"Hortus Regius" or Queen Christina’s Genealogical Tree with Political Emblems


Hortus Regius (The royal garden) was given to the Swedish queen Christina about 1645 by its creator, the diplomat Shering Rosenhane (1609‒63). With this elegant manuscript, Rosenhane wanted to celebrate the first year of the queen’s reign. The volume is introduced by a full-length portrait of Queen Christina. Hortus Regius is an emblem book, in which each emblem consists of textual and pictorial elements. Elements from classical, medieval, and contemporary literature of a sententious character useful to a queen are combined with illustrations by the Dutch painter Pieter Holsteyn the Younger (circa 1614–73). The Hortus Regius is intended as a kind of mirror for princes—a book of instruction for a sovereign, in which the tone is set by virtue and where the essential principles are patience and prudence. Whereas the manuscript is largely based on other international emblem books, the illustrations are to some extent adapted to a Swedish context. The subtitle of the work, “Queen Christina’s Genealogical Tree with Political Emblems,” indicates the importance of genealogy in the emblematic genre. The manuscript is bound in red morocco and consists of two main parts, of which the first contains many illustrations alternating with genealogical trees and emblems. The emblems are accompanied by quotations in Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish. The second part of the volume is a list of contemporary princely houses in Europe. The manuscript was later in the possession of J. Alströmer, who in 1769 presented it as a gift to the future King Gustav III of Sweden. It was acquired by the National Library of Sweden at the end of the 18th century, along with the rest of the king’s library.

Last updated: February 18, 2016