Sophia Dorothea of Hanover

Portrait of Sophia Dorothea as princess by Friedrich Wilhelm Weidemann (first quarter of eighteenth century). Image Credit: Charlottenburg Palace.

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover was the only daughter of George I of Great Britain and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. She was born in Hanover in 1687 during the reign of her grandfather, Elector Ernst Augustus.

Sophia Dorothea’s paternal grandmother was Sophia of the Palatinate, the daughter of the Winter King and Queen and a granddaughter of James VI/I of Scotland and England. In 1706, Sophia married her cousin, Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia.

The Electress was ‘anxious that [Sophia] should make a good appearance’ in Berlin so the Electress’s niece, the Duchess of Orleans, was instructed to acquire Sophia a splendid trousseau from Paris.

Initially, the Crown Prince was very affectionate towards Sophia and although the couple had little in common, he appears not to have taken a mistress.

A short-lived son was born to the couple in 1707, after which the physicians advised that Sophia might not be able to have any more children. In fact, Sophia had a further thirteen children with Frederick. A surviving male heir, the future Frederick the Great of Prussia, was born in 1712.

The following year, Sophia and Frederick William became King and Queen in Prussia upon the death of Frederick I. Unfortunately, Sophia and her children lived in fear of Frederick William’s temper. He was violent and unpredictable, especially when it came to his eldest son whom he treated with particular harshness. There was little Sophia could do to protect them from their father’s brutality.

Frederick’s death in 1740 brought a reprieve for the whole family. Prince Frederick succeeded his father and Sophia benefited from the warm relationship she had with him, which allowed her to maintain her status at court. Sophia was also allowed to indulge in her passions without reproach.

When the old King had come to her apartments, ‘music ceased, dancing stopped’ and the Queen would hide her jewels to avoid his ire. In her widowhood, she could, to a certain extent, live as she pleased.

Sophia Dorothea died in June 1757 at the Monbijou Palace in Berlin. She was interred in the Hohenzollern crypt in Berlin Cathedral, where another daughter of Hanover, her aunt Sophia Charlotte, had been laid to rest in 1705.

Recommended Reading

Emma Wilsher Atkinson, Memoirs of the Queens of Prussia (London: W. Kent and Co., 1858)

Tim Blanning, Frederick the Great: King of Prussia (London: Penguin, 2015).

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