The Electress Sophia of Hanover was born Sophia, Pfalzgräfin von Simmern, at The Hague on October 14, 1630, and died at Herrenhausen on June 8, 1714. Daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine also known as King Frederick V of Bohemia Wittelsbach and Elizabeth Stuart also known as Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen.
She married Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg at Heidelberg September 30, 1658. He became the Elector of Hanover in 1692. (Electors were princes who had the right to vote to elect the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.)
As the daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, in turn the daughter of James I & VI of England and Scotland, she was inserted into the line of succession to the British throne behind Queen Anne, as her closest Protestant heir, by the Act of Settlement of 1701, 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.
Sophia would have inherited the throne if she had not died before Anne. Upon her death, Sophia's eldest son Elector Georg Ludwig of Hanover became heir-presumptive, 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, starting the lineage of Prussian kings and German emperors. The connection between the German emperors and the British royal family would become an issue during World War I.
Sophia had additonal sons, none of whom had children. Those who grew up were:
- Friedrich August von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Imperial General, died without issue (1661-1691)
- Maximilian Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, field marshall in the Imperial Army, died without issue (1666-1726)
- Karl Philipp von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, colonel in the Imperial Army, died without issue (1669-1690)
- Christian von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, died without issue (1671-1703)
- Ernst August II von Braunschweig-Lüneburg Duke of York and Albany, became bishop of Osnabrück and died without issue (1674-1728)
Sophia commissioned significant work on the gardens surrounding the palace at Herrenhausen and died there during an evening walk.
Sophia plays an important role in British history and royal lineage, because the Act of Settlement 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 citizenship to Sophia's non-Catholic descendants (though this has been modified by subsequent laws).
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.
See also: British monarchy, UK topics