Although The Hague was the destination of choice and the centre of gravity in the lives of English Royalist exiles between the later 1640s and the Restoration of 1660, another important émigré English community established itself in Antwerp. After 1656, when Prince Charles was excluded entirely from the United Provinces (under an agreement between the English Commonwealth regime and the Dutch States General) and moved to Bruges, Antwerp’s convenient access to the English court in exile drew itinerant Royalists to it. But even before that, its location gave its residents comparatively easy access to both the northern and southern Netherlands, making it an attractive place for those keeping an eye on the changing fortunes of exiled English political players (they were also exempt from taxes there). Throughout the 1650s, Antwerp acted as a gateway for those following the fortunes of the itinerant Stuarts. Mary Stuart, Princess Royal, and her entourage stopped regularly in the city on their way to take the medicinal waters – and meet up with her brother Charles – at fashionable Spa, a day’s ride south of Maastricht.
Besides, it was a pleasant town to live in. John Evelyn, travelling through it in 1641, wrote in his diary: ‘[Antwerp is] one of the sweetest places in Europe. Nor did I ever observe a more quiet, clean, elegantly built, and civil place than this magnificent and famous city.’ William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, found Antwerp’s inhabitants ‘the civilest and best-behaved people that ever I saw’.
Traditionally it has been taken as a given that the economy of Antwerp declined sharply after the treaty of Münster (between the Dutch and the Spanish) in 1648, with international trade shifting to Amsterdam in the United Provinces because of the blockading of shipping in the Scheldt estuary. In fact, the city’s wealth did not vanish overnight (and indeed, movement of shipping and goods was significantly less severely constrained than is often implied). ‘Antwerp was still affluent, still home to a number of families who had held on to considerable fortunes generated in better days. They led a princely lifestyle which they were more than happy to demonstrate in the form of large houses, fine art collections and country estates.’1
Indeed, Antwerp enjoyed a minor economic boom in the years after 1648. ‘In these years Antwerp’s merchants were jubilant at the prospect of new economic opportunities. The riddertol, a tax levied on shipping on the Scheldt and a reliable fiscal parameter for gauging the volume of trade, particularly trade with the United Provinces, indeed points to a significant increase in harbour activity compared to the first half of the seventeenth century.’2
In particular, a market in luxury goods (small in bulk, and easy to transport) continued to thrive, with art dealers and dealers in precious stones and jewels enjoying a particularly buoyant period between 1648 and the 1680s. There remained in Antwerp a core community of extremely wealthy individuals – their wealth primarily established on trade – who continued to spend extravagantly.
The population of Antwerp in the mid-seventeenth century was around seventy thousand. The city was diverse, and impressively multicultural. Although it found itself on the threshold of the Catholic Netherlands, it was unusually tolerant of the religious observance of its Protestant population. The English Anglican divine, George Morley, canon of Christ Church, and later Bishop of Worcester, records that he ‘read the Divine Service of our Church twice a day’ at Antwerp in the 1650s (during which period he was also Elizabeth of Bohemia’s private chaplain). He ‘celebrated the Sacrament of the Eucharist once a month’, ‘did there bury the dead’ and ‘baptize children according to the form prescribed in our liturgy’; and ‘besides this did once a week, at least, catechize the whole family wherein I lived, in the principles of Christian doctrine as they are taught in our Church Catechism’.3
Antwerp was also quietly tolerant of the Sephardic Jewish merchants who lived and conducted their successful businesses there.4 Visitors commented on the freedom with which Jews observed their festivals (for example, they were able openly to set up huts in their gardens for the feast of Succoth). Prominent merchants like the diamond dealer Gaspar Duarte (who also dealt in paintings) were officially registered as Catholic, but they and their families seem to have continued discreetly to practise their Judaism reasonably freely, under the tolerant eye of their Christian neighbours.5
Gaspar Duarte was born in Antwerp, the son of Diego Duarte and Leonor Rodrigues, who had come to the city as refugees, escaping religious persecution in Lisbon, around 1591. He built a flourishing business in gems and artworks, which was subsequently continued by his family. Around 1632 Gaspar established a business outlet in London, where he and his sons Diego and Jacob were granted ‘denizen’ status as nationalised Englishmen in 1634. From 1632 to 1639 Gaspar Duarte was jeweller (and gem procurer and supplier) to Charles I – a position which effectively made him agent for Charles’s purchases and disposals of gemstones. He relocated the business to Antwerp after the outbreak of the Civil War, but remained in touch with many of his old clients from London.6
The imposing Duarte house on the broad boulevard which is still Antwerp’s main shopping street today, the Meir, a family home that John Evelyn described as more like a palace, was the focus for the extravagant entertainment of visitors from all over Europe between 1650 and 1680 (when Gaspar died in 1653, Diego took over both the family business and the social networking). Gaspar’s three daughters were virtuoso musicians, and close friends with Utricia Swann, who often performed with them. Those fortunate enough to spend an evening in the Duarte musical salon were dazzled by the ostentation of the family’s wealth, and enchanted by the quality of the lifestyle and the entertainment.
In 1641, John Evelyn recorded in his diary a concert held at the Duartes’ home: ‘In the evening I was invited to Signor Duerts [Duarte], a Portuguese by nation, an exceeding rich merchant, whose palace I found to be furnish’d like a prince’s; and here his three daughters, entertain’d us with rare musick, both vocal and instrumental, which was finish’d with a handsome collation.’
More palatial than any other house in Antwerp, the home of the Duartes was where both Mary Stuart, Princess Royal, and her brother Prince Charles stayed when they were visiting, as befitting their royal status, although they might be lavishly entertained by the English community elsewhere in town.
Gaspar Duarte and his family’s musical virtuosity made of their house and its circle a genuine ‘salon’ where connoisseurs assembled for concerts. Occasions on which Duarte’s musically gifted daughters performed with voice and instruments brought together cultivated and influential individuals like Sir Constantijn Huygens, Frederik Hendrik and his wife Amalia van Solms, and subsequently their son Prince William and his wife Princess Mary Stuart. Huygens senior became a good personal friend of Gaspar Duarte, and his sons became equally close to the diamond merchant’s children (one of Diego Duarte’s daughters was named Constantia, after Sir Constantijn).
The intimate friendship and the musical soirées were part of an elaborate system of interdependencies among the individuals and families involved, which also extended to include a much more robustly commercial relationship between Huygens (representing the house of Orange) and Duarte as a powerful and extremely influential Antwerp merchant and international businessman.
Huygens regularly did business with the Duartes on behalf of his Stadholder employer. A single, delightful example of a transaction organised and carried out by them on Frederik Hendrik’s behalf begins to reveal the hidden tendrils of influence in matters of cultural exchange in the 1640s, originating in Antwerp, and extending across the water between England and the United Provinces – and, indeed, back again.
In March 1641, Gaspar Duarte wrote from Antwerp to Sir Constantijn Huygens in The Hague. The letter (in French) contains an appropriate amount of musical small talk (the two men are exchanging the scores of Italian songs for one or more voices), but a substantive item of Stadholder business occupies most of its space.
Duarte writes to let Huygens know that, as requested by representatives of Frederik Hendrik, his son Jacob in London has located a particularly striking (and expensive) piece of jewellery – an elaborate brooch in the latest fashionable style, comprising four individual diamonds in a complicated setting, and designed to be worn on the stomacher of a woman’s dress.
It emerges that the piece is to be a sensational gift for Frederik Hendrik’s teenaged son William to present to his bride-to-be, the nine-year-old Mary Stuart, on the occasion of their marriage in London in May, the details of which have just been negotiated and settled in London by Dutch ambassadors. Duarte in Antwerp tells Huygens in The Hague that he has identified the perfect piece for this purpose in London:
One of my friends, Sir Arnout Lundi, has asked me for an important jewel [‘joiau’] worth 80,000 florins, on behalf of His Highness, the Prince of Orange. I had delivered to the said Sir Lundi a mock-up [plomb] and pattern of a rich jewel, a fortnight ago, to show to His Highness, by way of a gentleman, a friend of the aforementioned Lundi, called Mr. Joachim Fiqfort. So far I have received no response. So your cousin advised me that it would be a good thing if I let yourself know about this, so that you could alert His Highness not to buy any other piece of equivalent value until he has seen this one. It is in London in the control of my son, who, if I instruct him to do so, will himself convey it to you. Their honours the Holland ambassadors saw it in London, and also told His Highness about it, because they were so delighted to see so magnificent a piece. For the four diamonds in combination have the impact of a single diamond of value 1 million florins.7
On 7 April, Gaspar Duarte’s son Jacob arrived in Antwerp with the jewel, and the following day Huygens examined it.8 A fortnight later, with Huygens discreetly facilitating the process, the deal had made progress. Huygens has agreed to take the jewel to The Hague, but the Stadholder’s suggested best offer for it is still too low to be acceptable:
I remain greatly indebted to you [Duarte wrote to Huygens] for the great affection you have shown towards my son Jacob Duarte, by tomorrow showing His Highness that beautiful jewel which I mentioned to you previously. And although I understand that Mr. Alonse de Lope has already managed to sell His Highness four other pieces [of expensive jewellery], nevertheless I hope that your particular favour will have the power to be successful in this matter, since this is such an extraordinarily rare piece. It would be most gracious of you to represent [to His Highness] how thus far I see small appearance [of successful completion], not having been made an offer which is reasonable, [but] one much lower than what it cost me.
Which disappoints me, not thereby being able to serve His Highness. I was assured that His Majesty [the King] of England would have been more delighted with this piece than with all the other jewels, since he had already made an offer for it himself to my younger son, by way of Milord Chamberlain, if his brother had arrived in time. For His Majesty had even offered 6,500 pounds sterling, and would never imagine that His Highness could have acquired it for less.9
Duarte’s suggestion that the English King had almost obtained the piece himself, and that he had offered a sum in excess of the one being proposed by the Dutch Stadholder, was a shrewd piece of commercial pressuring. It apparently clinched the deal. On 9 May, Duarte acknowledged receipt of payment by Huygens on the Stadholder’s behalf.10
These exchanges of letters present us with the intriguing picture of a luxury object whose value – both financial and in terms of current taste and fashion – is being established by reference to the object’s desirability in two locations, inside two fashionable societies. The Dutch Stadholder needs a gift which will greatly impress the English King. His agent has identified a suitable candidate which is actually in London, conveniently in the possession of a Dutch diamond dealer who also operates out of England. The piece has already been seen and admired by the English King, who has allegedly tried to acquire it.
The Duartes are suppliers of gems and made-up pieces of jewellery to Charles I in London and Frederik Hendrik in The Hague. They also, again conveniently, have close family friends in place to help facilitate the deal – Joachim of Wicquefort, otherwise known as Joachim Factor, was a friend of Gaspar Duarte’s daughter Francesca, and part of the ‘firm’.11 Huygens, who moves freely between England and the United Provinces, is fluent in English, and frequents the English and Dutch courts, provides his expert imprimatur to the deal.
On 19 April 1641, Prince William, with an entourage of 250 people, arrived at Gravesend for his ‘royal’ wedding. Some days later he was received in Whitehall Palace, where he presented members of the royal party with diamonds, pearls and other jewellery, worth close on £23,000.12These included the spectacular jewel for his bride which Huygens had helped negotiate the purchase of in London, and which she wore on the front of her silver wedding dress.13 Less than a year later, when Princess Mary and her mother joined her husband in The Hague, the jewel went with them. Thus in the space of a year, this distinctive, exquisitely crafted, expensive piece of jewellery crossed the Narrow Sea three times.
Cash settlement of this highly satisfactory piece of brokered purchasing was ingeniously executed using a second Duarte–Huygens business deal, this time carried out on Huygens’s own behalf, which occupies a further part of the exchange of letters we have been looking at between the two men. Huygens, who had family in Antwerp, had a house just outside the town which he wanted to sell to finance the ambitious country house and garden he was in the process of creating at Hofwijk, outside The Hague.14 This business was already under way, with Gaspar Duarte acting as Huygens’s agent for the house sale in Antwerp, when the ‘jewel affair’ arose.
In the letter proposing the London jewel for Frederik Hendrik, Duarte asked permission to take ‘the person who desires to purchase’ around Huygens’s house. This person, Duarte informed Huygens, ‘has already two days ago bought a large house here in town for 45,000 florins, which still needs building work’, and had made it clear to him that he wanted two such houses, one in town and ‘yours in the country’. On 21 April he told Huygens that negotiations for the house sale were going well. When Huygens settled payment for the Stadholder’s jewel purchase in early May, the sum sent was the total, less the agreed sale price on Huygens’s property.
By the 1650s the Duartes had also acquired a considerable reputation as connoisseurs and collectors of fine art – and exactly as in the case of the gemstones and jewels, the dividing line between their activities as private collectors and dealers is blurred. Again, Sir Constantijn Huygens, this time together with his son Constantijn junior, is our witness. Between 1640 and the 1670s, both men regularly visited the Duarte picture gallery in their house in the Meir whenever they were passing through Antwerp. In the 1670s, Constantijn junior records in his diary how he would take time off from accompanying William III of Orange on his summer military campaigns against the French, in his capacity as secretary to the Prince, to look at the Duarte paintings and prints, to request Diego Duarte to appraise potential items for purchase he had himself located in the area, and to buy from him himself. The pictures would then be shipped by the Duarte ‘shop’ to The Hague.
A 1683 inventory of the stock of paintings in the Duartes’ home reveals a valuable collection, assembled by a discerning connoisseur of contemporary art, within which several outstanding items are identified as having been acquired from named aristocratic art collectors – particularly English émigrés. This ought not to surprise us. The Duartes bought pictures for much-needed cash from families who had carried the more portable of their valuable possessions out of England in the late 1640s, as well as paintings from the collections of those (like the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Arundel) whose collections had been broken up and sold as their political fortunes waned. The result is that the Duarte collection contains a striking number of portraits of English sitters by artists fashionable across the Channel – thereby in turn creating a demand in the Netherlands for such pictures.
At least one of the entries from this inventory, however, gives us a second insight into dealing and exchange strategies in Antwerp. It reveals an intriguing cross-over between the gem business and the art-dealing business. It also, incidentally, reminds us that the sums of money changing hands for gems in this period are generally in the region of ten times those being expended on artworks.
The first, and by far the most valuable, item in the Duarte 1683 inventory is a painting by Raphael of a Madonna and child with Joseph and St Anne (probably actually St Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist). The inventory notes that the painting was acquired from ‘Don Emanuel Prince of Portugal’ (the husband of one of Prince William the Silent’s daughters by his second marriage), in exchange for a diamond ring, the agreed value of which was 2,200 guilders.15 The diamond alone, Duarte notes, cost two thousand guilders, and the elaborate setting included other stones, among them an engraved sapphire (together valued by him at two hundred guilders).
In other words, the Duarte ‘shop’ offered facilities for providing the agreed purchase price for an item for which a sale was being negotiated – in this case, an elaborate jewel – in the form of other expensive goods for which the Duartes were competent to provide a valuation. They thus performed a particular service for those with disposable income who liked to follow fashion. Last year’s piece of jewellery could be traded for a number of fashionable works of art (the Raphael was unusual in being a match for Don Emmanuel’s ring).
One area of court culture over which Constantijn Huygens exerted particularly strong influence because it was close to his own heart was music – both instrumental and for voices. An enthusiastic composer and performer himself (although, unfortunately, very few of his many known compositions survive), Huygens remained actively involved in music in the Low Countries throughout his entire life, absorbing influences from England, France and Italy and reshaping them into a quintessentially Dutch style and sentiment. He was also responsible for identifying, and helping the careers of, individual talented performers, just as he did those of talented painters. After William II’s death in 1650, he clearly used his position as an influential and well-connected music connoisseur and practitioner in the same way as he did that in fine art, to sustain the cultural reputation of the house of Orange during its period of exclusion from public office.
In 1648, Sir Constantijn got wind of the fact that a young French singer, Anne de la Barre, daughter of the French court organist, who had already gained a considerable reputation in Paris, had been invited to travel to the court of Queen Christina of Sweden to perform (accompanied on various instruments by at least one of her younger siblings). In July, Huygens wrote to Anne, to persuade her to break her journey at the Stadholder’s court in Holland:
I beg you to accept this invitation to relax for a couple of weeks at my home, which is not perhaps the least convenient or least well-appointed at The Hague. There you would find lutes, theorbos, viols, spinets, clavichords and organs to divert you – almost as many as you could be provided with in the whole of Sweden.16
To encourage her to take up his invitation, Huygens enclosed a copy of his own recently published book of psalm settings and airs for soprano voice, Pathodia Sacra et Profana. Anne and her father, court organist to the French King, replied immediately (in separate letters). Anne had already performed several of Huygens’s new songs, to general acclaim. ‘I believe that you understand perfectly all the languages you compose in,’ she adds, ‘judging from the beautifully expressive use of words, which I have tried hard to express in my performances.’17
More pragmatically, Anne’s father asked Huygens to put in a word with the Prince and Princess of Orange, in the hope that they too might invite Anne to sing for them:
We passionately desire to visit The Hague, in order to converse with someone of your merit and discernment … I make this request because, as my children have tried to acquire the Science of music, all that remains is for them to find some prince whom they may please, who will reward their endeavours. The Queen of England [Henrietta Maria] and the Prince of Wales [the future Charles II], who have heard us, bestowed on us as much honour as one could wish for. The said Queen [in exile] hoped to be back in power in England, so that she could bring us there.18
Anne’s planned trip to Sweden in 1648 did not take place, and in the meantime, disaster struck Huygens in the form of the death of his Orange employer – he wrote in his diary: ‘miserere populi hujus et mei, o Magnus Deus’ (’have mercy upon this people and upon myself, o Great God’). So by the time Anne did embark on her European tour in 1653, Huygens had yet stronger motivation for persuading her to spend some time in The Hague, frequenting the courts of Amalia and the Princess Royal, and performing for the city’s élite. Huygens and Anne’s father had kept in close touch during the intervening five years, and had formed a professional relationship. Just as painters were happy to secure the continuing favour of their clients and patrons by supplying them with works by other artists, la Barre acted as agent for Huygens, commissioning and procuring sought-after state-of-the-art musical instruments for him in Paris. These were shipped from France via Gasper Duarte in Antwerp, to add to the collection of fine instruments Huygens had boasted of to la Barre’s daughter.
The la Barres did indeed eventually break their journey to Sweden at The Hague. As he had promised, Constantijn Huygens entertained Anne and her accompanying family members in his own home, ‘so that I am able to see her often, as far as my official responsibilities allow’. And true to his word, he recommended Anne enthusiastically whenever he had the opportunity, penning several eulogistic poems to her musical prowess, and preparing the way for her rapturous welcome at the court of Queen Christina, where the la Barres stayed for a year. ‘Amarinthe [Anne],’ he wrote, ‘is admired and cherished here as she deserves’:
The Queen of Bohemia [Elizabeth] and her royal niece [Princess Mary Stuart] cannot get enough of her, and for the first time Madame la Princesse Mere [Amalia van Solms, widow of Stadholder Frederik Hendrik] attended a gathering which included the Queen [the exiled Henrietta Maria of England]. There that illustrious young singer had a solemn audience, at which she was a marvellous success.19
This meant, of course, that by the time the la Barres continued on their way, their stories of sophisticated musical soirées in The Hague, where the Princess Royal, her mother-in-law and her aunt all participated as ‘a solemn audience’, gratifyingly spread the word that all was continuing to prosper with the houses of Stuart and Orange in the United Provinces.
Music featured prominently in the masques and ballets which were a regular feature of the soirées and entertainments of the courts at The Hague, particularly as encouraged and patronised by Elizabeth of Bohemia. Spectacular combinations of theatre, elaborate scenery, song (solo and choral), dance and orchestral accompaniment, they were occasions for competition between royal patrons.
In 1624, the young Sir Constantijn Huygens himself wrote a verse introduction to a ‘ballet’ performed before Elizabeth, in which ‘Amor’ and a series of suitors played poetic court to the exiled Queen.20 Such entertainments were popular at the English and French courts also, and by the 1650s the English exiles were vying with one another in their reports of elaborate entertainments in music and dance performed at the courts of Europe. Princess Mary, in Paris visiting her mother in 1655, reported, ‘I have seen the masque again, and in the entry of the performances received another present, which was a petticoat of cloth of silver … Monday next there is a little ball at the Louvre, where I must dance.’ While in 1656, James, Duke of York wrote to his brother from Paris: ‘I saw the ballett practis’d yesterday, in which there is some very fine entries; it will be danced on Sunday, and I will send the book on’t; and the tunes of Baptist making, so soone as I can gett them.’21
A number of English writers migrated to The Hague in the later 1650s, to provide masques and entertainments in English for the exiles there. They included Sir William Lower, whose Enchanted Lovers was printed and published at The Hague in 1658. In 1659 he dedicated his English translation of the French romance The Noble Ingratitude to Elizabeth of Bohemia, in the hope that it would delight her enough to have it performed: ‘Were I not fully perswaded that this Dramatick Piece in the Original is one of the best that hath been presented upon the French Stage, I should not have presumed to Offer the Copy to the best of Queens, and indeed the most Juditious of Women.’
One example of such a court masque for the performance of which we have an unusually full record shows the way in which the activities and interests of the three English-influenced courts were intertwined and interactive. On 17 January 1655, Elizabeth of Bohemia wrote to her nephew, Charles II (himself in exile), describing an entertainment at The Hague at which ‘your sister [Princess Mary] was very well dressed, like an Amazon’. A portrait by Hanneman of the Princess Royal survives, which perhaps recalls this occasion, in which she is fabulously turned out in an Amazonian feather cloak, with sumptuous pearls and an elaborately exotic headdress, attended by an African boy page.
This masque or ‘ballet’ was conceived and performed during a particularly difficult period for both the house of Orange and, above all, the Stuarts. In July 1653, under renewed pressure from the government in England, the Estates of Holland and the States General passed resolutions decreeing that neither members of the Stuart royal family nor their loyal supporters should any longer be afforded shelter, assistance or maintenance on Dutch soil. The Ballet de la Carmesse was therefore carefully ‘French’ in taste and style – its music and verse devised in fashionable French style (Princess Mary had recently returned from a stay with her mother, Henrietta Maria, in Paris). At the same time, the entertainment was performed at a time when Mary was fighting for the survival of her five-year-old son’s rights, as Prince of Orange, to the privileges of the Stadholdership and command of the Dutch military. The continuing presence in The Hague of Mary’s aunt, Elizabeth of Bohemia, was of the utmost importance to this campaign, and the masque’s affirmation of the ‘triumph’ of the masquers over adversity was understood as a mark of Elizabeth’s public support for Prince William.22 La Carmesse provided an opportunity for a public display of support for Princess Mary and her son by leading Dutch nobility, at just the moment when the dynasty could well use a public acknowledgement of Dutch élite backing for the Orange– Stuart cause against the Dutch Republic.
The entertainment is a romance in verse, in which the gentlemen charm the beautiful ladies, and the ladies confess that their souls have been ravished by the dashing young men and their dancing, and was printed for immediate circulation among the participants (two copies survive). Significantly (since traditionally historians tell us that the three royal Princesses and their entourages were constantly at odds with one another), it was an occasion for shared enjoyment between the three courts – Princess Mary attended, as did the Dowager Amalia’s daughter, suitably chaperoned.
The ballet had the desired effect – its performance was reported with enthusiasm in the European capitals, and its success equated with the continued buoyancy of the Orange–Stuart cause. Sir Alexander Hume, the Princess Royal, Mary Stuart’s head of household, described the event to Sir Edward Nicholas, Charles II’s Secretary of State in exile:
Her Royall Highnesse [Princess Mary] and the Princesse Dowager [Amalia van Solms] haue interchanged visites and converse very civilly together. Yesternight at her Highnesses desire the Princesse Dowagere gaue her daughter Mademoiselle d’Orange leaue to accompany our Princesse to a balette [ballet] that some 9 or 10 young gentlemen presented to the Queen of Bohemia and her Highnesse at a place in the town of purpose fitted for it, which lasted from 9 or 10 a clock at night till 4 of the morning, and if it had not been to satisfy our Princesse, the other would not have suffered her daughter to be so late abroad.23
The event made the gossip columns, including the social column of the Paris daily newspaper:
Yesterday evening at The Hague, some noble gentlemen presented a grand Ballet of sixteen scenes, with an excellent musical score, followed by a formal dance performed by the most accomplished noble ladies in the region: amongst whom were the Queen of Bohemia, the Princess Royal, Princess Louise Palatine [Amalia van Solms’s daughter], The Demoiselles of Orange, of Tremouïlle, of Mérode, of Berghen, and several others.24
Elizabeth of Bohemia herself gave an account of the masque to the exiled Charles II, while reassuring her nephew that his sister, the Princess Royal, was finally recovering her health and spirits after the successive blows of the death from smallpox of her husband, William II, and the birth eight days later of her son, William III:
My deare Neece recouers her health and good lookes extremelie by her excersice the twice dauncing with the maskers has done her much good. We had it two nights the first time it was deadlie colde but the last time the weather was a little better, the subiect your Majestie will see was not extraordinarie but it was verie well danced, our dutch old minister sayde nothing against it from the pulpet, but a little French preacher Carré saide in his sermon wee had committed as great a sinne as that of Sodome and Gomora, which sett all the churche a laughing.25
Later Elizabeth described in detail how well-turned-out the leading ladies had been at the masque:
Your Sister was very well dressed like an Amazone the Princess of Tarente like a shepeardess Madamoiselle d’Orenge a Nimph, they were all very well dressed Mistris Lane was a Suiters wife, but I wish of all the sights Your Majestie had seene Vander dous, there neuer was seene the like, he was a Gipsie Nan Hide [Anne Hyde, later first wife of James II] was his wife, he had pantalon close to him of red and yellow striped with huffled sleeues he looked iust like a Jack a lent, they were 26 in all and did dance till five in the morning.26
Elizabeth also boasted to her nephew that her ‘fidlers were better’ than his.27
It has been suggested that after 1650 Elizabeth of Bohemia’s court was sustained largely by wishful thinking, and that its activities were severely curtailed by the exiled Queen’s lack of secure financial support. However, the most recent study of her correspondence has revealed that Elizabeth’s ‘celebrity’ reputation, as the beloved and glamorous figurehead of Protestant hopes in Europe, ensured that ample private funds were made available to her by Lord Craven and others, to support a continuing lavish lifestyle, and thereby to sustain an aura of royal entitlement around the house of Orange–Stuart in the United Provinces.28 The Ballet de la Carmesse was a public demonstration that the extravagant Anglo–Dutch social life at The Hague continued, apparently undaunted by current political difficulties. ‘We serve you alone, and you are victorious,’ the performers in the masque proclaim triumphantly to their royal audience.29
Although the musical counterpart for the text no longer survives, it is clear that musically the ballet La Carmesse was particularly accomplished. It was written and performed by the French violinist Guillaume Dumanoir, a prominent figure on the musical scene at the royal court in Paris. Dumanoir had held his first position as ‘dancing master’ at The Hague, but had subsequently moved to Paris, where he became a member of the ‘King’s twenty-four violins’ – the main string orchestra at court, which played at all court balls and masques, and on all other royal formal occasions. He perhaps accompanied Mary back to The Hague in 1655, where he wrote and performed in Elizabeth of Bohemia’s ballet on two consecutive nights, after which he returned to Paris. His presence and involvement make it certain that the ballet was of a standard which would have been recognised as equalling the best such occasions at the courts of Paris or (formerly) London. Other musicians participating as string players, as voice soloists, or as members of the elaborately scored choruses for grouped men’s voices can be recognised as outstanding performers in their own right, locally or abroad.30
The Ballet de la Carmesse elegantly fulfils Constantijn Huygens’s requirements for a successful contribution to the glamorous lifestyle of his Orange and Stuart employers. Although there is no record of his attendance, we may picture his delight at the quality of the musicianship, and the elegance of the dancing by the court figures who participated. As Elizabeth reported to Charles II, ‘the subject your Majestie will see was not extraordinarie but it was verie well danced’.
At the conclusion of the ballet, the ‘Ladies’ ball’ began. When Dumanoir and his musicians once again struck up, Mary herself, followed by the high-ranking ladies in attendance, took the floor, and proceeded to dance the night away until four in the morning. From Dumanoir’s surviving suites of dance music we may imagine the gavottes, courantes, sarabandes, allemandes, bourrées and gigues they danced – all vigorous dances carried out to the heavily rhythmic beat of the orchestra of violins.
As we watch Constantijn Huygens mediate the traffic in musicians and fine instruments between Paris, London, Brussels, Antwerp and The Hague, we experience the process of international exchange under his tutelage, which resulted in the flowering of a coherent, continuous musical taste spanning these locations.31 The illusion of separation – of distinct centres of musical development to which we may attach the designations ‘Dutch’, ‘English’ or ‘French’ – is belied by the easy commerce in taste-forming opinions, performers, composers and instruments between these locations, even (as we shall see) at times when officially the participants’ countries of residence were at war. Musical historians have seen fit to judge Huygens a minor talent as a lyricist and composer, but that is not really the point. He presided over a formidable network of musical connoisseurs and practitioners, whose tastes and talents he ‘played’ with every bit as much virtuosity as the viol or the theorbo.
To close this chapter, let us return to that other vibrant centre of cultural activity in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, Antwerp, and to probably the most famous, and certainly the most successful, of the artists working in the region at that time – Pieter Paul Rubens. Rubens set style standards in Antwerp in fine art in the first half of the seventeenth century – his influence extending to acceptable types of composition, and cost per figure by the hand of the master, rather than his studio – and as a prominent member of the local community he also did so in other areas of luxury expenditure, in particular in architecture.
By 1615, Rubens and his family occupied one of the most architecturally distinguished houses in the whole of Antwerp. He had acquired what became known permanently as the Rubenshuis, on the Wapper canal, in 1610, thereby confirming and consolidating his reputation as the most successful artist in the area. Before he and his first wife Isabella moved in, he added an entire Italianate wing to the already extensive and fine-looking dwelling. The frontage of the resulting mansion stretched 120 feet, divided by a central gateway. To the left, the Flemish façade was broken by narrow rectangular windows, lead-paned and quartered. To the right, the middle- storey windows of the Italianate addition were handsomely arched and set in banded masonry frames. The large studio on the ground floor measured fully forty-six by thirty-four feet, and was thirty feet high – an impressive space in which to set up the large canvases on which Rubens and his artist- apprentices worked. The house also possessed the fashionably formal, classically themed Dutch garden which has already been noted, incorporating architectural features and antique statuary.
Again, this architectural project connects with the English émigrés in Antwerp. Between 1648 and 1660, an English family competed with the Duartes for the title of most lavish in its hospitality towards the English émigré community. This was the household of the émigré William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, and his much younger second wife, Margaret.
Cavendish, a trusted military commander in Charles I’s army, had been forced to leave England precipitately after the battle of Marston Moor, at which the Royalists suffered their most crushing defeat of the entire Civil War, throwing into question Cavendish’s competence as a general. He made his way to Henrietta Maria’s court in exile in Paris, where in 1645 he contracted his second marriage, to Margaret Lucas, one of her ladies-in- waiting. From there the newlyweds had moved on to the Netherlands.32 Having lived in some splendour on vast estates in the north of England, Cavendish now found himself reduced to living with Margaret in temporary lodgings in Rotterdam.
On a trip to Antwerp, probably in search of some art purchase, since he was in the company of the English agent Endymion Porter, Cavendish was shown Pieter Paul Rubens’s elegant house on the Wapper canal, just around the corner from the Duartes’ house on the Meir, which his widow was offering for rent (Rubens had died two years earlier). Although emptied of Rubens’s own works, the room designated as his ‘museum’ may still have contained the many plaster casts of antique statues and friezes with which he had replaced the originals he had sold to the Duke of Buckingham twenty years earlier.33
Cavendish took a great liking to the baroque neoclassical style of Rubens’s remodelling of an already appropriately grand residence. Returning to The Hague, he notified Prince Charles at the end of September 1648 (as he was required by court protocol to do) that he was leaving the court in exile and moving his entire household to Antwerp.34
There he and Margaret would remain ‘till it shall please God to reduce the sufferings of England to such a condition of peace or war as may become honest men to return home’.35
The Rubens House was certainly suitable in scale and conspicuously fashionable style for the émigré who was the grandson of Bess of Hardwick, and whose own remodelling of the family estate at Bolsover Castle in England subsequently gained him a considerable reputation for its ostentation in the ‘baroque mannerist’ architectural style.36
Here the Cavendishes installed themselves ostentatiously. Margaret, an intellectual and poet, held soirées and entertained lavishly. William established a highly esteemed indoor riding school, possibly in Rubens’s studio itself. There he would entertain the grandees of Antwerp and the Spanish Netherlands, demonstrating how to perform ‘manège’, the art of elaborate formal patterned movement on horseback (still partially recollected in ‘dressage’ today), to the amazement of his audience – which sometimes included the enthusiastic horsewoman Queen Christina of Sweden. The first edition of Cavendish’s important work on horsemanship, Méthode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux, was published in 1658 in Antwerp, in French. Lavishly produced, with large illustrative plates, it caused a sensation.37
The Cavendishes’ household at the Antwerp Rubenshuis became a cultural magnet for displaced Royalists. By the mid-1650s, English émigrés, including the exiled King himself, were habitually making their way there for cultural solace. The intellectual soirées, musical recitals and balls there were also frequented by cultivated resident Dutch sympathisers like Huygens, who visited regularly. The Duarte family participated, and Utricia Swann joined them whenever she was in town, sometimes performing songs written by William Cavendish, and set by herself. The Cavendishes entertained on as grand a scale as they could under the circumstances, their household financed by large loans taken out against lands and goods sequestered in England (when finally William Cavendish rushed home to be part of the welcoming party for Charles II in 1660, he had to leave Margaret behind as ‘surety’ for his Dutch creditors).
One entertainment at the Cavendishes’ Antwerp home for which records survive may serve to capture the scale and sophistication of the diversions on offer there during the English Commonwealth years. It was a soirée of glamour and revelry staged for Charles II and his court in February 1658, shortly after the death of Oliver Cromwell, when Europe was buzzing with rumours of the possibility of the English King’s return to the throne. In the event, it was to be another two years before the continuing Commonwealth failed under Cromwell’s son Richard, and Charles II was restored to power, but the premature celebration reminds us that those who eventually returned had developed their own characteristic, lavish forms of recreation in exile, whose fashions were closely linked to Dutch ‘royal’ circles in The Hague, and whose influence persisted when the participants returned to London.38
The occasion for the entertainment at the Cavendishes’ Antwerp home was the installing of General Marchin as a Knight of the Order of the Garter, followed by a ball in his honour. A verse panegyric ‘of the highest hyperbole’ written by Cavendish was delivered by a former actor, ‘Major Mohun’, who wore ‘a black satin robe and garland of bays’. There was dancing, and a performance by sixteen of the King’s gentlemen. The high point of the evening was a song by ‘Lady Moore, dressed in feathers’, who sang one of Cavendish’s songs set to music by Nicholas Lanier.
Here, yet again, we have the threads of English and Dutch cultural activity becoming wound together in intricately complicated ways. As we saw in the previous chapter, the English musician Nicholas Lanier was an old friend of Sir Constantijn Huygens, whom he had met in London at the home of Sir Robert Killigrew in 1622, when Huygens was a young diplomat, dazzled by the cultural and social life of James I’s court in England, and Lanier was a rising court star as musician and instrumentalist, destined to become the Keeper of the King’s Music when Charles I ascended the throne.
In addition to taking charge of Charles I’s music and instruments, Lanier become one of his key art procurers, brokering international deals to build up his fabulous collection of Italianate paintings and statuary – a lynchpin in the courtly web of patronage and acquisitions which shaped seventeenth-century European art connoisseurship, shuttling around Europe in search of costly treasures to enhance the courtly magnificence of his royal employer.39
In the 1650s, the exiled Lanier frequented the émigré community in Antwerp, helping to provide cultural continuity between those fallen on hard times from the élites of the houses of Orange and Stuart together. The guest list on this occasion was impressive. ‘Along with the King and his entourage were his sister Mary (the Princess Royal), the Duke of York (later James II) and the youngest royal brother, Henry, Duke of Gloucester. In addition to the Stuarts, Béatrice de Cusance and her two children attended, a Danish nobleman, Hannibal Sehested and his wife (a Danish Princess), and members of the Duarte family.’40 The context for the entertainment, its conception and execution, were strictly Dutch, and closely related to comparable documented performances at The Hague, at the court of Elizabeth of Bohemia, Charles I’s widowed sister, of the kind we saw earlier. The occasion itself was resolutely ‘English’.
Not all the Cavendishes’ entertaining was musical. During his frequent visits to the Rubens House in the 1650s, Sir Constantijn Huygens and Margaret Cavendish developed an intense intellectual friendship, spending hours absorbed in conversation on scientific and philosophical matters.
In 1653, Huygens was one of those to whom Margaret and William sent the poems she had published in London. ‘A wonderful book, whose extravagant atoms kept me from sleeping a great part of last night in this my little solitude,’ he wrote to Utricia Swann from his country house at Hofwijk.41 On his visits to Antwerp, Huygens often stayed at the Duarte family’s house and kept the company of the Duchess of Lorraine. When he called at the Rubens House, conversation turned to learning, and in particular philosophy. He questioned Margaret closely about her own theory of natural philosophy, and joined her in her chemistry laboratory, where, he later recalled, her enthusiastic experiments led to her each week dirtying several of the white petticoats she wore there to protect her fine clothes:
I could not forbeare to shew your Grace by these lines how verily mindfull I am of the many favours she hath been pleased to bestow upon me in former times, especially of those favours [in your laboratory], Madam, which I remember did cost you many a white petticoat a week.42
In the spring of 1657, following a visit to the Rubens House and an enjoyable session together discussing natural philosophy, Huygens sent Margaret some specimens of ‘Prince Rupert’s drops’ – small teardrop- shaped glass vessels, with extraordinary physical properties. The drops could withstand the pressure of considerable weights placed on them, and were unbreakable even when struck squarely with a hammer. Yet if even the smallest tip of their tails was snapped off with a finger, the whole thing exploded into powder with a loud report. Huygens requested Margaret to study the properties of these curious glass baubles and to offer him a scientific explanation:
I had the honour to heare so good solutions given by your Excellencie upon divers questions moved in a whole afternoone, she was pleased to bestowe upon my unworthie conversation, that I am turning to schoole with all speede, humbly beseeching your Exellencie may be so bountifull towards my ignorance, as to instruct me about the natural reason of these wonderfull glasses, which, as I told you, Madam, will fly into powder, if one breakes but the least top of their tailes, whereas without that way they are hardly to be broken by any waight or strength. The King of France is as yet unresolved in the question, notwithstanding he hath been curious to move it to an assembly of the best philosophers of Paris, the microcosme of his kingdome.
With his customary exquisite decorum, Huygens explained in his letter how Margaret should handle the drops if her feminine sensibility made her nervous of the explosions caused when their tails were snapped off:
Your Exellencie hath no cause to apprehend the cracking blow of these innoxious gunnes. If you did, Madam, a servant may hold them close in his fists, and yourselfe can break the little end of their taile without the least danger. But, as I was bold to tell your Exellencie, I should bee loth to beleeve, any female feare should reigne amongst so much over- masculine wisdom as the world doth admire in her. I pray God to blesse your Exellencie with a dayly increase of it, and your worthie selfe to graunt that amongst those admirers I may strive to deserve by way of my humble service the honour to be accounted.43
Margaret replied a week later. She thanked Huygens for his letter and accompanying poems in Dutch, and gave at length her views on the causes of the violent reactions when the drops were broken. In her view there was a tiny quantity of volatile material trapped inside each drop, which exploded on contact with the air:
To myne outward sense these glasses doe appeare to have on the head, body or belly a liquid and oyly substance, which may be the oyly spirrits or essences of sulpher; alsoe the glasses doe appeare to my senses like the nature or arte of gunns and the spirrit of sulpher as the powder; where although they are charged, yet untill they bee discharged, give no report or sound; the discharging of these glasses is by the breakeinge of a piece or part or end of the tailes, where the discharging of guns are by much [match?] firelockes, scrues or the like, which setts fire or gives vent to the powder, but these sulpherousse spirrits, having as it seemes a more force- able nature, it doth viollently thrust itselfe out, where itt findes vent, like as wind, but rather like fire, being of a firy nature, and may have the effects of bright shining fire, which, when it has noe vent, lyes as dead, but as soone as it can ease out a passage, or findes a vent, it breakes forth in a violent crack or thundering noisse.
She suggested that the liquid was inserted into the drops using the same skill as that employed to make fashionable glass earrings:
Weomen weares at there eares for pendents as great wounders, although they make not soe great report, which are glasse bobbes with narrowe neckes as these glasses have tailes, and yet is filled with severall coullers silkes and coursse black cottonwooll, which to my senses is more difficult to putt into these glasse pendants, then liquer into these glasse gunnes.44
The explanation did not satisfy Huygens, who responded a week later. He did not detect any liquid inside the drops.45 A week later again, Margaret reiterated her belief that there was some kind of combustible material inside the drops, but conceded that it might simply be compressed air.46
This exchange of letters is fascinating in itself, both for what it tells us about the involvement of women in seventeenth-century science, and for the additional light it sheds on Sir Constantijn Huygens’s varied and wide- ranging intellectual and artistic interests. It is particularly interesting to note that Prince Rupert’s drops were one of the earliest curious phenomena explored at length experimentally at the Royal Society after the return of the English exiles. On 4 March 1661 ‘glass bubbles’ were produced to a meeting of the Society: ‘The King sent by Sir Paul Neile five little glass bubbles, two with liquor in them, and the other three solid, in order to have the judgement of the society concerning them.’47 Anxious to impress the King (whose active support for the Society was being sought), the members responded immediately. More drops were produced and experimented on two days later, and a full report of the experiments performed was given to the Society at its weekly meeting on 14 August by the President, Sir Robert Moray.48 Two years later Henry Oldenburg, secretary to the Society, lent Moray’s account to the French traveller Balthasar de Monconys, who made his own translation into French of the method described for making the drops.
It was the Society’s curator of experiments Robert Hooke who produced a plausible (and largely correct) explanation for the phenomenon of the glass drops, based on the compression of the glass itself, and drawing an analogy with the way the locked stones in brick arches collapse instantaneously and violently once the keystone is removed.49
Historians of science are generally agreed that it was Prince Rupert (Elizabeth of Bohemia’s son, and a prominent figure at the Restoration court) who brought the drops from mainland Europe, but are undecided as to where they originated. But a common name for the drops was ‘Holland tears’ – lacrymae Batavicae – and although the first known discussions of them come from the early scientific academies in France, it is suggested that they were brought to France from Holland in the 1650s.
The exchange of letters between Margaret Cavendish and Constantijn Huygens shows that the drops were indeed known in the Dutch Republic in the 1650s, and were also being discussed in France. But I hope that the story indicates how overdetermined the connections are between the Dutch and the English in the history of ‘Prince Rupert’s drops’, and how many strands there are to the development of a plausible explanation of the causes of the drops’ spectacular properties. In particular, when we find Christiaan Huygens trying to manufacture drops with the help of local craftsmen (they were largely unsuccessful), and investigating their properties in The Hague in 1665, and corresponding about them with Adrien Auzout in Paris, we need to factor into our account his father’s enthusiasm for the same drops almost ten years earlier.
During the 1650s, the elegant, restrained neoclassical style of building cherished by Sir Constantijn Huygens in The Hague, and admired by him in the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, became the familiar backdrop to the complicated lives of exiled Englishmen and women. The Cavendishes’ appreciation of their sumptuous rented home inspired them to remodel their own estate when they returned to England, replacing the late-Elizabethan of Robert Smythson’s designs with more Continental classical influences, and doubtless influenced the architectural views of the many English courtiers and hangers-on who visited the Rubenshuis while they were living there.
The returning English exiles carried their memories of ten years in the stylish material surroundings of Antwerp and the northern Netherlands home with them in 1660. In 1658–59, the exiled Charles II stayed for some time at Frederik Hendrik’s favourite country palace, at Honselaarsdijk, just outside The Hague, while he helped his widowed sister Mary, the Princess Royal, to organise suitable educational arrangements for her eight-year- old son, William III. Following the announcement of his reinstatement as King of England in March 1660, Charles spent four hectic weeks lodged at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, whose design and construction by van Campen Huygens had supervised just before the building of his own elegantly neoclassical house next door – the one he discussed by correspondence with Rubens in Antwerp. It was these buildings which helped shape the architectural aspirations of Charles II’s court in the second half of the seventeenth century.
In this area of culture as in so many others, the Huygens influence permeated the experience of those returning to rebuild lives interrupted by the Civil War and its aftermath. Accustomed to the Dutch architectural aesthetic, it is hardly surprising that in so many of the post-Restoration houses William III visited after his arrival in 1688 the new King should have felt perfectly at home.