Illustration: Elizabeth of Hungary
The German states fell into famine during the summer of 1226, and the poor roamed around searching for wild nuts, berries, roots of trees, gnawing on tree bark and devouring every kind of dead animal they found with meat still on them. The ruler was away on a military outing with most of the men, as people hiked the steep road to the castle to beg for food from Duchess Elizabeth.
Instead of turning them away, Elizabeth opened up the royal storehouses of food hoping fend of the starvation of those too feeble to find food, she had cooks baking bread at all hours of the day and night because the hunger was so severe. She emptied the treasury, and spent her whole day feeding people herself, something that is rarely ever done by those in charge.
Top advisors ordered her to stop and relent of feeding the people. But Elizabeth felt it was God’s calling on her life, and when the food was gone, she gave away her veils, her silk, her scarfs and told them to sell whatever they could to get food. When her husband returned and the top aids asked for a rebuke, he quieted them down and allowed the gracious giving to continue. Her self-sacrifice continued as she met with lepers, gave them baths, and cut up the castle curtains for linens and towels in order to cover their ailments.
But when her husband went away for a crusade to the Holy Land, he caught a fever and perished. The control of the royal dowrey then fell into the hands of her brother-in-law Henry who was persuaded by those in power to remove Elizabeth from the castle and throw her out to the streets for what she had done with the government excess, all of this despite the common Biblical tradition of marrying your older brother’s wife if he were to pass away.
With no food or clothing, Elizabeth under threat of death was ordered to leave the castle along with her children and newborn baby on a cold wintry afternoon. The new duke had also made a new order that anyone caught caring for his sister-in-law would be put immediately to death. So despite the fact that for years she had given up everything she had to help the poor and meager, nobody came to her aid.
In his book titled “Trial and Triumph,” author Richard Hannula records a paraphrase of Elizabeth’s words. She prayed aloud, “Oh Lord, may Your will be done. My children are born of royal race, and behold them hungry, and without a bed to lie on. Yesterday, I was a duchess in strong castles and rich domains; today I am a beggar and no one takes me in. Oh yes, Lord. If You will be with me, I will be with You, and I wish never to be parted from You.” On November 19, 1231, she would later die spinning wool in a monastery, at the age of 24.
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