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Sophia of Hanover

Sophia, painted by her sister Louise c1644
Sophia, painted by her sister Louise c1644

Sophia of Hanover was born on 14th October 1630, in the Wassaener Hof in The Hague, where her parents were exiled during the thirty years war. Her father, Frederick of Bohemia and mother, Elizabeth Stuart, only surviving daughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England already had eleven children.

During her young years, Sophia was courted by her cousin King Charles II in the hope of a betrothal but nothing became of the courtship. Sophia instead married Ernest Augustus of Brunswick at the age of 27, quite late for a woman of the period. The marriage was successful, although Ernest was known to have a bad temper and be quite jealous, and Sophie was known to have loved her husband. They had seven surviving children together, six sons and a daughter; a seventh son, twin of Maximilian was stillborn.

Sophia was known to be an intelligent, well-educated woman, well versed and a patron of the Arts. She sponsored philosophers Gottleib and Toland, and corresponded with a large number of people. Sophia’s lasting mark on her home at Herrenhausen were the improvements she made to the house and garden, which survive to this day. Sophia wrote often to her children when away from home, and took an unusually high interest in their upbringing and education.
After forty years of marriage, in 1698, Ernest Augustus passed away, succeeded by his eldest son, George. Two years later, Sophia met her cousin William III of England who had ruled as joint monarch with his wife Mary II until her death in 1694. Shortly before their meeting, his nephew, Prince William, only surviving son of his mother Anne’s seventeen children died suddenly aged eleven. Anne, a woman of ill health, who suffered from Lupus, was William’s only heir, as his marriage with Mary had produced no children.

William died in 1702, and the English throne passed to Anne. Parliament made moves during negotiations to unite England with Scotland in the preceding and following years, to secure not just a Protestant succession to the throne but to ensure Scotland did not exercise their right to choose their own monarch. The Act of Succession of 1701, named Sophia as the next legitimate heir.

Sophia, c1701
Sophia, c1701

Plans were put forward to bring the now elderly Sophia to London, in anticipation of keeping the momentum of the Monarchy, but Anne, now Queen refused the move, quite possibly out of jealousy of the much more elegant and refined Sophia, claiming that two Courts in one country was unacceptable.

In June 1714, Anne allegedly wrote an angry letter to Sophia, causing her much distress, which manifested itself physically in the now very old lady. Two days later, on the 8th, a still poorly Sophia was caught out in a sudden rain shower whilst walking in her gardens. She ran to a nearby shelter where she collapsed and died aged 83. She was interred in the crypt of the Leineschloss, alongside her husband and other members of the family, later being transferred into the Berggarten Mausoleum, Herrenhausen which was built following the almost complete destruction of the Leineschloss during bombing raids by the Royal Air Force in World War Two.

Anne died just a few weeks later aged 49. Had Anne died first, Sophia would have officially been the oldest person ever to have inherited the English throne. Instead her son, George found himself with the crown of Great Britain as King George I. The 111 year long reign of the Stuart line was over, the Hanover’s turn had come.