"From: His Grace, Cornelius Hendricus ter Plonck, Bishop of the See of Ulrichstein, the Lord's Vicegerent Prince of the Principality of Ulrichstein;
To: His Imperial Majesty, Marinus-Violoncello, Archduke of Trockenbeeren and of Auslese, Puissant Emperor of the Wholly Romantic Empire;
My Humble Greeting,
It is with deep sorrow and acute embarrassment that I thus address your Imperial Majesty in supplication for aid.
Your Imperial Puissance will no doubt have been informed of recent events in the See of Ulrichstein: the Elbow River's bursting its banks, the consequent failure of the corn crop, and the dearth and hardship that has followed among my People. What has emerged from this disaster has been a tide of unrest, motivated I don't doubt by the impatience evoked by want of sustenance, but methinks there may be more behind it.
The corn shortage could have, and in My view, ought to have, been made good. I caused to be sent from My Granaries in Ulrichsburg and elsewhere, several wagon- and cart-loads of corn to the stricken towns and villages, their local magnates to be responsible for distribution. What happened to them remains to me unknown. The transports were returned empty; we supposed, then, that the corn had been distributed. Events have persuaded me that that corn did not reach its intended destination: the tables of the destitute.
This unrest broke into open rebellion in the northern town of Zerbst, whereat certain of its magnates appealed to Unrichsburg for assistance in restoring order. Promptly, My Guard was sent forth in response to this request, quelled the revolt in a sanguinary but brief combat in Zerbst itself, after which sufficient order was achieved that My Commander (Col Freiherr v. Smallhausen) felt able to leave one company in the place and return with the rest of the Guard to Ulrichstein. Very well.
But it has transpired that even before v. Smallhausen arrived at Zerbst, his intervention with the Guard was being widely represented as an attempt by Myself forcibly to restore to the True Faith the heretic followers of Luther and Calvin. Further, divers persecutions have been post facto invented to create a local 'history' of Catholic oppression of Protestants. Now, whilst I would indeed be overjoyed were these Prodigal Sons to be restored unto the Bosom of Our Father's Family, I have been most reluctant to compass this desired event by force. Apart from several Scriptural reservations, I know right well that attempts at coercion serve merely to cement an heretic in his error. Methinks even the fiction of coercion and oppression is sufficient to satify a Protestant's sense of grievance; yet a reciprocal tyrrany is permitted to them - indeed, it is entirely called for. I have heard occasional complaints of the heavy hand of Lutheranism being laid upon loyal Catholics in northern towns
Far from quelling an armed rising, Col v. Smallhausen merely postponed its full flowering. Word has reached my ears that a full-scale rebellion is in the making. A certain magnate of Huguenot ancestry, one Antoine Noilles, has called for the raising of an armed Militia wherewith to overthrow this Ecclesiatical Government and impose a 'Republick of Godde'! Such intelligence as has been brought to My ears by loyal Catholics already indicates that despite some difficulty in recruitment a force of at least 3000 men has been raised, - far too many for my Guard (fewer than 1000 men) to contend with.
Behind all this, I am inclined to suspect the Hand of the Herzog von Rechburg. It is known he covets this Principality for his own. It is equally known he desires to be greeted, not as 'His Grace', but as 'His Royal Highness', and the acquistion of the whole of Ulrichstein territories would legitimate his claim to Royal Status. We suspect, therefore, though proofs are lacking, that Rechburg agents provocateurs have been busy in Ulrichstein fomenting rebellion, sedition and treason. It is known, however, that certain magnates have entered into a treasonous correspondence with the Government of Rechburg. We have before us a number of letters intercepted by My border officials. Who initiated this traffic remains unknown.
We therefore beg your Imperial Majesty, as Guarantor of the Catholic and Political integrity of Ulrichstein, to send such force as will put down this incipient fratricidal revolt, to restore the rebels to their loyalty to the State, and to forestall or defend this Bishopric from Rechburg incursion. We make this request of Your Imperial Majesty as a matter of extreme urgency. My Special Envoy, Sir Eccleston Muggins, though English, is Catholic, and trustworthy and loyal to Myself. He may supply you with further information, and has my authority to negotiate in My behalf.
Your Humble Servant in the name of The Father etc.
Cornelius Hendricus ter Plonck, Bishop of Ulrichstein by Grace of God."
The reader lowered the letter and gazed across the breakfast table at her father.
'Well?' rumbled the Emperor. He eyed with distaste the pulse in front of him, his spoon hovering hesitantly above its gleaming surface. He savoured the unctuous aroma of fried bratwurst, gammon and eggs with hot buttered toast cooling upon his elder daughter's plate. 'Well? What do you think?'