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O radt van avontueren

Title page of Een schoon liedekens Boeck (Antwerp 1544) Herzog August Bibliothek


O radt van avontueren - A song on the fate of consorts 1526/1660

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.

O radt van avontueren - Isabella of Austria 1526

This popular song laments the fate of Isabella of Austria, Queen of Denmark (1501-1526). A daughter of Philip I of Spain and Joanna of Castile, she spent her childhood in the Netherlands under the tutelage of the regent of the Netherlands, Margaret of Austria. In 1514, at the age of 13, she was married to Christian II of Denmark and became Queen Consort of Denmark and Norway. In 1523, Christian was deposed and had to leave Denmark. Isabella fled with him and their children to the Netherlands, where she died in early 1526 at the age of 24.

The song text was first published in the Een schoon liedekens Boeck inden welcken ghy in vinden sult, Antwerp 1544. The only known copy of the book has survived in the holdings of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. This so-called Antwerp song book was put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum and so it is probable all the other copies of this edition were destroyed.

For further information on the song and its reception, see: Florimund Van Duyse Het oude Nederlandsche lied, Deel 2 (1905)

O radt van avontueren


Text and translation

O radt van avontueren,
hoe wonderlijck draeyt u spille;
den eenen moet ongeluc gebueren,
die ander heeft so wel sinen wille;
van die coninghinne van Denemercke,
Ysabeele, dat vrouwelijc graen,
die clachte die si dede,
- God verleene haer die eewige vrede, -
dat suldi hier na verstaen.

‘O coninck van Denemercken,
mijn man, mijn here reyn,
God wil u in duechden stercken
ende alle mijn kinderkens cleyn;
nu moet ic van u scheyden
ende laten u in eenen soberen staet;
God willet hem vergheven
die ons dus hebben verdreven,
oft daer toe gaf den eersten raet.

Mijn broeders zijn verheven
ende mijn susters in staten groot;
eylaes, wi zijn verdreven
ende liggen hier in groote noot;
o heeren ende prelaten,
diemen hier al met ooghen aensiet,
coemt doch alle mijn kinderkens te baten;
dat icse nu moet laten,
dat is mi een groot verdriet.’

Die Coninc sprac met weenenden ooghen:
‘och edel vrouwe en zijt niet versaecht,
hoe salt mijn herte ghedoghen,
dat ghi dus deerlijc claecht;
die kinderen sullen welop gheraken,
den Keyser wort haer onderstant,
ic hope ic salt so maken,
Gods gracie sal met mi waken
dat ick sal comen in mijn lant.’

‘Adieu vrou Janne, lieve moeder,
God behoede u voor teghenspoet!
ende u, Kaerle, lieve broeder,
dat edel keyserlijc bloet;
hadde ic tegen u moghen spreken -
mer ic moet sterven die doot -
ende claghen u mijnen ghebreken,
dat mijn kinderen niet en worden versteken,
so en ware mi gheen stervens noot

‘Adieu hertoghe van Oostenrijcke,
Don Fernandus, broeder goet,
ende Leonora dier ghelijcke,
God behoede u voor teghenspoet!
ende Katherijne, suster reyne,
die ic noyt en hebbe gesien,
adieu myn kinderkens cleine,
adieu mijn vrienden alle ghemeyne,
adieu mijn man, coninclijck engyen

Dit heeft die coninghinne ghesproken,
te Swijnaerde, alst is bekent,
daer haer herte is ghebroken,
den Coninck daer zijnde present,
den XIX. Januario tghewaghen,
CCCCC.XXV. beleven;
hi machse wel beclaghen
ende in zijn herte draghen,
also langhe als hi mach leven.
Oh wheel of fortune
How strangely your axle spins;
Some have to experience misfortune
Others have just what they want.
[This is] about the Queen of Denmark
Isabella, an admirable lady,
And her lamentation
– God, give her eternal peace –
As you will hear now.

„Oh King of Denmark,
My husband, my noble Lord.
May God strengthen your virtues
And those of all my little children.
I have to leave you now
And leave you in sorrow.
May God forgive those
Who banished us
Or advised that we leave.

My brothers are highly placed
And my sisters [are] as well;
Alas, we are banished
And live in dire need.
Oh Lords and Prelates,
Who are influential here,
Come to the aid of my children;
That I have to leave them now,
Causes me great sorrow.”

The king spoke with tears in his eyes:
„Oh noble lady, don’t be disheartened
How could my heart bear it,
That you lament like this;
The children will prosper here.
The word of the Emperor will protect them.
I hope to accomplish,
And God’s grace will guide me
That I will regain my own lands.”

„Farewell, lady Joan, dear mother
May God protect you from adversity!
And you, Charles, dear brother
Of noble imperial blood.
If I had been able to speak with you.
– But I am in death’s throes –
And told you about my troubles,
So that my children would not be deprived,
I would not fear death.”

„Farewell Duke of Austria
Don Ferdinand, dear brother
And Eleonora his equal.
May God protect you from adversity!
And Catherine, dear sister,
Whom I have never [met].
Farewell my little children.
Farewell all my friends.
Farewell my husband, excellent king.”

Thus the Queen spoke,
In Zwijnaarde, as is known.
It broke her heart.
The King was also there,
It happened on the 19th of January
He may well mourn her
And carry her in his heart
As long as he may live.


T’Radt Van Avontveren - Hedwig Eleonora of Sweden (1660)

Broadsheet T’Radt Van Avontueren [1660?], Royal Library Stockholm.


The broadsheet echoes the lament for the Danish Queen Isabella in its title and the popular song will have been familiar to its Dutch readers. The engraving at the centre of the wheel of fortune documents a precarious personal and political situation for the consort of King Karl X Gustaf, Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorf (1636-1715). The young Queen is shown already in mourning at her husband’s deathbed in February of 1660. Holding both her hand and the King’s is the small figure of their only child and the heir to the throne, later Karl XI Gustaf, who was only 4 years old at the time. The Queen, now part of the regency, is dependent on her son’s survival for her own future position in Sweden. This version of the broadsheet remains relatively unspecific as to the kind of political turbulence the death of a monarch might cause and what the consequences might be, both in the anonymous verses and in its iconography. The reversal of fortune among kings is highlighted in the Biblical scenes in the vignettes on the top left and right corners of the sheet, showing Samuel anointing Saul and the defeated leader of the Canaanites being maimed by Judah. A variant of the broadsheet held in the British Museum (view here) is both drastically explicit and topical. It replaces the Biblical vignettes with a depiction of the body of Cardinal Mazarin lying in state on the one side and the exhumed bodies of Cromwell and the regicides hanging from the gallows on the other. The verses of the Amsterdam poet Jan Zoet describe in detail the political situation and the reversal of Swedish fortunes in the war against Denmark with the sudden demise of its king. The uncertain future of the Queen and her child is still at the centre of the sheet and forms the focus of the wheel of fortune.

Subskrybuj Marrying Cultures