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Part III

Anglo-Prussian marriage alliance.

Sophia-Dorothea held a longtime ambition to arrange a double marriage of her eldest son, Crown Prince Friedrich, to Princess Amelia of Great Britain, and her eldest daughter Wilhelmine to Frederick-Louis, future Prince of Wales. This was a project that had first been raised during the children’s infancy and would result in a strong alliance between Prussia and Great Britain.

Her plan was opposed by the king’s favorites Friedrich Wilhelm von Grumbkow and Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, who wished to arrange a marriage between Wilhelmine and Anhalt’s nephew, Friedrich-Wilhelm, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt (the Prussian King’s first cousin). He was next in line to inherit the throne after the crown prince, whose health was delicate. If he succeeded, Prince of Anhalt and Grumbkow hoped to come into a position of power.

Sophia-Dorothea, Queen in Prussia

In 1723, the queen convinced the king to give his consent to the Prussian-British marriage alliance. In October of that year, they hosted a visit by King George I in Berlin, who inspected Wilhelmine and agreed to the double marriage alliance if it was approved by Parliament. One day, King Friedrich-Wilhelm went to visit King George I in Goehr. Sophia-Dorothea did not accompany him, because she gave birth unexpectedly just before they were to leave.

Sophia-Dorothea had been unaware of her pregnancy, leading to a rumor that she had tried to hide it. This caused Friedrich-Wilhelm to suspect her of adultery. Upon his return, he had to be prevented from beating her by her chief lady-in-waiting, Sophie de Kameke, who held his arm and told him “if he had only come there to kill his wife, he had better have kept away.”

The king questioned the physician Stahl, his regimental surgeon Holzendorf, and de Kameke about the queen’s suspected adultery, upon which de Kameke told him that “if he were not her king she would strangle him on the spot” for his accusation, which resulted in him making an apology to the queen and dismissing the affair.

Friedrich-Wilhelm I, King in Prussia

George I promised that the double marriage alliance would be formally agreed upon in connection with the Treaty of Hanover (1725). Sophia-Dorothea accompanied Friedrich-Wilhelm to meet George in Hanover to discuss the matter, and was left there to handle the negotiations when he returned to Berlin.

However, she failed to accomplish anything, as the matter was avoided by both George I and his ministers. When she returned to Berlin, Friedrich-Wilhelm was so discontent with her failure that he had the passage between their apartments walled up (it remained so for six weeks). Through his agent, Frederick-Louis, future Prince of Wales sent his agent La Motte to ask whether she would permit a secret visit by him to see his intended bride, Wilhelmine.

The queen agreed, but made the mistake of saying so to the British ambassador Dubourguai, which obliged him to inform George I. George recalled Frederick-Louis to England, and had La Motte arrested and imprisoned. All this damaged the queen and the prospect of the marriage alliance in the eyes of the king, causing a great row between them.

Princess Wilhelmine

From 1726 until 1735, Friedrich-Heinrich von Seckendorff was the Austrian ambassador in Berlin and the king’s favorite. He came to be the main opponent of the queen, due to his opposition to the British-Prussian marriage alliance. The animosity between the queen and Seckendorff was well known and commented on by the king:

My wife and the whole world are against him; the Prince of Anhalt and my Fritz hate him like the pest, but he is a brave fellow, and loves me

In 1729, negotiations for the British marriage alliance were disrupted by the activities of Friedrich-Wilhelm’s army recruiters. Friedrich-Wilhelm wanted tall soldiers for his army; his agents went all over Germany paying or even kidnapping such men. They snatched men from Hanover, whose ruler was also the King George II of Great Britain (George I passed away in 1727).

This caused diplomatic incidents, and Friedrich-Wilhelm stopped all negotiations. But the queen renewed them. When Grumbkow revealed her independent negotiations to the king, the king stated that he would marry Wilhelmine to either a prince of Schwedt or Weissenfels, and that Sophia-Dorothea could consent or be imprisoned for life.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Grumbkow

She was advised by Borck to suggest Prince Friedrich of Bayreuth as an alternative, which she did. Then she wrote to the Queen Caroline of Great Britain, claiming illness. The reply was unsatisfactory, and the king leanerd of her pretense.

King Friedrich-Wilhelm beat Wilhelmine in Sophia-Dorothea’s presence, and Sophia-Dorothea agreed to drop the British marriage, provided that Wilhelmine was married to Friedrich of Bayreuth, not the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. She fell genuinely ill shortly afterward, and successfully asked him to reconcile with their eldest son and daughter, and afterwards beat them only in private.

Matters changed when the British ambassador Hotham arrived and officially suggested marriage between Wilhelmine and the Prince of Wales, providing the king agreed to marriage between Crown Prince Friedrich and Amelia of Great Britain, and the dismissal of his favorite, the anti-British Grumbkow, whom they accused of treason against him.

Amelia of Great Britain

The king agreed to the terms, if proof of Grumbkow’s guilt was shown, and if his son was appointed governor of Hanover. Grumbkow allied with Seckendorff to prevent the marriage alliance and thus his own fall, while the latter informed the king that the British suggestion was a result of the queen’s intrigues to depose him in favor of his son and make Prussia a de facto British province through “the vain and haughty English daughter-in-law”, whose extravagance would ruin the state.

When ambassador Hotham returned with the proof of Grumbkow’s guilt, the king reportedly flew into a rage and beat the ambassador. The queen had the crown prince wrote to Hotham and unsuccessfully ask him to reconcile with the king; before departing Prussia, however, he left the evidence against Grumbkow with the queen.