Monday, April 15, 2013

A Georgian Princess?

Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin

Last month, I was in Berlin. Since there was snow and the temperature never got above zero, I spent most of my time in nice warm museums. Readers may be interested to see something of the Charlottenburg Palace which was originally the summer residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte. (Badly damaged in the war, the building has mostly been restored, though much of the furniture is not original.)

Sophie Charlotte in 1685
 Sophie Charlotte of Hanover was the sister of George I, so she was a great-granddaughter of James I/VI and granddaughter of Elisabeth, the Winter Queen of Bohemia. Sophie Charlotte, born in 1668, seems to have been touted as a prospective bride round half of Europe, but she eventually married the widowed Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, in 1684, when she was still only 16. This portrait was done a year or so after her marriage.

In 1701, after some political machinations, Frederick became King in Prussia and Sophie Charlotte became his Queen Consort. She provided him with the necessary heir in 1688 (later King Frederick William I of Prussia) but generally lived independently from her husband with her own court. According to Wikipedia, he was only allowed there by invitation!

Sophie Charlotte was a very learned and accomplished woman (taking after her mother, Sophia of Hanover). This is her white-lacquered harpsichord, dating from about 1700, which sits in the antechamber to her audience chamber. She lived, as you can see, in some luxury.

Sophie Charlotte's white harpsichord, c 1700

Here is some of the furniture in the Queen's audience chamber, next door.  These three items are believed to be originals, and to have stood in this room.

Below is the so-called Glass Bedchamber of her private apartments. The mirror over the fireplace is original (dating from 1700) and appears to be solid silver.

Glass Bedchamber is Sophie Charlotte's private apartment

This is the Old Oak Gallery which was used as a banqueting hall. The picture over the fireplace is of Frederick I with all of his (three) wives. He outlived Sophie Charlotte, and remarried, as kings usually did. In spite of three marriages, he had only the one son.

Old Oak Gallery, used as Banqueting Hall

King's Audience Chamber, Ceiling Detail

This is the ceiling of the King's Audience Chamber, used by Frederick I when he was at Charlottenburg. It has been restored, hence the amazingly bright colours. I reckon it's over the top, but I guess it's the sort of thing you chose, if you were an 18th century king and determined to make an impression on visitors.

Queen Sophie Charlotte c 1701

This state portrait shows Sophie Charlotte as queen and probably dates from around 1701. Sophie Charlotte died young, in 1705, when she was still in her thirties. Interestingly, though the palace is full of portraits, I found none of her big brother, Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, who became King of England as George I. Of course, by the time he became king, in 1714, Sophie Charlotte was long dead and her son was on the throne of Prussia. So, strictly speaking, she wasn't really a Georgian Princess, was she?

Next time, I can show you some of the material on Sophie Charlotte's son, King Frederick William I, who married George I's daughter Sophia Dorothea, his first cousin. Keeping it in the family, you see. They produced Sophie Charlotte's illustrious grandson, Frederick the Great.
Travelling is such fun, isn't it?



Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Fascinating, Joanna! I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of the Charlottenburg Palace. Sumptuous isn't in it - talk about a gilded cage! It's going on my 'want to see' list immediately.

Anonymous said...

The palaces at Potsdam, especially Sans Souci, are more famous, Elizabeth. Sadly we couldn't visit there because it was just too cold for walking about, and quite a lot of the sites were closed for the winter.

Part of Charlottenburg is being renovated so I'd suggest you wait a bit to go. And go when it's warmer!

Hinges said...

Me neither, I'd never heard of the Charlottenburg Palace. How did you find out that palace Joanna? Very interesting and those furniture were so fabulous. Hope to be there!

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the late response. I was off gallivanting again.

I found the Charlottenburg Palace in the guide book. I knew I wanted to visit Berlin, but didn't know what to see there, so I got myself a guide book and discovered just how much there is to see! We'll have to go back, because we didn't get to Potsdam where many of the museums aren't open in winter. Besides, it was much too cold to go!

Better to go in the summer, I think, when everything is open.