Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, Robert Peake the Younger, 1610: Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.
I’m a bit of a tragic fan girl about all sorts of historical people but I think the one that I would be most struck dumb by in the unlikely event that our paths crossed would be Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia and mama of His Royal Hotness Prince Rupert of the Rhine.
It’s not just the pressure of impressing what would probably be the worst and most exacting mother in law in history (she wrote to tell her son Edward that he was DEAD TO HER when he married a wealthy Franco-Italian heiress without her permission) that would scare the hell out of me though, but Elizabeth herself who was replete with all the spark, intelligence, glamour, beauty and drama that her Stuart and Tudor genes could bestow upon her.
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, unknown artist, 1613. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.
Grand daughter of Mary, Queen of Scots and named in honour of her godmother Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Stuart was adored by her father and from an early age the cynosure of all eyes at his court as everyone wondered what destiny had in store for this intelligent, beautiful vibrant girl, who was regarded by many as of far superior mettle to her brothers Henry and Charles. It’s no surprise therefore that one of the aims of the so called Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was to kidnap the young princess, who was just nine years old at the time, and put her on the throne in her father’s stead. However, if they thought that Elizabeth would be a meek and obliging puppet in their hands they were undoubtedly most sorely mistaken.
Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, Robert Peake the Younger, 1603. Photo: Greenwich Maritime Museum. This is my favourite portrait of Elizabeth – it was painted when she was just seven years old and had recently arrived in England after her father’s succession to the throne. It’s the companion piece to the well known portrait of her brother Henry out hunting and in fact you can see the prince going in for the kill in the top corner of this work.
Elizabeth died on this day in 1662, mourned and sincerely regretted by all. She’d had an amazing life, full of drama, love, tragedy and iniquity – all of which she faced with her trademark humour and wry intelligence. What a Queen she would have made if she had been given the chance – terrifying but amazing. I salute her.