Elizabeth of Hungary - Widowhood


After Louis' death, his brother, Henry Raspe, assumed the regency during the minority of Elizabeth's eldest child, Hermann (1222–1241). After bitter arguments over the disposal of her dowry—a conflict in which Konrad was appointed as the official Defender of her case by Pope Gregory IX—Elizabeth left the court at Wartburg and moved to Marburg in Hesse. Popular tradition has it that she was cast out by Henry, but this does not stand up to critical examination.

Following her husband's death, Elizabeth made solemn vows to Konrad similar to those of a nun. These vows included celibacy, as well as complete obedience to Konrad as her confessor and spiritual director. Konrad's treatment of Elizabeth was extremely harsh, and he held her to standards of behavior which were almost impossible to meet. Among the punishments he is alleged to have ordered were physical beatings; he also ordered her to send away her three children. Her pledge to celibacy proved a hindrance to her family's political ambitions. Elizabeth was more or less held hostage at Pottenstein, Bavaria, the castle of her uncle, Bishop Ekbert of Bamberg, in an effort to force her to remarry. Elizabeth, however, held fast to her vow, even threatening to cut off her own nose so that no man would find her attractive enough to marry.

Elizabeth's second child Sophie of Thuringia (1224–1275) married Henry II, Duke of Brabant and was the ancestress of the Landgraves of Hesse, since in the War of the Thuringian Succession she won Hesse for her son Heinrich I, called the Child. Elizabeth's third child, Gertrude of Altenberg (1227–1297), was born several weeks after the death of her father; she became abbess of the monastery of Altenberg near Wetzlar.

She then built a hospital at Marburg for the poor and the sick with the money from her dowry, where she and her companions cared for them. Her official biography written as part of the canonization process describes how she ministered to the sick and continued to give money to the poor. In 1231, she died in Marburg at the age of twenty-four.

After her death, Elizabeth was commonly associated with the Third Order of St. Francis, the primarily lay Franciscan branch of the Franciscan Order, though it is not sure that she actually formally joined them. It must be kept in mind, though, that the Third Order was such a new development in the Franciscan movement, that no one official ritual had been established at that point. Elizabeth clearly had a ceremony of consecration in her new way of life, as noted above.

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Famous quotes containing the word widowhood:

    The comfortable estate of widowhood is the only hope that keeps up a wife’s spirits.
    John Gay (1685–1732)

    Let me approach at least, and touch thy hand.
    [Samson:] Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake
    My sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint.
    At distance I forgive thee, go with that;
    Bewail thy falsehood, and the pious works
    It hath brought forth to make thee memorable
    Among illustrious women, faithful wives:
    Cherish thy hast’n’d widowhood with the gold
    Of Matrimonial treason: so farewel.
    John Milton (1608–1674)

    The comfortable estate of widowhood is the only hope that keeps up a wife’s spirits.
    John Gay (1685–1732)