Chapter Two Thousand Twenty-Five
30th October 1970
The spectacle of the Imperial Council had reached its final stage and the motley crowd who had made up the body were set to conduct their final, and only, vote. The television cameras were watching everything, and the entire nation was focused on what was happening today as it had all come down to this. It was not that anyone had any doubts about the outcome, but things had certainly needed to be hashed out over the prior weeks and the notes that were being kept and the conclusions that had been reached would probably find their way into legislation in the coming years.
With Louis Ferdinand’s resignation effective in only a week’s time, the time for debate had come to an end. That didn’t mean that things were going smoothly though. Manfred von Richthofen the Elder knew that the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire would have had a collective heart attack if they could see the structure of the current Imperial Council. The extensive bribery, trading of favors, and not so subtle threat of war were noticeably absent from these proceedings. Things like proportional representation and many of the topics that had been debated at length would have shocked them as would have the factions that had emerged over the prior weeks. Just the fact that a third of the Electors being women would have shocked them into incoherience.
It had been Manfred’s plan for the House of Richthofen to have this moment in the spotlight. What he hadn’t known was the fractious nature of his family and the connections with the Mischner family would define that moment. The representatives from Silesia included his daughter Helene and in a shocking twist, the mysterious Mistress of the Keys, Asia Lawniczak along with Manfred. A detail that he had not known about was that Asia was the mother of seven-year-old Heinrich von Hessen. The two of them had formed part of the leadership of the center faction, which many would argue was Langist in nature, of these proceedings. They were working alongside Katherine von Mischner zu Berlin, Sophie Scholl who had somehow found her way onto the Council by way of representing the interests of Munich, and Rhona Reise, the widow of Augustus Lang himself.
Often Manfred had found himself in opposition to them and as he had known since Helene was a child, getting into a debate with her was not for the faint of heart. She had deftly stood between the Conservative faction led by Manfred the Elder and King Albrecht of Bavaria and the Republican faction led by Helmut Schmidt and Erhard Krack. Matters weren’t helped by Schmidt and Krack clearly despising each other and the later clearly being terrified of Katherine von Mischner. It seemed that the current Matriarch of the Mischner family and Prefect of Berlin knew where a lot of the bodies were buried, probably having dug many of the graves herself, not that Manfred disapproved.
Still, Manfred could see familiar lines being drawn here. North vs. South, Protestant vs. Catholic, Rural vs. Urban, Industrial vs. Agrarian. Friedrich was going to have his work cut out for him if he were to bridge those divides. In the meantime, they were listening to testimony about what sort of Emperor Friedrich could be expected to be. Most of it was dry statistics, his education, Law practice, and family life. Exactly what everyone was expecting and was probably sleeping through. Jehane Alexandra Thomas-Romanova’s testimony about being “Freddy’s” minder when he had been a child was interesting. The shopping expedition to buy apples in Potsdam that had been featured in a column she had written for the Berliner Tageblatt was mentioned. Oddly, that was a story everyone knew; The Power of Please and Thank you. During the long period of time that the Russian Grand Duchess had spent in hiding after the first attempt on her life, with the world thinking that she had in fact died, had apparently taught her a few things and she had passed that on to Friedrich.
Everyone knew that Katherine von Mischner had been a sort of surrogate Aunt to Friedrich as well as his younger siblings. There was a famous photograph of him asleep on her lap at the funeral of Wilhelm II when he had been a small child. No one had called on her to testify though after she had asked not to speak. Princess Kristina had spoken at length over a radio link from distant Argentina, the same means by which she would cast her vote on behalf of the Hohenzollern Province. All about how the Crown Prince was her oafish older brother, teasing, pranks, and inappropriate gifts. A whippet puppy that had been collectively adopted by the Helicopter Air Wing she had been serving with at the time for example or the time he had dumped a shovel full of snow on the heads of Kristina and her eventual husband when they were stealing a private moment alone. She also described him as a loving husband and good father. It was all talked about in good humor, clearly an effort to humanize Friedrich.
It was the next bit of testimony where things got interesting though. Oberfeldwebel Knut Leichenberg was introduced. He was wearing the blue and white dress uniform of the Marine Infantry and Manfred could see that he was highly decorated. Something about the look on Friedrich’s face suggested that he was less than thrilled by the presence of the Marine who had apparently been in charge of protecting the Crown Prince when he had turned up in Poland leading a Battalion of Pioneers. It turned out that the entire advance which had been stalled by bridges dropped into the Vistula River and the timely intervention by Friedrich had put them back into the race for Warsaw. That was also the story of how Friedrich had been awarded an EK2. It was clear to Manfred that Oberfeld Leichenberg was a colorful character and that earning the respect of a man like that was difficult. As Leichenberg put it, Friedrich proved that he had balls by going to Poland like he had.