Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Sad Life of George I's Wife

Beautiful Sophia Dorothea of Celle, only 17, kicked up a huge fuss when she learned that she had to marry her cousin, fat George of Hanover.  She complained that she didn't want to marry 'Pig Snout', and she was right, because the marriage was unhappy.

Born in 1666, Sophia was the only child of the Duke of Brunswick and his strong-minded mistress.  The Duke eventually married his mistress, probably because Duchess Sophie of Hanover wanted his lovely daughter for her son, and she disliked the idea of George marrying someone whose parents were not married. Sophia had the choice of several other suitors, but the nasty duchess saw to it that she didn't marry any of them.

Sophia and George had two children, Georg August and Sophia Dorothea, but this wasn't enough to keep George happy.  He chose a mistress, Melusine, who was quiet, shy and not beautiful.  George's mother couldn't understand why George was attracted to this 'scarecrow'. However, she was a sensible woman, and he probably found young Sophia rather volatile and difficult to deal with.  He mistreated her and constantly scolded her, so it isn't surprising that she started finding other men attractive.

Handsome and charming, Count Philipp von Konigsmark courted Sophia for two years, and the couple eventually started an affair.  They wrote letters to each other and tried to keep the romance secret, but they were playing with fire, and the young couple was warned to end the affair by the Duchess and other members of the family.  George's brother Ernst August was especially upset, because he thought that the affair might ruin George's chances of becoming King of England.  Legend has it that he ordered Konigsmark to be murdered.

George placed Sophia Dorothea under house arrest, and she agreed to a divorce, because she hoped that she would be able to begin a new life with the urbane count.  However, she was sent to Ahlden Castle, a bleak and cold castle, where she began a long imprisonment.  Her children were kept from her, but she was allowed to see her mother.  Here, she was guarded by 40 infantry and cavalry and a marshall.  Her imprisonment lasted 33 years.

George became King George 1 in 1714, but he never had a good relationship with his son, who blamed him for the mistreatment of his poor mother.

An Australian author, Helen du Guerry Simpson, wrote A Sarabande for Dead Lovers based on this sad tale. The novel was made into a film with the wonderful Stewart Granger perfectly cast as Konigsmark.
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