Elizabeth from Scotland


I saw a painting of a beautiful lady described as a Winter Queen. She had the regal bearing and dress of a woman from renaissance or medieval times.  As I am interested in history, I first thought about countries that had some connection with that name. There was Elizabeth Stuart the Winter Queen of Bohemia in the early years of the 17th century. She was Scottish. I imagined her to be the lady in the painting.


 As I was in my “explorer mood” I took myself to Scotland. Coming from Northumberland in England. I passed – or crossed – the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall built by the Romans in the early days of their occupation of Britain, in order to keep the wild Scots, then called Picts – away from the civilised Romanised Brits. I gave a miss to the Blacksmith shop at Gretna Green (since the 18th century, at this place, just across the border from England, couples could marry – legally - at age of 16, and one of the authorised places for that is the Blacksmith shop). A neat way for youngsters to bypass their parents’ wishes if you were under 21.


 We passed a number of places with familiar names – as in Brisbane’s western suburbs – like Kenmore, Dumbarton and Kingussi, which the Scots pronounce King You See unlike the Brisbane’s’ King Gussie. In a nearby Wildlife Park lives an ancient species of horses – the Przewalski. Zoo keepers around the world try to revive ancient animal species and the Przewalski is one of them.


  Then there is Pitlochry where I saw an unusual sight, a concrete ladder beside a dam allowing the salmon to climb up to their place of spawning habitat, which the dam stopped them from reaching. That is a much better fate than the salmon have on the Pacific coast of North America, where the grizzlies, perched in the middle of waterfalls, just pick out the hapless salmon as they try to reach the top.


 I visited Loch Ness, where I searched in vain for any signs of Nessie and couldn’t even find the mythical entrepreneur of down-under origin who was supposed to have opened a coffee shop called Nescafe. I then continued to the Isle of Skye where I finally managed to get a dinner of venison. Next I descended to the Lowlands, without ever sighting a Highlander in a kilt (thus not being able to ask him if he wore anything underneath). I tried the local firewater but stayed away from haggis. I also managed to avoid any group blowing into that barbaric musical instrument –the bagpipes (in my mother country we have our heir own version called dudy – pronounced doody – just as objectionably squeaky).


 Edinburgh was my next port of call and I hoped to find here a connection with the Winter Queen. I certainly found it to be a very appealing city with an imposing castle and a parade ground which hosts a tattoo each year. When you watch the military tattoo on the screen, you have the impression of a rather large ground covered with masses of troops, dancers, motorcyclists or horses, but when it’s empty the appearance is that of a small parade ground - a strange optical illusion.


Touring the castle area I was quite taken by the guide, who gave us a lot of useful information, including one piece about that-strong willed queen who often resided there. The queen was evidently quite stubborn about hygiene. She had a small summer-house in the gardens which she visited quite often, and insisted on having a bath once a year, whether she needed one or not.


The guide also informed us of a cannon fired at midday of every day, but at the intervention of the local financial “razor gang” that salvo was to be fired at one o’clock, thus saving eleven shots each day. They even named the cannon a One O’clock Cannon.


When my group left Edinburgh for the south, the plan was to drive as far as possible late in the afternoon. Eventually we left the highway and decided to stay overnight at a small town. I felt the town had a shadow of gloom cast over it. Early next morning I went for a walk into a nearby forest at the edge of town and I came upon a large memorial for 259 people who came down with a plane as well as 11 local residents, all killed by what was one of the first terrorist attacks. A US plane ferrying servicemen for a Christmas break from Germany to the US exploded over this town of Lockerby. Gloom indeed. Only then did I remember the event which took place a year earlier.


The Lady who so occupied my mind had a short brush with the history of my birth place.  She married Frederick the Elector of Palatine (a part of West Germany by the river Rhine) who was elected King of Bohemia. His rule lasted less than a year, before his troops were beaten at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Ferdinand the Hapsburg replaced him. Elizabeth and Frederick hurriedly left Bohemia to save their lives. Because of his short tenure, he was named the Winter King and Elizabeth became the Winter Queen.


Elizabeth liked Prague very much and it was here that she gave birth to her third son before leaving the country. Her family become embroiled in very tricky politics of the day the struggle between the Counter-reformation and Protestantism.


Regrettably, Elizabeth never had the chance to return to her summer house in Edinburgh.





Bohemians and bohemianism

One of the definitions refers to a lifestyle and to people who live unconventional, usually artistic lives. It touches upon debauchery and is described by many prominent artists, writers and actors as such. Czechs (Bohemians) deny any connection with the “lifestyle” definition above

Another definition refers to travellers or refugees from central Europe (hence, the French bohémien, for "gypsy").

Yet another meaning is the land inhabited by Czechs – Bohemia. It stems from the name of a Celtic tribe called Boeii, who inhabited and ruled over the land, now called Bohemia, in the 8th century. I believe that from this name the Latin description “Bohemia” came about. On the lighter side, the Czechs did use the term “Bohemians” for a football team in Prague, which happened to tour Australia in the 1930’s and so earned the sobriquet “Klokani” – meaning Kangaroos.


Winter King and Queen


The Bohemian kingdom was a part of the Roman Empire of the German Nation. It was a Republic In that its king was elected – albeit by only a certain class of the people – the nobles. The kings of each constituent land then elected the Emperor.


The previous Emperor was from the Habsburg dynasty, but the Czechs didn’t like him and elected Frederick instead. They first demonstrated their dislike by storming the castle and throwing a couple of top government officials out the window. This action came to be known as – defenestration. The officials fell down 70 meters, but as this historical period belonged to the “paper “society – they fell into a waste paper dump and no one was hurt.


 Ferdinand, the Hapsburg, resented the idea of Frederick encroaching on his birth right. He dispatched a large army to Prague and defeated Frederick and his Czech army in 1620 at the Battle of the White Mountain. The nobles left their dead soldiers there and returned to their estates. Within a few months the Emperor rounded them up, brought them to the Old Town Square in Prague and had them hung and quartered, their estates confiscated. (This grizzly deed is recorded by an inscription on a building next to the famous astronomical clock in Prague in the Old Town Square).


Frederick and Elizabeth escaped but, the locals had to cop 300 years of tyranny. Only Catholics could stay in the country – whilst the Moravian Brethren, Czech Brethren and Lutherans had to leave the country. A severe Germanisation took place and the Czech language was supressed.



The Stuarts

Elizabeth was a Stuart. Her father was James VI. He was responsible for a fresh translation of the Bible, which is still used by Anglicans to this date. He also united the Scottish with the English Kingdom. Her brother was the unfortunate Charles I.





























Copyright © Henry Zehr 2013