Life and letters of Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine

Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine

Princess Elizabeth Charlotte was born on 27 May 1652 at Heidelberg Castle as the daughter of Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel. She was known by the name Liselotte. She grew up with her aunt Sophia of Hanover, due to her parents’ unhappy marriage.

She was chosen as a bride for the widowed Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who had previously been married to Henrietta Anne of England, a sister of Charles II of England. They were married by proxy on 16 November 1671, and she converted to Roman Catholicism. She became known as Madame at the French court. Her new husband’s homosexual activities were well known at court.  She put up with it, though she often objected to the money spent on his favourites.

Elizabeth and Philippe had three children, Alexandre (who died young), Philippe (who became Duke of Orléans on the death of his father) and Elisabeth Charlotte (who became Duchess of Lorraine by marriage). They mutually agreed not to share a bed anymore after the births of their children.

Elizabeth often wrote to her aunt, and many of those letters survive to this day, giving a unique view into the reign of Louis XIV and the Regency era of her son, Philippe.

Her first letter after her marriage describes her departure from Strasbourg to her aunt.

“Saint Germain, Feb. 3rd, 1672.

Madame de Wurtemburg spoke the truth when she described my grief to Dorndorf. I cried all night from Strasbourg to Chalons. I showed myself far more indifferent than I really was in feeling. I cannot forgive myself for the manner with which I parted from my relatives in Strasbourg.

I will tell you one thing about Monsieur: he is the best man in the world, and we get on very well together. None of his portraits resembled him in the least.”

Upon the birth of her son she wrote to a Madame von Harling:

“July 6th, 1673.

I often think of the joy you must have felt on being told of my safe deliverance of a boy. As I have always been like your own child, it is as though you had heard of the birth of a grandson. I feel sure that he has your heartiest good wishes. As soon as he has had his portrait taken I will send it to you, but I hope that you will see him some day and find him all that you could wish. Thank God he is a fine and healthy child, and has been so since the day of his birth. His size and beauty give me great pleasure.”

However, the child did not live to see his third birthday, and she wrote to the same Madame von Harlin of her grief.

“April 20th, 1676.

The terrible blow with which the Almighty has seen fit to overwhelm me so troubled me that I was not able to answer your letter before. You see now how right I was in wishing that my children could be under your care; I always foresaw what would happen to me. They manage children in the strangest way in this country Unfortunately 1 know nothing about them, never having had any experience, so I am obliged to do what they tell me. The more I think of this, the more wretched I become. I am now quite alone in my grief, for Monsieur started last Thursday with the King to join the army. I fear that all this will injure the child I am awaiting. … I do not think that grief can kill—were it so I should certainly have died before now. I cannot describe to you the terrible sufferings I have endured.”

Elizabeth’s husband died in 1701, and she would outlive him for 21 years. She died at the age of 70 on 8 December 1722 at the Château de Saint-Cloud.

Read more letters from Madame here.

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My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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