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 Henry Frederick (1594–1612), by Isaac Oliver, c.1610–12 Henry Frederick (1594–1612), by Isaac Oliver, c.1610–12
Henry Frederick, prince of Wales (1594–1612), was born early on 19 February 1594 at Stirling Castle. He was the eldest child of and , second daughter of Frederick II, king of Denmark, and Sophia, and older sister of Christian IV. Although Henry's birth was celebrated immediately in Scotland, his baptism awaited the arrival of the earl of Sussex, proxy of Queen Elizabeth, the child's sole godparent. The ceremony finally took place on 30 August 1594 in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle. Henry's birth and baptism were marked by myriad festivities: nativity poems, banquets, tilts, and masques.

Childhood, 1594–1603

Two days after Henry's birth arrangements were made for his fostering with James's confidante, John Erskine, second earl of Mar, and his mother, Annabel Murray. Stirling Castle was then Mar's residence and there the prince was to live, legally removed from his reputedly Roman Catholic mother, who kept her primary residences at Edinburgh Castle and Buccleuch. The separation from her infant caused Anne great pain and in March 1595 she began vigorously to fight these arrangements, attracting powerful allies such as Chancellor Maitland to her cause of familial reunion. Her angry machinations were directed primarily against Mar, but James too fell victim to her well-considered efforts. Nevertheless, the king was steadfast in his choice of Mar: in July 1595 he wrote to his friend, ‘not to deliver [Henry] out of your hands except I command you with my own mouth’ (Barroll, 23). At the behest of her own mother, Anne gave up her bid for Henry and was reconciled with her husband and Mar in August 1595. Although signs of her displeasure continued to surface, Henry remained at Stirling until the spring of 1603.

In 1598 James clarified his educational programme for Henry in his Basilicon doron. Though originally written in Middle Scots it was reworked by James in English the following year; only a few copies of this 1599 version were printed, suggesting that the king intended it primarily for the edification of his heir and those near to him. In July 1599 James named the scholar Adam Newton as the prince's tutor, and placed the learned Sir David Murray in the youth's bedchamber. Along with Mar, these two men were charged with Henry's education. The courageous, resilient youth proved especially adept at sports and physical exercises, demonstrating early a penchant for endeavours equine and matters military. His promise was already recognized far beyond Scotland. Early in 1603 James received an offer from Pope Clement VIII of financial support for his bid for the English throne if he would transfer Henry to Rome for further education. Unsurprisingly, James refused.

When Elizabeth I died in late March 1603, James VI of Scotland was immediately recognized as King James I of England, and Henry acquired the title duke of Cornwall. James left Edinburgh for London on 4 April 1603, accompanied by numerous nobles including Mar. Despite being four months pregnant, Anne was to follow James in mid-May, leaving Henry and her other two children, and , behind to continue their Scottish fostering. This is not what transpired, however, for Anne seized the opportunity to assert control over Henry's upbringing. She travelled to Stirling on 4 May and insisted that the prince be handed over. Initially rebuffed by Mar's mother and younger brother, Anne experienced a fury and despair so intense that she miscarried on 10 May; despite her illness, she steadfastly refused to leave Stirling without Henry. News of this situation reached James in England, and he commissioned Mar to return to Scotland and bring Anne to England. Mar failed: Anne declined to see him or to leave unless Henry was with her. Towards the end of May, James relented, officially transferring Mar's responsibilities for Henry to the duke of Lennox. Lennox then gave Henry up to the privy council, which, at the king's urging, delivered the prince to Anne. She returned to Edinburgh accompanied by Henry on 27 May, and together they departed for England on 1 June 1603. Due to Anne's fortitude, the new duke of Cornwall arrived in England much sooner than James intended.

English adolescence, 1603–1610

On their journey into England, Anne and Henry were hosted from 25–27 June at Althorp (Northamptonshire) by the Spencers, who regaled them with entertainments scripted by Ben Jonson. The two were soon reunited with James and they proceeded toward Windsor Castle, arriving on 30 June. On 2 July Henry was invested as a knight of the Garter. His august bearing and lively intelligence during this ceremony impressed the English privy councillors the earls of Northampton and Nottingham. Due to concerns about the plague Henry was then removed to Oatlands Palace, Surrey, where James constituted Henry's first household, perhaps again trying to isolate the youth from his mother. He made Sir Thomas Chaloner governor, kept on Newton and Murray as tutors, and surrounded Henry with other trusted men and youths, numbering 141 by the year's end. Anne rose valiantly to this new challenge: in 1604 she forced the dissolution of Oatlands. As a result Henry took up a peripatetic life, moving between Nonsuch, Richmond, St James's, and other palaces, with Anne now enjoying near-constant access to him.

In August 1603 Henry was visited at Oatlands by Scaramelli, the Venetian ambassador, who (like Northampton and Nottingham) was struck by his wit and carriage: ‘He is ceremonious beyond his years’, remarked Scaramelli, ‘and with great gravity he covered and bade me be covered. Through an interpreter he gave me a long discourse on his exercises, dancing, tennis, the chase’ (Wilson, 18–19). The first two of Henry's many portraits, painted at Oatlands by Robert Peake the elder that autumn, accord well with the Venetian's report: both depict the heir as an athletic young huntsman triumphing over a slain deer.

These references to Prince Henry at Oatlands, both verbal and visual, proved indicative of his future behaviour and interests. His ceremoniousness surfaced often. Anne and her ladies regaled him with a masque at Winchester in mid-October 1603 and he probably attended her twelfth night masques of 1604, 1605, and 1608; he expressed great interest in Anne's 1609 show, The Masque of Queens; he danced brilliantly at the conclusion of Jonson's 1606 marriage spectacle, Hymenaei; and he attended entertainments hosted by Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, in 1606, 1607, and 1609. Henry also appeared in venues beyond the court milieu. On 15 March 1604, accompanying his parents, he entered London amid great fanfare, and on 16 July 1607 he was initiated into the company of the Merchant Taylors at their guildhall. Henry's comportment at Oxford in July 1605, when he visited for four days and symbolically matriculated at Magdalen College, similarly reassured learned men of his determined (if not bookish) wisdom.

Prince Henry often displayed a preference for sports over learning. Newton and others encouraged him in his studies but his enthusiasm and energy were otherwise directed. An apocryphal tale has James scolding Henry for his lack of diligence in studies compared to his younger brother Charles, and Henry retorting, then ‘we'll make him archbishop of Canterbury’ (Strong, 15). Henry's inclinations were noticed by many outside his immediate family. Sir Charles Cornwallis, treasurer of Henry's household and his biographer, remarked that the prince ‘pl[ied] his book hard for two or three years, continuing all his princely sports, hawking, hunting, running at the ring, leaping, riding of great horses, dancing, fencing, tossing of the pike’ (Wilson, 19–20). And the French ambassador, La Boderie, writing on 31 October 1606, reported that:
none of his pleasures savour the least of a child. He is a particular lover of horses … He studies two hours a day, and employs the rest of his time in tossing the pike, or leaping, or shooting with the bow, or throwing the bar, or vaulting. (Strong, 66)
Increasingly Henry displayed ebullience in military, chivalric, and naval endeavours. He encouraged friends to send him secret reports on French fortifications, and he received suits of armour from several well-wishers. Gifts of horses were frequent, and during 1607–9 Henry sponsored the erection of a riding school at St James's Palace. When his uncle Christian IV of Denmark visited England in July–August 1606 the prince tilted before him. And from 6 March 1604, when Lord Admiral Nottingham presented him with a small ship—the Disdain—designed by Phineas Pett, Henry's passion for maritime pursuit was unflagging. Pett later crafted the mammoth Prince Royal (1608–10) for the heir, who returned the favour by successfully, if blindly, protecting Pett from well-founded charges of corruption in May 1608. Henry was also a supporter of Sir Walter Ralegh, who though imprisoned in the Tower of London by James remained a valued correspondent and adviser on naval, colonial, and matrimonial matters. As the prince, often compared to Sir Philip Sidney and the second earl of Essex, promoted Elizabethan-style rites of knighthood and sea voyages of exploration, he electrified a resurgent war party frustrated by James's pacific policies. Likenesses of Henry from these teenage years repeatedly capture these martial interests. Marcus Gheeraerts the younger portrays him in his Garter robes and sporting a ship jewel upon his headdress (1608); an anonymous artist paints Henry in the suit of armour received from Henri IV (after 1607); Rowland Lockey fashions a miniature depicting the prince in armour from the prince de Joinville (1607); and Robert Peake depicts the heir as a dashing young conqueror about to unsheathe his sword in a canvas for the duke of Savoy (1604–10).

In religion Henry was unambiguously protestant, and in manners abstemious. Having survived the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605, his fervent commitment to reformed causes, both in England and on the continent, increased. Cornwallis recalls that he was ‘a reverent and attentive hearer of sermons’, that he had ‘boxes kept at … St James, Richmond, and Nonsuch’, and that he demanded ‘all those who did swear in his hearing, to pay moneys to the same, which were after duly given to the poor’ (Wilson, 41–2). A proclaimed enemy of Roman Catholicism, Henry worked zealously to root out recusants and bring them to justice. Books of all kinds were dedicated to Henry throughout his life, but the sermons, commentaries, and religious epistles of protestant clerics and reformers were especially plentiful.

Henry's burgeoning household included the godly, the learned, and the militant. Chaloner complained in 1607 of the expenses of this ‘courtly college or … collegiate court’ (Birch, 97) and Cornwallis claimed that nearly 500 men were attached to Henry by 1610. Chief among the prince's contemporaries were John Harington of Exton, the third earl of Essex, and William Cecil, Lord Cranborne. Henry's older friends included Edward Cecil and the earls of Southampton and Arundel. Outside of this immediate circle Prince Henry was widely noted, and the king's privy council paid him great respect. In fact, Salisbury seems to have encouraged the prince's inquiries into foreign affairs, and even sought his opinion on matters such as the Julich–Cleves succession crisis of 1609–10.

Prince Henry's scrutiny of events abroad was answered by great continental interest in the ambitious English heir apparent, especially as a potential marriage partner. Catholic proposals were more frequent than protestant offers. The grand duke of Tuscany looked into such possibilities as early as 1601. The potential of a match with the Spanish infanta was first broached in November 1603 and resurfaced again in 1605; the alliance was still being mooted as late as 1610, when Philip III secretly matched the infanta with the French dauphin following the assassination of Henri IV. To placate James, Philip encouraged the duke of Savoy to effect a double match between his children and Henry and Elizabeth, a proposal that caused great stir in London. The prince and many of his circle, such as Ralegh, were violently opposed to the Savoyard proposals, and following his investiture as prince of Wales, Henry took the lead in discovering a suitable protestant prince for Elizabeth, and searched too for a reformed bride for himself. Henry's earnestness in looking for a proper wife—he supposedly rejected the Catholic matches tendered by James with the rejoinder that ‘two religions should never lie in [my] bed’ (Williamson, 135)—gives the lie to his reputed dalliance with Frances Howard.

Prince of Wales, 1610–1612

Henry's installation as prince of Wales in June 1610 conferred financial and political independence and increased prestige. In February 1609 a special tax for his knighting had been levied. Although the privy council urged James, for monetary reasons, to delay the creation for two years, the heir refused to wait. Late in 1609 Henry commissioned research on previous installations of princes of Wales; arguing from historical precedent his servant Connock reported that Henry should be created in parliament as soon as possible. By 1609 Salisbury had accepted Henry's and Connock's position, and he commissioned William Camden and Robert Cotton to conduct further research to articulate the prince of Wales's prerogatives vis-à-vis parliament and the monarch. Armed with their opinions in December, Salisbury was able to convince James and his fellow privy councillors that the installation should occur quickly, perhaps even in February 1610, on or near Henry's sixteenth birthday. Due to lack of money the event was delayed until London agreed to a loan of £100,000.

On 4 June 1610 Henry was created prince of Wales and earl of Chester by his father in an elaborate ritual scripted by Salisbury. The installation took place in the court of requests at Westminster Palace before both houses of parliament and numerous guests; everyone compared the ceremony to a coronation. Trappings of solemnity were ubiquitous: the chamber had been hung with arras; all participants were lavishly robed and carefully seated; the prince donned an ermine-lined gown costing more than £1300; symbolic tokens—a sword, ring, verge, and coronet—were bestowed upon Henry; and an illuminated patent was proclaimed by Salisbury in both Latin and English.

This extraordinary quasi-sacramental parliamentary installation was surrounded by a whole year of court festivities that further demarcate 1610 as the signal year in Henry's short life: on 6 January he tilted and performed in Ben Jonson's and Inigo Jones's neo-Arthurian show, The Barriers; on 31 May he enjoyed a water pageant on the Thames at Chelsea performed by a fleet of City boats and barges; on 3 June he witnessed the creation of twenty-five knights of the Bath he had personally selected; on the evening of his installation, Henry and his father attended Tethys Festival, a masque written by Samuel Daniel and designed by Jones; on 5 June he tilted again; and finally, on 1 January 1611, he witnessed Jonson's and Jones's famous show, Oberon, along with the Barriers his most important masque commission.

At the time of his investiture Henry maintained the appearance of a healthy, sturdy teenager. One of his biographers, probably his bedchamberer William Haydon, recalls that:
he was tall and … strong and well proportioned … his eyes quick and pleasant, his forehead broad, his nose big, his chin broad and cloven, his hair inclining to black … his whole face and visage comely and beautiful … with a sweet, smiling, and amiable countenance … full of gravity. (Strong, 12)
Haydon claimed Henry resembled his uncle Christian IV. In the autumn of 1611 his physiognomy altered to favour his mother. Hawkins, another biographer, wrote that ‘his visage began to appear somewhat paler, longer and thinner than before’ (Strong, 12), and Francis Bacon remembered ‘his face long and inclining to leanness … his look grave … the motion of his eyes composed’ and expressing ‘marks of severity’ (Strong, 12). This adult countenance, focused and stern, is marvellously depicted in Isaac Oliver's miniature of about 1610×12: Henry, clad in gilt armour, gazes confidently outward; a cannon and several armed soldiers before an encampment appear in the background.

Officially ensconced in St James's Palace, Henry developed into a major patron of the arts. He commissioned the Florentine architect de Servi and the Huguenot hydraulic engineer and garden designer de Caus to plan major renovations (never realized) at Richmond Palace, and he launched Inigo Jones's career. He avidly collected mannerist paintings from northern Italian and Netherlandish artists (although he never acquired a much-desired Michelangelo), Florentine bronzes (a remarkable set of fifteen arrived in May 1612), antique coins, medals, and cameos, and curiosities of every variety. He sponsored musicians and scientific inquiry at St James's. He inspired the praise of numerous authors, including George Chapman, John Davies, Michael Drayton, and Henry Peacham, and Francis Bacon dedicated the second edition of the Essays (1612) to Henry. After the prince acquired Lord Lumley's library in October 1609 he continued eagerly to collect books until his untimely death.

During the busy summer and autumn of 1612 Henry's arrangements for the visit of Frederick, the elector palatine, his chosen match for Elizabeth, particularly occupied him. Then, without warning, he fell desperately ill with fever (now thought to be typhoid) in mid-October; despite the best efforts of a bevy of doctors, including Theodore de Mayerne, the king's physician, he died on 6 November 1612. St James's was draped in black, and there was widespread grief across the nation, shared by many abroad. He lay in state for more than a month until his funeral on 7 December at Westminster Abbey; he was buried within an abbey chapel twelve days later. Among those who memorialized the prince were Thomas Campion, John Donne, Joseph Hall, and George Herbert. Ralegh perhaps best captured the gloomy mood, claiming his History (1614) was ‘left to the world without a master’ (Wilson, 143).

Despite the jolt caused by Henry's death, estimations of what was lost have been greatly inflated, then and now. Clearly the prince of Wales was ambitious and bright, dedicated to protestant reform and artistic renewal. However, his death probably purchased six years of additional peace for protestant England and Catholic Europe before the misfortunes of his sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Frederick in 1618 led to thirty years of religious wars. Moreover, given the flowering of al' antica culture in later Jacobean and Caroline England, the notion that England lost a renaissance with his demise seems inflated. Future research on this fascinating individual might wisely emphasize cultural continuity instead of rupture, and further investigate Roman Catholic relief at his passing in addition to protestant mourning.

James M. Sutton


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BL, papers and corresp., Harley MSS 7002, 7007, 7008, 7009 |  Archivio di Stato, Florence, MS 4189 · Archivio di Stato, Florence, ASF Mediceo 1348, 1349, 1350 · TNA: PRO, audit office and state papers


M. Gheeraerts the younger, oils, c.1603, NPG · R. Peake the elder, double portrait, oils, 1603 (with J. Harington), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; version, Royal Collection · R. Peake the elder, oils, 1604–10, Palazzo Chiablese, Turin, Italy · R. Peake, oils, c.1605, Museum of London · N. Hilliard, miniature, watercolour, 1607, Royal Collection · attrib. R. Lockey, miniature, watercolour, 1607, Royal Collection · oils, c.1607, Dunster Castle, Minehead, Somerset · N. Hilliard, miniature, watercolour, c.1607–1610, Royal Collection · studio of I. Oliver, miniature, watercolour, c.1610, NPG · R. Peake, oils, c.1610, Magd. Oxf. · R. Peake the elder, oils, 1610, Parham Park, Pulborough, Sussex · R. Peake the elder, oils, c.1610, NPG · I. Oliver, miniature, oils, c.1610–1611, FM Cam. · I. Oliver, miniature, watercolour, c.1610–1612, Royal Collection [see illus.] · S. de Passe, line engraving, 1610?–1612?, BM · I. Jones, drawing, 1611, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, Devonshire collections · C. Boel, line engraving, 1612, BM · H. Peacham, emblem, 1612, repro. in H. Peacham, Minerva Britanna (1612) · W. Hole, line engraving, BM; repro. in G. Chapman, An epicede (1612) · W. Hole, line engraving, BM, NPG; repro. in M. Drayton, Poly-Olbion (1612) · C. de Passe, line engraving, BM; repro. in C. de Passe, Regiae Angliae … pictura (Cologne, 1604) · attrib. R. Peake the elder, oils, priv. coll.; on loan to Scot. NPG · medals, BM · portraits, repro. in Strong, Henry · portraits, repro. in Williamson, Myth of the conqueror