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Anna Catharina Constantia

Anna Catharina Constantia

Anna Catharina Constantia (1619-1651), Princess of Poland and Sweden, Duchess of Pfalz-Neuburg, was born on August 7, 1619 in Warsaw as the seventh child of the royal couple Sigismund III Waza, king of Poland and his second wife Constantia of Austria, She was the twelfth child of the king.

Anna Catharina Constantia lost her parents early – Queen Constance died in 1631 and Sigismund III in 1632, when the princess was 13 years old. Her step-brother Vladislaus became her legal guardian and acceded to the throne in 1633. The princess accompanied the King on most official journeys and in 1636 she was presented to the world during summer festivities in Vilnius.

She was brought up at a court where music flourished. The royal chapel was directed by a succession of Italians and was one of the largest and most famous in Europe.

The Polish royal children received a thorough education, including music, although very little evidence about their teachers or the repertoire that they learnt exists. She had an opportunity to hear splendid music and see opulent music theatre performances as well as state and church festivities that were accompanied by music by the royal chapel. During her life in Warsaw she saw at least eight big-scale dramma per musica performances at court and she is mentioned as taking active part in the court ballets – both preparing and dancing them with her ladies.

A number of grand matrimonial plans were made for the princess. As early as 1630 negotiations took place concerning her possible marriage to Gaston, the brother of Louis XIII of France. In 1636 there were talks about matrimony between Anna Catharina Constantia and Ferdinand of Spain, the Cardinal Infante. Between 1637 and 1641 Archduchess Claudia de’Medici, the regent of Tirol, negotiated with Vladislaus IV and the senate about a possible marriage of the princess to her son Ferdinand Karl of Tirol.

In the end Anna Catharina Constantia married the German Catholic Duke Philipp Wilhelm I of Pfalz-Neuburg in 1642. After the wedding festivities in Warsaw that lasted several days and consisted of two court ballets, she travelled to Neuburg an der Donau where she was to live with her husband.

She brought with her an enormous dowry and travelled with over 80 wagons carrying silver, tapestries, paintings and other valuable objects. She also possessed a considerable collection of jewellery. Only a few items from this collection survive today and they are kept in the Residenzschloss in Munich, in the Hofkirche in Neuburg and in the St. Andreas church in Düsseldorf. A couple of paintings are in the possession of the Pinakothek and some of them are displayed in the castle in Neuburg. Anna Catharina Constantia and her husband Philipp Wilhelm spent their time between the residences of Neuburg and Düsseldorf. In Neuburg she attended musical theatre plays performed by the Jesuit college, and made generous donations to the church and the college, although it is not known whether she supported their musical efforts directly. In 1644 Biagio Marini (who was then employed for the third time as maestro di capella in Düsseldorf/Neuburg) dedicated a collection of sacred chamber music to the Duchess, Corona melodica (Antwerp, 1644).

Anna Catharina Constantia died prematurely in Cologne in 1651 at the age of 32 without ever becoming a proper consort - she died two years before her father-in-law Wolfgang Wilhelm and only then did her husband Philipp Wilhelm accede to the Electorate.

The cultural and musical influence of this figure still has to be thoroughly investigated and Maria Skiba’s dissertation, which will be submitted to the University of Music, Theatre and Media in Hanover, will examine the subject from the following points of view:

Areas of Research

  • Music and Soundscape
    • Her musical and cultural educations and background in Warsaw.
    • Music collections dedicated directly to her or that can be connected to her.
    • The music theatre of the Jesuits in Neuburg an der Donau during her time there
    • The soundscape of the festivities she attended or played a central part in
  • Culture
    • Her dowry and what happened to it, the objects connected with her, such as paintings etc., works dedicated to her
  • Religion and Piety
    • Catholicism and the Jesuit connection, counter-reformation (Catholic reform) – the similarities and differences between Poland-Lithuania and Bavaria, the Marian cult in Poland-Lithuania and in Bavaria as an instrument of the Habsburg politics of re-Catholicisation in the German lands.
  • Culture and Music Transfer
    • Did Anna Catharina Constantia exert any influence in her new home by bringing new musical ideas, new genres or customs? Did cultural transfer take place between Poland-Lithuania and Neuburg/Düsseldorf?
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