Saturday 14 October 2017

Sophie, Princess Palatine of the Rhine. Born on This Day, 1630.

Sophie of Hanover
Sophie of the Palatinate, electress of Hanover,
in her younger days.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On this day in 1630, a daughter was born to Frederick V of the Palatinate by Elizabeth Stuart (also known as the "Winter King and Queen of Bohemia" for their short rule in that country). She was named Sophia, her name apparently, being "pulled out of a hat, her parents having run out of relations who needed to be flattered by having a child named after them."

Fifty years later, when she sat down to write her memoirs, she recorded the impression that "as I was the twelfth fruit of the King, my father and the Queen, my mother, I believe that my birth did not cause them any great joy, other than that I no longer occupied the post that I had held."

At birth, she was granted an annuity of 40 thalers by the Estates of Friesland, while three high-born ladies named Sophia (the Princess Palatine of Birkenfield, the Countess of Coulenberg and Madame de Brederode, Countess of Nassau-Dietz) were found to act as godmothers.

Until her marriage, in 1658 to Ernest Augustus, Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg, she would be known as Sophie, Princess Palatine of the Rhine, or as Sophia of the Palatinate. In 1692 her husband became the first Elector of Hanover and she herself went by the title of Sophia, Electress of Hanover between 1692 and 1698.

Under the terms of the Act of Settlement, passed by the Parliament of England in 1701, she became heiress presumptive to the crowns of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Ireland (subsequently, the unified throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain following the Acts of Union 1707).

Sophie von der Pfalz als Indianerin
Sophia, dressed as an Indian.
Painted by her sister (circa 1644), Louise Hollandine
of the Palatinate
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The key excerpt from the Act of Settlement, naming Sophia as heir presumptive reads:
Therefore for a further Provision of the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line We Your Majesties most dutifull and Loyall Subjects the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons in this present Parliament assembled do beseech Your Majesty that it may be enacted and declared and be it enacted and declared by the Kings most Excellent Majesty by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by the Authority of the same That the most Excellent Princess Sophia Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Hannover Daughter of the most Excellent Princess Elizabeth late Queen of Bohemia Daughter of our late Sovereign Lord King James the First of happy Memory be and is hereby declared to be the next in Succession in the Protestant Line to the Imperiall Crown and Dignity of the forsaid Realms of England France and Ireland with the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging after His Majesty and the Princess Anne of Denmark and in Default of Issue of the said Princess Anne and of His Majesty respectively.

She died less than two months before she would have become queen. Her claim to the throne thus passed to her eldest son, George Louis, Elector of Hanover, who ascended as George I on 1 August 1714 (Old Style).

Source Material:

Thursday 8 June 2017

Sophia of Hanover (1630-1714): a woman for all times and all seasons

Kurfuerstin Sophie
Sophia as dowager Electress of Hanover,
around the time she was proclaimed heir
presumptive of the British crown.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On a day that electors across Great Britain and Northern Ireland go to the polls in what may well prove to be an historic plebiscite for the UK, another event is recalled, which marked a significant milestone in the history and evolution of that United Kingdom.

Sophia of the Palatinate (commonly referred to as Sophia of Hanover – she was Electress of Hanover from 1692 to 1698) died on this day (June 8) in 1714, less than two months before she would have ascended to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain, to which she became heir presumptive under the Act of Settlement 1701.

In her biography, Sophia of Hanover: Winter Princess (2010), author, J.N. Duggan suggests that Sophia deserves greater recognition than has hitherto been accorded to her: as a certain link in the lineage of the British Crown. She was, in fact, "an exceptional woman in her own right, remarkable both for her open-minded and down-to-earth character and for her writings, which have been sadly neglected."

"She occupied a ringside seat at the cockpit of continental politics." She was also a gifted chronicler, corresponding with many influential and/or well-placed people of her day. Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) and John Toland (1670-1722) were among the writers and philosophers whom she sponsored.

Fortunately, much of this correspondence has survived to provide "a wonderful glimpse of life as it was for the ruling classes of her time". In addition to her "insider's view of many of the main military and political events of her time", she also paints a picture that people today would find uncomfortable – freezing castles and smoking chimneys, rickety carriages and muddy roads and "harshest of all, the demands of etiquette, which kept her standing for over an hour, listening to her brother, the Elector, while she was in labour with her fourth son."

Upon Sophia's death, her eldest son, Elector George Louis of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1660-1727), became heir presumptive to the British throne and succeeded Queen Anne (1665-1714), who died within a few short weeks of Sophia's passing. His descendants have occupied the throne down to the present time.

Sophia of Hanover: Winter Princess by J.N. Duggan is published by Peter Owen Publishers and available to buy online in print and e-book editions. Further information available from the author's website.

Milestones and Anniversaries