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9 February 2000

Dresdner Bank Donates Precious Historical Documents to the University of Heidelberg

Executive director Heinz-Jörg Platzek presented two letters from the 17th and early 18th century to Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke for the University Library – On view from 28 April to 28 October 2000

The Dresdner Bank has presented the University of Heidelberg with two precious historical documents, a letter from Duchess Liselotte of the Palatinate to Mme de Puidebar dated 16 January 1703 and written in her own hand, and a letter by Liselotte's grandfather, Elector Friedrich V. At the presentation ceremony Rector Prof. Dr. Jürgen Siebke thanked executive director Heinz-Jörg Platzek and underlined the role of the University in preserving the cultural heritage of the city of Heidelberg. The two letters, formerly in private possession, are to be entrusted to the University Library and can be viewed in the original from 28 April to 28 October 2000. Platzek expressed his hope that the gift of "these literary testimonies representing important sources of information on the events of the age and everyday life in a far-off epoch" would be a welcome addition to the University's collection of historical documents.

Elisabeth Charlotte Duchess of Orléans – one of the region's most popular historical figures and known familiarly as "Liselotte von der Pfalz" – was the daughter of Palatinate Elector Karl Ludwig. She was born in Heidelberg on 27 May 1652, four years after the end of the Thirty Years' War. For dynastic reasons she was married in 1671 against her will to Philip I, Duke of Orléans, the brother of "Sun King" Louis XIV. Living in France until her death on 8 December 1722 she was never to revisit her beloved Palatinate. On the death of her brother Elector Karl in 1685, her rights of succession were the occasion that prompted Louis XIV to embark on the War of Palatinate Succession in the course of which Heidelberg was taken and systematically razed to the ground in 1689 and 1693.

Almost 5,000 letters by Liselotte extant

Liselotte had no influence whatsoever on these events, which estranged her even more from the French court to which she had been banished against her will. The fact that she has remained such a prominent and popular figure in her native region has largely to do with her passion for writing letters. Almost 5,000 of her missives have come down to us, some in French, others in German. Liselotte's correspondence is a valuable source of information on life at the French court and the political events in the period between 1670 and 1722. They also provide insights into the everyday life of the time and their frequently very direct, sometimes downright earthy diction casts an interesting and revealing light on the character of the Countess herself.

Of the almost 5,000 known letters written by Liselotte the Heidelberg University Library possesses only a relative small portion, 58 in all. 47 of them are addressed to Marie Elisabeth de Ludre (1647-1726), a lady in waiting at the court of Versailles. A scholarly edition of these letters was prepared in 1981 by Jürgen Voss. Nine of the other letters were addressed to a variety of recipients including Mme de Maintenon, Louis Joseph Duke of Vendôme and the French ambassador to Parma, Count Bartolomeo Odoardo di Rivasso. The new gift from the Dresdner Bank will be added to the Heidelberg collection, which is kept in the manuscript section of the Library (signature: Heid. Hss). The letter by Liselotte is addressed to a certain Mme de Puidebar and dated 16 January 1703. The other letter, a real calligraphic gem, was written by Liselotte's grandfather, Elector Friedrich V, on 27 April 1615 to Bishop Albrecht of Regensburg.

University thanks the Dresdner Bank

This is not the first debt of gratitude the University owes to the Dresdner Bank. The new acquisitions are to be integrated into the exhibition "Precious Historical Documents" and will hence be on view to the public from 28 April to 28 October 2000.

Other instances of generous support from the Dresdner Bank for the University Library are its help in acquiring the manuscript of a document by Matthias von Kemnat in 1997 and its commitment in ensuring that Library opening times should not be restricted for financial reasons.

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Hermann Josef Dörpinghaus
Director of Heidelberg University Library
phone: 06221/542380, fax: 542623

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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Updated: 23.02.00





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