affair, Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, Elector Ernst-August of Hanover, Elector of Hanover, Georg Wilhelm of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle, King George I of Great Britain, Melusine von der Schulenburg, Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle
The desire for the marriage was almost purely financial, as Duchess Sophia wrote to her niece Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orléans:
“One hundred thousand thalers a year is a goodly sum to pocket, without speaking of a pretty wife, who will find a match in my son George Louis, the most pigheaded, stubborn boy who ever lived, who has round his brains such a thick crust that I defy any man or woman ever to discover what is in them. He does not care much for the match itself, but one hundred thousand thalers a year have tempted him as they would have tempted anybody else”.
Georg Ludwig also acquired a mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, and started pointedly neglecting his wife. His parents asked him to be more circumspect with his mistress, fearful that a disruption in the marriage would threaten the payment of the 100,000 thalers he received as a part of Sophia Dorothea’s dowry and inheritance from her father.
In the meanwhile Sophia Dorothea herself was reunited around 1690 with the Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, whom she had known since childhood when he was a page at the court of Celle. At first, their contact was little and sporadic but this probably changed in 1691, although initially went unnoticed; however, the careless preference that the Electoral Princess showed to Königsmarck aroused suspicions, and by 1694 the Hanoverian court rumoured that they indeed entered into a love affair.
Historical research was able to use contemporary sources to show that Sophia Dorothea and Königsmarck (presumably since March 1692) had a sexual relationship, which she denied her entire life.
After a violent argument with her husband, Sophia Dorothea traveled to her parents in Celle in the spring of 1694. She wanted an official separation, but her parents were completely against it: Sophia Dorothea’s father was in the middle of the war against Denmark and Sweden and was dependent on the help of his brother Ernst August, so she eventually was sent back to Hanover.
In the summer of 1694 Sophia Dorothea, together with Königsmarck and her lady-in-waiting Eleonore von dem Knesebeck, planned their escape to either to Wolfenbüttel under the protection of Duke Anthon Ulrich or to the Electorate of Saxony, where the Swedish Count held an officer position as major general of the cavalry. But their plan was soon revealed.
Countess Clara Elisabeth von Platen, a former mistress of Elector Ernest Augustus, had tried in January 1694 to persuade Königsmarck to marry her daughter Sophia Charlotte, but he refused. Offended, she then revealed to the Electoral Prince Georg Ludwig the love affair of his wife with the Swedish Count and their planned escape; soon, the whole Hanoverian found out about this and the scandal erupted.
On the night of July 11, 1694 and after a meeting with Sophia Dorothea in the Leineschloss, Königsmarck disappeared without a trace. According to diplomatic sources from Hanover’s enemies, he was probably killed, possibly with the connivance of either the Electoral Prince or his father, and his body thrown into the river Leine weighted with stones.
The murder was claimed to have been committed by four of Ernst August’s courtiers, one of whom (Don Nicolò Montalbano) was paid the enormous sum of 150,000 thalers, which was about one hundred times the annual salary of the highest paid minister.
Sophia Dorothea should never find out what had happened to her lover. No trace of him was found, officially he is still missing today. The real facts remained unclear and all documents that could have provided information were confiscated and destroyed by the Hanoverian government.
Königsmarck’s disappearance turned into a state affair when not only relatives, diplomats and the population began to be puzzled over it. King Louis XIV of France asked his sister-in-law Elizabeth Charlotte (maternal first-cousin of the Electoral Prince), but she pretended to be clueless. The French king then sent agents to Hanover, but they could no more shed light on the mystery than King August II of Poland, who spent weeks searching for his missing general.
In return, the brothers Elector Ernst August and Duke Georg Wilhelm turned to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I with a formal complaint. If the Imperial court didn’t prevent the Polish King from continuing to create “unfriendly acts” against Hanover and Celle, they would withdraw their troops from the Allied forces.
Although the Emperor and Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg exerted pressure on Augustus II, his envoy continued the investigation and even faced the Count von Platen, telling him that von Königsmarck had either been captured or killed by order of his wife the Countess out of jealousy.
In 2016, construction workers found human bones in a pit while installing an elevator in the Leineschloss. Anthropological examinations of the bones showed that it is very unlikely that the remains were of von Königsmarck’s, as was initially assumed.
The love letters between Sophia Dorothea and Königsmarck
When his affair with Sophia Dorothea threatened to become public, Königsmarck handed their love letters to his brother-in-law, the Swedish Count Carl Gustav von Löwenhaupt. His heirs later offered the dangerous material to the House of Hanover for money, but they wanted such a high price that the court decided not to buy it and instead questioned the authenticity of the correspondence.
The correspondence was published in the middle of the 19th century. The majority of the letters are now in the possession of the Swedish Lund University, with a few ended up in the hands of Sophia Dorothea’s grandson, King Friedrich II the Great of Prussia after allegedly being stolen by his sister, Swedish Queen consort Louisa Ulrika. Today the authenticity of the letters is beyond any doubt.
The Hanoverian historian Georg Schnath calculated on the basis of the existing letters, which were rarely dated, but often numbered, that there were originally 660 letters, 340 letters wrote by Königsmarck and 320 letters wrote in response by Sophia Dorothea.
The missing letters were confiscated and destroyed after the affair became known. In general, the holdings of the State Archives in Hanover hardly provide any information about the critical years. Even the correspondence between Electress Sophia and her niece Elizabeth Charlotte, which could have shed some light on some things, were obviously censored afterwards.