Friday, 17 January 2014

The fading of a queen

The consort of England in 1614 was starting to fade from view.  Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, had become queen of Scotland on her marriage in 1590 and queen of England in 1603 when her husband succeeded Elizabeth I.  But Anne's role and power were disappearing in 1614 as her health began to suffer and she withdrew from public life.  And, arguably, with her faded the notion of queenship in England for almost sixty years.

Anne of Denmark from a portrait attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger and painted around 1612

By 1614, the queen was living apart from her husband although there was no formal separation and the couple who had married as youngsters had grown into a middle aged acceptance of one another's hopes and aspirations.  Both had suffered deeply when their eldest son, Henry, had died at the age of 18 in 1612 and the queen had slowly withdrawn from public life after that, holding a ball in 1614 but disappearing from view soon afterwards.  Anne had helped her father take the throne of Elizabeth I and bring together the crowns of Scotland and England but by 1614, at the age of 40, she was tired and sad and beginning to suffer from ongoing poor health.  

Anne of Denmark was in mourning and in poor health by 1614

Anne, queen of England died before her husband and never saw her second son, Charles, become king - or lose his throne and his head in 1649.  His wife, Henrietta Maria, was never popular in England and after their marriage in 1625 she spent several years having children before finding herself ready for full time queenship just as England dissolved into civil war.  Her role as consort was to shore up an embattled king fighting for his throne and is life.  Arguably, Anne of Denmark was the last woman to exercise the full role of a consort until the marriage of her grandson, Charles II, to Catherine of Braganza in 1662.  But four hundred years ago her queenship was starting to fade into the background as the Danish princess who came to Scotland filled with youthful love and excitement coped with personal sadness and a diminishing public role.

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