The man chosen for Elizabeth was Friedrich V, Count Palatine of the Rhine. Friedrich was of undeniably high lineage. His ancestors included the kings of Aragon and Sicily, the landgraves of Hesse, the dukes of Brabant and Saxony, and the counts of Nassau and Leuven. He and Elizabeth also shared a common ancestor in Henry II of England. He was “a senior Prince of the Empire” and a staunch defender of the Protestant faith.
Here is some background information on Friedrich and how the two became to be betrothed. He was an intellectual, a mystic, and a Calvinist. He was responsible for the construction of the famous Hortus Palatinus gardens in Heidelberg.
On September 19, 1610, Friedrich’s father, Friedrich IV, Prince-Elector of the Palatinate, died from “extravagant living”; his son being 14 years old at the time. Under the terms of the Golden Bull of 1356, Friedrich’s closest male relative would serve as his guardian and as regent of the Palatinate until Friedrich reached the age of majority.
However, his nearest male relative, Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine of Neuburg, was a Catholic, so, shortly before his death, Friedrich IV had named another Wittelsbach relative, Johann II, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken, as his son’s guardian. Friedrich V welcomed Johann to Heidelberg, whereas Wolfgang Wilhelm was denied entry. This led to a heated dispute among the princes of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1613, Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor intervened in the dispute, with the result being that Friedrich V was able to begin his personal rule in the Palatinate even though he was still underage.
Friedrich IV’s marriage policy had been designed to solidify the Palatinate’s position within the Reformed camp in Europe. Two of Friedrich 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 Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, although this never came to pass.
In keeping with his father’s policy, Friedrich V sought a marriage to Elizabeth Stuart of England. 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 Frederick V. Hans Meinhard von Schönberg, who had served as Frederick 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.
Friedrich arrived in England on October 16, 1612, and the match seemed to please them both from the beginning. Their contemporaries noted how Friedrich seemed to “delight in nothing but her company and conversation”. Friedrich also struck up a friendship with Elizabeth’s elder brother, Prince Henry, which delighted his prospective bride immensely.
King James did not take into consideration the couple’s happiness, but saw the match as “one step in a larger process of achieving domestic and European concord”. The only person seemingly unhappy with the match was Elizabeth’s mother Queen Anne (born a princessof Denmark). As the daughter of a king, the sister of a king, the wife of a king, and the mother of a future king, Queen Anne also desired to be the mother of a queen. She is said to have been somewhat fond of Friedrich mild manner and generous nature but simply felt that he was of too low of stock.
On November 6, 1612 Henry, Prince of Wales, died. His death took an emotional toll on Elizabeth, and her new position as second in line to the throne made her an even more desirable match. Queen Anne and those like-minded who had “always considered Friedrich of the Rhine to be an unworthy match for her, were emboldened in their opposition”. Elizabeth stood by Friedrich, whom her brother had approved, and whom she found to have the sentiments of a fine gentleman. Above all, he was “regarded as the future head of the Protestant interest in Germany.
The wedding took place on February 14, 1613 at the royal chapel at the Palace of Whitehall and was a grand occasion that saw more royalty than ever visit the court of England. The marriage was an enormously popular match and was the occasion for an outpouring of public affection with the ceremony described as “a wonder of ceremonial and magnificence even for that extravagant age”.
It was celebrated with lavish and sophisticated festivities both in London and Heidelberg, including mass feasts and lavish furnishings that cost nearly £50,000, and nearly bankrupted King James. Among many celebratory writings of the events was John Donne’s “Epithalamion, Or Marriage Song on the Lady Elizabeth, and Count Palatine being married on St Valentine’s Day”. A contemporary author viewed the whole marriage as a prestigious event that saw England “lend her rarest gem, to enrich the Rhine”.
After almost a two-month stay in London for continued celebrations, the couple began their journey to join the Electoral court in Heidelberg. The journey was filled with meeting people, sampling foods and wines, and being entertained by a wide variety of performers and companies. At each place the young couple stopped, Elizabeth was expected to distribute presents. The cash to allow her to do so was not readily available, so she had to use one of her own jewels as collateral so that the goldsmith Abraham Harderet would “provide her with suitable presents on credit.
Her arrival in Heidelberg was seen as “the crowning achievement of a policy which tried to give the Palatinate a central place in international politics” and was long anticipated and welcomed. Elizabeth’s new husband transformed his seat at Heidelberg Castle, creating between 1610 and 1613 the Englischer Bau (i.e., English Building) for her, a monkey-house, a menagerie, and the beginnings of a new garden in the Italian Renaissance garden style popular in England at the time. The garden, the Hortus Palatinus, was constructed by Elizabeth’s former tutor, Salomon de Caus. It was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by contemporaries.
Although Elizabeth and Friedrich were considered to be genuinely in love and remained a romantic couple throughout the course of their marriage, problems already had begun to arise. Before the couple had left England, King James had made Friedrich promise that Elizabeth “would take precedence over his mother, of Louise Juliana of Orange-Nassau, the daughter of Willem I the Silent, Prince of Orange, and Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpensier. James further had Friedrich promise his daughter would always be treated as if she were a Queen”. This at times made life in the Palatinate uncomfortable for Elizabeth, as Friedrich’s mother Louise Juliana had “not expected to be demoted in favour of her young daughter-in-law” and, as such, their relationship was never more than cordial.
Elizabeth gave birth to three children in Heidelberg, Heinrich Friedrich, Hereditary Prince of the Palatinate, was born in 1614, Charles Ludwig in 1617, (the future Prince-Elector Palatine of the Rhine) and Elisabeth in 1619.
The rest of the children born to Friedrich and Elizabeth were:
Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland (fought with his uncle King Charles I of England in the English Civil Wars)
Louise Hollandine, Abbess of Maubuisson
Prince Eduard, Count Palatine of Simmern
Princess Henriette Marie
Prince Philipp Friedrich
Sophia, Electress of Hanover (mother of King George I of Great Britain)
Prince Gustavus Adolphus