Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596–1662)

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Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596–1662)

Electress Palatine and queen of Bohemia. Name variations: Elisabeth of Bohemia; Elizabeth of England; Elizabeth, Electress Palatine; Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen. Born at Falkland Castle in Fifeshire, Scotland, on August 15 or 19, 1596; died at Leicester House in Leicester Fields, England, on February 13, 1662; interred at Westminster Abbey, London; eldest daughter of Anne of Denmark (1574–1619) and James VI (1566–1625), king of Scotland (r. 1567–1625), later king of England as James I (r. 1603–1625); sister of Charles I, king of England (r. 1625–1649); married Frederick V (d. 1632), Elector Palatine and titular king of Bohemia, on February 14, 1613; children: 13, including Frederick Henry (1614–1629, who drowned in the Haarlem Meer); Charles I Louis also known as Karl Ludwig, Elector Palatine (1617–1680, whose daughter Charlotte Elizabeth of Bavaria married Philippe I, duke of Orléans, and became the ancestor of the elder, and Roman Catholic, branch of the royal family of England); Elizabeth of Bohemia (1618–1680, princess of Palatine, German philosopher, disciple of Descartes); Rupert (1619–1682), duke of Cumberland; Maurice (1620–1654); Louisa (1622–1709), abbess; Edward Simmern (1624–1663, who married Anne Simmern , "princesse palatine"); Henrietta Maria (1626–1651, who married Count Sigismund Ragotzki and died childless); Charlotte (1628–1631); Philip (1629–1650); Sophia, electress of Hanover (1630–1714, who married Ernst August, elector of Hanover, and was mother of George I of England); Gustav (1632–1641).

As was typical for royal daughters, Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Anne of Denmark and King James VI of Scotland, was reared away from her parents, in the homes of various English nobles who had proven their loyalty to the crown. She was entrusted to the care of the Earl of Linlithgow during her infancy. Following the 1603 departure of the royal family to England, where her father was crowned James I, Elizabeth was entrusted to the care of the Countess of Kildare . When she was nine years old and under the care of Lord and Lady Harington at Combe Abbey in Warwickshire, a conspiracy against the king, now known as the Gunpowder Plot, was formed. The conspirators were Catholic extremists determined to assassinate the Protestant King James and bring England back to the Catholic Church. Their plan included kidnapping Elizabeth and making her queen after killing her parents and older brother Henry, heir to the throne. The plot failed, and for her own safety Lord Harington removed Elizabeth from Warwickshire to Coventry.

Three years later, the 12-year-old Elizabeth appeared at court, primarily so her parents could find her a proper suitor. Her beauty soon attracted admiration and became the inspiration for poets. Her suitors included France's dauphin, Maurice, prince of Orange, Gustavus Adolphus, Philip III of Spain, and Frederick V, the elector Palatine. Despite the opposition of her mother Anne of Denmark, a union with Frederick was finally arranged to strengthen the alliance with the Protestant powers in Germany. The marriage took place at Whitehall on February 14, 1613, with great feasting, jousting, fireworks, and masques, while Elizabeth's mother reportedly entertained her new son-in-law "with a fixed countenance." On June 17, the 16-year-old newlyweds

moved to Heidelberg where Elizabeth, who had developed extravagant taste and a high-spirited personality in her early years, enjoyed five years of leisure and merrymaking with funds from an English annuity. The small German court was totally unaccustomed to such activities, and Elizabeth found that her new subjects did not approve of her behavior.

Louisa (1622–1709)

Princess Palatine and abbess of Maubisson. Name variations: Louise Hollandine; Louise Simmern. Born Louisa Hollandine on April 17 or 18, 1622, at The Hague, Netherlands; died on February 11, 1709, in Maubuisson; daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596–1662) and Frederick V, Elector Palatine and titular king of Bohemia; sister of Elizabeth of Bohemia (1618–1680) and Sophia (1630–1714), electress of Hanover; became abbess of Maubuisson.

The country Elizabeth had inherited was on the brink of eruption. When Matthias, king of Bohemia and Hungary, died in 1619 after the start of the Thirty Years' War, the electors of the empire met in Frankfort to choose his successor. Emperors were elected by the Seven Electors, key figures in the constitution. Although the electors reluctantly chose Matthias' nephew Ferdinand II, the election was hardly concluded when news reached Frankfort that the Bohemians had deposed Ferdinand and elected as their new king Elizabeth's husband, the inexperienced Frederick V, Elector Palatine, leader of the German Calvinists.

There is no evidence to show that Frederick's acceptance was instigated by Elizabeth or that she had any influence in her husband's political career, though she did declare that she would rather eat sauerkraut as the wife of a king than dine off gold plates as the wife of an elector; she also offered to sell all her jewels for the cause. Elizabeth accompanied Frederick to Prague in October 1619 and was crowned queen on November 7. As in Germany, Elizabeth's vivaciousness and ostentatious spending, as well as her immaturity, caused concern and dislike among the Bohemians. Frederick was only to hold onto his crown for one year.

Ferdinand quickly amassed a coalition army in response. In October 1619, he struck a deal with his brother-in-law Maximilian, duke of Bavaria. As head of the Catholic League (an alliance of Catholic princes in whose name he maintained an army), Maximilian agreed to attack the rebels if Ferdinand would give him Frederick V's lands and electoral rank. Ferdinand and Maximilian were not the only ones who desired Frederick's ruin. John George, the Lutheran Elector of Saxony, was willing to attack Frederick in exchange for the Bohemian province of Lusatia. Spain offered money and cooperation if they were allowed to conquer Frederick and Elizabeth's richest possession, the Lower Palatinate, which lay along the Rhine River and blocked Spanish access to the Netherlands. Although the northern half of the Netherlands had rebelled against Spain and established its independence, a truce with this Protestant Dutch Republic was about to expire.

In August 1620, the army of Maximilian's Catholic League, led by Count Tilly, crossed into Bohemia while the Saxons invaded Lusatia. On November 8, at White Mountain just outside Prague, Tilly destroyed the rebel forces, and Frederick fled Bohemia while his remaining territory, the Upper Palatinate, also fell to Maximilian. Though Elizabeth's high spirits and gaiety had offended the citizens of Prague, in time of trouble she showed courage and grit. Driven out of Prague on November 8, 1620, after her husband's defeat, Elizabeth traveled to Berlin and Wolfenbüttel; finally, she and Frederick took refuge at The Hague with Prince Maurice of Orange.

As Elizabeth and Frederick were stripped of their lands and titles, all or part of the estates of 658 families and 50 towns in Bohemia were confiscated, and the lands were sold to loyal, Catholic purchasers at nearly a third of their value. A new, largely foreign aristocracy took advantage of the bargains to amass enormous wealth. Eventually, in 1627, the remaining Protestants were given the choice between conversion and exile. The kingdom of Bohemia was now Catholic.

Help sought from Elizabeth's father James I came only in the form of useless emissaries and negotiations. The assistance of her chivalrous cousin Duke Christian of Brunswick, and other young men who were inspired by the beauty and grace of the Queen of Hearts, as Elizabeth was now called, did not improve their situation.

Elizabeth's new residence was at Rhenen near Arnheim, where she received many English visitors and endeavored to maintain her strength and spirit, despite frequent disappointments, including the drowning death of her first born in 1629.

The Dutch, unable to accept permanent Spanish control of the Rhine, signed a treaty to help Frederick V regain his lands. King Christian IV of Denmark prepared to rescue Protestantism by invading the empire. But Count Tilly and his army of the Catholic League defeated King Christian at the Battle of Lutter in 1626, and Denmark eventually made peace at Lübeck in 1629. Meanwhile, Gustavus Adolphus, the Lutheran king of Sweden, had come to the aid of Frederick and the Protestants. Landing on the Baltic coast, he quickly occupied the northeastern quarter of the empire. He then summoned all the Protestant princes to Leipzig where they declared war against Ferdinand unless he withdrew the Edict of Restitution. By the fall and winter of 1631, Gustavus had conquered all of western Germany. Then, at the battle of Lützen on November 16, 1632, Gustavus Adolphus lay dead on the field, though he had won the battle.

Gustavus Adolphus' victories secured no permanent advantage for the Protestants, and his death at Lützen was followed by that of Frederick's on November 29, 1632. Elizabeth wrote her brother Charles I of England saying that this was "the first time she was frighted:" for it struck her "so cold as ice and she could neither cry nor speak nor eat nor drink nor sleep for three days." Subsequent attempts by Elizabeth to reinstate her son Charles Louis to their lost lands were unsuccessful. Not until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years' War, did her son regain a portion of them, the Rhenish Palatinate. Although Charles Louis regained part of his father's lands, disputes with his mother led Charles to refuse to receive her in the Palatine, and so she remained in exile.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth's position in Holland grew more and more unsatisfactory. The payment of her English annuity of £12,000 stopped after the outbreak of England's Civil War; the death of her brother Charles in 1649 put an end to all hopes from that quarter; and the pension allowed her by the house of Orange ceased in 1650.

Because of dissension, her children abandoned her. Her nephew Charles II, at the restoration of his English crown, showed no desire to receive her in England. Parliament voted her £20,000 in 1660 for the payment of her debts, but Elizabeth did not receive the money. On May 19, 1661, despite Charles II's attempts to block her journey, Elizabeth, now 65, left The Hague and returned to England for the first time since she had left as a child of 16. She received no official welcome on her arrival in London and stayed at Lord Craven's house in Drury Lane. Her son Charles, however, had a change of heart and subsequently granted her a pension and treated her with kindness. On February 8, 1662, she moved to Leicester House in Leicester Fields; she died shortly afterwards on the 13th and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Elizabeth's beauty, grace and vivacity charmed her contemporaries, but her incredible popularity was probably enhanced by her string of misfortunes and by the fact that these misfortunes were incurred in defense of the Protestant cause. Later, as the ancestor of the Protestant Hanoverian dynasty, she secured a prominent place in English history. She has long been regarded as a martyr to Protestantism.

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Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596–1662)

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Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596–1662)