Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Death of the Winter Queen

Elizabeth Stuart, the widow of Frederick of the Palatinate, died on February 13, 1662 in England at Leicester House. Lisa Jardine contributed comments about her on the BBC's A Point of View page in 2013:

. . . in late 1619, Frederick and Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Bohemia (today part of the Czech Republic) at the invitation of the Bohemian Confederacy, to prevent a Catholic incumbent ascending the throne - only to be driven from their court in Prague and deprived of all their Palatinate lands the following year by the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand.

The "Winter King and Queen" - so called because their reign had lasted a single winter - sought refuge back in the Netherlands, in The Hague.

Frederick died in 1632, but Elizabeth lived on in the Dutch Republic for a further 30 years, returning to England in 1661, a year before her death and a year after the restoration of her nephew Charles II.

It was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the wedding of the Winter King and Queen that I came to be in the Hague last week, walking through heavy snow past the Mauritshuis to the grand opening of a glorious exhibition of 17th Century paintings of the couple and their family.

The Hague's glitterati were there, as was the British ambassador to the Netherlands. This was, after all, at its heart, a very British occasion, even if the speeches were in Dutch.

As I listened to our host praising the enduring political power and influence of Elizabeth of Bohemia, Holland's queen of hearts, I asked myself why there had been no equivalent celebration in the UK?

How had we missed the opportunity to mark the appearance on the royal scene of a couple who in their own day had matched the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for glamour, and who at the time of their marriage were similarly destined to achieve international power and influence?

How, above all, have we all but forgotten the Winter Queen? Many readers will never even have heard of her.

Jardine goes on to discuss her efforts to regain the Palatinate for her son and to marry her other children off well--read the rest here. One of Elizabeth's daughters, however, Louise Hollandine became a Catholic and a Cistercian nun in France. Another daughter, Elizabeth, also became a nun--but as a Calvinist Abbess-Princess at the Hertford Abbey in Saxony. Elizabeth corresponded with Descartes.

According to the Westminster Abbey site, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia

is buried in the same vault as her brother Henry and son Rupert. Her parents had been buried in another part of the chapel. [The Lady Chapel] The inscription on her coffin plate reads:

"The remains of the Most Serene and Puissant Princess Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, relict of Frederick, by the grace of God King of Bohemia, Chief Steward and Elector Palatine of the Holy Roman Empire, only daughter of James, sister of Charles I and aunt of Charles, the second of that name, kings of Great Britain, France and Ireland. She fell asleep most piously in the Lord at Leicester House, on Thursday 13 Feb., year of Christ's Nativity 1661 in the 66th year of her age"

The date is given in Old Style dating. Her name and date of death were inscribed, with others, above the vault in the 19th century. The stone is between the monuments of Mary Queen of Scots and the Countess of Lennox in the chapel.

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