Who was the Winter Queen?
Elizabeth was the daughter of James I and the sister of Charles I. Born in 1596 she married Frederick V, the Elector Palatine, King of Bohemia in 1613 and from this happy union had thirteen children, eleven of which survived into adulthood.
The title of Winter Queen came about because of the brief period of just one winter when the royal couple reigned before the defeat by the Habsburg Emperor after which they then fled to the safety of The Hague. Frederick died in 1632 leaving Queen Elizabeth destitute and needing financial support from Lord Craven who had been a loyal friend to her husband.
After the restoration, Queen Elizabeth was able to return to London with a small pension from Charles I and lived in the house that Lord Craven owned until her death in 1662.
Ashdown House was built by Lord Craven about 1660 supposedly as a refuge for the Queen from plague ridden London but sadly then Elizabeth died before it was completed. Although there is no record of the type of relationship she had with Lord Craven he supported her for many years and on her death she bequeathed him all her papers and pictures including many of the portraits of her family that are now on display at Ashdown House.
The portrait of Elizabeth that now hangs at Ashdown House was painted by Gerard Van Honthorst (1590-1656) in 1650 when Elizabeth was fifty four years old. Gerard Van Honthorst was from Utrecht and studied in under Abraham Bloemaert before leaving for Rome where he was influenced by Caravaggio and earned the nickname of Gherardo della Notte. He returned to Holland in 1620 and is said to have given painting and drawing lessons to the Queen’s children. Louise Hollandine became a very accomplished painter and a painting attributed to her hangs at Ashdown House on the staircase.