Friday, December 23, 2011

On travel again

Vienna, 11th October 1713

--No-no-no-no... the shortest way between two points is a straight line, as my Monte-Cristan Maths teacher used to say --Princess Elisenda emphatically remarked--. So please don't try to fill my head to saturation with unnecessary roundabouts...

Her discouraged uncle Antoni Folc de Cardona, Archbishop of Valencia in exile, sighed and gave away. Then it was Marquis of Rubí who insisted once again:

--Elisenda, travelling by sea would be the safest method, albeit it could seem a long detour! Besides, please have in mind that his Excellency the Duke of Lagerburg-Slobbovia has committed his flagship to carry you if asked for, besides of two smaller schooners as escort... It would be too much of a challenge for the Spanish Navy, which is less than a shadow of its former power...

--I understand you, my dear Marquis. But travelling by sea on mid October would be an actually risky business, especially in Atlantic waters. What stormy hazards wouldn't expect to us after Gibraltar? Besides, Lagerburg lays no longer than two paces away from Carniola, where sadly we were attacked. The way to Lagerburg is at hand of Spanish and Parmigian agents and mercenaries... The whole North of Italy must be infested by them, waiting for me! No, by no means I'm going to make their day.

However, Marquis of Rubí didn't give up so easily and suggested that his excellency the Herzog of Lagerburg would feel offended by her declination.

She gently answered: --I'm convinced he will understand, if adequately explained. I beg you to seek his understanding, please let him know I shall eagerly compensate him in a future, for this disappointment of today. I cannot assume certain risks, it's the future of a whole Nation that depends on it.

A short silence followed the words of Princess Elisenda. Those meeting attendants who didn't know her personally yet started to realize the stuff she was made of. It was Guido von Starhemberg who carefully spoke now: --We should also have into account the kind offer of the Ambassador of Poland. A northwards detour might allow you to seal an alliance with that key Nation. Besides, you'd also have the opportunity of visiting the Duke of Beerstein half-way, who is a valuable ally and would eagerly offer some kind of help.

Princess Elisenda thought for a while before answering: --Herr Starhemberg, these are actually tempting suggestions, but accepting them right now would respond to the interests of my dear friend & Emperor, rather than to those of my own. If travelling to Paris via Beerstein and Poland, hurry would make me shorten my stops and visits to such an extent that it would seem a plainly offending discourtesy. This would help by no means to His Imperial Majesty's interests.

She drew a transient smile and continued: --Dear Sirs, please tell the ambassadors of Lagerburg, Poland and Beerstein that I will be happy to visit their countries... although never before having proved that I deserve the crown kindly granted to me. I must go to Versailles before. My trial by fire is there. Therefore, I shall choose the fastest and straightest land route to France, that one through the Kingdom of Wittenberg.

--That lays too close to Stagonia, Elisenda --exclaimed her uncle.

Starhemberg frowned. He had been warned by Emperor Charles: once taken a decision, the Princess wouldn't change her mind. "So the Emperor was right!", he thought. The man sighed slightly and spoke again: --I have been given instructions by the Emperor at this respect, Your Highness. He has ordered that, in case you choose such route, a picked squadron of 20 Emperor's own Horse Bodyguards shall escort you up to the very borders of France. Couriers and legates have already been sent to Versailles, Wittenberg and the rest of lands you're going to cross by.

--They shall fly two standards all the time: Emperor's own at right, to display His protection on your retinue,

--And this one to left, in your behalf. It displays your current Arms as Countess of Prades, albeit with an Aragonese Princely crown replacing the Countly one. True that is far from an accurately correct design, but we couldn't wait until heraldists reached an agreement...

Undeniably pleased with such provisions, Princess Elisenda smiled: --Well, it seems that it has been taken into account everything that ought to. When are we leaving for Paris, then?

17 comments:

abdul666 said...

I still suggest that -unknown of all except a *very few* totally reliable persons- as soon as out of view of the Imperial Court Her new Highness (but still robadora de l'amor) changes of clothes and carriage, with a look-alike (Monte-Cristo happens to have a perfect candidate in Vienna) in the 'official' vehicle.

Princess Elisenda's personal banner is simply beautiful.

abdul666 said...

PS: specially with the *bat*, if my old eyes don't betray me!

Capt Bill said...

All of Beerstein awaits...

abdul666 said...

A few grumpy hyper-conservative sexist minds could comment that, Her Highness being unmarried, her arms would be displayed on a lozenge, not an 'enlarged' oval (and the Lady for sure heard bawdy comments about the significance of these symbols when she was Lisette -or even Floquette, but a nickname only used to gently tease her- studying in Monte-Cristan Ecole des Demoiselles!). But, Elisenda being whom she is, and having known 'civic equality' in the Presipality, to accept a 'feminine' support rather than a 'manly' escutcheon was the ultimate concession she could make, and Charles knew it; besides, a ruling Highness cannot display her arms on a support used for those of 'irresponsible' little girls. Also, an oval instead of a 'warlike' shield can be perceived as a mark of peaceful intentions?

Soldadets said...

Sure that such kind of hyper-conservative minds are already feeling deeply uncomfortable at just being talked about that daring young noblegirl! ...and not just due to her provisional coat of arms, actually scandalyzing to many:

1) for the display of 2 small Crosses of St. George --actually a republican device in the Catalonia of that times

2) for the so easy to misunderstand bat, which is actually a stylized, modern version of a former víbria or wyvern --a female dragon that was Kings of Aragon's own crest device (cf. comments to couriers-up-and-down)

3) for the shield itself oval shape, that should be interpreted as a modernity feature, rather than a sex or status vindication.

(subejctively, I discarded using a lozenge for an additional reason: it resembles too much to a widely spread form of shield in Catalan heraldry, the cairó --which is actually an inclined square. In Catalan heraldry, the cairó shield form is usual for municipalities and other institutions)

Anyway, this one is just a provisory coat of arms, which as a matter of fact still shows Elisenda as Countess of Prades --except for the crown. A heraldist committee will decide on an appropriate form later, on due time.

tidders said...

Wittenberg awaits the visit of the Princess. Additional escort will be provided through the kingdom.

If possible please send a courier ahead, to provide an approximate date of arrival at the border so that final arrangements can be made

Count Hermann Munster

On behalf of his Majesty Leopold of Wittenberg

abdul666 said...

I'm sure General Basset and all Galatans of republican inclination will fully appreciate the details of the banner, as they are now appreciated in newly enlightened Monte-Cristo. Will the Princess establish a Constitutional Monarchy? No less is expected here.

As a personal banner, this flag is perfect, and so beautiful!

abdul666 said...

Given the energy of the Marquis of Aitona and the (apparent) strategical soundness of his plans, timing is essential. The worst would be to have a desperate Galatan 'last stand' whipped out just before the opening of official negotiations!

But for sure, when Marquis of Vilana send his messenger to Vienna, other messages left Versailles for the Pyrenees and the French army South of them. If many people (rightly) harbor doubts about Philip of Anjou's real intentions at the death of Louis XIV -and de Vilana's revelations have not increased Philip's repute in French High Circles- they may also doubt how well he would abide to the Tractat dels Pirineus. Catalonia subjugated, would not he be tempted to bring back Roussillon as a 'historical part' of the Province? This would gave the Spanish army a foothold North of the Pyrenees: and since the Wars of Religion the 'other Elder Daughter of the Church' has the irritating habit meddle in French affairs. Not so long ago, even a Prince de Condé, a 'Prince of the Blood', succumbed to the Spanish sirens and betrayed his King. Better to keep the Castillan armies not only South of the Pyrenees but as far away from them as possible! A 'demilitarized' -de facto if not de juro- Galatea would be an appreciable 'buffer zone'. And the exhausted defenders of the Principality, as for them, they are NOT a threat to France...

Salvador said...

And a not demilitarized one, under French cotutelage, would be better still.

abdul666 said...

"Not demilitarized": was the 'subtle' (hypocritical) distinction between an 'army' and a 'self defense force' (as was allowed to Japan after WWII) understood in the early 18th C.? Unfortunately I doubt it... :)



Btw, Lluis, if you plan to use Claire as the 'decoy' diverting potential murderers from Elisenda, know it's exactly the kind of trick she would have suggested. And, not being one to put someone else in a dangerous situation she had created, she would have volunteered for the job -no, she would have *required* to play the part!
[Anyway, given the elasticity of time in the 'Emperor vs Elector' universe and the quasi-Tanelorn nature of Monte-Cristo, Claire is still just above 30 in the Presipality ca. 1745: this leave just time enough for a reincarnation :) :) ]

abdul666 said...

"Not demilitarized and under cotutelage": as the saying goes 'Be careful about what you wish, you could get it.'. After WWII, Germany was for decades 'not demilitarized' and 'under cotutelage'... :)

abdul666 said...

What kind of game is the Princesse des Ursins [no longer an appealing woman] playing? For a time the camarera mayor was 'more Spanish than the Spaniards', but in 1713 she was reconciled with Madame de Maintenon and Louis was again (rightly or wrongly) seeing her as his agent in Madrid. A new burst of 'Castillan patriotism'? Or is she tortuously following a personal agenda?
Perhaps we will soon learn (at last!) the *true* reason of her incoming disgrace?




As for the secret orders to the French troops South of Pyrenees I suspect that -reading between the lines- they could be of the kind: "Without openly switching sides, find very diplomatic way to hamper the movements of the Spanish troops, specially to slow down any Northward movement. And if at all possible deprive them of a chance of crushing victory in the weeks to come".

The French army South of the Pyrenees is no longer under Spanish command; but neither had any official truce or armistice be signed between Versailles and the 'rebels'. Hence the presence of French forces in the Defiant Principality is perfectly legitimate. And, as any army in its allocated theatre of operation, the French Expeditionary Force is allowed to make any movement and take any action judged necessary by its Commander.
Of course, two armies, even ex-allies, meeting at a crossroad would make a hell of a traffic jam....


The concept of 'Humanitarian intervention' (often a transparent excuse) is recent, but the diezmo de horca was extreme even to the bigot eyes of Mme de Maintenon: even during the recent bloody war againt the Camisards French authorities refrained from such mass atrocities, and the 'rebels' were -in addition and worse- *Protestants*.
Thus one can even imagine that, in very last resort, a French force occupies pacifically a Galatan town and prevents Castillan troops from entering in 'to prevent any atrocities that would be the shame of Christianity and the Bourbon name'?

abdul666 said...

Off-topic, for a biologist a 2-legged pattern is the only 'sensible' bodyplan for a dragon. Given the wings are obviously derived from 'arms', a 4-legged dragon (as generally depicted) -just like angels, succubi, centaurs and Green Martians- has to come from a world where Vertebrates have 3 pairs of limbs. Worse in the case of dragons (and other flying beings) the front legs / arms are set straight across the powerful muscles required to power the wings (and which have to be attached to a large breastbone, btw).
There were a few 'credible' dragons in movies -Dragonslayer, Reign of Fire... Wish Jackson will not fail with Smaug?

Soldadets said...

Jean-Louis, you've left lots of thoughtful comments that must be adequately digested. Some of them are pointing to essential features of the desperate race both sides are about to start in the next weeks.

Jordi and I are long since persuaded that one of the most critical scenes we'll have to face in a next future is the Versailles official negotiations scene. We've had it in mind since the very start of a French change of attitude, as early shown by the Marquis de Vilana's drastical change of plans when he unexpectedly decided to leave Monte-Cristo for Versailles. However, we can ensure you we have no plans on how must these scenes develop --just what affairs are the Catalans willing to deal with King Louis, as well as some notion on the "red lines" and "negotiable issues". But Versailles' own "red lines" are by no means predefined by us.

It roughly depends on several factors such as parallel campaign events or other characters adventures; but mainly on the negotiations narration development itself, as well as eventual reactions and comments on it.

Therefore, many of your own comments about French geo-strategy, or subtle nuances of Catalan status, are likely to be re-taken during our negotiation scenes.

What result? Honestly, we don't know.

Soldadets said...

About the Princesse des Ursins, we are actually not less astonished than yourself about the kind of game she might be playing...

Especially after the unexpectedly sinister plot around Duke of Vendôme's death. I was at first absolutely certain King Philip didn't actually know the operation's full detail, so that my own suspicions pointed straightly towards the Princesse --the only peronality in the Spanish Crown powerful enough to execute such a plot, besides of the King himself.

However, it also seems quite unlikely she actually took any such decision on her own, because she would obtain no profit on this. In criminology terms, the Princesse had the means, but no motives.

I'm now starting to believe that a very different kind of plot was actually running, whose ultimate aim would be blaming the Princesse for the crime, this way discrediting her and forcing King Philip to her premature dismissal.

Likely characters behind such a plot? Perhaps some Castilian aristocrats willing to recover their former influence, maybe some businessmen worried with the slow French undertaking of American monopolistic commerce...

Soldadets said...

About the Army Corps under Marshal Berwick, their current attitude is still quite of a mystery for both sides, either Bourbon Spanish and Galatans/Catalans.

I believe that only very recently my gaming mate Jordi has started trusting the French de facto truce, and accordingly begun drawing forces from the Catalan northern front, as it will be seen soon by his 13th turn military moves.

Passive as French forces currently are, their controlled areas in our game are still standing as valid supply and move lines for Bourbon Spaniards.

In theory, a Spanish offensive from French territory is still possible --although progressively less likely with every new gaming turn.

However, there is a latest factor the Catalans shouldn't neglect: Spain has not evacuated its Flanders Army yet. Some supplementary 12-13 regiments. Historically, these units were evacuated during late 1713 to be massed in Catalonia, along with those already drawn from Sicily.

Those mostly Waloon troops have 2 main routes at their disposal: either by sea, therefore being disembarked in the Basque Country, or through France --and if such a case, they would be able to enter map straightly from Roussillon...

abdul666 said...

I suspect that ships move on the average faster than infantry columns (with their wagon train), and they move 24/24. If troops are disembarked in the Basque Country they would have to march South of the whole Pyrenees. I wonder if circumnavigation of the Iberic peninsula and a landing South of Catalonia would not be not very longer and less tiring?