The last time we touched on Caroline of Ansbach we were covering her and her husband’s horrific relationship with their eldest son, Prince Frederick of Wales. It’s a period of time in which Caroline is hardly shown in a positive light, but what makes this particular queen so difficult is that when you set that relationship aside, she was an incredibly compelling woman with any number of admirable qualities. Today, we’re going to cover her life leading up 1714, when her father-in-law, George I, ascended the British throne.
Few dynamics within the Royal Family are as strange as that between the monarch and heir. Never was this more abundantly clear than when George I came over from Germany in 1714 and established the House of Hanover. From that day on, a reliable tension has nearly always existed and arguably strains of it have been felt as late as the 20th century. To-date, the most chilling example of it has to be the relationship between George II and Caroline of Ansbach with their eldest son, Frederick, the Prince of Wales.
And so we turn now to one of my faves, Sophia of the Palatinate, a woman who, had she lived only a few weeks longer, would have succeeded Queen Anne on the throne. It is because of her that the House of Hanover was founded and she’s the line’s true matriarch, making her a direct ancestor to the current queen and the rest of today’s Royal Family.
The story of George I’s marriage to Sophia Dorothea of Celle sounds like the plot of fiction, or at the very least, as though it’s from another time. It’s a strange, barbaric tale, one which gave Great Britain its second ever divorced monarch. Unlike Henry VIII, George I never remarried, but he did found the House of Hanover. Sophia Dorothea would never be crowned queen, but her son would become George II and she is a direct ancestor of every British monarch since.
BBC’s History Extra published an article three years ago on George I and George II, the first monarchs of the House of Hanover, which stated:
In reality, George I and George II were just as excitingly dysfunctional as Henry VIII. Theirs was truly a dynasty, with plenty of children, giving us enough characters to fill out a whole soap opera. They were also reasonably good kings. They weren’t flashy or showy, but under them Britain could truly claim to have become ‘Great’.
The article correctly claims that the first two Georges are two of Britain’s forgotten kings. Indeed, their house would become famous for George III and Queen Victoria, and perhaps even more so for founding the line that would so closely link the Royal Family’s heritage with Germany.
But the real secret about the this time period and these reigns isn’t captured in the last sentence above, but the first. And it’s not that the Hannoverians were more dramatic than the Tudors, but rather that they were perhaps equally as brutal. Some of that is perhaps unfair, for the lives of men and women in the 18th century were better-recorded, at least for our purposes. The domestic dysfunction that has permeated the royal court for centuries is better gleaned through primary sources the closer we approach present day, and so, for better or for worse, the dirty laundry is more accessible.