Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome Lords, Ladies and Gentlefolk.

This blog will be devoted to my literary and cosplay interests and stories set in my own alternative historical steampunk background. I hope people enjoy the stories, as much as I enjoy devising and writing them and that it stimulates their own artistic interests, entertains them or if nothing else fires their own imaginations.

A special note to new readers of this blog, the entries "Nation States" are gazetteers of the nations as they exist in the An Age of Steam, Steel and Iron background, each with a few remarks/observations about each nation as they exist within. Any post headed by the title containing the words "Story Snippet" or "Fragments" is a stand alone, snapshot of the background, they will be developed into fuller stories in future, but at present they serve to give the viewer/reader a measure of what this world is like, what is going on in it and who some of the players are. Full stories, will be headed by their title and a roman number, as they will generally be in several parts.

Comments, suggestions or remarks by readers are welcomed.

I would like to thank the following people:

Yaya Han, for getting me seriously interested in cosplay at a time when things were looking very glum for me back in 2006 with several extended stays in hospital due to illness, and motivating me to get actively involved.

Ashley Du aka UndeadDu, for her unfailing friendship and cheerful support since we first met in 2014 at the Hamilton Comic Con, and for being my Cosplay mentor and advisor.

Sara Marly, for her interest in and support for my writings, since we first met in 2016 at the Hamilton Comic Con and incidently helping me make up my mind to finally do this.

Stephen Thomson, my friend, for his advise and assistance with creating and setting up this blog.

Daniel Cote, my friend and co-worker for his advise and friendship over the years.

The People of the The Aegy's Gathering (particularly Jonathan Cresswell-Jones, Scott Washburn and Jenny Dolfen, all of whom I have kept in contact with over the years), who were brought together in friendship by a certain randomness of chance and a common interest in the Honor Harrington books and stayed together despite distance and the strains of life.

The People of the Wesworld Alternative History website, who gave me the opportunity to sharpen my writing and story telling skills while directing the affairs of Lithuania and briefly France during their 1930s timelines.

My parents Mary Ellen and Logan, my siblings Adam and Danika and various friends both online and at work and play for putting up with me, encouraging and supporting me both in the very good times and the very bad times.

I remain as always yours very sincerely, your obedient servant, Matthew Baird aka Sir Leopold Stanley Worthing-Topper

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A Time of Congresses and Reflections (Part I)

Schloss Eggenberg, City of Graz, Crownland of Styria, Empire of Austria, September 1814.

Marie Luise and Archduke Karl, sat together upon a luxurious velvet covered couch, in one of the spacious drawing rooms of the palace. They had been able to enjoy -- just the two of them -- a quiet, luxuriant and restful bliss since he had arrived a fortnight ago from Vienna. They had settled comfortably into the couch facing the sun lit windows after an excellent lunch, and sat quietly enjoying coffee together. Both were in understated elegant and comfortable civilian attire, rather then their more customary military uniforms they usually wore, having spent much of the morning either riding in the countryside or shopping in the city of Graz itself.

Karl filled Marie Luise in on the developments of the great ongoing congress in Vienna. There had never been anything quite like it before and perhaps never would again. The series of face to face meetings of political leaders and states in one city, had finally settled all the details of what was hoped to be a lasting peace in Europe, after nearly twenty-three years of continuous warfare. They had been at it for months, since the day of Napoleon's abdication with the Treaty of Fontainebleau in April 1814. Not, of course, without a great deal of intense discussion, often furious and divisive argument and not a few near crisis moments between the states which often had vastly different and conflicting political and territorial objectives.

Joseph Bonaparte had managed to retain his throne in Kingdom of Naples, where he was genuinely popular and the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies was not. They would have to be satisfied with retaining their throne in the Kingdom of Sicily. While Joachim Murat had retained his claim to the Grand Duchy of Kleve-Berg. Neither developments were welcomed by the many members of the Congress, but were accepted as a necessary concession to settle the affairs of Europe as peacefully as possible. The Kingdom of Holland had been returned to the rule of the House of Orange-Nassau, and it's seven Dutch provinces had been linked together with Flemish Flanders and Limburg. France, once again a kingdom under the leadership of a Bourbon king, had received French speaking Walloonia in exchange for this as well as many but not all it's former overseas colonial possessions, though they were allowed to retain the island of Corsica. Spain also had regained it's independence and was once again under the rule of the House of Bourbon. Sweden had gained Norway and it's island dependencies from Denmark but had to accept Russia's permanent annexation of Finland and the Aland islands. Sweden declared itself the Empire of Scandinavia (after unifying the thrones of Sweden and Norway) in consequence and it's king was now an emperor. Which was accepted by the other powers at the congress, although albeit reluctantly.

The Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy had been broken up once again into the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont (consisting of the island of Sardinia, and the Duchies of Savoy and Piedmont, and the Republic of Genoa), the Kingdom of Venetia-Lombardia, the Papal States, the Serene Republic of San Marino, the Grand Duchy of Parma, the Grand Duchy of Modena, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily respectively. Austria had effectively annexed Venetia-Lombardia, Parma, Modena and Tuscany to it's empire. The principality of Monaco, had been elevated to the status of kingdom, with the addition of some adjacent french territory and the whole of the previously Italian Duchy of Nice. The moribund Confederation of the Rhine had been repurposed into the German Confederation, which included practically all the German states: the Kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, the Electorate of Hessen-Kassel, the Grand Duchies of Luxembourg, Oldenberg, Nassau, Kleve-Berg, Baden, Anhalt, and Brunswick, the Duchies of Saxe-Lauenburg and Holstein, the Grand Principalities of Waldeck, Schaumburg-Lippe, Lippe-Detmold,, the Hanseatic cities of Bremen, Luebeck and Hamburg, and the City-state of Frankfurt-am-Main. Only the Duchy of Schleswig was not formally included, as it had been joined in personal union with the Kingdom of Denmark. The Grand Principality of Hohenzollern (the principalities of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Hohenzollern-Haigerloch) had been reconstituted largely to please Prussia, out of the formally annexed territories of Baden and Württemberg. Much to their irritation, although they acquiesced to it with much ill grace. The Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt now renamed Hessen und bei Rhein, had lost all of it's lands north of Frankfurt-am-Main to Hessen-Kassel but had received in compensation the formally Bavarian Rhenish Palatinate to amalgamate itself into a more coherent state.

Switzerland and Andorra had their territorial borders and permanent neutrality statues conferred by the Congress, though not without a little argument in the case of Switzerland, which lost portions of it's eastern and southern cantons, the St Gall and Ticino, to augment the territory to the Austrian crownlands of Liechtenstein and Venetia-Lombardia. It also lost the Basle Canton and virtually the entire Schaffhausen Canton to Baden. By way of compensation, the formally independent and French allied canton of Neuchâtel was added to the Swiss Confederation.

The German island of Heligoland in the German Bight had nearly caused a war between Great Britain and the German Confederation, as Britain claimed it, although they had singularly failed to occupy it despite several attempts when it had been part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia from 1807 on wards. It was decided again after a great deal of heated argument and discussion to give it to either Prussia or Oldenburg, although the actually details of occupation had yet to be worked out. Saxony had lost nearly half it's northern territory, to the Prussians as the price for it's loyalty to Napoleon, although the intervention of several of the Great Powers had prevented it's total annexation by Prussia. Since Prussia had received virtually the entire former Kingdom of Westphalia as well as other territories in Western Germany, everyone felt that Prussia had more then enough territory as it was! In compensation, Saxony's previous annexation of the former Thuringian states was agreed to. The titular dynastic link between the Kingdom of Saxony and Kingdom of Poland was however to be permanently severed.

Poland had re-emerged as an independent state under King Stanisław II August, largely due to the political machinations of France, Sweden and some of the other European states. It had nearly triggered another war between the Great Powers, as Russia had been determined to annex Poland outright, which had been opposed by nearly everyone at the Congress. A compromise that satisfied no one involved had been hammered out after much argument. The once again independent kingdom -- under a temporay regency headed by Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski -- was reduced to it's Grand Duchy of Warsaw borders, minus, the Grand Duchy of Poznań, which was re-annexed to Prussia as the province of Posen and much of the Suwałki and Narew pan handle, which was divided between Prussia and Russia. Otherwise, Great Britain had been the greatest benefactor of the Congress's deliberations, retaining much of it's overseas conquests and expanding it's immense economic strength, as well as it's voice in international affairs.

"So much for the great events and political tribulations of nations great and small." Karl remarked dryly after he had finished explained all this. Marie Luise was quite happy that she had had very little to do with the congress, after peace had been declared in 1814 between France and the powers of the Sixth Coalition. She had promptly retired to what she hoped, after so many years of intense activity, was a quiet life in Graz and planned to concentrate her whole attention on he beloved four year old son, Ferdinand Ulrich, and the management of her considerable and diverse estates and properties.

The House of Eggenberg had made it's considerable fortune through diversified commerce, manorial farms, brewery and vineyard ownership, banking and coin-minting operations over the centuries since the Counter-Reformation. The family, which at one time had consisted of some four branches or cadet lines: Radkersburg, Augsburg, Graz, and Ehrenhausen and, possessed business holdings, manorial estates and the titles of baron, count, prince and duke in Bavaria, Bohemia, the Austrian Littoral, Styria, Carniola, and Carinthia. They had even held title over the Princely County of Gradisca since it had been purchased by the Eggenbergs from Emperor Ferdinand III in 1647, until the death of her father. At which point the Princely Count title, and the seat in the Holy Roman Empire's Parliament that went with it, to which she could not inherit, although not all the land holdings attached to it, entailed back to the Habsburgs.

"What of Napoleon?" She asked after a moment.

"Exiled to the Tuscan island of Elba, for life. Whether they can keep him there, remains to be seen of course. He has been granted a generous pension of three million francs a year drawn from France and complete control of the island. Empress Marie Louise, gets one million francs a year by the way. Brother Franz was not at all happy about that. Marie Louise absconding right out from under his nose in Vienna with their son, Napoleon II, to join her husband on Elba caught him totally off guard. Johann and I thought Franz was going to have an apoplexy when we got that bit of news."

Marie Luise enjoyed Karl's amused smile at what must have been as unpleasant as it was unexpected shock to Kaiser Franz I of Austria.

"Does Ferdinand Ulrich, still stand to inherit the Elba principality, under Napoleon's previous will? Assuming of course, the great powers of Europe bother to allow it." Karl asked after a thoughtful moment.

"I am making inquiries about that. No one I have talked to -- in the Foreign Office, or the Imperial Court, the Aulic Council or the Reichskammergericht -- so far, is quite sure. Though, I have not heard anything to the contrary. The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III expressed himself to me personally, that he is unbothered by that particular dynastic arrangement and only asked that my son, actually reside in Elba for at least some part of the year when he came into the inheritance. Which is a fair request, as Ferdinand Ulrich will hold aristocratic titles in both Austria and Tuscany. Ferdinand Ulrich does still stand to inherit an special pension from Napoleon, when he reaches his majority. It amounts to about one million francs a year drawn from Napoleon's own family coffers. There is already four millions francs plus accumulated interest deposited in the pension's account." Marie Luise said between sips of coffee.

Karl pursed his lips in surprise and did a few quick speculative sums in his head. It would be a handsome inheritance, when the boy reached his eighteenth year let alone his official legal majority which was twenty-one. Marie Luise watched the wheels turning in Karl's head and nodded.

"The pension has a legal proviso, however that if Napoleon dies before, Ferdinand Ulrich reaches his majority, he will receive whatever has up to that point accumulated in the account, immediately."

"Well at least that part of your son's future estate is settled." Karl remarked blandly. Karl reflected grimly on the legal tribulations that Marie Luise had had to put up with involving Ferdinand Ulrich's inheritance. When he had been born in 1810, she had written a secret codicil which had affected the interpretation of her previous family will. In it she left the entirety of her titles, estates and possessions and all her wealth and businesses to Ferdinand Ulrich, legitimating him as her legal and sole heir. When she had all but killed at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, and reported as such --prematurely as it turned out, the Herbersteins and Schwarzenbergs, had moved to have her will probated. Only to discover the codicil which invalidated their previously assumed inheritance of her estates. They had been furious of course and immediately worked to declare the codicil invalid. The fact that she had augmented the codicil with a new formal will on her deathbed dictated to Graf Sonder and witness by himself, his brother Johann, Eisen and Father Haspringer added still more fuel to the resultant fire. The furious legal uproar this had caused had driven Marie Luise nearly to distraction, and which was saying something considered the original legal troubles she had suffered with them during her pregnancy with Ferdinand Ulrich back in 1810! That legal furor was still rumbling on even now, although it had been greatly tempered somewhat by Eisen angrily threatening to throw the whole of the Herberstein and Schwarzenberg families involved, that he could lay hands on into the Danube! Since he had already thrown, Regimius von Dorzapf, the lawyer of Marie Luise's aunt from a second story window of the Schloss Eggenberg in a fit of rage, and then chased him the length of the estate back in 1810, this was not an idle threat.

Marie Luise nodded, then briefly looked away from Karl before remarking. She hated bringing this up and spoiling what has so far been an enjoyable afternoon.

"I understand, that was not the only thing that has been settled recently."

Karl, looked at her over the rim of his coffee cup. His face absolutely expressionless and still. She had heard then, not surprising, it had been in all the papers and Franz had been only too pleased to make the announcement before the entire Imperial Court in Vienna. He put the cup down and wordlessly, opened his arms, Marie Luise immediately shifted closer and leaned into his embrace, now uncontrolled tears glittering in her beautiful green eyes.

Marie Luise had been absolutely heartbroken and had spent tormented days and sleepless nights fretting, worrying and not infrequently crying when she had received the news. She knew that reasons of state and dynasty, however legitimate they might be in this case, were not the real reason Kaiser Franz had pushed for his brother Karl's marriage. It was Franz's revenge against her, and to some extent also against Karl, and both she and Karl knew it. Karl was for his part, nearly as glum, although he had through long practice controlled his anger, grief and unhappiness, perhaps a little better at least in both public and private, when Franz had sprung that unpleasant surprise on him. Not that Franz, had not received a few unpleasant surprises all is own, Karl thought absently.

Marie Luise wanted to hold onto Karl forever, but the best things in life, the ones that really mattered, did not last forever. Like a dance or beautiful music they could only be enjoyed when and as they happened.

"What...is she... like..." Marie Luise asked after a long moment, her hand entwined tightly in his. Karl, just hugged her close, leaning his head on her's for a long moment, before answering her question.

"Princess Henrietta Alexandrine Friederike Wilhelmine of Nassau-Weilburg, the daughter of Prince Frederick William of Nassau-Weilburg, is young, she's seventeen as of this year, so the actual wedding has been put off til next year. She's a little shorter then I am, which is to say that she is not very tall." They both chuckled softly at that whimsical self-deprecating remark. While both were of slender, fit builds, which caused them to look taller, then either were it was only when they stood in the presence of other people that their lack of height became obvious.

"She has black hair and very light brown eyes. She wears spectacles for reading, of which she does a great deal on a wide number of subjects. She's interested in various charities and nursing associations. She's very pretty, charming and well mannered. Dear God... I am beginning to sound like a catalogue.... " Karl murmured apologetically.

"Oh and she's a Protestant." Karl remarked suddenly. Marie Luise jerked upright in his arms. A Protestant marrying into the staunchly Roman Catholic Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty?! Impossible!

"A Calvinist, to be exact." Karl continued. "She made that pretty plain, after our engagement had been announced some minutes earlier to the assembled court, Franz commented to her in passing about herchanging her religion as if it were already a settled matter. She commented that she would do nothing of the kind."

"She told Franz, myself and Johann, very firmly and with infinite courteousness that while she would marry me, and do so gladly for her own sake and benefit of the Grand Duchy of Nassau and the House of Nassau-Weilburg. She would not abjure the faith that she had been born and raised to for anything, not even an arch ducal crown."

"The Grand Marshall, who was standing next to us, did not help things by commenting that the Habsburg House Laws only stated that the emperor, his wife and children were required by custom to be of the Roman Catholic faith. There being no such requirement for the wife of an archduke and certainly not at all for the heir of the Duke of Saxe-Teschen."

"Johann, of course, really did not help matters by bursting into peals of laughter!" Karl chuckled aloud himself as he remembered the scene. Franz's barely concealed bafflement, then consternation and then impotent rage, as his plans partially unraveled upon him was a something that Karl would treasure. It did not make parting with Marie Luise any easier but at least it would give him and her a certain grim satisfaction in the years to come.

Unconsciously Marie Luise found herself liking this young princess, she had spirit that was clear, and not a little courage, and evidently already quite liked Karl. The match might not be a love match but it looked like it would at least be a friendly, happy one.

"Franz, can not do much about it, even if he wanted to and he does. The marriage contract required a great deal of complicated personal and diplomatic negotiation and is needed to mend political fences, between Austria and Nassau. so Franz can not back out of it, now without causing an uproar in the Confederation." Karl remarked with an expression of mild and amused cynicism.

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