There was a fat jolly man with shrewd eyes above his cheerful smile and ready greetings who seemed to take considerable interest and enjoyment in the proceedings, moving easily through the gathering, leaving a good impression behind him, facilitated by his memory for names, faces and the circumstances of previous meetings and details of the lives, families and concerns of the people he greeted and who were happy to greet him. This was not quite a politician in search of votes – such creatures were extinct, although obviously capable of revival. This was His Imperial Majesty’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Wessex, His Excellency Dieter Schmitt. His Excellency, or ‘Dieter’ as he generally insisted in being called in the informal circumstances which he contrived and preferred, had a prodigious appetite for information, as well as for ‘wine, women and song’. He made it his business as well as his pleasure to be as well informed as possible of the state of affairs in the kingdom. He certainly had a more complete and accurate picture of the numerical facts and physical capacities of the kingdom than had any of the officials of the king, and he had a very good sense of the currents of ideas and feelings and of the relations among the powerful. This made him a very good advisor to both the Emperor and the King.
Himself a nominal Catholic, a follower of His Holiness Karl II who was happily ensconced in the Papal Palace of Koln and enjoying a cosily caesaropapal relationship with his Imperial Majesty Ludwig IV, Dieter had been surprised to find that Germanic paganism was now much more influential in Wessex than it was in Germany. Instead of shrilly demanding crusades and conversions, missionaries and an army of occupation and extirpation, Dieter had quietly proceeded to promote interest in German kultur and history. This was actually a lot cheaper and more effective in fostering good relations, Germanophilia and gradual assimilation to the Empire. It had helped that Ludwig was personally no more interested in religion or matters spiritual than was his ambassador, and his government were fully occupied with war against the Moslems, and the administration of conquered territories, in which they welcomed the co-operation of the remaining weak European states. Dieter and his government had been far more interested in encouraging technical and economic development, trade, education and the avoidance of distracting conflict between the three English kingdoms, Wessex, Mercia and Yorkshire. They had been pleased to secure the support of a British Division, consisting of brigades from each of the kingdoms. This had owed much to the knowledge and diplomacy of Dieter and his colleagues in the other kingdoms. Old Romans would have recognised a client kingdom. Old India hands of the British Raj would have recognised an effective Resident in a Princely State. Shocked natives might later come to recognise just how complete could be the ascendency exercised over their rulers and their succession by the imperial power.
His Excellency was acknowledged to be a good man to know. Not only was he affable and well informed, he was generous in entertaining and he dispensed scholarships and patronage. He helped mechanics to get training in Germany, engineers and businesses to find investors. He promoted the teaching of German to make these visits easier. The strict laws and prejudices against usury made it difficult to open the country to German banking, or even to promote local banks. Several times he received lectures on how Roman loans had enslaved the Britons, leading to Boudicca’s rebellion, and obscure rants about the alleged role of German and American banks in causing the collapse of the Old Times. Some of the more traditionalist inclination regarded him with suspicion, and thought that his
influence tended to re-create the Old Times which they so despised and loathed. Most people were swayed by his charm and his generosity. Some were pleased to learn German and to take opportunities to study or travel or work in Germany and it’s increasingly extensive domains, but not entirely for the obvious reasons. Just as in the Dark Ages missionaries from Britain and Ireland had spread Christianity through Germany, now to a lesser extent and in a much more discreet manner, certain English pagans took the opportunity to go to Germany, make the right contacts and strengthen paganism there.
Richard Brown enjoyed visiting the Avebury festival with his family when business permitted. His wife Mary particularly liked the torchlight processions and ceremonies along the ‘snakes’ of stones leading to the centre. He was pleased by the happy atmosphere of the festival and the chance to discuss news and possible business with old friends and new acquaintances. After a picnic lunch his wife and their maid had taken the children to see more of the games, entertainments and knick-knack stalls, whilst Richard had taken a stroll to one of the better inns in the district, where he had met several acquaintances and had fallen into friendly discussion over cups or mugs of wine, beer or mead. Richard and his cousins held interests in a Mauretanian iron mine and an iron foundry near Bristol, which increasingly depended on coal shipped from Mercia or Yorkshire. He was interested to hear news which could indicate a change in demand for iron.
James Fisher, a shipowner, was another member of the group. He owned several small ships which transported iron ore from Mauritania, recently seized by the forces of Wessex, and sugar, rum, cotton and other tropical produce from the English and European plantations in the Windward and Leeward Islands. He was interested in possible expansion of trade routes.He had stories retailed from his captains and only a year or so out of date, about Brazil and it’s war with the cannibalistic Mexicans, and the encounters of European and Brazilian traders in the Caribbean with the Republican Americans and fights with the ferocious Mexicans. Sometimes such gatherings would include businessmen from Mercia or Yorkshire taking the opportunity to combine the pleasure of visiting the famous Avebury Midsummer Festival with the chance of finding a little business or information.
The group was discussing the prices and relative quality of the wines of Wessex and those of France, Portugal and Vandalia when Dieter Schmitt arrived. He already knew Richard and was soon at home with the group, ordering another round, and loudly proclaiming the superiority of the Rhineland wines of Germany, which he promised to let them try for themselves when they visited his Residence or attended one of the dinners which he regularly hosted. Indeed, he would be delighted if they all joined him for dinner in this very inn the next night, along with their spouses, when he would introduce them to the contents of several cases of wine which he had brought along hoping for just such an occasion to share them!
The dinner was indeed a pleasant and relaxing event, a memorable addition to the pleasures of the Festival. Richard and his wife enjoyed the wines, and enjoyed the socialising even more. It was not only businessmen who were the guests of His Excellency. He was on good terms with prosperous farmers,landed gentry and officials, officers on leave, priests, poets, shamans, cousins of the King. Everyone who was anyone knew Dieter and drank deep of his hospitality. These meetings helped a lot of people who bore responsibility in different areas, economic, religious, administrative, military, political and cultural to meet and mingle more easily than would otherwise have been the case. Only a few of his many admiring guests saw this, admired the skill of his performance, contrasted it with that of the rather aloof and bookish King Harold V, whom most of his middle class subjects had only seen at a ceremonial distance, and wondered who really ruled in Wessex or would do so in a few years time. There were others, less obvious but perhaps more influential, determined that whoever ruled Wessex, it would be neither Dieter Schmitt, nor His Imperial Majesty. The Germans were admired and respected, particularly for their leadership in freeing Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East from the curse of Islam, but there were forces at work within this land which the Germans did not comprehend, and which would not easily submit to foreign domination.