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Clement Affair

Upon the illness of the king in Brandenburg during the campaign of 1719, he sent for Sophia Dorothea and entrusted her with his will, cautioning secrecy. Within the document, she was named regent during the minority of their son, with Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and King George I of Great Britain as guardians to the Crown Prince. The king’s favorites, military general Friedrich von Grumbkow and Duke Leopold I of Anhalt-Dessau, offered the queen’s favorite Madame de Blaspiel a bribe if she procured information for them and influenced the queen in their favor; she in turn informed the queen, who informed the king, who summoned von Grumbkow and the Prince and told them to return to Berlin.

They then tasked Madame de Blaspiel’s lover, Count de Manteufel, the Saxon ambassador, to acquire the document or at least find out its meaning: the queen did give de Blaspiel the document, and its contents were revealed to Grumbkow and Anhalt. Grumbkow and Anhalt, now wishing to lessen the queen’s influence after learning of the will appointing her regent, unsuccessfully tried to accuse her before the king of having borrowed money and pawning a pair of earrings given to her by the king to pay her gambling debts. The queen countered by accusing Grumbkow of plotting against her.

Concurrently, the Clement Affair took place, in which the alleged Hungarian nobleman Clement gained access to the king by use of false letters and convinced him that the courts of Vienna and Dresden were orchestrating a plot to depose him in favor of the crown prince who, under the guardianship of the Emperor, the queen, Grumbkow, and Arnhalt, was to then be raised a Catholic. All were accused of having been implicated in the plot before Clement was exposed as a con artist and summarily executed.

Friedrich Wilhelm accused her of having damaged his relationship with his children, and therefore banned them from seeing her without his presence. When the king banned the queen from communicating with her son, she corresponded with him through her daughter Wilhelmine. When Friedrich Wilhelm refused to let her see her eldest children, she invited them to her rooms in secrecy; on at least one occasion, Crown Prince Friedrich and Wilhelmine were forced to hide in the furniture in her rooms when Friedrich Wilhelm came to her room unexpectedly while they were there.

At the same time, the queen’s favorite, Madame de Ramen, acted as a spy for the king, causing their relationship to deteriorate sharply. Her children were terrorized and frequently beaten by Friedrich Wilhelm, who may have suffered from porphyria. During the latter years of the king’s life, he was often seized by fits of violence during which he hit people with his cane and threw things at his children. This was a difficult situation for his family, as he often forced them to attend to him, refusing to let them leave from 9 AM until bedtime.

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 Grumbkow and Anhalt, who wished to arrange a marriage between Wilhelmine and Anhalt’s nephew, Friedrich Wilhelm, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt (the King’s first cousin). He was next in line to inherit the throne after the Crown Prince, whose health was delicate. If he succeeded, Anhalt and Grumbkow hoped to come into a position of power.

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 of Great Britain in Berlin, who inspected Wilhelmine and agreed to the double marriage alliance if it was approved by Parliament.

One day, Friedrich Wilhelm went to visit George I in Goehr. Queen Sophia Dorothea did not accompany him, because she gave birth unexpectedly just before they were to leave. Sophia 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.

In 1729, negotiations for the British marriage alliance were disrupted by the activities of Frederick William’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 of Great Britain. 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 could consent or be imprisoned for life.

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 learned of her pretense. Friedrich Wilhelm beat Wilhelmine in Sophia’s presence, and Sophia agreed to drop the British marriage, provided that Wilhelmine was married to Frederick 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.