The Extra Girl: For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.

But in the alt-world's historiography, the Holy Roman Empire is regarded not as a horror story of useless complexity, it's treated the way we do medieval England, as a jewel-box wherein cherished bits of the modern world first originated. Teacher: "And town air was free air, the saying went." Class: "Ooohh."

And the good part is it isn't even historically inaccurate. The earlier HRE was somewhat functional, at least north of the Alps, it's more that it failed to change as the rest of the world did and wasted colossal efforts wrestling with the papacy.

I wonder, does the Habsburg empire endure long enough for Austria proper to end up outside the 2nd empire? I imagine it does since there's no mention of it in the flash forwards about Germany, but it's an interesting possibility because keeping the idea of continuity with the HRE means territorial claims like Bohemia, the low countries or Austria could make sense.
And the good part is it isn't even historically inaccurate. The earlier HRE was somewhat functional, at least north of the Alps, it's more that it failed to change as the rest of the world did and wasted colossal efforts wrestling with the papacy.

I wonder, does the Habsburg empire endure long enough for Austria proper to end up outside the 2nd empire? I imagine it does since there's no mention of it in the flash forwards about Germany, but it's an interesting possibility because keeping the idea of continuity with the HRE means territorial claims like Bohemia, the low countries or Austria could make sense.

Austria is one of the narratives I'm least happy with in the old timeline, and it is one of the ones most likely to dramatically change. In the end, I don't even want to say too much about it until we get past the First General War. I have ideas.

But one thing I feel confident saying is this: generally speaking, the Saxons don't want people in their club who don't want to be in it. And we go a good ways into the Second Empire before even Bavaria decides to come on board (you just saw in the monarchy update a bit of the horsetrading that had to happen to make that possible). But Habsburg Austria will not be terribly enthusiastic about joining a German Empire that's basically organized and run by the Protestant German princes with a Lutheran state church, even at its most liberal. And the First General War is going to destroy for a long time any pretense that Saxony and Austria can coexist in anything but the most distant relationship. There is going to be a lot of bad blood.
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You’re too hard on yourself. Think of the characters you created in the original. Ultimately, there’s only so much anyone can do, and it was still an epic story that covered a lot and with characters you made compelling.
The Life of the Elector Alexander of Saxony, 1569-1573

The execution of Johann Sylvan, from the Thesaurus Pictuarum

Olivia Rosen, Transformer: A Life of the Elector Alexander.

As 1569 opened, Alexander seemed, like his namesake, to go from victory to victory. The pest Flacius had been sent packing, and the pliable and discreet Andreae set in his place as doctrinal head of the Lutheran Church. The Johannines had been despoiled of much of their lands, and worse, their reputation darkened permanently. But perhaps most importantly, the tide of receipts of the Saxon state was now steadily rising. And it did not matter that there were still too many Wettin princes to support, or the lavish impulses which Maria Eleonora satisfied with fine objets of ivory, teak and mother of pearl. For now, there was more than enough funds to support it all.

Not since before the Reformation had Saxony been so secure, or its relations with the Emperor so close. All the same, Maximilian II's negotiations with the papacy over the reform of the church had gone nowhere, which was probably to be expected, and Maximilian II had begun to cleave a more conservative line on the religious question,which was also probably to be expected, as the possibility of the Spanish succession was dangled before him and his heirs. But matters between Maximilian and Alexander at their worst was still far superior to those between Charles and Friedrich at their best.

Of more pressing concern was the lingering animosity between the Elector and his immediate family, now enough to be called the Alexandrines, and the Johannines. That matters were still far from settled were illustrated when Johann Wilhelm, the ailing duke’s eldest son, directly informed Alexander that one Wilhelm von Grumbach, a knight with a history of involvement in conspiracies and rebellions trailing all the way back the Peasant’s War, and who had fought against Friedrich IV as a lieutenant of Albert Alcibiades during the Spanish War, had attempted to involve Johann Wilhelm and his brothers in an attempt to seize power from Alexander. This would have happened partly by making use of disaffected followers of Matthias Flacius in the Lutheran Church.

Now, the way in which Johann Wilhelm was informing Alexander of this made plain that as far as he was concerned, Grumbach was most likely in the employ of Alexander for the purpose of entrapment, a belief Alexander vehemently denied. Apparently according to Johann Wilhelm's testimony the elector, the electress, their children and loyal guards were to be seized on the way to the castle at Altenburg in the winter of 1570, and killed. The Elector thanked Wilhelm for his honesty with money and estates, and in January 1570 Grumbach was executed for his plot.

Whatever the episode did, even as an ostentatious show of loyalty, it accomplished little to mend the wounded trust between the Alexandrine and Johannine Wettins.

Then in 1570, Alexander, arriving at the Diet of Speyer, was blindsided by a proposal of the Emperor Maximilian's to radically restrict printing in Germany to imperial cities and towns with universities. He took this as a direct attack on this prosperous, important and politically crucial Saxon industry. For the first time he stood firm against Maximilian, and calling this attack on the chief means for the transmission of Protestant belief what it was, made common cause with the other Protestant states in opposing it. Surprised by Alexander's resolve on the point, Maximilian backed down. Then Alexander smoothed matters over with a generous grant of assistance to the Habsburg East for defense against the Turks.

For his part, Maximilian was concerned about the influx of soldiers from the German Protestant states into the Netherlands. He called on the diet to give him resources to stem what he called the abuses of these soldiers as they traveled through Germany, and to require anyone not a territorial prince recruiting soldiers in his own territory to have the emperor's permission. This, of course, would starve the Protestant cause in the Netherlands of its supply of German soldiers.

The Johannines in particular had been robust in their support for the Dutch revolt against Habsburg power, while Alexander, not wanting to unduly complicate matters with Maximilian had begged off. But simultaneously, Alexander knew if he sided with the Emperor against the Dutch and their efforts to recruit soldiers, it would greatly weaken his prestige among the more devout and energetic Lutherans, who still eyed him with suspicion. And Alexander was not blind to the significance that the Flacian movement towards orthodox Lutheranism and a darker conception of human nature was becoming soldered to political support for the Johannines.

On these matters Alexander was able to weaken the language, so that the diet passed hortatory suggestions that soldiers in foreign service on their way to and from their battlefields should not abuse the people of the lands through which they passed, and suggested more oversight would be better, without actually imposing penalties or creating any new legal requirements on either the soldiers or the powers recruiting them. All it took for him to accomplish this, really, is to remind the diet how lucrative the military trade was for the commons of the empire, how all benefited from it, and how they would not want to create barriers that one day might prevent German soldiers from coming to the aid of a German state.

Alexander was also unhappy with other business conducted at Speyer, most especially the abdication of the Protestant Hungarian king John Zapolya in favor of Maximilian. Thus that rarest of creatures in Europe, a Protestant king, was replaced with a Catholic one, albeit one whose spiritual direction seemed as changeable as a weathervane. Alexander began to realize his own alignment, with Maximilian, might itself have to change, as Maximilian kept adopting, purely coincidentally, he was told, policies that disadvantaged Protestants, dispossessed them, and impeded their actions in defense of Protestantism abroad. Watching Hungary slide into the Habsburg camp at Speyer, he began to consider that Saxony required a real political strategy with respect to the lands outside the empire, and in particular those to the east.

Suddenly Uncle Johann's fondness for the angry Dutchmen began to seem like something more than nostalgia for the derring-do of his youth.

Thus unsettled by his experience in Speyer, Alexander returned to Saxony to greet his new son, Maria Eleonora having been pregnant once again when he left. Realizing his lack of a military reputation was a weight upon his tenure, and remembering the thrill his name brought to Saxony in his childhood, Alexander named the young prince Mark Anton.

In general, one of the great themes of the first decade of Alexander's reign was his manifest disinterest in the religious affairs that had so fascinated his father. It was unavoidable that these themes touch on the exercise of his power and the safety of his realm, and when they did Alexander brought to bear all the interest that was necessary. In their own right, however, they awakened no spark in him. However, this was beginning gradually to change, not due to some newfound enthusiasm so much as the grim realization that certain lingering problems would not go away on their own, and if ignored might create crises.

Thus Alexander surprised many in 1571 by writing to the Elector Palatine begging for mercy on behalf of a Lutheran minister who, having been assigned the refutation of anti-trinitarian doctrines, had found himself convinced of their truthfulness and himself written an anti-trinitarian work, Johann Sylvan. Alexander was careful not to implicate himself in any support for Sylvan's teachings, but rather argued in the memorable phrase that "an error in ink cannot be corrected by a spill of blood."

Even though Sylvan had now recanted his anti-trinitarian work, the death penalty had been passed on him. The Elector Palatine took no action at Alexander’s behest. In a second letter, Alexander posed to the Elector Palatine a much more piquant formulation: if executions were to be meted out for theological non-conformity to the state creed, what penalty would Friedrich III of the Palatinate recommend Alexander of Saxony impose upon Friedrich's co-religionists in Saxony? The threat now made plain, Friedrich relented and Sylvan released into Saxony on the promise that he neither write nor preach again.

Though Friedrich IV had established abundant precedent for the idea that the Saxon electors would agitate for the freedom of believers in doctrines they did not share, Alexander’s efforts on behalf of Sylvan caught everyone’s notice. This was Saxony’s elector exposing himself to charges of supporting the dissemination of anti-trinitarian thinking, a set of ideas so outre that even the Calvinists felt obligated to execute their supporters. Thinking the fact of Sylvan’s membership in the Lutheran Church would mean he might finally win some credibility as a defender of Lutheranism, Alexander found himself disappointed. Instead, he was roundly condemned as a friend of heretics. The whole situation was made far worse in 1572 when it was discovered that though Sylvan was supposed to be held in Saxony and prevented from proselytizing his beliefs, he had slipped out of Alexander’s territories and made his way to Transylvania, which had become something of a sanctuary for anti-trinitarians. Alexander was humiliated.

Today, the Sylvan episode is actually a cornerstone of Alexander's historical reputation, and an important moment in the evolution of freedom of religion in the west. In the lifetime even of his successor, Alexander's effort was recognized as not merely magnanimous but politically useful. But in its time, it was almost wholly and entirely seen as an unforced error, and a lapse into imbecility by a prince who until then had cultivated a reputation as a keen political wit.

Of course, in absolute terms, all this mattered very little. Matters with the empire and the emperor were stable, with Maximilian II as eager to not provoke Saxony as Alexander was not to provoke the Habsburgs. The inflows of tax money and profits from the state enterprises continued their increase. Alexander now contemplated building a renaissance palace in the grand style, something truly comparable to the glamorous palaces he had seen in his boyhood at the Habsburg court and his visit to England. Towards that purpose he finally set aside Friedrich IV’s plans for Schloss Moritzburg in favor of a new construction on the right bank of the Elbe.

Instead, Alexander now began considering a building site near where the Elster River flows into the Elbe, the idea being to use the fresher flow from the Elster as the water source, and the Elbe as the means of transport to Wittenberg, Torgau or Dresden. And rather than the seclusion of Moritzburg, this palace would front the river that was the main thoroughfare of Saxony, making a public statement of its prince’s wealth and power.

But as Alexander toyed with his plans, there was the sense, in his letters, and in those of Julius of Braunschweig's, of shadows lengthening around him. In truth, the Grumbach plot had been no snare he had set for his cousin. The proposed ambush and slaughter, at the location in the mountains of Thuringia Johann Wilhelm had described, would have been only too likely to have succeeded, had Johann Wilhelm not come forward for whatever reason, but instead gone ahead with the conspiracy.

Thus the initial discovery of the conspiracy had left Alexander, bluff and flinty as always before his court, in private so shaken as to be almost inconsolable. Everywhere it seemed Alexander turned, he saw where all his efforts to turn enemies into friends had left him with new friends he could not trust, or old friends who did not trust him. Friedrich IV had led a career that seemed to spurn the very idea of security, and taken enormous risks almost thoughtlessly. And for all that, Friedrich had seemed to walk between the raindrops. Whereas for Alexander, security was almost his whole preoccupation, with his constant effort to placate the Imperials, maintain cordiality with the Calvinists, reassure and preserve the loyalties to him among the Lutherans, seemed less secure, the more he did.

Even Alexander knew his desire to please the wishes of parties with so wildly and directly contradictory a set of interests would inevitably require him to make hard choices. And with that, the time in which his greatest concern was where to put the new palace would come to an end. The age of untroubled victories was reaching its close.
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You’re too hard on yourself. Think of the characters you created in the original. Ultimately, there’s only so much anyone can do, and it was still an epic story that covered a lot and with characters you made compelling.

Thank you so much! Hopefully we can preserve that epic feel while at the same time going into greater detail, and making a stronger case for the plausibility of these events.

Jean Roque, Map of the Kingdom of Ireland, 1794

Seven Surprising Facts About the Kingdom of Ireland

1. Did you know that Ireland and England have the same head of state? From its foundation in 1542, the Kingdom of Ireland has had the same monarch as the Kingdom of England. However, it reveals much about the power relationship involved in the original situation that the Kings and Queens of Ireland as such have never had their own numbering, so that for instance Henry VIII, though technically the first king of Ireland, was not Henry I in that capacity.

2. Though the same monarch rules both countries, he or she does not have the same constitutional roles or powers in both. Long-term reform movements have eroded much of the king or queen's power in Ireland, so that now whereas the present King of England has the power of royal assent and a robust role in the political process, the only power remaining to the present King of Ireland is the power to call elections at a time of his choosing, but with any royal involvement in the promotion of candidates, positions, or views strictly prohibited.

3. Historically, the King or Queen of Ireland has been viewed as a check on Ireland's democratic institutions to prevent the abuse of, or preserve the privileges of, depending on one's point of view, the island's Protestants, which currently constitutes approximately one-third of the kingdom's population. Over time though, as religious division on the island became subordinated to other issues, the monarch's powers, seen as anachronistic to a modern society, have been chipped away.

4. The so-called Irish Settlement is deeply implicated in the evolution of English constitutional norms, itself. In the 18th century, England and Ireland's last Catholic monarch, Elizabeth II, undertook the project of throwing off Poynings' Law and other limitations on the powers of the Irish Parliament that kept it subordinate to the English. She traded curbs on her own power and those of her successors as Kings and Queens of England for the passage of measures, unpopular in England, repealing these limitations on the Irish Parliament. She then presided over the beginning of a gradual political emancipation of Catholics in Ireland. This was the other side of her famous double-trade: the Irish Parliament could have its powers back from the English by means of her intervention, if it was willing to concede rights to Catholics meeting certain property requirements.

5. Before Elizabeth II, the only monarch ever crowned in Ireland was the pretender Lambert Simnel, who was crowned in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral as "Edward VI" in 1487.

6. Today, there is little practical significance to England and Ireland having the same monarch. Among them, however, is that neither country can declare war on the other.

7. In recent centuries the Brandons have sunk enormous resources into charitable works and other efforts to maintain their popularity in Ireland, particularly among the Catholics, including one ill-advised effort by a recent monarch to learn the Irish language, which ended in a public relations disaster. The tenuousness of their position as Protestant monarchs of a Catholic country has also led them to avoid controversy however possible, meekly support efforts to restrain their royal power and the burden they impose on Ireland's taxpayers, and apologize profusely for abuses from earlier in the dynasty's reign over the island. That said, there is a newly vibrant anti-monarchical movement in Ireland, All-Democracy. While it has the support of a majority of Catholics, Protestants on the island, while also divided, are more generally Retentionist.
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Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Duchess of Saxony, wife of Johann Friedrich II, at their monument in the Moritzkirche in Coburg, as Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Duchess of Saxony, wife Johann Georg, at her monument in the Neustadtkirche in Wittenberg.

Greta Saperstein, "The Wars Within"

On the surface, the intra-familial tensions that had roiled the House of Wettin for a decade seemed calm in the years immediately following Duke Johann's death. To a surprising extent, the Black Plot of Meissen and the ordeal of Johann Heinrich following it, seemed forgotten. It was as if the families just went on.

From 1571, the senior Johannine house was that of the eldest son, Duke Johann Wilhelm, and Anna of Denmark. Their eldest surviving child, Maria, born in 1558, was fast approaching the age at which she would be expected to find an appropriate match for a husband. Magnus, borh in 1563, was also healthy. However, Christian, who had been born in 1565, had died in 1568. But Anna had bore her duke the prince August in 1569, and prince Joachim in 1571, followed by the princess Dorothea in 1572. Dorothea died before a year old, but was followed by Anna the younger in 1573 and Hector in 1575, both of whom were healthy.

For its part, before its apparent ruin, the family of Johann Heinrich and his wife Agnes of Hesse had been blessed with a son, Philip, born in 1563, and daughters Magdalena and Sybilla, in 1566 and 1567. Of these, Magdalena had died in 1570. By 1572 Agnes, having previously been married to the Duke Moritz, was forty, and was not expected to bear any more children.

As to Johann's youngest son, Johann Georg, his marriage to Elisabeth of the Palatinate had proved bitter, but Elisabeth bore him Maria in 1565, Anna in 1567, Christina in 1568 and Eleonora in 1570. Of these, Maria died the year after she was born, and Eleonora lived nine days.

In the electoral household, however, the Elector's three surviving children Mark Anton, Elisabeth and Margarethe were joined by Friedrich in 1570, Katarina in 1571 and in 1572, Johanna. Though ostensibly named after the recently deceased duke, many believed Alexander had named after Johanna after Jane Dudley, and in the nastier broadsheets, after John Calvin. Margarethe and Katarina both died in 1573.

Finally, in 1573, the putative Queen Katherine of England, also sometime Duchess of Suffolk, also the Princess Katarina, aunt of the Elector, reached the end of a sad, unhappy life at her house in Wittenberg. Katarina was the last of the children of Johann the Steadfast and Elizabeth of England, and with her passing the sole survivor among that generation of Ernestine Wettins was Alexander's mother, the Electress Dorothea.

It was immediately after the families dispersed following Katarina's funeral that reports began to reach Alexander that the religious settlement of his father the Elector Friedrich was being ignored wholesale in the Johannine lands. It was not just that the Stranger's Law and its protections to the churches of new arrivals to Saxony that was being abrogated by the authorities. The Stranger's Law, remember, was not a catch-all, but a narrow rule applicable only to immigrants who brought their church with them into Saxony.

Instead, Protestant non-Lutheran churches were being actively suppressed regardless of whether their congregations were native Saxons, or for example, French Huguenots. Preachers and others found organizing these churches, especially when they were found to hold "beliefs about the Lord's Supper repugnant to Christian decency", were being held. Moreover, some were apparently being tortured into recanting their faith.

Hearing this, Alexander flew into a rage. Stealthily, he began organizing what would be his first military campaign, which would aim at nothing less than the final displacement of the Johannine Wettins from their lands. It was odd in the middle of these preparations that Maria Eleonora received as a visitor Elisabeth, wife of the Duke Johann Georg, while she was in Coburg. Maria Eleonora soon realized the Duchess Elisabeth was conspiring to get the two of themselves alone, to no avail. Making use of the pretext of a search for a lost emerald ring, she stole a few minutes alone with Elisabeth.

What Elisabeth explained was that the offenses against which Alexander was raising his army were in fact part of a stratagem. The Johannines understood that, odd as it may seem, this Catholic Emperor, Maximilian II, would intervene to support this Lutheran Elector, Alexander. And they understood as well, just as odd as it may seem, this Lutheran Elector would defend the rights of his Calvinist subjects. But they understood also that the one issue over which the Catholic Emperor would not intervene in favor of the Lutheran Elector would be that Lutheran Elector's grant of rights to those Calvinists in clear contravention of the conclusions of the 1554 Diet of Augsburg. This was the one issue on which Alexander's great ally not only would rather let him fall rather than save him, but that he would have to, or else face the deep displeasure of his own family, nobility and advisors.

Likewise, that Alexander would make war against his fellow Lutherans, and bring violence to the land, to defend those who most Saxons held as being heretics and defilers of the Eucharist would provoke the Estates to act in favor of the Johannine claim. The Estates could not resettle the succession of Saxony on their own, but could create a significant enough dispute as to force the emperor to intervene, with the Johannines believing that under the circumstances, he would be forced to side with them in order to extinguish the Calvinists.

Maria Eleonora was so taken aback by the severity of the situation she wrote the elector immediately, and fearing the Johannines would follow, intercept and kill any liveried messenger, sent for one of the town lawyers to take down what she referred to as a complaint about one of the children's ponies which had taken lame and had to be put down. Shocked to read what she had actually written, and empowered by her writing to go to Wittenberg with all speed, he left immediately. The Elector Alexander was less than a week from beginning his campaign against the Johannines when the letter from Maria Eleonora relating the situation arrived. Alarmed that he had come so close to walking into the trap the Johannines had set for him, Alexander sent for Julius, and together they reluctantly agreed they could not act at the moment to vindicate the Elector Friedrich's laws with respect to religion.

If it was a crushing disappointment for Alexander, seeing his cousins flout his laws with impunity, it was better than running a serious risk of losing the electoral dignity.

It was actually discovered after the death of Elisabeth's father, the Calvinist Elector Palatine Friedrich III, that she had managed to discreetly write him an account of all these transactions so that he could then inform the Elector Alexander of the plot against him. However, Friedrich refused to forward the information on the grounds that he did not want to discourage Alexander from acting to protect the Calvinists of Saxony.

Elisabeth had just come to believe she was pregnant when she paid her call upon Maria Eleonora, and allowed that fact to assuage any doubts as to whether her divulging the Johannines' secrets to Maria Eleonora might expose her to danger. Elisabeth believed that, even if Johann Georg might undertake some violence against the mother of his children, he would not endanger the womb that might be bearing the son he had still not yet had.

In February 1574, Elisabeth gave birth to another girl, Amalia. Her death soon after was recorded as the result of child-bed fever, though there were no direct reports of her suffering those symptoms. For his part, Alexander believed now he finally understood the origins of the plots against him from within the Johannines. For years he had believed it was Anna of Saxony acting through Johann Wilhelm. However, Elisabeth's relation of the conspiracy, and her quick dispatch afterwards, made him believe that only Johann Georg could be the chief plotter.

And yet, on the surface, matters proceeded as usual. Elisabeth was buried with all the dignity due a Duchess of Saxony. Johann Georg for his part wasted no time requesting that Alexander give him the leeway and resources to negotiate a new match, perhaps with the Vasas, the royal house of Sweden. And yet all throughout the Johannine lands of Saxony, the Sacramentarian churches still burned, and the Calvinist preachers were led away howling into the night.
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Frans_Pourbus_(I)_Gesellschaft_im_Freien (1).jpg

Francis Pourbus, Merry Company

Clarence Kee, Lecture, September 27, 2006

So, our subject matter today requires me to deal first with a bit of imperial statecraft, then Saxon economic history, and finally, Saxon political history. In short, we are not going to be staying in any one lane today. Not least because the people we will be dealing with were not staying in their lanes either. They were, in fact, all over the road. Which accounts for a number of the fiery crashes in the material we will be shortly discussing.

In December 1575, Jakub Uchanski, Archbishop of Gniezno, and by virtue of that office interrex of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, declared Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II king. Uchanski had some reformist and Protestant sympathies, and it is entirely possible these constituted one reason for his choice of Maximilian to lead the sprawling, complex Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, Uchanski's office of interrex under the Polish-Lithuanian constitution gave him no personal power to select a new king, and quickly a counter-movement began among the Polish szlachta to elect a different candidate, Stephan Bathory, king of Hungary.

Maximilian understood that seizing the Polish throne would greatly expand Habsburg power in Europe, especially if the Habsburgs could render its elections as perfunctory as they had those of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire. Immediately, he began organizing an army to seize Poland-Lithuania by force. Financing this army would be difficult, given the Habsburgs' increasingly dodgy history of loan repayment. So for this purpose Maximilian turned to the Elector Alexander, both for the use of the Saxon army and for loans to float the whole enterprise until he could lay hold of Polish-Lithuanian tax money.

It has to be said, initially Alexander did not look with enthusiasm on any part of this. So the response Maximilian received back was essentially no small amount of hemming and hawing. At this point Maximilian signaled he was willing to undertake a more serious negotiation. Alexander's counter-offer, which was designed to placate domestic religious discomfort with his accommodation of Calvinists and Jews, was that he would provide the direct military assistance, and the loans, Maximilian requested, at an extremely favorable interest rate, with a sizable one-time penalty payment (in addition to the repayment of the principal) in the event of a negotiated settlement that left Maximilian with anything short of the actual Polish-Lithuanian crown, and most importantly, a guarantee of freedom of worship to Lutherans within Polish-Lithuanian territory cognate with the settlement of the Augsburg Diet of 1554.

Moreover, additional negotiations secured a further term Alexander desired: in return for these loans to Maximilian, Maximilian and the imperial courts over which he held influence would look the other way in the event of any confrontation between Alexander and the Johannine dukes who were proving so vexing to him, regardless of the issue or the quality of the provocation. Alexander had specified complete leeway, and that was what he was promised by Maximilian II.

Never let it be said that our Alexander did not know how to do business. If Maximilian's plan had gone forward, and the Imperial army had defeated Bathory, Saxony would have received extremely generous compensation and Lutheranism would be free to expand eastward unimpeded to the very borders of Muscovy. And there was no doubt, as far as anyone was concerned, that Maximilian could defeat Bathory, especially fighting alongside the Saxony army. If the Saxon force was now untested and a good thirty years from its glory days of Kreuzberg, it was also in much better shape than it had been at the start of Alexander's reign. And Uchanski was making grand promises of enthusiastic Polish support for Maximilian. It was, all told, a no-lose situation.

Except that Maximilian died in October 1576, just as he was about to leave with his army to go take that crown. Immediately, Alexander began writing letters to Maximilian's heir Rudolf, King of the Romans, demanding to know his intent going forward, and more importantly, the fate of Saxony's money. Rudolf was disinterested in making his father's cause his own. Maximilian's second son Ernst, had previously been a candidate for the throne of Poland-Lithuania in 1572 but was absolutely unwilling to make the same assurances about the toleration of Lutheranism Maximilian had. Maximilian's third son, Matthias, was deeply involved in the disputes around the Netherlands and could not be prevailed upon to attend to the Polish-Lithuanian matter in a timely way.

So, the Saxon army raised to help install Maximilian was released. And the vast sum lent to the enterprise went, somewhere.

Alexander was now getting the treatment of creditors from time immemorial. And all this may have been just another hard-earned lesson about risk, except for the crisis of the Saxon lending societies. Excuse us as we now change lanes.

You will recall that Friedrich IV had established a state monopoly on lending for interest, and that as soon as Alexander took over from his uncle's regency he reformed that system by introducing a regime of licensed private lenders which did not replace, but supplemented, the state system. Simple human greed being what it is, fifteen years later Saxony already had the tin-cup and string equivalent to a modern central bank. Generally speaking, safer, low risk loans, loans secured by property, and loans to fund economic activity particularly advantageous to the state could deal with the state and pay little, or even no, interest. Riskier, less reputable, unsecured loans, especially those involving long distance trade, were relegated to the private lenders, who were compensated for the danger they perpetually lived in with extraordinary profits.

What cannot be overstated is how in reality this was one, interdependent, system. The zweitemaenner, the private financiers, themselves received loans from the state, ostensibly for less risky transactions, and essentially sold the money on at higher rates of interest. Though Alexander's bureaucrats made a brave stab at financial regulation, it was impossible to track how loan proceeds were spent, and so inevitably some of the worthy projects for which the Chancellor Julius sought such easy terms went undone, while the proceeds to finish it were financing traders out of Hamburg or Amsterdam.

In fact, in 1575, just as Alexander was rounding up the coin to give to the Emperor Maximilian to win the throne of Poland-Lithuania, Julius of Braunschweig, thrilled with the results of his previous program of essentially free loans to open mines and metal-working shops, expanded it to the construction of bridges, barges and roads, in the hopes that the state could effectively encourage private entrepreneurs to create an infrastructure that would amplify commerce.

Thus likewise, the problem cannot be overstated when the Saxon state could not fulfill its role as primary creditor to the Saxon economy in 1576-7. The Huguenot glass-makers, lace-makers and other tradesmen of Wittenberg had always been commercially sophisticated, relying on credit for their materials, up-front, with their inventories and their stream of income from the finished goods their collateral. With their source of cheap capital gone, they faced the choice of either prohibitively high rates of interest on the private market or stopping business. Similar arrangements were common in the mining industry, which required huge outlays for wood, tools and miners' wages. Even farmers, in particular the astute new arrivals from France and the low countries, had ceased to merely hold some of their harvest back from the previous year for the next, but bought some of their seeds commercially. Now they too faced the consequences of dislocation.

Then, as in every crash, flaws and frauds that initially had nothing to do with the immediate particular crisis lay revealed. Much had been made of the property-registries, which allowed lenders to identify and verify that borrowers held the collateral to secure the loans they sought. Now, as collateral started to be claimed by lenders eager to avoid their own insolvency, it stood revealed that the registries had never been coordinated against each other. One house in Freiburg had been promised as collateral in the books of nine different Saxon towns. Loosely worded descriptions had also allowed houses, shops and farms to be promised to multiple lenders. Sometimes, in extreme circumstances, creditors arrived to take possession of a farm or business promised as collateral and found only the wall of trees of an unspoiled wilderness, no one having ventured to verify anything was actually there.

Sometimes, these disappointments were the result of fraud, collusion and cozy arrangements between borrowers and the local officials charged with maintaining the records, but more frequently it was the result of these bureaucrats not understanding the purpose of the system for which they worked, or the consequences of it not working properly. And to an astonishing degree they had been subject to the same pressures that afflicts all such gatekeepers in times of prosperity: everyone wanted the transactions to go through, even with certain imperfections that would most likely never matter anyway, than to see the flow of money stopped due to "a technicality."

And so, for all these reasons, when the initial flow of credit from the Saxon state stopped, that created something of a problem; when that flow in turn disrupted the economic activity on which all debt repayment depended it made something of a more serious problem; and when that disruption in turn fed back into the private lenders and began to dry up their sources of income, it created a still worse problem. But it was when the state, and the private lenders, facing the first such crisis of its kind they had ever experienced, went looking for the collateral that would be promised them in the event default and found it either was not there, was not what they thought it was, or had been promised some fifteen different ways to secure loans totaling some forty times its actual value, was when problem became absolute biblical-scale catastrophe.

And so, now we change lanes again.

The Elector Alexander and the Chancellor Julius had always maintained a set of agreed-upon courses of action for dire emergencies. Most of these involved some permutation of the crisis at the start of the Spanish War, some climactic blood-feud with the Johannines, or, always a possibility, a New Peasants' War. None of them involved anything like what the Saxon government now faced. In fact, the most common state prescription for the closest thing to just this situation, was a default on a debt to an external creditor. This was what Spain did all the time, for which Spain was facing ever stricter terms and ever higher interest on its debt. But remember, default is a remedy to a borrower, and Saxony was a creditor-state. It was not making good its payments because it was not getting paid the debts due it. Defaulting outright would only make matters worse, and would introduce a level of distrust into the system that would be not just expensive in terms of the higher interest rates, but toxic to the arrangements that had allowed the prosperity of the twenty years since the Augsburg Diet to transform the country.

Moreover, Alexander feared that if Saxony's homegrown private lenders were forced to sell their portfolios, they might do so, at steep discounts, at that, to external financial interests from Augsburg, Regensburg or even Italy, which would leave Saxony and its people beholden to foreign lenders. Thus the system which had been started ostensibly partly to keep interest payments from flowing outside the country would now be used to do precisely that.

So what Alexander needed to do was to raise an enormous amount of money very quickly. He had spent through a prodigious amount of his treasury in the early days of the crisis, covering loans and making good on contractual promises undertaken when the economy was fine and a Habsburg Poland seemed like a sure thing. So he now faced extraordinary needs with depleted resources. Now, while he did not reduce himself to, say, selling the Electress Maria Eleonora's collection of table-clocks, in all honesty he did not possess in terms of even his own movables the property able to assuage a crisis of this magnitude. The only resources the elector really had of sufficient scale to solve matters on their own was his lands, and as this was the key to his actual control of Saxony, and as his relationship with his cousins the Johannines was as venomous right now as they could possibly get, he was not going to go near the concept of alienating his patrimony.

Instead, Alexander in June 1577 decided he would call the Saxon Estates and ask them for a one-time, extraordinary loan that would itself be paid back piece-meal over ten years. Of course many in the estates were now themselves economically hurting due to this extraordinary situation, and some had even lost homes and livelihoods to the now-hated zweitemaenner as collateral was seized over bad loans.

But seriously, Alexander thought, how bad could it be?

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More excellent updates! It seems Ireland is going to get a somewhat easier time of it than OTL.

Well, everything up until around 250 years ago is still going to be pretty rough. And as to how we get that particular monarch, it's going to be a fun, and eventful, story.

"Well, the old man won't be around for too much longer. And as to the girl, she seems tractable enough."
"Wait, is that a...a rosary?"
To His Most Serene Highness, ALEXANDER, Archmarshal of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Elector, Duke of Saxony, Landgrave of Thuringia, Margrave of Meissen, Burgrave of Magdeburg, Prince Defender Supreme of the Original and True Christian Church as Revived and Preserved by MARTIN LUTHER, and Prince Defender of the Appended Realms of Magdeburg, Erfurt, Etc.:

WE, your most humble and respectful subjects, having gathered faithfully at your call, and convened thereby as the Estates of Saxony, are pleased to convey to Your Most Serene Highness that we have received and understood your request for an extraordinary indemnity, and understood as well the urgency with which you would have it surrendered unto you, for the purpose of the deliverance of the nation from its present troubles. And receiving it and understanding it, with hearts filled with love of our country and grief over its abasement, we cannot but comply, and make ready unto you the requested sum in full, just as we would at your request surrender life and limb for the well-being and revival of our beloved home. Towards that purpose, please advise us as to the completion of the acts most humbly requested of you herebelow, so that we may with utmost speed collect and disburse to you all that you require, and serve you in these, as in all, matters, as best as we can, until God grants us relief from the cares of this world, as the opportunity of service to Your Most Serene Highness is all that we would ask of this life, and the chance to make good your wishes is now as always, our every pleasure.

1. That the Impious and Perfidious Jews Be Expelled from Saxony, as from All Lands Your Authority Reaches, in whatever capacity; on Penalty of Death beyond their Remaining One Year and One Day from This Humble Instrument coming into your hand; that their Properties be Surrendered, their Movables Seized, and their Wealth Confiscated, and used towards the Relief of Poor Good Christians.

2. That the Christian Church, which is to say, that Church cleansed of Paganism and Godless Ways by the one MARTIN LUTHER, and Made Fit by his Doctrines, and Recognizing those Doctrines in their Absolute Entirety; be Recognized as the only Church in Saxony; that all False Churches be closed; their Proponents seized and cast out; the Books and Papers marred by the Lies issuing from These and Other False Doctrines, Destroyed; and Most Especially that Any Agents of that Most Loathsome Tyranny, Seeking to Return us to Ignorance and to the Subjection to Rome, be Cast Out and Destroyed Utterly by Whatsoever Means; and That No Longer than One Year and One Day from This Humble Instrument coming into your hand, You Will Assure Us No False Churches, No Proponents of Such Vile Error, and No Popish Agents Remain in These Lands.

3. That the Government of the One True Christian Church of Saxony be Taken Out of the Hands of the Unworthy Fellows in which it has been Placed, and Restored to the Holy And Learned Doctor, MATHIAS FLACIUS; or Failing Him, Some Worthy Professor, as He May Appoint to us by Letter. [1]

4. That Their Most Serene Highnesses, the Dukes MARK ANTON and FRIEDRICH, be placed into the care of Such Christian Gentlemen as We May Hereafter Appoint; so that Their Highnesses' Education may be overseen and guaranteed in the One True Christian Church, free from Error, Superstition and Ignorance, as the Well-Being of these Most-Beloved Lords, Both Spiritual and Earthly, is Our Every Wish.

5. That the lands formerly seized from His Most Serene Highness, JOHANN HEINRICH, Duke of Saxony, be Restored to Him; That a Full and Honest Account of any Crimes Laid Against Him be Put Forward By Any Person Whosoever So Accusing; That These Estates Shall Henceforth Review Such Indictments, and in Our Discretion Judging the Sufficiency of Such Charges, Will Hold a Trial; But That the Loss of No Lands, or Titles, or Any Other Penalties, Shall be Laid Against His Most Serene Highness the DUKE but With Our Approval Meeting As These Estates; and That The Absence of Any Stated Charges Against the Said Good Duke by Such Time as We Recess Shall Be Taken as His Exoneration from Any Crime Herebefore Committed By His Most Serene Highness.

6. That No Loans Shall Be Made Within the Lands of Saxony But With a Rate of Increase Less than 8 Parts Per Hundred Per Year; That No other Fees May Be Charged by a Lender to a Borrower That Would Increase the Total Debt Chargeable Against the Borrower to a Sum That if it were Interest Would Violate This Rule; Excepting Penalties for Non-payment on a Date Certain, or For a Failure to Perform the Indenture of the Loan As Otherwise Agreed; That This Measure Shall Be Enacted as the Law of Saxony and In Effect No Later Than One Year and One Day From This Instrument Coming to Your Hand.

7. That His Most Serene Highness JULIUS OF BRAUNSCHWEIG be Turned From All Office in This Land, Expelled from Saxony, Evicted from any Estates Held By Him Herein, and Made to Return to His Own Country, and There Live By Means of His Own People; and That This Shall Enter Into Effect Immediately Upon Your Receipt of This Instrument.

8. That Your Most Serene Highness Graciously Receive The Body of Three Representatives We Will Shortly Name to Apprise Us of Your Progress in Making Good These Requests, Thereby Allowing Us to Forthwith Comply With Your Request for the Unique Indemnity We Freely Give to You Hereabove in This Instrument; and That Your Most Serene Highness Make Known to Them at Their Stated Desire, Written or By Mouth, All Information Necessary For Them to Inform Us of Said Compliance; and that Your Most Serene Highness Undertake No Correspondence With Other Princes of the Empire But By Their Witness and Full Worshipful Knowledge.

May God Grant You Health, Long Life, and Salvation by His Hand,

Your Most True and Faithful Subjects

[1] By the October 1577 meeting of the Estates of Saxony, Matthias Flacius was already dead. It is believed this was not general knowledge at the time of the drafting of the Estates' Letter of Obeisance in December. However, one possibility that has been held out is that some certain parties had procured, whether written by Flacius in actuality or not, a letter naming specific persons with his signature, and hoped thereby to gain approval for those persons to take the reigns of the Lutheran Church in Saxony.

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That list of demands makes it look like the cure is worse than the disease. No way does a ruler in that era, no matter the circumstance, take kindly to it. At best the bearer of these demands gets sent back with the wounds from the whipping he received covered in salt, and for good measure the Johann’s loose everything. Especially since the Habsburgs co-signed that last part and received payment.

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, by Adrian de Vries

Sigismunda Killinger, Lecture Record, March 1, 1999 Charpentier-Synthtranslate Edition.


[Written on the smartslate behind her:] "Kill them all, and save yourself"

The Wartburg was an odd place for Alexander's court to be holed up for Christmas, 1577. This was an elector who considered rule to be a public act, who missed no chance to put himself on display, and who wanted nothing more than to finally build on the banks of the Elbe a place from which he could rule properly according to these standards. And yet there he was, in the woods of Thuringia, hiding at the rural abode that had sheltered Martin Luther in his guise as Junker Georg, and served as a place of exile for the uncompromising Electress Elizabeth of England, with dated furnishings and rustic company.

One might think it a proper choice then, for a prince under siege from his own people, hoping to rally his spirits. But in fact it was chosen by Julius because its distance from Wittenberg, where the Estates were meeting, would permit messengers to sufficiently outrun an army to give them sufficient notice to quit the castle and flee the realm if they needed to, and because its sprawling hunting lands would provide ample cover to allow the Elector's household to vanish and then reappear on the roads some ways far distant. The old tricks were still the best ones.

Gathered there were Alexander, his wife the Electress Maria Eleonora, who was again with child, all their children, his mother the Electress Dorothea, his cousin Jane Dudley, her children, and Julius of Braunschweig. To even Julius, this awkward agglomeration of highborn women, babies and servants seemed "more nursery than court." When what would become known later as the Letter of Obeisance arrived from the Estates and was read to them, Maria Eleonora was certain she felt the baby she carried kick for the first time, with outrage. According to the account preserved in Julius's letters, she swore that "in her then must be a son, and a great warrior, at that."

She was only half wrong. For in May 1578 she would give birth to Eleonora, the last Electress of Brandenburg. Decades and even centuries later, people would wonder how much of the turmoil of the world outside the womb in which little Eleonora rode worked its way in to her, and how much that influenced her unyielding character.

If the adult Eleonora could have spoken to that tiny council gathered at Saxony's western edge, what would she have said?

Most likely something not too different from what the Elector's mother offered. As soon as Julius finished and folded the Letter of Obeisance back up, a long silence followed. It was Dorothea who spoke first. No longer that spirited fourteen year old girl who had once won Saxony's heart by kissing a Bible in the town market of Wittenberg, she let out a long sigh, and closed her eyes. "Kill them all, and save yourself," she said. "Rid yourself of these troublesome Estates, rid yourself of the Johannines, rid yourself of all that you have to, and do as you must to demonstrate to every last one of your subjects the consequence of their overbearing pride with respect to your sovereign self."

Now, if such advice seems to us bloodthirsty, let's remember that, to paraphrase the great poet, that by now Dorothea knew a thing or two because she'd seen a thing or two. And moreover, that, whatever her experiences in Saxony these past 44 years, she was still the daughter of a Danish king deposed, among other reasons, for having committed the Blood Bath of Stockholm, and for several other deaths besides.

For her part Maria Eleonora also counseled strength. She regarded it as having been a mistake to summon the Estates in the first place. She believed Alexander should have declared a tax, resting solely on his own authority, and dared any who opposed it to resort to armed force. If that provoked the Johannines or their catspaws to rise, all the better. Alexander could have then gone to the Emperor Rudolf with a strong case for the imposition of the imperial ban against them, and used that to dispossess them of their lands as he had previously sought, but this time under the color of imperial law. So her position now was to correct the error of summoning the estates by dismissing it curtly, declaring the tax, and waiting for the rest to unfurl.

Never one to be caught without a grand strategy, Julius did not disappoint. Like Maria Eleonora, he wanted to summarily dismiss the Estates and impose the tax. But rather than waiting for a revolt against its imposition, he wanted Alexander to conclude immediate alliances aimed at bringing down the Johannines, whom he viewed as responsible for the manifest insults in the Letter of Obeisance, and striking first without worrying overmuch about the question of imperial law. The first of these alliances would be with the Elector Palatine, whose coreligionists the Johannines were abusing even now.

The second would be, slyly enough, with the Johannines' brothers-in-law the Landgraves of Hesse. While Lutheran, the Hessian brothers under the leadership of Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel, the eldest, were by and large committed to the notion of a coalition between Lutherans and Calvinists. More importantly, Julius thought he could lure them into contributing forces to dispossess the Johannines by promising them the Johannines' lands. The idea was that if all the living male heirs of Johann were removed, the lands could be allowed to pass to his female heirs, two of which were the consorts of the Landgraves of Hesse. Thus the alliances that had once been the foundation of the Johannines' prestige would be turned into their Achilles' Heel.

And as to worries about the Emperor? Julius had made his work the immediate previous few years unraveling the character of the strange and taciturn man who was now, at least nominally, master of Germany. When Archduke Rudolf had returned from Spain in 1571 the court of Wittenberg was leery: it had been the austere and conservative Spanish courts that had shaped the dogmatism of Charles V and his son, Philip II, just as it had been Vienna that had shaped the more pragmatic and congenial Maximilian II, and one of the many contingencies for which Alexander and Julius had planned had been that Rudolf II's reign might mean a "Spanish turn" in the Empire.

But in all their meetings since 1571, Rudolf had betrayed no such inclinations, and even Rudolf's monstrous breach of the Saxon loans made to win his father the Polish throne did not give rise to the first thought about opposing his election as emperor, on the grounds that his indolent temperament made him as valuable an emperor for the Protestant cause as Maximilian II's Lutheran sympathies. By late 1577, Julius of Braunschweig was certain there was very little that could happen in Saxony that could bestir Rudolf in any meaningful way, and that any offense that did manage to reach Rudolf's attention, could be easily cured by the gift of some tasteful nude paintings of men with high buttocks.

Thus, Julius was advising against Alexander worrying too much about an imperial intervention in a war between the Wettins of Saxony, even one involving other princes of the empire.

Ironically, it was actually Alexander whose thinking had taken him to a very different place. Studying the Letter of Obeisance closely, he realized he was not being threatened with revolt, but with the non-payment of an extraordinary gift which he had made voluntary. If its terms were noxious, that may have been because its authors hoped those terms would be refused and they would be liberated from the responsibility for paying it, without actually making themselves rebels against him. Moreover, Alexander considered, the Letter, and the thinly veiled contempt of the Estates in it, could be another trap set by the Johannines.

Reacting with force to the Estates' mere refusal to do a thing he had given them the right to refuse to do could be the very thing that would unite Saxony against him. Force against the realm's estates would be a repudiation of the same feudal order that bound everyone below him in the realm to himself. So quietly, he spurned the advice of his mother, wife and chancellor as only too likely to make him another Christian II of Denmark, a deposed ruler with few friends and a bloody reputation. Instead, Alexander came to understand the Letter of Obeisance as an invitation to bargain. And he liked to bargain, and thought himself good at it. So he began writing his counter-offer.

Now, what might seem difficult to imagine about the Elector was his state of mind as he did so. His childhood had made him at ease with insecurity, danger, and even powerlessness. Rather than one of those princes prone to lash out or react emotionally to difficult circumstances, his exposure to these had made him conditioned to remain dispassionate, had sheathed his character in his famously cool demeanor. So as Alexander contemplated his response to the Estates, according to Julius he wrote not with rage, or a hand shaking from the insolence with which he had been treated. Instead, he slipped into the carefree nonchalance of a naughty schoolboy, ready to make mischief for those who thought themselves his betters.
Instead, Alexander in June 1577 decided he would call the Saxon Estates and ask them for a one-time, extraordinary loan that would itself be paid back piece-meal over ten years. Of course many in the estates were now themselves economically hurting due to this extraordinary situation, and some had even lost homes and livelihoods to the now-hated zweitemaenner as collateral was seized over bad loans.

Calling your estates when in a position of weakness? Do you really want to end up with your head separated from your shoulders? Because that's how you get your head separated from your shoulders.