Sophia Dorothea of Celle. 15 September 1666 – 13 November 1726 She was the repudiated wife of future King George I of Great Britain, and mother of George II. The union with her first cousin was an arranged marriage of state, instigated by the machinations of his mother, Sophia of Hanover. She is best remembered for her alleged affair with Philip Christoph von Königsmarck that led to her being imprisoned in the Castle of Ahlden for the last thirty years of her life.
Sophia Dorothea of Celle
15 September 1666
13 November 1726 (aged 60)
Electoral Prince of Hanover
(George I of Great Britain)
1 George II
King of Great Britain
2 Sophia Dorothea
Queen in Prussia
Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Éléonore Desmier d’Olbreuse
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, Countess of Williamsburg, a Huguenot lady, the daughter of Alexander II d’Esmiers, Marquess of Olbreuse. Sophia Dorothea was legitimized at the age of eight, George William eventually married Eleonore officially in 1676. She had an average education for the time, she could read write and embroider well. There was some talk of marriage between Sophia Dorothea and the (then) future king of Denmark, but the reigning queen was talked out of it. Another engagement, to the Duke of Brunswick- Wolfenbüttel, was broken off, on the day the engagement 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 by which he was known in Hanover), and threw against the wall a miniature of George Louis brought for her. Forced by her father, 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. George Ludwig wasn’t an ideal bridegroom. In 1676, when he was 16, he impregnated his governess in his parents’ household, a matter which caused a minor scandal. Otherwise, he was cold, stiff and not wholly pleasant. On 22 November 1682, in Celle, Sophia Dorothea married her cousin, George Louis. The marriage of George Louis and Sophia Dorothea was an unhappy one. His immediate family, especially his mother Duchess Sophia, hated and despised Sophia Dorothea.
The desire for the marriage was almost purely financial, as Duchess Sophia of the Palatinate wrote….
These feelings of contempt were shared by George Louis himself, who was oddly formal to his wife. Sophia Dorothea was frequently scolded for her lack of etiquette, and the two had loud and bitter arguments. Sophia Dorothea discovered her husband was having an affair while pregnant and didn’t shy away from complaining that his behavior was unacceptable. At one point she grew so upset that she fell ill, her physicians were afraid she would miscarry. Sophia forced her son to visit his wife’s bedside, where he sat in silence, holding her hand. Things seemed better after the birth of their two children. George Augustus was born 30 October 1683 in the city of Hanover in Germany Sophia Dorothea was born on 16 March 1687, in Hanover.
George Louis acquired a mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, and started pointedly neglecting his wife. His parents asked him to be more circumspect with his mistress, fearful that a disruption in the marriage would disrupt the payment of the 100,000 thalers. Sophia Dorothea, meanwhile, had her own romance with the Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck. Threatened with the scandal of an elopement, the Hanoverian court, including George’s brothers and mother, urged the lovers to desist, but to no avail. In July 1694 the Swedish count was killed, possibly with the connivance of George, and his body thrown into the river Leine weighted with stones.
George’s marriage to Sophia Dorothea was dissolved, not on the grounds that either of them had committed adultery, but on the grounds that Sophia Dorothea had abandoned her husband. With the agreement of her father, George had Sophia Dorothea imprisoned in Ahlden House in her native Celle, where she stayed until her death. She was denied access to her children and father, forbidden to remarry and only allowed to walk unaccompanied within the mansion courtyard. She was, however, endowed with an income, establishment, and servants, and was allowed to ride in a carriage outside her castle, albeit under supervision. She remained under house arrest for more than thirty years. She is sometimes referred to as the “princess of Ahlden”
After the divorce and imprisonment of her mother Sophia Dorothea was raised in Hanover under the supervision of her paternal grandmother, and educated by her Huguenot teacher Madame de Sacetot. George was tutored in Hanover. There are stories of George Augustus trying to break into Ahlden to see his mother, but those might be exaggerated. What isn’t is that the treatment of Sophia Dorothea deeply soured the children’s opinion of their father – though they had to remain on formal good terms with him, there was little love lost. Sophia Dorothea fell ill in August 1726. She died aged 60 on 13 November 1726 of liver failure and gall bladder occlusion George placed an announcement in The London Gazette to the effect that the “Duchess of Ahlden” had died, but would not allow the wearing of mourning in London or Hanover. He was furious when he heard that his daughter’s court in Berlin wore black. Sophia Dorothea’s body was put into a casket and deposited in the castle’s cellar. It was quietly moved in May 1727 to be buried beside her parents in the Stadtkirche. George I died four weeks later while visiting Hanover.
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