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