Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE CHILDREN OF ENGLAND'S FIRST STUART KING: A Guide to the Children of James VI and I and Anne of Denmark

by Linda Root

In 1603, most  English people gained something they had not known during their lifetimes: a male heir to the English throne, and what a stunning one he was!

Much has been written about the children of Henry VII, the first Tudor king. There is the tragic story of promising, handsome Arthur, Prince of Wales, who died young, and the still popular saga of his brother Henry, dynamic successor to both Arthur’s bride Catherine of Aragon and Arthur’s claim to the English throne. History is also rich in retelling the lives of Henry VII's daughters, headstrong and rebellious Margaret, the Scottish consort, and her beautiful younger sister Mary Rose, known as the White Queen during her brief marriage to the elderly King of France. The next generation of Tudors, notably the children of Henry VIII and the granddaughter of his sister Margaret, Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots have filled bookshelves with accounts of their colorful lives,  Even the boy king Edward VI is finally coming into his own as modern historians dwell on the depth of his intellect rather than the brevity of his life. Some current Tudor historians offer poignant apologies for Mary I, who likely did not deserve the moniker Bloody Mary. Her successor and younger sibling Elizabeth I, the last of the line, is one of the most written about women in history.

While the Tudor dynasty ended with Elizabeth I’s death, the bloodline did not.  Her aunt Margaret Tudor, consort to James IV of Scotland, contributed a great grandson to the English monarchy when the first Stuart King, James VI of Scotland, ascended the throne as James I on Elizabeth's death in the spring of 1603.   However, until recently his children have been given scant attention beyond other than his second son Charles, whose major claim to fame was getting his head lopped off at the instigation of Oliver Cromwell.  However, as more research material becomes accessible to both professional scholars and armchair historians it becomes clear that the children of James I, including the son his father referred to as Baby Charlie,  have been seriously underestimated.

Perhaps history buffs with an interest in the Tudors will find this two-part post enough of a teaser to lure them to look a bit beyond 1603 and journey into the vivid history of the early 17th Century British royals. 


1) Many historians wrongly refer to Henry Frederick Stuart as the Prince of Wales from the time he arrived in England in 1603.  This is incorrect.  He was not invested with that title until 1610.  His predecessor was Edward Tudor, the boy king Edward VI (1537-1553)  Upon Henry Frederick's  birth in Scotland he was given the customary title of a male Scottish heir apparent, Duke of Rothesay, as well as several lesser grants appropriate to the Scottish heir. However, when he arrived in England he was also conferred the English title Duke of Cornwall.  He had to wait seven more years to become Prince of Wales.  Referring to him as Prince of Wales during his early childhood should be a cause of embarrassment to a any historian or historical novelist who refers to him as Wales prior to 1610 and yet, it is a common mistake.  It is the way he is most often remembered although he only lived two years to enjoy the title.

2) Some histories casually infer the new royal family descended on the English en masse during the spring of 1603.  That is inaccurate.  James VI traveled to London in the early spring with a huge entourage which did not include his consort Anne of Denmark or his nine-year-old son Henry Frederick, Duke of Rothesay or the Princess Elizabeth, who was almost six. They began their progress south two months later. The second son, Charles, who was three, did not come for more than a year. Ostensibly he was too frail to make the trip. An equally good explanation for leaving him behind was the poor public presentation he was apt to make. At four years of age when he was finally escorted south to England, he had just begun to talk and could barely walk.

There is much to be learned about Queen Anne and her children from records of what they spent and where they stayed on their journey from Scotland to Windsor.  No expense was spared. The costs of the enterprise was substantial. In addition to the Scottish entourage, many nobles were dispatched to act as escorts, incurring the additional expense of transporting a large segment of the court from London to Berwick to rendezvous with the Queen and her children.  They had to travel at the exhausting pace of 31 miles a day to arrive on schedule, and when they did, the Queen was running late.
The Duke of Rothesay was an image to behold:

The details of the journey south tell us much about the showmanship of the heir-apparent as well as his mother the Queen Consort’s extravagant nature
.  An interesting insight into the character of the Prince concerns his determination to make the journey on horseback rather than riding in the elegant royal coach dedicated to the transport of the royals.   The condition of the roads in places may have made travel by horse more confortable in places, but the Queen was recovering from a serious miscarriage and needed to travel by coach or litter. While Queen Anne's  coach was a spectacle in itself, the young Prince who rode alongside it was the greater crowd pleaser. Even at nine, his horsemanship was exceptional, and although he apparently preferred rough woolen attire for the journey to velvets and brocades worn by most high ranking aristocrats, his deportment was elegant and regal.  Long before they reached the rendezvous with the King at Windsor, the Duke of Rothesay’s reputation preceded him.[1]

The itinerary of the journey to Windsor suggests Prince Henry Frederick was likely viewed by more English subjects than any royal in the living memory of the English along the route.  While Elizabeth Tudor enjoyed her progresses, they were limited in territory covered.  Students of her relationship with her cousin the Queen of Scots will recall her reluctance to travel as far north as York to confer with her Scottish rival Queen. None of Henry VIII’s children ventured outside of the country. The mighty garrison at Berwick-on-Tweed had saluted the Queen of Scots as she rode along the Borders to Jedburgh, but they had never seen the Queen of England. Seeing an heir to their throne riding by in splendor and interacting with the crowd was thus a once in a lifetime spectacle for most of the English common people and news of Henry Frederick's  attributes spread throughout the land. When they reached Leicester, the Princess and the components of her household left the main contingent and proceeded to Coombe Abbey near Coventry where she was to establish a separate household. After she was rested, she rejoined the group at Windsor, thus spared all of the exhausting festivities planned at the Spencer estate at Althorpe, familiar to us as the site where Diana, Princess of Wales is buried.  At this point, the King made the two day ride from Windsor Castle to rendezvous with his family. Before that point, the English contingent of the Queen's separate household had also joined the entourage, another forty-four people and more than forty added horses.

3) There is some indication the King did not wish Henry Frederick to leave Stirling and the guardianship of the Earl of Mar, and preferred his son remain in Scotland.  However, at the time of his father’s ascension he was approaching the  proper age to have his own establishment and was anxious to escape from living under Mar's thumb. Lady Mar was apparently a stern caretaker, but the Prince, according Rose Georgina Kingsley's research, already had begun to take control of his daily regimen.  He was a good student, but he was also an athlete and an equestrian. He apparently spent two to three hours in the morning on his lessons and spending his afternoons perfecting his sports and athletic endeavors. It is said although  he enjoyed the pursuit of the traditional hunt, he did not engage in the killing of the prey. One of the best loved painting of the prince shows him sheathing his sword rather than proceeding to slay the stag being held by its horns by his friend Lord John Harington.

5) Henry Frederick was named for his grandfathers.  His paternal grandfather was the Queen of Scots' consort King Henry Stuart, best known as the infamous Lord Darnley, whose mother was a granddaughter of Henry VII, and his maternal grandfather was King Frederick of Denmark.  He was baptized as both Frederick Henry and Henry Frederick in a lavish ceremony King James planned to equal the one his mother Marie Stuart had given him.  Both of the ceremonies nearly bankrupted the Scottish monarchy.

6) Prince Harry had a close personal relationship with his sister Princess Elisabeth, who was two years younger.  At times they lived in the same household at Nonsuch. When she was residing at Coombe Abbey near Coventry, he missed her company and wrote to her regularly. It pleased him that her guardian was the father of his best friend Lord Harington.   Lord Harington is the kneeling figure at the left in the famous painting of the prince sheathing his sword at the end of the hunt.

Whenever possible Henry Frederick  and Elizabeth spent time together.  The Prince approved the choice of his sister's bridegroom Frederick, the Elector of the Palatinate and had been entertaining him at Saint James Palace when he fell ill.  Even after the onset of what turned out to be Henry Frederick's last illness, he rallied long enough to play a game of  tennis with his prospective brother-in-law.

7) On the other hand, even when both were still in Scotland Prince Henry Frederick had scant contact with his young brother Charles.  Apparently Henry Frederick considered Charles to be his mother's clear favorite, but that may be because Charles was frail, and she was permitted a greater role during his infancy. During his years in Scotland, Charles had been placed in the care of Lord and Lady Fyvie at Dunfermline where the Queen maintained a residence separate from the King.

Early portrait of  Charles I

There are reports that Henry Frederick did not care for Baby Charlie, the nickname the King used for his second son, even into his adulthood. But those stories are based on only one incident when Henry Frederick teased him.  They maintained a brotherly correspondence, much of it in Latin, and  none which  suggests anything but a normal and affectionate relationship of brothers.  When Henry Frederick fell ill in the autumn of 1612, Charles took him a miniature gold sculptured horse which had been given him by one of the Medici relatives of the French consort, an item Charles treasured. Whether the Prince of Wales lived long enough to acknowledge his brother's generous gift is unknown. Neither Charles nor his sister Elizabeth were permitted at Prince Henry Frederick's bedside toward the end, and the young brother was the chief mourner at his funeral.

Henry Frederick as Prince of Wales
8) Prince Henry Frederick had a remarkably adult and vigorous  correspondence with Henri IV of France. They shared a love of horses, and the French King  sent his young friend some highly prized specimens to add to his stable. Henri IV had been a Huguenot who  converted in order to settle the French Wars of Religion but who insisted  that the peace provide some freedom of worship to protestants.  Henry Frederick was a militant protestant himself who disagreed with his father's conciliatory policies and was openly critical of his mother's apparent conversion to Catholicism and his brother Charles' Papist leanings.  He is  said to have disapproved of the tomb his father had constructed for his mother the Queen of Scots at Westminster, lest it seem as endorsement of her Catholic faith, and he refused to permit his father to negotiate a marriage for him with a French or Spanish Catholic princess stating there would only be one religion in his marriage bed. He may have been attracted to  Puritanism and openly disagreed with his father’s efforts to reestablish  episcopacy in Scotland. Many on the Privy Council saw in him the promise of a different kind of King.

Personally, he was morally strict. He had poor boxes installed in each of his houses and when away from his own lodgings he usually carried one around his neck to collect coins from anyone  he caught swearing.  When he learned of the gunpowder plot of which he was one of the intended victims, he commemorated his survival of the assault planned for Tuesday November 5, 1605  by listening to a sermon nearly every Tuesday morning for the remainder of his life.

He remains a popular subject for alternative historians and there is still much speculation that he might have changed the course of western history had he lived.  He died of typhus in November 1612.  Five days later his father's nemesis and cousin, exiled  Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell allegedly died of a broken heart in Naples when he heard the news. Many people great and small looked to Henry Frederick with hope. There is no question that the sense of loss at his death was widespread and enduring.

Allegedly his last words were : "Where is my dear sister?" Perhaps he only wished one last goodbye, or perhaps he was clairvoyant and wished to warn her.

Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia

For more about the Princesses Elizabeth, Sophie and Mary, 
look for PART II in March, 2015, God willing.
Linda Root

For an excellent look at his early years, there is a gem available as a Kindle e-book, The Children of Westminster Abbey, by Rose Georgina Kingsley, an overview of the children buried there, most of whom were Stuarts.  There are two entire chapters dedicated to Prince Henry Frederick.

For an interesting account of Charles I travel from Dunfermline in 1604,  take a look at Memoirs of Robert Cary{sic} Duke of Monmouth edited by G.H. Powell (spelling and formatting theirs), Alexander Moring Limited, The De La More Press, 32 George St. Hanover Square London W 1905, available at Amazon Kindle and elsewhere, and the Memoirs of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, by George Seton, Advocate, William Blackwood and Sons, London and Edinburgh,  digital publication by Ulan Press, San Bernardino 2010. Also available on Amazon.  A detailed account of the progress of Anne of Denmark and her children in 1603 is found in Long-Distance Royal Journeys: Anne of Denmark's Journey from Stirling to Windsor in 1603, Brayshay, Mark, The Journal of Transport History, March 2004.

All images in the Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.


Linda Root is the author of The First Marie and the Queen of Scots; The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, and three books in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series on Amazon.

Her current novel in the Legacy series, In the Shadow of the Gallows, is due to launch in April 2015.

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting, thank you. One small point: during Henry's lifetime, John, Lord Harrington was the father of his friend John, not dying until 1613. It was John Harrington the younger, who was Henry's friend. He was not Lord John, being only the son of a baron. Only sons of Dukes and above are Lord + forename.


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