When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, he brought his family to London, including a seven-year-old daughter named Elizabeth. Just two years later, she was the unwitting focus of a traitorous plot to assassinate her father and put England back under the dominion of Continental Europe.
IN 1605, Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators tried to assassinate King James I, and put his nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth Stuart on his throne as their puppet. As they were Roman Catholics hoping to rejoin Britain to Papal politics, marriage to one of the Catholic dynasties of Europe would surely have followed.*
But the Gunpowder plotters failed, and in 1613 James saw his daughter, now sixteen, married to a Protestant prince, Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. The two got on famously, enjoying lively banter and watching Shakespeare’s plays, and celebrated their wedding in London on St Valentine’s Day with fireworks, drama, music, and a theatrical sea-battle on the Thames.
In 1619, hardline Catholic Ferdinand II became Holy Roman Emperor. Champions of religious liberty in Bohemia rebelled by electing Frederick as their King, but barely a year later he was driven out at the Battle of the White Mountain.* Elizabeth, unkindly dubbed ‘the Winter Queen’ for the shortness of her reign, settled in the Hague.
* See our post Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. At this time, the Pope claimed supreme power over all Christian monarchs, and demanded that Rome function as a kind of European supreme court. When English reformers proclaimed that ‘the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England’, they did not simply mean church jurisdiction, they meant civil, criminal and political jurisdiction too.
* Frederick’s reign began on August 26th, 1619; he was crowned on November 4th, and deposed a year later on November 8th, 1620, at the Battle of the White Mountain near Prague. The battle marked the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War between Catholic and Protestant powers in Europe.