Sophia Dorothea of Hanover

For her mother, see Sophia Dorothea of Celle.
Sophia Dorothea of Hanover

Portrait by Antoine Pesne, 1726
Queen consort in Prussia
Electress consort of Brandenburg
Tenure 25 February 1713 31 May 1740
Born (1687-03-16)16 March 1687
Hanover, Principality of Calenberg
Died 28 June 1757(1757-06-28) (aged 70)
Monbijou Palace, Berlin
Spouse Frederick William I of Prussia
Issue Prince Frederick Louis
Wilhelmine, Margravine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
Prince Friedrich William
Frederick II
Princess Charlotte Albertine
Friederike Luise, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Philippine Charlotte, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Prince Ludwig Charles Wilhelm
Sophia Dorothea, Margravine of Schwedt
Luise Ulrike, Queen of Sweden
Prince August Wilhelm
Amalia, Abbess of Quedlinburg
Prince Henry
Prince August Ferdinand
House Hanover
Father George I of Great Britain
Mother Sophia Dorothea of Celle

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (26 March [O.S. 16 March] 1687[1] 28 June 1757) was a Queen consort in Prussia as wife of Frederick William I. She was the sister of George II of Great Britain and the mother of Frederick II of Prussia.


Sophia Dorothea was born on 16 March 1687 (O.S.), in Hanover. She was the only daughter of George Louis of Hanover, later King George I of Great Britain, and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. She was detested by her elder brother, King George II of Great Britain.[2]

Crown Princess of Prussia

Sophia Dorothea married her cousin, Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia, heir apparent to the Prussian throne, on 28 November 1706. They had met as children under the care of their grandmother, Sophia of Hanover, and had disliked each other ever since. Sophia Dorothea differed from her husband in every aspect and the marriage suffered as a result. One of the most important differences between them was that Sophia Dorothea, unlike her husband, loved entertainment.[3] Frederick William contemplated to divorce her the same year they married, and judging by the letters of Sophia Dorothea, he accused her of not wanting to be married to him.[4]

Queen in Prussia

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover in center during the visit of King Augustus II of Poland to Berlin.

Her husband ascended the throne in 1713 and Sophia Dorothea became queen. She was nicknamed "Olympia" for her regal bearing. Her children were terrorized and frequently beaten by Frederick William, who may have suffered from porphyria.[5][6][7]

Sophia Dorothea was interested in art, science, literature and fashion. She was not described as a beauty, and she was scarred from smallpox. She was regarded as proud and ambitious, but her spouse refused to allow her any influence, as it was his belief that women should be kept only for breeding, and that they should be kept submissive as they would otherwise dominate their husbands.[8]

It was the opinion of her daughter Wilhelmine that her father treated her mother unjustly. Frederick William disliked the interests of Sophia Dorothea, which he regarded to be frivolous, such as her interest in theater and gambling, and he also disliked what he regarded to be a life she lived independently from his authority. Her interest in gambling was particularly disliked by him, and it is reported that she and her partners had coffee beans ready on the table during gambling, so that if the king was to appear, they could pretend to be playing about them rather than money.[9] His manner toward her was described as rough, and he is noted to have used uncivil language toward her. His usual bad manners toward her were so noted that the opposite was seen as a surprise. In 1726 Sophia Dorothea inherited a sum of three million from her mother, and Frederick William was noted to suddenly treat her very well. This was regarded to be very unusual, and the Imperial ambassador reported that his changed behavior was merely because he wanted her money. When she never received it, because her brother refused to release the sum, Frederick William resumed his usual manner toward her.[10]

Frederick William disliked Sophia Dorothea's early ambition to have Frederick marry Princess Amelia of Great Britain and Wilhelmine marry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He also accused her of having damaged his relationship to their children, and therefore banned them from seeing her without his presence. This order the children did not respect, but met her in secret, which on at least one occasion caused Frederick and Wilhelmine to have to hide in the furniture in her rooms when Frederick William came to her room unexpectedly when they were there.[11]

She had a good relationship with her son, Frederick, later known as "Frederick the Great", who was very attached to her and deeply mourned her death. She spent many days talking to him in the library and was informed of his plans to escape from his father's custody in 1728. After he withdrew from the Prussian court, she corresponded with him from the fortress of Küstrin.

Queen Dowager

In 1740, her spouse died, and was succeeded by their son, Frederick the Great. Frederick had a very good relationship with his mother, and during his reign and until the death of his mother, he had her honored as queen and the first lady of his court, rather than as queen dowager, and placed before that of his spouse, the queen.[12]

When she died eighteen years after her son's accession, her death was described as a great blow to Frederick.



Notes and sources

  1. The Peerage – Sophie Dorothy
  2. John David Griffith Davies: A king in toils, L. Drummond, ltd., 1938
  3. The Education of the Enlightened Despots
  4. Reiners, Ludwig (Swedish): Fredrik den store (Fredrick the Great). Bokindustri Aktiebolag (1956) Stockholm
  5. W. F. Reddaway: Frederick the Great and the Rise of Prussia, READ BOOKS, 2008, ISBN 1-4437-2467-X
  6. Alexander J. Nemeth: Voltaire's tormented soul: a psychobiographic inquiry, Associated University Presse, 2008, ISBN 0-934223-92-0
  7. John David Griffith Davies: A king in toils, L. Drummond, ltd., 1938
  8. Thea Leitner: Skandal bei Hof. Ueberreuter, Wien 1993, ISBN 3-8000-3492-1.
  9. Reiners, Ludwig (Swedish): Fredrik den store (Fredrick the Great). Bokindustri Aktiebolag (1956) Stockholm
  10. Reiners, Ludwig (Swedish): Fredrik den store (Fredrick the Great). Bokindustri Aktiebolag (1956) Stockholm
  11. Reiners, Ludwig (Swedish): Fredrik den store (Fredrick the Great). Bokindustri Aktiebolag (1956) Stockholm
  12. Feuerstein-Praßer: Die preußischen Königinnen. 2009, S. 171.

Media related to Sophia Dorothea of Hanover at Wikimedia Commons

Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 26 March 1687 Died: 28 June 1757
German royalty
Preceded by
Sophia Louise of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Queen consort in Prussia
Succeeded by
Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern
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