Dominant Facts About Sophia Dorothea, The Tormented Queen

June 7, 2023 | Nur Karageldi

Dominant Facts About Sophia Dorothea, The Tormented Queen

Nobody in Prussia caused as much drama as Sophia Dorothea of Hanover. Despite being right in the middle of a feud between her husband and her son, she was the one who controlled the country behind closed doors.

Queen Sophia Dorothea of Hanover Facts

1. She Was Born Into Drama

On March 16, 1687, Sophia Dorothea opened her eyes for the first time. Little did she know that her family was the elite of the elite. Her father eventually became King George I of Great Britain, and her brother was waiting in the wings for the throne. Unfortunately, though, her family's scandals were just as elite as their name.

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2. She Had Mommy Issues

When Sophia was just a little girl, her family imploded in the most dramatic way. Her parents had been deeply unhappy together, and her mother began having an affair with a courtier. In a fit of brutal revenge, Sophia's dear old dad had the lover killed...then locked up his wife for the rest of her life. Welcome to the 17th century people, it's dark here.

Poor little Sophia had to grow up without a mother and a hefty fear of her father. Full disclosure—the family ties were about to become messier.

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3. Her Cousin Liked Her A Bit Too Much

While little Sophia was living in Hanover, she was naturally around a lot of cousins and other family members. One cousin, in particular, kept coming into her orbit: Frederick William, the heir apparent to the Prussian throne. Reportedly, while Sophia wanted little to do with Frederick, he wanted everything to do with her.

Yes, Frederick was giving “creepy kid who had a crush on his cousin” vibes. This wouldn't end well for poor Sophia.

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4. She Had A Powerful Charm

As time passed and the time for Frederick's marriage approached, his family gave him two options for a potential bride—Sophia, and some other woman who didn't have a chance. After all, Frederick was still nursing an enormous crush on our girl. He picked her instantly, ignoring any opposition from his family. But Sophia still had a lot to prove.

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5. She Was Fashionable

Frederick was going to be the King of Prussia, and Sophia's family knew they had to match his pomp and circumstance. They knew just what to do. Sophia's grandmother sent over one of her nieces to Paris to get Sophia the best trousseau—the clothing a bride brought with her into a marriage—money could buy.

It worked a treat. Sophia's clothing leading up to and after the wedding is still talked about today as some of the best fashion around. Then again, Sophia herself helped...

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6. She Was Attractive

Around this time, Sophia really was that girl. Although people didn't necessarily consider her a perfect 10 in looks, she had a tall, slim beauty that was nonetheless mega attractive. Plus, she had charm to spare. Frederick, meanwhile...was not so fortunate, at least not in the charm department. In fact, he was hiding some dark secrets.

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7. Her Suitor Had A Short Fuse

Even as a young man, it was clear that Frederick had a nasty temper. He was prone to fits of physical violence and would often attack his servants with a cane in a rage. That was far from all. He also had an obsession with the military, and spent most of his waking moments planning how to upgrade his army. Oh, and he was an infamous Scrooge with money.

If this sounds like a bad foundation for a husband, you'd be right. Poor Sophia was in for it.

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8. Her Marriage Wasn’t Worth The Trouble

Sophia had never been head over heels for Frederick, which made their enormously expensive and long wedding almost unbearable. In 1706, Frederick—in a smarmy fashion—welcomed Sophia outside city gates of his family's home court in Berlin. After that, Sophia had to sit through six weeks of celebrations—tributary dances, banquets, balls, you name it.

The entire time, Sophia was probably hoping she would find something to like about the man she was now supposed to spend the rest of her life with. Well, the opposite happened.

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9. Her Husband Judged Her

When the wedding jingles were over, Sophia and her husband faced a harsh truth. Besides any personality issues, the two of them were just completely different people. Sophia was an energetic soul who loved entertainment and arts—unlike her grumpy husband, who regarded such tendencies as “frivolous”.

This was no small problem, either. In the wake of the marriage, Frederick almost made a life-changing decision.

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10. Her Marriage Almost Went Up In Flames

The very same year they married, Sophia and Frederick went through a crisis. Frederick could sense that Sophia wasn't “all-in” with the idea of marrying him, so the spoiled royal quite nearly called it all off and divorced her. After all, he was the man in the relationship, and if she wasn't going to love him, why should he love her?

Perhaps the divorce would have gone ahead and saved them both a lot of pain...except a surprise event interfered with it.

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11. She Took A Short Cut To Power

Just on the precipice of becoming a divorcee, Sophia got some immense news: She was pregnant. More than that, the year after her wedding, she gave birth to a male heir, Frederick Louis. This was no mean feat, either. The show of fertility and a boy gave Sophia immense political power in Prussia, and it also changed her marriage's whole dynamic. For a time, anyway. Because tragedy was coming.

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12. Her Womb Was Doomed

In 1708, Sophia's went through a true nightmare.That year, her infant son Frederick Louis passed, causing her untold grief while lowering her in the eyes of the court. But that was just the beginning. As if that weren't enough, doctors told her she wouldn't be able to conceive again, and thus couldn't give Prussia any more heirs.

In the blink of an eye, Sophia's fairytale life turned upside down, and her position in the royal family was more fragile than ever. And then came the twist.

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13. She Proved Everyone Wrong

Sophia's fertility predicament threw the royal court into a turmoil, even prompting her middle-aged father-in-law to remarry in a desperate bid to get those male heirs. But Sophia was no quitter, and she proved all the doctors wrong. Not only did she conceive and give birth to a daughter the very next year, in 1712 she gave birth to another healthy baby boy, also named Frederick and nicknamed Fritz.

In fact, Sophia would go on to give birth to a mind-boggling total of 14 children. But as soon as this trouble wrapped up, her real problems began.

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14. She Became A Queen

As it turned out, Sophia's production of a male heir happened none too soon. The year after Fritz was born, Sophia became Queen of Prussia on the heels of her father-in-law's passing. It quickly turned into a heavy responsibility. Prussia at the time was in open war with Sweden, and her husband was ankle-deep in battles. But this is where Sophia shone.

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15. She Was His Right-Hand Woman

Sophia was intelligent, savvy, and bold, and she wasted no time jumping into the fray. She accompanied Frederick on campaigns until one of her many pregnancies brought her back to Berlin. Even there, Frederick trusted her so completely that he insisted that his ministers defer all decisions to his wife while he was away on the field. Only, this was a double-edge sword.

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16. She Was A Threat To Her Husband

As time passed, Sophia's husband began having dark thoughts. He realized that on second thought, no, he didn't like having a powerful wife at all. He grew to resent her participation in politics and her grand ambitions, and eventually insisted that women were only good for breeding and submission.

For a brief time, it had seemed like Sophia and Frederick could work out their differences. Now the wheels fell off.

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17. Her King Was A Monster

Frederick had always had a nasty temper, but during this time he turned downright terrifying. Filled with insecurity about his masculinity, his rage-induced attacks now expanded to include not just his servants but also his own children, especially if he felt they were being too idle—a quality the macho king despised.

At his worst, Frederick would now even accost random people in the street if they looked too lazy to him. Yes, really. Aghast, Sophia acted out the only way she knew how.

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18. Her Looks Changed Drastically

Sophia had once been slim and pretty, but her marriage to Frederick didn't make her feel much like presenting herself as the "perfect" wife. So, she let herself go. A bout of smallpox had already marked up her skin, and now she gained weight with relish. Don't worry, she still kept her graceful bearing, earning her the nickname "Olympia"...but Frederick was not pleased, and he showed it.

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19. He Punished Her Behavior

Frederick had always been miserly with money, and he now insisted on keeping the palace pantries meagerly supplied. Was it a coincidence that this way, he could also control what Sophia ate? Probably not. In fact, Sophia had to scrounge up money from others just to be able to have an omelet for her supper. Unfortunately, that wasn't her only issue with money.

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20. She Started Having Secrets

We've established that Sophia's husband was horrific, but she had some toxic traits herself. For one, she was a restless gambler, much to her Scrooge husband's disgust. Then again, that was probably what attracted her to gambling in the first place. Still, Sophia tried to hide it from Frederick any way she could, including pretending to play with coffee beans instead of money whenever he was in the room.

One day, though, she took her rebellion too far.

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21. She Was A Party Girl

Gambling wasn't Sophia's only way of defying her husband. She lived the good life any way she could, often throwing lavish parties whenever the king was ill and thus sure not to be around. At one such ball, Sophia was in the middle of dancing and gambling with her most expensive jewels on her neck. Then it all fell apart. She turned towards the entrance and saw the last face she expected.


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22. Her Husband Busted Her

Suddenly, Sophia saw her husband arriving at her ball. Dumbstruck and terrified, she immediately ordered the servants to stop the music and dancing. Meanwhile, she tried to unclasp her jewels and hide them so her money-obsessed husband wouldn't freak out.

Clearly, the Prussian court needed a change. It was about to get one.


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23. She Was A Millionaire

In 1726, decades into her marriage, Sophia got word that her mother—you know, the one her father locked up—had finally passed. Given the turmoil surrounding the matron, Sophia likely had mixed feelings about the situation...but it did come with a huge plus. Thanks to her inheritance, Sophia had three million big ones coming to her. Her husband's response, however, was bizarre.

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24. Her Husband Was A Gold Digger

Ever since he'd realized that his wife didn't adore him, Frederick had treated Sophia coarsely at best. But he underwent a disturbing transformation. Now that she looked to be wealthy in her own right, the miserly Frederick suddenly began treating Sophia with a tenderness no one knew he possessed. But what followed was absolutely appalling.

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25. He Betrayed Her

In the end, thanks to some family finagling, Sophia never saw a single cent of the money her mother had bequeathed her. Then, to add insult to injury, when Frederick realized his wife wasn't going to give him a nice little nest egg, he went right back to treating her like trash. Yeah, we see who you are, Frederick.

Little did Sophia know, her family dynamics were going to hit a crisis.

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26. She Had A Momma's Boy

Sophia had always been incredibly close to her eldest son Fritz. Like her, he was an intellectual, interested in music and the arts, and the pair of them would converse about the finer things in life on a regular basis. Yes, it was very sweet. Even so, their close relationship was also the beginning of a disastrous rift.

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27. She Was In A Family Feud

Sophia had a great relationship with her son—but her husband most certainly didn't, and it was no secret why. King Frederick wanted his heir to be like him: Into the military, masculinity, and penny pinching. For God's sake, he even woke the boy up with a cannon every morning during his childhood in the hopes it would make the kid more macho.

So when it turned out that Fritz was not interested in that sort of thing and was far closer to the hated Sophia, the king went right off the deep end.


28. Her King Was Cruel

Sophia's husband was used to getting exactly what he wanted, and his revenge was breathtaking. As often as he could, the king tormented Sophia's beloved Fritz, beating him when he fell from his horse or even when he wore gloves in the cold—since this was a display of vulnerability Frederick couldn't stand.

Then Frederick turned his beady gaze back to his wife.

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29. Her Husband Wouldn't Let Her See Her Children

No matter what punishments Frederick doled out to his son, he knew the boy could just run for comfort in his mother's skirts. So, he stopped that too. Frederick soon banned Sophia from seeing any of her children without him there, and if she ever wanted to communicate with Fritz, she had to do it through a third party. This started a very dangerous game.

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30. She Had Secret Meetings

Sophia wasn't one to lay down and take this, and she sprang into action. Instead of obeying her king, she arranged secret meetings with her children. But this only made it more terrifying. In at least one instance, the king burst into her room unannounced, and the poor kids had to hide in the furniture to avoid his detection. It was about to hit a breaking point.

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31. Her Husband Was The Worst

Frederick's control issues soon ran rampant. As if paranoid his family was meeting without him (which, to be fair, they were), Frederick often made the whole brood attend to him from morning until night, never letting them leave his sight. In the meantime, he continued his fits of rages, throwing things at his servants and heirs alike.

With nowhere left to turn, Sophia started to plan an escape route for her son. It turned into one of the biggest mess-ups in history.

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32. She Had Big Plans For Her Children

Sophia was an ambitious woman, and for years she'd held designs on marrying her son Fritz off to Princess Amelia of Great Britain and marrying her eldest daughter Wilhelmine to the Prince of Wales. It was an illustrious alliance with Britain, but Sophia had to work her butt off to get Frederick on board, and much of the Prussian court still opposed the idea.

Then, just as she finally succeeded in convincing her husband, the most bizarre moment of her life happened.

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33. She Had Medical Issues

In 1723, Sophia had almost wrapped up the paperwork on her great double wedding, and she and her husband were due to meet the British monarch to seal the deal. That's not what happened at all. Instead, Sophia began to feel pain—an oddly familiar pain, as it would turn out—and had to stay home while Frederick went off alone.

When her physicians realized what was "wrong," their jaws dropped.



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34. She Went Through A Surprise Pregnancy

Incredibly enough, Sophia couldn't attend the proceedings that day because she went into surprise labor. Yes, she gave birth to her 12th child that day, Anna—without having realized that she was pregnant in any of the preceding nine months. It was an unbelievable turn of events...and it left the door open for the wolves to come in.

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35. A Nasty Rumor Went Around About Her

Sophia had made her fair share of enemies during her time as Queen of Prussia, mostly in courtiers loyal to her husband. These people jumped on the "surprise" pregnancy and sent a rumor around that she had actually intentionally hid her condition from her husband. Why? Because the baby was a product of an affair.

You can imagine how this went down—although, actually, you can't.

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36. The King Tried To Attack Her

As soon as the hot-headed king heard about this rumor, and marched right back to Prussia and flew into Sophia's chambers...where she was still recovering from pushing a baby out of her. Reportedly, he was in such a rage that Sophia's lady-in-waiting had to block Frederick from physically attacking his wife. He didn't stop there, either.

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37. Her Husband Launched An Investigation

Although he just barely kept himself from killing Sophia, Frederick still grilled one of his doctor friends on whether or not the child was a product of adultery and not just, oh I don't know, the fact that it was the 18th century and they didn't have ultrasounds. Eventually, Frederick finally backed down...but not for long.

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38. Her Plans Fell Through

All this hadn't just delayed Sophia's grand wedding negotiations to Britain, it severely damaged them. The window of opportunity closed on her, and they never came to fruition. Her husband's reaction was chilling. Although Frederick hadn't exactly been a staunch supporter of the plan, he was now furious and blamed Sophia for letting it fall through.

He was so petulant about this, in fact, that he had servants wall up the passage between their rooms for six weeks. But a reckoning was coming at long last.

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39. Her Son Made A Dark Confession

Sophia wasn't the only one running out of patience with King Frederick—her eldest son Fritz was on his last shred of restraint. One day, he made a terrible confession to his mother: He was planning on running away from the palace and this nightmare existence for good. So, in one instant, Sophia went from rebellion to treason.

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40. She Helped Her Son Escape

Sophia didn't just keep her son's plan secret; she actively helped him plot it. She corresponded with him back and forth about the whens, wheres, and hows. So, in August 1730, she wasn't the least bit surprised when Fritz ran off into the night with his tutor while on a tour of the provinces alongside his father. What did surprise her was the horrific aftermath.

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41. Her Family Fell Apart

Unfortunately, Fritz's escape attempt was just that—an attempt. His father caught him and the tutor, and his next acts were heartless. The king took the tutor and beheaded him in front of his wayward son. He then imprisoned Fritz in a fortress for months before exiling him from court for good measure. But he saved his worst cruelty for his wife.

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42. Her Husband Told A Brutal Lie

After wrapping up this business with his traitor heir, King Frederick returned to Sophia and—suspecting her involvement thanks to her trail of letters—informed her that her son was dead. When Sophia cried out, asking if he'd really harmed his own flesh and blood, Frederick spit "He was not my son, he was only a miserable deserter".

This event, however, has a very strange finale.

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43. She Had A High Tolerance For Drama

The Prussian royal family was wall-to-wall dysfunction, but apparently everyone was used to it—because incredibly, this chapter has a happy ending. Sophia eventually found out her son was alive, and in a couple of years, everything was back to normal at the palace, complete with a reconciliation between parents and son.

But karma doesn't forget, and it soon came for Sophia's despicable spouse.

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44. Her Husband Suffered From An Illness

King Frederick was obviously not well—but he was also far sicker than people knew. Indeed, today many people believe he was suffering from porphyria, an often painful illness that causes skin blisters and other symptoms. If that's the case, it helps explain at least some of his irritability...some, not all. But as he got older, his body failed him more and more.

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45. Her Husband Got Sick

By the late 1730s, Frederick was in the last stages of his life. He now had to frequently use a wheelchair, and his attacks of illness were often debilitating. It was, if I do say so myself, the least he deserved. But there was a big plot twist. Sophia, although she had every right to, didn't delight in his pain. Instead, a change came over her.

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46. She Changed

Faced with her husband's last moments on earth, Sophia suddenly turned into the docile caretaker figure she had always railed against. She stayed with Frederick at all hours of the night, gave him his medicine, and spoke to him whenever he was awake and able to talk. Still, she could offer scant real comfort. When the end came, it came swift.

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47. She Knew When The End Came

Sophia knew her ailing husband's every mood and complaint, so on May 26, 1740, she was certain that a profound change had taken over the king, and he was now on death's door. Following protocol, she sent for her son Fritz to come and witness his father's dying breaths, as well as his own induction into kingship.

Yet for all this, Sophia had one final betrayal for her husband.

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48. She Wasn't There When It Counted

Despite their tumultuous relationship, dark secrets, and cruel punishments, Frederick and Sophia were bizarrely co-dependent on each other in the end. Indeed, Frederick's last words were for his wife: He croaked out, “I have only a few more hours to live and I wish to have the happiness of dying in your arms”. Yet this was more than she could bear.

With the queen grieving beyond reason, attendants carried Sophia out before Frederick's last gasp, and he expired instead in his son's arms.

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49. She Was A VIP

Sophia mourned her husband more than anyone expected, but she also reaped the benefits of being a newly-minted dowager. Her son—who became Frederick the Great, no big deal—was as devoted to her as ever, even insisting that she never call him "Your Majesty" because being her "son" was "is dearer to me than the royal dignity". That wasn't the only perk he gave her, either.


50. She Went Out Like A Queen

Frederick was a mama's boy to his core, and he made sure his mother was the number one woman in his palace. When he returned from campaigns, he visited her first, and he would only sit down in her presence when she gave him permission to do so. In other words, Sophia finally got the royal treatment.

In 1757, when she finally passed at the ripe old age of 70, her troubles were long behind her.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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