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Elizabeth Charlotte, Madame Palatine
Birth Name: Elisabeth Charlotte, Prinzessin von der Pfalz
Full Name: Elisabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, Duchesse d‘Orléans
Title(s): Madame
Princess of Palatine
Duchess of Orléans
Biographical Information
Predecessor: Henrietta of England
Successor: Françoise Marie de Bourbon
Age: 70
Born: May 27, 1652
Dies: December 8, 1722
Birthplace: Heidelberg, Palatinate, Holy Roman Empire
Originally From: Palatinate, Holy Roman Empire
Religion: Roman Catholic
Physical Description
Status: Deceased
Gender: Female
Eye Colour: Blue
Hair Colour: Blonde
Signature: SigLiselotte.jpeg
Spouse: Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Parents: Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine (father)
Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel (mother)
Children: Philippe II d'Orléans
Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans
Alexandre Louis, Duke of Valois
Family: Charles II, Elector Palatine (brother)
Louis XIV (brother-in-law)
Louis, Grand Dauphin (nephew)
Marie Louise d'Orléans (stepdaughter)
Anne Marie d‘Orléans (stepdaughter)
House: Wittelsbach
TV Character Information
Portrays Princess Palatine
Starring: Jessica Clark
First Episode: A Still Small Voice

Princess Elisabeth Charlotte (German: Prinzessin Elisabeth Charlotte von der Pfalz; nicknamed "Liselotte") was a German princess and, as Madame, the second wife of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, younger brother of Louis XIV of France, and mother of France's ruler during the Regency. Louis invoked her hereditary claim to the Palatinate as pretext to launch the Nine Years' War in 1688. Her vast, frank correspondence provides a detailed account of the personalities and activities at the court of her brother-in-law, Louis XIV, for half a century, from the date of her marriage in 1672.


Early Life

Princess Elisabeth Charlotte was born on 27 May 1652 in Heidelberg Castle, to Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine of the Simmern branch of the House of Wittelsbach, and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel. In childhood she became known as Liselotte—a portmanteau of her names. Her parents were in an unhappy dynastic marriage and in 1653 her father began an affair with Marie Luise von Degenfeld, one of his wife's attendants. Liselotte was five years old when she was sent to live with her father's sister, Sophia, wife of Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover.

She always remembered her time with her aunt as the happiest of her life, although she became close enough to her younger half-sisters to correspond with them at least weekly after she married. In 1663, Liselotte had to move back to Heidelberg where she lived with her stepmother, fifteen half-siblings, and brother, the future Charles II, Elector Palatine. She had purportedly desired to marry her cousin William III of Orange, who would later become King of England, though her family believed that sacrifices needed to be made in order to make a more beneficial marriage with the recently widowed brother of the King of France, formerly married to her father's first cousin, Princess Henrietta Anne of England.


On 16 November 1671, she was married by proxy at Metz to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. By prearrangement, after leaving her father's realm but prior to arriving in France, she formally converted to Roman Catholicism. At the French court, her husband Philippe was known by the traditional honorific of Monsieur.

Described in the marriage contract as "the Electoral Princess Palatine of the Rhine" (Kurpfalzprinzessin), as Orléans' wife, Elisabeth Charlotte assumed the style of Madame. Elisabeth Charlotte was very close to her two stepdaughters Marie Louise and Anne Marie. When Marie Louise left France to marry Charles II of Spain in 1679, Liselotte accompanied her to Orléans. The homosexual proclivities of her husband were well known at court. Elisabeth Charlotte confided that he needed "rosaries and holy medals draped in the appropriate places to perform the necessary act" with her.

Elisabeth Charlotte had apartments at Versailles, use of the Palais-Royal in Paris, and her favourite residence, the beautiful Château de Saint-Cloud on the outskirts of Paris, which was the couple's main residence when not at the Palace of Versailles. Liselotte also had an apartment at the King's private residence, the Château de Marly. In her dowager years she would stay at the Grand Trianon built by her brother-in-law. The marriage at first proved to be comfortable enough, with the birth of two male heirs. The couple had three children. After the death of the couple's first son, the Duke of Valois, she experienced depression and worried about her third pregnancy (with Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans). After this birth, the relationship between husband and wife was never as close as it had been. After the birth of their daughter Élisabeth Charlotte, the couple mutually agreed to cease conjugal relations. Philippe turned to his minions, and Elisabeth Charlotte to writing.

Court Life

As the king's only brother and sister-in-law, the couple were expected to be in usual attendance at court, where her husband's rank as a fils de France ensured her precedence before all save the queen, the wives of the king's son and grandsons—and his maîtresse-en-titre. This last position rankled her, and she disliked the king's illegitimate children, especially Louis-Auguste, Duke of Maine.

Madame de Montespan's youngest daughter, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, would eventually marry her son. No inducements ever reconciled Elisabeth Charlotte to the marriage. When she discovered that her son had agreed to it at the king's insistence, she slapped his face in front of the whole court, and turned her back on the king as he greeted her with a bow.

After the king transferred his affections from La Montespan to La Maintenon, Elisabeth Charlotte became obsessively resentful toward and suspicious of the latter. In her correspondence, Elisabeth Charlotte refers to her as the "King's old drab", the "old witch", and the "old whore".

When the Simmern branch of the Wittelsbach dynasty became extinct in the male line with the death of her brother Karl II in 1685, Louis XIV sent troops to claim the Palatinate in his sister-in-law's name, initiating the War of the Palatine Succession (1688–1697), which would decimate much of the Rhineland.

On 9 June 1701, her husband, just under 60 years old, died of a stroke at the Château de Saint-Cloud. Earlier, he had a heated argument with his brother at the Château de Marlyabout the conduct of his son — who was also the king's son-in-law. After her husband's death, Elisabeth Charlotte feared that the king would send her to a convent, as stipulated in her marriage contract. Instead she was confronted with secretly-made excerpts of her all-too-candid letters to correspondents abroad. She was warned to change her attitude toward Madame de Maintenon.

She remained welcome at court. She was allowed to keep her apartments at all the royal residences and retained her rank. From her husband, she inherited 40,000 livres a year. Louis XIV added 250,000 livres, and her son promised her another 200,000.

In 1715, Louis XIV died aged 77 at the Palace of Versailles. In his will, he divided the regnal prerogatives among relatives and courtiers, allocating to his legitimised son, the Duke of Maine, guardianship of the new king, Louis XV, who was 5 years old. The Parlement of Paris overturned the will's provisions at the request of Elisabeth Charlotte's son, Philippe II, who thus became regent. In her memoirs, Elisabeth Charlotte describes the new era of the Regency. Although no longer outranked by any woman at court and freed from the imagined persecutions of Madame de Maintenon, she did not cease daily complaints to her correspondents about the antics of what she regarded as an increasingly decadent court.


Elisabeth Charlotte died at age 70 on 8 December 1722, at the Château de Saint-Cloud, near Paris. She and her husband, the Duke of Orléans, were the founders of the modern House of Orléans. Their only surviving son, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, was the Regent of France during the minority of Louis XV of France.

Historical Facts

  • She became the ancestress of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, and France's Citizen-King Louis Philippe. Through her daughter, the Duchess of Lorraine, she was the paternal great-grandmother of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.