The Princess in the tower, and the skeleton under the floorboards

The excellently named Sophia Dorothea was born in 1666 the only child of the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, who ruled the Celle portion of the Duchy of Brunswick. Sophia’s mother was the Dukes long standing mistress Éléonore Marie d’Esmier d’Olbreuse, who he quickly married after Sophia’s birth.

It was a scandalous start to a life that would see Royal coverups, affairs and murder. With Sophia cementing her place in history as England’s lost Queen.

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A miniature of Sophia Dorothea

By the time Sophia reached marrying age she was something of a certified beauty, skilled at a whole host of ‘womanly pursuits’ (i.e music and sewing…) and was funny and smart to boot. Girl was a catch!

Sadly for Sophia, she had no say in who she married. So rather than marrying any of the eligiable suitors who she might have lived happily ever after with, she had to go with her parents first choice -her first cousin George Ludwig.

In addition to being her cousin, George was THE WORST. Rude, loud, and aggressive but not too smart, George was notoriously quick to anger. He was also vindictive and obnoxious.

The only thing going for George was the fact that he was heir to Hanover.

A marriage between George and Sophia would mean that George’s family would rule both Hanover and Celle. So despite the fact that Georges family hated Sophia (due to her low birth) all parties involved were for the marriage.

Well, apart from Sophia. Who when told about the engagement, promptly threw Georges portrait across the room.

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To be fair to Sophia, look at George…wouldnt you want to chuck his portrait?

The marriage, unsurprisingly, didn’t get off to a good start.

Sophia struggled to fit into her new world. Not helped by her new mother in law who constantly called Sophia out and bitching about her with the court.

Sophia’s new husband was not any better (like you were expecting him to be…) he was stand off-ish and spent very little time with his new wife, going away whenever he could.

He also created a network of spies so he could know what Sophia was doing at all times – which is super normal and healthy.

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By the way, this kind of behaviour is a HUGE red flag and sign to get the fuck out

Yet, somehow the pair had not one but two babies, with George (who later became King George ll of England) both in 1683 and Sophia (later, Queen of Prussia) in 1687. With an heir and a spare in the bag, George saw his job as over.

So George started having very public affairs, notably with two women nicknamed The Beanpole and The Elephant.

To add to this, George was physically abusive towards Sophia.  He would beat her in public and on one occasion nearly strangled her, an act of violence that was witnessed by a room full of people.

That was just what George did it public. We don’t know what went on behind closed doors, but we can imagine.

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Sophia with her children

Neglected and isolated, Sophia found solace in an old friend. Swedish Count, Philipp Christoph von Königsmark (try saying that 5 times fast).

The pair had had met in Sophia’s homeland just before her marriage to George. Whilst Sophia had gone to Hanover, Phillip traveled to England, becoming a favourite in the court of Charles ll and creating something of a Casanova like persona – bedding countless countesses (and the odd Duchess).

The rekindled friendship with Phillip was a life line for Sophia. She started to become healthier and happier, something that was noted by Hanovers courtiers. Though they knew George wouldn’t approve of the friendship, the court did. Sophia was overdue some happiness.

But then Philipp and Sophia became more than friends.

The pair were spotted writing each other love messages on the palace windows, and exchanging romantic letters; one notable line from Philipp is:

“I embrace your knees”

This was a very dangerous game. But the pair continued and by 1690 things had gotten serious. With the couple spending as much time together as possible, and using codes and confidantes to communicate when apart.

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Philipp Christoph von Konigsmark

In 1692, George’s Dad, the King of Hanover, was shown the couples love letters. Angry, he promptly sent Philipp away to fight with the Hanoverian army – with any leave request turned down.

But Philipp was not that easily deterred. He abandoned the army and rode to be with Sophia.

At this point, George found out about the affair. He confronted Sophia and shouting quickly escalated into violence. Sophia only survived the encounter thanks to servants who pulled George off her

NPG D11633,King George I when Elector of Hanover,by and published by; after John Smith; Johann Leonhard Hirschmann
George- Future King and notorious dick

Following this terrifying meeting with her husband, Sophia and Philipp hatched a plan to escape Hanover together and elope.

BUT the plan was quickly foiled – word got round to George and his Dad and the lovers plans were put to an abrupt stop.

Philipp was ambushed, and in an attack that would later be covered up, he was murdered.

Several court insiders would admit on their deathbeds to being involved in the death, but none would say how Philipp died or where his body lay.

Popular legend said Philipp’s body was covered in quicklime and buried under the still bloody floorboards of the castle

Hysterical, Sophia was held under house arrest in her rooms.

George managed to divorce Sophia and she was found guilty of malicious desertion.

Then George ordered that his wive be locked away in Castle Ahlden. Her right to see her children was cut and the only visitor permitted was to be her mother.

Sophia remained captive, locked away in her castle, for 30 years. Until she died in 1726.

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But what happened to George? Well George went on and became King of Great Britain and Ireland- King George l, the first of the Hanoverian line.

When he arrived in England he turned up speaking very little English and with his two loyal mistresses in tow- The Beanpole and The Elephant. But rumours of his ill fated wife and her lover continued to swirl. Dogging George until still his dying day.

3 Important Witch Trials In History (that you’ve never heard of)

Superstition made living in Europe around 1560 – 1630 very dangerous for any woman that bucked the norm. Panic was wide spreads and things soon escalated from accusation to execution.

The Berwick witches!

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Now this was far from the first witch trial in England- but it was the catalyst for things being particularly burney during the reign of King James l.

In 1590 King James and his new wife Anne of Denmark, were sailing home from their wedding in Denmark to James home in Scotland; when their ship was hit by a terrific storm – though the couple was fine, rumors soon flared up that the storm had been the work of witches determined to murder the newlyweds.

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Accusations spread across England, Wales, Denmark and Scotland; with nearly 100 women  in Berwick being accused of forming a coven and bringing about the storm.

Fun fact – in Scotland it was completely legal to torture witches; this little legal loop hole unsurprisingly led to some pretty lurid confessions from the Berwick ‘witches’, including one Agnes Sampson.

Agnes was a healer and midwife for the community and despite sounding like an all around good egg; the elderly woman was accused of being the lead witch in the plot to sink the Kings ship. She was questioned and tortured in front of the King at Holyrod Palace. Initially Agnes pleaded her innocence, but after she was stripped, shaved and beaten…she admitted her guilt.

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It had all started so well…

Agnes said that the witches had been called to action by Francis Stewart, 5th Lord of Bothwell (who had a claim to the throne so long as James remained heirless). To cast the spell that set forth the storm, the witches had gathered in church yards to kiss the devils ‘backside’. They had dug up graves to secure fingers for spells, and in one instance, stolen a cat, christened it, tied male genitals to the cats legs, sailed out to sea, and tossed the poor kitty into the sea (which sounds totally legit)

Agnes was executed, along with other accused witches in Scotland and Denmark.

Following the trials, James wrote and published a pamphlet which scandalously detailed the events of the trial; and in no small way helped to create the panic surrounding witchcraft that would see thousands of innocent people executed.

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James l – in no way remembered as a notorious dick

 

The Fulda witch trials

It wasn’t just England who got a little…heated (sorry) over witches. Germany also got involved in the epidemic (after all they are the home of fairy tales!) and my God did the Germans go all in.

The Fulda witch trials took place over 3 years between 1603-1606 and saw over 200 people executed. It was one of the worst and most large scale of the witch trails in Europe during this era.

The trials were triggered by the return to power of Prince-abbot Balthasar Von Dernbach, following 20 years in exile.

Now though he had an amazing name, the good Prince was a bit of a massive dick. Upon coming home he ordered a witch-hunt to cleanse the area (as you do). You see whilst the Prince had been in exile, Fulda had enjoyed a period of relative religous liberalism, and the good Prince was not down with this. So naturally he figured a witch hunt was the best way to ‘cleanse’ Fulda. Nice guy.

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The excessive gilding tells you that this man will in no way be remembered as a notorious dick

The most high profile the Prince’s 200 odd victims was Merga Bein.

Merga had been married twice before, but she was independently wealthy herself; the now heir to her two previous husband’s fortunes. This factor seems likely to have played a pretty hefty part in her being ‘cleansed’ by the Prince.

Merga was one of the first arrested. She was accused of being in cahoots with the Devil, of having murdered her second husband and their children and of having taken part in the Sabbath of Satan. Merga was sentenced to be burned at the stake.

However her husband argued that executing her was illegal as she was pregnant. No matter for the good Prince though, he just claimed that the child was clearly the Devils- and so Merga along with over 200 others was executed.

The executions only stopped after the good Prince died. I’m sure all of Fulda was devastated…

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3. Hag Riding

Witch trials were still going on in the 19th century, though less common place. Kind of awesomely though, they tended to be prosecuting the accusers!

In 1875 the town of Weston Super Mare housed one of these trails- which concerned the fantastically named practice of hag riding.

Hag riding was essentially, ‘sleep paralysis’. Much of these claims were just nightmares, but in Weston Super Mare, the claimant was was stabbed in the face and hand as a defense against the dreams.

Hester Adams accused neighbor, Maria Pring of appearing in her dreams to terrify her for over two years, Hester claimed that she lived in fear of Maria (an early adopter of Freddy Krueger based high jinks)

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But Hester was an early adopter of, er…knives? (sorry) She decided that the only way to stop the dreams was to draw Maria’s blood… because logic. The elderly woman stabbed Maria in the face and hand, which put a stop to the dreams (again- logic)

Though understandably confused by the case bought to them, the magistrates erred on the side sanity (ish) and ordered that Hester give Maria a shilling and agree to keep the peace (and try really hard to not stab her neighbours anymore).

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Thats just 3 notable witch trails that you might not know- or if you do, you might not know that much about.

You see *gets on soap box* the problem with witch trials is that its hard for us to ever know much about the people who were accused. We can only ever have half of the story- because 99.9% of the time we don’t know anything about the people who were accused – these were people who were often poor and lived on the fringes of society, they were easy victims. Often the only direct information we have from them is their confession- which was false and 9 time out of 10 obtained through torture – not great.

It’s important to try and seen the humanity behind the horror.

OK *gets off soap box* sorry about that

Bonus Wicked as way of apology:

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Go get her, she’s Wicked
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