The Winter King back in The Hague for the winter
Frederick V was Elector Palatine, but became popularly known as the Winter King since he only managed to rule his kingdom of Bohemia for a single winter. This was followed by ten years of exile in The Hague. After his death in 1632 his wife Elizabeth Stuart was to remain in the city for a further thirty years.
Willem Jan Hoogsteder has always had a penchant for these two remarkable people. He spent many years in intensive research into the couple’s painting collection. This resulted in the first accurate description of the nature of this sizeable collection and the significant role the royal couple played in Hague court culture. Four hundred years ago Frederick V was seven years old. Only now has he been given his own exhibition. It was high time.
The initiative came from Bavaria, and more specifically Amberg, Frederick’s native town. There a major Landesausstellung was held on the theme from May to November 2003. Willem Jan contributed to the accompanying catalogue with an essay on the art collection of Frederick and Elizabeth. Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder also lent numerous paintings for the exhibition: portraits of the Winter King, his family and entourage, as well as a view of Rhenen by Anthonie Jansz. van der Croos and an allegory on the restoration of electoral dignity by Jacob Fransz. van der Merck and Jan van Goyen.
Frederick V and his wife Elizabeth Stuart were historical, art-historical and cultural figures of major importance. This exhibition is certainly worth visiting. Amberg may be far away, but not the Hague Historical Museum (a stone’s throw from Lange Vijverberg). The Dutch version of the exhibition can be seen here until 14 March. Not to be missed.
Elector as king
Frederick V, Elector Palatine (1596-1632), known as the Winter King, married Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I of England (and VI of Scotland) in 1613. The newlyweds settled in Heidelberg, where they lived on a grand scale. After several undisturbed years Frederick, who as Elector Palatine was a leading Protestant ruler of the day, was offered the crown of Bohemia. By accepting the offer, however, he found himself in conflict with the Catholic Habsburgs, who also had their eye on the Bohemian thrown. In the winter of 1620 to 1621 imperial troops descended on Prague and in the decisive Battle of the White Mountain Frederick and his Protestant forces were defeated. Since he had only ruled for one winter, Frederick became known as the Winter King.
After a long journey across Europe, Frederick and Elizabeth finally found refuge in The Hague where the States General gave them political asylum. A key factor in the decision was that Stadholder Prince Maurice was an uncle of the erstwhile king. Frederick and Elizabeth were welcomed with their children into the Dutch court and provided with the former residence of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on Kneuterdijk. Although they were continually in financial difficulty, they managed to maintain an elegant court of their own and herein lies their significance in Dutch history. It was they who showed the subsequent prince and princess of Orange, Frederick Henry and Amalia van Solms (who had arrived in the Netherlands as Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting), how royals should live. A kind of crosspollination developed between the two courts which led to a series of art commissions and major architectural projects. Both their palace at Kneuterdijk and their summer residence in Rhenen were filled with expensive paintings. Eventually, their court lifestyle set the fashion for the wealthy burghers of Holland too. It was Frederick and Elizabeth who made this lifestyle what it became at the stadholder court in The Hague and among the newly rich regents of the Dutch Republic.
The Winter King: Exile at the Hague Court, Hague Historical Museum,
6 December 2003 – 14 March 2004