I'm delighted to welcome Catherine Curzon to my blog once again as she celebrates the publication of her new book, Kings of Georgian Britain. In this intriguing excerpt Catherine gives us a little insight into the relationship between the first King George and his new bride-to-be Sophia Dorothea of Celle. It's a fascinating article and I'm sure, like me, you'll want to know more!
‘I will not marry the pig snout!’
The Georgian era was glittering, revolutionary, and tumultuous. It was a time when the world changed, when the landscape of the United Kingdom was redrawn and when the Stuart dynasty, once the rulers of England, were pushed aside in favour of the House of Hanover. Yet the beginnings of that new British dynasty were far from secure, and from the very beginning, the marriage of the first King George was destined to end in tears.
George was not a king, not even a prince when, as a young man in Hanover, he was told that he was to marry his cousin, Sophia Dorothea of Celle. The two had never met yet their union would secure the House of Hanover in every sense of the word, uniting territories, swelling coffers and ensuring that no suitor from another family could claim the young lady’s hand, and her inheritance with it.
A marriage in which the groom’s mother takes a dislike to her future daughter-in-law is not uncommon, of course, and so it was with Sophia, the future Electress of Hanover and her son, George. Sophia had conspired to arrange the marriage for its many benefits, yet she was well aware of its many perceived flaws too. The mother of the bride, far from being a woman of impeccable credentials, was the polar opposite of what Sophia thought of as ideal, and she never let Sophia Dorothea forget it.
Éléonore Desmier d’Olbreuse, the mother of the bride, was a Huguenot of noble but not royal birth and her marriage to Sophia Dorothea’s father, George William, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, had been morganatic. Sophia Dorothea’s legitimacy at birth had been questionable at best and though the couple were later officially married and their daughter legitimised, it was hardly the perfect start in life for a future queen.
The future Electress of Hanover regarded her potential daughter-in-law with disdain and, perhaps, more than a touch of snobbery. Money is a tremendous leveller however, so Sophia agreed to the wedding despite her doubts.
She was not the only one to wonder if it was a good idea.
Upon being told of the planned nuptials, Sophia Dorothea smashed a miniature of George on the floor and howled, “I will not marry the pig snout!”. Think of Sophia Dorothea: spoiled, pampered, adored, the apple of her parents’ eyes. For sixteen years she had grown up in Celle, hearing grim stories of the austere and strict court of Hanover, the place where duty and ceremony trumped everything. She had been raised to believe that Sophia was a cold-hearted monster, her eldest son a joyless, humourless sourpuss despite his young age. Now that ill-humoured young man was to be her husband, his battleaxe mother was to be her mother-in-law and nobody was doing anything to stop the union.
On her first meeting with the sullen George, Sophia Dorothea fainted clean away, yet she couldn’t stay out cold forever and, on 22 November 1682, the couple were married. Despite Sophia Dorothea’s despair, at first things didn’t go as badly as we might suspect. She got on splendidly with her new father-in-law but the world of the Hanoverian court was bewildering and, assailed by protocol and the expectations of others, things began to weigh heavily on the young woman’s shoulders.
Sophia Dorothea and George put their differences aside long enough to produce not one but two children. They were George Augustus, who would later be famed to history as King George II, and a daughter, also named Sophia Dorothea. These were rare moments of happiness for the couple and as the years passed, their marriage descended into violence and hatred, it would eventually end in murder.
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Belsham, William. Memoirs of the Reign of George III to the Session of Parliament Ending AD 1793, Vol III. London: GG and J Robinson, 1801.
Benjamin, Lewis Saul. The First George in Hanover and England, Volume I. London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909.
Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.
Hatton, Ragnhild. George I. London: Thames and Hudson. 1978.
Morand, Paul. The Captive Princess: Sophia Dorothea of Celle. Florida: American Heritage Press, 1972.
Ward, Adolphus William. The Electress Sophia and Hanoverian Succession. London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1909.
Wilkins, William Henry. The Love of an Uncrowned Queen. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1900.
Wilkins, William Henry. A Queen of Tears. London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1904.
Williams, Robert Folkestone. Memoirs of Sophia Dorothea, Consort of George I, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn, 1845.
Williams, Robert Folkestone. Memoirs of Sophia Dorothea, Consort of George I, Vol II. London: Henry Colburn, 1845.
Catherine Curzon is a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at . Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton,
Lichfield Guildhall, he National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.
About the Book
For over a century of turmoil, upheaval and scandal, Great Britain was a Georgian land.
From the day the German-speaking George I stepped off the boat from Hanover, to the night that George IV, bloated and diseased, breathed his last at Windsor, the four kings presided over a changing nation.
Kings of Georgian Britain offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the four Georges and the events that shaped their characters and reigns. From love affairs to family feuds, political wrangling and beyond, peer behind the pomp and follow these iconic figures from cradle to grave. After all, being
a king isn’t always grand parties and jaw-dropping jewels, and sometimes following in a father’s footsteps can be the hardest job around.
Take a trip back in time to meet the wives, mistresses, friends and foes of the men who shaped the nation, and find out what really went on behind closed palace doors. Whether dodging assassins, marrying for money, digging up their ancestors or sparking domestic disputes that echoed down the generations, the kings of Georgian Britain were never short on drama.