Monday, October 18, 2010

Unexpected meeting

Monte-Cristo, 8th August 1713

The Marquis of Vilana had been roaming for hours across the vast halls of the Monte-Cristo Casino, at a deliberately slow pace to hide his increasing nervousness. His approaching steps towards eventual Ottoman dignataries had been relatively disappointing, as most of those he had met were not closely linked enough to the Sublime Porte, and the few who actually had access to the Ottoman Court had behaved extremely cautious, so that he had been able to obtain no more than vague promises to bringing the Catalan meeting demands to the appropriate instances in Istanbul.

Even more disappointing if possible, Lieutenant Leibnitz had come back a couple of hours ago with the discouraging news that -shortly after being acknowledged about the arrival of Marquis de Ordoño- all the French dignataries present at Monte-Cristo had simultaneously happened to go out for a hunting excursion, which probably would last for several days. Vilana bet the idea had emerged straight from Versailles! Tired of wandering aimlessly, the Marquis decided to finally sit down at an empty table and asked for a glass of muscat. While tasting the sweet wine, still immersed in his worries, Vilana was addressed by an approaching tall, elegant-looking gentleman, who appreciatively said:

-Ah! This good Muscat of Rivesaltes... Would you mind if I accompanied you? -Surprised, Vilana looked at the man, who had talked to him in Catalan language, albeit with a slight French accent. Wondering, he invited the man: -To whom I owe the honor ...?

-Dear Marquis of Vilana, I was baptized as Jacint Rigau at my hometown, Perpignan. But perhaps I am better known to-day by my French name, Hyacinthe Rigaud...

-...The famous courtly painter of King Louis! Dear Sir, I am pleased to meet a so remarkable artist! ...And what news are you bringing from Versailles?

Rigaud turned into a cunning expression when answering: -It depends what kind of news you would know, dear Marquis... I heard you were awaiting a response to some matters that lead you to come in Monte-Cristo...

Vilana realized his meeting with Rigaud was not any hazard, so he finally overcame his initial prudence: -Certainly, I was waiting for a response to the requests that Prince Eugene of Savoy had sent to King Louis, on behalf of the Principality of Catalonia...

Rigaud stared at Vilana for long before responding: -As you can imagine, King Louis rejects the possibility of an independent Principality under Emperor's protectorate only, because this might become a rear bridgehead to potentially hostile interests... and His Majesty fully agrees with his grandson Philip at this point.

-I understand the concern of King Louis. However... is He certain that such happy coincidence will be lasting any long? ...Perhaps the presence of an independent Catalonia would precisely be useful to France for... rebalancing things, in case that circumstances changed somehow.

Rigaud listened in silence, staring at Vilana with a slight smile of assent, and then replied: -True, there is some concern in Versailles lately about this matter, especially after the arrival of some disappointing informations about King Philip's actual intentions... As far as I know, King Louis would favorably consider the second proposal made by Prince Eugene, that one on establishing a Co-Principality... although... He sees there many gaps that should be stated clearly in advance. For example, the border delineation...

-Are you perhaps referring to Roussillon County?

-No, I meant Girona County -Rigau replied incisively-. Another issue would be your veto on French imports...

Vilana shrugged his shoulders: -Free trade. Mutual, with no tricks.

-And what lineage should the Principality's sovereignty rely on; as well as the protectorate formula, of course. His Majesty would not even hear about any Habsburg in charge of the Principality, or a Savoy.

-And by us, we would never admit a Bourbon. -Vilana quickly replied- Listen, dear Rigau: all these issues can be quietly and pacefully outlined at a negotiations table, instead of settling them on the battlefield as so far... Besides, I'm sure that, if this matter was visibly lead to a solution way, the peace negotiations with the Emperor at Rastatt would for sure take momentum too...

-These were also King Louis' believings. My friend Vilana, if you get an immediate cease of fire, rest assured that you will be invited to formal negotiations.

Rigau then stopped to call a waiter, and then told to Vilana: -Let me invite you this time, to celebrate this happy coincidence. Did you ever hear about the sweet wine of Banyuls de la Marenda? It is simply exquisite!

7 comments:

abdul666 said...

A very auspicious exchange!
Of course, the centuries old satisfying precedent of the Principat d’Andorra suggests such an outcome.

Lady Elisenda Folc de Cardona is neither a Bourbon nor a Habsburg, but the heiress of one of the oldest and most prestigious Galatan families...

The choice for a French secret emissary of a renowned painter close to the Crown is extremely clever: Monte-Cristo is famous for its devotedness to all forms of Art, and all kinds of artists come visiting.

abdul666 said...

To have sent all French dignitaries hunting away is a wise precaution: most of them have (at least) two masters and even the Secret du Roy is generally unsure about the real one....

Would the Empire agree to grant Princess Isabelle Farnese a fully-fledged Principality in Flanders, would Spain acknowledge the independence of Galatea? A Monte-Cristan lady currently encourages stubbornly Princess Isabelle to promote this possibility at the Court, and here it was casually -put more than once- alluded to in William Beerstein's presence....

Soldadets said...

Jean-Louis:

I made a mistake the first time I mentioned the "Camarera Mayor" of the Queen of Spain. Unfortunately, when I realized the error it had already spread all through the story...

The so many times mentioned influent First Lady in the Spanish Court was actually the Princesse des Ursins (Marie Anne de La Trémoille, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Anne_de_la_Tr%C3%A9moille,_princesse_des_Ursins).

King Philip's first wife was Marie-Louise of Savoy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Maria_Luisa_of_Savoy), a young pretty girl who greatly relied on the Princess des Ursins. Queen Marie-Louise is still alive in 1713, but she's to die next year at the age of 26.

Princess Isabella Farnese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Farnese) will also become a true headache for Galatea when she gets married to Philip V on late 1714 -but she has no role in the story yet.

Sorry for the error :S

Soldadets said...

To be honest, I've had a hard work to elaborate this scene. I needed to somehow show the uncomfortable situation the 'Case of the Catalans' was actually creating between King Louis and his grandson, altogether with the non-negligeable issues that would inevitably arise during an eventual French-Catalan negotiation. The only way I imagined to show such eventual issues was to select for the meeting not a diplomat, but an influent civilian instead. His non-empowered mission allowed for a 'happy end' without forcing the characters to substantial agreements, beyond the promise of formal negotiations.

abdul666 said...

Lluis,
an excellently designed scene indeed - compliments!


As for Isabelle Farnese, I had doubts having Googled for her. Actually for the History of Galatea it does not matter at all: just replace 'Isabelle Farnese' with Marie Anne de La Trémoille, Princesse des Ursins. The opportunity / offer remains unchanged!

As for the -typically feminist Monte-Cristan- suggestion of Lady Elisenda Folc de Cardona as ruler of free Galatea under a Gallian and Imperial co-dominion, Andorra-fashion, her links with the Austrian ruler are not that negative, quite the opposite: they can be proposed to 'balance' -to the eyes of various people, including the Galateans themselves- the presence of a Gallian garrison in *Galatean* Girona County. Hopefully this garrison -as manifestation of the Gallian part of the 'co-protection' of independent Galatea- would be enough to satisfy the Gallian government, and an *annexion* of the County would no longer be asked for?

abdul666 said...

About the Ottomans, their alliance with France / Gallia is still strong. Since the 16th C. Paris, then Versailles had not recovered from the stress to have the country practically surrounded by lands under Habsburg rule. This paranoia will have France -against Louis XV's personal feelings- breaking its word and entering the WAS on the 'wrong' side: it's only later that the French highest circles will realize that the Empire is declining and that the real German threat comes from expansionist Prussia. For more than a century, the Ottomans, Poland and Sweden are the three pilars of French diplomacy to its East, the three 'oriental diversions' to pin the Imperial attention to the East (and, after Peter the Great sucess, check growing Russia). In 1713, Charles XII is exiled, Poland is ruled by a Russian puppet, only the Ottomans remain powerful after the Treaty of the Pruth.

Nevertheless, you could take into account -if only implicitely- the fact that in the 'Emperor vs Elector' avatar of the Multiverse the Ottomans recognized the independent kingdom of Sicily. Meaning that -quite logically- they support any secession weakening major Christian powers of the Mediterranean. Admittedly, western Mediterranean is not among their major concerns, but they can be receptive to some suggestions about how to indirectly and without risk support the independence of Galatea (our Presipapal Palace traditionally enjoys privileged contacts with the Sublime Porte):
- let Austria know that they intend to lighten their pressure on the Empire to concentrate against Russia (the Russo–Turkish War of 1686–1700 is more recent than the failed siege of Vienna, and the recent defeat of Russia makes it a more promising enemy) -and perhaps against Persia, weakened by the Afghan independence and previously defeated [reconquest of Bagdad]. In Monte-Cristo, the Palace can arrange a 'fortuitous' meeting of William Beerstein with Ottoman representatives).
- Let the Sealords of the Barbary Coast (for whatever real influence the Ottomans may still have there) realize that, with the Christians navies concentrated in the northern Mediterranean, times are propitious to raids against the Southern Spain / Hispania shores?

Soldadets said...

Jean-Louis,

Your comments on Ottoman policy are most worthy. In the 'real' History, Catalan representatives actually sought such Ottoman indirect aid, but they found little -if any- interest of the Sublime Porte on Far Western affairs, so that their diplomatic efforts obtained no reward -quite as shown in Vilana's scene.

Far more interested in an anti-Spanish alliance would be Morocco. I've recently learnt that, this country (traditionally rivalling and quarreling with Spain) was by that time highly concerned with the policy of Philip V, who showed an even grater hostility towards them than Habsburgs.

However, I guess that current Catalan/Galatan authorities would seriosly re-study their Moroccan priority in favor of Algiers and/or Tunis, if asked for by the Emperor (whom they still regard as their king).