Princess Sophie, Electress of Hanover, (1630-1714) and Sophie Charlotte, Queen of Prussia, (1668-1705)


Although Princess Sophie and her daughter, Sophie Charlotte did not develop their own philosophies, they deserve recognition for their support and encouragement of intellectual thought; primarily through their support of Leibniz. Both women were famous for their keenness of mind and their love of philosophy. They are presented together to give an uninterupted view of their support of Leibnez.

Among the philosophers Princess Sophie was familiar with were Molanus, Van Helmont, John Toland, John Locke, and Pierre Bayle. She did not apply herself as rigorously as her sister, Princess Elizabeth to consideration of philosophical thought, garnering at least once, a gentle rebuke from Leibniz. She did, however, continue to question Leibniz about his theory of monads and often would send his letters on to influential relatives which assured him an international reputation. Her own philosophical belief was that of a calm acceptance of change. She wrote, at age 82, "I believe that I remain so long in this world because I keep my spirit calm."

Sophie Charlotte also maintained a friendship through letters to and support of Leibniz. She joined her mother in a keen interest in the thoughts of Toland, Locke and Bayle. However, she eclipsed her mother in applying her keen intellectual capabilities to abstract metaphysical topics. "Her last words were of Leibnez and Philosophy...she said: "Do not feel sorry for me, for now I am going to satisfy my curiosity about the principles of things that Leibniz has never been able to explain to me: about space, the infinite, being, and nothingness." quotes from Zedler, "The Three Princesses.


The Two Sophies' Timeline

1630 14, October. Princess Sophie is born at The Hague to King Frederick and Queen Elizabeth Stuart of Bohemia. She is the twelfth child and the youngest sister of Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia. She is unfortunate to be born in the year following the death of the King and Queen's eldest and favourite son, Frederick Henry, in a boating accident. She is removed to Leiden at three months, where she is raised and educated by her father's governess.

1632 King Frederick dies of an illness at Mainz.

1639 or 40 Princess Sophie returns to her mother's court at The Hague where she remains until she moves to Heidelberg as a young woman. In Heidelberg, she lives with her brother Charles Louis, the Elector Palatine.

1658 September. Sophie marries Duke Ernst August of Brunswick-Luneburg. Originally, Duke George William, Ernst's older brother had proposed marriage to Sophie, but he decided he wished to remain single and suggested his younger brother instead. Sophie agreed after the elder Duke promised to raise Ernst's living allowance and not to marry, so that the couple's children would inherit the Ducal estates. Sophie and Ernst have seven children. Two of those, Sophie Charlotte and George Louis become royalty .

1668 29, October. Sophie Charlotte is born at the castle of Iburg. She is educated in Latin, French Italian, English, the sciences and music.

1681 A marriage is arranged between Sophie Charlotte and Frederick of Brandenburg.

1684 October. Sophie Charlotte and Frederick are married. She is 16 and he is 27. They move to Berlin.

1692 Ernst August is made Elector of Hanover. As Electress of Hanover, Sophie fulfills much the same duties as a President's wife: planning vast entertainments, overseeing a large number of court employees, and entertaining visiting dignitaries.

1673 Leibniz enters into the service of Duke John Frederick of Brunswick- Luneburg. He is employeed to write the family history and oversee the library, located in Hanover.

1680 Duke John Frederick dies and Ernst August becomes Duke of Hanover. Leibniz continues his service to the family and becomes Sophies friend. During the course of their friendship and correspondence, Leibniz is the most prolific writer of the two, si nce Sophie's responsibilities require much of her time. Leibniz keeps her informed of new philosophical ideas, explains his theory of monads to her, and aids and encourages her in her project to attain succession to the English throne. (Sophie's mother, Elizabeth Stuart, was daughter of King James).

1701 18, January. Frederick and Sophie Charlotte become the first king and queen of Prussia. Sophie Charlotte dislikes the intrigue of court and spends as much time as possible in her own palace of Lutzenburg where she is able to pursue her own interes ts, such as playing the clavicord, composing, and entertaing a wide variety of musicians, artists, and scholars.

1699 1, September. Sophie Charlotte writes to Leibniz that she is his disciple and one who appreciates his merit.

1700 11, July. Sophie Charlotte convinces her husband that an academy devoted to scientific enquiry similar to those established in England and France would be an asset to his reign. The Berlin Academy of Sciences is founded and Leibniz is installed a s its first president. In October, Sophie Charlotte meets Pierre Bayle, author of the Dictionnaire historique et critique. Sophie Charlotte is intrigued with Bayle's objections to Leibniz's philosophy and enters into a discussion concerning them with Leibniz. Bayle is especially critical of Leibniz's view that God has created the best of all possible worlds, and his explanation of evil. Sophie Charlotte often tells Leibniz to put his explanations in writing.

1705 1, February. Sophie Charlotte dies of pneumonia. She is interred in a sculptured sarcophagus in the cathedral at Berlin. Lutzenburg is renamed Charlottenburg in her honor. Leibniz gathers together his rebuttal of Bayle's criticism and writes Theodicy, his only work published during his lifetime. In his preface to the book, he acknowledges that the book is the culmination of his discussions with Sophie Charlotte.

1714 8, June. Sophie, Electress of Hanover, dies while taking her usual afternoon walk.

Sophie Charlotte and Sophie, Electress of Hanover Timeline Sources