W. H. (William Henry) Wilkins.

The love of an uncrowned queen : Sophie Dorothea, consort of George I, and her correspondence with Philip Christopher Count Königsmarck (now first published from the originals) online

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Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) WilkinsThe love of an uncrowned queen : Sophie Dorothea, consort of George I, and her correspondence with Philip Christopher Count Königsmarck (now first published from the originals) → online text (page 1 of 42)
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^opl)ic l^orotl)ta



U r GKORGK 1., and her Correspondence
with Piiii.ii' Christopher Count Konigs-
M A R c K [Now first published front the originals)



M.A.y Clare College^ Cambridge,

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society,

Author of " The Romance of Isabel Lady Burton.








Tbii edition published July, igo6





IT has been too generally assumed that the romance of
the English Crown passed away with the Stuarts.
Writers of fact and fiction — historians, novelists,
poets, and plajTights — have concentrated their energies
on the period of English history covered by the Stuart
dynasty, and the Georgian era has been comparatively
neglected. The reason is not far to seek. Our Han-
overian kings had none of the picturesqueness of their
unfortunate predecessors; they lacked alike their splendid
failings and their redeeming graces; and until the acces-
sion of George III. they were wholly foreign to the peo-
ple of England. Despite this, the kings and queens of
the House of Hanover have an interest that is all their
own. Especially is this true of Sophie Dorothea, the
ill-fated consort of George I. The story of her romantic
life has been shrouded in myster}^ and she has been
even more misrepresented than the "Queen of Tears,"
Mary Stuart. Her imprisonment in the lonely castle of
Ahlden was longer and more rigorous than Mary's cap-
tivity in England, and the assassination of Konigsmarck
was as dramatic as the murder of Rizzio.

It is strange that so little should be known of the consort
of the first of our Hanoverian kings. It is not the fault



vi preface

of the book-makers, who for nearly two centuries have
been continually compiling pamphlets and so-called
memoirs, some in English, but more in German. Only
two are worthy of mention, the Octavia and Die Herzogin
von Ahldcn} The Octavia was written during Sophie
Dorothea's lifetime by her champion and cousin, Duke
Antony Ulrich of Wolfenbiittel. It was a fairly true
version of the Princess's story; but the bias of the
writer and the form of the work, which partook of the
nature of a roman a clef presented in dramatic dialogues,
told against accuracy. Many of the later works have
been merely echoes of the Octavia. Die Herzogin von
Ahldcn was written more than a hundred years later by
Coimt Schulenburg-Klosterrode, and published anony-
mously in Leipsig in 1852. This little book, the fruit of
much labour and research, was compiled from all the
documents and authorities then available. It gathered
together a mass of evidence and summed up all there
was to be said. Yet "lives" of the Princess continued
to appear from time to time, none containing any new
facts, and most of them merely a rcchaiiffage of previous

Without fresh facts or documents there would be no
excuse for entering upon a ground already much cov-
ered. But since the publication of Die Herzogin von
Ahldcn many interesting papers have come to light.
When Prussia annexed the Kingdom of Hanover after

> Both were in German, and are now out of print. I have given a
list of some others in the Appendix.

preface vii

the Revolution of iS66, and expelled the reigning
dynasty, a great many State and domestic papers
hitherto carefully locked up in the Guelph family archives
were thrown open. In Germany historians have not
been slow to avail themselves of the facilities thus
afforded, as the labours of Dr. Adolph Kocher, A. F. H.
Schaumann, and others, abundantly testify. But in
England, notwithstanding that Hanover is the cradle of
our kings, and these unpublished documents have direct
and personal bearing on the history of our Royal House,
nothing, or practically nothing, has been done to turn
them to account. They have been available for the last
thirty years, yet so far no one has written an English
monograph of that remarkable woman, the Electress
Sophia — at least, not one worthy of the name.

In addition, therefore, to the interest of the subject,
the fact that these Hanoverian papers are practically
unknown to the English public forms a sufficient reason
for writing this book. But apart from the papers in the
Hanoverian Archives, I claim to have found other
important documents which shed a new light on the
mystery of Sophie Dorothea's life. The despatches of
Sir William Dutton Colt, of Cresset, Foley, and many of
those of Stepney, freely quoted in this book, are now
published for the first time. But more important still,
and transcending all in interest, is the correspondence
of Sophie Dorothea and Konigsmarck. This correspond-
ence is herein translated from the French of the original
documents in tlie possession of the University of Lund

viii IPretace

in Sweden, and I have further edited and arranged it. It
has not before been published in English, and (except
for a few unimportant extracts in a Swedish book, long
since out of print) has never been published in any lan-
guage. My discovery of these letters three years ago
suggested the idea of writing this book. To follow up the
clue has involved considerable research, not only at the
State Paper Office in London, but at Hanover, Brunswick,
Dresden, and Lund. With a view to doing the work
thoroughly, I have followed as closely as possible the
footsteps of the Princess during her life. I have visited
Celle, where she was born; Hanover, where she lived
during her unhappy married life; and Ahlden, where,
for more than thirty years, she was consigned to a living
tomb. I also went to Lund in Sweden, where the let-
ters are preserved in the library of the University, and,
with the kind permission and assistance of the University
authorities, carefully examined the manuscripts. Every
effort has been made to render this biography as com-
plete as possible : it must ever remain incomplete, alas!
for some of the most valuable papers were destroyed by
George I., George IL, and their descendants, and the
mystery around Sophie Dorothea can never be quite
cleared away.

The late Miss Agnes Strickland, it is well known,
brought her Lives of the Queens of Eyigland to an end
with Queen Anne. In her preface to the final volume,
written in 1848, she advances two reasons for not con-
tinuing them further. First, the lack of authentic docu-

preface ix

ments and letters; and secondly, because "personages so
near our own times are not proper subjects for historical
investis^ation. " The first objection has since been
obviated by the opening- of the Hanoverian Archives and
the discovery of other documents; to the second it may
be urged that as Miss Strickland wrote fifty years ago,
her objection has lost force by the lapse of time. A prin-
cess who died nearly two centuries ago can hardly be
discribed as "near our own times." For the rest, as the
wife of one of our kings Sophie Dorothea belongs to
history. There is no more impropriety in writing her
life than in writing one of, say, Anne Boleyn, who also
was a queen consort accused of offences which could
never be proved against her, and who suffered out of all
proportion to her errors. Indeed, there is even less;
for posterity has learned all it is ever likely to know
about Anne Boleyn, but the secrecy and misrepresenta-
tion with which Sophie Dorothea's memory is surrounded
needs the light of impartial historical investigation. In
the biographies of the unfortunate Princess hitherto
given to the world, she appears either as an injured saint
or a most incorrigible sinner. In point of fact she was
neither, but merely a loving woman, very human, and
therefore not free from faults, but far more sinned
against than sinning.

A word in conclusion as to the title of this book. In
writing Sophie Dorothea's life one must write of her
love, since without her love her life was nothing. Of
course, in the strictly legal sense, though consort of

X IPretacc

George I., she was never Queen of England any more
than she was Electress of Hanover, though de jure she
was both. But to quote Doran, Sophie Dorothea, "from
the time her husband ascended the throne, was in some
sort of loving sorrow called by the few left to love her,
the Queen." A queen though never acknowledged, a
queen though always a prisoner, a queen though never
crowned — truly a queen of tears.



I. The Romance of the Princess's Parentage i
The Prosj^ress of Elconore . , . i6

The Wisdom of Serpents . . . .30

Prince George Goes A-Wooing . . 46

The Sacrifice ...... 59

The Court of Hanover . . . . 74

The Power of Countess Platen . . .88
VIII. Enter Konigsmarck .... 103

IX. Playing with Fire . . . . .119

The Embroidered Glove . . . 136

History and Authenticity of the Letters . 150
The Dawn of Passion . . . . 177

Crossing the Rubicon . . . .199

The Princess's Letters . . . . 219

Doubts and Fears . . . . .241

The Battle of Steinkirk . . . 262

The Visit to Wiesbaden . . . .280

XVIII. Konigsmarck Returns from the War . 300

XIX. The Tryst at Brockhausen . . .328

XX. Love's Bitterness ..... 354

XXI. The Campaign Against the Danes . . 385
XXII. The Gathering Storm .... 416

XXIII. The Murder of Konigsmarck . . . 436

XXIV. The Ruin of the Princess . . .451
XXV. The Divorce ...... 474

XXVI. The Prisoner of Ahlden . . . 496

XXVII. The Flight of Years 5«8

XXVIII. Crown and Grave ..... 545

XXIX. Retribution ...... 567

Appendix . . . . . -57^




















Life, like a dome of many coloured glass,
Stains the, white radiance of Eternity.


SOPHIE DOROTHEA of Celle, the uncrowned Oueen
of the first of our Hanoverian kings came of the
ancient and illustrious family of Brunswick, which
was descended from Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria
and Saxony, who, it is interesting to note, married
Matilda, eldest daughter of King Henry H. of Eng-
land. It is not necessary to dwell upon the glories of the
House of Brunswick, but the immediate ancestry of
Sophie Dorothea may be of interest.

After the Treaty of Westphalia, which was somewhat
disastrous to the Brunswick princes taking part in the
Thirty Years War, this family was divided into two
branches, Augustus Duke of Brunswick representing

2 Zbc Xope cf an IHncrowneD (SJueen

one, and Frederick Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg repre-
senting the other.

On the death of Augustus, his territories were divided
amongst his three sons, with only one of whom we are
concerned, Duke Antony Ulrich of Wolfenblittel. It is
necessary to mention him, as he played a not unimpor-
tant part in the life of his cousin, Sophie Dorothea of
Celle. From this branch of the family the Dukes of
Brunswick are descended, and it gave another uncrowned
queen to England in the person of the unfortunate Caro-
line, consort of George IV.

Frederick Duke of Brunswick-Liineburg died in 1649,
leaving the four sons of his brother, Duke George, his
heirs. Of these, the eldest son, Christian Louis, was
given the Sovereign Principality of Celle, then the most
important; the second son, George William, subsequently
the father of Sophie Dorothea, was given the Sovereign
Principality of Hanover. The two younger sons, John
Frederick and Ernest Augustus, had no territory at first.

When the four ducal brothers, all young men, entered
tipon their inheritance, changes took place in the sedate
and simple Courts of Hanover and Celle. Hitherto they
had been typical of the petty German Courts in the Mid-
dle Ages, untouched as yet by foreign influences. Accord-
ing to Vehse, at the Schloss of Celle meals were served
daily in the great hall, at nine in the morning and at four
in the afternoon. The retainers were summoned to meals
by a trumpeter on the tower, and if they did not appear
punctually they had to go without. As they ate, a page
went round "bidding every one be quiet and orderly,
forbidding all swearing, and rudeness, or throwing about
of bread, bones, or roast, or pocketing of the same."
The butler was warned not to permit noble or simple to
enter the cellar; the squires were allowed beer and

Tlbe IRoiiiaiicc ot tbc IpvtncciJiJ's IParcntaoc 3

*'sleep-drinks, " but wine was only served at the Prince's
high ta])le. All accounts were carefully kept, and bills
paid weekly. The Court was one big family, and the
Prince was the father of his people. But this well-
ordered household was in the days of the old Duke Chris-
tian, a predecessor of the four roystering blades who now
divided the possessions of Brunswick- Liineburg.

The eldest, the young Duke Christian, settled down to
a fairly quiet life at Celle ; "his only fault, " we hear,
"was drinking," a very venal offence in those days. But
the second brother, Duke George William, found life at
Hanover unbearably tedious. He had little liking for the
stiff and monotonous routine of his German Court; the
simple lives of his subjects bored him, and their rude
manners and coarse habit of living disgusted him.
Though all his life strongly anti-French in his politics,
he tjelonged to the new school of German princes, and
affected the society and fashions of the French, so much
so that on one occasion a French envoy said to him at his
own table: "But, Monseigneur, this is charming; there is
no foreigner here but you. ' ' Though a young man, George
William had already travelled in Italy, and acquired a cer-
tain polish of manners and superficial refinement not usu-
ally to be found among German princes of his time. The
first use he made of his freedom was to escape from the
tedium of his uninteresting little Principality, and, in
company with his youngest brother, Ernest Augustus,
who was then his boon companion, and largely depend-
ent upon his bounty, he made another tour in Italy,
visiting Milan and Venice. At Venice, then at its zenith,
the ducal brothers plunged into the delights and dissipa-
tions which the gay city offered. George William formed
an intimacy with a Venetian lady, one Signora Buccolini,
by whom he had a son. For many years he was devoted

4 Xlbe Xove of an XHncrowneO (Siueen

to her, and maintained her in considerable affluence ; for,
with all his faults, he was of a generous disposition. But
the lady was of so passionate, jealous, and exacting- a
temperament that at last she tired the patience of her
protector. After many quarrels he made an agreement
by which he settled a sum of money upon the mother,
and took the charge of the boy's education upon himself.
This was the final separation. He took back the young-
Lucas Buccolini with him to Hanover, clipped his Italian
name into Bucco, or Buccow, and found him a place in
his household.^

George William's subjects did not appreciate these fre-
quent absences of their liege lord, nor did they approve
of the Italian singers and dancers and the Venetian son
whom he brought back with him to his prim little Court.
They became exceedingly restive, and pointed out that
there was need of a duchess and an heir. Duke Christian
of Celle was unwed, and Duke George William of Han-
over, who was next in succession, was a bachelor too.
Their subjects, both of Celle and Hanover, considered
this a neglect of duty on the part of their princes, and,
remonstrances having no avail, at last the members of
the State in Hanover threatened to cut short George
William's allowance if he did not marry forthwith.
Moreover, knowing his predilections, they intimated
plainly that they wished no foreign bride, and suggested
that the Princess Sophia, the orphan daughter of the
luckless Frederick Prince Palatine, ex-King of Bohemia
(by the beautiful Elizabeth, daughter of James I. of Eng-
land), would be a suitable duchess.

1 On attaining to man's estate, this youth filled the office of Master
of the Horse at the Court of Celle ; later he became a colonel of the
dragoons. He seems to have been of a jealous disposition, and was
always grumbling because his putative father did not enough for him.

Zbc IRomancc ot tbc IPrmccss's Iparcntaoe 5

The Princess Sophia was well past her first youth, and
was understood to be anxious to settle herself in life.
She was then living with her brother, the Elector Pala-
tine of the Rhenish Provinces, at Heidelberg, as State
governess to his children. The household was not a
happy one, for the Elector and his wife were leading a
cat-and-dog life, and Sophia's lot, as a poor relation, was
hardly enviable. She was a healthy little body, decid-
edly good-looking, though she had not inherited the
beauty of her mother "The Queen of Hearts." "My
hair," she writes, "was light brown and in natural curls;
my general appearance gay and lightsome ; my figure
good, but not very tall; my deportment that of a prin-
cess. I take no pleasure in remembering all the rest, of
which my mirror shows me nothing left. ' ' She had sharp
wits and a sharp tongue, and the life she had led, knock-
ing about Europe in the poverty-stricken Court of the
Queen of Bohemia, had developed both to an unusual
degree. Yet notwithstanding the financial troubles of
her youth, "my spirits," she continues, "were so high in
those days that everything amused me ; the misfortunes
of my house were unable to depress them, although at
times we had to make repasts richer than Cleopatra's,
and nothing was eaten at Court but pearls and dia-
monds." This was one of Sophia's figures of speech, for
it is to be feared that the pearls and diamonds had long
since gone to the Jews. Despite her poverty, or perhaps
in consequence of it, Sophia was inordinately proud of
her birth, especially her English ancestr>% on which she
was never tired of expatiating. At one time she had
been put forward as a suitable wife for her first cousin,
the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. of England,
and with that view had been carefully trained in the Eng-
lish language and English ways. The match fell through,

6 xibe %ovc of an IHncrovvncO Queen

and so, in the after years, did many others, some good,
some indifferent, which had been projected for her by
her relations. As Sophia was very ambitious, the failure
of her matrimonial chances was a great disappointment to
her. She was nov/ twenty-nine, and her good looks were
somewhat impaired by an attack of small-pox; she was
therefore quite ready to meet the husband whom the
Hanoverians had proposed for her, half way.

George William, seeing that his subjects' minds were
made up, shrugged his shoulders and submitted to the
inevitable. If it had to be, Sophia would do as well as
any other. He therefore started for Heidelberg, on the
way to his beloved Venice, accompanied again by his
brother, Ernest Augustus. Without ado he proposed for
Sophia's hand, and she "did not at all hesitate to say
Yes," as she admits in her autobiography. He made no
pretence to any affection, and she required none. A
marriage contract was drawn up and duly signed, with
the single proviso that the bretrothal should not be made
public for a little time.

The business having been settled, George William
hurried on to Venice, and revelled in his brief spell of
freedom. But his approaching marriage hung over him
like a pall ; he thought over the matter, and one morning
he came to the conclusion that after all he could not take
upon himself the restraints of matrimony with a woman
for whom he had not a particle of affection. The situa-
tion was difficult, for if he did not wed her his subjects
were determined to reduce his income, and to the pleas-
ure-loving Duke this was an equally unpleasant alter-
native. In this dilemma he bethought himself of Ernest
Augustus, his youngest brother, and suggested to him
that he should act as his substitute. All that his subjects
wanted was an heir, and with this Ernest Augustus would

XLbc IRomancc ot tbc lPrincci3i3'i3 parentage 7

be able to furnish them, through Sophia, as well as lie.
Ernest Augustus was nothing loth to take his brother's
place — for a consideration. He was favourably disposed
towards the Princess, with whom he had flirted in his
youth ; they had met at the Hague and had played the
guitar together, but as he was a younger son, Sophia had
nipped the flirtation in the bud. A deed was drawn up
between the two brothers, in which George William
imdertook to surrender certain of his revenues, and
bound himself not to marry, so as to leave his inherit-
ance and all his rights to the brother who would act as
substitute for him in the matter of his intended bride and
ducal obligations. Just as the contract was signed the
other impecunious brother, John Frederick, came into the
room, and, on learning its contents, fell into a rage
because the chance had not been offered to him first; he
tried to tear away the document from Ernest Autrustus
George William looking on with amusement. This
happy-go-lucky way of choosing a bride was quite in
keeping with the traditions of the House of Bruns-
wick; an ancestor of these princes cast dice with his
seven brothers for a wife on somewhat similar con-
ditions, and won the prize — a princess of Hesse-Darm-

The next thing was to acquaint the Princess Sophia with
the arrangement ; that lady, having satisfied herself that
the terms of the agreement were equally advantageous
to her and her heirs, raised no objection to being handed
over like a bale of goods, and though her pride was hurt,
she skilfully concealed her resentment. Her brother, the
Elector Palatine, glad to get rid of her and her sharp
tongue, told her that he thought she was better for the
change of brothers, a remark with which she agreed, add-
ing that, "A good establishment is all /care for, and if

8 Ube %ovc of an XHncrowneD iSiueen

this is secured to the younger brother, the change is a
matter of indifference."

These negotiations from first to last took two years; in
September, 1658, the marriage was celebrated with some
pomp at Heidelberg, and in November the Duchess
Sophia took up her abode at Hanover, where she was the
first lady in the land, and treated with every honour.
She was always a great stickler for etiquette, and insisted
on every tittle of the respect due to her rank and illus-
trious ancestry. Curiously enough, if we may believe
her memoirs, no sooner was she married to Ernest Augus-
tus than George William became attracted to her, thereby
arousing the jealousy of her husband, until she begged
the elder brother "for the love of God," to leave her in

In 1660 her eldest son, George Louis (afterwards
George I. of England), was born at Osnabriick, and the
arrival of the much-wished-for heir increased her impor-
tance. The following year Ernest Augustus succeeded
to the bishopric of Osnabriick,^ and Sophia's prospects
were the more improved.

Meantime George William had overcome his belated
penchant for Sophia, if indeed it ever existed save in her
imagination, and was gratifying his pleasure-loving soul
by making a tour of many cities. Among others, he went
to Breda, at the end of the seventeenth century an

1 Osnabriick was a see founded by Charlemagne. Luther had
many followers among the citizens, and at the Treaty of Westphalia,
1648, which was concluded at Osnabriick, it was arranged that the
Prince Bishop should be alternately a Lutheran and a Roman Cath-
olic, the selection of the bishop being left with the chapter, restricted,
however, to the family of Brunswick-Liineburg. This arrangement
resulted in some very odd bishops. The last member of the English
Royal Family to hold the title was the Duke of York, son of George
IIL, the Queen's uncle.

Ubc Ifxomancc ot tbc princess's IParcntaoe 9

exceedingly gay place, albeit money was somewhat lack-
ing there. It was the chosen home of political refugees,
exiled princes, and deposed monarchs, who kept up their
spirits despite their fallen fortunes, and maintained
phantom Courts on nothing a year. Here Charles II.
dwelt for some time in his exile with many celebrated
cavaliers; here, too, his aunt, the Queen of Bohemia,
had held her shadowy Court ; here, too was concluded the
peace between England and Holland. All these things
contributed to the importance and gaiety of Breda; there

Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) WilkinsThe love of an uncrowned queen : Sophie Dorothea, consort of George I, and her correspondence with Philip Christopher Count Königsmarck (now first published from the originals) → online text (page 1 of 42)