Page images
PDF
EPUB

burg. The pertinacious father is said hereupon to have attempted to secure the hand of the heiress for his next surviving son-five years of age at the date of his elder brother's death; but the acceptance of these overtures was postponed. Henry Casimir of Nassau-Dietz, the young Hereditary Governor of Friesland, and first cousin to William III. of Orange, seems likewise to have proffered his suit; and there was a mention of the name of Prince George of Denmark, afterwards the consort of Princess Anne of England. Gradually, however, a scheme of dynastic ambition was preparing itself, which in the end became inevitable, like the engine at the door. The earliest mention of this scheme in the correspondence of the Duchess of Orleans with her aunt, dates as far back as November 1677, when she profanely denounces it as a sin against the Holy · Ghost,' but scarcely seems to look upon it as imminent. When next she refers to it, at the close of a long letter dated November 1682, she already treats the match between Sophia Dorothea and her cousin, the Hereditary Prince George Lewis of Hanover, as an accomplished fact. Only too palpably the double purpose of the scheme was to bring about the ultimate union of all the territories of the Brunswick-Lüneburg line, and to replenish the coffers exhausted by the prodigality of Duke Ernest Augustus. But we cannot accept the narrative of the proceedings by which he is said to have accomplished his twofold end; for though it reappears with all the freshness of fact in Mr. Wilkins's pages, it is demonstrably derived, through the medium of the imaginary conversations compiled by the ingenious Major Müller, from the perennial · Roman Octavia."* The entire tragi-comedy of the night-journey to Celle of the Duchess Sophia, reconciled, perforce, at the last moment in the interests of the dynasty to the idea of her son's marriage

by the prodi the narrativeished his two

* Major Müller, who in 1840 had, under the name of “Moller,' published the German ‘Short Narrative of my Misfortunes and Imprisonment, by the Princess Dora von Aquilon,' which Count Schulenburg believed to be a genuine, though late and inaccurate, product of Sophia Dorothea's hand, in 1845 put forth the English *Memoirs of Sophia Dorothea' (afterwards translated into German). The second volume of this book consists of a 'Diary of Conversations, illustrative of the story of the Princess, and professing to have been composed by herself. They begin · at Breda in 1665, and end at Berlin in 1724. Major Müller, who was for a time librarian to the Duke of Cambridge, had free access to the Hanover archives, and, as is otherwise known, made free use of them.

and in the speille, the Marquiser, to his side,,, who hoped in-law. In the civilities shoe Duchess Elecromote the materis

with Eleonora's daughter, and of her matutinal triumph in persuading George William, within the hearing of Eleonora in the next room, to declare his assent to the match, must be set down as mere invention. Active negotiations concerning the marriage project had been in progress at Celle ever since the succession of Ernest Augustus at Hanover on the death of his brother, John Frederick, in December 1679, had led to an increase of cordiality between the two Courts, which now divided the whole of the Brunswick-Lüneburg dominions. The new Duke and Duchess of Hanover, by the express advice of William of Orange, at once recognised the ducal title of Eleonora.* In 1680 Lewis XIV., who hoped to bring both the Dukes over to his side, instructed his minister at Celle, the Marquis d'Arcy, to promote the match, and in the spring of 1681 the Duchess Eleonora spoke to the Marquis of the civilities shown to her of late by her sisterin-law. In the same year de Gourville, charged with a special mission to the Brunswick Dukes in order to detach them from the Dutch alliance, was expressly instructed by de Croissy, in case • Monsieur d’Osnabrück’should take the King's side, to make himself agreeable both at Hanover and at Celle by doing what he could to promote the match if it were feasible. To be sure, Lewis XIV. afterwards disavowed de Gourville's proceedings, and seems to have appreciated d’Arcy's hint that, if the marriage were concluded, the influence of Ernest Augustus over George William would become paramount, and that this would be contrary to the interest of France.f Shortly afterwards, the marriage was urged by the respective estates of Celle-Lüneburg and of Calenberg (Hanover), who had formerly alike opposed the union of these principalities, but now concurred in recommending it, and (whether inspired or not) declared that if the match was made they would agree to the establishment of the principle of primogeniture--one of the cardinal points of Ernest Augustus's dynastic policy. Yet there is nothing to show that George William and his

lest and that after delle

* To this advice the recognition is expressly attributed by the Duchess of Orleans (“ Briefe, &c.,' vol. i. p. 228), who doggedly deduces from it the ruin of Eleonora's daughter.

+ See de Gourville's Mémoires,' vol. ii. pp. 102 sqq., and introduction; and cf. H. de Beaucaire, ch. vi.

See Schaumann, 'Sophia Dorothea, &c.,' pp. 38 sqq. The law of primogeniture actually received the imperial sanction in July 1683, though it was only made public in the Brunswick-Lüneburg dominions as part of the last will of Ernest Augustus.

VOL. CXCIII. NO. CCCXCV.

duchess needed any pressure in the matter either from within or from without, or that their hesitations had reference to anything but the pecuniary conditions on which the negotiation so largely turned. The goodwill of George William was finally shown by his consenting to an arrangement in spite of his daughter's prospective wealth, left her, as Mr. Wilkins is not far from the mark in saying, without any settlement in the modern sense

of the term. To Ernest Augustus the Celle government had, in the middle of 1679, or even earlier, promised, should he approve of the match, a large immediate sum (as to the amount of which there ensued some haggling), with an annual allowance for the next six years; moreover, his future sovereignty over Celle and control of its army were to be at once formally acknowledged.

The wedding of George Lewis and Sophia Dorothea, celebrated at Celle * in November 21, 1681, was sung by Leibniz in indifferent French verse, which is unlikely to have impressed George Lewis. Nothing is known of his earlier married life. But inasmuch as till near its close he continued the active military career which brought him the only laurels valued by him, his long absences abroad must have helped to keep him estranged from Sophia Dorothea, while leaving her exposed to the contagion of the license around her. During his sojourns at home, he chiefly gave himself up to hunting; the amours into which he lapsed cannot during his earlier married life have been of an absorbing character. Sophia Dorothea bore him two children-George Augustus, afterwards King George II., in 1683, and Sophia Dorothea, afterwards Queen of Prussia, and mother of Frederick the Great, in 1687. .

We shall certainly not imitate the late Mr. J. M. Kemble in suggesting inferences as to the character of Sophia Dorothea from the portraits which remain of her, and which, together with the contemporary notices both of admirers and of censors, show her to have been graceful and pretty beyond the common.f Nor are we anxious to decide

* Maurice de Saxe, in the extract from his Memoirs reproduced by Weber from the Dresden Archives (Aus vier Jahrhunderten,' vol. ij. Leipzig, 1858), makes it take place at Hanover, and Königsmarck put in a melodramatic appearance on the occasion !

† The most pleasing of her portraits known to us is the Herrenhausen picture reproduced by Mr. Wilkins as his frontispiece. He also engraves the far legs attractive Strawberry Hill drawing, which had already been published in the worthless. Memoirs of the

whether, apart from the Königsmarck scandal, there were grounds for the charge of levity of conduct persistently brought against her by her detractors. Letters written by the Duchess Sophia in 1684 and 1685 show her to have mistrusted both the smiles and the tears of her daughter-in-law, and to have looked upon her as an unsatisfactory example for her lively cousin, Sophia Charlotte ; but notwithstanding the prejudices of the elder lady, the tone of her strictures at this time is not particularly serious.* The story of an amour supposed to have been carried on at Rome in the winter of 1685-6 between Sophia Dorothea and the Marquis de Lassaye is founded on the evidence of the letters which that squire of dames professed to have then addressed to her, and which he unchivalrously printed in his old age (1738), together with certain calumnious ex. pressions concerning her with which he gratified the Ducbess of Orleans shortly after the catastrophe of 1694. The noteworthy points in the story are that Duke Ernest Augustus's Italian party, which Sophia Dorothea by his invitation joined at Venice, included his mistress Countess von Platen, and her sister Frau von dem Bussche, one of the ladies favoured by George Lewis, who had himself arrived from Hungary in the autumn; that the Prince was prevented from going on with the Court to Rome; and that during this latter part of her Italian sojourn, the only lady in attendance upon the Princess was Fräulein von dem Knesebeck, who according to Lassaye was the confidante of his intrigue.f

Notwithstanding the birth, on March 16, 1687, of Sophia Dorothea's daughter, it is probable that after her return from Italy she became more and more estranged from the Prince. It is unnecessary to find a date to suit the

Princess of Zell' (2 vols., 1796), of which there is a copy in the Grenville Library in the British Museum. Kemble ( State Papers, &c.,' p. 34 note) mentions a third, which he describes as excellent, belonging to the Grote family at Hanover. Neigebaur cites a description of her personal attractions from the · Mercure Galant' (Paris, 1684). The Duchess of Orleans repeatedly refers to her prettiness, and quotes Lassaye to the same effect.

* See her letters to Frau von Harling, printed by Bodemann in • Zeitschrift des histor. Vereins fiir Niedersachsen,' 1895.

† As to the whole episode see Dr. Bodemann's inquiry in the same · Zeitschrift,' 1890, where Lassaye's letters and his confidences to the Duchess of Orleans are printed at length. See also the same author's monograph, 'J. H. von Ilten' (Hanover, 1879).

assertion of the relentless Duchess of Orleans, that after Sophia Dorothea's return she attracted the attentions of the 'Raugraf' Charles Lewis, and that in order to escape from her wiles he took service against the Turks in the Morea, where he met with his death in 1688. During part of 1686 Prince George Lewis was campaigning against the same foe; and it seems to have been after his return home that the ascendency of his mistresses became more and more noticeable. One of these was Frau von dem Bussche, afterwards Frau von Weyhe, the sister of his father's mistress, who from 1689 enjoyed the title of Countess Platen. Another was Melusina von der Schulenburg (the Duchess of Kendal of later days), maid of honour to his mother; but though she was already much favoured by him, her influence can hardly have reached its height before the time of his divorce, and there is no likelihood that it was obtrusively asserted. Finally, there are only faint traces at this time of the interest which Countess Platen's ambitious daughter, Frau von Kielmannsegge (afterwards Countess of Darlington), was to call forth in the Prince. Doubtless the Princess had failed to imbibe her mother-in-law's philosophy which included in the whole duty of a wife the toleration of a husband's errors ; nor if such advice was tendered could it have been made more acceptable by the frigidity of its source. Even without crediting the legends as to the brutal ill-treatment of Sophia Dorothea it is easy to account for the unhappiness which, when nearer the crisis of her career, she is known to have expressed.* The restraints imposed upon her in the midst of surroundings in which there was much to mislead and nothing to sustain her, could not but make her restive and unhappy; and least of all could she care for the schemes of dynastic ambition to which she knew herself to have been sacrificed. There is no reason for accepting the statement of the fabricated • Memoirs of Sophia Dorothea,' that an attempt was made to implicate her in a desperate attempt to run counter to this ambition. Prince Maximilian William, the third of the Duchess Sophia's sons, had at first acquiesced in the principle of primogeniture; but after the death of the second brother, Frederick Augustus, took up the struggle

* In his report to the divorce tribunal Vice-Chancellor Hugo quoted her saying that she would rather be a marquise' in France than Electoral Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg. (This she only became in 1692. Her melancholy letter, ap. Cramer, vol. i. pp. 30 sqq., also belongs to a relatively late date.)

« PreviousContinue »