Protestant Political Leader
Despite his insistence on the spiritual equality of all persons and his bold repudiation of papal sovereignty and the rule of celibacy that served as a distinguishing feature of the Roman Catholic ministry, Martin Luther maintained a very traditional view of women. Refusing to draw distinctions between noblewomen and commoners, he considered all women inferior to men in abilities and subject to their husbands in the marriage bond. Additionally, these chaste, silent, and obedient women were not to be permitted any political or teaching ministry in the Church. Even with these strictures, however, Luther's reform ideas continued to receive the warm support of a number of women ranked among the German aristocracy. Elizabeth of Braunschweig was one of these noblewomen, a devotee who knew Luther and who dedicated her adult life to the cause of promoting his reform program.
Born the third of five children into the leading family of Brandenburg, Elizabeth's Protestant credentials were anything but newly minted. Her mother, Elizabeth of Brandenburg, was sister to Christian II of Denmark, the prince who introduced Lutheranism into that state. Elizabeth's maternal grandmother Christine was the sister of Frederick of Saxony, the elector who protected Luther from Roman Catholic Emperor Charles V. On the opposite side of the religious divide was her father, the Elector of Brandenburg Joachim I. His strident opposition to Luther at two Church councils, one at the city of Worms ( 1521) and again at Augsburg ( 1520), marked him as one of the leading political figures in the early efforts to undermine the Protestant cause. Elizabeth's mother, unwilling to renounce her Lutheran beliefs, abandoned her husband for a seventeen-year exile in