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.



’tis the season

I’ve been absent from this blog for much too long. I’ve been away on my Erasmus-year, a study abroad program in the European Union. I live in Edinburgh now. I’ve been busy as all hell, with classes, new friends, a new city and about a million papers to write.

It’s the Advent season now. In Denmark we celebrate it, although I’m not sure that’s the correct term to describe what is theologically a season of sorrow. We assemble wreaths and plant candles in them, four for each Sunday of the Advent. When I was little my mother and I would sing a song as we lighted the candles, first one, then two, then three and finally all four. Each candle symbolised a good quality; hope, mercy, love and  kindness.

Advent Wreath

This wreath carries on in the tradition of using purple in Advent decorations. Traditionally, purple has been the colour of Christian mourning, and the Advent season is one for mourning Jesus’ death. The days between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night are the days to be happy and rejoice in. This meaning has nearly been lost but when advent wreaths where introduced to Denmark, from Germany (like the Christmas Tree), around the time of the First World War they were almost exclusively kept in purple. Nowadays, the most normal colours to decorate one’s wreath in are red and white (thanks, Coca-Cola).

WWII era stamp depicting an advent wreath

This stamp from 1946, just after the end of the Second World War, depicts an Advent wreath hanging from the ceiling. I’ve previously posted about St. Lucia and how the celebrations surrounding this tradition uplifted the Danish nation in a time of war. The advent wreath is another symbol of the light shining in the darkness.

Around Christmas time most cities also undergo a makeover. These images are from Copenhagen.

Photo: Brian Bergmann/Scanpix 2006

(Can you tell I’m homesick?)

This Lucia-crown is very modern. It's quite lovely, no?


I wrote about St. Lucia and the strange case of a Catholic saint being celebrated in Protestant Scandinavia here. How sad that this is almost a year ago and still on my first page. I promise not to neglect my poor blog anymore.


Another Yuletide favourite. I'm not entirely sure what honeycakes have in common with Christmas, except for the Santa, or sometimes angel, they stamp onto them. They're usually only sold around Christmas, which is a shame, since they're very good.


That’s a bit about Christmas in Denmark. Maybe next time I update it will be about Christmas in Edinburgh?