Bohemia

Hall of Fame, Historical Division – The Winter Queen Part 2: Elizabeth Stuart

Thank you to our community member geogirl for this Historical Hall of Fame. It’s a two parter. Yesterday, on the anniversary of Elizabeth Stuart’s death, we took a look at her life – and it was quite a life. Today we will discuss her wardrobe, and choose a Hall of Fame winner.

Elizabeth lived quite sumptuously in royal courts across Europe, but in changing times – the tail end of the Elizabethan era, then the Jacobites, the Cavaliers and the Puritans. Let’s take a look at her wardrobe and jewels over the decades….

Age 7 and 10

Princess Elizabeth at age 7, by Robert Peake (1603)
Princess Elizabeth at age 10, by Robert Peake

Lord Harrington indulged Elizabeth’s passion for nature, and in a secluded wilderness at the end of the park, arranged the construction of an aviary, a number of little wooden which housed paintings and stuffed animals and a miniature menagerie. This was later expanded to include meadows stocked with the smallest breeds of cattle from Jersey, Shetland and the Isle of Man. Elizabeth referred to her miniature world as ‘her Territories’ and ‘her Fairy farm’ and she engaged a pauper family as keeper of her birds and beasts.  James was clear in his instructions that the princess, unlike her Tudor predecessors and her brothers, was not required to spend her mornings learning Greek and Latin, but to educate her thoroughly in religion and a general knowledge of history. In her father’s opinion ‘to make women learned and foxes tame had the same effect – to make them more cunning’. Elizabeth would later ensure that her own daughters received a classical education, and worked to overcome her own deficiencies by offering to help her brother Henry with his Italian lessons if in exchange he taught her Latin.

For a 7 year old, Elizabeth is dressed as an adult with jewels on at her waist, down her front, on her sleeves, in her hair as well as earrings and a necklace!  Elizabeth’s age, 7, is inscribed on the fan, while the date 1603 (the year of the death of Elizabeth I and the succession of her father James to the English throne) is inscribed in the right background. Three years later, at 10, she still carries a fortune of jewels on her body, in her hair, around her neck and on her bodice!  Both show examples of reticulated lace.

Age 14

Princess Elizabeth at 14
Note the stomacher as hair ornament!

Our lovely princess here is 14 years old. She has marvellously large eyes and a bouffant hairdo complete with  a stomacher as hair ornament and a ruff of reticulated lace.

Elizabeth was married at 16 and unfortunately, we could not find a picture of Elizabeth’s wedding dress, but the 16 year old bride was reported as being resplendent in a cloth of shimmering silver lined with taffeta. Many diamonds of estimable value were embroidered upon her sleeves which dazzled the eyes of all the beholders. She wore a crown adorned with glittering diamonds and other precious stones ‘so thick beset, that they stood like shining pinnacles, upon her amber coloured hair.’ The sixteen noble bridesmaids attending the bride were also dressed in white satin, and adorned with such a cornucopia of jewels that her passage ‘looked like a milky way’.  The handsome bridegroom, also aged 16, was attired in a fitting counterpoint to his stunning bride. His white satin ensemble was richly embellished with pearls, symbolising purity and innocence and signifying a cosmic unity, a spiritual relationship between the two young people. The wedding service itself was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the German-speaking groom uttered his well rehearsed vows in English, underlining the fact that through this union the Church of England was extending its influence across Europe. The teenage bride’s inability to stifle her giggles through her wedding vows did not lessen the importance of the occasion, and may have been occasioned by the her mischievous groom’s wedding gift of a monkey house. Indeed, her high spirits only served to endear her to her family and wedding guests.

Age 17

This picture is of Elizabeth in 1613 when she was 17. She was now a married lady and the Queen of Bohemia.  It shows her wearing a gold dress with a reticella collar worked with the English royal coat of arms with lions and unicorns worked into a standing lace collar. She wears a gown of Italian silk brocade. The black armband is thought to be a sign of mourning for her brother Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales who drowned in 1612.  Check out her jewellery in high resolution! Notice the order with the red bow.

Age 34

Elizabeth of Bohemia at 34

Here, Elizabeth is 34. She has the symbols of royalty around her – the orb, the scepter and the crown. Again, she is heavily pearled, but the more restrained fashions of the time are clear.

Later in Life

Alas, we all must age and so did Elizabeth.  These line engraving show her later in life, but still bejewelled! Again she is wearing the order and a massive display of pearls.

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At which age do you prefer Elizabeth's clothes?