The Quarrelsome House of Hanover
Since their arrival in Britain on the 18th of September 1714, the two George’s from mainland Europe attracted scrutiny, comment, and sometimes ridicule as they engaged in what amounted to an eighteenth-century public relations war with each other.
The barely concealed loathing between royals George I (1660-1727) and George, Prince of Wales, later George II (1683-1760) was a gift to the unrestricted press that they had inherited from a Queen-Anne-era administrative oversight. Spats, evictions from palaces, slights, and political disputes were reported to the public’s amazement and the chagrin of the warring Georges.
Their dynasty ruled because they were Protestant and the remaining Stuarts were Catholic. The House of Hanover was seen as the least undesirable of the two choices. The new king and his heir’s activities threatened to destabilize Britain. The politician Robert Walpole, who became the first Prime Minister of Britain in 1721, played a pivotal role in rescuing the Hanoverian men’s public standing.
The Root of the Rift
It began with a show of spectacular hypocrisy from the unfaithfully married and bullying George senior or Georg Ludwig when he was still waiting to become the Elector of Hanover and Britain's throne wasn't even in his eye-line. He discovered that his wife of twelve years, his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle was possibly having an affair with a handsome Swedish soldier named Count Philip Christoph von Konigsmarck. Although they had completed their dynastic duty and had two children Sophia Dorothea felt as little love for George as he did for her.
She was more popular and sociable than him, during an argument he had once been pulled away by servants as he attacked her. George was far happier in the arms of his mistress Melusine. (Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenberg.) He placed restrictions on his wife so that he could be the focus of attention at events rather than her. Following tradition, he shouldn't have cared whether Sophia Dorothea was unfaithful or not given his record as a husband and her success as a diplomat in court. He was incensed.
Count Philip Christoph's Disappearance
On the night of the 11th of July 1694, as Konigsmarck made his way through the Leine Castle to help her to escape the restrictions of life with George at court, the soldier disappeared. The most likely scenario is that Konigsmarck was murdered either by George or his men. A courtier was paid 150000 thalers around the time of the disappearance, a gargantuan sum.
Konigsmarck was probably thrown into the Leine River beside the castle. A body found between the floors at the castle centuries later was set in quick lime and was swiftly suspected of being Konigsmarck but there was no way to identify him without a doubt.
Sophia Dorothea's Punishment
Sophia Dorothea waited in vain for her friend and possible lover to arrive. She was permanently dismayed. From that time in 1694 until her death she denied that she had had an affair with Konigsmarck. The count's disappearance became the talk of European courts and posed diplomatic issues. France and Poland sent investigators to find the count and to question the Hanoverians. No progress was made.
George had Sophia Dorothea banished from court and he subsequently divorced her. She was casually cast as the villain of the situation. She was judged as lacking moral fiber, deserting her husband and her sacred marriage vows. The court of Hanover was happy to indulge George in his fight to rid himself of such a wife. It was conveniently forgotten that George was not the best husband in the electorate.
Churches no longer prayed for her as she was placed under house arrest at Lauenau Castle before being moved to the remote Ahlden Castle under guard. This was with the full agreement of her father, uncle, ex-husband, and mother-in-law. She was legally never allowed to marry again or to see her children. An annual allowance was paid to her but George took all the assets that she brought to their marriage.
A Family Torn Apart
By the age of eleven, the future George II and his seven-year-old sister Sophia Dorothea were permanently separated from their mother. They were not permitted to say her name or to talk about her. George, the father, was of the opinion that his word was law and that his children owed him total obedience about their mother, and everything else.
With one parent locked away and another who was uncaring and disinterested in their upbringing, it was not surprising that George became resentful and blamed George senior for the heartache that he, his sister, and his mother suffered. Young George appreciated that his mother was not perfect but she was his mother and she should have been in his life.
George senior continued to spend time with Melusine and the three daughters she bore him. Young George and Sophia Dorothea's upbringing was managed by their grandmother Sophia of Hanover (1630-1714.)
George Versus George in 1714
By 1714 George junior was skilled in several languages, enjoyed and encouraged spectacles, pomp, and ceremony, and tried to woo the people by telling them, albeit in a heavy Germanic accent, that he had "not a drop of blood in his veins that was not English." He was married with small children. Caroline and his daughters were set to join him within weeks of his arrival.
In contrast, George I's arrival in England with a mistress on one arm and his half-sister on the other, who many assumed was a second mistress, could not compensate for having a queen consort. Hanover was seen as a backwater and he was nicknamed the Turnip King.
George I was aloof, a soldier who was ill-equipped in diplomacy and whose command of English was poor. He was still as unsociable as in his Hanover days and rumors about his conduct towards his ex-wife had reached his new country.
George and Caroline were the hope for the future. Their seven-year-old son Fredrich remained in Hanover as a token of affection to the Hanoverians. When he finally came to England aged twenty-one, the parents and son had so little in common that they were strangers who became enemies. Sounds familiar.
As Voltaire said: "History never repeats itself. Man always does."
Hadlow, Janice. (2015). The Strangest Family. Harper Collins
Gold, Claudia. (2012). The King's Mistress. Quercus Publishing
- Sophia Dorothea of Celle - The Prisoner of Ahlden - History of Royal Women
- Sophia of Hanover - Heiress of Great Britain - History of Royal Women
- George I | king of Great Britain | Britannica
George I, elector of Hanover (1698–1727) and first Hanoverian king of Great Britain (1714–27). George Louis of Brunswick-Lüneburg was the son of Ernest Augustus, elector of Hanover, and Sophia of the Palatinate, a granddaughter of King James I of Eng
- George II | Biography, Successor, & Facts | Britannica
George II, king of Great Britain and elector of Hanover from 1727 to 1760. Although he possessed sound political judgment, his lack of self-confidence caused him to rely heavily on his ministers, most notable of whom was Sir Robert Walpole. Learn mor
© 2021 Joanne Hayle