A sad but true story, not unconnected to British history
This week I thought I’d tell a sad little story that I think could be more widely known. Most of what follows is collated from Wikipedia.
It’s the story of Sophia Dorothea of Celle. She was born in 1666, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg by his mistress Eleonore, whom he later married. A marriage was arranged for her with her first cousin George Louis, after two previous engagements were cancelled for the convenience of the family. Neither party wanted to marry each other (she called him a pig snout), but the wedding was sweetened for George and his mother by a financial settlement that gave him a large additional income. Anyway, they were married in 1682, and had two children, George and Sophia.
George senior openly neglected his wife in favour of his mistress Melusine. Sophia Dorothea protested to no avail. She eventually (almost certainly) started a love affair with a Swedish count, Philip Christoph von Konigsmark.
There was open animosity between husband and wife, each complaining about the other’s infidelity, and including physical violence against her by him.
Konigsmark may have been trying to help her escape. He disappeared in 1694, apparently killed on the orders of George’s family, probably with George’s agreement. There were deathbed confessions many years later.
(Allen Andrews’ “Kings and Queens of England and Scotland” says “A certain conspiracy was hatched. The count was given a false assignation with Sophia, from which he never returned: but his bones were found under her dressing-room floor 20 years later.” Wikipedia’s various articles on George, Sophia, and Konigsmarck differ as to whether George was definitely or probably or possibly involved in the murder, but do say that these bones were later discovered to be from five different skeletons, and some from animals.)
In the meantime, the marriage was dissolved, on the grounds of the desertion, which she hadn’t managed to accomplish.
Sophia Dorothea was imprisoned by her ex-husband in the Castle of Ahlden. She was allowed out sometimes, accompanied in a carriage. She probably never saw her children again, causing a rift between father and son.
In the meantime, George had become Elector of Hanover in 1708, and when Queen Anne died in 1714, he became King of Britain. Presumably it’s because the marriage was dissolved that I have never heard Sophia Dorothea referred to as a Queen of Britain. (The correct answer to the quiz question, Which Queen of England never lived here? is Berengaria of Navarre, the wife of Richard I.)
Sophia Dorothea remained imprisoned until her death in 1726, a total of 32 years.
When she died, her daughter, who was the Queen of Prussia, put her court in Berlin into mourning, greatly annoying George I.
Who is the worst king of England, Scotland or Britain? I don’t think many people, if asked, would name George I, but on this tale I think he’s certainly one of the nastiest.
Apparently there was a film made about this story in 1948, called Saraband for Dead Lovers. I wonder if it’s available on DVD?
Love from the PPI Blogger