The Stuart Bohemian Linage

Here is a great article.

John John

On Feb. 15 The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn written by George Chapman, and with costumes, sets, and stage effects by Inigo Jones was performed.  Chapman, a follower of the late Prince of Wales, and therefore an enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia colonization project, based his masque on the theme of Native American sun worshippers arriving in London to honor the newlyweds by converting to Christianity.

The Queen of Hearts and the Rosicrucian Dawn | Newtopia Magazine (

On New Year’s Day an old tradition was revived and gifts were exchanged: diamond encrusted swords, an agate bowl Frederick gave to James, and Elizabeth received her engagement ring.  As the pageantry of masques and dances presented by the court, the mayors of cities, and the students of Gray’s Inn, occupied her attention, the Queen warmed up to Frederick enough to promise she would help plan the wedding ceremony. Some at court were surprised that the parents of Prince Henry were occupied in frivolous entertainments so soon after his death.  But James and Anne took solace not only in habit but also in their duty to support the marriage of their daughter, and the alliance with the Protestant Union.

The betrothed royal teenagers rode horses, hunted and took boat trips.  Painters attempted to commit their charm to canvas in officially commissioned portraits.  The King’s Men, Shakespeare’s company, were paid for “presenting before the Princess Highness the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Palatine Elector fourteen several plays,” which included Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest.  Some scholars believe Shakespeare rewrote the masque scene of The Tempest in honor of Frederick and Elizabeth, others that he was inspired to author or co-author Henry VIII.  It seems perfectly natural that a “new Elizabethan cult” would spring up around Princess Elizabeth.  Shakespeare understood the lineage of the Hermetic Platonic mystery tradition that was informing so many of the reformers.  He includes in Henry VIII not a Hymn of Orpheus but a hymn to Orpheus, the favorite of Ficino, magus of the renaissance, and first translator of Plato.  Ficino’s singing of the hymns was widely credited as helping to magically inspire the renaissance.  In Love’s Labour’s Lost Shakespeare mentions Balf’s Academy of Poetry and Music in France.  There Protestant and Catholic musicians joined together to practice Orphic singing, with the intention of creating a sympathetic magical harmony to heal the religious wars causing so much suffering in France.

The plays climax, the birth of Queen Elizabeth I, is celebrated by a beautiful prophecy:

“In her days every man shall eat in safety

Under his own vine what he plants, and sing

The merry songs of peace to all his neighbors.

God shall be truly known….”

The is not only a eulogy for the wonderful world of the short lived Elizabethan golden age, but also a hopeful prayer for Princess Elizabeth.  The prophecy of the rebirth of the phoenix is addressed to James.  Perhaps Shakespeare believed, as did many others, that by marrying his only daughter to the head of the Protestant Union the King of England was committing to the Protestant policies of Henry and Elizabeth.  But Princess Elizabeth is Donne’s intended phoenix.


Frederick V, Elector Palatine

On February 7 in a public ceremony Frederick was made a member of the Order of the Garter.  Again, he received the insignia that had so recently belonged to Prince Henry.

On Feb. 11 a grand exhibition of fireworks lit up Whitehall.  The thunder of nearby cannon St. George and a dragon battled it out in fireworks.  Next a pack of firework hounds chased a rabbit through the sky.  Finally a fleet of ships rigged with flags and streamers sailed into view for a naval battle in the stars.  Feb. 13 the entertainment provided by a pretend naval battle between a Venetian man-of-war and seventeen Turkish damsels told a tale of a damsel in distress.  But injuries caused one sailor to remark that the entertainment was more dangerous than actual battle.

The morning of St. Valentine’s Day bells rang in the church towers.  Cannon and musket fired.  At dawn her retainers began the work of preparing Elizabeth for her wedding.  They wrapped her in a diamond studded white gown heavily embroidered with silver thread.  They carefully detangled her waist length amber hair letting it flow free.  Gold spangles, rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds woven in her hair sparkled.  Thirteen young ladies with their hair flowing free all in white carried her long train.  A crown of refined gold adorned with pearls and diamonds completed her costume.  Frederick wore a suit of silver and the glittering diamond insignia of St. George that had belonged to Henry.  James wore a black Spanish suit and cape, with long stockings, and a single big diamond in his hat.  Queen Anne wore white satin spangled with diamonds.  For the official ceremony in the chapel James wore jewels valued at six hundred thousand pounds, while the Queen’s jewelry clocked in at four hundred thousand pounds.  The wealth of the nation was on display.

James had built a special building for the event.  Tapestries of the English victory against the Spanish armada decorated the room.  Frederick dressed simply, and handled his English lines awkwardly but without error.  Nobles from across Europe filled the hall, but none from Spain, even the Spanish ambassador refused to attend, excusing himself with a polite lie about his health.  A boring sermon followed a tedious service, but the ceremony was short notable only for the choice Frederick and Elizabeth made to leave out obedience in the list of marital pledges, vowing to love, cherish, and honor, but not to obey.  Elizabeth’s face was said to have been glowing with sparkling lights of joy that the common folk considered a bad omen.  Perhaps they believed that such radiance would invite retribution from god or devil.

Having said their vows, their titles proclaimed by the herald, the guests quickly left the chapel.  Elizabeth changed out of her weighty robe into a more comfortable and becoming dress.  Trumpets summoned the guests to dinner.  52 sat at the table for a three-hour feast.  In the evening a ballet on the theme of Orpheus received the damning criticism that it was “several hours too long.”

The next morning James embarrassed Frederick with his questions about the wedding night.  Any doubts he may have had about the consummation of the marriage would be dismissed when Elizabeth became pregnant before leaving England in April.

On Feb. 15 The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn written by George Chapman, and with costumes, sets, and stage effects by Inigo Jones was performed.  Chapman, a follower of the late Prince of Wales, and therefore an enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia colonization project, based his masque on the theme of Native American sun worshippers arriving in London to honor the newlyweds by converting to Christianity.  The festivities commenced with a torch lit parade down Chancery Lane: fifty gentlemen on horseback, followed by boys dressed as baboons in Neapolitan suits with exaggerated ruffs, and then musicians and masquers in chariots.  Jones’s stage set featured a golden mountain with a silver octagonal and domed temple on one side, and a hollow tree on the other.   The mountain moved toward the spectators then split open to release the baboons.  Then the mountaintop opened revealing fire dancers whose torches were lit at both ends.   The elite of the court played (highly stylized) native chiefs.  In the dedication when Chapman refers to the “thrice gracious Princess Elizabeth” it’s impossible not to suspect a pun on “thrice greatest Hermes”.

More masques followed, including “Marriage of Thames and Rine” organized by Sir Francis Bacon, and productions of theatrical masterpieces, including Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster or Love Lies A-Bleeding, a tragicomedy about love, lies, and revenge, complete with a Spanish villain, and a rebellion by good citizens to save their princess and her true love.  As one exhausting entertainment followed another the king began to droop and yawn openly and the queen became downright bitchy, referring to the bride only as Goody Palsgrave.  Two days after Bacon’s masque James left the court, retreating to his country house.  He now considered it urgent that he marry his younger son Charles to a Catholic princess. Thereafter, knowing that the Spanish despised him, James nevertheless did whatever he could to appease them, including beheading the great Sir Walter Raleigh, last living symbol of the Elizabethan golden age.



 The poet John Donne

England resounded with fatuous prophecies of the glories to be born from this marriage of the Thames and the Rhine.  How hollow these prognostications of happiness and dominion would seem in a few short years; though from the long view perhaps they came true, as we shall see.  Poets composed solemn declarations.  Neoplatonic and alchemical themes of the union of opposites appeared in art, writing, and theater as the fair-haired princess and dark prince were recast as the hermetic marriage.  The great poet John Donne wrote a poem especially for the occasion that exemplified the trend.


by John Donne

HAIL Bishop Valentine, whose day this is;

All the air is thy diocese,

And all the chirping choristers

And other birds are thy parishioners;

Thou marriest every year

The lyric lark, and the grave whispering dove,

The sparrow that neglects his life for love,

The household bird with the red stomacher;

Thou makest the blackbird speed as soon,

As doth the goldfinch, or the halcyon;

The husband cock looks out, and straight is sped,

And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.

This day more cheerfully than ever shine;

This day, which might enflame thyself, old Valentine.


Till now, thou warmd’st with multiplying loves

Two larks, two sparrows, or two doves;

All that is nothing unto this;

For thou this day couplest two phoenixes;

Thou makst a taper see

What the sun never saw, and what the ark

—Which was of fouls and beasts the cage and park—

Did not contain, one bed contains, through thee;

Two phoenixes, whose joined breasts

Are unto one another mutual nests,

Where motion kindles such fires as shall give

Young phoenixes, and yet the old shall live;

Whose love and courage never shall decline

But make the whole year through, thy day, O Valentine.


Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun;

Thyself from thine affection

Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye

All lesser birds will take their jollity.

Up, up, fair bride, and call

Thy stars from out their several boxes, take

Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make

Thyself a constellation of them all;

And by their blazing signify

That a great princess falls, but doth not die.

Be thou a new star, that to us portends

Ends of much wonder; and be thou those ends.

Since thou dost this day in new glory shine,

May all men date records from this day, Valentine.


Come forth, come forth, and as one glorious flame

Meeting another grows the same,

So meet thy Frederick, and so

To an inseparable union go,

Since separation

Falls not on such things as are infinite,

Nor things, which are but one, can disunite.

You’re twice inseparable, great, and one;

Go then to where the bishop stays,

To make you one, his way, which divers ways

Must be effected ; and when all is past,

And that you’re one, by hearts and hands made fast,

You two have one way left, yourselves to entwine,

Besides this bishop’s knot, of Bishop Valentine.


But O, what ails the sun, that here he stays,

Longer to-day than other days?

Stays he new light from these to get?

And finding here such stars is loth to set?

And why do you two walk,

So slowly paced in this procession?

Is all your care but to be look’d upon,

And be to others spectacle, and talk?

The feast with gluttonous delays

Is eaten, and too long their meat they praise;

The masquers come late, and I think, will stay,

Like fairies, till the cock crow them away.

Alas ! did not antiquity assign

A night as well as day, to thee, old Valentine?


They did, and night is come; and yet we see

Formalities retarding thee.

What mean these ladies, which—as though

They were to take a clock in pieces—go

So nicely about the bride?

A bride, before a “ Good-night” could be said,

Should vanish from her clothes into her bed,

As souls from bodies steal, and are not spied.

But now she’s laid; what though she be?

Yet there are more delays, for where is he?

He comes and passeth through sphere after sphere;

First her sheets, then her arms, then anywhere.

Let not this day, then, but this night be thine;

Thy day was but the eve to this, O Valentine.


Here lies a she sun, and a he moon there;

She gives the best light to his sphere;

Or each is both, and all, and so

They unto one another nothing owe;

And yet they do, but are

So just and rich in that coin which they pay,

That neither would, nor needs forbear, nor stay;

Neither desires to be spared nor to spare.

They quickly pay their debt, and then

Take no acquittances, but pay again;

They pay, they give, they lend, and so let fall

No such occasion to be liberal.

More truth, more courage in these two do shine,

Than all thy turtles have and sparrows, Valentine.


And by this act these two phoenixes

Nature again restorèd is;

For since these two are two no more,

There’s but one phoenix still, as was before.

Rest now at last, and we—

As satyrs watch the sun’s uprise—will stay

Waiting when your eyes opened let out day,

Only desired because your face we see.

Others near you shall whispering speak,

And wagers lay, at which side day will break,

And win by observing, then, whose hand it is

That opens first a curtain, hers or his:

This will be tried to-morrow after nine,

Till which hour, we thy day enlarge, O Valentine.

But by the end of March the royal mood chilled further.  James had spent more than fifty thousand pounds on the wedding, an enormous fortune in those days.  Now with everyone clamoring for their money he suddenly dismissed without warning two thirds of Frederick’s retinue.  Elizabeth was mortified by her father’s rude action.  James tried to make it up to Frederick with a jousting exhibition in the rain.  The next day the newlyweds visited the Tower where Elizabeth charmed everyone by insisting on lighting the ceremonial cannon and then, instead of flinching, beamed with excitement at the powerful explosion.  Comparisons between her and her namesake the brave Elizabeth Tudor made the rounds again.  Elizabeth identified with her namesake.  She had portraits painted in imitation of her godmother, and made her own signature a replica of the Virgin Queen’s regal scrawl.

But James wasn’t done cutting costs or mortifying his daughter.  When the Haringtons asked to have their generous expenditures reimbursed, repayment for wedding preparations, and for having raised the princess, James rejected them.  However he did grant Harrington the right to mint brass farthings, pocket change nicknamed Haringtons.

The royal cold shoulder left Frederick complaining that his father in law treated him more like a page than a son.  History proves that James tended to sour when he ran out of money.  The happy couple he had enjoyed so much mere weeks earlier were now a burdensome expense.  The king and queen accompanied the newlyweds only part way to their port of departure.  Locals flocked to see the royals.  On their last night together Anne excused herself from dinner.  Gossips wondered if she was truly too emotional at the departure of her daughter, or just disappointed and bored.  James dined with Elizabeth and Frederick.  As they said goodbye Elizabeth wept uncontrollably.  Her new husband, a mere boy himself, and her younger brother Charles tried to comfort her.  A sixteen-year-old girl who had never been to the continent, no matter how frightening the unknowns of Elizabeth’s new life, the reality that unfolded was far worse.

When the weather forced them to postpone their departure the superstitious whispered that it was a bad omen.  Nobles and commoners alike tried to warn Elizabeth not to sail on her brother’s ship The Prince Royal.  They feared his ill fate would somehow become contagious and infect her.  But Elizabeth presumably felt comfortable on board the ship championed by and named after her late brother.  Perhaps she thought in some way it represented his continued presence and protection.  When the ships finally embarked a storm forced them back to port.  The king and queen showed no concern for these delays that must have increased their daughter’s distress.  They behaved as if she had already set sail.  Anne got back to organizing her amusements, and James returned to his favorite country house to enjoy his everyday pleasures with the extra enthusiasm of a monarch who faced mortality.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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