More about the Journey up the Rhine
The Journey up the Rhine project sprang from reading Gerhard Vögelin’s Beschreibung der Reiß, the most extensive description of the Palatine wedding of 1613. This is a large volume (over 300 pages) with remarkable engravings. In it, 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 is lost on the modern reader without layers of context about this region of the world on the brink of the Thirty Years War. This project seeks to provide context for understanding what geopolitical factors determined the descriptions in the Beschreibung and the geopolitical implications of the journey.
At the time of the Palatine wedding and the journey home to Heidelberg, the states along the Rhine River were at a tense 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 marriage was an event of such symbolic significance—which involved parading two of the most prominent Protestants in Europe through the fractious region—caused excitement as well as anxiety.
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 maps used in this project: a basemap (with modern roads and landmarks removed), two contemporary maps, and a confessional layer. The basemap makes visible landscape features that might have influenced the choice of stop. The major landscape feature that influenced the route certainly require need a map to recognize: the Rhine River. Travel by water was the fastest and most comfortable means of long-distance travel in early modern Europe. Furthermore, as cities are typically cluster close to water, Elizabeth would encounter a maximum number of people along the Rhine.
Seeing the basemap on the journey does make clear, however, that Elizabeth went out of her way to visit the major cities of the United Provinces and to shore up relations there. This is indicative of the role of Prince Maurice of Orange (1567-1625) in shaping of the journey. Maurice was the stadtholder of the United Provinces. 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. The benefit of prominent displays of rising Protestant power (seen in the festivals for Elizabeth’s visits) were vital to shore up courage for the Dutch to pursue independence from Spain.
Beyond simply mapping the journey on a modern map this 17th-century spatial story is best considered in a contemporary rendering of the space covered. This digital project consciously does not georectify the der Keere and Ortelius maps. Maps are subjective representations of space and constraining historic maps into a digital Mercator projection can obfuscate information about how historical actors conceived of the world and their place in it. By presenting these projections in digital storytelling, modern readers potentially gain insight into cultural boundaries that were not recorded in other historical sources. For example, the Pieter van der Keere map 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 this map with a horizontal north-south axis (the Rhine flows left to right on the page instead of from the bottom in Switzerland to the North Sea at the top of the page).
The confessional biography of the cartographer suggests political motives behind this representation. 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. 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 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 culture of the region is reinforced beyond the boundaries of the various small states along the Rhine.
Mapping Elizabeth’s journey exposes places that were passed over. 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, 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.
One stop that did not fall into this urban pattern was the stop on May 26 in Mondorf where Elizabeth met Georg Wilhelm (1595-1640), the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg. By toggling between the modern and historic maps, this stop became all the more intriguing because Mondorf was not marked on either of the early modern maps. Why then was Elizabeth inclined to stop in such an unremarkable “dorf”? The answer may also lie in the Van den Keere map where the boundary of the Duchy of Berg is just over the River Stieg. This point at the confluence of the two rivers was of strategic importance and 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.
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). As Elizabeth passed through Berg, negotiations to settle the succession had recently ended in failure in Erfurt and Brandenburg and Pfalz-Neuburg jointly ran a provisional common government. Although, Wolfgang Wilhelm had previously sought an advantageous Protestant marriage with Elizabeth, weeks after she passed through Mondorf, he courted the favor of powerful Catholic rulers and 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.
One of the persisting challenges for this project is the confessions map. This was intended to signal confessional reasons for particular stops. However, the map was never precise enough for the scale of the journey. This layer used Christos Nüssli’s Euratlas showing the political boundaries from the year 1600. There are two problems with this, one, this map does not line up precisely with the basemap with misleading outcomes (for example, Cologne becomes, Reformed/Catholic when it was most certainly run by the Catholic bishop!). Two, boundaries did change slightly from 1600. Furthermore, I did extensive research into each territory here in historical atlases and histories of the individual states to determine the confession of each in 1613. There is still some ambiguity about these determinations, however. This feature cannot be made relying on static maps--historians of the Holy Roman Empire need maps that reflect the quick 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.