This paper focuses on Helena, Marchioness of Northampton (1549–1635), and the formation of her identity as a Swedish woman at the court of Elizabeth I of England. Born Elin Snakenborg, Helena left Sweden as one of Princess Cecilia Vasa’s entourage on her journey to London in 1564/65, and remained there as Cecilia returned back home in 1566. Married first to William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and brother to Catherine Parr, and later to Thomas Gorges, courtier and Groom of the Chamber, an important part of her life was spent at or in contact with Elizabeth’s court. Edmund Spenser refers to her in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe and also dedicated a poem to her, while Helena herself corresponded in Swedish, English, and Latin with among others her mother, with Lord Chamberlain Thomas Ratcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, and with the future King Charles IX of Sweden. Together with her second husband she built the architecturally interesting Langford (now Longford), and their burial monument in Salisbury Cathedral is similarly intriguing. This paper examines the early part of her life in England, drawing on letters and contemporary and near-contemporary accounts to show how they articulate or realize the identity of a woman in a foreign country and culture who seemingly adapts to and adopts that culture with ease and determination.
Englishes and Changing Identities in the North. Nordic Association for English Studies (NAES). University of Agder, Norway, 4–7 May 2016