Remember, remember, the Fifth of November…

Elizabeth Stuart by Gerrit van Honthorst. National Portrait Gallery, London.

I was doing some reading about the Gunpowder, Treason and Plot thingie when I came across this lady. I read that she was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England and our very own Anne of Denmark and naturally my interest was spiked.

Elizabeth was born on the 19th of August 1596, the second child of James and Anne at Falkland Palace in Fife, Scotland and was six years old when her father took the English throne.

Elizabeth in 1606, by Robert Peake the Elder. Metropolitan Museum of Art

She comes into the Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by being Guy Fawkes’ intended Catholic monarch. It was his plan to kidnap her in 1605, when she was nine, and, after assassinating her father to put her on the throne. Happily, Guy Fawkes was apprehended before he could murder her father and Elizabeth remained a princess, not to follow in her aunt’s footsteps as a reigning queen of England.
Elizabeth was married on Valentine’s Day 1613 to Frederick V, the Elector of the Palatinate in Germany. They were married at the palace of Whitehall and John Donne, the famous 17th century poet, wrote a poem to celebrate the event “Epithalamion, or Marriage Song on the Lady Elizabeth, and Count Palatine being married on St. Valentines Day.”

Frederick led the coalition of Protestant princes at Holy Roman Emperor’s court and marrying Elizabeth would have tightened his ties to his fellow protestants at the court. Despite the business-like affair of their marriage, the two were believed to be genuinely in love with each other and Frederick even created an English wing in his palace at Heidelberg to make his wife comfortable.

Elizabeth is also sometimes called The Winter Queen, the cause being her husband’s short reign as king of Bohemia. Frederick was offered the Bohemian crown in 1619 and both him and Elizabeth were crowned in November 1619. However, Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor, had a birthright to the throne and did not let them reign long. He forced the couple into exile by 1920, where Elizabeth came to be known as the Winter Queen.

In 1648 her son, Charles I, won back the Electorate of the Palatinate and after the Restoration of the English and Scottish Monarchs, it was also possible for Elizabeth to travel to England to visit her nephew, Charles II.

It is also through Elizabeth’s line the Hanoverian royal house of Britain, which ended in 1901 with Queen Victoria, is descended. Her daughter, Sophia of Hanover, had become the nearest Protestant to the English and Irish crown and under the Act of Settlement (1701) the royal crown was bestowed on her and her issue.

And this particular blog owner, will never cease to be amazed at how interconnected the royal houses of Europe really are. I hope all of my readers in England are having a great Bonfire Night!

Elizabeth as a widow, by Gerard van Honthorst. National Gallery of London.

 

 

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Aristocratic Decadence

Princess Yvonne and Prince Alexander, 1955

I can’t find that much info on these two. One description of this photo names Alexander as a Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, a placename that could only come out of a Germany. I would love to see pictures of them as adults, but alas, google is being fairly disobliging right now.

Doesn’t it just scream aristocratic decadence? I wonder what the photographer was thinking of these two.

Child’s Pose

Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

There’s something about this girl’s gown that seems off to me. Perhaps it’s the enormous bustle in an 18th century gown? I suppose it could be attributed to the angle, and perhaps it’s as wide as it is big but it looks odd. Maybe it’s just very, very fashion forward of Duchess Sophie’s mother to order a dress like this for her child.

This is, by the way, yet another Sophie/Sophia from Mecklenburg-Schwerin to marry a Danish prince or king. Mecklenburg, in northern Germany, is quite close to Scheswig-Holstein. These two duchies used to belong to Denmark until the war in 1864 and still has a sizeable Danish-speaking minority. My point is that Mecklenburg is so sufficiently close that the procuring of brides was no big matter. For some eery reason, nearly every Mecklenburg bride was called Sophie or Sophia.

Duchess Sophia with her brother Duke Friederich

This portrait of the princely children is quite sweet, though. I’m no art historian (English literature is where it’s at for me) but there’s a playfulness about it which is usually exempt from portraits of children (or for that matter adults) in the time. The siblings look very alike, especially their smiles and chins.

Sophia

A Royal Prussian Summer Home

Yes, I know this blog is called Writing The Renaissance and I promise you that it will actually contain content pertaining to said period. But it just to happens that I spent part of my summer holiday in Berlin, and once in Berlin I couldn’t resist visiting the old 17th century Charlottenburg Schloss, or Castle.

Charlottenburg was erected between 1695 and 1699, and originally named Lietzenburg, it was intended as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, wife of the Elector Frederick, who in 1701 went on to become King of Prussia, Frederick the First. It was upon Sophie Charlotte’s death that the castle was renamed Charlottenburg.

The castle is built in the Italian Baroque style, and seperated into two wings, which are nowadays called the Old Wing and the New Wing. And I will say, that if there was one thing that annoyed me upon visiting, it was that you had to be two admission tickets, one for the Old Wing and one for the New Wing. And they were both 10 euros, and then extra if you wanted permission to photograph. As a result, knowing that I’ll be back in Berlin soon enough, I only visited the Old Wing. I do regret not visiting the New Wing, but being a student I simply couldn’t defend spending 20 euros on admittance to one museum alone.

The downstairs of the Old Wing is kept in a very recognisable rococo-style, with everything that entails of gilded ceilings, tapestries and chinoiserie. Being that Charlottenburg is a summer residence it’s not a very big castle, and walking through the wing you’re following a very natural path, taking you through the private and public rooms of the royal family. It’s not incredibly big, and the reason for that is probably that the castle wouldn’t have been used for anything beyond socialising. At any rate, the castle has a very intimate feel about it.

As I mentioned the nod to China, the so-called chinoiserie, was ever-present throughout especially the rooms belonging to the female members of the dynasty. Above is a detail from a spinet where you can see Chinese ladies playing in their gardens, presumably at the Imperial Chinese court or something similar.

There even was an entire room, walls entirely covered by mirrors for some reason, where what I presume to be original china (I can’t really tell the difference, but as it used to be a royal castle I don’t think my assumption is entirely wrong), was proudly displayed in golden cases in displays like the one above. Yes, even complete with the figurines. Yes, all four walls. I admit that I did quite a double-take upon entering the room, which made a curator look at me like he thought I was rather odd, but I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.

Of course, no castle is complete without a chapel, and this is where the Prussians worshipped in the summer. I found it quite beautiful, though there seemed to be quite a lot going on to my Protestant eyes. I’m not averse, by any means, to decoration in churches, I actually find it quite beautiful, but I’m not used to it from visiting Danish churches.

On the opposite end to the altar and pew, there is this display and if anyone held any doubts as to whether the monarchs themselves believed in the divine right of the sovereign ruler, I think they can be put to rest quite gently upon seeing this.

This is a painting which hung in the first room you entered once upstairs – from the chapel you entered into a sort of grey area, with restrooms, and then out under the (very low, watch your heads!) staircase which was set in a very bright and white passageway in which there also hang some terribly racist paintings that I didn’t get any good shots of. Otherwise, there’d be a whole post on the Western perceptions of the Noble Savage, right there.

The painting portrays either a coronation or a wedding, but as there were no plaques on any paintings in the castle (by far, the most annoying thing), I couldn’t say. I think it’s a wedding though. I got really close to it, though, and it had some very lovely details of the crowd gathered.

Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria

The upstairs of the Old Wing were held in a decidedly different style than the downstairs, post-French Revolution and neo-classicist entirely. Where the downstairs was very colourful, lots of tapestries and such, the upstairs left a much paler and whiter impression, with white walls and so on.

I think this is Elisabeth of Bavaria again, and her ladies, dressed up Medieval ladies. Elisabeth’s husband became king in 1840, right when Romanticism in Europe was at its heights, and there was a raging fascination with all things Medieval. They look rather lovely, don’t they?

The German eagle, so sadly hijacked by Hitler and his Nazis, but lest we forget, it’s no different from the American bald eagle and nothing makes me happier than seeing Germans use it to express pride in their nation, for example in relation to the World Cup which had just ended (with Germany winning bronze and not gold as they should have, grrr) when I was in Berlin. Young Germans aren’t as afraid as their parents and certainly grandparents were, of using their flag and other national symbols nowadays, which is really a step in the right direction.

An Angelic Muse of some sort.

This is what his plaque says, anyhow. Homer, Horatius, Shakespeare, Dante, Calderon, Someone I Can’t Make Out, Goethe. When I explained this painting to a friend he casually remarked that it was the equivalent of hanging an Andy Warhol or somesuch, poster on your wall. It says a whole lot about you in the way that it communicates your desire to show how into art or literature you are. Either way, I had a good chuckle over this.

A lovely marble bust that I’m very sorry to admit that I can’t id. I love her nose, it’s so full of character. (If you know who it is, please let me know, I hate not knowing these things.)

The medieval headdress on this one and the complete lack of writing on the bust leads me to believe that this is a woman playing dress-up, or perhaps just an imagination based upon a courtier.

The upstairs also included a room where all the paintings where of the Virgin Mary, and one where all the paintings where of Roman locations, such as the a church with nuns praying, the Pope’s chair and a river with sailors sailing by a church in the morning. It had a slightly chaotic but quite lovable feel to it, altogether.

This is the view from the gardens, which are now a public park right on the Spree and quite a lovely spot indeed. How’s that for a first proper post?

Next time I’m in Berlin I vowed to myself to not only visit the New Wing but also Sanssouci, the German Versailles. Until next time, fair readers~