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Friedrich V. (August 26, 1596 – November 29, 1632) was the Elector Palatine of the Rhine in the Holy Roman Empire from 1610 to 1623, and reigned as King of Bohemia from 1619 to 1620. He was forced to abdicate both roles, and the brevity of his reign in Bohemia earned him the derisive sobriquet “the Winter King”.


Friedrich V was born at the Jagdschloss Deinschwang (a hunting lodge) near Amberg in the Upper Palatinate. He was the son of Friedrich IV and of Louise Juliana of Orange-Nassau, the daughter of Willem I the Silent Prince of Orange and Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpensier. An intellectual, a mystic, and a Calvinist, he succeeded his father as Prince-Elector of the Rhenish Palatinate in 1610. He was responsible for the construction of the famous Hortus Palatinus gardens in Heidelberg.

Friedrich IV’s marriage policy had been designed to solidify the Palatinate’s position within the Reformed camp in Europe. Two of Frederick V’s sisters were married to leading Protestant princes: his sister Luise Juliane to his one-time guardian Johann II, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, and his sister Elizabeth Charlotte to Georg Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg. Friedrich IV had hoped that his daughter Katharina would marry the future King Gustaf II Adolph of Sweden, although this never came to pass.


In keeping with his father’s policy, Friedrich V sought a marriage to Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I-VI of England and Scotland. James had initially considered marrying Elizabeth to Louis XIII of France, but these plans were rejected by his advisors. Friedrich’s advisors in the Palatinate were worried that if Elizabeth were married to a Catholic prince, this would upset the confessional balance of Europe, and they were thus resolved that she should marry Friedrich V.

Hans Meinhard von Schönberg, who had served as Friedrich V’s Hofmeister since his return to Heidelberg, was sent to London to court the princess in spring 1612. After intense negotiations, a marriage contract was signed on May 26, 1612, over the objection of her mother, Queen Anne.

Friedrich V travelled to London to collect his bride, landing on English soil on October 16, 1612. Friedrich and Elizabeth, who had previously corresponded in French, now met each other for the first time, and got on well together. They were formally engaged in January 1613 and married on February 14, 1613 at the royal chapel at the Palace of Whitehall.

In 1618 the largely Protestant estates of Bohemia rebelled against their Catholic King Ferdinand, triggering the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War. Friedrich was asked to assume the crown of Bohemia. He accepted the offer and was crowned on 4 November 1619, as Friedrich I. The estates chose Friedrich since he was the leader of the Protestant Union, a military alliance founded by his father, and hoped for the support of Friedrich’s father-in-law, James I- VI of England and Scotland.

However, James opposed the takeover of Bohemia from the Habsburgs and Friedrich’s allies in the Protestant Union failed to support him militarily by signing the Treaty of Ulm (1620). His brief reign as King of Bohemia ended with his defeat at the Battle of White Mountain on 8 November 1620 – a year and four days after his coronation.

After the battle, the Imperial forces invaded Friedrich’s Palatine lands and he had to flee to his uncle Prince Maurice, Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic in 1622. An Imperial edict formally deprived him of the Palatinate in 1623. He lived the rest of his life in exile with his wife and family, mostly at The Hague, and died in Mainz in 1632.

His eldest surviving son Charles I Ludwig, Elector Palatine, returned to power in 1648 with the end of the war. Another son was Prince Rupert of the Rhine, one of the most colourful figures of his time. His daughter Princess Sophia was eventually named heiress presumptive to the British throne, and is the founder of the Hanoverian line of kings.