Odyssey of Fritz, the Turncoat Prince

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Alt History Buff, Jan 8, 2018.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: Flight from Mannheim

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Ok, all, I decided to take a few months off from my TL's. I started and didn't bother to finish two over the past couple years due to fatigue. Thought I'd recharge my batteries.

    I've had this idea recently. Over the years, I've had Frederick II's escapades as a key subplot in my various TL's, often with his aggressive actions in the 7 Years' War proving disastrous.

    This time, I'm going to make him more central to the plot at a remarkable POD, his attempted flight at Mannheim when he was 18 years old to escape his abusive father and arrive at the London court.

    Chapter 1: Escape into the night

    August 1730, Electorate of the Palatinate

    King Frederick William's royal procession through the western principalities of the Holy Roman Empire had numerous goals: showing his own subjects in his scattered western provinces he still existed, making friends with the independent Dukes and Princes (like the Palatinate) and some quiet diplomacy on the side with greater powers than the Palatinate.

    The King "IN" Prussia (the "in" was important rather than "of") had the misfortune of governing a lightly populated state without geographic defenses in the middle of Europe. Surrounded by demographically superior powers, only the efficient Prussian Army protected his scattered domains from ravenous powers, though at a high price in taxation yolked to the backs of his subjects. Prussia had suffered greatly in the 30 Years war. Only now, a century later, was the nation recovered.

    For the past several decades, the King and his ancestors had fought, scraped, bribed, schemed and every other verb that would improve the lot of his nation. For his services to the Emperor, the House of Hohenzollern was allowed to crown themselves King "in" Prussia as the actual Prussian duchy was outside of the HRE's borders. The subsequent rise in prestige mattered much in the eyes of Europe. Unfortunately, his ancestors' attempts to aggregate their domains usually fell short no matter how many times they switched sides in the middle of wars whenever the winds changed.

    Usually Prussia sought out an ally or two, most often France. The two nations had no mutually exclusive ambitions and, on paper at least, a mutual enemy in Britain. Ever since the House of Hanover's accession to the British throne, the Kings "in" Prussia desired to acquire Hanover as they were predominantly Protestants whose territory separated Brandenburg from the scattered territories of the Hohenzollerns in the west. France desired to conquer the Austrian Netherlands and threaten Britain by sea.

    The pair of powers made logical allies, as did Britain and Austria. However, those alliances had frayed since the War of Spanish Succession. It was increasingly difficult for the Ministers in any of the four great courts to see how these alliances were still relevant and supported their own ambitions.

    Frederick William was willing to consider alternate options. Indeed, with the alliance with France nearly up, he was willing to negotiate with both Austria (his rival to the south) and Britain (his rival to the west via Hanover). Both had their benefits and would leave Prussia in the next war with only one front, granting the German nation a greater chance at physical acquisition in the next war.

    There was always a next war.

    Thus Frederick wrote to his English cousins and asked them to send a quiet delegation to Mannheim. The English liked to bargain. By granting his alliance, the German-born King of England would see his beloved Hanover protected from Prussia in the east and have additional protection from the west (France). Britain and Austria may have been natural allies due to their nigh complete lack of similar objectives (thus no conflicts) but there were also few reasons for either to support the other in times of need. Britain was a naval nation intent on their colonies. All they wanted was France off the Channel (thus protecting the Netherlands was a British priority) and away from Hanover (only the King cared about that). George II had been on the throne three years and continued to allow himself to be pushed around by Parliament. Well, this may be the deal both King and Parliament could agree upon.

    Frederick William was willing to grant them any guarantee they wanted. It was not like he had any more intention of following through his agreements any more than his ancestors did. Indeed, Prussian perfidiousness was almost axiomatic. He could always change his mind.

    However, at the moment, Frederic William was more interested in the east than the west. The King of Poland was old and the Sejm would soon select another. An utterly dysfunctional Commonwealth, Poland-Lithuania had been under Russian, Austrian and Prussian domination for decades. Their arms would determine the election, not the dynastic claims of Saxony's Prince-Elector (whom claimed Poland). Still, the three powers were undetermined as to who to "suggest" the Sejm select as the new King of the failed state. Frederick William would agree to anyone provided he got "Royal Prussia", the north-eastern slice of the Commonwealth that separated his Kingdom of Prussia from his core domain in Brandenburg. Perhaps a swipe of a pen would gain his family more than all the recent wars put together.

    If he could forge an alliance with Britain, that would put Austria in a weaker position and perhaps force the Holy Roman Emperor to grant him Royal Prussia as part of any deal in Poland.

    If Britain was not interested, he could always renew his alliance with France, with nothing lost.

    At the moment, King Frederick William was just tired of riding around Germany, his spineless welp of a son endlessly whining about the hardship. He should never have brought Fritz. The boy was a waste. He'd actually brought the boy to tears the previous night when he mocked him in front of several Mannheim nobles. The weakling ran out crying, his junior officers trailing behind.

    Frederick William blamed himself. He had tried to install an austerity in the boy. He commanded a strict Protestant education and a limited curriculum. But the boy's tutor had quietly allowed him access to art and music and poetry and god-knows-what-else. He should have had that tutor hanged.

    With disgust, he thought of his effete dwarf of a son ruling Prussia.

    God help the Kingdom.

    It was at that point that one of the King's aides burst in exclaiming that the prince was nowhere to be found.
  2. zert Casual Reader, Interested Follower

    Dec 19, 2010
    Well I await to see what occurs next.
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Flight North...then South

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 2: Flight North....then South.

    Late August, 1730 Lorraine

    Lieutenant Hans Von Katte cursed himself for listening to his friend. It was absolute suicide to defy the King in Prussia. Yet somehow he had allowed the Prince's charisma and bleating to whip him into obedience. A few years older than the Prince, Von Katte was handsome, gregarious and cultured...the very type of person Fritz loved to be surrounded by. Yes...there may have been a few lingering kisses or caresses but the rumors of sodomy were baseless. Still, Von Katte knew that the King was dissatisfied with his relationship with the prince and would likely be exiled to some outpost sooner rather than later...much as Peter Von Keith had been a couple of years prior.

    Despite his martial family's fortunes depending upon the good will of the King, Von Katte felt he needed to help his friend before Fritz endured a full nervous breakdown. After years of bullying and verbal abuse, Fritz had finally reached the breaking point. He threatened suicide on occasion and openly offered to give up his rights to the throne if only King Frederick William were to allow him to depart Berlin. However the King found such a request humiliating, a poor reflection upon himself, and refused. In a drunken rage, the King beat his own son with a cane without mercy.

    This was the moment, Von Katte knew he must help the eighteen year old boy. Fritz' scheme to escape north to Britain suddenly did not seem so farfetched. The young officers (including several trusted aides in the Prince's circle) would ride north in the middle of the night from Mannheim for Hanover where the young men would make their way from the Continent.

    Unfortunately, the conspirators did not know of King Frederick William's negotiations with the House of Hanover for an alliance. Only by the faintest of luck was Peter Von Keith present when the British emissaries arrived at his base to rest for the night. The commander was shocked at being informed that the Prince may be escaping his father's clutches and heading this way. Prince Frederick's entreaties to the British had been received and summarily rejected by local officials, the latter intending to capture the Prince and hand him back to his father, no doubt an attempt to curry favor in the ensuing negotiations. Von Keith, whom had received a letter to flee with them upon arrival, snuck off to the stables and rode southward along the open road. By happenstance, he found the exhausted party five miles south of his regimental barracks. Horrified, the Prince realized his father would soon know of his escape and easily imagined his reaction to the defection of the son and heir to the Prussian throne.

    No knowing what else to do, several of the party attempted to convince the Prince to return to Mannheim and throw himself at his father's mercy. But Fritz, feeling the first stirrings of freedom, rejected this.

    Instead, he ordered his party to double back southward, towards Lorraine, a state of the Holy Roman Empire closely allied with Austria. France and Prussia's alliance held, no matter how weak and the King of France would not likely wish to alienate the Prussians. Austria, on the other hand, was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. If anyone could get the King of Prussia to stay his hand, it was the Emperor. Maybe he could even negotiate a truce between father and son.

    There seemed to be no other options. Thus, the small party approached the Duke of Lorraine, asking for passage to Habsburg territories. As it so happened, the heir of Lorraine was under negotiation for marriage to the Emperor's daughter, Maria Theresa, and Francis was preparing to travel to Vienna himself. The Duke was happy to be rid of the problem without delay. The party departed for Vienna by early September.
  4. Darth_Kiryan The Númenorean Sith

    Jan 9, 2010
    Frederick the Great defects to Austria? :eek::p
    Theoretical_TJ likes this.
  5. Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    He tried OTL, though to Britain. Poor Von Katte was executed for his part in this.
  6. The Undead Martyr GOP Delenda Est

    Apr 11, 2013
    south of the (Canadian) border
    Frederick the Great's escape was predicated on his marriage to Britain and his distaste for his father's cosying up to Vienna, both of which a reflection of his idealistic view of his cousin's court as an "enlightened" alternative to the harsh, oppressive reality of FW's court in Berlin and also the marriage alliance allowing him freedom. Indeed given that Vienna backed down on the Rhineland territories (I think) and basically dismissed Prussian concerns despite these being a condition of their acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction, I think Prussia was justified in disregarding Maria Theresa's succession as Vienna was clearly ignoring Prussian interests and concerns in favor of their own. And for good reason, given that the two are geopolitical rivals.

    The escape in and of itself is rather ASB; an escape to Vienna is, unfortunately, an impossible development, as it was the alliance with Austria that he was in fact angry with. It also reflected his loyalty to his mother, the chief architect of the proposed alliance and double marriage. Siding with Vienna would be surrendering to his father in a way, to say nothing of broader political concerns.
    Gladsome and Ciniad like this.
  7. Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014

    Some new and interesting points, thank you.

    I had thought that the double marriage of Frederick and his sister had already been called off by this point (correct me if I'm wrong). Did Frederick believe, OTL, that his arrival as a runaway in London would somehow restart negotiations? It is difficult to believe that the King of Britain and Hanover would agree to a marriage without the King in Prussia's approval, even if Prince Frederick were to remain in Britain as a "General". Would George II even be interested in Fritz if he did not come with a crown? The whole affair seemed absurd on the face of it.

    Also, I didn't realize that, at age 18, Frederick had overly many political views beyond opposing his father (sometimes with his mother's support) in whatever he did, mainly out of spite or pique. Anyone acting as naively as Frederic did OTL in this instance does not sound like a political animal, more an abused child hoping to escape his abuser.

    I will go into further detail on the views and relationships between the various powers in the next chapter. I don't think the relationship with Austria was at the "alliance" stage at this point (though tell me if I'm wrong) as the Austria-Britain-Hanover and France-Prussia cliques remained in effect (to my knowledge) though they were fading. More, I consider the general "cooperation" between Prussia, Austria and Russia over the Polish issue to be more détente than alliance at this stage with the outside shot of more.
  8. The Undead Martyr GOP Delenda Est

    Apr 11, 2013
    south of the (Canadian) border

    Frederick's flight was a combination of desperation and a cry for attention; it is difficult to overstate how toxic his relationship with his father was and he is at this time a deeply repressed and abused teenager.

    Frederick is George's cousin via his mother, even if he is legally disinherited the likely result is Britain letting him stick around in London (where he may or may not prove popular; he is at this time not the same man that he would be after von Katte's assasination, being a fairly foppish and outgoing intellectual; I think he would take to the court quite well and become something of a celebrity) popping Fritz in Germany with funds if and when his father dies, and he would probably be able to secure the succession. The interesting question is what happens next. Frederick William came to regret his Austrian leanings, as they threw him under the bus on Cleves (his overriding goal was getting that duchy back; in the end he and Frederick reconciled over hating the Austrians, the king allegedly proclaiming on his deathbed that "there is the man who will avenge me") so he might well grudgingly forgive his son later on.
  9. Benevolence Well-Known Member

    Dec 6, 2014
    Wait I think I'm lost. Under what conditions was Prussia to gain more provinces in the Rhineland area? Brandenburg-Prussia had just acquired recognition of a royal title and parts of Guelders in the WoSS, what lands did they want for recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction? Who are they getting Cleves back from? Also didn't Vienna stay FW hand concerning the execution helping remove FTG from the chopping block? Sorry to distract. Intrigued by the timeline, but my bias to Austria remains and I'm open to learning more about the era.
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Kings and Princes

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 3: Kings and Princes

    October, 1730, Berlin

    King Frederick William's rage had not abated. So irate was he that even the Queen refused to allow the King in the presence of their daughter for fear he may take out his frustration on her. Though their marriage was faithful, the King's temper could not be trusted and the Queen often sided with her children over her husband. Centuries later, it would be speculated that Frederick William's mood swings may be related to a hereditary malady known as polypheria. Now obese and in poor health, the King's mood swings became ever more severe. The defection of his son did little to aid this.

    The entire situation humiliated the King. Within days of Fritz' unapproved departure, the King ordered his entourage home from Mannheim, cutting short the embassy from Britain to discuss alliance. Had he acted with any tact, the summary dismissal of King George II of Britain and Hanover's (his wife's brother and Fritz' uncle) emissaries may have been received with amused understanding. However, Frederick William first accused the British and German diplomats (whom had informed him of Frederick's intentions) of betraying him, insulting the negotiators. He wrote an intemperate letter to his brother-in-law George II (only a few years on the throne) of assisting Fritz (an utterly untrue statement), effectively destroying any hope of an alliance. Indeed, George II was even more happy he had been talked out of the double wedding his children to his Prussian nephew and niece.

    Then Frederick William (finally realizing that Britain and Hanover were not involved in the crime), put his sights on Louis XV of France. In his mid-twenties, Louis had learned of the developments with great amusement. The Prussian King was not popular anywhere, even among his nominal ally. While Louis did not take Frederick William's letter accusing HIM of wrongdoing particularly seriously or personally, the open nature of the missive led to something of a scandal in the French court, forcing the King to fire back a tepid reply. In truth, Prussia needed France more than France needed Prussia and Versailles cared only so much about what was happening in Poland and Germany. By intemperate diplomacy, the Prussian had alienated two great powers and still had no idea as to the whereabouts of his son.

    Finally, Frederick William learned that the Prince made for Vienna. Even in his rage, the King found this hilarious. The Holy Roman Emperor had just spent years attempting to gain Prussian support for his "Pragmatic Solution" to the inheritance of the Habsburg domains. The Prussian hoped to parlay this into some modest territorial gains. While allied with France, it was not strictly the case of inherit rivalry with Austria. Prussian Kings had long played one against the other for their own benefit. Prussia's population was tiny, even secondary "Great Power" status for the nation relied on her fine army. If Austria offered a better deal that France, the Prussians were more than happy to accept.

    Recently, the matter of the Polish Succession roiled about. Frederick William had tepidly signed off on Emperor Charles' Pragmatic Solution and was willing to follow Austria (and Russian) lead for whoever they wanted on the Polish throne...as long as Prussia got her cut, namely lands in Poland (and possibly the Rhineland) to connect the House of Hohenzollern's scattered possessions. At the moment, there was little reason for acrimony between Austria and Prussia.

    But the arrival of Prince Frederick in the court of Vienna shocked the Prussian King, having never expected his idiot son to approach the Emperor for help. For his part, Emperor Charles VI had no desire to offend the Prussian King. As many expected, the Emperor assumed he would be called upon to negotiate a truce between father and son and put the matter to rest. However, Frederick William's actions after Fritz' defection bordered on the insane. So irate over his son's flight, he ordered the immediate and summary execution of the lad's long-time tutor, Jacques Duhan de Jandun, a Huguenot soldier in Prussian employ. For years, Jandun had quietly supplanted the King's commanded curriculum of religion and modern history in favor of art, music and philosophy. Deeming the man a traitor, Jandun's decapitated head was sent to the Prince in the halls of the Emperor's court by an embarrassed emissary. All of Vienna was scandalized by this action, including the insulted Emperor whom reproached the King in no uncertain terms.

    By Christmas, all of Europe knew of the affair from Madrid to Moscow. The King was condemned roundly for his actions and the Emperor was forced to announce that he would not bend to Frederick William's demands of the summary return of his son for "punishment". It was widely know that the King ordered a court martial for his son in absentia, in which he was duly found guilty of desertion. The court deemed itself unfit to sentence, throwing that back upon the King. Indeed, it was widely assumed that the King of Prussia would execute his son should he be returned. In January, the negotiations had broken down between Berlin and Vienna. Frederick William would (against all advice) pronounce his earlier support of the Pragmatic Solution null and void and would "deeply and independently consider" any support for a candidate for the Polish throne, ending the short term détente between the two German powers.

    The war of words continued through the winter and spring, culminating in two utterly shocking events, both of which highlighted what the whole of Europe was already thinking of the House of Hohenzollern.

    In February, Frederick William formally removed his eldest surviving son from the succession and placed he next surviving son, the eight-year-old Augustus, as his heir. Since most of the Hohenzollern estates were within the Holy Roman Empire, this was patently illegal in HRE law and considered null and void by the courts (though the Province of Prussia itself, outside of the HRE, might have allowed for this).

    In April, in what history was consider a remarkable act of childish spite, the young Prince fired back. Under the advice of his new friend, the Arch-Duchess Maria Theresa (whom took to the Prussian quickly after her near-fiancée, Francis, was called back to Lorraine to assume the throne after a few weeks together), the utterly religiously apathetic Fritz would strike back at his father in the worst manner he could find.

    He got drunk, wandered into a chapel, and converted to Roman Catholicism.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  11. Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    I am not an expert in Imperial history so I don't know much about this. I know that many of the Rheinish principalities were divided in the War of Julich Succession among the Hohenzollerns and others, Cleves going to the Hohenzollerns. There were occupied for a few years in the previous century by the Dutch but I don't know who else would control them in 1730 if not Prussia.
  12. The Undead Martyr GOP Delenda Est

    Apr 11, 2013
    south of the (Canadian) border
    I'm quoting Iron Kingdom, an excellent book on Prussia, and also vague memories from a Frederick the Great biography, and on reread it was the Duchy of Berg, not Cleves:

    Relevant passage:

    Fritz converting is not completely out of the question, although catholicism is a poor fit given his diffidence and disrespect for authority. Nevertheless I can imagine an 18 year old Fritz, having escaped his father (which was the entire point of his flight; the England match was ultimately him being contrarian and supporting his mother over his father) and especially Maria Theresa. Fritz adored intellectual company above all else, and MT, as a patron might well have swayed him. He's not going to be especially loyal to the Pope, however, nor do I think he would be dogmatic about it.

    Long term I suspect he might put forward candidacy for the Polish throne if he stays Catholic. Right now it's in union with Saxony but Saxony is about to go to war with Austria...

    If he stays Catholic he can't get Brandenburg, at least not easily- at the least he would require a new Protestant elector.
  13. Benevolence Well-Known Member

    Dec 6, 2014
    Thanks for the clarification & source! Just some search on Google & wiki, I think FW is reaching quite a bit there with that claim on Berg, the Wittlesbach's claims seems stronger than his. Well enough distractions, on with the TL!!
  14. Darth_Kiryan The Númenorean Sith

    Jan 9, 2010
    Marriage is on the horizon.
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Princes and Duchesses

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 4: Princes and Duchesses

    July, 1731 - Vienna

    Archduchess Maria Theresa took "Her Prussian" by the arm and walked through the gardens of Blauer Hof (Blue Court), the Summer Palace of the Habsburgs, enjoying his company. Having just turned fourteen, the Archduchess adored the diminutive Prussian for his wide knowledge of Culture and Music. Her father, the Emperor, rarely had much time for her and the negotiations for her hand in marriage to Francis, now Duke of Lorraine, went slowly.

    For his part, the exiled Prince did not mind the attention. To his mind, the girl replaced his beloved sister in his life. Her large blue eyes, auburn hair and strong body did little for the Prussian though. For years, many questioned why the nineteen-year-old Frederick never bothered with a mistress. By the time most Princes were in their teens, they'd bedded a slew of kitchen wenches. But sex was rarely on the Prince's mind. Some wondered if he was some kind of sodomite but the Prince knew his relationships with other men, while perhaps a bit inappropriate, never reached biblical levels of sin. If anything, he viewed himself as a mix of the ancient Spartans, with their brotherhood of war, and the cultured Athenians.

    Exiled in Vienna with his adjutants, the Prince had little to do. He rarely gambled and spent most of his time in study: music, art (in abundance here) and even war. Had either the King in Prussia or the Prince stopped to think about it, the two were not terribly different in that matter. King Frederick William thought his son effete for his tastes in music but Fritz was fascinated equally by the science of war. Had his father realized this, perhaps the King may have been a bit more lenient.

    Maria Theresa was exultant. Here was the male companionship she had been missing throughout her childhood. Lacking brothers, her father paid little attention to her. With Francis, her pseudo-fiancée still in Lorraine, the Archduchess doted on her guest. Being of similar rank, she may do so with less social snickering among the court.

    Oddly, the pair got along. Fritz enjoyed the attention and Maria Theresa's willingness to review martial history in tedious detail. Indeed, he openly stated that the fourteen year old girl was as fine a tactical mind as most experienced soldiers. Often the girl would challenge the Prussian with incisive questions on battle strategy, a tact she took in relation to other subjects: art, music, philosophy.

    Today, the subject was war and Fritz would regal his young admirer with the logistical and organizational shortcomings of the Austrian Army. Compared to the centralized Prussians, the haphazard collection of ethnicities and their local Diets proved almost inconceivably inefficient. Slow to organize, the Austrian Army seldom took advantage of their power. Indeed, he wrote a dissertation that spring regarding Austria's failures to push the Turks from the Balkans was as much a logistical problem as a tactical one. He pointedly discussed with the young girl the lack of supply depots, poor planning in transportation and lack of centralization had hindered the Austrian advances southwards in the past.

    Indeed, the Archduchess petitioned her father to discuss the matter with the Prince. The Emperor was impressed and referred him to the General Staff. Of suitable rank that he could not be ignored, several of the Generals (also hoping to catch the ear of the heiress to the Empire by treating her friend with respect) quietly admitted the veracity of the recommendations. Maria Theresa would recommend to her father than the Prince be given a commission but this was rejected as the Emperor believed that, despite the war of words between Berlin and Vienna, that the situation would resolve itself soon enough when the aging King Frederick William realized that continuing the absurd situation would not do any good. But the Prussian remained stubborn and the Prince continued on as an honored but uninvited "guest".

    While Frederick's affection for the girl was sincere, he nevertheless repeatedly wrote to Francis in Lorraine to claim his bride sooner rather than later. The last thing he needed was the girl's attentions proving amorous. Frederick was not a man of the flesh.

    Eventually, the conversation turned to Poland. The Emperor rarely discussed official matters with his heiress but the recognition that Augustus the Strong of Poland and Saxony was getting quite old and the Polish estates were not fond of his son as a replacement. Already Austria and Russia, the two greatest influences on what passed for government in Poland, were considering their options.
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Old Alliances, Broken Pacts

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 5: Old Alliances, Broken Pacts

    Summer 1732


    Prince Frederick of Prussia admired his new uniform in the mirror. After nearly three years, the Emperor begrudgingly made the youthful Frederick an Austrian General. Though such honors were common (half the crowned heads of Europe were "Austrian Generals"), Frederick, now in his twenties, was determined to make his career in the Austrian Army. For years, the Emperor had attempted to placate King Frederick William and encourage his nominal vassal to reconcile with his son. However, in his infantile (and utterly insincere) conversion to Catholicism, Frederick ensured his father's actions with a clarity the Emperor could not comprehend.

    There was simply no way that the strict Calvinist King could allow a Catholic to ascend to the throne of one of Europe's most dedicatedly Protestant countries. While there was precedent of a Catholic monarch reigning peacefully over a Protestant state, the Elector of Saxony was also King of Poland (though he ensured that Lutherans controlled the former), this could not possibly be tolerated in Prussia. Frederick William disowned his son and removed him from the succession. Though many believed the Emperor and the Courts of the Holy Roman Empire held sway over such matters, it was also known that no great power was interested in launching what would be a new Holy War. Prussia (well, Brandenburg and the other HRE portions of the Hohenzollern domains were predominantly so) would not accept a Catholic King. At least the Elector of Saxony brought prestige to Saxony by also ruling a nominal "Kingdom" in the Polish Commonwealth.

    The Prince (as Frederick continued to style himself despite happily removing himself from his future throne) was content to leave his pre-pubescent brother as the heir for now. Maybe later he may stake a claim but doubted that it would be while his father lived. For the time being, he was happy in the cultured city of Vienna, second only to Paris in sophistication.

    Frederick was placed upon the staff of Prince Eugene, the esteemed aging General and veteran of a thousand battles. Though aging and slow, Eugene remained a virtual encyclopedia of martial knowledge. To his surprise, Frederick spent even more time in martial studies than cultural pursuits (though he still played the lute with aplomb). Now "Fritz" only to close friends, Frederick was given the command of a Regiment, usually only an honorary post but the young Prussian instead chose to live with his officers and common soldiers, learning even the most medial matters of organization.

    Eugene, still the most powerful voice in the chaotic Habsburg collection of armies (all largely based upon the individual kingdoms) had been impressed with his recommendations on topics from pre-planning to march order to privy inspection and made every attempt to enforce them against the inheritance negative inertia of the entrenched General Staff. As the most energetic and daring General of his day (well, maybe Berwick), Eugene knew his own armies had been let down by their supply line more often that defeated by enemies.

    With a gentle knock on the door, his aide and junior officer, Peter Von Keith, ushered in the Archduchess, Maria Theresa. Moderately pretty, the Archduchess was the only female companion Frederick would tolerate and not just because she had been his champion to the Emperor. Maria Theresa maintained a practical and concise mind, if not a brilliant one. Though he loathed the idea of marriage, she may have been acceptable...provided he seldom to never had fulfill his marital duties.

    "Fritz!" she exclaimed in delight. "That Austrian uniform just clings to you!"

    In truth, Frederick had to agree. Several of his companions had eyed him for an extended period, appreciating the cut along his bottom.

    "Yes, my dear Maria," Frederick replied with atypical gentleness. He seldom spoke to women since both his mother and beloved sister sent letters condemning his actions in no uncertain terms. Wilhelmine had been particularly verbose. Mother simply stated she regretted his birth and pronounced her support for the change in succession. "My gratitude for your tireless campaign on my behalf."

    The Emperor's support came at high cost. Prussia withdrew from their informal alliance with Russia and Austria the previous year. Once assuming the three bordering powers may pick and choose their candidate for the King of Poland, Prussia gravitated back to France and were already campaigning for Stanislaus I to return to the Polish crown when Augustus died. The King of France's father-in-law was an ethnic Pole from a powerful family which had briefly overthrown Augustus a decade or two back. Louis XV probably wanted to be rid of him and was pressing his new ally King Frederick William to support this. King Louis XV no doubt long harbored ambitions in that area but, lacking a local ally, could hardly dictate from across the continent. Now, with Prussia at its side...?

    The Russian Empress preferred to simply let Augustus the Strong's languid son take the throne. Prince Augustus would hardly be a threat to anyone. The Holy Roman Emperor preferred Infante Manual of Portugal. No one knew or cared what the Poles wanted.

    It was obvious that central Europe was threatening to boil over.

    "Did you hear, Fritz?" Maria Theresa's blue eyes widened. "The Duke of Parma is sending an emissary to speak with father!"

    Carlos, the half-brother of the King of Spain, Louis I, had inherited the Duchy of Parma as that branch of the family went extinct. It was a political agreement between France, Spain and Austria that kept the small but strategic northern Italian state nominally neutral.

    In the War of Spanish Succession, the old Spanish Habsburg domains in Italy (including Milan, Naples and Sicily) were given to the Austrian branch in order to ensure the succession of King Philip V of Bourbon. Eventually, the two branches of the Bourbon family were divided when Philip foolishly attempted to reconquer these lands on his own. The other great powers of Europe, France included, joined forced against him and defeated Spain easily. Now reconciled, both France and Spain had ambitions along the Italian Peninsula just as Austria was intent on keeping the Bourbons out. Only Parma's independence under King Carlos (as a new Bourbon branch) prevented a return to war.

    But Louis XV of France and Louis I of Spain would dearly love to evict the Habsburgs from Italy.

    That Carlos I of Parma, still unmarried, would seek the hand of Maria Theresa...well, the idea of unifying Parma with the Habsburg lands must be mortifying to both France and Spain. Even worse, the international conclave that determined Carlos would inherit Parma and deemed he would similarly inherit the Grand Duchy of Tuscany when the last d'Medici died out (Gian Gastone, the Grand Duke, was old and childless. This would make Carlos the most power man in northern Italy.

    Over the previous two years, Francis of Lorraine had been the primary candidate for Maria Theresa's hand (and potentially, become Holy Roman Emperor). However, King Louis XV of France quietly assured the Duke that any such marriage must result in the voluntary accession of Lorraine to France...or by conquest. France would not allow an allegiance with the Habsburgs so close to its borders. Parma was bad. Lorraine was utterly unacceptable. Finally, Duke Francis backed away from the marriage and promptly sought the hand of the youngest daughter of the Duke of Orleans instead (ironically, the Princess du Sang had once been engaged to Prince Carlos of Spain, now Duke of Parma).

    With marriages tightening the alliance between Bourbon France and Spain (and now Lorraine), Bourbon Hegemony in western Europe was assured.

    Louis I of Spain was reportedly livid that his half-brother was seeking the hand of an Austrian Archduchess. Still, Carlos plodded ahead. Frederick thought him mad. Like Lorraine, one only need look at a map and realize that French and Spanish armies are closer to his Duchy than his Austrian allies. Far better to seek a wife elsewhere.

    Maria Theresa was positively glowing. At least she was until the Duke of Parma arrived and she looked into the bulbous nose. Apparently young girls preferred handsome men to remarkably ugly ones.

    It was at that point that Maria Theresa would start casting about for her own match. Eventually, she took another look at "her Prussian", whom gazed back with undisguised horror at the prospect. The Duke of Parma departed Vienna without a wife. Mainly this was due to the Emperor's fear of war with Spain and France and the potential repudiation of his "Pragmatic Solution".
  17. Knightmare Well-Known Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    Oh boy, if this goes through, well.... It might work actually.
    TimTurner and Gladsome like this.
  18. zert Casual Reader, Interested Follower

    Dec 19, 2010
    Just caught up on all the action and things are moving along. With Frederick as her consort and head of her armies, Austria may gain some serious land and influence. If he also gains Prussia, the HRE may be able to centralize things.
    TimTurner and Istariol like this.
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: The Balance of Europe

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 6: the Balance of Europe

    Spring 1733

    Despite the Archduchess' strident requests to her father, Emperor Charles VI did not, even for a single moment, entertain the prospect of marrying his daughter to the exiled Prussian prince. There were several reasons for this:

    1. No one in Vienna actually believed that Frederick's conversion to Catholicism was sincere, including Maria Theresa. The Prussian couldn't give a damn about any form of religion. Given that Maria Theresa's husband would almost certainly be elected Emperor, this was a bit of a problem.
    2. A union between the House of Hohenzollern and Habsburg would almost certainly spell war with much of Europe. The Prussians, heavily Protestant, would fight back, joined by all of the Protestant Duchies of the Empire. Even the Catholic states would find a House of Hohenzollern-Habsburg outrageously powerful, thrusting them ever further into the camp of the French. No doubt other powers like Spain, Russia and the Ottoman may take advantage of this as well. If a union with Lorraine or Parma was considered unacceptable by the western powers, absorbing Prussia's territories would spell disaster.
    3. Even without political consequences, the personal rage of King Frederick William would last until his dying day. Charles VI had enough problems ensuring his daughter ascended to the throne to create even more enmity in the Holy Roman Empire.
    4. Charles VI did not believe that Frederick would make much of a husband. The Emperor rarely encountered a man of Frederick's rank whom had been so disinterested in sex. Rumors of the man's sinful lusts may, in fact, be rumors but the Emperor would feel better about his odds of gaining grandchildren if Frederick was caught at least once diddling a scullery maid.

    No, there was no rational reason to select the intelligent young prince as his heir. That being said, the Emperor did accede to Prince Eugene's recommendation that Frederick lead the reforms in various military fields (including marching orders, supply and recruitment). Naturally, the various Kingdoms and Diets would resist greatly against any perceived centralization and infringement upon their privileges. But progress was slowly being made.

    Indeed, the Prussian had even captured the ear of the Emperor. It helped that Prince Frederick was more than happy to discuss and even propose marriage options for the Archduchess, Frederick rattling off a number of candidates of "good character". Perhaps more importantly, he pointed out that the "Pragmatic Solution" so cherished by the Emperor rested entirely upon the good will of people whom felt no good will towards Vienna. He recommended that strengthening the army was more useful than getting signatures on pieces of paper. As the Prussians had not kept a treaty in good faith over the past century, Charles VI conceded the youth may have a point.

    There would be no shortfall of vultures circling, hoping for Austrian weakness. France and Spain wanted Habsburg possessions in Italy, Prussia wanted a piece of Poland, god knew what Russia and the Ottoman would do if the Habsburg domains were split apart. No doubt Prince Augustus of Saxony was livid that the Emperor did not support his candidacy. The Emperor's niece, Maria Josepha of Saxony (wife of the heir to Saxony and, he believed, to Poland), believe her claim stronger than Maria Theresa's. The daughter of Emperor Joseph I, the elder brother of Charles VI, Maria Josepha was pushed aside in the succession as Charles was the sole male Habsburg, as was her sister, Maria Amelia, wife of the Elector of Bavaria. But if Charles failed to provide a male heir, should not Maria Josepha, as the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Leopold (by his eldest son), assume the throne if, indeed, Salic Law was to be pushed aside?

    Even old allies like Saxony and Bavaria were not to be trusted.

    Weak financially and surrounded by enemies, the aging Emperor feared for his daughter. Charles VI hoped that he may continue his political maneuvering to avoid war.

    Then, in February, August II (the Strong), finally died and the concert of Europe was thrown into upheaval. The Emperor had long prayed that his daughter would be staunchly ensconced on the throne by the time a completely separate succession crisis erupted.

    But that was not meant to be.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: Free for All

    Alt History Buff Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2014
    Chapter 7: Free for All

    Summer, 1733


    The contenders for the throne of Poland were many but it still devolved down to three.

    Augustus III of Saxony (and his wife Maria Josepha) immediately claimed the throne of Poland despite having tepid support among the nobility which would "officially" determine the matter. A predominantly Lutheran state, the conversion of their Elector to Catholicism had shaken Saxony to the core. However, against all odds and expectations, a bargain had been struck. The mid-sized German state would remain entirely in the hands of a Protestant government while Augustus II ruled Poland directly and fought his many wars, internal and external. Yes, the Elector and King had often bled his Saxon homeland dry of funds and men to maintain his hold on Poland but he also increased the nation's prestige and his Catholicism ensured that their old rival, the powerful Habsburgs, would not continue their age-old aggression. Most years, that seemed like a compromise the Saxons could live with.

    However, Augustus III was a more languid ruler and less active soldier than his late father. He lacked a work ethic and overly much ambition, or so the historians would claims. Still, on THIS OCCASION, Augustus III acted with uncommon alacrity. Hearing of his father's illness in Poland, Augustus prepared the good-for-its-size Saxon army to march the moment he heard of his father's death. As such, he stole a march on his opponents.

    The bad news was....Augustus had to march through Habsburg or Hohenzollern territory to GET to Poland.

    Most would consider this a poor idea. Augustus agreed but could not countenance just giving up his claims without a fight. Lacking allies abroad, he ordered his father's loyal retainers to prepare the scattered Polish forces to receive him...and marched across Silesia for Poland. As Silesia's Habsburg forces were only nominal strength, scattered and taken by surprise, the march was remarkably blood free. Augustus would make every attempt to prevent the rapine and plunder normally associated with such movements of large armies. With 15,000 well-trained Saxons, he reached southwestern Poland where 15,000 Wittelsbach loyalists awaited.


    "Where the hell is the King?!" Frederick William of Prussia demanded of the French soldier.

    The Prussian King, in a fit of pique over his treatment at the hands of the Emperor over the desertion of his son and heir, agreed to renew his French alliance. Naturally, this came at a cost. The young Louis XV would demand that Prussia follow suite in proposing the King of France's father-in-law, Stanislaus I, as King of Poland. The local noble had, decades before, momentarily launched a coup against Augustus the Strong and claimed the throne for a year or two.

    Expecting Stanislaus to march on Poland at the head of a French army, instead Frederick William found 2000 French soldiers and no Stanislaus. Between the lines, the Prussian realized that the Pole was dithering in Paris and began to suspect that the French had no intention of sending a "vast army" as promised. If Stanislaus were to take the throne, it would be Prussia that would have to do the heavy lifting. Indeed, Frederick William learned that more French troops were poised to invade ITALY than Poland.

    Realizing that he may have been duped, Frederick saw that he would expend his blood and treasure to put Stanislaus on the throne...which was something he didn't care overly much about...while France used Austria's distraction to acquire territories.

    It was a mistake the Prussian vowed never to make again. As his "allies", Louis XV and Stanislaus, had never truly agreed to his territorial demands in "Royal Prussia", the northern Polish enclave that separated his Holy Roman Empire realms from his "Kingdom of Prussia" in the Northeast, Frederick William determined to take them by force.

    He may have waylaid the French forces but opted to let them through. No doubt both Saxon and Austrian troops were marching into Poland now and Stanislaus, as an ethnic Pole, would not doubt possess a certain popularity and patriotism. This may slow the encroachment of stronger armies...and give Frederick William leisure to take what he wanted.


    Emperor Charles VI offered Infante Manuel, the runaway Prince of Portugal whom had served in his armies, the throne of Poland. Supported by the Russians as well, Manuel agreed. Like Frederick, he had arrived in Austria without permission of his father and sought to serve abroad. Both Austria and Russia (and one Prussia) had been satisfied he'd be controllable, more so than any other candidate.

    The Emperor had been outraged...and embarrassed...that Augustus III managed to march through his territory virtually unopposed with half the Saxon Army. More and more he realized that the warnings of that renegade Prussian Prince regarding the readiness and fitness of his armies should have been heeded. He ordered his General staff, which had been dragging its collective feet over the reforms recommended by Eugene and Frederick, to expedite the changes.

    This never would have happened to Prussia.

    St. Petersburg, Russia

    Anna of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great, played cards with her three female cousins (via her uncle, Ivan IV) and her sister, Elizabeth. As the children of the elder brother, her cousins had a stronger claim to the throne than she. However, the "co-Czar" to Peter the Great was Ivan IV, his mentally challenged brother. When Ivan died, Peter ensured that his own children would inherit the throne. It turned out that the Habsburgs like to pull the same fast one, causing their own Succession crisis.

    In 1730, after Peter's death, his eldest daughter, Anna, whom had returned to Russia five years earlier with her infant son, ascended to the throne.

    Married to the Duke of Holstein, the fellow died before the birth of their first child. Now heir to the German state, little Peter would also be heir to the Russian throne after the death of Peter the Great's last natural son. Seeing Holstein as a tiny German state, Anna left overseers in charge and returned to Russia.

    Eight year old Peter learned to love his country, Russia, under his widowed mother's guidance.

    Three years into her reign, the attractive young woman would prove a low-key ruler, making few changes unless something threatened her rule or her son's eventual succession.

    Little Peter ran into the room into his mother's waiting arms. Unlike most rulers, she tried to spend as much time with her son as possible and he loved her with abandon. Dressed in a miniature Russian uniform, the boy was popular at military revues.

    "Mama! Mama! The Generals say we are to invade Poland!"

    "Yes, dear heart," she laughed. "The rightful King's authority is challenged and we must see that right."

    In truth, her advisors told her who the best fit for "rightful King" was and she accepted without demur. Better to cooperate with the Habsburgs than fight them over the matter. No one anticipated resistance from Prussia, France or Saxony. The army's march was to be a matter of form.

    As it was, they were wrong, as they found out when the first Russians would cross into Poland the following spring.


    King Louis XV signed the treaty with a deft swish of the pen.

    He vowed not to attack the neighboring Austrian Netherlands unless attacked himself. For this, he got an easy peace with the Dutch Republic and Great Britain-Hanover. For many decades, the huge, expansionist France had tried to conquer the largely Catholic, partially French-speaking Austrian Netherlands. Not wishing to have France as a neighbor, the Dutch Republic and Great Britain-Hanover sided with Austria to maintain the status quo.

    Louis XV did not want the Protestant powers involved in the war. They did not care about the Polish Succession and saw no reason to support their old ally, Austria, over such matters.

    It seemed a reasonable compromise.

    Louis XV also promised not to invade Lorraine provided the young Duke Francis did not declare war upon him. Despite coveting Lorraine for generations, the French King knew that such an open invasion of a neutral Holy Roman Empire state would turn not only the Dutch and British against him but even other neutral Holy Roman Empire states.

    That was acceptable as well.

    Louis' real objective was further south. Tens of thousands of French soldiers massed near the border of Northern Italy with the intention of evicting the House of Habsburg from the Duchy of Milan.


    Though well liked by the Emperor and more so by the increasingly frustrated Maria Theresa, the exiled Prussian prince would not be trusted to serve in Poland if there was a chance he may conflict with his own father on the battlefield.

    Serving under Eugene, the twenty-something Prussian "General" in Austria service was ushered off to Milan to augment the 20,000 Milanese, Austrian and mercenary soldiers guarding the strategic Italian principality.

    It was expected to be an eventful posting.


    The young King Louis I of Spain ordered his army and naval commanders into motion. His father had lost much in the War of Spanish Succession: Naples, Sicily, Milan and what was once the "Spanish" Netherlands.

    It was time to take them back. With France as her ally and Austria's attention divided in Poland, Louis would never get a better opportunity. Indeed, these advantageous circumstances may never come again.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018