Frogmore, George III of the United Kingdom, Kensington Palace, King George IV of the United Kingdom, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Princess Mary of Great Britain, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Sophia Dorothea of Great Britain, Windsor Great Park
Sophia was a favourite of her niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales, as the young princess liked her gentle character and had a certain fascination for the gossip surrounding Sophia’s past. Charlotte detested her other aunts, and once wrote, “I can hardly believe [Sophia] belongs to them- so wholly different is she in thoughts, opinions, matters. Her nobleness and rectitude of mind renders her no favourite here. The constant scenes of intrigue, of tracasseries, she can but ill support.”
The Prince Regent’s efforts to help his sisters led to the marriages of Mary and Elizabeth, and Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818 allowed Augusta and Sophia their domestic freedom, though it was too late for them to marry. From her mother Sophia inherited Lower Lodge at Windsor Great Park, which she in turn gave to the Prince Regent. The death of Princess Augusta in 1840 resulted in Sophia inheriting Clarence House and Frogmore.
After the queen’s death, Sophia lived in Kensington Palace during her final years, next to her niece Princess Victoria of Kent, the future Queen Victoria. As a result, Princess Sophia was one of the few paternal relatives that Victoria saw often. Like her sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, Sophia fell under the spell of Victoria’s comptroller Sir John Conroy and let him manage her money. The princess became a part of the Duchess of Kent’s social circle and, in return, Sophia spied for Conroy when he was absent from Kensington Palace.
Sophia also reported to Conroy on what she heard at St. James’s Palace, as she had privileged access to courtiers as well as to her two elder brothers. Gossipmongers speculated that Conroy’s successful ability to deal with the “bullying inopportunities” of Sophia’s illegitimate son endeared her to him, while some historians write that Conroy took advantage of Sophia, who in her last years had become “dizzy, easily muddled… mourning her fading looks” and a “confused, nearly blind aunt.”
Sophia often dined with the household, but the Duchess of Kent despised her. Princess Victoria was aware her aunt was a spy and the two never became close. Sophia’s wealth allowed Conroy to live a rich lifestyle, acquiring for himself a house in Kensington for £4,000, as well as two other estates for £18,000. Sophia was also responsible for certain members of Victoria’s household gaining higher statuses; Victoria’s governess Louise Lehzen, for instance, was made a Hanoverian baroness on the orders of George IV, and Conroy was named a Knight Commander of the Hanoverian Order.
After having been blind for over ten years, on the morning of 27 May 1848, Princess Sophia became ill at her residence at Vicarage Place, Kensington; she was visited by her sister Mary, sister-in-law Queen Adelaide, and nephew-in-law Prince Albert. Sophia’s death occurred at 6:30 later that day, when Mary, the Duchesses of Kent and Cambridge were present.
The princess was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London, immediately in front of (east of) the central chapel rather than at Windsor Castle, as she wished to be near her brother, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (who lies on the opposite side of the path). After her death, it was discovered that Conroy had squandered most of her money and that the princess had virtually no estate to bequeath. Charles Greville wrote an entry in his diary on 31 May:
“The Princess Sophia died a few days ago, while the Queen [Victoria] was holding the Drawing-room for her Birthday. She was blind, helpless, and suffered martyrdom; a very clever, well-informed woman, but who never lived in the world.”