The unvarnished truth Liselotte von der Pfalz

Elisabeth Charlotte (1652–1722), more commonly known as Liselotte von der Pfalz, remains one of the most famous Palatine figures. As the daughter of Prince-Elector Karl I Ludwig of the House of Pfalz-Simmern, she spent part of her childhood at Heidelberg Palace.

Image: Philippe of Orléans in a painting by Antoine Mathieu, circa 1660

Liselotte married Philippe of Orléans.

Was the princess happy?

The young princess was married to Philippe of Orléans, brother of King Louis XIV of France, in 1671. This union was intended to protect the Electoral Palatinate from its neighboring state's attempts at expansion. The marriage was not a happy one, as Philippe was more interested in men than women. At the royal court, Liselotte was soon isolated as a result of discord between herself and Madame Maintenon, the king's mistress. However, she never returned to Heidelberg.

Image: Historic book

Liselotte von der Pfalz's letters could fill whole books.

Writing, to survive?

Liselotte von der Pfalz was an enthusiastic letter writer. In approximately 5,000 surviving German and French letters, she describes courtly life in Versailles to her family in a vivid and direct manner. How they lived, celebrated, loved and died Liselotte gossiped without reserve and left the future world invaluable, culturally historic records about the Sun King's court. 

What did she report?

She documented life at the court of Versailles: "...returning from the hunt, we change and went up to play, where we stayed until 7 in the evening; from there, we went to see the comedy, which ended at half past 10; then we all went to the evening meal, and from there to the ball..." And she complained about the food: "French ragout is also inedible, ... I like sauerkraut and green cabbage better," or "...would have preferred warm beer with nutmeg to chocolate, coffee and tea, none of which I can stomach, tastes like medicine."

Image: Destruction of Heidelberg Palace by French troops under Mélac, copper engraving based on a painting by L. Braun

French troops destroyed Heidelberg Palace in 1693.

Was Liselotte a political pawn?

Liselotte's brother, Karl II (1651–1685), ruled in the Electoral Palatinate as of 1680. Since the prince-elector died without children, Louis XIV asserted hereditary title on behalf of his sister-in-law. Thus, Liselotte involuntarily became the catalyst for the Nine Years' War between 1688 and 1697. French troops marched into the Electoral Palatinate and decimated towns, villages and fields. Heidelberg Palace's fortifications and structures were largely destroyed in 1693. She wrote: "It makes my heart bleed, and they still resent me for being sad about it."

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