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After a childhood in Germany, largely in Heidelberg and Berlin, her family went into exile in Holland, living in The Hague in the 1630s.During this time period, she was mentored by the great philosopher, linguist, and polymath Anna Maria van Schurman (the first woman to attend university in Europe), who advised Elisabeth on a range of subjects and suggested numerous readings for her to consider.
As the head of Herford Abbey, she courageously used her personal influence to provide refuge for persecuted religious groups—such as the Labadists and the Quakers—who were considered too radical by many religious and political institutions in the late 17 century.
She spent years building an immense intellectual network through her personal connections, her correspondence, and her own actions as the leader of the Abbey.
Her father was Frederick V, Prince of Bohemia, and her mother, Elisabeth Stuart, was the daughter of James I of England.
Through her parents, she was connected to several of the most important events of the century.
She personally met with, corresponded with, or was known to, the following major figures from the 17 century: Descartes, Leibniz, Malebranche, Henry More, Anne Conway, Francis Mercury van Helmont, William Penn, Constantjn Huygens, and Anna Maria van Schurman.
In many ways, then, to study Elisabeth’s life is to study European intellectual life in the 17 Born in Heidelberg just after Christmas Day in 1618, Elisabeth was the oldest daughter of a family that blended Bohemian and English royalty.
Elisabeth, Princess Palatine of Bohemia, was a remarkable woman living during remarkable times.
She experienced a devastating and protracted war, years of exile, political strife, executions of family members, and a final period as a political authority and protector of religious refugees.
It was her last move to Herford that enabled her once again to create a rich and thriving community of intellectual and religious exiles.
Henry More became aware of Elisabeth’s philosophical talents, and there is evidence that More hoped she would accompany her mother, Queen of Bohemia, on her trip to England so that they could speak in person.