Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SOPHIA DOROTHEA of CELLE ~ September 15, 1666 ~ November 13, 1726

Sophia Dorothea (15 September 1666 – 13 November 1726) was the wife and cousin of George Louis, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, later George I of Great Britain, and mother of George II through an arranged marriage of state, instigated by the machinations of Duchess Sophia of Hanover.

Parentage and marriage

Sophia Dorothea, was born on 15 September 1666, the only child of George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg by his long term mistress, Eleonore d'Esmier d'Olbreuse (1639–1722), Countess of Williamsburg, a Huguenot lady, the daughter of Alexander II d'Olbreuse, Marquess of Desmiers. George eventually married his daughter's mother officially in 1676 (they had been married morganatically previously).

There was some talk of marriage between Sophia and the (then) future king of Denmark, but the reigning queen was talked out of it by Duchess Sophia (her future mother-in-law). Another engagement to the duke of Wolfenbüttel was broken off after Duchess Sophia convinced her brother-in-law of the advantage of having Sophia Dorothea marry her cousin. This occurred on the day the engagement between Sophia Dorothea and the duke was to be announced.

When told of the change in plans and her new future husband, Sophia Dorothea shouted that "I will not marry the pig snout!" (a name he was known by in Hanover), and threw a miniature of George Louis brought for her by Duchess Sophia against the wall. Forced by her parents, she fainted into her mother's arms on her first meeting with her future mother-in-law. She fainted again when presented to George Louis.

In 1682, Sophia Dorothea married her cousin, George Louis, who inherited the Duchy of Lüneburg after the death of his father-in-law and uncle, George William in 1705, and also later inherited the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland and became George I through his mother, Duchess Sophia, a granddaughter of King James I.

The marriage of George Louis and Sophia Dorothea was an unhappy one. The immediate family of George Louis, especially Duchess Sophia, hated and despised Sophia Dorothea. The desire for the marriage was almost purely financial, as she wrote her niece Elizabeth Charlotte, "One hundred thousand thalers a year is a goodly sum to pocket, without speaking of a pretty wife, who will find a match in my son George Louis, the most pigheaded, stubborn boy who ever lived, and who has round his brains such a thick crust that I defy any man or woman ever to discover what is in them. He does not care much for the match itself, but one hundred thousand thalers a year have tempted him as they would have tempted anybody else.".

These feelings of contempt were shared by George himself, who was oddly formal to her. She was frequently scolded for her lack of etiquette. The two had loud and bitter arguments. Things seemed better after their first two children (a son named George Augustus born in 1683 and a daughter named after her in 1686). But George Louis acquired a mistress Melusina von Schulenburg and started pointedly neglecting his wife. George Louis' parents asked him to be more circumspect with his mistress (fearful that a disruption in the marriage would disrupt the hundred thousand thalers), he responded by going out of his way to treat his wife brutally.

It was under these circumstances that Sophia Dorothea re-made the acquaintance of Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, with whom her name is inseparably associated. The two first met in Celle when he was sixteen. The two flirted innocently, and traced their names on the palace windows with the words "Forget me not." On 1 March 1688 he reminded her of their previous acquaintance, and the two renewed it. George Louis' younger brothers loved the count and brought him to Sophia Dorothea's salon in the evening to cheer her up. For the two years he stayed in Hanover, there was no reason to believe their relationship was anything but platonic. He left for a military expedition to the Peloponnesus in 1690 -- it was a disaster. He returned and the relationship between him and Sophia Dorothea intensified. They began sending each other love letters which, if they are to be believed, suggest that their relationship was consummated.

In 1692, the early letters were shown to the newly minted Elector Ernest Augustus (Sophia Dorothea's father-in-law). He decided he did not want any scandal and sent Königsmarck to fight with the Hanoverian army against Louis XIV. Other soldiers were given leave to visit Hanover, but he was not. One night Königsmarck deserted his post and rode for six days to visit Hanover. The day after arriving, he called on Field Marshal Heinrich and, confessing his breach of duty, begged for leave to stay in Hanover. It was agreed, though Heinrich suggested the affair be ended or that Königsmarck leave the country. Ernst August exiled Königsmarck.

George Louis criticised his wife on her affair, and she criticised him for his. The argument escalated to the point that the prince threw himself on Sophia Dorothea and started tearing out her hair and strangling her, leaving purple bruise marks. He was pulled off of her by her attendants.

Königsmarck presumably was killed while assisting her in a futile attempt to escape from Hanover. In 1694 the Count disappeared (several guards and the Countess Platen confessed to being involved in his death on their deathbeds); the princess was divorced by her husband and nevertheless imprisoned at the Castle of Ahlden. She remained in captivity until her death more than 30 years later on 13 November 1726. Sophia Dorothea is sometimes referred to as the "princess of Ahlden." Her two children were the British king, George II, and Sophia Dorothea, wife of Frederick William I of Prussia, and mother of Frederick the Great.

Sophia's infidelity to her husband is not absolutely proven, as it is possible that the letters which purport to have passed between Königsmarck and herself are forgeries. George II was very disturbed by the imprisonment of his mother, and it was one of a number of reasons that contributed to the relatonship of mutual hatred between him and his father.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

15 September 1666-1682: Her Highness Duchess Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Celle
1682-October 1692: Her Highness The Hereditary Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg
October 1692-1694: Her Serene Highness The Hereditary Princess of Hanover
1694-13 November 1726: Sophia Dorothea of Celle


Name Birth Death Notes
George II 10 November 1683 25 October 1760 married 22 August 1705, the Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach; had issue
Princess Sophia Dorothea of Hanover 26 March 1687 28 June 1757 married 28 November 1706, Frederick William, Margrave of Brandenburg, later Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia; had issue

Death and burial

Sophia Dorothea became ill in August 1726 and had to stay in bed, which she never left again. Cause of death was liver failure and gall bladder occlusion due to 60 stones. She was 61 years old and had spent 33 of these years imprisoned.

George didn't allow for mourning in Hanover or London. He was furious when he heard that his daughter's court in Berlin wore black. Sophie Dorothea's body was put into a casket and was deposited in the castle's cellar. It was quietly moved to Celle in May 1727 to be buried beside her parents in the Stadtkirche. George I died 4 weeks later.

Image &

I'm still working on a musical play about Sophia Dorothea. The working title is "HANOVER." I'll write more about this in a later post.

No comments:

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)