Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Brief History of Elizabeth Stuart: A Guest Post from Nicola Cornick


History is selective. It remembers some characters whilst others become lost over the years. Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia was hugely powerful in her own time and she deserves her rightful place in history. Instead she has almost been forgotten.

Elizabeth Stuart was born in 1596, the daughter of King James VI of Scotland and I of England. At the age of 16 she made a political marriage to Frederick the Elector Palatine, a German Prince, a match designed to strengthen the Protestant cause in Europe. Elizabeth, beautiful, charming and sweet natured, was known as the “Queen of Hearts”. She went to live in Heidelberg and when her husband was offered the throne of Bohemia in 1619 she encouraged him to accept it. A year later he had been defeated in battle and the family were forced to flee into exile.

The "Snow King and the Winter Queen" - so called because their reign had lasted a single winter - sought refuge in the Netherlands, in The Hague. Frederick died in 1632, leaving Elizabeth a widow with thirteen children and an uncertain future. She became one of the foremost powerbrokers in Europe, taking her family’s affairs into her own hands and continuing to lay claim to the disputed territory that was her eldest son’s inheritance.

During this phase of her life Elizabeth worked ceaselessly to gain financial, military and moral support for her cause, enlisting the reluctant support of her brother Charles I and gaining the respect of politicians and diplomats across Europe. Her surviving letters show her to be a woman of strength and determination, as well as a key cultural, political and religious leader. She was successful in having her elder son reinstated in his principality in 1648 and her grandson George became the first Hanoverian King of England.

It was rumoured that after Frederick’s death, Elizabeth secretly married William, Lord Craven, who had been one of her most constant military and financial supporters through the years of her exile. It is this story that is at the centre of my new book, House of Shadows. Certainly William was utterly devoted to Elizabeth and when they returned to England in 1661 he provided a house for her to live in and started to build Ashdown House for her. The mirror that features in House of Shadows is my invention but there was a cursed pearl which features in a painting of Elizabeth that hangs in Ashdown House to this day and was part of the inspiration for the book.

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick is out 5th November (Mira, original paperback £7.99)

***

House of ShadowsLondon, 1662:
There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

For fans of Barbara Erskine and Kate Morton comes an unforgettable novel about three women and the power one lie can have over history!



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