George I: A King without a Queen
A RELUCTANT MONARCH
Upon the death of Queen Anne in 1714, when the crown of Great Britain passed over fifty closer aspirants (All Catholic), to the sole Protestant, the Elector of Hanover, he was in no great hurry to accept it. This German Princeling, who so reluctantly accepted “the throne of his ancestors” , didn’t even speak the English language.
When he finally arrrived months later in his adopted country, it was with a full German entourage in tow: his German chamberlains, German secretaries, his German speaking negro attendants, Mahmet and Mustafa, taken in the Turkish wars, and his two notoriously ugly German mistresses, Madames Kielsmansegge, and Madame Schulenburg (mocked by the English courtiers with the nicknames the elephant and the maypole).
A KING WITHOUT A QUEEN
Although he had legally married and sired offspring with his wife, George I came to the throne devoid of a queen by his side. His wife, you see, had been imprisoned for life in in the proverbial tower.
The marriage of George Louis of Hanover to his cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, was one of arrangement. By this union, family lands were united, and his prospective bride brought to Hanover an income of one hundred thousand thalers a year.
The Duchess Sophia wrote of the match to her niece Elizabeth Charlotte :
“One hundred thousand thalers a year is a goodly sum to pocket, without speaking of a pretty wife, who will find a match in my son George Louis, the most pigheaded, stubborn boy who ever lived, and who has round his brains such a thick crust that I defy any man or woman ever to discover what is in them. He does not care much for the match itself, but one hundred thousand thalers a year have tempted him as they would have tempted anybody else.”
When informed of her marriage plans, young Sophia Dorothea was said to have cried, “I will not marry the pig snout!” and threw her fiance’s miniature against the wall. Nevertheless, forced by her parents, the union proceeded with the spoiled princess fainting into her mother’s arms on her first meeting with her future husband.
The marriage, predictably, was an exceedingly unhappy one. The princess’ new mother-in-law, Duchess Sophia, hated and despised her, and her own feelings of contempt were shared by George himself, who was oddly formal to his bride. The two had loud and bitter arguments, though matters seemed to improve after their first two children were born (a son named George Augustus in 1683 and a daughter named after her in 1686). But soon after, George Louis acquired a mistress, Melusina von Schulenburg and pointedly neglected his wife. When his parents asked him to be more circumspect in his affair, (fearful that a disruption in the marriage would disrupt the hundred thousand thalers), he went out of his way to treat his wife brutally.
The couple became estranged—George preferring the company of his mistress to his wife. Meanwhile, Sophia Dorothea had her own intrigue with a Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck with whom she conspired to elope. Shortly thereafter, her presumed lover was brutally murdered.
The marriage was dissolvedon the grounds that Sophia Dorothea had abandoned her husband, and she was subsequently imprisoned in the Castle of Ahlden in her native Celle. Denied access to her children and father, forbidden to remarry, and only allowed to walk unaccompanied within the castle courtyard, or ride in her carriage under armed escort, she remained for thirty years until her death.
George II was very disturbed by the imprisonment of his mother, and it was accounted one of the reasons behind the state of mutual hatred between him and his father.
A ROYAL CURSE
Immediately prior to her death, Sophia wrote a letter to her husband, cursing him from beyond the grave. At word of her demise, George didn’t allow for mourning in Hanover or London, and was enraged when his daughter’s court in Berlin wore black. Her body was deposited in the castle’s cellar, until quietly moved to Celle in May 1727 to be buried beside her parents. Much disturbed by the prophecy that he would die shortly after his wife, George I indeed passed away four weeks later, while in his traveling chariot on the Hanover road.
The superstitious King had sworn to revisit his favorite mistress after his death. When a large raven flew into her window at Twickenham, she regarded it a reincarnation of the king, caring for and weeping over it for the remainder of her life.
- Historian goes behind palace doors (boston.com)