ELIZABETH, ALBERTINE: Countess-palatine and abbess of Herford; b. at Heidelberg Dec. 26, 1618; d. at Herford (16 m. s.w. of Minden), Westphalia, Feb. 11, 1680. She was a daughter of Frederick V., elector of the Palatinate and king of Bohemia, and Elizabeth Stuart, a daughter of James I. of England. After the overthrow of her father, her earliest youth was spent at Berlin, under the care of her grandmother Juliana, a daughter of William of Orange, who gave her thoughts a lofty and pious direction. In her ninth or tenth year she was sent to The Hague where her parents kept a quiet court surrounded by a select circle of noble and educated men. Here Elizabeth was taught classic and modern languages, art and literature, and showed especial inclinations toward philosophical studies. She early decided to remain unmarried and devote her life to study. The many misfortunes that befell her family may have confirmed her decision. In 1639 she entered into correspondence with Anna Maria von Schürmann, a learned woman, called the Dutch Minerva. A little later she became acquainted with Descartes, who, at her request, was made her teacher in philosophy and morals, and in 1644 he dedicated to her his Principia. In 1649 Descartes followed an invitation of Queen Christine of Sweden, but continued in correspondence with Elizabeth until he died in the following year. At this time Elizabeth returned to Heidelberg with her brother Karl Ludwig who was now elector, but his conjugal troubles induced her to leave Heidelberg. During a visit to an aunt at Krossen she became acquainted with Cocceius who later entered into correspondence with her and dedicated to her his exposition of the Song of Songs. Through him she was led to the study of the Bible. In 1667 she became abbess of the institution of Herford where she distinguished herself by faithfulness in the performance of her duties, by her modesty and philanthropy, and especially by her kind hospitality to all who were oppressed for the sake of conscience. In 1670 she received the followers of Jean de Labadie (q.v.), by whose piety she was attracted, and when the congregation left in 1672, retained a small body of like-minded souls under her protection. The Labadists were followed in 1676 by the Quakers. In 1677 Penn himself arrived together with Barclay, and remained three days, holding meetings which made a deep impression upon the countess. Her friendship with Penn lasted until her death in 1680, and he celebrated her memory in the second edition of his book No Cross, No Crown (1682), praising her piety and virtue, her simplicity, her care as ruler, her justice, humility and charitable love. Leibnitz visited her in 1678.
Bibliography: G. E. Guhrauer, in Historisches Taschenbuch, ed. F. von Raumer, series 3, vol. iii., Leipsic, 1851; M. Goebel, Geschichte des christlichen Lebens .. , vol. ii., §§ 9, 11, Coblenz, 1862 (both of the foregoing contain lists of literature); Foucher de Careil, Descartes et la princesse palatine, Paris, 1862; idem, Descartes, la princesse Elisabeth et la reine Christine, ib. 1879; C. J. Jeannel, Descartes et la princesse palatine, ib. 1869; H. Heppe, Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik, pp. 321 341, Leyden, 1879; T. Wille, in Neuere Heidelberger Jahrbücher, xi. 108 sqq.; ADB, vi. 22 sqq.