Two or more European cultures meet whenever a king or prince takes a bride from another country. She often speaks a different language to that of her new court, professes a different version of Christianity, and has been brought up in a different court culture. Transported as she is to her new capital city and court, rarely or never to return home, she can either integrate by changing her beliefs and learning the language and ways of her new territory or she can become a source of friction, retaining an aura of ‘foreignness’, arousing hostility and even becoming a focus for conspiracy theories. In all cases she effects a transformation by her very presence, for she is usually accompanied by ladies-in-waiting, maids and grooms, often a chaplain, sometimes artists, craftspeople, musicians and actors. She brings with her books, art objects, clothes, jewellery, and furniture, objects that are still to be found in Europe’s museums and libraries. If she is interested in opera or theatre, she is often instrumental in establishing these art forms in her new country. She may also bring with her less tangible intellectual baggage too, such as religious, political, philosophical or scientific ideas and influences. The foreign consort often maintains an extensive correspondence with her birth family, which sometimes attempts to direct her actions from afar. If her sisters have also married into foreign courts, the network of transnational communication is further extended.
This HERA-funded project investigated the role of foreign consorts as agents, instruments or catalysts of cultural and dynastic transfer in early modern Europe (1500-1800). The project team included scholars from the UK, Germany, Poland and Sweden, each of whom conducted research into a transnational case study. The consorts studied were chosen because they revealed cultural synergies between northern (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Britain), eastern (Poland-Lithuania), and southern (Italy, Spain, Portugal) Europe and that enabled them to interrogate modern notions of centre and periphery, nationhood and dynastic. The team investigated how texts, material culture, music and architecture were interconnected manifestations of the cultural encounters brought about by dynastic marriages and peeled back the map of Europe with its discrete nation states to reveal an earlier one with different linguistic, cultural and political borders to those of today.
Working with colleagues in historic palaces, in museums and in libraries, these scholars investigated how consorts were represented within their lifetimes and after. Doing so allowed them to assess how it is that certain consorts become embedded in national cultural memory and others do not and to understand the processes by which the legacy of Queens Consort are often under-represented in 21st century societies.
- Historic Royal Palaces (Kensington Palace, London): Dr Joanna Marschner
- National Portrait Gallery, London: Dr Catharine Macleod
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London: Dr Julius Bryant
- Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Stockholm: Dr Malin Grundberg
- The Museum of Polish History, Warsaw: Monika Matwiejczuk
- Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel: Professor Hellwig Schmidt-Glintzer
- Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien, Hannover: Professor Susanne Rode-Breymann
- Husgerådskammaren (The Royal Collections), Stockholm: Dr Lars Ljungström
- Turku Castle and Historical Museum: Olli Immonen
HERA Joint Research Programme Cultural Encounters
This project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 291827 and was financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme (www.heranet.info) which was co-funded by AHRC, AKA, BMBF via PT-DLR, DASTI, ETAG, FCT, FNR, FNRS, FWF, FWO, HAZU, IRC, LMT, MHEST, NWO, NCN, RANNÍS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme.