In both literary and historical scholarship, there
has been considerable interest in the exiled courtly communities of the
mid-seventeenth century as sites of agency and resistance in political and
cultural terms. Lois Potter in her pioneering study Secret Rites and
Secret Writing and more recently Hero Chalmers in her Royalist Women
Writers, as well as other complementary studies of specific individuals
in the context of exile, such as Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle,
or Edward Hyde, have situated these communities firmly within a system of
codified allegiances and expressions of allegiance, exploring their deployment
and mobilization of specific literary genres, not least drama, as conscious
acts of resistance in the face of the Cromwellian interregnum (Potter; Chalmers).
We do not aim necessarily to undo those readings in what we will suggest
here about the ‘courts’ of Elizabeth of Bohemia and Mary Stuart, the Princess
Royal, in one specific site of English courtly exile during the 1640s and
1650s, that of the Low Countries, and The Hague in particular. Indeed, it
would be foolish to discount the modes of political resistance implicit
in the representations of, for example, warrior women and the codified pastoral
play that shaped the dramatic and poetic output of many exilic writers who
had contact with the Low Countries, among them Cavendish herself, Thomas
Killigrew, and others, and which, as we will see later, found their own
purchase in the cultural productions of the English royalist exiles in The
Hague during these decades (Raber; Rees). But what has become increasingly
clear to us through our collaborative research into women in Low Countries
communities in this period (1644-1664) – work that has encompassed archival
research in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom – is that the
royalist exiled communities were neither some easily identified homogenous
group that can be satisfactorily described in one set of terms, or through
one set of practices – material, political, or cultural – and nor were they
all, or always, necessarily radicalized by the experience of exile.
Certainly in the instances of the Low Countries’ communities that we have
been studying, it appears to be almost as frequently the case that both
the groups and the individuals involved became deeply embedded in, sometimes
creators of, local networks and practices, and that their cultural productions
and political opinions must be seen as much as a product of, and at the
very least inflected by, this very embeddedness as conscious acts of utterance
within a wider campaign of royalist allegiance and resistance.
One helpful mode of thinking
about the effects of this embedded identity is to think in terms of multiple
audiences for the cultural and political self-constructions of these communities
and their constituent individuals in exile, and to consider the ways in
which their actions, not least literary, were read, understood, and interpreted
by the indigenous cultures which they had temporarily joined or allied themselves
with, as much as by their former communities and families back home in England. We are, then, thinking
here about multiple understandings of role and identity in the ‘collective
habits’ and practices of these particular émigré communities.
If one of the more interesting aspects of recent developments in a number
of overlapping scholarly areas of interest, in particular history, literature,
biography, and geography is the revised and renewed value and emphasis placed
on the idea of the ‘group’ or the concept of the ‘network’, then how might
the application of these ideas to the operations of royalist exile communities
– such as those which settled, either temporarily or on a longer term basis,
as part of the satellite Stuart courts in The Hague – begin to offer us
a model of exile that is no longer simply, or only, about the hermetically
sealed expatriate community looking longingly homewards, but one that also
engages with ideas of adaptation, embedding, and interaction? In The Hague
the potential significance of an embryonic salon culture – itself consciously
modelled on the cultural practices of Paris, site of another major cluster
of English royalist exiles centred on the figure of the exiled queen Henrietta
Maria at the Palais de Louvre – and of vibrant intellectual and cultural
groupings, as well as the epistolary networks which often promoted their
ideas in addition to the related circulation of news and gossip, all becomes
clearer within this frame of understanding. This implicates the royalist
expatriates in both localized and cross-continental relationships.
Exile from this angle or optic, then, starts to look like a far more permeable
and mobile concept. Just as James Knowles, Clare McManus, and others have
argued for a plural understanding of early modern courts and their operations,
so we would argue that there is a need to account for many different forms,
manifestations, and practices of royalist exile (Knowles, ‘Tied’ 530; McManus).
In any discussion of royalist exiles in the mid-seventeenth
century, The Hague proves a distinctive case, politically, socially, and
geographically. In spatial and architectural terms its intimacy as a geopolitical
centre was not insignificant. Much of the courtly and administrative activity
was centred on the Binnenhof area, a remarkably open complex of political
and noble buildings. Topographically speaking, The Hague’s socio-political
life was focused around the city’s central lake, the Vijver. In this district
were located the States General, States of Holland, the Court of Justice,
the Audit office, the Supreme Court, and many of the offices for connected
officials and administrators, let alone the trades people who serviced this
world. Significant events clustered around these central spaces: the Plein,
the Voorhout, and the Vijverberg. Elizabeth of Bohemia’s residence was within
minutes’ walking distance of here at Kneuterdijk, in the former residence
of the executed Grand Pensionary of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (so
that even her residence had symbolic connotations). Additionally, she and
her household occupied part of the neighbouring property, the Wassanaer
Hof, which also housed one of van Oldenbarnevelt’s daughters and her husband,
who was a diplomat. This overlapping world of close encounters and sheer
proximity creates a very particular and heightened sense of community, and
also starts to explain why social gatherings such as theatrical performances,
dances, or literary salons became a means for that community to come together
and cement its relationships, but also acted a site for the focus of particular
tensions and rivalries. As we shall see, the factionalism, both internal
and external, that beset these courtly cultures in exile came to the fore
at specific moments of ceremonial in The Hague.
- Olaf Mörke has helpfully described the competing ‘courtly’ elements
to be found in the vicinity of the Binnenhof, and one salient contemporary
observation on this theme derives from Secretary Edward Nicholas, who commented
in a letter to Hatton: ‘there are as great factions here in the little courts
as in that of the D[uke] of York. Happiest are they who have the least to
do with them’ (Mörke 59; Nicholas i: 204). The remarkable
(and remarked upon) presence of these competing ‘little courts’ had been occasioned
by a series of political events and transitions of power that had been played
out on the larger European stage. The Orange court had moved to The Hague
in 1580, forced by conflict to abandon its traditional power centres in Brussels
and Breda. The House of Orange was an intriguing political exception in itself,
in that it was effectively a noble household, although by the seventeenth
century it was developing the trappings and ceremonials of a European royal
court (hence the attraction for them of a Stuart marriage). The political
role of the Orange princes, however, depended on their relationship with the
separate states of the young republic and particularly on the attitude of
the urban elites of Holland. The theatrical and theatricalized ‘display’ of
power or assumed power in this context, as we will argue later, becomes doubly
important. But the House of Orange was not the only ‘displaced’ courtly community
to find a base in The Hague in the seventeenth century, since in 1621 the
so-called Winter King and Queen arrived there from the Palatinate. Elizabeth
of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, was the sister of Charles I which made her the
most senior royal female in The Hague. The potential for rivalry between these
two ‘courts’, both with a heightened sense of the external challenges to their
power and authenticity, seemed inevitable.
The picture is further complicated after 1641, when
at the age of just nine years old, Elizabeth’s niece, Princess Mary, daughter
of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, was married to Willem II, son of Frederick
Henry, Prince of Orange. A year after her marriage in Whitehall, Mary was
accompanied to The Hague by her mother and numerous members of what was
to become her royal household there. This was a royal household in a republic;
a contradiction in terms in itself. It is indicative of Mary Stuart’s complex
and sometimes shifting status that she is known in written texts by a variety
of titles. In the register book of the Breda Magistrates, while acting to
confirm appointments in her role as Princess of Orange and (precariously)
guardian to her young son in this Orange-Nassau controlled town, she is
described as ‘Maria by der Gratien Godis Princesse van groot Britanien Douariere
van Orange’(Breda Gemeente Archief. Inv. 1-1a-14: fols. 256v, 270r). In
letters of intelligence sent to John Thurloe she is sometimes the Princess
Royal, the sister of the reputed king, or ‘my lady his mother’, that is
to say mother of the young Prince of Orange; or even, as in one intercepted
letter, ‘my Lady Stanhope’s mistress’ (Thurloe i: 371,
391, 515). For Secretary
Nicholas, she is invariably ‘the good princess’, usually when he is condemning
her advisors (For example, Nicholas Papers i; 209).
Particularly after the death of her husband in 1650,
Mary held a contested and ambiguous role in the tangled affairs not only
of the House of Stuart but also the House of Orange and the United Provinces.
Following Willem II’s aborted coup against the States of Holland, the senior
House of Orange was excluded from the Stadtholdership for a generation until
1672; the exclusion was confirmed in a secret clause of the 1654 treaty
that ended the first Anglo-Dutch war. It was not at all clear where Mary’s
first loyalties should lie since any help for her brother compromised her
position within the polity of the United Provinces and there were some undignified
tussles for her attention and influence. As our studies have evidenced,
exile dislocates hierarchies and complicates notions of ideals and reality,
theory and practice. Supporters of the Stuart family continued to place
great hope in Mary’s liminal position and the possibility that she might
secure assistance from the House of Orange for the English royalist cause.
There was deep anxiety in the royalist ranks therefore about the perceived
bitter divisions between Mary and her mother-in-law the Dowager Amalia van
Solms over the education and governance of Mary’s son, Willem Henrik, and
the damage this might do to such hopes. In 1654, for example, Nicholas is
deeply disturbed when on a visit to Lord Heenvliet’s Teylingen residence
the Princess ‘would not much as speak or look upon me’ (Nicholas ii:63).
Royalist concerns about her role in Dutch affairs appear to confirm the
relative autonomy Mary had in The Hague. There are numerous examples of
worried reflections on her independent action and mind in both the Clarendon
and Nicholas papers and in letters intercepted by the parliamentarian regime;
for example, Daniel O’Neill, in a letter to Prince Charles on 30 November
1655, notes: ‘I believe your majesty will not be a little troubled to find
hir hyghnesse royal soe passionate for hir jurney into France att a tyme,
when it may be, it will bee for your majesty’s advantage to have noe commerce
with that country’ (Thurloe i: 681). O’Neill in fact
suggests cynically in response to this concern that Charles should manipulate
Mary’s rivalry with Amalia in order to keep her resident in the Low Countries,
advising he suggest to her ‘that the toune of Amsterdam does intend in March
to invite hir hyghnes and the little prince thether; and that iff shee should
bee absent, the princess dowager will be invited to goe along with the prince,
whom, iff she once get the possessione of, sheee’ll never quit, having now
gott more interest in Holland then the princess royal has’ (Thurloe
i: 681). In practice, Charles relented on this particular issue
and Mary travelled to France with his blessing but the incident is indicative
of how her every movement and action was subject to interpretation by a
range of often conflicting advisors and individuals seeking to co-opt her
in support of their own factional causes and concerns. Charles in particular
placed persistent pressure on Mary to cooperate with Amalia in the 1650s.
It was perhaps inevitable that as a result of all this a heightened sense
of performance would pertain for both Elizabeth and Mary during their residencies
in the Low Countries. In recovering a sense of their political and cultural
agency, both in The Hague and within the context of their own family and
its complex domestic politics, however, we need simultaneously to recover
the sense of a broader European context for their actions.
The Hague by the 1640s, then, was not only host
to the House of Orange but to two complex, distinct and yet connected, English
female royal households. As well as being significant political figureheads
for the beleaguered English court in exile, both Elizabeth and Mary would
prove central to the social and cultural life of the community they had
joined, bringing with them elements of the courtly culture they had known
and enjoyed in England and adapting them to their new surroundings. Elizabeth
of Bohemia was well-versed in the theatrical aspects of Stuart court culture
by the time that she left England with her new husband for what would become
a life of double exile, severed by 1621 both from her home and her husband’s
newly appropriated domain of the Palatinate. The wedding celebrations for
Elizabeth and Frederick in 1613 London had been the occasion for several
commissioned dances, masques, and entertainments and Elizabeth had just
a few years earlier danced the part of the iconic River Thames in Samuel
Daniel’s court masque, Tethys Festival (1610). She had also been
an active spectator of court masques by Ben Jonson and others at Whitehall
in the years leading up to her marriage. Elizabeth brought these English
and Scottish masquing precedents with her to a Hague that was already adapting
to the House of Orange’s increasing sense of the importance of self-presentation
and self-fashioning as part of image control on the European and domestic
political stages (Keblusek ‘The Bohemian Court’). Marika Keblusek, for example,
discusses a range of House of Orange-sponsored theatricals and ballets that
took place in the 1630s and 1640s, including a grand ballet that welcomed
Queen Henrietta Maria and Princess Mary to The Hague in 1642 (Keblusek ‘A
divertissement’ 195-6). What we find, then, is that both Elizabeth’s and
Mary’s Stuart cultural heritage interacts and hybridizes with that of the
host culture of the Netherlands (Keblusek ‘A divertissement’ 194-5).
- Mary, although just a child when she travelled to her new home in
the Netherlands, and therefore someone with a less direct experience as a
court masquer than Elizabeth of Bohemia, nevertheless demonstrates the influence
of her mother’s extensive involvement in masquing and entertainments as patron
and performer in 1630s England, in the performance and enactment of her own
theatrical tastes, preferences, and practices as she moved into adulthood
in The Hague (Britland; Veevers). Correspondence between members of the Stuart
Royal family in the 1650s hints at the frequent involvement by these women
in theatrical pursuits, albeit in a largely private and amateur capacity.
Masques and entertainments on an understandably smaller scale than those that
are associated with Caroline court culture in the 1630s took place on regular
occasions at both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s residences. On 27 December
1655 Elizabeth wrote that in the past week after dinner they had 'a new divertissement
of little plays' both at hers and Mary's residences (Thurloe I: 672; Keblusek
‘A divertissement‘ 199). In another letter, dated 13 December 1655, she writes
to Prince Charles in Cologne of his sister's health: ‘My dear neece [Mary]
recovers her health and good looks extremlie by her exercises; she twice dancing
with the maskers has done her much good. We had it two nights‘ (Thurloe I:
672). Another letter of the 17 January describes Mary being ‘dressed like
an Amazon‘ for one performance, directly recalling her mother's predilections
for such costumes in Caroline court performances, such as the William Davenant-composed
masque of 1640, Salmacida Spolia (Thurloe I: 674).
 We can, then, identify a rich matrix of continuity
of action, political symbolism, and theatrical semiotics taking place in these
knowing encounters by exiled royalists with the theatrical cultures of both
their home and host communities.
- In 1655 Princess Mary herself writes to her brother that she is visiting
Elizabeth’s residence where ‘we play with little plays’ (Keblusek ‘A divertissement’
197). When overseeing her own theatrical entertainments, Mary preferred to
stage them at the Honselaarsdijk and Teylingen residences which were outside
the intense confines of The Hague itself. Tantalizing details in the archives
hint at her active involvement in such events as alternately commissioner,
audience, and even occasionally as wardrobe mistress.
One particular entry in the Clarendon State Papers records: ‘The Princess
Royal is going on Wednesday next to Hounsler-dike, where the play of King
and no King is to be acted; she bestows costly clothes on some of the
actors and to one of the gentlewomen she has given a cloth of silver laid
with forty gold laces before’ (Calendar Clarendon ii: 353). The play
performed at Mary’s behest by members of her household in 1654 was Francis
Beaumont and John Fletcher’s 1611 tragicomedy A King and No King.
This particular production and the choice of play have been much cited in
recent scholarship, though sometimes in contradictory fashion. Lois Potter
records that it was the implications of the play’s title that occasioned most
discussion among contemporaries. She notes that when in a letter of 23 April
1654 the son of Secretary Nicholas expressed his disapproval at the performance,
Nicholas responded that it did look ‘As if Cromwell himself had made choice
of and appointed it of purpose to have thrown scorn on the king’ (Potter 63
citing Nicholas 207).
He goes on to suggest that the event was a scandal in the eyes of many: ‘All
good and discreet persons here, as well Dutch as English and Scots are extremely
scandalised’ (Nicholas ii: 66). But as if to confirm the
sense of multiple and sometimes conflicting audiences for these exilic theatrical
performances, other contemporary comments suggest that it was the very title
of the play, as opposed to its dramatic content, that appealed directly to
the Hague royalists who were lamenting the crownless and countryless state
of their wandering monarch, who was at that point temporarily ensconced in
Cologne: ‘the very name of which seems to please many in her Court more than
the play itself’ (Clarendon State Papers ii: 339).
- The Whitsuntide performance of the play on 23 April 1654 again suggests
a certain continuity of practice with the Caroline court masquing season which
followed a festive calendar of programming (despite the comment in the Clarendon
State Papers that it was an ‘extravagant, unseasonable follie’ [Clarendon
State Papers ii: 350, 339]). But closer attention to A
King and No King suggests that the play’s resonant and suggestive title
was not the sole reason for its choice for a Hague performance in 1654. Genre
is certainly another motivating factor. The governing taste in the Princess
Royal’s household appears to have been for French and English tragicomedies
of the kind that had begun to be directly associated with Caroline court culture
in the 1630s. That decade had witnessed several significant revivals of plays
in this mixed mode by Beaumont and Fletcher. It should perhaps come as no
surprise then that when exiled royalists looked to dramatic texts to speak
to their present condition in the 1640s and 1650s, the heavily coded and allegorical
possibilities of pastoral and tragicomedy proved immensely appealing, as well
as enabling gestures of recollection and solidarity with the lost Caroline
court. A King and No King would have been a particularly pertinent
intervention in this regard. The play, although first performed in 1611 and
first published in 1619, had enjoyed renewed life and relevance during the
1630s. It was reprinted in both 1631 and 1639 (the third and fourth quartos,
respectively) and enjoyed performances at the court in Whitehall in both the
1630-1 and 1636-7 seasons. The play’s recent Revels editor Lee Bliss describes
it as having had ‘sustained popularity through the Caroline years’ (Beaumont
and Fletcher 32). Once again, while Princess Mary herself would have been
too young to have direct memories of those 1630s performances, the significance
of the play to royalist culture as a result would not have gone unregistered
either by her or older English members of the audience. The text had been
further promoted in a pro-Stuart context by Royalist printer Humphrey Moseley’s
issuing in London in 1647 of the first Folio of Beaumont and Fletcher‘s works. The Hague performance
of the Beaumont and Fletcher tragicomedy in 1654 needs to be understood therefore
within a matrix of interactions between ideas of genre and social literary
codes, direct and masked political allusion and self-referentiality, and inherited
Caroline and Stuart masquing and cultural practices. It was a remobilization
of a very particular text and a resonant genre in the very particular context
of The Hague and the performance, albeit only available to us in a series
of archival fragments and glancing references, needs to be considered in this
We would argue that the audiences for these theatrical events in The Hague
and elsewhere in the 1640s and 1650s were very subtle respondents to the multiple
messages encoded in the event and A King and No King appealed as a
text at every level, not just for its suggestive title. As Lee Bliss notes,
it had been read as a political analogue even at its first performances, when
its themes of political matchmaking appeared to resonate with James VI and
I’s activities on behalf of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles in his attempt
to secure high-profile European marriages for them both (Beaumont and Fletcher
18; Lesser). The ending of the play where ‘To ensure a happy ending, the whole
royal household needs reconstituting’ could not have gone unremarked in 1654
(Beaumont and Fletcher 25). The Hague audiences on that occasion would have
easily registered the ‘Janus-faced qualities’ of the text and that as a play
it ‘partakes of the nostalgia associated with its genre, yet . . . looks ahead
toward the new world rather than back to a stable social order’ (Beaumont
and Fletcher 28). In recuperating a fuller understanding of the theatrical
culture of the Hague courts of Elizabeth and Mary we need to credit the audiences
for these events with a mobile and subtle capacity for understanding the works
- A further rich example of the complex operation of reception and
interpretation among royalist exile communities can be found in the dramatic
output of William Lower on behalf of both Elizabeth and Mary in The Hague
in the 1650s. Lower, who had been a very minor Caroline dramatist in 1630s
London, found a more prominent role in exile (Lower A3v, 6). He not only translated
dramatic works by Pierre Corneille and Philippe Quinault for performance but
he also wrote and published original plays. The Noble Ingratitude was
dedicated to Elizabeth of Bohemia in 1659 and in 1658 he had produced a pastoral
drama, The Enchanted Lovers, which was simultaneously published in
The Hague and London, and which appeared to make allegorical capital from
the situation of the English royalist exiles in The Hague and in particular
the precarious position of ‘contained power’ in which both Elizabeth and Mary
- The play concerns a group of exiled nobles who find themselves in
the kingdom of Portugal. Early on in the text, a character called Mercator
I saw among them
It is the relationship of this group of exiles with their host community and
territory as it is described and enacted in the play that is most intriguing
in the light of the political situation of The Hague in the 1650s. These ‘noble
strangers’ live by their own rules but are rendered politically inactive or
passive. They sigh merely for love because in political reality they can have
no ambition in this foreign territory. There is, then, very much the sense
of a court within a court, an idea that would have resonated intimately with
Mary and Elizabeth should they have formed any direct audience for the performance
of Lower’s playtext, and certainly as readers and receivers of the work in
Some noble strangers clad in pastoral weeds
That for the honour of this Island chose it
Their sanctuary and repose (Lower A3v, 6).
We can register here some by-now-familiar generic moves in terms
of pastoral and theatrical displacement and substitution for real-life, contemporaneous
equivalents. The text, as well as offering consolation to the exiled community
that was presumably its chief intended audience, is quick to reassure the
host community that these incomers represent no threat. We are told of this
queen in all but name (the role could be assigned or ascribed to both Mary
and Elizabeth at different moments, again suggesting a flexibility of application
and interpretation with regard to how these texts operated in the 1650s) that:
‘she rules/ So sweetly here, the crime onely feels her anger’ and that there
is no attempt in her ‘court within a court’ at usurping the local monarchy
or rule: ‘this . . . charming residence looks not with envy / Upon the Court
o’ th’ King of Portugal’ (Lower A4r, 7). The apparent nervousness about the
reception of self-asserting theatrical performances and publications by the
royalist community in exile in The Hague which can be registered here suggests
that there were perceived tensions between host and visiting communities and
that the relationship while often tolerant was not always exactly a sympathetic
one. Such perceptions were only heightened by Prince Charles’s clear intention,
albeit ostensibly a failed attempt, that he use his sister Mary’s presence
and position in The Hague as a convenient mask for his own activities in wooing
the House of Orange to support his cause in England.
though this Island be
A part of Portugal, we have our laws
And Empire to our selves; she that rules here
Hath not the name of Queen, we subjects are
Our Sovereigns companions, and her virtue
Makes us taste so much repose, that she
Hath put the Sheephook into the hands of
A hundred Hero’s who wearied with the Lawrels
And the noise of war (Lower A3v-A4r, 6-7).
- What a closer reading of the theatrical productions fostered and hosted
by both Elizabeth and Mary in the 1650s in The Hague confirms then is the
sense of multiple audiences for the cultural demonstrations, displays, and
output of exile communities. These activities, literary and political, operate
both as acts and enactments of consolation and nostalgia, and they speak not
only to the present moment and the exiled community in the audience, but also
to their hosts; and they are both articulate and reassuring about the necessary
limits and parameters to their claim to ‘rule’ in these territories.
- It is perhaps because of these subtle negotiations of the situation
in which the courts of Elizabeth and Mary found themselves at this time that
the theatrical events associated with their residences and entourages become
the site of obvious tensions and concerns, both internal and external to the
community, including members of local Protestant churches (Israel 694). When
on 13 December 1655, Elizabeth wrote to Prince Charles about Mary’s participation
in masquing and dancing, she added: ‘Our Dutch ministers sayde nothing against
it in the pulpet; but a little French preacher Carre, saide in his sermon,
we had committed as great a sinne as that of Sodome and Gomora, which sett
all the church a laughing’ (Thurloe i: 672). Another way
in which The Hague differed from Paris was its Protestant identity and Elizabeth
is surprisingly open in her correspondence about her conscious provocation
of the more extreme wings of the local church. As further proof of her awareness
about the public statements these amateur dramatic evenings constituted, she
added to her letter of 27 December 1655 on their ‘new divertissement of little
plays’ the knowing comment: ‘it was heere the last weeke, and now this weeke
at your sister‘s. i hope the godlie will preach against it also’ (Thurloe
- As well as negotiating these difficult relationships with the external
communities of The Hague, religious and political, neither of the circles
surrounding Elizabeth or Mary was free from internal disagreements and factionalism.
Indeed, Mary herself would write to her brother remarking on the volatility
of the ‘hot heads’ around her, including in that grouping members of her own
family, for we should recall that the political drama being played out by
these women on the European stage was also a family drama. But
as well as tensions existing within Mary’s and Elizabeth’s households over
appointments and finances as well as the wider political situation, they were
exacerbated by the competing demands in The Hague of both the Estates General
and the House of Orange itself. Where the pressures between ‘these courts
within a court’, that is to say, in the presence of the ruling House of Orange
in The Hague, those previously mentioned ‘competing courtly elements’, become
most legible in political and social terms is less in the theatrical events
staged at Elizabeth’s and Mary’s residences, spaces which might after all
be readily accounted for as being in their ownership or control, than in contemporary
accounts of ceremonial culture in The Hague: alternative theatricalized public
events and moments of display such as weddings, baptisms, processions, and
- Encountering contemporary descriptions of those ceremonial events
involving Mary and Elizabeth, the reader in the archive is persistently struck
by the sense of tension surrounding the formal codes of etiquette that pertain
to them and by the precedence that Elizabeth of Bohemia seems always takes
in the order of things. She was an émigré, an exile, a refugee, and yet she
was surrounded by pomp and ceremony of the highest order. She was also highly
influential, acting as a skilful mediator between the English court and various
European contacts and therefore proving central to those networks we invoked
earlier as crucial to the operations of exiled communities. Elizabeth was
consulted on many subjects and matters by members of the Dutch royal family
and negotiated with the States General and the wider community.
- Records from the early 1620s suggest that Frederick and Elizabeth
had a retinue and entourage of over two hundred staff. Her household, even
in decline after his death, would therefore have constituted a considerable
presence in the intimate setting of The Hague. Elizabeth’s significance as
a political player further complicates our understanding of the poverty and
indebtedness of exile in this particular geographical venue. It has become
something of a commonplace to talk of the penury of exile, and undoubtedly
specific examples can be found in letters included in the Clarendon State
Papers and elsewhere of individuals who complain that their wardrobe is threadbare
or that they are in serious trouble over rent arrears (Smith). One much-quoted
account is Endymion Porter’s, who, writing to Secretary Nicholas from St Germain
en Laye, claimed:
There are several things of note here: Porter’s statement emphasizes
the importance to the exiled courtly communities of appearance, of having
‘clothes for a Court’ and the significance of ritual and display. A close
reading can also reveal the telling shifts of status affected by exile, indicated
in Porter’s odd reliance on his former servant for financial assistance. The
opportunity for employment in exile communities for non-noble members of royalist
circles, not least women, was a crucial factor in the make-up and day-to-day
operations of these societies. These were, importantly, courts of patronage
even throughout their periods of exile (Hughes and Sanders). Also worthy of
mention in the quotation is Porter’s heightened geopolitical sense of living
out of the mainstream, in a suburb far removed from the heart of courtly news
and intrigue. That is, of course, a very specific response to an exilic existence
in 1650s Paris, where the exile community around Henrietta Maria was a particularly
diffuse grouping of factions and counter-factions and where her exile could
be figured as much as a return to the French court as a displacement.
I am in so much necessity, that were it not for
an Irish barber that once was my servant, I might have starved for want
of bread. He hath lent me some money that will last me for a fortnight
longer . . . I am so retired into the streets of a suburb that I scarce
know what they do at the Louvre, and I want clothes for a Court, having
but that poor riding suit I came out of England in (Nethercot 222-3; Edmond
- The geographical intimacy of The Hague was a world away from Paris, as indeed
was Antwerp, which was another community almost entirely separate in its operational
identities and discursive practices. We might also add to the frame Breda
and Cologne, further competing versions of exiled expatriate royalist community.
By comparison with Porter’s sense of isolation and disinformation in a Parisian
context, no-one in The Hague could have failed to know what was going on.
In certain respects, that makes the infamously huge debts incurred by the
Bohemian court with all its material and theatrical extravagances – in 1628
Frederick and Elizabeth are recorded as owing over £12,000 – less problematic
than they might seem on a daily basis.
The Bohemian court was going nowhere, after all; and the Estates General by
showing a welcome to them was to some extent purchasing the indebtedness of
the English Crown. Unexpected deaths undoubtedly made these debts more problematic;
Frederick the Winter King died in 1632 and at that point Charles I took on
his sister’s debts but by the 1640s, when the English civil wars were in full
swing, and certainly following Charles’s execution, Elizabeth looked to be
in a far more vulnerable and volatile position. There was an attendant renegotiation
of her status. Elizabeth did, however, continue to participate in those cultural
events detailed previously that were sponsored by her niece, and certainly
her status at public events was not downgraded in any way after Frederick’s
death. Elizabeth remained the chief noble female in The Hague and continued
to take precedence in processions and at feasts. Carefully placed in the fixed
geopolitical space of The Hague, she retained her symbolic if not quite her
financial potential throughout the period of our study.
- Elizabeth’s ongoing significance in the context of The Hague courts is evident
as late as 1660 when her nephew Prince Charles, about to return to England
to accept the restored crown, conducts a highly symbolic visit to the city
and to the residences of his aunt and sister, as well as performing a very
publicly staged ritual leave-taking of his relatives at Scheveningen when
he embarked for England. The visit is recounted in detail by William Lower
himself in a 1660 text, first published in The Hague: A Relation in form
of Journal, of the Voiage and Residence which the most excellent and most
mighty Prince Charles II King of Great Britain, &c, hath made in Holland,
from the 25 of May to the 29 June 1660. Lower’s work in the wider context
of the theatrical and publishing culture of The Hague is proof of the established
and embedded structures enjoyed by this particular grouping of exiles and
courtiers around Mary and Elizabeth.
It is important, however, to stress that not all of those surrounding Mary
and Elizabeth can be classified as ‘exiles’ per se; many had been operating
and working in The Hague long before the civil wars necessitated the removal
of some individuals to the relative safety of the Continent. Lower’s 1660
‘journal’ is significant, however, for providing evidence of the continued
status held by Elizabeth of Bohemia and Mary Stuart throughout the 1650s despite
the changes and respective downturns in their fortunes.
- It should be recalled that both women were widows by the 1650s, interesting
in itself in terms of their status, and the Dowager Amalia van Solms of the
House of Orange joins them in a tense triad of power at this time. In his
journal Lower gives a very detailed account of Charles II’s movements and
meetings during the month prior to his departure for England and the formal
restoration of the Stuart monarchy. There is much interesting detail about
issues of status and precedent (Charles tellingly rejecting barges and coaches
traditionally used by the House of Orange and the Dowager Amalia as unsuitable
for one of his regal status), not least structured around several public dinners
and feasts that were held. The seating plan on these occasions is revealing,
according as it does chief female status to Elizabeth of Bohemia, positioned
as she always is on Charles’s right, with his sister Mary on his left. Elizabeth
is always first in the order of visitation too, suggesting the iconic and
symbolic importance of her ‘court’ however impoverished and powerless it was
in reality by the late 1650s.
- One highly indicative ceremonial event where these issues of status and
precedent came visibly into play and were noted by contemporary observers
was the baptism of Willem Henrik, Prince of Orange and Mary Stuart’s son,
in 1651. There were complicated diplomatic tussles between the House of Orange
and the House of Stuart surrounding both the education of this boy and his
naming (‘Men seide dat het de Princesse Röyale geern genoemt haddr Carel Willem’,
Royal Palace, Den Haag. Archief Prins Willem III. A 16. I.3: D1r). His baptism,
and indeed his every move, became the subject of legible anxiety and assertions
of control on the part of his feuding relatives. The Archief Prins Willem
III in the Royal Palace Archives in The Hague contains an account of the baptismal
ceremony and procession that includes several cogent observations about the
socio-political, as well as religious, semiotics of the event. The order of
coaches and on which of these halberdiers ride occasions comment, as does
the costume Willem is dressed in for the occasion: he is attired in ermine
trim, a recognized part of the visual discourse of kingship and this assertion
of his European royal lineage is clearly a cause of some anxiety. There is also demonstrative
concern in the document about the order in which the female members of the
family participate in the church service – and where Princess Mary and the
Dowager Amalia are placed in relation to one another. What these occasions
bring into the foreground with striking clarity, then, are the quotidian tensions
around status, political autonomy, and family loyalty that our research has
identified at every level of the operations of the courts of Elizabeth of
Bohemia and Princess Mary in The Hague in the 1640s and 1650s. They confirm
that the experience of exile was actually an ongoing process of negotiation
and redefinition, not least within the communities and political and geopolitical
infrastructures in which these royalist groupings found themselves.
- Both the experience of exile and the identity of courts and their
attendant cultural practices have a definite chronology, and we need to think
of both Elizabeth of Bohemia’s and Princess Mary’s Hague courts as shifting
entities in terms of status and patronage throughout our focus period. This
becomes even more the case post-1656, by which time Charles II and James,
Duke of York were in Brussels and another major gear-change in tenor and timbre
can be registered in terms of Stuart courtly culture in exile (a shift in
mood and focus surely also affected by increased hopes of the restoration
of the English monarchy).
As Lower’s ‘journal’ indicates, both Elizabeth and Mary’s status remained
significant to the establishment of Charles’s regal identity on Dutch territory,
but whereas prior to 1656 both Charles and James were highly mobile figures
and as a result a far less secure focus of allegiance than they might have
been for expatriate royalists, after 1656 the ground shifted. Until then,
with temporary residences in Cologne and Breda, Charles and James were the
focus of visitations to and public receptions in Paris and Antwerp, but the
only actual stable English courtly focuses on the continent had orbited around
the queen mother’s circle in St Germain en Laye and Paris, and in The Hague
in the overlapping circles and groupings that surrounded, and indeed consciously
attached themselves to, Elizabeth and Mary (Britland 192-215).
- In paying detailed attention to the political, material, theatrical, and,
indeed, ceremonial cultures of the courts of Elizabeth and Mary in The Hague
in the mid-seventeenth century, we discover an interesting continuity with
the kind of female agency we have become accustomed to according elite women
at the Stuart courts of the early 1600s. In their self-conscious ‘divertissements’
perhaps we also find an equivalent to the masquing culture that clearly propelled
individuals such as Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, Lady Mary Wroth, Lady
Frances Howard, Lady Anne Clifford, and others, into a conscious manipulation
of and intervention into cultural politics in their own regions, networks,
and communities. In turn, by thinking about and accounting for the multiple
audiences for these occasions – royalist exiles both in The Hague and elsewhere,
the host community, and the estranged ‘home’ territory of England – and their
competing demands and sometimes contradictory interpretations of the same
events and actions, we begin to contextualize that female agency in the highly
complex and shifting world of royal, religious, and family diplomacy and politics
in the condition of exile.
 The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance
of a British Academy Small Research Grant between 2004 and 2006, which made the
archival research for this project possible. They would also like to thank the
following libraries and archives for assistance: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den
Haag [The Hague]; Royal Archiefs, Den Haag, and in particular the archivist
Charlotte Eymael; National Archiefs, Den Haag; the Gemeentearchief, Den Haag;
the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the National Archives, London; the British
Library, London; and the Breda Gemeentearchief. They are also grateful to
Marika Keblusek and James Knowles for sharing related work in this field.
 For a parallel argument about the multiple audiences
for the performances sponsored by William Cavendish and his wife Margaret in Antwerp in the 1650s see Knowles, ‘We’ve Lost’.
 The phrase is Robert C. Williams’s (140). This is a
wider rumination on the theme of exile which touches on experiences in the
 On the possible existence of embryonic literary
salons in The Hague from the 1620s onwards, see Zijlmans. On the Antwerp social network in the 1650s, see Härting.
Lady Katherine Stanhope was a significant female member of Mary’s household
and one whose own appointment was not without controversy, occasioning as
it did the removal of Lady Roxburgh from her position as Mary’s governess
in The Hague. Stanhope had married the Dutch diplomat, Jehan van der Kerckhove,
Lord Heenvliet, who had been active in the marriage negotiations between
the House of Orange and the House of Stuart that led to Mary’s marriage
to Willem, thereby further enhancing and complicating the interrelationships
between the English royalists and their host community. For a fuller discussion
of Stanhope’s role, see Poynting; Hughes and Sanders.
 A key figure in the cultural exchanges and events of The Hague was undoubtedly Constantijn Huygens, Secretary to the Prince of Orange. Not only
does his considerable extant correspondence indicate his personal interest in
literary, intellectual, musical, and scientific networks both locally and in
Europe more generally, but his range of correspondents, many of them female,
including English noblewomen such as Lady Utricia Swann and Margaret Cavendish
herself, afford us insight into the cultural pursuits of this network during
the decades in question. See Letterbook of Constantijn Huygens (1641-66). Koninklijke
Bibliotheek, Den Haag. KB 49 2. As well as providing some of the scenic designs
for the House of Orange-sponsored theatricals mentioned above, Huygens was
particularly interested in music and attended musical events both in The Hague
and Antwerp, the latter involving the Portuguese Duarte family who were
significant members of the Antwerp cultural grouping within which the
Cavendishes moved during their time at the Rubenshuis in the 1650s. On the
musical interests of this grouping, see Knowles, ‘Cavendish’s Antwerp
Entertainments’. On Huygen’s poetic practice and his Low Countries
socio-political context, see Davidson and van de Weel.
On the influence of this masquing role-play on Henrietta's self-constructions
as a warrior woman in her correspondence with Charles I in the 1640s, see
For example, Everett Green suggests that in 1656 Mary organised a masque
at her palace in The Hague, vi: 233-4.
Mary was clearly also involved in sourcing and paying for properties and
materials for other theatrical productions at Honslaarsdijk. At her death
in 1660, a Hague joiner finally received payment out of her estate for properties
and work commissioned for a performance: ‘Corn. Van Weldstran for a Crowne
& other worck at the Comedy acted at Honslarduck. 34 [guilders]’, The
National Archives. State Papers Holland SP84/164: fol. 123r.
Nicholas describes the play as being acted by ‘the gentlemen and maides
of honour to the Princess Royal’ in a letter to Clarendon, Clarendon
State Papers, ii: 339, 1845.
Zachary Lesser offers an alternative interpretation of Nicholas’s reading
of the title of the play in the letter to Clarendon cited earlier in this
article, suggesting that Nicholas infers a reference to Cromwell, but this
exchange of letters with his son suggests otherwise (947).
Potter remarks that the play’s title alone was remarkable for its adaptability
to historical circumstance, relevant as it was to both Charles I in the
1640s and Charles II in the 1650s (116). The title of the play and its potential
applications to contemporary issues was clearly co-opted by both sides in
the English civil wars. John Adamson notes that in May 1641 during the trial
of the Earl of Strafford, a spoof playbill was distributed in London which
declared that ‘On the morrow next there was to be acted in the House of
Peers a famous Tragi-Comedy called A King and No King’ (300).
The edition included copious dedicatory poems by Cavalier writers and has
been described as ‘both a plea for the reopening of the theatres and a gesture
of royalist solidarity by the Cavalier poets who contributed’ (Beaumont
and Fletcher 31). On Moseley’s publishing acts more generally, see Potter.
A King and No King was also clandestinely performed in London during
the 1640s. One particular performance was announced at the Red Bull Theatre
for 6 October 1647 (Beaumont and Fletcher 32). On clandestine London performances
more generally, see Wiseman. Francis Beaumont’s work, of course, had another
long-standing connection to the English Royalist women in The Hague in that
it was his masque for the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn in 1613 that had formed
part of the extensive wedding celebrations for the union of Princess Elizabeth
and Frederick of the Palatinate.
Nancy Klein Maguire, for example, has suggested that ‘the major serious
genre of post-regicide England is tragicomedy’ but that would seem to hold
true also for the exiled communities which are the focus of our study (221).
For further pertinent discussions of tragicomedy as a genre, see McMullan
and Hope; Potter 82-3.
The statement comes in a letter to Charles written on 24 June 1655, where
Mary is reporting on a letter from their mother in Paris, Thurloe i:
The obvious source for that information is Elizabeth’s correspondence. A
complete edition of Elizabeth’s letters is in preparation by Nadine Akkerman.
For examples of her dealings with the States General, see Thurloe i:
On the mounting debts of the Bohemian Court in The Hague, see Keblusek,
‘The Bohemian Court at The Hague’ 48. As Keblusek notes, Frederik and Elizabeth
had debts of more than £12,000 in 1628, for which Charles I assumed responsibility.
After 1642, however, subsidies from the English court became increasingly
sporadic and Elizabeth’s personal debts soared. The final bills are in The
National Archives, Audit Office, Declared Accounts, 1/5/3;1/5/4 and 1/5/5.
Individual bills for items and services provided to the ‘Queen of Bohemia’
can be located in the Gemeentearchief, Den Haag: Notarial Archives. inv.
No. 15, 1649: fol. 311; inv. No. 83, 2 April 1655: fol. 329; inv. no. 253,
20 February 1659: fol. 306; inv. no. 127, 6 November 1652: fol. 336. References
cited in Keblusek, ‘The Bohemian Court at The Hague’ and verified against
the microfilms in the Gemeentearchief.
On the publishing and book culture of The Hague in this period, see Keblusek,
Boeken and her entry on printer ‘Samuel Browne’.
‘zynde koninglyk’ is the phrase, Archief Prins Willem III. A 16.I.3: E1r
Hutton has written about the distinct (and distinctly masculine) ambience
of the Brussels court around Charles at this time in his biography 122-3.
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