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The 1613 Marriage Journey of Elizabeth Stuart

Reflections on Visualizing European Geopolitics on the Brink of the Thirty Years War
Molly Taylor-Poleskey 1 & Jason Heppler 2
1. Assistant Professor of Digital History, Middle Tennessee State University
2. Assistant Professor of History, University of Nebraska at Omaha
The following essay accompanies the Journey Up the Rhine website. The project chronicles the journey taken by Princess Elizabeth Stuart and Prince Elector Friedrich V of the Palatinate from London to Heidelberg after their wedding in 1613. Modern, historical, and confessional maps show the stops in the geopolitical context of pre-Thirty Years War Europe.

Click here to access the Journey Up the Rhine website.
In 1613, Princess Elizabeth Stuart of England and Scotland, married Friedrich V, Elector Palatine. Their procession home to Heidelberg was publicized throughout Europe and festival descriptions from the cities en route presented the marriage as a metaphor for the union of the European Protestant states. The "Journey Up the Rhine" digital project sprang from reading Gerhard Vögelin’s Beschreibung der Reiß, the most extensive description of the Palatine wedding of 1613.1 In this large (over 300 page) volume, Princess Elizabeth’s progression to her new home in Heidelberg is cased in superlative language about the warm reception the wedding train received at each stop along the journey. It is typical for festival literature to avoid mentioning logistical matters or diplomatic tensions, but the propagandistic impulses of this work are lost on the modern reader without layers of context about this region on the brink of the major international conflict of the seventeenth century: the Thirty Years War.2 The “Journey Up the Rhine” project depicts the journey on historical and modern map layers—with political, religious, and geographic features—in order to illuminate the geopolitical context of this momentous journey. The following essay introduces the project and offers some reflections on the process on making it.
Figure 1. The marriage procession
The marriage procession at the wedding of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and Elizabeth, daughter of James I. Etching after Abraham Hogenberg. British Museum 1880,0612.215.
At the time of the Palatine wedding, the states along the Rhine River were at a political impasse; the Twelve Years’ Truce between the Netherlands and Spain had only temporarily averted armed conflict, and the Jülich-Cleves succession had not yet been conclusively resolved. In these circumstances the entire region was at risk of becoming embroiled in war. The journey involved parading two of the most prominent Protestants in Europe through the fractious region. This event carried such symbolic significance that it caused both excitement and anxiety in even distant parts of Europe.
Figure 2. Beschreibung der Reiß
Title page of the journey’s festival description.
As Princess Elizabeth Stuart moved through the space connecting her birth home in England to her new home in Heidelberg, she was navigating the particular situations in the various cities of the United Provinces and along the Rhine River. In 1613, these cities were mixed Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist. Some cities had representative governments, some secular princely rule, and some ecclesiastical rule. Some had long-established local rulers, while others had contested foreign or newly decided rulers. These are some of the attributes that can be recovered in a mapped rendering of the story.
There are four spatial renderings used in this project: a basemap (with modern roads and landmarks removed), two early modern maps, and a confessional layer. The confessional layer corresponds to the official religion of the state, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist or mixed). The basemap makes visible landscape features that might have influenced the choice of a stop. The major landscape feature that influenced the route is obvious even with a map: the Rhine River. Travel by water was the fastest and most comfortable means of long-distance travel in early modern Europe. Furthermore, as cities typically cluster near water, Elizabeth would encounter a maximum number of people along the Rhine, aiding the propagandistic nature of the festival journey.
On the basemap, it is apparent that Elizabeth went out of her way to visit the major cities of the United Provinces when she could have gone more swiftly through a direct eastward route on the Waal River. This is indicative of the role of Prince Maurice of Orange (1567-1625) in shaping of the journey. Maurice, the stadtholder of the United Provinces, wanted to shore up relations there. He was a major promoter of the interests of the Protestant Union in the Netherlands and had opposed the Twelve Years Truce in favor of the United Provinces asserting more autonomy from Spain.3Prominent displays of Protestant power (seen in the festivals for Elizabeth’s visits) were vital to shore up courage for the Dutch to pursue independence from Spain.
Figure 3. Elizabeth’s itinerary
Elizabeth and her entourage went out of their way to visit the major cities of the United Provinces.
A visual approach to this story also exposes places passed over by Elizabeth’s entourage. There were noticeably few stops actually in the Palatinate. This highlights the fact that the Beschreibung and the stops it described sought to broadcast the message of Protestant hope and power beyond Frederick’s own domain. This was an exercise in international diplomacy. Furthermore, although the vast majority of the stops were in urban places (Amsterdam, the Hague, Dordrecht, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, etc.), some major cities very close to Heidelberg were skipped including Worms, Darmstadt, and Mannheim. This opens new research questions about the relations between those states and the young Palatinate rulers.
Figure 4. Detail of Elizabeth’s journey near Heidelberg
Another stop that deviates from the urban pattern of the journey was the May 26 meeting in Mondorf where with Georg Wilhelm (1595-1640), Electoral Prince of Brandenburg. By toggling between the modern and historic maps, this stop becomes all the more intriguing because Mondorf is not on either of the early modern maps. Why then was Elizabeth inclined to pause in such an unremarkable “dorf”? The answer may lie in the Van den Keere map where the boundary of the Duchy of Berg is just over the River Stieg.4 The rule of the region around Mondorf was hotly contested in the Cleves-Jülich succession crisis. The main claimants in the crisis were Georg Wilhelm’s father and Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg (1578-1653). Negotiations to settle the succession had recently ended in failure in Erfurt and as Elizabeth passed through Berg, Brandenburg and Pfalz-Neuburg jointly ran a provisional common government.5 Although, Wolfgang Wilhelm had previously sought an advantageous Protestant marriage with Elizabeth, weeks after she passed through Mondorf, he switched to curry favor with powerful Catholic rulers when he secretly converted to Catholicism to marry Magdelene of Bavaria (1587-1628). The meeting in Mondorf, then, was a show of support for Brandenburg’s claims in the succession crisis and a buttressing of Protestant dynastic interests.8
Early Modern renderings
Modern maps are not the only possible representation of this space. Contemporary renderings of the Rhine region help unlock the particular seventeenth-century spatial story. This digital project consciously does not georectify the early modern maps. The Pieter der Keere and Abraham Ortelius projections are quite revealing about the tensions underlying the political situation in the early seventeenth century. These original spatial projections open the possibility for insights into cultural divisions that differ from the familiar, modern nation-state boundaries. Maps are subjective representations of space and constraining historic maps into a digital Mercator projection masks the nature of the map as a primary text.7
Figure 5. Pieter van den Keere map with Elizabeth’s route.
The van der Keere map, for one, presents a wholly different context for the 1613 wedding journey by depicting the entire Rhine region as a geographic unit. The journey looks very different on a horizontal north-south axis (the Rhine flows left to right on the page instead of from the bottom to the top of the page). This disorienting projection might be explained by the cartographer’s confessional and political leanings. Van den Keere had spent the early part of his career in England as a religious refugee after the Catholic victory in Ghent. This map was printed in a period when he was engraving in the Netherlands and collaborating with other well-known cartographers and printmakers, often his relatives, including Jodocus Hondius and Joannes Janssonius.8 In this milieu of former religious exiles, it is not surprising that Van den Keere’s map excludes any mention of the Spanish Habsburgs’s involvement in the region. Furthermore, the text in the cartouche recounts the history of the seventeen United Provinces and states of the “Duytsch Natie” along the Rhine from antiquity to 1621. Thus, the cohesion of the history and culture of the region is reinforced beyond the political boundaries of the states along the Rhine.
Figure 6. Town of Mondorf
The absence of the town of Mondorf on early modern maps, in contrast to modern maps.
The confessional map overlays the basemap with political boundaries from Christos Nüssli’s Euratlas 1600. This layer is color coded to depict the official religion of the states along the journey. However, there are persisting problems that impede this objective. For one thing, this map does not line up precisely with the basemap with misleading outcomes (for example, Cologne appears “Reformed, Catholic” when it was most certainly the domain of the Catholic bishop). Second, boundaries did change slightly from 1600. Furthermore, after extensive research into the confession of each territory, there is still some ambiguity. This feature cannot be made relying on static maps—historians of the Holy Roman Empire need maps that reflect the rapid changes to boundaries in the early modern period. This would be a large-scale digital project involving experts of the different regions of the empire to capture the nuance of this dynamic confederation of states. Hopefully, something of this scale can be undertaken now that so many German academics and libraries are investing in digital projects.
Figure 7. Confessional map
The city of Cologne erroneously coded as Reformed, Catholic instead of Catholic.
Final thoughts
The digital nature of this project has enabled a multimodal telling of this story by bringing together dispersed textual, visual, and geospatial sources. The gains of interactivity and multidimensionality from a digital visualization are tempered by some remaining (but surmountable) technical limitations. The hope, however, is that this site will be a teaching tool for understanding the political culture of early modern Europe as well as an exploratory tool for tracking the political discourse on the eve of the Thirty Years War.
End Notes

1 Beschreibung Der Reiß: Empfahun[n]g deß Ritterlichen Ordens: Vollbringung des Heyraths: vnd glücklicher Heimführung: Wie auch der ansehnlichen Einführung: gehaltener Ritterspiel vnd Frewdenfests: Des ... Herrn Friederichen deß Fünften/ Pfaltzgraven bey Rhein ... Mit der ... Princessin/ Elisabethen[n]/ deß Großmechtigsten Herrn/ Herrn Iacobi deß Ersten Königs in GroßBritannien Einigen Tochter?: Mit schönen Kupfferstücken gezieret, [Electronic ed.] ([Heidelberg]: Vögelin, 1613). Accessed January 12, 2010.

2 Thanks to dilibri Rheinland-Pfalz for providing the high-resolution digital version of this map. Pieter van den Keere, “Nieuwe, En Warachtighe Beschryvinghe Von Den Rhyn Strohm En Alle De Steden/ Aucthore: P. Kaerio,” Rheinische Landesbibliothek Koblenz, dilibri Rheinland-Pfalz (Amsterdam, 1621), This edition is the second printing of this single-sheet map. Günther Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Alphen aan der Rihn: Uitgeverij Canaletto Repro/Holland, 2007), 8:551. Classification 42.1a. Thanks to Stanford University Special Collections for the use of Abraham Ortelius and Francis Hogenberg, “Germaniae Typus,” in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antuerpiae: Ex Officina Plantiniana, Abrah. Ortelij aere & cura, 1595), Stanford University Special Collections.

3 Alison D Anderson, On the Verge of War: International Relations and the Jülich-Kleve Succession Crises (1609-1614) (Boston: Humanities Press, 1999).

4 The strategic value of Mondorf at the confluence of the Stieg and Rhine rivers is also apparent in this map: a fort was built on the island Kemper Werth in 1620, shortly after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. Van den Keere’s 1621 map is the first to depict this “tneieu Fort,” which changed hands multiple times during the course of the war.

5 Ernst Walter Zeeden, “Das Zeitalter Der Glauabenskämpfe,” in Handbuch Der Deutschen Geschichte, ed. Bruno Grundmann Gebhardt, 4th ed., vol. 9 (München: Deutsche Taschenburch-Verlag, 1979) and Anderson, On the Verge of War.

6 Georg Wilhelm later married Friedrich V’s sister Elisabeth Charlotte, further connecting the two Calvinist electors.

7 J. B Harley and David Woodward, The History of Cartography, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 1:xvi.

8 Johannes Keuning, “Pieter van Den Keere (Petrus Kaerius), 1571-1646 (?),” Imago Mundi 15 (January 1, 1960): 66–72.