Okay, there were some good lines in there. And now, my next round of speculation:

Louisiana has realized that when you have a big hostile neighbor you need everyone who is willing and able to fight for you. This may mean that they'll eventually have to give in and abolish slavery with hopefully less strife than the US (of course, that's hard to say given we don't know exactly how the coming shitshow in the States will unfold).

I wonder what will come of New Spain long-term. At this point it's clear that the government doesn't care what the conservatives in Europe (and those in South America who listen to them) care. The Spanish government right now has quite enough problems so even if they decided this was a concern, I'm not sure what they can do about it. On the other hand they may still want some sort of allies in case the Americans come back.

As for South America, things are interesting and may get only more so. It's been clear for a long time the Viceroyalty of South America is being set up as one of this world's major bad guys come the 20th century and I've been trying to figure out how exactly that happens. Of course, it could that it's not a superpower, but more like a rather aggressive regional power (think OTL's contemporary Iran, but of more concern to those in the US due to being in the Western Hemisphere). I've been assuming that the Viceroyalty needs to expand to become this greater power and trying to figure out where to, since IIRC both Colombia and Argentina have some alignment with the US that will only grow by the 1900s (assuming the US stops getting into wars with the Brits once a generation).

Paraguay is small and weak, but the place is isolated and no one is going to help them invade. It looks like Francia is "supposed" to die next year so I don't know what will happen long-term. (Fortunately for the rest of S. America, Francisco Solano Lopez doesn't exist in this universe. Then again, the South American Viceroyalty is quite nasty enough, thank you.)

And Brazil continues to fall apart. In fact a breakup of Brazil into two or three countries (perhaps with the Viceroyalty pressing for disputed regions in the interior) would help to explain why they are at least a dominant South American powe with no large Brazilian state on the scene.

And that line about Dutch Suriname has me waiting for what exactly happened in the Netherlands, IIRC the French were about to move in last we heard. Europe may be in for some "fun" times in the 1840s as well.
Well, at least it looks like Florida and Louisiana are taking the right lessons from the war, even if the latter does so reluctantly. I can't imagine the tariffs are going to make the US any happier with matters right now and just jump up the recriminations about the war even further. New Spain seems to be looking to drift into its own orbit and certainly has the potential for doing so, becoming a power in its own right, should it be able to handle its various issues well enough. Brazil's not in a very good state, to put it mildly, but we'll see if things turn around for it at some point. Another great in-depth look for this part of the world.
With Florida I worry that they seem to be just staying the course Post War save some cultural/protonational movement. The Republic for all the trouble it faces growing does seem committed to reforming to face the future. For Florida their success here ay leave them for the nxt war prapred to fight this war again instead.
Great comments, everyone!
OTL, he married his niece, and married his son off to (the son's) 16-year-old double first cousin (and double first cousin once removed).

It says a lot about Charles IV that four of his seven surviving children married either their uncle or their niece. And the remaining three were all child brides who married their first cousin.
I know, right? That family…

The next update will be on Monday, and will be about Great Britain. That gives everybody the weekend to use these clues…
With the advent of the telegraph, it became possible for both national embassies and spies to relay secret information to their home government under the nose of the regime—provided it was done in code. The British Foreign Office, under Palmerston, was very quick to take advantage of this in communication with its overseas embassies. It was routine for an embassy to wire its messages to Anvers via the new system, and for this to include both official messages and personal messages from the ambassador and embassy staff. Palmerston used this to implement a steganographic null cipher which not only obscured the meaning of the secret message, but allowed it to look like a perfectly normal and innocuous uncoded message. If the message began with the words “GOOD MORNING,” it meant the following:
• The message (ostensibly coming from the ambassador or a member of his staff) was in fact intended to describe the activity of a part of the government. In the case of the embassy to France, the ambassador (George C. Canning in 1838) represented the Emperor and his staff, his wife represented the Imperial household, his secretary Mr. Cousins represented the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher who ran the kitchen stood for (respectively) the French army and navy, and so on.
• Only every third line (beginning with “GOOD MORNING”) was significant—the rest was filler.
• Family names signified different nearby states. “Auclair” meant Austria, “Bacque” meant Baden, “Brizard” signified Britain, and so on.

Thus, the seemingly innocent message sent on July 10, 1838:


…in fact meant that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was undermining the government of the Netherlands (“Neveux”), and that…
P.G. Sherman, A History of 19th-Century Espionage
…to decipher this message:
Who wants to take a crack at it?
Great comments, everyone!

I know, right? That family…

The next update will be on Monday, and will be about Great Britain. That gives everybody the weekend to use these clues…

…to decipher this message:

Who wants to take a crack at it?
The French armed forces (those not fighting the Russians) are mobilizing, with Nap2 leaving to take command?
Great comments, everyone!

I know, right? That family…

The next update will be on Monday, and will be about Great Britain. That gives everybody the weekend to use these clues…

…to decipher this message:

Who wants to take a crack at it?

Hmmm, at a guess:

The French army is preparing for a sympathetic intervention in the Netherlands, similar to what happened in OTL's 1830, and the British are alarmed as a Bonaparte is once again on the warpath. Though the winter intervention suggests they are still mobilizing and preparing.
The French army is preparing for a sympathetic intervention in the Netherlands, similar to what happened in OTL's 1830, and the British are alarmed as a Bonaparte is once again on the warpath. Though the winter intervention suggests they are still mobilizing and preparing.
The fact that it refers to the Fletchers, plural, suggests the French navy is also involved. Otherwise it should probably just be Mr. Fletcher.
Interlude: December 23, 1839 (3)
The United Kingdom
It’s almost Christmas, and the British economy is on the upswing. The growing railroad grid is cutting down on bulk transportation costs, letting more people in the cities eat better even with the Corn Laws still on the books. All over the better neighborhoods of London, happy little boys and girls are getting first-degree burns trying to catch flaming brandy-soaked raisins as they explode out of the pudding.[1]

But not everyone is enjoying the fun and fire hazards. On this particular day, Her Majesty Charlotte I, monarch of the most powerful nation in the world, is at the bedside of one of her ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Elizabeth Rawdon-Hastings, holding her hand, utterly helpless, Amelia and Elphie by her side. Poor Flora, only thirty-three, is dying of liver cancer and unlikely even to make it to Christmas. For Charlotte, this all brings back memories of her mother’s death eighteen years ago—the wasting, the fever, the pain that laudanum could barely make a dent in, the inability to do anything except sit there holding a dying woman’s hand and waiting for the inevitable. But if there’s one thing Her Majesty learned from her mother, it’s a sense of responsibility toward those who care for her and her family. So here she is.

And those aren’t the only bad memories that have been coming back. When Flora’s liver cancer was misdiagnosed as pregnancy, word got out almost immediately. The news even eclipsed the arguments over the Treaties of Windsor and St. James, although maybe not the news of Silistre. London hasn’t had a real taste of sex scandal since old Prinny’s time, and even then the scandal was usually “You know that guy who’s been sleeping around since he was a teenager? He’s doing it some more!” Hard to get excited about that.

Worst of all, every single jerk and creep on the Conservative side decided the Lady Rawdon-Hastings scandal was the most important story of the day. They’ve never quite been able to believe that a woman as self-confident, opinionated, and downright domineering as Her Majesty could also be a good and faithful wife. They feel somehow insulted that the Radical girl they remember has turned out to be much better at commanding the respect of the nation than her Conservative predecessor, even if said predecessor was basically an anthropomorphic personification of the Seven Deadly Sins out of a medieval morality play. Deep down they want the royal household to turn out to be a cesspit of female licentiousness.

And Charlotte knows they feel this way. To her, these are the same hypocritical, God-botherering Tories who condemned her mother for alleged infidelities while trying not to talk about her father’s well-known ones. And some of them really are the same men—for example, William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury since ’28, was Bishop of London at the time. After all these years, they’ve forgotten nothing and learned nothing. Charlotte herself has forgotten nothing and forgiven nothing. If there’s one thing Her Majesty learned from her father, it’s how to hold a grudge for ever.

And so, no matter how many new windows are opened in British politics, they never seem to be able to air out the stench from the prolonged blast of thunderous flatulence that was the Caroline affair. Its effects have outlived not only Caroline herself, but Liverpool, Castlereagh, Fouché, George IV, Talleyrand, and now Wellington—only old Sidmouth remains, and he’s 82 and long since retired[2]. Next year will be the twentieth anniversary of the Pains and Penalties Act and its attendant fiascoes. No one will celebrate it, but it will still be there, hampering their ability to trust and tolerate each other. Wiser Conservatives like Robert Peel, Leader of the Opposition, were really hoping that as the queen got older and more invested in the status quo, she (like her father before her) would start to see things from their point of view. So much for that.

It doesn’t help that Henry Brougham, who played such a dramatic role in the affair back in the day, is now Prime Minister. And it’s not like you have to go back to 1820 to find him making questionable decisions. On his advice, Palmerston agreed to a peace treaty that conceded valuable territory to the Americans, in the belief that President Berrien was too stupid and stubborn to take yes for an answer. Nobody counted on the rest of the American government getting together and shoving the treaty down Berrien’s throat. So to Peel and the other Tories, it kinda seems like His Most Insufferable Cleverness Baron Brougham and Vaux has finally outsmarted himself.

Of course, there were other factors in play—specifically, the facts on the ground in Upper Canada at the time. To explore this, the House of Commons held hearings on the Battle of Lake Saint-Louis, bringing Generals Kerrison and Slade and some of their subordinates to London to testify on what went wrong there and how. Like the previous hearings on the naval losses at Sinepuxent and the failure of the Chesapeake Campaign, these hearings mostly served as a showcase of Parliament’s crystalline hindsight and infallible second-guessing. To make matters worse, the hearings were interrupted by the news of Silistre, and of the death of Wellington—not the best climate to be critiquing the regiments in. Then the Times got word of Wellington’s own blunt and unblaming assessment of Lake Saint-Louis: “There was an attack. It failed. Such things happen.”

While all this helped to exonerate the British army, it didn’t exactly leave Brougham in the clear. Peel might still have tried for a vote of no confidence, but… the Prime Minister has no monopoly on cleverness. Brougham still has the majority, although the Whigs have lost a couple of by-elections this year, and if his party rallied behind him in the face of a Conservative power play, he would win. But there is a split growing in the ranks of the Whigs, and in Peel’s opinion, the best way to exacerbate it is to sit back and watch.

This split revolves around the People’s Charter, a document drawn up by some of the more radical Whigs and a committee of workingmen headed by William Lovett. Some of what the Charter advocates is a continuation of what has happened before. The Great Reform Act expanded the franchise and abolished the worst rotten boroughs. The Chartists want to take it further, giving every man who isn’t in prison or a mental institution both the vote and the right to run for Parliament, and drawing a new borough map after every census. They also want secret ballots, annual elections (of the entire House of Commons—take that, France!) and salaries for all Members of Parliament[3].

Notice that the point of all these reforms is not to simply lavish money on the tenant farmes, coal miners, and factory hands of the UK. It’s to give them a seat at the table so they can ask for what they need and will never be neglected again. The improving economy hasn’t helped everybody yet, and the memory of the Hiemal Period is still fresh in everyone’s mind. And when it comes to helping the poor, Whigs and Tories are both talking a good game—each in their own way—but failing to deliver. Even people who only know about poverty from reading Ashwick Street[4] are starting to complain.

There is another critic of contemporary politics who sees the same problems but suggests the opposite solutions. Thomas Carlyle sees the world as divided between the rulers and the ruled, each of whom owes everything to the other. For all his intellect, he can imagine nothing in between. The self-government of ordinary people—even confined, as it is now, to the more successful of them—looks to him like unsustainable anarchy, or “No-Authority” as he calls it. (There is a place where he could learn what actual No-Authority looks like, but he’s not there and has no plans to visit.) At the same time, he judges people by what they do, not by who their ancestors were. He despises the old aristocracy, who seem more interested in hunting and fishing than looking after the people. He’s in awe of the new captains of industry (a phrase he coined himself[5]) and thinks they should be looking beyond the next quarterly statement and stepping up to govern the land. And despite being radical in ways that other radicals haven’t even thought of, he’s a big fan of Queen Charlotte. She stood up for Lady Flora and reproached those who shamed her. Carlyle understands this and admires her for it. To this way of thinking, that’s what a good queen should do for one of her ladies-in-waiting. Because while most of her critics are Tories or Chartists, Carlyle is… something else.

Precisely because the Chartists are demanding power, not just charity, they scare the hell out of Parliament, especially the more centrist Whigs. Brougham himself is, for once, indecisive. He’s always been willing to do the crazy things no one else will do, but if he were to embrace the People’s Charter, there would be a vote of no confidence which he’d probably lose, followed by an election which the Whigs would probably lose. If he doesn’t, the Chartists will split from the Whigs and start running their own candidates, and the Whigs will lose the next election. Lose now, or later? It is frustrating to be a genius and still not be able to see any good options. As for Queen Charlotte… well, the people who were expecting her to follow in her father’s footsteps and become more conservative with age aren’t entirely wrong. Like her late uncle Edward in Canada, she would rather do good for the poor and the wronged within the existing system than upend it completely.

Another point of contention is the Irish question—what, from the British point of view, is Ireland for? Is it a flatter Scotland, or a colder Jamaica? That is, is it an integral part of the realm, or a resource to be exploited for as much wealth as it can provide the metropole? Brougham and his Home Secretary Thomas Spring Rice are determined to treat it as the former, but this brings them into conflict with a lot of the people who technically own the most profitable parts of the island—not to mention the Anglican Church, which is smarting from the Church of Ireland’s loss of revenue and power over the last ten years.

And then there’s Brougham’s signature military reform, which has stalled in the Commons. He and Russell identified a couple of problems during the war. The first problem was the slowness with which the British army was built up in ’37 and ’38, compared with how quickly France and Italy have been able to arm and train new recruits for war. The second problem, which the Lake Saint-Louis hearings did show, was that since each regiment is responsible for training its own, some of the newer regiments that fought there weren’t fully trained. While they stood their ground in the face of Yankee fire, they didn’t fight with anything like the professionalism of their veteran counterparts.

But if the Tories suffered for second-guessing the army about Lake Saint-Louis, Brougham knows he would really suffer if he dared lay his soft civilian hands on the regimental system. Every man in politics who ever saw army service—fighting against Napoleon, serving in India, or whatever—is devoted to the memory of his time in his regiment.

So in September, Brougham and Russell introduced a bill that would benefit the regiments even as it takes some of their responsibilities away. The bill would create a central recruitment and training office underneath the War Office, which could expand as needed in time of war. This office would take all new recruits and provide them with one month of basic training. After that month, established regiments would have their pick of these recruits to further train in their own traditions. Once these regiments had filled the empty spaces in their ranks, any remaining recruits would go into new regiments to continue their training.

Brougham and Russell might as well have advocated abolishing the regiments entirely. The reaction would have been no less vitriolic. The regiments—each one its own little army—still want to do their own recruitment and all their own training. Also, the Colonial Office is not happy about having to get all its recruits by way of the War Office.

The Royal Navy is a little more open to new ideas. They know well that they need to be. The long work of installing steam engines and screw propellers on their ships (much easier than it would have been to install paddle wheels) is already underway, and that might turn out to be just the beginning. Yes, the British won at Sinepuxent. They achieved their military objective, some of them lived to tell the tale, and even after losing nine ships, they still pretty much controlled the sea. For this last reason, and because it didn’t come from the region of southern Italy where the Pyrrhic War was fought, Sinepuxent wasn’t a real Pyrrhic victory—just a sparkling wake-up call for a navy that had grown accustomed to dominating the ocean with ease. A sparkling, burning, exploding wake-up call.

And that was before the Stablers unleashed No. 23 on the world. British chemists have more or less managed to duplicate the stuff, although they caution that it’s very dangerous. (To which the Royal Navy generally responds, “Yes, thank you, we noticed.”) But the French showed at Silistre that they can manufacture it in even greater quantity. And the Foreign Office is reporting that the French Navy has a new gadget that’s even worse than anything the Americans ever came up with.

This got Duncannon thinking. A warship isn’t just a lean, mean butt-kickin’ machine. It’s an instrument for projecting power in any part of the world touched by the ocean. That means it has to be fast enough to get wherever it’s going before the war is over. It has to be able to carry enough food and water to sustain a crew of hundreds—over a thousand in the case of the biggest first-rates—for weeks at a time. It has to be able to sail the Roaring Forties without capsizing. All this limits the amount of arms or armor you can burden it with.

A demologos, on the other hand, is just a lean, mean butt-kickin’ machine. Everything about it is geared toward the goal of confronting the enemy in territorial waters and hurting them until they go away. No need for sails, cordage, berth, or galley—just armor, weapons, powder and shot. So after Sinepuxent, the concept of the armored coast-defense vessel seems pretty much vindicated.

The only question is what to call it, because they are not calling it by the republican Yankee name “demologos.” Nor are they designating them as ships at all—to Duncannon’s way of thinking, anything that will never stray out of sight of land doesn’t deserve to be called a ship. Duncannon has decided to simply call them “mobile batteries.” So Portsmouth has already nearly completed HMMB Aethelwulf, Kingston-upon-Hull is building HMMB Shield, Dover has begun work on HMMB Buckler, and in London they’re working on three of them to guard the mouth of the ThamesHMMB King Arthur, HMMB Drake’s Drum, and HMMB Basililogos. (Take that, Yanks!)

Not that they need to worry about a French invasion just yet. France has had it up to here with the pirates of Formosa, and is sending its army and navy to attack. Napoleon himself gave his approval for it before he departed for the Balkans. While they’re at it, they plan on taking the island entirely, which means they’re also at war with China. This of course will mean pulling troops away from the Balkans—but the emperor is willing to do that. The Russians will be some time recovering from Silistre.

The British have known about the coming invasion since April 8. (From the wording, they thought Napoleon would be leading it himself, but it seems that was an artifact of Canning’s need to make the message read like normal traffic—a common problem with this sort of loose code.)[6] And having seen France’s ships of the line and China’s war junks, they know the coming sea battles will make Isola di Cenere and the naval half of Sinepuxent look like fair fights. Peace, order, and principles of international justice are at stake here—France cannot be allowed to beat up China and steal its lunch money… without giving Britain a cut. And after all, fighting pirates anywhere on the seas, whoever they choose to go after, is very much Royal Navy business. (And no one will say this out loud, but if the rumors about the new French weapon are true, the best way to find out is by fighting alongside them, not against them.)

And there’s another factor. The Daoguang Emperor is finally cracking down on opium. He has forced not only the HEIC but other European traders to hand over all the opium on the premises to the authorities for destruction, and he has decreed that all traders caught bringing any more opium into China will be fined roughly 10 to 12 pounds—that being the average weight of their heads. The Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China, caught between outraged merchants and an angry emperor, sided with the one who could behead him long before the Royal Navy showed up and promised the merchants that Parliament would compensate them. Parliament isn’t going to.

Canton’s governor, Lin Zexu, wrote a most eloquent letter to Queen Charlotte appealing to her better nature. “The products that originate from China are all useful items,” he writes. “They are good for food and other purposes and are easy to sell. Has China produced one item that is harmful to foreign countries?[7]” Lord Palmerston made sure Queen Charlotte never saw or heard of this letter.[8] Right or wrong, nobody messes with British merchants. Ships and troops are already on their way east.

This war is one of the few things Brougham is optimistic about. He can’t wait for the Royal Navy and the regiments to show that self-infatuated old empire just how far behind the times they’ve let themselves slip. Once China has been humbled, the Foreign Office will be in a position to dictate much more advantageous terms for British traders. And commerce with the rest of the world is picking up—especially with the U.S., now that the war’s over. Soon, Brougham thinks, good gold and sweet silver will be flowing from every corner of the world into the vaults of the Royal Bank, just as the Good Lord intended.

He has no idea.

[1] For an explanation of what Christmas pudding (a.k.a. “figgy pudding”) is and why it is on fire, see this Tasting History episode.
[2] He died in 1844 IOTL.
[3] Right now, Member of Parliament is an unpaid position, which means you can’t afford to be a member unless you’re already rich enough not to need a salary.
[4] Charles Dickens’ first novel, first published in serial form as The Ashwick Street Chronicles.
[5] As IOTL
[6] Teiresias came closest.
CANNING (The decision related here comes from the Emperor or his office—see next line.) BRITISH EMBASSY PARIS 040839 PNKT
(This is a coded message describing the actions of the French government.)
TAKING FLETCHERS (The French army and navy) SOMEWHERE BEAUTIFUL (The name “Formosa” comes from the Portuguese name Ilha Formosa, “beautiful island”) THIS WINTER PNKT
[7] Well… yes. Some of the less scrupulous sellers of China’s green tea are using a green dye to help it keep its color, and that dye contains arsenic. Of course, Westerners are using that same dye in everything from clothes to wallpaper, and it’ll be a while before anybody figures out that it’s bad for them.
[8] IOTL Lin wrote a similar letter to Queen Victoria, which also never reached her.
Very good. I wonder what's going to go wrong in the UK?

There's been hints of some kind of revolution, but the Monarchy remains intact. Considering the less than stellar relationship between the Royal Family and Conservatives, and it taking the name of some radical politicians, it might not be completely terrible. Either way, this update was rather ominous in a variety of ways and it seems that the UK might be on the backfoot for a while yet. And yet it's still apparently doing better than the US.
I do find it interesting that there are no mobile batteries being constructed on the Irish Sea – or, indeed, anywhere in Ireland or Scotland. While the former is very much the kind of internal waters where, if the enemy is showing up, you’re already in trouble, I doubt places like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cork and Cobh (sorry, Queenstown) are taking much comfort from that.
Roses of Praise upon you 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you, thank you…
Very good. I wonder what's going to go wrong in the UK?
So if its about atl Opium Wars, then what happened in Nederlands?
How long till what ever Carlyle belives becomes Artism?
There's been hints of some kind of revolution, but the Monarchy remains intact. Considering the less than stellar relationship between the Royal Family and Conservatives, and it taking the name of some radical politicians, it might not be completely terrible. Either way, this update was rather ominous in a variety of ways and it seems that the UK might be on the backfoot for a while yet. And yet it's still apparently doing better than the US.
I'll get to the Netherlands in a future update. (The next four updates are: France, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Central Europe and the Balkans.) Britain will be doing better than the US, but will be distracted for a while by its own empire (and this alt-Opium War that will only be called "Opium War" in China), events in Europe, and labor issues.
Feuerbach is the one who's going to synthesize the ideas of Carlyle and Fitzhugh with his own and a few others and call it Aristism.
I do find it interesting that there are no mobile batteries being constructed on the Irish Sea – or, indeed, anywhere in Ireland or Scotland. While the former is very much the kind of internal waters where, if the enemy is showing up, you’re already in trouble, I doubt places like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cork and Cobh (sorry, Queenstown) are taking much comfort from that.
The Royal Navy still has a touch of its arrogance. They're not expecting France to be able to launch a naval attack on anything farther away than the southern or southeastern coast. (And even after Sinepuxent, France is much the bigger worry—it has twice the population of the U.S. and is much, much closer.)
Feuerbach is the one who's going to synthesize the ideas of Carlyle and Fitzhugh with his own and a few others and call it Aristism.
On this note, I must confess that I drove back from Edinburgh yesterday and once again made a rude gesture at the sign for Carlyle’s birthplace, before remembering I was doing that based off his actions in this TL and not our own…
On this note, I must confess that I drove back from Edinburgh yesterday and once again made a rude gesture at the sign for Carlyle’s birthplace, before remembering I was doing that based off his actions in this TL and not our own…
Did'nt some Scholars just think he was proto-Fascist in otl... Also since how much Caryle influenced Disraeli inotl, could we see an Artist Disraeli ittl?
Interlude: December 23, 1839 (4)
If anybody's wondering what OTL's Napoleon III is doing ITTL, I promise I'll get to him in a future update.

France is prospering as much as the U.K. Even the tailors have survived—the good ones, anyway. Thanks to the Thimmonier machine, they can take on more of the customers who want to show off their wealth with a genuine tailored suit or dress made from American cotton, Egyptian cotton, or Korean silk (the finest silk in the world—just ask the Koreans).

Having tried his hand at real war and found he wasn’t half bad at it, Napoleon II has returned to Paris to get about the business of governing, make sure he hasn’t been sidelined politically, and make some more babies with his beautiful bride. Which is as good an excuse as any to talk about his sex life.

That’s going to be harder than it sounds. We need to start with Napoleon’s marriage to the late Adélaïde-Louise Davout. When they were wed, he was eighteen, she had only just turned fourteen, and neither of them had been given a lot of choice. It was very much a marriage of state, designed to bring about an heir as quickly as possible and strengthen the Bonaparte dynasty’s national credentials, not to mention the position of men like Davout who had made good in the new France. But while Napoleon wasn’t strongly attracted to his wife, he did grow to care very much for her… just in time to lose her to childbed fever. He mourned her for well over a year, and he did partly blame himself and the people who pushed them together, even though they tried to explain to him that this sort of tragedy was always a calculated risk.

This convinced Napoleon never to put his boner part in anything that was still in mid-puberty. After a few brief affairs, he met the fiery young Eléonore Juillet-Lorrain du Motier de la Fayette, with whom he had an even bigger age gap, but who was at least full-grown. More to the point, while poor little Adélaïde-Louise had been completely overawed by him, Eléonore was bold and radical enough to treat him as an equal. He was surprised at how much this turned him on.

But then it came time to choose an actual queen, and this time Napoleon wanted a foreign noblewoman, to prove that the Bonaparte line was one European dynasty among many, and as good as any other. There wasn’t an actual bride show, but there was a tour of Italy which happened to include the Diocese of Rome. There he met Donna Ippolita, younger daughter[1] of the elderly Don Lorenzo dei Principi Ruspoli[2], surviving uncle of the actually-important Princes Ruspoli.

In Ippolita, Napoleon found exactly what he was looking for—someone young but not too young, attractive[3], educated, cultured[4], and pious yet comfortable with modernity. It wasn’t love at first sight, but he knew from experience that love can grow in a marriage formed for other purposes. And she, tired of being the baby of the family and more ambitious than anyone realized (even herself) was quite happy to accept his proposal.

That’s the thing. She wanted to be empress, she’s glad he chose her, and she even gets along well with nine-year-old Princess Adelaide. Most of all, she wants to do all the duties of the empress and do them well, including giving birth to the next Napoleon and keeping this one happy. She goes to his bed willingly, with full agency, meeting every possible definition of consent that anyone could ever codify. She just… isn’t horny. At all.

And no matter how hard she tries to fake it, Napoleon can tell. Most people would look at either the dashing young emperor, the lovely young Empress Hippolyte (as she is now known), or possibly both, say “You have to have sex with that? You poor thing,” and insert a picture of a tardigrade playing the violin. But the key words there are “have to,” and those words apply equally to both of them. There are men in this world who’d be more than satisfied to have a beautiful woman lying back and thinking of the Franco-Italian alliance, but thanks to Eléonore, Napoleon knows what it is to actually be desired and delighted in.

He’s not angry at Hippolyte. Although this world is a long way from a proper understanding of asexuality, the priest he’s talked to has told him that his wife’s lack of carnal appetite is a sign that she is a virtuous woman. But he’s never known virtue to be so depressing.[5] That’s why he’s started sneaking off to see Eléonore on the side.

The Emperor isn’t the only French political figure feeling profoundly unsatisfied. After 17 years, Jacques-Charles Dupont de l’Eure is still president of the Chamber of Peers. Some of the Liberal Party’s brightest and most ambitious people are leaving to join the opposition, not so much out of conviction as because hope for advancement basically involves waiting for people not much older than themselves to retire.

One of these people is François Guizot, the new leader of the Conservative Party, under whom the party is hard at work reinventing itself for the 1840s. He’s quite clear—complaining about freethinkers, immigrants, Jews, and women working outside the home does get you a certain number of votes. It doesn’t get you a majority, and a majority is what the Party needs. Best to concentrate on bread-and-butter issues and bringing prosperity to all parts of France, not just the capital and the other big cities. Above all, royalists and crypto-royalists are not to be tolerated. They are to be ratted out without shame and exiled to North Africa. (Jacobins who let themselves get provocateured into plots to overthrow the government get an arguably worse deal—exile to the Desolation Islands[6].)

And yet… it sounds cool to say “you can’t kill an idea” until it’s an idea you really want to see the last of. But French royalism survived the Revolution, the Terror, the Directory, Napoleon, and the Constitution. When Louis XVIII died in Marseille from bad weather and worse medical care, they thought it surely had to be dead… and then the ’29 rebellion happened. That rebellion was crushed, and the authorities thought, “Okay, now it’s dead.”

And in many places—Paris, Anvers, Lyon, Strasbourg—they’re right. In Paris, a young philosophy student from le pouce mayençais named Johann Feuerbach was deeply shaken when he heard that a homeless beggar of his acquaintance had frozen to death in an alley one cold night last week. Feuerbach—who is personally feeling guilty about not having made an effort to keep track of the poor man on that night—sees this as a sign of profound societal failure on the part of modern France. A man died because in a city of 1.4 million[7], many of them with hot food and warm beds to spare, no one saw it as their job (much less their duty) to save him. If that can happen, modern liberal society must be missing something crucial. But if you asked him if the ancien régime could have done a better job of protecting such people, he’d tell you the Bourbons were famous for failing in precisely this area. He’s no royalist. He’s… something else. The old dynasty just happens to be something he agrees with his peers on.

And yet, if you walk down a back alley in Marseille, Toulouse, or Bordeaux, or a smaller town in the Vendée or Poitou, you stand a chance of seeing a royalist message scrawled on a wall in chalk or charcoal. It’s usually just a “19” or an “XIX” with the Xs made to look as much like fleurs-de-lys as the artist can manage, referring to the regnal number of a theoretical future King Louis (deliberately ambiguous as to whether they mean Louis-Philippe in London or the king of Moldavia and Wallachia). Normally this would be dismissed as a few dumb young épateurs trying to shock their elders, and that’s probably all it is, but there’s a new wrinkle.

Until the past couple of years, the main counterargument to royalism (aside from “shut up or we’ll imprison you/fine you a large percentage of your net worth”) was that the last few French kings were completely worthless, every good decision they ever made was at the behest of some minister or other, and France still has plenty of ministers who can make decisions of equal or greater value without the king getting in the way. But if you look at the various younger French Bourbons, it seems like being dethroned and occasionally decapitated has knocked some sense into them.[8] By all reports, Louis-Philippe is a good teacher, his son Ferdinand d’Orleans is a good colonel, his other son Louis d’Orleans is a good captain, and François died like a hero. No one can say how Louis-Philippe or one of his surviving sons would do as kings… which is less than we can say about the Orleanist claimant and his brother. More on them later, but suffice to say the Orleanists are feeling very smug. (In secret, of course.)

Nobody can do anything about this. Royalist propaganda is as illegal as ever, but news from Louisiana or eastern Europe is perfectly legal. Guizot hates it more than anybody—the last thing he needs is for the rest of France to think they’re all still closet royalists.

Jacobin Party head François Arago, on the other hand, feels like this is exactly what he needs. Not only are they the smallest party, but they’re in danger of splitting on all sorts of issues. Working conditions. The right to organize. The right to education—which you wouldn’t think would be controversial, since secular education is one of the things Jacobins like best about modern France. It’s just that too many parents seem to want their children in those schools, not in the factories and mines. Their chief spokesperson is the radical Louis August Blanqui, brother to Dupont de l’Eure’s interior minister, Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui.

A split would be deadly for the Jacobins. The party gets its brawling strength from the working men and its money (and votes in the electoral system) from the wealthy traders and factory owners, and it needs both. But these days it seems like every issue pits the poor Jacobins against the rich. The way the system is set up, the rich Jacobins don’t need the votes of the poor, but as the rebellion ten years ago showed, you never know when you might need their muscle. And without the rich behind them, all those strong working men concentrated at the nerve centers of industry and power have no recourse but violence. And this isn’t even getting into the Dutch-speaking Jacobins in the north, the German-speaking Jacobins in Alsace and le pouce mayençais, and the Polish and Hungarian immigrants in the big cities, many of whom are actually very conservative in their views but support the Jacobins because they don’t feel like anybody else is willing to represent them.

The good news is that against royalism, the whole party stands united. Against the overweening demands of priests and nobles, likewise. Against what the Moniteur calls “antijudaism[9]”—hey, some of our best friends are Jews, and boy are we proud of it! Against increases in the price of bread… well, the poor Jacobins need to eat and the rich ones remember their history.

So this is definitely feeding the party. Whether it’s nourishment or empty calories, only history will be able to say.

If the parties in Paris are united on anything, it’s the war against China. Conservatives are aghast that those heathens would dare attack good Frenchmen, Liberals are aghast that anyone would dare get in the way of French commerce, and Jacobins never miss a chance to give a decrepit monarchy a good kick to the groin. This is an even worthier cause than keeping the Russians out of the Mediterranean and making friends in Macedonia.

Plus, all this will give the French armed forces a chance to see how good their navy really is, which is important. The British swear their mobile batteries are strictly defensive weapons, but the French can’t help but notice that they put a lot more British firepower in the Sleeve, where so much French commerce passes through. What makes it worse is that, with the advent of the screw propeller, the paddle-powered warships France worked so hard to build are now more or less obsolete. The only advantage of the paddles is that they let a ship turn in place, and that isn’t something you want to do on a regular basis—it puts enormous strain on the paddles, the engines, and the whole frame of the ship.

Luckily they already have engines. Refitting them for screws, while a nuisance, is not impossible, and removing the wheels will free up more room on board for the lovely new guns M. Paixhans has finally perfected.[10] And they know those guns work, because while the eyes of all Europe and the Near East were focused on the banks of the Danube this summer, a French warship equipped with a Paixhans bow chaser was escorting a merchantman when they were accosted by an Acehnese pirate fleet. One of the pirate ships was permitted to flee home and inform their brethren that French-flagged ships were henceforth to be avoided at all costs. Anyone shot at by a Paixhans gun will wish they were facing an American columbiad. Briefly.

Yes, in all fields and all aspects of science—theories, discoveries, practical applications—France is either leading the way or at least keeping pace with Britain and Hanover. One of the more jaw-dropping discoveries of the last five years came when scholars, after much debate, finally concluded that the fossils found in the Engis caves of northern France could only belong to an entirely new species of human—Homo engiensis[11], or Engis man. Extinct or not, that’s kind of a big deal.

Meanwhile, Évariste Galois has the whole French mathematical establishment exploring the possibilities of group theory, with help from the École Polytechnique’s new difference engine, while he himself maintains a long-range rivalry with the Norwegian-born mathematician Niels Henrik Abel in Hannover[12]. France is still the biggest producer of white phosphorus, although you do not want to see what happens to some of the people who make it—not every factory takes as many precautions as the Stablers’ plant in Martinsburg. On a somewhat safer note, Paris’s theaters have learned the use of limelight from London’s. Argentography is a new fad. Galvanized ironwork, shining silver instead of black, has become a status symbol on homes in the better neighborhoods of Paris and Anvers, and inside those houses are bespoke tapestries, drapes, curtains, and carpets woven by programmed looms. The telegraph grid has spread north to the coast and Waal and as far as Caen, Orleans, and Luxembourg, and in another few years it will, like the railroads, reach every corner of France.

But not every scientific discovery is wholeheartedly accepted. Young Richard Colin has come back to Bordeaux, and he’s come with a warning. He’s been to the Frescobaldi vineyards of Virginia, and he’s seen what happens when you try to grow French or Italian vinestock in New World soil. What happens is, they wither and die. The culprit, he’s found, is an insect almost too small to see, which he has given the name of Ampeloctona rhizepimola[13], the vine-murderer that invades the root.

There are ways around this. You can hybridize Vitis vinifera with the more resistant New World species. Grafting vinifera vines onto native rootstock works even better. The one thing that no one must ever, ever do is import vines from the New World, at least without carefully inspecting them for ampeloctona eggs.

So he’s been writing letters to everybody he can think of who might have some influence—the papers in every port city starting with Bordeaux itself, vine-growers, wine sellers, wine brokers, scientific journals, government officials in charge of imports, his Representative, even the Emperor himself. Some of these people have actually noticed, but not, curiously, the scientific establishment. Colin’s teachers remember him as a bright but argumentative young man who thought his own prosaic observations made him smarter than the great Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. Even at this early stage, where scientists are just starting to call themselves “scientists” instead of “natural philosophers,” when you meet a self-proclaimed scientist who thinks he knows better than the entire scientific community, there’s about a 90% chance he’s a crank. Sad to see a bright boy go down that road so early in his career, but he is only 21. There’s still time for him to make some real contributions, once he swallows his pride and admits how much he still has to learn.

But Colin keeps at it, because this is important. His family’s way of life and one of France’s most iconic and beloved industries are at stake. He has no way of knowing that he’s already too late.

[1] Her sister Agnese is seven years older and already married.
[2] Specifically, he was 62 years older than her and 35 years older than her mother.
[3] You can get a general idea of her appearance from the women in this painting.
[4] Among other things, Napoleon wants his dynasty to be patrons of the arts in France, so he needed somebody who knew at least as much about art and music as he did, and preferably more. Ippolita qualifies—she was sad when Green went home, cried literal tears when Paganini died, and is still hoping she can coax Rossini out of retirement.
[5] And why do I keep centering his feelings? Because he’s the emperor, that’s why.
[6] The Kerguelen Islands IOTL
[7] About half again as many as Paris IOTL. This France has a stronger economy.
[8] To Elmar’s way of thinking, of course, this just proves the Revolution and even the Terror were good for everyone, including the people they tried to kill.
[9] Which will end up being TTL’s official term for anti-Semitism
[10] IOTL the biggest problem Paixhans had was enough quality iron to build reliable guns. This is one more place where it helps TTL’s France to have OTL’s Belgium and its industry.
[11] Homo neanderthalensis IOTL
[12] Who also died young IOTL, although from tuberculosis rather than a duel
[13] IOTL it was first described as Phylloxera vastatrix
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