Renæssanceforum 4 • 2008

Mara R. Wade
Widowhood and Patronage: Hedevig, Princess of Denmark and Electress of Saxony (1581-1641)

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In her article on Saxon marriage contracts in the first half of the seventeenth century, Ute Essegern provides one of the first overviews of Saxon noble women and the legal and material conditions of their widowhood. One of the prominent figures in her study is Hedevig, Princess of Denmark and Electress of Saxony (1581-1641), and Essegern's investigation is an invaluable source study for Hedevig's context as a princely Saxon widow. My focus on Hedevig, however, contextualizes within the greater scope of female patronage and cultural agency one aspect of her many activities: her role as a singularly important patron of German music during the first half of the seventeenth century. Her patronage of the two leading German musicians, Michael Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz, is situated within her other learned and cultural activities. I examine the Danish court of her birth and the cultural events she experienced there as preparation for her role as wife of one of the leading princes of the Holy Roman Empire, turning then to the court in Dresden and her brief role as Electress which lasted less than a decade (1602-1611), and concluding with her activities at her dowager's residence in Lichtenburg in Saxony. In total, Hedevig spent nearly forty years in Saxony. After Vienna, Dresden was the most prestigious court in the German empire around 1600, and the Dresden and Copenhagen courts constituted the two most important Lutheran courts in Europe. Owing to the dynastic ties between Denmark and Saxony, Hedevig's widowhood of three decades (1611-1641), which stood largely in the shadow of the Thirty Years' War, provides an ideal window for examining the nexus of female lines of patronage and widowhood.