Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Elector of Hanover, House of Hanover, House of Hohenzollern, King Frederick I of Prussia, King Frederick William I of Prussia, King George I of Great Britain, Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (March 26, 1687 – June 28, 1757) was Queen in Prussia and Electress of Brandenburg during the reign of her husband, King Friedrich Wilhelm I, from February 25, 1713 to May 31, 1740.
Sophia Dorothea was born on March 26, 1687 in Hanover. She was the only daughter of Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, later King George I of Great Britain, and his wife and cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle the only surviving daughter of Georg Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, by his morganatic wife Eléonore Desmier d’Olbreuse (1639–1722), Lady of Harburg, a French Huguenot noblewoman.
Sophia Dorothea of Great Britain was detested by her elder brother, King George II of Great Britain.
After the divorce and imprisonment of her mother, she was raised in Hanover under the supervision of her paternal grandmother, Sophia of Hanover, and was educated by her Huguenot teacher Madame de Sacetot.
Sophia Dorothea married her cousin, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, heir apparent to the Prussian throne, on November 28, 1706. He was born in Berlin to King Friedrich I in Prussia and Princess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, the only daughter of Elector Ernst August of Hanover and his wife Sophia of the Palatinate. Her eldest brother, Georg Ludwig, succeeded to the British throne in 1714 as King George I.
They had met as children when Friedrich Wilhelm had spent some time in Hanover under the care of their grandmother, Sophia of Hanover, and though Sophia Dorothea disliked him, Friedrich Wilhelm had reportedly felt an attraction to her early on.
When a marriage was to be arranged for Friedrich Wilhelm, he was given three alternatives: Princess Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, (later Queen of Sweden youngest child of King Carl XI and Ulrika Eleonora of Denmark); Princess Amalia of Nassau-Dietz, (the only daughter of Johan Willem Friso of Nassau-Dietz (after 1702 Prince of Orange) and his wife, Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Cassel); or Sophia Dorothea of Hanover.
The Swedish match was preferred by his father, who wished to form a matrimonial alliance with Sweden, and thus the official Finck was sent to Stockholm under the pretext of an adjustment of the disputes regarding Pomerania, but in reality to observe the princess before issuing formal negotiations.
Friedrich Wilhelm, however, preferred Sophia Dorothea and successfully tasked Finck with making such a deterring report of Ulrika Eleonora to his father that he would encounter less opposition when he informed his father of his choice.
A marriage alliance between Prussia and Hanover was regarded as a noncontroversial choice by both courts and the negotiations were swiftly conducted. In order for Sophia Dorothea to make as good an impression as possible in Berlin, her grandmother, Electress Sophia, commissioned her niece Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess of the Palatinate to procure her trousseau in Paris. Her bridal paraphernalia attracted great attention and was referred to as the greatest of any German Princess yet.
The wedding by proxy took place in Hanover on November 28, 1706, and she arrived in Berlin on November 27 where she was welcomed by her groom and his family outside of the city gates and before making her entrance into the capital. Thereafter followed a second wedding, the stately torch-dance, and six weeks of banquets and balls.
Crown Princess in Prussia
Sophia Dorothea was described as tall, with a beautiful slender figure, graceful and dignified with big blue eyes. Though not regarded as strictly beautiful, she was seen as quite attractive at the time of her marriage and described as charming in her manners, making a good impression in Berlin. Friedrich Wilhelm often called her “Fiekchen”.
Sophia Dorothea and Friedrich Wilhelm differed from each other in every aspect and the marriage suffered as a result. Sophia Dorothea was interested in art, science, literature and fashion, while Friedrich Wilhelm was described as an unpolished, uneducated and spartan military man with rough manners.
Though he was never unfaithful to her, he was unable to win her affection. One of the most important differences between them was that Sophia Dorothea, unlike her husband, loved entertainment, something he regarded to be frivolous.
Friedrich Wilhelm contemplated divorcing her the same year they married and, judging by her letters, accused her of not wanting to be married to him. According to Morgenstern, “He had none of that astonishing complaisance by which lovers, whether husbands or friends, seek to win the favor of the beloved object.
As far as can be gathered from the words he occasionally let drop, the crossing of his first love might have been the innocent cause of this; and as the object of this passion, by the directions of her mother and grandmother, treated him with harshness, where, then, could he learn to make love?”
The birth of her firstborn son, Friedrich Ludwig, in 1707 was celebrated greatly in Prussia, and Sophia Dorothea successfully asked the king to liberate the imprisoned minister Eberhard von Danckelmann. In 1708, after the death of her firstborn son, the physicians declared that Sophia Dorothea was not likely to conceive again, which prompted the remarriage of her father-in-law.
Her father-in-law, Friedrich I, King in Prussia married Sophia Louise of Mecklenburg-Schwerin the fourth child of Friedrich, Duke of Mecklenburg-Grabow, and Princess Christine Wilhelmine of Hesse-Homburg. She was an aunt of Grand Duchess Anna Leopoldovna of Russia, who was herself regent and mother of Emperor Ivan VI of Russia.
However, Crown Princess Sophia Dorothea gave birth to several children in the following years, and finally to a son who survived in 1712.
Queen in Prussia
In 1713, her father-in-law King Friedrich I died and was succeeded by her spouse as Friedrich Wilhelm I, making her Queen in Prussia.
At the time of the accession, Prussia was at war with Sweden, and Sophia Dorothea accompanied Friedrich Wilhelm during the campaign of 1715, though she soon returned to Berlin to give birth to her daughter. During the war, the king left directions to his ministers to consult her and take no action without her approval in the case of an emergency.
In 1717, she hosted Emperor Peter I the Great of Russia on his visit to Berlin at her own palace Monbijou, as per the king’s request, which was vandalized as a result. Sophia Dorothea’s first favorite was her maid of honor, von Wagnitz, who was dismissed after an intrigue in which Kreutz and her mother tried to make her the king’s mistress, as well as being a spy of the French ambassador Rothenburg.
Queen Sophia Dorothea was admired for her gracious manners and nicknamed “Olympia” for her regal bearing, but scarred by smallpox and overweight with time, she was not called a beauty. She was known as extremely haughty, proud, and ambitious, but Friedrich Wilhelm greatly disliked her interference in politics, as it was his belief that women should be kept only for breeding, and kept submissive as they would otherwise dominate their husbands.
The king was known for his parsimony and dislike of idleness to such a degree that he would beat people in the street as well as in the palace if he viewed them as lazy. The queen complained about the “horrible avarice” he pressed upon the household and as a result, according to Pollnitz, the queen’s table was often so sparingly supplied that he had often given her money so that she could be able to have an omelette for supper.
Friedrich Wilhelm viewed her interests in theater, dancing, jewelry and music as frivolous and resented any sign of her living a life independently from his authority: he particularly disliked her interest in gambling, and it is reported that she and her partners would have coffee beans ready on the table during gambling, so that if the king appeared, they could pretend to be playing with them rather than money.
She also abhorred his cruelty towards their son and heir Friedrich, the future King Friedrich II the Great of Prussia (with whom she was close), although rather than trying to mend the relationship between father and son she frequently spurred Friedrich on in his defiance.