The Prisoner Queen
She should have been Queen of England, queen consort of King George I, but instead Sophia Dorothea spent 32 years imprisoned in a German castle at her husband’s command.
Sophia Dorothea was born in 1666 in the small state of Celle in what is now the Lower Saxony region of Germany. Her father was George William, Duke of Celle and her mother was Eleonore d’Esmier d’Olbreuse. At the time of Sophia Dorothea’s birth her parents were not married. This was because her father had ceded his lands and titles in Brunswick-Luneberg to his younger brother, Ernest Augustus. He had done this so that he could be freed from any obligation to marry Princess Sophia of the Palatinate (grand-daughter of King James I of England). Ernest Augustus had married Princess Sophia in his brother’s place and George William had made a promise never to marry. Princess Sophia, not surprisingly, bore a grudge against George William for rejecting her in such a public manner. When George William met and fell in love with Eleonore d’Olbreuse, he pleaded with his brother to release him from his promise so that he could marry the beautiful Frenchwoman, but Ernest Augustus refused. Eleonore became George William’s mistress and they took up residence in the castle of Celle. In 1676 they were given permission to marry by The Emperor and their daughter’s birth was legitimised.
There had been plans for Sophia Dorothea to marry the future king of Denmark but Princess Sophia, now Electress of Hanover, plotted for her to be betrothed instead to her own son, George Louis (who would become King George I of England). George Louis was unattractive and uncouth and Sophia Dorothea referred to him as ‘pig snout’. When she was first introduced to him, she fainted.
Sophia Dorothea’s revulsion was not allowed to get in the way of family politics and the cousins were married in 1682. Despite having two children, George Augustus (who became King George II of England) and Sophia (who became Queen of Prussia), their marriage was not happy. George Louis was promiscuous and flaunted his mistress Ehrengard Melusine von Schulenberg before his long suffering wife.
As a child, Sophia Dorothea had developed a romantic crush on the dashing Swedish Count, Philip von Konigsmarck. When Konigsmarck visited the Hanoverian court, the pair fell in love and began a passionate affair. Unfortunately for Sophia Dorothea, Clara von Platen, mistress of Elector Ernest Augustus (Sophia Dorothea’s father-in-law) was also in love with Konigsmarck and was hell bent on separating the lovers. When George Louis found out about his wife’s affair, he attacked her and had to be restrained from choking her.
Sophia Dorothea and Konigsmarck planned to flee Hanover but Konigsmarck disappeared before this could happen. Rumours abounded that he had been murdered by Clara von Platen in a jealous rage and that her servants had buried his body in the Leineschloss Palace.
Sophia Dorothea was imprisoned at the Castle of Ahlden, where she lived out the rest of her life. Although George Louis divorced her in 1694, he refused to release her from her prison. George Louis ascended the throne of Great Britain in 1714. His relationship with his children was poor because of his treatment of their mother. When Sophia Dorothea died at Ahlden in 1726, King George refused to allow his son, the Prince of Wales, to mourn for her and was furious that his daughter, the Queen of Prussia, wore black as a sign of her respect.
Sophia Dorothea’s life was the basis for the film ‘Saraband for Dead Lovers’.
My Pinterest board about Sophia Dorothea is here: