It's finally spring in Krankentadt. A perfect time for the Grand Duke's aunts to host a ball at the Residenz, a.k.a. Krankenstadt Palace.
Aunts Hilrtrud, Irmagard, and Waltraud, in yet another bid to see the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II marry and produce an heir to the throne, have decided to throw a springtime ball with the purpose of establishing an understanding of some sort between their wayward nephew and a young lady of acceptable family and station. While the guest list is large, extending to include over two hundred souls all told, certain names on it are considered special guests of honor. These include the following individuals:
General Maurice Leger de Main -- A former Saxon general, of dubious social origins, who attached himself to the Grand Duke's household in January of 1773. Strangely, he has yet to make clear what services he is able to offer Irwin-Amadeus II.
Signore di Polenta -- The Grand Duke's Neapolitan tailor of questionable practices and suspicious predilections. Highly skilled with the scissors, needled, and thread and with a practiced eye for the most flattering fit and drape of cloth. A recent addition to the Grand Ducal household whose precise date of departure and return to Naples seems always to be some weeks away. While di Polenta has a marked fondness for the chambermaids of the Residenz, certain young footmen and pages in the household do not escape his libidinous attentions either.
Uncle What's-His-Name -- Doddering husband of Aunt Hiltrud, who has been around for so long, no one can quite recall why the two married to begin with, or what the social connection was that their respective families hoped to establish, a subject that puzzles even Aunt Hiltrud lo these many years later.
Lady Marie Cheque de Voyage -- One of the Grand Duke's current crop of suitors. "Easy on the old eyes," as the Grand Duke might say in a more candid moment, but not much going on upstairs given the young lady's endless talk of soft kittens and embroidery.
Mademoiselle Amalie de Ambuscade --More details of her personality yet to come.
Liesl von Goshenhoppen -- Pleasant enough but suffers from the dreaded man hands syndrome.
Madame Lady Lucretia von Goshenhoppen -- Her mother. No more need be said.
Lady Solange de Badinage -- The most charming of the four young female hopefuls. Interesting, cultured, light-hearted, and reasonably well informed about the social and political goings on in this tiny corner of 1770s Europe.
Bishop Sievert Tiburtius -- Spiritual adviser to and friend of the Grand Duke. In addition, he is an inveterate gambler and cardsharp with a fondness for peppermint schnapps.
Professor Detrius -- Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Metaphysics at the insignificant University of Krankenstadt. Frequently annoyed, dismayed, and confounded by the Grand Duke's naive grasp and attempted discussions of Metaphysics during their long walks around the gardens of the Residenz.
Heinz-Ulrich and Leonora Christina von Boffke -- Former romantic rival to the Grand Duke and his Swedish wife, a one-time love interest of Irwin-Amadeus II. Since her laugh resembles that of a bull seal during mating season, precisely why the Grand Duke was so attracted to Leonora Christina in the first place is unclear.
Freiherr Heinz von dem Salat -- Prussian ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Jovial and with a healthy appetite. The midday meal is his favorite. The household staff refer to him privately as the Man Who Came to Luncheon.
Felix von Schwerfällig und Schreiben -- Young, self-important libertine poet who is given to revolutionary ideals expressed through pages and pages of third rate poetry. Inexplicably, the Grand Duke's three aunts adore him.
Heinrich Schatzi von Pelznikkel -- One of the Grand Duke's closest ministers, who also had the unfortunate task of marching his monarch into the palace fountian, during the oppressively hot summer of 1767 at the height of what is remembered as The Grreat Lobster Costume Affair.
Juergen Matthias Billet de Doux -- Another of the Grand Duke's close advisers, of Hugenot ancestry, who is perpetually more focused on his own affairs than those of the Grand Duchy. Lovelorn and mournful are an apt descriptions of him. Ever hopeful, Billet de Deux seems nevertheless to be in a continual state of heartache as one affair of the heart after another begins full of promise, runs its course, and quickly burns itself out. The Grand Duke was recent overheard remarking to Hives, "Billet de Doux's done it again that lucky devil! He's managed to escape the old ball and chain one more time." In marked contrast to the Grand Duke, however, Herr Billet de Doux would like nothing more than to meet the right girl, marry, and settle down in the suburbs of Krankenstadt to raise a family.
Katrina-Bettina von Heffelfinger -- Society page editor for Die Krankenstadt Tageblat. An overly familiar, presumptuous, and nosy gossip of the highest order.
Georg Biedermeier von Spiesburg -- Gentleman farmer, acquaintance of the Grand Duke's aunts, and occasional self-appointed art critic for Die Krankenstadt Tageblat via long, rambling, sometimes almost incoherent letters to the editor.
General von Tschatschke -- A flamboyant Stollenian general with a predilection for purple, pink, and lavender uniforms that he designs himself, actually appearing in them publicly AND on the battlefield.
General von Buttinski -- The indecisive Stollenian commander of heavy cavalry, who delegates tasks to his subordinates and then countermands their decisions and attempted orders anyway.
General von Drosselmaier -- The craven officer who lost the Grand Duchy's only functioning sawmill to the invading vile Stagonians during the Battle of Saegewerkdorf in the spring of 1769 and has lived ever since in self-imposed exile and shame on the family estate outside Dorpat. He is making the trip to Krankenstadt only as a favor to Aunt Irmgard, the middle sister, with whom he once had an understanding many years ago.
Antoine de Cavalcade -- Otherwise known as Anton Burg, an overly dramatic, affected, and pretentious actor on the Stollenian stage. Once a nameless extra in some opera, play, or other in Vienna as a much younger man, something he brings up whenever there is a lull in the conversation.
Benjamin Tobias von Wowereit -- A young, talented painter and unapologetic charmer of the ladies, who insists on stripping to his waist, or at least opening his shirt to his navel to exspose copious amounts of blonde chest hair, before he can begin applying paint to his canvas in earnest.
Ingetraud and Karl-Heinz -- A pair of younger distant cousins of the Grand Duke who always seem to be underfoot at any function hosted by his three aunts. Generally unpleasant, mishievous, and malodorous brats of nine and seven years respectively. Perhaps one of the main reasons Irwin-Amadeus II has no real desire to marry and produce a family. And who can blame him?
Edmund Bierstubeke -- Biedermeier von Spiesburg's trusty stable lad cum valet and general handyman. Mistakenly thought by many in the neighborhood to be something of a naive simpleton, but he is actually sharper than they believe. He listens more than he speaks. And watches. In fact, it is said that if you want to know what is really happening in the area, then you should go straight to Edmund, who will give a more accurate assessment of the situation than many of his social superiors.