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Helena, Marchioness of Northampton

Helena Snakenborg came to London in the train of a visiting Swedish Princess. Appointed a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth, writes Gunnar Sjögren, she married twice and lived in England for seventy years.

In the autumn of 1565 the Swedish Princess Cecilia visited England. Queen Elizabeth had been one of the chief topics of conversation at the Swedish Court for years. Cecilia’s eldest brother Prince Eric, now King Eric XIV, had proposed to Elizabeth time and again. Her brother Duke John had been to London and had enjoyed a friendly reception. Cecilia was fascinated by the independent Queen who had half a dozen suitors dancing whenever she pulled the strings.

She started to learn English and wrote gushing letters to her, expressing her admiration. Elizabeth answered kindly and invited Cecilia to visit her. And here she came, with her insignificant husband, the impoverished Margrave of Baden-Rodemachern, in tow, and highly pregnant. A few days after her arrival she gave birth to a boy.

Elizabeth had him christened in the Whitehall chapel with such pomp and circumstance as could be calculated to infuriate the Spanish Ambassador. She herself acted as godmother, the other gossips being the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Duke of Norfolk. Cecilia’s six maids of honour attracted much attention.

They were dressed in white kirtles of cloth of silver, frocks of white satin and golden cauls embroidered with pearls. Three weeks after the christening fifty-two-year-old William Parr, Marquis of Northampton, who had met the party at Dover and escorted it to London, confided to Cecilia that he had fallen in love with one of the girls, sixteen-year-old Helena Snakenborg.

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