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Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Elisabeth von (1519–1558)

Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Elisabeth von (1519–1558)

German ruler and writer. Name variations: Elisabeth of Brunswick-Luneburg. Born in 1519 in Brandenburg (Germany); died in 1558 in Braunschweig-Lüneburg (Germany); daughter of Joachim I, Prince of Brandenburg; married Erich I, duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, in 1534 (died 1540); children: one daughter and one son.

Elisabeth was a German princess, daughter of the Catholic monarch Joachim I of Brandenburg. As was fashionable for daughters of the nobility in the 16th century, Elisabeth was given a thorough classical education, including several foreign languages and the fine arts. When she was 15, her father arranged a marriage for her to a German prince, the 55-year-old Duke Erich I of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Elisabeth gave birth to two children, one daughter and one son, before Erich's death in 1540. As her son was still a small child on his father's death, Elisabeth, herself only 21, took over the governing of the duchy.

Although she had been raised in a Catholic family and lived in a Catholic region, Elisabeth was drawn to the ideas of the new Protestantism; now in power, she composed a treatise on the new religion, called The Christian Epistle, which she published and distributed to her subjects. She then turned her pen to other topics, completing a book of instruction for her daughter and a treatise on government for her son, as well as a book of consolation for other widows. Despite her influence, Elisabeth's son grew up to embrace Catholicism, causing immense conflict within their family and government. When her son took over power, he exiled Elisabeth and his sister to Hanover because of their religious beliefs. Suddenly deprived of the wealth and authority she had enjoyed, Elisabeth composed songs expressing her faith and her sorrow. She died in poverty a few years after her exile.

Laura York , Anza, California

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