A day or two later, on a cold November afternoon, five people were seated around a mahogany library table at the Palais Kaunitz. They were not there to read. They were Prince Metternich, Talleyrand, his niece Madame de Périgord, and Lord and Lady Clancarty. Outside, it snowed gently, and despite the roaring fire, the people in the room were chilly. It would be dark soon enough. Dorothea let down the heavy velvet curtains to shut out the winter night and anybody who might be trying to look in. Her Maître d’Hotel was stationed outside the library doors to make sure nobody intruded upon their discussion.
“Well, I have observed the American, and received reports from my agents, and like our esteemed colleague Talleyrand, I am concerned about the effect he might have on our efforts to bring peace to Europe”, observed Metternich.
“But why should he be such a concern? I see only an uncivilized lout”, commented the Comtesse Edmond de Périgord.” “Admittedly he is annoying, but surely we can avoid him? Or throw him out?”
Here, Lady Clancarty interposed. “No Madame-what worries me is the damage he could do if left to wander about Vienna unchecked. He cares nothing for consensus or rational discussion, he is loud mouthed and stupid. The ideals of the Enlightenment seem to have passed him by. Believe me when I say he is a danger to the Congress. I have had some experience of the damage he can do and I beg you to trust me in this matter.”
“Lady Clancarty is right”, agreed her husband. “We both have cause to worry about the damage Trump could do. I will only say, at this time of doubt, that we have met him before, though under very different circumstances”.
“Lady Clancarty has provided me with much interesting information on M. Trump. Information that was not available to my agents, excellent as they are. I believe she is not only correct but also sincerely disposed to aid us” from Metternich. “Talleyrand, what do you think?”
“Oh, I agree with you, Metternich. I already see the effects of his disruption on our negotiations, at this early stage. Even when he says little he creates a divided, hostile atmosphere with his remarks. If this is allowed to go on, he will create a chasm that none of us will be able to bridge, however good our intentions. If so, forget peace in Europe.”
“Well, I have a plan”, said Metternich. “My fear also is that Trump’s uncouth behavior will derail the Congress, so I have devised a solution that in one stroke will defuse the conflicts he has initiated, stabilize a war-weary Europe, and, last but not least, restore the reputation of Mme. de Périgord.” Metternich bowed slightly to Dorothea, who returned his salutation.
“My idea is to dispatch Trump, under guard, to Longwood House, St. Helena to keep company with the ex-Emperor. This way, they will be fully occupied by the question of who has the sharpest suits and the biggest ego. It is undoubtedly expedient but unfortunate. Our honorable ex-Emperor, a worthy adversary, really deserves better from us than to be locked up with this lunatic and therefore I suggest it should be temporary, until the Congress is over, when we can think of something longer term. If you are in agreement, we can return to our negotiations. I will take care of the details. What do you say, Lady Clancarty?”
“My dear Prince, I believe this to be the wisest course of action”.
“I defer to your wisdom in this regard. I know I will be glad to be rid of his embarrassing attentions and the staff feels the same way. I have a few questions however”.
“I admit I see only the tip of the iceberg, but I have had a feeling for several days that there IS an iceberg. Since I am of your counsel, I would appreciate being enlightened. How does Lady Clancarty know so much about this fellow when he simply showed up here without any warning? He claims to be the President of the United States, but we all know that is M. Madison. Surely he is a mere charlatan? Why do we all understand each other even though we are not all speaking French? The American only speaks English, yet he seems to understand what we say. I am frankly mystified.”
“Dorothea once again shows how intelligent and observant she is” observed Talleyrand with some satisfaction. “Metternich, Lady Clancarty, I think you had both better “come clean”, as the Americans say”.
The Doctor Comes Clean
Lady Clancarty rose and took a turn around the room. She wore a long pale grey silk dress and over it a tailored redingote in dark grey cashmere. She had thrown an exquisite Indian shawl around her shoulders. Her face was thoughtful as if she was struggling to put her thoughts into the words that would best serve her listeners.
“My dear friends, you have been very patient. You think I am Henrietta, Countess of Clancarty, a minor Irish peeress and the wife of a diplomat. But I am not. I am something completely different, so different that you do not even have a word for ityet. For now, you can call me the Doctor. I am a time traveller and I come from a world not only very far away, but separated from you in time by hundreds of centuries. I help people whenever I can. I am fond of this world and its people. As for why I am here-many timelines are converging at this Congress, which will decide the fate of Europe for the next 100 years. It must NOT be disrupted.
I arrived here with my companion – Lord Clancarty if you like – a few weeks ago. He, like me, has been keeping an eye on things to ensure they go smoothly. It has been awhile since I was last in Vienna, so it was good to be back and at such a critical time. We adopted these identities for several reasons-first, the Clancarties, while central to the Congress, are not too conspicuous. And second, I must admit, being from another planet, there was something humorous about picking that identity-I’ll explain later….. My plan was to observe the Congress and leave. We made contact with Prince Metternich and the other English delegates. Nothing unusual there. And then Donald Trump showed up. This was, as far as I can determine, an accident, but not entirely unexpected by me. He is indeed President of the United States, but not in 1815. In 2019.
The accident that propelled him here must have happened even further in the future, since I can assure you they don’t have time travel in 2019.
While manners are a bit more casual in 2019, you would say shockingly so, most governments there are completely disgusted with his coarseness, self-centeredness, nationalism, and folly. That is not your concern. As you have noticed, he cares nothing for consensus, negotiation, civilized discourse, good manners, or anything except himself. This Congress is poised to be the first in European history to solve problems by discussion and consensus building, not violence and warfare. It stabilizes Europe for 100 years. He could wreck it. He must not be permitted to do so”
“And the rest?” asked Dorothea.
“Well, my conveyance, the TARDIS, is sentient and translates thoughts in its immediate environment. That’s why you can all understand each other. The Clancarties are safe and will be returned to their timelines once I have left. They will not remember anything of what has happened here and will be able to take up their duties at the Congress as if nothing had happened. Please be kind to them.”
“May we see it, your TARDIS as you call it?” asked Dorothea excitedly. “It would be wonderful to see the proofs of what you assert!”
“I’m afraid that might not be a good idea” responded the Doctor. “Prince Metternich and Talleyrand have seen my “travelling carriage” but I think it would be unwise to do more. I should hate it to come to Trump’s attention! That would be a disaster!”
“Madame, take it from me, I have seen the proofs of what the Doctor says. It sounds incredible, I know, but you must take it on faith for now. Talleyrand has also seen these things, as he can tell you, and I know his incomparable discretion will keep that knowledge safe within this small group”. Talleyrand bowed at this compliment from Metternich.
“What I can say is this: It is true I am Chairman of this Congress, but it is Henriette, Gräfin von Clancarty who has been its Eminence Grise”. Metternich bowed.
The Congress of Vienna, while it de-emphasized the liberties and civil rights associated with the American and French Revolutions, achieved a fair balance of power, peace, and stability, in Europe. The statesmen at the Congress prevented another widespread European war for nearly 100 years. The Congress of Vienna and the Congress System marked the true beginning of our modern era. The Congress System was deliberate conflict management, and was the first genuine attempt to create an international order based upon consensus rather than conflict. The old formulae for balance of power were in fact highly destabilizing and predatory. The Congress of Vienna avoided them and instead set up rules that produced a stable and benign equilibrium.
Restoration of the US timeline of the early 21st century to some semblance of rationality and order enabling people to come together to build a viable consensus that allows progress.