Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth of Hungary was a Hungarian princess and philanthropist of the thirteenth century who was concerned for the relief of the poor and sick. With consent of her husband she used her dowry money to aid the needy in her land.
Elizabeth was born at Presburg in 1207 the daughter of Andreas II, king of Hungary. At the age of four she was affianced to the Landgraf of Thuringia, Louis IV, who was himself an infant. She was then brought to his court in the Wartburg, near Eisenach, to be educated under the watchful eyes of her future parents-in-law. She early displayed a passion for the severities of the Christian life and as she grew in age, she also grew in piety. She hated pomp and ambition, cultivated humility, and exhibited much self-denying benevolence. Her conduct, even as a girl, amazed the Thuringian court.
When she was but fourteen years old, her marriage to Louis IV took place and together they had three children. In spite of her position at court, Elizabeth began to lead a simple life and devoted herself to works of charity. Louis admired Elizabeth for her long prayers and ceaseless almsgiving, for he himself was attracted to this mode of life. He was inclined to religion and encouraged her in her exemplary life. It was he who encouraged her to use her dowry money for the relief of the poor and the sick. In 1226, while Louis was away in Italy, Elizabeth sold her jewels and established a hospital at the foot of her castle where she nursed the sick herself and opened the royal granaries to feed the hungry, knowing she would have her husband’s approval.
Great misfortunes soon befell the saintly Elizabeth. In 1227 tragedy first struck with the death of Louis while fighting with the Crusaders. After the death of her husband, Louis’s brother deprived Elizabeth of her regency and she was expelled from her home at Wartburg on the grounds that she wasted the treasure of the state by her extravagant giving to charities. She at last found refuge in the church, where her first care was to thank God that he had judged her worthy to suffer.
When the warriors who attended her husband in the Crusade returned from the East, they found Elizabeth and listened to her recount all her sufferings at the hands of her in-laws. Steps were taken to restore the princess with her sovereign rights. She declined the throne, however, but did accept a stipend of 500 marks a year.
She became a Franciscan tertiary and devoted the remainder of her life to nursing and charity and ascetic living. She put on a nun’s raiment and took up her residence in a cottage at the foot of the hill on which stood her castle of Marburg, giving her life to ceaseless devotions, almsgiving, and mortifications. All her revenues were given to the poor and what she required for personal expenditures for herself and her three children she earned with her own hands. She died November 19, 1231.