strong walls, a large Catalan force rushed up to the old city, following the ancient Via Augusta path. That army consisted of the Concepció Infantry Regiment and the Aragonese Dragoons of Saint Michael Regiment, under command of Francesc de Solà, Military Deputy of the Principality -some kind of equivalent of what nowadays would be called Ministry of Defence. They encamped face to the city while waiting for being granted access into it by the Imperial garrison. However, the orders of the Austrian commander, Count of Wallis, were taxative: Tarragona had become the meeting point for all the Imperial detachments dispersed all through the Principality while awaiting for a British fleet that would evacuate them in Naples, and that would not happen before September 1st. Therefore, the city would not be surrendered to anybody until the English ships were anchored in harbour. This way, unable to perform any other action in this week, the Catalan army had to resign and encamped in the fields close to the old city.

[As a further consequence of the global economic crisis striking to all us, the Savings Bank I've been working for during the last 24 years is about to engage a fusion with another 3 similar entities, with the consequent staff reduction you can imagine -so that my job is currently in a serious danger. As a result, it has lately become a little difficult for me to concentrate myself in this otherwise exciting adventure storyboards, while such uncertainty persists to keep hanging over our expendable, simple employee heads. It can be expected all this shit comes to an end soon -hopefully on next week, when we'll be acknowledged if our enterprise's Computing Department is to survive the massacre or not. I humbly ask for your understanding if my postings rythm becomes a little more irregular in the next days.]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moragues joins the fight

Castellciutat fortress, 2nd August 1713

On the southern bastion of the remote fortress hidden among high, craggy mountains, a small group of officers and soldiers stood paying their highest attention to the long and narrow valley extending to them from north to south.

-Look out there, Sir -one of them said, while pointing towards the valley's far south bottom- That tiny dust column straight there.

The alluded, a medium-aged gentlemanly man dressed in the elegant red uniform of a General, raised his spyglass and watched through it towards the spotted place, before finally answering: -Yes, I can see them. It seems a Horse force, but they are still too far to be clearly seen. Do we have any patrol report?

-Yes Sir, a whole Dragoons Regiment as reported. They're carrying black flags. -another officer promptly replied.

-Black flags? -General Josep Moragues, commander of the Imperial fortress of Castellciutat amidst the Pyrenees, put the spyglass aside for a moment, and ironically smiled: -This sounds to something of that damned Desvalls! Gentlemen, these troops are coming from Cardona fortress, and I bet the Marquis of Poal is their commander. Let's open gates to them!

A few hours later, after the just arrived column had been installed into the fort, Lord Antoni Desvalls -Marquis of Poal- went to meet General Moragues: -Dear friend, I'm glad to meet you.

-Thanks for your hospitality, General. I was afraid you wouldn't grant access to my troops, as other Imperial commanders use to do...

Moragues slowly nodded: -Maybe I wouldn't either, a few days ago...

-And so? What has changed in the meanwhile?

-I have just been delivered new orders from Wallis in Tarragona -Moragues then showed to Desvalls a letter headed by a printed Holy Empire two-headed eagle- Imperial troops evacuation must be accelerated. We have no longer to wait for the arrival of any Two Crowns troops to withdraw our current positions. We've been ordered to rush towards Tarragona city, in order to get there before September 1st, when an English fleet will embark us to Naples. It seems that Queen Anne has got hurry to get rid of us now... -he concluded, his lips drawing a cynical smile.

-I see -Desvalls answered- And then, what about this fortress?

-Nobody explained. Therefore, I must understand to have no longer obligations with respect to it. We must leave it completely, as ordered, so that we might leave gates open behind us if desired.

-And the garrison?

-It's the General Deputation Regiment, they're all Catalans. We might understand they've been relieved from Imperial service too. And to be sincere I'm plainly doubtful any of them is willing to get exiled in Naples.

-And you, Josep? Are you leaving for Naples now?

-What!? ...leaving all the fun and adventure for you alone? -both laughed.

[This random event is really good news for the Catalan side. Stopped by the Balaguer population rebellion, the Spanish Army Group North has had no chance to block the fortress and force Moragues' capitulation; this has allowed the Marquis of Poal audacious ride to meet Moragues and convince him (thanks to a lucky die roll) to join in time the cause. As a result, the joint forces of both Catalan heroes have become an unexpected, serious threat to the Spaniards. A first major battle in that area is expectable in a short time, I'd guess]

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Diplomacy at harbour

Monte-Cristo, 2nd August 1713

-I feel more relaxed if talking at home... -had said Sir Robert Walpole, so that they finally met aboard the frigate HMS Courageous, which was anchored in Monte-Cristo harbour. The Catalan xebec captain Joan Ventura got so impressed at the beautiful ship that her captain proudly offered himself for a guided tour, thus leaving Sir Walpole and Marquis of Vilana alone.

-I must confess, my friend -Walpole started- that your latest proposal about a Co-Principality in Catalonia has strongly suprised me... It is quite far away from the theses defended by Lord Dalmases, your ambassador to London, and so far assumed by Her Gracious Majesty's Government; I mean, the tutelage of your Principality -if not the whole Crown of Aragon- by Emperor Charles alone...

-You are right Robert, but things are changing despite our wish -Vilana responded -and you know, as well as I do too, that the position of your "Tory" government is plainly artificial. They have no real intention of pressing France and Spain in that direction, but only...

-...reassuring Her Gracious Majesty conscience about this matter, so freeing their hands to forward plans on a peace terms which are widely favorable to their own particular interest, my friend. I am fully aware of this. -Walpole agreed- This is the reason why they are conforming to the guarantees given by King Philip about setting the Catalans on equal terms than His Castilian subjects.

-However, such presumed equality means the abolition of the core Constitutions of our Principality, Robert. It is no more than an annexation, just as King Philip has already done with Valencia and Aragon. The name for it is subjugation!

-...but in your aim to avoid that fate, you are throwing yourselves into the hands of King Louis, aren't you? You'll be doing nothing else with your Co-Principality settlement, Ramon -answered Walpole, adopting a severe criticizing tone.

-Help us then, for God's sake! -Vilana bitterly complained- Void of the support of your Nation, which was our most relied ally, what do you expect us to do alone?

Then Walpole reconcilingly raised hands: -My dear Ramon, I cannot promise you what is not in my hands. It is the "Tories" who are in charge of the Nation now, not we the "Whigs". The Duke of Marlborough has been removed from the Army High Command, and Stanhope and Peterborough have been put aside too. I've recently spent six months in prison thanks to Lord Bolingbroke... Many of us are still being closely watched. The only help we can offer you is from the opposition benches in Parliament -and this means a quite limited help, as you can imagine. Look, on last April our Party launched a parliamentary offensive, denouncing that the Government was violating the 1705 Pact of Genoa with Catalonia, therefore abandoning one of Britain's most loyal allies at the mercy of their enemies. And you know what...? Her Gracious Majesty herself intervened to cut off discussion!

-But then...

-I bet the "Tory" government will certainly agree with your Co-Principality settlement proposal, provided that King Louis also supports it, because what they want most is to ensure actual peace terms, besides of allowing them to state having accomplished with the Pact of Genoa. From the point of view of us "Whigs", I must admit to fully understand the reasons for your actual proposal. If this is what you are to state, we will also assume it... This is our commitment.

Vilana was about to respond Walpole, but he suddenly made gesture to continue talking: -But I'd like to understand that the stated Co-Principality is no more than a minimum proposal, which you would no longer formulate if better conditions were met...

-If other winds were blowing, we would certainly get back to our initial requirements -Vilana agreed, somewhat puzzled. What was Sir Robert Walpole going around?

-if so, -Walpole carefully answered- I must understand that Catalonia would also eagerly fulfill their commitments with England...

- ...?

Walpole raised a finger: -Free trade at all your harbours.

-Of course -Vilana quickly answered-, provided this is reciprocal.

He raised a second finger: -Mutual military assistance in the Western Mediterranean.

Vilana hesitated for a moment: -If strictly defensive...

-At request -Walpole's voice was incisive.

-I'll do my best to convince our Parliament -Vilana resigned.

-Ratifying the cession of Minorca -a third finger was raised.

-Not under the conditions that you agreed with King Philip -Vilana protested-, but under a leasing contract instead -for an implicitly extendable term of, let's say, from 50 to 50 years.

-I'll have to see it with my Party colleagues -Walpole cunningly answered; and then he stood up saying: -Done?

-Done. -And both men shook hands.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hard days

Tarragona, 2nd August 1713

The first days of Mireia's family in Tarragona were really hard. The city was literally crowded with hundreds of people from the sorrounding countryside seeking refuge behind the old city's imposing Roman walls -which perhaps were not the most suitable for modern warfare, but conveyed a sense of timeless solidity that inspired some instinctive confidence, and that's what most of all that terrified people were looking for.

So crowded was Tarragona due to war, that no place had been left unoccupied in every inn, tavern or hostel. Besides, most of the city residents that could rent a room had already done it, so the three women had to spend a couple of nights sleeping on the street like many other refugees, until they had an opportunity to hire (for a comparatively exorbitant price) a small hovel, composed of a poorly ventilated single room that could barely fit them three.

Alongside with a roof, it also came soon a desperate search for some means of subsistence. Thanks to their fame as well-known healers, the elder women soon had lots of work concealing those diseases most common among refugees, but such occupation would report to them no more than a few copper coins: empoverished as people had become by war, most of the times their fees had to be earned in humble species: a rice bowl or sugar cup, a few pieces of fruit, a bag of lentils and so. They would never complain for this, because it meant avoiding starvation; but they suffered from some hunger anyway -specially the young Mireia who, slim as she already was, had literally no fat reserves to bear such privations.

Even more than being permanently hungry, the oppresive feeling of being enclaustrated among compressed buildings, behind inexpugnable walls, got Mireia deeply depressed, so that she was often seen aimlessly wandering across the downtown narrow winding streets. Her daughter's solitary behaviour finally alarmed Blanca who was frightened at the possibility of any misfortune -of that kind expectable to any forsaken beautiful girl in a city crowded and plentiful of bored soldiers: and Mireia was for sure that kind of girl who involuntarily attracted passing glances wherever she went. Fortunately, Mireia had wisely restricted her walkabouts to daylight hours and frequented places so far; nevertheless, Blanca strongly committed herself to seriously talk to her daughter the next day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Renewed assaults

Whole front, 1st August 1713

In the first week of August 1713, the Spanish armies stopped their progression into Catalonia, giving priority instead to smashing the numerous focus of resistance their previous moves had met on the way. At South, the defenders of Tivissa town impavidly watched the impressive redeployment of their enemy, ready to launch a second, likely definitive assault. They had been cut their supply lines, so that could only rely on the scarce food available into the town. But there wasn't enough of it for all... In the meanwhile, the Army Group Centre restarted their fierce assaults against the desperate villagers of Cervera and Montblanc, and the Army Group North remained scattered for foraging while their rearguard was preparing the siege of Balaguer city.

On their side, French armies made no further progressions into Catalan territory either, and all along the front the only observed activity was at Sant Feliu de Guíxols town, where the French garrison was still holding their position against increasing enemy forces, although they likely wouldn't be able to keep holding them for long. However, rearguard moves by that sector seemed to point at a French counter-offensive in a short time...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

At August gates

Barcelona, 28th July 1713

After the news of Two Crowns' reprisals on the countryside population (Diezmo de Horca, or Gallows Tithe) came in Barcelona, an indignant crowd tried to storm properties and buildings owned by known pro-Bourbon individuals, and the police corps known as Stillness Company had a quite hard night preventing the riot to produce irreparable damages.

Fortunately, popular outrage soon was transformed into joy and street celebrations when further news spread on the arrival in harbour of a genoese frigate carrying a huge cargo of cannons, muskets and lots of ammunition, all destined to the Principality authorities. The ship crew only was able to explain that the cargo had been loaded in Monte-Cristo, but no one knew whom were shipping fundings coming from. Many people considered it providential, and some oportunistic preachers took advantage to spread theories on the most bizarre kinds of divine intervention.

Thanks to such providential cargo anyway, the Catalan War Board was not only able to form a new battery of field artillery, but could also complete the equipment of a new foot regiment, which had been nearly completed days ago but lacked weapons enough to become operative and had hitherto been constrained to using improvised pikes, either for drill or parades. That new regiment was formed by nearly 700 veterans formerly belonging to the Imperial army, so that the unit had been nicknamed as German Infantry. The rest of the frigate cargo -4 supplementary light guns and nearly 1,000 muskets- had all been purchased by an apparently anonymous wealthy trader, along with Lady Elisenda Folc de Montcada, for still unknown purposes both. Such massive acquisitions were also a source for almost any kind of hypothesis and fables.

There were some further good news a few days later, when it was known that a first warship was already available to the Catalans: it was the Saint Francesc de Paula, a three-masted merchantman purchased to a local trader by the General Deputation, that had been reformed and upgunned to a total over thirty guns and culverins. Her command was then assigned to Captain Josep Tauler, who was anxious for getting to sea.

An inrrepressible air of optimism soon spread everywhere in the city, as if war was already won, so that only the most wise -or those best informed- did resist the celebrations frantic tide. In any case, authorities considered it wiser not to publicly counter that burst of popular optimism, judging it better for the fighting morale of people. They knew however that war was far from being over -as it was soon demonstrated.

In other words, at the start of this 3rd turn the Catalan player has some supplementary units at his disposal: 1 Medium Artillery battery, 1 Regiment of Infantry and a first battleship.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Diplomacy under a porch

Monte-Cristo, 22nd July 1713

They were sitting under the refreshing shade of the Paris H. Palace Hostel rear porch, comfortably installed in wide raffia chairs while amused following the mischievous evolutions of little Wilhelm, who had then just begun to impertinently solicit the Hostel gardeners.

-Mmmm... I'll be having a good hard work to make Wilhelm understand that "zerokini" Monte-Cristan eccentricity -sighed Lady Louise, arching her eyebrows in a simulated anger, before standing up and telling to the men by her: -I beg your pardon gentlemen, but I must have this naughty boy close tight... This way, you will finally be free to discuss about your things without any nuisance.

-You are never a nuisance, Lady Louise -the Marquis of Vilana and Lord William of Beerstein responded almost simultaneously, while both politely hurried standing up too. Lieutenant Leibnitz wasn't with them, for he hadn't been back to the Hostel by sunrise time yet and, albeit worried, Vilana would have never lost that meeting.

Once seated again, both men stayed looking at each one in silence for a while, before Baron of Beerstein resumed a previous speech in a measured voice: -My dear friend, have for sure His Imperial Majesty is highly concerned with the Principality's future, so that no diplomatic efforts are being spared by His representatives; but King Louis still stays firm in ensuring the integrity of his grandson's kingdom, not to forget that this latter has so far rejected all of our proposals on this particular matter.

-To be sincere, -he continued- our position is weak, Ramon. Too weak. Deprived of the Grand Alliance support, we are having remarkable difficulties to hold the French Army at Flanders. We are about to lose Landau, but this is not all. At any moment they'll be crossing the Rhine, so that all Upper Germany might fall into their hands in a blow's time. Besides, their Ottoman allies are feeling so self-confident after their 1711 victory over Russia than they've started threatening moves in the Balkans with no apparent purpose... No, Ramon: we cannot deliver any troops in the Peninsula. Not even a single battalion.

-Nevertheless, there are still some Imperial regiments left in Catalonia. Maybe these might be counter-ordered not to keep their evacuation schedule...

The Baron of Beerstein briefly closed eyes and sighed, before responding: -I'm afraid we are in a so grave situation than even these troops are to be needed... Austria is being militarily overwhelmed in all fronts. However -he finished-, I'll be asking to His Imperial Majesty his oppinion on this particular demand, Ramon.

The Marquis of Vilana nodded and said: -Thanks for your kind commitment anyway, William. I deduce from this that it would be compulsory for our shared cause to reach an agreed peace with France, before the ways of war deserve to us an ultimate, smashing defeat... and in the meanwhile each one of Emperor Charles' kingdoms must gather all the energies at hand to offer the most resistance by themselves...

-That is.

-This case, -quickly continued Vilana- I would like to emphasize the key importance of rejoining all the former territories of the Crown of Aragon under an unified, co-ordinated leadership... This would allow us to concentrate all our Mediterranean manpower and resources on the most menaced front...

-...which incidentally is Catalonia itself.

-Currently it is. -Vilana admitted -Sure, but tomorrow it might be Majorca, or Sardinia, or even Naples... And the equation would be the very same one. This is not any eccentric proposal, William, for it had been provided in the mutually agreed Constitutions of 1706.

Beerstein sighed again: -As for Sicily, it is plainly impossible, for its administration is currently being transferred to Savoy. And about Naples, His Majesty strongly believes it would be currently counterproductive, due to the high chance of unrest among the numerous Castilian native officials still there. However, as for the kingdoms of Majorca and Sardinia, His Majesty would consent, assuming that the respective Parliaments also agreed.

Vilana thoughtfully nodded and afterwards plunged into a deep silence for a while, until suddenly reviving: -Listen, William. Perhaps...


-Well, you told me before that Eugene of Savoy had lately proposed to King Louis to set a Catalan Republic under Emperor Charles' protectorate in exchange for a Principality in Flanders for the Spanish Queen's First Lady, Princess of the Ursini (*), and...

-...And the French legates were delaying a response, we don't know why. Although most likely King Louis would reject it, unless the protectorate was set under His own protection.

-Well, let's suppose they are then proposed such very setting again, albeit this time under a shared co-protectorate. A mutually agreed Viceroy.

The Baron of Beerstein stared at Vilana, with a dumbfounded expression painted on face that progressively turned into hilarious: -By all the Lily-livered fuzzy-wuzzy bandicoots! © My dear Ramon, you're out of the devil's skin, didn't you know? All right, all right; allow me a few days to acknowledge Eugene of Savoy and His Imperial Majesty himself, and we afterwards meet again.

The Marquis of Vilana simply smiled and raised his Muscat crystal glass: -Most glad you don't dislike the idea, my dear William.

[© Captain Haddock's own]

[(*) Such proposal was actually delivered by Eugene of Savoy to the French representatives at Rastadt in name of Emperor Charles, and was finally rejected.]

Monday, September 06, 2010

Turmoil in Parliament

Barcelona, 27th July 1713

General Prado finally arrived to the Parliament section he had been assigned and took a seat. He was by no means fond of such boring duty, but he'd been expressly designed by General Villarroel to attend a session he had provided as a complicated one. Someone ought to be there in behalf of the Army Headquarters, albeit without voting rights, for their oppinion might be required at any moment.

Once all the deputies had finally taken a seat too, the President of the General Deputation asked for silence, and started explaining the latest war events. A deep silence spread as he started accounting the terrible retaliations performed on Igualada and Girona civilian population: -We have also learnt that the Spaniards will apply Diezmo de Horca on all loyalist towns, following orders of Their Majesty Philip, Duke of Anjou.

Such revealings made outrage spread across the Chamber like a wildfire, and one representative of the Barcelona Municipality started an impassioned speech in demand of similar retaliations to be performed on the Two Crowns prisoners and collaborationists. -...take those prisoners in hold right now, and let's execute all them! -he finished. The intervention caused a great shouting and applause from the People's Arm, and even some members of the Nobiliary Arm also endorsed the ovation.

Then it was Antoni Peguera, a reputed Nobiliary deputy, who stood up to speak, this time to energically reject such retaliations: -Ours is a legitimate and noble war, so we must attain to its principles face to God and the Nations.

-Chivalryhood is a victors' privilege, Peguera! This war is not determined yet, and if the Enemy wants it to be total, total must it be! -he was promptly replied by another Nobleman.

The President of the General Deputation was Francesc Antoni de Solanell, a clergyman as prescribed by an old tradition. As a Visitor of the Benedictines Order, Prior of Àger and Abbot of St. Peter Galligants, he was reputed for being a moderate man -openly opposite to continuing the war. He had been listening with great concern the session development, and at this point he made a discreet gesture to the banks of the Ecclesiastical Arm, so that a Jesuit priest stood up for addressing to the latest speaking deputy: -You've told so, sir. Perhaps is true that Chivalryhood is a victors' privilege but, in case we also started such a mad cycle of retaliations and murderings, what kind of grace might we expect from the Enemy, if they finally prevail? This war is not decided, as you said, and we have victory by no means guaranteed. Otherwise, do you really think it can beaten the joint force of two major powers of the Catholic world?

Uproars then increased to become deafening, as many members of the People's Arm accused the speaker of being a pro-Bourbon: -Traitor! Defeatist! Jesuit you had to be! -As General Prado could clearly observe, big sweat drops were running along the President's face, that had turned so pale than one could expect him to fall swoon at any moment. He was just about to lose control on the assembly, when suddenly an energic voice sounded above the general shouting -It's ENOUGH!! STOP - YOU - ALL!!

Following that energic speech, to the suprise of many, the solitary figure of a lady stood towering with great dignity among the seats of the Nobiliary Arm. -That's enough, gentlemen! -she repeated in an even stronger voice, simultaneously discharging a soundly punch on a wooden bench. -Are the legitimate representatives of a sovereign people what I'm seeing when looking around? Are these, or is it no more than a couple of suburban teenagers' mobs disputing for a ball by throwing stones to each other?

Not less taken by surprise than the rest of the Chamber, General Prado payed attention to the lady who was so energically admonesting them. In spite of being a magnetically beautiful young woman, she offered by no means any impression of fragility, but the strong authority shared by those accustomed to commanding and being listened. And she had got being listened by a so troubled Parliament. General Prado then recognized in her Lady Elisenda Folc de Cardona, member of one of the most ancient and powerful lineages in the former Crown of Aragon, in past times only surpassed by the King himself. She did not belong to the main branch of the lineage because it had fallen time ago, through a pityful marriages policy, into hands of the Fernández de Córdoba's Spanish lineage, along with their most preciated title -that of Dukes of Cardona. Despite this circumstance, she still was one the last native descendants of the Catalan-Aragonese High Nobility -and so was respected and even feared.

The attendance of a woman to the Parliament in full membership had been ill tolerated by many members of the Chamber, but no one would ever dare to lodge any objection to this, for she was directly appointed by King Charles himself, who had openly kept a close friendship to Lady Elisenda, since long before His marriage to Elisabeth-Christine of Brunswick in 1708, and long after it. Many rumours spread over a so unusually close relationship, but Lady Elisenda had always kept an irreproachable attitude so that, in spite of such malicious rumours, she also earned the friendship of the Queen, who was a similar age.

She had involuntarily collected the bulk of enemies among the Ecclesiastical Arm, who considered her as corrupting and pernicious after being learnt she had spent her teenage years at a Monte-Cristan Lyceum. Moreover, when Lady Elisenda was back in the Principality at the age of 18, she was admitted into the illustrated Acadèmia dels Desconfiats (=Academy of the Distrustful) -a supplementary cause of scandal for Church around this institution.

The Lady continued her speech: -Some of you openly talk of applying to our prisoners the same punishment their fellows are applying to theirs, to their everlasting dishonor and disgrace among the Nations of Christendom. True that the Old Testament speaks of eye for an eye and tooth for tooth but, nevertheless please keep your minds cold, gentlemen! What are we to gain, reducing ourselves to their same moral category?

-What do you pretend us to do instead? Turning the other cheek perhaps?

-No I don't, by no means. -she coldly replied- However, it would be foolish to pay them the same coin, because we would be showing them our weakness. Contrary to this, let's respect the rules of war, let's show ourselves strong and confident in the final victory. And I bet that not only our current prisoners will gladly volunteer to dress our uniforms in a short time, but even the Enemy's rank and file will soon turn their bayonets against their tyrannic leaders! Gentlemen, please remember the whole world is watching us. Let their embarrassment to arise and grow strong enough to break their guilty passivity, let's the world hold their breath until we prevail... or we die. And by this gentlemen, have for sure we shall prevail. WE SHALL!

Some members of the Nobiliary Arm stood up and started to soundly ovation her speech, being soon followed by other deputies from the other Arms -even some of those formerly defending the opposite view. Even a wide part of the Ecclesiastical deputies also begun a quiet applauding, albeit keeping notoriously seated.

Then it was General Prado who stood up and firmly spoke: -Lady Elisenda, I am pleased to formally acknowledge this Chamber that the Army Headquarters are fully agreeing your points of view, as General Villarroel instructed me this morning. The lady gave back to him a warm smile, and then stared at the President. She said nothing, but her eyes were speaking for her: "I've saved your skin this time. Do not forget". The Benedictine Abbot imperceptibly nodded, his face still deprived of colour.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

After dinner thoughts

Monte-Cristo, 21st July 1713

It was already dark night. Back from the presipapal palace of Monte Cristo, the carriage stopped gently in front of the majestic staircase of the Paris H. Palace Hostel, leaving its passengers to descend under the watchful eye of a Royal Catalan Guards soldier holding the vehicle door. The Marquis, who had been the first down, turned to Lieutenant Leibnitz, who had just descended after him, and asked: -Are you coming with me, Friedrich? There is a lot of work to be done yet...

-May I ask your permission to go for a walk, Sire? -the young officer hesitantly answered- I am a bit stunned after the dinner, if you understand what I mean...

-I can understand you, Friedrich. -with an affirmative gesture- I've got a little worried after so many revealings, too... It is really stunning how does Monte-Cristan diplomacy to find out so many data and match them altogether, isn't it? Please go for a walk if needed, hope this helps you to clarify your ideas on all this... I shall need your advice later, when writing a report for the General Deputation -in fact, de Vilana had just had the idea of taking some advantage from that unexpected Leibnitz's absence to write a couple of “unofficial” reports else, which ought to be written and delivered with the greatest discretion.

-Take your time -he then added-, but please keep in mind that tomorrow we'll have a first meeting with representatives of our King & Caesar.

-Of course, Sire. Thank you, I'll be back in a short while.

And the young man walked away with slow steps and headed towards the gloomy streets, thoughtfully bowing his head and with the hands into his military coat pockets. The Marquis then realized close by him the discrete presence of Claire Baizanville, who had been alternately watching them with some concern. He then discretely nodded to her, and Claire quickly understood. After a fast checking of her sword and pistols, the girl lifted her coat neck and started walking after Lieutenant Leibnitz's steps, as silent and smart as a panther.

Reassured this way, the Marquis then walked to his own room, under the watchful “surveillance” of the guards discreetly scattered on his way -both Catalan and Monte-cristan, he observed. When in the comfortable suite, he sat on an armchair and started filling his pipe with a distracted air, while ruminating the relevant informations he had been given during the dinner at palace.

His highest concern was after an insinuation of Mme. de Polyachrilamyde about the absolute lack of Catholic Church representatives at that same morning's reception. Church was a key institution in the Principality -so much it was that an old, uncontested unwritten tradition stated that the General Deputation's Presidency was always assigned to a clergyman. The Catalan/Galatan Church had been siding as a single body to King Charles so far. Was Catholic Church about to change sides? ...was it all some kind of warning to the Catalans/Galatans if persisting in their refusal to Utrecht terms? ...was the Catalan Church involved in such maneuver, or was it all due to Vatican designs only?

He felt the need to expose his thoughts on the matter, so that quickly took a piece of paper and a pen, and started writing firm and fast, with the aim to finish the letter before Leibnitz was back.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Tivissa holds on

Tivissa, 25th July 1713

Major Ramón Lanuza relied on an old wall, shaking from exhaustion, as he looked all around. Only a few hundred feet from where he was, the Castilian troops were still withdrawing in disarray. Meanwhile, some of his men had already begun to churn around the bloody battle remains, in search of any prey or eventual survivors among the dozens of bodies, scattered amidst the ruined walls that once belonged to solid stone houses. A shell suddenly exploded a few meters away, fired by a lone cannon for whose crew the battle had not yet terminated.

Close to him, another man laboriously straightened up, relying on his sword, and turned his face to Lanuza. He wore a tattered brown coat, showing hanging cloth cuts that once had been colonel rank linings. He was Anton Paperoles, commander of the Ebro Riverside Miquelets.

-Ramón, you fought like real devils today... -he said, twisting his mouth into a rictus.

-We the Aragonese do like this every morning before breakfast ... -Lanuza answered. It intended to be a joke, but none of both men laughed. Instead, they rushed upon one another, embracing to each other: -My God, we have prevailed, we've rejected them. We did ...

The Spaniards had launched a massive assault on the town of Tivissa as an unstoppable tide: six infantry battalions and one dismounted dragoons regiment moved forward in two parallel lines, protected by the intense fire of their batteries, which relentlessly smashed the first line of houses. Only one regiment of Catalan Miquelets, another one of Aragonese Imperial dragoons and a handful of armed civilians defended the town, and it seemed clear they wouldn't be able to hold the tide. But a few meters from the gates, the leading Spanish battalions were stopped in disorder by the deep ravines that cut through the area. Channeled in crowd through the ravines, the assaulting troops were decimated by a curtain of fire launched by miquelets and villagers. At the time of most confusion, the Aragonese dragoons swiftly moved to one side and mounted on horseback. Then they launched an aggressive charge on the enemy left flank, which fled in disorder, while the Catalan shrapnel did the rest.

However, it was obvious they wouldn't be able to resist too many assaults like that...