Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Political spin

Barcelona, 5th November 1713

--Congratulations, gentleman!

--Congratulations and thanks to you for your support, my friend --It was Rafael Casanova who spoke now, while drawing a wide smile to N. Feliu de la Penya, his partner in the "Busca" Party who had just entered the room.

Sortitions for the renovation of Barcelona Municipality main offices had brought a wide victory to their popular party, so that Rafael Casanova had just been elected for Major of the city at the expense of the moderate Manuel de Flix --who had been the Major so far. News spread all around the Principality like a wildfire, and as such had provoked similar "Busca" lightning victories in other municipalities also calling for sortition.

Most major towns in the nation were now in their hands, so that political balance within the Corts or Parliament risked to experience a radical spin from now on. Encouraged by such a prospective, Sir Rafael Casanova did not hesitate for a moment to formally request the renovation of General Deputation offices --delayed since July by the moderates, allegedly due to war circumstances.

--It's time for a change! --his supporters claimed all around the Principality.

--It's our chance, and our duty too! --he stated in turn.

The "Busca" party pleadings were well known and conveniently radical to please the empoverished, mistreated and radicalized lower classes of the Principality: not even a single step backwards.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Negotiations: third round

Versailles, 4th November 1713

Princess Elisenda watched at the map they had been delivered by the French Legation a few minutes earlier. The coloured engraving was intended to graphically represent the French conditions for their acceptance of the Catalan proposal over Roussillon & Cerdaigne. As she was catching the map details, she got plainly appalled. The contents of French counter-proposal were nearly draconian to her eyes.

--Oh Lord, this is horrible --she muttered to Vilana--. We cannot give our consent to such butchery.

--This is how things use to go --the veteran legate sadly responded--. It's unavoidable, Eli. It's they who are in the position to make claims, not us.

--Oh please Ramon, don't ask me to sign this! ...I would be shamed for this until the end of time! Do you want me to be forever called "Elisenda I the Faint-hearted"? --her voice revealed real anguish.

--Eli, it would be far worse to be called "Elisenda I the Suicide" --he sweetly answered-- Can you imagine what would happen if peace wasn't achieved? All the might of France would be launched upon our nationals in a few weeks' time. Can you imagine our small Army dealing with 40 or 50 additional battalions of the best army in world? We would be swept away as leaves in the wind.

--However, the new King of Britain might... --rather than responding, she implored.

Marquis of Vilana slowly nodded: --Perhaps. Or maybe not. Or simply not in the degree we would need. Whole Europe is exhausted after so many years of war, Eli. And England is by no means an exception. Ironically, such is precisely our only asset in this negotiation: exhaustion, enemy exhaustion.

Princess Elisenda hid the face behind her hands, not to be seen a first tear running along her cheek.

--However, I've said nothing about giving up yet --Vilana suddenly added, with a cunning smile on face--. I believe there are a few ways to reverse the French proposal like a socket. Listen...

[Just a couple of foot notes on this scene: 1) The conditions proposed by the French legation are based on the actual claims of France in the 1659 negotiations. I thought it would be a natural reaction from them to a request of border lines revision, I've by no means intended to present these as an "evil" manoeuvre, just a logical one. And 2) Marquis of Vilana provisions on an eventual French reaction are in fact quite optimistic, as attested by the French military and historian Marquis of Quincy. Not less than 68 Infantry battalions were actually launched by France against the Principality in 1714.]

Montblanc battle aftermath

Montblanc, 4th November 1713

After much arguing with his staff, the Spanish Commander-in-Chief Marquis of Aitona has decided to order a general withdrawal from Montblanc town. He has finally considered better to simply block roads and keep unsupplied the Catalan defenders, better than wasting a likely huge amount of lives in a massive street fighting through the streets of the town.

Casualties accounting have brought horrifying numbers for both sides: Catalan defenders suffered a total of 46 figures lost out from 136 involved, while the Spaniards lose 43 of the 189 figures launched in the attack. After the withdrawal, the Catalans were able to recover up to 1/3 of their initial loses, that is, some 15 figures.

In the end, this means that both sides suffered approximately a 23% of casualties. A really frightening number, especially for the Catalan side given their scarcity of new recruits sources.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fancy cartography


Just for musing, I've completed today a map of the Principality of Catalonia detailing the administrative vegueries or Districts it was sub-divided into. All of these are historically true except for the Bishopric of Urgell --I was plainly envious of some of your Imagi-nation settings that explicitly include ecclesial states and semi-states!!

As a personal musing I've included in chart the hypothetical coats of arms of each District --inspired on those of the capital town giving its name to each one. As for the arms themselves, all of them are historically correct too, except for the special administrative territories of Andorra and Val d'Aran, which have both been slightly modified on a historical basis. Oh yes, I should also point out that all shield common charges do follow modern Catalan Heraldry rules instead of those commonly applied in 18th century.

External charges (that is, crowns, collars, scepters and so) are totally invented instead. All of the common districts have been charged a Countly crown, two crossed silver scepters and the Collar of Sant Jordi d'Alfama. There are only two exceptions to such rule: on one hand, Barcelona City arms --which show golden instead of silver scepters, besides of bearing the traditional Bat crest identifying the old Crown of Aragon's royal sovereignty. On the other hand, Bishopric of Urgell, where the countly crown has been replaced by a mitre while the civilian scepters have been changed for episcopal staffs.

As for the so-called Special Districts, their respective devices are intended to reveal the legal status of each. Although a part of the Principality in itself, Aran Valley long since enjoyed a home rule status, traditionally respected and promoted by Catalan authorities. The case of Andorra is quite of a different thing. It was created by the King of Aragon in mid-13th century as a feudal condominium between his vassals Count of Foix and Bishop of Urgell, both of which claimed similar rights on Andorra. Later Foix became a part of French royal domain, so that the condominium started being something of an international issue, rather than a merely feudal affair.

Worth to be noted that I've given up using the name of Galatea to design my Principality. Well, let's better say that I feel quite more comfortable at giving its actual name to real things. This way, I've thought it more convenient henceforth calling Commonwealth of Galatea to the 18th century what-if conglomerate of historical territories constituting my Imagi-nation, while preserving the real name of each of its components: Principality of Catalonia, Kingdom of Majorca, Kingdom of Sardinia and so. Or simplier, The Principality, The Isles and The Viceroyalty.

This cartographical piece has been uploaded to the National Library too, for future reference

Friday, March 23, 2012

Interlude

Versailles, 3rd November 1713

On the next morning, Princess Elisenda went back to the room where negotiations were hold a little bit earlier than scheduled. Once there however, she found she wouldn't be alone --for there was someone already waiting.

It was the Duke of Orléans who, when noticed Elisenda, stood up and greeted her with courtesy. They afterwards started an accidental, insignificant conversation. But after a while Duke Philippe looked around to make sure that nobody was listening them, and then lowered voice to say: --Dearest, I'm afraid your Legation should consider whether your borders alteration proposal is appropriate to this negotiation circumstances or if, contrarily, it suffers from more boldness than convenient...

Elisenda blushed slightly. Duke Philippe discretely prevented her from responding at once and then apologized with a smile: --Please, I'd hate to be misunderstood. I am simply asking you to wonder about an appropriateness matter.

Elisenda nodded briefly and smiled too: --I wouln't like to be misunderstood either. We are not demanding for as if we were owed it; but just trying to explain our starting point for a best neighbour agreement. Then, if seeking a valid legal precedent, the Treaty of the Pyrenees is useless to us, because it was signed by the King of Spain dispensing our own Parliament's mandatory consent. This is why we are setting the Treaty of Barcelona as our latest valid precedent.

Duke Philippe stared for a long while at the Princess's eyes with a half-smile, as if evaluating her, before answering: --Most grateful for such clarification, my dear princess. Unfortunately, the Treaty of the Pyreness is a fully valid precedent to us, and indeed Roussillon province has been enjoying our government for long since...

--Well, now we know each other's starting point clearly enough --Elisenda drew her most charming smile--. So we just need to sit and calmly discuss and negotiate the matter.

The Duke laughed softly, in a gesture showing recognition of Elisenda charms as well as immunity against them: --I am persuaded you are aware that every negotiation involves an exchange, then. Your Principality should be prepared to offer something substantial enough to France, if hoping to be listened.

Elisenda didn't respond at once, but she approached a large window instead and watched the landscape for a long while.

But when she faced the Duke again, Elisenda was no longer smiling: --To be honest, Sire. France relies on the natural boundaries axiom to invoke the Pyrenees range as such. However, the Pyrenees are no border to us, but our very backbone instead. I eagerly assume that France has the right to safety, even a dramatical needing for it. But wouldn't you also agree that not less dramatic is the right not to be broken the backbone?

--No side should give up anything perceived as a necessity, I believe --she quickly continued--. Does France claim for safety? Well, I'd find it thoughful to agree a permanent assignment of all fortresses in Roussillon to France. Let's make Roussillon an actually safe territory for France, deprived from Catalan troops except at France's own request.

--But let us in charge of the civil jurisdiction in exchange. Let us rebuild our backbone. What is safer to your perception, an ever resentful border province or a grateful, reliable neighbour instead?

--Bon, ça n'est pas si mal --Duke Philippe ironically answered--, as a start at least...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Catalan Thermopylae

Montblanc, 3rd November 1713

One of the two battles brought up by current turn of our campaign was gamed last saturday. It had to be an actually significant fight, for the Spanish command had finally met an opportunity to virtually crush a big portion of the Catalan Army, that had become pinned between two converging Spanish columns, with no chance of evasion.

The Catalans chose the only reasonable action they had at hand: blowing up the bridge of the road one of the Spanish columns was advancing along, and entrenching themselves in a tight line around Montblanc town, where a battle was to take place for the second time in a handful of weeks.

Their forces consisted of:



[Ratings following "Beneath the Lily Banners" - Characters: inspirational, good, average & plodder - Units: guards, elite, drilled, raw & tribals]

On their side, the Spanish OOB was as follows:








Map above shows the tricky battle area. The southernmost enemy column had spent a couple of weeks encamped a few miles away from town, so that they would likely have found a suitable river crossing point alternate to the demolished bridge. They were expected to enter battlefield from South (=left) early in the morning. The fearful column led by Marquis of Aitona was supposed to enter from North (=right).



With this in mind, General Bellver ordered De Ramon to deploy the Guard and Disempared regiments at the northern outskirts of town, supported at left by all their Cavalry under Nebot's command, while he took the rest of units with him and deployed them just South from town, face to the narrow passage where the biggest Spanish column was to come in.



Day started with a light rain that wouldn't hamper manoeuvre or fire. The southern column was the first one to arrive in battlefield (it was thrown a die to decide which of them would), and started advancing with confidence, tightly packed in two lines between the impassable mountain at their left and Francolí river at right.

Then it came the first disappointment reason for Marquis of Aitona: both Carvajal and Torremayor resulted to be a couple of real incompetents! (their skills were still to be tested in battle. Both dice gave to the Spanish player the worst possible result!). This would be significant later, when the lack of manoeuvring space for troops would have needed a clever minded command...



Spanish foot first line soon started suffering a heavy poundering from the Catalan battery, but they stubbornly insisted advancing, in the confidence the new bayonets they'd just been delivered would give them a decisive advantage in mélée (This was a random event coming to worsen things for the Spanish side: they wouldn't know, but rings of the brand new bayonets wouldn't fit around musket muzzles... so that all infantry in this column would actually have a -1 to mélée!

(Note the small green dice attached to each unit. As I haven't had the time to double most units size for adapting them to BtLB, we've solved the issue by symbolizing the lacking figures by those. Red dice are casualties).



Marquis of Aitona wouldn't arrive until one quarter to two hours after the battle had started. Some excess of confidence made him to ignore the road at first and order his units to start entirely deployed --except for the battery, that was kept riding on road.



At about noon, the Spanish southern front had become seriously disorganized, because some first line battalions finally got shaken and disordered under heavy artillery fire, thus hampering the advance of the units behind them. Some managed to close up to enemy musketry range however; but such was far from a co-ordinated assault, and their approaching attempts were awarded a Catalan deadly series of volleys by the section. Exhausted and decimated, those few battalions fell backwards, bringing even higher confusion to the units at their rear.



And then someone had the most unbelievable occurrence. A green signal flare was erroneously sent up in full view of the Army. That was the pre-arranged signal for a general retreat, so that obediently all Spanish units started withdrawing in face of the enemy. Everybody ...except Marquis of Aitona himself --who was on the very verge of resigning and seeking political asylum in France...!!

It took not less than half an hour (two turns) for the Army to realize it had been a false alarm and turn back... By then, lines had been brought into chaos, with the artillery trains hampering the infantry movement.



Nevertheless, General Carvajal extracted some energy from his wounded pride, and managed to finally co-ordinate all his four Squadrons into an "all or nothing" charge against the Catalan left wing. One of the Miquelets battalions defending that wing broke and disbanded. Unsupported, the second battalion failed to unleash their defensive volley and were crushed by the Spanish Horse. The Catalan left wing volatilized in half an hour.



Their brilliantly performed charge was a useless effort however, given the exhaustion of the Spanish infantry. Under Catalan Foot heavy pressure, their battalions started breaking so that one of them even routed.



On his side, an increasingly enraged Marquis of Aitona injected speed on his Spanish Guards and made them fly by road until close to enemy musketry range, where they redeployed again and started an exchange of musketry fire with the Catalan Guards, while waiting for a link with the victorious cavalry of Carvajal. Meanwhile, the Spanish Horse Guards had managed to distract all the Catalan heavy horse in a touristic ride by the outskirts of town...



It had become late in day however, too late. As sunlight quickly faded away, musketry fire disminished and fully stopped with the dark. Angry and frustrated, Marquis of Aitona returned back to the Spanish camp, wondering how the hell things could go that wrong... True that the Catalan defence line had been broken in their belly, so that access inside town was possible, but how long would the Horse Guards be able to keep the enemy cavalry at bay? How to prevent these from cutting his own supply lines?

No, this wasn't the best day in Marquis of Aitona's career.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Striking news

Versailles, 2nd November 1713 in the afternoon

Negotiations were halted at request of the French legates, with the commitment of resuming them on the next day.

--Your proposal of debating borders is going far beyond our attributions --they adduced.

Restless, Marquis of Vilana decided to go for a calmly walk in countryside. He hoped the serenity of Versailles outskirts would help him clarifying thoughts.

He had spent close to two hours walking on a pleasant, wide path bordered by plane trees at both sides, when he noticed a horse rider galloping towards him.

--Thanks to God I've met you! --the rider exclaimed, when he had got close enough. It was Lieutenant Llinàs, the Catalan Guards officer who had accompanied him on the trip from Monte-Cristo to Paris. Without waiting for a reply, the man stopped abruptly his horse and dismounted.

--Grave news from London, Sire --Llinàs explained.

--London? And so?

--An urgent message from Lord Dalmases, our ambassador in London. Queen Anne of England has passed away!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Negotiations: second round

Versailles, 2nd November 1713

The French dignitaries confered briefly in a low voice. After a while, their spokesman outlined a smile and concluded: --More precise details of the treaty should be left in hands of a committee of experts. As for us anyway, we would feel most pleased with the general outline of your proposal, provided you agreed in turn to deal with a few additional issues.

--It would be convenient for you to undertake a limitation of your army, which currently is disproportionately oversized. Totally inappropriate for a small nation which are supposedly peaceful and friendly toward their neighbours --a marshal added.

Marquis of Vilana shrugged and tilted his head: --We would love doing so, but please understand that while Spain continues at war with us, we must defend...

The Princess quickly added: --As soon as they accede to a durable peace with us, we shall immediately reduce our Army size to 7,500 men.

--Such a drastical reduction wouldn't be that necessary, provided some of your exceeding Mountain Fusiliers regiments were loaned in King Louis' service --the French marshal suggested.

--This makes sense --Elisenda admitted.

The French legate bowed slightly his head, as a sign of assent: --Such would please us the most. We'll see what we can do about Spanish attitude. Anyway --he pointed--, as a precaution toward Spain, France would keep garrisoning the fortress of Roses.

--Hum. --Vilana and Princess Elisenda gazed at each other, but none of them replied. The Catalan legate simply shrugged, staring directly at his interlocutor's eyes.

--Only temporarily, for a period of 25 years --the man quickly explained--. As an additional guarantee of the French commitment to the safety of your Nation.

"Sure. And as a guarantee that we shall respect the treaty too", Elisenda ironically thought. She shut up though.

Marquis of Vilana also remained silent, apparently absorbed in some origami experimentation. After a while trying to model a dove, he left the paper aside, cleared his throat and said:

--French troops are still occupying a considerable portion of the Principality. May I suppose you have already planned an evacuation schedule?

--Of course, mon ami --one of the French dignataries responded--. All the towns currently occupied by us will be given back to you.

--All of them?

So fast and peculiarly voiced was Vilana's response, that the French spokesman stared at him with an air of incomprehension.

--Si'l vous plait...! --another French legate exclaimed, smiling and outstretching hands as indicating he had no hidden cards.

However, the French spokesman did not smile, but got pretty serious instead. He had fully understood Vilana's hint and his rigidly serious expression on face revealed a sincere disappointment. He stared at Vilana for a long while, before shortly answering: --No.

Elisenda had understood Vilana's aim too, so she showed her most charming smile when smoothly answered: --We have no other chance, my dear Monsieur. You are dealing with so young a Nation! So young in fact, that borders with our neighbours are to be defined yet. It's unavoidable.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two battles in prospective

Montblanc, 1st November 1713

--No way out, Sire. All routes have been cut by the enemy --the Dragoon trooper was unable to avoid a disappointment expression on his face.

Apparently unperturbed, General Bellver responded: --Thanks, soldier. Go and rest.

Once the trooper had left the room, the officers inside looked at General Bellver expectantly. he simply nodded: --We cannot leave Montblanc town, gentlemen. The enemy is approaching fast from North and South alongside. So that there is no other chance, we must fight for our lives.

This time, Catalan headquarters had underestimated the Spanish army's capabilities. Persuaded as they were that the main Spanish attack would strike along the Tarragona-Barcelona road, a number of units had been given orders to hurriedly march toward Vilafranca town, where strong defences had been built. Catalan troops were still concentrating behind that enclave when it was known that General Bellver's army had been encircled at Montblanc.

Amidst the Pyrenees deep valleys, another battle was expected to happen in the next days. The Spanish column of Marquis of Bus and General Moragues' mountain fusiliers would fight for the possession of Tremp town. In spite of the small number of troops involved for both sides, the battle could easily decide in whose hands would fall the Pyrenean vaste resources.

All this, at the worst possible moment, while Princess Elisenda and Marquis of Vilana were coincidentally struggling for a peace with France. A military setback might be fatal to their efforts.

The Montblanc big battle will be fought next weekend, while date and gamers for the smaller one in Tremp are to be agreed yet.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Negotiations: first round

Versailles, 31st October 1713

Leisure days were over. It was time to start peace negotiations.

The Catalan dignitaries were invited to a large reserved room inside Versailles itself, where half a dozen French senior officials and military high officers were already waiting. Princess Elisenda didn't know any one of them, but she then noticed Marquis of Vilana greeting timely a couple of them --and this reassured her a bit, in spite of the absence of any member of the House of Bourbon...

...or so she believed; for, in fact, some unadverted personality was watching the meeting from behind a false mirror.

It was unnecessary to start from zero, because conversations between Imperial and French legacies at Rastatt had already outlined the agreement broader sides, but those would not sustain a treaty by themselves --highly detailed issues ought to be clarified too, and such was their mission. And it wouldn't be easy by any means.

Preliminaries run pretty smooth though: as a sign of goodwill, both sides agreed to a prisoners exchange. The men of Girona town urban militia (=Coronela), who were imprisoned in Perpignan awaiting trial, would be exchanged for the French troopers held by the Catalans at Montjuïc castle. Such exchange would be performed immediately, regardless of this meeting outcome.

But then it came the chapter of guarantees. Things were complicated as the French representatives listed their own requirements:

--A military alliance will be henceforth signed, by which Catalan assistance should be provided whenever required by His Majesty King Louis --one stated.

--Assuming such assistance is mutual, and restricted to the Peninsula only --Princess Elisenda sharply answered--. Please recall that our Nation is also bond to Emperor Charles, not just to King Louis. So we would dislike the most to be thrown into a war against an ally of the Emperor.

--Not less than we would dislike to be thrown into a war against King Louis' grandson as well, my Princess --the official smiled.

Marquis of Vilana had nothing said yet. He was apparently distracted in his own thoughts, but the man suddenly raised head and suggested:

--Listen, it would be best a diaphanous treaty offering no fissures for misinterpretations. Let it be an agreement of mutual defence, restricted to eventual common enemies as well as to a precise geographical area. Might it be the Spanish Peninsula and Western Mediterranean? Wouldn't it offer good enough a shelter for the "belly of France" too?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A dramatic November

1st week of November 1713

We have just started our campaign 16th turn, developing during the 1st week of November 1713. As it seems, it will be decisive to the survival of our yet-to-be-born Imagi-Nation, for a number of concurrent reasons.

As for the military campaign itself, Bourbon Spanish side has won initiative once again. And this time the provisions of the Spanish C-in-C Marquis of Aitona have taken the Catalan side by surprise. They probably expected the enemy would keep pushing along both main roads toward Barcelona. Nevertheless, the Spanish HQ have chosen massing their forces on one single point instead, by detaching 2 Spanish Guards battalions and Horse Guard from their northern column, who have joined the army already deployed at Montblanc under the overall command of Marquis of Aitona himself.

The rest of their northernmost column has remained encamped blocking a similarly sized Catalan army, while the southermost Spanish army has wisely withdrawn to safer positions closer to Tarragona town, thus deceiving the Catalan expectations to dragging them into battle at a favourable to them location.

Thanks to such manoeuvre, the Spaniards at Montblanc now are enjoying a force of 3 Horse Regiments (one of them, Guard), 8 Infantry battalions (two of which, Guard) and 3 Batteries (light, medium and heavy, one of each) against the defenders, who are currently numbering 2 Horse Regiments, 4 Infantry battalions (one of which, Guard), 3 Mountain Fusiliers battalions and one single, heavy battery. All the Spanish units enjoy 100% troops, while most of their enemies suffer some ranks depletion --some 5% casualties as an average.

Both armies enjoy 3 generals each. While the Catalan commanders show some reasonable degree of efficiency and co-ordination (General Bellver as is a good +1 supreme commander, while his subordinates Nebot and De Ramon are both considered as average +0, on a scale ranging from +2 to -1), the Spanish staff is quite of a mystery (while Marquis of Aitona is an exceptional +2 commander, their other two generals Torremayor and Carvajal haven't tested their skills on the field yet).

So that a big battle is about to happen at Montblanc town for the second time, just four weeks later to the first one. This is quite a dramatical situation for the Catalan army there, for they've been pinned by North and South at once, so they have no escape. They must win or die.

On the diplomatical front, peace conversations are about to start at Versailles, where Princess Elisenda and Marquis of Vilana will have to handle things under a severe psychological pressure. They don't know yet, but they should obtain their first results before the Montblanc battle happens, so that an eventually adverse battle aftermath catches the French irreversibly committed in a first handful of agreements.

Besides, there is also an unpredictable mystery event about to happen this week. We are quite uncertain about its eventual impact yet. It could certainly turn things for the Catalans to even worse --or contrarily would put an unexpected pressure on the French negotiating team, who are currently quite confident on their chances of binding up the Catalans under quite restrictive conditions... Let's wait and see.

Last but not least, things are also happening at Madrid, where the insatisfaction of Castilian aristocracy face to the Princesse des Ursins unlimited powers so far have grown to a critical level.

If told a couple of years ago, I'd have never believed so much of a thrilling story could be produced by running a wargaming campaign!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Troubled

Madrid, 30th October 1713

--No, for sake of God! --King Philip V violently exclaimed--. I shall disband not even one of our regiments in Flanders! We need them all here, in Spain. Now!

--But Your Majesty, there are no news from last year's Treasure Fleet yet, and State coffers are completely empty. The Nation is exhausted, Your Majesty. We can no longer keep over one hundred foot regiments and several dozens of horse squadrons, there is no money to pay for so huge an Army!

Impatient, the King cut off his counselor's speech with an imperious gesture --No more arguing. If necessary, taxes shall be increased in Aragon and Valencia once again. And I want to hear not even a single objection --he threateningly raised a finger toward his counselors--. Aragon and Valencia sided to Catalan betrayal, and they must pay for it. They shall pay for the army we had to raise against them!

Discretely standing at a corner, Marie-Anne de la Trémoille, princesse des Ursins, watched in silence King Philip's boos to his counselors and shook head with concern --but she wisely kept her mouth shut up.

She knew him well enough. From an early age, King Philip fell periodically in acute stages of deep melancholy and apathy, from whose only two things could get him out: frantic sex or total war. His transitions from one stage to another were usually abrupt, explosive and uncontrolled. So King Philip was a chronic depressive, and a sex addict too. But since the recent decease of His spouse Queen Maria Luisa, he had been left only the other way out: war. At all costs.

Such His obsession was proving to be risky and harmful, not only to Him but to the whole Nation as well. Not to say about herself: pressure from Paris for a peace with the Catalans had been ceaselessly increasing in the last months --and had become nearly excruciating after the Vendôme affair had been unveiled. Besides, a handful of envious Castilian aristocrats had been lately weaving a dense net around the Princesse, blaming her for Vendôme's murdering. Her unlimited power and influence over the King and Court so far risked fading away --and she urgently needed to reverse it, or at least to delay it just long enough to have ready a safe way out... Such as the Principality in Flanders she had been pledged by the Imperials in exchange for peace, for instance.

Ironically enough, she thought, King Philip's war provisions weren't that bad at all and, thanks to these, the definite subjection of Catalonia was far from unlikely at a not so long term. This way, if finally prevailing He would become deprived in turn of His only current psychological way out: making war.

She ought to hurry up, then. First of all, to find a new wife for the King and last but not least, persuading Him to accept a peace with those irritantingly stubborn Catalans.

But, how?