Fembio Special: Famous Women from Hanover, Germany
Sophie Dorothea von Preußen
(Sophie Dorothea von Hannover, Sophie Dorothea von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Sophia Dorothea of Hanover)
Born 26 March 1687 in Hanover
Died 28 June 1757 in Berlin
Sophie Dorothea of Hanover – A Life in Service to the Crown
When Sophie Dorothea was born in Hanover on March 26, 1687, her parents’ marriage had already broken down (her father, Georg Ludwig of Hanover, was only interested in his mistresses). When his wife fell in love with a count three years later it caused a gigantic scandal. Sophie Dorothea’s mother, who bore the same name, was confined to the castle at Ahlden for the rest of her life. Her children grew up with their grandmother Sophie at the court of the Elector in Hanover. Sophie had her eye on the Prussian crown prince Friedrich Wilhelm to be her granddaughter’s husband; he was the son of her daughter Sophie Charlotte, who had died young. On November 28, 1706 the nineteen-year-old Sophie Dorothea married her cousin. Despite a difficult marriage she bore 14 children by the time she was 43. In the course of time she developed a strategy of dealing with her extremely jealous husband; she cared for him tenderly and constantly declared her love for him. Instead of the fairy-tale palace she had dreamed of she resided in the rustic hunting lodge Wusterhausen. After he took over the government in 1713, the otherwise quite frugal Friedrich Wilhelm presented his wife with Monbijou Palace north of Berlin. Sophie Dorothea developed it into a “jewel case,” complete with a porcelain gallery and mirrored rooms. Here she followed her passion for gambling and pampered her guests with delicacies such as roast venison back and pigeon pies. Meanwhile, Friedrich Wilhelm received his guests for a “tobacco council” (“Tabakskollegium”) in Wusterhausen.
The “Soldier King” lived for the military. Shortly after his ascension to the throne he had appointed Sophie Dorothea to be regent of the realm when he was absent on military campaigns. His ministers were commanded, “If something happens …, of great importance, it should be reported to my wife….” By no means did this apply, however, when the King was present. Sophie Dorothea was then expected to stay out of politics. Her marriage plans for her children, with which she hoped to bind Guelphs and Prussians closer together, failed. Moreover, there was trouble regarding the crown prince, who was a delicate child. His mother had a special love for him and undermined the harsh educational methods of the king. Young Friedrich had a secret library in Monbijou where he was able to make music and wrap himself in silken robes. He was so desperate that he even tried to escape from his father, together with his friend Katte. For this his friend had to pay with his life.
After inheriting from her mother Sophie Dorothea was able to live with greater financial freedom and did not have to argue with the king about every expense. With age he was suffering increasingly from gout and unpleasant moods. Sophie Dorothea cared for him till his death on May 31, 1740. Her circumstances in old age were good; her son King Friedrich II invited the “Queen Mother” to meals, concerts and receptions. She was the most important lady at the Berlin court. On July 28, 1757 Sophie Dorothea died relatively suddenly at age 70 with the words, “Now it’s over!”
trans. Joey Horsley
Author: Britta Quebbemann
Literature & Sources
For additional information please consult the German version.
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