Love and courage at Ashdown

When Elizabeth Stuart was crowned Queen of Bohemia on 7th November 1619 it must have felt to her like the dawning of a glorious new age.

Only three days previously she had written to the Marquis of Buckingham that her husband Frederick had been received “with a great show of love of all sorts of people” when he had entered Prague as the new King. However, it was mere weeks before the political fault lines began to show the weakness of Frederick’s position. The Jesuits already had a nickname for him: The Winter King, because they said he would melt away with the snow.

Winter Queen

This prediction came to pass a mere year later when the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor defeated Frederick’s army at the Battle of the White Mountain on 8th November 1620. The Winter King and Queen were forced to flee from Prague. The retreat began with a slow-moving procession of three hundred heavily-laden vehicles but when the winter snows began to fall on November 11th, the roads became blocked and Elizabeth was obliged to ride. Captain Ralph Hopton, later a Royalist commander in the English Civil War, was a young Englishman who had only recently joined Frederick’s army after studying at Oxford. His horse was well-trained and could carry two: A contemporary account records “He carried the Queen of Bohemia behind him… forty miles” through the frost, ice and snow and praised her fortitude for travelling in such discomfort without a single word of complaint. By December Elizabeth had reached the relative safety of Frankfurt An Der Oder and from there the family sought refuge on various places before settling in to long exile in the Hague.

Elizabeth’s soubriquet “The Winter Queen” has endured to this day. Her great courage during the retreat from Prague and the gratitude she showed to all those who helped her made her greatly loved. For her, the name the Winter Queen was a term of affection and admiration.