Now Blooms the Tudor Rose: Gold Edition

Discussion in 'Finished Timelines and Scenarios' started by Space Oddity, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2010
    [​IMG]

    NOW BLOOMS THE TUDOR ROSE: GOLD EDITION

    [thread=198307]Discussion Thread[/thread]

    PART 1: IN THE REIGN OF HENRY VIII (1533-1545)

    [​IMG]
    King Henry VIII Tudor, of England


    “…early on September 9th, Queen Anne went into labour[1]. Despite Henry’s worries, the birth would prove easy--or as easy as any birth could be in that time--with the child delivered at five in the afternoon. Attending physicians agreed that both child and mother were in good health, much to the King’s relief. But this was hardly the only thing Henry had to celebrate. Anne had proved as good as her word. By evening, the word was spread all over London… Henry had a son…” [2]

    ----Maria Gwynn-Jones, 'From The Bulwen Woman to Good Queen Anne', (1972)
    ----------------------

    1533-4

    --The child is christened in an extravagant spectacle at the Church of the Obedient Friars. Henry, who has been leaning towards naming the child 'Edward', does a last minute swerve, and decides that, no, it'll be 'Henry' after all. The court winces, but goes on with their business, because it's Henry VIII, and this is pretty much what you expect.[3]

    --Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys has the difficult job of breaking the bad news to Charles. He does hold out some hope--he has it on "good authority" that "the child is sickly, and will likely soon die". When this fails to pass, Chapuys offers yet another consolation--"the young bastard"[4] shows signs of being "slow-witted".

    --Aside from Chapuys and his "good authorities", most people who see Prince Henry agree he seems healthy and active, with many comments on his bright red hair and blue eyes. Both of his parents dote on the young prince in their own ways--Anne as a loving mother, Henry as an almost obsessively protective yet rather distant father.

    --Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary handle matters about as well as can be expected, especially as Henry starts making it clear that he no longer feels obligated to them in any way, shape or form. Or more exactly, the subordinates he has dealing with them make it clear, because Henry really doesn't want to see them, as he might start feeling guilty, which he really doesn't like. Both refuse to acknowledge Anne as Henry's wife.

    -Francois I and Henry VIII are of course, good, dear allies who are going to stand with each other against that wily no-good Emperor Charles no matter what. At least so runs the official line. Tensions are, of course starting right below the surface, mostly because each man has an ego so large that accommodating anyone else's is rather problematic, and Henry, in his heart of hearts, can never quite cotton to this whole 'get along with the French' idea. Still, it would be wrong to say he's the big stumbling block--well, no it wouldn't, but he's not the only big stumbling block. By the end of 1534, Francois is rethinking his whole stance on this Protestant thing, in light of the 'Affair of the Placcards'[5], and this is naturally making him rethink his alliance with Henry. Even if Henry swears up and down he's not a Protestant, merely a man who has a few issues with the Pope. Still, for the time being, both realize that the alliance is good sense, and they're sticking with it. The question is, when will they allow themselves to think otherwise.

    --In other French diplomatic matters, Francois continues to politely push for a marriage between the Dauphin and Mary. Henry really isn't too keen on this, and for once, his court is in agreement--even ardent Francophile Anne. True, Mary is technically a bastard now, if you accept Henry's ruling, but if you don't, she's the legitimate heir, which makes handing her off to a Catholic monarch rather troubling, even if right now, he's insisting he's your bestest buddy in the world, and will never, ever betray you. Which doesn't mean that some marriage alliance won't be in the cards--Anne is very keen on the idea having her son marry a French princess. The only problem is that the selection at the moment is rather limited. Francois' eldest daughter is the sickly Madeleine of Valois, who, in addition to her health and age problems, was already promised to James V of Scotland, though Francis has walked back from this due to the aforementioned health problems. His second daughter, Marguerite, is unattached, but still ten years older than Prince Henry, a more significant age gap than lay between Catherine and Henry when they wed. And look how that turned out. Still, everyone is hopeful that some sort of accommodation can be reached.

    --And turning to the biggest Catholic of them all, Pope Clement VII finds himself in a tough spot. Technically, he can and probably should take action against Henry for what he's done, but the fact remains--Henry now has a son he considers legitimate, and expecting him to chuck him aside on the Pope's say-so is... well, a bit optimistic. And so, despite pressure from Charles, he dithers. Privately, overtures are made to Henry, suggesting that if he makes some form of penance--a large donation, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a vow to fight against the insidious Turk--the Church would be willing to let this matter slide, recognize the annulment and Prince Henry's legitimacy, and basically get this whole ugly affair behind them. [6]

    It's actually a pretty reasonable offer, even if it is presently an unofficial, under the table sort of thing. Unfortunately Clement is dealing with Henry VIII--and he's dealing with him right after he's just had what he takes as a sign from God that he's been right the whole time. Henry insists that the Church's recognition of what he considers readily apparent matters is worthless. What he wants is assurances that he, and the monarchs who will follow him on the English throne, will never find themselves in the awful bind he was in--dependent of the whims and rulings of a man miles away under the thumb of a foreign ruler who should be minding his own business. And Henry is going to get this, no matter what the Pope's opinion on the matter is. Indeed, even as the Pope is making his proposal, the English Parliament is putting through acts that will make Henry the official head of the Church of England.

    How Clement would have dealt with all this is an interesting question--however, he really doesn't get a chance to, because somebody feeds him death cap mushrooms by mistake, or possibly 'mistake'. [7] He's succeeded by Paul III, who has a lot of things on his table right from the get-go, which causes him to put England on the back-burner, not in the least because it's such a knotted little problem. On the one hand, Henry's pretty blatantly usurping Church authority. On the other hand, moving against him might just push him even further into the Protestant camp. And so, the Pope continues to hold off and consider his options. He knows he's going to have to do something eventually. But what is proving a handful.

    --The Act of Succession passes Parliament. Included in it is a provision requiring the swearing of an oath (if asked) that one finds the annulment, marriage, and Henry's status as Head of the Church of England valid. This last bit in particular sticks in the craw of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, though honestly they aren't too fond of the first two parts either. Henry does not take this well. You know the drill...

    --And as 1534 comes to a close, it has become readily apparent that Anne is pregnant again...

    ------------------
    [1] For those wondering, yes, this is Anne Boleyn in 1533. IOTL, she went into labor on September 7th. But this isn't the POD--just (very) minor butterflies.

    [2] And now we see our POD, which was--obviously--a little under nine months ago. Obviously, this will have a serious effect on England--and the world...

    [3] IOTL, Henry was back and forth on the name of his 'son' for quite some time. Either 'Henry' or 'Edward'. When Elizabeth popped out, the point became moot, though Henry did consider naming her 'Mary' as kind of an extra 'Screw you' to Catherine. Classy guy.

    [4] If you're wondering why Prince Henry is 'the young bastard'--aside from this being Chapuys' genuine opinion on his legitimacy, the name is to make him distinct from his half-brother Henry Fitzroy, who everybody agrees is a bastard. Only not so young. Well, in comparison to Prince Henry Tudor, anyway.

    [5] The Affair of the Placcards--which happened OTL--occurred on October 17th, 1534, and consisted of anti-Catholic posters appearing all over Paris, Blois, Rouens, Tours, and Orleans, with one even being hung on Francois' bedroom door. In what is probably the most spectacular backfire in public relations history, it lead to alienating most of the moderates in France, including Francois, who not only publicly came out in favor of Catholic doctrine, but shifted from seeing Protestants as basically decent folk to seeing them as threatening conspirators.

    [6] IOTL, Clement didn't dither very much at all--he quietly excommunicated Henry and Archbishop Cramner. But the entire son matter does give Henry that extra bit of leverage that makes Clement stay his hand.

    [7] Which is what happened IOTL.

    [​IMG]
    Thomas More

    "In Germany the Reformation began on principle, advanced through argument, was defended by arms, and won through courage. In England, it began on lust, advanced through farce, was defended by tyranny, and won through inertia. And yet England was securely Protestant within two decades, while the German people would have to brazen out decades of wars. So history makes fools of us all."

    --Heinrich Roeder, Wittenberg Lectures (1870)

    1535

    --Early in the year, Anne gives birth to a daughter, who is named Elizabeth after both of her grandmothers. [1] While Henry did have some hopes for another son, he is still delighted, commenting to anyone who'll listen that it's nice to finally have "a lawful daughter", to the discomfort of virtually everyone around him. Even Anne, who has on occasion, suggested that she wouldn't necessarily be displeased if through an act of divine misfortune, Mary were to, just as an example, fall down a flight of stairs and break her neck.

    --Pope Paul III is very put out. His plan of 'ignoring the Henry problem until it either goes away, or I get an idea' has inadvertently resulted in the imprisonment of two devout Catholics, one of whom is a bishop. This necessitates something being done. The problem is Paul is still in a bad position here, and he knows it. He can't let Henry walk all over him, but Henry believes God is on his side, and quite frankly, the Almighty hasn't given any apparent sign to the contrary yet. With that kind of attitude, Paul realizes that if he pushes Henry too hard, it'll likely send him even further into heresy--and that could be destabilizing to all of Europe. But Paul hits on something! He sends Henry a strongly-worded warning that if Henry continues to act in this manner, Paul will be forced to excommunicate him. He bids Henry to release Fisher and More, and again quietly hints that the See is willing to recognize the validity of the annulment and the marriage, as long as Henry is willing to stop with this present nonsense and at least make some gesture to show that he's sorry.

    Henry's response to this is, from Paul's point of view, disappointing. He declares that excommunication is nonsense, a political power that the Bishops of Rome have appropriated to themselves to help them usurp the authority of Kings. Henry's eyes may have been blind before, but now he sees, thank God, and he is going to make sure he gets what's his. Paul, realizing that he is dealing with "a most intractable heretic", has by the end of the year gotten to work excommunicating Henry.

    --Thomas More and John Fisher are trying to get out of swearing the oath without getting killed through legal shenanigans. Using the concept of silence implying consent, they argue that they don't have to take the oath as long as they don't speak against it. This isn't exactly winning over their judges, and when the King's Solicitor General Richard Rich's testimony comes up, they are in trouble. Rich explains in a private conversation with More, More poised a hypothetical question that made it clear that he didn't think that Parliament could make Henry the head of the church, while in a private conversation with Fisher, Fisher denied it outright. More loudly denies that he said any such thing--or that if he did say it, it didn't mean what Rich makes it out to mean--while Fisher is simply shocked that opinions given by a priest in confidence are being used as testimony. This destroys the last fig leaf of protection the two possess, and they are quickly sentenced to be executed. [2]

    The resulting executions inflame public opinion against the King, the Queen, and the court, with nearly everyone trying to back away from the whole affair. Henry will later insist the blame rests on evil councilors. Anne will, to her dying day, insist she was against the whole thing, and told Henry as much. (As one cynic notes, that may be so, but if it's true, she didn't tell him very loudly.) Thomas Cromwell will privately declare that the whole affair was, naturally, regrettable, but insist that technically Fisher and More were both guilty.

    --Turning to Cromwell--aside from turning a bishop and a politician into martyrs, he's been busy having his men check on the monasteries, all in preparation of his grand scheme to dissolve them, and enrich the crown. He's facing quite a bit of opposition in the court in this matter, and from some surprising corners--Anne, for example, while in favor of dissolving the more abusive and decrepit orders, wants the money to go into creating charitable and educational organizations that will take the monasteries' place. This could be a problem, but for the moment, Henry has decided that he really wants that money, and so he's listening to Cromwell, while the chance of an organized resistance forming is troubled by the fact that the Catholics are suspicious of the Queen, and vice versa. Anne's ability to serve as a lynchpin is further compromised by the fact that she is pregnant once again, which tends to eat up her time.

    --Anne's latest pregnancy is not the only... joyous news in England. King's bastard Henry Fitzroy and his young wife Mary Howard are expecting as well, despite Henry VIII's suggestion not to overindulge in hanky panky. [3] While Henry's a bit worried that his son might not be following his instruction, he is delighted at the thought of becoming a grandfather. Indeed, Henry is about as happy as he gets. After years of worry that the Tudors were going to die with him, things are looking up. Yep, great to be him. Extra great, anyway.

    --Eustace Chapuys writes the Emperor with "good news". Anne and Henry's marriage is getting rather tense, as Henry is starting to realize the bad side of having a wife who's smarter than him--or rather, who's smarter than him and lets him know it. He's still very fond of Anne--she's given him a son, after all--a healthy, happy son--but, well, she can be a bit trying at times, and the succession of pregnancies are not helping her nerves any. While Eustace acknowledges that there now exists no chance of Henry taking back Catherine, he is fairly certain that the woman who has usurped her place will be displaced herself in the near future. While Eustace is exaggerating things somewhat, many of his essentials are quite correct...

    --Catherine and her daughter, meanwhile are both suffering virtual imprisonment, with Catherine's health rapidly failing. Both take the news of Elizabeth's birth, and yet another pregnancy very hard.

    --Turning to the international scene, Francois I and Charles V continue to circle each other like wary prize fighters, waiting for the next chance to go at it. In a little while, the pair are going to turn Italy into their dueling ground once again. In another point of contention between them, Anne remains dedicated to the French alliance, while Cromwell thinks they should shift over to the Emperor, in an effort to prevent one side or the other from getting too powerful. Still, this is a matter he's willing to give way on--indeed, he's rather uncertain that the Emperor will even be willing to entertain the possibility of allying with the King who insulted his beloved aunt right now. Waiting might be the best option.

    Still, England may not get that option. Francesco Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, dies late in the year. The Duchy of Milan has long been a point of contention between the French and Spanish thrones--if the childless Sforza died without heirs, war will almost certainly begin. Fortunately, he has one--his brother, Giovanni Paolo. Unfortunately, Giovanni dies en route to Milan to take up his new ducal seat.

    Which means that the peace of Europe relies on Francois Valois not wanting to start a war. As history demonstrates, those are bad odds right there.

    --Francois is still hoping for a match between the Dauphin and Mary, even though that's looking very unlikely. Right now the most likely marriage contracts between France and England are 'Prince Henry and a hypothetical French Princess', and 'Charles of Orleans and Princess Elizabeth'. Neither is definite, but both are possible.

    --In early October, the first complete English language Bible is printed. It is an odd beast--a mixture of recent translations and archaic older ones that hang together very awkwardly. The man responsible for much of the most recent translation, especially in the New Testament, William Tyndale, languishes in a prison in Vilvoorde. Anne and Cromwell would both like to see him freed, but Henry isn't that interested--Tyndale, like quite a few Protestants, disagreed with Henry about the validity of the divorce, and consequently, as far as Henry is concerned, he can go bugger himself.

    --As the year ends the Act of Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries is brought before Parliament...

    -------------------------------
    [1] As I've noted elsewhere, the chances of the first-born daughter of Henry and Anne being named something besides Elizabeth are somewhat slim. IOTL, Anne followed Elizabeth with another pregnancy that ended with a miscarriage. Here, she's a great deal calmer and more secure, so her second pregnancy goes on without a hitch.

    [2] This is exactly what happened IOTL. Simply put, I don't see OTL Elizabeth being a boy changing Fisher or More's opinion that much, and... well, Henry is going to be Henry.

    [3] IOTL, Henry ordered the marriage to remain unconsummated, fearing that it was overindulging in sex that killed his brother--here, what with a legitimate son to serve as heir, he's feeling a bit more secure, and has walked back his original order to a strong suggestion. Ironically, doing so has probably done a better job securing the succession...

    [​IMG]
    King Francois I Valois, of France

    KING JOHN.
    Though you and all Kings of Christendom
    Are led so grossly by his meddling priest,
    Dreading the curse that money may buy out,
    And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
    Purchase the corrupted pardon of a man
    Who in that sale sells pardon from himself;
    Though you, and all the rest so grossly led,
    This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish,
    Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
    Against the Pope, and count his friends my foes.

    PANDOLPH.
    Then, by the lawful power that I have,
    Thou shalt stand curs'd and excommunicate,
    And blessed shall he be that doth revolt
    From his allegiance to an heretic,
    An meritorious shall that hand be calle'd,
    Canonized and worshipp'd as a saint,
    That takes away by any secret course
    Thy hateful life.

    --John Shaxper, The Troublesome Reign of King John of England, (1595) [1]

    1536--Part 1

    --Pope Paul III formally excommunicates King Henry VIII, and Archbishop Cranmer, and then informs them of this, while still holding out the carrot of a possible reconciliation if Henry will just come to his damn senses. Henry is a bit nonplussed--he's gotten so used to the Popes quivering to his provocations that he actually thought they were going to cave in, somehow. But he's still feeling pretty damn cocky, and remains convinced that he's bigger than any puffed-up Bishop of Rome. Though they make sure not to mention the matter to Anne for the moment, on account of her pregnancy.

    --The Act of Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries passes Parliament, to Thomas Cromwell's utter satisfaction. It is significantly less satisfying to just about everyone else. Anne has her brother, George, broach the matter to her uncle, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk's position on the dissolution is complex--unlike his niece and nephew, he's a Catholic--however, his Catholicism ranks somewhat below his ambition, and he's not exactly opposed to getting his hands on some nice monastic lands at a bargain price. Still, he agrees that Cromwell is getting too big for his britches, and could stand to get knocked down a peg or two. Norfolk begins to gather support for a move against Cromwell, should the opportunity arise.

    --Catherine of Aragon dies. Henry marks the occasion by dressing in festive yellow, and having Anne bring Prince Henry and Elizabeth to court.[2] Chapuys, writing to the Emperor of the incident, notes that Prince Henry is "a very lively boy", while Elizabeth favors her mother in appearance. Even Charles has, by this time, reconciled himself to the fact that Prince Henry is in all likelihood going to be the next King of England.

    --Those who were expecting Francois to start yet another Italian war using the deaths of the Sforza brothers as an excuse are demonstrated to have the King of France down well, as Francois invades Milan and occupies Turin. England's involvement is limited to tacit support, as Henry is a bit busy at the moment. The war swiftly grinds into a stalemate.

    --Chapuys makes an unusual comment to Charles in one of his letters, noting that one Jane Seymour, lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne--and earlier, lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine--has been dismissed under rather mysterious circumstances, and that he will be able to give Charles the whole story shortly. Some historians speculate that Jane was one of Chapuys' informants, explaining why he has knowledge of such a marginal figure, but this isn't certain, and it might just be the ambassador displaying his bloodhound-like affinity for gossip. [3]

    --The dissolution of the monasteries begins in earnest, to the discomfort of the many, and the pleasure of a few. Henry and Cromwell are both delighted with how things seem to be going. So delighted that they ignore the warning signs that they are pissing people off in a big way.

    --Anne suffers a miscarriage, much to the disappointment of both her and Henry. Henry is reported, in a rare display of sensitivity, to have consoled Anne, noting that they have two beautiful children, and, God willing, shall have more. [4]

    --Henry Fitzroy's health takes a sudden, horrific turn for the worse in June, just as his wife comes to term. As his child--a boy--is being born in one room, Henry is dying of 'consumption' in the next. Told of the birth of his son, Henry is said to have asked that the boy be named Arthur "for my good uncle, who I am going to meet". He expires on June 24th, a mere 17 years old.[5] Henry is devastated, and very solicitous of the health of his young grandson. However, despite fears, young Arthur Fitzroy is by all signs a healthy baby.

    --Francois I's long-wished for marriage between the Dauphin and Mary shifts from unlikely to completely impossible when young Francois dies suddenly in August. While poisoning is suspected, the Dauphin's health has never fully recovered from his lengthy imprisonment in Madrid. With his death, young Prince Henri becomes heir to the throne--and he is already married to Catherine de Medici. As well as conducting an affair with a 34-year old widow by the name of Diane de Poitiers, who is also rumored to have had a fling with Francois I way back when. Needless to say, this pretty much kills any chance of bringing Mary Tudor into the family, and so Francois throws himself into having Charles of Orleans marry the Princess Elizabeth.

    --Chapuys finally gets around to telling the whole story of Jane Seymour to Emperor Charles. As he tells it, Henry, getting just a bit tired of Anne's temper and biting wit, took a liking to Jane, who mixed being reasonably attractive with lacking these traits. After awhile, his little infatuation translated into proposing that Jane become the new royal mistress. This plan was derailed when Anne got wind of it, and--again, as Chapuys tells it--stormed into Henry's chambers with children in tow, demanding to know what she'd done so wrong that Henry must ill treat her so. Henry rather sheepishly insisted that he had no plan to do any such thing whatsoever, honest, and Jane was quietly dismissed, and married off by her obliging family. Curiously, her brothers appear to have gotten slightly more lucrative appointments in the court after this, though Chapuys isn't sure whether they were simply bought off by the King in return for keeping quiet about the whole embarrassing matter, or whether they were the ones who informed Anne, and are being rewarded for their service. [6]

    While Chapuys turns the whole story into a joke--look at the silly English King and his shrew of a wife!--the situation illustrates Anne's precarious situation. She can let Henry have dalliances--but a long-term mistress is a significant threat to her, largely because she used to be one. Indeed, as an arguable heretic, Anne knows she would be easily removed, if Henry ever really wanted to do so. Her only real protection is that she is the mother of his son.

    --As the dissolution of monasteries is carried on up north, it hits a bump. People are upset, seeing the monasteries taken apart, and they're suspicious. Rumors are circulating that this will be followed by seizing the church plates of small parishes, and starting a tax on baptism. And so it happens. In a few locations, people begin to protest. In the town of Chester, in Cheshire, the people take over the church, and start making demands. That falls apart a few days later when Henry sends troops in, but the news inspires other uprisings in the North. And the first Pilgrimage of the Faithful has begun... [7]

    ------------------------
    [1] This is a fairly faithful rendition of a bit from John Shaxper's OTL sibling William's play King John. The pair possess very similar minds on some matters. (Plus, they both probably ripped it off from another, anonymous play.)

    [2] This is by many reports, pretty much what he did IOTL. Once again--classy guy.

    [3] Yes, it's her. Clearly, she's never going to become Queen of England ITTL. This is probably to her advantage.

    [4] Why a miscarriage now? Because she's gone through three successive pregnancies in about as many years, and this is a pretty tense time for her.

    [5] This is a month earlier than his death IOTL. Chalk that one up to butterflies.

    [6] What's this you say? The Seymour boys still playing a part in English politics? Well, my answer to that is, when you're as ambitious as the Seymours, you find a way. They're not going to climb as high as they did IOTL--but they are going to climb some.

    [7] Yes, it's this timeline's Pilgrimage of Grace, with a slightly different starting point. Of course, I hope people are noticing the ominous 'first'...

    [​IMG]
    Pilgrimage of the Faithful

    "England's Pilgrims never lacked for courage, for fire, for faith. What they did lack was any idea of what they were doing."

    --Luis Garcia Vargas, "Musings on the Anglican Settlement" Essays on the British Nation, (1914)

    1536 Part 2: First Pilgrimage of the Faithful

    --The first Pilgrimage of the Faithful is not only the first such occurrence, but also the largest, and in some respects the most impressive. Tens of thousands gather throughout the north of England in protest of the dissolution of the monasteries, sometimes taking over towns. And yet this very size works against it--the Pilgrimage is not a coherent movement, but a fairly spontaneous uprising of people with grievances. [1] Stop the dissolution! Down with Cromwell! The True Faith must be reestablished in England! Or, perhaps, merely left alone in the North! Prince Henry is particular stumbling block for the Pilgrims--a few Catholic diehards hold he is a bastard, and must forfeit his claim for his sister, Mary. [2] The Marians are, however, a minority--more common are demands that Prince Henry be brought up Catholic, or simply ignoring the entire matter. While generally these differences are papered over, sometimes, they are not--in Lincolnshire, a group of Marians are assaulted by their fellow Pilgrims, who call them rebels and traitors.

    This lack of coherence damages the Pilgrims greatly--many sympathetic nobles who would otherwise support the movement hold back from what they perceive as a dangerous rabble, and later join in its suppression. Indeed, men who will go on to lead later Pilgrimages receive commendations for fighting this one. All this comes later, however. For the moment, the Pilgrimage is massive, dangerous, and seemingly invulnerable.

    --Emperor Charles receives news of the Pilgrimage. While he's a bit occupied with the latest Italian War, the version he receives sounds grim enough for Henry to get him thinking about an invasion--after all, aside from being an apostate who has divorced his aunt, and imprisoned his young cousin, Henry is an ally to Francois, and might just join the war in the future. It may actually be the wisest course to strike at him when he's at a disadvantage. Ideally, Charles needs some sort of casus belli. And he thinks he has the perfect one.

    Reginald Pole is an English theologian that's been drifting around Europe in self-imposed exile since 1532, who has presently attached himself to the Emperor's retinue. He is a dedicated Catholic, and a brilliant proponent of the Counter-Reformation--indeed, Pope Paul is rumored to have flirted with the idea of naming him a Cardinal, but decided against it as needlessly provocative. [3] He is also, by a great bit of luck, a descendant of the Plantagenets, which could serve as a fairly plausible rationale for handing him the throne, thus putting England back in the hands of the Catholics--indeed, in the hands of the right sort of Catholics. Admittedly, Reginald has several items, among them an elder brother, that weaken such a claim, but with a good amount of swords behind him, Charles is pretty sure it could stick. Especially if Reginald marries Charles' cousin, Mary, neatly tying it all together. [4]

    Charles explains his plan to Pole, who is... less than happy with it. While he doesn't agree with much--or really, any--of Henry's actions of late, this seems rather blatantly treasonous. He has family back in England, and this would almost certainly hurt them--Reginald has in fact been doing his best to keep his mouth shut on the whole matter for their sake. [5] And honestly, he doesn't see England rushing to embrace a pretender with a dubious claim backed by a lot of foreign soldiers, even if he does promise to bring Catholicism back.

    Unfortunately for Reginald, he doesn't understand that kings are pretty much kings, even when they're generally pleasant Holy Roman Emperors. Charles isn't taking 'no' for an answer on this one. Reginald is going to be Charles' cat's-paw for a prospective English invasion, whether he likes it or not. Charles has Pole escorted to the Low Countries under heavy guard--for his own protection, of course--where he will wait for Charles to launch his invasion. Which if this present uprising continues in the manner it's been going so far, will probably be any day now.

    --For the last few months, Cromwell has been the victim of an organized whisper campaign. Henry keeps hearing rumors that the dissolution is not being done with quite the integrity that he's been told it has, that Cromwell is botching things, that King Henry is being made a fool of. Nothing definite, mind you, no out and out accusations--just constant rumors meant to get Henry in just the right frame of mind to give Cromwell the boot, and perhaps something more permanent. Of course, Cromwell is a sharp cookie, and he knows that this is happening, though at first he chalks it up to the opposition that self-made men of power always have to face in politics. Eventually, he realizes that this goes a bit deeper. People are actually aligning against him. And when the Pilgrimage starts he realizes that the jig is up. He's going to lose now. All he can do is make sure that he doesn't lose too much.

    Cromwell starts by approaching the woman he suspects has been behind much of the maneuvering--Anne. While the exact details of their conversation are somewhat sketchy, Cromwell leaves it certain of one thing--Anne does not want him dead, merely suitably humbled. This is good news. That leaves the King to deal with. On November 23rd, he arrives at a council meeting in tears, begging Henry's forgiveness. He has failed the King--he has been misled by others, and thus, misled Henry--he has been the victim of rogues and villains, and thus, made Henry their victim as well. He begs Henry to accept his resignation and his most abject apologies. Henry does so. The next day, Cromwell retires to his estates, having lost his office, but kept his head, though he is well aware that it might require further effort on his part to keep it there in the near future. Still, he considers it a decent exchange. Living men can recover from setbacks. Dead men generally cannot.

    --When the news of Cromwell's resignation reaches the Pilgrims, the results are dramatic--most of the Pilgrims start heading home. They have long viewed Cromwell as the author of all policies they disapprove of, and are certain with him gone, the battle is won. Besides, it's cold out. The remaining Pilgrims are Catholic diehards, mostly, but not entirely Marians, who remain convinced that they have to continue until the King restores the Faith, and (for the Marians) the proper succession. This remnant is far more disciplined and dedicated then their fellows--but now, the Pilgrimage is no longer an awe-inspiringly huge, seemingly relentless public uprising, but a minor rebellion by a smattering of malcontents. Henry sends Norfolk up with soldiers to put down the remainder, while nobles who have been hiding in their castles and mansions suddenly issue forth to battle these dangerous rebels. As the year ends, the First Pilgrimage of the Faithful is not over, but it is clear that it is approaching its end...

    ------------------------------
    [1] So what has happened to make this less cohesive than the IOTL Pilgrimage of Grace? Well, again, Henry getting his hoped for son doesn't make his case seem quite so shabby, and he hasn't followed up his first divorce with getting rid of wife #2 with a show trial, which is then followed by a swift marriage to wife #3. ITTL, Henry doesn't seem quite so bad, which means that while people are about as pissed, they're a bit less sure of themselves for the most part. The result is a public uprising that after its initial fury, quickly devolves into a hopeless muddle.

    [2] IOTL, some Catholics actually requested that Mary be put back in the line of succession before any potential heirs. ITTL, with the general muddle that typifies the first Pilgrimage of the Faithful, the roughly equivalent view is the province of a small faction of diehards.

    [3] Which is why he isn't a Cardinal ITTL. If you were wondering.

    [4] Eustace Chapuys was actually throwing ideas like this around IOTL, until Reginald became a Cardinal.

    [5] He was keeping his mouth less shut IOTL--he'd actually written a pamphlet on why Henry was wrong and sent it to Henry when Henry asked Pole for his opinion of the divorce. But again, this whole situation has people double-guessing themselves--and truthfully, Pole does seem to have wanted to keep a certain distance from the whole issue at this point IOTL--here, it's just stronger.

    [​IMG]
    William Tyndale

    "Some men are the victims of their own folly. Reginald Pole was the victim of the folly of others. And to make his predicament worse, those men were kings..."

    --Jason Mackenna, The Saddest Man in Christendom (1987)

    1537

    --The remnants of the first Pilgrimage of the Faithful are crushed piece by piece over the next few months under the direction of the Duke of Norfolk. Henry scales back--but does not stop--the dissolution of the monasteries, except in Ireland, where the whole effort has folded rather neatly into Henry's longstanding project to bludgeon the Irish into submission, and is thus continued apace. That said Henry is having one of his failures of nerve. He's had an awful lot of bad things happen to him in a short space of time, and he can't help but feel that God is trying to tell him something. A part of him is wondering if mocking the Pope and getting excommunicated was such a hot idea, but unfortunately, now Paul III is the one who's being difficult on the whole reconciliation matter. (Though he does continue to not broadcast Henry's state to the world.) Still, other parts of him are blaming something else...

    --Eustace Chapuys notifies the Emperor of the Pilgrimage's sputtering out. He also notes that Henry and Anne have reconciled their differences for the moment, and appear to be getting along. Just how much they've reconciled becomes apparent when Anne announces she's pregnant again.

    --Charles, hearing of the end of the Pilgrimage--and dealing with the fact that Francois has struck a deal with the Turks--shelves his invasion plans, along with poor Reginald Pole, who gets stuck in a secluded house on the fringes of Antwerp, under lock and key. To protect from the malice of the King of England, of course. Rumors of the whole affair reach England, but at the moment, they're only that.

    --Mary Howard, Dowager Duchess of Richmond and Somerset, and her little son Arthur Fitzroy receive a missive from the King, who wishes his grandson to join Prince Henry's household "that my son may have a companion, and that I may know my grandson". It's thought that some of the initiative in this design comes from Anne--Arthur is not only a potential competitor to her own children, but thanks to the King's generosity to his father, one of the greatest landholders in England. This being so, it's best to have him and his mother viewing themselves as allies to Anne, not enemies.

    --The betrothal of Princess Elizabeth and Charles of Orleans becomes semi-official, though it remains in a fairly nebulous state that both parties can back out of easily if they have to. Francois and Henry are both starting to have second thoughts on this whole alliance, which hasn't exactly netted them the incredible glory they feel they were promised. In Francois' case, his increasingly conservative Catholicism is really making being allied to 'swears he's not a Protestant, but then acts just like one' Henry very uncomfortable indeed. Prince Henry's future marriage remains open-ended, though Marguerite de Navarre is suggesting a match between the young Prince and her daughter Jeanne. Henry in particular is less than thrilled with this idea--true, Navarre is a kingdom, but it is mostly occupied by the Spanish, and he likes to think his son could do better than that.

    --In other French marriage news, the young wife of James V, Madeleine of Valois, dies after only a few months of marriage. James has married Madeleine because of her bewitching beauty, despite her father's suggestion that he marry another French princess due Madeleine's poor health. James mourns awhile, and then starts negotiations for a new French marriage. Indeed, he already has his eye on someone who attended his wedding--a young widow named Marie of Guise.

    --Mary Tudor has spent the time since her father's remarriage in virtual seclusion, shuffled from household to household as Henry puts the pressure on her to just accept the fact she's a title-less bastard. Mary is very much the child of her parents, however, and refuses to give in. She is the lawful Princess of Wales, her father's true heir, and 'Prince' Henry is nothing more than the bastard of her father's evil whore of a mistress. However, in the middle of the year, Mary finds her hardships shift from merely awful, to genuinely terrifying, when she is quietly arrested and actually imprisoned. Mary soon learns she is charged with a variety of crimes--being in contact with rebels; celebrating her good stepmother's 'misfortune' (that's a polite way of saying 'miscarriage'): wishing ill against her lawful brother and sister; wishing ill against her stepmother, the Queen--with a few really awful crimes--conspiring to achieve the death of her half-brother Henry Fitzroy through sorcery [1]; conspiring to do the Queen ill through sorcery; treason; plotting to depose the king--being held up in the wings. Mary holds up to this barrage as best she can, certain that this is Anne's latest plot to destroy her.

    She is in fact, dead wrong. This is all her father's doing. With each year, Henry has grown more and more convinced that his 'unlawful' wedding of his brother's widow is to blame for all his ills. And now, he's half convinced himself that his refusal to "be done with" the last reminder of said marriage is what has caused all the recent misfortunes he has suffered. And yet he holds off. Killing your own child is after all, a big deal.

    Anne, to her credit, is horrified. Oh, she wouldn't necessarily mind Mary dying--recent events have demonstrated that she is a threat to her children and the realm in general, simply by serving as a rallying point. But she has always pictured Mary dying quietly of some nameless illness, or an unfortunate accident. Not being dragged out in a public spectacle apparently designed to rid Henry of his massive guilt complex. People still like the ex-Princess, and they've just taken care of what amounts to a mass-movement of her partisans. This is a bad idea, but Henry is quite taken with it at that the moment, and as she's learned, he can't be forced out of bad ideas--merely eased out of them.

    --Another individual is also dealing with the King's ill favor, though things go quite quickly in his case. Richard Rich, Solicitor General, and Cromwell's former right-hand man is arrested, and charged with treason, fraud, corruption and assorted other crimes. The gist of the accusations against him is that Richard abused his position to grow rich of the dissolution, thus making him responsible for the Pilgrimage. Richard denies the charges, but then Edward and Thomas Seymour step forward and testify that Richard boasted to them of the great wealth he was accumulating, and tried to inveigle them into a land-buying scheme. Richard is sentenced to death for the crime of profiting off the dissolution, by a group of judges who have all profited by the dissolution. His execution is a painful and bloody affair, and a least one chronicler insists that the only man who mourns him is his tailor.

    --Cromwell's fall from power, and the Pilgrimage of the Faithful have resulted in his replacement not by one man, but many--Henry's privy council (which will be more fully detailed shortly) is presently the driving force in English politics, or more the second force, after the King's own will. While it's tough to say anyone dominates it, the Duke of Norfolk is probably the most influential member. A conservative Catholic at heart, he's using his influence at the moment to try and roll back some of the theological reforms Archbishop Cranmer has instituted--though not the dissolution, which he is surprisingly keen on. Henry is unsteady on this matter--on the one hand, the Pilgrimage has him spooked, and in many respects, he's also a conservative Catholic at heart--on the other hand, he doesn't like to back away from things, and there are just enough reformers on the Council to make him second-guess himself. The result is a temporary state of inertia in matters of faith. Of course, how long it will hold is anybody's guess.

    --Anne gives birth to her third child, a son. He is named Edward. Henry is, of course, relieved to have 'an heir and a spare', though somewhat alarmed at the child's apparently lackluster health. Anne insists that it is nothing more than fussiness, but the King is not convinced.

    --William Tyndale is executed as a heretic in Flanders. The efforts of Queen Anne on his behalf have bought him a little more time, but in the end, they have not saved his life. Tyndale's Book of Psalms--his last work of translation, completed while he was in prison--will be published shortly after his death. [2]

    --------------------------------------------------
    [1] Anne got charged with this IOTL.

    [2] He died in 1536 IOTL. I figured with Anne free to worry about herself a lot less, she's able to spend a bit of influence to try and keep him alive, which spares poor Will a while longer and lets him get a little more work done.

    [​IMG]
    Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

    THE PRIVY COUNCIL OF HENRY VIII, CIRCA 1537-8: PROMINENT MEMBERS

    The Privy Council is a small group of advisors who are supposed to help Henry run the realm. While Kings have relied on such groups for centuries, with many of the titled positions on the Council be quite old, Henry has formalized much of it, partially because he needs it to be so, and partially because he likes being able to blame people when one of his hare-brained schemes collapse.

    Finally, it must be pointed out that Anne does not sit on the Privy Council, or even attend its meetings, and thus must find out what they're planning after the fact. This disadvantage is mitigated by the fact that she has family on it.

    What follows are a few prominent members of the Council to help give an idea of the byzantine political maneuverings that are going on.

    THOMAS HOWARD, 3RD DUKE OF NORFOLK, LORD HIGH TREASURER, EARL MARSHAL
    Anne's maternal uncle, Norfolk is a strange combination of stodgy traditionalism and naked opportunism. A man who can trace his ancestry back to Edward Longshanks, he is one of the more conservative members on religious matters, excepting of course, when he can get ahead by the changes. In foreign affairs, he's old-fashioned--other nations are for invading, or possibly allying with to invade somebody else. Norfolk probably has more clout than any other individual member on the Council, though it's more of a 'first among equals' affair. His relationship with his niece is an odd and complex one--he doesn't quite cotton to her newfangled religious beliefs, or the way she plays politics, but in the end, family is family. Unless the tide really turns against her. Then he's dropping her like a hot potato. Nothing personal, mind you. I mean, he's pretty sure she'd do the same for him.

    CHARLES BRANDON, 1ST DUKE OF SUFFOLK, LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL
    One of Henry's dearest friends, Charles Brandon has long enjoyed the King's favor--indeed, Brandon actually married Henry's sister Mary, and got away with it. (Said lady is now dead, with Brandon now on his fourth marriage--a young heiress who was originally engaged to his son.) Charles is a not exactly a man of strong convictions--he's gotten this far in life by being buddies with the King, and he's sticking to what he knows, damn it. On religious matters, Charles doesn't exactly have much convictions one way or the other, but his wife does, and so he's found himself allied with the Reformists.

    THOMAS BOLEYN, 1ST EARL OF WILTSHIRE, LORD PRIVY SEAL
    Henry's present father-in-law, it would be easy to dismiss Thomas as a man who's only sitting here because his daughter married the King. Such a verdict is too harsh--Thomas is an accomplished diplomat with a record that would do any man credit. While he's undoubtedly profited by his daughter's marriage, his past achievements are what won him the glory necessary to bring her before the King in the first place. That said, Thomas is now an old man, whose health is failing. On religious matters, Thomas is neutral, a Catholic whose children are Protestant.

    GEORGE BOLEYN, VISCOUNT ROCHEFORD, LORD WARDEN OF THE CINQUE PORTS
    Anne's brother, George definitely owes his advancement to being just that--that said, his ability to keep his positions rest largely on his own merits. George is probably one of the most eloquent and dedicated members of Parliament serving at the moment--and he knows it. George is a dedicated Protestant, and his sister's closest ally on the Council.

    STEPHEN GARDINER, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER, KING'S SECRETARY
    A skilled theologian and closet Catholic, Bishop Gardiner supported Henry on the divorce, but feels that Henry's other theological actions are a bit... off. And he's argued this with Henry, who keeps him around partially as a a symbol that he doesn't kill everyone who disagrees with him, and partially because he'll need somebody to implement the rollback if he changes the mind. Gardiner is presently allied with Norfolk on the 'make the Church of England more Catholic' project, though he spends quite a bit of time abroad on embassies, making his influence rather sporadic.

    SIR WILLIAM PAULET, COMPTROLLER OF THE ROYAL HOUSEHOLD, LORD CHAMBERLAIN
    If Charles Brandon is a weathervane by natural inclination, Sir William Paulet is a weathervane by art. He gets along with everyone on the Council--he is liked by the King and the Queen--he's even friends with Cromwell, which demonstrates an epic amount of congeniality. Sir William has no fundamental views whatsoever, save that the realm must be served, and that Sir William Paulet remaining alive to serve it is good for all involved.


    [​IMG]
    Thomas Cromwell

    BOLINGBROKE.
    But why thinkest thou we shall succeed against a King
    who hast by the mere showing of his countenance
    undone a rebellion that had London in its grips?

    WOODSTOCK.
    Bah! Mention not those poxy villains to me!
    That throng were geese that thought themselves falcons,
    Foolish sheep that mistook themselves lions.
    Whilst their folly was on them, they didst well
    Having great numbers in their service--
    When it left, they scattered like the curs they were.
    We are great men of renown and standing,
    the pillars on which this isle's good rests.
    When the vile many rise, it as is nothing--
    when we the rare few rise, it is as all.
    Kings we have unmade, as it pleased us,
    And to see this callow boy unmade wouldst
    be most pleasing, most good in mine sight.

    --John Shaxper, The Tragedy of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (c. 1597) [1]

    1538

    --Henry is starting to miss Cromwell, complaining bitterly how his Privy Council are bunch of opportunistic inefficient bastards, and how Cromwell was able to do everything they claim to much better by himself. [2] Anne is also missing Cromwell. Not that she regrets toppling him from power--she did not ruin Wolsey simply to replace him with a Protestant equivalent, thank you very much. But he was a tireless ally, a coreligionist--and honestly, a friend, before he decided to work all the angles. Having him back--albeit with an understanding that he's not going to be the second most powerful man in England anymore--might be helpful. Cromwell meanwhile, sits on his estate--and waits.

    --This year's Twelfth Night celebration at Greenwich Palace sees a wondrous thing. Mary Tudor, former princess of the realm, appears before her father and stepmother, formally renounces her titles and acknowledges Henry and Anne's marriage. She then bows before her half-siblings, and kisses Prince Henry's hand. Mary has spent the last several months living in fear of execution, until she received a suggestion that it might be possible to make it all go away, if she would just acknowledge the new order. Even Mary's stubbornness has limits, especially in the face of hideous death, and she finally caved. Much of the (rather ambiguous and vague) evidence against her was dismissed, while the few hard pieces were recanted, the men and women who gave them swearing that they were acting under orders of the Pope to bring Mary Tudor's name into it. Henry is of course, furious at the papal plot to make him kill his own daughter. Anne on the other hand, is relieved that Henry was successfully walked back from Really Bad Idea #1849. Though this does leave the question of how Mary is going to be handled open. After all, how do you solve a problem like Mary Tudor? [3]

    --Norfolk, as mentioned, is probably one of the most powerful men in England right now. His niece is queen. His daughter is mother to the King's grandson, and presently one of the Queen's chief ladies-in-waiting. He is Earl Marshal, and Lord High Treasurer, two posts of extraordinary prestige. And he is also presently the most hated man in all England--indeed, he is hated more than former most hated man in all England Thomas Cromwell ever was. Protestants hate him because he's a Catholic who's trying to undo all the hard work that's been done establishing the True Faith in England. Catholics hate him because he's one of the leading agents of the suppression, glutting himself on monastic lands. Southerners hate him because he's an overbearing Northerner, come down from up there to meddle in politics. Northerners hate him because he's an overbearing Southerner--as a man based in Anglia, Norfolk may be conveniently passed off as belonging to the other section of England if you don't like him--who's come up from down there and killed quite a lot of them, both in the first Pilgrimage of the Faithful, and after it, tracking down ringleaders, and alleged ringleaders. (Many people assumed after Cromwell fell that amnesty was on its way. They assumed--incorrectly.) Most of England unites in its hated of the Duke of Norfolk, a hatred, that as demonstrated, breaks the barriers of religion and geography. And all of this hatred is going to have a very dramatic effect on Thomas Howard's life.

    In late March, Norfolk is walking down a street in London when a man calls his name. Norfolk and his companions turn to look at said man, and thus miss the second man who walks behind Norfolk and stabs him several times with a knife. Both men then rush away, blending into the crowd--it is a mark of how hated Norfolk is that the crowd makes no move to detain the men, and in fact blocks any attempt to capture them. The identities of Norfolk's assassins are in fact one of history's great unsolvable mysteries, as is whether his last words are the "Who are you?" he directs to the man who calls his name, or a moaned "Sweet Jesu, have mercy on me", as he lays dying in the street. (Other sources insist he said nothing at all, and merely "groaned endlessly, without word or meaning".) However, Norfolk's death will have significant consequences. [4]

    --As soon as he hears of Norfolk's assassination, Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy, springs into action. He rallies up some men, and sends the word out--Henry's wicked minister Norfolk is dead. The time to act is now. It's time to try another uprising, only this time, it's going to be disciplined, and lead by the right sort of people, not like that one they had a while back, which in point of fact, Darcy helped put down.[5] Throughout the North, the invitation goes out--come join the Baron Darcy on his Pilgrimage of the Faithful. (Most historians believe Darcy actually coined the term, which was then retroactively applied to the first Pilgrimage--however a significant minority argue that the term was actually used by the Pilgrimage's participants and that Darcy was merely attempting to connect his uprising to the earlier, spontaneous and popular one.) And so begins the second Pilgrimage.

    Having done this, Darcy winds up... sitting on his ass for a month at Pontefract Castle, trying to get other lower nobles to enlist, and waiting for enough people to gather so that he can actually do something besides declare himself lord and master of Pontefract and Wakefield. (This lengthy delay is the main reason historians debate whether Darcy had Norfolk killed or not. While he certainly seems to have been planning to take advantage of something, the lack of preparation does suggest that Darcy's uprising is a spur-of-the-moment affair. Once again, we'll never know...) Meanwhile, instead of the absolute chaos Darcy's envisioning engulfing the North, Thomas Howard's son and heir, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey has quickly taken control of the situation, and is notifying people NOT to go on the Pilgrimage, if they like having all their body parts attached, and gathering his own troops. As a result, Darcy does not get the flood of outraged Northern nobles and gentry that he's expecting. He does get a significant number of people, in time, though nowhere near the number of the first Pilgrimage--Norfolk has been doing his job, so quite a few Pilgrims are dead, and an even larger number are spooked. With the men he's gathered, Darcy moves on Leeds. Unfortunately, instead of surrendering immediately in 'fear', Leeds closes the city gates. Darcy does not have the men or the time needed to besiege it, and is forced to retreat back to Pontefract, something that becomes rather urgent when he hears Surrey is on his way with a fairly sizable army of his own. As they retreat, Darcy reveals the ace up his sleeve--he's got help coming. Holy Roman Emperor Charles is bringing troops from Flanders, who will arrive with the land's true King, Reginald Pole who shall marry good Princess Mary, and when that happens--well, the joke will be on Surrey, and his wicked master Henry, won't it? [6] In the meantime, the Pilgrims will merely have to wait for Emperor Charles, who is coming any day now.

    --Emperor Charles is of course, making no plans to come at all. He's got a war with France to wind down, another war with the Turk to fight--that one's not going so good--and to be frank, his finances aren't looking so hot at the moment. He has been cultivating men like Darcy with the idea of using them in the future, but he was rather hoping they'd stay put. He might be willing to invade if an uprising actually looked like it was--you know--winning, or at least holding its own, but Darcy's hasn't exactly impressed him.

    Meanwhile, Reginald Pole continues to enjoy Charles'... hospitality in a little house outside of Antwerp. His protectors--this is all that is shielding him from Henry's wrath, remember--declare in letters to Charles that Pole seems melancholy and listless these days.

    --The court reels from the twin blows of Norfolk's assassination and Darcy's Pilgrimage. Henry almost succumbs to panic, but Anne manages to steel his nerves. As it quickly becomes clear that Surrey has the situation in hand, and assassins aren't lurking in every corner, the mood lifts. Mary Tudor remains nervous--she has just regained her freedom, and rejoined court, albeit in a diminished state, and now she fears losing it all again. Especially after stories of Darcy's declaration reach the Court. She is reassured that of course they know she isn't plotting with the Emperor, even as inquiries are made to make sure that she isn't plotting with the Emperor.

    Bishop Gardiner is overjoyed. Not because he thinks the Pilgrimage will succeed, but because he's fairly certain that this one will tilt the King even further away from Protestantism. Indeed, just as the first Pilgrimage toppled Cromwell, so might the second be used to topple Archbishop Cranmer.

    --Darcy's revelations do not cause the upsurge of confidence he imagines they will in his fellow pilgrims--many are in fact, rather offended to find that they are the agents of a foreign power. Darcy loses a steady trickle of his men all the way back to Pontefract. Some go back to their homes--others take to banditry, hoping to start a 'real' Pilgrimage of the Faithful. Darcy holes up with the remainder in Pontefract. Surrey arrives shortly thereafter, and besieges it.

    --The present Italian War comes to an end with the Truce of Nice, which is mediated by Pope Paul. After two years and then some of fighting, Francois' grand reward--is to keep Turin, the city he took over at the start. He considers this a noteworthy victory. Francois and Charles continue their negotiations--indirectly, as the two men hate each other--and come to an agreement that Francois' daughter Marguerite should wed Charles' son Philip.

    The English response is... worried. Francois and Charles talking to one another is always bad news for Henry, as they might realize that working together, they could really mess England up. Something that they can do now, and consider God's work, technically. Anne tries to assure Henry that everything is fine, that Francois won't betray them, but damn it, even she's getting worried now.

    --As it becomes painfully clear that Emperor Charles is not coming, Sir Robert Constable, Darcy's de facto second in command, seizes control of the Pilgrimage, and surrenders to Surrey. Darcy, Constable, and the other ringleaders are taken in chains back to London. As for the rest, the recalcitrant are hung, while the remainder are sent into exile. Surrey is invited to come take his father's title and positions, once he finishes rounding up the remnants of the second Pilgrimage. Darcy is attainted, his titles and lands forfeit, and he is sentenced to die a traitor's death, but the King's mercy turns this into merely a beheading. Constable is sent into exile, as well as Darcy's family. Most of this batch of Pilgrims wind up hanging around the Low Countries.

    --Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, arrives in London, and receives a hero's welcome. He is quickly recognized the 4th Duke of Norfolk, and appointed Lord High Treasurer. Bishop Gardiner approaches him to recruit his support for a move against Cranmer. Norfolk appears agreeable, and promises to speak more of this subject later.

    --SCENE FROM PLAYBILL STATION'S EPIC-NOMINATED SERIES, 'THE TUDORS, SEASON 2, EPISODE 5 'THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD'.

    Setting: House of Lords

    Men are filing into the House, mumbling to each other. GARDINER approaches NORFOLK.

    G. I hope sir, that you have thought on what we spoke of.

    Norfolk nods dully.

    N. I have.

    Gardiner smiles.

    G. Good... good... So you are with me?

    Norfolk moves away, expression noncommittal.

    N. It is time for me to speak, sir...

    G. Of course, of course.

    Norfolk moves to the center of the room. He regards it majestically, but also rather tiredly.

    N. Lords and Peers, I stand before you honored by your love, raised to this great position despite my youth. It is an honor beyond counting--and yet I would gladly give it up to have my father back again.

    Assorted murmurs of assent from the crowd.

    N. But that is not to be in this world. No, in this world he has been torn from me, in the troubles that have so recently befallen us. Troubles that I feel can be lain at the feet on one man. A man who disguises himself in the mantle of a priest, and uses it to work evil, and destroy our way of life.

    More murmurs. Gardiner smiles to himself.

    N. I speak of course, of the so-called Bishop of Rome.

    Gardiner's smile vanishes, to be replaced by an expression of horror.

    N. He has spread revolt and murder among our people, setting them against our lawful king! Not content to be the vicar of Christ, he has set himself up as an earthly potentate, and now wages war against England!

    More murmurs of assent. Gardiner is now trying to make himself scarce.

    N. But we will not be cowed! Even though he has his agents among us--yea, seated in the highest posts of government, plotting against us--he will not defeat us! Even now they whisper, these two-faced servants, these spies for this Italian king. They tell us we have been too harsh in our dissolution of the monasteries. Too harsh? Gentleman, we have been too lenient! We have been gentle and kind, and given way to them, and what has been the result? They have turned themselves into fortresses of sedition!

    Norfolk points to his audience.

    N. I have seen them give aid, comfort and shelter to rebels, these 'holy monks'. And when they are not hiding their 'faithful pilgrims', they are working to destroy us from within, working to destroy the love our folk should bear to our king, and our land...

    More murmurs of assent, now loud and very favorable.

    N. And they tell us other things. Our ten articles are to blame, they say. They discomfit the faithful. Nonsense! They are fine articles, Christian articles, English articles. No honest man can object to them! What discomfort exists is induced by these prating traitors, these agents of the King of Rome, spreading lies against them, confusing the poor and the desperate, so that they raise arms against what they should protect!

    Gardiner has headed to the door. Two men step before him.

    M1. Ah. Bishop Gardiner. We wish you to come with us...

    Gardiner gulps.

    G. I... I know you. You... you are the Seymours... The Lord Warden's men...

    Edward Seymour smiles.

    E. On... occasion. We merely wish to ask you... some questions. Regarding... certain letters you may have sent. Among... other things.

    Gardiner seems on the verge of panic--but then he deflates, and meekly accompanies the brothers out. Back at the floor, Norfolk continues to speak.

    N. Yes, they spread their lies--but we are not fooled. We mark their treachery, and wait to see it paid with the proper coin. England shall prevail!

    Loud applause.

    N. God save the King! And the Devil take the Pope!

    --Tudors Chatroom

    sumguy: well that was over the top. 'i protestant now! smash pope.'

    lectriceel: It's just a show, guys.

    Hystorian3490: That doesn't mean they can just do whatever they want to history.

    lectriceel: Actually, yes it does.

    Hystorian3490: I mean, Gardiner was actually arrested--and not by the Seymours--BEFORE Norfolk ever gave an address to the House of Lords. And that speech was bits from five or six different speeches, all mixed together with the context removed.

    lectriceel: Just a show.

    Hystorian3490: Well, it bugs me. I mean--yeah, after Darcy's Pilgrimage, Norfolk 4 started viewing the Catholic Church and the monasteries with suspicion. When you think the Pope had your dad killed, that's what happens. But it's not like he immediately turned into a diehard Protestant overnight. On a lot of things, he was pretty conservative...

    lectriceel: Just a show.

    Hystorian3490: And then

    lectriceel: JUST A SHOW! IF YOU ARE SO INTERESTED IN REALISM, WHY DON'T YOU OBJECT TO THE FACT THAT THE WOMEN SHAVE THEIR ARMPITS?!!!

    --As Stephen Gardiner awaits his trial, Thomas Cromwell is invited back into the government. Among his tasks--handling the Mary Tudor problem...

    ---------------------
    [1] Interestingly enough, another play, frequently given this name, was written IOTL and generally is numbered among the Shakespeare apocrypha, though the scene is not from it.

    [2] He did the same thing OTL after he had Cromwell executed in 1540. Henry was prone to regretting actions that got other people killed significantly after the fact.

    [3] I'm sorry. I'm weak.

    [4] Norfolk lived to 1554 IOTL, surviving his eldest son, who Henry had executed.

    [5] IOTL, Darcy joined forces with the Pilgrimage of Grace, and became one of its leaders.

    [6] IOTL, Darcy was in communication with Charles, through Chapuys, where he asked for just this kind of help.

    [​IMG]
    Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester

    "...Thomas Cromwell's miraculous return to power, after nearly all had dismissed him as a spent force was greeted with shock in England's political circles. Eustace Chapuys declared, with a levity that suggests he scarcely grasped his upcoming difficulties, 'Let no man doubt the dead may rise from their graves, if the Lord wills it, for now I have seen it is so'..."

    --Ronald Cole, The Cromwells: Story of a Political Dynasty (1967)

    1539

    --Stephen Gardiner's year begins and ends unpleasantly with his trial and execution for treason. (Among the witnesses called at his trial are: William Paulet, William Paget, Edward and Thomas Seymour, and John Leland.) Gardiner, after several attempted bargains to save his life fail, faces his death bravely, declaring that he has spent his life in the service of his King and his faith and that he would have gladly continued to do so had not Henry forced him to make a choice. His former position of Bishop of Winchester is taken by one Matthew Parker--his position of King's Secretary is taken by Cromwell.

    --Gardiner is not the only one whose year begins with an inauspicious start. France and the Empire sign the Treaty of Toledo, a refinement of the Truce of Nice. Among its clauses, a promise that neither shall seek the aid of England against the other. [1] Henry is livid. The Privy Council is fearful. Even Anne is angered at Francois, declaring that "he has used us sorely". Without being able to use France and the Empire to balance each other, England is now dangerously isolated. It needs allies. Quickly. Cromwell--after giving everyone a few "I told you so"s--is put on the case. Curiously, it neatly folds into his other project.

    --The combination of this latest provocation and Darcy's Pilgrimage result in Eustace Chapuys being thrown out of England. When he protests to the Viscount Rocheford, who brings him this news, the Lord Warden replies that Chapuys should count himself fortunate that he is not being executed, as his abuse of his ambassadorial status in the last few years been downright horrific. Chapuys leaves England for the Low Countries, but not before writing one more letter to Charles where he politely protests the Emperor's handling of the English situation, which he states has made it impossible for him to do anything. It's a good illustration of the difference between Charles and Henry that one of his subordinates will actually criticize him, and that Charles will actually listen.

    --In another bit of fallout from the second Pilgrimage, the Poles are arrested, though quickly released again when it becomes obvious that they know nothing of the plot to put Reginald on the throne. News of this incident spreads to the English expatriate community in the Low Countries, who notify Reginald. (He's been receiving visitors--mostly former Pilgrims--though under a very careful watch.) Reginald manages to send out a letter to Henry and Anne in which he thanks them for their kindness in sparing his family, and then bemoans his fate, declaring himself "the saddest man in all Christendom". The letter is, of course, publicized by the English, to the Emperor's great embarrassment, which appears to have been Reginald's idea. Needless to say, the visits stop.

    --Relationships between France and England are tense, albeit not as bad as between England and the Empire. Henry considers the Treaty of Toledo the renunciation of all past agreements, and is bitterly offended by this. Francois sees it a little more ambiguously, but reacts to all accusations by pointing out that England did not exactly come riding to the rescue in the last war. Henry replies that this doesn't warrant what is a pretty naked betrayal. Needless to say, this means that Charles of Orleans and Princess Elizabeth's semi-official engagement is off, and Prince Henry's hypothetical marriage to an unidentified French princess has moved further off into the realms of fancy.

    --Thomas Boleyn dies. His son George assumes his titles Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, and is named Lord Privy Seal by Henry. In a very real sense, Thomas' death marks the end of an era--the Privy Council is increasingly dominated by younger men. What's more, the Catholic faction is now essentially finished. The Council is divided between those who are Protestant, and those who are merely not Catholic. This is not, however, a neat breakdown between moderates and radicals--George is a dedicated Protestant, and yet he leans towards his sister's views on the dissolution of the monasteries--phased, gradual, with new Protestant state institutions being created to take their place--while Norfolk, a man who believes in the Real Presence, wants as fast a liquidation of the monasteries as can be managed, and a review of all bishops in England, to make sure they aren't holding any... suspect loyalties.

    --After sitting on the matter for years, Pope Paul III finally lets it be known that Henry is excommunicated, as is Archbishop Cranmer. And figuring that if he's going to make that public, he might as well go the whole hog, he also publicly excommunicates Anne, most of the more Protestant leaning bishops, and the entire Privy Council, with special notice being given to Norfolk. The response is not as overwhelming as Paul might have hoped--rumors have been circulating about the excommunication for years now, and quite a few people suspected that this whole 'make yourself head of the church' deal wasn't quite standard theology. What's more, England's Catholics have been battered and bashed by years of repression, and the side-effects of two failed uprisings. Right now, they aren't exactly up to overthrowing their heretic King. And those who are excommunicated just see it as more proof that the Pope is just an Italian politician pretending to serve as God's representative. Norfolk--whose hatred of the Papacy has become so intense that even ultra-mega-Protestant Cromwell finds it off-putting--boasts about it publicly, and calls it a badge of honor.

    --The dissolution starts up in full force again--not that ever exactly stopped, mind you, but now it's really hopping. Cromwell provides the brains, and now, Norfolk is providing the brawn. It's a scary time for Catholics, especially up north. And it gets worse--Paul's excommunications of bishops have backfired, drawing a road map to just the ones who need to be checked. An awful lot of bishops wind up having to... answer a few questions.

    --Cromwell is hard at work on his other little projects. England needs allies. Fortunately, Cromwell has long been dreading the day when France and the Empire stopped fighting and started considering a Catholic pact to crush and destroy England. And he's got plans. The Schmalkaldic League is an alliance of (mostly) North German princes, united in their Lutheran faith, and dedicated to not having Emperor Charles crush them like bugs. (It also briefly counted Francois I as a member, but religious issues, and the whole French thing ultimately scuppered that.) If England can ally with them--or at least associate with them--then Charles will be nervous about attacking. If Charles is nervous, then Francois will be nervous, largely because he'll suspect that Charles might try to take advantage of him if he does. (Francois tends to imagine that everyone else in the world is like him. This is probably one reason he rivals Henry in badly thought out foreign policy.) And so, England will not have to face a horrible invasion.

    But it's not that easy. The Schmalkaldic League is very Lutheran, and they look slightly askance at Henry's weird little schism. They chuckle at his divorce--even Philip of Hesse, arguably the one man in Europe Henry can feel superior to in regards to handling marital difficulties.[2] But still, as things have continued, they've come to view the Anglican Church as something of a potential ally--if it isn't quite Protestant now, it stands an excellent chance of becoming so in the future. And so, they are willing to talk.

    --Henry VIII's continued insistence on living as if he were still in his twenties catches up to him when he suffers a horrible jousting accident, falling from his horse, while his left leg is caught in the stirrup.[3] His injuries are severe--Henry is unconscious for several hours, and incoherent for a long time after that. He breaks both his right leg and his right arm at the shoulder.

    The immediate result is moderate panic. The King is injured. Maybe dead. Maybe dying. What do we do? And England has just seen two rebellions in three years, people know the King--and most of the government--are excommunicated now, there have been more reprisals... Basically, everyone worries that this might be it. The spark that's needed to set everything off.

    The Council and Anne rise to the occasion. Anne rushes off to Hatfield, gathers the children and then has them go to London and appear before the people, demonstrating that--even if the worse happens--England has a King. The Council divvies up the responsibilities and starts getting ready just in case anybody--angry Catholics, its neighbors--decides now's the time to start something. Thankfully, nobody does. Despite all the shocks, England's Catholics have been too bludgeoned of late to try anything right now. (Other than a few roving bands of robbers who've been running around since Darcy's Pilgrimage, most of whom have lost track of any goals they might have had regarding 'restoring the Old Faith'.) Meanwhile, France, the Empire, and Scotland all have problems of their own to deal with. For now--the peace holds.

    --Robert Aske, a former lawyer, and unofficial head of the exiled Pilgrims in the Low Countries--Constable is viewed as something of a sellout--marries a local woman, another sign of the expatriate community there putting down roots. Like many he reacts hopefully to news of Henry's misfortune, but attempts nothing, and goes on with his life as soon as it becomes clear that Henry isn't dead, and the country isn't up in arms.

    --Henry recovers slowly from his accident. His right leg is practically useless, he will never fully be able to lift his right arm again, and an ulcerated wound has opened up on his left leg, the result of the exacerbation of a previous injury that never healed properly. In addition the recurrent headaches that have been bothering him since a previous jousting accident have gotten much, much worse--sometimes the pain is so intense, he is incapacitated. Still, there is some surprising good news coming his way--Anne is once again pregnant. Well, Henry thinks it's good news. Anne has more mixed feelings about it. She is, after all, not as young as she used to be.

    --Thomas Cromwell unveils his plan for gaining ties with the Schmalkadic League through one of its most prestigious allies--the Kingdom of Denmark. Mary Tudor shall wed King Christian III's brother, John. It is, Cromwell feels, the perfect solution--or close to it. Denmark is Lutheran and willing to acknowledge the annulment as legal, so they won't be invading with the true Catholic monarch in tow in the near future, as France might have done. And it gets better--John is the brother of the King, but thanks to Denmark's byzantine succession laws, he's not a Royal Prince. This means that his brother isn't making extraordinary demands as the price of taking Henry's cast-off daughter. (This is part of what ruined Cromwell's first choice, William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg [4], who kept making elaborate dowry proposals. Including, at one point, Calais.) True, John is a little younger than Mary, but not horribly so.

    Henry is hesitant. Of all the traits he could have picked up from his father, he's managed to acquire the tendency to play games with his children's betrothals, and the almost instinctual belief that it's usually better to have something theoretical than an actual marriage. But Cromwell and much of the rest of the Council are in a rare state of agreement--this matter is serious. England has to start exploring allies beyond the old Empire-France shuffle. And Mary has become too much of a liability to keep in England--she's proven a continuous rallying point for Catholics. So after much consideration, Henry agrees to the marriage. After all, it's not like Thomas hasn't brought him plenty of other betrothal material to mess around with. Philip of Hesse is interested in matching his daughter Barbara with Prince Henry. William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg is willing to marry Princess Elizabeth at some later date for less than he wanted for wedding Mary (though the price is still too high). The Elector of Saxony is suggesting marrying his eldest son to Princess Elizabeth, or, failing that, his second. And those are just a sample. Yep. Plenty of stuff for Henry to play games with.

    --As the year ends, Mary Tudor is wed by proxy to John of Denmark. She will be sent to her new husband next year. Thomas Cromwell, for his services to the Crown, is created the Earl of Essex. The dissolution of the monasteries continues. And tensions continue to rise...

    ----------------------------------
    [1] Pretty much what happened OTL.

    [2] Philip is actively pursuing the right to be married bigamously. Not one of Lutheranism's shining moments. Or Martin Luther's for that matter.

    [3] And here's the thing--while an individual jousting accident can be butterflied away, the situation is very much like motorcycling--if you do it, you are almost certainly going to have a serious accident someday. Indeed, Henry's already had several such accidents--and kept up his jousting routine, the same as always. Some people simply do not learn.

    [4] Anne of Cleves' brother. Believe it or not, they actually did try to arrange a marriage between him and Mary before trying to wed Anne and Henry. Obviously, it didn't work.


    [​IMG]
    Catherine Howard

    "Catherine Howard joined the court under the auspices of her illustrious family, certain that great things were in store for her. To an extent, she was correct, but not in the way she imagined... Catherine began her career as lady-in-waiting showing something of a lifelong trait--a firm belief that the unsavory aspects of the past could be ignored if one tried hard enough..."

    Antony Belton, "The Velvet Cat: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard, Adventuress, (1986)"

    1540--Part 1

    --Anne's cousin Catherine Howard joins the court as a lady-in-waiting. In letters to her stepgrandmother and former caretaker, the former Dowager Duchess of Norfolk[1], Catherine talks incessantly of her life in court--and how dull it is. Catherine, expecting her blood relation to the Queen to immediately move her to the inner circle, has found instead that Anne prefers the company of older women such as her sister-in-law, Jane, or Anne Parr, and her sister, the widowed Lady Latimer[2], with a smattering of fairly compliant younger women such as Anne's other cousin, Mary Howard. Catherine, a young woman followed by rumors of impropriety, has been left somewhat on the outside. Further, she expected serving as a lady-in-waiting to be fun and exciting, filled with music, feast, and dance. Instead, it is filled with mostly sitting around, sewing, and long theological discussions, or as Catherine puts it in one letter 'talks they hold of which I know not what they speak on'. Of course, one should not assume her letters are all complaints--they are also filled with pleas for money. Which Catherine swears over and over are for valid expenses. And not gambling debts. No matter what people may have told the former Dowager Duchess.

    --Reginald Pole dies in Antwerp. Charles tries to claim that Henry's agents had him killed. Henry insists that he was the victim of Charles' cruelty. Both are stretching the truth, but Charles is stretching it a great deal more than Henry. A record heatwave on the continent has lead to ill health all around, and Reginald--in low spirits for years now, and kept in a well-secured house until Charles could potentially make use of him--was among those to succumb, despite the best efforts of his keepers to save him. Reginald's death is the final nail in the coffin of Charles'--somewhat naive--original invasion plan. More worriedly, Emperor Charles finds the whole situation has not helped his publicity any. And the fact that he's losing a publicity war with Henry VIII is really, really worrying.

    --In a good example of why this is worrying, Edward Lee, Archbishop of York dies while being questioned by the King's agents[3]. One of the more conservative English churchmen, his death causes all sorts of unsavory rumors. In truth, Lee, an old man, simply had a heart attack, and was under special orders to be gently treated--he was in fact a good friend of Cromwell's, despite their differences in opinion.

    --Mary Tudor arrives in Denmark and meets her new husband, with whom she shares neither a language nor a religion. She is not happy with her lot, and only went along with it because she feared for her life if she remained in England. Especially with her father's declining health, and her stepmother's growing power. (Mary has no idea that in point of fact, it was her father who wanted to execute her, and Anne who pulled the strings to avoid that. This is probably a tender mercy.)

    --Henry's health is declining. Very rapidly. The growing tendency towards stoutness he's shown over the past few years has become exaggerated to a grotesque degree, through a combination of immobility, and increasing binge eating. Henry is already so fat that they've had to build new devices to replace the devices they built to let him get around after his accident. He is in constant pain. And then there are the headaches, which, when they come, can leave him insensate. Anne has had to step in as Regent on several occasions during his more virulent attacks. Everyone is expecting Henry to start making preparation for his looming death. And yet he holds off. Even in his diminished state, Henry possess a raw vitality that seems to keep his battered, broken form alive. For a little while longer, at least. And he still likes screwing with people. (In a metaphorical sense, of course. He just hasn't been in the shape to do it literally anymore.)

    --Canterbury Cathedral surrenders its status as an abbey, reverting back to its earlier status as a 'college of secular canons'. This latest blow hits England's Catholics hard--especially rumors that there are plans to remove Thomas Becket's holy bones. For once, the rumors are true, though debate between the various factions has kept such an action in the far future. For now the moderate Protestants have held the day, with their occasional not-Catholic ally. (Henry Howard may not think much of the ill will of the Pope--but moving Becket's bones? That's another story.) Ironically, conservative Henry VIII is rather annoyed--he was rather hoping to despoil Becket's corpse as payback for discomfiting his ancestor, and even had Cromwell write up an essay explaining why the Archbishop really didn't deserve to be a saint. What can one say--the man keeps his grudges. Even the ones centuries' old.

    --Anne's latest pregnancy comes to term. As she goes through what will be a long and difficult labor, Henry suffers another health crisis, brought on by his infected left leg. Rumors of the resulting leadership gap circulate throughout the country, and reach the ears of Sir Francis Bigod[4].

    Bigod is a Yorkshire property owner who can boast of having taken part in both earlier Pilgrimages of the Faithful. True, in the first one, he wound up claiming to have been dragged along by the rabble against his will and took part in the suppression, while in the second, he surrendered with Constable, but still--that's a sort of dedication that gets angry people to flock to your banner. Bigod has slipped out of his proscribed exile--assuming he ever went into it, as our sources on his whereabouts are rather sketchy--and spent quite a bit of time preparing for the next Pilgrimage of the Faithful. You see, Bigod has thought the matter over, and it seems to him he knows what went wrong with the first two. The First Pilgrimage was too big and directionless--it looked good, but it had no clear goals and never really developed any leadership. The second had arguably the opposite problem--Darcy had a very clear list of things that were supposed to happen, and when they didn't, the entire thing just collapsed. Bigod's plan has been designed to get around these weaknesses.

    Bigod and his associates--among them Sir Stephen Hamilton, Sir Nicholas Tempest, and Sir William Lumley--will circulate through the North, gathering men, and waiting for an opportune moment to strike. If an uprising happens, they'll take advantage of it--directing it, so it doesn't turn into another muddled mess. His associates will try to seize whatever's opportune, and use those as bases/bargaining chips, while Bigod will lead a march on London. His hope is the combination of his threatening march, and successes up North will make the government blink, so that the rebels, bargaining from a position of apparent strength, can get at least some rollbacks on some issues, and ideally, a return to the Catholic faith. As rumors of the Queen's confinement and the King's ill health circulate through the North, Bigod plays his hand in Lincolnshire. It goes well--he and his followers are able to seize the city. Bigod sends notice to his associates now's the time to move. And the third Pilgrimage of the Faithful is on...

    --------------------------------------------------
    [1] She's the former Dowager Duchess because her stepson has died earlier ITTL, as I'm sure you all recall, making his wife the present Dowager Duchess.

    [2] That is Catherine Parr, if you're wondering. Yes, three of Henry's OTL queens are now serving in court at the same time. If I could only figure out how to bring Anne of Cleves to court I'd be a happy man.

    [3] He died in 1544, IOTL.

    [4]Leader of Bigod's Rebellion, the second part of the Pilgrimage of Grace IOTL.

    [​IMG]
    Banner of Third Pilgrimage of the Faithful

    "Sir Francis Bigod. Few men I think can boast of devoting themselves so thoroughly to a task and failing so utterly. His plans were elaborate and logical. That he alas failed to consult with reality in the making of them seems the paltriest of mistakes..."

    --Luis Garcia Vargas, "Musings on the Anglican Settlement" Essays on the British Nation, (1914)

    1540--Part 2: The Third Pilgrimage of the Faithful

    --Bigod's associates each make their way to a different location--Tempest to Chester, Hamilton to York, and Lumley to Leeds--gathering followers along the way, while Bigod marches on London. The Privy Council is in panic. They send out Norfolk, Shrewsbury, and Suffolk with troops, and start debating what to do next. They're hoping the answer is 'not die'.

    --Anne has delivered twins--a boy and a girl--who, if somewhat small, seem all right. It has been her most difficult delivery, and she is left to rest and recuperate. Which she does, until someone lets the news of Bigod's Pilgrimage slip. Anne gets out of bed, gets into something presentable, and drags herself to the Council meeting, where she immediately gives them a piece of her mind. What is going on? Why was she not told as soon as possible? Did they think they were helping her? The Council is nervous--as terrifying as Henry can be at times, Anne is arguably worse, since when she gets mad, she always means it--and of course, very conciliatory. Once Anne has calmed down, she quietly begins to provide some leadership, getting everyone to work on reminding people that they're in control, even if a mob of Northern Catholics are marching towards London.

    --Bigod's march hits something of a snag when it arrives in Cambridge. You see, Bigod and his followers have failed to consider something. It's only natural. Most of them don't travel that much, and those that do--such as Bigod--are of a slightly fanatical mindset, and tend to hang out with people with the same opinions. The present situation is not very popular up north. It is less unpopular in the South, which, anyway, views these damned Pilgrimages as a lot of obnoxious carrying-on by the Northerners, and a threat against their King and his good Queen. True, they may not have thought much of Anne at first, but it's been awhile, and she's grown on them. They definitely aren't going to let her get pushed around by a bunch of rowdy Northerners! And so, in Cambridge, a large mob has gathered to duke it out with Bigod's large mob, and may the best mob win. While they have limited success--one of the reason the Pilgrimages are so feared is that the North is encouraged to arm itself to discourage Scottish raids--they do delay Bigod long enough for Norfolk's troops to arrive. Bigod's followers are forced to scurry back to Lincolnshire. Bigod is not among them, having died in the fighting.

    --Rumor of the brawl in Cambridge passes quickly throughout the North, often outrunning the rather unwieldy 'armies' of Pilgrims. For many this is all the encouragement they need. While the North is far more conservative than the South, it is filled with people who are simply sick of the Pilgrimages. They're disorderly, and they result in the Duke of Norfolk hanging people. Leeds, which shut the gate on Darcy's Pilgrimage, takes up arms against Bigod's when it arrives--the Pilgrims are repulsed, with their leader Lumley captured. In York, which has earlier surrendered, citizens begin to fight back--Hamilton eventually crushes it, and winds up hanging some of the ringleaders, but it badly saps his strength. Chester, likewise captured early, remains secure, though troubled by loyalist partisans bushwhacking scouts. And that is not all. The North is awash in blood, as old feuds are settled in the name of loyalty to the old faith, or the King. And in London, angry mobs gather, shouting out 'God save the king! The devil take the pope!', and their eyes peeled for monks, friars, and Catholics. Needless to say, a few dozen people wind up getting killed, but the Privy Council is looking on the good side--the country's coming around to their way of thinking. Or parts of it, at least.

    --As peace returns to London, the twins are christened Margaret and Thomas. They will be Anne's last children--her age aside, Henry is now more or less incapable of fathering offspring.

    --One by one, the Pilgrimage's strongholds fall. Norfolk takes Lincoln, Suffolk takes York, and Shrewsbury captures Chester. The third Pilgrimage, after such a promising start, has turned into the bloodiest failure yet. And Henry, his health crisis past, wants to make it extra bloody. He wants family of Pilgrims executed. He wants friends of Pilgrims executed. He wants friends of family of Pilgrims executed, and he wants the family of friends executed as well, if that's possible. Needless to say, the more moderate portions of the council attempt to rein in his... more violent impulses, and while they do succeed somewhat, a lot of people are killed for the crime of being tangentially connected to the Pilgrimage. Or, more exactly, they are killed for the crime of 'aiding rebels', or 'wishing ill to the King' or... well, the list goes on. And of course, there are witnesses for every charge.

    Strangely enough, many names repeat among the witnesses, including the ubiquitous Edward and Thomas Seymour.

    --SCENE FROM 'ATTABOY, 'ENRY' (1970)

    CARDINAL WOLSEY walks into a small office. A scroll hangs from the wall 'Seymour and Seymour--Professional Witnesses'. He rings a bell on the desk, and then glances around the room. Various instruments of torture are hung on the walls. CUT BACK to Wolsey. EDWARD SEYMOUR, and his brother THOMAS have appeared. They are a pair of vaguely threatening men. EDWARD seems a bit more dapper than the more hulking Thomas.

    EDWARD. (Cockney accent) Can I help you sir?

    Wolsey leaps in alarm. Throughout the scene his mannerisms are rather effeminate.

    WOLSEY. Oh, yes. I--I need help for a trial.

    EDWARD. Well, then you've come to the right place, sir. Nobody comes to trial without going to the firm of Seymour, and Seymour.

    THOMAS. (reciting) "Our prices can't be beat, but those that have it coming most certainly can be."

    WOLSEY. (nervous) Well... you seem very... enthusiastic...

    EDWARD. We hanker to be of service to the cause of justice, sir. Now, then, what charge do you want? Treason...?

    THOMAS. (reciting) Whilst we were drinking together in a tavern, we did overhear that party state ill intentions to the King...

    WOLSEY. What? No... no... I think you...

    EDWARD. Ahh. Too heavy. Right. Conspiracy then? Very light charge. Gets them in jail, and--well, we just let nature take it's course.

    THOMAS. (reciting) Whilst we were drinking together in a tavern, this party did attempt to inveigle us in a wicked design...

    WOLSEY. I... I don't think you gentlemen understand.

    EDWARD. You're right, sir. Conspiracy is a crap charge. We only use it on them who can't afford better. How about espionage? That's a good charge. Has just the right sort of weight to it.

    THOMAS. (reciting) Whilst we were drinking together in a tavern with a Spaniard, he happened to say that this party is in the employ of his master, the King of Spain...

    WOLSEY. No. No... This is for a woman...

    EDWARD. Ahhh. One of those! Understood, sir. One charge of adultery, coming right up.

    THOMAS. (reciting) Whilst we were drinking together in a tavern, a soldier did say that this lady did make lewd advances to him, and allowed him carnal knowledge...

    WOLSEY. An old woman!

    EDWARD. Oh! Understood, sir. Witchcraft. Takes out an old dame, every time.

    THOMAS. (reciting) Whilst we were drinking together in a tavern, Satan did say to us that this woman was his loyal thrall, to whom he had gifted supernatural might...

    WOLSEY. I want her protected! Not sentenced!

    The Seymours stare at Wolsey in shock. Then they frown.

    EDWARD. Oh, one of those, eh?

    THOMAS. (shaking head) Should have known...

    EDWARD. Listen here, sir, I don't know what country you think you're in, but this is England and if King Henry's put you on the block, you must be guilty of something.

    THOMAS. Stands to reason.

    EDWARD. (puffing out chest) Our job is to make sure that this is the case. And allow me to state, we are the best there is.

    THOMAS. Second to none.

    EDWARD. And you would have us ruin our reputation--nay, our very integrity--by appearing for the defense?

    THOMAS. How dare you!

    EDWARD. (waving his hand angrily) Out with you, sir, out with you! You sicken me!

    THOMAS. And don't come back!

    Wolsey backs out of the shop. As soon as he's gone, Thomas looks at Edward.

    THOMAS. Want me to rough him up some?

    EDWARD. Nahh, that was Wolsey. We're witnessing him commit treason next week, remember?

    THOMAS. Oh, right. (scratches head) They kind of blend into one another, after awhile.

    [​IMG]
    James V Stuart, King of Scots

    "History hands us tangles. While official dates can give us a rough idea, it is in fact impossible to say exactly when Henry VIII ceased to be the major force in English politics, and Queen Anne firmly supplanted him. In ill health, and by some accounts with a less than firm grip on reality, he nonetheless seems to have maintained an undeniable grip on power for years, even as his faculties diminished..."
    --Maria Gwynn-Jones, 'From The Bulwen Woman to Good Queen Anne: A Life of Anne Boleyn' (1972)

    1541

    --In England, the year starts off with the festive execution of Stephan Hamilton, who receives the full traitor's death. Hamilton is the most hated of all of Bigod's rebels, for his 'execution' of leader's of the counter-rebellion, and thus, his gory hideous death is met with great rejoicing.

    --The bloody happenings in England are something of a sideshow to much of Europe. Francois and Charles' rapprochement is rapidly failing, as Francois can't give up France's interests in Italy, Charles can't help but want a bit more of French Burgundy, and neither can stand the other. As the pair prepare for another conflict, Charles starts leaning on various Protestant princes in his vast domains, hoping to stifle resistance before it starts, as well as stepping up his little war to acquire Gelre, and pursuing his other great love, war against Muslims. (Hey, it's a busy life being the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor.) All of Europe begins to maneuver as its two greatest Kings prepare for war...

    --The infinitely charming William the Rich is wed via proxy to the twelve-year old Jeanne d'Albret, who throws an understandable hissy fit during the ceremony[1], while wedding his sister Amalia to French prince of the blood, Francois de Bourbon, Count of Enghien. This is all part of William's scheme to to get French support in his war to claim his questionable birthright, Gelre, from its even more questionable claimant, Emperor Charles. At the wedding, Amalia's sister Anne gets the notice of King Francois, who sends a groom to inquire if she'd be willing to spend a little... quality time with him. Said groom gets a slap for his troubles, by most accounts.

    --The dissolution of the monasteries continues. Henry has funneled a good portion of the proceeds into a series of forts near the Channel, a bigger navy--and quite a few castles, including the gigantic Nonsuch Palace, Henry's largely self-designed monument to himself. Anne has managed to funnel another good portion into the various 'Queen's Colleges' and 'Queen's Hospitals' that have often taken over the sites of various monasteries. Cromwell has funneled most of the remainder into the governing of England, with a nice little bit extra going into his pocket. England's great monastic tradition is essentially finished, though many former monks and nuns are now enjoying pensions. In other news, Henry's lengthy policy towards Ireland finally pays off--he's established enough control to be named King of Ireland by right of conquest. He briefly toys with giving young Arthur Fitzroy the crown, but decides against it. And so England's long dream to rule over a nearby island that wants little to do with it is fulfilled. For now.

    --Mary is doing her best to get used to her new state in life, though it's proving hard. Her husband, John is doing his best to accommodate her, despite differences of faith--though John was raised a Catholic and is in fact, trying to quietly--well, make her more sympathetic to Lutheranism. This is also proving hard. Still, both sides appreciate the fact that the other is trying. That counts for something.

    --Henry's health continues to decline, though the man's natural vigor seems to be slowing it somewhat. (This is more like an object hurled from a high tower hitting terminal velocity than any sort of recovery.) The headaches are proving the most constant problem. The side-effect of this is that Anne is now attending Privy Council meetings regularly, as Henry never knows when she might have to take over as Regent for awhile. Indeed, sometimes, he's been incapacitated in the middle of a meeting. As the countdown to Henry's death drags on, it seems very likely that she'll be formal Regent for Prince Henry during his almost certain minority. Norfolk is less keen on this idea. He loves his cousin dearly, of course, but damn it, some jobs are men's jobs, to his mind, and he thinks he's just the man for it. He broaches this subject to his occasional ally/enemy Cromwell. Cromwell can understand his viewpoint, to a degree--in Cromwell's mind, he's just the man for it himself. But Cromwell is a more--political animal than Howard. He understands that his taking this role became virtually impossible after his resignation. That pretty much leaves it between Anne and Howard, and given that choice, he'll take Anne. Howard as the most powerful man in the country is an option Cromwell finds... uneasy. So, Cromwell nods, smiles, promises his support, and begins to think of some way to clip Howard's wings, just a little. He doesn't want to completely ruin the man, after all--when you want the Council to see the wisdom of a little summary action against Popery, Howard's your guy. He just needs to be more... manageable for the foreseeable future.

    --A new Imperial ambassador, François van der Delft[2], takes up his duties, after much pleading and begging on the Empire's part. With relations with France suddenly--ungood, Charles can't afford to not be on speaking terms with England. Indeed, despite their recent difficulties, he's hoping that he can rope Henry into another war with France, on the basis of their mutual hatred of King Francois. (Admittedly, it will be difficult, as he theoretically can't sign treaties with Henry as an excommunicated heretic, but then, Charles has a definite talent for getting around such technicalities.) France, meanwhile, is hoping they can get Henry onboard despite all the recent back-stabbing based on the recent anti-Hapsburg slant to England's foreign policy. Sadly for both parties, Anne has a great deal of influence on foreign policy at the moment, and among her many abilities is being able to really hold a grudge. Oh, the Empire and France can both dance and crawl all they want--indeed, she rather hopes they do--England's not getting directly involved in their little squabble if she can help it. Which she most certainly can.

    --King James V of Scotland suffers a grave disappointment--indeed, a personal tragedy--when his first and second legitimate sons die in a month of each other, leaving him heirless.[3] This is not the only disappointment he's had. It's becoming blatantly clear that France views the "Auld Alliance" as nothing more than a bargaining chip to gain English support, with Scotland's interests being largely beneath notice. This is bad enough. But James is getting... ideas. James, you see, is a good Catholic. And he's Henry's nephew. Now, Anne's children are all illegitimate Protestant bastards. Mary would be legitimate, but she's chosen to give up her claim to the throne, is now married to a Danish Lutheran, and likely to spawn more of the same. Suffolk's remaining children by the elder Mary are all girls, and Protestants to boot. So, as James sees it, he's now pretty much the lawful Catholic successor. And there's also James' little grudge on the man he blames for his father's death...

    Of course, James isn't so foolish as to think he could claim the throne of England with only the might of Scotland behind him. There's a reason the Auld Alliance came to be, after all. But still--if he could only get a foreign nation behind him... if a Pilgrimage of the Faithful allied with him... if... if...

    They're mad dreams. And James, in his better moments, knows they're mad dreams. But they persist. And they make James... a tad suggestible. A bit open to ideas he'd reject out of hand normally. And as his uncle has so amply demonstrated, when the man in that state of mind is a King... well, bad things happen.

    James' mother dies at the end of the year. He now has one less thing holding him back...
    -------------------------------------------------------
    [1] This bit is OTL. Ahh, royalty. Fun times. Fun times.

    [2]Chapuys' successor IOTL, albeit, at a much later date.

    [3] This happened OTL.

    [​IMG]
    Charles V & I, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain

    "By 1542, Catherine Howard seemed to have settled into a comfortable life as a minor lady-in-waiting. If she had stayed in that function, she doubtless would have made a profitable, socially advancing marriage, and have vanished from the view all but the most dedicated historians. However, two things stopped that comfortable destiny--Catherine's tawdry past, and bad judgement..."

    --Antony Belton, "The Velvet Cat: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard, Adventuress" (1986)

    1542

    --War between France and the Empire is all but inevitable. Indeed, the only reason it hasn't broken out already is that Francois doesn't think it would be chivalrous to attack Charles while he's fighting the Muslim hordes. Meanwhile, he also checks to make sure his alliance with the Ottomans is good--it is. Francois may be losing the race to claim the title 'major late Renaissance monarch most oblivious to his own amorality' to Henry but he's not giving up without a fight.

    --Scandal rocks Henry's court when gentleman of the chamber Thomas Culpepper is murdered by one Francis Dereham in a crowded tavern. Dereham--lately returned from the fighting in Ireland--spins a spicy little tale once caught. It seems that he and young Catherine Howard, lady-in-waiting, were... deeply involved back when she lived with her guardian, with Dereham seeing their relationship as 'man and wife'. Catherine's views appear to have been more mutable, as when Dereham returned to England, he found she was now deeply involved with Culpepper. At this point, Dereham's story becomes somewhat questionable--he claims he challenged Culpepper to a duel, and that Culpepper refused, then tried to stab him, forcing Dereham to kill him in self-defense. This doesn't match the recollections of most witnesses, who are fairly sure Dereham started the fight. That said, a love letter from Catherine to Culpepper does confirm some sort of relationship between the two. When questioned, Catherine continuously changes her story, especially as old friends start popping up to shed light on the state of things between her and Dereham. Needless to state, by the time it's over and Dereham is executed for murder, she is viewed throughout England as 'a woman filled with licentiousness', and booted from the court. She retires back to the country, 'the most scandalous lady in England'. Henry takes the opportunity to upbraid his courtiers for their immoral way of life. He's got a title to uphold, after all.

    --Emperor Charles' squeezing of Protestants has created one interesting side-effect in neighboring Denmark. For years now, Charles has been playing diplomatic hardball, holding out the threat of Christian II's daughters (who, oddly enough, happen to be Charles' nieces) as a basis for concessions. Christian III is getting sick of this, and makes the preparation for war. But Christian is not Francois. He does not see war as a pretty game and launch invasions. Christian's war will be simple, elegant, and in many respects, quite brutal.

    --Needless to say, someone has to wind up taking the fallout from the Catherine Howard affair--besides Catherine, of course. And that someone happens to be... Henry Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, who was, after all, acting as something of a patron to the girl. Surrounded by unseemly rumors, Howard quits the court for a while, retiring to his estates to sulk, and write poetry[1]. Thomas Cromwell and Anne share a mutual sigh of relief.

    --Ambassador van der Delft writes to the Emperor on the Tudor children. Even though he's writing to Charles, and thus puts the expected scorn on "that woman", he is, it appears, quite charmed. Henry and Elizabeth, he states, are intelligent, good-natured, and sociable, as is their nephew Arthur, who van der Delft confesses he at first mistook for their sibling "for he is as close to the Prince as a brother". Edward is more diffident then his older siblings, but still seems bright, "speaking as a child far older than his years". That stated, he notes that Henry seems rather wary of the child, as opposed to his siblings. Court rumors state that this is because at his first public appearance, Edward shrieked in horror when forced to approach the King, and that Henry has never forgiven his little son this.

    --Francois begins the latest Italian War by sending his troops into Italy and the Low Countries simultaneously. England responds by sending Sir John Wallop to Calais--just to make sure nobody gets any ideas. Denmark takes the opportunity to declare war on the Empire as well, which largely boils down to closing the straits to Dutch shipping. Meanwhile, William the Rich declares war, eager to regain his theoretical birthright. Charles gears down for another grind against the French menace.

    --James V and Marie of Guise have their third child--a girl who is quickly named Mary. While somewhat disappointed, James still holds out hope for a son. James has also been in semi-secret discussions with Imperial agents about replacing the Auld Alliance with a shiny new Imperial one. Charles, through his representatives, heavily implies that he's also aware of James' theoretical place on the line of succession from a Catholic point of view--and that he might be willing to support that place in the near future. Maybe. James replies that he might just appreciate such help. Perhaps. Needless to say, nothing on either side is definite--indeed, both go out of their way to be ambiguous and evasive in their language, as too apparent a statement on the subject could put them in the other party's power.

    But they're talking. This is quite dangerous.

    -------------------------------------------------
    [1]Believe it or not, Henry Howard was one of the men who jumpstarted the English Renaissance, inventing a little sonnet form in his translations of Petrarch that would be adopted by a certain fellow we call Will Shakespeare.


    [​IMG]
    William the Rich, Duke of Julich-Cleves-Berg

    "As the latest Italian War continued on, Charles was forced to admit that things were turning against him. In a discussion with young William of Orange, the Emperor sadly declared that he feared he was looking at the low ebb of his house.

    "He was wrong about that, though sadly for him, not in the manner he imagined. For the war was about to take a very unpleasant turn for the Hapsburgs--one that would change the German Reich forever..."

    --Alexander Moss, "Further Beyond: The Life of Charles V" (1978)

    1543

    --Young Princess Mary of Scotland is attracting notice. Henry sends out a suggestion that she be betrothed to Prince Henry, as well as that James meet with his uncle--or more exactly a representative, as these days, Henry's ability to travel tends to waver between 'can be wheeled/carried around the London area if you make sure not to leave him out in bad weather' to 'bedridden, possibly dying'--to discuss this Reformation business, something Henry feels James should try out for himself. James of course, politely holds out. He is, again, a good Catholic, even as Scotland's Protestant population steadily increases. Anne meanwhile is rather unhappy about the idea of betrothing her son to a Scottish princess. Henry argues it's just good sense, if they can do it. Besides, Anne has always wanted Prince Henry married to a French princess, and Mary is half-French, so to Henry's mind she should be behind this wedding.

    --Duke William the Rich spends the early winter months gathering his mercenary army for his next attack on Brabant all so he can make sure that Gelre is HIS. A significant portion of said army are English 'Pilgrims'--most of the English Catholics cast adrift by the uprisings have found themselves with a distinct lack of job opportunities, and have wound up taken one of the few professions which has a fairly steady demand. Thus Lutheran Duke William is leading mercenaries wearing the very Catholic symbols of the Pilgrimages of the Faithful into battle. (Admittedly, William isn't that DEVOUT a Lutheran, and so really doesn't make that big an issue out of it.) It is just one of the many strange twists in lawyer-turned-insurgent-turned-mercenary captain Robert Aske's life. Indeed, he'd probably be surprised to know that much of the coin he's being paid in is being quietly provided by the King he rebelled against in the first place, in the form of very nice loans to Duke William, as part of England's ongoing 'Screw you, Emperor Charles' project. Funny, the turns life takes sometimes.

    --The latest Italian war carries on. In the south, Francois enjoys victory, thanks largely to Ottoman pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa, seizing the city of Nice, and marching onto Lombardy. While the situation in the northern front proves less impressive, due to a series of missteps that border on a comedy of errors even there Charles and the Empire remain largely on the defensive. For the first time in their long rivalry, Francois has the upper hand. [1]

    --Mary Tudor is finally beginning to adjust to life married to John of Denmark--a fact evidenced by her pregnancy. Meanwhile, as the war against the Emperor... well, simmers, Christian plans to give his brothers a share in his lands.

    --James V's talks with the Empire continue, though they remain in the realm of 'planning to make plans'. James has also started to sound out the still predominately Catholic Northern Marcher lords. Again, he's doing all this as carefully as he can, with everything being in the form of vague hypotheticals. Unfortunately for James, he's not as good as this as he thinks, and his opponents are much better than he realizes--however fortunately for him--at least, for the nonce, they are also savvy enough to avoid starting anything. Well, Anne and Cromwell are. Henry is really kind of disappointed he hasn't been able to declare war on somebody for awhile.

    --William launches his attack on Brabant, confident in his mercenary army. He probably shouldn't be--Charles has a much better mercenary army and they beat his handily. A little too handily--William is severely wounded in the fighting, dying during the retreat, while, according to Robert Aske's account, he screams for a Catholic priest to administer the Last Rites, apparently wanting to err on the side of caution regarding his eternal rest. [2]

    Charles is not happy when he learns of this, as it complicates his state of affairs immensely. You see, William has left no children--indeed his marriage has never even been consummated, as he has never even met his very young French wife. The ins-and-outs of German Salic Law inheritance are--well, complicated--women cannot hold land, but they can give a right to hold land to their husbands and guardians. This would mean that William's lands and titles would likely pass to his oldest sister Sybille and her husband. (Amalia and her husband could make a claim for a share, but Francois de Bourbon is a) French, and b) leading an army in Italy at the moment, so it's fair to say that he has a limited chance of success.) And this is a problem, because Sybille's husband is John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, one of the most prominent Protestant nobles in the Empire, a leader of the Schmalkaldic League, and a guy you don't want to mess with when you're in the middle of fighting the French. And yet, if Charles allows him to take possession, John Frederick stands a good chance of becoming too powerful.

    Charles, facing a dilemma and distracted by the ongoing war, dithers and debates. It is a costly mistake, for as he does so, Anne of Cleves notifies Sybille of their brother's death. John Frederick quickly takes possession of William's holdings. This is a problem. John Frederick is not, after all, William the Rich, the Schmalkadic League's spotty rich kid who was let into the club because he had money and a neat car, but who nobody could stand. He is, again, a linchpin, one of its leading members. So far, despite the actions of Denmark and William, the League's stayed out of the war. But if Charles presses this issue, that could change. But if he doesn't press the issue soon, the side-effects could be dangerous. And so, Charles continues to dither and debate...

    --As the year ends, Henry's health takes a sudden downturn. It is obvious now his death is coming sooner, rather than later.

    -----------------------
    [1] This is more or less what happened IOTL--however, there Charles had the support of England waiting in the wings, leading to an invasion of France. Here--that's not happening, so Charles' situation is more worrying.

    [2] IOTL, William was defeated in '42, signed a treaty, and lived to marry one of Charles' nieces. (In fact, he's an ancestor of the British Royal family. And Kaiser Wilhelm, and Czar Nicholas.) Here he's had just enough extra power to last longer, then get himself into real, REAL trouble, all thanks to a more Protestant-leaning England.

    [​IMG]
    Christian III Oldenburg of Denmark

    "By 1544, James V was a man obsessed with lost chances, convinced that he had let the throne of England slip from his hands through inaction. His eyes were fixed almost maniacally on the south, waiting for what he imagined to be his moment. And yet through it all, he maintained a surprisingly realistic view on matters, dismissing the Imperial pretensions. England remained a stronger nation than Scotland, despite constant assurances from Imperial ambassadors that it lay on the brink of dissolution, and that the Empire would, of course, support any moves on James' part if he made them. James recognized this talk for the folly it was--still, he could not help but hope that his chance would come..."

    --Neal Macnial, "The Shores of Hibernia--History of The Scottish Nation" (1993)

    1544

    --King Henry surprises everybody by staging a partial recovery. While it's amazing that he's still alive, he is still far, far weaker than he was earlier--which was pretty damn bad. It's clear to everyone that Henry is probably going to die within a year--maybe a bit longer if he's lucky. Anne and the Privy Council are looking for him to make some sort of official instructions on how to handle Prince Henry's minority. But the King continues to drag things out--making half-serious suggestions, then drawing them back. Henry seems to remain in partial denial about what's happening, though another part of him seems to want to let his advisers duke it out after he's gone in an almost Alexander-like desire to let the strongest win.

    --Emperor Charles is a man facing too many problems at once. He's got war with France on two fronts, the Elector of Saxony suddenly becoming distressingly powerful, his Burgundian Dutch subjects calling on him to come to a deal to get Denmark to let their ships back in, and his son's marriage to Maria Manuela of Portugal to deal with. With the exception of the last one, these are all significant problems where Charles faces an array of bad choices, and has to puzzle out the least bad one. (For the last, Charles thanks God that his son's idea of a love match is with a cousin that strengthens Hapsburg connections with the Portuguese throne.)

    In the war with France, it's not all bad news--they've managed to mostly push Francois' forces out of the Seventeen Provinces, but they haven't been able to progress much further and take the fight to him. In the south, on the other hand, it's been unmitigated disaster--Francois continues to make gains. Charles starts making peace proposals, in the hopes that Francois will want to quit while he's ahead for once. His initial proposal runs as follows--Francois gets to keep Nice. The title of Duke of Savoy will be recognized as owing fealty to the King of France, and given to Francois' son Charles of Orleans. (This bit offends Charles of Savoy, the present titular Duke, and his son Emmanuel Philibert, whose been serving with the Emperor, but quite frankly, the Emperor's looking at minimizing his losses at the moment, not keeping random hangers-on happy.) Orleans will be betrothed to either the Emperor's daughter, with Burgundy as a dowry, or the Emperor's niece, who will be given the Duchy of Milan as a dowry. In many respects, it's a good offer. Suspiciously so, in fact, and Francois notes that. The Emperor has been trying this same trick for years now, and he's not biting. Emperor Charles' plan is simple--set the Dauphin and Orleans against each other, by making Orleans a virtual King in his own right. And Francois has other reasons not to take up this offer--he wants the Duchy of Milan acknowledged as his birthright, not as some Hapsburg wedding present that can be yanked away whenever they decide it's served its purpose. So, for now--no dice. But they're talking. It's a start.

    The matter of John Frederick is even more complicated--as noted earlier, Charles can't risk letting him get more powerful, but attacking right now is extremely risky. Charles debates and debates, and finally comes up with a course of action. It's a gamble, but EVERY course of action in this case is a gamble. He sends a declaration to the Elector that as Duke William died fighting against the Emperor, his lands were technically forfeit, so John Frederick should politely give them up. John Frederick of course, refuses--William may have been rebelling against the Empire, but he and his wife weren't, so they aren't giving up their rightful inheritance. Which is about what Charles expected--he warns them that they're risking an Imperial ban, and then gets back to work with the war on France. He's laid the groundwork for a move against Electoral Saxony not as a matter of religion, but as a matter of keeping a Prince from acquiring lands he really shouldn't, something the always fractious German nobility can get behind. (He's had another matter he could use to put the ban on Electoral Saxony for some time, but it's very much a Protestant-Catholic thing, so it will continue to wait in the wings.) And he gets in contact with a few of John Frederick's rivals, and politely suggests that if they were to attack the Elector, he really wouldn't mind. Wink, wink.

    Finally, as for Denmark, Charles abases himself, and on bended knee, apologises for all his attempts to cause Christian III trouble, and promises never to do it again, because Christian is so clearly the lawful King of Denmark. Christian indicates he should go on. Dutch ships are still being kept from Danish waters, with the English picking up the slack--and making out like bandits, it should be noted--but it looks like things will be back to normal shortly.

    And so matters stand. Charles has taken a bunch of options that he hope happen to be the best of a group of bad choices. He might be wrong, and he knows it. But that's what being a monarch is about. Making choices.

    --In Scotland, James V continues to walk himself to the brink of a bad choice, then back. He has gotten word from several of the Border lords, that if he were to perform certain hypothetical actions, they would give him their hypothetical support. And his wife is pregnant again, with what James is certain is his son and heir. More and more, James hears the whispering in his mind, the temptation to leave his son a greater monarch then his father left him. And yet--he can't be sure it will succeed. It probably won't. Better to wait.

    --With Henry's growing incapacity, Anne's hold on the government--already quite significant--is strengthening monthly, and she is growing increasingly alarmed by the situation on the Scottish border. She's walking back the 'Prince Henry weds Mary' proposal, and suggesting 'Edward weds Mary' instead, an option that she hopes will prove less... inflammatory. She also sends her brother George up there to try and remind any Border lords who are wavering that even if Henry is on death's door, the government is still quite strong. Unfortunately, this plan gets derailed when George falls from his horse on the road. He dies several days later, leaving his titles to his young nephew Henry Carey, and his wife and sister devastated. Anne is particularly troubled by this--George was always her favorite sibling, as well as her most reliable ally. Now he's gone, which means she needs a new right hand on the Council. Cromwell is out--yes, Anne appreciates his skills, which is why he's just become Lord Chamberlain, but simply put, he tends to work to his own advantage. Anne needs someone who will work towards hers. And so, William Paulet becomes the new Lord Privy Seal. True, Paulet has no loyalty that can't change when necessary, but he likes to stay on the winning team, and he realizes that's almost always the house. By Renaissance court standards, that's a rock.

    Anne has other matters to deal with--her ailing estranged sister Mary has been trying to get in touch of late, largely to see if Anne can't do something for the rest of her children. George's death has made Anne a bit more sentimental--at least for the short term--and so the Staffords come join their half-siblings the Careys at the court.

    --Even as Christian enjoys watching Charles sweat he finds time to deal with affairs by granting his half-siblings their share of the royal lands in a complicated land-sharing arrangement that is far too tedious to describe here. John becomes the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Haderslev. This joyous news is soon marred by tragedy--his wife Mary Tudor goes into a lengthy, difficult labor, and though the child (a son who will be named John Christian) is delivered successfully, Mary dies shortly thereafter. Duke John is devastated. He will never remarry, and indeed, will carry a pair of Mary's gloves, and a locket with her portrait and a lock of her hair with him for the rest of his days.

    --Francois is enjoying what has, by his admittedly sub-par standards, been one successful war. True, he's bleeding money (and his soldiers are bleeding, well, blood), the Ottoman connection has turned out to be embarrassing in all sorts of ways, the war in the North has not exactly been massively successful, and his health has not been the greatest of late, what with being a man with advanced syphilis leading an army over miles of terrain. But he's got Charles on the ropes! Finally! And then suddenly two things happen that make him start feeling mortal. Which tells you what a big deal this is, as Francois and Henry are soul brothers on the whole King as 'narcissistic man-child' thing.

    First, the Count of Enghien, commander of the force in the south, dies heroically during a skirmish with Imperial forces.[1] While the French position in Italy remains strong, Enghien--who leaves behind his German wife, and an infant daughter, Francoise de Bourbon--was an exceptionally talented commander, whose loss is deeply felt both tactically, and as a morale killer. But the second thing is... even worse.

    Charles of Orleans is the apple of his father's eye, a bright, happy and daring Prince who reminds Francois of himself. He's taken an active part in the war, taking Luxembourg early on, even if he did run off to fight somewhere else, leaving it undermanned so that the Empire took it right back. For Orleans, like his father, this is really something of a game. He demonstrates this during his second siege of Luxembourg by attempting to ride around the city walls three times, naked. He makes it around twice before some man with an arquebus decides to take a shot at the nude idiot disrespecting his city. The shot hits, and Charles is thrown from his horse, dying a day later from his extensive injuries. [2] This the sort of thing that makes an aging man feel old, and the birth of his grandson to the Dauphin--named Francois, of course--doesn't help. The King of France is now willing to consider a peace deal. A really, really good peace deal.

    --News of his daughter's death hits the ailing and reliably sentimental after he's screwed you over Henry hard--still weak from his last health crisis, he promptly has another one. Naturally, even as the Privy Council assure everyone that everything's fine and under control, some people are certain that the King is dying or dead and that everything is falling into chaos. One such man is Henry Neville, the 5th Earl of Westmorland--and Neville is just fine with that. A Northerner and a Catholic, Neville is one of the many people on James V's little mailing list, and he's been throwing hissy fits about the English political situation for years. England has already gotten much too Protestant for his liking, and he's pretty certain that when the King dies, it'll get worse. Something must be done--and by gum, Westmorland is the man to do it. And so, when he hears that Henry is dead, or as good as it, he rallies his men, sends notice to his fellow border lords that the time to act is now, notifies James that he's pretty much lawful King of England, and declares--a new Pilgrimage of the Faithful! Only led by the right sort this time! The real right sort, also, not like that upstart Darcy!

    Historians will debate whether Westmorland's uprising counts as a Pilgrimage at all, as he not only draws no popular support, he doesn't even manage to go anywhere. Unfortunately for Neville, you see--he's been made. He no sooner starts bringing his forces together, then Shrewsbury is knocking on his door with a force that includes a good selection of the Border lords he thought were his allies. As for James, he comes to the border with a force of his most loyal Catholic underlings--he's worried about the unrest, wink, wink--but he doesn't plan on crossing it unless things suggest it will take off, which--this doesn't look like it will. And... it doesn't. Westmorland is crushed and captured before he can even get started. And so his uprising ends.

    And that would be the end of things--except there are now a group of Scottish soldiers, and a group of English soldiers staring at each other from across the border, with the Scots insisting they weren't planning anything untoward, really, and the English saying 'pull the other one, it's got bells on it'. In a situation like that, it's all too easy for something to happen. And it does. What is tough to say, because everybody has their own version. Maybe some English soldiers cross over into Scotland. Maybe some Scot soldiers cross over into England. Maybe they both cross over--maybe nobody crosses over at all, but everyone is convinced they have. All that's certain is that there's some sort of disturbance--maybe a few shots fired--and suddenly, Shrewsbury is leading an army into Scotland. And then James fights him off--Shrewsbury's men are still a bit worn out from crushing Westmorland--and then James is leading an army into England. News of this reaches London in time for a somewhat recovering Henry to croak out a declaration of war, and then get sick again. Which is quickly followed by learning that James' army has run into the army they had Norfolk call up just in case Westmorland's effort took off, gotten badly mauled by this and Shrewsbury's reassembled forces, and is now limping his way back to Scotland. While Anne and the Privy Council can't exactly... undeclare war at the moment, they do decide to hold back, and see if James is... willing to be reasonable.

    --James of Scotland is not the only man watching careful plotting being undone by that one idiot who couldn't follow the plan. Emperor Charles is as well, and in his case, it's even worse, because he actually knows what he's doing. His plan to isolate John Frederick is working, with the Schmalkaldic League hesitating to support the Elector on this matter, despite him being its virtual leader. Indeed--almost because of this--John Frederick is an overwhelming personality, who follows his passion--Protestantism--with an almost obsessive interest, as if trying to win some 'Most Protestant Prince in Europe' award. You rededicating the family chapel to the Lutheran rite? John Frederick has built a new one specifically for it, and had Martin Luther over to give the first sermon. You thinking about spreading the good Lutheran word? John Frederick has personally supported the printing of Luther's translations. You got a quarrel with the Emperor? John Frederick has probably killed more of Charles' proposals to settle this whole 'Luther' matter amicably than anyone aside from Luther. He's brave and smart, but also prickly and just a tad fanatical. And so some people are hesitant to help him.

    But you see, John Frederick has a cousin, Maurice, the Duke of Saxony. Maurice is also an overwhelming, obsessive personality, but his obsession isn't Protestantism--even though he is a Lutheran--it's avenging perceived slights against himself. The present leading source of said slights is his cousin John Frederick, starting back when they were growing up together, and continuing with John Frederick's tendency to handle joint family matters unilaterally. Maurice is ready--nay, eager--to unleash some summary justice upon John Frederick's posterior. And so, he takes up the Emperor's furtive call to deal with the Elector--only without quite working to make sure that he can pull it off. He gets some troops. He goes to Charles' brother Ferdinand, King of Bohemia, and borrows a few more troops. (To Ferdinand's credit, Maurice manages to suggest he's got more people backing him up on this then he really does.) And then--he attacks the Elector.

    It does not go well for Maurice. He's one of the few Protestant German Princes not taking advantage of England's 'Loans If You Want To Screw Over The Emperor' program--indeed, he's one of the few who aren't a member of the Schmalkaldic League--while John Frederick is on their favored customers' list, especially as they need him coming out of this okay if they're ever going to get back the loans they made to Duke William. Even with his extra Bohemian troops, Maurice is badly outmatched, and as a result, he is defeated, and captured. After signing an agreement to hand over some of his lands to John Frederick as a consequence of his unwarranted attack, Maurice proceeds to sing like a bird, telling him all about how Charles put him up to it, with just touch of exaggeration so that he can set himself up as the victim here. John Frederick has him put it down in writing, and then, after releasing him, goes to his fellow Schmalkaldic League members waving said confession around for all its worth. And that is plenty. Now, they know that Charles is plotting against them, hoping to tear them down one by one, and that the move against the Elector is the start of that. Whatever they may think of John Frederick, they cannot let this aggression stand. And so, even as Charles begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the present Italian War, the First Schmalkaldic War is only beginning...

    --In Scotland, James V is dying. His nerves have been shot since his defeat, during which he's took a rather unpleasant wound that is now festering. He has seen the flower of Scotland's Catholic nobility cut down around him, and his dreams of being King of Scotland and England die with them. His only hope lies in his new child, being born miles away. He is doomed to another disappointment--Mary brings forth another girl, his second legitimate daughter, named Antoinette after Mary's mother. "So be it," says the King of Scotland weakly--or so the legend goes. "It began wi' a lass, it'll pass wi' a lass." [3] With his death, the ruler of Scotland is a two-year old girl, whose immediate heir is a newborn baby girl. It's tough times ahead for Scotland.

    --In England, young Thomas Tudor takes ill and dies a week later. A sweet-natured young boy, his death is taken hard by his mother and siblings, especially Edward, who will spend the rest of his life writing eulogies for his brother. King Henry is beyond caring. While he has surprised everyone by surviving to the end of the year, it is the barest sort of surviving--he sleeps most of the time, and when awake, is almost always incoherent, raving about "monks". He will die soon, with England technically at war with Scotland. And with the Duke of Norfolk having an army in the field. It's tough times ahead in England...

    ----------------
    [1] This is better than his IOTL death, which resulted from him falling off a chest.

    [2] This is only slightly worse than his IOTL death, which was caused by his rushing into a house that had been sealed up with plague, having a pillowfight with his friends there, and by some accounts, lying down in a plague bed. You just can't butterfly away massive stupidity.

    [3] What can I say? I just couldn't throw away last words that good. And James really does seem to have been... if not destined for misfortune, then a highly likely candidate for it.

    [​IMG]
    Marie of Guise

    "How can one hope to sum up the rule of Henry VIII of England? It has always been popular to dismiss the man as 'the unworthy son of an impressive father, and the wretched father of a magnificent son', and while there is a certain accuracy to this judgment, ultimately, it is too facile. For all his folly and extravagance, Henry VIII left his kingdom changed beyond recognition..."

    --Alexander Wright "Henry VIII: the Power and the Pomp," (1968)

    1545

    --Let's begin with Scotland. Things are double-plus ungood there. If people were interested in Mary Stuart's hand before, now that she's a bonafide Queen--well, more or less--they're beating on the door. France suddenly finds itself deeply and intensely interested in reviving the Auld Alliance. Anne is sending Marie of Guise letters about Prince Edward, who is, as Anne tells it, so bright, and charming, and handsome, and desperately eager to meet young Mary. Even the Emperor is getting in on the act, wondering if the Queen of Scots would mind marrying one of his nephews--he can even try to make sure it's a handsome one! And naturally, all this foreign interest is turning Scotland into a nest of schemes, schemers, and their victims. A situation like this requires strong leadership from somewhere. Right now, it's not getting it.

    Obviously, young Mary, Queen of Scots isn't up to ruling the nation right now, as she's largely preoccupied with things like naptime, and running around in circles. That leaves the nation in the hands of the Lords-selected Regent, James Hamilton, the Earl of Arran, who is, by some counts, second in line for the throne, after Princess Antoinette. This is a problem--Arran is a man so devious, he regularly laps himself in his own schemes. He's also a Protestant, though much of his tendencies in that way are political--indeed, every aspect of Arran is political, based on what grants him the immediate advantage. That's Arran for you--an older man's cunning, blended with a younger man's need to aggrandize himself. In other words, pure unadulterated trouble. At the moment, he's head of the Protestant 'English' faction, largely due to his ability to outmaneuver everyone else.

    But Arran's control of the nation is far from absolute. There's also Marie of Guise to deal with. Marie herself is a tough, capable woman and her brothers back in France are two of the most powerful men in the government. And so, despite the handicaps of being an outsider, a foreigner, and a woman, she's essentially become head of the Catholic 'French' faction, though the fact that a good chunk of what used to be its leading lights are either dead or imprisoned has definitely helped. (Her only real rival, Cardinal Beaton, has also recently been imprisoned--by Arran.) Both sides want to see young Mary wed to their respective 'right' candidates, and Antoinette as well, if that's possible, with an alliance with the nation who will further their ends on top of it. The Guises, on top of that, want Mary (and ideally, Antoinette as well) spirited out of Scotland to the safety of France.

    Now, take a good look at all that, because by the end of the year, it's going to be completely messed up.

    --Emperor Charles is gritting his teeth, an act that his huge malformed jaw makes rather painful, so you can tell he's in a bad mood. And why shouldn't he be? While he's been planning a move against the Schmalkaldic League for some time, he was hoping to do it when he was rested up, and able to deal with these pesky Protestant Princes at his leisure. Instead, thanks to one idiot dying inconveniently and another idiot's need to grandstand, he's got them rising up while he's still preoccupied with Francois' latest attempt at glory. The League is assembling their troops, and he can't do anything except wave his fist at them, then go back to having his men make sure that France doesn't decide to come charging over the border again. His armies are battered, tired, and--oh, yes, he is once again skirting the edges of bankruptcy, while his loyal, but often testy Flemish subjects are coughing and gesturing towards Denmark. And so, Charles labors to end two wars so he can hopefully avoid a revolt, and go fight another war. Fun times.

    --Anne, Paulet, and Cromwell have produced a document supposedly made by Henry during one of his lucid moments which leaves the government on his death in the hands of Anne, acting as Regent, and a "council of worthy gentlemen" who will of course, give her the advice she will require as a frail and foolish woman. It is ever so slightly dubious, but quite frankly, there is only one man on the Privy Council who might just challenge it. Unfortunately, he's sitting in the North with an army.

    --The Schmalkaldic League assembles its forces in a fairly impressive rallying of the banners and sets out to attack Swabia under the leadership of the League's other head, Philip of Hesse, he of the embarrassing marital status. John Frederick sets out to join them, but winds up having to take a rain check when he discovers that Ferdinand of Bohemia is doing his own rallying of the banners for an attack on Saxony. It is, admittedly, less impressive, consisting of Ferdinand, Albert von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, and Albert's best bud, Duke Maurice, who has reneged on his previous agreement and is just aching for another chance to settle the score. (Albert, like Maurice, is a Lutheran, but is exactly the sort of quarrelsome bastard you'd think would have Maurice as a friend, and thus is in this largely for the kicks.) Ferdinand also tried to get William, Duke of Bavaria into the act, but at the moment, he's doing his best to stay out of it. Still, it's a much larger army than Maurice's from last year, and Ferdinand feels it's enough to put the uppity Elector of Saxony in his place.

    He's wrong. The whole thing turns into a rout for Ferdinand's forces, as he proceeds to scurry back to Bohemia with what's left. Maurice is captured once again, and his best buddy Albert is captured with him. Both are released after swearing oaths not to take up arms against John Frederick--in Maurice's case, he winds up giving up another, larger chunk of his lands as the price of breaking his previous agreement. This time, John Frederick takes the time to send men to claim them, which keeps him from joining the League's army in Swabia.

    --Henry VIII finally dies, a man prematurely used up. Young Prince Henry is coronated, becoming Henry IX. He is eleven years old. Despite fears, the splendid ceremony goes on without a hitch, as London throngs cheer their charming boy-king. Henry IX inherits from his father an increasingly Protestant nation with ties to the northern German states and Denmark, a fairly bitter rivalry and cold war with the Hapsburgs, and a complex relationship with the Valois.

    --Francois, despite his recent setbacks, is overjoyed at finally being able to put the screws to the Emperor. He is already picturing his hero's welcome back in Paris, where he will arrive the conquering hero. It never happens. Francois, after a late dinner, goes to bed one night with a slight headache, and wakes up the next day on death's door. He dies in the afternoon, with his dear friend Cardinal Ippolito d'Este by his bedside. [1] This leaves the peace talks in the hands of France's new King, Henri II, and he is a different man than his father--less shrewd and more yielding. Charles is thus able to keep the peace deal from being quite embarrassment it could have been, despite the fact that Henri does in fact, have him over a barrel. It's still quite bad--France's claims to the Duchy of Savoy are recognized, then granted to Henri's sister Marguerite, and almost half of Milan is handed over to them. (The actual title of Duke of Milan is left up in the air, to be handled in future discussions.) Further, Henri manages to flip the old Dukes of Savoy by engineering the marriage of his sister Marguerite to Emmanuel Philibert, thus neatly tying the two rival claims together, and leaving Charles with one less weapon to use against France in the next war, which is looking very much like a possibility.[2] As bad as all this is for Charles, it finally frees up some troops to deal with the Schmalkaldic League. Next year, he moves against them. For now, he orders an Imperial ban on John Frederick and Philip of Hesse for their numerous crimes against the Empire, notably the deposing of Henry, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg.

    --In Swabia, the League's forces succeed in seizing control. Their spirits are greatly buoyed by their victory. They probably shouldn't be--in many respects, this campaign has been a debacle, with the Schmalkaldic League forces tripping all over themselves. Part of the problem is that the League's army has too many generals. Its nominal leader, Philip of Hesse is a walking embarrassment factory, who was actually briefly forced out of the League despite being one of its founders. It'd be hard for any man to establish any sort of dominance in that situation, and Philip, whatever his virtues, is certainly not up to it. The result is the League forces tend to mill about, follow half-a-dozen plans simultaneously, take too long to achieve their objectives, and fail to gain full advantage from their victories. Of course, right now that doesn't matter, as they are facing fairly weak opponents. But once Emperor Charles gets his war on, they're going to be in trouble.

    --Peace is finally formally declared between Scotland and England, with Scotland formally apologizing for causing all this trouble, and agreeing to pay a surprisingly reasonable indemnity. It's all part of Anne's charm barrage, where they will attempt to win the Scots over through the revolutionary tactic of being pleasant and respectful to them. Norfolk is ordered to disband his men, and return to London to take his rightful place in government. This is the moment of truth. If Norfolk decides to return to London at the head of an army, there's going to be trouble. Possibly even civil war. It all depends on his choice.

    Norfolk disbands his army and returns to London.

    --Diplomacy with Scotland gets tangled, thanks to a rather large number of factors. First, Anne's charm barrage begins as a three-pronged assault, aimed primarily at Arran and Marie of Guise. Arran is initially thought to be fairly simple to deal with--he is after all, half bought already. And yet Arran quickly proves more... unpredictable, and grasping than imagined. He essentially demands gifts and honors for taking England's part, especially on the marriage. Anne is understandably repulsed by this. Further, Arran is overestimating his pull. While Anne is aware of the advantages of keeping Scotland happy, on this issue, her Continental education is showing--Scotland remains for her a wild backwater, only of interest because it happens to share a border with England. It isn't worth paying Arran a fortune. Arran isn't half so clever as he imagines himself to be, but this doesn't mean he's an utter fool. He quickly realizes that England doesn't value him as much as he hoped it would and so starts quietly shopping around for a better offer.

    Relations with Marie on the other hand, are expected to be difficult, and thus treated with kid gloves to put her mind at ease. Marie responds warmly with pledges of gratitude and friendship. Admittedly, much of this is a ploy on Marie's part to strengthen her hand, but she does feel some kinship with Anne--in addition to the obvious similarities, both of them actually grew up in Francois' court. She also does what she can to widen the rift between Anne and Arran, and largely succeeds. The Guises seem to be very close to getting control of the situation, and achieving their goals.

    Then Francois I dies. And this changes everything. With Francois gone, relations with France proceed to thaw, especially when Henri has his first daughter, Elizabeth, and suddenly Anne's long-cherished dream of wedding Henry to a French Princess becomes... well, plausible. Suddenly, Scotland and its little Queen are a lot less important to France, especially if pursuing them means offending England, and a lot less important to England, if pursuing them means offending France.

    Marie is smart enough to realize this means that the 'spirit the Stuart girls away to France' plan is now massively impractical, and start planning accordingly. Her brothers also realize this, but they aren't sitting in the middle of Scotland surrounded by Protestants, and so they keep meddling. Marie obviously is, and is naturally worried--the third prong of England's charm offensive are the Protestant lords, and this one is working exactly as planned. And so, Marie begins to start improving her own relations with said lords, and starts hinting that having one of her girls marry Prince Edward seems... acceptable to her.

    Arran meanwhile, has found a patron who's willing to indulge him--the Guise brothers. And so, by the end of year, the leaders of the English and French factions have essentially switched sides. And things are only going to get more confusing.

    --Norfolk arrives in London, once again to plaudits of the people, and takes his seat on the Council. It's been a busy few years for him--he's spent his self-imposed exile from the court translating Orlando Innamorato, and having done that, was about to start on Orlando Furiso, but stopped. Working on Italian epics made him want to write his own, and so he's started work on a little thing called Brutus, based on bits of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He's really quite excited about it, and is willing read what he's got down to anyone who will listen.

    Norfolk's arrival coincides with the death of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, another sign of the passing of the old order. As the Privy Council begins its Regency dance, factions form, and deals are made. And the first hints circulate that a new Convocation will be meeting next year...

    --The year continues to be one of mixed blessings for the Hapsburgs--Philip's new wife bears him a son, but dies in childbirth. The child, named Charles, after his grandfather, is small, sickly, and deformed. And yet, in what he himself will call the most surprising act he ever did, young Charles lives. Philip responds to the death of his wife as he will respond to the death of all his wives, by weeping and swearing he will never know joy again.

    Meanwhile, Emperor Charles finally gets peace with Denmark. He appreciates it.

    --As the year ends, Pope Paul III opens the Council of Mantua, which will set the stage for the Counter-Reformation to begin in earnest. [3] Paul's ability to resist the Emperor's efforts to move it to another more German city are another sign of the Hapsburgs weakening hold on northern Italy. Indeed, relations between Paul and Charles are fairly icy--Paul believes Charles to bear a fair portion of the blame in the whole English matter, and he is bitterly angry over the entire Reginald Pole affair, privately calling it a "murder". The two twin pillars of Catholicism are at odds. Even the failing health of Martin Luther can't overcome that bad news.

    -----------------------
    [1] He lasted a couple more years IOTL. ITTL, the extra campaigning has done him in.

    [2] They were married in 1559, IOTL, as a result of a different peace treaty.

    [3] IOTL, this was the Council of Trent.

    ---------------------------

    [​IMG]
    HENRY VIII
    b. 1491 d. 1545

    r. 1509-1545

    PERSONAL MOTTO: "COEUR LOYAL"
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
  2. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2010
    ---
    [​IMG]
    Henry IX Tudor, King of England


    PART II: THE BOY KING (1546-1551)



    [​IMG]
    Martin Luther

    [​IMG]
    John Frederick von Wettin, Elector of Saxony

    "I must start this essay with a simple point--the Protestant Church that began with the Anglican Settlement can make the interesting boast of having been designed by committee, a fact that, incredible as it may seem, one may ascertain by a simple perusal of its founding articles..."

    --Luis Garcia Vargas, "Musings on the Anglican Settlement" Essays on the British Nation, 1914

    1546

    --As the year begins, Martin Luther dies in Wittenberg. For John Frederick, it is a deeply emotional event. He immediately commissions a Life of Luther to be written and printed, to inspire the faithful. More than ever, he feels the weight of his sacred duty to keep Luther's reformation alive. And so, as the First Schmalkaldic War begins to heat up, John Frederick prepares for battle. His first order of business--an invasion of Bohemia, to prevent Ferdinand from flanking him in the future.

    --In the ongoing effort to make the Scots forget several centuries of invasions, oppression and general troublemaking, the hostages taken in the raid are released, and sent back with quite a few Scottish nobles who've been residing in England. Among them is Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox. Lennox is from a cadet branch of the great Stewart line, and by his count, he's the actual second in line for the throne, not that worm Arran. He's been sent with an understanding that he'll serve England's interests in the Scottish matter--however, Lennox, a dedicated opportunist, has no such intention. And Anne and her ministers are aware of this. Though Lennox doesn't realize it, the major reason he's been sent is so that he can start weakening Arran, allowing the Scottish opposition to fall to internecine squabbling. Which he promptly does. He also, after making a play at Marie of Guise that goes nowhere, marries Lady Margaret Douglas, James V's half-sister, who like him has recently returned to Scotland, in a move that will strengthen his children's claim to the throne, and even give them a claim to the throne of England, and follows Arran in suddenly deciding that Catholicism isn't so bad after all. It's enough to almost make Anne regret sending him back, if he weren't causing so much lovely havoc for Arran.

    --In London, the Convocation gathers. Right from the start, it's largely Cranmer's show, albeit with a significant role for his fellow reformers. It's also quite important. The Anglican Church is going to try and figure out what the hell it believes, aside from "Shut up, Pope."

    For roughly a decade, the English Reformation has been on autopilot. Henry VIII, surrounded by strong Reformers, and yet fairly conservative theologically, spent his time making vague noises about either taking things further, or scaling them back, but ultimately his occasional rulings and councils on the subject amounted to little more than reiterating that the government stood by the mildly Protestant Ten Articles. The result of this has been a church that, while largely Catholic in its ritual, is nebulously Protestant in spirit. Very nebulously--the Ten Articles are so constructed that virtually any sect of the rapidly increasing stripes of Protestant faith can get their hopes up. Add into a fairly open door policy, and England has become as one writer puts it, the great sanctuary for the Reformed Church. It is a heady place, where Lutherans, Calvinists, and even the occasional Anabaptist meet, discuss and debate with very little fear of somebody getting arrested and horribly executed. (Though, of course, some fear. It's the Renaissance. It's what happens.) And this means that all sorts of ideas are just flying around, bouncing off one another, and going in fascinating new directions. Now, as thrilling this is to England's religious intelligentsia, it's just a tad worrying to its Church. Things like this happen long enough, and you've got a bunch of Melchiorites setting up shop and telling people that God wants them to abolish personal property and hold women in common. Cranmer and his friends are going to work to make sure that the Church is properly Protestant, and properly proper.

    But reining in the radicals is only part of the problem. They've also got to keep the more conservative members of the Church, especially as said members count men like Norfolk among them. While there's little worry of them screaming for a return to Mother Church--a decade of uprisings, Imperial meddling, and papal grandstanding have convinced even those of milder dispositions than Norfolk that the Reformers are definitely onto something as regards the Holy See's having lost sight of the True Faith--anything that deviates too far from Catholic tradition is going to upset them. The problem is figuring just where that point is, and staying within it. Personally, Cranmer is hoping that at least some Protestantism has worn off on them. He has a wife and children he's had to keep in hiding for quite some time now, and it's getting annoying.

    --In Mantua, the Council is busily at work explaining just why the Reformers are wrong, the Church is right, and why the Pope is the head of the Church. It also works at taking care of the Reformer critiques they actually take seriously, trying to cut down on the corruption in the Church.

    --The Imperial army sets out for Swabia under the leadership of Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, the Duke of Alba, one of Charles' most able commanders, and a bona fide military genius. There in a series of vicious battles, it completely devestates the disorganized Schmalkaldic League troops. Many leaders are captured, including Philip of Hesse. Charles is thankful--and yet, the war is far from over. The League is wounded but not finished. The remnants are gathering, hoping to at least delay Charles progress--and John Frederick is still on the field. Indeed, his attack on Bohemia has been a success. Meeting a force lead by Ferdinand and his newly-minted in-law, William Duke of Bavaria--who has been lured out neutrality by both the marriage of his son to Ferdinand's daughter, AND the worrying fact that the Elector of Saxony's new territories are threateningly close to Bavaria thanks to his conquests--John Frederick beat them soundly, and extracted their sworn vows' of neutrality. Then his army returned to Saxony, after engaging in some looting. Though Charles doesn't realize it, the mission has been a partial disappointment to the Elector--he'd hoped that Bohemia's sizable Protestant population would rise in his support. The fact that they have not is disheartening, as is the defeat of his allies. John Frederick is increasingly aware that the war must end soon if the League is to survive. As for Charles--his hopes of having his brother help him surround the Elector have been crushed--aside from the truce, Ferdinand is openly skeptical about the loyalty of his Bohemian troops in any lengthy war of this sort.

    --The Convocation is not the only issue coming up for the Privy Council. They've got plenty of things to argue about--taxation reform, land issues, and the Irish. As always happens in these situations, the Council is divided into a shifting web of constantly shifting factions, with such old hands as William Paulet, William Paget, and the aging Thomas Cromwell cutting deals with or making moves against relative newcomers like John Dudley, the newly-minted Earl of Westmorland, and of course, dealing with perennial wildcard, Henry Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Even though his actual power is limited at the moment, Henry IX attends most Council meetings, at his mother's insistence. This adds another wrinkle to the various factional maneuvers--getting on the young King's good list. Presently, his mother naturally tops the list, but Norfolk has a surprising appeal to young Henry, with his flamboyant ways, military history, and of course, incredible facial hair. Further, they share a nephew they are both very fond of--young Arthur Fitzroy. Henry hopes to have Arthur and his brother Edward join them on the Council soon, even if, like him, they are basically given nominal authority. But there are others--Paulet has a talent for politics the young king can't help but appreciate[1], and John Dudley rivals Norfolk in giving young Henry a model of proper Protestant manhood to base himself off of. Indeed, the Lord Admiral has recently republished his late (indeed, executed) father's work, On the English Commonwealth, a bureaucratic how-to manual about establishing an absolutist regime, which the late Dudley thought would be an exceptionally good move for England.

    --In Scotland, a combination of Lennox's feud with Arran, and Arran's realization that the Guise brothers are basically promising everything while paying nothing, has split the anti-English 'Catholic' party in two. Lennox can be said to have seized control of the Catholic French party--but that is now the smaller faction, largely because it's waiting on the Guise brothers' promise that Henri II will come around. Arran, and those who support him, are increasingly looking for some connection to the Hapsburgs. Needless to say, all this politicking is weakening Arran's position as Regent quite considerably--more nobles, whatever their religious beliefs, are favoring keeping good relations with England.

    --In Ireland, the O'Moore and O'Connor clans stage a raid on English holdings. The raid has its origins in a lot of things--Cromwell's continuing policy of surrender and re-grant, England's efforts to force the Reformation down the Ireland's throat, a feeling that a boy king is something that can be exploited and a certain level of business as usual[2]. While it's hardly that unusual an occurrence, this one is large enough to get some people a bit worried, and to make everyone interested in Ireland, including Anne who, truth be told, has never seen the island as that big a deal before. With relations with Scotland and France apparently warming, Ireland has suddenly become one of the biggest issues on the table...

    -----------------------------
    [1] Paulet was similarly something of a favorite of Elizabeth's IOTL, who used to joke that if he were a bit younger, she'd marry him.

    [2] IOTL, the clans started an uprising in the 1550s as a result of Queen Mary and King Philip creating a plantation on their land that required them to be... relocated.

    [​IMG]
    Anne Boleyn, Queen-Dowager of England

    [​IMG]
    Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

    "...Queen Anne's Irish policy remains controversial. It has been painted as everything from a well-intentioned course of action derailed by mere circumstance to an arrogant program of social engineering that back-fired disastrously. All that can be agreed on is it changed Ireland forever..."

    --Maria Gwynn-Jones 'From The Bulwen Woman to Good Queen Anne' (1972)

    1547

    --The Life of Luther is published in Germany. It paints Luther's life, theology, and struggle in glowing terms, and is dedicated by Philip Melanchthon to John Frederick, "our Joshua." Needless to say, it quickly spreads over Germany encouraging Protestant hearts. Many feel that they shall soon see the triumph of Lutheranism over Catholicism. Others worry that the sect will be crushed. But everyone is very engaged.

    --The Earl of Lennox opens the year by becoming a father to twins--two boys, named Henry and Charles Stewart. Henry, seeming to realize the awful inconvenience he poses to both Stewart and Tudor lines, obligingly dies a few days after his birth. Charles Stewart on the other hand, demonstrates what a troublemaker he's going to be by insisting on living. It is the beginning of a tremendously bothersome career.[1]

    The birth of Charles Stewart--or 'Stuart', as he will become widely known--is not the only event of note in Scotland--the factional skirmishing is continuing with increasing intensity especially between Arran and Lennox, each of whom charges the other with wrongdoing, and being the plaything of foreign powers. Both are right, naturally, which makes the whole thing worse. (Arran is actually having a foreign title dangled in front of him by the Imperial ambassador, though he hasn't actually gotten it yet.) [2] The situation is tense.

    --In London, the Convocation carries on, and to Cranmer's pleasure, people seem to be a great deal in favor of a more Protestant direction. Norfolk in particular is increasingly sympathetic to the Reform, his general hostility to the Papacy having been the doorway to further innovations. This is very good news--as goes Norfolk, goes much of the Peerage. Largely because he terrifies people. But still, clerical marriage is a-go, with quite a few other Protestant reforms on their way. The Church of England is starting to stake out its place--moderately Lutheran, with a pinch of Reformed, and a certain amount of Catholic dress-up.

    --The Irish matter continues to be a matter of major interest. A military expedition is prepared for Ireland to assist the Lord Deputy--among its officers are Cromwell's son's in-laws, the Seymours. Anne is more interested in the Reformation in Ireland, which she discovers is being very badly done. An entire church whose upper orders are foreigners, and whose members are being preached to in a foreign language? That seems almost--papist. In addition, while their loyalty to the Holy See is debatable, most Irish were exceptionally fond of their monastic tradition, which under Henry VIII's aegis was bludgeoned painfully to death. Much nostalgia for the Church is for that, not the Pope, though he is at the moment the major beneficiary from it. But not the only one--Anne herself is surprisingly popular due to her support of the Queen's Hospitals and Schools, which many Irish take as a sign of secret sympathy to their plight. (They don't like the schools that much, mind you, but they enjoy the intent.) Anne decides to exploit that, and try to create a NATIVE Irish Reformation. And so--there will be a Gaelic Bible printed! This will require the Bible to be translated to Gaelic, and a printing press created that can print Gaelic--but these are small prices to pay for spreading the True Faith! She also commissions the translation and publication of Protestant theology tracts into Gaelic. Much of the work ironically will be done by ex-monks, but most of them are happy to get the extra cash.

    --In France, Henri and Catherine have another son--Charles.[3] The young prince is hunchbacked, with a clubfoot--but he's still a French Prince of the Blood. This is a relief. Dauphin Francois may be young, but his health is proving somewhat suspect. An extra heir is always nice, even if he is hunchbacked.

    --The Imperial army sets out to face John Frederick's forces. However, before it can do so, it finds itself facing a vicious attack from rallying Schmalkaldic League forces. This attack is lead by a member who has in fact stayed out of the war until now--the nominally Catholic Joachim, Elector of Brandenburg. A closet Lutheran, he has been long torn between his loyalty to the Empire and his loyalty to his faith, but the Emperor's increasingly explicit anti-Protestant bent in the war has, to his mind, forced his hand. And that is not all--many Protestant princes not even in the League join in this attack, including Duke Maurice and his friend Duke Albert. Maurice's motives are close to Joachim's, coupled with a burning need to redeem himself--many Protestant Princes view him as a Judas--and a feeling that he has been used by the Emperor.[4] Maurice was fine with a move against his hated cousin, but the actions against his father-in-law and dear friend Philip of Hesse have enraged him. The attack is repulsed, the Schmalkaldic League troops retreating. Casualties are high on both sides, and include men of rank--Duke Maurice is among those killed, as is Charles' nephew, Maximilian.[5] While the attack cannot be called a success, it has managed to take the initiative away from the Imperial army, allowing John Frederick's force more time to prepare. The upcoming clash between their armies will be more even than Charles would like.

    --In Scotland, the recently-released Cardinal Beaton attempts to engineer a meeting between Lennox and Arran at St. Andrews Cathedral where the two will iron out their differences. Beaton has long viewed himself as the rightful leader of the Catholics, due to having actual religious beliefs instead of jumping back and forth--in fact, he views himself as rightful Regent, which is why he wound up imprisoned by Arran for the last few years. He's been forced to sit by and watch as the situation went very much to his distaste, while first one side then the other picked up, then dropped the matter of his release. (Arran has finally given it to him with significant strings attached.) Beaton hopes that by getting Lennox and Arran to see reason and unite, he can then make Marie of Guise see sense, and then--AULD ALLIANCE AHOY! Needless to say, things do not go according to plan.

    In fact, they go VERY not according to plan, as is discovered when the sounds of screams and curses bring people to the Cathedral. What they find is a bloodbath. Beaton is dead. Lennox is dead. Arran is wounded and dying. And there are a small crowd of people in these two states, who are for the most part, somewhat less important.

    Exactly what happened is... hard to make out, but from the story of a few dying witnesses, Arran and Lennox both brought armed guards to the meeting, and then--well, somebody did something, and suddenly, Arran and Lennox started accusing each other of planning something untoward, at which point all hell broke loose. So runs the official version, anyway. Some aren't so sure Arran and Lennox were so obliging as to neatly kill each other, while considerately taking Beaton out with them. They think a third party arranged a massacre. Just who is subject to debate. Maybe Marie of Guise, who has now had all her opponents conveniently eliminated. Maybe the English, who are roughly in the same boat. This opinion does not seem to be shared by either Marie or England, both of whom actually suspect the other of having a hand in this. They both preferred having Arran and Lennox running around, weakening each other--dead Catholics have a way of becoming martyrs and rallying points, even if while alive they were embarrassments who changed religion the way most people change their coat. Marie of Guise--whose alliance with English interests, remember, has always been one of convenience--begins to back away. Aside from the atmosphere of mutual suspicion, she now thinks she has a good chance of getting a French alliance WHILE keeping good relations with England. And that is the best possible outcome to her mind.

    --The forces of Charles, under the leadership of the Duke of Alba, and John Frederick clash in Coburg. (Charles, despite his gout, is present on the battlefield, though he of course, takes no part in the actual fighting.) The battle is fierce. Alba is the better commander, with a larger army, and arguably better troops--but John Frederick is competent, his troops are fresh, and they are fighting on their home ground. The result is neither the rout of the Elector's forces Charles hoped for, nor the righteous thrashing of the Emperor some Protestants wished for, but a stalemate. As evening falls, the Elector's troops, overjoyed at having survived everything the Emperor has thrown at them, begin to sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God". Charles, hearing them, is said to have burst into tears, and declared loudly to his entourage "What can be done to such men?" Charles is exhausted by his wars. Despite his successes, the Protestant Princes seem to be no closer to defeat as a whole--indeed, he is watching men who were allied to him when the war began turn on him. His finances are a mess, even by his standards, and he is increasingly worried about being caught unprepared for a future conflict with France. He can destroy the Elector, he knows--but doing so would likely destroy him. Emissaries are sent to the Elector. John Frederick, as eager to end the fighting as Charles, agrees to a truce. The next day, seated on their horses--a painful act for Charles, but one he views as necessary--Emperor and Elector meet and pledge the peace. The first Schmalkaldic War is over. The Imperial army has won every battle it fought but one, which was not a defeat--and yet that was the one where a clear victory was absolutely needed.

    --The Council of Mantua watches the end of the war with alarm. Luther's little schism has grown in force and power so that even the Holy Roman Emperor is forced to deal with them. This is a problem, even if neither Pope Paul, or most of his fellow council members can be called fans of Emperor Charles. The need to make it clear that Luther's followers are wrong, wrong, WRONG has become even more evident...
    ------------------------------------------
    [1] Yes, it's TTL's Darnley. Though he's not going to be known by that title.

    [2] IOTL, it was the French doing the dangling--and Arran got it. Then lost it after one of his customary about-faces.

    [3] IOTL, this was a daughter, Claude. Though the poor girl still had a hunchback and a clubfoot.

    [4] Maurice turned against Charles for similar reasons--with a few others--at a later date IOTL.

    [5] Yes, this is THAT Maximilian. He actually served with his uncle's troops during the Italian War, and the Schmalkaldic War IOTL. Needless to say, this is a big deal--from our point of view.

    [​IMG]
    Henri II Valois, King of France

    [​IMG]
    Joachim II 'Hector' von Hohenzollern, Elector of Brandenburg

    "In the end all who study the man wind up asking the same question--who was Thomas Cromwell, First Earl of Essex, really? The self-made genius whose skill and loyalty served and saved his monarch and his nation that he so often presented himself as? The loving father and doting husband he revealed to two wives and seven children? The devout Protestant dedicated to serving his faith who had the honor, if not the love of his fellows? The Machiavellian schemer dreaded yet respected by his European rivals? The brutal upstart thug and enforcer his English enemies cursed?

    "In the end, it is impossible to decide. Thomas Cromwell was all these things, as suited the circumstances..."

    --Ronald Cole, The Cromwells: Story of a Political Dynasty (1967)

    1548

    --The Council of Mantua issues its first decrees, a withering rejection of the precepts of Lutheranism that have in fact been held back to make them as combative as possible. It also sets forth a program to handle church corruption. Having done this, Pope Paul then proceeds to spend his time on his other major interest, indeed, one he feels he's neglected for too long of late--furthering his family's interests in Italian politics. This does undercut the entire 'handle church corruption' issue, but Paul seems fairly oblivious to this.

    --England, France and Scotland unveil a web of marriage alliances that it is hoped will keep everybody happy. King Henry IX will wed the Princess Elizabeth Valois when she comes of age. Queen Mary Stuart will wed the Prince Charles Valois when they both come of age. Thus the three nations shall all be tied to one another, while simultaneously avoiding any messy personal unions, to the satisfaction of all, and disappointment of none--in theory. True, there are a few rough patches, such as the fact that aside from Henry, all these children have ages in the single digits. But this is nobility. It's how things go. Anne in particular is thrilled that her long-standing dream to wed her son to a French princess is coming true. Others are less thrilled.

    --For Henri II of France, the marriage contract with England is all part of the ongoing preparations for the next conflict with the Hapsburgs. (The one he hopes will settle who's the Duke of Milan good and proper.) While France's position in Italy is probably the strongest it's been in decades, the fact remains they've watched all this slip from their hands before. Indeed, after watching the end of the Schmalkaldic war, Henri has been alternating between kicking himself for letting a golden opportunity escape, and reminding himself that France needed an opportunity to replenish its resources. This sort of inner conflict is pretty much par for the course for Henri, a man whose pragmatic nature is often at odds with his romantic upbringing. His influential mistress, Diane de Poitiers, doesn't help this--she regularly steers him towards grandiose projects, and away from the practical steps needed to achieve them. Henri realizes that the good will of England, Denmark and Germany's Protestant Princes is essential for a victory against the Hapsburg Empire, and that means acting as the more tolerant major Catholic monarch. And yet this rankles him--and Diane encourages this rancor, bidding Henri to take a harder line with France's growing Calvinist population, commonly referred to as the Huguenots. And there is another aspect to this religious struggle--the rivalry of the Guise and the Bourbons. Relative newcomers to the French political scene, the Guises have staked out a place for themselves as defenders of the Catholic orthodoxy--the senior line of the Bourbons, old Princes of the Blood, are heavily inclined towards the cause of Reform. (Though in all cases there're subtle exceptions.) All of this is going to get very unpleasant in the future. But that is the future. For the present, Henri is a relative moderate--he has reopened a court on heresy, but as yet, this seems to be little more than a sop to the Papacy.

    As yet.

    --At the next Reichstag, Emperor Charles and the Schmalkaldic League create a little something called the Peace of Augsburg, an agreement that will allow Protestant Princes to be Protestant Princes. It also allows the Schmalkaldic League to still exist, on the understanding that it won't be actively pursuing treachery anymore, by say, allying with foreign nations. Of course, Charles doesn't expect that proviso to be honored that much--the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans has a centuries-old tradition of backstabbing to continue, after all--but it will hopefully keep things under some semblance of control. Charles cannot be said to be that thrilled by the whole thing, but it is, he hopes, the framework to peaceable coexistence with the Lutherans, who he now knows are not going to curl up and die simply because he wants them to. His brother Ferdinand is also less thrilled--he's less doctrinaire than Charles, but he lost his beloved eldest son in this war, and he naturally blames the League. As he is presently the King of the Romans and thus, heir presumptive to the title of Holy Roman Emperor, this will prove a problem in the future. But even he knows that there is little that can be done--Protestants are everywhere--indeed their prevalence in Ferdinand's kingdoms are one reason why he wasn't able to mount an effective military response to the Elector. For the moment, the brothers agree that this is a peace that, if it doesn't pry victory from the jaws of defeat, pries acceptable loss from the jaws of total disaster, which is almost as good.

    Sadly, one person does not agree with them. Pope Paul angrily denounces the agreement, and refuses to accept it. Heretics, he states, are to be fought until they are defeated. While this has limited direct effect--both Charles and Ferdinand signal everyone that they consider the deal to be in effect, even if the Pope is having a hissy--it does help make everything just a tad more tense throughout the Empire. Still, Paul is an old man. He probably won't be around much longer, and the next Pope will probably prove more reasonable. Hopefully.

    --In other Hapsburg news, Ferdinand's second son, Ferdinand II, finds himself forced to take up his brother's place in all sorts of things--he not only finds himself sent to Spain to govern it in his uncle's place, as Charles had planned to have Maximillian do, but he winds up marrying his brother's betrothed, Charles' daughter Maria, as well. He is less than pleased with all this, but he's a Hapsburg. You do what you have to for the family's sake.

    While this is going on, Charles broaches the idea of his son Philip succeeding him as Holy Roman Emperor to his brother. Ferdinand does not take it well--he views the position as promised to him--and Charles drops the matter, though it does result in a certain level of bitterness between the brothers[1]. Meanwhile, in an effort to prepare his son for rule--and also get him to get out of the funk his wife's death has caused--Charles has Philip come to govern the Duchy of Burgundy. It does not go well--the Burgundians, Dutch, Wallonian, and Flemish alike find the austere, Spanish-speaking and incredibly narrow-minded Philip... rather unsettling.

    --While walking about on government business, Thomas Cromwell suddenly keels over, dying of a heart attack. This makes Anne miss her dearly-departed brother George more intensely--with her old foe/ally Cromwell gone, she has lost her strongest supporter on the Council outside of Paulet, the bastion of opportunism. Cromwell's son Gregory is a member, true, but he is a charming nonentity, in no way capable of taking his father's place. And Anne's position is less sure than it would appear. In the immediate aftermath of her husband's death, the Council was willing to accept her, partially because of a need for strong leadership, and partially because they were used to her. But now things are settling down, and people are starting to rankle. Anne can be abrasive at times, after all. This was not a problem when they needed someone capable of calming down Henry VIII during one of his bad moments, such as the time when he apparently thought England was still in the League of Cambrai, and wondered why they weren't attacking France. But now that's not an issue, and every man who thinks he should be the big man on the Council is starting to bristle. And they aren't alone. Henry IX may only be fourteen, with a fifteenth birthday fast approaching, but he is an exceptionally clever young boy. He is beginning to strike out on his own, and much as he loves his mother, he resents being seen as under her thumb. Anne realizes she may have to step down from the Council earlier than she expected to...

    --Turning to the Schmalkaldic League--its mood is celebrant. Closet Lutherans--like Elector Joachim--are becoming open Lutherans. Protestant Princes who once refused to join are now begging for admission. William, Duke of Bavaria, who's long had Lutheran sympathies (or so he says) joins the faith--though this involves politics as much as religion--indeed, probably moreso. (Simply put, William suspects that it may prove more important for his family to stay on the Wettins' good side than the Hapsburgs' in the near future.) Yes, things are looking up. Or are they? *dramatic music sting*

    John Frederick has naturally emerged the big winner from the war--he has expanded his holdings considerably, and even received the Emperor's blessing to do so, in return for agreeing to support the Hapsburg candidate following the end of Charles' reign and giving up any claim to Gelre. Indeed, the late Maurice's side of the family have been downgraded in the eyes of the Empire to the mere Dukes of Saxe-Weisenfals. (Presently, as Maurice left only a young daughter behind, the position has passed to his younger brother, Augustus.) Further, John Frederick's eldest son, John Frederick, is now betrothed to England's Princess Elizabeth in a move to connect two of Europe's most prominent Protestant families. The Ernestine line of Wettin is well on its way to become the unofficial head of the Empire's Protestant nobles. And that is what the Emperor is hoping for. Charles has long been the victim of the crabpot nature of the German Princes, and frankly he wants to spread the love. As he hasn't been able to peel the Elector down, he's decided he'll just help him puff up, and then let nature take its course.

    And it's working. John Frederick has come out of the war with two fixed ideas--that the Schmalkaldic League needs to reform if it is to remain an effective counterweight to Imperial might, and that he is its essential man. Needless to say, neither belief, no matter how justified, endears him to his fellows. In addition the League is burdened by old dynastic rivalries. The Wettins and the Hohenzollerns have long competed with each other for influence--indeed, that competition wound up inadvertently jumpstarting up the Reformation. While they're getting used to working on the same side now, it's an uneasy alliance at the best of times. Then there's the House of Hesse--Philip is feeling somewhat resentful at being eclipsed by John Frederick and is thus making himself into something of an unofficial leader of the opposition. And then John Frederick makes matters worse by picking a fight with Philip Melanchthon.

    It all comes down to the the Real Presence. While Luther didn't believe in transubstantiation--that is that the priest more or less transforms the substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ--he did believe that the body and blood are there--somehow--and saw Zwingli and Calvin's denial of this as fanatical. Melanchthon came to disagree with him on this, but kept quiet while his teacher lived to keep the peace. But since Luther's death, he's moved to bring the Lutheran faith somewhat closer to the rest of Protestantism. Unfortunately for him, John Frederick doesn't appreciate this.[2] John Frederick's brand of Protestantism always included just a dose of hero worship for Luther, and thus he does not react well to what he sees as an attack on the great man's works when Luther is no longer able to defend them. There is a political element to this as well--John Frederick is hoping to make sure the Peace holds, and he feels the Lutheran Church becoming LESS Catholic isn't the best way to do this. Besides, this sounds suspiciously like an effort to bring in Calvinism into the church through the backdoor. It starts with suggesting that the Lord's Supper is largely symbolic--it ends with proclaiming kooky doctrines like the nonexistence of free will, or God's chosen elect.

    The argument continues throughout the year, with Melanchthon cursing the stubbornness of the man who he was painting in near-Messianic terms only recently, and John Frederick muttering about that damned priest. Finally, Melanchthon threatens to resign from his position at Wittenberg University. John Frederick accepts his resignation. Though none realize it at the time, this "little matter" is going to cause the League a great deal of trouble in the years ahead.

    --In Scotland, most of the Catholic anti-English opposition retires to their respective corners. They're weak, disorientated, and leaderless--with Arran, Lennox, and Beaton gone, they've lost any strong unifying figures outside of Marie of Guise, who of course, wants everyone to just get along. But they're not out of people who think they could be such a figure, and those folks are quietly duking it out, with, as per usual for Scotland, a lot of old feuds starting up again. The Protestants are also less than thrilled by the deal--some feel that England has sold them out--but many understand at least some of the reasoning behind it, and hope that the knowledge that they have England's backing will keep Marie of Guise from attempting a Counter-Reformation. Meanwhile, rumors continue to circulate about the Bloody Night, with various nobles being placed as the third--or rather fourth--party who actually did the deed. Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus, is a popular choice--while he was Lennox's father-in-law, he is a notably self-serving, unscrupulous man, the former stepfather of James V who spent most the latter's minority scheming to seize control of the country. Further, just like Lennox, he resided in England for quite some time, returned promising to serve their interests, and promptly did no such thing, instead choosing to play not only both ends against the middle, but the middle against itself, as well as working to find fascinating new angles and directions to exploit.

    Young James Hamilton, the new Earl of Arran, hears these stories, and is profoundly affected by them, though he is unable to do anything at the moment--the English Ambassador also hears them, but dismisses them. Angus, he writes the Council, is an old, tired man more interested in the pretty young wife he recently married than politics these days. Still, this shows how things stand in Scotland. It's not horrifically violent at the moment, but it's a nasty and unstable powder keg with rumors flying everywhere and people on edge.

    --England's Convocation comes to an end. It has been, on the whole, a triumph for Cranmer, the primary author of England's new Forty-Three Articles of the Faith, which place the country's church firmly in the Protestant camp. True, he had to scale back some articles to gain the approval of the more conservative members--personally, he considers the compromise on saints he made a little dubious--but on the whole, he is justly proud of it. It is also something of a feather in John Frederick's cap--the Church of England's formulation of the Last Supper is pretty much a gloss on Luther's stance. Yes, everybody's a winner--except for England's Catholics, but by this stage in the game, most people assume they've learnt their lesson.

    --In Poland, King Sigismund the Old dies early in the year. The throne passes to his son Sigismund Augustus. At his first Sejm, the king faces a challenge from a group of deputies who call for him to renounce his wife, Barbara Radizwell. Sigismund refuses, setting up a lengthy fight over Barbara's coronation as Queen. This matter is more than simply the Sejm feeling slighted by a prince's hasty marriage--Barbara's family are major Lithuanian magnates, and Protestants to boot. (Barbara herself is Catholic, but sympathetic to reform.) Many Poles distrust such a family gaining ready access to the throne. In addition, the Hapsburgs have quite a bit of pull in the Sejm, and their distrust of the Radizwells is if anything even deeper. And so, by the end of the year, battle lines are set...
    ---------------------------------------

    [1] Charles in fact did consider this IOTL--and Ferdinand was, naturally quite offended.

    [2] Similar doctrinal splits occurred IOTL, kept in check only by a perceived need for solidarity in the face of Catholic superiority. Here, Protestant triumphalism is making them worse, as well as accelerating them, as they feel have a free hand--and quite a few of the Reform party haven't had to pick up and flee to England.

    [​IMG]
    Philip Melanchthon

    [​IMG]
    Pope Paul III, with his grandsons Cardinal Alessandre Farnese, and Ottavio
    Farnese, Duke of Parma

    "O GOD, whose nature and properte is ever to have mercye and to forgeve, receive our humble peticion, and thoughe we be tyed and bound with the chain of our sinnes: yet let thy pitifulnes of thy great mercye leuse us for the honour of Jesu Christes sake, our mediatour and advocate. Amen. "

    --From the Book of Common Prayer (1549)[1]

    1549

    --In Madrid, Prince Ferdinand takes the time to meet his young cousin Charles. The deformed young Prince-to-be has been the subject of countless rumors of the usual sort--he bites his wet nurses and drinks blood with milk, he has a tail and horns, he has both female and male parts, etc, etc--and has been made out to be a legendary monster. What Ferdinand finds instead is an ugly, lonely, slightly backwards little boy who spends most of his time being cossetted by his nurse, and much of the rest of it hiding from his doctors. Ferdinand takes something of a shine to his cousin, and vice versa, and broaches the possibility of young Charles accompanying him back to Vienna when he leaves, where he can enjoy a more comfortable existence and the companionship of others.

    Philip stonily shoots this idea down. His son is staying right where he is, thank you very much. Charles is heartbroken, though he and his cousin remain on good terms. It is the first time Philip has crushed Charles' hopes. It will not be the last.

    --In England, the Book of Common Prayer is published, the new direction of English worship. To the surprise of virtually everyone, England's Catholics prove to be less cowed than thought--spontaneous uprisings occur in various locations, among them Cornwall[2]. The Fifth Pilgrimage of the Faithful is interesting--unlike before no one is calling for England to rejoin Rome, a Catholic succession, or anything like that. All the Catholics really want is some space of their own. (There are also some related uprisings involving land enclosures that wind up getting absorbed into the Pilgrimage, but everyone assumes they're just a minor, passing thing.) It's surprisingly sedate, actually, and goes down in history as 'the Peaceful Pilgrimage'--something of a misnomer, as quite a bit of violence does happen. But not much--in point of fact, this batch of pilgrims often break up whenever they hear that soldiers are in the neighborhood. Further, much as with Bigod's Pilgrimage, the knowledge that the damned Papists are starting again brings Protestant crowds to the streets, chanting the old standby "God save the king, the devil take the Pope", and breaking a few Catholic heads while they're at it. Ultimately, the whole thing ends quickly, with a motley collection of priests, farmers, and troublemakers hung as ringleaders.

    In many respects, it's a fairly minor matter. Norfolk sees a major Popish plot behind it, but Norfolk has been known to see Popish plots in shipwrecks and unfavorable weather conditions. Still, it is the straw needed to break one camel's back--Anne resigns as Regent shortly thereafter. She bids Henry to listen to the Council, the Council to guide him well, and then retires to her estates. And so ends an era of government. Anne will continue to be quietly influential in English politics, but she will hold no more official posts. While officially the young King remains under the direction of the Council, few who attend the meetings labor under any delusion as to who is ruling England now. Despite his youth, the government is now Henry's.

    --Philip Melanchthon takes up his new post in Philip of Hesse's University of Marburg. The Schmalkaldic League is increasingly split into 'True' Lutheran, and 'Reformed' Lutheran camps, with the True Lutherans seeing the Reformed Lutherans as Calvinists in Lutheran clothing, and the Reformed Lutherans seeing the True Lutherans as only a step away from Catholics. There is a certain geographical nature to the split--simply put the more northeasterly Protestant German states--such as Saxony and Brandenburg--tend towards True Lutheranism, while the more southwesterly ones--such as Hesse and the Palatinate--tend towards Reformed Lutheranism. But this is not a hard and fast rule--Bavaria for example is in the True Lutheranism camp. And yet, despite this, the League sticks together--the war is still too fresh to see all the solidarity it created destroyed, and John Frederick is still too much a hero to the Protestant cause to be completely dismissed, even by those who think he's an overbearing asshole on some matters.

    --The time has come to truly consider young Henry IX. To begin with, he is handsome, and quite tall, though of slighter build than his father. (Then again, considering how Henry ended up, this is not a bad thing.) He is also very much the Renaissance Prince, widely educated, artistically inclined, thanks in no small part to his mother's teaching. Of course, all this was true of his father as well, but Henry IX has the self-confidence that his father tried so hard to project, and failed to quite frequently. He does not have his father's need to prove himself--young Henry knows he's fantastic, thank you very much. It can make him a little hard to take at times, though he does possess the charm and sense of humor to make you forgive his arrogance. Henry enjoys his athletic pastimes, and spends much of his spare time in such pursuits as hunting, tennis, and other such sports--though he does very little jousting, it must be noted. (His father's accident has made jousting somewhat less popular in England, and among the crowned heads of Europe in general.) He is often accompanied in these pastimes by his favorite companions--his nephew Arthur Fitzroy, his cousins Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and, Henry Carey, Earl of Wiltshire, and young Robert Dudley, son of John Dudley.

    Despite this, one should avoid the impression that Henry is more interested in pleasure than ruling--he is quite interested in both, actually, and has definite ideas of what he'd like England to be and to do. Naturally, these ideas will soon collide with that evil bastard, reality--but they are Henry's ideas. And because he's a king, he's going to get a chance to try quite a few out.

    --Barbara Radizwell is crowned Queen of Poland, the Sejm having finally, after months of resistance, caved before the King.[3] While the Hapsburgs have striven mightily to prevent this, ultimately, the dynasty--and Emperor Charles in particular--are having a difficult time overcoming the undeniable 'loser' aura that has surrounded them of late. Their immense success has left the Hapsburg diplomatically isolated, and the Reformation has made the Empire as much a burden as a source of power. People see this--and they see that as a result, the Hapsburgs aren't quite as able to project their power as they'd like, and then react accordingly. For Sigismund Augustus, this means he gets to keep his Lithuanian bride.

    --One 'Mr. Rosencreutz' visits England. [4] He is in fact John Frederick the Younger, there incognito to meet his future bride. Elizabeth is--well, not swept off her feet--the young Princess is not the sort of girl who gets swept off her feet--but afterwards, whenever her future husband is mentioned to her, she smiles. Coming from her, that is a lot. As for Henry, he is even more taken with his future brother-in-law than his sister is. (But not in that way. Get it out of your head.) John Frederick is cut very much in the mold of his father--prodigiously learned, a soldier, and a dedicated Protestant. He is also less pragmatic than his father, and as John Frederick the Elder does not top anyone's list of pragmatic politicians, this will prove to be a problem in the future. He regales the young king with tales of the Schmalkaldic War, and King Henry listens to them eagerly. The young King is very, very much interested in a chance for glory--and most of the Council think he should be...

    --In France, Henri and Catherine have their latest child, a young girl of indifferent health and average looks named Claude. Henri continues preparations for the next war. Pretty soon, the Hapsburgs are going to see who the rightful rulers of Italy are!

    The Valois. Not the Hapsburgs. In case you were wondering.

    --As the year comes to a close, Pope Paul III dies in Rome after an illness precipitated by an emotional argument with his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnesse[5]. He has had a long, influential Papacy, albeit one that has never quite lived up to its potential, and that's last years have proven something of an embarrassment. France's man on the spot, Cardinal-Protector Ippolito d'Este, manages to instill a nine day waiting period before the funeral--which lasts another nine days. This gives time for a sizable party of French Cardinals to arrive at the conclave, under the leadership of Cardinal Charles de Guise, who in a typical display of modesty, announces himself to be the principal member of the group, and really, the only one people need to worry about.[6] Needless to say, the arrival of the group muddies the waters and ends any hopes of a speedy resolution to the. As the year ends, the Conclave is still going on...

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    [1] Actual quotation from the Book.

    [2]There were similar uprisings on the publishing of the Book of Common Prayer OTL.

    [3] They caved in 1550, IOTL.

    [4] The name has to do Luther's symbol--a rosy cross. The IOTL Rosicrucians seem to have been drawing on this.

    [5] This was the circumstance of his death IOTL.

    [6] Cardinal de Guise made a similar comment upon arrival in IOTL's conclave. Charles de Guise-Lorraine does not seem to have been afflicted with a lack of self-regard.


    [​IMG]
    Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este

    [​IMG]
    Cardinal Charles de Guise

    [​IMG]
    Henry Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, in a pose of typical modesty

    "...Paul's death upturned the shaky consensus he'd labored to build. In truth, without his strong personality to keep it going, the Pauline program was indeed moribund--few could speak with any enthusiasm of the narrow, reactionary church it attempted to create, nor could it even boast of success in its endeavors to hold back the Protestant tide... The Papal Conclave of 1550 was one looking desperately for an answer to the problem of Catholicism. Whether they found one is debated to this day--but the man they elected would go on to change his church, his land, and the entire world..."

    --Elizabeth Wentworth "A Rake in the House of God: The Story of the Magnificent, Paradoxical Papacy of Pius IV" (1998)

    1550

    --We begin with the Papal Conclave. The French go into it expecting the usual competition--them versus the Emperor, with a few spoilers on the sidelines trying to broker deals. By Cardinal Charles de Guise's reckoning, they are fairly even, which means that their best hope for a French--or French-friendly--Pope is that some Imperial Cardinals are bribable.

    It's not the usual competition. As the Cardinal writes back to Henri II, Emperor Charles' position in the Conclave is a shambles. His favored candidate is an unelectable Spaniard, and presently, the leading candidates are those he has signaled as inappropriate--Niccolò Ridolfi, Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi [1], and Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte [2] in particular. The Empire's Cardinals are furious with the man for the most part--for the Peace of Augsburg, for his failure to stop Luther, for, even after all these years, the death of Reginald Pole, and for simply being him--and want to teach the Emperor a lesson, though what exactly is up in the air. This has not resulted in any unified effort, mind you--the last four ballots prior the majority of the French parties arrival have been inconclusive. [3] And so have the two that follow, as they test the waters. Cardinal Guise is overjoyed, and writes the King immediately. He puts it bluntly--Henri has been handed a golden opportunity. However, they'll have to move relatively quickly. Eventually this anger will dissipate, likely in the face of hefty bribes of Spanish gold.

    On the next ballot, the French put all their strength behind one of Henri's favored choices, Georges d'Amboise. The result is startling--on the ballot after that, sensing a rush, several Italian cardinals overcome their reluctance to have a non-Italian Pope, and actually throw their support behind him, and on the next a few more do. Simply put--they may not like the idea of a French Pope, but if one's coming, they don't want to be one of the Cardinals who didn't vote for him. All this brings the hidden faction of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Paul's grandson, and wannabe King... urr, Popemaker, to the forefront. He manages to unite his faction and a few other Italians around Cardinal Niccolò Ridolfi. The immediate effect is another deadlock. While Farnesse hopes that this will ultimately grant Ridolfi the Holy See, these hopes are dashed when the old Cardinal dies. [4] While he makes efforts to get the Cardinals behind either Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte or Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi, the entire incident proves disorientating and demoralizing. Further, the lengthy of the Conclave means that strict measures are being imposed on the Cardinals--indeed, that's part of what killed Ridolfi--and these threaten to make everyone... dangerously agreeable.

    Realizing that he must act soon--there are rumors that the French are going to try to put Queen Catherine's cousin Giovanni Salviati up in the next sounding, a man who will not only stand a good chance of getting it, but who the Cardinal's faction can't stand [5]--Cardinal Farnesse arranges a closed door sit-down with the French faction. And so the French and the Italians meet--and the French play their trump card. Naturally, they can understand that the Italians want to avoid having a French Pope... Avignon, and all that. And so they've got a nice little Italian candidate prepared--Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, Archbishop of Milan and Lyon, and Cardinal-Protector of France [6]. The Italians find this agreeable, and Ippolito, who's actually been making damn sure that he HASN'T shown up in the voting so far, makes his first appearance on the next ballot--a strong one, that only gets stronger as the voting continues. Eventually, after three soundings, he has the majority needed. It's been a lengthy conclave--but by late January, it looks like they've chosen their pope. [7]

    Of course, it still lies within Charles' power to block this--but he's a bit low on political capital at the moment--and capital capital as well, actually--and doesn't know if this is the most effective thing to spend it on. Besides, d'Este quietly indicates to the Emperor that he finds the Peace of Augsburg acceptable and Charles knows from personal experience that the d'Estes are a pragmatic bunch. He can stop the election of this pope--but there's no guarantee that he'll get someone better, and a pretty good chance he'll get someone worse. And so Charles decides to grin and bear it. True, this man is a close friend of the French Royal family--but as Charles knows from personal experience, the Triple Crown changes men. And so, Ippolito d'Este is elected Pope. While a few wags joke that he's going to honor his grandfather and become Alexander VII [8], he chooses the safe Papal name of Pius IV, which everyone takes a symbol of caution and continuity.

    So, what is Pope Pius IV like? Well, to begin with, he's a patron of the arts, who's spent--and will continue to spend--a fortune making his villa in Treviso a wonder to behold.[9] He loves drinking, gambling, and living it up. In other words, the reformers and Spirtualiti who were shaking their heads about how Pope Paul turned out are actively banging their heads against the wall now. Pius has shown no interest in reform up to now--in fact, he's generally proven devoid of any theological opinions whatsoever, thus making the name choice rather ironic. And they are going to be stuck with him for awhile--Pius is a relatively young, vigorous man, troubled only by the occasional mild bout of gout. Still, it could be worse, they figure. Somehow.

    --In Scotland, the French Ambassador writes to King Henri of meeting the young Queen and her sister Princess Antoinette at a party in Stirling Castle. It is a mixed report. While Mary Stuart is pretty, vivacious, and fairly intelligent, she is also rather unruly--the Ambassador writes that after greeting her guests graciously for half an hour, at a time when everyone's attention is elsewhere, a sudden scream draws it back on Mary and her sister. They find the girls grappling with each other, with Queen Mary--who is much larger than her little sister--pushing Antoinette to the floor and raining blows on her. The pair are swiftly separated. The Guise brothers seize on this as more proof that the Queen needs civilizing, and that if she cannot be brought to France, perhaps France--or a reasonable portion of it--can be brought to her, in the form of tutors. Marie is apprehensive--Scotland's rapidly expanding population of Protestants are convinced she's plotting to institute the Counter-Reformation in the country. They look askance at any efforts to turn the young Queen against them--and French tutors might prove a weapon to do just that. While Marie does have hopes of protecting the Catholic Faith in Scotland, and perhaps even rolling back the Protestant heresy that's taken roots here, she is also well-aware of her delicate situation--surrounded by those heretics, who have the backing of a heretic king right next door, who her own king is trying very hard to stay friendly with. Add in the fallout of the Bloody Night, which has still left Marie with an aura of sinister impropriety, and the sudden replacement of fellow realist Anne with the unknown quantity that is her son, and you have a situation where Marie is justifiably worried about offending anyone, even if in better circumstances she would be asking where she could sign up.

    Unfortunately for her, her brothers don't really care. Claude de Guise, Duke of Aumale, is dispatched by his brothers, and family leaders Francois and Cardinal Charles to meet with their weak and erring sister and bring her in line with the family views--even though, as stated she is in line, and simply doesn't think this is the best time. Claude also brings an assortment of French tutors with him, all with the aim of making Mary Stuart--and Antoinette, as well--into proper little French Princesses.

    English Ambassador Ralph Sadler also writes of the party--though he proves more sympathetic to Mary. Antoinette, he states, happens to have found out quite a few pertinent details about Mary's betrothed, and has taken to repeatedly whispering "Crouchback" to her sister at opportune moments. It is simply another sign of the exceptionally warm relationship--think, house fire warm--that exists between the Stuart sisters. And of Antoinette's deep feelings for her sister, and her desire to keep her occupied...

    Sadler also writes on the matter of the Earl of Angus' new wife, who turns out to be a somewhat familiar figure to the English court--the notorious Catherine Howard. While it's not clear exactly how the pair met--and Catherine will never give a straight answer on the matter, or how she even wound up in Scotland to begin with--it's fairly clear that Angus' 'thoughts' on the marriage issued from an organ a bit lower than his brain. As for Catherine--she's an adventuress, plain and simple, though Sadler--and indeed, many others--think she's doing a little spying on the side for somebody. Who is a matter of some debate.

    --In Bohemia, rumors that the new Pope is going to denounce the Peace mix with fears that Ferdinand is going to get on with the whole 'Counter-Reformation' matter here, and result in mass uprisings by the nation's Protestants. Ferdinand, unable to raise reliable troops, swears up and down to Bohemian Protestants that they will remain the exception to the whole 'Prince's religion' matter. This ends the uprisings, but showcases the Hapsburgs increasingly weak hand in the HRE. Ferdinand writes to his brother--who is heading to Madrid to get Spanish troops for the war with the Valois he's pretty sure is coming up--telling him that if the Pope doesn't approve the Peace soon, he honestly has no idea what could happen. The Schmalkaldic League is interested in keeping the Peace, he notes, but their command of the Protestant rank and file is always a bit uncertain.

    It's just another problem for Emperor Charles. Tired and old beyond his years, he has outlasted all his old rivals, save Suleiman--and yet sometimes it doesn't feel like it. His opponents laugh at him, and sense his weakness--a popular woodcut called 'The New Atlas' that shows up on various anti-Imperial pamphlets depicts Charles as a puny dwarf trying (unsuccessfully) to hold onto the world, even as his crown falls off. For Charles, the worst thing about the damned thing is that that is exactly how he feels much of the time these days. But--he has to keep at it. For now at least. In the meantime, he throws himself into preparations for the upcoming conflict with France--Henri is allowing the various talks they've been having on and off about the Duchy of Milan issue to fall apart, and Charles knows what that means--and trying to arrange his son's next marriage. Normally, he'd wait on that last bit, but truth be told, he's in a hurry these days, and if he leaves it to Philip, the boy would sigh, moon, and moan eternally about his lost love.

    --Norfolk publishes the first part of Brutus, to the plaudits of England's literate public, and the future groans of as yet unborn generations of English schoolboys, who will spend hours copying passages from it and writing essays about it. With a story taken from Geoffrey of Monmouth, and embroidered liberally upon, it tells of Brutus, a descendent of Aeneas who is cast out of Alba Longa for the accidental killing of his father, due to the malice of the city's sinister Pontifex Maximus. (Obvious symbolism alert!) Brutus and his noble band of followers set out to build a place where they will lives free from oppression, as proper Trojans should. By the end of the first section, they still haven't gotten to what will be Britain, but they are fighting a war in Aquitaine. So it ends on a high note. Needless to say, Henry's court eats it up.

    --Pope Pius starts his career by reopening the Council of Mantua, and offending most of Pope Paul's old partisans, first by announcing that he's okay with the Peace of Augsburg. Then, he offends them more by refusing to go along with a matter that the old Pope was looking into before his death, the excommunication of Henry IX. Pius is blunt on the last one--the entire matter of excommunicating Protestant Princes is little more than political theatre--"heat with no light", as he puts it. It doesn't bring the said Protestants back to Mother Church, crying to be forgiven, and it doesn't cause the nation's Catholics to rise as one and overthrow their heretic Prince. All it does is create bad feeling, and if anything, strengthen both the Protestants' resolve and position. Pius is all for excommunicating erring bishops and prince-bishops who don't stay in line with the Church--that works--but kings are another matter. He then states that he feels the Council's last set of decrees were somewhat--overzealous, and that in the Council's haste to denounce Luther they "might have mistakenly denounced Christ as well". He suggests walking them back ever so slightly. And then to cap it, he enthusiastically accepts the Jesuits, the weird little group of reformers that Paul III was championing off and on, to the discomfort of quite a few clerics.

    Many of the Cardinals are... unsettled. They assumed they were getting a safe quantity with Pius, and instead... well, he's proving just a bit more radical than they thought he'd be. While few are quite as put out as Cardinal Giovanni Pietro Carafa [10], head of the Roman Inquisition, who reportedly declares "Jesus help us, we've elected a Protestant!" during a private conversation, the whisperings are there. Pius pays no attention to them--he views his actions as fundamentally pragmatic. If there is a radical bent to them, this is because the Church's situation is grave, and requires extreme actions. The Protestants have proven they are no Albigesians, to be bludgeoned into submission--they are organized, they are widespread, and they have the dedicated support of powerful noblemen--even kings. The Church is going to have gear up for a long fight, and do their best to keep what they can and demonstrate to those whose faith is wavering that the Church understands their concerns before they even think of regaining lost ground. There is another matter here--Pius has grown up with the Reformation occurring and traveled in circles that have allowed him to meet people sympathetic to it. For him, it is not a horrific invasion of incomprehensible heretics, but a collection of people who for the most part mean well, though Pius sincerely believes they are mistaken on numerous matters. (There are other political factors at play here--for example, while Pius does have practical objections to the sort of excommunications Paul III trafficked in, he is also doing Henri a favor regarding his prospective son-in-law.) While the worst of them deserve a bit of... sternness, most he feels can be reasoned with.

    However, not everyone disagrees with his actions. The Spirituali, who have been shaking their in heads in sad resignation, suddenly begin to get hopeful. Dying poet Marcantonio Flaminio says to a friend, "God has delivered us from the mouths of lions!" But most are more apprehensive. They've been burned before--Paul III spent much of his earlier Papacy offering tacit support, only to let the Church's most reactionary elements savage the Sprituali during the early sessions of the Council of Mantua. Still--this may be a good sign.

    --In England, Henry gives his brother Edward, and his nephew Arthur Fitzroy places on the Council as high officers of the state. Arthur is given the position of Lord High Constable, separated once more from the Crown, while Edward is made the Lord High Steward, filling an office that has more or less lain vacant. As yet, these are largely ceremonial positions, with little genuine authority--Arthur and Edward are there to learn how to help Henry govern. Arthur makes a quick impression on people, charming the older members with his quick wit, and easy charm. Edward on the other hand tends to keep to himself during meetings, often reading, and scribbling out poems during them. "A quiet boy, if he is not spoken to, he does not speak, and when spoken to, he does not say much", notes William Paulet.

    In other news, Princess Elizabeth departs for Wittenburg for her upcoming marriage, to acclimate her to her new home. Her husband-to-be is presently serving as his father's governor of Cleves, and awaits her arrival eagerly.

    --King Henri is in a very good mood. The Hapsburgs are crumbling. He's actually managed to get a friend on the Papal Throne, and the latest news from Bohemia is just the icing on the cake. It's time to start the NEW ITALIAN WAR! Declaring that Charles' has dragged his feet on handing Henri his deserved title long enough, France's armies prepare for campaigns in Milan and Lorraine. Leading the armies in Lorraine will be transplanted native son, Francois de Guise--leading the armies in Milan, Henri's brother-in-law, Emmanuel Philibert de Savoie. Meanwhile, the Ottomans get ready to join in the fun, and Henri sends an invitation to the Schmalkaldic League and young King Henry in England, bidding them to join him in bringing the Emperor to heel. He also sounds Pope Pius, who assures him that while he cannot join the war directly--yet--he will give the official Papal sanction, as long as Henri doesn't do anything too embarrassing.

    Charles, busily preparing his troops in Spain, responds by having the aging, but still capable Andrea Dorea take to the sea to take care of the Barbary pirates and the Ottoman threat. Towards the end of the year, Dorea manages an inconclusive raid on Mahdiya. [11] By late September, there have been assorted skirmishes throughout Milanese territory, but nothing conclusive. The main fighting will begin next year.

    In the meantime, Henri's efforts to gain allies bear mixed fruits. The Schmalkaldic League are in no mood to fight the Emperor at the moment. They just finished that up, AND got a pretty good deal from the man, and they don't want to scotch it. Still, they know that having France as a bargaining chip is a pretty good deal, so they try to stay out of the fight for now. Henry Tudor on the other hand, is eager to join the fight against the Hapsburgs--he's spent much of his life watching Emperor Charles take it on the oversized chin, and he can't wait to get his licks in. Naturally, if Anne were still calling the shots, England would be staying out of this--Anne came out of the last Italian War with the notion that the nation's best chance when France and Empire fight is to stay on the sidelines, and occasionally support a little mayhem. But this is Henry's show, and he's a young man surrounded by young men eager to prove themselves, and old men who think that England needs a bit of a real war. Plus, Henri is hinting if all goes well, he'll give the Low Countries to his daughter as a wedding gift. And so, Henry vows to join France in its fight against the overwhelming might of the Emperor...

    --Claude de Guise arrives in Scotland, with a personal guard, and lots of French tutors. Meeting with his sister, the mild-mannered Duke is quickly won over to her point of view, and writes to his brothers, noting that with the forces surrounding her it's amazing she's managed to do what she has. He meets his nieces, and is charmed by both of them, though especially by Antoinette, who's learning early how to get on the good side of people with authority. And he gets everyone else in Scotland very worried.

    Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll, organizes a meeting on how to handle this clear Papist threat. Among those attending are Lord Ruthven, Lord Drummond, the Earl of Rothes, and perhaps most important of all, Mary's bastard half-brother, James Stewart. Also in attendance are English Ambassador Ralph Sadler, and a group of Protestant ministers fresh from England, dominated by 'the two Johns'--John Willock and John Knox, Scots with heavy connections to the English Church. The Protestants are increasingly worried about a France-backed crackdown, or failing that, an effort to spirit 'the little Queen' away. There's a growing movement to have James assume the Regency--and possibly more--though he at the moment demurs. Sadler offers a promise of English support if, and only if, the French do something drastic--otherwise, he bids the lords to be patient. Rumors of this meeting reach the ears of Marie and her brother--who likewise decide to wait and see what happens--and the various Catholic lords, most of whom begin to quietly panic. The exception is the Earl of Angus. Feeling... reinvigorated by his marriage, and convinced that now is his hour, he begins to make inroads among his fellow Catholics, preparing to set himself up as the leader of the opposition. And then it all goes wrong.

    James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, is a troubled young man--indeed, it would take a strong mind to take his father's horrific death with equanimity, and Arran's mind is far from that. In addition, he's a man of rather nebulous religious views, which means both Protestants and Catholics are trying to get him on their side, so he's hearing a lot of rumors meant to win him over, and being invited to a lot of parties. Among the rumors is that the Earl of Angus engineered the Bloody Night. Among the parties he's being invited to are those the Earl of Angus is holding. And--because naturally, the situation wasn't bad enough--at said parties, he happens to meet the new Countess of Angus, and is instantly smitten. Catherine encourages his attraction, partially out of vanity, and partially to pump him for the information everyone else is dumping into the poor young man. So, we have a young man of questionable mental stability who is in regular contact with a man he thinks murdered his father, and also happens to be in love with that man's wife. This is very not good.

    The disaster that's been brewing finally boils over in late October at a gathering the Earl of Angus is holding. It is early in the evening when a scream from an alcove brings a large party there to discover the Countess holding her bleeding, unconscious husband, weeping in terror, with a bloody dagger lying on the ground. She states that the Earl of Arran approached her husband earlier requesting a few words in private, which the Earl agreed to. Catherine says that after waiting for her husband to rejoin the party, she at last went to their meeting spot, where she found the Earl in the piteous condition he is now in. While there are numerous gaps in her story, no one can find Arran and the dagger does seem to have been his. A manhunt for the missing Earl begins, which only intensifies when the Earl of Angus expires from his wounds, having never regained consciousness. As he has left no male heirs, the title 'Earl of Angus' is taken by his nephew, David Douglas.

    Catherine Howard emerges from all this an object of some suspect, something her subsequent behavior does not help. Facing a great deal of hostility from her in-laws--many of whom doubt the validity--or even the existence--of her marriage to the Earl, she claims at first to be pregnant. This gives her a little breathing space, which she promptly uses to abscond with a great deal of finery, money, and jewels--some of which the Earl actually gave to her before his untimely death. For many, this strongly suggests she played a more active role in the Earl's death than she let on--rumors circle that either Angus found her at an assignation with Arran, or that she engineered the whole assassination. Whatever the truth, Miss Howard has once again been tangled up in a murder--though this one will prove far, far more significant than that earlier affair...

    -----------------------------------------------------
    [1] IOTL, he was Pope Marcellus II, selected in the conclave that followed this one.

    [2] IOTL, he was selected at this conclave, and became Pope Julius III.

    [3] Charles' position was much stronger IOTL, and he nearly succeeded in getting his second choice in. That second choice--was Reginald Pole.

    [4] He died IOTL too--this Conclave was merciless to several of the older Cardinals, for reasons that will be made clear shortly.

    [5] Catherine was pitching for him to be the French compromise candidate IOTL. This didn't happen, largely because Henri II never listened to his wife if he could help it.

    [6] This was the French plan IOTL, though they never got around to it--indeed, with the deck stacked against them, they more or less muddled through and made sure Pole wouldn't get the office.

    [7] The IOTL conclave was slightly longer, lasting into early Febuary.

    [8] Ippolito's maternal grandfather is THE Rodrigo Borgia. His mother is THE Lucrezia Borgia. And while I'm at it, his father is THE Alfonso d'Este.

    [9] He really did--the Chateu d'Este is a present day world hertiage site IOTL.

    [10] IOTL, he became Pope Paul IV.

    [11] This happened IOTL, though it was more in preparation for war, than part of it.




    [​IMG]
    Emmanuel Philibert, Duke (Consort) of Savoy

    [​IMG]
    Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, 3rd Duke of Alba

    "For years, Marie de Guise had labored to keep the peace in her daughter's unruly land. Angus' death now threatened all her work. While she could hardly be said to regret his passing as such--Angus' had a lengthy career as a troublemaker that had covered all of her husband's life--its manner was exactly the sort of lit match she'd been dreading. And yet even she did not realize just how grave matters would get..."

    --Octavia March 'It Will Pass With a Lass'; the Life and Times of Mary, Queen of Scots, Last of the Stewarts' 1983

    1551

    --We turn to Scotland as the year begins, where the hunt for Arran continues. Marie of Guise receives a long, rambling letter from the man, wherein he incoherently denies killing Angus, but then also incoherently insists the Earl had it coming. This clears up some questions of Arran's whereabouts--he hasn't fled the country. The problem is that Scotland is a pretty wild place where a man can easily hide out if he has to--especially if, like the Earl of Arran, he possesses money and friends. While the Crown seeks Arran for a trial, or at least to have him answer some questions, the new Earl of Angus is seeking him out for more personal reasons--Scotland is rather old-fashioned in its pursuit of feuds, and Angus wants his uncle's killer dead. The Catholic, French, English and Protestant factions all wait on tenterhooks. About the only thing that is keeping this from exploding is that Arran was something of an outsider to all their squabbles--most see Angus' death as the act of a madman, not an insidious plot by INSERT OPPOSING FACTION'S NAME HERE. But there are whispers, nonetheless.

    --In early spring, John Frederick the Younger, and Princess Elizabeth Tudor are wed in Wittenberg. The wedding is a surprisingly simple affair, as much from necessity as the traditional Protestant austerity--the Elector is still getting his finances in order from the Schmalkaldic War, and is also recruiting mercenaries for Cleves... just in case somebody gets... ideas in the upcoming war. Despite the relatively spartan ceremony, it is the event of the evangelical Protestant world--the joining of its two great dynasties--sorry, Denmark--in the form of a dashing young man, and a beautiful young woman. Among those attending the wedding are the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, in a touching display of the new church's ability to turn old rivalries into alliances--the Margrave Albert and his new wife, Agnes of Hesse--who also happens to be the widow of his best friend, the late Duke Maurice [1]--cousin Duke Augustus of Saxe-Weisenfals, who naturally keeps a healthy distance from the aforementioned pair--the groom's mother and aunt, Sybille and Anne of Cleves, and his brother John William. John Frederick the Elder, alas, is unable to attend, kept busy by League business. The Emperor and his brother's constant appeals for some sort assistance have gotten the Protestant Princes thinking that maybe they should twist a few more concessions out of the Hapsburgs--and they have a particular one in mind.

    In the Schmalkaldic War, during his 'Year of Miracles' as some now call it, Charles captured and deposed Hermann von Wied, the excommunicated Protestant-leaning Archbishop of Cologne. During the peace talks, the whole matter of Hermann, who'd by this time gone full-blown Protestant, was studiously avoided by both sides. Some League members think now they should insist he be reinstated--and allowed to... make some adjustments to the Cologne Church Council, thus ensuring a Protestant succession. John Frederick is naturally opposing this--while he may be as stubborn as ever, the Elector of Saxony knows by what a slender thread his 'victory' was achieved. Asking that the Emperor depose a sitting Catholic ELECTOR-Archbishop for a Protestant is... over the top. Philip of Hesse agrees with him, but keeps quietly giving encouragement to the radicals, largely so he can needle John Frederick. Needless to say, this makes League meetings and diplomacy even more frustrating than usual.

    --Pope Pius names Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte his papal legate to the Empire. While some are convinced this is simply a move to get a rival out of the way, in truth, Pius has little fear of del Monte and a great respect for the Cardinal's ability as a diplomat. Further, it will infuriate the Emperor, and that, to Pius' mind, is always a plus.

    Cardinal Ciocchi is not the only former papabile Pius is finding a place for--Cardinal Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi, a prominent reformer, is being brought into Pius' inner circle, as well as another former rival, Cardinal Giovanni Morone, who Pius once had a dispute over a benefice with. (It is one of history's many ironies that Pius, whose Papacy will see such a rollback on pluracy and absentee bishops was one of the great examples of both.) It's all part of Pius' effort to harness the reformers to his side, largely because the Pope is smart enough to know he's going to have to oversee some big changes in the Church AND that he really hasn't focused on this during his rise to the top, so he's going to need allies who have.

    Pius is also distracted by a family matter--his brother, Duke Ercole, writes to ask for Pius' aid in divorcing his wife, Renee of France, who is "a most intractable heretic". Unfortunately for Ercole, Pius is rather fond of Renee, and replies stormily to his brother that it is extraordinarily presumptuous of him to involve the Pope in his domestic squabble. That stated, aware that Renee is unhappy, he allows a separation, and twists Henri's arm a little to let her return home. For Cardinal Carafa, this all proves his darkest suspicions--the new Pope is far, far more sympathetic to the Protestants than he should be. Has he not allowed the pestilent Peace of Augsburg to go forward? Has he not surrounded himself with Spirituali, a movement Carafa PROVED was just a figleaf for the Protestants?[2] And most damningly of all, has he not just revealed his affection for a female heretic--one who is his brother's own wife? It is the beginning of a lengthy rivalry between Inquisitor and Pope--one that will ultimately have explosive effects on the Catholic Church...

    --In Spain, Emperor Charles takes time off from his troop preparations to meet with his young grandson and namesake. The young boy is enraptured by the Emperor's tales of his wars, though rather disappointed to learn that his grandfather has lost battles, and even retreated on occasion. When he is king, young Charles declares, he shall never lose, and never retreat. The Emperor laughs, pats the boy's head fondly, and then writes to his son telling him that he has to do something about little Charles. The boy, he notes more prophetically than he realizes, is growing into the kind of man who topples kingdoms when left in charge. Philip takes his father's warning to heart, but as of yet, does nothing, as he's rather busy right now. The Emperor has just planted further seeds in what will be the great disaster of his son's reign, though he doesn't realize that, and in fact, never will.

    In other family matters, the Emperor, with just the right amount diplomatic arm-twisting and sweet talk, manages to convince Portugal's King Joao to wed his sister Maria to Philip, who is her nephew. And her cousin. While neither bride or groom can be said to be thrilled with this marriage, they are both the sort of people who'll do what they're told when the person telling them is their sovereign. This is the first building block of what will be a fairly successful relationship.

    --In Dublin, Anne's little project bears its first fruits, as the Gaelic printing presses go into operation. The first volume it prints is--not the Bible. That translation project is ongoing, thank you very much--the Bible, remember, is quite large, and getting it right is quite important. No, the first book to be printed in Gaelic is a translation of the Life of Luther, done by a former monk, one Daniel O'Farrell--or more accurately, Donal o Fearghail [3]. Donal, in a brief introduction, says that he has done this 'to stir hearts and win minds', adding that he feels that his countrymen could learn much from Luther. Donal is, at this moment, the most prominent of the translators in the Bible project, and traveling between London and Dublin quite frequently, spending quite a lot of time chatting with Cranmer, who is pleased to have aided in making such an educated convert. On his deathbed, Cranmer will reportedly state that his greatest regret is he didn't hang the man when he had the chance.

    Donal is one of many Irish ex-monks who, finding themselves uprooted by the Dissolution, have been trying desperately to figure out how God could allow this to happen, and unlike most of them, he now thinks he knows. For Donal, the TRUTH started to become clear after he took the translation project. Like most of his fellows who took the job, Donal's only real thought at first was getting a little extra money--however, exposure to Protestant literature struck a chord with the young monk, who was pretty soon devouring whole volumes of the stuff on the side. Nor is he alone in this--while most of the monks on the project view it as a job--with some even slipping in little jokes about their employers in their work--a few are astonishing themselves by making a connection to the Protestant ethos. Donal is the strongest personality among these, and will ultimately emerge as the leader, a fact that will have enormous consequences for Ireland, England, the Protestant world, and indeed, the world in general. But right now, he's simply an earnest young man translating the Song of Songs, while going through Calvin's Institutes in his spare time. And yet--he's got ideas. Ideas about what's happening in Ireland. And what the Christian Church should be like. And needless to say, they aren't quite the same as his employers'. This will lead to problems. Also, bloodshed. And horror. Can't forget that.

    --The armies of France and its vassal Savoie invade Hapsburg Milan, under the leadership of Emannuel Philibert, clashing with the Duke of Alba's army in a brutal series of battles. By the end of campaigning season, the Duke of Savoie has advanced well into Lombardia. But his efforts are overshadowed by Francois de Guise, whose invasion of Lorraine is a smashing success, seizing the cities of Metz, Toul, and Verdun.

    And worse news comes. The Turks invade Hungary once again, while launching their fleet on the Mediterranean. This brings the Schmalkaldic League out of their combination of inaction and intercine bickering, as everyone can agree that they should help the Emperor face the insidious Turk, and they begin to raise their armies. John Frederick sends his eldest son back to Cleves, separating him from his new bride after a few months of married life. However, they have been fruitful--Elizabeth is pregnant.

    --In Geneva, jewel of the Reformed Church(es), John Calvin having heard of the Schmalkaldic League's latest dispute, lets loose with an abusive pamphlet. In it he divides the Protestant movement into two neat little factions--the holy and righteous Reformed Church, and the cowardly, unworthy Nicomedians, who refuse to give up Catholic habits out of fear and superstition. (Calvin has used the term in the past, with a slightly different meaning, but he's not a man to throw out a handy label.) By this, he of course means the Lutherans and the Anglicans--indeed he names several prominent leaders of both camps and even heaps a little abuse on Luther and what he sees as his growing cult. The response of the people he is lambasting is more or less what you'd expect--in Wittenberg, Matthias Flaccius witheringly responds that Calvin accusing men who faced down the Emperor's army of cowardice from the safety of Geneva beggars belief. In London, Cranmer is bitterly offended--he in fact has sizable Reformed-leanings, and has made the numerous compromises on matters like the Eucharist with England's more evangelical-minded members after a great deal of soul-searching. To find himself called a tyrant, and a crypto-papist destroys much of this sympathy. Henry flirts with banning Calvin's work, though his brother manages to talk him out of it. (Edward has a rather deep interest in Reformed theology.) And Norfolk toys with writing a pamphlet of his own. As soon as he's finished with the second part of Brutus.

    The response from the rest of the Reformed world is likewise disheartening--in Marburg, Melanchthon essentially declares that he is not affiliated with that man, and does not endorse his views, while in Strasbourg--the other jewel of the Reformed Church(es)--the ailing Martin Bucer manages to jot down a pamphlet wherein he quietly upbraids his former student Calvin for his lack of charity[4]. And in Poland, Jan Laski, head of the Church of the Strangers bitches about how Calvin has just made the cause of Reformed Protestantism more difficult. And yet for all this, future generations will more or less adopt Calvin's formulation. There's a reason for this. First of all, while Calvin is not Luther to the Reformed Church, he talks longer, harder and better than any of his rivals, which means that he's the one who most people wind up remembering. Secondly, his little scheme is much easier to remember than the horrifically complex tangle of Protestant churches, ranging from the Reformed Churches of Geneva and Strassbourg, to Reformed Lutheranism, to Anglicanism's strange blend, to True Lutheranism, with the various Hussite sects, anti-Trinitarians, and Anabaptists playing their part.

    --England officially enters the war against the Emperor, though does little as yet, save for some privateers harassing Spanish ships. King Henry, always eager to indulge in a little propaganda, commissions a painting of himself in full battle-gear, while Norfolk heads out to Calais with some troops.

    However, further war preparations are stalled when an outbreak of the sweating sickness ravages London. Henry avoids infection, as does his sister Margaret--despite fears of her questionable health--as well as Arthur Fitzroy. Edward is not so lucky--he is with the Duke of Suffolk and his brother during the outbreak and like them, comes down with the disease. However, unlike them, he survives--though learning that his friends are dead upon his recovery depresses him greatly. As Edward Tudor has already acquired the nickname 'Grim Ned' one can guess how deep a funk this is. Still, he delivers his latest eulogies at their funerals, and starts attending Council meetings again in no time at all.

    Once the crisis is past, Parliament signals that it wants something done to secure the line of succession a bit more. True, they've got an heir and... well, what you could call an emergency spare, but still, they'd like things more settled. Obviously, while they'd like Henry married, that's... a way off, and they don't want to offend their French allies. And so, they'd prefer it if Edward would get himself married. And maybe Arthur as well. Henry leaves the matter to his mother, and Anne takes to it with gusto. Arthur is easy--a few chats, and he's engaged to young Jane Grey, who just happens to have a place on the line of succession. This neatly bypasses the murky area of Arthur's legal claim to the throne--while he is a direct-male line descendent of Henry VIII, his father was a bastard, after all, and though Henry kept making noises about posthumously legalizing him, ultimately, he never did, for a variety of reasons. Regardless of what one thinks of Arthur's place in the succession, his children's will be rock-solid. While all this could theoretically make him a threat, Anne isn't too worried about that--Arthur possesses an almost canine loyalty to his royal uncle, a fact that is so well known as to discourage most would-be plotters. Plus, he's a singularly uninspiring candidate for the Catholic holdouts who Anne sees as the greatest threat to Henry--Norfolk's nephew, and spiritual disciple.

    As for Edward, Anne starts looking into available German Protestant Princesses. Outside of the Wettins, mind you--she feels it's time for England to diversify its dynastic connections.

    --Speaking of German Protestant Princes, Duke William of Bavaria dies, and is succeeded by his son Albert. [5] While Albert has had a strict Catholic upbringing, he is more or less incapable of any strong religious feeling whatsoever, and trusts his father's political judgement implicitly. And so the Reformation continues apace, with Albert helping himself to monastic lands, and using his status as Landsvater to strongarm Catholic and Lutheran noblemen under him alike as he expands his authority.[6] He may not be devout--but he knows good politics when he sees it.

    --In Scotland, the Earl of Angus' ceaseless searching for the Earl of Arran turns something up, a young man hiding out in a small village. The Earl rounds up some companions, then breaks into the house where this fellow is staying, and brutally kills him, stabbing him in the stomach, the groin, and the sides. It's as they're preparing to mutilate the dying man's face that they realize they've got the wrong Hamilton--they've just killed Arran's younger brother John. Realizing that there might be some blowback from this, Angus goes back to his home base Tantallon Castle and secures it, while calling up as many of his Clan as will come. This turns out to be a lot. Meanwhile the rest of the Hamiltons (including John and James' mother Margaret, who is a Douglas herself) flee the country for France.

    When news of this murder reaches the court, Angus is quickly attainted, with the Duke of Aumale and his French troops marching against him. The tension in Scotland rises another level--while no one approves of Angus' actions, many are also discomfitted to see Aumale and his French troops being elevated into the right hand of the Crown. Many fear this is the thin edge of the wedge that ends with French troops running the show in Scotland. That stated, all this surprisingly does NOT up the tensions between Scottish Catholics and Protestants--the Douglases straddle the line with members in both faiths. This is seen as the ambitions and lawlessness of a single family, not a religious matter.

    --Henri discovers the downside to allying with the Turks when they besiege Tripoli, second to last stronghold of the Knights of Rhodes--who the French aren't fighting, and indeed, of which quite a few of his most prominent sea commanders are members. Henri sends an ambassador to the Turks to tell them to quit it and keep sticking it to the Emperor--the Turks reply by saying they do what they want, thank you very much. As Tripoli falls, Henri thus finds himself looking rather bad. [7] While this doesn't affect the English alliance, it more or less scuppers any hopes of the German Protestant Princes signing up, AND has Pope Pius explaining to his friend that while he's willing to take arms against the Emperor if he goes too far, the Holy See cannot openly ally with France in these circumstances. It's the sort of thing his father would have warned him about, if Henri had ever bothered to listen to him.

    Still, despite this little embarassment, Henri is optimistic. He's winning big victories, England's going to get seriously involved next year, and the Pope's still quietly on his side. Life is good. He's especially impressed with the Duke of Guise, a fact that Diane de Poiters does her best to increase--the Guises are relatives by marriage. And so, Henri, without even realizing it, starts on a dangerous path...

    ------------------------------------
    [1] Agnes remarried IOTL as well--to John Frederick II, the first of two wives. (She died in a miscarriage that some rumored was a poisoning.) Of course, ITTL, Margrave Albert doesn't have the disadvantage of having killed Maurice. (Yes, they wound up on opposite sides in the Margrave's War, OTL's sequel to the Schmalkaldic War.)

    [2] Carafa is referring to chiefly Morone, who isn't really a Spirituali, though is fairly sympathetic to them. During Carafa's Papacy, IOTL, he had the devout Morone imprisoned by the Inquisition for Protestant leanings. An inquiry revealed he had none. Carafa didn't let him go, though at his death, Morone was released and resumed his position of honor in the Church.

    [3] Donal, alas, is something of my own creation--though he does share a name with a possible Catholic bishop of Dublin from this time period. Simply put, our records of random Irish monks aren't that good.

    [4] IOTL, Strasbourg was forced to let its Catholic clergy back in following the Schmalkaldic War, which was the beginning of the end of its place of prominence in the Reformed Protestant circles. Here that hasn't happened. Further, while Bucer died early in this year IOTL, here, he's going to live a bit longer, as he hasn't had to pack up and flee to England.

    [5] He died in 1550, IOTL. His survival a little longer is butterflies.

    [6] Aside from the monasteries, this is what Albert used the Counter-Reformation for IOTL. A Wittelsbach will be a Wittelsbach.

    [7] This also happened IOTL, though there, it didn't affect his alliance with the Protestant Princes, who were pretty damn desperate by this time.
    ----------------------------------------------------

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2013
  3. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2010
    ---------
    [​IMG]
    Henry IX Tudor, "The Red Portrait"

    PART III: A YOUNG MAN, HUNGRY FOR GLORY (1552-1555)


    [​IMG]

    Emperor Charles V & I, circa 1550

    "By 1552, Charles V was a man prematurely worn out. The glorious victories of his youth had been replaced by holding actions and outright defeats. The French war machine he had held back for years was now making continuous gains on his territories. The Protestant Princes were continuing to rise in the Empire. Spain and the Burgundian Netherlands were now both tired of financing their monarch's continuous wars. 'I have more crowns and titles than I know what to do with,' he's said to have noted to William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 'and not one works as I wish'. The man's growing, almost overwhelming sense of exhaustion lead him, almost inexorably, to make a decision that would shock all of Europe..."

    --Alexander Moss, "Further Beyond: The Life of Charles V" (1978)

    1552

    --The marriage of Ferdinand II and Maria of Spain is proving fruitful, if not particularly loving--the couple have already had two daughters, Anna and Eleonore. As the year begins, the pair add a son, who is named Ferdinand. Sadly, the young child dies a few weeks after his birth. In a tribute to the Archduke's persistence, Maria is pregnant again shortly thereafter--this child, a daughter who will be named Martha, will be born towards the end of the year. Ferdinand is rather preoccupied by other matters--he has to pack up and return to Bohemia where he can function as his father's governor as Ferdinand I prepares troops to attack the Turks. His unhappily-married cousin, Margaret of Parma, takes his place, and brings his younger brother Charles Francis (as well as her own sons, Carlo and Alessandro [1]) with her, thus completing the Hapsburg shuffle.

    Young Charles is of course, devastated at losing the company of his cousin so soon, though Ferdinand promises to write. Charles, showing a determination that surprises his tutors, manages to acquire enough literacy in Latin to write crude, but serviceable letters back to him. It is the beginning of a lifelong enthusiasm that will ultimately make Charles one of the greatest correspondents in history. While initially wary, Charles soon becomes quite fond of Margaret and her sons, and vice-versa--Charles has a sort of awkward desperation that makes many of his older female relatives want to mother him. Charles Francis, on the other hand, does not make so good an impression on the young Prince-to-be, who swiftly dubs the young Archduke 'Sir Tight-Breeches'. Making up cruel yet accurate nicknames will prove to be another lifelong hobby.

    --Archduke Ferdinand is not the only one celebrating the birth of a son--King Henri II is as well, a young boy who is named Henri. As opposed to his Hapsburg rival, the young boy swiftly proves to be the healthiest of his sons--at least so far. This isn't very difficult--both Dauphin Francois and Prince Charles are sickly lads, though ironically hunchbacked Charles is in much better shape than Francois, who many speculate--correctly--will never live to be king. While Henri is not happy about this, it does mean that little marriage contract with Queen Mary is going to turn out better than they thought... But to return to the newborn Prince--both Henri and Catherine are delighted to have another son, thus securing the line of succession virtually beyond a doubt. Ironically, if Henri knew all the trouble his little son and namesake is going to cause him, he'd be less thrilled.

    --The forces of the Duke of Aumale and the Earl of Angus clash repeatedly in Scotland. The French troops ultimately fail to make much of a dent on the Scottish rebels--despite their being better trained, Angus' men are fighting on their home ground. Worse, Aumale's efforts to gain the assistance of other Scottish lords are foundering--while they don't approve of Angus' actions, they in no way intend to strengthen Aumale's hand. And so the situation drags on. Claude considers requesting more soldiers from his brothers, but hesitates to do so--he may need them, but that is likely to be seen as an out and out military occupation by the Scottish Lords.

    --In England, Henry IX heads out to get his war on, accompanied by his closest companions. (Arthur Fitzroy manages to sign on, despite the fact that he's supposed to be staying in England for his upcoming wedding.) To the surprise of virtually everyone, he names his brother Edward Regent. Any expectations that the young Prince will prove a figurehead are quickly disproven at the first Privy Council meeting he directs, where, after opening with a prayer, he begins to... ask questions. And not "how does this work" questions--"can you explain the following expenditures in a succinct and plausible manner" questions. It turns out that while Edward's been quietly attending meetings, he's been... listening to them. And forming opinions. And now, he's got a mandate to reform the English government, ideas of what needs to be done, as well as a team of wonks--among them Nathaniel Bacon and Richard Cecil--to help him do it.

    It's going to be a FUN time to be an English civil servant.

    --Emperor Charles and Maria of Portugal arrive in the Low Countries, where Maria and Philip are swiftly wed. Philip, who has been quietly moaning about the hideous injustice of this new marriage to his friends, is declaring himself completely devoted to his new wife within two months--Maria who has likewise had her doubts about the wedding, is declaring her absolute love for Philip in ONE. [2] Charles breathes a sigh of relief--as he notes to his young ward and favorite William of Orange [3], Philip can be... rather moody--and then after a brief review of the local defenses, heads out the Augsburg. He's got... an announcement planned.

    --The cause of proper Catholic Reform continues in Mantua, where Pope Pius actually allows Protestant theologians to present arguments for their viewpoints. These arguments are quickly rebutted, for the most part, but this does not diminish the importance of what is happening. For many Catholic and Protestant Reformers, this is a positive step towards healing this disastrous breach in Christendom--for others it is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Among the most important of the latter persuasion is Cardinal Carafa, who is beginning to assemble an argument calling for the Council to depose the Pope. The centerpiece of Carafa's case--barring Pius proving he's a heretic by doing something like making John Calvin a Cardinal of the Church--is that Pius was elected in a Conclave that was badly compromised by outside interference, which, though true, would also invalidate virtually every pope elected in the last few centuries. But Carafa takes what he can get. He's aware that this is a dangerous step, but he's increasingly convinced that it's necessary. Pius, he's certain, is going to ruin everything.

    --Herman von Wied, erstwhile Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, manages to solve the Schmaldkaldic League's debate on whether to take up his cause by dying. Elector John Frederick takes a deep breath in relief, as does Philip of Hesse, who is starting to think this little dispute is getting out of hand. His initial hope in championing Melanchthon was to limit John Frederick's power--he and Philip have clashed regularly over Philip's wacky ideas, like an all-inclusive Protestant alliance, or toleration for the Jews. But attitudes are hardening to the point that Philip fears a genuine schism might occur in the League, between Reformed and Evangelical Lutheranism.

    Philip is not the only figure who thinks this--Frederick III von Simmern, Elector Palatine, also thinks it could happen--and he welcomes it. Fanatically in favor of the Reformed Church, Frederick hopes to use the League dispute to create an alliance of German Reformed Princes, who will naturally look to him for leadership. It's all for the True Church, of course. (Have I mentioned he's a Wittelsbach?) And so, the rancor grows...

    In other League news, Anne and Philip contract a marriage between Edward and Philip's daughter Barbara--all part of avoiding putting your eggs into one German basket. Simply put, she wants someone on both sides of the League's dispute, and Philip's brand of strongly-Reform flavored Lutheranism mixes with England's Evangelicalism with mild Reform flavor fairly well--far better than Frederick's. Edward's opinion on the marriage is simple--he has none. Edward is a man obsessed with duty, and, if he must marry, then he'll marry who he's told.

    --The Gaelic Life of Luther continues to be Ireland's bestseller, even now that there are other books available. It is having a profound effect on the nation--indeed, many historians argue that is more influential in Ireland than it is in Germany. It is read in cities, in towns, and even, on occasion, on small farms. There's a reason for this popularity--the original was a pretty good read, and Fearghal's translation is, in fact, an improvement. But it's also theology light, and (proto-)nationalism-heavy, depicting Luther as a man giving his all to freeing his land from the influence of foreign powers. Presented as something like that, many Irish folk can actually start to understand, and even sympathize with the Reformation.

    Which is exactly what Fearghail wants.

    --Henry Tudor arrives in Calais. After first inspecting the defenses--and being surprised at how meagre they are--he heads out for his first face-to-face meeting with Henri II. It does not go well. To start, Henry mistakes Diane de Poitiers for Henri's stepmother, and greets her as such, thus earning her rather formidable wrath. And this is a dangerous thing to acquire--Diane is the power behind the throne, with Henri even allowing her to sign royal decrees for him. (Sometimes, she uses her name, other times, she uses a little combination of both their names they've cooked up.) She is also, to Henry's growing disgust, a constant presence at the meeting, with Henri even taking time out to publicly grope his mistress's breasts. [4] Henri himself does not impress his prospective son-in-law who deems him "a mass of vanities and pretensions" who is "all hollow beneath his finery". Henri is oblivious to the bad impression, and in fact, is positive he has earned the young King of England's respect and love. Diane is less oblivious, and as noted, doesn't like Henry that much. She is determined to have her revenge for the King of England's slight--eventually. Of course, none of this stops the alliance--not yet, anyway.

    The plan is simple--the English army will attack Flanders, while the French will come out of their new holdings in Lorraine, hook up with their allies, and then--BURGUNDY SHALL BE THEIRS! Yes, so beautifully simple that one wonders how it can fail...

    --In Italy, the Duke of Alba is continuing to duke it out with the Duke-Consort (or by his own account, plain Duke) of Savoy. (And that's a lot of duking.) After his initial successes, Savoie's war machine is stalling, though this will likely change in the near future. And then Alba hears a dangerous report--the Republic of Siena, France's only real ally among the Italian nation-states, is considering joining the war. Alba realizes that he has to stop this before it starts--however there is one tiny problem--between Hapsburg Milan and Siena lies the Duchy of Florence. While they are, in theory, allies and subjects of Emperor Charles, in truth, like most Italian states, they go their own way--and increasingly, that way is to stay the hell out of any fights between France and the Empire. [5] Charles has been trying to get Duke Cosimo de' Medici onboard for an attack ON Siena for some time now, but the Duke is a wily man--he'd like to gain Siena, but not at the cost of taking on an ascendant France. And so, he continues to promise support at some future date, perhaps, while doing nothing. Even learning of Siena's preparations does nothing to end his studied neutrality, a fact that makes Alba furious--Cosimo continues to prevaricate and delay, even when Alba dials down his request to merely allowing Imperial troops to pass through Tuscany so they can attack Siena. Alba may be a military genius, but his understanding of politics is shaky at best. After the tenth noncommittal reply from Tuscany, he gathers his troops and starts heading through Tuscany anyway, declaring that if Cosimo doesn't like that, he can try and stop him.

    Cosimo does exactly that. As Imperial and Florentine troops clash in Tuscany, he also puts out feelers to the other Italian states, especially one who he knows is itching for a chance to fight the Empire. And sure enough, once Pope Pius hears that the Empire has given him just the excuse he needs to jump in the war, he does just that, to the rolling of eyes of much of the Council of Mantua. Especially once Pius gets on the new Papal armor he's had made for the occasion. (Pius really, REALLY likes wearing armor.) [6] Charles is of course, furious at Alba's blunder, but doesn't dare remove him from his command, as that would virtually be handing Emanuel Philibert the initiative. And so, the Hapsburg situation in Italy worsens.

    --Emperor Charles is not the only man dealing with subordinates dragging formerly neutral parties into the war. As Francois de Guise marches up from Lorraine, the knotty problem of Cleves comes to his attention. While the Elector of Saxony is proclaiming himself neutral regarding France's war with the Emperor, he has still joined the Emperor fighting against the Turk--and he's been bulking up the defenses of Cleves. All of this means there's a good chance that he could join the war in the future--and if he does, then Cleves will prove a dangerous thorn in France's side. And yet, the good wishes of the Schmalkaldic League are nothing to trifle with. This is a matter a man could spend days debating. Unfortunately, Francois de Guise is not a man given to internal debate. He launches an attack on Cleves.

    It doesn't go well. Actually--it's a disaster. John Frederick the Younger brutally repulses the attack, THEN launches a counter-attack on the retreating forces that devastates them, THEN beats off Francois' counter-counter-attack as he returns home. Having done all that, he leaves his prized general, Wilhelm von Grumbach, in charge, and rides back to Saxony, so he can see his wife, and newborn son, a child who is quickly dubbed 'Frederick Henry' [7]. And thus begins a storied military career--and a lengthy rivalry between the House of Guise, and the House of Wettin.

    Needless to say, once the League learns of this--and they get finished telling John Frederick the Younger that he is, in fact, the man--the Protestant Princes decide as one that this clinches it--France can't be trusted. They're helping the Emperor, a fact they plan on telling him at the next Reichstag.

    --In a bit of good news for the Anglo-French alliance, English troops repulse a foray into Picardy by Imperial troops. It is Henry's first taste of battle--though he leaves much of the actual command to Norfolk--and he acquits himself well. Soon, he tells Robert Dudley, they will be in Antwerp. Yes, triumph is assured. Even receiving the first (garbled) accounts of the Duke of Guise's defeat at Cleves doesn't weaken the King's optimism--especially as he has no idea that he will soon be facing off with his brother-in-law.

    --At Augsburg, Charles is overjoyed to hear that the Schmalkaldic League is willing to fight with the French now. Once that good news is out of the way, Charles reveals his surprise--he's abdicating. Old before his time and afflicted with hideous, disabling gout, Charles finds his duties increasingly onerous--and he's also convinced that he's no longer able to solve the Hapsburgs' problems. In fact, he's starting to think he's one of them--his massive power isolates the family, making alliances against them that would otherwise be unlikely to impossible. With him gone, and the holdings divided, the family might be able to stage a recovery. Charles asks the stunned Electors to fulfill their obligations and grant his brother the Imperial throne--proving that they are men of their word, they do so. This leaves Austria and the Empire in Ferdinand's hands, and the Spanish thrones, and the Low Countries in Philip's. (Personally, Ferdinand thinks he should have gotten the Duchy of Burgundy, but he realizes that was always fairly unlikely.) As Charles leaves the Augsburg leaning on William of Orange, it marks the end of an era. Now, his brother Ferdinand and his eternal arch-nemesis Suleiman are the only monarchs of their generations still in power--and they are both old men. The torch is being definitively passed to a younger generation.

    --The Earl of Arran emerges from hiding, and seeks an audience with the court, in hopes, he says, of telling his side of the story. As the present Earl of Angus has rather pointedly dishonored himself, and Marie de Guise is hoping to extend some sort of olive branch to the Scottish Lords, he's allowed.

    The meeting is not the reconciliation Marie hopes for. Upon being introduced to the Regent, Arran smiles, produces a pistol and shoots her, screaming "Speak to your servant in hell, you bloody bitch!" Arran is quickly seized, laughing uproariously the entire time, and placed in custody. While Marie receives only a glancing wound, her health has not been good of late, and several months later, she succumbs to infection and fever.

    The one woman who was keeping all hell from breaking loose in Scotland is dead. Now things really start to get out of hand...

    -----------------------------------------
    [1] IOTL, Carlo, Alessandro's twin brother, died a month after his birth.

    [2] Philip really seems to (A) have had this effect on women, and (B) been something of a soft touch in his marriages himself.

    [3] Yes, THAT William of Orange. It's a small, funny old world.

    [4] You might think I'm making some of this up. I'm not. This is all from the OTL relationship between Diane and Henri.

    [5] IOTL, Cosimo had no hesitation about attacking Siena--in fact, it was one of the starting gambits in that Italian War.

    [6] Once again--I'm not making this up. Ippolito d'Este really was more into the "Prince" part of Prince of the Church.

    [7] IOTL, Frederick Henry was the name of JFII's second son--the name of his first was John Frederick. Consider this his wife's influence.

    [​IMG]
    Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia and Hungary

    "Damn the Pope."

    -- Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, Duke of Alba (1553)

    1553

    --Scotland is in chaos. Its former Regent, Marie de Guise is dead. Her assassin, the mad Earl of Arran, languishes in prison. The powerful Earl of Angus is in open rebellion--a rebellion brought on by his botched effort to kill the aforementioned Earl of Arran. And Marie's brother, Claude, Duke of Aumale, pauses from his efforts to bring Angus to justice to try and grab the reins of power, while asking his brothers to send him any troops they can spare.

    Claude's logic is simple--Scotland needs a firm hand, and as the Queen's on-the-spot uncle, he's perfect for the job. But Aumale fails to understand the Scottish government. It is up to the Lords to name a Regent, though getting them together at the moment would be difficult for any man--and impossible for Aumale. The French Duke is increasingly looked on as a foreign tyrant, there to slake a boundless love of domination. (This is incredibly unfair to Claude, a quiet, self-effacing man whose actual motive--family obligation--is something almost any Scottish Lord could understand.) His treatment of Arran clenches this--a powerful lord, he has been imprisoned, and deprived of trial. Worse, the man is clearly mad--visitors state that he seems to believe that he is now King of Scotland, that his imprisonment is to keep him safe from 'enemies', and that he will shortly be coronated. To hold such a man responsible for his actions is a travesty--especially when he happens to be a Peer of the Realm. But the enraged Duke of Aumale is beyond caring about such niceties.

    However, other enraged people care about them very deeply. Argyll's loose-knit league of Protestant Lords meet again in Edinburgh--and this time it's not to feel things out, but to take a stand. Aumale is already exceeding any authority he may rightfully possess--if this is not nipped in the bud, it may be too late, both for Scotland, and the True Faith. Quickly gaining control of the capital--largely because nearly everyone there agrees with them--the Lords issue their demands. Aumale will cease proclaiming himself Regent, and render the Queen and Princess Antoinette to the protection of the Lords. Aumale will render the Earl of Arran to the custody and the judgement of the Lords. And finally, Aumale will dismiss his forces, and depart from Scotland.

    Aumale's response to the Lords is terse. He is the Regent, by his niece's appointment, and they are in rebellion against the throne. If they continue in this course of action, he will be forced to act against them. He also notes that as Scotland is clearly too dangerous for his nieces, he is sending them to France.

    The game has begun.

    --Ireland sees two events of note as the year begins. One is that the Seymour brothers, who've both gradually become significant men in the conquered territories, cap a lengthy history of informing on people by informing on each other. Thomas states that Edward has been embezzling funds and running protection rackets. Edward states that Thomas is behind the embezzlement and the protection rackets, and also states that his brother has been "indulging in most cruel practices upon women" on the side. Unfortunately for Thomas, his brother is better at making charges stick, and so Thomas Seymour finds himself dancing the hempen jig. Edward returns to England, where he will live out the rest of his days a wealthy, but loathed, man, dying a prematurely old man with children who hate him.

    The second event gets a great deal less notice--Donal o Fearghal arrives in Dublin, accompanied by a small circle of associates. Ostensibly there to put the finishing touches on the Gaelic New Testament they're printing--a full Bible will follow as swiftly as possible--Fearghal and his 'apostles' have been given permission to spread the Protestant faith in Ireland. One would say that England has no idea what a viper it has nursed at its bosom--but there are no snakes in Ireland.

    --Emperor Ferdinand--okay, technically, he's Emperor-Elect Ferdinand, with some elements of the Imperial bureaucracy grumbling that all this is HIGHLY IRREGULAR--and King Philip both get ready for the upcoming conflict. In Philip's case, this involves meeting with his military leaders, and sending his new wife to Spain for her own safety. Neither Maria nor Philip are happy about this, but still, they hope to be reunited shortly, and they have a hope that she's pregnant. (She isn't.)

    For Emperor Ferdinand, in addition to the war preparations against the Turk, and future war preparations against France and the 'rebellious' Italian states, he has a mound of elected positions to gain for his son and heir, Ferdinand II. He hopes to gain his namesake the titles Crown-Prince of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia, and King of the Romans, all of which requires arm-twisting, bribes, and politicking. Young Ferdinand bears up with it as best he can, but he finds it wearying. Quiet, pleasant and devoutly Catholic, Ferdinand is painfully aware that he's the replacement for his brother in all things--position, rank, and even wife. Ferdinand Senior is aware of his son's difficulties, and even sympathises--his namesake has always been his favorite. But this is about the dynasty. Personal choices must come second.

    Finally, in a rather amusing little scandal, the Imperial Papal Nuncio Ciocchi has acquired a handsome young street urchin, who is now serving as the Cardinal's... ahem... secretary. The whole thing serves as a distraction in a court that finds itself dealing with very grim matters. [1]

    --Barbara of Hesse arrives in England, and meets her husband-to-be. Her initial impressions are quite good--Edward may be a dour, bookish Calvinist policy wonk, but he's a good-looking, dour, bookish Calvinist policy wonk. Edward finds the time to say something pleasant to his fiancée, and then gets on with something more interesting to him--raising the money to pay for Henry's annoying little war. And Edward is well-suited to the task--the spiritual offspring of his royal grandfather, he is fast demonstrating that he knows how to squeeze coins until they drip gold. Among his many efforts is the successful sale of that royal white elephant, Nonsuch Palace. This is a pleasure for Edward and a relief to Henry, who, despite his respect for his father, regarded the damn place as an unlivable, unlikeable burden. The buyer is Gregory Cromwell--eager to display his family's wealth--who receives it on the understanding that he will complete the huge, but yet unfinished building. For most people, this expenditure is more proof that Gregory is not the Cromwell his father was. Of course, as Paulet notes, Henry's managed to find HIS Cromwell. And even better, he's family.

    --Turning to the aforementioned war, Henry's army turns back another, LARGER Imperial/Spanish army, this one led by King Philip himself. It's a fairly significant victory, and Henry celebrates by having another portrait of himself in battle gear painted, this time standing on a torn and tattered Spanish flag. He sends it to his young fiancée, Elisabeth Valois, who accepts it with as much dignity as an eight year old can muster. Arthur Fitzroy and Robert Dudley both distinguish themselves during the battle--Henry puts them on the short list for the Order of the Garter.

    That stated, Henry is getting annoyed--the planned invasion of the Low Countries has been delayed to make up for the Duke of Guise's little disaster. In fact, Francois is requesting English troops to assist him in 'securing his flank'. Henry has his misgivings, but Francois de Guise--despite being hot-headed, and rigidly Catholic--is many things is sovereign is not--courteous, charming, and in fact, rather dashing. He manages to charm Henry despite his doubts, and so Norfolk is sent out with de Guise (Arthur Fitzroy quickly dashing along), while Henry and Anne Montmorency plan the upcoming assault on the Low Countries. To Henry's boundless disgust, Henri II is spending much of his time holding jousting matches, and leaving his generals to actually fight the war. He even invites Henry to try a match against him but the English King begs off--he enjoys plenty of sport, but mindful of his father's misfortune, avoids that pastime. He also privately suspects that Henri wants to heap a little coal on his head--the French monarch's skill with a lance is in fact somewhat legendary. And all of that just adds to Henry's distaste for the man. As he notes to Robert Dudley and Henry Carey one evening over drinks, there is something seriously wrong with France if "so worthy a man as the Duke of Guise is under the authority of so great a fool as Henri Valois".

    Francois de Guise agrees with that on occasion, but generally he's actually managed to get the situation to go in his favor.

    --In Poland, celebration is in order--after over five years of marriage to King Sigismund Augustus, Barbara is finally pregnant. [2] Sigismund and his wife are overjoyed, and even the Sejm is warmed to think of a proper Jagiellon heir. Even if said heir is going to be half-Radziwill.

    In Vienna, Emperor Ferdinand notes all this with displeasure. Keeping the... unruly Kings of Poland in the Hapsburg orbit has been a project consuming many decades of work, and Sigismund Augustus is proving to be the most difficult yet.

    --In Italy, the Duke of Alba finds himself on the retreat, facing attacks from Florence, Savoie, and the newly-fielded Papal army. Outflanked, and badly outnumbered, it's a testament to Alba's skill that he makes his foes fight him for every inch of territory. Savoie writes to his brother-in-law, and while he is guardedly optimistic, ultimately he takes a realistic view. He's won great victories against Alba--and the newly-embarked on siege of Genoa, meant to support the invasion of Corsica, is also going well--but he needs more men if he's to hold what he's won--the French line is badly overextended. While that isn't a problem now, it could be in the near future. "The war goes well--but 'tis not won, and if it is not well-handled, it never will be."

    Henri ignores this request. The fighting in Italy seems almost finished in this Italian war--it is clear to him that Hapsburg Burgundy is going to be the major front. And he likes Francois de Guise a lot more than Emmanuel Philibert--in fact, he's planning on naming de Guise the Marshal of France shortly. The Duke of Savoie is going to have to make do for the time being.

    King Philip meanwhile IS trying to fulfill Alba's requests for more men, but it's hard. Pius' entry into the war turns Naples--Spain's road to Northern Italy--into a bloody battleground, as those sworn to the King of Naples duke it out with those sworn to the Pope.

    --John Frederick the Elder and John Frederick the Younger head out with their forces to their respective fields of battle. The Elder heads to aid Emperor Ferdinand against the Turk in Hungary, while the Younger goes to Cleves, and from there, onto the Low Countries. Accompanying the young Wettin are his brother, John William, his cousin, Duke Augustus of Saxe-Weisenfallen, and Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. John Frederick the Elder is accompanied by various senior members of the League--Duke Albert of Bavaria, Philip of Hesse, Elector-Palatinate Frederick, and Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, among others. Father and son embrace before their departure to the wars, not knowing that it will be the last time they will see each other alive.

    --French and English ships, under the leadership of Lord Admiral John Dudley, Earl of Westmorland, and Vice-Admiral Nicholas de Villegaigon engage a Spanish fleet near Brittany. The result is a lopsided victory for the allied forces--the Spanish Navy as a whole is perhaps the most formidable in the world--but also has commitments all over said world. Much of their attention is absorbed with the Mediterranean front, where Andrea Dorea is trying deal with France's Ottoman-assisted invasion of Corsica, and so their efforts on France's northern coast have been desultory at best.

    --Savoie isn't the only man whose request for troops is being ignored--Aumale is told by his elder brothers that soldiers simply cannot be spared now. This disappoints the Duke, though he understands their reasons, and quietly moves to remedy his situation. A peace feeler is sent out to the Earl of Angus. He is in revolt as a result of his efforts to kill Arran, and now Aumale feels the only tragedy is that he didn't get the vile lunatic. Aumale states he will give the Earl amnesty for the killing of John Hamilton, IF Angus will support him "against these wicked rebels who oppose the Queen's rightful authority". Angus is of mixed feelings about this--the Douglases are, as a Clan, rather suspicious of the French--seen as the muscle of the Lowlanders--and Angus is a Protestant to boot, albeit a rather lukewarm one. But Angus is an ambitious man. He realizes getting Aumale in his favor now could be the start of... well, something big. As in David Douglas, King of Scotland big. And so, after some consideration, he agrees. Much of his kin are less enthusiastic about this--most notably Angus' younger brother James Douglas, a far more devout Protestant than he. [3] But Angus is head of the Clan. For now--they follow him.

    --The Imperial army, and its Schmalkaldic allies hit Royal Hungary. The Turks are surprised by the numbers and force of the Imperial response, and as a result are swiftly forced back. At this point, Emperor Ferdinand and the Protestant Princes confer. Ferdinand faces a conundrum--he genuinely feels that this may be an excellent time to reverse the Ottoman juggernaut in the Balkans--however, he is expected to head to Italy to assist his nephew's position there. In addition, he is rather wary of fighting the Pope with the most prominent Protestant organization in Europe at his back. The League is likewise lukewarm about the Italian front, where, as opposed to Burgundy, they have few interests. And so, a deal is reached--Ferdinand and his army will continue on to Italy, while the League will take the fight to the Turk.

    None realize that this amicable agreement will lead to a great deal of squabbling in the near future.

    --The Lords of the Congregation, as they're calling themselves now, send their reply to Aumale, stating that his appointment is a lie and that they are in no way bound to his authority. Further, they state they will look on any attempt to remove the Stuart sisters from Scotland with hostility. Aumale was in truth expecting this sort of defiance--they have the capital, after all--and prepares for a fight.

    His first order of business is getting his nieces out of the country. He sends Queen Mary and Princess Antoinette out with John Erskine, one of the few Scottish noblemen who are loyal to him. Erskine's instructions are simple--he is to escort the sisters to Perth, where they will lodge, and then afterwards to Fife, where they will board a ship to France. Unfortunately for Aumale, the Lords have spies in Stirling, and learn about the plan. Erskine's party is overtaken on the road by a small force lead by the formidable Lord Ruthven, and the escort swiftly scattered, with Erskine dying in the assault. Mary and Antoinette are taken back to Edinburgh, to the former's relief, and the latter's disappointment--the Princess REALLY wanted to go to France. Several days later, Queen Mary issues a declaration that Aumale is to stand down and acknowledge the authority of the Lords. Aumale naturally ignores this. This is a blow, but he has just received word that the Earl of Angus has accepted his deal, which means he still has an excellent chance of victory.

    --In France, Henri has two bits of good news--the birth of a daughter, who will be named Marguerite, and the rapid conclusion of the siege of Genoa. The volatile Ligurian Republic has always been prone to factionalism, and is filled with people who bristle at its de facto master, the formidable Andrea Doria, with many seeing his continued support of the Empire in the face of ascendant French power to be sheer folly. Realizing that their moment had come, a group of dissatisfied nobles--including several clandestine Fieschi supporters [4]--seize power, and order the garrison to stand down. The new government of the Genoan Republic, headed by a returned Ottobuono Fieschi [5], cheerfully signs a treaty of perpetual friendship with the French, and recognizes French rule of Corsica, in return for free use of its ports. Emanuel Philibert's hopes that this magnificent victory will get him more support from his feckless brother-in-law are sadly disappointed--it has only more firmly rooted the idea in Henri's head that Savoie is in need of no more assistance. Indeed, it inspires a further plan--Henri orders to the Duke to attack Parma, held by Ottavio Farnese, former-Emperor Charles son-in-law. [6]

    Meanwhile, the Hamilton family, fearing that the assassination of Marie de Guise might result in some blowback, flee France for Poland. Among those who go are Margaret Douglas, mother of the Earl of Arran, and Arran's brother Claude.

    --Former-Emperor Charles--though, technically, some elements of the Imperial bureaucracy insist he's still the Emperor--arrives in Spain, and after a visit to his ailing mother, Johanna the Mad, heads to the monastery of St. Yuste, where he will spend the rest of his days.

    News of his grandfather's arrival excites his young namesake. Prince Charles is eager to speak to his grandfather again, and manages to enlist his cousins Carlo and Alessandro in an attempt to escape the palace for a visit with the old man. (The Farnese brothers quite frequently find their better judgment collapsing in the face of Charles' rather overwhelming personality.) As the young runaways continue their journey, Charles constantly reassures the brothers that their grandfather will be overjoyed to see them, thus nullifying any chance of punishment, and that this will all be a cheerful adventure.

    In a surprising display of ability, they make it to the outskirts of Madrid before they're apprehended, sent back to the palace, and of course, punished, albeit fairly mildly. Charles' considers another attempt, but an attack of his quartan fever curtails this--though it does bring his cousins back into his orbit as they are sent to console the ailing young Prince. Charles quickly enlists them into his NEXT madcap scheme--building a small catapult. This will prove more successful than the attempted visit, and result in something the Palace staff will dub 'the Day of Rotten Eggs'. But that is another story.

    --In Corsica, the aging Andrea Doria, valiantly fighting to keep possession of the isle in Genoan hands, receives the grim news that not only is he no longer being reinforced, but that his government in the Republic has fallen. He and his family are now exiles. Realizing his position is now hopeless, he and his followers flee to the safety of Sardinia. Doria, old, defeated, and now shunned by the city he has served so ably, dies during the voyage--appropriately enough, of a heart attack. [7] It is a tragic ending to a magnificent career. The body and bones of Andrea Doria, one of Genoa's most famous citizens, will rest forevermore in Sardinia. Philip arranges suitable shelter for them, and then grants Doria's grandnephew Giovanni Andrea Doria the title 'Viceroy of Sardinia'. It is a rather paltry consolation when you get down to it, but it is something.

    Meanwhile, the French name former Corsican exile Giordano del Orsini the isle's governor, as he immediately starts gathering the various nobles.

    --Papal forces lead by Florentine commander Gian Giacomo Medici repulse the Emperor Ferdinand's army in its initial approach over the River Po. [8] Pius arrives back in Mantua to triumphant cheers. Even the Reformers find themselves strangely heartened by this victory. Cardinal Carafa remains stonily unmoved, and even conspires to embarrass the Pope an effort that he hopes will provide ammunition for his plan to remove Pius. As the Pope signs off on Cardinal Servini and Morone's latest reform plans, Carafa brings to his attention a 'vital' matter--the arrest for heresy and sodomy of Marc Antoine Muret--better known as Muretus--a French humanist who specializes in Latin verse. This charge is aimed at directly at Pius--Muretus is a friend, and in fact, has arrived in Italy under the Pope's patronage. [9]

    Unfortunately for Carafa, Pius is a much smarter man than him. (Not terribly difficult--Carafa is dedicated and forceful, but not overly bright.) He's well aware of the Cardinal and Inquisitor's plotting against him, and has simply been waiting for Carafa to overextend himself. The Pope insists Carafa detail the charges and produce his evidence--Carafa does so, demonstrating to the entire Council that the whole matter is based on the flimsiest, most circumstantial proofs. Pius dismisses them out of hand and dresses down Carafa, warning him not to let his zeal to lead him astray. Carafa refuses to take a hint and talks back to the Pope, telling him not to let his position lead him to consider himself immune to charges of heresy. Pius--rather amazed at Carafa's folly--seizes his chance, and bans Carafa from the Papal Court--the Cardinal is now considered a persona non grata in Rome and Mantua. Later, conferring with the Council, Pius strips Carafa of his leadership of the Inquisition, which is then handed to Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici, [10] a far more amiable figure. (He's also Gian Giacomo Medici's younger brother, in a rare bit of positive nepotism.) Carafa stews in his exile, battered, but, he swears, not beaten.

    Pius then finds himself dealing with a missive from his former patron. Henri II has thought matters over, and has decided he wants to found a French Inquisition, for which he will need the Papal blessing. [11] Family friend or not, Henri's asking the wrong Pope at exactly the wrong time--not only does Pius have the bothersome example of Carafa fresh in his mind, but the circles he travels in these days look askance on the Spanish Inquisition--which would naturally serve as a model for Henri's French knockoff--seeing it as an overly political body too much under the thumb of the Spanish King. Pius writes back to dissuade Henri noting that Inquisitions as a rule, "do much harm, and little good".

    --The joint English-French force reach their destination, where de Guise reveals the plan--attack Cleves. Norfolk is bitterly offended at this--worse, the defiantly Protestant Norfolk and the ardently Catholic Francois have been arguing incessantly, holding, as Arthur Fitzroy notes, "too much muchness to ever find each other good company." With its leaders at odds, any chance the attack has of success is quite minimal, even before figuring in the rather sizable Schmalkaldic army into the equation. And so, John Frederick the Younger achieves yet another rout, capturing both English and French leaders. (Arthur Fitzroy handles himself with courage, taking a glancing wound on the arm.) The young German Prince is rather startled to find Englishmen opposing them, but responds by treating his captives to several days of feasting, and then releasing them with no charge. The French are not so lucky--de Guise in particular must wait several months in custody before his ransom is paid. And so, the incipient Guise/Wettin feud grows.

    --Schmalkaldic forces in Hungary march on Esztergom, the old capital that preceded Buda, now serving as the center of an Ottoman sanjak. They settle down for what turns out to be a lengthy siege. Finally, after three months, the League takes the city. It is a bittersweet victory--the League had hoped to take the city quickly, and then move on to Buda, but that plan is now finished. Worse, the redoubtable John Frederick the Elder takes a wound during the siege, and by the time the city is taken, is horrifically ill. On being told that Esztergom is now theirs, the dying Duke is escorted inside, marveling at the city's lovely architecture. There, even as his son enjoys triumph in the West, John Frederick the Elder expires, noting sadly that he has not fulfilled his ambition of freeing Buda from the Turk.

    Suleiman, preoccupied with his war against Persia, considers the loss of Esztergom a nuisance, and nothing more. On the whole he considers the war a good investment, as it has seen the gaining of Tripoli--"I have extended the reach of my right hand, at the cost of the tip of my beard," he notes. Still, he feels it is best to quit while he is ahead. Emissaries are sent to the League and the Emperor, suggesting an official truce. Both grab it eagerly.

    --Henri is rather miffed by Pius' response to his request for a French Inquisition, which he views as vital to defending France from the looming threat of Protestant heresy. Like most of Henri's 'ideas' this originates in someone else's skull--several someone elses in this case, among them Diane de Poitiers and Francois de Guise. De Guise is especially bitter about it, convincing Henri that this latest botched attack on Cleves is the responsibility of the Protestant English, who he claims fought halfheartedly, and surrendered at the first opportunity. Protestants cannot be trusted, repeats the Duke, and with the Empire's reconciliation to the heretics, it's clear that now, instead of being the fifth column by which the Valois can cause trouble for the Hapsburgs, they are now the fifth column by which the Hapsburgs can cause trouble for the Valois. Henri is easily convinced by this line of thinking--he has long felt uneasy about the Protestant faiths. While his efforts at starting up a French Inquisition stall, the heresy court he started, which has so far done little but throw a few sops to the Catholic extremists, comes to a terrifying life, with many Huguenots facing charges.

    Henri's new hard line causes many disturbances at court. His wife, Catherine de Medici, reminds him that his future son-in-law is a Protestant, but Henri ignores Catherine as a matter of course. (He has half-convinced himself that Henry, while a schismatic, is not a true heretic, and thus, acceptable. This argument involves a great deal of willful ignorance on his part, but Henri Valois has no lack of that.) A more surprising rift opens between the Guise brothers--Cardinal Charles de Guise is very much on Pope Pius' side, and rather fearful of an Inquisition starting up. Aside from being fairly convinced that such an action will do nothing but let loose fearful violence and civil strife in France, he is concerned that such an organization might start setting its eyes on senior churchmen with humanistic leanings, moderate Reform sympathies, and a history of patronizing controversial artists. Such as, for example, Cardinal Charles de Guise. Why can't Henri just follow Emperor Charles' example and adopt something like the Peace of Augsburg? [12] Francois usually willing to follow his brother's lead on these matters, finds himself chiding the Cardinal for his willingness to make peace with heretics.

    All of which has lead Francois to reconsider the Scotland matter, and begin to whisper words to his King on it...

    --Turning to Scotland--facing a choice of the Lords of the Congregation and the Duke of Aumale, most Scots tacitly choose the former, especially after they acquire Queen Mary. But it is a conditional support, resting on the Lords' continuing to hold the initiative. And there are holdouts--Clan Douglas, most prominently, has fallen in with Aumale, but many Catholic lords are nervous about the Lords of the Congregation. They fear their place in a government dominated by such a strongly, blatantly Protestant group. But that said, many have apprehensions about Aumale. And so, even as the Lords spread their influence, Aumale finds himself finally gathering a small collection of Scottish followers, while some towns declare for him, or (more commonly) stay neutral.

    Thus, the Earl of Angus arrives to find Aumale has collected a good army of his own. This cheers Angus, who has faced increasingly restive followers, including his brother James. The discovery that Aumale has lost the Queen has made many suspect they've chosen the wrong side. Angus has managed to keep them from open revolt, but it is a near thing. After a brief meeting, Aumale quickly decides to cheer his motley alliance with a swift execution. The Earl of Arran is dragged out from his cell. To the horror of many onlookers, he seems to believe this is his coronation, and reacts accordingly, making rambling nonsensical speeches, and oaths to serve the nation well, even as the executioners prepare. However, at the last minute, Arran seems to realize what is happening, and bursts into tears. The weeping Earl refuses to put his head on the block, and must be forced into position. He dies struggling. The execution is a debacle--several men in the crowd actually try to force their way up to the Earl to rescue him as it goes on. While Aumale and Angus are satisfied by it, no one else is. Many of Clan Douglas and Aumale's supporters quietly desert in the night. This is disheartening, but Aumale is soon able to give his ally good news--more French troops are finally coming.

    --John Frederick the Younger discovers that his father is dead, making him merely 'John Frederick'. Germanic custom divides lands amongst the heirs, though the Wettins--like many other high-ranking families--have taken to getting around this by granting one son most of the territory, and the others small appanages. In this case, John Frederick receives the lion share of lands, and the Electoral dignity, while his brother, John William becomes the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. John Frederick mourns his father, while preparing to honor his legacy with further war against the King he has dubbed 'Ahab', Henri Valois.

    --In Calais, Henry Tudor is livid. He discovered the whole truth of the matter at Cleves in a letter from his sister after sending Norfolk out, and has naturally followed this by discovering about de Guise's second defeat. (He and his brother-in-law have been writing letters of apology for the whole affair to one another for some time.) The King of England storms about, and threatens to box the ears of anyone who mentions "that rascal Machiavell Guise" to him. In quieter moments, he states that it is tragic that a man should mar so many good gifts with such a bad nature. Add to this the tales of the King of France's heresy court, and Henry is left with an undeniable feeling that he's on the wrong side. Arthur Fitzroy is sent back home to England, to recover, and marry his fiancée. Henry's disillusion with this war has almost reached its peak--when King Philip manages another attack in French territory. English troops AGAIN repulse Spanish forces, though the battle is bloody. Henry's friend Robert Dudley is severely wounded, dying shortly thereafter, with the King at his bedside. For Henry it is the last straw. Emissaries are sent to the Emperor and the King of Spain. England wants out of this war. And he also sends instructions back to London, and abroad involving--certain matters.

    --The Lords of Congregation react with horror and loathing to tales of Arran's execution--even Mary, who has little cause to sympathize with her mother's mad killer, calls it "barbarous and cruel". (Little Antoinette is, as usual, an outlier.) Aumale's blunder is only increasing support for the Lords--and they receive more good news. Ralph Sadler has been dancing on a thin line--not exactly denying support for the Lords, but not fully endorsing them either. That is over--the English ambassador announces that his country is now completely behind the Lords.

    --As the year comes to a close, London sees the magnificent double wedding of Edward Tudor, Duke of York, and Arthur Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond to their respective brides, Barbara of Hesse and Lady Jane Grey. (The double wedding is Edward's idea, part of it to save costs.) Despite cold weather, London sees throngs of celebrants, many eager to see the couples. Arthur Fitzroy cuts a dashing figure as always--Edward, though handsome, manages to strike onlookers as cold and distant--a man going through the motions. But this matters little. Henry VIII's children and grandchildren are marrying. The line continues. The Tudors are here to stay.
    -------------------
    [1] He did something similar IOTL, though there he was Pope, and the young man was made a Cardinal. Needless to say, people found it considerably less amusing then.

    [2] This obviously was not the case IOTL, where Barbara was two years dead by this time. Why is she still alive? Well, Barbara's death is a rather mysterious affair--if it was illness, then chalk it up to butterflies--if it was poison, then chalk it up to certain people seeing the weakened Hapsburg situation as requiring less drastic matters. As for the LENGTHY time it has taken for Sigismund to sire a child--while his sickly wives definitely played a part, Sigismund's lack of children despite three marriages and quite a few affairs do suggest a man with less than stellar fertility.

    [3] OTL, he would go on to become Earl of Morton.

    [4] The Fieschi were one of the leading families of Genoa for centuries, but in 1547, a botched conspiracy to unseat Doria resulted in their displacement. Doria's response was harsh, and indeed, he spent years afterwards clandestinely hunting down those who took part in it, and having them killed.

    [5] A member of said-botched conspiracy, Ottobuono would be killed at Doria's prompting in 1555 IOTL.

    [6] Farnese was actually allied with FRANCE IOTL, but his more questionable standing ITTL caused Emperor Charles to handle his son-in-law more delicately. That said, Farnese isn't allied to Spain and the Empire either.

    [7] IOTL, Doria managed to fight off the French, even though he never managed to completely dislodge them. His death also came considerably later--however, Doria is a very old man and this news would crush him.

    [8] A distant relative of THE Medicis--so distant, that he made his way up on his own merits.

    [9] Muretus came to Italy considerably later, IOTL--but here, the promise of Papal patronage has brought him running. He also rather frequently faced charges of sodomy and heresy--in fact, one town burned him in effigy for it.

    [10] OTL Pope Pius IV.

    [11] Henri made this proposal in 1555 IOTL--Pope Paul IV--our friend Carafa--was so enthusiastic about it, he sent Henri a sword.

    [12] Surprised? Believe it or not, at this stage in the game, Charles was a member of the Catholic moderates--though by the time the Wars of Religion rolled around, that had changed. Not that his position had hardened--it was simply that, by standing in the same place he was more on the Right than he'd been ten years past.

    [​IMG]
    Maria of Portugal, Queen-Consort of Spain

    "Any consideration of Henri II Valois forces one to dwell on his great, tragic flaw, Shaxperian in its scope--his vacillating nature. Like his great rival, Philip II of Spain, he ruled in the shadow of his father, painfully aware of his own inadequacy--unlike Philip, however, Henri lacked any belief his own fundamental rightness to steel him through difficult moments. In a better man--such as, perhaps, Philip--this could have led to humility and empathy. In Henri, dull, suggestible, and fundamentally lazy, it produced only hesitation and failure. He fought for land in Italy, not because he felt a burning need for it, but because that was what a King of France did, and thus, when every war reached the critical point, his nerve failed, resulting in France taking a weak stance at the peace talks. Solitary, shy and awkward, he pretended to be a bon vivant because his father had been one, and rendered himself ridiculous--first as a young man making love to an old woman, then as an old man making love to a young one. And in religion, he proved unable to balance his personal repugnance to Protestants with his pragmatic (or perhaps pliable) nature--the resulting constant flip-flops between brutal repression and lukewarm toleration managed to offend every party over the years, setting the stage for the great Wars of Religions that would follow his death. Historians are all but unanimous in their commendation of the man--Giuseppe Alteri perhaps summed it up best when he declared Henri's reign 'a virtually uninterrupted string of errors'.

    "And yet, for a time, this did not seem so. His reign had begun with a triumph--inherited from his father--and for a while it had seemed that Valois France would serve as the center of an anti-Hapsburg alliance involving the Protestant Princes of Germany, England and Scotland. And yet all this fell apart, due to a combination of hubris, and weakness..."

    --William Adams, Henri le Fou (1978)

    1554

    --As the year starts, Maria of Portugal arrives in Spain, after a roundabout journey through the Holy Roman Empire, to Venice, and a stopover in Sicily. She meets her sister-in-law, Margaret--they are less than impressed with each other, a fact that Philip's suggestion that his wife 'aid' his sister in governing Spain does nothing to help--and then her stepson, Charles. Both Maria and Charles have been apprehensive about this meeting--she has heard rumors of the deformed and unruly young Prince, while Charles--far cleverer than people give him credit for--is quite aware that if Maria happens to produce a... more suitable heir, his chances of losing his inheritance are quite sizable.

    Both Charles and his stepmother are surprised by how well things go. Maria, still somewhat disappointed not to be a mother, finds herself warming to her awkward stepson--as for Charles, Maria proves to be one of the few things that he and his father agree upon. Soon, Charles is declaring that he'll happily share his inheritance with any children Maria has. After all, he notes, it's a pretty large empire. He's sure he can afford to give up a few pieces of it.

    --In other early year Iberian news, Philip's other (fully legitimate) sister, Juana, bears a son to her husband, the ailing Prince João of Portugal, on March 13th. The young Prince is named Leander, in honor of the saint Leander of Seville, whose feast day it is. This is a great comfort to the Portuguese throne--as noted, her husband, the present heir to the throne, is ailing, while his father, the king, is old. Indeed, an astrological reading of the Prince promises a long life, a glorious reign, and plentiful children. [1]

    --Henri II, hearing of Henry IX's plan to leave, tries to talk him out of it. It does not go well--despite Henri's efforts to be charming and Henry's efforts to be civil, what is supposed to be a heartfelt discussion degenerates into a shouting match. King Henry declares that Henri has had him expend blood and wealth simply to save his own hide--that he's dangled out promises of territory while doing little to get them--that he's finagled Henry into fighting his coreligionists. Henri, flustered by facing these absolutely true charges, attempts to counter with his dignity--unfortunately, he doesn't have very much, and he leaves in a huff. Henri is in a bad temper for weeks afterwards, and has suddenly realized that he doesn't like Henry Tudor very much, a fact that Diane de Poitiers begins to skillfully play upon. Francois de Guise also begins to play on it, getting to Henri to sign off on his plan to send more troops to Scotland to support the 'regent' Aumale. This is very good news from the Duke's point of view, as he's already sent them. Indeed, de Guise needs that sort of good news--while he remains one of Henri's favorites, the fact is that with repeated losses, he's been made to cool his heels at home, while old Montmorency takes the reigns up once again.

    --In Poland, Sigismund Augustus, to his immense relief, has a son, Casimir Sigismund, named for his great-grandfather. The Radziwills are all heavily prevalent at the young Prince's christening, to the grumbling of many Polish magnates. This is not the only source of tension--the Reformation is proving quite popular in Poland, and even more so in northern Lithuania, whose nobility is now mostly Reformed Church. Still, the two joined-nations are managing to navigate these murky waters with surprising grace, creating, for the moment, a 'state without stakes'. More troublesome are its neighbors--Russia, under the rule of the notorious Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Groznyi--'Ivan the Awesome, Son of Vasily'--is increasingly expansionist, hoping to acquire land in Livonia. The Scandinavian nations of Denmark and Sweden both have ambitions of their own in the Baltic region, but are also more cautious in their policies than the more autocratic--and dangerously unstable--Ivan. As of yet, all this is merely a gathering storm, and the mood in Poland and Lithuania is joyful. War may be coming--but that's in the future. Right now, everyone is simply happy to have an heir.

    --The arrival of more French troops in Scotland ups the ante, and offers encouragement to the forces of Aumale and Angus. They need it--most of the nation has recognized the rule of the Lords of the Congregation, with Aumale's authority being recognized in a small strip of land centered on Stirling Castle. These forces may allow him to remedy that.

    The Lords of Congregation are very nervous about that. True, they've been winning. This is largely because Aumale was unpopular to begin with, and has only been compounding this by actions like Arran's execution. The fact is, however, that they have very few troops at their disposal, most of which are unprofessional. Aumale possesses a growing core of French troops--very professional--and the help of Clan Douglas, a Clan so powerful that it could give the Kings of Scotland a run for their money. Further, the Lords have to defend a much larger area than Aumale does, meaning it may prove very, VERY easy for Aumale to make some gains. All of this is a recipe for disaster--at least in the short term--and they know it. Of course, this could be solved if the English would send some troops over--but the Scots are quickly learning that England's support is more moral then military at the moment. And so they sit, waiting for the hammer to fall.

    --Emperor Ferdinand tries to cross the Po again, and is forced back in another pitched battle with Papal forces. This is worrisome. Among those killed in the battle is Prince Henry of Wolfenbuttel and his eldest living son, Charles Victor. Henry, a Catholic, has been living in de facto exile from his mostly Protestant territories--with his and Charles Victor's deaths, his son Julius comes to the throne. This is even more worrisome--Julius has shown strong Protestant leanings, which likely means YET ANOTHER Prince joining the Schmalkaldic League--indeed, if this happens, it is safe to say that almost the entire north of the German states lies within the organization's power. Ferdinand is no fool--the House of Hapsburg's chance of holding onto the Imperial dignity in the face of a united opposition is questionable at best. But he has other, more immediate concerns--the Republic of Venice, which has been letting him keep his army in their territory as he tries to get into Milan--albeit for a hefty fee--are starting to get... impatient. And this is the most worrisome news at all.

    --Emmanuel Philibert, despite his misgivings, begins the invasion of Parma at his brother-in-law's orders. Its hapless Duke, Ottavio Farnese, does what he can to stop it, but that's not much. Farnese is not a well-respected man among Italy's nobles. He's considered greedy, spineless, treacherous--and that's just by his relatives. Ottavio has, despite being former Emperor Charles' son-in-law, kept neutral--Pope Pius agreed to support the Duke's claims as part of the Farnese faction's price for their vote, and as a result Ottavio figures he can count on both sides leaving him alone. The discovery that this is not so is, thus, a rude shock. Ottavio retreats, while sending the Pope a missive that boils down to "What the hell, Pontiff?"

    --In England, Edward Tudor and Arthur Fitzroy are butting heads over the matter of Scotland. Edward is for restraint and caution--the matter of England's northern neighbor is very tangled, especially as it involves France. Further, they're still paying for the troops down in Calais. Arthur on the other hand, wants to aid the Lords of Congregation--RIGHT NOW. After the whole affair of Cleves, the thought of killing Frenchmen--especially Frenchmen in the service of the Guise--is quite appealing to the Duke of Somerset, and he's always ready to smash heads for Protestantism. After several weeks of argument, a compromise is reached--Arthur may raise some troops and take them to the border to make sure that things don't spiral out of control and start causing trouble in the volatile North. The rest of the Privy Council watches the little battle of wills at rapt attention, aware that they've just watched the emergence of two major forces in English politics.

    Turning to the matter of the forces' marriages--boisterous, athletic Arthur is quite happy with his quiet, studious wife, and vice versa. However, the marriage of Barbara of Hesse and Edward is proving---less happy, with the German princess complaining that she expected to marry a man, not a statue. (Many historians suspect this may be a partial origin of the Duke of York's famous nickname 'the Man of Marble'.) Edward spends much of his spare time doing--well, exactly what he does when's he's working, and the rest of it pouring over theology texts, and writing eulogies to his dead brother, and various dead friends. (Conspicuously, his father never ranks one.) Barbara may be a Reformed Protestant, but that doesn't mean she's a prig. She enjoys parties and celebrations and people, things her husband doesn't particularly care for. Still, despite being a cold fish, Edward takes care of conjugal duties--Barbara will have her first pregnancy this year, with the child, a boy who will be named Thomas, being born in late October.

    --In early April, Elector John Frederick II of Saxony plays host at a remarkable gathering on the border of the Seventeen Provinces, at what some will call the 'Hall of Roses' summit. There, King Philip II Hapsburg of Spain and King Henry IX Tudor of England have their first--and only--face to face meeting. The Elector has been chosen as the host for his relative neutrality--allied with Spain and the Empire in this affair, but related by marriage to Henry. Flush with cash from his full inheritance, and his head filled with big ideas at his wife's prompting, John Frederick turns the talks into a chance to showcase Saxon opulence. Taking place in the 'Hall of Roses' carefully built of red and white cloth worked to resemble the flower--an initial plan to make it completely of flowers was discarded as impractical--the hall was filled with bouquets of roses, with pages in rose costumes serving the food. (John Frederick chooses the rose at is a symbol used by both he and his wife in their personal heraldry.)

    Henry and Philip are both charmed and impressed. The Emperor Ferdinand--who does not attend, but hears of it through his ambassador's reports--is neither. This is more proof of the 'Saxon whelp's' growing pretensions and ambition--the Elector is clearly portraying himself as the second man of the Empire--essentially a king in his own right. This is not only destabilizing to the Empire as a whole--it may serve as the basis for the Wettins elbowing out the Hapsburgs in the near future. This only furthers the Emperor's feelings that SOMETHING must be done about the Elector.

    But Ferdinand, as noted, is not at the Hall of Roses. Philip and Henry are, and they both come away with good feelings about John Frederick--and, to their immeasurable surprise, each other. Oh, they both understand that they are determined enemies and dedicated members of the Other Faith--but despite that, they recognize the other's talents, and even feel a little admiration. Philip declares in a letter to Maria that Henry is "estimable in all things but religion"--Henry writes to his mother that Philip is, while a bit foreboding and stern initially, well-mannered and pleasant on further acquaintance. Everyone agrees that this has all been a mistake--brought on by the evil ambitions of the treacherous Henri Valois, of course--and that there is no reason for anyone to pursue anything too... punitive. A truce is quickly signed granting an honorable peace to both sides, with a treaty to follow quickly. And with that, England's active role in this Italian war has come to an end. Henry has expended blood and treasure to gain nothing but a certain measure of contempt for the man who he is still nominally allied with, and whose daughter he is engaged to be married to. Still it could have been worse--the English have at least made a respectable showing for themselves.

    --Pius receives the Duke of Parma's message, and after sending a message to Farnese that boils down to "Don't worry--I've got this", sends Henri II a message that boils down to "What the hell, Henri?"

    Henri responds with a lengthy reply filled with vagaries about defenses, territorial claims, and the like. Pius responds with another letter where he points out that Henri has made him look like a liar, AND that his attack on Parma was completely unwarranted. He bids the King, in the name of their long friendship, to stop. Henri's second reply is in the vein of his first, only nastier, with Henri--who's heard reports about Carafa by this time--telling Pius that he shouldn't get all high and mighty just because he's Pope. Especially as that might not always be the case--Henri ends by suggesting that Pius should get his theology in order, because if he persists in taking the Church in directions it wasn't meant to go, certain people might just leave. Pius takes this not-veiled-at-all threat of France's perennial ace-in-the-hole, the schism, about as well as can be expected. Thinking the matter over, he decides that Spain and the Empire have probably gotten the message about how to handle Italian affairs by now. And so, he has his legates make a few... simple proposals to Philip and Ferdinand.

    Henri's decided he doesn't need the Pope, eh? Well, the Pope's decided he doesn't need him. After all, it's not like they were actually officially ALLIES in this little war...

    --Henry arrives back in England, to nurse his grievances, and allow his substantial ego to recover through a nice regimen of attention and flattery. He is swiftly surrounded by his friends and family--often the same people--and enjoying a variety of hunts and dances--albeit on a bit of a budget, because while the war didn't break the Crown's finances, it did strain them quite a bit. Further, the matter of Scotland, and Henry's insistence on bulking up Calais are adding to extra expenditures. Still, this is a surprisingly jovial time for the English court.

    Henry--as he does quite frequently--spends his time enjoying the attentions of quite few ladies of the court. Indeed, there are common whispers that he's going to be taking a mistress--which, let's be honest, as a twenty year old man affianced to a nine-year old, would be fairly reasonable. And yet, Henry is a tough man to pin down--his favorites tend to shift at a moment's notice. One day, his cousin Catherine Grey enjoys the honor of riding with the King--that evening, his first dance goes to Mary Dudley, sister of his old companion Robert. It all makes it impossible to tell what lady--if any--he might actually think about making his mistress. For Henry this is all par for the course--juggling favorites and making sure no one is quite sure where they stand is a strategy for increasing his power, and guarding his weaknesses. With foreign ambassadors never quite sure who's on the good list, it is very hard for them to know who to bribe for information and influence. Prince Edward and Duke Arthur are the closest things to obvious candidates there are--and Edward is fairly evidently incorruptible. As for Arthur, the Duke of Richmond rather notoriously took a large sum of money from a Venetian ambassador on one occasion in return for a promise to give him 'vital information', then said to the poor man "You have wasted a great deal of money". And then Arthur tweaked the ambassador's nose.

    --Anne Montmorency, the doughty old Marshal of France, is overjoyed. His perennial rival, that upstart cur the Duke of Guise, has at last been brought to heel, and Montmorency is in power again! As Philip's forces head into France once again, Montmorency has at last been given his chance to show what he can do.

    The answer to that is 'lose, and die'. Facing a large force with fearsome Spanish tercios serving as a spine, and formidable military leaders like the Count Egmont, the Elector of Saxony, Prince William of Orange, Wilhelm von Grumbach and Margrave Albert at its head, the French forces crumble. Anne Montmorency valiantly refuses to retreat, fighting to the last--he is cut down by no one less than Margrave Albert, who seizes the man's arms and armor for his own, and then forces the family to pay him to get the body back. Because that's how the Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach rolls, baby--Albert loves violence, and he loves making money off it.

    And so it happens. The Spanish and their Germanic allies are in Picardy. France begins to panic--and curse those perfidious Englishmen. (This is somewhat unfair--Philip has been cleverly, subtly upping the ante with each attack, as well as getting a better lay of the land with the result that in this battle, his victory was all but inevitable. In all likelihood, all Henry and his fellow English could do in this situation is add a few more bodies to the heap.) But all is not lost. Henri has more troops and more generals, and he's relatively certain that he can force the Spanish out, turning this apparent victory into nothing more than a bloody waste of men. And so Gaspard de Coligny goes to St. Quentin, to supervise its defense. Despite the horrific loss, and the Marshal's death, the French remain optimistic--St. Quentin is, after all, impregnable. Spain will break on that, and VICTORY WILL BE THEIRS! Right?

    --In Milan, the French and Savoyard troops make an unpleasant discovery. While they are not officially allied with the Papal and Florentine soldiers that have been helping them kick the Duke of Alba around, they have been relying on them rather heavily for support as the war has dragged on. Thus, they find it rather surreal when their unofficial allies announce that, in the face of naked French aggression against Parma, they have no choice but to regard the French as enemies. That bafflement soon turns to fear and anger as they come under attack from the Italian forces, especially once the Spanish forces join in. The overstretched armies of France fall back with startling swiftness, just as Emmanuel Philibert warned they would if a reversal occurred. Needless to say, he isn't overjoyed to have been right.

    --Emperor Ferdinand, clad in the simple clothing of a penitent, crosses the Po, accompanied by his son and heir Archduke Ferdinand II. On the other side, Pope Pius waits for him, accompanied by much of the Papal Court. Bowing low, Ferdinand apologizes for much of his brother's actions over the years, and promises to be more respectful of Papal authority in the future. Pius then robes and crowns the Emperor, following which his forces are allowed to cross the river.

    After the whole humiliating ordeal is over, Ferdinand is furious--his imperial coronation, instead of being the glorious display of power his brother's was, has been a showcase of the present weakness of the Holy Roman Emperor. Still--he's been crowned by the Pope. That counts for something. And he's quite right--Ferdinand will be the last Holy Roman Emperor to have ANY Papal coronation, though he doesn't realize that. Imperial troops march on to Milan, there to help the NEW allied forces fight the French.

    As for Pius, having done all this, he returns to Mantua, and speaks with passionate approval of the great successes in reducing plural benefices--an act of which Pius used to be quite guilty himself. And then he heads off to oversee the construction of Villa d'Este in Treviso, leaving the Cardinals to consider the paradox that is Pope Pius IV, a man who seems to embody every flaw in a Pope that started the Reformation--and yet seems to be the first Pope capable of fighting it on its own terms.

    --In Scotland, the hammer falls. Aumale's troops move out, heading in a more-or-less straight line towards Edinburgh. They seize control of every town they encounter along the way, usually following this up with executing any leading citizens captured for treason--Aumale continues to insist that he is the Regent, the Lords rebels, and that all his niece's proclamations to the contrary are the products of her being held captive at their mercy. Aumale's hopes in what the people of Scotland will dub 'the Rough Wooing' [2], are to pacify resistance through terror. For many, it has the opposite effect. In Edinburgh, the Lords ready their defenses. To their surprise, England finally comes through--Arthur Fitzroy has been sending the Council somewhat embroidered accounts of French atrocities with the result that even Edward agrees something must be done. And so Arthur--after first asking the Lords' permission, because they really don't need for this situation to get even more messed up--crosses the border with his troops. There aren't many of them, but still, it should be enough to strengthen the Scottish forces enough to give Aumale and Angus a run for their money. As the troops prepare to face Aumale's forces, young Queen Mary--despite warnings that she should stay in Edinburgh--speaks to them, bidding them to be brave and fight for Queen and Country, in a display of the pluck that will serve her so well in the future.

    The Battle of Edinburgh--which in fact takes place quite a ways away from the city--is a decisive victory for the Lords and their English allies. Still, Aumale remains at the head of formidable army. Things have turned in their favor once again--but the Lords know that they might then turn against them.

    --St. Quentin falls to the Spanish and German forces, thanks in part to the Count Egmont's brilliant cavalry work and John Frederick's skilled siegecraft, with Margrave Albert supervising the sack. It is a pretty bloody affair, especially since Margrave Albert's involved. Indeed, when Philip enters the city, he is thoroughly nauseated by what he sees, especially the actions of Albert, which includes seizing baptismal fonts and crucifixes to melt down, if they're made out of precious metals. He orders the rapacious Margrave from St. Quentin--WITHOUT his loot. Philip has at last had his triumph--and yet to his sorrow he finds he cannot enjoy it. Stories have him wandering the ruined streets of St. Quentin after the battle in shock, muttering to himself, and shaking his head in horror. [3]

    All of France is in a panic. Paris is now vulnerable to attack--something that Margrave Albert's sudden approach with a band of mercenary troops demonstrates. This is it, everyone assumes. Spain's big assault. (Actually, they're wrong--Albert's just resentful of losing all his spoils, and has gathered a bunch of fellow malcontents together with the idea of shaking a few trees and seeing what falls from them, so to speak.) In desperation, Duke de Guise is plucked out, and sent forth with whatever troops are available to stop the apparent Spanish/Germanic juggernaut.

    Albert's forces are much smaller than people realize, and not expecting much resistance--but despite this, the battle is fierce--Duke de Guise takes a nasty, scarring wound to the face during it. The Margrave takes a nasty scarring wound of his own, to the chest, which also happens to be fatal. Francois de Guise returns to Paris a hero. And there's more good news--John Frederick's younger brother, John William has failed in his attempt to besiege Metz, thanks to the skilled military command of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé. As the French breathe a momentary sigh of relief, it occurs to them that maybe--MAYBE--they'll come out of this all right.

    To a certain quality of 'all right' at least.

    --As the Earl of Angus leads his fellow Douglases in retreat, he comes down with what at first seems to be a cough. A few days later, he is dying of pneumonia. [4] David Douglas has had no children, and so his title and authority passes to his brother James. And this strains the already tense relationship between the French and the Douglases to the breaking point. James, after all, has had little patience for this entire misbegotten alliance in the first place. The only things that are keeping him from simply backing out of this is the fact that the Duke of Aumale has demonstrated that he is one terrifying man when he has to be, and he has quite a few French troops backing him up.

    --In Paris, Henri Valois is trying to figure out what went wrong--or more exactly, trying to figure out what went wrong in a manner that doesn't leave him to blame. He is watching France's gains evaporate, and the people with whom he entered the war as allies turn into enemies. Henri is aware that this is largely his fault, and that he has to do something to recover it, though he's trying to figure out a way to consciously acknowledge this that doesn't make him feel unpleasant. Meanwhile, he consoles himself by preparing stronger heresy measures. Those damn Protestants are paying for this.

    For the rest of France, it is a time of wary optimism. Duke de Guise is the toast of the nation once more--but even he knows that next year could be very nasty. All eyes turn to St. Quentin, where they certain the King of Spain and his Protestant allies plot the coming attack.

    --In St. Quentin, John Frederick and the other League leaders mourn the passing of Margrave Albert--he may have been a brutal psychopathic bastard, but he was their brutal, psychopathic bastard, damn it. The Elector vows that the Margrave's young son George will be raised in his household, as if he were John Frederick's own. [5]

    Meanwhile, Philip is likewise not plotting the coming attack. This is because he knows there won't be one. While many later generations will mutter about his cowardice and hesitation, that is not the major factor in this. Philip cannot afford another attack. In fact, he can't afford to pay the debts that are coming due next year. The Spanish Crown is on the verge of being bankrupt--his father left him an incredibly shaky financial situation and at the moment, 'Philip, King of Spain' does not have the magic that 'Charles V & I, Holy Roman Emperor' does as regards to bankers. It is close to a miracle he's managed to keep off the day of reckoning this long. [6]

    This is all a bitter pill to swallow. He has overseen a great reversal of his house's fortunes--now it looks like it will all be snatched away. All Philip can do now is wait, and hope...
    ------------------------------------------
    [1] IOTL, King Sebastian of Portugal was named after the saint as he was born on his feast day. He also got the same astrological reading. It didn't turn out that accurate.

    [2] Well, I wasn't going to let a great name like that go to waste, now was I?

    [3] Philip was by most accounts just as traumatized by the OTL sack of St. Quentin, when it happened.

    [4] He died of an illness in 1558, IOTL, leaving a son Archibald, who was raised by his brother.

    [5] Albert died without issue IOTL, during the Margrave Wars.

    [6] IOTL, Philip defaulted the year after his father abdicated. Here, he was in a slightly better situation--though the overall financial state of Spain is, naturally, much worse, and they have thus come to a crisis sooner.

    [​IMG]
    Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria

    "O'Farrell was a mighty man,
    Whose power was the Lord.
    His faith it was his armor,
    The Gospel was his sword."

    --"Daniel O'Farrell's Army", (Trans. Robert Wilde)
    traditional Irish Originalist Hymn

    1555--Part 1

    --As the year begins, Spain is forced to sheepishly acknowledge that it is now bankrupt. To the surprise of all, France winds up acknowledging that it is also bankrupt, the ever-mounting war costs having sapped its funds. [1] And with that the great Hapsburg-Valois war stalls. The mighty armies of France and Spain pause in their fighting, lacking the money to go on. While a few of their allies fight a handful of desultory battles, especially in Italy, this is on the whole a quiet time. The two mightiest kingdoms in Europe have exhausted each other. And so, despite misgivings on both sides, feelers are sent out to try and reach a peace agreement, largely on the basis that neither nation can afford to fight anymore. In every meaning of the phrase.

    --In Scotland, the discovery that they aren't going to be paid for the time being causes many of the French soldiers to essentially quit. This has NOT been a profitable expedition, loot-wise, and losing their promised payment destroys any incentive to fight they have left. This is a more dangerous action than they realize--the Douglases are increasingly convinced that this whole alliance was a mistake, and this provides just the advantage that they need to make an end of it. And quite a few French soldiers--simply put, Clan Douglas realizes that the best way to have their changing sides be accepted is to offer an unmistakable demonstration of their new loyalty. James Douglas, Earl of Angus is among those thinking along this line, and he decides to do it in the largest way possible--capturing the Duke of Aumale. Unfortunately for Angus, Aumale is a fairly formidable soldier, and his personal guard are quite loyal--Angus' attempt fails badly, with the Earl being dispatched by Aumale himself. However, this assault marks the end of Aumale's ability to mount an effective resistance--the Duke, realizing that he no longer has much in the way of loyal forces, decides to flee the country. To the surprise of everyone, he succeeds, though as often happens in these cases his fleeing forms a rumor that he disguised himself--either as a woman or a priest, depending on who one talks to. Needless to say, everyone agrees it's shameful that he didn't let himself get captured and killed. Where has honor gone?

    With the Duke gone, the Lords and Queen Mary are able to regain control of Scotland--though there are a few bands of French soldiers essentially having gone into banditry traipsing around the countryside, as well as a few rogue Douglases that haven't gotten the message that the fighting's over. Mary is able to stage her triumphant return to Stirling Castle, the Lords and Arthur Fitzroy with her. They've won. Now comes the hard part--running Scotland.

    --Pius IV has now been Pope for five years, and the Council of Mantua has been in constant session the entire time, with no sign of ending soon. Indeed, there are increasing rumors that Pius plans to make the Council a permanent body, the Papacy's answer to Sorbonne, as well as the fulfillment of the long-standing dream of the so-called conciliar Catholics. Cardinals come from Italy, from Germany, from Spain, and yes, from France, to discuss Church Doctrine in a surprisingly open atmosphere, with no fears of any Papal shenanigans regarding dioceses. "There are no nations here", writes the newly minted--and very idealistic--Abbot Carlo Borromeo. [2] "There is only the Church, and those who wish to serve her." Borromeo's gushings aside, most of those involved in the Council are in fact growing increasingly enthusiastic about its direction, and uniting under what historians will call the Pietian Program. Pius favors a largely internal approach to the Counter-Reformation, working on ending the abuses that result in most Protestant complaints, while creating a doctrine flexible enough to appear sympathetic to Protestant aims, while rebutting most of their theological stances. Protestants themselves are to be left alone if they keep to themselves, arrested and then dealt with by secular authorities if they cause trouble. And here is the cagiest, most subtle part of Pius' plan. People who have had doubts, who have questions are coming to understand that this is all right, as long as certain reasonable parameters are kept to--and Protestantism is increasingly looking like the place for those who simply won't stay in those perfectly legitimate boundaries. In Italy, where it will be followed most faithfully, the results are definite--Protestantism becomes viewed as fanatical and disruptive, while the Church is seen as thoughtful and tolerant.

    But there is the rub. Pius must rely on secular authorities to achieve his ends, and not all see the wisdom of his far-sighted approach. Most notably, Philip of Spain and Henri of France both favor dealing with heretical Protestants more violently, and Pius is unable to do anything but advise a more tolerant course. Philip will adopt the Council's rulings piecemeal, based on whether he approves of them or not--Henri will most often not adopt them at all. And then there is the matter of the German states, the wellspring of the Protestant faith. They simply refuse to reform, citing ancient privileges, and thus remain a horribly corrupt cesspool. German bishops and archbishops are elected by their church councils, and thus are dominated by incompetent, loose-living noblemen, most of whom keep concubines on the side. The victory of the Lutheran Church--or increasingly, Churches--is due to this. People see the well-trained Lutheran priests--almost always happily married--compare them to the local bishop, and gradually, they become Protestants. Pius knows that this could be turned around if some of the old practices could be changed, but there is little he can do--at least not without violating the carefully constructed image of neutrality that is making Mantua work. He needs allies in the German Principalities, but they're scarce on the ground. The Austrian Hapsburgs are the closest thing he has, and they remain suspicious of a Pope they have no hold on, as well as highly uneven in their approach to Protestantism. Where numbers and custom restrain them--such as Bohemia or Royal Hungary--they are fairly tolerant--but where they have a free hand---such as Tyrol--they are merciless. With a situation like that, Pius acidly notes to his allies, he sometimes feels that the Lutherans are welcome to the damn Empire. Or at least the German sections of it.

    --In Prague, the city to which he has returned after a long absence, Archduke Ferdinand II has yet another daughter--his fifth, named Maria. His marriage to Maria of Spain is fairly unhappy now--Ferdinand has no love for his wife, and she has little for him. He performs his duties as a husband as he performs his duties as governor of Bohemia--competently, but mechanically. About the only things he seem to enjoy are his art collection, and the occasional witty letter from his cousin Charles about the goings-on at the Spanish Court. And so goes the life of Ferdinand--a man who has everything, and nothing.

    --Turning to Vienna, and the Archduke's father, the Emperor Ferdinand finds himself in a tangle. Like much of Christendom, he was gladdened to hear of the Schmalkaldic League's successful taking of Esztergom two years ago, the first significant offensive victory against the Turk in... well, a while. True, he still wound up paying off Suleiman, but NOT as much as he'd thought he'd have to. Plus--another city for Royal Hungary. Always nice.

    At least, so he thought. But much of the League is rather unwilling to hand the city over to him. Not only did they fight for it, with John Frederick I, their beloved leader, dying as a result, but like much of Hungary, the city is full of Protestants, and the thought of putting coreligionists into Ferdinand's power does not fill the League with warm fuzzies, no matter how much the Emperor promises to be nice. John Frederick II is particularly adamant on it--he increasingly views Esztergom as his father's final legacy, the future starting point of the PROTESTANT reclamation of Hungary from the Turk.

    And there's another complication--the OTHER King of Hungary has suggested he'd like it. Janos II Sigismund Zapolya, the King of Eastern Hungary has indicated he'd like the city. Or rather the nobles that surround the young king, which is more or less the same thing. The League is far more amiable to this idea than one would imagine--while being a de facto vassal of the Turk, Zapolya is a Protestant, even if he isn't quite the right sort. Ferdinand is, needless to say, significantly less fond of the idea--he views Zapolya as a pretender, as Ferdinand had an agreement with his father that on Janos Zapolya I's death, Ferdinand would become sole King of Hungary, which the Transylvanian nobles proceeded to ignore on the ground that they could. And so the affair drags on, with Philip of Hesse doing his level best to spread oil on the waters. Ferdinand sighs and assumes that Suleiman is laughing hysterically to himself in Constantinople.

    --In Constantinople, Suleiman grumbles bitterly as his war with Persia ends. His treacherous son Bayezid (as well as Bayezid's own four sons) remains the honored guest of the Shah, at least until Suleiman can pay the man enough money to convince him to hand the Prince over to be... dealt with. (Bayezid thought allying with Persia was a good way to supplant his father's favorite Selim. The fact that he thought this is a good demonstration of why Selim is the favorite and designated successor, and Bayezid is presently trying to avoid the House of Osman's traditional way of handling redundant heirs.) As is par for the course in the Ottoman Empire, the ending of one war is time to begin plotting the next. And so, Suleiman tiredly does so. He has no choice. The Last Days are coming within a few decades--he is certain of this--and his dynasty must greet them by achieving a world-encompassing Caliphate--or as close to that as they can manage. Even though he is weary--and cursing himself for his weariness. His father, Selim the Grim--the man Suleiman lives in awe of, even as his son will live in awe of him--he would not feel this way, Suleiman is certain. He never felt any regrets, any hesitation--not even when he deposed his own father, the amiable Bayezid II! If he had only lived longer--imagine what he could have done! But he died--of a boil--A BOIL!--and Suleiman has spent his entire life trying to make up the difference. And so, Suleiman listens to his generals and advisors and plans further conquests for an Empire that is already approaching the limit of what it can hold. He has to. It's destiny.

    --The Duke of Richmond's return to England is hailed with celebration--Anne from her semi-retirement notes that one would think England had just won a major war. At a royal fete to commemorate both this and the signing of peace treaties with Spain and the Empire, the court enjoys a performance of Aristophanes' Peace by the Fellows of Trinity College. The play is a great success, no small thanks to Founding Fellow John Dee, who provides special effects--most notably, the flight of the dung beetle. [3] Henry especially likes the play, rewarding the Fellows--and Dee in particular, who receives a sizable purse.

    --In France, Henri, 'celebrating' the birth of another son, Hercule, has had one of his epic failures of nerve, watching his foreign policy collapse upon itself. He makes desperate efforts to salvage his relationships with England, with Scotland, and with the Pope.

    Pius proves fairly easy. The entire point of this was to show Henri that the Papacy is not his puppet, and Pius feels that the point's been made. Besides, he needs the eternal threat of France to keep Spain and the Empire compliant. And vice versa, of course. True, he has a few... requests to make, but Henri is in such a low state that they all seem rather reasonable.

    Henry IX appears to warm to his entreaties. In truth, while he's having second thoughts about his engagement to Elizabeth Valois, he's still attracted to what a marriage to the French Throne represents, even as Emperor Ferdinand floats marriage suggestions to one of his daughters or granddaughters towards the English King. And more than that, Henry realizes that having Henri imagine that England can be lured back into a full alliance is good for the nation's security. And so he continues to appear amenable to reconciliation, even as he notes he trusts the man no nearer than across the Channel--and frankly thinks that's cutting it a bit close.

    Mary Stuart--or rather, these days, Stewart--of Scotland likewise plays a double game. Scotland remains fairly disorganized, and while she has a loathing for Henri by this time which actually makes Henry's look mild, she knows that an angry France can cause all sorts of trouble at the moment. And so she smiles and nods, and pretends that of course, everything is all right, and that she knows that Aumale was acting completely on his own, with no sanction from the French Throne, and listens to Henri's suggestion that her fiancé pay a visit. Meanwhile, plans of a formal alliance with England are made, and talk of figuring out some way out of that annoying little marriage contract continues.

    --In Germany, two seemingly minor events occur. Reichart von Simmern, brother of the Elector Palatine, is elected Archbishop of Mainz by a majority of a single vote, despite being a Lutheran. [4] Emperor Ferdinand is annoyed, but decides to move carefully for the moment--despite being an Elector, Reichart is only one of many Prince-Bishops who are either openly or secretly Protestant. The Emperor cannot afford to antagonize them, especially as most are related to the various powerful German dynasties. Indeed, finding them all would be difficult--some of the most prominent Protestant families--most notably the Wittelsbachs and the Hohenzollerns--have Catholic members and even Catholic branches floating around, that they frequently back for the Prince-Bishoprics. The loyalty of such individuals is often suspect--and yet, many are devout. It all must be handled... delicately.

    The other is more obviously colorful, and yet, arguably even more indisputably minor to the casual onlooker. The Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg, Melchior Zobel, is approached by two men who claim they have a message for him, and bid him to accompany them. He does so, is taken to a small forest, and murdered. Everyone smells a plot, and the most obvious suspect is Imperial Knight--and Zobel's vassal--Wilhelm von Grumbach, who has a long-standing dispute with Zobel over a monetary gift that Zobel's predecessor gave to Grumbach. This would be barely worth a moment's notice--the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans sees feuds of this sort between petty nobles quite frequently--if not for one fact: Wilhelm von Grumbach is John Frederick's right hand man. (Historians will later debate the Elector's knack to pick up questionable supporters, such as Margrave Albert and von Grumbach. Is this a sign of John Frederick's naiveté? A clever tactic for a man who realises it will allow him to have serviceable villains to perform actions that 'the Rose of Chivalry' cannot be seen as actively participating in? Or does the answer lie with both at once, somehow?) Wilhelm loudly protests his innocence, but this isn't the first time he's been connected with this sort of killing, and one of the two men is identified as his aide de camp. While the Elector is able to shield his prize general somewhat, Grumbach ultimately chooses to go into exile for a while. Traditionally, France would be the place for a German in legal trouble to spend some time, but as they are rather unpopular there at the moment--and Grumbach is doubly so, having led troops against the nation--he opts instead for Denmark. And that is apparently that, at least for the moment. [5]

    Two seemingly minor events. No one even realizes that the seeds of the Revolt of the Bishops and the Knights, the first event of the Second Schmalkaldic War, have just been planted.

    --Turning to the matter of Ireland, the first rumors of the preaching of Donal Fearghail and his apostles reach English authorities on the island. They are startling, to the say the least. In one town, Fearghail performs the Eucharist in a field, with simple baked bread and black beer to stand for the body and blood of Christ, in a demonstration that of the rite's purely symbolic nature. In another, one of his 'Apostles' re-baptises converts en masse in a river. Hearing these rumors--the authorities mutter about how mad these damned Protestants are and rush to their secret masses. Henry has taken a cautious approach with the island since the revolts, and this means that much of the power in Ireland rests with native Old English officials--who are, as a rule, Catholic. To them, Protestantism is Protestantism. They put NOTHING past these people. If these rumors were getting back to people who know their Protestant factions--well, they'd be getting alarmed.

    As well they should be. Fearghail may admire Luther, but he is not a Lutheran, either Evangelical, or Reformed--nor can he be said to intellectually belong to the tradition of the Reformed Churches of Geneva and Strasbourg. He has sampled these arguments, and taken from them what he wants--but ultimately, he has come to view them as weak and wanting. No, most of Fearghail's theology comes from Anabaptism, the black tar heroin of Protestant faiths. Fearghail rejects virtually the entire Catholic liturgy, replacing it with striking new rites that he feels are more scriptural, most notably adult baptism. "I shall not rest," he says "until each Irish man and woman may be restored to the original Irish Church." For this is the vital facet of Fearghail's preaching--it is highly nationalistic. (Well, all right, the 16th century version of nationalism, which is slightly odd to modern eyes.) Fearghail teaches his followers that the Irish were, for the longest time, the preservers of the true traditions of Christianity, until the English--at the behest of their Roman master the Pope--choked it to death. But did not Christ say that the Spirit of Truth would always be with his followers? And lo! The time of the Restoration of the Original Irish Church is at HAND!

    It is a blend of history, myth, and Fearghail's rather fevered imaginings, all of it bound up by a very extreme Protestant doctrine. And it is spreading--though the Irish Originalists' later claims undoubtedly exaggerate the accomplishments of Fearghail and his Apostles. As yet, the Originalists are a fervent minority. But they possess several advantages over the Anglicans. First, the Church of England has been a theological muddle for some time, and though it is at last moving towards a coherent, firmly Protestant position, in Ireland, this movement has been retarded. To most Irish, it seems as if they are being asked to stop doing something they've done their entire lives, so they can instead do something slightly different, for reasons that are... nebulous. Fearghail on the other hand, demands a complete break with custom for reasons that are clearly articulated. This dramatic change and clarity aid his cause considerably. Secondly, Fearghail's message is unabashedly nationalistic, painting itself as a restoration of ancient customs. The Irish, he claims, were doing it right when everyone else was wrong--and had to be FORCED into error by dirty foreigners. For many, there is a natural appeal to this sort of thought, especially as Fearghail throws in quite a bit of old-fashioned rabble-rousing populism into the mix. And it is delivered by charismatic and capable preachers, most notably Fearghail himself. Anglicanism on the other hand, is seen as foreign intrusion masquerading as religion, and presided over by limp and incapable prelates, many of whom don't even believe their own doctrine.

    Of course, while the Originalists can beat Anglicanism in terms of appeal, that still doesn't mean that they can supplant Catholicism in Ireland. Unless they achieve something... dramatic... in the future. And, to make it clear, they aren't in a position to do anything of the sort.

    Yet.
    -------------------------
    [1] IOTL, the Double Default happened in 1557. I've already covered why Spain's bankruptcy comes sooner--France's does because they've been financing a broader war, earlier, AND the fact that they're still recovering from the earlier Italian War, which likewise saw them paying for a much broader war, longer, than OTL.

    [2] IOTL, Borromeo was the Cardinal-nephew of OTL Pius IV. Fascinatingly enough, he was one of the rare competent ones, and actually became a saint. Here, a combination of family connections and dedication have put him on the fast track to the inner circle.

    [3] Both IOTL and ITTL, he's done this for an earlier, less prominent production. Indeed, he's actually been called up by his fellows on account of this.

    [4] IOTL, he lost the election by a single vote.

    [5] And so kicks off TTL's version of the Grumbach Feuds, a rather murky minor affair that settled the question once and for all of what the Wettin policy towards the Empire would be. (The answer, by the way, was 'Keep quiet, and don't cause any trouble'.) Needless to say, here, things are a bit more... dangerous. IOTL, Melchior was killed in 1559--here, Grumbach--or his followers--figure that with the Elector's protection Zobel's murder can be gotten away with. As noted, originally, Grumbach lighted off for France--on several occasions, actually, as his feud with Melchior rather regularly got him into trouble.

    [​IMG]
    Joao IV of Portugal, the "Month King"

    "Wars are fought in fields of battle, with the sword and the spear and the musket by soldiers and generals. They are won at negotiation tables, with the promise and the plot and the lie by politicians and diplomats.

    "The fact that these two things are so connected and yet bear so little resemblance to one another explains much of the ills that afflict this world."

    --Prince Charles von Hapsburg, 1578 (possibly apocryphal)

    1555--Part 2

    --Peace talks between France, Spain and the Empire continue throughout the year, under Papal mediation. Henri, as noted earlier, has lost his nerve, and as a result, France is soaked. For a truce to be signed--not a treaty, mind you, but a truce--France must remove its troops from Milan. This is certain to be the prelude of the loss of all of his father's gains in the Duchy--perhaps even a formal renunciation of his claims. And yet, Henri sees no choice. He accepts.

    His brother-in-law, Emmanuel Philibert de Savoie, is furious. He has been writing constantly to Henri, trying to get him to see that the French position on the ground is actually quite good. True, they've been put to the retreat in Milan, but they still hold more of the Duchy than they did when the war started. France has no reason to accept anything less than a white peace--perhaps even a mild increase of territory there. But again, Henri's nerves are shot, and Pope Pius has rather adroitly twisted his arm on the subject. The French and Savoyard forces are leaving Milan.

    Of course, it is not a total loss for France--the territory gained in Lorraine at the war's start remains in their hands, for the price of betrothing young Princess Claude to Charles III, Duke of Lorraine [1], and Corsica remains their new vassal. Further, the Fieschi government of the Genoa Republic has stayed in power, much to the endless fury of the Dorias. Still, when looking at what has been expended to achieve such ends, it's hard for Henri--or any Frenchman--to consider this anything but a loss.

    --June sees the death of Johanna the Mad, the great matriarch of the Hapsburg line that they don't like to talk about. [2] Former Emperor Charles and present Emperor Ferdinand are both rather hurt by the death of their mother. Young Charles, hearing of it, decides to make another attempt to visit his ailing grandfather. He concocts an elaborate plot to let him do so, involving forged orders, duplicate keys, and a very large hat.

    It almost works.

    --Young Charles' father, Philip of Spain, decides to use the peace to get his affairs in order in the chaotic Duchy of Burgundy. This is difficult--as many historians will note, at this time, the Duchy is not so much an actual political unit, as it is a loosely connected group of provinces that Philip's Burgundian ancestors gathered together through a combination of conquest and inheritance, most of which jealously guard their individual rights and customs. The Spanish King's initial efforts to get things in order involves first investing the various stadtholderships--a position roughly equivalent to a governor--in proven men he feels he can trust, most notably Count Egmont, Count Horn, and of course, William of Orange.[3] The next step is buying further loyalty from them and the local notables with memberships in the Order of the Golden Fleece. This is an especially clever maneuver, as it allows Philip to turn the Order's meetings into a chance to unofficially pursue policy. (This is especially vital, as the Seventeen Provinces' various state bodies are slow and unwieldy in the extreme.)

    And yet despite all this, there is uneasiness in Burgundy with Philip's rule. He is too... Spanish, an austere and remote stranger ruling a people famed for their friendliness and celebratory ways. And then there is the matter of the local Inquisition. Philip has somewhat stepped up the persecution of Protestants, much to the discomfort of the fairly tolerant Burgundians. Many whisper that he plans to bring the fearsome Spanish Inquisition--a nonsensical rumor, actually. Philip has no such plans, and, as he notes, his subjects would probably be surprised to discover themselves in the hands of easier masters--the Burgundian Inquisition is on the whole rather worse than its Spanish sibling. [4] And yet Philip is underestimating the danger. The Seventeen Provinces could accept such treatment from his father because he was one of them--Philip is not, and is managing to cross an almost imperceptible line in his Protestant persecutions. Men are being arrested who are not wide-eyed radicals, but solid citizens whose only fault is a difference of opinion on matters the average Burgundian sees as rather... minor actually. And yet, one must not overestimate all this. Philip has just won a war, and the memory of his majestic and beloved father is still green for most of his subjects. The cracks are there--but they are hairline cracks, at the moment. For now, as Philip heads off to Italy for an important bit of diplomatic business, he is certain he's gotten this whole 'Burgundy' matter down pat.

    --As the nation finally recovers from the 'Bloody Years', Scotland's Parliament meets again after what has been one long interval. Needless to say, the Lords of the Congregation are running the show--the resulting Parliament is thus dominated by Protestants. The first issue--Mary Stewart's new Regent. While there is some talk of making her elder half-brother James Regent, both he and Mary are rather apprehensive about the idea--they both worry that this will likely prove the first step in setting Mary aside and making James the King. This is not pure selfishness on Mary's part, or pure altruism on James'--such a move would likely destabilize a nation that has just begun to steady itself, likely starting an outright civil war, and bringing the French back into the picture. Further, while James is an ambitious man, he is also a smart one--James suspects such a move will fail. It is better for him to serve his younger sister loyally, and thus be granted power and authority securely, instead of making a desperate gamble to usurp the throne. And that settles the matter--as neither James nor Mary want him in the position, he is out of the running.

    But this creates a new problem--James Stewart is the only candidate with a broad range of support. Everyone else has as many dedicated detractors as fervent advocates, as nobody wants to give their rivals that amount of power. Mary finally manages to square the circle by having her majority declared. While this is largely a formality--the Lords and Parliament are going to be the real powers running the realm--it does remove one contentious little plumb from the table. Of course, there are plenty more. [5]

    With that out of the way, Parliament gets on to the minor matter of breaking with Rome. Legislation is drafted to form the Scottish Kirk, the Kingdom's new very much Reformed Protestant Church. This is largely the brainchild of 'the two Johns', Knox and Willock. Mary signs all this into law, and it's done--Scotland is now officially Protestant, albeit with a certain level of toleration extended to Catholics. Hearing of his niece's actions, her uncle, France's champion of ultra-orthodoxy, Duke Francois de Guise, writes Mary a stern letter upbraiding her for indulging the Protestant heretics. Mary sends a reply wherein she protests that she has little choice in the matter. She rules on the whim of Parliament--"They put it before me, and I must sign". Guise should be happy that she managed to keep them from making it a crime to take Catholic mass. She really is doing her all for the True Faith in difficult circumstances. Trust her.

    Duke Francois is still puzzling that out when he gets a letter from Mary's little sister, Princess Antoinette--who still goes by "Stuart", thank you very much. Her sister, she declares is "a lying hinny", and any claims she has to be opposing the Protestants are lies. Antoinette knows for a fact that she has spent "long hours talking with the scoundrel Knox", AND that she "takes great delight in the blasphemies he tells her". Clearly, her sister is far, FAR more sympathetic to the Protestants than any proper Catholic monarch has any right to be. Of course, some might suggest that this invalidate Mary's claim to the throne, but Antoinette insists she is far too merciful and kind-hearted to ever consider such a thing. Trust her. As Francois notes to his little brother René, he does not envy his niece her viper of a little sister. Of course, figuring out which sibling has given him the more accurate picture of Mary's actions is all but impossible, especially as the Guises do not have many agents on the ground thanks to Claude's little... misadventure. (Aumale, for those who are wondering, is presently a persona non grata in France, and is thus cooling his heels in Genoa.) And so the question remains--where does Mary Stewart stand on the vital matter of the age--Catholic, or Protestant?

    The answer is neither. An often patchy religious education and an extremely pragmatic nature has resulted in young Mary having no strong religious convictions, save perhaps, one--that God wants Mary Stewart to stay alive and Queen of Scotland. While she is kindly disposed to the Protestants--these are the men who risked their lives to save her from her horrid uncle, after all--this is a political affiliation, not a religious one. (She has been having conversations with Knox on the matter, largely to get on his good side, but they have made little impression on her--save that Knox is "a vulgar, vulgar man".) She is also cagy enough to realize that Scotland still has quite a few Catholics left in it, and now that the bogey of Aumale is gone, they are probably going to start realizing that this present situation may be worse for them in the long run. Mary knows Scotland cannot take another bit of internecine bloodletting at the moment--her hopes are that she can present herself as a figure above religious disputes, and thus keep the peace. (Well, as much as that is possible--this is Scotland, after all.) For the moment, she is succeeding, aided in no small part by her half-brother, who may be a Protestant, but is also as pragmatic as his little sister.

    --In Italy, the Republic of Siena falls to an army of Florentine and Papal troops--of course, preventing the Imperial troops from doing just this is what brought Florence and the Papal States into the war in the first place, but that was then. [6] NOW, the Siennese are dangerous allies of the shifty French who must be taken care of. In Savoie, Italo-French commander Piero Strozzi, who was in charge of Siennese forces, weeps bitter tears. He was charged with assisting the Republic, France's last true ally in Italy, and now, as things have fallen out, he cannot even be there to defend it in its final hour of need. Emmanuel Philibert bids him recover himself--it's not his fault. "Things have been badly handled", notes the Duke of Savoie, "by one greater than ourselves."

    Cosimo de Medici is created Grand Duke of Tuscany by Pope Pius, who then goes on to recognize Philip of Spain Duke of Milan, and King of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia in a ceremony designed to be a slightly less humiliating version of his uncle Ferdinand's crowning as Emperor--but only slightly. Philip accepts it with as much grace as he can manage, which is actually an incredible amount. He sees this for what it is, of course--Pius is quietly declaring the Pope the supreme arbiter of Italian politics. The power to recognize is the power to deny--possibly even to cast down. And yet he goes through with this. He knows that Pius is able to do this because of the present weakness of the Spanish position in Italy. And he knows that things change--if he accepts this present humiliation, and rides out the storm, than Pius--or at least, his successors--stand a pretty good chance of finding their positions reversed, one of these days. Of course, Pius also knows this--which is why he's determined to strike while the iron is hot. If he establishes and strengthens precedent it could come in very handy in the future.

    The sight of the Spanish and their Hapsburg masters being humbled brings joy to many Italians, including Cardinal Carafa who is starting to wonder if perhaps Pius isn't so bad. (Hatred of the Spanish is one of Carafa's OTHER defining drives.) And so, he decides on a peace offering, a plan he feels is so great that even Pius will have to thank him for it. He floats his idea to the Pope through one of Theantine followers. [7] The Jews, he notes, have been living in Rome for a few decades now, and Carafa for one thinks it's rather awkward. So he proposes making them all live in a single neighborhood. Oh, and also have them wear big yellow hats, so that people can see that these are Jews! [8] To Carafa's mind, this baby is perfect--an issue no sensible Pope can refuse.

    Pius does not deign to even grant Carafa's proposal a reply. And so, the ex-head of the Roman Inquisition continues in his huff. As he is also a Cardinal of the Church, and the founder and head of his own holy order, this is a fairly significant matter, for all that Pius has managed to marginalize the man.

    --The University of Wittenberg publishes the first edition what will become known as Table Talk, all part of their ongoing efforts to extract every bit of Luther's wisdom--even the jokes he told over dinner. [9] Yes, Wittenberg wants to make sure everyone knows they're the real heir to Martin Luther, and that Philip Melanchthon's efforts over at Marburg are a fraud by those heretical Reformed Lutherans. And so things remain... testy between the two factions.

    --The penalty for heresy in France is stepped up to death. Huguenots begin to quietly panic. A few begin to throw around the idea of heading to the New World, there to found a colony based on the free practice of their religion. After all--what could go wrong? [10]

    That stated Henri's plan to make France so Catholic a nation that the Spanish Thrones wind up looking like a bunch of lukewarm moderates runs into a serious snag. His efforts to create a new heresy court that will function as an Inquisition in all but name--well, and without an official seal of Papal approval--does not go over well with the Parlement, who note that Henri is in essence asking them to curtail the Royal authority. [11] And Huguenots are not the only people who are alarmed by all these developments. Queen Catherine and Cardinal Charles de Guise both think that Henri is naively courting civil disturbance out of a combination of spite and religious fervour. And so, though neither can be said to be a real fan of the other, the pair begin an unofficial political alliance. Their mission--curtail the power of Charles' brother Francois, and the King's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and try to keep France from exploding into fighting on the streets.

    --England's young Princess Margaret is getting her first real marriage offers. Emperor Ferdinand is suggesting a match with his son Charles, which is not going to happen. The suit of Duke Erik of Kalmar is more likely, but flounders on the fact that he's pressing it without the permission of his father, Sweden's formidable King Gustav I Vasa, and that such a move might alienate Denmark. (More distressingly, Anne and Henry have heard rumors that Erik is unstable, something that his father's rather legendary... oddness makes them credit.) [12] And Prince Frederick of Denmark is throwing his hat into the ring, though it must be stated he does so with a surprising lack of enthusiasm.

    As for the Princess herself, she is fairly delighted by all the attention. The young redhead is the family beauty--as well as the family baby--and naturally enjoys all the endless declarations of love by men who have never ever seen her.

    --In Portugal, old King João III dies suddenly. His ailing son becomes João IV, but collapses during his coronation ceremony--within a few weeks, he is dead as well. [13] And so, wrapping up the 'Year of Three Kings', young Prince Leander is crowned. He is just over a year old. While his mother Johanna is technically Dowager Queen and Queen Mother, and thus the obvious candidate for Regent, she runs into the wall that is her formidable mother-in-law, Catherine of Castile. Johanna and Catherine--who is not only her mother-in-law, but also her aunt--continue their dispute from months before finally turning to Philip for arbitration. [14] Philip, en route to Spain from his Italian holdings, promises to take care of things when he arrives. Eventually. He has things to do in Spain--and he does want to check on this son of his that he keeps hearing distressing things about...

    ------------------------------------------------
    [1] Something similar happened IOTL, though at a later date and with a significantly older Claude.

    [2] Her death was in April IOTL.

    [3] He did the same thing IOTL. Allow me to add that it will likely prove just as bitterly ironic here.

    [4] Again, also, IOTL.

    [5] OTL's Mary's son, James I & VI would do something similar.

    [6] It fell about now IOTL, actually, though after a lengthy siege. Here, the entire about-face has left Sienna woefully undefended and rather off-balance.

    [7] The Theantines are a holy order founded, in part, by Carafa. They were well-respected for their austerity.

    [8] Carafa actually made this law when he was Pope.

    [9] Table Talk is published quite a bit earlier ITTL, largely because of the Ernestine Wettins better fortunes, and in Wittenberg, instead of Jena.

    [10] IOTL, France Antarctique was founded in this year--here things are getting started just a tad later.

    [11] IOTL, Henri's plans to found a French Inquisition floundered on similar objections.

    [12] Future king (both IOTL, AND ITTL) Erik XIV.

    [13] João III died in 1557 IOTL--here butterflies have him die a bit earlier, but have kept his son alive a little longer, resulting in him becoming João IV for a very, very short time.

    [14] They had a similar dispute IOTL. There, they turned to Charles.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  4. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2010
    [​IMG]
    Philip II of Spain

    PART IV: THE BRIEF, IMPERFECT CALM BEFORE THE STORM

    [​IMG]
    Charles von Hapsburg, Future Prince of Asturias, circa 1556

    "So it comes to this once more. Sardinia and Corsica. Sardinia and Corsica. Tell me, how is it these two small islands keep causing so much mischief? One would think they were made of gold by the amount of blood that's been shed over them."

    --King Carlo V di Napoli, 1643

    1556

    --Philip arrives in Spain. After briefly acknowledging the crowds in Barcelona, he heads up to Madrid, where he is reunited with his wife and finally meets his son. To say that the meeting is a disappointment is putting it mildly. Philip is confronted by a young boy who is short--even by Hapsburg standards, which is saying something--and to quote the greatest authority on young Charles--Charles--"crooked of limb, crooked of back, crooked of face, and crooked of wit." To the handsome, austere Philip his son seems almost a spiritual reproach--and Charles doesn't help matters by demonstrating his latest enthusiasm, playing the mouth-harp, almost immediately after meeting his father. Philip has the offending instrument snatched away, and then brusquely ends their meeting. Charles is left with the definite idea that his earlier suspicions that he is not high in his father's affections happen to be utterly correct.

    Once Philip has enjoyed... some time in Queen Maria's company, he turns his attention once again to Charles, though this time, he is careful to do it in a manner that places a safe distance between him and the boy, so as to keep emotions out of it. Questioning the boy's tutors, he receives a fairly consistent report--Charles is difficult, and perhaps, a bit slow. He refuses to learn, mocks his teachers, and cuts lessons to pursue whatever odd fancy has caught his interest at the moment. "A foolish, frantic boy," one puts it. But there is an exception. The Honorate Juan feels that Charles is perfectly intelligent--indeed, arguably exceptionally so. This is a great deal of the problem--Charles is bright enough to realize that he's going to be king one day, and thus to recognize that his teachers' ability to bring him to heel is... limited. And so, if he finds instruction tedious, he avoids it, and if he dislikes an instructor, he ignores him. "He learns all subjects readily and swiftly," says the Honorate, "if he desires to. But he cannot be forced to desire anything." The key to instructing Charles, the Honorate has found, is to earn his love and trust, present subjects in such a way as to hold his attention and finally, be willing to show a little flexibility and follow the Prince's latest interests when necessary. Philip's response to all this is simple--he fires the Honorate Juan, and puts Charles under the care of his friend, Ruy Gomez, the Prince of Eboli, who Philip is sure will straighten the boy out.[1]

    Charles is... not happy with all this, especially the Honorate Juan's dismissal, as he loved the old man. Still, he takes one bit of comfort--as he notes to the Farnesse brothers, he is fairly certain that he will be made Prince of the Asturias soon. And that is a great consolation, being the recognized heir to the Castilian throne, instead of simply the presumed heir.

    --In the Ottoman Empire, the second false Mustafa appears in the Balkans. (The first was a fairly minor incident back in 1554--indeed the most significant fallout was that the man found to be behind it, Prince Bayezid, had to flee to Persia.)[2] As opposed to his predecessor, this pretender gathers a sizable following among the local Janissaries, who are discontented by Suleiman's increasingly indirect rule, focused in Constantinople, the peace with Austria and the Safavids (that war has been pretty damn successful, but to the Janissaries, more war is always a plus) and the loss of Esztergom, as well as the Janissaries' invariable complaints that they need more money, more land, and more everything, because they have swords and guns, and aren't afraid to use them. As the second false Mustafa proves to be an actual threat, Suleiman sends a force under Prince Selim and the formidable Sokulla Pasha to handle matters. The government's and the pretender's forces will clash throughout the year, and while things quickly go poorly for the pretender, he will avoid capture. Naturally, this puts many of Suleiman's more elaborate military plans on the backburner, and as they were definitely slow boilers to begin with, this means quite a significant delay. So it's down to the usual--supporting the Barbary Pirates, and waiting for some European prince to make some legalistic mess-up on their peace treaty, thus justifying an invasion.

    --Norfolk publishes the second part of Brutus. It is a sadder, more meditative piece then its predecessor--the war in Aquitaine ends in victory, but Brutus' dear friend dies during it, and Brutus realizes that he can conquer, but not hold the territory. And so, after parting with those who wish to stay there, he and the rest of his band continue on their journey, finally arriving at the isle of the giant Albion at the end, which Brutus realizes is 'the promised land' where he and his followers can found their nation of free men.

    It is a mirror for the public sentiment--the English and their king are now wary of Continental adventure, and look back on "the Long Peace" with nostalgia. (Even if it was really "the Long Peace except for a couple minor wars, and quite a few popular uprisings". Because again, nostalgia.) Henry in particular still wants to champion Protestantism, but in a way that involves some other poor sap taking most of the damage.

    In other English Protestant news, Scotland's strongly Calvinistic Church makes England's Reformed Church enthusiasts more hopeful that they'll get King Henry to see the value of switching over to the Protestants that have it right. The "Puritans", as they are starting to be called, want to see the Church purged of what they see as its last Popish remnants. While they are a minority, they have many powerful allies, most notably Prince Edward. But they also have many notable opponents. While the majority of Englishmen are now quite used to seeing the Pope and the Catholic Church as unEnglish, the Puritans seem to want to take things a little too far. As yet this is more of vague bristling distaste, instead of united opposition--but that is going to change soon.

    --Turning to Ireland, rumors of the activities of Fearghail and his fellow "Originalists" finally have reached their way to the upper ranks of the English administration, specifically, the Lord Deputy, Sir James Croft,[3] who notifies London. He is told to get ahold of the wandering preacher, and have a chat to see if they can't get to the bottom of this. He sends a few men out to do so. It takes them awhile, but they do find Fearghail, surrounded by quite a few of his followers. Accounts at this point become muddled. The surviving soldiers state that as they went to talk to Fearghail, several of his followers began to throw rocks--one hot-headed young soldier drew on the crowd, and then all hell broke loose. Originalist lore insists that the soldiers were heavy-handed from the beginning, drew their weapons immediately, and insisted loudly that the 'archheretic' come with them. Whatever occurs, when it's done, most of the guards are dead, as well as a few Originalists--the fact that it goes down this way causes many to suspect that Fearghail's later claims to have been driven into rebellion are a sham, and that he was always turning the core of his followers into a private military force. But whatever exactly happened, one thing is now clear--Daniel O'Farrell is an outlaw to the English Throne. He and his most loyal followers head up to the wild and wooly North, where they will proceed to make history.

    When Thomas Cramner hears of this, he will utter his famous sentiment that he should have hung the man when he had the chance. Thankfully, he will be dead before the Originalists REALLY get going, and thus not having to realize just what he has helped to unleash. But all that's in the future. Right now, the English see this as a mildly embarrassing matter. After all--how big can this get, anyhow?

    --In the Empire, the matter of the Esztergom is finally resolved--more or less--Janos Zapoloya has agreed to give up his title as King of Hungary, becoming merely the Prince of Transylvania, in return for be given ownership of the city[4]. The League, the Emperor (in his position as King of Hungary) and the Prince of Transylvania will each provide a few troops to protect it, with Zapoloya appointing a military governor. The young Prince's choice--or rather, his mother's--is the formidable Istvan Bathory[5]. Bathory is a talented general, a man of prestigious family, and best of all a Catholic, thus soothing the Emperor. It is not a perfect solution, but it is... acceptable to all involved, even the Turks who see this as creating a buffer between them and the Hapsburgs to give them time for the next war.

    In another matter, Friedrich von Wirsberg, the new Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg takes advantage of Grumbach's absence to seize his lands. From his exile in Denmark, Grumbach protests, but as yet, there is little he can do.[6]

    As yet.

    --In Prague, Archduke Ferdinand II and his wife suffer a double tragedy--their fourth daughter, Margaret, dies of a fever, while Maria's latest pregnancy ends in a stillbirth. (The child would have been a son.) Ferdinand responds to this loss by avoiding his wife, and disappearing in seclusion, sometimes for days at a time. In the courts of Bohemia--and indeed, the Empire--courtiers whisper. Ferdinand's unhapiness with his marriage is obvious--even to casual observers. Most wonder how this will end. Some think they know, though Ferdinand is an exceedingly private man, and thus a hard man to track. Still--most figure he will get a mistress soon.

    They are right. Though what they fancy to be a minor matter, will prove to be very significant indeed.

    --At Mantua, Pope Pius begins the latest session by brandishing a privately printed Bible in Italian, and admonishing the Cardinals. "We have been sleeping, but now we must wake!" he proclaims--the Church has allowed the Protestants to stake out Bible translations as their position. And this is a popular position--indeed, setting themselves against it has proven to be something of a loser for the Papacy. Well, that's going to end. Pius is commissioning an official Catholic Italian Bible, to be followed by an official Catholic French Bible, Spanish Bible, German Bible, Polish Bible, etc, etc. Indeed, Pius states his hopes that the day might come when--under the wise auspices of the Catholic Church of course--men and women of all nations may read a Bible in their native tongue. The Council of course, is enthusiastic about it. The Protestant churches smell a sinister Papist plot. And the Catholic diehards, rallying around Carafa in his exile, start wailing that this is the end of the world! The Bible should stay in Latin, as was clearly God's intent when he allowed it to be translated from Hebrew and Greek.

    --In Poland, Sigismund Augustus has been maneuvering for some time to support his cousin, William of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Riga, in his efforts to turn the domains of the Livonian Order into a secular Duchy--thus duplicating the act which turned Prussia into a Polish vassal. However, this is proving difficult--the Livonian Order may be dwindling, but much of it is opposed to such a move. Further, Ivan of Russia has his own ambitions in the area, and thus Sigismund must be cautious. And so, when William asks Sigismund for troops to allow him to suppress his enemies, the King of Poland hesitates. This proves to be disasterous for William, whose enemy, William von Furstenburg, attacks and captures him. And so, Sigismund finds himself HAVING to do something. [7]

    --The present truce between France and Spain has the hearty of endorsement of both nations, largely because they are too damn exhausted to fight anymore. Unfortunately many of their clients have plenty of disputes they still wish to iron out. Most notably, there's the Dorias, presently sitting out on Sardinia, and their neighbors Corsica and the Republic of Genoa. The Dorias feel that both of these are rightfully theirs. The Corsicans (especially their governor, Giordoan del Orsini) on the other hand don't like having the Dorias right next door, so to speak. Neither do the Genoans--or at least, Doge Fieschi's faction, which as it is the bunch running the show, is the important one. Fieschi worries about the Dorias reestablishing their grip on the Republic--and Genoa also happens to have some old claims on Sardinia, which the Doge can't help but feel reclaiming would help shore up his popularity.

    And so, halfway through the year, it happens. The Dorias move a small fleet of ships uncomfortably close to Corsica. The Corsicans say this is the prelude to an invasion--the Dorias say that they are merely trying to protect Sardinia from Corsican piracy, which has gotten quite bad of late. Thus, when the Corsicans attack the ships--which they say have wandered into Corsican waters--the Dorias state this is an act of aggression. The Corsicans state that the Dorias are the ones acting aggressively, and the Republic of Genoa backs them up. And so, as France and Spain watch in bewilderment, a Sardinian force invades Corsica as a Corsican/Genoese force invades Sardinia. Corsica, again, is now a French vassal, and Sardinia is Philip's demesne as a subsidiary of the Crown of Aragon. And so as they watch, peace--which seemed at hand--slips out of their grasp...

    --As Denmark and England have quite a bit to talk about--Frederick's marriage suit, the rather unstable Baltic situation (England is a trading partner with virtually every party involved, even Russia)--Denmark sends a diplomatic mission. Accompanying them is Henry's young nephew John Christian. His uncle, Christian II of Denmark and father, Duke John, hope the young man might prove to be an invaluable diplomatic link between the two nations. Sadly, this plan flounders on the temperament of John Christian, or as many of his fellows call him, "John Choler". The young Danish nobleman is rude, sullen, and so short-tempered that he gets into five fights during his stay. (This is actually good behavior for him.) Needless to say, Henry and the rest of the English court do not view his departure with too much sorrow. The talks accomplish little regarding the Baltic tangle, and nothing regarding Frederick's suit, though the latter is mostly because matters overtake it.

    The Elector of Saxony, as noted, has been heavily involved in discussions with the Transylvanians over Esztergom--and as John Frederick is presently sitting in St. Quentin overseeing its defenses, that means his talented young wife has been handling much of this for him. And Elizabeth, in doing so, has wound up taking a look at young Janos Sigismund. The Prince of Transylvania happens to be of an age with her little sister--and is quite free. A marriage connection to the Transylvanians could be quite handy in the future for putting pressure on the Hapsburgs. Of course, there is the issue of getting her brother and mother to sign off on that, but Elizabeth figures she's up to it. She writes to both of them, explaining the value of gaining Transylvania as an ally, not just for Saxony, but for Protestantism. Henry, already looking for more... subtle ways to champion the faith, is naturally quite enthusiastic about it. Anne is more hesitant--but here Elizabeth pulls her trump card. She has kept up a correspondence with Margaret since her marriage, and she uses it to talk up the virtues and charms of Zapoloya. Soon Margaret is begging her mother to please, please let her marry the Prince of Transylvania. And so, Anne gives in. Margaret Tudor will be Princess of Transylvania. Elizabeth smiles to herself, pleased that her scheming has come off. This could lead to something big in the future. Possibly even the near future.

    She has to admit, she rather likes the sound of "Emperor John Frederick, and Emperess Elizabeth".

    --Turning to Sweden, Erik of Kalamar's brother, Johan is named Duke of Finland by his father, and immediately sets to work centralizing his power there. [8] Erik is highly suspicious of this, thinking that Johan is trying to create a personal powerbase to make a grab at the throne when Gustav finally dies--and while Erik is somewhat... unhinged, he knows his brother well. Johan is ambitious and treacherous, a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his ends, and he's ever so slightly--erratic, making him difficult to predict. In other words--he's a Vasa.

    Younger brother Magnus, the one Vasa who's quirkier than Erik, is also annoyed. [9] If Erik--who he detests--and Johan--who he detests even more--are Dukes then he wants to be a Duke too. He begins to pester his father for a Duchy. Any Duchy. Gustav Vasa--ailing and tired--does so, granting Magnus the Duchy of Ostergotland. Magnus is delighted. Like all Vasas--and indeed, like most Swedes--he is absurdly proud of his "Gothic" heritage.

    --Philip is... annoyed. Just when he had that irritating little war almost wrapped up, it starts all over again. And for the stupidest reason imaginable, over a pair of islands that, while valuable, are not exactly worth this much trouble. And so he can get on this as soon as possible, he turns to the matter of Portugal. It is in many ways, a tangled little knot--while Juana possesses a very strong traditional claim, she is politically isolated, especially as compared to her formidable mother-in-law. And yet, one cannot simply ignore a Dowager Queen in these matters, even if the King she was attached to reigned for a few weeks.[10] It is a matter that could take a long time to untangle, but Philip neither has the inclination--Philip is a cautious man, but not a particularly patient one--nor the freedom to do so. Aside from the entire Sardinian matter, this divisive situation is resulting in opportunistic "compromise" candidates for the Regency popping out of the woodwork, hoping to either attract national sympathy, or get whatever they can from the victors. The most notable (at least from the position of hindsight) is a young Portuguese nobleman named Don Antonio, the Prior of Crato, who enjoys a royal descent--from the wrong side of the sheets, alas--a charismatic nature, and a complete lack of scruples.[11] This sort of "anything goes" situation is bad for Portugal, and by extension, Spain. And so Philip produces a hasty compromise--a joint regency, with Juana in a more or less honorary position, with Catherine getting all the real power. It is classical Phillipine politics--a heavy-handed solution that satisfies nobody, and offends everybody. And yet, sometimes a mutual sense of being screwed over is the best thing you can achieve. Under this inauspicious beginning, the Double Regency comes to pass.

    And with that--and a few other matters done--Philip prepares to head back to Antwerp. Accompanying him will be his half-sister, Margaret, and the young Archduke Charles Francis. (Charles Francis is quite happy to leave--his lengthy sojourn in Spain has been rather unpleasant, and marred by incidents like mysterious someones putting honey in his gloves. Or cutting off the legs of his pants. Things like that...) Staying in Spain will be Queen Maria, the Farnesse brothers, and Charles, who is rather miffed that his father still hasn't had the Cortes name him Prince of the Asturias. Philip is quite unhappy to leave his wife again--but this time there is good news. Maria is pregnant. The child will be delivered towards the end of the year--a reasonably healthy boy who will be named Ferdinand.

    --In Genoa, a new wrinkle arises in the strange little conflict that future generations will view as the last stage of this Italian War. As usual, politics in the city have shifted into a factional muddle. When the war started, most saw Andrea Doria's championing of the Emperor against a clearly ascendant France as quixotic (a word that doesn't exist ITTL, by the way--the closest equivalent is, oddly enough, 'Rosicrucian'). However, with France looking--less dominant, some are wondering if this was as wise as they thought. Further, Genoa's resurgence in fortune of late has been based on Spanish gold in its banks--now Philip is looking to move at least some of his banking elsewhere. This all adds to make many of the more pragmatic citizens to wonder if their change of allegiance was so wise after all.

    Of course, pragmatists are famously... well, pragmatic--they don't move unless they feel they have to. It takes idealists to light a fire--and would you believe it--Doge Fieschi's offending them as well. He came to power on promises to end Andrea Doria's more autocratic practices and to "restore the Republic to its ancient practices". While this started with matters like undoing Doria's highly unpopular Alberghi system [12] and actually being the doge, instead of having himself declared censor and ruling from the shadows, it has... moved on. Fieschi has undone the two year limit Doria imposed on the office, and is moving to make it more powerful, in the manner of its Venetian counterpart, instead of the weak largely ceremonial position it has become[13]. Many of his supporters feel they have been betrayed.

    And so, with troops being sent to Sardinia, a few fiery young idealists feel their hour has come. They take to the streets, calling for a NEW new Genoan Republic, as it seems that the new boss is just like the old boss, and they won't get fooled again. (History will call these idealists the Young Republicans.) As Fieschi works to suppress them, a group of pragmatists invite the Dorias back in to "restore order". Obviously, the Dorias have quite a bit on their plate at the moment, so the amount of troops they can send is... limited, but still, by late August, Genoa is seeing a three-way fight between Fieschi, Doria, and Young Republican supporters. (Claude de Guise is among those fighting in support of the regime.) But then Fieschi pulls his trump card. He contacts the Duke of Savoie and the King of France, and asks them for a little support. Henri, as is usual for him when the crunch time comes, dithers impotently--Emmanuel Philibert, as is usual for him, acts swiftly and decisively. The Head of Iron, as he is called, comes to Genoa with his troops, and quickly crushes both sets of rebels. Both the pragmatists and idealists' efforts have backfired completely--if Fieschi was to close to France before, now he is tied to it, and if people thought he was getting a bit authoritarian, they get to discover what Ottobuono Fieschi going dictatorial REALLY means. (People getting hung from the city gates, for a start.) And so, with that out of the way, Doge Fieschi and his new bestest buddy, Duke Emmanuel, confer on beating the Doria menace...

    --In France, Henri is not so much caught unprepared by the Sardinian conflict as he is completely walloped by it--France loses its chance to affect the outcome for several months as its King sputters that this is not HAPPENING. Once he finally decides that it is, several more months are lost as Henri tries to ineffectually make peace, all while ignoring the fact that there are Sardinian troops in Corsica and Corsican troops in Sardinia. But eventually, Henri is forced to admit that the war is starting up again. And that's when everybody's favorite warmonger, Francois, Duke de Guise, comes to him with a plan. St. Quentin remains in the hands of their enemies for the moment, a guarantee of good behavior until a peace treaty is formally signed. But with a peace treaty so clearly on the way, and expenses being what they are, Philip has discharged nearly all his troops there. What remains is a token force headed by de Guise bête noire, John Frederick, Elector of Saxony. A swift attack now could dislodge them, and thus mean that once this affair is over, and both sides return to the table, France can negotiate from a position of strength.

    Henri is wary of this plan. France is still broke, after all, and as hard as he makes it to believe at times, Henri Valois is not stupid--merely weak and pliable. He knows that if this fails, France will be, even in the best case scenario, left even weaker in the negotiations--in the worst case scenario, he might be facing an invasion by resurging Imperial/Spanish forces. This is a plan so audacious, that even de Guise can't get Henri to quite buy it.

    But de Guise has a secret weapon--Diane de Poiters. Henri has always been under her thrall, and this has only increased of late. Queen Catherine's latest--and last--pregnancy turned into a hideous ordeal when she gave birth to twin daughters--one however was dead in the womb, and had to have its arm broken to be pulled out. (The other, Victoria, is extant, and indeed, doing fine.)[14] The doctors recommended that Catherine avoid pregnancy in the future, and Henri has helped with that advice by forsaking his wife's bed completely for Diane's. Diane uses their pillow talk as a chance to plant the idea in Henri's head that he must be decisive--that this is the moment to rise to the challenge and at last eclipse his father. And so, after several months of prodding, Henri signs off on the attack. Next year, Duke Francois shall force the Saxons out of St. Quentin, showing the world that the might of French arms are not to be trifled with.

    At least, that's the plan...

    --------------------------------------
    [1] Philip did something similar IOTL. While ITTL's Charles is a great deal less troubled than his counterpart, this is still a rather... heavy-handed approach to parenting.

    [2] This is somewhat different than the situation IOTL, which saw one Mustafa impersonator in 1555.

    [3] IOTL, he was Lord Deputy from 1551 to 1552--here, he's serving at a different time thanks to butterflies.

    [4] IOTL, he did this in 1570--here the negotiations lead to it happening earlier.

    [5] Yes, that Stefan Bathory.

    [6] IOTL, Grumbach had his land seized by Zoebel as a result of the Margrave Wars.

    [7] This is all pretty much IOTL. The Livonian War is a remarkably complicated affair, and it actually hasn't even started yet.

    [8] Again, IOTL. TTL Johan is not quite OTL Johan, but he's fairly close.

    [9] IOTL, Magnus was the one Vasa brother so crazy he never wound up King of Sweden--which is saying something. TTL's Magnus is more functional--and a great deal more dangerous. He's also a year younger than his OTL counterpart.

    [10] IOTL, of course, Johanna could be ignored--further, it was her father and not her brother doing the judging.

    [11] Yes, THAT Prior of Crato. Also, just to be clear, he's the most significant in hindsight--at the time he is something of a longshot, and a good example of just how unpredictable things are getting.

    [12] The Alberghi system was Andrea Doria's effort to end factional wrangling between families by grouping everyone into really big families. It didn't work, and IOTL, the whole system was dissolved in 1597.

    [13] With the possible exception of the first Doge, Simon Boccanegra, the position of Doge never developed much power in Genoa.

    [14] This is all pretty much what happened IOTL, though Victoria Valois died a few months after her birth there.

    [​IMG]
    Francois I de Lorraine, Duke of Guise

    "The reignition of active conflict in the Hapsburg-Valois War saw the continuation of another feud--one which would not only outlast, but ultimately surpass the one that had birthed and nurtured it. The bad blood between the houses of Wettin and Guise would in time give rise to wars, murders, and conflict around the world. But that was yet to come. For now, it was simply a struggle between two men--the Elector of Saxony, and the Duke of Guise. Neither realized that for one, it would mark the end not only of the conflict, but of his life..."

    --Pierre Lagarde, Achilles: Rise and Fall of a Colossus, (1978)

    1557--Part 1

    --It is time to turn once again to Scotland, which has been fairly calm over the last year. It is still a time of regeneration and renewal, as the nation recovers from the side-effects of years of war and civil upheaval. Mary Stewart continues her adroit balancing act, supporting Protestant reform while respecting Catholic freedom--and even more impressively, doing so while remaining (at least nominally) a Catholic herself. While most of the country loves the Young Queen--no one calls her 'the Wee Queen' anymore, as, at nearly 6' she towers over most of her ministers[1]--the fact remains there is an... uneasiness in the air. Most Protestants--who are certain the Queen is far more on their side than she lets on--wait for the day when they can finish up what they started, and make Scotland the Reformed Church's answer to Evangelical Denmark. Many Catholics--who are certain that the Queen is far more on their side than she lets on--wait for the day when the Queen, free of her sinister ministers, can bring back the Old Faith.

    And there are other issues--with the main line gone, the remaining Douglases are quietly fighting for the leadership position. As they lie rather uncomfortably close to Stirling, and have just demonstrated what a problem they can be, Mary names a new Earl of Angus--her half-brother, James--and grants him Tantallon Castle, with a writ to "establish the Queen's law" in the area. While this does help matters, many Douglases are resentful of being lorded over by a Stewart--and a bastard Stewart at that. The year will see the hardening of a Douglas opposition. Further, they aren't the only opposition. As time goes on, some Protestants will become ever more sure that Mary needs to be MADE to step up the progress of the Reformation--among their leaders is one of her other half-brothers, Robert Stewart.[2] (James V had bastards the way many men have pets, and they lightly litter the Scottish political landscape.) Robert is not the charismatic, accomplished politician James, the newly-minted Earl of Angus, is--however, he wishes he was, and that makes him ambitious at times.

    Catholic opposition is likewise hardening, though it is having a harder time solidifying around a leader, largely due to there being two significant candidates, both of whom have a tendency to jump up and down while shouting "me, ME, ME!!!" Princess Antoinette Stuart is the obvious choice--as opposed to her sister, whose religion is best summed up as "Catholic as long as you don't force her to take a stand", Antoinette is a dedicated member of the Old Faith. While this and being the heir presumptive would make her the natural rallying point for Catholic opposition, there are several little problems. Antoinette is even younger than her sister, and seems to feel that the best way to become such a figure is to make herself the anti-Mary. Thus she has staked out several very unpopular positions, most notably rabid support for the French and the Auld Alliance to oppose Mary's quiet movement away from Paris' orbit. All this doesn't help her--and Antoinette's overall personality is another flaw--imperious, capricious and vindictive. Of course, Mary has that side to her personality as well--indeed, every monarch in Europe has that side--but a life spent dancing to the tune of court politics have instructed her to the realities of her situation, and she understands the niceties of proper etiquette, as well as the simple fact that other people must be treated with respect unless they show themselves to be worth none. Antoinette has never managed to have that realization, while her political training is best summed up as 'watching her sister do it, and being sure she could do it better'. All in all, it adds up to a rather unpromising political leader.

    Unfortunately, her most significant rival for Catholic affection isn't any better, and in fact is arguably a great deal worse. Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, is ten years old, and largely under the thumb of his domineering mother, Margaret Douglas. Margaret holds great ambitions for her son, and quite a few grievances against her cousins, the Tudors, some of which are justified, others of which are not.[3] This has all seeped down into Charles, who has become that dangerous blend of egotistical and stupid that often causes wars when it's blended with royal blood and questionable claims to thrones. Margaret and her illegitimate half-brother George[4] (who feels he should be Earl of Angus, but that's another story) both spend their time loudly championing Charles' "rights" which are suitably nebulous enough that they may expanded upon when necessary. With these as their potential champions, most Catholics are coughing and wondering if they really need to rock the boat that much.

    In other news, while Mary has yet to formally end her engagement with Charles Valois, most of Europe senses it's coming, and she's already getting new proposals. The eternally hopeful Erik, Duke of Kalmar presses his suit, as does his eternal rival Prince Frederick of Denmark. Spanish emissaries ask if she's willing to swap one deformed Prince named Charles for ANOTHER deformed Prince named Charles who is, at least, not French. Imperial ambassadors suggest that if that Charles Hapsburg isn't up to snuff, then perhaps the not-deformed-at-all Charles Francis Hapsburg would work. As Mary mulls these proposals over, many of her fellow Scots are heavily suggesting she marry a Scot, or if that is unacceptable, an English Lord. The Bloody Years were harsh, and most feel that Scotland needs to avoid foreign entanglements, especially those that potentially involve having them invade England.

    --Crossing a rather smallish sea, in Ireland, the fallout from the scuffle with the Originalists continues to percolate. The English attempt to find out where "Daniel O'Farrell" has vanished to--however, this search is hampered by the same problems that hamper everything the English do in Ireland--poor administration, loose control, and a certain unwillingness to understand the facts on the ground. For example, the obvious thing to do would be to question his past associates--however, nobody in Ireland can recall who they were, and they never consider asking if anybody back in London does. Instead, what happens is a lot of random flailing around, pointless arrests and going in circles that manages to remind people just why they don't like having the English around. Meanwhile, many Originalists circulate throughout English territory, completely unimpeded by the authorities and indeed, often assisted by them. It is understood, after all, that they are tasked to encourage the development of Protestantism in Ireland, and the Originalists don't go around wearing signs that say 'Hello! We are Radical Anabaptistic Miltants Seeking To Overthrow English Rule! Ask About Our Church!' "Be as innocent as lambs, and as subtle as serpents," their master has said, and they do so, aided by the fact that the English have no idea how bad the situation is. They see this as one rogue preacher and his motely band of followers. While the Originalists remain a minority, there are far more of them then the English realize--and more and more Irish view the new faith, if not quite favorably, then sympathetically.

    Turning to the man himself, Donal o Fearghail and his loyal band traipse through the North, hoping to gather followers. This is a weighty task--Northern Ireland is the focal point for Irish Catholicism at the moment. Further, it is the stomping ground of the formidable and truculent O'Neill Clan, regular problem-causers for English rule. Presently the family is having something of a leadership dispute--caused in part by the late Thomas Cromwell's policy of 'surrender and regrant', which has left the already muddled Irish inheritance laws even more muddled. Officially, the heads of the Clans are now English nobles, and their succession is supposed to be following English laws of primogeniture--however, many Clans still follow the old tradition of selection and acclaim. Needless to say, this results in trouble when the former suggests one head, and the latter suggests another. In the case of the O'Neills, by English law, Matthew O'Neill has been the head since the death of his father Conn last year[5]--however, the charismatic firebrand Shane O'Neill ('Sean o Neill' in Gaelic) enjoys the support of most clansmen. Shane claims that Matthew is a bastard--possibly not even an O'Neill--and even worse an English puppet, and that by all rights he is father's one true heir. Indeed, Shane is such a force that the English have more or less accepted that he's the real power in the family, abandoning their ally Matthew to his fate.[6] Much of northern politics revolves around this dispute at the moment--the rest revolves around a thousand petty feuds.

    But for now dealing with the O'Neills remain a background detail for Fearghail. One day, he will have to come to an arrangement with them. But not yet. For now he gathers followers where he may. The most notable convert he makes at this point is Grace O'Malley, aka Granouile, a powerful Irish landowner and occasional pirate[7]. While she is more a sympathiser and fellow traveler than a true Originalist, she is a good sign of the new faith's gaining power in the higher circles of Irish society. And yet, he is starting to butt heads in those same circles, in no small part due to those afore-mentioned thousand petty feuds. This is the great problem Fearghail and his Originalists will face--Ireland may be one land, but it is in many ways a few hundred small states, most of which hate each other as much as they hate the English, and the rest of which hate each other MORE then they hate the English. A man like Fearghail may dream of a free Ireland, returned to its "true" customs but even he has no idea what that would actually look like, though that hasn't stopped him from pretending he does.

    --In Rome, two significant events occur early in the year, one which attracts a great deal of notice, the other which doesn't. The first is the death of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, Pius' former rival turned supporter[8]. The elderly reformer has lived to oversee many of the changes he wished to make in the Catholic Church come to pass with others on the way. Pius and the Council of Mantua all mourn the death of their colleague--the funeral will indeed prove something of a touchstone in the years ahead. Pius--still a fairly young man--has seen many of his older colleagues die over the last few years, among them his other former rival papal candidate, the mildly embarrassing Cardinal Ciocchi[9]--and he will see many more in the years to come. Still Church business must continue. The earnest young Carlo Borromeo is elevated to the Cardinalcy, and granted Pius' old position of Archbishop of Milan. Borromeo will champion many innovations, such as using the Confessional to encourage more moral and desirous behavior--including instructing mothers to make sure their babies are put to sleep in their cribs, instead of in bed with their parents, in an effort to cut down on infant suffocation deaths.[10]

    The second event, as noted, does not attract much notice--but this is by the design of those involved in it. In the catacombs, where Christians once gathered to practice their faith in secret, a group of priests and laymen secretly form the Society for Purity and Correctness in Doctrine. A group of frothing at the mouth archconservatives in the mold of Cardinal Carafa and his inner circle, the Society doesn't like the way the Church has been going, and they've decided to do something about it. Pius and the Council of Mantua are heretics, and even worse, they have been aiding even greater heretics, the Protestant Princes. Having thus declared themselves more Catholic than the Pope, the Society members vow to never rest until a "Pure and Correct" man is Pope, every Protestant King and Prince has either returned to the Faith, or been overthrown, and all the world is united under the "Pure and Correct" Catholic Church. Needless to say, with goals like that, they plan to be at this for awhile.

    The Society--who later Church historians with a knowledge of past heresies and a twisted sense of humor will dub "the Cathars", a name that will not only stick, but be taken up by the Society's descendants--names Carafa its spiritual head. Carafa is unaware of this fact, being much too busy being in ill health and continuing work on his by now massive, rambling case for removing Pius as Pope to attend secret meetings in dank catacombs. If he did know, he would not be pleased--while he might approve of the Cathars' dedication and general goals, their attempts to correct the Church from the outside would strike him as far too close to the Protestants they claim to oppose. Indeed, for all their talk of purity the Cathars are very much the product of their age, being almost exactly the sort of group that enfolds both priests and layfolk that the Pietean program tries to inspire, except for the whole 'wanting to unseat Pope Pius and destroy the Council of Mantua' matter. The fact is, much like Luther before him, Pius has left such an indelible mark on the world that even his enemies are unconsciously imitating his ideas. (Or more exactly, the ideas Pius has appropriated from others and chosen to promote.)

    --In England, Princess Margaret prepares for trip to Transylvania to meet her husband-to-be. Arthur Fitzroy and his wife welcome their first child into the world, a young girl named Mary Anne. And that's not the only pregnancy in the Tudor extended family--Edward's bride Barbara of Hesse is expecting as well. Barbara is learning to cope with her often icy husband, mostly by looking on the bright side--he is absolutely faithful to her, albeit mostly from his general unsociable nature than any affection. (William Paulet is fond of noting that he sometimes think that the Duke of York would prefer it if England existed only on paper and account books.) As the daughter of Philip of Hesse could tell you, fidelity is always a thing to treasure when you find it.

    --In Prague, the news is out--Archduke Ferdinand, as expected, has gotten a mistress. Her name is Philippine Wesler--of the Augsburg Weslers, a major banking family--and Ferdinand has not only started an affair with her, but bought a small house for her to live in[11]. He regularly escapes to it, and there the couple... well, essentially act as if they were just a pair of normal people, in a normal relationship. The problem, of course, is that Ferdinand the Younger ISN'T a normal person--he's the Archduke of Inner Austria and almost certainly the next Holy Roman Emperor. He has duties, both dynastic and social. What's more, Philippine isn't some woman of questionable virtue of the sort his uncle Charles associated with after the death of his wife--she's the daughter of a family of influential commoners, and that means that things will have to be... seen to. Needless to say, once the news reaches the ears of Emperor Ferdinand he decides to have a chat with his son, a decision that is only furthered when his weeping niece/daughter-in-law comes to him after SHE hears the rumors. And so father and son have a talk.

    To Ferdinand Senior's surprise, his son is surprisingly candid about the entire thing. He is sorry for the trouble he is causing, but his marriage to Maria of Spain is loveless on both sides, and it is destroying him. He is willing to do what he can for the family, but he must have something of his own, or he will break. It is questionable that Ferdinand would be persuaded by this argument if it had been the late Maximilian or young Charles Francis making it--but his namesake has always been his favorite. And so, Ferdinand agrees that he will allow his son to keep his mistress, with the understanding that the Archduke will be discreet and... resume his nuptial duties with his wife.

    And with that the matter is--well, not resolved, but understood to have reached a conclusion. Archduke Ferdinand has a mistress, and he prefers her to his wife. The Protestant Princes make loud noises of the moral bankruptcy of the Hapsburgs, but this tends to turn eyes towards active bigamist Philip of Hesse, so they promptly shut up. The young Hapsburg proves as good as his word, and begins to resume visits to his wife's bed. As for Maria of Spain, she isn't happy about this, but a little chat from her beloved uncle/Father-in-law has her agreeing to take one for Team Hapsburg.

    The side-effects of this little... household arrangement are, obviously, going to be very far-reaching. In fact, historians are still going to be debating them centuries into the future.

    --Turning to the affairs of another Hapsburg, former Emperor Charles has been ailing more than usual of late, and this has made him sentimental. While he's gotten most of his affairs in order, there is one he feels he hasn't--his illegitimate son, Jeromin.[12] And so he arranges to have the boy brought to him, so he can see his son, and make sure that he's provided for. The first meeting is pleasant enough to have the former Emperor write instructions to King Philip to make sure the boy is taken care of after he's gone. (He's rather hoping his bastard takes a career in the Church. Many future historians will find this highly ironic considering what will occur later in his life. But that is yet to come...) And it is soon followed by others.

    Rumors of this quickly reach the Court, and causes the ongoing "Carlos Primo" deathwatch to move into overdrive. Needless to say, when young Charles hears news of this, he begins to plot in double time to reach his grandfather's side. It gives him something to occupy himself with aside from how much he hates his new overseers, Ruy Gomez and his wife. Taking his cue from most courtiers, he refers to the former as "Rey Gomez" occasionally to his face--the latter he dubs "Madame Polyphemus"--'for she has but one eye, and devours men,' Charles notes to his cousin Ferdinand. Charles is not alone in hating them--the Prince of Eboli is seen as an ambitious outsider and shameless social climber, while the Princess is viewed as a rather unpleasant and temperamental woman, much given to intrigues. Charles' brother, the Infante Fernando, remains in good health, doted on by his mother, his nurses, and yes, even his odd elder brother.

    --And now we head over to the Baltic tangle--King Sigismund Augustus of Poland gathers his troops and marches into Livonia. Von Furstenberg does his best, but this isn't the tiny forces of the Archbishop of Riga, and so the Livonian Order finally falls. It is largely dissolved, and replaced by the Livonian Dominions, a loose-knit group of landholdings and bishoprics that owe vassalage to Poland. This would be a great victory for the nation--except for one little detail.

    Ivan IV of Russia has many ties to the Order, ties which he has chosen to interpret as being their overlord. And thus, he views the Order's de facto dissolution and treaty with Poland-Lithuania as a violation of their treaties with him. And so, he declares war on the Dominions as well as Poland and Lithuania. Sigismund has been expecting this, and contacts Denmark and Sweden. While the two Scandinavian nations hate each other, they both prefer Poland to Russia. Gustav I of Sweden however is reluctant to join the war. The insanely bold man who snatched the throne of Sweden away from Copenhagen is tired and old now. He wishes to make certain that his kingdom is in order for his son's Erik's ascension to the throne. Christian III is more confident. Land gained in the Dominions will help ensure Denmark's hold over the Baltics.

    And so begins the Livonian War.[13] It will last for a little over two decades, involve all major Baltic nations, and outlast all of the monarchs involved in it when it started, and in most cases, their immediate heirs. When it is finished, everyone will wonder why they bothered in the first place, with the exception of the one bastard who's benefited from it, and even he will think his rivals were saps.

    --Turning to the Italian War--the naval forces of Genoa and Corsica fight a battle with the Dorias' Sardinian Navy, much of which used to be the Genoese navy. The outnumbered forces of Sardinia manage a narrow victory, thanks in no small part due to the impressive leadership of Giovanni Andrea Doria. However, it is a Pyrrhic victory--the Sardinian forces on Corsica are wiped out, leaving the overall advantage in the war to the Corsicans, who still have forces under the leadership of the fearsome Sampieru Corfu on Sardinia itself. Of course, not everything is good news for the Corsicans--their leader Orsini has perished in the naval battle, but they remain optimistic.

    --In France, Duke Francois sets out to confront his rival at St. Quentin with the best forces France can muster at the moment. This isn't much--France is, again, broke--but de Guise has attempted to make up for it by gathering a force of capable, battle-hardened veterans. The plan is to besiege St. Quentin and reclaim it from the Elector--sadly, it collapses the moment it confronts the enemy, as plans are wont to do. In this case, John Frederick has full knowledge of the French plans, thanks to the lengthy delay in implementing de Guise's design. And this has made a significant difference, for the Elector of Saxony prefers not to base his defense on being holed down in a fortress. No, John Frederick prefers a more active defense. And so Francois de Guise's army finds itself walking into an ambush in what will be seen as one of the definitive moments of the so-called "Saxon" school of tactics.

    (If I may be allowed an aside--later military historians will be split on whether John Frederick is a military genius of the first water who redefined war or a reckless gambler who simply had a long, long lucky streak. Many place him somewhere in the middle--a highly capable leader whose tactics were based on the forces he had, and the conditions he faced, and thus should not be seen as having a general military application. Certainly quite a few generals in the future will cut their forces to ribbons trying to duplicate the sort of ambushes John Frederick will make his specialty.)

    Guise's troops are already somewhat demoralized, and are caught completely flat-footed by the ambush--still, they manage a decent showing. However, after several hours, it becomes clear that the Elector's forces are winning. The Duke is furious at being shown up by John Frederick yet again when he spies the Elector at a distance. (Not hard to do--a typical German Prince, John Frederick insists on cutting a dashing figure in war, and thus goes about the battlefield on a large white stallion, wearing an elaborate red and white cape.) After noting, with usual French severity, what a dandy the Elector looks like, Francois, filled with a mixture of hatred and desperation, decides to attempt to change the course of the battle, and charges at his foe. Unfortunately for the Duke, the Elector not only looks dashing, he is dashing, and after a brief clash, Guise is lying bleeding in the mud. After discovering, to his immense surprise, that he has just cut down the Duke of Guise, John Frederick orders his foe to be taken to his tent, and treated by his doctor. With their leader downed, the French forces retreat in disorder, with many surrendering. Despite receiving the best medical attention the Elector can grant him, Francois de Guise dies that night. History does not record his last words--some say in fact that he was unconscious the entire time--but popular legend does, and in fact grants them a rather mythical importance....

    --SCENE FROM: 'THE ROSE KNIGHT' (1937)

    An elaborate tent. JOHN FREDERICK enters, dressed in armor. FRANCOIS DE GUISE lays on a bed, clearly ill and dying. His eyes snap open as John Frederick stands by his bedside.

    G: So you came.

    John Frederick shrugs.

    JF: I heard you wished to speak to me. (Glances around awkwardly.) Are you sure you do not want a priest?

    G: You would grant me one, heretic?

    JF: The dying deserve comfort, whatever their faith.

    Guise lets out a bitter laugh.

    G: Save me your empty pieties, Saxon. I do not need them. (He coughs.) I wish you to know I accept my damnation willingly, in the hopes of meeting your Godless soul in HELL!

    JF: You hate me that much?

    G: Hate? Hate? I despise you, Saxon! I despise your German ways, and your German religion! You and yours have upset the proper order, and you have been the ruin of me! (He sits up suddenly, with almost frantic energy.) Listen to me, Saxon! Listen to my dying vow! There shall be eternal hatred between our two houses! It shall not end until mine destroy the very last of yours, or yours destroy the very last of mine! Thus shall it be until the Lord makes the world anew! There can be no peace between Guise and Wettin! (He begins to cough furiously.) No... peace! (And with that he falls back onto the bed, dead.)

    -----------------------
    [1] Her OTL counterpart was this tall as well.

    [2] Historically, Robert was the 1st Earl of Orkney in the Second Creation.

    [3] IOTL, Margaret got into trouble for twice getting involved with Howards--something similar happened ITTL, and while it didn't go as badly, what with a more secure succession and the Boleyn-Howards not being disgraced, Henry VIII was still not particularly pleasant about the matter.

    [4] IOTL, George became Bishop of Moray in 1581.

    [5] Conn--the First Earl of Tyrone--died in 1559, IOTL. Butterflies have caused his death a few years earlier here.

    [6] IOTL, Matthew--father of the famed Hugh O'Neill--was murded by Shane before their father died--that said, the English response was about the same.

    [7] Granouile is a historical figure, often turned into a hero of Irish independence. This is based on her general badassedness, and is in fact rather ironic, as, aside from being a woman, O'Malley was a rather typical petty Irish lord, perfectly happy going to the English when she had a land dispute that needed solving and she thought they'd go her way.

    [8] He died of a stroke in 1555 after a few months as Pope. His death seems to have been caused by the rigors of Papal ceremony--thus he manages a few more years ITTL.

    [9] He also died in 1555 IOTL--in fact he was the Pope whose death caused the election that made Marcello Pontiff.

    [10] Those readers expecting me to state that yes, he did the same thing IOTL--give yourself a gold star.

    [11] IOTL, his first, morganatic wife.

    [12] Yes, it's John of Austria. Obviously, not quite our John of Austria, as he was born significantly after the POD--but come on, what can you expect me to do? It's freaking John of Austria!

    [13] So far, this has all pretty much been IOTL. Of course, all that's going to change... soon.

    [​IMG]
    Catherine of Austria, Queen-Dowager and Regent of Portugal

    "Tracking Catherine Howard often becomes an exercise in chasing shadows for the would-be biographer. After her contentious marriage to the Earl of Angus and its bloody ending, she seemingly vanishes from the stage for years. The desire to fill in the blanks for this self-made woman of mystery using whatever mixture of conjecture and dubious sources one can scrounge up is always tempting. And yet, ultimately, it is an exercise in futility, leaving one with many questions, and few answers. Is Catherine the mysterious Madame CA that the Paris Diarist writes of as being involved with Antoine de Bourbon, King jux usuris of Navarre in 1553? Or perhaps the unnamed 'Scotswoman' in the court of the Venetian Doge in 55, rumored to be a witch? These and a hundred other possibilities can be chased down, accepted or discarded, but ultimately, a serious historian must admit the simple fact that we don't know where she was, and likely never will. The first time we definitely hear of her again is in June, 1557, where she is attending a fete..."

    --Antony Belton, The Velvet Cat: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard, Adventuress, (1986)

    1557--Part 2

    --In Portugal, the Two Regents plot and plan--Catherine to run the country, Juana to get her own chance to do that. This naturally results in the Portugese court being consumed in petty factionalism. Courtiers seek to gain favor with either of the Dowager Queens, with Johanna being a favorite of outsiders and Jesuits. Meanwhile, young King Leander is being raised in near seclusion by Theatine brothers, who hope to inspire in the young king utter piety, and a strictly Catholic character. Internationally, Portugal has gained the port of Macau from China, in return for annual payments of a decent sum of silver. And this turns Regent Catherine's eyes east, where she comes up with an... entertaining solution to a little problem.

    Dom Antonio, Prior of Crato is not the most prominent prospective compromise Regent to have appeared during the squabble for the Regency--he is however probably the most obnoxious--and he is thankfully free of having the powerful connections needed to make him a dangerous man to wrong. Catherine has been aching to do something--amusing to the man, and a recent death in Portugal's overseas Empire has given her the perfect opportunity to do just that. And so, Dom Antonio finds himself called before Catherine, who then explains how he is being granted a... signal honor. He is a priest, after all, and she has a plumb bishopric she'd like to give him. The Bishopric of Malacca. Dom Antonio, accomplished courtier that he is, accepts this... great honor with a smile, and departs to get his things in order. He of course, realizes the truth. This is about shipping him as far from Portugal as possible and leaving him there--he accepted because Catherine would probably follow this up with something worse if he refused. He could appeal to Juana, but he suspects that wouldn't go well. (During the entire regency controversy, one of his suggestions was that he leave holy orders and marry her. She... did not appreciate it.) It's not an easy fate, but Antonio is certain he can turn this around. Somehow. He departs towards the end of the year, with Catherine and Juana both sure they will never see him again.

    They are right. They will however, hear about him again.

    --The second false Mustafa is at last captured by Prince Selim's forces in Edirne, after months of hiding out. Selim orders his death by torture--when "Mustafa" insists that this runs counter to Turkish law, whereby a Prince of the House of Osman may not have his blood shed, Selim responds by stating that "Mustafa" is not his brother, but a blatant imposter, and that for such a man, only the grisliest death will do. He then watches as the Pretender is bloodily dismembered--before his death, he confesses that he is in fact a humble farmer named Orhan. After witnessing the gruesome spectacle, Selim goes off to have a stiff drink. He does that with increasing frequency these days--Selim has the drive needed to make it to the top in the cutthroat world of Ottoman politics, but even more than his father, who has already largely transformed from 'dynamic warrior prince' to 'secluded shut-in', he lacks the savagery that let his predecessors shrug off all the blood they spilled to get there after the fact.

    In other Ottoman news, the Red Sea port of Massawa is conquered by Ozdemir Pasha, continuing the Empire's policy of constant expansion. This will, they hope, cement the nation's control of the Red Sea, and assist in an attack on defiantly Shiite Yemen. [1]

    --France is in near panic. The remnants of the Duke of Guise's army have reached Paris, bearing their tale of woe and defeat--many expect the Protestant hordes of the Saxon Elector to come fast on their heels. All look to the King for some kind of hope. It is the great crisis of Henri's reign--and incredibly, the King comes through. Realizing that if his nerve fails now, he may lose everything, Henri manages to impress everyone by acting calm even as things appear to fall apart around him. When emissaries from the Elector arrive, they find Henri at the head of a small army, already in armor. To everyone's relief, John Frederick merely wishes to hammer out another truce--he lacks the forces to do anything significant and he also knows that Philip of Spain lacks the funds for a major offensive. Henri agrees to see the Elector--and thus the pair meet outside St. Quentin, where they agree to a cessation of hostilities. It may not be the proudest moment of French warfare, but it looks amazing--John Frederick and Henri are the kinds of monarchs who look like they could throttle small armies singlehandedly, and naturally, the sight of them together at the head of their forces is a portrait-maker's dream.

    --In Italy, the dustup in Sardinia is turning against Doria forces--this brings them to the table, as family leader Giovanni Andrea realizes that they now have little chance of reclaiming their rightful territories. Corsica, Genoa and Savoie are likewise willing to deal--this miniature war has proven costly for them as well. This is all quickly folded into general peace talks between France and Spain. And so, once again, everyone agrees that it's nice they can talk about these things, after a few hundred random peons get killed, with a sprinkling of the important people added in for good measure. In Corsica, Samperu Corsu is recognized as the new governor--and then to the doughty mercenary's surprised, ennobled, becoming the Duke of Alando and Count of Cinarca.

    In Genoa, Doge Fieschi rewards the Duke of Savoie with the lofty title of podesta, marking Emmanuel Philibert a foreign resident granted magisterial power within the Republic. Emmanuel grandly accepts--and also acquires a great deal of property in Genoa that used to be the Dorias. Many of the Doge's opponents whisper that Fieschi is utterly in the thrall of France, and Savoy--however, they do so quietly, as once again, Fieschi is demonstrating that he really is good at the whole 'tyrant' thing.

    --Margaret Tudor enjoys a going-away fete, as England's finances are showing signs of recovering from the entire pointless war deal. It's a fairly grand occasion--however, the always troublesome Catherine Howard, self-proclaimed Dowager Countess of Angus, has popped up again in England, and somehow managed to join the festivities. There, she attracts the eye of King Henry, who rather likes what he sees. True Catherine is a bit older than him--but age has only... ahem, ripened her charms, as well as adding a polished allure. The next day, she receives an invitation to accompany the King on a ride. Several days later, she is at a small private party the King holds. While it is impossible to be sure how far things progress--Henry is remarkably discreet on these matters, and as surprisingly popular Spanish Ambassador Simon Renard de Bermot (the French name is due to his being an Old Burgundian) notes, is far less experienced with the fairer sex than he lets people imagine. Arthur Fitzroy will later confide that he doubts the thing progressed much further than a few kisses and perhaps some cuddling. Still, several gifts to Catherine do suggest that Henry considers this a fairly serious relationship. The Privy Council--and much of the Peerage--is alarmed. A mistress is one thing. A mistress who is a blood-stained adventuress likely in the employ of foreign powers is another. Paulet has a few words on the subject with his old friend, Queen Dowager Anne. Anne has a few words with her son. Henry has a few words with Catherine. While Catherine will imply that this is a tearful parting, the facts that Henry will immediately ask his friends never to mention 'that woman' to him under pain of a summary thrashing at his hands, and will later in a conversation with Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, refer to her as 'the Whore of Babylon', suggest otherwise. Most historians believe that Anne reveals to her son that Catherine regularly receives small sums from the French ambassador, suggesting that she is performing espionage for his dear friend, Henri--and probably for others as well. And so, two months after resurfacing, Catherine leaves England--with rather shocking haste--for the Low Countries, where she seems to have a minor diplomatic kerfluffle in Utrecht, and then vanishes once again. For now at least.

    --Young Charles Hapsburg's plan to visit his grandfather springs into action. After recruiting his cousins to run interference, telling the Prince of Eboli he will be with the Princess, and the Princess he will be with the Prince, he makes his way to the stables, where he procures a horse and heads out for a ride. Having studied several maps, and with a few stops on the way to make sure he's heading in the right direction, Charles arrives in St. Yuste Monastery, to the immense surprise of the monks. Charles of course, insists that they were of course informed of his prospective visit--weren't they?--and thus manages to bluff his way inside. He finds his grandfather sequestered with young Jeromin, and promptly introduces himself. Once the former Emperor sorts out that this is his grandson, and not his nephew--the old man's eyesight is failing--the trio then spend a pleasant afternoon together. Charles regales his grandfather and uncle with tales of the court, all told very vividly and wittily, and even shows old Charles a miniature of his little brother Fernando. As evening approaches, the former Emperor nods off. Jermonin and Charles each kiss the old man's forehead, and the former Emperor states they are both 'good boys' and bids them to look out for each other.

    By this time, the Prince of Eboli has arrived--annoyed, but fairly understanding over the entire matter--and so Charles prepares to leave. A monk notes that he should not look so sad--he can always meet his grandfather again. "Aye, in paradise, perhaps," notes young Charles. "He is dying, and I doubt he will live out the night." Everyone is startled at Charles' revelation--Jeromin asks why young Charles didn't speak of it. "He knew it and I knew it," replies Charles with a shrug. "So why should we waste the time we had speaking of the inevitable?" And then with a bow to his uncle, young Charles is off. His prediction of his grandfather's death proves accurate--the former Emperor passes away that night, clutching his late wife's crucifix. [2]

    --In Sweden, young Magnus Vasa, Duke of Ostergotland is using the violence in Livonia as an excuse to raise up the local militia. Erik is certain that his younger brother is planning something--either a play for the throne, or, more likely, a chance to play kingmaker between Erik and Johan if (when) a struggle should occur between them. While he is somewhat comforted when after several months, Magnus dismisses them, he is still suspicious--Erik will later note that his motto regarding his brothers is "trust Johan as little as possible, and Magnus not at all."

    History will show that the future King of Sweden knows the pair very well.

    --Philip arrives with his associates in the Netherlands just to receive news of John Frederick's victory and his father's death. The shock of the latter drains any of the joy the former could cause away--that very night, Philip is seen weeping in a church. Later, he confirms his interest in pursuing a further peace, with France making a token restitution for the violation of the treaty. Simply put, he's in no position to prosecute the war much further. What's more, his father's death has unnerved him--like many men, Philip has always half-assumed his father was immortal in some secret spot of his mind, and this proof otherwise is a major blow. And so, another truce goes into effect, and peace talks resume. The French are able to use the Corsicans occupying parts of Sardinia as leverage for Spain and its allies leaving St. Quentin. Philip settles down to get the Seventeen Provinces in order so he can head back to Madrid as soon as possible.

    And so peace is back on track. The fighting has, of course, changed nothing. And also everything, though that is less readily apparent at the moment, save for the death of Francois de Guise.

    --Turning to the Guises, the family finds itself saddened and disorientated by Francois' death. The Duke leaves three sons, Henri, Charles, and Louis and a daughter, Catherine--Henri, the eldest at seven will inherit his titles and estate. He also leaves four brothers--dutiful Claude, Duke of Aumale, still waiting in Genoa, an official persona non grata in France--fiery Rene, Marquis of Elbeuf, who likes to fancy himself his eldest brother's spiritual heir--pliable Louis, Cardinal of Guise--and of course, Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, the intellectual powerhouse who has always quietly run affairs for the family. Charles' sorrow at his brother's death is mixed with relief, much to his shame--he loved Francois, but that love was always measured with a certain exasperation, especially of late. Francois never seemed to understand--as the Cardinal does--that in pursuing his ends, both in war and against heresy, he was destabilizing the whole nation. With him gone, Charles and his ally of convenience, Queen Catherine d'Medici have a chance of talking some sense into Henri on this whole 'Huguenot' matter--Rene is aspiring to take his brother's place, but he lacks Francois' charisma. Still, as the Cardinal notes to Catherine, their most dangerous opponent remains very close to the throne. Diane de Poiters is fervently opposed to Protestantism and continues to hold Henri's ear, as well as certain other parts of his anatomy. For the forces of moderation to win, they must neutralize her--somehow.

    --In other French news, the Huguenot colonization plan continues apace--next year, a ship will head out under the command of French vice-admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon (who is not exactly a Huguenot, but sympathisizes with them) for the isle Serigipe near Brazil.[3] The French have traded in the area for years now, under the nose of the Portugese, and are certain a colony there would be a great idea. They covet Brazil's precious hardwoods, and "brazilwood" which is great for making red dye. Even Henri is on board, the idea of shipping heretics overseas having a certain appeal to the man. Yep. It's perfect. No way this can backfire.

    --Princess Margaret Tudor arrives in Hamburg, the first leg of her lengthy trip to meet her husband-to-be finished. Her next stop--Wittenberg. Back in England, Barbara of Hesse gives birth to she and her husband's second child--another son, who will be named 'Edgar'.

    --The Tudors aren't the only family seeing an increase. The Archduke Ferdinand is also overjoyed to learn of a pregnancy. Yes, he tells his darling Philippine, he's certain their child will be lovely...

    -----------------------------------------------------
    [1] This happened around this time IOTL.

    [2] This is a year earlier than IOTL--but he's had a a tough time of it. Incidentally, he was also clutching Empress Isabel's crucifix IOTL.

    [3] This is pretty much the same plan for France Antartique as OTL. Needless to say, everything, in fact, did go wrong.


    [​IMG]
    Princess Margaret Tudor of England

    "...My life has been an unending torture, a litany of punishments..."

    --Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, in a letter to his wife, 1568

    "...The cause of your complaints lies in your own nature--stupid, lustful, (and) utterly without merit..."

    --From her reply, same year

    1558

    --As the year begins, Tzar Ivan of Russia begins his invasion of the Livonian Dominions. His force advances with shocking ease as von Furstenberg again demonstrates that he's crap whenever he doesn't have overwhelming odds on his side. He flees to Poland, leaving the command and leadership of the pathetic remnant of the Livonian Order to Gotthard Kettler. Sigismund Augustus--still gathering the forces he will need to take on Russia--requests assistance from Emperor Ferdinand, whose response is to cup a hand over his ear, and say 'What? What was that? I'm sorry, can't hear you.' (Metaphorically speaking of course.) Much of the ease of Ivan's progress comes from the fact that many Livonians welcome the Russians as liberators from their tyrannical Germanic overlords.

    The poor, poor saps.

    --In Scotland, Margaret Douglas, Dowager Countess of Lennox, introduces her little King-in-the-making, Charles Stuart to the court. Margaret has hopes to tie her son to his rival his rival prospective Catholic claimant, Antoinette--especially with the growing movement to have the sisters wed Scots, thus avoiding foreign trouble--and instructs the Earl of Lennox to gain her friendship and affection. This is well within his power--young Charles Stuart may not do much well, but in womanizing he's actually ahead of the curve for his age. Once she gets past the fact that a handsome boy is talking to her, Antoinette finds Lennox to be cruel, greedy, and arrogant--so naturally they hit it off brilliantly. Soon, he is accompanying her everywhere. And that is how he is introduced to Mary.

    To say Mary takes a shine to him would be an exaggeration--however, she quickly realizes that showering favors on the boy is a good way to get her little sister's goat. A couple of weeks of this and the gears in Charles Stuart's head begin to turn, in their own slow, dull way. Marriage to Antoinette would be good for his status. Marriage to Mary, a bonified Queen, would be better. And so, the young Earl of Lennox begins to suck up to the Queen of Scots like he's never sucked up to anybody before. After a week, this gets boring, so he flat out asks her to marry him.

    This is a move of unprecedented foolishness. Mary politely declines, reminding of her present engagement to Prince Charles Valois, and bids him away. Still--this would not necessarily be a total loss. Mary is interpreting the whole thing as a youthful infatuation, and thus is naturally quite flattered--indeed, it's possible that Lennox could use the good feelings to make another, more successful bid for Mary's hand years later. After all, as she has noted to James, 'he is a very pretty boy'. However, that's not what happens. No, what happens is that very afternoon Antoinette rushes into her sister and begins to beg her to please, please let her marry Lennox, as he has just proposed to her. Mary is somewhat taken aback, and begins to quiz her sister. You see, Lennox is... a calculating boy in his own stupid way, and figures that one always needs a fallback. Oh, he's been pursuing Mary--but he's also kept up matters with Antoinette. In fact, he's regularly gone from a meeting with one to a meeting with the other on the same day, using the same compliments. Needless to say, both are bitterly offended--and Mary finds that all of Lennox's attentions suddenly no longer look like the sweet flirtations of a naïve boy, but the rather naked manipulations of an aspiring--and clumsy--political player. And so, she arranges for... a little chat between herself and the young Earl. And her sister.

    Suffice to say, when it is over, Charles Stuart's chance of marrying either sister is essentially nil. Indeed, his chances of being in the same room with Mary or Antoinette without having an urge to wet himself are also fairly low. And so the Earl of Lennox begins a lifelong habit of failing big.

    --The Duke of Norfolk publishes something new--no, not another section of Brutus. This is a little something he's been working with on the side--his reply to Calvin, which he has decided to title 'The Freedom of the Christian Soul'. In it, he lays out his own religious position, which to the amazement of all who know him, is a great deal more complicated than 'Pope bad' and "John Calvin wrong". Norfolk has had many years to think about what he believes, and he has in fact done just that. The result is a fairly eloquent defense of the English Evangelical stance. While acknowledging Catholic excesses, he argues that the Reformed obsession with stripped down, "purified" rites is little more than the same mistake done in reverse. The most important thing in Christian worship is not the form of the rites--though naturally, a strong Church is needed to make sure they don't go in dangerous directions--but the relationship of the soul to God. If this is ensured, then things like images and richly decorated churches will not endanger Christian worship, but instead enhance it.

    Calvin is dismissive of the pamphlet, calling Norfolk 'a mere English libertine'--Norfolk replies he adopts the name with pride--'for a soul in liberty under God should be the aspiration of every Christian'. And so the two big camps of the Anglican Church now stand defined--the Puritans and the Libertines, both convinced they know what the Church of England needs and what has to be done.

    --Archduke Ferdinand's illegitimate child is born--a son, who he names... Ferdinand. And that's not all--Ferdinand's wife Maria of Spain is also pregnant. And his brother Charles Francis is finally back home, after a lengthy, unpleasant sojourn in Spain. Yes, the Austrian House of Hapsburg is continuing to... well, continue.

    --Margaret Tudor arrives in Wittenberg, joining her sister in time to greet Elector John Frederick back home from the war. Elizabeth is overjoyed to be reunited with her husband and sister. Margaret gets to coo over Frederick Henry and his virtual foster brother, George von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kuhlmbach, all while being won over by the splendor of the Saxon court. And that is pretty damn splendid--like any German Prince, the Elector likes to throw money around, and he has the funds to let him do just that. And a pretext--King Philip of Spain has, after a great deal of internal debate, offered the Elector the Golden Fleece. John Frederick has refused, noting that he holds his highest loyalty to God and his Church which would make membership in that knightly order a conflict. Philip is somewhat relieved by this--I mean, he likes John Frederick, but the man is still a Protestant heretic, damn it--but still wants to do something. And so after more internal debate, he's come up with an acceptable compromise--he will make John Frederick's late father a Knight of the Golden Fleece. (This has not been easy for Philip, who remembers that John Frederick Senior spent much of his life fighting with his father--but then he is dead now. And while fighting the Turk, so really it can't be seen as unwarranted.) John Frederick finds this acceptable, and holds a great feast, inviting many of his allies in the Schmalkaldic League. Margaret watches all of this, awestruck. Elizabeth watches it all--and makes plans.

    --Peace talks continue between France and the Hapsburgs, the latest Italian War continuing on paper even as it calms down in reality. As people agree to essentially continue in the direction they were going before that unpleasantness in Sardinia, a few new marriage contracts are undertaken. Emmanuel Philibert's eldest son and heir, Charles Emmanuel[1], is betrothed to Ferdinand II's eldest daughter, Anne. And in news that cheers the not-yet-Prince of Asturias' heart, there is talk of betrothing Charles to Henri's daughter Marguirete. Of course, as neither wishes to buy a pig in a poke both arrange for their respective ambassadors to meet the afore-mentioned individuals.

    The Duke of Alba, serving as Spanish ambassador, is fortunate, and manages to meet all of Henri's children save for Claude, who is presently living in Lorraine with her fiancé, and Henri of Orleans, who is away for reasons to be related shortly. Dauphin Francois, he notes, is a dull, sweet boy, very sickly and often 'incoherent of speech'. While his father Henri spends time looking for a bride for him, he does not do so with much urgency. Henri claims that it is because he fears that overtaxing himself in the marriage bed may ruin what health his heir has, but Alba notes (with his usual combination of cunning and bluntness) that he is fairly certain the King is convinced that Francois will die shortly. Francois' deformed brother Charles is more active and forceful, but also sullen and rather vain, boasting openly how he will one day be King of Scotland. Henri is, in fact, preparing a trip for his son to meet his bride-to-be in Scotland. (Alba, aware of how things have gone in Scotland, is amused by all this.) Young Hercule and Victoria both seem pleasant enough, while Elizabeth--Henry of England's fiancée--is a sweet, timid girl, pretty, but hardly a raving beauty. And that leads us to Marguerite, her father's favorite, and already the great beauty of the family at five. The forbidding Alba notes favorably that if she lives up to a fraction of her potential, she will be a heartbreaker. He knows what he's talking about.

    In Spain, the French ambassador deems Charles 'ugly, but amiable'--and even better, 'a simple, pliable soul'. The ambassador also notes that while he'd heard that Charles stutters, he saw no evidence of this in his talk, with the young Prince's only speech impediment being a slight difficulty with his ls and rs 'that he takes great pains to correct'. "He desires nothing but friendship between France and Spain, and was most agreeable on every subject, though much of his speech was vague, and wandering." (Years later, the ambassador will look back on this conversation, and smack his hand against his forehead several times.) Henri thinks all of that is most promising--especially when you add in the fact that Charles and his father appear to have something of a feud going on. Marguerite does not. She has heard rumors of the Spanish Prince's ugliness--legendary, even by Hapsburg standards--and doesn't particularly like the idea of being paired with him, even if he IS heir presumptive to half the world.

    --Dom Antonio, Prior of Crato, arrives in Malacca. The Malayasian Port is arguably the perfectly manifested metaphor for the glorious failure that is Portugal's overseas Empire. When the Portuguese arrived in the East, Malacca was the trading center for most of southeast Asia, ruled by a powerful, ancient sultanate--they quickly determined to make it theirs, and after a protracted invasion, succeeded. Since that time, Malacca has steadily declined in importance, as the traders move to new ports, while the straits that the Sultans of Malacca made safe become plagued by pirates and raiders. Further, the city must be kept heavily guarded, as the neighboring sultanates all strive to claim it for their own. (Among those that seek it is the Sultanate of Jorah, the successor state of the old Malaccan Sultanate.) And so, the Portuguese, in gaining what they wanted, have reduced a great trading port into a minor one that is a constant drain on their resources. Dom Antonio settles down, and tries to figure some way out of his new home.

    --In France, Huguenots suddenly become a big deal again. King Henri is in need of a new Marshal, and the obvious choice is Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conde. However, the formidable Prince states that he cannot accept the commission, as he is--a Huguenot. This is virtually throwing the gauntlet down to the King and his entire policy regarding the Reformed Church--and Henri responds as only he can to such a naked challenge, by hemming, and hawing, and trying to figure some way to take a stand without taking a stand. Conde, after all, isn't just some random merchant or petty noble who's decided to leave the Catholic faith--he's a Prince of the Blood, the brother of the King jux usuris of Navarre, and one of the finest generals France has. Moving against this man is dangerous--indeed, even Diane de Poitiers recognizes that Henri needs to be careful here. After all, this is making the Huguenots see Conde as a leader, making him even more dangerous to attack. (Rene de Guise--miffed at being passed over as Marshal--complains to family friend Gaspard de Coligny that the King seems to think there are Huguenots lurking at every corner. Coligny coughs politely and excuses himself.)[2]

    Of course, all of the hullaballoo about Protestantism gets people interested in it, and this has one side-effect that Henri did not see coming. One day, his young son Henri of Orleans announces that HE'S a Huguenot. He refuses to attend mass, preaches against the evils of crucifixes and rosaries to his younger siblings, bites the nose off a plaster statue of a saint, and starts calling himself 'le petit Huguenot'.[3] Needless to say, King Henri is alarmed by all this. Queen Catherine assures him she can get little Henri to give up this nonsense, but the King feels that her coddling of the boy is what caused it in the first place. No, he'll have this handled his way. He's certain a regimen of beatings and stern religious teachers will bring Prince Henri back to his senses.

    --With the war coming to an end, Philip gets matters in the Seventeen Provinces in order, naming his half-sister Margaret Regent. This is a popular choice, but Philip being Philip, he has to quare things by meddling further--Margaret is given three Councils to "assist" her in her government. There is only one Burgundian on these councils, and he is the Bishop Antony Perrenot, soon to be better known as the Cardinal Grannvelle--an OLD Burgundian, from the Free County. Philip makes it clear that he expects Margaret to confer with her "advisors"--the Presidents of these Councils--on all major matters, and then to top it all off, he makes it quietly clear that he is going to be in constant communication with her.

    And so, now preparing to return to his true home, Philip prepares a scheme to ensure the Old Faith's power in the Provinces--a massive ecclesial reorganization. News of this leaks out, and produces an impressive opposition--not only from the Low Countries Protestants, but from its Catholics. Burgundians are deeply suspicious of all "foreign" meddling, and they can't shake the feeling that this the next step in more religious persecution. Even worse, his tame stadtholders--men who he thought he could RELY on--join the chorus. Facing such an outcry, Philip largely backs down, leaving the matter to Grannvelle to handle it in the future. The Burgundians are mostly placated, though they do vote down Philip's application for a stipend before he leaves. William of Orange notes to Philip that ultimately he cannot gainsay the wishes of the Burgundian assemblies. "The wishes of the assemblies?" snaps Philip. "Your wishes, you mean! For this is all you, you, you, YOU!"

    It is an ominous leave-taking of the land that served his father as de facto capital. And of course it will all go downhill for him from there.

    --Shane O'Neill has been hearing quite a bit about these... Originalists, and he decides to find out what all the fuss is about. And so he invites Donal o Fearghail to a discussion with Donat O'Teague, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh[4]. This gives you a good idea what sort of incredible bastard Shane is, as he and O'Teague hate each other, and have ever since Shane killed a priest in a dispute.[5] O'Teague is hesitant, but he and his loyal right hand, Richard Creagh [6] decide they're obligated to give it a try.

    It does not go well. As the debate over doctrine devolves into the Archbishop and the Protestant each claiming that the other is the son of a whore, the issue of England comes up. And here is where things go south for Catholicism in Ireland. O'Teague and Creagh--two of the most Rosicrucian Irishmen of all time, which is saying something--both feel that Henry must be obeyed in matters of state, if not faith--he is a heretic, but he is still a God-anointed king[7]. Fearghail feels that Henry must be fought--fought--fought--until the English are out of "God's chosen Isle". Temporary accommodations may be reached, if absolutely necessary--but ultimately, Ireland must be free, to serve as the great standard-bearer of the original tenets of Christ.

    To say Shane immediately converts would be stretching the point. He's a bit suspicious of many of Fearghail's "original tenets" at the moment and ultimately, Shane O'Neill's great religious faith is in Shane O'Neill. But he's looking at the Originalists fairly kindly--indeed, he invites Fearghail to mediate his dispute with Matthew O'Neill.

    And Irish Catholicism suffers another blow--O'Teague, his dander still up from the vigorous discussion, dies suddenly of a heart attack returning from the debate.[8] As Ireland is largely cut off from the Catholic world, this means it will be some time before they get a new Archbishop of Armagh.

    --In outskirts of Rome, Cardinal Carafa is busily putting the finishing touches on his case for stripping Pius of the Pontificate--as he has been ever since his exile from the Papal Court. However, on the morning of the 17th of June, as he is in the middle of excitedly dictating the latest clause in his case--and his inner circle are in the middle of avoiding telling him that this is the same clause he set out last week--Carafa becomes incoherent, muttering nonsense then collapsing. He dies the next day, leaving his task unfinished.[9] The little knot of cardinals, bishops and priests who surround him, after a proper bit of mourning, start maneuvering to take his place. They ultimately settle on Michel Ghislieri[10], a man so morally unimpeachable that Pius made him a Cardinal despite his opposition to much of the Pietian Program. Ghislieri feels that Carafa's work on throwing out Pius was--misguided, and that his opponent's best bet is to try and work with in the Council. Not all agree with him.

    The most notable of these opponents is Felice Peretti[11]--a Fransican monk with ties to the Inquisition, and a man who shares Carafa's belief that all of this "Reformed Church" nonsense can be beaten back through sheer stubbornness. Peretti is not a powerful man in the Church, but he is a loud one--and he's also a Cathar. With Carafa's death, he makes an effort to take over the group and guide them away from their present pastimes--making up elaborate plots to kill Protestant monarchs that proceed to go nowhere, and making up new, more elaborate rituals to "ensure their secrecy"--to doing something that will actually have an effect on the world at large. This unleashes the Society of Purity and Correctness in Doctrine's first leadership struggle. Ultimately, Peretti's bid for the leadership fails, though he manages to split off a few members into his own little society. This is going to be a problem for them in the future.

    Turning to the man they all love to hate, Pius notes Carafa's death, but thinks little of it--he is well aware of how utterly he defeated the man, so many years ago. He has requests from Philip II of Spain to consider--making Perrenot a Cardinal, making Rodrigo de Vivar a saint--requests from Henri II of France--Pius is of course, eager to mend fences--as well as overseeing a bit of calendar reform, and the ongoing official Catholic Biblical translations. To make these distinct from the many unofficial ones glutting the market, Pius is having his translators use the Complutensian Polyglot[12] as their source for the original Hebrew and Greek, rather than Erasmus, in order to make the finest, most perfect translation possible. The Protestants paint this as proof that Pius is under the thumb of Spain--despite the fact that Philip quietly opposes the translation project.

    --In Livonia, the Order's new head, Gotthard Kettler, hires a large group of mercenaries, and then counterattacks Ivan's army, largely pushing them out of the area--the Russians are left with a few cities on the eastern edge of Livonia. This begins the general flow of the Livonian War for the next few years--Ivan invades, and initially takes large swathes of land, only for Kettler and/or his allies to put together a new army and push back Ivan's--which by this time has not only spread itself too thin, but also battered itself trying to take the larger walled cities in the territory, such as Riga. Then, Ivan gathers a new force, invades again, it's the outnumbered Livonians turn to fall back, until they get a new army--rinse, wash, repeat.

    Poland-Lithuania continues to gather its forces, while Denmark is looking for someone willing to give them a bit of land. They're not doing this for free after all. And Sweden continues to watch, with Duke Magnus calling and then dismissing the Ostergotlandish militia two times during the year. Erik is naturally quite worried about what his brother is planning--whatever it is--and his father's announcement at Christmas that he's dying does nothing to ease his worries.[13]

    --In Spain, Queen-Regent Maria passes an ordinance requiring all foreign books to receive the approval of the Spanish Crown before being imported. [14] Much of the Spanish intelligentsia is aghast--and fascinated to know that young Prince Charles is reported to be seen around the palace with a copy of Rabelais. It looks like they might just have a friend in high places...

    --In England, an epidemic ravages the nation. Among the dead is Thomas Cramner--indeed, many elderly bishops perish. This has the unexpected side-effect of clearing out the few remaining crypto-Catholics in the Church of England's structure.[15] Indeed, as the Church of England heads deeper into Protestant territory, the newly-defined Puritan and Libertine factions both feel that they are the natural leaders of the Church, and feel that the new appointments should be in their favor. (Ironically, there are few of either faction in the hierarchy per se--both Puritans and Libertines are largely lay movements--merely bishops and priests seen as sympathetic to the cause.) King Henry plays a careful balancing act in his appointments--for example he grants Matthew Parker, generally seen as having Libertine sympathies, the Archbishopric of Canterbury, while John Hooper,[16] a Puritan supporter, is granted the Archbishopric of York.

    The disease takes other noteworthy victims--Arthur Fitzroy buries his mother, Mary Howard[17], while Edward Tudor suffers greatly--his young son Thomas is among the dead. Even worse, his wife Barbara catches the illness while recovering from her latest pregnancy--a daughter--and dies shortly thereafter.[18] The double loss hits Edward hard, though he, as always, keeps a tight control over his emotions. While he can never have said to have loved his wife, he has become used to having her around--as for his son, it is the loss of his brother all over again. (Indeed, many of his odes written after this begin to conflate the pair.) Edward retires into seclusion for several months, watching over his remaining son, Edgar, and his newborn baby daughter, Barbara.

    --Edward Tudor is not the only one suffering the loss of a spouse. Suleiman the Magnificent's beloved Roxelana dies. Suleiman orders the building of an elaborate tomb for the woman he loved so dearly as to defy Ottoman tradition. Prince Selim, in Konya, mourns the death of his mother with copius amounts of alcohol. Prince Bayezid, in Persia, tries to convince Shah Tamasp that now is the perfect time to invade. The Shah doesn't bite.

    --The heat of Zoebels' murder dying down, Willhelm von Grumbach returns from Denmark and applies to the Reichstag to get his land back, hoping that the Elector of Saxony's backing will let him to do just that. John Frederick promises his support, though in truth, he's pretty busy these days--he has largely inherited his father's viewpoint and problems with the Schmalkaldic League, after all, and wants the organization to become more of a coherent Protestant front. This rankles Frederick von Simmern, still quietly working to break off the Reform Lutheranism faction, and Philip of Hesse, angered at what he sees as the Elector's undeserving attempts to usurp his authority. While Philip could accept taking second place to John Frederick Senior, having to make way for his son is a bit much. Further, he largely suspects that the Elector's ambitious English wife is firming him up.

    Emperor Ferdinand notes all this with pleasure--as he also notes the birth of a son to Ferdinand II and Maria of Spain, named Albert by his father. He is less happy about Margaret Tudor finally reaching her husband, Janos Sigismund Zapoloya of Transylvania, thus connecting the League to his Hungarian rivals--and potentially to the Ottomans. (Though as is usual for Germanic Protestant Princes, actually doing well has made the Wettins see the Turks as the Great Pagan Threat in the East instead of their Ally of Conveniance In the Face of Catholic Oppression.)

    If the Emperor knew what was going to happen in the future, he'd be happy about none of these things. But of course, he doesn't, so he is. Life can be funny like that.

    --After years of discussion and preparation, the so-called 'France Antarctique' expedition sets out with two ships, and six hundred soldiers and settlers under the leadership of de Villegaigon. Unfortunately, the expedition encounters a storm--badly damaged, it is forced to stop for repairs in the remote island of Bermuda in late November, where de Villegaigon manages to expertly navigate the difficult shoals that surround the isle. It will take several months to repair the damage--still Bermuda is quite hospitable...

    --------------------
    [1] This is NOT OTL Charles Emmanuel, being significantly older.

    [2] Believe it or not, the Colignys and Guises were friends, before religion got in the way. This is one reason why they took Francois' IOTL assassination so badly.

    [3] Henri did something similar IOTL when he was ten. Henri II being dead, his mother handled the matter, and handled it well.

    [4] O'Teague was Archbishop several years later--here butterflies have given him the position several years early.

    [5] Shane really did that. He was... a character.

    [6] IOTL the Archbishop following Teague. Shane O'Niell hated him--indeed, the only person he hated worse was the Queen of England.

    [7] This was Creagh's opinion IOTL. Ireland's politics have always been... odd.

    [8] He died in 1562 IOTL--he was apparently a rather old man.

    [9] He died in 1559 IOTL--ITTL while he's not Pope, his defeat is wearing on him--and the man is very, VERY old.

    [10] Saint Pope Pius V IOTL.

    [11] Pope Sixtus V IOTL.

    [12] One of the first Polyglots. Erasmus' actually did his in a rush to beat it in the market.

    [13] This is a year earlier than OTL. Interestingly enough this means that Erik XIV is coming to the throne BEFORE Frederick II of Denmark.

    [14] This ordinance was passed in this year by Philip's regent IOTL--though naturally she was his sister Joan and not his wife.

    [15] This happened IOTL--though naturally, the already dead Cramner was not among the dead--and had about the same effect for Elizabeth.

    [16] John Hooper, a very, very dedicated partisan of the Reformed Church and a fiery iconoclast to boot, was a victim of the Marian persecutions IOTL.

    [17] She died in 1557 IOTL.

    [18] She died in 1597 IOTL. TTL hasn't been very kind to her, I'm afraid.

    [​IMG]
    Erik XIV Vasa, King of Sweden


    "Amazing, is it not, how swiftly things can change? All seems to move on its unremarkable course, and then, in a short span of months, the world is transfigured. These present prodigies remind me of those astounding occurences eighteen years ago... So many wonders and things of note, and yet every single one had its seed in what had come before--it was only we (who) had to live through them in such a short span (that) were left reeling by it all, our lives changed, our plans altered, our destinies set..."

    --Prince Charles Von Hapsburg, Letter to Carlo Farnesse, Duke of Parma, 1577

    1559

    --As the year begins, Erik of Kalmar arrives in Helsinki, and becomes Erik XIV, as the result of his father's death, and the Swedes' rather dodgy grasp of their own history. [1] The newly-crowned king breathes a sigh of relief. He's now the King of Sweden, and neither Johan nor Magnus has raised a fuss yet. (The remaining Vasa brother, Karl, has also not raised a fuss, but as he is ten, this is less impressive. Indeed, the young Vasa--who received a Duchy in trust in his father's will--has indicated that he fully intends to take up the Vasa family traditions of megalomaniacal scheming and fraternal hatred as soon as possible.) At his first Riksdag, the new King makes it clear there's going to be big, BIG changes in Sweden--a new, more active foreign policy. Reforms and centralization of power. And Sweden finally choosing a side on the whole "Reform/True" Lutheranism split--REFORM! This last has many reasons--Erik's closest advisor, Jöran Persson, is a student of Melancthon; the hated--HATED--Danes favor True Lutheranism, and to Erik's mind, if the Danes are for it, he's as a rule against it; and finally, Reform Lutheranism is big among Sweden's growing mercantile class, whom Erik looks upon as his powerbase.

    Sweden's nobility respond to all this by nervously glancing at each other and coughing. Erik's agenda sounds rather... unsettling to them, especially the bits about 'reform' and 'centralization of power'. But the memory of Gustav Vasa looms heavy in their minds, and Erik was his chosen heir. They'll bide their time--for now--because even if he's dead, Gustav Vasa is NOT a man you want to piss off. Besides, it's not like they have the greatest alternatives--Duke Karl, once again, is ten, Duke Johan is a man so secretive and devious it's commonly joked that even HE doesn't know his own opinions, and as for Duke Magnus--he's notorious for having ambitions that outstrip Erik's--having tried to get his father to stand for election as Holy Roman Emperor after Charles V's abdication, for example. What's more, many believe instead of being merely somewhat touched, like most Vasas, Magnus is out and out insane--there are even rumors that he believes he's Christ. (The rumors are completely wrong. Magnus merely believes he's the prophesized First Horseman of the Apocalypse who rides a white horse and comes conquering and to conquer. He is deeply--DEEPLY--offended when people get it mixed-up.) They point to the affair of Thomas Tallis, the English composer who Magnus lured to Sweden with promises of gold for a performance, and who he has since kept under lock and key, composing and performing music for the Duke of Ostergotland's pleasure. (Though Magnus has been a dear and kidnapped Tallis' wife Joan to keep him company. Just to be civil, you understand.) There's a general belief that Erik could start imagining he's a frog, and he'd STILL be a better choice and a saner man than Magnus.

    Erik is confident in his chosen path. People may be nervous now, but they will come to see that the things he wants are for the betterment of Sweden. If the Swedes are to thrive, Danish supremacy on the Baltic must be broken, and Sweden as it now stands cannot do that. But Erik is certain he can change that. He has the will, the drive, and the genius of his father, and he is determined to continue to shape Sweden into a nation that can match the Vasas' overarching ambition. It is--his destiny.

    --Turning to Sweden's natural archenemy--Christian III purchases the Bishopric of Osel-Wiek, and grants it to his son Magnus, in return for Magnus giving up his share of Holstein and Schleswig. The driving impulse for this move is Christian's eldest son and heir Frederick, though the king himself understands the wisdom of it--the land-sharing arrangement of he and his brothers gave each a third of the lands. This means that on Christian's death, his sons will then have to divide that third into smaller portions. Clearly, this can only be allowed to go on so far. Magnus eagerly takes this bargain--ambitious and arrogant, he is certain that his destiny lies in Livonia. He is correct, though sadly, it will largely consist of being called 'the OTHER Magnus' by history students specializing in the Scandinavian/Baltic states in an effort to keep themselves straight.[2]

    --Another Danish Prince--well, nobleman, more exactly--is also heading abroad. Young John Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Haderslav arrives in Wittenberg to begin his studies, accompanied by his bosom chum Tycho Brahe[3]. The pair quickly become the talk of the town, due to their immense wealth--John Christian, remember, is the sole heir to a third of Holstein and Schleswig--their immense drinking, and their immense tempers. The pair hit Protestant Germany's most prominent university town with a splash--John Christian even takes the time to visit his aunt, though Electress Elizabeth deems him 'a sullen, ill-tempered lad'. This opinion is shared by most of John Christian's classmates, especially as John Christian is very tight-fisted, and while willing to loan money, insists on prompt repayment. This habit acquires him another nickname 'Jew Christian' which is significantly less apt in his native Danish, where his name is rendered "Hans". Still, as usual, John Christian makes a large impression on people, whether it's by getting into fights with most of his classmates, or eating whole lambs for dinner.

    --The treaty is finally signed that officially ends the latest Italian war. While Spain and the Hapsburgs can see this as a 'win', they've largely managed to stop a diminished position from diminishing more. The true victors of the war, it can be argued, are Italians, such as Pope Pius, the Duke of Savoie, the Duke of Tuscany, and the Doge of Genoa, who have expertly manipulated the whole affair to their benefit. And this is dangerous for both the French and the Hapsburgs, because once Italians start holding the upper hand in Italian politics--well, who knows how things will go?

    --We now cross over to the New World, and Bermuda, where de Villegaigon finally fixes up his ships. However, most of the settlers are now thinking this might be a good place to set up a colony, and de Villegaigon happens to agree with them. The rest of the year will be spent making the small makeshift settlement they've set up into something considerably less makeshift, especially the newly named 'Fort Coligny'.

    --Heading over to France proper--the Affaire de Conde continues, and indeed widens. The Prince is joined by his dear friend Francois de Coligny d'Andelot[4] in openly proclaiming adherence to the Huguenot faith. Henri is forced to order the pair's arrest--however, somehow they get advance notice, and hightail it to Navarre, when Queen Jean, much to her husband's discomfort, not only accepts them as refugees, but proclaims the state religion of Navarre to be Reformed Church. Henri gasps, waves his fist impotently--and then smiles in relief that everything went according to plan. He really didn't want to execute either of Conde or d'Andelot, both of whom are valiant warriors, and related to very important people.

    Diane de Poitiers is... displeased. While she understood that Conde had to be dealt with carefully, Henri's action smacks of that accursed toleration that Catherine and the Cardinal de Lorraine keep going on about. Privately, she begins to fear her influence on the King may finally be waning--simply put, Diane is now sixty years old. While sex is only a part of the relationship between monarch and mistress, it is still a part, and keeping Henri's interest in bed is getting harder. Diane has of course, always allowed Henri to indulge himself with flings--yes, this King of France actually conducts affairs on his mistress--but she is realizing that these may no longer be enough. Henri may soon, despite his protests of eternal love, finally want a new mistress, one young enough to satiate his desire for hanky-panky. Diane is determined that this will not destroy her power, and has come up with a simple plan--supply Henri with a new mistress who will push Diane's agenda. And she's got just the candidate--her granddaughter, Diane de La Marck, who happens to look a lot like her grandmother, thus make sure the whole affair will have maximum creepiness.

    However, Diane has competition in her scheme to make her granddaughter her lover's new mistress--Catherine d'Medici and Cardinal Charles de Guise after all, can also do math, and they are both slightly more devious than Diane, in the manner that the Atlantic Ocean is slightly larger than the Dead Sea. That stated, they think Diane actually has a good idea here--they merely differ on who should be the one manipulating the King through the new mistress. Of course, as there's little chance of turning de La Marck against her grandmother, or so they imagine, they will have to get their own candidate--and this is more difficult than they'd like, as they are both rather short on suitable relatives. (The Cardinal's nieces, after all, are Guises, and Catherine's eligible relatives are all in Italy.) But Charles has a potential candidate--Francoise de Bourbon, the young Countess of Enghien, and another court beauty. However, there are problems--she is another Bourbon Huguenot. While this does give her motivations to try and get the King on the Queen and Cardinal's side, the Bourbons would be an even more strained alliance than Catherine and Charles. A family that manages the difficult feat of being backwoods provincials AND elitist snobs simultaneously, the Bourbons look down on the 'upstart foreigner' Queen, and the 'upstart foreigner' Cardinal. (For Charles de Guise, a man who can trace his descent back to Charlemagne through the male line, this last bit especially rankles.) Still, Francoise is their best chance, and so the Queen makes her play, appointing Francoise to be a lady-in-waiting, and starting to make a few... suggestions.

    And the game begins.

    --In other French news, Prince Charles Valois takes a ship to Scotland, where he will at last meet his betrothed. Queen Mary Stewart is NOT looking forward to this meeting, which she hopes will largely consist of her being as nice as possible to the French Prince, while trying to wriggle out of the marriage. That stated, her loathed engagement is just one of many problems 'dear Queen Mary' faces. Aside from the ongoing plotting from her sister Antoinette, and the considerably less formidable plotting of the Earl of Lennox, the 'marry a Scottish Lord' idea is starting to have an unpleasant side-effect--quite a few Scottish noblemen think they're the Lord for the job. Leading candidates include James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, a Catholic moderate and one of the most dangerous men in Scotland--so dangerous that the fact that he's already married has not taken him out of the running--and William Ruthven, son of the formidable Lord Ruthven, a Protestant cut much in the mode of his rather terrifying father. Her brother James, Earl of Angus feels that the best choice is an English Lord, in an effort to avoid stirring up the various rivalries that lurk beneath the surfaces of Scotland's always fractious political scene. Indeed, he's even got a man in mind--the recently widowed Duke of York. (If Edward isn't up to that, then Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey will do in a pinch.) And so, even as her fiancé makes his way to Scotland, Mary plots a meeting with Henry IX at York, hoping the pair of them can iron out this and a few other difficulties.

    Of course, there's another marriage waiting in the wings--that of Henry and Elizabeth Valois. Indeed, English ambassadors have been trying to get the French Princess into England--at least for a visit--but Henri II is making it difficult, dragging his feet and making bland assurances. The fact is, Henri is increasingly dubious about the marriage, and looking for a way out that won't make him look like a jackass. The source of this newfound reluctance is Diane, who despite her fears of declining influence still has enough pull to get Henri to see this matter her way, and thus is finally enjoying her revenge against the callow King of England. Payback is bitch, after all, and so is she. Henry Tudor, for his part, isn't pursuing this with especial eagerness, and so the whole matter continues to circle the proverbial drain.

    --Philip II arrives back home in Spain and Madrid, a peace treaty with France in his hands and with his travelling days done at last. For the rest of his reign, Philip will rule his kingdom from Madrid thanks to the agency of Europe's largest professional bureaucracy, and his own limitless passion for micromanagement. While plenty will mock the Spanish King for this, it's worth noting that until the very end of his reign he will prove a remarkably effective administrator, ruling over an empire that spans the New World to Naples with only one sustained area of discontent, even as England struggles running a smallish island right next door. He also begins construction of his bleak palace, the Escorial, which his son Charles shall dub 'a monument to the crushing of the human spirit.' A later Spanish monarch will react with disappointment on learning that it has survived a fire with minimal damage.

    Philip reunites with his loving wife and two sons--Maria is overjoyed to see him, and vice versa, while Charles manages to be... civil to his father, and the Infante Fernando is... almost three. Meeting with the Prince of Eboli, Philip is brought up to speed on his son and heir's education. Eboli is blunt--Charles, he notes with a mixture exasperation and admiration, is a young man who cannot be bullied or bowed by anyone. On the good side, Eboli feels that the young Prince is quite bright--Charles reads Latin and Greek fluently, and devours whole books on a single sitting, reciting his favorite portions from memory.

    Philip doesn't necessarily think that's a compensation for him being... well, Charles--however, his choice in the matter are... less good. Infante Fernando is, once again, almost three. And while he's the spitting image of his father at that age, he's also not talking. At all. Of course, he's only a toddler. Still... it's just a tad worrisome. And so, with this and the marriage contract with France that is still being ironed out, he really doesn't have a choice. Charles is at last named Prince of the Asturias by the Castilian Cortes.

    With that out of the way, Philip goes to see his half-brother for the first time, hoping to follow his father's will. Upon meeting young Jeronim, Philip, overcome with emotion, embraces the young bastard, and tells him he is his brother. Jeronim--renamed 'John' by Philip, in honor of one of his late siblings[5]--is brought to Madrid proper, as a recognized member of the royal house--though Philip makes it pointedly clear that John of Austria is NOT a Royal Prince. Soon, he is hanging with Charles and the Farnese brothers as part of the Prince of Asturias' small clique.

    --In Saxony, the Elector announces the creation of a NEW knightly order, the Knights of the Rose and Cross. The Rosicrucians, as they will be called, are intended to be the Protestant Princes' answer to the Order of the Golden Fleece, as well as yet another example of how Saxony rocks. The order is in many respects the brainchild of Electress Elizabeth, though as usual, it hasn't required much prompting on her part to get John Frederick to do something ostentatious. The Knights are ushered into being with great pomp in a ceremony at Wittenberg, with the Elector being named their Grandmaster--among his fellow members are John Frederick's brother, John William, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, his cousin Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfals, Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, numerous Dukes and Margraves of Brunswick--the Guelphs are a prolific bunch---and even longtime opponents Philip of Hesse and Elector-Paltinate Frederick von Simmern. Onlookers agree that this heralds a new age of Protestant harmony and love. Onlookers are frequently stupid like that.

    --Charles Valois arrives in Scotland. However, his visit doesn't last very long--just long enough for the ship to get repaired, and start back for France. You see--the young French Prince has died during his voyage, an unfortunate accident on the ship's deck during a mild storm having lead to a nasty illness which finished the less-than-robust Charles off. Mary--and most of Scotland--do their level best to look sad.

    Back in France, Henri, as soon as he learns of this, is devastated. He loved his son, after all, and even worse, this opens up a whole can of worms regarding the succession. Charles has been the de facto heir for some time, as Dauphin Francois is widely seen as a dead man walking. With him gone, young Henri of Orleans has moved up--and that is quite worrying, as Henri's efforts to get the young Valois to give up his enthusiasm for Protestantism have had the opposite effect--the Prince seems to be an even more dedicated Huguenot then he was when it started. And this is terrifying, because with Charles dead, Henri is now the NEW de facto heir to the throne. And so, Henri II gets to work. Prince Henri's tutors are ordered to double down, while the King REALLY starts looking for a wife for Dauphin Francois. His eldest is going to leave an heir even if it kills him.

    Relations with Scotland also slip down a peg, with Henri quietly convinced that those savage bastards arranged this somehow. Claude de Guise, Duke of Aumale, returns to France from his lengthy stay in Genoa, and joins forces with his brother Rene. As a result of all this quiet hostility, the York meeting becomes priority number one.

    --Wilhelm von Grumbach gets his hearing from the Reichstag, which declares that he should get his lands back. He goes over to Prince-Bishop Friedrich von Wirsberg, who demands an appeal, and then shushes Willhelm away. Von Wirsberg is daring this with the tacit approval of Emperor Ferdinand, who sees this as a great way to get back at the Elector, and perhaps, best of all, get him to do something stupid.
    He has no idea how right he is. If he did, he'd be telling von Wirsberg to give Grumbach his damned land.

    --In Ireland, Donal o Fearghail settles the O'Neill matters by getting Matthew to accept Shane's leadership, and Shane to 'follow the example of Christ' promise not to kill Matthew. Both praise his Solomonic wisdom, though the fact that he's brought a bunch of armed Originalists as a... guarantee of their good behavior likely has something to do with that. Fearghail extorts all Irish men to bury their quarrels, and turn the other cheek towards their fellows, for only by uniting do Irishmen have a hope of destroying the hideous might of "Babylon".

    This isn't all the Originalists are doing. Roving bands travel the countryside picking up converts and smashing down the ungodly--the favored targets are Catholic holdouts, who frequently have their homes raided, and their private chapels smashed up. As said chapels are illegal, most can't even go to the authorities, and instead respond by attacking those they think are responsible. The end result is a continuing breakdown of law and order in Ireland. Henry and the Privy Council are concerned, and thus Ireland moves back up towards the top of 'things to worry about'. Gregory Cromwell, sensing his moment has come, manages to get himself put forward as Lord Deputy. And so Cromwell heads for Ireland--and immortality...

    With Irish affairs--well, not dealt with, but in the opening stages of that, attention turns to the upcoming meeting with the Scottish Queen in York. While a few members of the Council think they should hold off, Henry views it as a necessity, and as usual in English politics, what the King wants done gets done extra-quick. By late June, Arthur Fitzroy--who is celebrating the birth of his first son, named naturally, 'Henry'--is being sent to Scotland with a specially-painted portrait of Henry IX (on horseback, with a dove holding an olive branch flying over his head) to escort Queen Mary and her entourage to York, where Henry will arrive with his entourage, and they will proceed to party likes it 1599, all in the name of diplomacy. That is, at least, the plan. Edward is must be stated, is less than pleased with it, especially the part where his brother will press Edward's suit with the Queen of Scotland, but then he's increasingly used to taking one for Team Tudor.

    --In the Livonian War, Poland at last fields its army in support of Livonia. Kettler is quite pleased, as it allows him to beat back the immense gains that Russia made this year--indeed, he's so grateful that he finally converts to Lutheranism and secularizes his holdings, becoming the Duke of Coursland, Semigallia, and Livonia--though the latter is largely occupied Russia. Naturally, he quickly swears fealty to Sigismund, who is starting to feel that this little war is going to prove a real boon to his kingdom. Yep--once they kick down Ivan's army with the help of Denmark, Poland will have gained big with very little investment. It's great to be him.
    Aiding Sigismund on the field are his squire, David Hamilton, and his page, Claud Hamilton--yes, the transplanted Scots are doing all right for themselves, even if 'Pretty David' doesn't get a lot of respect when he calls himself 'Earl of Arran'. (This is a tangled matter--Aumale declared the Hamiltons attainted, and while the present regime's official stance is 'His power grab was illegal, and nothing he did is binding', the Hamilton matter is the unstated exception--simply put no one in Scotland really wants to see "Mad Jimmy's" kin sliding back into power.) The brothers, and their sisters--Anne, Jean, Barbara, Margaret, and Elizabeth--are becoming people of influence in Poland--Anne has recently wed the nobleman Jan Krzysztof Tarnowski, while David and Claud are both enjoying gifts of land from Sigismund. Yes, the Hamiltons may have fallen from the heights they held in Scotland, but they've landed on their feet.

    --In scenic Transylvania, Margaret Tudor is enjoying her marriage, and coming to understand the political situation here. For a start, there's Transylvania's rather strange relationship with the Turk--the Sultan views them as vassals, while the Transylvanians view themselves as allies, and both sides make it a point not to talk about this. And then there's the Diet, which is rather like Parliament only more argumentative, with families like the Bathorys holding a great deal of sway. And then there's the religion--Transylvania is best thought of as 'England, only moreso' in its place in the Reformation--this is the place where radicals come to hang out safe from the Catholic authorities, including the anti-Trinitarian disciples of Michael Servetus, a man so out there he was burned as a heretic in Geneva. It's all very heady for a young girl to come to grips with, especially Margaret who due to her fairly sheltered upbringing is rather idealistic and earnest. Still, Margaret and her very earnest, very idealistic husband Janos Sigismund Zapoloya are getting along beautifully.

    --Turning to the Ottomans, the conquest of the Red Sea continues apace, occasional uprisings are crushed, and life in the Empire continues. As Suleiman puts the finishing touches on his mosque--specifically the tomb he hopes to share with his beloved Roxelana--he considers the shape of European politics. Suleiman, like many others, has been quietly supporting the HRE's Protestants in hopes of weakening the Hapsburgs--now, he's starting to wonder if that hasn't worked out a little too well--the Protestants seem to be angling to take over the Empire, at which point he'll have simply traded one foe for another. Still--that's for the future. The Hapsburgs remain formidable enough that the Sultan still needs the Protestant Princes as a balance. He simply has to be prepared for a change in strategy soon. He also continues to bargain with the Shah over Prince Bayezid, but those negotiations continue to go in circles. Tahmasp still feels that Bayezid might prove... useful.

    --King Henry IX of England and Queen Mary I of Scotland meet in York, thus achieving something their fathers conspicuously failed to. (Then again, Henry and Mary both boast of being a great deal more reasonable then their sires, and this helps such matters immensely.) The meeting is made with a conscious effort on both parties to impress and charm the hell out of each other, and needless to say, both succeed immensely. Soon Henry is writing back to Edward, telling him that Mary is a pearl without price. 'She speaks English, French and Scottish most prettily,' notes the King approvingly, 'dances well, plays cards skillfully, and in essence, does all things well that make a woman good company.' (As Norfolk notes to his friend/rival John Dudley, the King has apparently forgotten who he's talking to--Edward enjoys none of these things.) Mary meanwhile, writes to her brother telling him that the King of England is 'a very grand man.'
    Of course, it's not all fun and getting to know each other--there are also diplomatic matters, and here the Royal duo also get a good measure of their opposite number. Henry and Mary both skillfully make their demands known, and stick to their lines, a fact each quickly comes to appreciate in the other. Of course, as is often the case when two skillful negotiators go at it, the end result is very little progress is made on the manifold issues facing England and Scotland--but nonetheless, it is a start.

    --Anton von Schaumberg, Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, dies after a mere two years in office, much of it spent trying to get the Prince-archbishopric's rather shaky financial situation in order.[6] He is replaced by Gebhard von Mansfeld-Vorderort. And this is a big deal, as Gebhard is a founding member of the Schmalkaldic League.[7] Emperor Ferdinand is... concerned. One of the ecclesiastical Electors being a Lutheran is manageable. Two is dangerous. And so Ferdinand refuses to confirm him. Gebhard defiantly takes his seat anyway. And so begins a great deal of trouble.

    In other news, Archduke Ferdinand's darling Philippine gives birth to the couple's second child, a girl who is named Catherine. The Archduke is once again, overjoyed. His wife is of course, less so, though Ferdinand continues to keep his promise to his father and makes sure to return to the nuptial bed from time to time. He's also looking for a wife for his brother, Charles Francis, on the general theory that another line of descent would take some of the pressure off him.

    --In Spain, Philip II gives his subjects another reason to celebrate his return by banning trips abroad by Spanish university students.[8] Most of Philip's courtiers nod sagely and agree that this is a good idea. The students are less pleased, and take to protesting. Things get more interesting when an anonymous pamphlet is issued praising the King's action, and arguing that he has in fact not gone far enough. The pamphleteer suggests that the best way of protecting the sacred sphere of Spain is simple--legislation must be issued that bans the existence of all foreign nations--at least, while one is in Spain. He freely acknowledges this will initially prove quite difficult but he feels that the Spanish possess enough natural brilliance to believe just about anything when they have to. 'If this program is followed,' states the pamphleteer, 'the day will come when a Spanish merchant will act and believe that France does not exist immediately after returning from a lengthy visit to France.'

    The pamphlet is of course soon taken up by the students as a brilliant satire of the Spanish government's isolationism, especially when it becomes rumored that the Prince of the Asturias is the author. Philip orders it suppressed, which results in it becoming the most read thing in Spain after the Bible. As for Charles, if he is the author, he gives no sign of it. Indeed, when the matter is brought up to him, he shrugs and notes that he is offended that people imagine he would contravene the royal authority in this matter. He is, he notes, a good Spaniard, and as such, he always believes what the King of Spain says is the truth.

    --In York Arthur Fitzroy is awoke one night by a knock on his door. It is King Henry, who bids his nephew to walk with him. The Duke of Richmond does so, wondering what the hell is up. His mystification increases when the pair reach the chapel and gets worse when they get inside. There, to Arthur's amazement, are gathered the palace's chaplain, and 'a group of ladies'. While they are all veiled, this is a subpar disguise for Mary Stewart, who is given away by her great height. A quick and rather simple marriage ceremony takes place before the Duke's befuddled eyes, after which Henry and Mary leave the chapel, both looking, as Arthur will later note, all together too-pleased with themselves.

    The uneasy balance between France, England, and Scotland has been tottering for years now, and was no doubt destined to change. However, what Henry and Mary have managed to do--in a single night--is upset the entire thing. France will be infuriated--England and Scotland aren't going to be too happy either. A fact that their monarchs--both of whom are certain they've managed to achieve the fait accompli of the century--don't give a damn about. One thing is certain, however.

    The triple-marriage pact is dead, dead, dead.
    ----------------------------------
    [1] Erik took his regnal number based on a 'history of Sweden' that had all the historical accuracy of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Sadly, it was the best they had at the time.

    [2] Much of this is IOTL--the major difference is it happened under Frederick II. Here, Christian's feeling just a tad more comfortable--and he's also leaving more and more of the government to his son.

    [3] Yes, THAT Tycho Brahe. What, do you think I could leave that remarkable bastard out of this? IOTL, he entered the University of Copenhagen at this time.

    [4] Brother to Gaspard de Coligny, he was the first to convert to Calvinism/Reformed Protestantism, and in fact, converted his brothers.

    [5] This is actually what he did IOTL. Leave it to Philip II to find a gesture that manages to be simultaneously sweet, and imperious and dehumanizing.

    [6] He actually died in '58 IOTL.

    [7] He was elected to the Archbishopric IOTL, though it naturally wasn't quite as big a deal there.

    [8] This happened IOTL. Philip REALLY seems to have wanted to turn Spain into a bubble kingdom.
    -------

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014