Daughters of the Winter Queen

Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Gerard van Honthorst, 1650. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

The recent sale at Sotheby’s of the chattels owned by the previous tenants of Ashdown House has somewhat overshadowed the fact that the National Trust also owns a collection of portraits with a historical connection to the house.

Louise Hollandine, Princess Palatine, second daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by Gerard van Honthorst, 1650. Louise Hollandine was herself a talented painter. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

These pictures were transferred to the Governement by the Craven estate in lieu of inheritance tax in 1968 and allocated to National Trust. They hang on the central staircase at Ashdown House, which is open to the public.

Elizabeth, Priness Palatine, eldest daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by studio of Gerard van Honthorst. Elizabeth was nicknamed 'La Grecque' by her siblings for her intellectual interests, and she was a friend of the philosopher Descartes. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Many of the Ashdown pictures originally came from Elizabeth, sister of Charles I and Queen of Bohemia. Because her husband Frederick, Elector Palatine, was ejected from the Bohemian throne after only a year and four days, she was henceforth known as the Winter Queen.

Henrietta Maria, Princess Palatine, third daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, by studio of Gerard van Honthorst. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Elizabeth subsequently received much financial support from William, Earl of Craven. In gratitude she left her papers and family portraits to him upon her death in 1662.

William, Earl of Craven, by Gerard van Honthorst. ©NTPL/John Gibbons

The portraits are a fascinating record of mid-seventeenth-century faces and fashions.

Sophia, Princess Palatine, the youngest daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia and later Electress of Hanover, by Gerard van Honthorst. Apart from giving the house of Hanover a claim to the British throne, she also created the palace and gardens at Herrenhausen and sponsored the philosopher Leibniz. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Sophia, married the future Elector of Hanover in 1658, and her son ultimately became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland. So through her the present queen, Elizabeth II, counts Elizabeth of Bohemia among her ancestors.

5 Responses to “Daughters of the Winter Queen”

  1. columnist Says:

    Thanks for this brief and charming history lesson through these portraits. I watched the auction at Sotheby’s recently for some of these lots.

  2. Karena Says:

    Emile these portraits are atounding. The fashion of that era so divine and to be captured with those creamy complextions and regal faces….

    Art by Karena

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Columnist, yes we were bidding in the auction, but the price levels were too high for our limited budget. In effect it was a mini ‘country house sale’, with the attendant excitement and exuberant bidding.

    Karena, they are great fashion plates, aren’t they? But at the same time Honthorst has captured something of their personalties as well, I think.

  4. Maharani Says:

    The Winter Queen’s daughters were all beautiful and intelligent, but their having no dowries was a disadvantage. Henrietta-Maria, Princess Rakoczi, died young, and only Sophia had descendants. That said, Louise-Hollandine and Elizabeth were interesting intellectual women of their time whose letters are still worth reading.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you. Yes the limitations imposed on their lives by finances and politics were daunting.

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