Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Inmates Have Truly Siezed The Asylum!

I’m really beginning to have a concern for our George Shaw, or “G.B. Shaw” as he now likes to style himself. It seems that while I was traveling about, the scoundrel has contacted my prospective new Brigade Commanders, and some of their named staff members, and requested brief biographies, along with family histories, a curriculum vitae, and answers to a set of questions that George sent along. He has received these back already and closeted himself with this mountain of paper and two fellows that he recruited from somewhere that he refers to as “headhunters”. Well, upon hearing of this when I returned to New Gaellia, I immediately stormed into the room, with both my saber and pistol drawn, fully-prepared to either rescue poor George or find his nether parts hung up to dry! Much to my amazement, I discovered two “bookish-looking” chaps dressed very somberly in gray suits, but with an odd vertical striped effect to them, white blouses and the most bizarre appearing striped cravates. Certainly not the aboriginal natives or Red Indians of the America’s that I expected.
It seems that these two odd ducks have developed a methodology that our young George is quite taken with. I now know that it was these two fellows that had devised the questionnaire for George, asking the most foolishly outlandish questions that I have ever heard! I do swear, they asked such things as, “If you had to be a tree, which type of tree would you be?”, and, “Describe a time when you had to impose your authority on a subordinate, and your subordinate’s reaction to this.” Bloody hell! If I had to answer these myself, especially after my recent adventure with the tax collector, I would have said, “I laid my sword along his backside and I don’t give a tinker’s damn how he reacted!” I gather, from what George has informed me, these two “cold fish” would have rated me very poorly in “Leadership Skills” and suggested that I “Choose a mentor whose personal style I might better emulate.” Double bloody hell! Fortunately, George says that I’m “not required” to complete one of their bizarre packets. “Not Required” indeed! I reminded George which of us was the Duke, and which of us could better afford to waste his precious time consorting with two such obvious wankers. Why, upon meeting these “gentlemen” for the first time, they actually had the audacity to extend their pasty white hands to me as if we had all been “Hale fellows, well met”, and grasping one of them before I could catch myself, I do swear that the impression left was of grabbing a cold, dead mackerel directly from a fishmonger’s market stand! It seems that these two represent a concern that has been performing a similar function for various business concerns across the Continent, as well as some of the more “progressive” monarchies. Apparently, once these two complete what they refer to as their “quantitative analysis” of the accumulated material, they then prepare the most magnificent illustrations, all beautifully illuminated in vibrant coloring I’m assured, that will identify, even for the untrained observer, items that they themselves refer to individually as “Key Performance Indicators”, “Evaluation of Leadership Dynamics”, “Critical Path Analysis in Problem Solving” and “Matrix of Available Skillsets”. They insist that these will revolutionize the art of decision-making and staff selection at some point in the future, if indeed it has not already done so, and that my use of these analyses shall place me upon what they both refer to as “The Cutting Edge” of new thinkers. I’d like to show them both a “cutting edge” that I’m already quite familiar with, but I will continue to humor young George. They are supposed to have their presentation prepared for me within a matter of days, although it is quite beyond me how they can obtain the required number of trained monks to perform the illuminations in that short a period of time. Rest assured however, that I will present their findings to you for your entertainment and review Dear Reader, as I do expect them to be quite unique; especially since they indicated that we shall be “Doing Lunch” at the time!
Respectfully yours, Sir William

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sod The Politicians And Bureaucrats!

Well now they've gone and done it! Just when I thought my life was getting in order, I discovered that my latest "gift" from the Abbey at Saronno had been held up at the border by some petty functionary who claimed that his district was due a tax. A tax indeed! "Where the bloody hell was he when the musket balls were flying at Minden?" That's what I "politely" asked him as my Guard put him out of his house and I laid the flat of my saber to his plump backside and drove him into his pigsty! That, and the Swiss Confederation (as if that lot could EVER agree on anything long enough to be considered a Confederation) interrupted one of my trade shipments coming through the Alps, something about "contraband prohibited by the Treaty of Paris." I've got to increase production in my duchy's lead mining and start a powder mill. Of course, Louis would let me have all the supplies that I want, but at a bloody awful price.
However, there is a bright spot to this tale. One of my first recruitment's was of a fine young Irish lad by the name of Shaw, George Bernard Shaw he says (as if the name alone should mean something), who was a former adjutant and paymaster for the Irish Brigade and who personally got Charlie Fitzjames out of more tavern bills and petty charges than you could imagine. A real gifted fellow with the words and numbers young Shaw is, I predict a bright future for him. Well, I had left young George in charge of trying to cipher how I was going to pay for everything that I wanted for my duchy in my absence, and completely unknown to me, the young scalawag writes to the Court with an absolutely brilliant rendition of my recent exploits and trials dealing with the, "myriad of deprivations and disruption of harmony caused by the terrible brigands and cutthroats from the neighboring regions", and goes on to tell Louis that what he really needs is, "a Champion cast in the mold of a young Alexander, one who will willingly sacrifice his life and livelihood for the common defense of Greater France and its King!" Bloody hell! Like I would even lend Louis a sous if he needed it, let alone offer my life for the daft twit. It must be reported here, gentle reader, that this self-same Shaw was the author of the dispatch from Charlie Fitzjames that got Louis to give me my duchy to begin with. As I said, the lad does have a way with the phrase, as all good Irishmen do.
Well, the upshot of this whole tale is that, "on the advice of our trusted Royal Adviser's, it is His Majesty's wish that the duc d'Batau assume nominal administrative and defensive control for the region defined by the contested borders with Baden, the United Swiss Confederation and North-Western Italy, to be defined by those borders and extending to the 5th and 45th meridians." The man has truly lost his mind! Mind you, I have to share taxable revenue for the lands outside of my original holdings with some other local minor nobility and bureaucrats, and Louis specifically used the meridians to exclude the important city of Lyon. However, I do now have Metz, Strasbourg and Belfort, even if some local toady thinks he's already in charge. Louis probably assumes I'm going to lose at least one of these to Old Fritz anyway, since they are on the border of what has been called "the disputed territories". Plus, the sod still expects me to die, especially when "my friends" keep telling him that, "I welcome the opportunity to do so in His Majesty's service!" What this means to the Duchy of M'Eudail, is that it now has a protected border, and therefore trade route, between all of the border with Baden-Baden, Switzerland and a large part of northern Italy in the Savoy and Turin regions. We also now have open access to the River Rhone and its prosperous trade opportunities. I have replaced my previous map of the region with a new one showing my new-found responsibilities and territories. That these may overlap some other dominions already in existence is not my responsibility, take it up with that twit Louis, who can't remember from day-to-day which mistress he's supposed to be with! Or that Charlie Fitzjames lost the cavalry battle at Minden!
My next political issue involved my re-naming of the seat of my duchy as "New Edinburgh". Apparently the Irish lads with me disliked it as much as the locals, and a letter of complaint was forwarded to a district prefect for discussion with the Court at Versais (as if Louis would care). However, in the interest of being seen as a peacemaker and statesman of some means, I graciously changed the name to "New Gaellia", which young Shaw helped convince everyone actually celebrated the heritage of all of the folk involved. Indeed, they even declared a feast day in its honor and had a priest bless the whole bloody affair! I'm telling you, given enough quill and paper, young Shaw could probably convince a flower girl that she was a Lady, its that gifted with the words that he is.
There is also excellent news on the military front. I have received replies to my first dispatches for recruits and am pleased to announce that the Duchy of M'Eudail will be fielding 4 brigades, each of 4 battalions of fine, strong foot. There will be one brigade each from the Irish, from the Italians, and from Georg and The Lady Katherine's family in Baden-Baden, as well as a Guard Brigade. I don't know yet what the exact strength of each battalion shall be, as this is often an administrative detail that changes from month to month. Having the units as deployable bodies is much more important politically, and often militarily, than the exact strength of the units involved. After all, it sounds much better to say, "I've personally deployed two battalions to deal with your problems", than just saying you sent a few hundred-odd men.
And as far as Brigade Commanders are concerned, I couldn't be more delighted! My Irish Brigade will be commanded by a bright young chap named Peter O'Toole. He does lack some command experience, but I swear the lad could convince an Arab to walk out of the desert, its that kind of a leader that he is, and I'm told that he drinks! My Italians will be commanded by a Sicilian fellow that I met while on service there by the name of Carlo Salvatore Luciano, called "Lucky Charlie" by his men, always a good omen I believe. I was frankly surprised the duc d'Milan agreed to give me a leader of his calibre, but I gather that Lucky Charlie had been involved in some unsavory affairs recently and his departure from Italy was to be desired. I will take his personal history under advisement, but I already know him to be a man who finds a way to get things done when none else can. And his men are loyal to a fault, even referring to their units as "La Cosa Nostra", with I gather means "this thing of ours". My stalwarts from Baden-Baden couldn't be in better hands. That brigade will be commanded by a young man who I met there who recently graduated from the prestigious military academy in Berlin named Heinz Guderian. Those that know say that he's one of the finest young minds in German military circles and will revolutionize the use of combined arms with something he calls "Der Blitzkrieg". His seconds will be one of my bride's kinsmen, Wilhelm von Lichte, and another young prodigy by the name of Rommel. Don't know a great deal about young Rommel yet, but Guderian and Georg speak quite highly of him. And finally, my own Guards Brigade. My second in command (after all, I'm the Military Mastermind in charge of this lot) will also be the Colonel commanding my Scottish volunteers, a likable sort who goes by the name of Sean Connery. I will swear, the man should be a play-actor instead of the fine soldier that he is! I've known Sean for several years, our paths having crossed at various times, and the man could convince you he was a King a Brit or an Arab Sheik if he wanted to. I've even accused him of being an Irishman, given his glibness of tongue, which promptly got me socked, after which he did a spot-on interpretation of the lilting brogue I've grown so accustomed to by way of apology, and bought the next round. Simply amazing! I do have one concern about Sean as a commander though, he's bringing with him as his Lieutenant-Colonel for my Scots a young fellow by the name of Connor MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod no less. I'm told that with a little of the drink upon him, he will launch into a tale about being born of the Clan MacLeod in 1536 and living forever! Well, for his own bloody sake, I hope he's right, but I've told Sean that the lad would do well to mind his head.
Well dear reader, that is all that Your Humble Servant has to report on this day, and I will retire now to my dearly anticipated new shipment of Amaretto for a brief period of relaxation from the Affairs of State, perhaps even watch some of the lads participate in sporting events, which they often do of a Sunday, after Mass of course. I have arranged for quantities of fine cloth from Italy and good wool from Baden-Baden, and have enlisted all of the available seamstresses and tailors in my region to begin clothing my lot upon arrival. I'm already designing my new Ducal uniform, as befits one of my station, as I've still been wearing my old Fitzjames uniform, which is starting to appear a little threadbare. And I will, of course, require new uniforms for my personal Guard. Ah, so many details and so little time...
Yours, respectfully, Sir William

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Apologies...

Sorry, I should have mentioned that before leaving Paris, I did commision a member of the College of Heralds to design my Ducal Arms and Colors. They are shown in miniature to the left of this communication, but I have decided to show them in greater detail above. My arms are quartered, showing my allegiance and fealty to, clockwise from upper left, France, Ireland, Saronno and Baden-Baden. The arms are surmounted by a ducal crown, supported by a pair of magnificent stags (the hunting is wonderful in the forested areas of the duchy), and accompanied by a scroll with my personal motto, "In Vino Veritas", meaning of course, "In Drink There Is Truth", something I've always found to be true. I have also added a cartographer's rendition of Greater Europa showing my insignificant little duchy in blue, and its relationship to the greater outside World.

Respectfully, again, Sir William

In The Beginning...

Ah, where to begin? As my old Da would probably have said, “Why, begin at the bloody beginning, ya drunken sod, and none of your usual shite!” So, my name was William McInerney, the junior, and I was born in the year of Our Lord 1730 to that Great Gaelic Patriot William McInerney, the senior, and Herself, Beverly MacKibben of the Clan MacKibben. I was a truly magnificent and loud wee product of that blending of the beautiful Gaelic cultures of Ireland and Scotland, and their temperament! However, my current “official” name, and the name under which this published account shall appear, is Sir William McInerney, Duc d’Bastau, Protectore di Saronno, Lion of Baden, and Regent of the tiny Duchy of M’Eudail (Gaelic for “My Treasure” or “My Land”).

The French have some other bloody name for my dominion, as do both the Italians and Germans, but I can pronounce none of them and don’t care to learn. That’s what I have scribes and administrators for after all! I have been told that it lies within the northeast region of Champagne on the Plateau de Haute-Sadne, all I know is that it shares borders with France to the south, west and north, Italy to the south-by-southeast, Switzerland to the southeast, and Baden-Baden to the east across the Rhine. It’s a bloody crossroads for armies and brigands is what it is, as it sits smack upon the river and adjacent to passes through the Alps, and offers lush farmland, abundant wildlife, and a generally genial populace. I should have known that demented, conniving, bloody sod Louis was up to something after he took Charlie Fitzjames recommendations for recognition to heart (after losing a battle, mind you) and christened my dukedom with the name of a swamp bordering the river at Minden! And all because I pulled that sod Charlie out of a brothel the morning of the battle and reminded “his grace” that he was supposed to be in command of the French cavalry center, a feat that would have been difficult to perform in his bedclothes and drunken stupor, although its said that its been done before. But enough of my meandering on about titles and their worth, that will come later. All of my titles are a joke in their own way, but then most of my superiors would probably agree that its just reward for a sarcastic Scots-Irish soldier of fortune who has gone through most his of life looking for something or someone to laugh at.

The Duchy of M’Eudail is named for my kinsmen and their collective dream, a homeland they could truly call their own, prosper from, and defend if called upon, all while free to follow their chosen faith. My GrandDa fled Ireland to Scotland after the rebellion there failed. He was accepted among the Highlanders as a good and brave Catholic freedom fighter should be, and raised a fine family with lands before his time was ended. He lived long enough to see his only surviving son wed the spirited Beverly of the MacKibben’s, Herself descended of the MacDonald’s of Glengarry and the MacGibben’s of County Mayo in Ireland. And he lived long enough to see me. In fact, my Da used to say that my early exploits probably shortened the old bugger’s life! My Da was an ardent Jacobite, and did not hide from it. Through my Sainted Mother’s influences, he also became a skilled trader and craftsman, though he still “rattled the swords” when the drink was upon him. As soon as the young Pretender, “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart, arrived on our shores, my Da was off to war with a vengeance, trade be damned. Emboldened by the early victories, and worn down by my constant pleadings, he took me with him that fateful day to Culloden at the ripe old age of 15. There I watched him die, and probably would have myself if one of the “Wild Geese” hadn’t carried me away with him back to France. I found out later that my name was known and that I had been branded a criminal and traitor to the Crown in absentia, and my Sainted Mother forced to fall back on her kinsmen for sustenance. So there was nothing for it, I took my place among the Wild Geese of Ireland (with a few Scots thrown in for good measure) who served France, and proceeded to learn my “craft” as a warrior.

I began my service as a private in the Regiment de Dillon of the famed French Irish Brigade, commanded then by the Honorable Sir Arthur Dillon, Comte d’Dillon. I myself thought my early career was rather unremarkable, but a family friend happened to mention to Sir Arthur that I was descended from landed folk in the old country (both of them), and I soon found myself elevated to Sous-Lieutenant with a section under my command. My next shock came when it was mentioned to the then-young Charlie Fitzjames, the 3rd Duc d’Fitzjames, that I knew my way around horses and came from a proud military family. That this was mentioned by a certain Chef de Bataillon who wanted me as far from the Dillon Regiment, and his daughter, as possible never seemed to matter. The next thing I knew, I was in the bloody Fitzjames Cavalry Regiment, trying my damndest to stay on a horse while still drunk. Well, Charlie and I became fast friends and drinking companions (beware your friendships, my Da used to say) and the next thing I know, my smiling Lieutenant-Colonel is informing me that he’s approved Charlie’s request to make me one of his Lordship’s personal aides. I never trusted that officer again, and took every opportunity to make sure his name did not appear favorably in dispatches! Mind you, this tale actually took 10 years to unfold, but today it still seems as if it happened in the blink of an eye, especially since I’d remained in garrison and not heard a shot fired in anger since Culloden.

Throughout this period, and indeed even today, I still do not consider myself to be a “proper soldier”, but I did discover something truly profound in my wanderings: “proper soldiers” don’t always win battles. Throughout my wanderings and postings, quite without any real effort on my part, I had learned how an army functioned. From my training in the different services I recognized the importance of combined arms, from my ancestors I had learned the value of a fanatic charge (at the right time, of course), and from my reading (a promise that I made and kept to my Sainted Mother) I had learned that commander’s of the past had recognized the importance of discipline, morale, supply and communications. Somehow, this allowed me to not only survive my questionable military exploits, but somehow be noticed in the process as being either very “lucky” or very good, it really didn’t matter which. Indeed, after the battle of Minden, my personal recognition from Charlie Fitzjames and Louis, and the virtual collapse of France as an aggressive power, I found that I was somewhat “in demand” and was “loaned out” for service as an advisor and aide in other lands so that Louis could put me on half-pay. And that, dear reader, is how I came to “earn” my other rather dubious titles.

I was first dispatched as an “advisor” to the Milanese, then fighting another of their incessant internal “wars of state” and dealing with border incursions, brigands and deserters in the Piedmont area. While on a diplomatic mission to the Lombardy region, my staff and I were enjoying the “hospitality” of an order of monks in the town of Saronno, along with mass quantities of a delicious local beverage made from a secret concoction of alcohol, apricot pits, sugar and herbs that the monks called “Amaretto”. Well, to make a long story somewhat shorter, a group of vile brigands attempted to seize the abbey of the order and my staff, all full of wonderful liquid courage, drove the bugger’s off without a single serious casualty. I simply accepted their thanks and a few barrels of their elixir and went on about my mission, but when the Duc d’Milan was approached by a Papal representative with the grand tales of my exploits, all “without apparent concern for his own safety at any time” (drunk), nothing would do but for the Duke to grant me the honorary title of “Protectore di Saronno”, which looks good on the old curriculum vitae and nets me an unending supply of barrels of that wonderful elixir to this day, along with a small annual stipend and some valuable friends. God love those crazy monks!

My next “honor” came while serving as an aide to the young Margrave of Baden-Baden, Ludwig Georg Simpert. The ancient region of Baden was split into various warring factions, all with the thinly-veiled support of Frederick and the mad Bavarians, and Georg had assumed the role of Margrave in a war-torn region determined to bring peace and unity. What a crazy sod poor old Georg was (He preferred to be called Georg so that he wouldn’t be confused with several raving mad other Ludwig’s that populated southern Germany at the time). Germans not fighting, why it would be like the Irish not drinking! At any rate, while on detached service there I met and married my lovely bride, the Lady Katherine von Lichte, known to the people of my duchy as “Saint Katherine the Patient” (The bloody French will give anybody a nickname, and I’m not that difficult to live with!). As a result of my marriage to a landed family, and pulling Georg out of a bedchamber in the nick of time the night before my nuptials (you do see a theme developing here?), nothing would have it but for Georg to name me as a “Lion of Baden” for my meritorious service, whatever the bloody hell that means. But it did grant me a share in the monies from Katherine’s estates, plus her dowry, plus a small annual stipend from Georg. Well, what can one say at such a time and still retain their apparent modesty?

When I returned to Louis’ court after my adventures, and he was trying to decipher the ramifications of the Treaty of Paris (The King has never been what I would call “smart”, but he is crafty and a right sneaky bastard to boot!), it was decided to present me with my duchy and an annual stipend to “manage it”, in service to France of course. I think Louis just wanted a hard-headed Scots-Irish arsehole in a position to deal with any annoying incursions into the Champagne region by its neighbors and I was the most likely candidate for cannon-fodder; and my friendship with the Margrave of Baden-Baden and family ties to the von Lichte’s probably helped as well. What Louis never counted on, nor any of the others in his court, was that my wanderings, my political and personal friendships, my annual income, and my knowledge of “The Art of War”, as some bloody fool has called it, all made this the perfect opportunity for an opportunistic Gaelic sod like myself. Louis did allow me to call for “volunteers” from the now under-employed Irish Brigade, and from this my personal “Guard” battalion was born. Several members of Charlie Fitzjames’ staff and some troopers also followed me as my “aides de camp” and mounted guards. I marched them all east to my new domain, and established the town of Vesoul as my capital, which I promptly christened “New Edinburgh” to honor my Sainted Mother’s people, a fact that the locals still only grudgingly accept and my Irish lads aren’t always too happy about either. As I had previously traveled in this region during my assignments in both Italy and Baden-Baden, I knew it to be fertile and full of promise, filled with hard-working folk, and with lines of supply and communication on the Rhine, through the mountain passes and along the reasonably good roads in the region.

However, I also knew that I was being “thrust into the breach” to some degree and that Louis fully expected me to be killed, deposed, or both in short order during the chaos that followed the Great War. I immediately sent my aides out as couriers to various friends in Scotland, the French troop depots, Milan and Baden with messages for my friends. Here, I glibly promised, was a land filled with opportunity, just waiting for a few stout men to help build and defend it. Since I also promised land-holdings and work for their camp-followers and wives (something every good commander should do and none since William of Normandy have adequately done), I was thus assuring their future’s and their son’s and daughter’s to follow, and good morale. Not all of my activity was military-related however. During my earlier travels, I had often come into contact with the people of the Low Countries and of Switzerland, and greatly admired the efficiency (and income) of their Trade Guilds. Indeed, one of my first administrative acts was to organize the people of my duchy into similar Guilds, each pledged to sell their products at an agreed-upon price and to share a percentage of the price for the upkeep and defense of the duchy. By doing so, they were personally exempted from military service, if they wished, except in case of a full-on invasion of the duchy, in which case it was every man for himself. Their products were many and of high quality; timber from the nearby forests, produce of nearly every variety, milling on the various waterways in the region, fat cattle, a wonderful sparkling wine that is very popular (I personally don’t care that much for it, but the Lady Katherine loves it), and some mining of copper, lead and iron. I also established trade agreements (and mutual non-aggression treaties) for our products with the Margrave of Baden-Baden and with the Duc d’Milan, and secured promises of the import of needed products from those regions as well, all at an established rate of exchange. I now had the seeds of a Dukedom and an army well-planted, and needed to start seriously planning my future endeavors and expenditures. But, ‘tis now time for drink, reflection and bed, then I will consider the resumtion of this narrative.
Respectfully yours, Sir William