Sophie von Hannover

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Electress Sophia of Hannover

born on October 14, 1630 at The Hague
died on June 8, 1714 in Hannover

BiographyLiterature & Sources


Sophia was the twelfth child born to the “Winter King” Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, who had been put under imperial ban, and his wife Elizabeth of the House of Stuart. In 1658 she married Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg. She regarded marriage policy with as much composure as she did the mistresses and affairs of her husband, and his excursions of pleasure to Italy.

In 1660 she gave birth to her first son Georg Ludwig, who later became King of England. She bore five more sons, and her only daughter Sophia Charlotte would later become the Queen of Prussia.

In 1680 Ernst August unexpectedly inherited the Dukedom of Brunswick-Luneburg, and at the latest from this point onwards he aspired to the title of prince. Meanwhile, having recognized his great talent, Sophia bound Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz to the Hannoverian court. Leibniz did great service to his country as a diplomat and scientist, and he became an ideal partner in conversation to Sophia. Together they strove to unite the Christian religions.

The Leine Castle in Hannover was dismal and modest; Sophia found new purpose in the extension of Herrenhausen as a summer residence and the laying out of extensive parks. Architects, sculptors and horticulturists worked hand in hand on this synthesis of the arts. A new garden theater and the opera house insured that there was no want of culture in Hannover.

The following years belonged to house policy. Since the Primogeniture Act of 1683, which was a condition of becoming Elector or Prince (i.e., a member of the council that elected the king), the Brunswick estates were indivisible. Georg Ludwig, the sole heir, was married to his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle; Sophia Charlotte married Frederick of Brandenburg.

Ernst August died in 1698. However Sophia was not one to be miserable for long. Even in old age she participated in the lives of her descendants and was decisively involved in arranging the marriage of her granddaughter Sophia Dorothea, the daughter of the new elector, with her grandson Frederick William I of Prussia, Sophia Charlotte’s son.

The suspense surrounding the question of the English heir to the throne remained high to the very end. It was primarily Leibniz who voiced his support for Sophia, who was after all a born Stuart and Protestant, in London. The Act of Settlement of 1701 finally laid down that Sophia’s heirs should be the future kings of England. However Sophia, who remained mentally and physically nimble until the very end, was not meant to experience this. She died on June 7, 1714 in the Herrenhausen Gardens during her evening walk. Her son Georg became Kind of England shortly after her death.

(translated by Rebecca van Dyck)

Britta Quebbemann


Robert Geerds (ed., trans.) Sophie von Hannover, Memoiren und Briefe, Munich, Leipzig 1913.
  Mathilde Knoop, Kurfürstin Sophie von Hannover, Hildesheim 1964.
  Georg Schnath (ed.), Briefwechsel der Kurfürstin Sophie von Hannover, Berlin, Leipzig 1927.
  Hiltrud Schroeder (ed.), Sophie & Co.: Bedeutende Frauen Hannovers, Hannover 1991.
  Alheidis von Rohr (ed.), Sophie Kurfürstin von Hannover (1630 - 1714), exhib. cat., Hannover 1980.

Knoop, Mathilde. 1964. Kurfürstin Sophie von Hannover. Hildesheim.
  Rohr, Alheidis von. Hg. 1980. Sophie Kurfürstin von Hannover (1630 - 1714): Begleitheft zur Ausstellung. Hannover. Histor. Museum am Hohen Ufer.
  Schnath, Georg. Hg. 1927. Briefwechsel der Kurfürstin Sophie von Hannover. Berlin; Leipzig.
  Schroeder, Hiltrud. Hg. 1991. Sophie & Co.: Bedeutende Frauen Hannovers. Hannover. Fackelträger.
  Sophie von Hannover. Memoiren und Briefe. Hg. und übersetzt von Robert Geerds. München; Leipzig 1913.

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Hedwig Dohm