23 December 2017

It is almost Chrstmas Eve in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

The ground is white with fresh snow east of the sun and west of the moon in the far off Grand Duchy of Stollen. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey, and heavy coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the Grand Duchy, somewhere very near to Frederick’s Prussia, sometime during the mid-18th century.  More or less. 

Citizens of Krankenstadt bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets of the small capital city of the Grand Duchy, running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The red brick North German Gothic storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats like the marzipan for which the city is known, and the happy faces of children peek in through the frosty windows at the cheerful seasonal displays.  Street vendors peddle their wares in the town square, shouting loudly above the din of shoppers, their voices forming puffs of steam in the wintry air.      

In the streets leading from the busy riverfront to the city center, the colorful, gabled merchants’ houses are warmly lighted by candles in each window as year-end business is concluded in the ground floor offices. Music and song emanate from the Lutheran and Catholic cathedrals on the town square as their choirs rehearse one final time for their respective Christmas services this evening. The notes and tones coalesce, spiraling up above the old city as organists and choirs rehearse their respective parts for the coming celebration. And in the side streets, local coffee houses and taverns provide a welcome respite from the biting Baltic cold along with hot beverages to warm the palettes of many a weary patron.       

Meanwhile, the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, his trusty English manservant Hives, and the palace staff are busy preparing for their midday departure.  The Grand Duke and Hives are joining his aunts  Hiltrud, Irmgard, and Waltraud, who, unbeknownst to to him, have decided once more, after failing yet again to procure an understanding with a young woman of suitable marrying age and family, that the time has come yet again for an end to all of this shilly-shallying.  Irwin-Amadeus II must settle down and marry!

Apropos their collective aims, the three formidable old ladies are once again  hosting a large house party and Christmas Eve ball in their nephew's honor at Aunt Hiltrud's home.  Besides a host of suitable young women, including the charming Lady Clothilde de Badinage, the guest house party list reads like a veritable who's who of Krankenstadt society, including the unlikely gambler and cardsharp Bishop Sivert Tiburtius, the Prince von Boffke and his wife the Lady Leonora Christina (nee von Grandin), and the terminally hungry Prussian ambassador to Stollen Herr Heinz von dem Salat as well as the inveterate gossip and society columnist Katrina-Bettina von Heffelfinger.   

Other guests on the list of people joining the aunts for the Christmas festival include the crafty General Leger de Maine, the overly accessorized General von Tschatschke, the hypochondriac General von Bauchschmerzen and his leaky hot water bottle as well as the ponderous and not-quite-yet outgoing English ambassador to Stollen, one Lord Huffington-Blather, who is eventually due to be replaced in the new year by the libidinous Lord Algernon Fortescue de Rumpier-Pumpier, whose reputation precedes him.  Poor Irwin-Amadeus II!  Without doubt, a madcap ballroom farce is sure to unfold before Christmas Day and continue through New Year's Eve.

Just before Noon, the ornate coach into which Irwin-Amadeus II and Hives have  at last nestled beneath bearskin blankets rolls away from the palace entrance on its way to Aunt Hiltrud's house.  The fresh snow squeaks and crunches beneath the coach wheels as the team of six horses drawing it trots across the courtyard toward the gate.  The Grand Duke's coach next passes a detachment of the the blue and yellow uniformed Corps of Pontoniers, led by the fabled Oberfeldwebel Klatschen of the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers.  The grizzled old NCO spies the grand ducal coach, shouts to the men in his charge to form up and give a salute to their monarch. 

And in the spirit of the season, the gruff Klatschen throws caution and protocol to the chilled wind, wishing his Grand Duke the compliments of the season and "Frohe Weihnachten!" in a loud voice, hardened by much tabletop campaigning. The unwitting and befuddled Grand Duke nods and waves cheerfully, returning the wish through a coach window, bidding the marching troops well as the carriage pulls through the gate and out of the courtyard on it's journey to Aunt Hiltrud's country house a day's journey north of the city.  

Returning to the present for a moment, wherever in the world you might find yourself this Christmastime, as you drop by the Grand Duchy of Stollen for a cup of warm holiday cheer during the next several days or so, the "real" Irwin-Amadeus II, the fetching Grand Duchess Sonja, and Young Master Paul I bid you warm season's greetings. We would like to wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, and joyous holiday season. May you discover oodles of your preferred brand of figures in your stocking Christmas Morning, and perhaps a recent Charles Grant title, or two beneath your tree.  Maybe the latest issue of your preferred wargaming magazine?  Or  perhaps the 2018 Wargamer's Annual?  Or simply winter quietude and the company of those nearest and dearest to you.   

Tangible things notwithstanding, may your Christmas Day and the week following be filled with peace, joy, and the good cheer of close friends and family.  May the spirit of the season fill your hearts and lives in the coming year.  Merry Christmas from all of us in the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

-- Stokes 


Steve J. said...

Merry Xmas to you and yours and thanks for many entertaining Blog posts this year. Already looking forward to 2018 and what it may have in store from you.

The Good Soldier Svjek said...

A Merry Christmas to you and yours , Tony

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Merry Christmas Stokes and to you and all the Stollen Household.

Mark Nichipor said...

A most Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a most happy New years!

CelticCurmudgeon said...

My Dear Heinz-Ulrich, Greetings!

Your article on scratch building the Baltic town in the Wargamers Annual 2018 was really quite good. It did cover quite a bit of the material you had posted here but that's okay since many readers would not be following the blog. Have you actually used them in a game or as the backdrop for a game. Do you ever see yourself constructing fortified walls and doing a siege type game?

Many best wishes for a wonderful holiday week.


Gerardus Magnus
Archbishop Emeritus

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Thank you everyone! I hope your respective Christmas Days were peaceful happy affairs in whatever form that took. Gerardus Magnus, thank you for your kind words about the article. Those were lots of un to research and construct. I plan to use a few of the buildings later this week in a small refight for Steve Hezzlewood's and John Ray's The Boucharde Raid, which featured way back in the 1983 'Wargames Manual' from Allied Publications. And yes, at some point (as soon as I can figure out the geometry involved), I hope to construct a section of fortress walling to go with the Baltic German town center. If I remember correctly, there are a couple of old Ian Weekly articles on walls and a more ornate town gate that might be very helpful.

Happy Feast of Stephen and Christmas Week!

Best Regards,



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