Hanover: The tragic end of a heartbreaker – society

When human bones were found during construction work at Leineschloss in Hanover in the summer of 2016, the news spread like wildfire. Even Swedish and English newspapers reported on the find at the time. It is hoped that this could finally solve a mystery that has touched people’s minds for more than three centuries: the disappearance of Philipp Christoph Graf von Königsmarck on July 11, 1694.

That summer night, he was on his way to the palace to see the married election princess and mother of two, Sophie Dorothea von Braunschweig-Lüneburg, with whom he had been in a relationship for many years. Schiller saw the mysterious events as material for a tragedy full of love and misfortune. However, he did not get over drafts. Fontane mentions the story in his “Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg”. Details are also found there: “Four halberds confronted him in a corridor (…) and in the fight against these hired men he fell. His body was buried in a canal that ran vertically through the entire height of the castle and walled up.”

But how credible are Fontane’s statements? doubt is justified. At least she had connection hazard use between the high-ranking officer and the beautiful gallant and the no less attractive princess has already found her way to folklore – “Who goes to court so late / Since everything has slept long? / The maid keeps watch in the anteroom / The beautiful count is already approaching.”

Or to paraphrase the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie: “The charm of the mystery wrapped this catastrophe (…) so completely in a dense network of novelistic interpretations and obscene fictions that it is hardly possible to extract the historical core.” The unfortunate affair leaves many questions unanswered to this day. Not only after the whereabouts of the 29-year-old count, whose corpse must have been weighed down with stones and sunk in the string, walled in or burned in an oven. But above all after the client to the fatal attack. Or was it a customer?

“It seems to me that my tenderness is growing at every moment,” she says excitedly

Sophie Dorothea was born in Celle in 1666 as the daughter of Duke Georg Wilhelm and Eléonore d’Olbreuse, who came from the lower nobility. Her lover Philipp Christoph was a little older. He was born in Stade in 1665 as a descendant of an old noble family from the Brandenburg area. Both knew each other as children when he spent his days as a sidekick at the court in Celle.

Sophie Dorothea had a happy childhood, which came to an abrupt end at the age of 16. Against her will, she had to marry her cousin Georg Ludwig, son of Duke Ernst August and Duchess Sophie of Hanover. Here the beautiful, cheerful Sophie Dorothea, there the stiff, sober Georg Ludwig who later became King George I of Great Britain. From the start, the couple had nothing to say to each other. A portrait created around 1690 shows her with her children Georg August and Sophie Dorothea the Younger as an almond-eyed, brunette beauty. One understands why Königsmarck fell in love with her.

Exactly when the affair between the frustrated wife and the coveted heartbreaker began is uncertain. Over the years, they have written about 600 letters to each other, almost 300 have survived. The first goes back to 1690. “It seems to me that my tenderness grows with each passing moment,” she says excitedly. He says enthusiastically: “All this is very much like a novel …” But in a sentence from the autumn of 1693 there is concern: “Without the help of heaven we will never be happy together.”

It should not be unfounded. It is true that Sophie Dorothea had little to fear from her husband. He had enjoyed himself with his mistress Ehrengard Melusine Countess von der Schulenburg for a long time, as reserved as he and his great love. But despite all the precautions, his wife’s dangerous love affair could no longer be hidden and became increasingly a topic of conversation. Even an escape was no longer out of the question.

Sophie Dorothea was banished to Ahlden Castle

But the court in Hanover really could not afford a real scandal. If only because Duke Ernst August had first received the electorate from Emperor Leopold I in 1692 and had to be particularly concerned about the reputation of the house. Therefore, to this day, there are still voices who suspect the Elector and his wife of being behind Königsmarck’s disappearance.

Others, including Fontane, see Ernst August’s powerful mistress, Clara Elisabeth Countess von Platen, as the real puppet master. Her motive: revenge. When Königsmarck enlisted in the Hanoverian military, he is said to have had an affair with the Countess. In addition, he declined the offer to marry her daughter because he was already in love with Sophie Dorothea. For Platen an insult that required atonement.

Which version is the right one will probably remain a mystery forever. Georg Ludwig and Sophie Dorothea divorced, and she was banished to Ahlden Castle, where she remained until her death in 1726. She was denied a reunion with her children for the rest of her life. Count von Koenigsmarck, on the other hand, has not been seen since the unfortunate night.

When the long-awaited results of the surveys were presented in late 2016, the disappointment was great. The bones found were not the remains of the tragic lover, but of five other people. Before Leine Castle was built, there was a church, a monastery and two hospitals on this site.

Leave a Comment