Elizabeth, the daughter of King James VI of Scotland and I of England, was widely acclaimed as the most beautiful princess in Europe. Her hand was sought by many, but James selected the Protestant prince of a small German state, Frederick of the Palatine, to counterbalance the intended match of his eldest son with the Catholic royal daughter of either France or Spain. It would prove to be a true love match, as well as a political disaster.
This history follows the eventful life and tumultous times of Elizabeth of Bohemia, known as the Winter Queen for the brief duration of her husband's reign. The research is solid, the writing scholarly yet engagingly annecdotal. The narrative is particularly strong: settings are described with unusual care and color, and telling bits of cultural detail help evoke a sense of time and place.
The relationships between Elizabeth and her many family members are vividly drawn. Most poignant among these were her strong sibling attachment to her oldest brother Henry, her passionate but disappointing marriage to the moody Frederick, and the sense of betrayal she must have suffered when her father all but abandoned her. She survived war and endured exile -- not only from Bohemia and her husband's hereditary Palatine, but also from England. Neither James nor his successor Charles I acknowledged her as a queen, or permitted her to return to England.
Students of history might be interested in Elizabeth's descendents, which, in 1938, included the ruling sovereigns of Denmark, Great Britain, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Roumania, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Italy. By any measure, this is an impressive family saga!