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Item of Interest

As part of the Marrying Cultures public concert in Wolfenbüttel in June 2016 Maria Skiba performed a lament of the Danish Queen Isabella from the famous Antwerp songbook of the mid-16th century. The Dutch song links two Scandinavian consorts. Well over a hundred years after it was written, its title was used in a broadsheet depicting the death of Karl X Gustaf of Sweden and the fate of his wife and child.

In 1667 among the possessions of the late Queen of Poland, Marie-Louise Gonzague de Nevers (1611-77), a curious French manuscript entitled Le Cabinet des Dames (‘the Cabinet of Ladies’) was found. The original has not survived, but an extract was copied in the eighteenth century and is now held in the Bibliothèque Polonaise in Paris.

Consorts who married abroad were often asked to help supply goods to their native lands. One of the most precious natural resources Sweden had to offer in the 17th century was copper, sought after not just for building purposes but as an essential and expensive material in the production of books and illustrations. The famous mathematician Adam Olearius was a key figure at the Gottorf court as Hedwig Eleonora, Queen of Sweden, grew up.

Since the sixteenth century, cloth had been one of the most important commodities produced in Saxony. After the Thirty Years’ War a series of attempts had been made to establish cloth manufactories, but they had repeatedly failed after a few years for lack of capital and because local merchants refused to deal in the cloth they produced. It wasn’t until the 1720s that such efforts at larger-scale production began to be more successful.

The inscription on this silver medal states its celebratory function clearly: DIFFVSVS . IN . ORBE. BRITANNVS. 1670 (Briton Spread Over the Globe). It referred to the growth of British power in new parts of the globe through colonies on the continent and islands of America, warfare against Barbary in Africa, and by the acquisition of territory in Asia (through the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, which brought England control of Bombay and Tangiers). The reverse of the medal shows the globe, and the obverse displays busts of Charles II in ornamental armour and Catherine in slight drapery – the allusion to imperial Rome is not hidden.

After the death of Charles XII in 1718 and the ensuing defeat of Sweden in the Great Nordic War (1721), the king’s successor and sister Ulrika Eleonora (1688-1741) had to relinquish much of her royal authority and power to the riksdag (Swedish Parliament), thus ending absolutism in Sweden. The riksdag, however, was far from being a united political entity.

Cultural transfer is not always a matter of architectural styles, musical genres or fashion. Sometimes the arrival of a foreign queen affects more mundane things and she make a lasting contribution to the lives of her new subjects and not just to the court. An example of this is the vegetables that Bona Sforza (1493/4-1557), daughter of Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, introduced into Poland-Lithuania after her marriage to the Polish King Sigismund in Krakow in April 1518. We can see the Italian origin of these vegetables in their names.

Woodcut in: Justus Ludovicus Decius, Liber I De vetustatibus Polonorum – Liber II De Jagiellonum familia – Liber III De Sigismundi Regis temporibus, Cracoviae (Hieronym Vietor) 1521 after Maciej of Miechowita, Chronica Polonorum, Cracoviae 1521 Krakow, Biblioteka OO. Dominikanow, Cim 1071.

This pamphlet features an account of the trial of Sir George Wakeman (b. 1627), physician to Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the wife of Charles II. Wakeman was acquitted of High Treason on 18th July 1679, having been charged with conspiring to poison Charles at the behest of Catherine of Braganza.

This little tea bowl and its matching two-handled chocolate cup of Meissen porcelain in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford bear eloquent witness to an important type of luxury goods that travelled south from Dresden to Naples, thanks to the marriage in 1738 of Maria Amalia, Princess of Saxony (1724-1760), and Carlo VII, King of the Two Sicilies, from 1759 Carlos III, King of Spain (1716-1788). The bowl and the cup were made in Meissen just outside Dresden and emblazoned there with the coat of arms of Don Luigi Reggio e Branciforte, the prince of Campflorido.

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