A Dangerous Climate PART I Prologue



Text of a letter from Klaus Demetrius Krems, confidential secretary to Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and co-King of Poland, to Ferenz Ragoczy, Grofok Saint-Germain, presently residing at Ciemny Zamek near Kutno in Poland at the King's pleasure; written in code and delivered from Warsaw by Royal Courier in three days.

To the most noble Ferenz Ragoczy, Grofok Saint-Germain, the greetings of Klaus Demetrius Krems on behalf of Augustus II, in his capacity as King of Poland,

My most dear Grofok,

This is to confirm your agreement made with Royal Augustus these two weeks ago, and to detail what the terms of that agreement are:

To wit:

Item the first: at the behest of King Jozef Habsburg of Hungary, you are to assume the identity of Arpad Arco-Tolvay, Hercegek Gyor (who, as you have surmised, is missing under most troubling circumstances), and travel with Arco-Tolvay's wife, Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, in his stead to join the embassy to the Czar Piotyr Alexeievich at his new city currently being built on the delta of the Neva River at the place where the Swedes had their fortress. Your compliance is guaranteed by King Jozef, who has extended the revenues of the estate and the rank of your distant relative in exchange for your participation in this venture to Czar Piotyr's new city, which he has named Sankt Piterburkh, in the Dutch tongue, as a recognition of his fondness for the Dutch and all he has learned from them in regard to seafaring. Due to this admiration, he prefers that his intimates call him Piter rather than Piotyr. Until he invites you to use the Dutch name, continue to use the Russian.

Item the second: you will there establish as much of a household as is practicable in that place, and you will observe the building of the city, its state and progress as well as any actions the Swedes may take upon the Czar's efforts there, and will report your observations to me for the benefit of the most Royal Augustus. If the war with Sweden is to spread, it will be most useful for Poland to know of it, and to prepare for many demands to be made on our troops and our people. Such information obtained from you as would be useful to King Jozef, I engage to provide him as a show of good faith.

Item the third: for all that Russia and Poland are allies, and stand against the Swedes, it is still a matter of some moment that a Russian port on the Baltic could prove dangerous to Poland, and to that end, you are to inform me of any alteration in the Russian posture regarding Poland and Polish interests. Czar Piotyr Alexeievich is a man of impulse and ambition, and if he is frustrated by Sweden, he may turn his westward attentions in other directions. Should that occur, it would be essential for Royal Augustus to know of it with all dispatch.

Item the fourth: you will endeavor to aid the Czar to construct such engines as may be used to drain the marshes on which Sankt Piterburkh is being built, and to extend any other skills you may possess to the building project. Arpad, Hercegek Gyor, has done much to improve his lands, which are in a river valley, often subject to flooding; he is known to have developed several devices to move water about, to construct levees, and to drain low-lying bogs. The more you can make yourself valuable to the Czar, the more useful you will be to Royal Augustus.

You are granted the right to take your manservant Hroger with you, and such coachmen, carriages, and outriders as may be needed for your journey, provided that Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, approves of the arrangements. That she has consented in this deception is not to be taken as an invitation to you to compromise her marriage. You have pledged not to lure her into adultery, and it is not only her honor and yours that are at stake, but the honor of Royal Augustus. Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, will maintain the fiction in public, but will not extend anything untoward to you simply because you are pretending to be her husband, for she will not compromise her husband with an unexplainable child with claims to support from Hungary. As is often the case for women of such high rank, Ksiezna Nisko will indulge her right to be entertained in any way that does not compromise her mission. She also requires that she not know your identity beyond your rank and that you, like her husband, are Hungarian. If you decide to tell her more than your title and origin, she will immediately order your departure. She believes the necessary deception will be less hazardous for both of you with this precaution.

Travel will require the same conduct from you as being at Sankt Piterburkh. Zozia, Ksiezna Nisko, herself will have three carriages, two sleighs, four coachmen, six postilions, four maids, a footman, a steward for your household in the new city, and an escort of nine guards. She has also said she will want to engage only trained servants once you arrive there. You will be provided two couriers to carry your messages to me, both of whom will reside with Royal Augustus' Envoy, not as part of your household, so as not to be a charge on you.

Given that you will have to wait until the roads are clear before you depart, Augustus II asks that you not travel far from your current retreat at Ciemny Zamek, for if your dissembling is to be successful, the less you are seen as yourself, the less likely it is that you will be unmasked. Arpad, Hercegek Gyor, is known to be reclusive and studious, so it would be well for you to adopt his habits before you assume his identity. Most Royal Augustus has recommended that you depart no earlier than the beginning of April, at which time you will travel from Warsaw to Grodno, and from there to Pskov, and then on to the Neva and Sankt Piterburkh, which should put you there in mid-May. The escort from Royal Augustus' household cavalry that will accompany you will return by ship at the first opportunity, leaving their horses and any remaining supplies with you, so that you will not have to wait on the pleasure of the Czar for the necessities of life.

With the Neva free of ice for summer, you should be able to send your reports on Polish ships rather than with couriers, which I most stringently recommend. Once the snows come, neither ship nor messenger will be able to leave safely, and any notification you will have for Royal Augustus will be delayed until the weather allows the use of the roads again. If the Neva River did not carry all the ice from Lake Ladoga, it would be a much more convenient port, which I fear the Czar will learn for himself. He may also discover that the islands often flood, for the Swedes complained that their fortress was more a lake than a haven.

Through our friends already at Sankt Piterburkh, Royal Augustus has let it be known that Hercegek Gyor does not eat or drink in company, which may protect you from some of the more onerous demands of Russian hospitality. On most grand occasions, guests are urged to excesses in drink and food that have sent many a guest home ill with over-indulgence, yet to refuse such surfeit can give inexcusable offense. It would behoove you to leave such lenience to the Ksiezna, who has participated in Russian entertainments in the past. In regard to your abstemious practices, you may claim a religious reason for your reticence; it may be respected, but as high officials of the Russian Church are expected to sate themselves on many occasions, the ploy may not succeed. You may need to come up with some other explanation for your unwillingness to participate in the required gorging, or you will offend the Czar, which will be against the wishes of Royal Augustus as well as King Jozef. Bear in mind that once you gain the Czar's enmity, your usefulness to the Ksiezna and Royal Augustus are at an end.

In addition, you have sworn to Royal Augustus that you are not in any way involved in the uprising in Hungary against the Hapsburgs led by Rakoczi II Ferenc, as you have informed me that the Hungarians style their order of their rulers, with the number before the personal name; do not expect many of the foreigners in Sankt Piterburkh to observe this practice. You have stated that II Ferenc is of a separate branch of your family and no direct connection to you, nor of so-close blood that there is any obligation existing between you; further, you pledge that no part of your mission shall be used to advance that uprising, either in direct benefits or in the capacity as intermediary. Any lapse in this commitment to the benefit of II Ferenc will be grounds to dismiss you, which will not benefit an exile such as you. Let the Austrians, Dutch, Prussians, and English sort the Spanish Succession out with Spain and France: do not yourself participate in any aspect of it. On this point, Royal Augustus is adamant, and if you feel you cannot abide by these restrictions, then it will be best to refuse this mission and remain in Poland or return to Hungary: Royal Augustus must be able to repose absolute trust in your loyalty for this mission.

If this is in accord with your understanding, please sign at the bottom and give it into the hands of the courier who carries it to bring it back to me. If it does not, I ask you to frame a letter of your understanding, and give that to the courier instead. We have a little time to make adjustments in our terms, if that seems necessary to you. On your one previous request, I fear it will not be possible for you to meet with Royal Augustus before you leave, a decision that is as much for your protection as for the King's; we wish to keep your risk of discovery to as small as is possible, and for that reason, Royal Augustus has ordered that all your contact from now until your return from Russia be confined to letters, in the cypher we have already agreed upon for our communication. I apologize for this, and assure you that the gratitude of Royal Augustus will take your understanding of this precaution into consideration when he expresses his thanks to you at the conclusion of your mission.

I pray God to give His protection for your endeavor.

Your most devoted servant to command,

Klaus Demetrius Krems

private and confidential secretary to

Augustus II, the Strong, King of Poland

and Elector of Saxony

on the 27th day of February, 1704
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