Elizabeth Stuart, Electress Palatine

by Susan Flantzer

by Studio of Michiel Jansz van Miereveldt, circa 1613

The eldest daughter and second child of King James I of England and Anne of Denmark, Elizabeth Stuart was born on August 19, 1596. Sources differ on her birthplace, either Dunfermline Palace or Falkland Palace, both in Scotland. At the time of her birth, Elizabeth’s father, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, was King James VI of Scotland. In 1603, upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England, James succeeded to the English throne as King James I of England. The infant princess was baptized on December 28, 1596 at the Chapel Royal, Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was named after Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Elizabeth had six siblings, but only two survived childhood:

by Charles Turner, published by Samuel Woodburn, after Willem de Passe, mezzotint, published 1814

‘James I and his royal progeny’ by Charles Turner, published by Samuel Woodburn, after Willem de Passe mezzotint, published 1814 NPG D9808 © National Portrait Gallery, London

As was customary for princesses, Elizabeth was not raised by her parents, but by a noble family loyal to the Scottish royal family. Her early years were spent at Linlithgow Palace in the care of Alexander Livingstone, 1st Earl of Linlithgow, 7th Lord Livingstone and his Catholic wife, Eleanor (Helen) Hay, eldest daughter of Andrew Hay, 8th Earl of Erroll. The fact that a Protestant princess was being raised by the Catholic Lady Livingstone was controversial. Lord and Lady Livingstone remained guardians of Elizabeth until the accession of Elizabeth’s father to the English throne in 1603. Elizabeth then accompanied her mother and her brother Henry, Prince of Wales to England.

Elizabeth, aged seven, by Robert Peake the Elder, 1603; Credit – Wikipedia

Elizabeth was placed in the care of John Harington, 1st Baron Harington of Exton and his wife Anne at Coombe Abbey near Coventry, England.  Although being the guardians of Elizabeth was a heavy financial burden, Lord and Lady Harrington diligently took care of Elizabeth and provided her with an excellent education. In 1605, the conspirators of the unsuccessful Gunpowder Plot intended to use the nine-year-old princess as part of the plot. After blowing up Parliament during the State Opening, the plotters had planned to seize Elizabeth and proclaim her Queen of England. Lord Harrington was warned of the plot and brought Elizabeth to a safe place in Coventry. The plot failed when the conspirators were betrayed and Guy Fawkes was caught by King James I’s soldiers before he was able to light the bomb. In 1612, Elizabeth suffered great sorrow when her elder brother Henry, Prince of Wales died of typhoid fever. She was not allowed to see him during his illness for fear she would be exposed to the disease and her brother’s last words were said to be, “Where is my dear sister?”

As the daughter of a reigning king, Elizabeth’s hand in marriage was sought after by a number of suitors including: Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (later King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden); Frederic Ulric, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel; Prince Maurice of Nassau; Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton; Theopilus Howard, 2nd Earl of Suffolk; Otto, Hereditary Prince of Hesse and Victor Amadeus, Prince of Piedmont (later Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy). However, after careful consideration, Friedrich V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine was chosen. Friedrich and Elizabeth were the same age. Friedrich was a descendant of the kings of Aragon and Sicily, the landgraves of Hesse, the dukes of Brabant and Saxony, and the counts of Nassau and Leuven. He was a senior prince of the Holy Roman Empire and a staunch defender of the Protestant faith. Elizabeth and Friedrich, both 16-years-old, were married on February 14, 1613 at the Chapel Royal at the Palace of Whitehall.

The couple had thirteen children:

Friedrich V, Elector Palatine by Michiel Janszoon van Mierevelt, 1613; Credit – Wikipedia

Elizabeth Stuart by Marcus Gheeraerts, 1612; Credit – Wikipedia

In August of 1619, Friedrich was elected King of Bohemia and was crowned in Prague on November 4, 1619. Elizabeth, who was in late pregnancy with her son Rupert, was crowned two days later. The crown of Bohemia had been in Habsburg hands for a long time and the Habsburg heir, Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor refused to accept Friedrich as King of Bohemia. Friedrich’s reign ended with his defeat by Ferdinand at the Battle of White Mountain, one of the early battles of the Thirty Years’ War, on November 8, 1620. Friedrich and Elizabeth are called the Winter King and the Winter Queen in reference to their short reign as King and Queen of Bohemia.

Friedrich as King of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, 1634; Credit – Wikipedia

Elizabeth as Queen of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1630; Credit – Wikipedia

The couple sought refuge in Berlin, but had to leave in January of 1621 when Friedrich was forced to give up the Palatinate and was banished from the Holy Roman Empire. Elizabeth, Friedrich, and their family were given refuge in The Hague by Maurice, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of all the provinces of the Dutch Republic except for Friesland. The last eight of their thirteen children were born in The Hague. In January of 1632, their last child was born and later that same month, Friedrich left The Hague to fight alongside King Gustavus Adolphus (Gustav II Adolf) of Sweden in the Thirty Years’ War. Elizabeth never saw him again. Beginning in October of 1632, Friedrich suffered from an infection that continually worsened. Doctors determined nothing could be done and Friedrich died on November 29, 1632 at the age of 36.

Elizabeth as a widow by Gerard van Honthorst, 1642; Credit – Wikipedia

Elizabeth was devastated by Friedrich’s death. Her brother King Charles I of England invited her to return to England, but she refused as she felt she had to fight for the rights of her eldest son Karl Ludwig. She raised a small army on his behalf, and finally, in 1648, the Palatinate was restored to him. Between her husband’s death in 1632 and her death in 1662, Elizabeth suffered the death of four of her children and the execution of her brother King Charles I of England in 1649. In 1660, Elizabeth’s nephew King Charles II was restored as King of England and Elizabeth decided to visit her England. She arrived in England on May 26, 1661 and by July she was determined to remain there. She first lived in Drury House on Wych Street in London. In January of 1662, she moved to Leicester House on the north side of present-day Leicester Square. On February 13, 1662, Elizabeth died of bronchitis at the age of 65 and was buried in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey near her brother Henry, Prince of Wales.

Through her daughter Sophia, Electress of Hanover whose son succeeded to the British throne as King George I after the Protestant Stuarts died out, Elizabeth is the ancestor of the British royal family and most other European royal families, including those of Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden, as well as the former royal families of Greece, Romania, Germany, and Russia.

Wikipedia: Elizabeth Stuart, Electress Palatine

Works Cited
Abrufstatistik. “Elisabeth Stuart.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
“Elizabeth Stuart, queen of Bohemia.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
“Frederick V, Elector Palatine.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
Williamson, David. Brewer’s British Royalty. London: Cassell, 1996. Print.