Thrust into power in the midst of the bloodiest conflict Europe had ever experienced, Amalia Elisabeth fought to save her country, her Calvinist church, and her children’s inheritance. Tryntje Helfferich’s vivid portrait reveals how this unique and embattled ruler used her diplomatic gifts to play the great powers of Europe against one another during the Thirty Years War, while raising one of the most powerful and effective fighting forces on the continent.
Stranded in exile after the death of her husband, Amalia Elisabeth stymied the maneuvers of male relatives and advisors who hoped to seize control of the affairs of her tiny German state of Hesse-Cassel. Unshakable in her religious faith and confident in her own capacity to rule, the princess crafted a cunning strategy to protect her interests. Despite great personal tragedy, challenges to her rule, and devastating losses to her people and lands, Amalia Elisabeth wielded her hard-won influence to help shape the new Europe that arose in the war’s wake. She ended her reign in triumph, having secured the birthright of her children and the legalization of her church. The Iron Princess restores to view one of the most compelling political figures of her time, a woman once widely considered the heroine of the seventeenth century.
Impressive...Helfferich tracks Amalia Elisabeth's bold, often duplicitous, but ultimately successful diplomatic manoeuvrings in meticulous, indeed exhaustive, detail...In an age when so much of what passes for 'history' in the bookshops is merely the competent journalistic synthesis of earlier (and often better) books, it is refreshing to come across a work that is grounded in original, multilingual archival scholarship and has something genuinely new to say...The Iron Princess is far more than merely the biography of a singularly forceful, if despotic, woman. Its narrative provides an exceptionally sure-footed guide through the mazes of European princely politics at their most labyrinthine, and offers an entirely new insight into the role of the smaller states in shaping the great Westphalian treaties that settled the European state system for the best part of the next two centuries. If the Iron Princess was more fortunate in life than she deserved, she has undoubtedly continued her lucky run in this fine biography.
Like Elizabeth I of England, Amalia Elisabeth was a mistress of delay, and The Iron Princess shows how she successfully navigated the maze of legal, military, and diplomatic obstacles that awaited her when she assumed power. Helfferich deftly reconstructs the dynamics of power, religious division, and social opposition that Amalia Elisabeth confronted. A superb book.
This deeply researched book will make a major contribution to what we know about the Thirty Years War. Helfferich's work will place Amalia Elisabeth of Hesse-Cassel squarely onto the mental map of anyone who takes a serious interest in the most protracted and important European conflict of the seventeenth century.
In this detailed and impressively researched study of Amalia Elisabeth, Helfferich offers a shrewd and sophisticated analysis of the problems of female rule in an age of crisis, combined with an equally penetrating interpretation of princely politics within the Holy Roman Empire during the closing stages of the Thirty Years War. It is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary ruler, deftly told.
Helfferich's exploration of the intricate political maneuverings of Amalia Elisabeth offers not only a fascinating vignette of the Thirty Years' War, but also a most valuable scholarly contribution and corrective to the political and religious history of the first European war. It was largely due to the landgravine's tenacity and shrewd insight into politics that Calvinism was legalized in the Peace of Westphalia.
- 344 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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