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Isaac Oliver (c. 1565-1617)

Princess Elizabeth, later Queen of Bohemia (1596-1662) c.1610

RCIN 420031

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Princess Elizabeth (1596-1662), the only daughter of James VI and I, was the sister of Henry, Prince of Wales, and Charles I. She is depicted here aged about 14. After her marriage in 1613 to the Elector Palatine, Frederick V of Bohemia (1596-1632), the couple came to personify the Protestant cause in Europe. However, in 1619 Frederick antagonised the Holy Roman Emperor by accepting the crown of Bohemia. The Emperor's troops marched on Prague, defeated Frederick at the Battle of the White Mountain (1620) and ignited the Thirty Years' War. Known thereafter as the 'Winter Queen', Elizabeth of Bohemia - and Frederick - lived the rest of their lives in exile, first in The Hague and then in London. She had numerous children - including Princess Sophia, through whom the Hanoverian kings of England claimed descent, and Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

There are few miniatures that exemplify Isaac Oliver's skills so fully as the present portrait. Significantly, Van der Doort gives it a detailed description in his inventory of Charles I's collection of c.1639, referring to it as an image 'when she was younger in her high time past' and describing the coiffure, the jewels, the flowers and the dress. He adds that it was made from life. He also describes it as set in a 'white ivory box wth [sic] a Christall over it'. The setting survived until at least the reign of William III; the present gilt-metal frame was fitted to the miniature in the mid-nineteenth century at the instigation of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

A miniature by Hilliard showing Princess Elizabeth slightly younger is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Isaac Oliver made further miniatures of the Princess at the time of her marriage in 1613; his son, Peter Oliver, followed his example in later decades.

Signed at left IO (in monogram)

Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002