Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Gloriette

Schönbrunn, 9th October 1713

His Imperial Majesty looked back again, to make sure he had left behind the two loyal bodyguards usually following him from a safe distance. He smiled like a naughty child, pleased with his own cleverness, and took a half-hidden footpath running away from the topiary gardens through woodland.

The path led to a small gloriette hidden at a little known corner of the vast gardens of Schönbrunn. Sheltered from the breeze, there was a distinctively smart female figure sitting on a bench, quietly enjoying the morning sun.

--Eli...

Princess Elisenda turned head, surprised although by no means shocked: --Karl?

She made gesture to lease site in the bench for him, yet she said sarcastically: --What are you doing here, so secretly? ...Have you proposed yourself to feed your wife's jealousy?

Emperor Charles stirred slightly as a disapproval: --Don't be naughty. Elisabeth-Christine still loves you, only that...

--...only that someone has filled her heart up with hints of adultery, Karl.

--It's not that simple, Eli. --still standing in front of Princess Elisenda, Emperor Charles leaned back on a column-- She's suffering from anguish because she hasn't been able to give me any child yet. She feels under heavy pressure...

--Anyway, my appointment as Princess of Catalonia happens to relief a lot her anxieties, for this way she's getting ensured I'll keep well away from Vienna. And hopefully, if my Nation is unfortunate enough to lose this war, she will perhaps learn one day the sad news of my execution at the Plaza Real in Madrid.

Archduke Charles glared at her intensely, but did not respond at first. Elisenda thought he'd probably started counting to ten, as he used to do in Barcelona when he'd got particularly angry.

--That's what I wanted to talk about, Eli. As future Princess of your homeland (provided Louis XIV does confirm my decision), you will have all the powers of a sovereign... and, as such, you'd stand alone against the misfortunes of fate. And I love you too much for loosing you for a negligence of mine.

Elisenda expectantly looked at him. "This is my Karl!", she thought, smiling inwardly.

--I have now decided to appoint you as my Imperial Viceroy in Majorca, replacing Marquis of Rubí. Even if war happened to be unfavorable to your people, your condition as imperial official will prevent Philip d'Anjou from putting his hands on you.

--Has Elisabeth-Christine been acknowledged on this?

--I have told her. It's my will, after all.

The impulsive young Emperor said nothing else, but took Elisenda hand instead --and kissed it. Then some voices interrupted them:

--Majesty, Your Majesty! --it was one of his bodyguards who was shouting. The man behaved as if he hadn't seen Princess Elisenda and, from a prudent distance, he continued: --News from Paris! ... a letter from Marquis de Vilana!

Princess Elisenda jumped from her seat.

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