Arrival in a Foreign Land
In April, escorted by Lord and Lady Harington and their niece Anna Sutton-Dudley[i], the Duke of Lennox[ii], the Earl and Countess of Arundel and Sir Edward Cecil, Frederick and Elizabeth journeyed to Frederick’s homeland. A fleet of seven ships commanded by the Lord High Admiral escorted the happy couple from Margate to Flushing, where the newlyweds were met by Prince Maurice[iii].
The bridal party travelled on to den Haag, Leyden, Haarlem and during the journey Elizabeth met with an emissary of the Infanta Isabella, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. On 13th May they arrived in Amsterdam where the company were royally entertained. On 22nd Elizabeth met George William, the Elector of Brandenburg; the following day he escorted the party to Düsseldorf. Here the party transferred to a small fleet of boats and travelled up the Rhine.
arrived in Frederick’s domains at Oppenheim and thence travelled on to the castle at Frankenthal[iv].
|Louise Juliana van Oranje|
‘Every house was crowned with a garland; the air breathed fragrance, and from every quarter resounded songs of gladness.’[v]
The party, after much pageantry and display, then travelled on to Heidelberg where Elizabeth and her escort passed under a number of triumphal arches before reaching the castle. Among those there to greet Elizabeth were the Dowager Duchess of Zweibrucken, Frederick’s mother Juliana[vi] and Frederick’s sisters.
The Sound of Distant Drums
On the 1st January 1614 Elizabeth gave birth to a son she named Henry Frederick. The young Prince Henry was christened in Heidelberg, presumably at the Church of the Holy Spirit[vii]. He was carried in church by his aunt Katherina Sofie. Henry was the first of thirteen children, the last of whom, Gustavus Adolphus[viii], was born in 1632.
Spain had an interest in German affairs arising from their holdings in the Spanish Netherlands [ix] . And Philip III wanted access to and control of the Rhine to enable the passage of troops from northern Italy to the Spanish Netherlands. In turn the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias, looked to his cousin Philip for support against his rebellious Protestant Electors.
Sweden, under the expansionist rule of Gustavus Adolphus, and Denmark were both interested in expanding their influence in the Baltic region and France felt in danger of Hapsburg encirclement, with Spain to the south and the Holy Roman Empire to the north. The individual German states had differing alliances and these and the question of religion were tearing the Holy Roman Empire apart.
Divided by Religion
As leader of the most flourishing state, Frederick saw himself as the head of the Protestant Union, a grouping of the German Protestant states. The opposing German Catholic League, was headed by his cousin Maximilian of Bavaria.
When the Duchy of Cleves-Jülich came up for grabs in 1610, the Protestant Union was anxious to prevent it falling to a Catholic candidate; both candidates were Protestants. The emperor took the Duchy under his control; a move which was viewed with concern by the Protestant lords, who thought that Matthias was intending to add Cleves-Jülich to the already enormous Hapsburg holdings; thus increasing Protestant forebodings.
On 20th March 1619 Matthias died and his successor was Ferdinand II. Ferdinand had or already been chosen as Matthias’s successor as the King of Bohemia in 1617[x], the following year he was elected King of Hungary. As a devout Catholic, Ferdinand was heavily involved in the opposition to the Protestant Union.
The Thirty Years’ War Begins
The Second Defenestration of Prague was the start of a Protestant rebellion in Bohemia. It was also the spark that lit the conflagration of the Thirty Years’ War which dragged in most of northern and central Europe. Ferdinand, as King of Bohemia, was determined to reduce the powers of the Protestant lords in Bavaria. He had persuaded Matthias to agree to stop the building of Protestant churches on royal land, as allowed by the Letter of Majesty[xi] which gave the Protestants their religious freedoms.
The Bohemian estates protested and Ferdinand dissolved the assembly and imprisoned some of the burghers of Braunau[xii]. The Lords Regent[xiii] were confronted by the Protestant lords led by Count Thurn[xiv] at Hradschin Castle on 23rd May 1618
|Defenestration of Prague|
‘His Imperial Majesty had sent to their graces the lord regents a sharp letter…….in which His Majesty declared all of our lives and honour already forfeit, thereby greatly frightening all three Protestant estates……we wish to know, and hereby ask the lord regents present, if all or some of them knew of the letter, recommended it, and approved of it.’’[xv]
The Protestant Lords demanded the freeing of the prisoners and when their demands were not met the two Lords Regent considered the ring leaders, Count Slavata and Count Borzita, were thrown out of the council chamber window along with the secretary Philip Fabricius; all three men survived the seventy foot drop to the ground, which was immediately announced to be a miracle.
King of Bohemia
|Siege of Pilsen|
At this point Frederick’s governor of the Upper Palatinate, and chief adviser Christian, Prince of Anhalt-Bernberg, intervened in Bohemian affairs. In August 1618 Frederick’s general, Ernst von Mansfeld led an expeditionary force into Bohemia to assist the rebels and once there successfully directed the Siege of Pilsen. He was given command of the Bohemian troops.
The following year the Bohemian rebels offered Frederick the crown of Bavaria after John Georg the Elector of Saxony, had turned it down. After much misgivings he decided to accept. Frederick thought that he would be better placed as King of Bohemia to safeguard princely liberties from infringement by the emperor and his cohorts.
|Battle of Sablat|
Frederick’s decision to accept Bohemia, and jealousy of his young cousin, prompted Maximilian of Bavaria, master of one of the most professional armies in Europe, to come to an agreement with Ferdinand. He would support Ferdinand, take control of any lands he conquered and once Frederick was defeated Maximilian would become Elector of the Palatinate.
On 10th June 1619 the Catholics won the Battle of Sablat and shortly thereafter Ferdinand was elected emperor[xvi]. At the end of July Lusatia, Silesia and Moravia signed the terms of a joint confederation with Bohemia. And then Bethlen Gabor, the Protestant Prince of Transylvania, with the support of the Ottoman emperor Osman II[xvii], invaded Hungary and Ferdinand’s Protestant subjects flocked to Gabor’s side. On 20th August he and Count Thurn signed an offensive and defensive alliance.
|Frederick as King of Bohemia|
Following Frederick’s coronation on 3rd November, a heavily pregnant Elizabeth, having braved the arduous journey to Prague, was crowned on 6th. Her show of courage made a very favourable impression on her husband’s new subjects. Although Frederick was to learn soon enough that there was no money to pay for an army, the streets of Prague were decked with hangings of blue and silver.
On 17th December 1619 Elizabeth gave birth to her third son Rupert[xviii]. She had been hurt by her mother’s death earlier in the year on 2nd March. Anne had left Elizabeth nothing in her will;
‘She bequeathed no part of her property, nor even one of those superb jewels.’[xix]
Elizabeth kept up her correspondence with her father, but James did not approve of her and Frederick’s rashness and refused to refer to his son-in-law as king.
Gustavus Adolphus the Great – Nils Ahnlund, 1999 History Book Club
Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, vols 1 & 2 – Elizabeth Benger (ed), General Books LLC 2012
The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987
King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974
Charles I – Christopher Hibbert, Penguin 1968
The Thirty Years War – Herbert Langer, Dorset Press 1990
The Thirty Years War – CV Wedgewood, Folio Society 1999
[iv] Later a centre of silk and porcelain manufacture
[v] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart – Berger (ed)
[vii] The church were the Electors were buried
[viii] Named by Elizabeth in direct opposition to Friedrich, who wished to name the child after his lost Henry Frederick.
[ix] In 1609 Philip III had signed an armistice granting the Dutch in the United Provinces independence and immunity from attack for 12 years. The southern Netherlands was ruled from Brussels by the Infanta Isabella. But the Spaniards had always planned to retrieve their lost territories and spent the period preparing to reconquer the United Provinces.
[x] For want of an acceptable Protestant candidate
[xiii] Governors appointed by Frederick, all Catholic
[xvi] There was no other candidate capable of the role
[xvii] Transylvania was part of the Ottoman Empire
[xix] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart – Berger (ed)