George I's generation
George I spoke barely any English. He regularly returned to Hanover, much to the resentment of his British subjects.
This image of George I and his son and daughter-in-law, Prince George and Princess Caroline, playing happy families is an illusion. In reality, the King and the Prince hated each other. George made sure that his son had very little power of his own, deepening the Prince’s existing resentment.
The Mistress and the Queen
Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg was George I's long term mistress and queen in all but name. The court was scandalised by the gossip surrounding George's wife and would be real queen - Sophia Dorothea von Kielmansegg, whose portrait this is.
Sophia married her cousin, George Ludwig, future king of Britain, when she was 16. George's frequent absences on military campaigns encouraged infidelity.
Sophia embarked on an indiscreet and passionate affair with the dashing Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck. This ill-fated love affair ended with the Count's murder – probably on the orders of George I’s father.
George divorced and imprisoned Sophia for life and Prince George was never allowed to see his mother again.
Mme. Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg
Sophia Charlotte was the German half-sister of George I. They enjoyed a close relationship causing many to speculate that she was his mistress.
Nicknamed ‘the elephant’ because of her large size, court diarist Horace Walpole described Sophia Charlotte as having ‘fierce black rolling eyes, acres of chins, spread with crimons, ocean of neck overflowed & was not distinguished from the lower part of her body, and no part restrained by stays.’
Portrait of George I and his eldest son, the future George II and his wife Caroline of Anspach © The Trustees of the British Museum
Sophia Dorothea, George I's wife, Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II