Excerpt from "Elizabeth, A Dutch Anabaptist martyr: a letter" (1573)
Reprinted in The Protestant Reformation
Edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand
Published in 1968
In the early 1500s reformers began calling for changes within the Roman Catholic Church, which was the only established Christian religion in Europe at that time. An organized reform movement began after 1517, when the German theology professor (one who teaches religion) Martin Luther (1483–1546; see entry) posted his grievances against the church at Wittenberg, Germany. Support of Luther's ideas gained momentum, eventually resulting in the Protestant Reformation and the establishment of Protestantism as a separate Christian faith. Simultaneously, reform efforts known as the Catholic Reformation (also the Counter Reformation) were taking place within the Roman Catholic Church (see entry). In 1555, following a series of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Germany, the Peace of Augsburg stated that each of more than three hundred principalities in Germany would adopt the religion of its local ruler. This left more than half of Germany to Lutherans, the name given to supporters of Luther's teachings.
Since the earliest stage of the Protestant Reformation, however, there had been disharmony among Protestants. All Protestants did not consider themselves Lutherans. Going far beyond the grievances listed by Luther—who never sought complete separation from the church—the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531; see entry) abandoned Lutheranism in the early 1520s and promoted his own brand of Protestantism in Switzerland. The French-born Swiss reformer John Calvin (1504–1564; see entry) also did not agree with many of Luther's ideas. Beginning in the late 1540s, from his base in Basel, Switzerland, Calvin advocated an even stricter form of Protestantism called Calvinism. The teachings of Zwingli, and particularly those of Calvin, were adopted elsewhere in Europe, but they did not necessarily reflect the views of everyone who claimed to be a Protestant. In fact, the Protestant movement was virtually in disarray, especially after the Peace of Augsburg, as hundreds of new radical Protestant sects (small groups with extreme views) were constantly forming and re-forming. Many of these sects had roots in the first phase of the Reformation. One of the strongest was the Anabaptists.
Swiss Brethren dispute baptism
The Anabaptist movement, first known as the Swiss Brethren, arose in the early 1520s among Zwingli's followers in Switzerland, then spread into Germany and the Netherlands. In 1527 the Swiss Brethren issued a statement of their beliefs in the Schleitheim Confession. Differences between the Brethren and mainstream Protestants focused on the question of baptism. Baptism is a Christian rite in which a person is anointed with water and accepted into the Christian faith. Like the Catholics, most Protestants believed in baptizing infants in order to assure that a new life would be set on the path of God. The Brethren, on the other hand, contended that a person should be baptized in adulthood even if he or she had been baptized as an infant. They referred to their form of baptism as believer's baptism because it was the voluntary choice of a mature person who was ready to accept Christianity. A member of the Swiss Brethren came to be known as an "Anabaptist," the word for "one who baptizes again." Lutherans and Calvinists often used "Anabaptist" as a negative term for any sect that did not follow standard reform practices. Like the Calvinists and the Lutherans, the Anabaptists stressed the importance of personal communication with God, and they rejected the rituals of the Catholic Church. They were different from other Protestant groups, however, because they advocated nonviolence, opposed state churches, did not participate in state government, and refused to take oaths.
Anabaptism was embraced mainly by the poor and by uneducated peasants and artisans. Anabaptists were seen as a threat by the Zwinglians. In 1525 a dispute between the two groups led to the suppression of the Anabaptist movement in Zurich and later to the banishment of its members. They were prosecuted, and in 1527 one of their leaders, Felix Mantz, was among those executed. Wherever Anabaptists and other radical sects went in Europe, they encountered similar persecution, or punishment for their beliefs. They were targeted by both Protestant and Catholic government authorities, who disapproved of their community-based doctrines and their opposition to state churches. Seldom free to practice their religion, radicals risked being arrested and put in prison, and they were often burned at the stake. (It was believed that burning was a way to destroy evil spirits.) Government authorities argued that such harsh measures had to be taken because radicals were heretics (those who violated the laws of God) who posed a threat to law and order.
So many Anabaptists were executed that they soon came to be regarded as martyrs (those who set an example by sacrificing their lives for their beliefs). In the seventeenth century Thieleman van Braght, a Dutchman, collected documents relating to Anabaptist martyrs in a book titled The Bloody Theater of the Martyrs' Mirror. Among the documents was a letter a Dutch Anabaptist woman named Elizabeth (her last name is unknown) wrote to her infant daughter Janneken. Following is an excerpt from Elizabeth's letter.
Things to Remember While Reading an Excerpt from "Elizabeth, A Dutch Anabaptist martyr: a letter":
- Elizabeth wrote the letter in 1573 from a prison in Antwerp (a city in present-day Belgium), shortly after giving birth to Janneken. Elizabeth's husband had already been executed, and she herself was about to meet the same fate. She was leaving the letter for Janneken, both as a remembrance of herself and her husband and as a guide for her daughter's moral and spiritual development.
- Notice that Elizabeth is willingly sacrificing her life as a way to spread the message of Christ (the name for Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity). She tells Janneken not to be ashamed of her parents because they were following the example of Christ and the early Christians (the prophets and apostles), who were also persecuted. In fact, Elizabeth feels that she has been chosen by Christ, who said, "Ye shall be persecuted, killed, and dispersed for my name's sake."
- Throughout the letter Elizabeth refers to important figures in the Christian religion. "Father" and "Lord" are terms for God. Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac were Hebrew patriarchs (fathers of the Hebrew people) who appear in the Old Testament (first part of the Bible, the Christian holy book; also called the Hebrew Bible). Abraham was the first prophet and founder of the Hebrew nation. Isaac was the son of Abraham and is revered as the second Hebrew prophet. Jacob, the Lord in Israel, was the son of Isaac. He was given the name Israel ("Prince of God") by Jehovah (the Hebrew term for God).
- Elizabeth also quotes passages from the Bible. Matt. 6:33 is the book of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 33. The second epistle (2 Thess. 3:10) of Paul (founder of first Christian churches) is to the Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 10, and I Peter 3:10 is the first epistle of Peter (leader of Christianity after the death of Christ), chapter 3, verse 10. Matthew, 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Peter are all books of the New Testament, the second part of the Bible, which contains the teachings of Christ.
Excerpt from "Elizabeth, A Dutch Anabaptist martyr: a letter"
[Testament] written to Janneken my
own dearest daughter, while I was
(unworthily) confined for the
Lord's sake, in prison, at
Antwerp, a.d. 1573.
The true love of God and wisdom of the Father strengthen you in virtue, my dearest child; the Lord of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the Lord in Israel, keep you in His virtue, and strengthen and confirm your understanding in His truth. My dear little child, I commend you to the almighty, great and terrible God, who only is wise, that He will keep you, and let you grow up in His fear, or that He will take you home in your youth, this is my heart's request of the Lord: you who are yet so young, and whom I must leave here in this wicked, evil,perverse world.
Perverse: Turned away from what is right or good.
Foreordained: Decided in advance.
Commend: Place in the care of.
Since, then, the Lord has so ordered andforeordained it, that I must leave you here, and you are here deprived of father and mother, I willcommend you to the Lord; let Him do with you according to His holy will. He will govern you, and be a Father to you, so that you shall have no lack here, if you only fear God; for He will be the Father of the orphans and the Protector of the widows.
Hence, my dear lamb, I who am imprisoned and bound here for the Lord's sake, can help you in no other way; I had to leave your father for the Lord's sake, and could keep him only a short time. We were permitted to live together only half a year, after which we wereapprehended, because we sought thesalvation of our souls. They took him from me, not knowing my condition [her pregnancy], and I had to remain in imprisonment, and see him go before me; and it was a great grief to him, that I had to remain here in prison. And now that I have abided the time, and borne you under my heart with great sorrow for nine months, and given birth to you here in prison, in great pain, they have taken you from me. Here I lie, expecting death every morning, and shall now soon follow your dear father. And I, your dear mother, write you, my dearest child, something for a remembrance, that you will thereby remember your dear father and your dear mother.
Since I am now delivered up to death, and must leave you here alone, I must through these lines cause you to remember, that when you have attained your understanding, you endeavor to fear God, and see and examine why and for whose name we both died; and be not ashamed to confess us before the world, for you must know that it is not for the sake of any evil. Hence be not ashamed of us; it is the way which the prophets and the apostles went, and the narrow way which leads into eternal life, for there shall no other way be found by which to be saved.
Hence, my young lamb, for whose sake I still have, and have had, great sorrow, seek, when you have attained your understanding, this narrow way, though there is sometimes much danger in it according to the flesh, as we may see and read, if wediligently examine and read theScriptures, that much is said concerning thecross of Christ. And there are many in this world who are enemies of the cross, who seek to be free from it among the world, and to escape it. But, my dear child, if we would with Christ seek and inherit salvation, we must also help bear His cross; and this is the cross which He would have us bear: to follow His footsteps, and to help bear Hisreproach; for Christ Himself says: "Ye shall be persecuted, killed, and dispersed for my name's sake." Yea, He Himself went before us in this way of reproach, and left us an example, that we should follow His steps; for, for His sake all must beforsaken, father, mother, sister, brother, husband, child, yea, one's own life…
Salvation: Deliverance from sin.
Diligently: Earnestly and energetically.
Scriptures: Text of the Bible.
Cross of Christ
Cross of Christ: Symbol of Christianity; Christ was executed by being hung on a cross.
Reproach: Express displeasure with.
Forsaken: Turned away from.
Prophesied: Predicted with assurance on the basis of mystical knowledge.
Thus, my dear child, it is now fulfilled in your dear father and mother. It was indeedprophesied to us beforehand, that this wasawaiting us; but not everyone is chosenhereunto, nor expects it; the Lord has chosen us hereunto. Hence, when you haveattained your understanding, follow this example of your father and mother. And, my dear child, this is my request of you, since you are still very little and young; I wrote this when you were but one month old. As I am soon now to offer up my sacrifice, by the help of the Lord, I leave you this: "That you fulfil my request, always uniting with them that fear God; and do not regard thepomp and boasting of the world, nor the greatmultitude, whose way leads to theabyss of hell, but look at the little flock ofIsraelites, who have no freedom anywhere, and must always flee from one land to the other, as Abraham did; that you may hereafter obtain your fatherland; for if you seek your salvation, it is easy to perceive which is the way that leads to life, or the way that leads into hell. Above all things, seek the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness; and whatever you need besides shall be added unto you." Matt. 6:33.
Further, my dear child, I pray you, that wherever you live when you are grown up, and begin to have understanding, you conduct yourself well and honestly, so that no one need have cause to complain of you. And always be faithful, taking good heed not to wrong any one. Learn to carry your hands always uprightly, and see that you like to work, for Paul says: "If any will not work, neither shall he eat." 2 Thess. 3:10. And Peter says: "He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil." I Pet. 3:10.
Hereunto: To this.
Pomp: Show of magnificence.
Multitude: Majority of people.
Abyss of hell
Abyss of hell: Bottomless pit of the place where sinners go after death.
Israelites: People of Israel.
What happened next…
In spite of persecution, the Anabaptists and other radicals were important to the Protestant Reformation. Many of these religious groups were headed by lay, or unordained, preachers who came to see the close connections among religion, politics, and economics. They continued pressing for social and political reforms, which they justified with passages from the Bible. The Reformation thus spread to all aspects of life, and the Christian world found itself in the middle of the most profound upheaval since Roman Catholicism was founded around C. E. 600. By the close of the Protestant Reformation in the early seventeenth century, the Christian world was divided into five factions—Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican (Church of England), and Anabaptist. Within this structure new sects continued to emerge, and many still exist today. In fact, the Anabaptists were the forerunners of the modern Baptists, one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world.
Did you know…
- Closely related to the Anabaptists were the Hutterites (Moravian Brethren), a group founded by Jakob Hutter, an Austrian pacifist (one who is opposed to violence). The Hutterites established communities based on mutual Christian love and the sharing of goods. Another prominent Anabaptist group was the Mennonites. They were led by the Dutch reformer Menno Simons (c. 1496–1561), a well-known Anabaptist theologian. Simons stressed the importance of living according to the teachings of Christ. Like the Hutterites, the Mennonites formed close-knit communities that lived apart from the rest of the world. Today Hutterites and Mennonites continue to live in Europe and North America.
- Many other sects were formed during the Protestant Reformation. Among them were the Spiritualists, who sought personal communion with the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Holy Trinity). The Evangelical Rationalists and Puritans of both Poland and England applied "right reason" to such concepts as the deity (godliness) of Christ, the Trinity (the Christian idea of God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and the existence of heaven and hell (places where the saved and sinners, respectively, go after death). The Levellers and True Levellers, Ranters, Seekers, Muggletonians, Antinomians, and scores of other radical groups rose up, especially in England, Belgium, and France. They came to be known by both Catholics and conservative Protestants as "the lunatic fringe."
For More Information
Anthony, Arthur. The Tailor-King: The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.
Hillerbrand, Hans J., ed. The Protestant Reformation. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1968.
Loewen, Harry, and Steven M. Nolt. Through Fire & Water: An Overview of Mennonite History. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1996.
The Radicals. Worcester, Pa.: Gateway Films-Vision Video, 1989.
The Schleitheim Confession. [Online] Available http://www.anabaptists.org/history/schleith.html, April 10, 2002.
Daughter of Peter I and Catherine I, grand princess and crown princess from 1709 to 1741, Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna) was the second of ten offspring to reach maturity. She was born in the Moscow suburb of Kolomenskoye on December 29, 1709, the same day a Moscow parade celebrated the Poltava victory. Elizabeth grew up carefree with her sister Anna (1708–1728). Doted on by both parents, the girls received training in European languages, social skills, and Russian traditions of singing, religious instruction, and dancing. Anna married Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp in 1727 and died in Holstein giving birth to Karl Peter Ulrich (the future Peter III). Elizabeth never married officially or traveled abroad, her illegitimate birth obstructing royal matches. Because she wrote little and left no diary, her inner thoughts are not well-known.
Hints of a political role came after her mother's short reign when Elizabeth was named to the joint regency for young Peter II, whose favor she briefly enjoyed. But when he died childless in 1730 she
was overlooked in the surprise selection of Anna Ivanovna. Under Anna she was kept under surveillance, her yearly allowance cut to 30,000 rubles, and only Biron's influence prevented commitment to a convent. At Aleksandrovka near Moscow she indulged in amorous relationships with Alexander Buturlin, Alexei Shubin, and the Ukrainian chorister Alexei Razumovsky. During Elizabeth's reign male favoritism flourished; some of her preferred men assumed broad cultural and artistic functions—for instance, Ivan Shuvalov (1717–1797), a well-read Francophile who cofounded Moscow University and the Imperial Russian Academy of Fine Arts in the 1750s.
Anna Ivanovna was succeeded in October 1740 by infant Ivan VI of the Brunswick branch of Romanovs who reigned under several fragile regencies, the last headed by his mother, Anna Leopoldovna (1718–1746). This Anna represented the Miloslavsky/Brunswick branch, whereas Elizabeth personified the Naryshkin/Petrine branch. Elizabeth naturally worried the inept regency regime, which she led her partisans in the guards to overthrow on December 5–6, 1741, with aid from the French and Swedish ambassadors (Sweden had declared war on Russia in July 1741 ostensibly in support of Elizabeth). The bloodless coup was deftly accomplished, the regent and her family arrested and banished, and Elizabeth's claims explicated on the basis of legitimacy and blood kinship. Though Elizabeth's accession unleashed public condemnation of both Annas as agents of foreign domination, it also reaffirmed the primacy of Petrine traditions and conquests, promising to restore Petrine glory and to counter Swedish invasion, which brought Russian gains in Finland by the Peace of Åbo in August 1743.
Elizabeth was crowned in Moscow in spring 1742 amid huge celebrations spanning several months; she demonstratively crowned herself. With Petrine, classical feminine, and "restorationist" rhetoric, Elizabeth's regime resembled Anna Ivanovna's in that it pursued an active foreign policy, witnessed complicated court rivalries and further attempts to resolve the succession issue, and made the imperial court a center of European cultural activities. In 1742 the empress, lacking offspring, brought her nephew from Holstein to be converted to Orthodoxy, renamed, and designated crown prince Peter Fyodorovich. In 1744 she found him a German bride, Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst, the future Catherine II. The teenage consorts married in August 1745, and hopes for a male heir came true only in 1754. Elizabeth took charge of Grand Prince Pavel Petrovich. Nevertheless, the "Young Court" rivaled Elizabeth's in competition over dynastic and succession concerns.
While retaining ultimate authority, Elizabeth restored the primacy of the Senate in policymaking, exercised a consultative style of administration, and assembled a government comprising veteran statesmen, such as cosmopolitan Chancellor Alexei Bestuzhev-Ryumin and newly elevated aristocrats like the brothers Petr and Alexander Shuvalov (and their younger cousin Ivan Shuvalov), Mikhail and Roman Vorontsov, Alexei and Kirill Razumovsky, and court surgeon Armand Lestocq. Her reign generally avoided political repression, but she took revenge on the Lopukhin family, descendents of Peter I's first wife, by having them tortured and exiled in 1743 for loose talk about the Brunswick family and its superior rights. Later she abolished the death penalty in practice. Lestocq and Bestuzhev-Ryumin, who was succeeded as chancellor by Mikhail Vorontsov, fell into disgrace for alleged intrigues, although Catherine II later pardoned both.
In cultural policy Elizabeth patronized many, including Mikhail Lomonosov, Alexander Sumarokov, Vasily Tredyakovsky, and the Volkov brothers, all active in literature and the arts. Foreign architects, composers, and literary figures such as Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Francesco Araja, and Jakob von Stählin also enjoyed Elizabeth's support. Her love of pageantry resulted in Petersburg's first professional public theater in 1756. Indeed, the empress set a personal example by frequently attending the theater, and her court became famous for elaborate festivities amid luxurious settings, such as Rastrelli's new Winter Palace and the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Elizabeth loved fancy dress and followed European fashion, although she was criticized by Grand Princess Catherine for quixotic transvestite balls and crudely dictating other ladies'style and attire. Other covert critics such as Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov accused Elizabeth of accelerating the "corruption of manners" by pandering to a culture of corrupt excess, an inevitable accusation from disgruntled aristocrats amid the costly ongoing Europeanization of a cosmopolitan high society. The Shuvalov brothers introduced significant innovations in financial policy that fueled economic and fiscal growth and reinstituted recodification of law.
Elizabeth followed Petrine precedent in foreign policy, a field she took special interest in, although critics alleged her geographical ignorance and laziness. Without firing a shot, Russia helped conclude the war of the Austrian succession (1740–1748), but during this conflict Elizabeth and Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin became convinced that Prussian aggression threatened Russia's security. Hence alliance with Austria became the fulcrum of Elizabethan foreign policy, inevitably entangling Russia in the reversal of alliances in 1756 that exploded in the worldwide Seven Years' War (1756–1763). This complex conflict pitted Russia, Austria, and France against Prussia and Britain, but Russia did not fight longtime trading partner Britain. Russia held its own against Prussia, conquered East Prussia, and even briefly occupied Berlin in 1760. The war was directed by a new institution, the Conference at the Imperial Court, for Elizabeth's declining health limited her personal attention to state affairs. The war dragged on too long, and the belligerents began looking for a way out when Elizabeth's sudden death on Christmas Day (December 25, 1761) brought her nephew Peter III to power. He was determined to break ranks and to ally with Prussia, despite Elizabeth's antagonism to King Frederick II. So just as Elizabeth's reign started with a perversely declared war, so it ended abruptly with Russia's early withdrawal from a European-wide conflict and Peter III's declaration of war on longtime ally Denmark. Elizabeth personified Russia's post-Petrine eminence and further emergence as a European power with aspirations for cultural achievement.
See also: anna ivanovna; bestuzhev-ryumin, alexei petrovich; peter i; seven years' war
Anisimov, Evgeny. (1995). Empress Elizabeth: Her Reign and Her Russia, ed. and tr. John T. Alexander. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International.
Naumov, Viktor Petrovich. (1996). "Empress Elizabeth I, 1741–1762." In The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs, ed. and comp. Donald J. Raleigh and A. A. Iskenderov. Armonk, NY:M. E. Sharpe.
Shcherbatov, M. M. (1969). On the Corruption of Morals in Russia, ed. and tr. Anthony Lentin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Wortman, Richard. (1995). Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, vol. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
John T. Alexander
Elizabeth ★★★ 1998 (R)
And you thought modern day politics were dirty! Indian director Kapur takes a look at the turbulent life of Queen Elizabeth I of England (a brilliant Blanchett) from her uncertain days as a beseiged Protestant Princess to her ascension to the throne and the machinations surrounding her early reign. Elizabeth indeed proves to be her father's daughter as she must keep her head (literally) while dealing with religion, war, assassination, and the vexing question of a political marriage. Rush is notable as spidery spymaster Walsingham and Eccleston's hissably evil as the arrogant Catholic Duke of Norfolk. Wonderful shadowy cinematography by Adefarasin adds to the atmosphere but it does help to know some history in order to keep the plots and plotters straight. 124m/C VHS, DVD, HD DVD . GB Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Attenborough, Fanny Ardant, Vincent Cassel, Daniel Craig, Kathy Burke, James Frain, Edward Hardwicke, Eric Cantona, John Gielgud, Emily Mortimer; D: Shekhar Kapur; W: Michael Hirst; C: Remi Adefarasin; M: David Hirschfelder. Oscars '98: Makeup; British Acad. '98: Actress (Blanchett), Cinematog., Film, Score; Golden Globes '99: Actress—Drama (Blanchett); Natl. Bd. of Review '98: Director (Kapur); Broadcast Film Critics '98: Actress (Blanchett).
St Elizabeth in the Bible, the wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist; she is said to have been the cousin of the Virgin Mary (see the Visitation). Her feast day (jointly with Zacharias) is 5 November.
St Elizabeth of Hungary (1207–31), princess. Married happily to the Landgrave of Thuringia and early widowed, she devoted her life to the poor. Roses are her emblem. Her feast day is 17 (formerly 19) November.
Elizabeth (empress of Austria and queen of Hungary)
Elizabeth, 1837–98, empress of Austria and queen of Hungary. A Bavarian princess, she was married (1854) to her cousin, Emperor Francis Joseph. Despite her exceptional beauty, intelligence, and kindness she led an unhappy domestic life, which was marred, moreover, by family tragedies (notably the death of her only son, Archduke Rudolf, and the death of one of her sisters in the charity bazaar fire in Paris, 1897). Independent and unconventional, she avoided the stiff etiquette of the Viennese court and spent much of her time abroad, chiefly on Corfu. She was assassinated by the Italian anarchist Luccheni in Geneva, Switzerland.
See biography J. Haslip (1965).
Elizabeth, Saint (in the Bible)
Saint Elizabeth, in the Gospel of St. Luke, mother of John the Baptist and kinswoman of the Virgin Mary. Feast: Nov. 5.