1617: Bohemia elects Ferdinand of Austria, Hapsburg and Catholic, as King. Bohemia is religiously mixed, with Catholics and three sorts of Protestant. The Bohemians know that Ferdinand is an ardent Catholic, but don't appreciate just how fanatical he is. Within months, he's given mortal offense to both Protestants and nationalists. 1618: In the "Defenestration of Prague", the Bohemian petty nobility rises up and throws two of Ferdinand's closest advisors out of a window. They then declare him deposed as King. For nine months, the crown is unoccupied, but in 1619 the Bohemians offer it to Frederick, the Count Palatinate of the Rhine. Frederick is 23 years old and as ardently Calvinist as Ferdinand was Catholic. He has his own broad lands along the Rhine (only an Electorate, but it's as big as many kingdoms), is handsome, rich, and married to the daughter of the King of England. So ends the list of the qualifications of Count Frederick. "He was strong neither in body nor in spirit; and the gentle education which had been planned to stimulate his timorous nature, and to fit him for the arduous championship of a cause, had softened out of existence what little character he had." Weak, easily led, and dumb as a box of hair, Frederick will turn out to be a disastrous choice. 1619: Frederick accepts the crown and moves to Bohemia. Holy Roman Emperor Matthias dies. Ferdinand is elected Emperor. He promptly declares Frederick -- who has snitched away his Bohemian crown -- rebel and outlaw. 1620: Ferdinand cuts a pair of sordid little deals with Maximilian of Bavaria and John George of Saxony, the two most powerful independent princes in Germany. If they will join him in attacking Frederick's Bohemia, then both will be rewarded richly: John George will get Lusatia (a nice little province in northern Bohemia), while Maximilian will get the spectacular prize of Frederick's Palatinate along the Rhine. It works: John George marches in from the north, Maximilian from the west, and Ferdinand from the south. Meanwhile, Frederick's counter-diplomacy has been ineffective. The French, still in the dark days before the rise of Richelieu, are still more loyal to Catholicism than hostile to the Hapsburg. They stay neutral. So does the cranky old Scots father-in-law in London -- he grieves for his daughter, but will not risk British gold or troops on a wild escapade in the middle of Europe. No German princes show any enthusiasm for their reckless colleague who has dared to add a Kingdom to his Electorate -- while kicking the Hapsburg dragon, hard, in the snout. Frederick's only allies are the Dutch (always enemies of Austria and Spain) and Bethlen Gabor, a Hungarian rebel from Transylvania. The end comes quickly. At White Hill in November 1620, Frederick's army is crushed. He's forced to flee, becoming an exile in various European courts for the rest of his life. Although he ruled just over a year, he'll always be known as the "Winter King". Ferdinand reclaims Bohemia, and -- after purges that utterly devastate the economy, set the development of national culture back by a century or more, and send tens of thousands following the Winter King into exile -- establishes Catholicism, the Hapsburg dynasty, and royal absolutism so firmly that they'll hardly be challenged for the next 200 years. Maximilian and John George take their cuts. One consequence: with the Palatinate in the hands of a Catholic ally of Austria, all of the Rhine from Switzerland to Holland is now in Catholic hands. The Spaniards now have a clear shot at retaking their rebellious Dutch provinces. And the Thirty Years War is off and running, as France and the Protestant powers -- realizing too late that the balance of power in Central Europe has been fatally upset in favor of the Hapsburgs -- frantically scramble to fill the breach. So, the WI: Frederick is, instead, intelligent, hard-minded, and a natural leader and diplomat. -- Okay, a truly intelligent Frederick wouldn't go to Bohemia in the first place. The thing was always a wild gamble. Bohemia was a divided and turbulent kingdom, as hard to rule for a Protestant as for a Catholic. Taking the crown involved pitting his modest resources against the enraged dignity of the entire House of Hapsburg. Worse, it roused his fellow German princes to jealousy and greed. But it was a devout age; so let's say *Frederick feels that this is God's will, and sets out to make the best possible fist of it. Let's roll some dice. Since it's stipulated he's better than OTL Frederick, we'll use... oh, best three of four d6. 5 is awful, 10 is average and anything over 15 is hella good. Administration 16 Diplomacy 14 Judgment 10 Military 11 Not quite Gustavus Adolphus, but impressive enough. (By way of comparison, OTL Frederick would have been something like 8, 5, 5, 3.) We have a young King who's almost a Wallenstein for administration -- and that bears thinking about, considering what Wallenstein did with Bohemia just a bit later -- and who's a more-than-competent diplomat as well. He's not a good enough general to take command himself. Few 17th century monarchs were. (Gustavus Adolphus was a bit unusual.) But he's good enough to look over his generals' shoulders and make useful suggestions, instead of throwing parties and letting Mansfeld make mistakes. Now what? I have some ideas, but what do the rest of you think? Doug M.