The Shocking Story of Princess Sophia Dorothea – The Uncrowned Queen of England

The Shocking Story of Princess Sophia Dorothea – The Uncrowned Queen of England

This is the shocking case of the Princess who was married against her will, spurned, divorced, and imprisoned for 33 years.

In August 2016, a human skeleton was found under the Leineschloss (Leine Palace, Hanover) during a renovation project; the remains are believed to be those of Swedish count, Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, (1665-1694) a soldier in the Hanoverian army and the lover of Princess Sophia Dorothea, the wife of the first Hanoverian king of Britain.

Early Life

Sophia Dorothea was just sixteen years old when she was married to her cousin, George Louis of Hanover, the future king of Great Britain and Ireland in 1705.

Poor Princess Sophia Dorothea did not get a good start in life; she was born illegitimately; the daughter of her father’s long-term mistress, Eleonore d’Esmier d’Olbreuse, Countess of Williamsburg (1639–1722) on 15 September 1666, and was considered an inconvenient royal bastard. Without a wife and an heir her father, Prince George William, Duke of Brunswick Lüneburg, eventually did the right thing and married his mistress which had the effect of legitimising his only child.

George I of Britain

Her Father’s Legitimate Heir

Sophia Dorothea was ten years old when she became heir to her father’s kingdom, the Principality of Lüneburg. This made her a good catch despite her problematic origins because Lüneburg was a wealthy principality and Sophia Dorothea, like her mother, was attractive and lively.

Along with her legitimacy came talk about her marriage. In the six years between her acceptance into the royal family and her eventual marriage, three prospective husbands were considered for her.

Marriage Proposals

First, there was talk of marriage to the Danish heir presumptive. Some years later her engagement to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was broken off by her father after her aunt, Duchess Sophia of Hanover, convinced him she should marry her cousin, George Louis of Hanover to join their two duchies together. Duchess Sophia hated her niece, whom she considered brazen, coquettish, and uneducated. When told of the change of plan, sixteen-year-old, Sophia Dorothea shouted, “I will not marry the pig snout!”

Twenty-two-year-old George Louis was not keen on the match either; he already had a mistress and was happy with his life as a soldier. Although he was a prince, he was ugly and boring, even his mother didn’t like him. Nevertheless, Duchess Sophia was determined to keep the family fortune together, and despite both Sophia Dorothea’s and her son’s objections, the pair were married on 22 November 1682, in Celle. For his pains, George Louis received a handsome dowry and was granted his father-in-law’s kingdom upon his death, and Sophia was left penniless.

The state parliament in the former Leineschloss /

Leine Castle in Hannover Lower Saxony Germany

An Unhappy Marriage

The unhappy couple set up home in Leine Palace in Hanover where Sophia Dorothea was under the supervision of her odious aunt, Duchess Sophia, and spied on by her husband’s spies when he was away on campaign. Despite their unhappiness, the pair produced two children; George Augustus, born 1683, who later became King George II of Great Britain and a daughter born 1686 when Sophia Dorothea was twenty.

Sophia Charlotte

von Keilmannsegg

Having produced two children, George became increasingly distant from his wife spending more time with his dogs and horses and his nights with his mistress, the married daughter of his father’s mistress, a woman called Sophia Charlotte von Keilmannsegg, who was rumoured to be George Louis’ half-sister.

Aggrieved, lonely, and unhappy Sophia Dorothea found a friend in the Swedish count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, (1665-1694) who was a soldier in the Hanoverian army. Philip was a year older than Sophia Dorothea and the antithesis of her ugly, boorish husband.

Countess of Platen

The Fatal Affair

Sophia Dorothea was no saint. She was quick-tempered and rarely discrete, and her choice of Von Königsmarck as a lover was not the best. Königsmarck was a dashing, handsome gigolo and the former lover of her father-in-law’s mistress, the Countess of Platen and the Countess had a jealous nature.

Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea began a love affair of clandestine trysts, real love, and their coded correspondence facilitated by a trusted go-between. Their love affair was uncovered in 1692 when the Duchess of Platen presented a collection of their letters to her lover, Sophia Dorothea’s father-in-law the Elector of Hanover. Von Königsmarck was banished from the Hanoverian court but soon found a position in the neighbouring court of Saxony where one night when he was buried in his cups he let slip the state of affairs in the bedchambers of the royal house of Hanover. George Louis got wind of what had been said and on the morning of 2 July 1694, after a meeting with Sophia at Leine Palace, Königsmark was seized. No one except his murderers knew what happened to him next.

Philip Christoph von Königsmarck,



A Sad and Lonely Death

Dorothea never saw her lover again. George Louis divorced her in December, and early the following year she was confined her to Schloss Ahlden a stately home on the Lüneburg Heath in Lower Saxony. She stayed there for the rest of her life. Her children were taken away from her, and she was forced to live alone.

When Sophia Dorothea died in 1726, she had spent 33 years in her prison. Before she died, she wrote a letter to her husband, cursing him for his treatment of her. A furious George forbade any mourning of her in Hanover and London.

George, I died shortly after the Countess of Platen exonerated him of any involvement in Von Königsmark’s death. Two of her henchmen made deathbed confessions to the crime. Although George I was cleared of Von Königsmark’s death, his son George II never forgave his father for the treatment he had meted out to his mother.


Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty By Leslie Carroll

The Georgian Princesses By John Van der Kiste

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle.

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

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Princess Anne – The Princess Who Married a Hunchback

London’s Mad House

London’s Mad House

‘Bedlam’, London’s first public mental hospital, is typically understood as a byword for chaos, mania and disorder. The world’s first hospital for the sick of mind is more properly known as St Mary Bethlehem, or Bethlehem Hospital and it was founded in 1247 as the Priory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem in the city of London during the reign of Henry III.
From 1600 the hospital allowed visitors and artists to observe the ‘mad’.In William Hogarth’s series, A Rake’s Progress (1733-34), The Rake meets his end there shown among a menagerie of strange, otherworldly characters: a magician, emperor, musician and an astrologer while two fashionably dressed women enjoy the spectacle. Hogarth’s etching stresses how a visit to ‘Bedlam’ was understood predominantly as a tourist activity for the wealthy and leisured classes.
By 1750, the acquisitive Monroe family of ‘mad doctors’ was in charge and as the paying visitors viewed the restraints and purges, it became an issue of n public debate. Bethlem had lost its institutional monopoly for the treatment of insanity by the creation of St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in 1751 and the debate on how to treat the ‘mad’ entered a new stage.
The hospital was run by men but had many female patients. The warders were men too and abuse was frequent. As the 18th century progressed criticism of the hospital increased and it closed it doors to the public in 1770.
One of Bedlam’s most infamous treatments was called rotational therapy. A patient would be seated in a chair or swing, suspended from the ceiling, and spun by an orderly at a speed and duration prescribed by a doctor. This could mean a hundred rotations per minute, and could last an hour. Developed by Erasmus Darwin (grandfather to Charles), he believed that mental illness could be cured with sleep, and rotational therapy would expedite sleep. Of course, it didn’t; it usually only expedited vomiting – which was encouraged. Purging treatments were believed to be curative.
A Parliamentary inquiry in 1815/16 recorded: “gross negligence in the care and management of patients, and heedlessness of the conditions in which they were housed; decided medical apathy toward therapeutic innovation; excessive restraint employed by design and default, and as a means of coping with under-staffing; and inadequate medical supervision of dishonest, and often brutal, ancillary staff..”
The situation at Bedlam finally began to change around 1852, when William Hood was hired as the first-ever resident physician. He believed that tranquillity was the best way to cure mental illness. Hood didn’t believe in chaining up the patients. Instead, he allowed the patients access to magazines, games, and crafts. In 1863, the Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane opened, and Bedlam’s violent, aggressive patients were moved there, creating a calmer atmosphere.
Sources: History Today, Anna Jamieson, Wikipedia, Jonathan Andrews, Andrew Scull, Undertaker of the Mind John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England , Ayse Wax at
Illustrations; William Hogarth, The Rake’s Progress, Plate VIII, A woman restrained, Bedlam Hospital at Moorfields, The Bedlam Swing.

Julia Herdman is a novelist writing about 18th and early 19th century London. Her debut novel Sinclair is about a family of apothecary surgeons working at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals at the dawn of modern medicine.

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Writers of Influence – Daniel Defoe

Writers of Influence – Daniel Defoe

Defoe is known today for his contribution to English literature with works such as Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders and Roxanne but there was far more to him than a mere penner of novels.

Defoe was a talented and versatile writer who used his writing skills to influence not only the world of fiction but the history of Britain too. His portrait gives us some clues to the man’s character. He was clearly a handsome man, perhaps even charming. We can see in his long lean face a man a man who was ambitious, shrewd, and intelligent but underneath his respectable persona history tells us that he was not always honest. In his writing, he was prolific, controversial, entertaining and, under duress politically adroit using his skills of persuasion save not only his own life and but change the course of British history.

Born in 1660 Defoe lived through some of the most tumultuous events in British history: The Great Plague of London 1665 and The Great Fire that followed it a year later when his father’s shop was one of two houses left standing in their neighbourhood. His father, James Foe, was a prosperous tallow chandler and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. His mother died young and the young Foe was sent to be educated first in Surrey then at 14 he attended a school in Newington Green, London. His education was Presbyterian and as a dissenter, he and his family were always in danger of government persecution.

After school, Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woollen goods, and wine. His ambitions were great and he was able to buy a country estate and a ship as well as civets to make perfume, though he was rarely out of debt. In 1684, he married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant, receiving a dowry of £3,700 – a huge amount by the standards of the day.

In 1685, he abandoned his new wife and joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion supporting James Scot the Duke of Monmouth and the illegitimate son of Charles II in his attempt to usurp his uncle, the Catholic king, James II. He was lucky and somehow; probably by turning King’s evidence; gained a pardon when the rebellion was quashed escaping the Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys.

However, he was not so lucky in business. In 1692, Defoe was arrested for debts of £700 though his total debts may have amounted to £17,000. Again with a bit of luck and persuasion, he got out of prison and disappeared to Europe and Scotland, trading in wine. By 1695, he was back in England, now formally using the name “Defoe” and serving as a “commissioner of the glass duty” responsible for collecting taxes on bottles. In 1696, he ran a tile and brick factory in what is now Tilbury in Essex and lived in the parish of Chadwell St Mary.

Defoe’s first notable publication was An Essay upon Projects, a series of proposals for social and economic improvement, published in 1697. From 1697 to 1698, he defended the protestant, Dutch-born King William III with his writing particularly with the publication of his poem, The True-Born Englishman in1701, in which he ridiculed English xenophobia.

However, William’s death a year later and the ascent of conformist Anne made Defoe a natural target for the English authorities. However, that did not stop Defoe. In December 1702 he published a pamphlet entitled, The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church, purporting to argue for the extermination of anyone not adhering to the faith of the Church of England. The pamphlet was satirical but unfortunately, like many satires, it was not widely understood. Defoe was charged and found guilty of seditious libel at the Old Bailey where the notoriously sadistic judge, Salathiel Lovell, sentenced him to 3 days in the pillory and a fine of 200 marks.

The price of his release was high. In prison he wrote to William Paterson, the London Scot who founded the Bank of England and part instigator of the infamous Darien scheme that bankrupted Scotland, asking for a loan. Paterson spotted an opportunity and in turn approached the Speaker of the Commons and Queen Anne’s confidant, Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford. Harley was not only Speaker of the Commons but Queen Anne’s spymaster and political fixer. Harley was persuaded to employ Defoe to influence the Scots to accept the Act of Union. With little prospect of ever raising the 200 marks and facing a lifetime in gaol Defoe agreed and started his new life as a spy and political journalist.

Defoe immediately published a magazine called, The Review, which appeared weekly, then three times a week, written mostly by himself. The Review was the main mouthpiece of the English Government promoting the Act of Union 1707.

Defoe began his Review campaign persuading the English that the Union was a good idea saying that it would remove the hostile threat from the north and provide an “inexhaustible treasury of men”, and a valuable new market increasing the power of England. With the campaign in England underway, Harley ordered Defoe to Edinburgh in 1706 charging him to work undercover and to do everything possible to secure Scottish acquiescence to the Treaty of Union.

Defoe’s first reports to Harvey included vivid descriptions of violent demonstrations against the Union. “A Scots rabble is the worst of its kind”, he reported. Years later John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading Unionist, wrote in his memoirs that, “He [Defoe] was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would pull him to pieces.”

Defoe used his Presbyterian family history to gain the trust of the adviser to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and committees of the Parliament of Scotland. He told Harley that he was “privy to all their folly” but “perfectly unsuspected as with corresponding with anybody in England”. He used this deceit to influence the proposals that were put to Parliament in Harley’s favour.

He used all his persuasive skills to help the English Government hoodwink the Scottish Parliament into believing that they would have full sovereignty over their realm; he wrote articles supporting the Union passing himself off as Scottish. He even wrote pamphlets in Scots to make them look authentic. With his master’s work done and the Act of Union railroaded through the Scottish Parliament Defoe sealed the deceit with a massive history of the Union in 1709. With his liberty restored but considerably out of pocket he used of his Scottish experience to write his Tour thro’ the whole Island of Great Britain, published in 1726, where he admitted that the increase of trade and population in Scotland which he had predicted as a consequence of the Union was “not the case, but rather the contrary”.

Julia Herdman’s books are available on Amazon.