Sophia of Hanover

Electress Sophia of Hanover (born Sophia, Countess Palatine of Simmern, at The Hague on October 14, 1630; died at Herrenhausen on June 8, 1714) was the youngest daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, of the House of Wittelsbach, the "Winter King" of Bohemia, and Elizabeth Stuart. She is also the mother of King George I of Great Britain and is therefore an ancestor of all who are in the line of succession to the British throne. As Electress Sophia she was the consort to Ernst August, Elector of Hanover.

Electress of Hanover

Before her marriage, Sophia, as the daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, was referred to as Sophie, Princess Palatine of the Rhine, or as Sophia of the Palatinate.

On September 30, 1658, she married Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, at Heidelberg, who in 1692 became the first Elector of Hanover. (Electors were princes who had the right to vote to elect the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.)

Sophia became a friend and admirer of Gottfried Leibniz while he was a courtier to the House of Brunswick, from 1676 until his death in 1716. This friendship resulted in a substantial correspondence, published in the 19th century (Onno 1973), that reveals Sophia to have been a woman of unusual intellectual ability and curiosity.

Sophia commissioned significant work on the Herrenhausen Gardens surrounding the palace at Herrenhausen and died there during an evening walk.

Heiress of Great Britain

Sophia plays an important role in British history and royal lineage. As the daughter of Elizabeth Stuart and the grand-daughter of James I of England/James VI of Scotland, she was the closest Protestant relative to King William III after his childless sister-in-law, Princess Anne. In 1701, the Act of Settlement made her heir presumptive, for the purpose of cutting off any claim by the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart, who would otherwise have become King James III, as well as denying the throne to many other Catholics who held a claim. The act restricts the British throne to the "Protestant heirs" of Sophia of Hanover who have never been Catholic and who have never married a Catholic. Presently there are almost 5,000 descendants of Sophia although not all are in the line of succession. The Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705 granted the right of British nationality to Sophia's non-Catholic descendants (though this has been modified by subsequent laws). [1]

Sophia would have inherited the throne and would have been crowned Queen of Great Britain if she had not died before Anne. She was widely expected to be Britain's next queen--though considerably older than Anne, she enjoyed much better health. Upon her death, Sophia's eldest son Elector Georg Ludwig of Hanover became heir presumptive in her place, and weeks later succeeded Queen Anne as King George I of Great Britain. Sophia's daughter Sophia Charlotte of Hanover (1668-1705) married Frederick I of Prussia, from whom the later Prussian kings and German emperors descend. The connection between the German emperors and the British royal family, which was renewed by several marriages in future generations, would become an issue during World War I.

Sophia had additional sons, none of whom had children. Those who reached adulthood were:

Notes and references

  1. ^ Picknett, Lynn, Prince, Clive, Prior, Stephen & Brydon, Robert (2002). War of the Windsors: A Century of Unconstitutional Monarchy, p. 206. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-631-3.

Other references

  • Klopp, Onno, ed., 1973 (1873). Correspondenz von Leibniz mit der Prinzessin Sophie. Hildesheim: Georg Olms. In French.


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