Baron von Plettenberg, Bellevue Castle, Berlin, Eitel Friedrich of Prussia, Empress Augusta Victoria, German Emperor Wilhelm II, Grand Duke Friedrich August II in Oldenburg, Harald von Hedemann, Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg, World War I
On February 27, 1906, Sophia Charlotte married Prince Eitel in Berlin. The wedding fell on the anniversary of Emperor Wilhelm II and Empress Victoria Augusta’s silver wedding anniversary, which amplified the event considerably. The wedding had 1,500 guests, which included many members of Germany’s royal families. Sophia Charlotte wore a four-yard long dress that was made of pearl white silk and embroidered with silver roses.
The wedding had three ceremonies – the signing of the marriage contract under the statutes of the House of Hohenzollern on the first day, the administering of the civil law oaths on the second, and lastly the religious rites in the chapel of the castle later that day. She was warmly welcomed in Berlin.
They had an unhappy marriage. Despite her warm Berlin welcome, Sophia Charlotte failed to make friends there. Eitel Friedrich was also continually unfaithful. One source states that upon realizing what type of person she had married, Sophia Charlotte “withdrew into a kind of haughty reserve, from which she never emerged”.
They rarely saw each other during his time fighting in World War I. It was a lonely time for Sophia Charlotte, and she resided mostly in Bellevue Castle in Berlin, where she spent her time mainly reading, painting, and socializing with a small number of friends.
Plettenberg case testimony
In 1922, Prince Eitel Friedrich sued four German newspapers over what he considered libelous allegations that his wife had committed adultery. These events began when Sophia Charlotte was summoned as a witness in a divorce case, and apparently admitted to having an affair with the male defendant.
In the case, she stated that she had known the defendant for a number of years before her marriage when he served her father Grand Duke Friedrich August II in Oldenburg. When asked by the judge, she said “our intimate relations continued even after my marriage with the Emperor’s son”.
She also added that her husband was aware of the affair the entire time, and that her and Plettenberg’s intimate relationship only ceased once he married. Sophia Charlotte later announced however, “I emphatically deny that either before or after have I had any unpermitted relations whatever with the plaintiff. I not only never committed adultery with the plaintiff nor did we ever kiss each other, nor did I maintain any relations whatsoever with him which overstepped the limits permitted by good society”.
The case was heavily suppressed in German newspapers, so that most reports were published in foreign newspapers.
Sophia Charlotte and Eitel Friedrich were divorced October 20, 1926. The couple had no children. It is believed that the couple had wanted to divorce before the war, but were prevented by Eitel Friedrich’s father. Eitel Friedrich reportedly began divorce proceedings against Sophia Charlotte on March 15, 1919, citing infidelities before the war. In the end, a verdict given out by the court merely stated that Eitel Friedrich was the guilty party.
After many rumors of potential husbands circulated after her divorce (including the aforementioned Baron von Plettenberg), Sophia Charlotte married in 1927 Harald von Hedemann, a former Potsdam police officer. He was forty and she was forty-eight.
Despite his low status, the wedding was held at the Grand Ducal palace at Rastede Castle, and was attended by her father the former Grand Duke as well as a small number of both their relations. Sophia Charlotte was considered one of the richest women in the country, and the couple took up residence at the same castle where they were married.
Sophia Charlotte died on March 29, 1964 in Westerstede.
Personal traits and looks
Sophia Charlotte was well-educated and was brought up with a quiet and unworldly upbringing. She was a good linguist and musician. She was also a talented water-colour painter.
There were concerns of her well-being in Sophia Charlotte’s youth, as her mother had suffered from ill health. By traveling to spa resorts and residing in warm weather however, she was able to overcome any signs of sickness. Once source stated right before her marriage that Sophia Charlotte had “developed into a thoroughly healthy and happy woman, whose fair hair and blue eyes, so entirely German, are somewhat piquantly associated with a delicacy of feature that suggests the Latin rather than the Teutonic origin”.
According to another account, Sophia Charlotte was considered slim and graceful with pale, regular features. Contemporaries state she inherited some of the good looks and charm of her mother. As she was the only child of the Grand Duke by his first wife, she was a great heiress. Her wealth was often stressed when mentioned in articles and newspapers. One book called her “pretty, rich, and supposed to be very clever”. Another contemporary source however calls her plain and uninteresting.