|Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia|
The Joys of MonarchyRupert was christened on 31st March 1620 in Prague[i]; the ceremony was followed by a magnificent feast and the next day Frederick’s friend Baron Christopher Dhona was married to his long time love and the celebrations continued. There was no stinting in the entertainments enjoyed by the court; no-one would think the treasury was virtually empty;
‘From day to day such was the jollity of King Frederick, his queen, his brother, the Duke of Wirtemberg and the lords and ladies of the court that none could have formed the idea of the intanglements abroad or the perplexities at home.’[ii]Elizabeth was totally without any political understanding and she looked to her father for support against the Catholic counter revolutionaries. James refused to recognise Frederick as King of Bohemia and went so far as to apologise to Ferdinand for his son-in-law’s actions.
James was perennially short of cash and he was concerned about keeping the peace at home and abroad. At this time he believed that conciliating Spain was the best way to do this. Indeed he had plans to marry Charles to one of the Spanish Infantas. By 1620 he was disillusioned, writing of monarchy in a way that his son-in-law should have taken to heart;
‘Look not to find the softness of a down pillow in a crown but remember that it is a thorny piece of stuff and full of continuous cares.’[iii]
Loss of a Throne
|Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach|
In August the army of the Protestant Union led by the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, although numerically superior, were persuaded by the French not to meet the Catholic League forces in battle. The enemy were led by Maximilian of Bavaria,. Although the resultant agreement bound the league and the Union not to invade the Palatinate, it did not bind the Spanish armies led by Spinola.
Matters in Europe were complicated by the Ottoman invasion of Poland[iv] and on 7th October 1620 the Battle of Cecora[v] brought an Ottoman victory. Further south the Spanish sent an army under Spinola to support Ferdinand. The Protestant Elector of Saxony had also been persuaded to join the imperial forces determined to topple Frederick off his precarious throne.
On 8th November 1620 the Battle of White Mountain[vi] signalled the end of Frederick’s tenuous hold on Bohemia when the royal forces led by Christian of Anhalt fell before the might of the imperial armies and he was taken prisoner.
|Battle of White Mountain|
The royal family beat a hasty retreat from Prague; Elizabeth was placed in a private carriage by Bernard, the son of Count Thurn. And Rupert nearly got left behind in the desperate scramble; Baron Dhona threw the baby into one of the carriages. Their journey to Breslau[vii] was complicated by a heavy fall of snow.
The royal family’s reception in Breslau was cool and the family travelled on to Frankfurt an Oder. Fearful for her and her family’s future, Elizabeth wrote to her father;
‘Your Majesty will understand by the king’s letters how the Palatinate is in danger of being utterly lost if your majesty gives us not some aid. I am sorry we are obliged to trouble your majesty so much with our affairs, but their urgency is so great that we cannot do otherwise.’[viii]
|George-William, Elector of Brandenburg|
From Frankfurt Frederick sent a courier to his brother-in-law George William, Elector of Brandenburg, to ask if Elizabeth, again pregnant, could undertake her confinement at Frederick’s castle at Custrin. After the intercession of Frederick’s sister Elizabeth and of the English envoy Sir Henry Wotton, George gave grudging acceptance to the request and the family arrived on 14th December.
Elizabeth gave birth to Maurice on the 17th in a castle with none of the trappings of splendour that had surrounded her in Prague. Rupert and Henry Frederick accompanied their mother to the Netherlands. The young Henry Frederick wrote of this journey
I have taken a long journey from Prague to the Netherlands and am now in Friesland with Count Ernest of Nassau.’[ix]
Maurice was taken to Berlin to be cared for by his paternal grandmother Juliana, who prevailed upon the Elector of Saxony to intercede with Ferdinand for Frederick, albeit unsuccessfully.
Loss of the Electorate
And now the loss of Bohemia was to be exacerbated by the loss of the Palatinate; Spinola invaded the Electorate. On 21 January 1621, Ferdinand issued a decree against Frederick and Christian. The pair were accused of breach of peace, supporting rebels, and treason. Ferdinand decreed that Frederick's lands and titles within the Holy Roman Empire were forfeit.
On 6 February 1621, representatives of the Protestant Union met with Ferdinand at Heilbronn to protest the decree, but were persuaded to support the settlement in the Palatinate. The Palatinate remained occupied by Spanish troops. At this point, the Protestant Union had essentially ceased to exist.
To make his victory even more meaningful Ferdinand cancelled the Letters of Majesty; the Protestants in Bohemia could no longer raise churches on royal land or worship whom they pleased.
|Karl von Leichtenstein|
Ferdinand also declared the lands of those who had supported Frederick forfeit and attempted to sell them off. Due to the large amount of land for sale buyers were few and prices low. So to raise funds Ferdinand debased the coinage and ended up bringing hyper-inflation to the region.
With worthless money buyers for the forfeited lands flooded in; the Protestant aristocracy were replaced by good Catholics while the merchant class were destroyed. Karl von Liechtenstein, the man Ferdinand appointed as governor of Bohemia, purchased eight properties. One man purchased sixty six estates; the Protestant Wallenstein who was to become Ferdinand’s military supremo.
The War Gains Momentum
An appeal in England was set up to raise money for the Palatinate and Prince Charles gave £10,000[x]. Sufficient monies to support military intervention would have to be awarded by parliament which James called and on 30th January 1621 he told MPs;
‘I am to provide for wars…….and nothing can be expected from you without begging as a man would beg for arms.’[xi]
James resented having to beg parliament for money and was horrified when MPs discussed his conciliatory foreign policy. No monies were forthcoming and James trusted to the new King of Spain, Philip IV to restore the Palatinate to Frederick, a trust that was unfounded.
|Christian of Brunswick-Luneberg|
Frederick and Elizabeth now faced a future as pensioners of their families and friends. Elizabeth’s uncle Christian IV of Denmark sent six thousand troops to support Frederick. Frederick could also count on the support of his general Mansfeld and Christian, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg, one of Elizabeth’s cousins, who seems to have been partly motivated by a chivalric love of Elizabeth;
‘What will become of a worthy cousin-german of mine, Duke Christian of Brunswick, of whom, I am sure, you have heard of; he hath engaged himself only for my sake in our quarrel.’[xii]
The Margrave of Barden-Durlach and Count Thurn also supported what seemed like a lost cause for the Protestants. James sent a few thousand troops under the leadership of Sir Horace Vere. Against them were ranged the Catholic League’s forces led by Tilly.
On 18th April 1622, following a terrible few months when the Rhine burst its banks and thousands drowned, the fecund Elizabeth gave birth to Louise who was to become a talented portrait painter[xiii] like her brother Rupert.
The new Elector
|Seal of Heidelberg University|
In February 1623 Ferdinand formally transferred the Electorate of the Palatinate to Maximilian of Bavaria, despite the opposition of all the Electors save Maximilian’s brother. The situation in Europe was different; Spain did not want Maximilian in the Palatinate, Archduchess Isabella wanted Frederick to hand over to Henry Frederick, his eldest son, to be educated in Vienna and ultimately married to one of the Emperor’s daughters. James was in favour of the Archduchess’s proposals, even though it would almost undoubtedly involve Henry Frederick’s conversion to Catholicism.
Maximilian had support in Rome where the Vatican was the recipient of the sack of Heidelberg; the contents of its great library, the Bibliotecha Palatina, were now held in their archives. The Pope was also averse to the potential increase in Hapsburg power that would follow from having an Elector marry the Emperor’s daughter. Maximilian gained an Electorate at the expense of the Electors’ liberties.
Gustavus Adolphus the Great – Nils Ahnlund, 1999 History Book Club
Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, vol 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
[ii] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart vol 2 – Benger (ed)
[iii] King James - Fraser
[iv] The Poles supported Ferdinand
[v] A three week battle
[vii] Now Wroclaw
[viii] King James – Fraser
[ix] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, vol 2 – Benger (ed)
[xi] King James - Fraser
[xii] Memoirs of Elizabeth Stuart, vol 2 – Benger (ed)