Every time the Prince, the Elector Palatine, left her, Princess Elizabeth fell victim to more than just melancholic sentiments. Besides the sadness, there was fear: fear that she would never see her beloved husband again; fear that she would not know what do to. Of course, and especially in the beginning, being separated from him was the main source of grief. She loved the prince intensely and she was desperate to be in his company.
Yet other, more practical, considerations, began to weigh more heavily on her. These were dangerous times and the prince was a most controversial man. Indeed, more than half of Europe was convinced that the world would be a better place when her husband was no longer in it. And Elizabeth’s father would not allow her to return to London; she knew that the only piece she was allowed to be in his political game was a queen. She would never return a princess.
And yet a third, and ever so much more banal, type of fear appeared in her mind. As time progressed this fear, gaudily, eclipsed the others: it was the fear of boredom. The prince was able to elevate her entire existence. When they were together they had wonderfully inspired conversations. They also played games in the forests surrounding their castle.
They would attempt to solve alchemical riddles that renowned scholars had devised for them. They would seek each other in the maze. And, of course, there was the endless lovemaking. Elizabeth often wondered whether other human beings had also experienced such divine exaltations while still amongst the living.
And all these things were not there when her prince was not there. She could not stand it. The fear and the boredom were chiseling away her sanity like drunk dwarves. It soon became apparent to the princess that although conversations alleviated her distress, there were not many in the castle – nor in the rest of Heidelberg – who could confer with her on an equal footing.
They were either too learned, or not learned at all, and being her obeying subjects, they were all either afraid, embarrassed or unwilling to open their hearts to her. She had always been used to this state of affairs and had thus never attempted to break this invisible glass cage that belonged as much to her attire as her dresses. And thus, as time wore on, the princess, spurred by inner turmoil, not only warmed to her acquaintances but actively began to seek their friendship.
Meanwhile, the prince, a sensitive and sensible man, had pained his brains in order to come up with something that would occupy his wife’s mind while he was on his sojourns. For this purpose, he could draw on a company of artists and intellectuals unequaled by any court except that of Rudolph II. Could anyone have asked for more?
The esteemed architect Inigo Jones built miniature palaces for her; Frances Bacon wrote sonnets for – and with – her and the most renowned actors of the age performed plays that Shakespeare himself had attuned to her taste. Yet her melancholy was still not adequately mitigated.
Then the prince decided to call on the princess's old tutor, Salomon de Caus. Not only was he perhaps the closest thing she had ever had to a friend, he was also a man of remarkable talents. As an engineer and inventor, he was unparalleled. During a tête-à-tête, the prince, Inigo Jones, and Salamon de Caus surmised that they would create the most sumptuous gardens the world had ever seen. An otherworldly place where the princess would be completely separated from reality. And this they did: the Hortus Palantinus became known as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
During the construction of the gardens, Inigo Jones at some point expressed his amazement concerning the technological prowess Salamon de Caus exhibited.
Verily, if anyone has ever come close to emulating the achievements of Leonardo Da Vinci, it is you, he said.
To which de Caus answered: well, that I have done already.
Then I challenge you to build a new version of Da Vinci’s legendary mechanical lion, Jones spoke.
A couple of months later several mechanical lions roamed through the gardens of Heidelberg castle. And the lions were accompanied by many other, perhaps even more miraculous objects, most remarkable of which were the statue, based on the legend of the singing statue of Memnon, that began to moan when hit by rays of sunlight, and a 192 meter long track on which four mechanical Greek Olympian athletes held a footrace against each other.
The princess was – naturally – very excited by all of this. She loved the gardens and Salomon the Caus became the friend she had so desperately been seeking. The engineer was pleased, but also quite puzzled by these intimate terms on which he suddenly found himself with the princess. She had grown into a radiant young woman who exuded sexuality. When the young prince was once again away from home, situations developed in which the engineer wondered whether he could remain loyal to his benefactor. It was certainly against his nature to do otherwise.
One day this thought bothered him so much that he ran down the hill, to the church of Holy Ghost and swore before the altar that he would not deviate from the righteous path.
When he returned he found the princess in the gardens. She was sitting in the entrance of one the grottoes, deeply immersed in the reading a document. When she looked up, she looked flushed. Her cheeks were red and her bosom was heaving. The engineer also noticed the unacceptably ruffled state of her dress.
Are you all right my dear princess? he cried in alarm.
Well now, this is a strange moment for you to find me, very strange indeed… the princess sighed.
What is wrong with you? Can I do anything to help you? Salomon answered.
Nothing is wrong with me… and although you should not help, perhaps I will ask you to do so anyway, she spoke with a sudden, unexpected, cheeky vigor.
Perhaps you can read this for me.
She handed him the document she was holding.
From the assembled manuscripts left by Isabella Cortese in Hradčany Castle, the engineer read. A few sentences later Salomon abruptly stopped.
This… this won’t do! He cried.
Why not? The princess purred: this is where it becomes positively fascinating!
Fascinating?! This is obscene filth! How can you have me read this to you?!
Now, now… don’t get upset. Do you want to stay loyal to your sovereign?
By all means!
Then read me this story. It pleases me immensely.
With a heavy heart, the engineer continued. He knew it would be dangerous to antagonize her. And there was something deep inside his soul, a force that could have made him decide to leave, yet effectuated quite the opposite.
When he was reaching the shockingly unwholesome climax of the story the princess suddenly told him to stop reading.
Oh, thank God, she has finally regained her composure! Salomon de Caus exclaimed.
When he looked into her eyes he realized that he couldn’t have been more of the mark.
Just wait… wait until that cloud has passed, she murmured.
So, in fact, the wretched princess has completely taken leave of her senses, the engineer muttered to himself.
A few moments later the sun began to appear – for the first time that day. And as the rays started to flood the gardens, the Memnon statue started to groan.
Read on! The princess cried.
While Salomon de Caus renewed his struggle to utter the obscenities he’d been presented with, the princess tore apart what was left of her dresses. And as the princess touched her most intimate parts – that the highly confused engineer couldn’t help observing with half an eye – she began to join the statue’s moaning. She moaned harder and harder, knowing that the statue would cancel out her noise.