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

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Interregnum (Part I)

The Hofkriegsrat, City of Vienna, Austrian Empire, November 1810.

Archduke Karl, sat in his office in the Hofkriegsrat, reading his way through a small mountain of military reports and documents that cluttered the top of his desk. War or peace, military administrations ran on paperwork, much of it necessary and pertinent if tedious, just as much of it was mind numbingly pedantic and superfluous in the extreme. If there was one thing, the Aulic War Council was certain to create with an absolute certainty, it was an excess of bureaucratic paperwork.

Karl, however hard he tried, could not concentrate on the papers before him. His attention was fixed upon, the portrait of a young, beautiful, blond haired and green eyed woman at his elbow. The portrait had been a birthday gift to him, some years ago and he treasured it as much as he treasured his love for the lady in it. It was an excellent likeness of the Fürstin Marie Luise von Eggenberg, catching both her beauty and charm but also her impulsive, fiery temperment.

The second Treaty of Schönbrunn, while not the disaster for Austria, that it had initially promised to be, due to some highly complicated political manipulations between the countries involved in negotiating it and several desperate last minute military victories pulled off by the Austrian Army and Navy that altered the strategic status quo. While Austria had to sacrifice some of it's territories in the west along the Italian and Bavarian borders, the wholesale loss of other territories elsewhere in the empire or it's overseas possessions had been avoided.

The indemnities, some eighty-five million thalers, that Austria had been forced to pay to France, Poland, Italy, Naples and the various German states of the Confederation of the Rhine, where galling but not impossible to cope with. With careful budgeting, Austria's finances would recover in good time, the damage to her pride notwithstanding. What was not so recoverable, was the damage done to Austria's political position in Europe, and it's military forces. The treaty had effectively shackled both to the Napoleonic French Empire and it's present and long term strategic considerations. Karl had been charged with re-organizing the Austrian armed forces as thoroughly as possible and as time and material allowed. It was a task that was absorbing all his -- and his subordinate generals -- time and considerable energies, much to his rather personal frustration.

Marie Luise, had during the 1809 war, played a gallant part in several battles but had entangled herself in a web of political and military intrigues, when she involved herself on her own incentive -- and practically against orders -- in the siege of Graz. Her part had been a very creditable one, cobbling together an 'Army of Graz' from the existing Graz Garrison Corps and a medley of regular army depot units, civic volunteer rifle and Landwehr units. Although her spirited and protracted defense of the city had not been successful in the long run, she had been forced to resort to some highly "personal" negotiations, involving herself and Emperor Napoleon in a desperate effort to save the city, it's fortifications and it's people with little or no help from her Kaiser, the Imperial Court or the forces commanded by the Hofkriegsrat. Those negotiations had succeeded in saving the city, although the consequences, for Marie Luise, had been drastic in more ways then one.

Only the corps of Ignaz Gyulai had been able to materially interfere in the siege and made several sorties to resupply and reinforce Graz, before being driven away by Marshal Marmont's corps after several hard battles. The Battle of Wagram, had potentially offered a temporary reprieve for the defenders of Graz, as the french troops besieging them had decamped to join Napoleon against the main Austrian army. The defeat that the Austrian Army had suffered there and in several subsequent battles had left the city cut off from immediate help, and a larger force directed by Napoleon himself had arrived and conducted a renewed siege with greater vigour and competency.

The painful situation in which, his lady Marie Luise, found herself months after the war had ended and she had been discovered to be pregnant was extreme. The Imperial Court and the Catholic Church had all but cut her off, partly due to the scandal of the princess having a child out of wedlock, but also because who the suspected father was. Which just added insult to injury as far as most of the courtiers around his imperial brother, Kaiser Franz I were concerned. The fact that Franz distrusted and all but practically hated, Marie Luise, only made the situation worse. Franz had decided he could use the scandal to his own ends and potentially destroy her with it. Marie Luise, however had not acted the way anyone had expected, which had bitterly amused both Karl and his brother Johann, no end.

Marie Luise, finding herself without prospects or friends at the Imperial Court, and left "awaiting orders" -- one of the most dreaded things that could happen to any officer -- with regards to her military career had retired without comment or fanfare to her estates. Franz had expected her to beg for his forgiveness, she had to his complete bafflement, treated him with an icy silence, refusing either to call upon him or to deal with any appointee of his. Marie Luise had never had much patience for Imperial Court politics and intrigues and she had never had much in the way of "friends" amoug the multitudinous throng of simpering courtiers, tiresome hangers on, and sycophantic parasites that surrounded his brother Franz, so she felt next to nothing at being cut off from them.

While the damage to her social position was immense, Marie Luise had enough genuine friends who had and would support her come hell or high water to at least cushion the blow. These people, were trying in their own ways and means to break the unbearable social isolation that Marie Luise had been condemned to. Even the common people, especially in her native Styria or in the lands where she had estates and possessions were coming to her support. They might not have been comfortable, with the scandal, and the fact that she had a child out of wedlock with Napoleon Bonaparte, but to many of them, she was one of Austria's heroines and that gave her a certain latitude in their eyes for the odd indiscretion -- especially if it was in the service of her emperor and country -- as far as they were concerned.

Karl, expected one of the reasons he was stuck in Vienna and swamped with paperwork and inspection duties was, that his brother Franz, did not want him seeing the woman he called in private, "that whore". He had called her that since the day, Marie Luise had taken his side, in an intrigue that Franz had set up against him, with Marie Luise positioned as Franz's unofficial spy in Karl's headquarters. He had actually called her that once aloud, in Karl and Johann's presence in private, only they and the Grand Marshall of the Imperial Court had been present. Franz had almost immediately regretted it, when Karl -- seething with rage, he was not ashamed to admit -- had promptly moved to slap him across the face. The Grand Marshall and the Trabants had stopped him abruptly, of course. The resultant self-satisfied and imperious smirk on Franz's face disappeared a moment later, when the Grand Marshall suddenly turned on his heel and with stunning force boxed Franz's ears! None of them should have been surprised really, the Grand Marshall had overseen generations of imperial monarchs and their families and relations and had little or no tolerance for improper behaviour or intemperate language, especially by emperors or princes who were supposed to be virtuous and temperate guardians to their subjects.

Karl turned in his chair, when he heard the door of the antechamber of his office open and close. Archduke Johann his younger brother walked into the room, nonchalantly. Karl, felt a quiet sense of cheer rising in him, which at this moment he rather badly needed. Johann, had traveled a great deal, keep his eyes and mind open, and had a fund of engaging hobbies, good sense and humour and interesting stories when needed and refused to take things without real substance, especially their Imperial brother Franz, seriously.

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