A tragic romance, a lost kingdom, an audacious hoax, the history of Elizabeth Stuart, The Bohemian Spring and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment may sound like a fairy tale but it set forces in motion that still shape our world today.
In November 1572 in the constellation Cassiopeia a supernova glowed for sixteen months. Five years later the Great Comet was visible throughout Europe and enthusiasts speculated that it foretold the end of the world, or the beginning of a new era. In 1596 and 1602 less spectacular comets appeared in the night sky. In 1603 Saturn conjunct Jupiter and a nova in the constellation Serpentario added to the excitement of star watchers. 1606 brought a double comet. Astrologers interpreted these celestial events as signs of a worldwide reformation. While Jesuits schemed to regain control of Germany, the Netherlands, and England, dreams of a world without a pope preoccupied Protestant visionaries.
Elizabeth Stuart was born during an unseasonably severe storm in the summer of 1596. Her mother was Anne of Denmark, infamous for her self-indulgence, a vivacious blonde who liked to laugh and dance. Anne loved theater and occasionally caused scandals, for example, when she played Athena costumed in a tunic that showed too much leg, or her stage performance while sporting a six-month baby bump, or the time she painted her face and body black for her role in a masque. But Anne also commissioned artists, and art collectors, enriching the Royal Collection. Among those she supported were the great lutenist and composer John Dowland, playwright Ben Johnson, and numerous inventors and musicians. Most historians dismissed her as so frivolous and extravagant she helped create the cultural conditions that caused the English Civil War, yet she navigated her husband’s infidelities, with both genders, and despite her Catholic upbringing she accepted the Protestant faith and politics of England.
Elizabeth Stuart’s father was King James. James never really knew his parents. He never saw them again after he reached thirteen months of age. His infamous father, according to rumor, had been murdered with the help of his mother Mary Queen of Scots. He was silent when Queen Elizabeth I ordered his mother’s execution some twenty years later. Good Queen Bess was in her sixties when she agreed to become godmother of the firstborn son of James. To make it easier for her James had named the boy Henry after the English queen’s father the notorious Henry VIII. The daughter that followed was named Elizabeth in honor of her godmother. Elizabeth sent her ambassador to represent her at the christening on a cold November day but she sent no gift. The town of Edinburgh pledged in gold letters on parchment a large sum of money to be paid on her wedding day.
The five year old Scottish princess enjoyed dolls, embroidered gloves, and gowns of yellow satin, black and red velvet brocade, white satin on carnation velvet, Spanish taffetas, orange and popinjay crepe with a neckline of gold and silver fringe. In winter a warm dress of purple serge and brown frieze from Spain, scarlet hose from France, and a linsey woolsey dyed red kept her warm. A small satin mask was made for her to wear outdoors to protect her delicate rosy-cheeked face from the sun and wind.
When the Elizabethan age ended with the Virgin Queen’s death, James must have been elated. At first he didn’t believe the news. Then the messenger gave him Elizabeth’s blue sapphire ring. No more struggles with the Scottish nobles! Now he would rule a rich land, or so James thought. But the court he inherited had been broke for years. James did his best to ignore that. He found ways to raise money, or at least credit, to support the lavish lifestyle befitting an English monarch. But he was no fool. The translation of the Bible he commissioned still bears his name. He wrote respectable poetry. He published a book attacking tobacco smoking. He kept up on the latest sciences from alchemy to astronomy. He consulted astrologers and religious leaders but never blindly followed any. And no war was fought during his reign. But the price he paid for that last accolade included a lifetime of suffering for his daughter.
The people of England had been mortified seventeen months earlier when Good Queen Bess at age seventy staggered under the weight of her royal robes and had to be helped to her throne at the opening of Parliament. But her health seemed to return to her. She even attended a ball and went hunting. But then the monarch that most Britons had cherished all their lives died. Though grief stricken, many English subjects were relieved that her successor James had already fathered two potential heirs. Catholics hoped that this king with a Catholic background would treat them better than Elizabeth had. Protestants were reassured by his avowed commitment to business as usual. The people didn’t know much about this son of Mary, Queen of Scots, but they were hopeful. The festivities and hospitality of his new subjects James enjoyed to the fullest as he spent an entire month journeying from his old throne to his new one. Anne and Elizabeth followed at an even more leisurely pace, staying in the finest homes in England.
The world of the English countryside the queen and princess journeyed through was in some ways socially comparable to ours, if not economically and technologically. The super rich royals and nobles bent laws to their favor to enrich themselves. Like neighbors on Facebook villagers kept a careful eye on each other. A cuckolded husband or wife beater would wake up one morning to find his fellows making “rough music” outside his front door, often pantomiming the transgression, and otherwise ridiculing the transgressor. We still see this ganging up to ridicule behavior anywhere a strong opinion is registered on the Internet. But in the villages if ridicule failed, the church court was the next resort, where spying on adulterers was not only admissible but mandatory. The village culture resembled tribal community more than the privacy and anonymity offered by London where one could disappear in the crowd.
The English found James neither handsome nor charming. Never comfortable around his subjects he surprised them with his dry wit and clowning more suited to a jester than the king of England. Onlookers were astonished when during the Coronation ceremony the new queen refused to partake of the Episcopalian sacrament and the new king joked around during the payment of homage.
Having survived the tender mercies of both his mother Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth Rex the new king wasn’t keen on continuing Henry VIII’s tradition of an excellent education for his daughters. “…to make women learned and foxes tame had the same effect,” he wrote, “to make them more cunning.” Perhaps intending that his daughter avoid becoming too much like her namesake, James limited her education, but he saw to it that she was provided with everything else a seven year old princess could need or desire, including a Scottish nurse, a physician, a French maid, two liveried footmen, a laundress, a seamstress, three women of the bedchamber, grooms of the chamber and stable, a dog, pet monkeys, several colorful parrots and twenty horses for her favorite activities riding and hunting. Her musical tutor was Dr. John Bull, said to be the composer of the British national anthem. She had a talent for playing harpsichord, or rather a virginal, as the early form of the instrument was known.
The family charged with raising Elizabeth, the Haringtons, received a monthly stipend from the court that didn’t begin to pay their expenses. They hoped to be paid back in the future, not only in cash but with favor and influence. The princess spent most of her childhood in their converted Catholic monastery complete with cloisters but the inside was as modern and luxurious as any Jacobean English castle. Fluent in French, and skilled at Italian, the princess wrote lonely letters to her brother Henry, tying them in strands of floss silk of gold, rose, royal blue, amethyst, lemon, and grass green, brightened by twisted tinsel threads. Henry reminded her he had responsibilities as eldest son that he could not ignore, though he looked forward to their time together as much as she did. The sentiment was sincere, the young prince cherished the time he spent with his little sister. Lord Harington’s son, wrote to Henry, his friend, about the quaint way Elizabeth sent letters to the king and received his responses. A trusted dog delivered the mail between princess and monarch running from one castle to the other.
Comparisons between the Princess and her famous namesake began early. The History of Coventry includes in its registers an account of her first visit: “…though scarcely eight years old, she was sufficiently expert in horsemanship to have headed an equestrian’s train in the old manner of the maiden queen.” The gilt silver cup they presented her with was so heavy her guardian Lord Harrington had to help her hold it up.
It’s an odd twist of fate that Guy Fawkes was made a hero by V for Vendetta and the anonymous movement since his revolution was intended to bring England back under the dominion of the Catholic church. Fawkes had high hopes when King James and his Catholic Queen Anne took the throne of England. Elizabeth I never forgot the armada that the king of Spain and the pope had sent against her. But now many Catholics hoped they would find favor again. James did favor Catholic nobles but he also realized that the pope would settle for nothing less than England under the watchful eye and iron fist of the Vatican. When reports about Catholic power grabs reached his ears the monarch clamped down on his Catholic subjects, restricting them even further. Guy and his fellow conspirators decided to take matters into their own hands.
The famous plan to blow up King James, Prince Henry and Parliament is often told without its most important detail. Guy and the conspirators planned to kidnap nine-year-old Princess Elizabeth. She would be raised Catholic by a Catholic regent. Lord Harington hearing the first news and rumors of treason though he received no warning of any imminent threat to Elizabeth decided to take her somewhere less conspicuous while awaiting instructions. Her kidnappers arrived two hours after she had been rushed away to safety. Her once happy life was haunted ever after by her rather narrow escape and the realization that no one is safe from assassination. Harington recorded her precocious comment: “What a Queen should I have been by this means! I had rather have been my with Royal Father in the Parliament House, then wear his Crown on such condition.” Visitors reported the depressed expressions and long silences of everyone around her months later. Their beautiful little princess was afraid, sleepless, and sad. The nine-year-old Frederick Count Palatine’s letter after the event provides a vivid illustration of the more fanatic religious climate of Germany. He was convinced the antichrist himself was behind the plot. He probably meant the pope.
BONNIE PRINCE HENRY
Among Elizabeth’s visitors were ambassadors and agents of the royal families of Europe making first inspections of a princess who would soon become the most eligible female royal in the world. Most savvy insiders felt certain she would grow up to be the wife of Louis XIII and therefore queen of France. Her brother Henry would wed a French princess.
Visits to the court where her father doted on her cheered up Elizabeth; he surprised her with lavish gifts of jewelry, dresses, and dazzling toys. Elizabeth and Henry were known for their good sense and gracious ways. At age thirteen she was invited to watch her brother joust and then to attend his banquet. Before the guests arrived Henry took his little sister by the hand and walked her twice around the wondrous feast laid out on a 120 foot table: sweetmeats arranged to resemble windmills and flower gardens, creatures crafted from food, rose water fountains, and pastries patterned in imitation of the constellations.
Ben Johnson wrote speeches for the event, which included generic prophetic lines delivered by a Merlin to Henry, Elizabeth, and Charles. Merlin missed completely on his prediction for Henry. He was right about Charles when he said he would “shake a sword and lance against the foes” but he did not mention that the enemy would be English Puritans. But Merlin’s prophecy for Elizabeth came true. “That most princely maid, whose form might call the world to war, she shall be mother of nations.”
The charismatic crown prince Henry jousted with such skill that day that the court and countryside buzzed with comparisons to young Henry the Eighth and Henry Plantagenet. His father had given him a set of golf clubs and tennis rackets, which he began using when only six years old so he excelled at both sports, the one beloved by the Scots and the other by the English. At age fourteen Henry kept a charity jar; any of his servants who used blue language were forced to donate. As he grew older, but still a teen, Henry commissioned a garden to showcase the wonders of ancient engineering recovered by the French Huguenot engineer Salomon de Caus, one of Princess Elizabeth’s tutors.
In 1603 King James had sentenced Raleigh to death and imprisoned him in the Tower of London as a conspirator who had schemed against the throne. At first Raleigh was suicidal but he soon made the best possible use of his predicament by writing books and turning his cell into a center for intellectual discussion and alchemical experimentation. Henry himself encouraged Raleigh to write his audacious classic History of the World, and Raleigh dedicated the book to the prince who defied his father’s wishes to show him favor. Henry’s witty comment about James condemning an Elizabethan era hero like Sir Walter Raleigh: “only my father would keep such a bird in a cage” became well known; so did his intention to join Henry IV in a war to rid Europe of the Vatican and the Habsburgs. Henry sponsored the exploration of the Northwest Passage. He had libraries built and a gallery for his collection of paintings by Hilliard and Holbein.
At age fifteen Elizabeth had her own barge as all of London took to the river Thames to celebrate Henry’s status as the new Prince of Wales. Two mechanical wonders delighted everyone: a whale and a dolphin, both bearing on their broad backs costumed deities of classical antiquity. Many barges were decorated with flags, banners, and streamers. Musicians on board filled the air with music. A month later Elizabeth was invited to participate in one of her mother’s famous masques. This one was about Tethys the wife of Neptune, queen of the ocean. Elizabeth would play the Nymph of the Stately Thames. She wore a sky blue taffeta bodice decorated with symbols of the sea. Her little brother Charles, a frail child who most expected would not survive long, had grown into a fine ten-year-old boy. He played Zephyrus, god of the west wind, “in a short robe of green satin embroidered with golden flowers.” Silver wings and a multi-colored flower garland in his hair completed the costume.
Phineas Pett was a ship-maker who took to heart a friend’s advice that he should build Prince Henry a pleasure yacht. Henry was pleased, even more so by the plans for another ship Pett presented. Pett found himself chatting over his plans with the King of England. The royal shipbuilders alarmed by the sudden rise of this newcomer schemed against him, accusing him of using bad lumber, and otherwise endangering his own projects because of his ignorance. A grueling examination followed where only Henry offered any moral support, and only in the most subtle ways. But James decided the accusations were false. By way of consolation for so much trouble Henry and his little sister visited Pett at his home. Elizabeth’s kindness impressed Mrs. Pett. Elizabeth and Charles journeyed with their mother and father to watch Prince Henry christen Pett’s war ship that would be the pride of the English fleet. But the dock gates had been badly built and the ship got stuck between them. So the royal family had to go home. Prince Henry returned later that night at high tide. He personally supervised the launch, and christened the ship, giving it the name The Prince Royal. On that ship Elizabeth would leave England to begin her ill-fated life in Europe.
In 1611 when Elizabeth was fourteen James received a document from the influential Duke of Bouillon, the ruler of a semi-sovereign small state located between Luxembourg and Champagne. Bouillon sang the praises of his nephew. Frederick V, Palsgrave, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Imperial knight, High Elector, and ruler of the Palatinate, born three days before Princess Elizabeth. Dark haired with large dark eyes, athletic and an excellent horseman, he wasn’t exactly a king, but he was the most powerful of the seven electors who elected the Holy Roman Emperor, and James thought there was a good chance that the boy would be chosen King of Bohemia by the Bohemian people who were searching for allies in their fight against the strict Catholic rule that had devastated the alchemical paradise of tolerance that had been Rudolfine Prague. As King of Bohemia, and Elector Palatine, there was even a slim chance that the boy might be elected Holy Roman Emperor one day, though it did seem unlikely that a German Protestant prince could ever sit on that Catholic throne, Frederick’s bloodline was among the oldest and most royal in Europe. His family had ruled Bavaria since Charlemagne. Palatine was derived from the Latin word for imperial. Empress Elizabeth, King James must have thought that a delightful if improbable possibility when, as he claimed, a plan for electing Frederick Emperor was first proposed to him in October 1610, but he doesn’t say by whom.
Rumors reported by Sir Walter Scott in his gossipy Secret History of the Court of James the First suggested that Henry had strongly encouraged Frederick as the right choice for his sister, for the most part because by then marrying a German princess, Henry would have a German army of his own. He could begin his war against the Vatican without having to wait for his father’s death. Scott portrays Henry’s cruel side, as the crown prince teases his little brother Charles telling him he should join the priesthood to hide his crooked skinny legs under a gown, making the boy cry. But Scott confirms Henry’s affection for his sister.
THE MOST ELIGIBLE PRINCESS IN EUROPE FINDS TRUE LOVE
By age fifteen the ambassadors from the royal courts of Europe were describing Elizabeth as beautiful, intelligent, dignified and gracious. While the English were none too pleased with their new king and queen they stayed in love with the royal children, especially Henry, whose athletic prowess, natural dignity, and wit were obvious even as a child. Henry did not share his father’s aversion to war or his commitment to neutrality. He made no secret of his intent to someday lead England alongside France in a war against the pope’s domination of Europe. But then a Catholic assassin in the streets of Paris stabbed to death Henry IV the King of France, champion of the Protestant cause. His wife Marie de’ Medici would not allow a Protestant princess to inherit the throne of France. She married her sons to Catholic royals.
Among Elizabeth’s remaining suitors were the Duke of Savoy and the King of Sweden, even the recently widowed King of Spain made a last minute appeal, but her options were limited. James was not willing to send her to a Catholic court, and there just weren’t many good prospects among eligible Protestant princes and kings. But James nominated a candidate, even against Queen Anne’s considerable protests. She asked the princess how she would like the title “Goody Palsgrave” a bit like asking a princess today how she’d like being called Mrs. Princess. But Elizabeth defended her father’s choice. When her mother insisted she marry for a king’s crown, Elizabeth said she would “rather marry a Protestant Count than a Catholic Emperor.”
Frederick’s father was the first director and a founding member of the Protestant Union, a defensive pact between nine princes and seventeen imperial cities. His chief minister, and general of the war council of the Protestant Union, Christian of Anhalt, was now Frederick’s mentor and minister. Frederick’s father helped make Heidelberg University one of Europe’s centers of learning but he enjoyed the wonderful wines of the Rhine produced by his nation of vineyards so much he drank himself to death at age 36. Frederick was only fourteen when his father died.
On May 16, 1612 the Duke de Bouillon represented Frederick V as documents were drawn up in London promising him a wedding to Elizabeth. When the Spanish ambassador wondered if Frederick was, after all, an inferior match for such a fine princess, King James was indiscrete enough to bring up the possibility that his soon to be son in law would no doubt be elected King of Bohemia. Yet by the time the predicted election occurred, James did not want Frederick to take the throne of Bohemia, and he refused to formerly recognize him as king.
After a difficult voyage through stormy October seas Frederick arrived in England with a retinue of 420, including twelve royals, and thirty nobles. The people came out in crowds to watch his barge float up the Thames to the tune of an eighty-gun salute. Prince Charles met his future brother in law at Whitehall Stairs, then led the way to the lofty ceiling and pillars of the Banqueting House built by architect and mechanical inventor Inigo Jones. Frederick bowed deeply to James. Anne refused to look at him while he kissed her hand. Prince Henry and Frederick exchanged smiles and greetings. Prince Henry looked pale and ill but he was in great spirits. When he came to Elizabeth, Frederick stooped to kiss the hem of her gown, but Elizabeth curtsied so low she was able to reach out and stop him. He kissed her hand.
Frederick refused invitations to play tennis or ride with Prince Henry. He never joined in the activities his entourage enjoyed. He wanted only to be in the presence of Elizabeth to talk with her and to take their meals together. Then commenced a series of interviews, ceremonies and celebrations. Even the Queen had to admit while a bit homely, and certainly not dashing, neither heroic nor exceptional, Frederick was at least intelligent and charming. His large dark eyes were sensitive and expressive. Henry and Frederick agreed on so many matters they became friends. Henry enthusiastically endorsed his mother’s bane. Sir Walter Raleigh in the Tower wrote that Frederick was the only choice. Frederick might not be a king but his royal line did go back to the time of Charlemagne, James must have reminded Anne. The first Count Palatine had been the right hand man of another emperor. And the boy had kingly prospects, thanks to the trouble in Bohemia, where the populace who having grown accustomed to religious tolerance under the alchemist Emperor Rudolf II now struggled against the Catholic effort to restrain their rights and liberties.
Though he became a favorite of the King, the British nobles mistook Frederick’s dignity for arrogance and his retinue instead of impressing them caused derision because of their foreign ways. But imagine for a moment this heady atmosphere. The beautiful princess about to wed the leader of the Protestant Union would empower her older brother Henry eager to join the other Protestant powers of Europe in what amounted to a holy war against the power of the Vatican and the Habsburg monarchs of Austria and Spain. Henry told Elizabeth he would travel with her to pick out a German princess to be his bride. The marriage became a symbol in the imaginations of reformers and poets of a sacred marriage dedicated to reforming the world.
But then tragedy struck. Even before Frederick had arrived, in the beginning of October Prince Henry had suffered two bouts with fever then diarrhea. Prince Henry became very ill. On October 24 faced the cold weather in a shirt to play a game of tennis. By the next day he was bedridden with a severe fever. Rumors that he had been poisoned by agents of the Pope spread as fast as the news that he was bedridden. Henry refused to ruin the festive atmosphere of his beloved little sister’s nuptials, so he forced himself out of bed to play cards the next two days. The doctors bled him. November 1 he seemed to be improving and was well enough to get a visit from Elizabeth, Charles, Anne, James but in his accustomed place now walked Frederick. The next day he was delirious, crying out for his sword, declaring he must be gone. The quacks shaved off his dark blonde locks. Cupping glasses reddened his skin. The halves of a rooster cut down the back were lashed to the soles of his feet. The Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for him.
So desperate was the search for a cure that of all the alchemical and cunning remedies sent to save his first-born son King James allowed Sir Walter Raleigh’s elixir to be administered. Raleigh, with perhaps more shrewdness than sincerity, confidently announced that his concoction would restore Henry’s health, unless the prince had been poisoned. The elixir caused Henry to break into a sweat that was at first considered a good sign, but the fever raged on. The eighteen-year-old prince probably had typhoid fever, caught when he went swimming in the sewage-polluted Thames, where he was busy with his latest project, building the first bridge to cross the river at Westminster.
Elizabeth tried to sneak in to see her brother, even disguising herself, but she never saw him again. On November 5, the eighth anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the King learned that his son would not survive. Mortified, James retreated from the court to his sanctuary in the country. Soon the news spread everywhere. The day before his death, the rumor of his death had already reached the countryside and towns where people mourned openly and cried out in the streets. Phineas Pett found at St. James “a house turned to the very map of true sorrow, every man with the character of grief written in his dejected countenance, all places flowing with tears and bitter lamentations.” Twelve year old Prince Charles gave his older brother a poignant gift: a small bronze toy of the equestrian statue of Cosimo de’ Medici in Florence. Cosimo was not only a great ruler, but also a renowned patron of the arts, and of philosophy. Cosimo commissioned Ficino’s translations of Plato and the Hermetica that helped to spark the renaissance. But Henry died not long after, surrounded by trembling physicians. The last coherent thing the crown prince said was: “where is my dear sister?’
No matter how terrible the grief, no one as yet understood how grave the loss of Henry would be for his sister, for the Protestants of Europe, and for England, but the ambassador from Venice reflected the measure of what promised to have been a great king when he wrote of Henry: “His authority was great… His designs were vast; his temper was grave, severe, reserved, and brief in speech. All the hopes of these kingdoms were built on his high qualities.” Thousands mourned in the streets of London: “weeping, crying, howling and wringing their hands.” The great writers and composers eulogized and lamented.
Elizabeth was heartbroken. Her little brother Charles fell ill; he had always been sickly. At Henry’s funeral procession, led by his brother Charles, the crowd responded most to the bereaved little sister and her husband to be. James and Anne were too grief stricken to attend. Months later, in a meeting with diplomats, James broke down and wept, crying: “Henry is dead, Henry is dead.”
THE ROYAL WEDDING OF THE ALCHEMICAL OPPOSITES
After Henry’s death Frederick was so genuine James was moved to announce that his future son in law was a gift from god in consolation for the loss of his son. The love of Frederick for Elizabeth, obvious from the start in his tenderness and delight in her presence, became an important emotional support for her as their mutual grief deepened their relationship. With her help Frederick hurried to learn enough English so that he could speak the necessary lines for their wedding ceremony.
On Dec 18, Frederick became a knight of the Order of the Garter, though the king, suffering gout, performed the ceremony from his bed, and forgot to dub Frederick knight. The ribbon and diamond star had belonged to Prince Henry. On Dec. 27 at the betrothal ceremony Frederick and Elizabeth nearly giggled at the atrocious French of the presiding noble. After a boring sermon James presided over the dinner, which could not be a celebration since the court was in mourning. Yet James told jokes. Elizabeth wore black satin with touches of silver lace “to make an even mixture of joy and mourning.” A small plume of white feathers in her hair started a fad among the young hipsters of London that caused a bubble in the price of white feathers. Queen Anne did not attend, she complained of gout. But Frederick’s name was added when prayers for the royal family were said.
On New Year’s Day an old tradition was revived and gifts were exchanged: diamond encrusted swords, an agate bowl Frederick gave to James, and Elizabeth received her engagement ring. As the pageantry of masques and dances presented by the court, the mayors of cities, and the students of Gray’s Inn, occupied her attention, the Queen warmed up to Frederick enough to promise she would help plan the wedding ceremony. Some at court were surprised that the parents of Prince Henry were occupied in frivolous entertainments so soon after his death. But James and Anne took solace not only in habit but also in their duty to support the marriage of their daughter, and the alliance with the Protestant Union.
The betrothed royal teenagers rode horses, hunted and took boat trips. Painters attempted to commit their charm to canvas in officially commissioned portraits. The King’s Men, Shakespeare’s company, were paid for “presenting before the Princess Highness the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Palatine Elector fourteen several plays,” which included Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Some scholars believe Shakespeare rewrote the masque scene of The Tempest in honor of Frederick and Elizabeth, others that he was inspired to author or co-author Henry VIII. It seems perfectly natural that a “new Elizabethan cult” would spring up around Princess Elizabeth. Shakespeare understood the lineage of the Hermetic Platonic mystery tradition that was informing so many of the reformers. He includes in Henry VIII not a Hymn of Orpheus but a hymn to Orpheus, the favorite of Ficino, magus of the renaissance, and first translator of Plato. Ficino’s singing of the hymns was widely credited as helping to magically inspire the renaissance. In Love’s Labour’s Lost Shakespeare mentions Balf’s Academy of Poetry and Music in France. There Protestant and Catholic musicians joined together to practice Orphic singing, with the intention of creating a sympathetic magical harmony to heal the religious wars causing so much suffering in France.
The plays climax, the birth of Queen Elizabeth I, is celebrated by a beautiful prophecy:
“In her days every man shall eat in safety
Under his own vine what he plants, and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbors.
God shall be truly known….”
The is not only a eulogy for the wonderful world of the short lived Elizabethan golden age, but also a hopeful prayer for Princess Elizabeth. The prophecy of the rebirth of the phoenix is addressed to James. Perhaps Shakespeare believed, as did many others, that by marrying his only daughter to the head of the Protestant Union the King of England was committing to the Protestant policies of Henry and Elizabeth. But Princess Elizabeth is Donne’s intended phoenix.
Frederick V, Elector Palatine
On February 7 in a public ceremony Frederick was made a member of the Order of the Garter. Again, he received the insignia that had so recently belonged to Prince Henry.
On Feb. 11 a grand exhibition of fireworks lit up Whitehall. The thunder of nearby cannon St. George and a dragon battled it out in fireworks. Next a pack of firework hounds chased a rabbit through the sky. Finally a fleet of ships rigged with flags and streamers sailed into view for a naval battle in the stars. Feb. 13 the entertainment provided by a pretend naval battle between a Venetian man-of-war and seventeen Turkish damsels told a tale of a damsel in distress. But injuries caused one sailor to remark that the entertainment was more dangerous than actual battle.
The morning of St. Valentine’s Day bells rang in the church towers. Cannon and musket fired. At dawn her retainers began the work of preparing Elizabeth for her wedding. They wrapped her in a diamond studded white gown heavily embroidered with silver thread. They carefully detangled her waist length amber hair letting it flow free. Gold spangles, rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds woven in her hair sparkled. Thirteen young ladies with their hair flowing free all in white carried her long train. A crown of refined gold adorned with pearls and diamonds completed her costume. Frederick wore a suit of silver and the glittering diamond insignia of St. George that had belonged to Henry. James wore a black Spanish suit and cape, with long stockings, and a single big diamond in his hat. Queen Anne wore white satin spangled with diamonds. For the official ceremony in the chapel James wore jewels valued at six hundred thousand pounds, while the Queen’s jewelry clocked in at four hundred thousand pounds. The wealth of the nation was on display.
James had built a special building for the event. Tapestries of the English victory against the Spanish armada decorated the room. Frederick dressed simply, and handled his English lines awkwardly but without error. Nobles from across Europe filled the hall, but none from Spain, even the Spanish ambassador refused to attend, excusing himself with a polite lie about his health. A boring sermon followed a tedious service, but the ceremony was short notable only for the choice Frederick and Elizabeth made to leave out obedience in the list of marital pledges, vowing to love, cherish, and honor, but not to obey. Elizabeth’s face was said to have been glowing with sparkling lights of joy that the common folk considered a bad omen. Perhaps they believed that such radiance would invite retribution from god or devil.
Having said their vows, their titles proclaimed by the herald, the guests quickly left the chapel. Elizabeth changed out of her weighty robe into a more comfortable and becoming dress. Trumpets summoned the guests to dinner. 52 sat at the table for a three-hour feast. In the evening a ballet on the theme of Orpheus received the damning criticism that it was “several hours too long.”
The next morning James embarrassed Frederick with his questions about the wedding night. Any doubts he may have had about the consummation of the marriage would be dismissed when Elizabeth became pregnant before leaving England in April.
On Feb. 15 The Memorable Masque of the Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn written by George Chapman, and with costumes, sets, and stage effects by Inigo Jones was performed. Chapman, a follower of the late Prince of Wales, and therefore an enthusiastic supporter of the Virginia colonization project, based his masque on the theme of Native American sun worshippers arriving in London to honor the newlyweds by converting to Christianity. The festivities commenced with a torch lit parade down Chancery Lane: fifty gentlemen on horseback, followed by boys dressed as baboons in Neapolitan suits with exaggerated ruffs, and then musicians and masquers in chariots. Jones’s stage set featured a golden mountain with a silver octagonal and domed temple on one side, and a hollow tree on the other. The mountain moved toward the spectators then split open to release the baboons. Then the mountaintop opened revealing fire dancers whose torches were lit at both ends. The elite of the court played (highly stylized) native chiefs. In the dedication when Chapman refers to the “thrice gracious Princess Elizabeth” it’s impossible not to suspect a pun on “thrice greatest Hermes”.
More masques followed, including “Marriage of Thames and Rine” organized by Sir Francis Bacon, and productions of theatrical masterpieces, including Beaumont and Fletcher’s Philaster or Love Lies A-Bleeding, a tragicomedy about love, lies, and revenge, complete with a Spanish villain, and a rebellion by good citizens to save their princess and her true love. As one exhausting entertainment followed another the king began to droop and yawn openly and the queen became downright bitchy, referring to the bride only as Goody Palsgrave. Two days after Bacon’s masque James left the court, retreating to his country house. He now considered it urgent that he marry his younger son Charles to a Catholic princess. Thereafter, knowing that the Spanish despised him, James nevertheless did whatever he could to appease them, including beheading the great Sir Walter Raleigh, last living symbol of the Elizabethan golden age.
PROPHECIES, POETRY, AND OMENS
The poet John Donne
England resounded with fatuous prophecies of the glories to be born from this marriage of the Thames and the Rhine. How hollow these prognostications of happiness and dominion would seem in a few short years; though from the long view perhaps they came true, as we shall see. Poets composed solemn declarations. Neoplatonic and alchemical themes of the union of opposites appeared in art, writing, and theater as the fair-haired princess and dark prince were recast as the hermetic marriage. The great poet John Donne wrote a poem especially for the occasion that exemplified the trend.
AN EPITHALAMION, OR MARRIAGE SONG ON THE LADY ELIZABETH AND COUNT PALATINE BEING MARRIED ON ST. VALENTINE’S DAY.
by John Donne
HAIL Bishop Valentine, whose day this is;
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners;
Thou marriest every year
The lyric lark, and the grave whispering dove,
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomacher;
Thou makest the blackbird speed as soon,
As doth the goldfinch, or the halcyon;
The husband cock looks out, and straight is sped,
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine;
This day, which might enflame thyself, old Valentine.
Till now, thou warmd’st with multiplying loves
Two larks, two sparrows, or two doves;
All that is nothing unto this;
For thou this day couplest two phoenixes;
Thou makst a taper see
What the sun never saw, and what the ark
—Which was of fouls and beasts the cage and park—
Did not contain, one bed contains, through thee;
Two phoenixes, whose joined breasts
Are unto one another mutual nests,
Where motion kindles such fires as shall give
Young phoenixes, and yet the old shall live;
Whose love and courage never shall decline
But make the whole year through, thy day, O Valentine.
Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun;
Thyself from thine affection
Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
All lesser birds will take their jollity.
Up, up, fair bride, and call
Thy stars from out their several boxes, take
Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make
Thyself a constellation of them all;
And by their blazing signify
That a great princess falls, but doth not die.
Be thou a new star, that to us portends
Ends of much wonder; and be thou those ends.
Since thou dost this day in new glory shine,
May all men date records from this day, Valentine.
Come forth, come forth, and as one glorious flame
Meeting another grows the same,
So meet thy Frederick, and so
To an inseparable union go,
Falls not on such things as are infinite,
Nor things, which are but one, can disunite.
You’re twice inseparable, great, and one;
Go then to where the bishop stays,
To make you one, his way, which divers ways
Must be effected ; and when all is past,
And that you’re one, by hearts and hands made fast,
You two have one way left, yourselves to entwine,
Besides this bishop’s knot, of Bishop Valentine.
But O, what ails the sun, that here he stays,
Longer to-day than other days?
Stays he new light from these to get?
And finding here such stars is loth to set?
And why do you two walk,
So slowly paced in this procession?
Is all your care but to be look’d upon,
And be to others spectacle, and talk?
The feast with gluttonous delays
Is eaten, and too long their meat they praise;
The masquers come late, and I think, will stay,
Like fairies, till the cock crow them away.
Alas ! did not antiquity assign
A night as well as day, to thee, old Valentine?
They did, and night is come; and yet we see
Formalities retarding thee.
What mean these ladies, which—as though
They were to take a clock in pieces—go
So nicely about the bride?
A bride, before a “ Good-night” could be said,
Should vanish from her clothes into her bed,
As souls from bodies steal, and are not spied.
But now she’s laid; what though she be?
Yet there are more delays, for where is he?
He comes and passeth through sphere after sphere;
First her sheets, then her arms, then anywhere.
Let not this day, then, but this night be thine;
Thy day was but the eve to this, O Valentine.
Here lies a she sun, and a he moon there;
She gives the best light to his sphere;
Or each is both, and all, and so
They unto one another nothing owe;
And yet they do, but are
So just and rich in that coin which they pay,
That neither would, nor needs forbear, nor stay;
Neither desires to be spared nor to spare.
They quickly pay their debt, and then
Take no acquittances, but pay again;
They pay, they give, they lend, and so let fall
No such occasion to be liberal.
More truth, more courage in these two do shine,
Than all thy turtles have and sparrows, Valentine.
And by this act these two phoenixes
Nature again restorèd is;
For since these two are two no more,
There’s but one phoenix still, as was before.
Rest now at last, and we—
As satyrs watch the sun’s uprise—will stay
Waiting when your eyes opened let out day,
Only desired because your face we see.
Others near you shall whispering speak,
And wagers lay, at which side day will break,
And win by observing, then, whose hand it is
That opens first a curtain, hers or his:
This will be tried to-morrow after nine,
Till which hour, we thy day enlarge, O Valentine.
But by the end of March the royal mood chilled further. James had spent more than fifty thousand pounds on the wedding, an enormous fortune in those days. Now with everyone clamoring for their money he suddenly dismissed without warning two thirds of Frederick’s retinue. Elizabeth was mortified by her father’s rude action. James tried to make it up to Frederick with a jousting exhibition in the rain. The next day the newlyweds visited the Tower where Elizabeth charmed everyone by insisting on lighting the ceremonial cannon and then, instead of flinching, beamed with excitement at the powerful explosion. Comparisons between her and her namesake the brave Elizabeth Tudor made the rounds again. Elizabeth identified with her namesake. She had portraits painted in imitation of her godmother, and made her own signature a replica of the Virgin Queen’s regal scrawl.
But James wasn’t done cutting costs or mortifying his daughter. When the Haringtons asked to have their generous expenditures reimbursed, repayment for wedding preparations, and for having raised the princess, James rejected them. However he did grant Harrington the right to mint brass farthings, pocket change nicknamed Haringtons.
The royal cold shoulder left Frederick complaining that his father in law treated him more like a page than a son. History proves that James tended to sour when he ran out of money. The happy couple he had enjoyed so much mere weeks earlier were now a burdensome expense. The king and queen accompanied the newlyweds only part way to their port of departure. Locals flocked to see the royals. On their last night together Anne excused herself from dinner. Gossips wondered if she was truly too emotional at the departure of her daughter, or just disappointed and bored. James dined with Elizabeth and Frederick. As they said goodbye Elizabeth wept uncontrollably. Her new husband, a mere boy himself, and her younger brother Charles tried to comfort her. A sixteen-year-old girl who had never been to the continent, no matter how frightening the unknowns of Elizabeth’s new life, the reality that unfolded was far worse.
When the weather forced them to postpone their departure the superstitious whispered that it was a bad omen. Nobles and commoners alike tried to warn Elizabeth not to sail on her brother’s ship The Prince Royal. They feared his ill fate would somehow become contagious and infect her. But Elizabeth presumably felt comfortable on board the ship championed by and named after her late brother. Perhaps she thought in some way it represented his continued presence and protection. When the ships finally embarked a storm forced them back to port. The king and queen showed no concern for these delays that must have increased their daughter’s distress. They behaved as if she had already set sail. Anne got back to organizing her amusements, and James returned to his favorite country house to enjoy his everyday pleasures with the extra enthusiasm of a monarch who faced mortality.
COUNT MAIER: THE DOVE AND THE PHOENIX
One of the favorite candidates for an actual Rosicrucian has been Michael Maier. His publication of a book called The Laws of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross led many to believing he was publishing in the name of the Rosicrucian order itself. But the book is a meditation on the implications of the rules for Rosicrucians presented in the manifestos.
Alchemists never knew when they might be chased out of town, not only because their pursuits were usually considered diabolical, but also because foul stenches often wafted from their labs. In 1596, in his late twenties, Maier had severely wounded a fellow medical student in Padua. Arrested, he was fined, but the victim refused to take the money, so facing imprisonment the ruffian fled. His early alchemical experiments in his hometown attracted more gossip, but his success was limited. While he failed to achieve the great work he did create a potent medicine he tried on himself and his family.
Michael Maier, melancholy about what he considered the autumn of life, had no idea that exciting times were just around the corner. He wasn’t exactly chased out of town, but he believed the stress of dealing with nosy disapproving neighbors was ruining his alchemy, so he headed for the court of the Wizard Emperor, Rudolf II, arriving in Prague in 1608. To get the Emperor’s attention Maier composed an open letter that was both an outline of his alchemical theory and a résumé which included a story about a dove landing in Maier’s mother’s lap as she sat in a field three days before his birth. Since the dove is a common alchemical symbol of divine power in the purification process of distillation, of the Holy Spirit in action, Maier, who humbly confessed indifference to the omen, clearly hoped the Emperor would be impressed. Maier seems to have believed that he was born to explore and articulate the most profound mysteries.
It took a year but then Maier learned that Rudolf was impressed by his alchemical knowledge and also by his struggle. To his relief Maier was appointed the Emperor’s doctor. Two months later he was given the title Imperial Count Palatine, but no lands. While working for the Emperor in Prague, Maier wrote a book about Hermes Trismegistus, and another in which he claimed to reveal the alchemical meaning, the divine language of symbols, behind Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient Greek myths.
When his twenty year old niece Lucy fell off her horse and borke her arm, Rudolf called for Maier who first set her bone, then six times, for several minutes each time, he directed healing energy into her arm. Lucy later said she felt as if a miraculous doctor had awakened her from a nightmare. Maier wrote many books, discussing them with the Emperor as they progressed, but all were published after Rudolf’s death.
In Prague in 1609, approaching forty, Maier wrote an autobiographical piece, the rediscovery of which has revolutionized scholarship concerning his life. The piece was published in a book of which he had only a few copies printed. Only one copy is known today.
The Emperor’s support only lasted two more years. When Rudolf’s brother removed him Maier left Prague for Hessen-Kassel and the court of Moritz the Learned, patron of the Rosicrucian manifestos. Maier sent Moritz three manuscripts and two letters but he received no response, probably because the pleasure of alchemy had to be sacrificed to the demands of navigating the political crisis that split Germany into the Catholic League and the Protestant Union. So Maier went to England to study and translate important alchemical texts. In London Maier was confronted with English theatrical depictions of Germans as drunken rubes.
Christmas 1611 Maier sent clever intricate greeting cards featuring pattern poems with melodies in musical notation to Prince Henry, and to King James whose card featured an engraving of a rose atop a scepter which together make a cross. Less than two years later Maier was included among the gentlemen who attended Prince Henry’s funeral with Frederick and Elizabeth. Among Maier’s friends were the physicians to King James, Moritz the Learned, and Frederick and Elizabeth.
Rumors spread that a red haired doctor had poisoned Prince Henry. Apparently, red bearded Michael Maier was the only ginger physician anywhere near the prince, but were these suspicions disinformation? Since Maier shared many of Henry’s goals, and wished to cultivate his patronage, it’s hard to imagine him poisoning the future monarch, at least deliberately; but we have no evidence that Maier treated Henry.
While his Paracelsus and cabala loving alchemist astrologer colleagues back home viewed the marriage through the prism of their imaginations, and then through the books published in England, Germany and France describing the wedding, Maier was in London at the time of the festivities. He observed or heard about details of the withdrawal of royal favor so soon after the ceremony. He understood that in the aftermath of Henry’s death James was beginning to have doubts about the strong position he had taken under his son’s influence. Soon the Queen’s advice would prevail and James would become conciliatory toward the Spanish. Maier alone among the writers associated with Rosicrucianism advocated continued secrecy, patience, and forbearance, while the rest beat the drums of war while denouncing the Pope, in anticipation of a grand Protestant alliance.
The other most popular candidate for Rosicrucian has been Robert Fludd. Many enthusiasts have argued that Fludd and Maier were friends who met when Maier was in England. We have no historical evidence that Fludd and Maier were acquainted or corresponded, though they shared many friends. Maier admitted to Moritz that he had read a manuscript of Fludd’s but he said nothing about knowing him. He does not appear to be the one who introduced Fludd to the publisher de Bry, nor do we have any evidence that one initiated the other into the Rosicrucian order. Yet, writing in 1617 Maier says he first heard of the Rosicrucians while he was in England.
Frederick and Elizabeth enjoyed several quiet years of happy marriage while Maier wrote three Latin long form poems about alchemy and in 1617 a beautiful multimedia approach to alchemy titled Atalanta fugiens, which included fifty allegorical engravings, explanatory tracts, and musical fugues. Maier refused to write about any of the practical details of alchemy, those secrets could only be shared personally. Several of Maier’s books earned a place in the history of science representing a time when careful observation of nature by the light of alchemy and astrology was believed reveal the sacred patterns of creation. Isaac Newton studied his Maier, leaving 88 pages of notes. For Maier the great work of alchemy was the task of manifesting divine power in the mundane world. (Listen to a live performance with original instruments by Fairy Consort Early Music Ensemble of one of Dr. Maier’s alchemical ditties here):
Carl Jung was fascinated by Maier’s Allegoria Bella, a blend of solar mysticism, Christian piety, and vitalism (the belief that life and consciousness are more than biology. An imaginary travelogue of a journey to find the legendary phoenix the narrative proceeds according to the stages of the alchemical process by which metals evolve. Maier searches all over Europe but finds out nothing. In the Canary Islands he witnesses a royal wedding like an echo of the royal wedding in the Chemical Wedding and perhaps of the nuptials of Frederick and Elizabeth. He sails to America where he hears of sages who have taught the natives to breed mules from horses and donkeys, where he plants the seed of a fruit and when the sapling grows he grafts it to another tree. Among the many interesting details, factual and imaginary in the book is his claim that in Peru could be found aqua Americana, which makes gold soft, and yet doesn’t burn.
Along the way Maier argued that the phoenix arising from the ashes of the dead is not pagan, but a precursor of Christ and proof of resurrection. At the Nile the traveler finds the locals have lost their wisdom and prosperity. He searches the mouths of the Nile unsuccessfully, until he almost gives up hope, believing he may have been deceived since to the Egyptians he is a stranger and therefore not to be trusted, but at last he finds the god Mercury where the locals said he couldn’t be found. With instructions from Mercury the traveler at long last arrives at the nest of the phoenix, only to find that the bird has “gone abroad.” The traveler returns to Europe with “nothing in his hands.” Maier says the phoenix can’t be seen with physical eyes, only with what he calls the “little eye of the soul.” But this sad ending had a witty touch as he wrote that the phoenix had flown away on a mission “as appointed arbiter between the owl and the other birds attacking her,” a reference to his book Jocus Severus, where he compared the Rosicrucians to an owl attacked by lesser fowl. Jung thought the story tragic
Maier identifies the alchemical nigredo, the burned stage, or phase of putrefaction, with worldly suffering. The heart, gold, the sun, and deity are linked together like octaves of the same note in something like Homer’s Golden Chain that unites all beings in hierarchy from the simplest and least powerful to the omnipotent and omniscient. Gold points to God, Maier learned from the Neoplatonists. The soul, like gold in the fire, survives earthly trials. But Maier had a sense of humor about his mystical philosophy. He mentioned that he heard a toad wearing a golden chain had recently been found in England, but then, he remarks, perhaps the toad wanted to be properly attired in case he met a sexy beetle in the twilight. Maier was not a solemn metaphysical writer. He was always ready to crack a joke.
Maier had a vision for America, a vision of utopia that inspired four of the principles behind the plan for the newly founded Virginia Colony, including the treasurer, the future treasurer, a legal adviser, and a committee member.
In spring of 1618 Maier gave all eleven of his printed books as a present to Moritz. That did the trick. Later that year Maier was appointed doctor to Moritz and his family, court chemist, and compiler of news and intelligence reports. He must have thought that was sitting in the sweet spot of a wave of reform that was about to sweep the world.
THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
Seven ships sailed across the sea, commanded by the last surviving hero of the victory against the Armada; this was the Earl of Nottingham’s last service as Lord Admiral. Arriving in the Netherlands, Elizabeth found that her enjoyment of military spectacle had been noticed. Trumpets welcomed her. Elizabeth, unveiled, smiling enthusiastically, walked through the streets, ignoring all court etiquette, the very picture of the liberated young English noblewoman. For eighty years the Dutch, revolting against their Habsburg ruler and the heavy taxes of the Holy Roman Empire, had fought the Spanish, and relied on help from English monarchs, especially her namesake. The navy, the musketeers, and the city garrison argued over which would honor her first. They were charmed when she preferred to see the sites of the famous battles where they had preserved their liberty.
Elizabeth progressed slowly toward the Palatinate, from one celebration and feast to the next. During a hunting expedition she inspired more gossip when she shot three deer stags herself. One could almost believe that this Elizabeth had somehow issued from the line of Henry VIII and not James of Scotland. Triumphant arches depicted her as a Greek Goddess. Pantomime comics performed in a hastily built theater on a bridge. She loved to listen to stories of local mythology and the lore of battles. One noble provided her with a picturesque picnic on an open field near a quaint village. Frederick provided her with a boat to sail up the Rhine featuring a crowned lion on the bow. He also warned her about which towns to sail past because plague had reached them.
In every town and village Elizabeth presented gifts as a new monarch introducing herself to her people. But soon she had no more gifts to give so she pawned some of her jewels to get the money for more, the first of many times she found herself facing that indignity. At last Frederick sailed to meet her and scooped up his bride, but as they glided down the Rhine people lined the banks offering their hospitality, slowing down their progress.
As Elizabeth entered the Palatine, in a six-horse coach with a red velvet interior, musicians played and Latin orations filled the air with rhetorical splendor carefully prepared to honor her. The Palatine was a cosmopolitan culture of villages surrounding 26 walled towns. To celebrate her arrival the locals dressed up in their traditional costumes: German, Swiss, Turkish and Polish. Women and children tossed flowers in the street. Musketeers dressed as Romans and as Turks marched in opposite directions. Archers dressed all in green saluted her. The goldsmith’s guild decorated a theater on one side of the palace and provided music. The decorations personified faith, constancy, fortitude, generosity, showing Solomon and his bride, and Elizabeth herself, hair flowing free, with the star of Britain on her left and Frederick on her right.
An entourage of four thousand on 34 lavishly decorated barges traveled up the Rhine; on June 7 they reached Heidelberg. What an ironic choice for that night’s fireworks spectacle: the tower of Troy. June was beautiful in the Palatine. Elizabeth feasted on nectarines. On their way to their castle in Heidelberg the army provided a spectacle of guns fired in the air and cannon booming in a sham fight. The love between them was obvious, one observer, a military leader commented approvingly of their reunion, after Frederick went ahead to prepare for her arrival, when she “threw herself into her husband’s arms.” Just outside the gates of the city boats engaged in another sham fight. The English marveled at the beauty of the banks of the brooks and rivers here. Over the gate hovered an angel with spread wings and the motto God Unites. The streets were strews with green grassy turf and the roofs of the houses were decorated with boughs of May. Festoons of flowers hung from the walls. Elizabeth must have felt like she was entering a faerie kingdom. Inside the town Elizabeth passed through another triumphal arch but here progress halted while a crown was dropped on and then lifted off her head. This too was considered a bad omen of her short reign.
At the town hall the four colleges of the university displayed their globes, mathematical instruments and medical grotesqueries. A boy in a long cloak offered a basket of fruit, adding in French “Behold, Madame, the tribute of the goddesses Flora and Pomona.” Later the hungry teenage princess devoured the fruit in her coach. The last and most magnificent triumphal arch waited for them just outside the palace. It showed Frederick’s ancient lineage, with special emphasis on his ancestors who had married English princesses. As Elizabeth arrived in her new home Frederick’s mother, the dowager queen, Juliana, daughter of William of Orange, met her. All etiquette went out the window when they saw each other. They embraced with tears in their eyes.
On June 7 Elizabeth took her new throne in Heidelberg. Heidelberg Castle, built of red brown stone, ornamented with many fine statues, looked out over two rivers: in the distance the winding Rhine and nearby the Nekar. The most ancient part was a tower raised on a cliff in which a prophetess had lived named Jetha Behel. To her cell people came daily asking for advice about future events and receiving oracular responses, though she never let them see her. The tower had been converted into a library that contained some of the rarest books and manuscripts in Europe. With floors of porphyry and golden pillars, cornices studded with jewels, beautiful tapestries and paintings al fresco, and a silver chamber, the palace in summer must have been an amazing sight.
The next morning in the garden a romantic pageant delighted Elizabeth: Jason and the Golden Fleece, with Frederick himself in the role of Jason. From Pallas in a chariot drawn by dragons to Orpheus riding a unicorn. Jason and his two companions appeared in the contrivance of a slow moving boat. Each spoke a poem praising Elizabeth. But something about the Golden Fleece itself aroused the superstitions of the onlookers who one after the other lost their smiles of joy. The celebrations included a tournament. Frederick dressing as Jason the Argonaut could not have made a stronger statement about his intentions. Jason stole the Golden Fleece. The Order of the Golden Fleece was the highest honor bestowed by the Spanish Habsburgs. Frederick also dressed as Scipio, the great Roman general who defeated Hannibal and conquered Carthage. In Spain, so influenced by the north African Moors, was the city of Carthagena. So the Scipio costume was another veiled threat against the Habsburg dynasties. But Frederick’s boldest statement was dressing as Arminus, the Liberator of Germania, who destroyed three Roman legions in 9 AD. In his choice of roles Frederick clearly cast himself as an enemy of the Holy Roman Emperor.
One pageant followed another. Anyone with an interest in Rosicrucian and alchemical history may find this description of a pageant from Miss Benger’s Queen of Bohemia fascinating: “Masculine personifications of the sun and moon came upon Mount Parnassus…the representative of the sun was in gilt trappings, whilst the moon’s squire was clad in a suit of grey armor: presently Mount Parnassus itself appeared in motion with living animals springing through its cliffs–the eagles, the wolf, the bear, all dwelling in concord. Apollo entered in a long white gown, the Muses in green quilted vests, played on various instruments; Pan piped; Diana hunted; the old German hero Arminus, passed over the stage.” Songs sung for Elizabeth were said to have been composed by Orpheus and Venus.
What did Elizabeth think when she heard the news that 22 days after she took the throne of Bohemia the Globe Theater burned down in London during a performance of Henry VIII? Did anyone feel a shiver of premonition?
Known for her generosity Elizabeth couldn’t turn down a tearful plea for money, despite her advisor’s attempts to teach her dignified reserve. She was too weak with her servants and so much of the fine linen she brought with her from England was stolen she had to buy more locally. She and her mother in law battled over who should receive the honors and privileges of precedence. Elizabeth complained that Juliana wanted her to adopt German manners and customs; everything had to be done the German way.
Away from the enjoyable entertainments but wearying personal politics of the court Elizabeth delighted in the good hunting to be found close by the castle. In one especially successful hunt she used a crossbow to shoot twelve deer; on horseback, she killed a stag. Her people nicknamed her Diana after the huntress God of the Romans.
The famous gardens at Heidelberg Castle.
Within the year the young royals had their first child: Henry Frederick. He looked like his father so Elizabeth called him her “little black baby.” Germany and England rejoiced, and the celebrations in Scotland were rumored to have inspired jealousy from James and Charles.
Not long after his eighteenth birthday, and his assumption of full power as Elector Palatine, Frederick attended a meeting of the Protestant Union where he caught a fever that almost killed him. With the memory of Henry’s death by fever at the same age haunting him, Frederick became melancholy. Like his father, he gave most of his responsibilities to his chancellor, Christian of Anhalt. In 1591 Christian had once led a successful military expedition in support of the French King Henry IV in his war to break the power of the Vatican in France.
As for the Protestant Union, Calvinists cast a judgmental eye on mere Lutherans, accusing them of drinking too much, and suspecting their women to be of dubious virtue. Lutherans found a hint of extremism, the fanaticism of the Catholic Church itself, in the strict conformity of the Calvinists, who preached against even hunting, fishing, and hawking, especially because the Lutherans seemed to prefer these activities drunk. So severe was the religious discipline that German musicians were rare, and English minstrels the main source of music. The Bible and the writing of Luther may have been known widely but no literature, classical or contemporary, made the reading list. While in England theater and romantic poetry flourished, entertainment and other innovations were frowned upon in the homeland of Luther.
Yet German princes could be as extravagant as their British and French cousins. Pageantry required that the lavish tables of royal feasts include artistic decorations, often edible. A splendid peacock with tail in full display made a centerpiece. At one such celebration Frederick’s table featured a statue of Minerva, to represent his love of learning. Fish were gilded to make their scales glitter more richly. Nobles boasted of six hour eating and drinking contests.
Enamored of his wife, more aware then ever of the fragility of life, Frederick sought ways to please Elizabeth. For all its luxury Heidelberg Castle, due to its position on a rocky cliff, had no garden. Of course, the gardens of England were famous. The late Prince Henry had a small but wonderful garden made, in which mechanical statues moved and made sounds, showing off the technological advancements enjoyed by reason free from the tyranny of the Vatican’s condemnation of what would become science. Soon the scholar who designed Henry’s garden, Elizabeth’s old tutor Simon de Caus, arrived from England.
Frederick leveled a ridge and filled chasms, converting the craggy bleak landscape into a flowering paradise. Full-grown trees were transplanted. A wonderland bordered by trees and hedges appeared so suddenly the enemy whispered it must have been done by black magic. The scent of limes and 36 orange trees filled the air. Statues, fountains, pergolas, pavilions, a maze, and a grotto provided variety of amusement. In summer delicate exotic plants including flowers from the recently discovered tropics bloomed, decorating the garden with not only their beautiful colors and shapes, but also their perfumes. A replica of an English orchard gave Elizabeth the sights and scents of home. At center a magnificent fountain irrigated the soil. Small lawns like green velvet and manicured walkways contrasted with the rocky peaks still visible above the new tall trees, striking a picturesque contrast. An artificial waterfall added excitement and negative ions, while cleverly created silvery streams of fresh water meandered along the lawns like tiny streams. A monkey house, a maze, and a menagerie, a water organ made according to the Roman writer Vitruvius’ design, clockwork-driven automata birds moving and singing like nightingales, mazes, and an animated statue added to the wonderment. Hidden musicians provided symphonic accompaniment in this prototype amusement park. The garden gate boasted an elegant triumphal arch with the Latin inscription:
The garden became known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, although Catholic propagandists depicted it as a gate to hell. Watching the tranquil river Nekar flashing light as it flowed below, listening to the astro-theological theories of Abraham Scultetus, Frederick’s chaplain, and a driving force in the project to write down the first one hundred years of the Reformation. As she listened to the mysterious oracles of Jetha Behel she gazed at the old tower where the Sybil had lived. But Elizabeth’s favorite activity was hunting in the surrounding hills where her skills made her the most famous huntress of her time. Generous and kind, she was earnestly religious but also vivacious and light hearted. In her early letters she shows a rude wit, teasing the English ambassador by writing him as “her fat boobie ambassador.” Far from a polite equivocator she was known for her frank and sometimes blunt way with words. The Palatinate cherished their new Electress.
But the political realities underlying this earthly paradise were as ugly as the garden was beautiful. The Twelve Years Truce would expire soon. Spain and the Netherlands were expected to resume the Eighty Years War. A terrible power struggle brewed in Germany. German Catholics though they had failed for a hundred years to stamp out Luther’s Reformation, continued to scheme and make war toward that end. While among the Protestants a movement arose that hoped to crown a ruler of united Calvinist and Lutheran states to stand in opposition against the Holy Roman Emperor, failing that they planned to at least tear their chunk of Europe out of the greedy grasp of the Pope once and for all. More than anyone else Frederick stood to gain or lose the most. An inexperienced boy, but the best choice, given his ancestry and alliances, with astrologers and evangelicals assuring him of God’s assistance in this holy mission to stop the Counter-reformation, Frederick must have believed it possible that he could eventually be crowned as something like the King of Germany. But if the mission failed, Frederick could lose the Palatinate and Heidelberg Castle. His lands bordered Habsburg territory and the most powerful of all royal families eagerly schemed to take the rich agricultural fields of the south Palatinate, and the even richer mines of the north.
THE DAWN OF ROSICRUCIAN FAME
Popular knowledge of Rosicrucianism began with three little books: the Fama, the Confessio, and The Chemical Wedding. The first, the Fama, was probably circulated in manuscript by 1607. It had apparently reached England since Ben Johnson mentioned the Rosy Cross in a masque in 1610 four years before the Fama was actually published as a book. The manuscript was supposed to have been shared only among a few friends; the author or authors couldn’t imagine that many people would show interest in their bizarre concoction of righteous outrage, optimistic prognostications, Paracelsian precepts and satirical asides. To their surprise what had been their creative response to English masque and theater, and Italian satire, a dramatic declaration of an alternate future, became the rage of Europe.
The Fama contains one of the most evocative descriptions of the romance of books to be found anywhere, a passage that foreshadowed the internet: “Would it not be a precious thing if you were able to find in one book everything that has appeared in every book that has ever existed, that does exist, or will exist, everything that has been found out, and may be found out, to read, understand, and have it as your own?” The Rosicrucian ideal of having all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips, their invisible college on wheels so it can be anywhere at any time, has been partially realized in the World Wide Web.
Everett Bleiler in a recent article pointed out that alchemical story telling, especially the Rosicrucian manifestos, are part of the history of science fiction. Paul Bembridge describes Rosicrucianism as “a bursting forth of the age-old esoteric tradition into political and cultural expression….” Although the authors of the manifestos considered themselves exemplary Christians they insisted that Plato and Hermes anticipated Jesus, arguing that Neoplatonic and Hermetic wisdom were agreeable in every way with good Protestant religion. To most of their contemporaries, especially their enemies, their passion for Plato, the Neoplatonists and the Hermetica suggested a dangerous resurgence of paganism in Europe.
Authors with systematic revelations abounded in the days of the comets. Around the time the Fama was passed around in manuscript the Aurora of Jacob Boehme, a classic of visionary mysticism, circulated in manuscript among the same group of intellectuals. Michał Sędziwój (Michael Sendivogius), an acquaintance of John Dee and alchemist at Emperor Rudolf II’s court in Prague, published his classic New Light of Alchemy in 1605. Around the same time Khunrath published his De Igne Magorum in which he argued that the sun is the very fire of God. As an example of how someone can be illuminated by a ray of this divine power he gave Orpheus. Oswald Croll’s famous Chemical Basilica was published in 1608.
For generations of mystical romantics the Fama has been a book that seemed to have fallen from the sky but like any book it had a specific context. The context was the country of Hessen-Kassel ruled by the landgrave Moritz, known as Moritz the Learned, who presided over a center for occult studies, alchemy and the hermetic arts that surpassed even Emperor Rudolf’s Prague.
Moritz the Learned
Moritz, an accomplished composer and musician, founder of Germany’s oldest (and still active) wild animal park, and patron to English theatrical players and strolling musicians found nothing in his devotion to Calvinism that prevented him from keeping a circle of alchemists. He was devoted to hermetic philosophy. The Fama was printed by Moritz’s court printer. Why did Moritz support the printing of such a volatile declaration? He considered his own position precarious. Rivals outside his borders and inside seemed to threaten his reign and his country. Did he hope the trumpet call of the Fama would inspire his own people and transform him from an obscure pawn to a leader of the fervor for reform? A member of Moritz’s court wrote a tract suggesting that the headquarters of the Rosicrucians was near Kassel.
The Rosicrucian manifestos reflected Moritz’s commitment to making his country a Parnassus of inspired art and humanist thought. From this perspective the Fama could be compared (loosely) to an ad for Apple or Silicon Valley, clever cutting edge propaganda about a place where people are ahead of the curve. Moritz, like the Rosicrucian Fama itself, was offered as an answer to Boccalini’s lament at the corruption of society. But by 1619 Moritz’s dream of a golden age, whether as public relations campaign, or sincere enthusiasm, faded as the first tremors of the Thirty Years War disrupted Europe. The war would destroy Moritz’s country and cause his abdication.
The full title of the Fama begins: “Universal and General Reformation of the Whole Wide World….” To fully understand this ambitious first phrase of a long title it’s helpful to keep in mind that Europe was buzzing about Boccalini’s famous satire The General Reformation. The General Reformation includes a scene where the wise men of Olympus compose a manifesto of reform that actually doesn’t reform anything. It fixes the price of cabbage, and delivers lengthy self-congratulatory praise. Packaging that kind of satire with the Rosicrucian manifesto could be perceived as undermining it, unless the Fama was also satirical? But writers like Julianus de Campus suggested that the Rosicrucians deliberately placed a light satire in front of their serious manifesto so as to weed out those who couldn’t discriminate between them. Michael Maier claimed that the General Reformation was bound with the Fama by accident. He pointed out that many publishers made such illogical pairings, and putting a lighthearted work in front of a deeper one was customary. The next edition of the Fama did not include The General Reformation. But the third edition included The General Reformation at the back of the book, with a preface claiming that the Confessio had cleared up the confusion caused by people who did not understand the real message of the Fama. But the last of these earliest printings omitted The General Reformation again, replacing it with the story of a Rosicrucian who cured a woman but was nevertheless arrested for practicing black magic.
The Fama asserts the existence of an ultimate book of total revelation called M, not written in any ordinary language but in the language of being, the language of the very existence of things, the language of the inner workings of the visible and invisible universe. Paracelsus was not a Rosicrucian, the Fama stipulates, but he did derive his wisdom from glimpses of M. Michael Maier called M “the book of the world (liber mundi), or the book of natural magic.” French occultists of the 19th century beginning with Eliphas Levi argued that M was the tarot when understood as a symbolic system derived from the cabala. Levi claimed that all the knowledge in the world could be found in the tarot, but only after devoted study.
The Rosicrucians, according to the Fama, could make gold but they considered it a “trivial matter.” The break with imperial power had not yet occurred in the Fama where the emperor received support but the pope only disdain. The Aristotelian mindset of the Catholic Church was dismissed, to be replaced by the philosophy and practice of Paracelsus. The star of the show is, of course, Christian Rosenkreutz (Christian Rosy Cross or Father CRC) a German monk of noble birth who during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem wound up studying alchemy, communication with nature spirits, and the cabala among Arab mystics. He hoped to share his knowledge back home, and the rare plants and animals he brought with him, but European intellectuals ridiculed him afraid they would be proven ignorant and so lose their prestige. CRC healed the sick and helped the poor, attracting a small group of friends with similar interests in research and charity. He died at age 106 in 1484, but predicted correctly that his tomb would be found in 1604. Inside the tomb, with its Pythagorean and alchemical structure and adornment, the Fama claims, his body was found still fresh, along with an ever-burning lamp, books of powerful secrets, and three tomes by Paracelsus. The Fama ends with the enticing announcement that these secrets would now be shared with the few found worthy to keep them.
What began as a privately circulated work of art within three years produced seven reprints and countless manuscript copies. Over 400 books and pamphlets about the Rosicrucians were published between 1614 and 1623. Readers over reacted. In imitation of the Jesuits, who conform to the habits of the places their missions take them, the Rosicrucians were described as invisible, but people took the metaphor literally, believing that Rosicrucians could disappear at will. The manifestos helped inspire and inform Francis Bacon’s classic New Atlantis. Descartes went to Germany looking for the Rosicrucians but when he came home to France was nearly lynched for being a wizard. Ben Jonson made fun of the people who hoped to be contacted by the secret society of the “brethren of Rosy Cross.” Isaac Newton wrote notes in the margin of his copy of the Fama, dismissing the story of CRC as a fraud. Catholic priests preached against “rosycross wolves.”
THE CONFESSION OF THE FRATERNITY OF THE ROSY CROSS
The Confessio, or Confession of the Rosy Cross, printed one year after the Fama in 1615 in Latin and German, claimed to be an attempt to clarify the misunderstandings inspired by the Fama. Since the end of the world was nigh the time for a general reformation had come. Could the use of “general reformation” in the Confessio be a keyword for satire?
In its second paragraph the Confessio reaffirms Rosicrucian loyalty to the Holy Roman Emperor while making the enemy clear: “we do condemn the East and the West (meaning the Pope and Mahomet) blasphemers against our Lord Jesus Christ, and offer and present with a good will to the chief head of the Roman Empire our prayers, secrets, and great treasures of gold.” In case there’s any doubt the Confessio later adds: “our Trumpet shall publicly sound with a loud sound, and great noise, when namely the same (which at this present is shown by few, and is secretly, as a thing to come, declared in figures and pictures) shall be free and publicly proclaimed, and the whole world shall be filled withal. Even in such manner as heretofore, many godly people have secretly and altogether desperately pushed at the Pope’s tyranny, which afterwards, with great, earnest, and especial zeal in Germany, was thrown from his seat, and trodden underfoot, whose final fall is delayed, and kept for our times, when he also shall be scratched in pieces with nails….”
But the Rosicrucians consider themselves devoted Christians. Anyone who wishes to learn the Rosicrucian secrets, the Confessio says, should carefully study the Bible.
What are we to make of the following passage, which certainly resembles science fiction fantasy? Was it the revelation and promise of superior powers attainable by worthy humans? Was it a joke intended to alarm the superstitious? “Were it not a precious thing, that you could always live so, as if you had lived from the beginning of the world, and, moreover, as you should still live to the end thereof? Were it not excellent you dwell in one place, that neither the people which dwell beyond the River Ganges in the Indies could Hide anything, nor those which in Peru might be able to keep secret their counsels from thee? Were it not a precious thing, that you could so read in one only book, and withal by reading understand and remember, all that which in all other books (which heretofore have been, and are now, and hereafter shall come out) hath been, is, and shall be learned and found out of them? How pleasant were it, that you could so sing, that instead of stony rocks you could draw the pearls and precious stones, instead of wild beasts, spirits, and instead of hellish Pluto, move the might princes of the world.” The Rosicrucians also enjoy divine protection: “yea God hath so compassed us about with his clouds, that unto us his servants no violence or force can be done or committed; wherefore we neither can be seen or known by anybody, except he had the eyes of an eagle.”
The Confessio acknowledges the success of the Fama but points out that its meaning requires superior intelligence to understand. “Although the Fama be set forth in five languages,” the Confessio declares, “and is manifested to everyone, yet we do partly very well know that the unlearned and gross wits will not receive nor regard the same.”
The political agenda appears with a proclamation that seems to look toward the scheme hatching among radical Protestant leaders to place Frederick V, whose heraldic animal was a lion, on the throne of Bohemia as a first step toward making him the first Protestant Holy Roman Emperor, and the leader of the holy war against the Vatican that would at last eradicate the Pope and his powerful Habsburg allies: “…our treasures shall remain untouched and unstirred, until the Lion doth come, who will ask them for his use, and employ them for the confirmation and establishment of his kingdom.”
The idea that the world was ending soon, and that before its end God would restore the lost language of Adam, seems to be sincerely held: “We ought therefore here to observe well, and make it known unto everyone, that God hath certainly and most assuredly concluded to send and grant to the world before her end, which presently thereupon shall ensue, such a truth, light, life, and glory, as the first man Adam had, which he lost in Paradise, after which his successors were put and driven, with him, to misery. Wherefore there shall cease all servitude, falsehood, lies, and darkness, which by little and little, with the great world’s revolution, was crept into all arts, works, and governments of men, and have darkened the most part of them.” Is this a metaphor? Would natural philosophy, officially dismissed as the occult, but viewing itself as science, not only restore the language of Adam, but end the world, that is, inaugurate a radically different society?
“Yea, the Lord God hath already sent before certain messengers, which should testify his will, to wit, some new stars, which do appear and are seen in the firmament in Serpentario and Cygno, which signify and give themselves known to everyone….” The phrase “alteration of government” makes explicit the political dimension of the Rosicrucian agenda.
According to astrologers of the day the fire sign trine of Mercury Jupiter and Saturn of December 23, 1603 signified the beginning of a new age. The configuration, they said, had only occurred twice before, once at the birth of Jesus and then at the birth of Charlemagne. Catholics took these predictions as proof that they would soon defeat and eliminate all heretics including the Protestants of Germany, France, Holland, England and the rest. The Protestants believed the opposite, of course, that they would finally triumph against Rome, Madrid and Vienna. Two novas, which appeared to be new stars, added to the excitement; even Galileo thought a new day was dawning, and it was. Astronomy, geography, physics and mathematics were transforming the intellectual standards of Europe with new data and new theories.
Cabala, Neo-Platonism, Paracelsus or the Hermetic doctrine of signatures and sympathies, what we might describe as the attractions and repulsions of frequencies, which secret language supported the following startling statement about the Rosicrucian ability to predict the future by reading nature, a power reminiscent of Daoist ideas about the use of oracles like the I Ching to predict outcomes by studying patterns anywhere in the present. “These characters and letters, as God hath here and there incorporated them in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, so hath he imprinted them in all beasts. So that like as the mathematician and astronomer can long before see and know the eclipses which are to come, so we may verily foreknow and foresee the darkness of obscurations of the Church, and how long they shall last. From the which characters or letters we have borrowed our magic writing, and have found out, and made, a new language for ourselves, in the which withal is expressed and declared the nature of all things.”
The Fama and Confessio, whether satirical or sincere, or some combination of both, were taken very seriously by Catholics and Protestants alike. One prominent theologian even warned European royalty to beware the Rosicrucians: “Take heed all you princes, authorities, captains and soldiers, to the regard in which you are held by this fraternity you are but mere tyrants, thieves and robbers!”
THE EDITOR OF THE HERMETIC LAMPOON?
Johann Valentin Andreae
The Christian Rosy Cross of the Fama is quite different from the one in The Chemical Wedding, though the only differences in their names is the umlaut over the u in the latter. Umlaut CRC is an old man as disinterested in the world as young CRC was interested. Old CRC sits in a hut meditating and praying, almost the narrator, certainly a commentator, he’s presented with ambivalence. Is he a holy monk or selfish fool? Andreae claims to have written The Chemical Wedding in the middle of the first decade of the 17th century, in imitation of English drama and masque, although the work as we have it shows far more Italian influence than English.
With its beheadings and royal matrimony, it’s tempting to consider The Chemical Wedding either a muddled prophecy of the Bohemian Spring, or a commentary after the fact. But the wedding of the title is more than simple matrimony, the word in German at the time carried connotations of the alchemical marriage between sun and moon, and therefore the end of transmutation, union with divine consciousness. Much of the plot is drawn from Boccaccio’s Amorous Vision (1343) and Love’s Labor (1336). One of the first great authors and poets of Italy, a friend of the mighty poet, scholar and pioneer humanist Petrarch, Boccaccio was one of the first to collect and publish the biographies of great women.
The Chemical Wedding contains erotic stories, dreams, gory alchemical allegories, number and word puzzles. One of the puzzles reveals that the young woman who takes over his adventure’s real name is Alchimia (Alchemy). Another can be solved two ways, one gives the alleged birth date of CRC, the other the birth date of Andreae, perhaps a claim to ownership of not only The Chemical Wedding but all three Rosy Cross manifestos. The action of The Chemical Wedding starts with a joke. Old CRC sits in his hut, perhaps a satirical nod at his hermetic tomb in the Fama. The Roman goddess of rumor, ancient Greek goddess of fame, Fama herself, her wings covered with eyes (a nod to the Roman poet Virgil’s portrayal of her, enters carrying a large horn and a bundle of messages. She prods the oblivious old man startling him. After she gives him one of the messages as she flies away she blows her horn deafening him. The message is an invitation to a royal wedding with a warning that anyone unworthy who attempts to attend will suffer for it. The letter bears the Hieroglyphic Monad of John Dee but the symbol had other meanings, too. Some took it to represent Paracelsus. Others said it had always represented Hermes Trismegistus, to which astrologers would add that it is a sigil for Mercury in Aries, the planet of Hermes in the sign that commences the zodiac. Alchemists recognized it as the symbol of Mercury, the alchemical symbol for the source of life.
After an ordeal by nightmare CRC sets out the next day sporting an outfit that is the coats of arms of Andreae’s family, no doubt his claim to authorship of the at first anonymous book.
In a castle, in a great hall full of very important people bragging to each other about achievements like seeing Plato’s ideas, counting atoms, and perpetual motion, CRC witnesses more slapstick when a liar says he can actually see the invisible servants managing the feast and so gets a smack in the face from an invisible hand, another satirical nod at the Rosicrucians. The play turned bawdy when a depressed CRC lamented his lost youth and the young woman acting as his Virgil, guiding him through the story, and commenting along the way, laughed at him for his lust and winked at the audience and reader: “What do you think? If I slept with him tonight, he’d be more cheerful tomorrow.” Even CRC laughed. Then followed another mathematical puzzle but this one based on the sexy arrangement of her maidens and the candidates for initiation sitting in a circle while she counted by sevens leaving to chance who will pair off, like some sort of alchemical game of spin the bottle. By the time the narrative reaches the description of a nude female, the goddess Venus sprawled on a bed before CRC, it becomes clear that one of the book’s attractions was the erotic content.
In old CRC’s sad fate, for spying on naked Venus sentenced to become a lowly gatekeeper at the castle instead of a guest of the royal couple, one can perhaps glimpse Andreae’s own story as he retreated from his radical adolescent ideas, which however humorous and satirical, nevertheless contained sincere utopian and hermetic themes, and a political intent clearly revolutionary.
The likely editor and perhaps author of the Fama, the Confessio and The Chemical Wedding was Protestant theologian, Johannes Valentin Andreae. His word for the Rosicrucian legend he claimed to have invented and retired was ludibrium. It comes from the Latin ludus, a trivial toy or fun game, but unworthy of respect. Perhaps the best translation is prank, though plaything, though farce has been offered. The most evocative translation within the context of the Rosicrucian manifestos may be “lampoon.”
Jorge Luis Borges mentioned Johannes Valentin Andreae in his classic short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” in which a secret society of the early 17th century, the time of the Rosicrucians’ first appearance, creates one volume of an encyclopedia and a few historical artifacts that so obsess scholars and the public imagination that society recreates all the missing knowledge of this allegedly lost culture, and in so doing reinvents itself in their image. When Borges wrote: “The metaphysicians of Tlön are not looking for truth or even an approximation to it: they are after a kind of amazement. They consider metaphysics a branch of fantastic literature,” was he offering his own definition of ludibrium? This fascination of Borges inspired Umberto Ecco to explore the Rosicrucian mystery in his own writing.
When the anonymous author of the Confessio writes in chapter 12: “For conclusion of our Confession we must earnestly admonish you, that you cast away, if not all yet most of the worthless books of pseudo chymists, to whom it is a jest to apply the Most Holy Trinity to vain things, or to deceive men with monstrous symbols and enigmas, or to profit by the curiosity of the credulous….” after the anonymous author of the Fama condemned “ungodly and accursed gold making” Andreae must come to mind, the nineteen year old whose father wasted his fortune and died early chasing gold.
If Andreae was involved with the Fama and Confessio, and wrote The Chemical Wedding as he claims, he did it as a teen, and there may be more science fiction, teenage rebellion and Harvard Lampoon, in The Chemical Wedding than most scholars have realized. Instead of invisible initiates and malevolent or merciful secret societies perhaps these Rosicrucians were something closer to intelligencers, beats, radical poets, hippies, the sort of people who centuries later got called bohemian by people who had no idea what the word really meant. The Fama then may not be a holy relic of a mystic cult of ascended humans, but the work of a balls out brainy nineteen year old high on Paracelsus and Boccalini at Tubingen University, encouraged and perhaps assisted by friends like the Paracelsian physician and lawyer Tobias Hess and law professor at Tibugen University Christoph Besold, who later authored an important history of the Thirty Years War.
Tobias Hess had been influenced by Simon Studion, who died in 1605, two years before the first known circulation of the Rosicrucian manifestos in manuscript. Naometria, an almost 2000 page unpublished book of predictions circulated around 1604, is attributed to Studion. The predictions, which include the fall of the Papacy with the crucifixion of the pope in 1620, are based on numerology and include numerous references to roses. Hess and his student Andreae were members of a Society Noemetria in Tubingen. Studion was not the only writer in the 1590s using rose, and lion, symbology, and the medium of prophecy, to imagine a world without the Vatican. Tobias Hess corresponded with Simon Studion in 1597. Both men were certain that soon the Papacy would finally fall. This rich underground culture nurtured Andreae’s own radical zeal.
What of the secrecy of the Rosicrucians, an aspect of the story that has especially fed the more sinister perspectives of conspiracy theorists? For early scientists secrecy was essential, as Bruno’s fiery death at the stake in 1600 and the persecution of Galileo had proved. For example, in Rome in 1603, the Academia dei Lincei began, members swore themselves to secrecy, used secret names and wrote everything in cipher, but they were discovered anyway and forced to abandon their research. Secrecy was essential to survival.
In the days before the arrival of the Princess Elizabeth, Andreae used the library at Heidelberg, becoming friendly with one of Frederick’s librarians, himself a book collector. Was he caught up in the fervor of the royal marriage that seemed to bring the dream of a Protestant Holy Roman Emperor one step closer? Then he must have become disillusioned by the overreaction to the Fama and Confessio. Was Andreae trying to destroy the myth he created because it had run away without him, covering his tracks or merely adding to the fun when in 1617 he attacked Rosicrucianism in print, satirizing it in his book Tower of Babel published in his own name, a collection of 75 allegorical characters each with a unique opinion about the Rosicrucians. Emblem books were very popular then, which involved a language of symbols common to all Europe that Andreae used with great fluency. Meanwhile Robert Fludd launched his defense of the Rosicrucians and his masterpiece in which he attempted to encompass all knowledge.
It’s rather extraordinary that this revelation and denial of Rosicrucian occurred in the few shorts years prior to the Bohemian problem that would change the fate of the royal couple to tragedy. From 1613 to 1620 the area around the Palatinate was a hotbed of radical publishing. The encyclopedic works of Robert Fludd and Michael Maier, with the marvelous copperplates of their publisher De Bry, sought to comprehend everything in the world, searching the depths of nature and the soul with complex diagrams, and enigmatic emblems. I was very fortunate to have a friend who owned these works in the original editions. The burst of creativity and enthusiasm for life and knowledge radiated from the illustrations in these books. The sense of hope and confidence seemed to animate the engravings full of hinted at secrets of initiation into a brighter future, not just for the individual but also for society. However inaccurate many of the theories may have been, the emotion of renaissance was palpable in these masterpieces of artistic imagination.
Later in life, in the autobiography he submitted as part of the requirements for what amounted to him becoming a Lutheran bishop, Andreae wrote that he laughed at the Fama and the Confessio, and had nothing but contempt for novelty seekers and the people suckered by them. But what did he mean by that? He didn’t say he didn’t write the books. Was he laughing because he was in on the prank? Or was he looking back with disdain at his own behavior? Andreae, if he actually wrote or guided the creation of the three Rosicrucian manifestos was only a teenager when he did. In the same document he admitted to having in 1605 (when he was nineteen years old) written The Chemical Wedding. But did he write it in 1605? If so it foreshadowed the wedding of Frederick and Elizabeth. Or did Andreae return to Heidelberg, where he had spent two years in the great library, to see the royal couple’s arrival, then return to write The Chemical Wedding, which was first printed three years after their nuptials?
Andreae began distancing himself from the Rosicrucian fervor he helped create long before disaster struck, unlike many more powerful Protestant visionaries, visionaries with the power to sway the fates of nations, who were intent on their plan to increase Frederick’s power. They dreamed of an alliance between Germany and England, the very marriage of the Rhine and the Thames poets had used to describe the wedding of Frederick and Elizabeth. His retreat from controversy didn’t save him from the forces the manifestos helped unleash. During the Thirty Years war Andreae suffered through the destruction of two households; he had to hide in the woods from marauding soldiers. An organizer of charities and prolific writer, later in life he became spiritual adviser to a royal princess of Württemberg. Boccalini remained an important inspiration to him.
ROBERT FLUDD IN THE TWILIGHT OF RENAISSANCE
Doctor and friend to kings James I and Charles I, perhaps Robert Fludd’s most recent claim to fame is Dan Brown’s inclusion of him in the list of Grand Masters of the secret society at the heart of his famous novel The Da Vinci Code. But then Fludd was given that honor in the Priory of Sion hoax of the 1960s. His contemporaries considered Fludd a leading physician; Ben Jonson was one of his patients. He was one of the better-known scientists of his day. For generations amateur historians of metaphysical religion listed Fludd as one of the most likely candidates for an actual genuine Rosicrucian, not knowing that in his unpublished A Philosophical Key Fludd had included an oath in which he denied being a member of the order.
In 1598, newly graduated from Oxford, Fludd traveled to Paris, Rome and other cities in Italy, France, Germany and Spain as a tutor but also as a student meeting Paracelsian physicians and Jesuits in the mountains between France and Spain who taught him techniques of theurgy, the ancient pagan art of raising human consciousness to unity with the divine discussed by the famous Neo-Platonist Iamblichus. In 1604, back in England, Fludd returned to Oxford to his medical degrees. Fludd reports that as a university student he was already so good at astrology one of his professors interrupted his studies before an exam and insisted he cast his horoscope to reveal who had robbed him.
A lifelong celibate proud that he had never lost his virginity, Fludd never married. He believed that sexual desire was the cause of the fall from paradise. By denying his own sexuality he hoped to achieve the vision of Eden. By age forty in 1614 Fludd was a respected doctor in London, successful enough to have a full time secretary and an apothecary on his premises. An experienced alchemical experimenter, Fludd had more than two decades of philosophical writing in manuscript, but he had never been in print. The Rosicrucian manifestos changed all that.
As a practitioner of Paracelsian medicine, Fludd must have been thrilled when the Fama with its appreciation of Paracelsus, first arrived in England. In 1610 he saw the Fama in manuscript. Five years later he read the Confessio and then watched Europe’s convulsive reaction to the now printed manifestos. Reading what he considered shoddy and partisan criticisms of a fraternity of hermetic cabalist Paracelsians whose goals he shared, in 1616 Fludd published “A Brief Apology, washing away cleansing the stain of suspicion and infamy applied to the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross with, as it were, a Fludd of truth in which he defended not only the Rosicrucians but also the cabala and astrology in a book full of longing for educational reform and renaissance in research and philosophy. A year later he published the expanded edition bound at the end with an open letter to the Rosicrucians requesting consideration for membership in their order.
This expanded defense of the Rosicrucians wasn’t the only book Fludd published in 1617. He also committed to print a brief work about resurrection, 126 pages with ten mentions of the Rosicrucians, penned under a pseudonym, and dedicated to the Brothers R.C. William Huffman sums it up: “The key to the hidden wisdom of Moses and Elias is still present among certain elect of clean and pure heart, who have superhuman powers, but remain unknown to the ordinary world and live in the secret houses of the Holy Spirit.”
1617 also saw the publication of the first volume, in two books, of Fludd’s masterpiece The History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm, which he cheekily dedicated to King James himself. Fludd had just received the honor of becoming a Censor of the College of Physicians, making him one of the examiners who decided which candidates should be eligible. He was also experimenting with steel making. What he didn’t know was that complaints against him had already been filed by the holders of England’s steel patents, and that James had been told that Fludd, an unchaste defender of the Rosicrucians, had dedicated his book of dubious philosophy to the king without the king’s consent. James summoned Fludd to explain himself. The result of their meeting was that James became Fludd’s lifelong patron, even helping him with his patent problem once the Privy Council discovered that Fludd made better steel than the patent owners.
The monarch encouraged Fludd to present a digest of his defense, which became his next book Brief Declaration to James I. Here Fludd denies that the Rosicrucians are heretics, they are soundly Lutheran, acceptable to many Calvinists, and therefore clearly Protestant. Fludd insists that far from being unchaste, he is the proverbial forty-year-old virgin (no wonder he had the time to write all those books!) As for dedicated his History to James, Fludd explained that his agent wanted to dedicate the book to the Landgrave of Hesse, but Johann-Theodor de Bry the printer, and also Hieronymous Gallerus the engraver, wanted to dedicate the book to Frederick of the Palatine. Fludd chose James as the only polite way to avoid an argument. Huffman argues convincingly that Fludd’s agent who wanted to dedicate the book to the Landgrave of Hesse, was Michael Maier, the other leading Rosicrucian apologist, whose own books, also published by de Bry, were dedicated to the Landgrave of Hesse. But this must be considered circumstantial evidence.
The first half of Fludd’s History of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm rests on a foundation of Pythagorean geometry. But the second half has shifted to a framework frawn from the cabala.
Why were the two volumes (each volume was split into two books) of Fludd’s History of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm was published in Germany instead of England? Fludd blamed it on the extra expense of the high quality copper plates. Johann Theodore de Bry was the most skilled, and far cheaper than English printers. De Bry’s father had engraved the famous depictions of life among the natives of America. Fludd recorded his delight that the publisher returned forty pounds of the fee, and included sixteen free copies. Volume one of the cosmic history was published in 1617 in Oppenheim, in the Palatinate while Frederick and Elizabeth ruled in Heidelberg. But volume two had to wait for De Bry’s escape to Frankfurt in 1620, when Spanish troops invaded Oppenheim, and was published incomplete. De Bry’s marvelous copper plates based on drawings by Fludd are as surreal as anything Dali ever painted, more symbolist than the Symbolists, but they are perhaps best compared to Buddhist mandalas.
When Johanes Valentin Andreae wrote his at least intermittently satirical The Chemical Wedding, he lampooned people who bragged about “counting atoms” and “seeing the ideas of Plato;” it’s hard not to think of Robert Fludd as the penultimate example of the type, but The Chemical Wedding was published a year before History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm. Fludd’s monumental History included astrology, cosmology, biology, anatomy, the art of memory, geometry, medicine, philosophy, the art of war, meteorology, perspective in art, geomancy, music, arithmetic, and music. This supposed fluency in so many areas of learning earned Fludd the Most Likely to Be a Rosicrucian award of his own generation.
Fludd’s writing is a rich amalgam of Pythagorean theory and Christian cabala regarding the numerical nature of the universe (and the importance of mathematics, geometry and music to understanding nature), the Renaissance interpretation of the writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, and the ultimate application of the theory of signatures and correspondences in the understanding of the relation of any microcosm, be it an atom or a human body, to the macrocosm of the cosmos.
When Cosimo de Medici heard that a copy of the Hermetica had been found he ordered Ficino to stop his eagerly awaited translation of Plato to translate the Hermetic scriptures first. Ficino, and everyone else at the time who cared about such matters, believed that the Hermetica preserved the metaphysical wisdom of the ancient Egypt. As old or older than even the writing of Moses, the Hermetica offered a philosophy of sufficient antiquity and profundity to pose a challenge to the Catholic claim on truth. Then in 1614 classical scholar Isaac Casaubon analyzed the Hermetica linguistically arriving at a date of third or fourth century A.D. and an origin in the Neoplatonic School. Fludd either never heard of Casuabon’s discovery, or he ignored it. He continued to write about the Hermetica as if they were ancient Egyptian, discrediting him in the eyes of the next generation of intellectuals.
Fludd’s theories evolved. In one of his earliest books he argues that God manifested the universe through the act of viewing. Lightning, Fludd thought, was the direct expression of the will of God. Perhaps influenced by Khunrath he believed that divine fire created everything, even darkness. The sun he said was the living Christ in his true angelic form. Some of his theories were based on experiments gone wrong, such as his experiments with wheat where contamination from contact with the air, a concept unknown during his time, misled him to believe he had witnessed spontaneous generation of something form nothing when he found worms in his sample.
But Fludd was capable of building practical contraptions. He designed various mechanical innovations including a perpetual motion machine to grind grain that would run on water then pump the water back into a supply tank to recycle it. William Harvey’s discovery of the anatomy and physiology of the circulatory system was inspired by his friend Fludd’s theory five years earlier that the life force circulates through the heart to the rest of the body. Fludd was the first to defend Harvey’s theory in print. Fludd’s experiments and mechanical inventions, practically outsider art during his lifetime, resembled the activities and practices of the Royal Society only a generation later.
21st century music fans may appreciate that Robert Fludd, unlike most of his contemporaries, believed music should be written from the bass. For Fludd the cosmic music began with the creation of the earth, the lowest note. Fludd considered the universe a vast musical instrument with the sun at center at the nexus of consciousness and form, or as modern physics says in the balance between fusion and gravity. “In all realms of creation,” Fludd wrote, “there are beings: angels in the empyrean world; stars, planets and demons in the ethereal, and the elemental world of men, plants and minerals. All these creatures partake of God’s light in measure according to their place on the hierarchy. But there is one level in particular which, though not at the top of the hierarchy, is nevertheless particularly favoured by God. This is the Sun, which is placed at the crucial midpoint of the chain of being, where spirit and matter are in perfect equity and balance.”
For Fludd music was achieved by understanding the relationship between Apollo and Saturn, or melody and rhythm. The Temple of Music concludes with the details of his invention, a mechanical psaltery (or zither) with which a host could delight dinner guests with slow courtly music and sprightly galliards. He claims he built a similar one for King James I much to the delight of the court musicians. His design is simple, no real breakthrough in technology; he merely applied mechanization where it had not been applied before.
Fludd returned to music often to help his readers visualize his theories. The two-octave monochord displayed the means by which divine light manifest the material world. Every human being is a monochord with a spiritual octave and a material octave. If we stay focused on the notes of a lower vibration we stumble into temptations of the flesh and other evils. If we rise to the vibrations of the spiritual octave Heaven is ours. Fludd’s octaves were nothing less than a theory of frequencies with eternal life at a higher frequency than physical life on earth. They were also his map for the souls descent from “higher spheres” and it’s return there “after death, when the ties of the body, the meanest of all places, have been dissolved.”
Fludd was not only a musical theorist, but also an active musician and composer. For Fludd, book M would appear to have been the monochord.
The Celestial Monochord elaborates on the discovery by Pythagoras of the ratios of harmony. Sympathetic resonance, whereby a vibrating string sets a string of the same tuning vibrating, or a guitar chord vibrates a drumhead, Fludd considered this an example of the way thought occurs, and how different organs of the body communicate and regulate. “But, good God,” Fludd wrote, “what is this when compared with that deep and true music of the wise, whereby the proportions of natural things are investigated, the harmonical concord and the qualities of the whole world are revealed, by which also connected things are bound together, peace established between conflicting elements, and whereby each star is perpetually suspended in its appointed place by its weight and strength, and by the harmony of its lucent spirit.”
While art lovers and students of metaphysics and the history of metaphysical religion have always prized the amazing copperplate engravings in his books, the textual content has been dismissed as deluded speculation. Fludd’s The Temple of Music, a section of his encyclopedic extravaganza History of the Microcosm and Macrocosm, was dismissed by scholars over the years as the work of a crank, a throwback to a less rational time, unworthy of serious attention. One writer suggested that Fludd had painted himself into a corner; since he intended to write a tract on each liberal art he was stuck writing about music, a subject about which he apparently knew little.
But recently Peter Hague has provided a more nuanced look at The Temple of Music. Omissions dismissed as ignorance he shows may have been deliberate. Hague also points out that “Book one, dealing with the ancient history of music, etymology, the ‘working of music on body and soul’ and the sense of hearing, is clearly based on Marsilio Ficino’s writings and commentaries to the Latin translation of Plato’s works. At times Fludd even copies verbatim from Ficino, though without acknowledging the author.” Another obvious influence Hague uncovers is the occult philosophy of Agrippa.
The rather plain depiction of a majestic but severe looking temple that illustrates The Temple of Music is actually a mnemonic device, illustrating the theories that take many pages to explain, in one drawing, the many meanings of which become clear once the book has been read. For Fludd music like alchemy reveals the spectrum from dark to light, and facilitates the evolution of purity from impurity.
Fludd’s beautiful Celestial Monochord was wrong, as Kepler pointed out; for example the F natural should be F sharp for the semitones to work, a mistake Fludd corrected with a new monochord illustration in his response to Kepler. The music section is full of mistakes but most of them appear to be printer’s errors. Although music historians have taken pleasure in dismissing Fludd as the hermetic crackpot who had nothing useful or original to offer, recent scholarship shows his work on music was up to the standard of the time.
Famous physicist Wolfgang Pauli wrote this about Fludd’s controversy with Kepler: “Whereas Kepler conceived of the soul almost as a mathematically describable system of resonators, it has always been the symbolical image that has tried to express, in addition, the immeasurable side of experience which also includes the imponderables of the emotions and emotional evaluations. Even though at the cost of consciousness of the quantitative side of nature and its laws, Fludd’s “hieroglyphic” figures do try to preserve a unity of the inner experience of the “observer” (as we should say today) and the external processes of nature, and thus a wholeness in its contemplation–a wholeness formerly contained in the idea of the analogy between microcosm and macrocosm but apparently already lacking in Kepler….”
The history of Fludd’s later publications reads like a zine war as he engaged in spirited printed debates with luminaries like Kepler, and Marsenne, one of the fathers of the mechanistic philosophy at the root of modern materialism, who called Fludd an “…evil magician, a doctor and propagator of foul and horrendous magic, a heretical magician.” Kepler dismissed Fludd’s theory of harmony as mere imagery. In Fludd’s response he criticized the use of mathematics to understand music, claiming it revealed only “shadows” and gave people the idea that music, a mystery better understood by physics, had been explained. As Peter Ammann wrote: “Kepler rejects the mystique of numbers because those numbers are abstract and of no use in mathematical arguments, whereas Fludd calls the numbers of vulgar mathematics abstract, because they only measure the accidental quantities of things which are close to the sense, but which in reality are mere shadows.” Not surprisingly Fludd was reading Plato and the Neo-Platonists, especially Proclus, and he quotes Ficino, the Florentine Neo-Platonist who helped inspire the Renaissance with his translations of Orpheus, the Hermetica and Plato. Fludd received Ficino’s ideas mostly by way of Agrippa, whose classic De Occulta Philosophia was heavily influenced by Ficino. Ficino, with his performances of the Hymns of Orpheus, revived the idea of the magical effects of music on material objects including healing. Agrippa seemed to have been an inspiration to Fludd’s monochord since in De Occulta Philosophia Agrippa compared the great chain of being to a taut string.
Though Fludd’s theories may not be accurate, he nevertheless created masterpieces of imagination that have inspired artists and poets for generations. Terrence McKenna got many facts wrong when he lectured on this subject, he didn’t have the benefit of all the new research that has come out, but he did get it right when he said the most exciting thing about the Rosicrucian crisis was the eruption of subversive art, the freedom of imagination, the trumpet call in the marketplace you feel when you see one of those De Bry copperplates, or read the audacious words of the Confessio: “Wherefore there shall cease all falsehood, darkness, and bondage, which little by little, with the great globe’s revolution, hath crept into the arts, works, and governments of men, darkening the greater part of them.”
THE BOHEMIAN PROBLEM
In London in 1617 Pocahontas, now the married Lady Rebecca, a finely mannered Christian woman, attended The Vision of Delight masque written by Ben Jonson. In Sweden, seven women were burned to death for witchcraft. In Bohemia the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand II was elected King of Bohemia. Rumors that the election was rigged were exasperated by the heavy-handed Catholic agenda Ferdinand imposed.
Then came the comet of 1618. France feared it meant another massacre like St. Bartholomew’s Day. The Dutch believed it confirmed the impending death of a patriot. At the Imperial court the comet was interpreted as the promise of the imminent defeat of the Protestant Union. But the astrologers and prophets of the Protestant Union predicted the rebirth of the reformation in a new world order. Yet in 1618 Europe didn’t appear to be on the brink of a three-decade war. The tensions between Catholics and Protestants were for the most part resolved through diplomacy and both sides desired peace. Astrologers whispered into one ear, and evangelical Protestants into his other, that Frederick was born to accomplish extraordinary deeds.
In May 1618 an assembly of Protestant noblemen stormed Prague Castle and threw the two leading representatives of the Holy Roman Empire out the windows of the chancellery; they landed safely on a dunghill. The rebels claimed Ferdinand had exceeded his authority. They established a government that tolerated all classes and religions so honorably no Catholic priests left Prague. Their leader could have claimed the throne for himself but he wanted to pass the scepter to Frederick.
From a young age Frederick and the Palatine were viewed as the key to a potential unification of all the various and divided powers of Germany. The most radical resisters against Catholic domination believed only by unification could the Protestant faith truly resist and perhaps even break the power of the Vatican. But such schemes had always failed, quickly detected and opposed by more conservative leaders who preferred fragmented power to a centralized government. The old states rights versus the power of the federal government argument so beloved by Americans is a recurring theme throughout history, and never more so than in Germany just before the Thirty Year’s War.
Frederick’s uncle William of Orange’s military and political successes as a David taking on the Goliath of the Vatican made him the sweetheart of every good Protestant girl’s romantic daydreams. The cultivation of oranges in the gardens of Heidelberg became a symbol of civilization and the blessings of freedom from the Catholic yoke. William’s victories had added luster to his grandson’s reputation. The nobles of Bohemia didn’t choose Frederick to be their king because he was a charismatic leader and brilliant soldier like his grandfather. They chose him for his family tree. As a blood relative of British and Danish kings, and of leaders of the Dutch Republic, as head of the Protestant Union, chief Elector, and Count Palatine he seemed to represent a community of powerful allies. The nobles of Bohemia saw this as their chance to push back against the power of the Austrian Habsburgs and the Pope, whose incremental suppression of their guaranteed rights they struggled to stop. Most of the Protestant powers agreed: the Habsburgs hoped to make the elected throne of the Holy Roman Emperor their own by hereditary right. The Pope would not be satisfied until one monarch under his spiritual dominion again ruled all Europe. In England the Protestants quoted Dante. The great poet had appealed to imperial power for relief from a corrupt Vatican, Henry VIII’s principle justification for defying the authority of the pope.
Life in Heidelberg was joyful. A third child, the first princess, was born. Elizabeth collected a menagerie of dogs and monkeys that romped over her bed in the morning reducing her and the children to helpless laughter. Though Frederick still suffered bouts of melancholy, visitors to their court commented on the depth of the attachment between them; one wrote that Elizabeth was “so dearly loving beloved of the prince her husband that is a joy to all that see them.”
Frederick visited Maximilian of Bavaria. He promised he would vote for Maximilian to become Emperor. But the shrewd Bavarian politician declined; he would not break his oaths of loyalty to the Empire and the Church. Maximilian understood that Frederick was naive enough to accept the Bohemian crown. Bavaria, he knew, would soon get a chance to acquire some of the lands of the Palatinate and Bohemia in the war that would inevitably follow.
In November of that year the idea of electing Frederick as King of Bohemia found cold receptions from King James, and the princes of the Protestant Union. While his name was being rejected, Frederick sent troops to Bohemia who defeated remaining pockets of resistance by Catholic forces there, putting the entire country under Protestant rule.
Winter provided a lull before the storm. Then the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias, brother of Rudolf II died the following March. Queen Anne, Elizabeth’s mother died that same month. She left nothing to her daughter, not even a single jewel.
August 26, 1619, ten days after his 23rd birthday, the Bohemians elected Frederick their king.
Frederick, King of Bohemia
Two days later Ferdinand II was elected Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick was the only elector who voted against him. But the illegal power grab that accompanied his election outraged the Bohemians. They banded together into a confederacy refusing to recognize his authority over them. A small group of Bohemian revolutionaries cornered Ferdinand in his own bedchamber. They tried to force him to sign abdication papers on the spot threatening to kill him. Saved by the arrival of a squad of Imperial troops, the bigotry Ferdinand had learned from his mother, received reinforcement that would later manifest in his ruthless, successful effort to convert or expel the Protestants of Austria and Bohemia.
The Bohemians invited their newly elected king to move to Prague. Frederick’s counselors told him that the numerous Protestants of Austria were rumored to be ready to join the revolution that had already swept through Bohemia, Hungary, Moravia, and Silesia. They would all welcome Frederick as their leader. His ally the King of Denmark would certainly join the war, and with him the Princes of the Protestant Union. King James would support the fortunes of his own daughter and son in law. The Dutch would soon be keeping Spain busy with the resumption of the Eighty Years War. Even the royal court of France, currently paying lip service to the Pope, could be expected to at least rejoice if not join in. Not only would all these powers be eager to participate in such a glorious cause but also none of them would allow the ancient Palatinate and Bohemia to fall out of Protestant hands. The new Emperor had no army with him in Austria. He would be forced to flee, and to fight his way back to Italy. Who would support him? Would Spain be willing to risk all out war against Germany, Bohemia, the Netherlands, and England?
But Juliana, Frederick’s mother, reminded the court that the Austrian Army was still in Imperial hands, Denmark too far away too help, the Protestant Princes jealous and cautious, James unwilling to threaten his truce with Spain. She insisted they shouldn’t trust the loyalty of the Bohemians. She reminded them that Frederick had no real army, no experienced generals. He would be facing professionals, and the united might and wealth the Vatican would rally against the rebels. The daughter of William of Orange convinced the court that the Bohemian invitation was too dangerous. Until Elizabeth spoke. She considered caution cowardice; this was the time for courage she insisted. Opportunities to make history, to liberate entire countries, they are rare and must be taken whatever the risk. The generals, of course, supported her, but so did Scultetus. He had fallen in with Calvinists who believed they had found in the Book of Revelations a prophetic reference to Frederick. Stuck between the opinions of these two powerful women Frederick couldn’t make up his mind.
In October Ferdinand signed a treaty with Maximilian of Bavaria. Maximilian would lead the imperial attack against Frederick. His reward would be Frederick’s title, and Bohemia. The princes of the Protestant Union promised to support Frederick. Frederick sent letters to London asking for guidance but James didn’t respond. The Archbishop of Canterbury did, he urged Frederick to take this glorious opportunity. Frederick began saying publicly that he thought the invitation to the throne of Bohemia must be a call from God. Away from Elizabeth he wrote for her final opinion on the matter before he made his decision. She told him he must follow his calling, and she would never regret it, even if it cost her last jewel. While Frederick and his generals debated their next action, Elizabeth lamented that they didn’t simply strike, trusting faith and surprise. If Frederick had directly attacked Ferdinand in Austria at that time he might easily have captured his enemy and seized control over the eastern half of the Holy Roman Empire. When he was told King of Bohemia should be added to Frederick’s titles when prayers were said for the royal family James refused to allow it.
For the Bohemians their rebellion was not a rebellion, but the defense of their “constitutional religious rights.” Electing Frederick King of Bohemia was the only way to defend the empire against the scheming of the Habsburgs and the Pope. As Chief Elector Frederick was the only German prince with the right to judge the emperor if he violated the imperial constitution. If the emperor was guilty, Frederick and the Elector of Saxony would guide the empire until the election of his replacement.
Frederick stopped all pleasantries to devote himself to his mission; he even gave away his pack of hounds. Elizabeth walked through her magical garden one last time. Did she have presentiment that she would never see it again? An English visitor wrote a letter describing the day before their departure later published in Tracts on German History, 1620: “A portentous gloom overspread the face of nature–the people wept, the clouds poured down torrents–no where was seen the smile of joy.”…Frederick, not without tears, pronounced a solemn valediction to the people, who, with an involuntary movement, clasping their hands in agony, implored for him and his house the divine benediction. When he passed through the church, sighs were sobbed forth, grief was audible; every eye followed his steps….” The writer continued, comparing Elizabeth first to her namesake, then to the fair virgin the Moors would place before their army at their deadliest battles, because their soldiers would fight to the last man to protect her. He understands the terrible danger she has put herself in, for what he agrees with her is the noblest of causes: the Protestant Reformation. His confidence that England must follow this beloved princess into the field of battle is so impassioned it rings hollow with doubt, the writer is trying to convince the reader.
Meanwhile in her chapel Elizabeth listened to Chapman preach a poignant text: “Go to now, ye that say today or tomorrow we will go to such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what will be in the morrow; for what is your life? It is even but as a breath, that appeareth for a time, and then vanisheth away; for that ye ought to say, if the Lord will we shall live and do this.” Despite her advanced pregnancy she accompanied her husband on his journey to their new kingdom. She even broke her life long custom of never traveling on Sundays.
On the way to Bohemia a messenger arrived from the Emperor to warn Frederick that he would suffer dire consequences unless he turned back, but the 152 baggage wagons continued rolling down the dusty road to Prague. The Bohemians were happy to see this young king who had taken up their cause at risk to his own. Vast crowds greeted them in Prague.
Frederick was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague in November 1619. He was 23 years old. Why did he take the throne? Most Catholic historians have blamed Elizabeth. Her eagerness for the title of queen, as a way to prove something to her mother, perhaps, or because of her late brother’s ambitions on behalf of the Protestant cause, ambitions she had shared with him, and perhaps wished to further however she could. No doubt hearing the same astrological predictions and evangelical prophecies of Protestant victories and the promise of her husband’s extraordinary destiny he was, Elizabeth felt confident that providence would reward the righteous. Frederick claimed that he made the decision because he felt this was his calling, to rise to the defense of his fellow Protestants, to protect them against the avarice of the Holy Roman Empire and the injustice of the Vatican. Christian of Anhalt, one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the Bohemian venture, also understood the economic advantage. With the north Palatinate as Germany’s center for iron, combined with Bohemia’s tin and glass trade, the already rich could become much richer.
The manifesto Frederick delivered as he entered Bohemia was a significant and early precursor to the freedom of religion enshrined in the American Constitution. The new King of Bohemia promised: “during our whole reign not to molest, trouble or hinder any in the exercise of their formerly received religion; nor suffer them to be hindered nor oppressed in the same, not excepting even those of the Roman church, provided they submit to the laws of the realm, and especially if they behave themselves peaceably and without offence.” Bohemian women and children fell at Elizabeth’s feet and kissed the hem of her dress.
In Prague, Star Park was considered the most beautiful spot. Calvinists, Lutherans, and even Catholics impulsively ran from their homes as the royal couple arrived at Star Park, where they first set foot in their new capital. Jews, not allowed to attend the spontaneous festival, stood off to the side quietly watching. The coronations of King Frederick of Bohemia, and the following day of Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, were so inclusive even the Jews were invited to pay homage. Prague celebrated by night with wine drinking and dancing in the streets. Elizabeth’s beauty, and her unpretentious grace and candor, won the affection of the citizens. Old men gave thanks that they had lived to see the rescue of their country. Young men showed off their swords, eager for war. Little girls wore flowers in their hair and threw flowers on the street wherever the royal couple went. On all public ensigns and the royal plates the Austrian eagle was replaced with the Bavarian lion. Talk of a German Emperor and a German Empire made the rounds.
TROUBLE IN BOHEMIA
Prague had its own ancient tower where an oracular prophetess once lived, Lilybussa, an enchantress who became queen by choosing who should be king. The dismal castle was still haunted by the constructions and what was left of the collections of Rudolf II.
Frederick and Elizabeth didn’t speak Czech. Life became much lonelier for Elizabeth than it had been in London or Heidelberg. The nobles of Bohemia were of a different breed. They didn’t enjoy French comedy or English theater. They had no public festivals, masques or pageants, only old fashioned balls where the boisterous dancing bore little resemblance to the comparatively graceful etiquette of the Court of King James. They liked hunting and drinking. Though Bohemia under Rudolf II had been a city of art and science, alchemists and astrologers, under years of Catholic rule the taste for esoteric knowledge, and for literature in general had declined. Women held fewer rights than elsewhere in Europe. All in all, Prague had the flavor of a city lost in an earlier time. Crossing the great bridge that was the pride of Prague, Elizabeth asked to be taken the long way around so she wouldn’t see the naked men and women bathing in the river. It must not have been very reassuring that a feud between nobles had resulted in a castle being blown up just ten miles from Prague.
Unfortunately, the English who came there with Elizabeth weren’t shy about showing their amusement at what they considered the quaint customs of a rural backwater town. To honor their new queen a group of wives presented her with breads they had baked in the shape of flowers. Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, a saint known for her charity, had a husband who tried to stop her generosity to the poor. When he caught her with her apron full of breads she had baked for the hungry she lied and said her apron was full of flowers. He demanded to see, and to their surprise he found not bread but flowers. But Elizabeth English retainers found humor in the humble gift of bread. One even picked up a loaf of bread and twisted it as a garland for his hat. The matrons returned to make up for what they considered their faux pas; they provided an exquisitely carved ebony cradle inlaid with gold and jewels, just in time for Elizabeth to give birth to one of her more famous children, the hero of the English Civil War who would be remembered as Prince Rupert of the Rhine.
The royal couple invited twelve local Bohemians to join the royal household as servers and helpers. On the first day these men began working in the castle one managed to jostle Elizabeth while she was drinking wine, spilling it on her dress. Another, carrying a sugar basin was so startled when Elizabeth’s pet monkey jumped on his shoulder that he lost his grip and the basin crashed to the floor spilling sugar everywhere. A third managed to lose the contents of the plates on his tray without noticing it, so he served the queen an empty plate. By the superstitious these were considered bad omens.
The King of Bohemia had restricted powers. The kingdom was divided between factions. The economy reflected the fractured, depressed state, depleted by The Long War against the Turks, and current struggles against the German Catholic League. Frederick was not allowed to raise taxes, and had to depend on the nobility for his funds; meanwhile the nobles expected gifts, the traditional gesture of a new king appreciating the loyalty of his most important subjects.
Soon factions of nobles and clergy alike began to regret their election of Frederick. Frederick’s chaplain Scultetus made matters worse. A strict Calvinist he abhorred the Bohemian tolerance for artistic religious relics he considered idols. A few days before Christmas a famous altarpiece of the Virgin Mary by Lucas Cranach the Younger was destroyed. The precious crucifix Emperor Rudolf II had provided for the altar was removed, and the holy relics of the saints were trampled underfoot. Frederick claimed he did not approve of the act of vandalism, but then on Christmas Day he gave a Calvinist sermon and the Bohemians became convinced their new king was planning to force his own Christianity on them.
But Scultetus wasn’t finished alienating the Bohemians. He organized a few zealots, and one night on the great bridge that was the pride of Prague, they removed the massive cross that had stood there for hundreds of years. In the morning confronted with the denuded bridge women wept hysterically and men ranted in the streets, wondering if Ferdinand could have done any worse by them than Frederick had. Now Elizabeth’s modesty that turned her carriage from the bridge so she wouldn’t embarrass naked bathers was dismissed as a ruse. The real reason she wouldn’t cross the bridge was obviously the cross that she must have ordered removed. Frederick ordered the cross returned and again denied having anything to do with the vandalism.
Frederick decided to visit the adjoining provinces, shrewdly taking Scultetus with him. In the towns he visited, where Calvinism had taken root amongst the farmers Frederick found himself greeted by smiling subjects who showed no servility, no court etiquette, who treated him like any other man, though he inspired more curiosity than most. This trip, one imagines, must have been for Scultetus the highlight of his life. He had come from one of these country towns, growing up poor and obscure, and now as the honored chaplain of the king he returned to lecture in evangelist churches that had once been Jesuit outposts. Good news came when Transylvania and Silesia reaffirmed their loyalty to the King of Bohemia.
Two local prophets visited Frederick on his journey through the Bohemian countryside. Christopher Kotter of Silesia was famous, Christina Poniatovia of Bohemia, less so. A member of the Bohemian clergy, Kotter had been seeing visions of Frederick on the Imperial throne since 1616. Scultetus eagerly approved this latest prophecy as he had the others, while Frederick remained complacent. But Kotter also warned Frederick to avoid the use of force. Kotter and Christina concurred; soon the first Protestant Emperor would unite the world. A Catholic historian writing in 1821 included Kotter and Poniatovia in a list of visionaries about whom he wrote: “it is not necessary to enter into a more circumstantial detail of the history of this visionary tribe, since none of them arose to such a degree of reputation and consequence, as to occasion any considerable tumults by their predictions. It is sufficient to have observed in general, that, even in this century, there were among the Lutherans certain crazy fanatics, who, under the impulse of a disordered imagination, assumed the character and authority of prophets sent from above to enlighten the world.” But they were in common, Jacob Boehme’s “distorted imagination” having been dismissed in the previous paragraph.
Soon an Imperial propaganda pamphlet appeared that called Frederick the Winter King. Frederick’s supporters issued pamphlets in response, calling him the Winter Lion, or better yet the Summer Lion. But Frederick apparently paid attention to Kotter’s warning. The following March, he attempted a legal defense. Bohemia was never technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, he argued. Yes, it was and is, the empire responded issuing an ultimatum. Go home to Heidelberg by June 1 or else. Then Ferdinand signed a treaty guaranteeing freedom of worship for Lutherans in Bohemia.
What could Frederick do? He raised taxes drastically and began drafting soldiers. The Bohemians were good fighters but not modern soldiers. They loved to literally leap into their saddles, often going into battle drunk. They had no interest in the disciplines Frederick wished to teach them. Frederick tried to rally his allies. Elizabeth begged her friends to convince her father to help them. But James offered no solace to his daughter now surrounded by the indifferent and by her enemies.
To provide a good example, and to prove his commitment Frederick moved all the gold of the Palatinate to Prague, leaving his homeland bankrupt. He even pawned the royal jewels. News arrived from England. James refused to give military help. Though England wanted to go fight in the defense of their princess James was not about to start a world war. The Netherlands sent only a token force, and the money they pledged was so meager as to seem insulting. Worse, James had made statements separating the Protestant cause from Frederick’s predicament.
Still, the great army of the German princes of the Protestant Union had taken the field and now faced the Catholic League’s smaller army under Maximilian of Bavaria. In Prague Elizabeth and her ladies imagined how splendid the banners of the combined chivalry of Germany looked camped around the city of Ulm.
French diplomats held the armies apart as they argued for peace. Did the princes really want to unleash war all across Europe? Did they know that a Spanish Army was marching toward the Palatinate? Why get involved in this fight between Frederick and Ferdinand? Let them fight it out for themselves. This argument had built into it some convincing legal subtleties. Bohemia was not part of the German Union. Though the princes were pledged to protect Frederick, they were not pledged to protect Bohemia. Spain, as an ally to its fellow Habsburg state Austria, was not going to war against all Germans, only the upstart in Bohemia. Therefore, the Protestant Union, although they had encouraged Frederick to take the throne of Bohemia and promised him their support, they had no legal commitment to fight the battle about to be joined. July 3, 1620 the Protestant Union signed a treaty with the Holy Roman Empire. They would stay out of the war against Frederick. The German army went home and Maximilian began his march to Prague.
THE DEFEAT OF THE WINTER KING
The French continued their diplomatic mission to isolate Frederick, convincing many of the Hungarian and other allied warlords Bohemia still counted on that they should avoid this war over a technical point of succession. Frederick had over stopped his bounds and now must he must suffer the consequences. Why make trouble for the Emperor when the Emperor has no problem with you? The French understood how the dominos would fall. They understood that James had given them the weapon they needed. By refusing to support his daughter he gave them all the proof they required that Frederick was wrong.
Back home Frederick and Elizabeth saw the prophecies of Juliana come true. Saxony invaded Silesia. Not only were the Silesian troops deprived him, but now Frederick had to send some of his own to help the fight there. His only hope was James. No one believed that James would leave his only daughter to face the Imperial cannon. British volunteers were already members of Frederick’s army; many of them dedicated their lives to Elizabeth. In England many of his ministers were imploring James to go to Frederick’s rescue. The army and the people supported this intervention on both patriotic and religious grounds. They wanted to help their beloved English princess, and they must stand up for their fellow Protestants. James would have none of it. He was trying to get his son married to a Spanish princess, daydreaming of the lifestyle he could enjoy thanks to the bounty of the treasure ships returning from despoiling the new world.
In early August 1620 Spanish imperial troops entered Bohemia. To Frederick’s horror, two weeks later the imperial forces turned their attention to the Palatinate. Two thousand English volunteers were no match for an army of 25,000. Helpless in Prague he heard reports of the rape, burning and pillage of his ancestral homeland. He managed to raise 15,000 poorly equipped and poorly fed so called soldiers; leaving their command to his generals since he had so little experience of war. He knew arrayed against him were several of the best generals in Europe.
Frederick wrote to Elizabeth that traitors and spies surrounded him. His enemies knew his every move. When he offered to meet his kinsman and enemy he was refused. Frederick asks for Elizabeth’s opinion on their hopeless predicament. She was pregnant yet again, and he was worried for her and for the child, urging her to take care of herself and not give in to despair. He begs her to leave Prague immediately. His own prospect is so bleak he jokes about his funeral shroud, and signs his letter “your devoted friend in life and death.” But Elizabeth refused to abandon Prague. Though she had already sent their eldest son away to the safety of a relative’s distant castle.
Frederick then attempted a military assault of great daring. The Bohemian army would attack the army of the Catholic League in the night. In one move Frederick could end this nightmare. If Maximilian was soundly defeated Ferdinand might leave Bohemia to Frederick. Planning and execution were brilliant, but Frederick was right, spies surrounded him. The enemy knew exactly what was happening and a bloody defeat was inflicted on the Bohemian army.
In desperation Frederick turned to unexpected allies. He negotiated with the Ottoman Empire. The Turks agreed to send Frederick an army of sixty thousand cavalry to fight the Habsburgs. An army of four hundred thousand would invade Poland, the Vatican’s most northern bulwark. In return the Sultan demanded only yearly tribute. Many Europeans, Protestant and Catholic, were horrified by this desperate alliance with the infidels. But defeat found Frederick’s before his questionable allies could cross the border.
November 8 the Bohemian troops faced the Imperial army. Frederick’s army was not outnumbered but faced more experienced soldiers under much more experienced generals. Frederick on horseback delivered a stirring speech to his men, then seeing what appeared to be hesitation from the enemy, he rode back to the castle to calm the populace and to raise more money for supplies, still hoping the English might come to his rescue. His soldiers never should have been in the field. While his generals argued over strategy the obvious safety of well-supplied Prague was spurned. Had the army retreated inside, the Catholic League, having scarce provisions, would have been forced to retreat. The Catholic generals were also arguing over strategy when a Dominican monk ran in exhorting them to trust in God and their righteous cause. The Catholic army hearing the story was galvanized.
In Prague Elizabeth, pregnant again, tried to set a good example by refusing to cancel the entertainment she had planned for the ambassadors from England and Denmark. Her courage inspired her subjects to go to their churches as they would any Sunday. An ominous not was struck when the sermon ran against the famous Bible quote: “Render unto Caesar.” A superstitious fear and regret gripped the worshippers. Then the sound of cannon thundered through the streets and the people fled the churches. Then the cannons were silent.
A messenger arrived and the good news spread quickly that the Bohemian army had achieved a great victory and the enemy were fleeing. People celebrated in the streets, briefly. Actually, a small victory, possibly nothing more than the first stage of a trap, had lured the Bohemian army into a disadvantageous position. Soon Frederick’s best officers were wounded or captured. The renewed sound of cannon fire, and of the cries of men and horses, Frederick himself could hear, and he could hear that they were coming nearer. The King of Bohemia mounted his fasted horse and rode to the tower by the gate near Star Park, he knew from there he could see the countryside stretched out below. What he saw must have drained the blood from his face. His army was being cut down by the thousands as they fled in every direction. Their own cannon had been turned against them. He saw one of his generals, in a panic, force his way through the city gate then shut it against the other fleeing soldiers. Frederick ordered it opened again. He looked over at what had once been the beautiful park where only year ago he and his wife had first set foot in Prague. Now the dead and wounded filled the park with blood and cries of suffering.
So Frederick fled to the old fortress of Prague and with his family and little more than the Czech Crown Jewels he fled Bohemia. A young Bohemian noble dedicated his life to holding back the enemy long enough for Elizabeth to escape, but she refused his chivalry. “I forbid the sacrifice,” Elizabeth responded, “Never shall the son of our best friend hazard his life to spare my fears–never shall this devoted city be exposed to more outrageous treatment for my sake. Let me rather perish on the spot than be remembered as a curse.”
As a girl Elizabeth had been removed from her castle in a panic not long before the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot seized her. Now she was fleeing her castle again, this time with an army of enemies pursuing. They were in such a rush, the story is told, that at the very last minute a bundle of clothes was tossed into the coach as it departed; the bundle contained baby Rupert who in the confusion had almost been left behind.
As the royal lovers escaped on neglected roads snow fell. They could not ignore the irony that if the snow had only arrived three days earlier they could have waited out winter in Prague. They had never known such hardship before, but Elizabeth remained cheerful and steadfast. When her coach reached impassable road she joined a young British volunteer on his horse; he bragged about it for the rest of his life. Silesia, which so recently affirmed its loyalty, gave Frederick money to get him out of their territory. How he must have regretted those bars of gold he left in Prague!
Frederick returned to Heidelberg in disguise. What a poignant trip it must have been, to walk through the plague ridden, war ruined remains of the beautiful Palatinate. Not among modern scholars, but in the obscure speculations of others can be found the idea that Frederick somehow contributed to the Robin Hood legend. His people decimated by war and plague, they wrote, Frederick driven by despair to help in any we he could, began living like an outlaw in his own nation, accompanied by his huntsmen and archers dressed all in green, Frederick robbed from the Catholics to give to his impoverished subjects. He avenged wrongs where possible, and was not above kidnapping nobles to achieve his purpose: helping the common folk of his kingdom for whose wretched fate he felt responsible.
Frederick was condemned as a coward by Protestants and Catholics alike, because he slipped away to see his wife and so missed the crucial battle. He had no choice but to abandon Prague. Though many argued that he should have forced the enemy to lay siege to Prague, to continue to fight invited his own execution and who knows what fate for his wife and children. Surrender meant the loss of his honor, and of hope for his subjects. He had to find a way to restore the alliance and win back what he had lost. He had to save his people, in Bohemia, and in the Palatinate. When Frederick’s Order of the Garter, his cherished gift from his father in law, was found left behind in Prague, he became the laughing stock of Europe. Pamphlets called him “King of Snow” and broadsides depicted him fleeing with stockings fallen down around his ankles.
But everywhere Elizabeth went the people she met, noble or common, were impressed. Soon she was being called the Queen of Hearts, because her grace and good nature even under such terrible circumstances made her the queen of the heart of everyone she met.
STRUGGLES OF THE ROYAL EXILES
One son Elizabeth had already sent away, and now she sent away Rupert to live with his grandmother who had retreated to the lands of relatives in Prussian Poland. As a hot-tempered child he would earn the nickname Rupert the Devil. Only her baby son traveled with her as they resumed their quest for shelter.
Finding cold receptions everywhere Frederick wrote his brother in law George William of Brandenburg not as a prince but as a husband and father, whose wife was very pregnant, and had been exposed to horrendous conditions during their flight from Prague. George responded that he had no castle that could offer Frederick safety from the marauding Catholic army. The specific castle Frederick requested had no tapestries on the walls, no kitchen, and no supplies. Fortunately, a British envoy friendly with Elizabeth intervened. But George left the castle as bleak and barren as possible. Three days after her arrival there Elizabeth gave birth to another son. She must have reflected on the fact that her son Rupert had been born with all the honor and spectacle of the son of the King of Bohemia, and only a year later Maurice arrived in an abandoned castle, the child of refugees with uncertain futures. Elizabeth wrote her father, promising that she would share her husband’s fate, even unto death
Rumors spread in London that Elizabeth had died giving birth to a stillborn baby. But she proved them wrong, giving birth to another healthy son. Her request to return home with her family was denied by James. Deep in negotiations to wed Charles to a Spanish princess James didn’t want to complicate the process. Having trouble with the Puritans, James worried that they would rally around Elizabeth, another reason to keep her off shore.
Finally an escort of Dutch troops arrived. As she boarded the yacht sent by the Prince of Orange Elizabeth was happy her family had survived, and relieved to be back in the west.
The Netherlands welcomed the royal refugees. The Dutch, held up as the best example of rebellion against the Pope and Spain, praised for their prosperity and practical creativity, such as the use of windmills for energy, provided inspiration for radicals all over northern Europe. Without serfs on their farms or swarming retainers in their castles the nobles of the Netherlandas provided a good example of independence and hard work.
As they neared the Netherlands the Prince of Orange and a long line of coaches containing all the Dutch nobles and foreign ambassadors met the royal refugees. When they entered The Hague the people wept for them in the streets. The Prince gave Frederick and Elizabeth two large red brick houses in town once owned by a great family, but now occupied only by a widow who would require only a small apartment in back. In summer Elizabeth and the children could holiday at the Prince’s summer palace while Frederick joined him with the army. The war between Spain and the Netherlands had resumed.
Elizabeth had found Bohemia to be a backwards place; she didn’t like the worshipful, overawed peasantry or the cantankerous and boisterous nobility. Surrounded now by the reverence of Dutch women and the blessings of the youth of Holland, who were taken with her romantic story, and her bravery, and loyalty to her husband, Elizabeth was more comfortable than she had been in Prague. But Frederick, who had been raised with strict German formality, who expected traditional court etiquette and exquisite servility, found the casual manners of the Dutch irritating. The farmers and merchants were so blunt, which to Frederick smacked of insolence. Once while hunting a local oaf with a pitchfork berated Frederick for trampling his oats. Frederick politely withdrew. The Dutch were generous providing a royal stipend and housing in The Hague, but they still made fun of the charity case royal.
For several months the Bohemians enjoyed Imperial mercy. Certain Bohemian nobles were rewarded, causing whispers of treachery. The Jesuits moved back to Prague, yet the Lutherans and Calvinists were unmolested. But then without warning the Emperor accused the leaders of the revolution and had them arrested. They protested their right to choose their own king and to fight for their liberty and their religion. The heads of 28 Bohemian nobles decorated the Old Town Tower for ten years. Severed heads adorned the beautiful bridge across the river. The nobles and the people lost their rights. Lutherans were allowed to practice, but now all other denominations faced discrimination and concerted efforts at conversion.
By 1621 Maier left the court of Moritz the Learned, for reasons unknown. Maybe his remedies weren’t effective enough. He may have been too controversial a figure. Perhaps in the aftermath of the terrible defeat at the battle of White Mountain Rosicrucian apologists like Maier lost their luster.
In 1622 when Emperor Ferdinand celebrated his marriage to Empress Eleanor, a famous beauty, his army was disturbed by a rumor that Frederick had arrived in the rebel camp. Learning from his spies of this unrest at a mere whisper of the wronged king’s return, Count Mansfelt, leader of the remnants of Frederick’s army, urged the dejected monarch to join them. On the way there, while passing through Paris, Frederick bought Elizabeth little gifts. She was about to give birth to another of their thirteen children.
Frederick rejoined his forces in the Palatinate and called for the Protestant Union to join him, but his plea was ignored, and the small victories soon turned into big defeats. The banks of the Rhine overflowed adding more misery to areas devastated by disease and war. So Frederick established a Palatinate Court in exile in the Netherlands. When Emperor Ferdinand began questioning the legitimacy of the Protestant Union, the German princes finally realized they would have to fight. Elizabeth’s uncle the King of Denmark provided six thousand men specifically to fight for the restoration of the Palatinate, but Frederick’s military fortunes depended on questionable allies.
Count Mansfelt would have fit right into the world of Alexander’s generals, or of the great military commanders of the Roman republic. Mansfelt was the son of a marriage between a royal and a commoner, illegitimate because of the difference in their ranks; he had no inheritance. The late emperor had rewarded his martial prowess by declaring him a Prince of the Empire, but without lands to go with the title Mansfelt had to make his own way in the world. A skilled strategist and warrior, he never had a problem attracting soldiers to his banner. He had a unique code of honor. For example, he demanded that the lands and towns he passed through provide supplies for his army; he explained that while this was still unfortunate for the locals at least he could guarantee that they would not have to suffer rape, and burned houses and fields. Raised Catholic, he rejected that faith and embraced Protestant religion. But he had no scruples about fighting for either side. Yet he showed a rare loyalty to Frederick.
Though he detested Mansfelt for his tactics, and despite his superior rank, Christian of Brunswick subordinated himself so he could serve in the great general’s army. Christian’s motto, written on his flag, was: “God’s friend, enemy to priesthood.” For generations the Habsburgs had been pushing their borders into his family lands. As a cavalry commander Christian earned a reputation for cruelty to Catholics, who called him der Tolle (the Insane), though the stories may have been nothing more than the propaganda of Catholic pamphlets. In 1621, Christian was one of the few men who still rallied behind Frederick. He declared his love for Elizabeth according to the traditions of chivalry, having taken an oath to serve her even at the cost of his life. He managed to raise ten thousand troops.
In 1622 Christian’s courage and stubbornness helped Frederick achieve an important victory against the Spanish army though it cost Christian most of his infantry and the loss of an arm. But for the first time since their ill-fated journey to Bohemia Frederick slept again in Heidelberg castle. His respite didn’t last long.
Soon Heidelberg was under siege. When the Protestant army finally united it was for the retreat from Heidelberg, which fell to the Catholic army in September. Spanish boots trampled what was left of the beautiful gardens he had built for Elizabeth, and the mechanical wonders, abhorred as works of witchcraft, were destroyed. The wonderful library of the Palatinate was packed up and shipped to the Pope as a gift for the money he provided to make the campaign possible. The despondent Frederick wrote to Elizabeth: “Voila, my poor Heidelberg is taken. They have used all sorts of cruelties, pillaged the whole town, burnt all the suburbs which were the chief beauty of the place.” When Frederick came home a few months later he was so haggard Elizabeth fainted when she saw him.
Frederick became so depressed he announced he couldn’t endure anymore and disappeared for several days. Elizabeth feared that he was throwing himself into hopeless battle, but Frederick, she was informed, had taken himself on an art tour. The gloom only deepened when for the first time their newborn child didn’t survive.
Somewhere out there in the chaos of this the dawn of the Thirty Years War Michael Maier sickened and died leaving rumors that he had been killed by his enemies during the siege of a town, or the Rosicrucians had accepted him into their order just before his death, or rather disappearance; an entirely new identity had been prepared for him.
On a hot summer morning in 1623 Paris woke up to find handwritten posters all over the city. One declared: “We, the deputies of our chief college of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross now sojourning, visible and invisible, in this town…we will transform [all those who seek entrance into our society] from visible beings into invisible, and from invisible into visible, and they shall be transported into every foreign country to which their desire may lead them…so that we may extricate our fellow men from error and destruction.” The intention seemed to be an improvement of society for everyone but society panicked. Wild accusations flew that the Rosicrucians had magical powers provided by the devil. Even the respectable journal French Mercury hyperventilated that hot summer of fear, reporting that 36 Rosicrucian agents were terrorizing Lyon, moving anywhere and disappearing at will. Pundits predicted deaths of innocents. Every morning Paris woke up wondering if there would be new messages but there never were. Eventually a popular writer dismissed it all as a hoax and the population of Paris relaxed. But what was the intention of the hoax? To defraud the gullible? To frighten the superstitious? To inspire reform? No one knows. Meanwhile, perhaps in response to these events, writing under a pseudonym, Frederick’s chaplain Scultetus condemned the Rosicrucian movement.
At the end of January 1624 the Council of Holland detained a brother of the Rose Cross newly arrived from Paris. After studying the problem the theological faculty of Leiden university reported that they were convinced Rosicrucians existed, and they named one, a master painter named Beek, as devoted to alcohol as obscenity, he was convicted of blasphemy and heresy. This doesn’t sound like Father CRC’s idea of a Rosicrucian, but could perhaps represent the kind of hot heads and loud mouths who claimed membership in the secret order to aggrandize themselves, scare enemies or gain favors. Apparently Beek had disciples and one of them was on board the Batavia when it shipwrecked on the coast of what would become known as Australia.
King James, old and feeble, talked to Parliament about the Palatinate in 1624. He said he had hoped to be remembered for the peace he had kept all his reign, but now he could die without first seeing his daughter’s rights restored. Parliament voted three hundred thousand pounds to pay for the war but the preparations proceeded slowly.
In 1625 a plan that involved Christian, Mansfelt, and the King of Denmark failed when Christian, charged with rescuing the Rhineland, suffered a fever and died. According to the Catholic pamphlets he was eaten from the inside by a giant worm, like Herod.
Then King James died. Once the daughter of the king of England, Elizabeth became the sister of the king of England as her little brother Charles inherited the throne. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s grandmother, owned six long pearl necklaces with 25 pearls as big as nutmegs and seven large single pearls for earrings and dress ornaments. Queen Elizabeth inherited them when she sentenced Mary to death. When James died the pearls were given to his daughter. The famous Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I made the pearls famous. Elizabeth Stuart had her portrait painted of wearing the pearls.
The court under James had become infamous for its sarcasm as much as its debauchery. Drunken James lecherously petting a favorite young man, or slobbering a joke, had helped give more momentum to the Puritan sentiment. The queen’s all night parties were as notorious as they were expensive. Courtiers chuckled that the king had fewer dalliances with young men than did his wife, and darker rumors were whispered that certain Stuart royal babies had died in infancy for reasons having more to do with who actually fathered them than health problems. Charles preferred a more sober environment, while still lending royal support to artists, poets, and philosophers, men who were slowly evolving alchemy into chemistry, and astrology into astronomy.
The diplomats of the Palatine and their allies urged English politicians to make war on the Habsburgs. If the new King of England committed to his sister’s cause an alliance could be built between the British, Danish, Dutch, and Swedish, possibly including the French, Savoy, and Venice. Charles agreed, but the full coalition never united behind the British. Those who did had their own ends in mind. As the war expanded into northern Germany the Palatine became less important. Denmark’s defeat in 1626 and England’s in 1629 punctuated a series of military and political debacles that left Frederick as helpless as ever.
THE FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION ON THE BOHEMIAN SPRING
In his book Labyrinth of the World, a masterpiece of Czech literature, written in 1623, published in 1631, Comenius captured the state of mind of European intellectuals at the beginning of the Thirty Years War. He inverts the utopia, presenting a symbolic city where the arts and sciences lead nowhere, and all knowledge is questionable. He tells the story of the Rosicrucian Crisis. Its arrival he compares to the sound of a trumpet in the market place. A rider appears to tell the gathered philosophers that hidden sages are about to reveal themselves. These adepts have lived hundreds of years. They know how to prolong life, how to heal sickness, make gold, and talk with each other even when they are a thousand miles apart. Then the messenger vanished.
Comenius says most of the learned men were frightened by the news. But some rejoiced. They looked forward to “several hundred years without sickness or gray hair,” and pitied their ancestors for having to live in a world without the superior knowledge that was about to be revealed. But others thought the message obscure and doubtful. Some dismissed the messenger as a liar and fraud. If such reforms existed for so long why wait to reveal them? Then there were those who dismissed the Rosicrucians as incarnate demons. Now began the mass publishing of pamphlets, Comenius tells us. Sincere seekers petitioned the invisible masters. Feeling joy they waited to hear from the Rosicrucians. But when no answer came they were reduced to grief. What was worse? To have been found wanting and therefore ignored, or to have believed in a ridiculous joke? Disbelievers laughed at them. Some published pamphlets attacking the Rosicrucians as real but false, a threat to all. Others produced pamphlets that dismissed the Rosicrucians as nothing more than a fairy story.
Comenius himself wrote a letter asking to be allowed to become a member of the Roscirucian fraternity, and he was wise enough to send it to Andreae, who responded with a Latin pun: “We are a very few men of good standing, who came together after the mockery [ludibirum] of the vain report [fama]….”
By 1626 mass witch trials were killing women in parts of Germany where war and plague had reduced people to superstitious paranoia. The great educator and philosopher Comenius visited The Hague, bringing Frederick an illustrated manuscript of Kotter’s most recent prophecies. Kotter like his brethren in the Bohemian clergy suffered persecution and oppression after the defeat at White Mountain, but his vision of Frederick’s future had not changed: “Frederick, Palatine of the Rhine, is by God crowned King. Frederick, Palatine of the Rhine, King of Bohemia, crowned by God, the supreme King of all Kings, who in the year 1620 fell in to danger, but…will again recover all and far greater riches and glory.”
Kotter had visions of angels: young men in long robes, no wings. In the visions Frederick appeared as a lion. In one vision, he is a four-headed lion, representing the Palatinate, Bohemia, the Netherlands and England. A lion standing on the moon promised that Frederick’s fortunes, which had waned, would like the moon wax again to full brightness. Sitting under a tree with two angels he was shown a golden glowing lion strutting while another lion attacked a snake. The chopped pieces of the snake appeared in the sky, an obscure presentiment of Ben Franklin’s famous cartoon of a snake in pieces captions “Join or Die.” Kotter saw three angels at a hand holding their hands protectively around a miniature lion. These visions enigmatic as Michael Maier’s alchemical emblems impressed Frederick even less than the prophecy he had heard in person before his total defeat.
Comenius was so impressed by the prophecies of Kotter he published them along with prophecies by Christina Poniatoviain, in his book on the legitimacy of modern prophecy Lux in tenebris (1657) complete with copperplate engravings of the original illustrations. Lux in tenebris, or Light in Darkness, became the name of a farce by Bertolt Brecht in 1919.
Comenius was celebrated for going beyond the utopias of Bacon and Campenella; New Atlantis and City of the Sun were lovely myths but impractical guides to real world challenges. Comenius synthesized the idea of Universal Reformation into some practical suggestions. First, he wanted to establish universal education for men and women. Not everyone would become a scholar but everyone would know how to write and do math. Today it’s hard to imagine how radical that idea was in the seventeenth century, especially the education of all women, and of the natives of America and Africa.
Second, Comenius proposed that books be compiled that would contain all the information anyone could need; “the condensed essence of all knowledge” must be given to everyone. Three books would be written collaboratively. Pansophia “All Wisdom” would reveal the metaphysics of the structure of soul and world as designed by deity. Panhistoria “All History” would show how all this unfolds in the specific arts and sciences, in all crafts, and other aspects of life. Pandogmatica “All Dogma” the collection of theories about human life and activity and whether they proved to be true or false.
Third a universal language must be collaboratively created. And finally from all the nations across the globe the best minds must collaborate for the betterment of the world, their organization to be known as the College of Light, where a new generation of innovators would be educated. While none of these suggestions were ever realized they did inspire cooperation, and faith in science. Andreae and Comenius remained friends, comparing notes on utopias.
Frances Yates argues persuasively that Comenius was in Prague during the Bohemian Spring. In Labyrinth of the World Comenius describes the destruction of a king who is certainly Frederick. “Now it befell that in my presence a royal throne suddenly shook, broke into bits, and fell to the ground. Then I heard a noise among the people, and looking round, I saw that they were leading in another prince and seating him on the throne, while they joyously declared that things would now be different from what they had been before; and everyone, rejoicing, supports and strengthens the new throne as much as he can. Now I, thinking it well to act for the common welfare (for thus they called it), came nearer and contributed a nail or two to strengthen the new throne; for this some praised me, while others looked askance at me. But meanwhile the other prince recovered himself, and he and his men attacked us with cudgels, thrashing the whole crowd, till they fled and many even lost their necks. Maddened by fear I almost lost consciousness till my friend Searchall, hearing that they were inquiring as to who had aided and abetted the other throne, nudged that I also might flee.”
THE DARKENING OF THE LIGHT
Elizabeth, the widowed Queen of Bohemia
Frederick used English and Dutch donations to build an Italianate palazzo of many windows, exasperating his benefactors with his expenditures. Here he built less lavish gardens for his wife. As Nadine Akkerman has written in her outstanding ongoing tour de force The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia: “The elevens years she and Frederick spent in exile had transformed the Hague, their place of residence and the centre of the Dutch government, into a rich cultural capital. Their patronage and influence was instrumental in changing it into a fertile environment for all sorts of courtly activities, a place where the elite…enjoyed a life filled with tournaments, tilting, art, plays, masques, ballets, and other musical performances.”
In January 1629 he took his eldest son, sixteen-year-old Henry Frederick, to see the Spanish treasure ships recently captured by the Dutch West India company; Elizabeth had invested in the venture. Henry was at the heart of a plan hatched by King James to get back Frederick’s lands and titles. A marriage had been arranged between a Spanish princess and Henry Frederick. Part of the nuptial deal would be the restoration of the Palatinate. Too many sightseers were allowed on board the boat headed for the anchored ships. In the fog a larger ship crashed into the small boat, most of those onboard drowned in the icy water. Another Henry Elizabeth loved dearly died too young. Frederick was badly injured. The shock, those closest to her said, had almost killed her.
Frederick, still recovering, rejoined the army of the Prince of Orange that summer. Elizabeth was never told the doctor’s opinion that her husband would not live long. He was well enough before he left to have fathered their twelfth child, Sophie, whose name was picked out of a hat. Sophie later wrote that her mother preferred “the sight of her monkeys and dogs to that of her children.” Sophie grew enjoyed a happy marriage that led to her becoming the mother of the King of England, and great grandmother of many kings.
Meanwhile in England Robert Fludd was still prospering, Charles I granted Fludd and his heirs a manor house and “associated outbuilding and property” in Suffolk for an unspecified service that probably had to do with a cure or appreciation of Fludd’s astounding attempt to capture all knowledge in his books.
In 1630 Frederick formally apologized and admitted he had been wrong to take the crown of Bohemia, but the negotiations as usual bore no fruit. July 4 that same year Gustavus Adolphus brought his army from Sweden to fight for the Reformation. In 1631 Richelieu signed a treaty with Maximilian placing the Upper Palatinate and the electoral power under the guardianship of France.
That same year Robert Fludd got himself into a controversy that would ruin his reputation. In 1631 a country clergyman Parson Foster wrote a book called “A Sponge to wipe way the weapon’s salve” and nailed two copies of its title page on Fludd’s front door in the middle of the night. He agreed that the cure was magical, but denounced it as demonic. It appeared nowhere in scripture. And no known natural law could explain why it should work. Then Foster dismissed Paracelsus as “a man of base and wicked life and conversation.” The weapon salve, he concluded, was witchcraft. As to Fludd’s argument that the action of the weapon salve could be compared to an invisible ray of sunlight a dab of salve wouldn’t have the magnitude to send a powerful ray of energy.
Fludd and many other physicians of the time believed that by sympathetic resonance a doctor could treat the blood on the blade to heal the wound it caused even if the wounded man was elsewhere. In a text perhaps falsely attributed to Paracelsus a gruesome recipe is given. Moss from a skull or bone from a corpse left in the open air, a man’s blood and grease, mummy, oil of roses and linseed oil, among other ingredients mashed by mortar into an ointment. Dipping a stick in the blood, one was to let it dry, and then put it in the ointment. Every morning the wound was to be washed by the patient’s own urine and the wound bound up in fresh rolled linen. A cure was guaranteed, even if the patient was “ten miles away.” It was supposed to be good for toothaches, too, and for any injuries to horses.
Fludd was always ready for a good flame war in print so he responded to Foster with Doctor Fludds Answer unto M. Foster; or, the Squesing of Parson Fosters Sponge, ordained by him for the wiping away of the Weapon-Salve. Wherein the Sponge-bearers immodest carriage and behaviour towards his bretheren is detected; the bitter flames of his slanderous reports, are by the sharpe vineger of Truth corrected and quite extinguished: and lastly, the vertuous validity of his Sponge, in wiping away of the Weapon-Salve, is crushed out and cleane abolished (1631). Fludd begins by pointing out that Foster is a humble parson with no experience of the matter. Next he makes fun of his poor grammar. He dismisses Foster’s argument that the salve is witchcraft by pointing out most forms of current medical practice couldn’t be found in the bible. But the bulk of Fludd’s argument is an exposition of what he called theo-philosophy. Fludd argues that spirit circulates life force through the bloodstream, and therefore blood retains something of a man’s spirit in it. He compares the process to “the wise spider” who repairs her damaged web. He compares this power of the spiritual life force to the way sunbeams give life to plants. Magnetism is the secret of the salve, the magnetism of microcosm and macrocosm, of above so below, the magnetism of being born from the cosmos and so sharing every element with everything else in the cosmos. For this reason, to Fludd, Jesus, as the soul of the sun, the Word, the cabalistic Chockmah, was the ultimate healing force.
But doubts were being raised not only about the weapon salve but about many other core beliefs cherished by the renaissance as science replaced the Catholic fear of doubt as sin with a healthy respect for skeptical inquiry. Fludd also engaged in a 17th century flame war with Marin Mersenne, the French theologian and mathematician sometimes called the father of the science of acoustics. Marsenne dismissed as mere poetry Fludd’s theory that the harmony of spheres is the real structure and resonance of the cosmos. Fludd is not the voice of reason or revelation but of demonology! In his defense Fludd appeals to the Neo-Platonist philosopher beloved by ceremonial magicians Iamblichus who said music helps the soul remember the divine harmony it knew. Fludd reveals his understanding of the difference between symbols and what they indicated: “The ultimate aim of all wise men is the One; the highest good of the philosophers; the first light of the cabbalists; it is the Word, the Wisdom, and the Christ of the theologians; it is truly the philosopher’s stone of those alchemists who are learned and wise; and it is that vital music, that consonance of the octave…Tetragrammaton, and the source of all harmony in the microcosm and macrocosm.” Fludd also debated an unknown author’s contention that the Philosopher’s Stone should be understood as allegory and not taken literally.
In the 1630s Mersenne published the first book of mechanistic science, Harmonie Universelle, in which he dismissed the idea that musical ratios have any relation to planetary orbits. Music is not magical, Mersenne insisted, its fascination is merely the natural effect of motion on the ears and nerves. Mersenne and Kepler exemplified the way in that Fludd helped provide opposition against which modern science defined itself. Fludd had lived in a world where God was imminent everywhere, in each atom, and in the very glory of the light and warmth of the sun. Mersenne introduced a world without divine light and celestial harmony, a world of soulless forms, unconscious laws, and impersonal forces.
THE END OF HOPE
Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden.
In 1632 the King of Sweden became the champion of the Protestant cause. With a huge army, including Italian mercenaries who called him The Golden King, Gustavus Adolphus was a courageous warrior and a skilled general. The first news of victories did little to cheer up the disillusioned Frederick and Elizabeth. But news of victories continued. Town after town fell to the conquering hero.
Elizabeth asked her little brother to join the war but like his father Charles valued peace with Spain. He did allow seven thousand troops under a Scottish general to join the Swedish army, but the general paid for the campaign out of his own pocket. The King of Sweden wanted 25,000 English soldiers, and the promise to keep them provided with supplies for four years. Gustavus was planning an extended war against the Habsburg powers. Perhaps he thought he could take the Vatican by force.
Frederick must have had a presentiment that he might never return to his family. He delayed his departure to join Gustavus in the field so that he could be at the christening of his newborn son. Frederick and Elizabeth continued their habit of naming their boys after whichever royal their fate depended on at the time of birth: Gustavus Adolphus was their thirteenth child. Frederick sold plate, and redeemed investments he had made by selling a town they still owned after the debacle, to provide Elizabeth with plenty of liquid assets. He compiled an inventory of their belongings. He wrote a letter to his brother in law King Charles entrusting Elizabeth and their children to his care.
On February 11, exactly nineteen years after he had enjoyed the fireworks provided by King James to celebrate his wedding with his beloved Elizabeth, Frederick met Gustavus. Though the King of Sweden had heard Frederick was a failure, and he could see he was worn out, he called him brother and treated him with all the officious courtesy of royal ceremony. The people of the Palatine, the survivors, greeted their returned ruler with sincere joy.
As the campaign continued Gustavus killed the grand commander of the Imperial army. By May the Swedes were feasting in the castle of Maximilian of Bavaria. It only remained to liberate Heidelberg and two other towns of the Lower Palatinate from the grasp of the Spanish army. Frederick wanted to command troops in this battle for his homeland. Gustavus refused, insisting instead that he be nothing more than a volunteer. Gustavus understood that Frederick would be more useful to him as a living symbol. The German princes were none too pleased about the Swedish army on their turf. Riding beside Frederick would make Gustavus look like a hero instead of a threat.
Frederick wrote to Elizabeth twice a week. In every letter he wrote about wanting to be by her side. He began his letters: “Dearest heart.” He called her his “soul’s star.” When she offered to send him her small inheritance at last given to her by Charles he wrote back: “I would wish you to have this inheritance and invest it, and thereby pay off your debts bit by bit, wanting nothing from you but that you love me always as much as I love you.” His letters to her include descriptions of the hairdos, dresses and wigs of fine German ladies, alongside news from the armies, and complaints of boredom and irritation at having been reduced to nothing more than a volunteer. Alexander Cooper painted thirteen miniature portraits, one for each child, tokens of love she mailed in letters to Frederick. In turn he presented her with cameo busts of precious agate.
The year 1632 which had begun with such promise as the Swedish Army liberated northern Europe ended in tragedy. In October Frederick suffered a fever. He didn’t want to alarm Elizabeth since her brother Henry had contracted a fever in October that proved fatal. In November Gustavus was killed during his victorious battle to drive the Imperial army out of Saxony. Two weeks later Frederick, who had been waiting in a nearby town for instructions, died of plague, a few days before another Swedish victory would have given him control over the Palatinate again. As in life Frederick’s embalmed body became a vagabond. Three years after his death, with Spanish troops threatening, he was removed from his resting place, and moved around, until history lost track of him. No one knows where Frederick’s body was finally buried. By then the Palatinate’s population had been reduced by 75 per cent.
Elizabeth wrote about her reaction to the news: “It was the first time ever I was frighted in my life.” For three days she didn’t eat, drink, sleep, or speak. She did not weep. In London a rumor spread that she had died of grief.
For more than two months after his death others write her letters for her. When she returns her notes are short. To a kinsman she wrote: “I know not what to say more to you, you having lost a dear friend and I the best husband in the world, I shall never take any more contentment in this world, having lost all in him.” To a female friend she revealed her assumption of new political responsibilities: “I have little time left to write to my private friends, I think you would never have thought that I should become a states woman, which of all things I have ever hated, but my infinite loss of my dear husband forced me….” Her letters once colorful with gossip and descriptions of festivities, now bristle with military observations, diplomatic strategies and political rhetoric.
Elizabeth had always been an avid letter writer. She kept her pen in an enameled gold inkstand. She wrote and received letters in English, Latin, Dutch, and French, and cipher. Because the English crown monitored the postal service, the Bohemian court in exile sent their mail unregistered by way of Antwerp and Brussels, and a clandestine message smuggling service run by spies in service of Alexandrine, a postmistress with the official sanction of the Habsburgs, whose principle loyalty seemed to be to making money. Not only did Elizabeth have to fear that her letters would fall into the hands of her Imperial enemy, but also that Swedish spies might seize it, as they already had, to her embarrassment, since her candid opinion in the letter differed from her official stance. Yet she used this network to avoid scrutiny by her brother King Charles.
The British and Swedes wrestled over the Palatinate. The Swedes demanded a large payment, ostensibly for their services liberating the Palatinate, but they weren’t willing to give up much for it. Many of the towns, and all the most strategically important areas, would remain under Swedish control. They were too vulnerable to counterattack to be left in the hands of less experienced fighters. At least Heidelberg was in friendly hands again. Elizabeth hoped her brother Charles would help, perhaps even send soldiers to help defend the Palatinate. But he wanted nothing to do with the Swedes or the Palatinate. Then in September 1634 the Imperial army inflicted a devastating defeat on the Swedish army. Soon Heidelberg was lost again, and then badly damaged when recaptured by the French.
THE WIDOW AND HER ELDER SONS
Charles Louis and Rupert
In the spring of 1633 her eldest sons sixteen-year-old Charles Louis and thirteen year old Prince Rupert joined the army of the Prince of Orange. Rupert was already a skilled swordsman and was making a study of the late King of Sweden’s successful cavalry tactics.
When Charles Louis turned eighteen in 1635, with seventy noble men at his side he visited his cousin King Charles to petition for the restoration of what was his birthright. Hearing positive reports, Elizabeth ignored her trepidation about Prince Rupert’s gauche ways, sending him to join his brother. To her surprise, Rupert delighted Charles and the English. When a plan was proposed to make Rupert governor of exotic Madagascar Elizabeth disapproved, comparing it some scheme of Don Quixote.
The princes enjoyed celebrations organized by Elizabeth’s supporters, but their pleas for help in the war to regain their lands produced only renewed diplomatic negotiations with the Emperor. In fact, Charles refused to allow his cousins to go home. He didn’t want them to ruin the negotiations by going off to war. But in May of the following year the negotiations failed when the Emperor offered Charles Louis the Lower but not the Upper Palatinate and an older, unattractive Habsburg princess to marry. Charles let his nephews go home. At least he had completed a treaty with Richelieu, who promised that France would not make peace with the Empire until the Palatinate was restored.
In 1636 Daniel Sennert, a equally respected doctor and alchemist entered the weapon salve debate that Fludd had been fighting for five years, pointing out that from his experience there didn’t really seem to be any connection between healing and the salve. Yes, some people healed, but many didn’t. The wounds probably healed naturally. What if different weapons caused different wounds? Would all the weapons need to be treated? If one wasn’t, would that wound never heal? If the salve had the spirit of life, why not use it on the wound? His defense of the weapon salve ultimately made Fludd look ridiculous to the next generation of doctors and scientists.
In January 1637 King Charles agreed to lend his nephew a fleet, and allowed him to raise troops. By autumn of 1638 Charles Louis had four thousand soldiers. The new elected Emperor Ferdinand III, son of Ferdinand II, was the living embodiment of the fear shared by all Protestants and now by some Catholics that the Habsburgs intended to make the Imperial throne their family inheritance. Ferdinand III declared the Upper Palatine the property of Maximilian of Bavaria. Now the only recourse was war.
Elizabeth spent a fortune to help pay for an army for Charles Louis, but she was shrewd. She bought a small town to house the new Palatinate Army for an amount less than she would receive from it in yearly income. Her sons Charles and Rupert were experienced soldiers for their age. Two experienced generals were sent with them. Perhaps because these generals actually owed their allegiance to the Swedes, they made decisions based on what would be advantageous for the Swedish Army instead of their own, and the result a battle with a superior force of Austrian troops that ended in a disastrous defeat. Rupert was captured. Elizabeth lost her town.
When the army of the Bernardines of Saxe-Weimar lost their Duke, they were willing to fight under the command of the new Elector Palatine Charles. But Richelieu apparently found out about the plan, as the French captured Charles on his way there. He was imprisoned for seven months to keep him out of trouble. Rupert lost three years of his youth in a lonely room heavily guarded. He concentrated on drawing and limning, mastering Durer’s theory of perspective. England’s ambassador to Austria gave Rupert a gift white standard poodle puppy. Rupert named the dog Boy. Rupert had also tamed a hare that slept on his bed. Then the Emperor’s brother, Archduke Leopold visited Rupert. Charmed by the young man, Rupert was now allowed to visit nearby nobles, with whom he could enjoy playing handball and riding horses. In 1641 he was released upon the condition that he never take up arms against the empire again. Rupert visited the Emperor to formally kiss his hand. Ferdinand III was so charmed he offered Rupert high titles and lands if he converted to the true faith and agreed to fight on behalf of the empire, but Rupert politely refused.
In August of 1642 Rupert and his brother Maurice set sail for England. A Parliamentary cruiser fired on them but they escaped to join King Charles at Nottingham. Charles made Rupert his General of the Horse. Royalists adored him as much as the Puritans hated him. Soon he gained the reputation of being “shot free;” however dangerous the risks he took bullets never hit him.
By October the royalists enjoyed a series of successes thanks to Rupert. He moved his troops so swiftly they were called a “flying army.” He seemed to be many places once: recruiting, strategizing, besieging, surprise attacking. The Puritans called him Prince Robber, the Diabolical Cavalier, that Ravenous Vulture, and the Bloody Prince. Cromwell condemned him as “a man that hath had his hands in the blood of many innocent people in England.” Accused of “barbarousness and inhumanity” in his treatment of women and children Rupert responded with a printed declaration of his innocence.
Stories were told that Rupert moved among the Puritans in disguise. Boy was accused of being Rupert’s familiar, or a witch. The “divill dog” had supernatural powers including invisibility, prophecy, and the power of magically protecting his master from harm. Puritan propaganda reported that the dog fed on human flesh. Rupert’s pet monkey was described with a relish for obscenity rare in Puritan writing. Rather than common beliefs, these seem to have been attempts to label the royalist cause satanic.
In response to this slander against him, Boy was honored not only with Rupert’s army on its knees drinking to his good health but also pamphlets by Cavalier writers lampooning the superstitious Puritans by ascribing all sorts of outrageous powers to the poodle including catching bullets with his mouth. The satirical tell all portrayed the Puritans as shivering in terror when faced by the wizard Prince Rupert and his witch dog. The Puritans celebrated when Boy, tied up in camp for his own safety, worked his way free, and on his way to his master’s side was killed in battle. Rupert lost the battle; he and his men mourned for their courageous and loyal mascot.
Having intercepted some letters between Rupert and his mother Parliament responding by cutting off Elizabeth’s thousand pound a month allowance, which she had relied on for years. By 1644 Elizabeth no longer enjoyed good health she suffered a chronic cough. She spent most of the year writing letters to Parliament haggling for her monthlies. Yet her court in exile remained a fascinating salon. The astronomer who discovered the rings of Saturn was a frequent visitor. And even Elizabeth’s chaplain was enthusiastic about the philosophy of her daughter Elizabeth mentor Descartes, whose which soon became the rage among the Dutch nobles of the Hague
The following year Rupert was forced to surrender the city of Bristol. King Charles was so angry he accused Rupert, who demanded a court martial. Exonerated of all blame, and publicly declared not guilty by his uncle, Rupert was disillusioned, but remained a loyal royalist.
The Wounded Cavalier (1855) Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece by William Shakespeare Burton.
Elizabeth’s life next became the stuff of soap operas. A younger son, Edward, handsome but poor, was swept off his feet by an older woman, the daughter of a wealthy duke, who seduced him into not only marriage but also conversion to the Catholic faith. Elizabeth was distraught. She announced in a letter to Charles Louis that she wanted to die. Meanwhile while her celibacy was unquestioned, Elizabeth was friendly with a French gentleman. She treated him with such familiarity that gossips started a scandal suggested he was involved not only with Elizabeth but one of her daughters as well. Eighteen-year-old Prince Philip felt it his duty to defend the honor of his mother and sister. Somehow this involved stabbing the Frenchman to death in the street one night, and then fleeing to another country. He was never brought to justice for his crime; he died in battle four years later.
Meanwhile Rupert still trying to help the defeated King Charles worked on plans of escape. When Charles disguised himself and set out from Oxford to go to the Scots Rupert insisted on going with his uncle until Charles explained to him that at 6′ 4″ Rupert would be a dead giveaway. The Scots turned Charles over to his enemies and the King of England found himself on trial.
Charles Louis, Elector Palatine regained his titles, rights and the Lower Palatinate under the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The Upper Palatinate remained in the hands of the Bavarian Maximilian, as did the powers and title of First Elector of the Empire. But Charles Louis was given a new eighth electorate, with less powers and privileges than the others. Charles Louis returned to devastated Heidelberg. When his little sister Sophie visited Charles and his bride Charlotte Elizabeth she was shocked when her unhappy sister in law confided in her that she had been forced into this marriage and she was none too happy about it. Yet the couple embraced and kissed ostentatiously, on their knees to each other, as if in some satirical pantomime of the love between Frederick and Elizabeth. Sophie also commented on her sister in law’s strange habit of dying her eyebrows black despite her natural light blonde hair.
Sophie also commented on her eldest sister Princess Elizabeth. The friend of Descartes, who exchanged a book full of correspondence with the father of modern philosophy, and in some cases engaged him in dialog that helped him formulate his ideas, became depressed after his death. Her letters to him complain of the melancholy details of her life. She must calm down her younger brothers though she cannot understand the treaty they are so angry about. Another sister falls deathly ill. Elizabeth retired to a Protestant convent, dedicating her lonely meditations to God.
When Elizabeth heard the news of her brother’s arrest all festivity ceased. Rumors spread that the Queen of Bohemia was about to set sail for England. But on January 30, 1649 King Charles I walked out of the Banquet House where Elizabeth’s betrothal ceremony had taken place. His subjects gaped at the dignified monarch, who wore two shirts, so no one would see him shiver in the cold morning and mistake it for fear. The boy who had been so sickly few thought he would live had grown up to become king. His last words were: “I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.” He had made the mistake of finding the Catholic faith more reassuring than the Protestant. He had tried to turn back the clock to divine power of kingship. His head was exhibited but Cromwell allowed it to be sewn back on his body for his funeral.
Elizabeth had a mourning ring made. Under crowned skull and crossbones, it bore the initials C.R. It contained a faded lock of her little brother’s hair. She wore it the rest of her life.
Meanwhile Hermetic and alchemical circles in England were stunned in 1649 when John Everard published the first English translation of The Divine Pymander. Like Robert Fludd, Everard either ignored or never heard of Casauban’s discovery that the Hermetica were Neo-Platonist forgeries actually dated around third or fourth century A.D. The first sentence of Everard’s introduction claims: “This book may justly challenge the first place for antiquity, from all the books in the world, being written some hundreds of years before Moses….” Generations later the American Metaphysical Religion argument for the antiquity of the Hermetica would be recast: while the Neo-Platonist school may have written it down, the underlying understanding dates back to ancient Egypt.
Elizabeth’s communications with her eldest son Charles Louis became little more than financial arguments. Charles Louis wanted his mother to join him in Heidelberg, one household would be cheaper than two. But Elizabeth didn’t want to go back to Heidelberg. Perhaps she didn’t want to disturb her beautiful memories of the place during a happier time. She was forced to pawn Frederick’s engagement ring. Sophie joked that all they had to eat were jewels. Elizabeth wrote Charles Louis demanding letters, needing immediate funds to save priceless family heirlooms whose pawn repayments had come due, including a chain of knots of diamonds that Queen Elizabeth I owned, and a “great table diamond” that belonged to long lost Prince Henry Stuart.
In 1650 the King of England in exile, Charles II appointed his cousin Rupert admiral of the small English fleet of five ships. Elizabeth pawned more of her few remaining jewels to help fit the ships. Rupert and his brother Maurice who joined him on the venture became pirate princes, living off taking prize ships flying the flag of Spain. The King of Portugal gave them shelter and hospitality. Rupert’s ship was named The Constant Reformation. During a terrible storm The Constant Reformation sprung a leak. The ship’s log provides an exciting record of the loyalty Rupert earned from his men: “The Princes endeavored to speak one to another, but the hideous noise of the winds and seas overnoised their voices…His men, seeing supplications would not prevail” launched the lifeboat “and by force put him into it, desiring him at parting to remember they died his true servants.”
Prince Maurice of Bohemia.
Two years later Prince Maurice died when his ship was swept away in a hurricane off the Virgin Islands. The grief stricken Elizabeth would be tormented for years by rumors that Maurice was still alive: a prisoner in Algiers, or spotted in some faraway port.
After one too many arguments with the exile King of England, Rupert left his cousin’s court to settle in Germany where he immersed himself in scientific experiments and art, especially mezzotint.
Mezzotint of the Execution of John the Baptist by Prince Rupert, 1658
Meanwhile in England Cromwell laid the foundations for what would eventually become the industrial revolution. He modernized at home while supporting embattled Protestants in Europe. When the Duke of Savoy and the Spanish Army attacked the peaceful shepherds of Rora in northern Italy Cromwell sent guns and volunteers. Cromwell allowed Jews to return to England 1656 after a banishment of over 350 years. Cromwell knew they could help move Europe’s financial center from Amsterdam to London. As a Puritan Cromwell believed that the Second Coming would happen when Jews regained the Holy Land and that God chose the English to make that happen. To this day Cromwell’s children, the evangelicals of the United States of America, believe that God intends them to support Israel and restore The Temple of the Mount to hasten the Second Coming.
In his groundbreaking and controversial study of the poet Andrew Marvell, Paul Bembridge argues persuasively that Cromwell and the two great poets who worked in his government, Marvell and John Milton, were greatly influenced by Rosicrucian ideas. He reveals themes and imagery drawn from the Rosicrucian manifestos in the works of both poets.
Hadn’t the Rosicrucian manifestos promised the imminence of a world without a pope? That was Cromwell’s goal, too. And if Europe couldn’t be purified, at least the new world could be consecrated to this vision of a Puritan country free from the clutches of the Vatican and the Holy Roman Emperor.
In May 1660 Elizabeth’s nephew Charles II was invited back to England to fill the vacuum left by Cromwell’s death two years earlier. Cromwell had been king in all but formal title, and he received the funeral of a monarch, but Elizabeth thought of him as the Beast from Revelations. The charming young king was a relief to commoners and nobles alike. Before departing for England he stopped at the Hague. Forty years Elizabeth had lived in the city that now turned to celebration in anticipation of the arrival of the new King of England. Throughout the festivities Elizabeth was given the honor of standing at the King’s right hand. The dignitaries of England paid their respects. The arch wit of England Samuel Pepys, one of them, wrote of the faded Winter Queen: “a very debonair, but plain lady.” Her golden hair was dark now. She had no jewels to lend her glamour. Not only did Charles II treat her more as a mother than aunt, he also promised to talk to Parliament about paying off her immense debt. Recognizing the service of Prince Rupert, he asked Elizabeth to extend to Rupert an invitation to return to England. Only Charles Louis rained on Elizabeth’s parade, complaining that the new king snubbed him by not visiting Heidelberg.
Charles Louis tried to make his restored principality a showplace of liberal ideals. To the horror of his mother he even renounced his wife and married a woman below his rank. If such behavior wasn’t enough of a shock, the last of Elizabeth’s children to remain home with her, unmarried at age 36, a disappointment to her mother, Princess Louise ran off to join a Catholic convent.
In May, in the confusion of the huge crowd that came to witness his departure, King Charles II was rowed out to his ship with only Elizabeth at his side. “We have him!” the English sailors cried, “God Bless King Charles!” It’s hard to imagine what emotions Elizabeth must have been feeling at that moment. She watched her nephew sail away. Alone in the quiet Hague, her health having improved, she longed to go home to England. She decided to attend the coronation. She made arrangements with friends. The French ambassador would loan her his coach. An old friend would shelter her at his own expense. But just as she prepared to leave, having packed her baggage, and said her goodbyes, a messenger arrived from King Charles II asking her to postpone her visit. She exchanged letters with Prince Rupert who also urged to wait, but then she decided to go to England for her nephew’s coronation anyway.
In the Spring of 1613 when sixteen year old Elizabeth’s barge had floated down the Thames as she began her life with her husband crowds cheered and cannons fired salutes. Now almost fifty years later in 1661 she returned unnoticed. Not wanting to be embarrassed as a royal returning home without honors she traveled by night. King Charles II easily forgave his charming aunt. He acted her as escort, taking her to grand events every week.
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia
Elizabeth intended to live out the rest of her life in England. She sent for her remaining possessions but then found out not only had they been held up, but now her debtors were clamoring for immediate payment, accusing her of trying to sneak away. She was especially angered by the revelation that Charles Louis who invoked his right to check her shipments for any possessions that might be his, thereby tipping off her creditors had provoked this crisis.
No longer famous as the Winter Queen or Queen of Hearts, the Bohemian tragedy long forgotten, she was beloved as the mother of the dashing hero Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Charles granted her a thousand pounds a month for life. In a more forgiving mood she reconciled with her Catholic children, writing her son in Paris requesting he find some nice lace for her, so she could keep up with the latest fashions in London. Her surviving daughters were jealous that their mother got to live such a glamorous life.
Rupert and his cousin the King of England became great friends, famed for their feats of feasting and wenching, as well as their scientific curiosity and appreciation of art and theater. Prince Rupert, like Charles II had such a keen interest in chemical experimentation that they each had well equipped laboratories, but Rupert was less likely to be making gold than a new kind of gunpowder. He invented a new kind of brass alloy. He improved the mezzotint process, and was a formidable artist in his own right. He devised a “handgun with rotating barrels” and a gun that fired multiple rounds at high speed. He improved the design of surgical tools, and invented a way to permanently stain marble with color. Rupert became the third founding member of the Royal Society.
In January 1662 Elizabeth moved into a modest manor house. A cold she had was at first exasperated by the move, but then seemed to subside. But then February 10 she coughed up blood. The King of England came to her bedside. She died on February 13, 1662, a few hours before what would have been her 49th wedding anniversary, not yet seventy. King Charles II did not attend her state funeral at Westminster Abby. Of the six children who outlived her only one joined the torch lit procession by barge up the Thames on the night of February 17: Prince Rupert. She was buried beside her brother Henry, surrounded by her royal ancestors. She rated no retrospective articles or commemorative poems. Shakespeare and John Donne had celebrated her wedding. She who had been the beauty at the eye of the storm that was the Thirty Years War, the abandoned daughter, the devoted widow, had outlived her value as a symbol. In her the nostalgia for the golden age of Elizabeth I came to life but ultimately perished. Yet John Donne’s comparison of them to phoenixes, and even Kotter’s prediction of world domination, came true in a subtle way. The son of their youngest daughter became the King of England; Elizabeth’s bloodline rules Great Britain to this day. Elizabeth’s descendants by 1938 also included the ruling monarchs of Denmark, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Belgium and Bulgaria.
In December 1662 Samuel Butler became the hit humorist of London when he began publishing his poem Hudibras in installments; it went through nine editions in its first year. Hudibras ridicules Cromwell and his pleasure-hating followers as Rosicrucian knights, a fraternity of Don Quixotes. King Charles II found it delightful. Butler gave a piquant description of his Rosicrucian hero:
“Deep-sighted in Intelligences,
Ideas, Atoms, Influences,
And much of Terra Incognita,
Th’Intelligible world could say:
A deep occult Philosopher,
As learned as the Wild Irish are,
or Sir Agrippa, for profound
And solid lying much renowned:
He Anthroposophus, and Fludd,
and Jacob Boehme understood;
Knew many and Amulet and Charm,
That would do neither good nor harm:
In Rosy Crucian Lore learned…
He understood the speech of Birds.
Anthroposophus was Thomas Vaughn the writer on alchemy, author of a book called Anthroposophia, and translator of the Fama and Confessio, one of the alchemical circle of the Intelligencers who were so crucial not only to the establishment of the Royal Society and the birth of modern science, but also to the establishment of the first governor of Connecticut John Winthrop Jr., the alchemist son of the Puritan first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Winthrop embodied Rosicrucian principles, but made clear he never met one.
While London laughed at the Rosicrucian pretensions of Cromwell and Marvell, what did Prince Rupert think? It must have struck him as very strange indeed, since his parents had been the objects of Rosicrucian hopes when he born in Bohemia and almost left behind in their panic to flee. Did he wonder how the Rosicrucians who had hoped to see his father elected the first Protestant Holy Roman Emperor had become the Rosicrucians who beheaded his uncle? There certainly seemed to be quite a difference between these British Rosicrucians and the German Rosicrucians who had inspired them.
To his discredit Rupert helped further the slave trade in Africa as part of his search for African gold. Later he turned his attention to the new world. “Our Dear and Entirely Beloved Cousin” was only one of the honors conferred on Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Earl of Holderness, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Cumberland, and first Governor of Hudson’s Bay Company, a position he held for twelve years. Rupert’s Land was named in his honor, as is Prince Rupert, British Columbia. He preferred to spend his time alone with his experiments and studies. After a visit from King Charles II when his drunken courtiers trashed Rupert’s lab he became reclusive. A “faithful great black dog,” his inseparable companion, accompanied him on the solitary evening walks, which won them both the reputation of wizards.
The last fourteen years of his life he lived happily with the beautiful actress Peg Hughes, despite her penchant for gambling, but his lifelong aversion to marriage persisted. They had a daughter with the unfortunate name Ruperta.
Rupert died at age 62 leaving his rather meager wealth to be split by Peg and Ruperta. Because of Peg’s gambling losses jewels that had belonged to Elizabeth, and royal jewels of the Palatinate, were sold to the highest bidder; famous actress Nell Gwynn, the favorite mistress of the “merry monarch” King Charles II, and a great bawdy wit of her day, bought a necklace that Frederick had given Elizabeth.
In the 21st Century a role playing game from the UK called Clockwork and Chivalry describes itself: “As Oliver Cromwell and his gigantic clockwork war machines fight against the cavalier-alchemists of Prince Rupert, ordinary folk struggle for survival, split into a myriad political and religious factions.” A recent blog devoted to Rupert dubbed him “His Royal Hotness.”
ROSICRUCIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS
With the rediscovery of the wisdom of the pagans in Ficino’s translations of Plato and the writings gathered together in the name of Hermes Trismegistus, European intellectuals began evolving a new way of looking at the world. Instead of the dogma of the Dark Ages that labeled the earth a fallen place, a demonic trap, where only blind faith could save a soul, and science could lead to damnation, the vision of Pythagoras reawakened. Mathematics revealed the wisdom of nature, the truth of the divine design. One could climb the ladder of Plotinus, beginning with the raw beauties of nature and ending with a transcendent understanding of the Good. Here at the sunset of the renaissance and the dawn of what would become modern science, Rosicrucianism managed to combine the mystical metaphysics of the renaissance with science’s confidence in man’s ability to learn and nature’s readiness to be understood.
The Rosicrucian myth and the mythmaker himself have become transformed in the mirrors of generations of historians and enthusiasts. Some Freemasonic scholars have argued that Johann Valentin Andreae was actually the leader of a secret society originally founded by the great medieval writer of magic Agrippa, others claim a lineage all the way back to ancient Egypt. Andreae’s written dismissals of Agrippa, along with his ridicule of Rosicrucian literature, they consider disinformation.
“Who but a Rosicrucian could explain the Rosicrucian mysteries?” Lord Bulwer-Lytton wrote over two hundred years after the manifestos were published. His classic metaphysical novel Zanoni (1824) not only inspired the dramatic ending of the more famous novel by his friend Dickens A Tale of Two Cities but also exemplified the supernatural version of the Rosicrucian story: “With that the old gentleman condescended to enter into a very interesting, and, as it seemed to me, a very erudite relation, of the tenets of the Rosicrucians, some of whom, he asserted, still existed, and still prosecuted, in august secrecy, their profound researches into natural science and occult philosophy. “But this fraternity,” said he, “however respectable and virtuous,–virtuous I say, for no monastic order is more severe in the practice of moral precepts, or more ardent in Christian faith, –this fraternity is but a branch of others yet more transcendent in the powers they have obtained, and yet more illustrious in their origin. Are you acquainted with the Platonists?” “I have occasionally lost my way in their labyrinth,” said I. “Faith, they are rather difficult gentlemen to understand.” “Yet their knottiest problems have never yet been published. Their sublimest works are in manuscript, and constitute the initiatory learning, not only of the Rosicrucians, but of the nobler brotherhoods I have referred to. More solemn and sublime still is the knowledge to be gleaned from the elder Pythagoreans, and the immortal masterpieces of Apollonius.” “Apollonius, the imposter of Tyanea! are his writings extant?” “Imposter!” cried my host; “Apollonius an imposter!” “I beg your pardon; I did not know he was a friend of yours; and if you vouch for his character, I will believe him to have been a very respectable man, who only spoke the truth when he boasted of his power to be in two places at the same time.” “Is that so difficult?” said the old gentleman; “if so, you have never dreamed!”
Zanoni‘s Rosicrucians traffic with salamanders, sylphs and gnomes, creatures of another order than human, elementals of fire, air, water and earth. Since in Galatians chapter 3 and Colossians chapter 2 the devil employs elementals as his agents Rosicrucians have been dismissed as Satanists by many Catholic and evangelical writers who don’t realize Zanoni is fiction. In today’s world of science elementals are categorized as quaint folk tales, an entry in the menagerie of imaginary creatures. Yet Terence McKenna reported how the drug DMT, which he compared to magick, opened a world of elves to his perception. Why do people have the same hallucination under high doses of tryptamines? Why can two people see the same hallucination at once? Are these merely figments of a drugged mind, and the reports of Agrippa and so many others simply fantasy or fraud?
One of my favorite works of imagination masquerading as scholarship, yet filled with intriguing gems, Anacalypsis (1823) by Godfrey Higgins contains this confident statement: “The Rosicrucians of Germany are quite ignorant of their origin; but, by tradition, they suppose themselves descendants of the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Magi, and Gymnosophists (the Hindu yogis encountered by Alexander in India), and this probably true. They had the name of illuminati, from their claiming to posses certain secret knowledge, and, from their secrecy, they are also called invisible brothers. They use as a mark of distinction or monogram the three letters. F.R.C., which probably means Fratres Rosi Crucis. Luther took for his coat of arms, a cross rising from a rose.” Jocelyn Godwin in his wonderful book The Theosophical Enlightment suggests Higgins was referring to the aristocratic Golden and Rosy Cross, an 18th century German order of aristocrats interested in splendid rituals and practical alchemy. Higgins further obfuscated the matter by declaring he had been offered admittance into the Rosicrucian Order without clarifying the nature of the order. The order he referred to was almost certainly Masonic.
Many scholars of the time believed the Rosicrucian “secret chiefs” were the guiding lights of Freemasonry. After Higgins everyone from the rather self serving self proclaimed Rosicrucian Paschal Beverly Randolph (who later confessed to his ruse) to his rival and nemesis Madame Blavatsky, from writers like Westcott of the Golden Dawn to founders of public Rosicrucian orders like Max Heindel, added mythologizing elements so that the Rosicrucian legend came alive again, more science fiction than ever. The more extreme examples of this trend include in the list of Rosicrucian initiates Abraham Lincoln and Edith Piaf.
Eliphas Levi’s History of Magic.
Eliphas Levi claimed that Dante’s Divine Comedy with the rose at the center of heaven, and the Romance of the Rose itself, “are two opposite forms of a single work–initiation by independence of spirit, satire on all contemporary institutions and an allegorical formula of the grand secrets of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross.” Levi exemplified the poetic use of metaphor in writing about the Rosicrucians that when taken literally gives rise to myths about super humans having mystical meetings in the pyramids: “…if anyone asked openly who were those Brothers of the Rosy Cross, an unknown personage would perchance take the inquirer apart, and say to him gravely: “Predestined to the reformation which must take place speedily in the whole universe, the Rosicrucians are depositaries of supreme wisdom, and as undisturbed possessors of all gifts of Nature, they can dispense these at pleasure. In whatsoever place they may be, they know all things which are going on in the rest of the world better than if they were present amongst them; they are superior to hunger and thirst and have neither age nor disease to fear. They can command the most powerful spirits and genii. God has covered them with a cloud to protect them from their enemies, and they cannot be seen except by their own consent — had anyone eyes more piercing than those of the eagle. Their general assemblies are held in the pyramids of Egypt; but, even as the rock whence issued the spring of Moses, these pyramids proceed with them into the desert and will follow them until they enter the Promised Land.”
How does Levi know that “The Comte de Saint-Germain was…the natural or adopted son of a Rosicrucian”? And what exactly does he mean by a Rosicrucian? According to Levi Saint-Germain was born in Bohemia, was his father then a member of the loose knit community of hermetically inclined political reformers inspired by the hoax? Levi says Saint-Germain’s father was the real person behind the fictional character Comte de Gabalis, or Count of the Cabala, the hero of a book some still consider a Rosicrucian scripture, but Levi thought a scathing satire. Robert Abelain in his book Templiers et Rose-Croix (1955) claims that Levi was initiated into the Roscicrucian order on his trip to London in 1853, but what order, most likely Masonic, or self proclaimed?
The later public Rosicrucian orders were influenced by Theosophy on the one hand and spiritualism on the other. For those accustomed to the idea of the spirits of the departed speaking through mediums, the idea that great souls, or spiritually evolved human beings working together might help to guide history doesn’t seem all that far fetched. From this point of view the Rosicrucian invisibles might be compared to the angels conjured by John Dee. And so Father CRC and the other adepts of the Rosy Cross must also be considered as archetypes. The anonymous masters of the secret society of the Rose Cross exemplify the liminal, impinging, inspiring, and enlightening qualities of archetypes in general.
When writers claim that the mysteries taught in ancient Egypt are one and the same with the Rosicrucian revelation this is usually interpreted as meaning that a certain set of practices and beliefs have been handed down in secret from generation to generation. But perhaps what these writers really meant was that since all human beings share the same anatomy physical and spiritual the secrets for achieving spiritual awareness must be similar everywhere.
A good example of the self proclaimed Rosicrucian Order begins with the publication by Paul Sedir in 1910 of Histoire des Rose Croix. Sedir included this provocative passage: “To avoid omitting anything, we should mention here a manifestation of a very elevated Rosicrucian centre, the F.T.L., whose mode of recruitment and the centre itself have never been described. We know that this society began to spread in about 1898 and we supposed that the neophytes are put in touch with the members of the order in a way comparable to that described in the Rosicrucian posters placarded in Paris in 1623.” Pierre Geyraud researching secret societies in Paris twenty years later located the F.T.L. and soon discovered the founder was none other than Paul Sedir. Of these self proclaimed orders Jocelyn Godwin commented: “the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross appears to have had at least as many “Grand Masters” as rank-and-file members!”
Rosicrucian ideas deeply influenced Freemasonry, which integrated Rosicrucian as a description of degrees and even specialized orders of the fraternity. By the end of the 18th Century two Rosicrucian Masonic rites evolved. The Rectified Scottish Rite of Central Europe and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of France whose initiates of the 18th degree were given the title Knight of the Rose Cross. As for the history of Freemasonry, including its alleged direct connections with early Rosicrucianism, in his The Muses Threnodie Henry Adamson said succinctly: “the happiest of all hunting grounds for the light-headed, the fanciful, the altogether unscholarly and the lunatic fringe of the British Museum Reading Room.”
In Germany Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical Society considered itself “under the sign of Christian Rosenkreutz and the cultural impulse of Rosicrucianism.” Two well-known societies evolved in America: the Rosicrucian Order AMORC in Pennsylvania and Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Fellowship in California. Like Theosophy these societies tried to teach a way of life and a new and comprehensive view of history and of the future, allegedly based on the secret teachings of adepts who represented the full development of human potential. Other small Rosicrucian groups sought to practice theurgy, the ancient Neo-Platonist ritual for attaining experience of divine wisdom; often John Dee’s Angelic conjuring was an inspiration to the curriculum. Rosicrucian ideas immigrated to the United States long before the War for Independence creating conclaves of believers with utopian and sometimes apocalyptic beliefs.
Manly Hall included this intriguing statement in The Secret Teaching of All Ages: “Another version has it that a mysterious school, resembling in general principles the Rosicrucian Fraternity, which calls itself “The Bohemian Brothers,” still maintains its individuality in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) of Germany,” another intriguing connection between and the Bohemians and the Rosicrucians but his sources, for example Dr. Franz Hartmann, and A.E. Waite, are not dependable by modern standards of scholarship. I’m very fortunate to have received from him the gift of his personal copy of Waite’s Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross containing some notes in his hand in pencil where he criticizes Waite for arguing from conclusions instead of toward them. Hall contributed more myth than fact in his wonderful story telling about the Rosicrucians in his classic encyclopedic tome. Trusting the highly questionable self proclaimed Rosicrucian author John Heydon, the young Hall slipped into science fiction when he suggested Rosicrucians have the power of invisibility, and other characteristics of Madame Blavatsky’s supernatural mahatmas.
But one fact he provides at least raises an eyebrow. Hall wrote: “This volume (The Anatomy of Melancholy) first appeared in 1621 from the pen of Democritus junior, who was afterwards identified as Robert Burton, who, in turn, was a suspected intimate of Sir Francis Bacon. One reference archly suggests that at the time of publishing The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621 the founder of the Fraternity of R.C. was still alive. This statement–concealed from general recognition by its textual involvement–has escaped the notice of most students of Rosicrucianism. In the same work there also appears a short footnote of stupendous import. It contains merely the words: “Joh. Valent. Andreas, Lord Verulam.” This single line definitely relates Johann Valentin Andreæ to Sir Francis Bacon, who was Lord Verulam, and by its punctuation intimates that they are one and the same individual.
When Mr. Hall and I were friends I was cheeky enough to ask, and young enough to be forgiven for asking him, what he really thought of all this Rosicrucian nonsense. While I affected doubt I was as inwardly excited as any student of UFO experiences who thinks he may have found the way to see one. I was neither experienced nor educated enough to bring healthy skepticism to the subject. At least the disciplines I took on helped improve my diet and bring greater self-awareness of my numerous faults, though earned at the expense of a delusion that if I was a good enough boy a Rosicrucian adept might materialize in my room. Mr. Hall responded that he wished he hadn’t written so much about initiates with super powers, for all these metaphors were misunderstood by those seeking exotic experiences or short cuts to success. Approaching the end of his life he told me that he preferred to think of the Rosicrucians as the enlightened few who fight the good fight to better humanity. By that definition the great John Winthrop Jr., American alchemist extraordinaire and first governor of Connecticut was a Rosicrucian, though he never found one when he journeyed to Europe hoping to join them. Instead he applied their principles in his own life, healing the sick, encouraging experimentation, making improvements in mechanical understanding, and cultivating eagerness to discover and apply the wisdom of nature for the good of everyone.
Under Westminster Abbey in a neglected vault lies what looks like a carved fetish or broken tiki, the wooden effigy of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. The torso lacks arms, the head is long gone, the clothes stolen centuries ago, but the beautifully formed legs of an athlete remain. A surviving print of Henry’s hearse shows the missing head with handsome lifelike features. Henry’s effigy is the ultimate relic of the Rosicrucian dream at the dawn of the 17th century. Had he lived to lead Protestant Europe history would have unfolded differently. We would have an HBO series about this handsome brave king who fought for religious freedom. Frederick and Elizabeth would have had the strong ally they needed. Here in America we might be worshipping at the Church of the Rosy Cross.
The Habsburg victory at the Battle of White Mountain gave the Catholic royal family three hundred years of dominion over what would become Czechoslovakia. The city of alchemists and erstwhile Rosicrucians became the hometown of Kafka, who captured in his writing the nightmare bureaucracy of the Habsburg Empire. World War I finally broke their grip. But first the Nazis and then the Red Army invaded; the USSR held on for fifty years. When American bohemian extraordinaire Allen Ginsberg visited in 1965 the students of Prague elected him King of May for their May Day parade. Three years latter the USSR crushed the revolt that became known as the Prague Spring. Finally in 1989 the Velvet Revolution, also called the Gentle Revolution, liberated the people of Bohemia.
The only detailed modern study of Frederick V is by an author who wrote an official biography of the current Pope. The word Rosicrucian doesn’t appear in the index of his book, though it receives brief mention in a footnote; the author of this otherwise thorough study all but ignores the alchemical subculture that briefly flourished around Frederick’s court, though Heidelberg castle still shows off the alchemical laboratory where many of the leading lights of alchemy shared their quest not only for health and wealth, but for political reform.
While many writers find the beginning of the Thirty Years War in the tragedy of The Bohemian Spring, the causes were of course numerous, and as much economic and sociological, as religious and political. But the dreams of the Bohemian Spring, to bring power to the people, to break the back of religious tyranny and institutionalized corruption, to finally end the threat of a return of the Dark Ages, three decades of war achieved. Parliaments replaced absolute monarchies. The Holy Roman Empire dissolved and the Catholic Church learned to surrender its mission of world domination through political and military power. While Frederick and Elizabeth’s generation must have lamented the horrors of widespread war their children would live in a world where they would enjoy more liberties.
What of the dream that gave birth to science? An angel appeared in a dream to a teenage soldier, proclaiming that measure and number would conquer nature. He was one of many who wanted to meet a real Rosicrucian. Later his correspondences with Elizabeth, the philosophically inclined daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth, helped along the development of his theories that revolutionized our approach to knowledge. Descartes, do we praise him for being one of the midwives of modern science or do we condemn him as one of the initiators of the fatal theoretical separation of man from nature that has betrayed science into creating so much horror?
The night I completed the research for this piece I had a dream about a gray haired woman who was a Rosicrucian. She critiqued my practice, focusing on techniques of regeneration, and pointed out too much attention was being given to the physical, when the spiritual is the true source of renewal, vitality and strength. Depending on the context this dream could be taken many ways. If I was in London during the heyday of the Golden Dawn I might have believed that a true Rosicrucian initiate had telepathically contacted me, perhaps Anna Springel herself. As a Theosophist in late 19th century New York I could boast of having been contacted on the astral by an invisible master of the western mystery tradition. If I were a Catholic the dream would seem a subtle demonic attack. As a writer I considered the dream not only a valuable message about my practice, but also about how to proceed during the final edit. Eastern spiritual traditions would find nothing unusual about this instruction in the dream world. I’ve experimented with Tibetan dream yoga in the past and by focus on a certain chakra and visualization managed to find myself where they said I would, with a dakini smiling at me. A decade later Freud might describe these dreams as wish fulfillment. His student Jung would probably describe the dreams as encounters with the archetypes of a Rosicrucian and a dakini. Most skeptics would dismiss the dreams as short term memories triggered by neurons firing randomly during REM.
Yet even the most skeptical need not throw out the baby with the bath water. Anyone who has spent time around an enlightened human being recognizes the strange experiences they inspire, from flurries of synchronicities to inexplicable knowledge of what they cannot possibly know by normal means, and that subtle harmony of a life lived wisely. A cooperating collection of enlightened human beings is certainly no mere myth or fable, and they could be called “secret chiefs” or “hidden masters” while still being quite human. The history of politics, art and literature proves the pattern by which a small group of enlightened pioneers opens the way for the rest of us. A new modernity dawns as the old superstitions fade away.
Which brings us to a crucial question about the Rosicrucians and inspiration in general, if the message is useful and has good results how important is its source? So often people who champion one opinion or another about these mysteries find prestige, self-righteousness, even a sense of security in clinging to one answer as the only truth. Who can deny the comfort of imagining a secret society of superior beings working untiringly to make life better for us all, though that dynamic has mostly sinister connotations these days? Some take comfort in angels, others in saints, some in gurus, and others take comfort in spirit guides, what are we really describing when we use those terms, if anything at all?
The anonymous author or authors of the Fama, Confessio, and The Chemical Wedding would have fit right in with today’s anon culture online. In fact, the Rosicrucian manifestos had something very much like viral Internet success. Writing meant to be shared with a small circle of friends became so popular the authors influenced the course of history.
This view of Rosicrucianism, something closer to Guy Debord’s interpretation of it in his own work with the Situationist International: the agitprop of intellectuals and spiritual adventurers, the startling slogans posted in the streets by reformer authors, the achievement of a brilliant hoax but not mere jest, a philosophical joke, with political intimations. The tricksters gave us in the Rosicrucians a fictional mirror of the infamous Jesuits of the Vatican, and thereby inspired imitators to make the illusion real. From this perspective the Rosicrucians, from the sacred hoaxsters of Andreae’s circle to the wannabes like Fludd and Maier, and the inspired imitators like John Winthrop Jr., deserve their place in the history of the other countercultures that have transformed societies. The Rosicrucians, then could be included in a lineage that leads to Gertrude Stein’s salons, the beats of the 1950s, and which reaches back before Ficino’s Academy in Florence where the Renaissance was born. The recurrence of this cultural dynamic brings to mind the legendary phoenix, as if each of these milieus served as nests for the miraculous bird of light.
Initiates, Rosicrucian and otherwise, have been offered as encouragement for human evolution, the ideal of wisdom and power that can be achieved, the true creative power of the soul, and yet by making of them invisible telepaths we dehumanize them, and ourselves. As mere mortals we are reduced to vanity, while they loom over us with the mocking permanence of unattainable knowledge. No wonder they have wound up at the center of so many conspiracy theories about evil secret alliances throughout history.
If the drafter and author of the Rosicrucian manifestos was a precocious nineteen year old whose hoax helped start the Thirty Years War the fact that on one hand he has been effaced and replaced by a crew of invisible telepaths, and that on the other he represents the evil elite as one of the dreaded and malevolent Illuminati, would probably have delighted him. In a letter to a friend he talked about giving Tobias Hess authorship of one of his own works. Hess died in 1614. As Andreae continued writing Hess became his Rosicrucian touchstone, a way to deflect attention from himself, and his own actions and opinions. The Hess of Andreae’s later works is not Tobias Hess, his friend, but something more like a character or pseudonym. Secrecy and false identities were necessary in a world of religious persecutions, but Andreae appreciated the humor, and the art, of his Rosicrucian predicament.
The utopian classic he writes a few years later, Christianopolis, carried forward the principles of the Rosicrucian manifestos in strict Christian socialism where science and art are equally respected, but there isn’t a single mention of a rose in the book. Bacon called his New Atlantis a fable. Andreae wrote fables, fables that were taken literally. Borges saw in Andreae a kindred spirit because both were master fabulists. Rosicrucianism is indeed a magic mirror, reflecting the preoccupations of the viewer, but then all histories mirror the historian.
In March 2013 The Hague-based art dealers Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder staged the exhibition Elizabeth & Frederick: 400th Anniversary of the Wedding of the Winter Queen and Winter King. The test run with no publicity budget attracted four thousand visitors. Retitled The Fashionable Days of the Winter Queen it is now offered to as a traveling exhibit to museums around the world. Dr. Nadine Akkerman’s groundbreaking work on Elizabeth, which will include the first complete edition of her letters, in three volumes, and the first scholarly biography, all to be published by Oxford University Press, promises a much needed renaissance in the study of this crucial moment in western history.
Some have imagined Elizabeth Stuart presiding over a Rosicrucian court at the Hague. For them Frederick was as deeply embroiled in the Rosicrucian reformation as Fludd or Andreae. Frederick was to become Plato’s philosopher king, an enlightened hermetic monarch. When the plan for a general reformation in Europe ended in thirty years of war, the Rosicrucians of The Hague turned their attention to the New World where they helped realize plans for the establishment of a nation where freedom of religion would be guaranteed. The historical record, and in some cases the logic of events, does not provide evidence of such organized and systematic work. If anything the history of Frederick shows how the best intentions can result in tragedy. Yet, in the course of events, Elizabeth and Frederick found themselves at the center of a cultural explosion that drastically changed the political landscape of Europe and moved forward the project that would become America.
Terrence McKenna as John Dee.
Many of his fans find it a strange experience watching Terrence McKenna in his Mystic Fire video collaboration The Alchemical Dream: Rebirth of the Great Work, dressed up in Elizabethan costume, strolling the streets of Prague in the role of John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer. The Copernicus of Consciousness, as the Village Voice referred to McKenna, called Frederick V “a great hero of mine” and added that he “should be a great hero to all freaks in Germany and everywhere.” McKenna’s version of events is greatly influenced by the work of Frances Yates, who as a colleague once said, “squared every circle.” The truth about Frederick is probably somewhere in between the heroic alchemical monarch of Yates and the stubborn bumbler described by historians who view the Rosicrucian revolution occurring around the wedding of Frederick and Elizabeth as an opportunistic infection rather than the core of Frederick’s agenda for universal reform.
McKenna drew a parallel between those times and ours. He longs for a community who together can infiltrate with their visions our society sorely in need of alchemical transmutation. Just as the artists, astrologers, alchemists, philosophers, mathematicians, politicians, patrons, writers, engineers, and publishers of the Bohemian Spring shocked and inspired Europe with their diagrams of enlightenment and their Hermetic Weddings and Rosicrucian initiates, McKenna tells us “find the others and then you will know what to do.” He adds: “Find the others and then using this technology which was designed to keep track of us, to pick our pockets, and to sell us junk we don’t want, use this technology to produce art, massive amounts of subversive art.”
Since I was born with the initials RC, and I studied with Manly P. Hall, whom some have suspected of being a Rosicrucian, and because Mr. Hall gave me his own copy of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, let me assure you I am not a Rosicrucian, nor to the best of my knowledge have I ever known one.
This is Part Two of The Roots of American Metaphysical Religion.
Click here for Part One: The Slacker Emperor.
Secret History of the Court of James the First
The Quest for the Phoenix:
Spiritual Alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the Work of Count Michael Maier (1569-1622)
The Black Legend of Prince Rupert’s Dog:
Witchcraft and Propaganda during the English Civil War
Liverpool University Press, 2011
The Lure and Romance of Alchemy
Diplomacy and Early Modern Culture
(Early Modern Literature in History)
Adams, Cox, eds.
The Letters of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia
Oxford University Press, 2011
Art and Magic in the Court of the Stuarts
The Legacy of Elizabeth I in the Poetry of Aemilia Lanyer and Diana Primrose
University of Minnesota 2007
Indians & English:
Facing Off in Early America
Cornell University Press, 2000
The Winter King: Frederick V of the Palatinate and the Coming of the Thirty Years War
Brennan C. Pursell
John Dee’s Occultism
Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs
Gyorgy E. Szonyi
State University of New York, 2004
The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited
Ralph White, editor
“Rosicrucian Resurgence at the Court of Cromwell”
The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited
The Winter Queen:
The Story of Elizabeth Stuart
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Rose Cross Over the Baltic:
The Spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe
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“Friedrich V Elector Palatine, the Winter King”
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The Thirty Years War
Harvard University Press, 2009
The Thirty Years War
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Borges and the Name of the Rose
Shakespeare’s Last Plays:
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With a Supplement of Sixteen Additional Pieces
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Exorcising Our Demons:
Magic, Witchcraft, and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe
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Prophecies of Christopher Kotterus, Christiana Poniatovia, Nicholas Drabicius:
Three famous German prophets
Ancient and Modern
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Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, 1617-1680:
An Early Experiment in Liberalism
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The Winter Queen:
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A Sister Of Prince Rupert:
Elizabeth Princess Palatine And Abbess Of Herford
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The Correspondence Between Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes
Shapiro, Lisa, ed.
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Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance
Robert Fludd: Essential Readings
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Johann Valentin Andreae, Fantasist and Utopist
Science Fiction Studies
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 2008)
Robert Fludd (1574-1637) — A Musical Charlatan?
International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jun., 2008)
The Temple of Music’ by Robert Fludd
Music Theory in Britain, 1500-1700: Critical Editions
The Chemical Philosophy:
Paraclesian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Science History, 1977
The Chemical Promise:
Experiment and Mysticism in the Chemical Philosophy, 1550-1800
Selected Essays of Allen G. Debus
Science History, 2006
Robert Fludd’s Kabbalistic Cosmos
Platonism at the Origins of Modernity
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Robert Fludd and His Philosophical Key
Being a Transcription of the Manuscript at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Primary Sources from the Scientific Revolution
Science History Publications, New York, NY, 1979
The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory
Cambridge University Press, 2002
The Rosicrucian Seer:
Magical Writings of Frederick Hockley
The Teitan Press, 2009
Sympathetic Magic, the Weapon Salve
and the Powder of Sympathy in the 17th Century Europe
“Sophistical Fancies and Mear Chimaeras?”
Traiano Boccalini’s Ragguagli Di Parnaso and the Rosicrucian Enigma
Bruniana & Campanelliana
Ricerch filosofiche e materiali storico-testuali, 2009/1
The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians:
The World’s Most Mysterious Secret Society
Inner Traditions, 2010
“The Batavia Legacy:
Implications of the Batavia Shipwreck (1629) in History and Imaginary”
Reflections Around the Reciprocal Construction of Identity Between Australia and Europe
The History of Magic
Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival
The Theosophical Enlightenment
State University of New York, 1994
The Musical Theory and Philosophy of Robert Fludd
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Vol. 30, 1967
The Tessera of Antilia:
Utopian Brotherhoods & Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century
The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler
The Interpretation of Nature and Psyche
Jung, Pauli, eds.
Michael Maier and England,
“Michael Maier (1569-1622): New Bio-Bibliographical Material”
Figala and Neumann
Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy
at the University of Groningen 17-19 April 1989
Von Martels, ed.
The Lost Prince:
The Life and Death of Henry Stuart – review
The Observer, 10-20-2012
Touches of Sweet Harmony:
Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics
Huntington Library Press, 1974
Religion and the Decline of Magic
Penguin University Press, 1973
From Fama to Information Society:
Of Prophets, Gods and the Nettime server demon
An Elizabethan Man of Science
The Alchemy of Light:
Geometry and Optics I Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration
Article written by Ronnie Pontiac
Newtopia staff writer RONNIE PONTIAC is a founding member and primary guitarist of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War, Exile Nation, and the award winning animated short Cohen on the Bridge. He associate produced The Gits documentary, and was art editor, then poet in residence for Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation . He’s a published author of works on obscure topics such as ancient Greek religion and the history of alchemy. Follow him on Twitter @AmerMysteries.