Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Majorca Couriers

Alcúdia (Majorca), 15th April 1714

--A heavy responsibility is going to weigh upon you, dear Sir Dalmau --tells Princess Elisenda to her interlocutor, while examines him attentively. Still in his early forties, Sir Sebastià Dalmau is a determined-looking man, a successful businessman who in the hardest days of war didn't hesitate even a minute to spend a fabulous sum in financing the Principality's war effort, besides of raising a cavalry troop of his own --the renowned Faith Dragoons Regiment. Once war finally came to an end, Dalmau transferred his regiment ownership to the General Deputation and went back to civilian life. He had in mind some kind of banking enterprise, but a surprise proposal from Princess Elisenda seduced him.

The man draws a slight smile and assents with elegance: --I do assume the burden, Your Highness. Please correct me if wrong: I am expected to build and run a Courier Company joining both private and public invest, whose main task is to be keeping a permanent sea link among the Principality, Majorca, Roussillon and Sardinia. Our ships will be allowed to carry and trade other kinds of cargo, provided that Mail is given absolute priority. Our headquarters are to be in Palma town, and the most immediate target of the new company consists in setting two sea lines; the one linking Palma to Barcelona town and Collioure in Roussillon, while the other will connect Palma to Cagliari in Sardinia. Eventual profits will be partaged between Majorca's Gran i General Consell and myself. Is it so, Your Highness?

Pleased, Princess Elisenda smiles too and assents: --I wouldn't be able to explain it better in so few words, Sir.

Dalmau nods slowly and starts speaking in a low voice, as if thinking aloud: --Such courier ships must be fast, faster than average. I have already spotted a couple of good xebecs that would be perfect for the job. Purchase agreements are nearly closed, but I thought it compulsory to let you know first. On the other hand, such Courier service will require some... er... protection.

Princess Elisenda assents expectantly.

--Honestly, I'm reluctant to risk ships speed by overarming them. For I was thinking of just 8 guns, or 10 at most; such is the maximum armament our xebecs would tolerate without a speed decrease. This means that waters safety should be granted by anyone else, Your Highness. --he wisely adds.

--I've been thinking about this, too --Princess Elisenda replies--. Majorcan authorities have agreed to build a galleys fleet in a reasonably short term, but meanwhile we'll have to dip defense resources from anywhere. A small galliot is to be purchased in the next days, with the aim of putting it under the Courier Company direct management. This will be my humble contribution to the Company.

--Great, that will help for sure.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Facing unrest

Perpignan, 12th April 1714

Coming from south, a cart crosses fast the Castellet gates of Perpignan, capital town of Roussillon province, and climbs to downtown like a shot. It passes fast by Commerce square and gets into Argenteria, or Silversmiths', street. Then it suddenly stops close to a stylish caffè recently open. One single man leaves the cart, a middle-aged chevalier elegantly dressed in a senior military uniform, entirely red. the man steadily crosses the caffè door and gets in.

Other officers are awaiting him in a private lounge, and courteously welcome his arrival: --Ah bonjour, dear Viscount of Galmoy!

--Good evening, Sirs. I should apologize for the delay; the road from Roses was nearly impracticable!

Up to five senior officers of Louis XIV's armies have gathered that day, all them with garrison duties in Roussillon province: Adrien M. Duke of Noailles who owns the Horse regiment bearing his name; Nicolas G. Marquis of Villennes and colonel of Médoc Infantry; Pierce Butler Viscount of Galmoy, who leads the Irish regiment of his name; chevalier Jean-Baptiste F. de Johanne de La Carre, colonel of Royal-Roussillon Cavalry, and Augustin la Brulle de Ximenès, colonel of Royal-Roussillon Infantry. Some faces there are showing curiosity or uncertainty, while others reflect a stern determination.

It is Johanne de la Carre who speaks first: --Sirs, I've been acknowledged that Princess Elisenda is going to land on Collioure harbour next week, with the aim to take charge as Vicereyne of Roussillon. I'm afraid this province is going to fall into her hands now, so that only God knows what is she willing to do from now on.

--Well Sirs, I see no cause for alarm there. Not that prematurely, at least --Ximenès prudently answers.

It's Noailles who speaks now: --Honestly, I can hardly stand too the idea of being given orders by a former enemy; if this is what you meant, Johanne.

--Not just this is what worries me, dear Duke --La Carre replies--, but also the fear to see how that woman deconstructs with impunity all our latter decades efforts for integrating this province into France.

--Perhaps we should stop her feet in advance, I'd say --Marquis of Villennes emphatically states.

--I'm with Ximenès in the inopportuneness of any... er... act of rebellion now, dear Sirs --Galmoy then phlegmatically says--. Please recall that it's King Louis himself who has appointed that Lady for the task you so much blame. So if anyone disobeyed her, he would be disobeying His Royal Majesty too.

--Let's be patient at her for some time still, Sirs. Let's watch and see before deciding what to do --Ximenès insists.

--Maybe you're right, Sirs --La Carre moodily replies-- Have for sure however that some action will be needed to stop her, sooner or later.

It sounded neatly threatening.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Overwhelmed with work

Barcelona, 9th April 1714

Once arrived to his mansion in Montcada street, Marquis of Vilana drops himself onto a comfortable couch, sighing heavily. After having spent the whole week in a series of painstaking negotiations with high representatives of the main cities of Catalonia, he's dead tired but happy.

After an entirely new set of Ordinances for the new Nation's army had been issued, replacing those issued by King Charles III (*) in 1706, it was now the turn for the discussion and eventual approval of a bill regulating (and eventually limiting) the creation and activities of civic militias like rural Sometents and urban Coroneles. At first, cities were quite reluctant to see limited their ancestral right to raise such militias on their own, so negotiations turned harsh at times. However, Vilana's diplomatic expertise managed to pave the way step by step, so that a general agreement was finally met among all attendants --even those from the radical Busca party. Ultimate approval by the Parliament of the militias draft bill was now ensured.

According to the plan devised by Princess Elisenda's High Staff, only towns equal or larger than 4,800 inhabitants would be capable to raise militia units large enough to perform side by side with regular regiments; this meant only seven towns of Catalonia entitled for adequately maintaining a Coronela Regiment (see map at right). Three out of these towns had to be temporarily dispensed due to be already contributing to the maintenance of a regular Army unit (Tortosa, Manresa and Girona), and another two had already raised one such militia (Barcelona and Mataró). In the end, two new cities were now due to organize a Coronela of its own, in exchange for some tax reduction: Tarragona and Vic.

Not so easy was to persuade the involved towns to keep a core of those militias permanently raised, so as to perform as local garrison and police. After some discussion, a consensus was met on a permanent minimum of 1 company for each battalion. Even more difficult was later to get their acquiescence to issues thorny to them, where a public regulation was considered invasive. In the end, it was agreed that all new Coronela units would follow a common uniformity (based on grey rather than blue) and flags usage, while those units already existing would be temporarily spared such duties --and corresponding expenses!

So our good Marquis feels reasonably happy now... until he recalls the mountain of documents overcrowding his desk! "Oh dear...!" --he says, sighing heavily again. "Elisenda, Elisenda... you're going to bury me under your projects pile!", he thinks. Then he laughs loud, even happier than before.

(*) That is, Charles VI of the Holy Empire.
[As usual, our National Library has been conveniently updated with the informations related to this thread. So you can check the Army organization and regiments detail in those pages respectively devoted to the Catalan Army and Navy.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Vicereyne

Palma, 6th April 1714

After having left the Marquis of Vilana as Her lieutenant during Her absence, earlier in this week Princess Elisenda journeyed to Majorca island, with the aim to chair as Vicereyne of this insular kingdom on behalf of Emperor Charles --thus replacing the Marquis of Rubí, who has just taken charge in turn of the Viceroyalty of Sardinia.

Once in the island, Princess Elisenda deployed an intense activity in all fronts, covering not just protocolary and administrative affairs, but also learning firsthand some other aspects of Majorcan economy and self-defence. Before the week had come to an end, She had already taken some important decisions on various subjects. Her very first decree not just renewed the so-called Gran i General Consell --an assembly of the Majorcan representatives in the Catalan Parliament--, but increased its powers too. "from now on, Majorcans are'nt going to be ruled by the same Monarch as Catalans; so that, despite still sharing the shelter of our common Constitutions and Parliament, there will be in the future matters that will compete to Majorcans solely and their relationship with the Emperor their monarch --and we Catalans shouldn't meddle unless required" --she argued.

In defence matters, Princess Elisenda appointed Pere F. Pisà, who was a trusted local officer, as the new General in Chief of the small army garrisoning the kingdom. "As small they can be, forces under your command must be able to secure and protect commerce and individuals, let these be hinterland roads or navigation routes; the Balearic Sea must be the safest waters of the Mediterranean", She strictly determined to the new General. They jointly outlined an improvement plan that settled as prioritary the building of a fast galleys fleet that would perform as coast guards, while funds would be sought alongside to re-create a Marine Infantry regiment to crew the ships. A second priority would be the creation of a future Artillery Academy around the field guns company already existing --funds for making it possible had already been raised by Palma town Municipality.

But Princess Elisenda wouldn't stop there, in Her first week in Majorca. Right after having expressed Her will to visit other significant towns of the island to exchange views with local authorities, She still had time to issue a decree regulating the use of flags --on fortresses, administrative buildings and individuals on land. After some doubts, She finally decided not to alter current practices on sea for the moment. "Better allowing civilian ships to keep fleeing their traditional ensigns, while retaining the Imperial banners too for military vessels", she thought.