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.

 

 

In honour of Titanic’s Centennial: Madeleine Astor

About ten years ago, a Big Deal (TM) was happening in Denmark. It was the television premiere of “Titanic,” the epic film which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and to this day holds a special place in my heart. For days leading up to the television premiere the same channel had been broadcasting various other film and TV productions of the same story. I don’t remember the names of any of these productions, although I do recall that one of them was in black and white which just goes to show that Titanic’s story is an endless source of fascination for the public.

So, for this TV premiere a good friend and I had begged our parents to let us stay up late (I think the showing began around 9 PM and ended around 12 PM which was SCANDALOUSLY late when you consider that we were like 12 years old.) Furthermore, my friend’s mother was out of town so we were alone in the house and got pizza and candy and had a grand old time, only slightly sabotaged by the fact that she had new braces in that hurt her teeth and I couldn’t laugh because I’d hurt a rib during P.E.

I was mightily excited for the TV premiere, and I watched all of the other Titanic (and in my opinion lesser) productions in the days leading up to it. Because I am a Type A personality, I also researched Titanic until I was blue in the face.

The R.M.S Titanic.

The R.M.S Titanic

Among the books I found was one that focused primarily on the class divide on the Titanic. It went into great detail describing the first class, second and third class accommodations. It also picked out real-life examples of people who travelled on the different tickets and ultimately their fates. Because I was 12 and already at that point more than normally interested in historic fashions (which is to say, interested at all) I fixated on the upperclass women with their amazing clothes and ridiculous hats. For some reason, one name in particular stood out to me (I have my speculations as to why, but they’re best left out of this blog post), and for some reason, ever since then, her name still stands out to me.

Yes, reader, you may have guessed it. It’s Madeleine Talmage Astor and I suspect my fascination has to do, in parts, with some morbid romanticism I’d rather not own up to.

Most recently, in all this brouhaha surrounding the Centennial (which I guess I’m buying into since it is, in fact, today) I’m excited to see how she is portrayed in Julian Fellowes new Titanic mini-series.

Sadly, I imagine that Madeleine will be mostly overlooked except for some short mention about her scandalous marriage to John Jacob Astor. But to me, Madeleine remains the most interesting person involved in Titanic’s disaster.

Madeleine Talmage Force

Madeleine was born June 19th, 1893 and grew up the second child of William Hurlbut Force and his wife Katherine Arvilla Talmage. She had one older sister, also named Katherine. William Force  was the head of a shipping and forwarding firm in Brooklyn, and they were not “old money” but he supported his family well enough to enter his daughters into New York’s good society. Growing up in Brooklyn, Madeleine attended Miss Spence’s Finishing School, which to this day remains a Brooklyn institution of higher learning, and by all accounts was a popular and well-liked young woman.  She would ride horses in Central Park, played tennis and put on plays with her schoolmates.

By the time Madeleine was entered into society, during a debutante’s ball in December 1910, she had already met John Astor, and this meeting would shock good society all across the world for many different reasons.

The name “Astor” may be familiar to some of my readers. If it is, it’s because at one point the Astor family was the richest family in the world. The Astors built an American empire on real estate, business and investing. John Jacob IV’s grandfather, the original John Jacob Astor, was the first multi-millionaire in the United States. There are several buildings in New York that bear the name Astor. The most famous is probably the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

By the time Madeleine met John Jacob he was 45 years old and newly divorced in a time when divorce was still hugely taboo. There is some evidence that Mrs. Force, the mother of Katherine and Madeleine, wanted Katherine to marry Astor, but he instead took a liking to Madeleine. Astor was 29 years her senior, and his oldest son from his previous marriage, 1 year older than Madeleine.

Today it might be hard to understand that attitude towards divorce in the early 1900s, but divorce was extremely hard to obtain even when instigated by the husband. We don’t know whether it was John Jacob or his first wife, Ava Lowle Williams, who instigated the divorce proceedings but I am fairly certain that Astor’s wealth helped smooth over the process.

However, the troubles didn’t end with Astor’s divorce. After meeting Madeleine in the summer of 1910, Astor announced his intention to marry her in the fall but due to his divorce, not many ministers were willing to marry the couple.

John Jacob Astor, ca. 1895

Another objection to their marriage apart from the age difference and the divorce was the class difference. Astor, the richest man in America, came from a family of “old money” and Madeleine, although a socialite, a member of good society, and the child of a rich father, did not, nor did she have an old name or illustrious connections.

There isn’t much known about Madeleine and John Jacob’s courtship, except that they met in Bar Harbor, Maine during the summer of 1910. They were married the September 9, 1911 at The Beachwood, an old Astor estate in Newport, Rhodes Island, foregoing a traditional church ceremony. Astor had approached first one clergymen, Rev. Edward A Johnson, to officiate the wedding but this man had refused (and was, by many, applauded for his decision. This led to Astor offering another clergyman, a methodist, 1,000 dollars to officiate the wedding. He also refused, but someone at last was found.

The lack of a church was not the only unorthodox part of the marriage service as Madeleine also deigned to wear white, and instead wore a blue semi hobble-skirt and instead of a veil, a peach basket hat. With the Astor family the closest thing the United States at the time came to a royal family, the couple were treated like the celebrities of the day. Encyclopedia Tritannica’s pages on John Jacob and Madeleine has press clippings from the New York Times that describe the couple well before their marriage, and they read like a more polite version of today’s glossy magazines.

To escape the gossip surrounding their marriage, Madeleine and Astor went away immediately after the wedding, to Egypt (there was a huge Egyptian revival going on at the time) as well as Paris where they travelled for several months. Abroad, they met Molly Brown (later dubbed The Unsinkable Molly Brown) who unlike many Americans didn’t shun them because of the circumstances around their marriage, and ended up travelling them before they decided to return home.

Mr and Mrs Astor photographed by Gilded Age paparazzi shortly after their wedding.

About 8 months into their honeymoon, Madeleine and John Jacob decided to return to America. The reason was very simple: Madeleine had fallen pregnant and they wanted their child to be born in the United States. The timing of this pregnancy turned out to be exceedingly unfortunate as the quickest boat home turned out to be the Titanic. Naturally, they travelled on a first-class ticket, in suites C-62-64, along with Astor’s manservant, Mrs. Astor’s maid and Astor’s dog, Kitty.

As we all know, Titanic’s journey took a turn for the tragic when two days in on its journey, it hit an iceberg. By this time of night Astor was at the cardtables and Madeleine already in bed. Reports have many witty things to tell about Astor and one story goes that upon hearing they had hit an iceberg promptly replied “I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous.” It has later been refuted, as apparently, Astor was not the kind of man who made jokes. Another story goes that he went to free the dogs, kept in kennels, away from their human companions.

It is certain that he went first to his wife’s aid and helped her dress warmly. The couple went first to the upper decks as instructed, where it is said that Madeleine lent her shawl to a cold child. After a while, they went inside the gymnasium where John Jacob cut up the lining of a life vest to reassure his wife that it would work as promised.

Eventually, they moved back outside where Astor tried to persuade his frightened wife to go into a lifeboat, along with her maid and nurse, and after a while managed to persuade her. In the book “Lost Voices from the Titanic” by Nick Barrett it is relayed how he originally asked a member of the Titanic crew whether he could accompany Madeleine into the life-boat due to her delicate condition. Being denied, Astor didn’t despair but instead set about getting as many women as possible into the lifeboats before they were lowered into the sea.

From a letter (shared in “Lost Voices from the Titanic”)  by W.H Dobbyn writes of a meeting with Madeleine Astor after her return to New York.

She got into the boat, thinking he would follow her for there were a number of vacant places, and the deck about them deserted. He asked the officer if he might go with her, and was refused. She was terribly frightened when she found herself alone, and the boat being lowered. She remembers his calling to her if she was alright or if she was comfortable, and that he asked the officer the number of the boat, and he said something she could not hear. Her boat had gone but a little way when the Titanic sank. She thought she heard him calling, and she stood up and cried that they were coming, but the people in the boat made her stop, and apparently they made no effort to go back toward those cries for help. There was no light in her boat, and anyone in the water, only a few feet away, could not see them. You would be terribly sorry for her if you could see her and hear her tell the awful tragedy. She is so young and she cared so much for him.

Madeleine Astor in mourning.

John Jacob Astor’s body was never recovered. Madeleine gave birth to their son, John Jacob Astor VI, on the 19th of August, 1912. In his will Astor stipulated that Madeleine should have full use of the different houses belonging to his estate, as well as giving her a very generous inheritance. However, should she remarry she would lose all entitlements to the Astor fortune.

As it happened, she did re-marry, first to her childhood friend William Hurt whom she later divorced. Her third husband was boxer and film-star Enzo Fiermonte whom she also later divorced before she died of a heart ailment in 1940.

There is something about Madeleine’s story that is endlessly fascinating to me. Perhaps it was the way this girl was treated like the celebrities of today. Perhaps it’s her marriage to a man so much older than her and the shortness of their marriage. I wonder what might have happened to them if they hadn’t boarded the Titanic? Would they have been able to withstand a return to America, having their marriage dissected by society and the newspapers? Would Madeleine have been endlessly accused of marrying him for the money?

John Jacob Astor IV, with his son John Jacob Astor V. Astor’s son was a year older than Madeleine.

Katherine Emmons Force, Madeleine’s sister, who their mother initially wanted to marry Astor. She married a missionary and travelled with him to the Philippines.

Madeleine, ca. 18 years old.

UPDATED: Because WordPress refusedd to post this at a scheduled time, the date of this post says the 13th of April but rest assured it was posted, with some difficulty, today the 14th of April.

“Had I but two heads, I would gladly put one at his disposal.”

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

The story goes that when Henry VIII of England went a-searching for a new wife, he was told of a beautiful widow, the daughter of a Danish king and a relation of the Holy Roman Emperors. He asked for her hand. Christina, who had been widowed while virtually still a child in 1534, was at sixteen years old in no rush to be re-married and told the English ambassador that if only she had two heads at her disposal, Henry could have the other.

As history attests they were not married. The portrait above, painted by Hans Holbein. had been sent to the English court and to this day hangs in National Portrait Gallery in London, as yet another reminder of the links between the Danish and the English thrones.

Christina, or Christine as we Danes know her, is a fascinating example of the Renaissance princess.

Christina was born in 1521 to Elizabeth of Austria (sometimes called Isabella in English sources) and Christian II of Denmark and Norway. Elizabeth, Christina’s mother,  was born an Archduchess of Austria and an Infanta of Castile and Aragonia, the daughter of Philip I and Joanna of Castile. When she was fourteen Elizabeth travelled to the still Medieval North, to marry Christian, 20 years her elder, and the lover of a common girl, Dyveke Sigbritsdaughter. With Christian Elizabeth had 3 children, Hans, Dorothea and Christina.

Christian II of Denmark

 

In the 1510s and 20s Denmark was very much still a Medieval realm with a strong nobility and a culture of chivalry. Christian II was disliked by his noblemen and the nobility actively fought against his reforms. When Dyveke, Christian’s mistress suddenly died of what some suspected was poison either supplied by Elizabeth’s Dutch family or the Danish nobility trying to break the king. After Dyveke’s death, Elizabeth had three children in about as many years.

Meanwhile, Christian lost power and favour both with his noblemen and with his wife’s powerful family. Among other things he was responsible for the Bloodbath in Stockholm, where he executed noblemen and clergy after having promised them general amnesty.

Finally, on the 13th of April 1523  the king, the queen and their children fled to the Netherlands.  Elizabeth was promised that she could peacefully return, without the king, mind, by the new king, Christian’s German uncle Frederick I.  Elizabeth beautifully declared that “ubi rex meus, ibi regna mea” or “where my king is, there is my kingdom.” In 1524 Elizabeth died, 24 years old. Her 3 children was sent to their aunt, Queen Mary of Hungary, Governess of the Netherlands to be raised. Christian II failed in every attempt to regain his throne and lived out his life under house arrest in Sønderborg Castle.

Elizabeth of Austria

On the 4th of May, Christina was married to the much older Italian duke Frans 2. Sforza of Milan. Christina was only 14 years old when she was widowed in 1435.  With no children to keep her in Milan, and probably without much support from Sforza’s relatives to govern Milan, Christina returned to live with her aunt. By all accounts Christina was quite the favourite of her aunt.

In 1532, Christina’s older brother died leaving Dorothea, Christina’s older sister, the heir to the Danish throne. The Habsburgian family married Dorothea to Frederick II, Elector of Palatine, in the belief that he would suceed in claiming the throne. He tried, but did not suceed and he and Dorothea died without heirs.

Dorothea, Electress of Palatine by Michael Coxcie

 

Dorothea’s marriage left Christina alone in the Netherlands. While widows generally held more freedom than the average married woman in Renaissance times, Christina had been so young at the time of her husband’s death and having returned to her powerful relatives meant that she could not remain unmarried forever. Finally, in 1541, she married Francis I of Lorraine. In a twist of fate, Francis had previously been engaged to Anne of Cleves who married Henry VIII when Christina declined to.

The couple had 3 children, Charles, Renata and Dorothea who, when Christina’s sister Dorothea had no children, became the next claimants to the Danish throne. Francis valued Christina’s political advice greatly. It is probably no coincidence that a girl growing up at a female regent’s court should learn a thing or two about politics.

Sadly, Francis died only 4 years after Christina married him with Dorothea, their youngest child, still an infant. This time Christina stayed in Lorraine as regent until her son Charles would be old enough to reign on his own.

When France invaded Lorraine in 1552, Christina either didn’t have an army or the time to assemble one, and she was forced to pack up her things and her children and flee back to Mary’s court. Here she stayed through to her aunt’s death in 1558, and having worked to be appointed the next regent and governor, she was so angry with the appointment of Margaret of Parma, that mobilised an army and returned to take back Lorraine.

Mary, Queen of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands

Margaret, Duchess consort of Florence, Duchess consort of Parma, Governor of Habsburg Netherlands

 

Until her son, Charles came of age, Christina served as his regent, and when he did come of age, she continued as his advisor and acted as regent when he was absent. It was also at this time she began styling herself the rightful Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In the 1550s and 60s she began working towards actually gaining the throne, nevermind that her sister was not yet dead, she would have it for her son.

At this time, her father’s uncle Frederick I had been replaced by first his son, and then his grandson, Frederick II of Denmark and Norway. These three kings were the first Oldenburg kings of Denmark, the dynasty that would continue to reign Denmark until the late 19th century. In theory, Christina did have a claim to the Danish throne, especially as Frederick II resisted marriage for much, much longer than normal at the time. Should he die without heirs, her son would be a contestor for the throne, even if her branch of the family had been beaten back by the new rulers time and time again. And if that wouldn’t work, she had a daughter perfectly suitable for the post of Queen.

Both Christina’s plans to put her son on the throne, and do away with Frederick II, and her plans to marry Renata to him came to nothing. Frederick II would have nothing to do with marriage, and did in fact manage to put it off until he was 38 in 1574, when he married Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, but what changed his mind and how that came about will be the subject of another post.

The news of Frederick’s marriage to a, in all likelihood, fertile and strong young queen who would hardly fail to provide him with an heir, was said to send Christina into a day-long rage. In 1578 she left her son to his duchy, and went to Tortona in Italy, which had been given to her by her first husband. Here she styled herself Madame of Tortona and lived out the rest of her days.

Christina of Denmark, Milan and Lorraine died in 1580, at the age of 59. In a peculiar twist of fate the current Danish, Swedish and Norwegian royalty are descended from her daughter, Renata and her husband William V of Bavaria, so in  a way Christina’s wish to see her family back on the Scandinavian thrones has been fulfilled.

 

Christina of Denmark, 1533.

Renata of Lorraine with her husband William of Bavaria

Charles III the Great of Lorraine

 

 

The Scandal of the Century

On the 8th of December 1766, the brother of George III, Caroline Mathilde, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, married her Danish cousin in The Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke). She was fiften, her husband sixteen and a king of all of six months. Caroline Mathilde had grown up apart from her brother’s court, due to her mother’s widowhood and was by all accounts a sheltered, young woman who had been transplanted in a strange evironment under the expectation that she would easily understand how to maneouvre herself. Christian VII, her husband, had grown up in the midst of a court in turmoil, with his father’s wife more or less openly disliking him. He was subject to physical punishment throughout all of his childhood – which promptly ended when he was 16 and his father died. The young man suffered from nervous breakdowns, bouts of scizophrenia and mania. He was diagnosed with dementia praecox and was fully expected to recover from it as he grew older.

Of course, this is no fairy-tale story.

Christian VII by Jens Juel, 1789

After the wedding Caroline found herself alone at a strange court, amongst courtiers who divided themselves into cliques. The young and eager men encouraged the king in his bouts of mania, and they would often wreak havoc upon the castles themselves and seek out prostitutes in the lower city, often those of sadomasochistic inclination. It is well-known that Christian VII sought the company of a prostitute aptly named Boots-Catherine in 1767 and he also famously declared that he could not love Caroline because “it was not fashionable to love one’s wife.” As Caroline became pregnant with their first child he sunk even deeper into debauchery, paranoia and hallucinations the result of which being that he would often harm himself, or seek our Boots-Catherine to physically demean him.

Meanwhile, Caroline had only the head of her household, Countess Louise von Plessen, to turn to as her husband’s stepmother the Dowager Queen Juliane Marie, discouraged the other ladies of the court to be openly friendly with the lonely girl. I’m not trying to make Juliane Marie sound like a monster, since she surely had many trials in her own life what with giving birth to a physically and mentally disabled son and trying to overcome the Danish people and her husband’s love for his firste wife Louise of England.

Louise von Plessen

Juliane Marie holding up a portrait of her son whom she hoped might become king as her stepson's mental health became worse and worse.

It is clear that with the mental disabilities apparent in both sides of the Danish-English family that yet another marriage between cousins was not a good idea, but that was of course never the concern for any royal family at the time.

In 1768, on the 28th of January, the now Queen gave birth to her first child, a son whom they named Frederik. It wasn’t long thereafter that Christian VII decided to go on a tour of Europe, leaving his wife at home alone with her infant child. He didn’t leave until after banishing Countess von Plessen from his court, and no amount of beggin on Caroline’s part could persuade him to take her back. I believe he may have accused her of having a negative influence on his wife. Christian left a court inhabitated by women and perhaps gave his wife a welcome break from his loud and boisterous friends who enjoyed rubbing Caroline’s nose in her husband’s affair with a prostitute. She and the Dowager Queen(s), as Christian’s grandmother, Sophie Magdalene, was still alive. They retired to Frederiksborg Castle for the summer, and came back to Copenhagen in the autumn where Caroline Mathilde attracted a scandal by taking walks in Copenhagen, where noblewomen would only ride carriages.

Queen Sophie Magdalene, 1700-1770

Christian came back from his travels on the 12th of January 1769, bringing with him a new doctor, Johann Friederich Struensee, whom he had found in Altona and decided to employ as his physician. At the time the smallpox was the single greatest threat towards children, high as well as low, and Caroline Mathilde, who were are afraid the disease would reach the castle asked the newly arrived doctor if he would inoculate her son. She did so knowing that the risks of doing so might be as great as her son contracting the disease itself. Thankfully, Frederik survived and Caroline developed a confidence with the doctor, with whom she began exchanging ideas for the raising of her son. The king also came to greatly confide in his doctor, as he by Struensee’s methods for the first time in years was able to calm his mind and lessen the need for self-mutilation.

Caroline Mathilde’s confidence in Struensee grew even deeper when he came to realise how despicably her husband treated her, and when he positively affected Christian to treat his wife with more respect. The result was a more amicable relationship between the young couple and a strenghtening of Caroline’s position at the court. As a show of gratitude Caroline appointed Struensee her secretary and Christian him his official reader.

Johann Friederich Struensee by Jens Juel

The relationship between Struensee and Caroline quickly turned romantic as one might imagine when a neglected young girl, who’s never known romantic love, meets a “tall, dark stranger”. Well, you get what I mean. Struensee became her closest friend, a man with whom she could discuss her child intellectually, a man who understood how to handle a girl like her. They engaged in a sexual relationship that quickly became an official secret in the court. Even the king knew and condoned the relationship. This time is known as the Time of Struensee, his 16-month reign, where he also managed to exile the king’s hitherto closest friend and confidante, and take up that position himself. He became a minister in no time, and even quicker did he manage to send away the former Prime Minister, and dissolve the former Council. He formed a new one with himself as the King’s only minister. Even more shocking to the general public of Copenhagen was that he encouraged the Queen to ride out – dressed in a man’s clothing

In June 1771 the Queen moved to Hørsholm castle, north of Copenhagen, and there Caroline spent an idyllic summer with her lover and her court. It is a large possibility that she also moved away from the King and the rest of the court because the 7th of July Caroline Mathilde gave birth to a girl. Her daughter was christened Louise Augusta, after Caroline and Christian’s respective mothers, and although the King acknowledged the child as his Louise Augusta was often called “la Petite Struensee” around the court. Most modern historians seem to agree that Louise Augusta was, in fact, Struensee’s child.

Louise Augusta

And although we might agree that Struensee was little short of a usurper and a dictator, he introduced freedom of speech and disbanded an old law forcing commoners to stay where they were born lest they left and took with them their labour force. He also made sure the Crown Prince was given a modern upbringing after the principles of Rousseau. I’ve not studied said principles in length but I am left with the impression that his upbringing was a little too heavy-handed, or to put it another way it nearly killed the small boy and his early childhood was also seen to be the reason for his somewhat peculiar adult behaviour.

Frederik VI by Jens Juel

Struensee’s reign could never last, of course. In the heat of the moment both he and Caroline must have forgotten that there was a formidable force in their opposition. Juliane Marie, who most certainly believed in the divine right of kings, was hardly pleased at seeing a commoner take her husband’s throne, and Caroline Mathilde must have been perceived as nothing short of a common whore debasing herself in such a way as to have an extramarital affair. (Please note that I personally do not advocate slut-shaming). Christian couldn’t have cared very much, so long as he was distracted from the governmental work that he had never cared much for.

Juliane Marie, along with ministers Struensee had unseated, struck after a masked ball in the night between the 17th and 18th of January 1772, and they arrested Struensee and his main accomplice Enevold Brandt who were then presented with a warrant on them, signed by the King. The men of Juliane’s party also had orders to apprehend the Queen. Of course, a Queen of the realm could never be arrested but she was taken into a carriage in the dead of night, with her infant daughter but without her son, whom she hadn’t been allowed to see. They drove her, for how many hours I daren’t imagine, to Helsingør (or Elsinore, as Shakespeare called it) and put her into custody at Kronborg, an old, drafty, renaissance castle. There she was kept for a matter of weeks, while it her “sentence” was discussed by the Danish and English courts.

Meanwhile in Copenhagen the trial for Struensee and Enevoldt had begun, and it came to light that paid by Juliane Marie, Caroline’s ladies had left flour on her doorstep to see whether a man would visit her at night. They had also found garters amongst Struensee’s possessions that the maids swore had originated in Caroline’s boxes. He admitted to having an affair with the Queen in a pleading tone, and his confession made Caroline confess also. A confession she later drew back, perhaps because she realised that she would never be allowed to return either to Copenhagen or England if she confessed.

Struensee’s pleading did not help him and he was sentenced to death. His sentence was carried out the morning of the 28th of April. Although the King had signed the death sentence he was said to be unaware of what was happening to his former friend. Juliane Marie, however, witnessed it from her windows. The crowd also witnessing the execution were said to be quiet after the executioner held up Struensee’s severed head.

The next day the ladies who were with the Queen, would discuss it in every gory detail in front of an obviously distraught Queen. In May her own fate was finally decided. Her brother would not take her back, as she was obviously not going to be able to marry anyone, and neither would the Danish court so she was instead deported to Celle, in northern Germany which was under British rule. There she was finally re-united with Louise von Plessen and a small, but loyal, court. In 1774 she began plotting to be re-instated as her son’s guardian and she would write her brother, King George III of Great Britain, and ask him of her support.

She never was to be re-united with either of her children. Caroline Mathilde, a Princess of the blood of England, and former Queen of Denmark, died suddenly on May 10th 1775. She had contracted scarlet fever. She was buried in the church of St. Marie in Celle, and hasn’t been moved to Roskilde Church, the final place of rest for all Danish Kings and Queens.

Although she was no longer Queen at her death, she would still call herself Caroline Mathilde of Denmark until the end.

Juliane Marie’s influence, and he governed Denmark informally until his father’s death in 1808.

Louise Augusta was married to Duke Frederik Christian of Augustenborg in Sønderbog, southern Denmark. Her sons went on to try and dethrone Christian the 8th, who would go on to marry their sister, Caroline Amalie. You know, just any normal big, happy family.

Caroline Mathilde

The Lady in the Tower

 

Leonora Christina as imagined by an unknown 19th century artist.

Leonora Christina was born on the 8th of July 1621, the daughter of King Christian IV and his noble wife, Kirstine Munk. Kirstine was not the King’s queen, and many doubted that she even was married to him. Kirstine was called The Left Hand’s Wife, the implication being that a queen was married to the right hand. It did not matter that Christian’s wife, Queen Anna Catherine of Brandenburg had died: a prince could not crown a noblewoman queen and Kirstine was the daughter of a countess and a deceased wife. Christian IV is known in Denmark as an entrepeneurial king, and most people realise that it was not only because he built buildings all over Copenhagen, but also because he was quick to make any woman he wanted his. His illegitimate sons born during his marriage were given the surname Goldenlion.

But when Anna Catherine died, leaving him two sons, it did not take long for Christian to notice the beautiful Kirstine, and whether his courtiers believed the validity thereof, he orchestrated a marriage – of sorts. Together they had twelve children, two of which were stillborn. Eight were girls, and two boys. Leonora Christine Christiansdaughter was the third of their children, and together with her siblings she was sent to her grandmother, Kirstine’s mother Ellen Marsvin (literally meaning guinea pig), to be raised until her 6th year. After that she and her sisters were sent to Karen Sehested, one of Kirsten Munk’s ladies, and were raised at Frederiksborg.

1643

 

I became interested in her story around the age of 12, and at that time read a delightful book by Maria Helleberg, a renowned writer of historical fiction here in Denmark. It detailed Leonora Christine’s story from her childhood years until her marriage. The expression the book would always leave me with was that of a girl growing up amongst a plentitude of sisters, fighting for the attention of her elders and the respect of her sisters. It also detailed the sisters’ reactions to their engagements. The three eldest, Anna Catherine, Sophie Elisabeth and Leonora Christine were all engaged at more or less the same time, Leonora Christine being 9 years at the time.

In the immediate years before her wedding, Leonora Christina was moved to the Danish court and proceeded to win the affections for her father. If there is one thing that most people agree on about Christian IV it is that he was a man who loved his children, of whom he had 23, unconditionally, but Leonora Christinia was to win a special place in her father’s heart. Leonora even managed to maneouvre herself into the position of the hostess at the court, since there was trouble between her mother and father, largely due to entirely true accusations of unfaithfulness on Kirsten’s part.

Perhaps Leonora needed the victory of becoming her father’s hostess, for even though her father was fond of her husband-to-be, Corfitz Ulfeldt, her sisters were wont to make fun of him because of a stiff leg. Even though Corfitz was only in his twenties, during their engagement, he already had to use a cane, which Leonora’s sisters would point out to her time and again. After his death Corfitz’ was to become known as Denmark’s biggest traitor.

The painting says "hoffmeister" which means something like Lord Chancellor

 

Leonora Christina and Corfitz Ulfeldt were married on the 9th of October 1636, Leonora being 15 years old, Corfitz 30. Although the marriage saw its share of adultery, on the part of both spouses, it was reported as a happy one with both partners seeking to overcome their differences and work together.

Leonora gave birth to their first child on the 5th of December the next year, a boy they named Christian who would later become a Catholic priest in Rome, although he was born to Protestant parents. Corfitz had been appointed Lord Chancellor (which is really the best translation I can come up with) that same year and he had managed to obtain such power that he could manage to reign for several months after King Christian’s death in 1648.

Christian IV by Pieter Isaacsz ca. 1611-1616

 

Of course, history is full of examples of why one should seek to not cross kings, perhaps especially one like Frederik III, Leonora’s half-brother, who would later go on to sever the ties that had traditionally held the Danish king accountable to his noblemen and declare himself sovereign king like in the French fashion.

Corfitz’, who had grown accustomed to heavy responsibilities, like diplomatic duties that had taken him to Russia, England and so on, was not pleased by his brother-in-law taking into hand the power that was divinely appointed him (as one believed then), and sought to tighten Frederick’s ties during the Royal Election. A Royal Election was the process in which the Danish noblemen worked out a contract which a Danish “Chosen King” (meaning he had been elected by these same noblemen in his childhood to suceed his father) had to sign in order for his noblemen to swear him their allegiance. Frederick reciprocrated by instigating an investigation into Ulfeldt’s financial affairs, and in 1651 the king presented Ulfeldt and his wife with a document accusing Ulfeldt, in his position as Lord Chancellor of having embezzelled the Øresund’s tax, the most profitable of all the king’s incomes. Faced with possibly a death sentence Corfitz Ulfeldt thought it best to take his wife, children and belongings and flee the country.

Meanwhile, Leonora Christina had found herself on worse and worse terms with Frederick III’s queen, Sophie Amalie of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, who had found herself quite perplexed, upon her arrival at the Danish court, to find the dead king’s illegitimate daughter inhabitating the position of hostess and head of the court. Leonora Christina, used to being flattered by the Danish court, was not pleased to give up her position and very reluctantly did so.

Sophie Amalie of Braunschweig-Lüneburg

When things turned for the worse for both spouses, Corfitz Ulfeldt and Leonora Christina fled to Sweden, where Ulfeldt promptly entered the service of the Swedish king Karl X Gustav. As a sidenote I might add that Denmark and Sweden have been mortal enemies, but also brother-countries (it’s a strange sort of relationship), since, oh, always. Ulfeldt spent years and years trying to excite anger in the Swedish consciousness. Finally, in 1657, his labours bore fruit and Karl X Gustav marched towards Denmark with Ulfeldt personally joining the army, and happily lent the Swedish army huge sums, that is believed to have stolen from the Danish coffers. Karl X Gustav managed to conquer back the at the time northern Danish, and now southern Swedish Skåne (about which there are still ownership issues to this day), a huge loss to the Danish king and Karl X Gustav made Ulfeldt governor of the area. Soon enough, however, Ulfeldt and Karl X Gustav began bickering and later fighting, resulting in Ulfeldt being taken prisoner, by the Swedish, and placed in house arrest. He managed to escape, with his wife, to Denmark, where they were promptly seized and moved to Bornholm, the easternmost part of Denmark, a tiny, and at the time, isolated place.

Hammershus, were the couple were imprisoned

The castle in which they were moved was a medieval castle. Above is the picture of the ruins I have visited twice now. Leonora Christina and her husband were placed in different rooms, and were forbidden to speak with one another but since they both knew Latin, French and Italian, which their guards did not, they would communicate by shouting out of windows facing one another over a courtyard, one speaking e.g. Italian and the other Latin, and the guards would be none the wiser of whether they were planning an escape or merely exchanging pleasantries.

Amanzingly, they were later released from their prison, on the condition that they signed a contract with the king stating that they transferred all their posessions to the king. Leonora Christina stayed at home in Denmark, with the children they had not seen for many years, but Ulfeldt decided to travel abroad, more precisely to the home of Frederik Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg. Here Ulfeldt revealed, to the horrified elector that he had plans to assasinate the Danish king and that he offered Frederik Wilhelm the Danish crown should he suceed.

He did not, of course, and was in fact revealed in his plans by Frederik Wilhelm. This time there was no pardon from the Danish king and Ulfeldt was sentenced to death, in absentia. Ulfeldt fled further away, having been declared the greatest traitor of the country hence. His wife was seized, and their home in inner Copenhagen torn to the ground. In its place the king erected a pillar to the shame of Corfitz Ulfeldt – to the eternal shame and taunting, as it says on the pillar which still stands today.

It has been moved to the National Museum, however.

A memorial plaque on Gråbrødre Torv today

 

So, what happened to Leonora Christina that I would entitle this post The Lady in the Tower?

She was, as I mentioned, seized and although she begged for her freedom, being an older lady at this point, she was sentenced to prison and imprisoned she was. In Blåtårn (Blue Tower, a tower adjacent to the Castle of Copenhagen, where her half-brother and his wife lived. She was to stay there for 22 years, surviving Sophie Amalie, who many now believe to have been the one keeping her imprisoned despite Leonora Christina repeatedly refusing that she knew nothing of her husband’s traitorous plans.

A later imagining of the interior in Leonora's cell

During her imprisonment Leonora spun and wove cloth, to make clothes from, and she wrote her autobiography, entitled Jammers Minde (Wretchedness’ Memory) which was to be discovered in 1867 causing a veritable scandal.

It was one of her daughter’s who went to the king after the death of Sophie Amalie in 1685, and pleaded for her mother to be released. At this time Leonora had been held in Blue Tower for 22 years. Her freedom was granted her and she was moved to live at a monastery for the remaining, and old, nuns of the St. Birgitte-order. She died and was buried at the monastery now known as Maribo Church, but some time later her body was removed, presumably by sons, and re-buried at the undisclosed location where her husband was already buried.

From the day Leonora Christina was married she refused to adopt the name Ulfeldt, and insisted upon being called Mistress Leonora Christina, daughter of the King of Denmark.

 

At a meeting with, I assume, Queen Sophie Amalie

 

 

Kirstine Munk

 

Anne of Denmark

Anne of Denmark

Today, 436 years ago, Anne was born at Skanderborg Castle. She was the second child, and second girl, of Frederik the Second and his queen, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. After her christening she was sent to be raised by her maternal grandparents in Wismar, capital of what is now Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She had a quiet childhood there and it wasn’t until three years later she returned to Denmark, to greet the birth of her brother, Christian who later became Christian the Fourth of Denmark (the most famous of all the Danish kings), and once he had been christened in Copenhagen, away to Germany they went. She stayed there with her older sister, Elisabeth and Christian, for around a year. It was their father, Frederik, who wrote for the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg, in a letter brimming with paternal love. He wanted his children back. When Christian was old enough he was sent to school, while Elisabeth and Anne stayed with their mother and father.

Anne of Denmark

All Frederik and Sophie’s children were raised in the Lutheran faith that their grandfather had brough to Denmark. They were given educations and travelled the Danish kingdom, which at this time included Norway, certain parts of Northern Germany and Southern Sweden, with their mother and father.

In 1588 Frederik died of a lung infection. The plans for a princess of Denmark to marry the king of Scotland, James the First, were already underway. At first Elisabeth had been the chosen candidate but while Frederik was still alive he betrothed her to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. As he did so he promised to the Scottish delegation “for the second daughter, Anne, if the king did like her, he should have her”. Anne was fourteen when she travelled to Norway, to be met by her husband.

Possibly Anne of Denmark, by Paul Somer

After the final agreement was signed in July, Anne was married by proxy at Kronborg, the most modern castle in Denmark, to James. Ten days later she set out for Scotland with her was her recently widowed mother and older sister. Her eleven-year old brother, who now was king, was at school back home. The fleet was beset by trouble and the ship carrying the princess and her family was forced to land in Norway, for fear of the sea. It was a lord Dingwall who brought news of the misfortune to king James in Scotland, and James immediately ordered public prayers and national fasting.

In October he was again informed that the Danes were staying in Norway for the winter, afraid of the autumn seas. James must have thought “weather be damned” because he himself, along with three-hundred men, set out for Norway. Upon arrival he had to travel some distance over land to meet his bride but upon reaching her dwelling-place presented himself to her “in boots and all” and kissed her, in the Scottish fashion. It must have been a great shock to her, such showings of affection were, at the Danish court, passed in private and only after the wedding. Although, other sources do claim that she was wildly in love with him, having herself embroidered shirts for him back home, so maybe the kiss wasn’t quite so unwelcome, though it shocked her mother and sister, and the rest of the Danish delegation.

They were formally married the 23rd of November, at the Old Bishop’s Palace in Oslo. “With all the splendour possible at the time and place” probably means that the wedding party was slightly subdued. It is unclear whether it was before or after the wedding ceremony, but as a precaution against future storms James ordered the burning of up to ten witches that he believed had caused the storms that made it impossible for Anne to meet her husband in Norway.

The newlyweds celebrated their wedding in Oslo for a full month, before travelling to Denmark on the 22nd of December with only fifty of James’ men. There they met the young king and his council, celebrated Christmas with the family at Kronborg and in March travelled to Copenhagen to attend the wedding of Anne’s older sister, Elisabeth to Julius of Braunswick-Lüneburg. Two days later they finally made for Leith, Scotland. Five days after their arrival Anne made her official entry into Edinburgh, riding in a silver coach with her husband on horseback besides her.

On the 17th of May she was crowned queen of Scotland. The ceremony lasted seven hours and during the anointing in holy oil, Anne’s dress was opened so that oil could be poured upon her breast and arm. It was chancellor Maitland who crowned Anne, and her oath indluded a pledge to defend the true faith against “papistical superstitions and whatsoever ceremonies and rites contrary to the word of God.”

Anne's coat of arms, combining those of her husband with her father's.

Anne, 1617.

by Paul van Somer