It’s known to history that the daughter of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was born on this day in London, on November 3, 1777. HRH was the fifth daughter of the Royal couple.
Christening still happened in the olden days because Princess Sophia was christened on December 1, 1777, in the Great Council Chamber at St James‘s Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury who was known as Frederick Cornwallis. It should be noted that HRH had three godparents all of whom were represented by proxies.
King George III had made plans prior Princess Sophia’s birth. He ensured that his children would have allowances amounting to £6,000 upon his death or marriages.
Some royal protocols still prevailed during their time. The King’s daughters were expected to remain silent unless addressed, stand up when their father entered a room or not leave until availed a permit to do so. Their mother Queen Charlotte was known to be economical she made her daughters wear country-made dresses and eat everyday food.
Princess Sophia learnt English, French, Music, Art and Geography thanks to Lady Charlotte, her governess who acted as her tutor. Not only did Sophia dwell on academics she also got involved in sports and other games along with her male and female siblings.
It is understood that Princess Sophia made appearances. Her first was when she accompanied her parents King George III and Queen Charlotte to an event that commemorated George Frideric Handel which was held at Westminster Abbey on May 26, 1784.
King George III is known to have a soft spot for women it should be noted that he preferred his daughters to his sons. Evidence in historic reference shows that he attended the princesses’ birthday parties was kept informed on his daughter’s progressions in school this revealed that he supported education for girls in society. According to royal historian A. W Purdue, “Queen Charlotte was not benignly maternal.”
When Princess Sophia was 11 years old, her father George III suffered his first bout of madness. It is believed that Sophia gave her remarks of his condition saying, “He is all affection and kindness to me, but sometimes an over kindness, if you can understand that, which greatly alarms me.”
On June 4, 1792, Princess Sophia made her first appearance in court on her father’s birthday. She was considered as a “Young Adult” at the age of 14 years old.
HRH was devoted to her father as the fifth child. She wrote, “The dear king is all kindness to me and cannot say how grateful I feel for it.”
Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia’s mother, wanted her daughters to remain close to her. She feared the subject most because it always discomforted the King. The mental health issue would push him back into insanity. Sadly, further lapses resulting to insanity occurred in 1801 and 1804.
Princess Sophia was forced to live as her mother’s companion. The princesses were not allowed to mix with people outside the Royal Court. The only men they came into contact with were attendants and pages. Unhappy with the restrictions, the princesses referred to their lifestyle as “Nunnery.”
HRH Princess Sophia wrote: “deadly and dull… I wished myself a Kangaroo.”
Most of the suitor’s efforts to marry the princesses were stopped by their mother, but the only princess who was allowed to marry very young was Princess Sophia. Her siblings sought assistance from the Prince of Wales to whom they asked to be assisted in finding spouses.
George, one of Sophia’s brother, became a Regent. He fought for his sister’s independence. He championed for an increase in their allowances for all of his sisters from £10,000 to £13,000. The Queen was not so pleased by this gesture so the Prince – Regent was forced to reconcile the two parties so that his sister could still enjoy what they don’t have freedom.
Numerous rumours flew in the community stating that Princess Sophia had an incestuous relationship with her brother Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. It is not known whether these rumours were because The Duke who later became King of Hanover had many political enemies.
Greville wrote about Sophia and her sisters’ affairs in a diary entry, “women fall in love with anything – and opportunity and the accidents of the passions are of more importance than any positive merits of mind or body… [The princesses] were secluded from the world, mixing with few people – their passions boiling over and ready to fall into the hands of the first man whom circumstances enabled to get at them.” Sophia had a relationship with her father’s chief equerry, Major-General Thomas Garth, a man thirty-three years her senior. Charles Greville a the diarist called him a “hideous old devil”. Some historians say that sometime around August 1800, Sophia gave birth to a child fathered by Garth. Historian Anthony Camp challenges the belief that Sophia had a child. However, author Karl Shaw says that the Alarming History of European Royalty, of the possibility that the Duke raped his sister, citing evidence from Charles Greville’s diaries, as well as other factors. Historian Gillian Gill believes that Sophia secretly gave birth to the child and that this is the reason Sophia never married but its evident that Sophia got married. Alison Weir and others, however, write of a possible marriage between Sophia and Garth the same year as the child’s birth, but there is no evidence to back this assertion other than the presence of a wedding ring in a portrait of an aged Sophia.
Princess Sophia was a favourite of her niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales; she had a fascination on the rumours surrounding her Aunts past. Princess Charlotte wrote, “I can hardly believe Sophia belongs to them- so wholly different is she in thoughts, opinions, matters. Her nobleness and rectitude of mind render her no favourite here. The constant scenes of intrigue, of brasseries, she can but ill support.”
Sophia inherited Lower Lodge at Windsor Great Park, which she, in turn, gave to her brother the Prince Regent. The death of her sister Princess Augusta in 1840 resulted in Sophia inheriting Clarence House and Frogmore.
Sophia lived in Kensington Palace after the death of her mother. During her final years, Sophia continued living in Kensington Palace next to her niece Princess Victoria of Kent who later became Queen Victoria. Remember Her Majesty Queen Victoria?
After having been blind for over ten years, on the morning of May 27, 1848, Princess Sophia fell ill at her residence at Vicarage Place, Kensington. Sophia’s death occurred at 6.30, when Mary, the Duchesses of Kent and Cambridge were present. HRH was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London, immediately in front of east of the central chapel rather than at Windsor Castle, as she wished to be near her brother, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex who lies on the opposite side of the path.
Charles Greville wrote in his diary on May, 31: “The Princess Sophia died a few days ago, while the Queen Victoria was holding the Drawing-room for her Birthday. She was blind, helpless, and suffered martyrdom; a very clever, well-informed woman, but who never lived in the world”.