Thursday, 14 February 2013

Elizabeth Stuart - Valentine's Day Bride

Today is the 400th anniversary of the wedding of Elizabeth Stuart to Frederick V, Count Palatine of the Rhine. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of James VI of Scotland, who of course went on to become James I of England. Her father was of course keen to marry her off to create the best possible political advantage, and eventually settled on Frederick as he was the leader of a group of Protestant rulers in Germany, despite being only 16 years old (as was Elizabeth - who would have had the portrait above painted at around this time).

After their first tricky meeting Elizabeth and Frederick found that they were genuinely attracted to each other, and got to know each other better by watching 6 of Shakespeare's plays. The wedding was a happy (and extravagant!) affair, complete with fireworks, dances and a mock sea battle (which got rather out of hand leading to several injuries amongst the sailors...). Elizabeth had 13 bridesmaids and John Donne wrote a special Valentine's Day poem for them.

Elizabeth then moved to Heidelberg with her husband and they had 13 children together. In 1619 the couple became king and queen of Bohemia but shortly afterwards they were thrown out and fled to Holland. Elizabeth remained fully engaged in European politics, keen to support Protestants under threat across the continent. She returned to England with her brother, Charles II, in time to see him restored to the throne before her death in 1662.

Elizabeth is particularly important because the royal line continued through her after Charles II died without any (legitimate) heirs. Her grandson was George I, who would establish the House of Hannover on the throne.

You can read more about Elizabeth in the most recent edition of History Today, as well as here (Wikipedia), and also here for more information about her extensive correspondence. Elizabeth also appears in this slightly eccentric blog article about other "Queens of Hearts".

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