Elisabeth of Bohemia was born on 20 January 1292, the fifth of ten children of Wenceslaus II of Bohemia and Judith of Habsburg. Out of the ten, only Elisabeth, a brother Wenceslaus, and two sisters, Anne and Margaret survived childhood. When Elisabeth was five, her mother died in childbirth. Her father remarried to Elisabeth-Richeza of Poland, by whom he had a daughter, Agnes. Wenceslaus II died of tuberculosis in 1305, and his fifteen-year-old son, Wenceslaus III became the new king. He was to be the last king of Bohemia’s native Premyslid dynasty. His reign was short-lived as he was assassinated under mysterious circumstances the next year, and Henry of Carinthia, the husband of Elisabeth’s older sister, Anne, became king.
After a chain of events, Henry of Carinthia was deposed and eventually restored as King of Bohemia. He and Anne wanted Elisabeth to marry, but they feared any potential husband could be a threat to their position. Against their wishes, Elisabeth married John of Luxemburg in 1310. John’s father was the Holy Roman Emperor, and Elisabeth knew this marriage would threaten Henry and Anne’s position. With the help of the Emperor and local nobles, John and Elisabeth successfully deposed Henry for a second and final time in December 1310. He and Anne were sent to his homeland of Carinthia, never to return. Anne did not have any children, and she died in 1313, aged 22. Although John of Luxembourg gained the crown of Bohemia through her, Elisabeth remained as a consort. Her most important duty as Queen of Bohemia was to bear sons to prevent her surviving sisters, Margaret and Agnes, or any children they might have, from inheriting the Bohemian throne. Her first child was born three years into her marriage. She gave birth to a total of seven children:
- Margaret (1313-1341) Married Henry XIV, Duke of Bavaria
- Judith (1314-1349) Renamed “Bonne” in French, married the future King John II of France. She died of the plague in 1349, before her husband became king, so she was never queen. However, all further French kings descended from her.
- Wenceslaus (1316-1378) Renamed “Charles” succeeded John as King of Bohemia in 1346, became Holy Roman Emperor as Charles IV in 1355.
- Otakar (1318-1320)
- John Henry (1322-1375) Margrave of Moravia
- Twins: Anna (1323-1338), married Otto IV, Duke of Austria, and Elisabeth (1323-1324)
By 1315, Elisabeth and John were the undisputed King and Queen, but there were still some potential rivals who could be threats. One was Henry of Lipa, lover to Elisabeth’s step-mother, Elisabeth-Richeza. Henry of Lipa held some powerful positions, and Elisabeth-Richeza was still popular in the kingdom. To weaken the powerful nobility’s position, John and Elisabeth had Henry of Lipa imprisoned that year. However, they feared a war over this, so he was released the next year.
John was seen as a foreigner and was never popular with his Bohemian subjects. He was often not present at the Bohemian Court; he constantly travelled to the French court and his own domains of Luxembourg. Elisabeth herself was proud of her own Premyslid linage. John and Elisabeth had different political opinions and different opinions regarding their children’s education. John wanted his children to receive a good French education.
In 1319, John discovered that there was a plot to depose him and replace him with his eldest son, Wenceslaus. Whether Elisabeth was involved in this plot or not is unknown, but at this point, her and John’s marriage started to fall apart. By now, John did not want Elisabeth interfering in their children’s education, so he took their three eldest children from her. John and Elisabeth started to live separately, but they reconciled two years later. This was not to last long, however. In 1323, John sent their first-born son, seven-year-old Wenceslaus to France for his education. There, he was renamed ‘Charles’. Elisabeth never saw him again. In an act of defiance against John, she left Bohemia and went to live in exile in Bavaria. There, in 1323, she gave birth to her last children, twin girls named Anne and Elisabeth. The younger Elisabeth died before Elisabeth and the surviving twin, Anne returned to Bohemia in 1325.
After her return, Elisabeth and John continued to live separately. By now Elisabeth was ill with tuberculosis, the same disease that her father died of. She no longer interfered with matters of state. She spent her last five years dedicated to collecting holy relics and supporting the building of monasteries. She also struggled with finances in her last years and was unable to maintain a court. Elisabeth of Bohemia died of tuberculosis on 28 September 1330, aged 38. She was buried in The Church of our Lady, in Zbraslav, near Prague.
After Elisabeth’s death, John remained as King of Bohemia until his death at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. He remarried to Beatrice of Bourbon, by whom he had on son. Elisabeth’s eldest son, now named Charles succeeded him as king of Bohemia and was eventually elected Holy Roman Emperor. Charles never forgot his mother, and just like her, was proud of his Premyslid heritage. Today, he is considered a national hero of the Czech Republic.