Sunday, August 14, 2011

A misjudged Lady

Vilafranca del Penedès, 3rd October 1713

In a large room of the Baltà Palace old royal residence in Vilafranca town, that had been enabled ad hoc to host his headquarters, General Basset was studying with concern the reports of several scouts and spies, all of them giving account of the inexorable progression of the new troops sent in Catalonia by King Philip V.

Entering south from Valencia, a huge column formed by 10 Infantry battalions and 3 Cavalry regiments had already got the gates of Tarragona city -just a few miles south of Montblanc area, where the Catalans were about to deliver a major battle. Entering from the Ebro River valley it had been noticed a second army, smaller but perhaps more dangerous than the former one: under command of Guillem Ramon de Moncada, Marquis of Aitona, 2 battalions of King Philip's Foot Guard and the Horse Guards were marching resolutely towards Cervera town, along with a number of other Foot and Artillery units -threatening this way a second Catalan major army, currently busy in taking Cervera.

The Marquis of Aitona, who had recently been appointed as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish Army in Catalonia, was a more capable and daring leader than his predecessor, Duke of Popoli. This had kept Catalan commanders increasingly worried, although Catalan political leaders were by far the most deeply concerned about Marquis of Aitona: as head of the powerful House of Montcada, he was a Lord of the highest rank among Catalan nobility, whose influence and authority might weaken significantly the commitment and fighting will of several other houses. Only Lady Elisenda Folc de Cardona, Countess of Prades, had the necessary capability for counteracting the influence Montcada would undoubtedly exert upon Catalonia's High Nobility -but she was on her way to Vienna, so that...

-Your permission, Sire?

-Ah, Lieutenant Colonel Hauteville! Please take a seat. What news are you bringing?

-Bad news, I fear -Loys de Hauteville replied, very serious.

-And then?

-News from Vienna. Lady Elisenda's retinue was attacked last week on the Austro-Venetian border, by an entire troop of mercenaries. A lady in the retinue was murdered.

General Basset silenced. A troop of mercenaries? Lady Elisenda's retinue? Coinciding with the Marquis of Aitona's appointment?

-The countess...?

-Lady Elisenda is in good shape, fortunately. I actually got these news through a letter from her. The assailants murdered her lady-in-waiting, likely confusing her with the countess herself.

Despite his republican convictions, General Basset breathed with relief. Lady Elisenda's death would have been a serious setback to the Catalans' fighting will, as well as to their internal cohesion.

-I'd also like to acknowledge you about something else, Sire -Hauteville continued-. In her letter, Lady Elisenda expressed her intention to rename the regiment of her own, that one I have the honor to command, and she asks for your permission for such a change.

-Oh, what is the new name she has thought of?

-Fiona McGregor Regiment, Sire. On behalf of her sadly deceased lady-in-waiting.

Basset raised eyebrows in surprise. An aristocrat lady, naming her own regiment after a servant? Decidedly, he had misjudged Lady Elisenda. He ought to study her more closely later, if finally back from Vienna...

1 comment:

abdul666 said...

Lady Elisenda is truly an outstanding person. We in Monte-Cristo are more than proud of our ex-pupil. We knew her as an exceptionally promising young lady, but she exceeds the wildest hope we could have put in her.