Sophia of Prussia

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Dzimšanas datums:
14.06.1870
Miršanas datums:
13.01.1932
Pirmslaulību (cits) uzvārds:
Σοφία
Papildu vārdi:
Sophie Dorothea Ulrike Alice
Kategorijas:
Aristokrāts, Princese, Valdnieks
Kapsēta:
Norādīt kapsētu

Sophia of Prussia (Sophie Dorothea Ulrike Alice, Greek: Σοφία; 14 June 1870 – 13 January 1932) was Queen consort of the Hellenes during 1913–1917 and 1920–1922.

A member of the House of Hohenzollern and child of Frederick III, German Emperor, Sophia received a liberal and anglophile education, under the supervision of her mother Victoria, Princess Royal. In 1889, less than a year after the death of her father, she married her third cousin Constantine, heir apparent to the Greek throne. After a difficult period of adaptation in her new country, Sophia gave birth to six children and became involved in the assistance to the poor, following in the footsteps of her mother-in-law, Queen Olga. However, it was during the wars which Greece faced during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century that Sophia showed the most social activity: she founded field hospitals, oversaw the training of Greek nurses, and healed wounded soldiers.

However, Sophia was hardly rewarded for her actions, even after her grandmother Queen Victoria decorated her with the Royal Red Cross after the Thirty Days' War: the Greeks criticized her links with Germany. Her brother Emperor William II was indeed an ally of the Ottoman Empire and openly opposed the construction of the Megali Idea, which could establish a Greek state that would encompass all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas. During World War I, the blood ties between Sophia and the German Emperor also aroused the suspicion of the Triple Entente, which criticized Constantine I for his neutrality in the conflict.

After imposing a blockade of Greece and supporting the rebel government of Eleftherios Venizelos, causing the National Schism, France and its allies deposed Constantine I in June 1917. Sophia and her family then went into exile in Switzerland, while the second son of the royal couple replaced his father on the throne under the name of Alexander I. At the same time, Greece entered the war alongside the Triple Entente, which allowed it to grow considerably.

After the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War in 1919 and the untimely death of Alexander I the following year, the Venizelists abandoned power, allowing the royal family's return to Athens. The defeat of the Greek army against the Turkish troops of Mustafa Kemal, however, forced Constantine I to abdicate in favor of his eldest son George II in 1922. Sophia and her family then were forced to a new exile, and settled in Italy, where Constantine died one year later (1923). With the proclamation of the Republic in Athens (1924) Sophia spent her last years alongside her family and died of cancer in Germany in 1932.

Princess of Prussia and Germany Birth in a difficult context Princess Sophie with her parents and siblings. Standing left to right: Prince Heinrich, Crown Princess Viktoria, Crown Prince Frederick with Princess Margaret, Prince Wilhelm, and Princess Charlotte. (seated left to right) Princess Victoria, Princess Sophie and Prince Waldemar. 1875

Princess Sophie was born in the Neues Palais in Potsdam, Prussia on 14 June 1870. Her father, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, and her mother, Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom (herself the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort) were already the parents of a large family and as the penultimate child, Sophie was eleven years younger than her eldest brother, the future Emperor William II of Germany. Frederick and Victoria were a close couple, both on sentimental and political levels. Being staunch liberals, they lived away from the Berlin court and suffered the intrigues of a very conservative Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and members of the House of Hohenzollern.

A week after Sophie's birth, a case relating to succession to the throne of Spain damaged the Franco-Prussian relations. The tone between Paris and Berlin worsened even further after Bismarck published the humiliating Ems Telegram on 13 July 1870. Six days later, the government of Napoleon III declared war on Prussia and the states of the German Confederation offered support to Prussia, which then appeared as the victim of French imperialism. It was in this difficult context that Sophie was christened the following month, though all the men present were in uniform, as France had declared war on Prussia. Sophie's mother described the event to Queen Victoria: "The Christening went off well, but was sad and serious; anxious faces and tearful eyes, and a gloom and foreshadowing of all the misery in store spread a cloud over the ceremony, which should have been one of gladness and thanksgiving".

However, the conflict lasted only a few months and even led to a brilliant German victory, leading to the proclamation of Sophie's grandfather King William I of Prussia as the first German Emperor on 18 January 1871.

Anglophile education

Sophie was known as "Sossy" during her childhood (the name was thought to have been picked because it rhymed with "Mossy", the nickname of her younger sister Margaret).

The children of the Crown Princely couple became grouped into two by age: William, Charlotte, and Henry who were favored by their paternal grandparents, while Viktoria, Sophie and Margaret were largely ignored by them. Sophie's two other brothers, Sigismund and Waldemar, died at a young age (Sigismund died before she was born, and Waldemar when he was 11 and she was 8); this drew the Crown Princess and her three younger daughters closer together, calling them "my three sweet girls" and "my trio".

The Crown Princess, believing in the superiority of all things English, had her children's nurseries modeled on her childhood. Sophie was raised with a great love for England and all things associated with it as a result, and had frequent trips to visit her grandmother Queen Victoria, whom she loved. Sophie often stayed in England for long periods, especially on the Isle of Wight, where she liked to collect shells with her older siblings.

Because she was generally avoided by her paternal grandparents, Sophie's formative years were mainly shaped by her parents and her maternal grandmother Queen Victoria. As a little girl she was so deeply attached to the old British sovereign that the Crown Princess didn't hesitate to leave her daughter for long periods under the care of her grandmother.

In Germany, Sophie largely stayed with her parents at two main residences: the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin, and the Neues Palais in Potsdam. Like her sisters Viktoria and Margaret, she was particularly close to her parents and their relationship became even closer after the death, in 1879, of Waldemar, the favorite son of the Crown Princely couple.

Meeting and engagement with Diadochos Constantine

In 1884, Crown Prince Constantine of Greece ("Tino") was sixteen and his majority was declared by the government. He then received the title of Duke of Sparta and Diadochos (διάδοχος / diádokhos, which means, "heir to the throne"). Soon after, the young man completed his military training in Germany, where he spent two full years in the company of a tutor, Dr. Lüders. He served in the Prussian Guard, took lessons of riding in Hanover and studied Political science at the Universities of Heidelberg and Leipzig.

After a long stay in England celebrating her grandmother's Golden Jubilee, Sophie became better acquainted with Constantine in the summer of 1887. The Queen watched their growing relationship, writing "Is there a chance of Sophie's marrying Tino? It would be very nice for her, for he is very good". The crown princess also hoped that Sophie would make a good marriage, considering her the most attractive among her daughters.

During his stay at the Hohenzollern court in Berlin representing the Kingdom of Greece at the funeral of Emperor William I in March 1888, Constantine saw Sophie again. Quickly, the two fell in love and got officially engaged on 3 September 1888. However, their relationship was viewed with suspicion by Sophie's older brother William, by now the new Kaiser, and his wife Augusta Victoria. This betrothal wasn't completely supported in the Hellenic royal family, either: Queen Olga showed some reluctance to the projected union because Sophie was Lutheran and she would have preferred that the heir to the throne marry an Orthodox. But despite the difficulties, Tino and Sophie's wedding was scheduled for October 1889, in Athens.

Death of Emperor Frederick III

This period fell on an unhappy time for Sophie's family however, as her father Emperor Frederick III was dying an agonizing death of throat cancer. His wife and children kept vigil with him at the Neues Palais, even celebrating Sophie's birthday and offering her a bouquet of flowers as a gift. The Emperor died the next day. Sophie's eldest brother William, now German Emperor, quickly ransacked his father's things in the hopes of finding "incriminating evidence" of "liberal plots". Knowing that her three youngest daughters were more dependent on her than ever for emotional support, the now-Dowager Empress Frederick remained close to them: "I have my three sweet girls - he loved so much - that are my consolation".

Already shocked by the attitude of her eldest son, the Dowager Empress was deeply saddened by Sophie's upcoming marriage and move to Athens. Nevertheless, she welcomed the happiness of her daughter and consoled herself in a voluminous correspondence with Sophie. Between 1889 and 1901, the two women exchanged no less than 2,000 letters. On several occasions, they were also found in each other's homes, in Athens and Kronberg. The preparations of Sophie's wedding were "hardly a surprising development considering the funeral atmosphere that prevailed at the home of her widowed mother".

Crown Princess of Greece Auspicious marriage to the Greeks

On 27 October 1889, Sophie married Constantine in Athens, Greece in two religious ceremonies, one public and Orthodox and another private and Protestant. They were third cousins in descent from Paul I of Russia, and second cousins once removed through Frederick William III of Prussia. Sophie's witnesses were her brother Henry and her cousins Princes Albert Victor and George of Wales; for Constantine's side, the witnesses were his brothers Princes George and Nicholas and his cousin the Tsarevich of Russia. The marriage (the first major international event held in Athens) was very popular among the Greeks. The names of the couple were reminiscent to the public of an old legend which suggested that when a King Constantine and a Queen Sophia ascended the Greek throne, Constantinople the Hagia Sophia would fall to Greek hands. Immediately after the marriage of the Diadochos, hopes arose for the Greek populace of the Megali Idea, i.e. the union of all Greeks in the same state. Abroad, the marriage of Constantine and Sophie raised much less enthusiasm. In France, it was feared that the arrival of a Prussian princess in Athens would switch the Kingdom of Greece to the side of the Triple Alliance. In Berlin, the union was also unpopular: German interests were indeed important in the Ottoman Empire and the Emperor didn't intend to help Greece simply because the Diadochos was his new brother-in-law.

Nevertheless, in Athens, the marriage ceremony was celebrated with pomp and gave rise to an especially significant pyrotechnic spectacle on the Acropolis and the Champ de Mars. Platforms were also built on the Syntagma Square so the public could better admire the procession between the Royal Palace and the Cathedral. The newlyweds were related to most of the European dynasties, so representatives of all the royal houses of the continent were part of the festivities: King Christian IX of Denmark (grandfather of the groom), Emperor William II of Germany (brother of the bride), the Prince of Wales (uncle of both groom and bride) and the Tsarevich of Russia (groom's cousin) were among the guests of honor. Naturally, Sophie's mother and sisters were also present at the ceremony.

In fact, the hosts and their retinues were so many in the small Hellenic Capital that King George I couldn't receive all of them in his palace. He had to ask some members of the Greek high society to receive part of the guests in their mansions. Similarly, the sovereign was obliged to borrow the horses and carriages of his subjects in order to transport all visitors during the festivities. In addition, the king was forced to hastily buy dozens of additional liveries for the lackeys at the service of the guests.

Family deaths

Back in Greece with her husband, the Crown Princess resumed her charity work. However, the health of both her mother and English grandmother deeply concerned her. The Empress Dowager of Germany was indeed suffering from breast cancer, which caused her extreme suffering. As for the Queen of the United Kingdom, she was approaching the age of eighty and her family knew that the end was close. But the last years of Queen Victoria's reign were marked by the Second Boer War, during which the United Kingdom suffered terrible losses facing the Afrikaner resistance. Sophia was concerned that the difficulties suffered by the British in South Africa would undermine the already fragile health of her grandmother.

Queen Victoria finally died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 22 January 1901 in Osborne House. Very affected by the death of the sovereign, Sophia traveled to the United Kingdom for her funeral and attended a religious ceremony in her honor in Athens with the rest of the Greek royal family.

A few months later, in the summer of 1901, Sophie went to Friedrichshof to look after her mother, whose health continued to decline. Five months pregnant, the Crown Princess knew that the Dowager Empress was dying and, with her sisters Viktoria and Margaret, she accompanied her until her last breath on 5 August. In the space of seven months Sophia lost two of her closest relatives. However, her new maternity helped keep her from feeling sorry for herself.

Marital problems and private life

Sophia and Constantine's marriage was harmonious during the first years. However, faithfulness was not the greatest quality of the Diadochos and his wife soon had to deal with his numerous extramarital affairs. Initially shocked by what she saw as a betrayal, Sophia soon followed the example of her mother-in-law and condoned the behavior of her husband. From 1912, however, the couple became noticeably separated. At that time, Constantine began an affair with Countess Paola von Ostheim (née Wanda Paola Lottero), an Italian stage actress who had recently divorced from Prince Hermann of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach; this relationship lasted until Constantine's death.

When Sophia gave birth to her sixth and last child, a daughter named Katherine on 4 May 1913, a persistent gossip stated that the child was the result of her own affairs. The rumors, true or false, didn't affect Constantine, who easily recognized his paternity.

In private, the Crown Princely couple communicated in English and it was mainly in this language that they raised their children, who grew up in a loving and warm atmosphere in the middle of a cohort of tutors and British nannies. Like her mother, Sophia inculcated in her offspring the love for the United Kingdom and for several weeks every year, the family spent time in Great Britain, where she visited the beaches of Seaford and Eastbourne. However, the summer vacations of the family were spent not only in Friedrichshof with the Empress Dowager, but also in Corfu and Venice, where the Greek royal family went aboard the yacht Amphitrite.

Private life

After their accession to the throne, Constantine and Sophia continued to lead the simple lifestyle that they had enjoyed during their time as heirs. They spent their free time practising botany, which was their common passion, and transformed the gardens of the New Royal Palace on the English model.

The couple was very close to other members of the royal family, especially Prince Nicholas. Every Tuesday, the King and Queen dined with him and his wife Elena, and on Thursdays, they returned the visit with the royal couple at the Royal Palace.

Death of Alexander I

On 2 October 1920, King Alexander I was bitten by a pet monkey as he walked on the royal estate of Tatoi. His wounds quickly became infected and he suffered from a strong fever and sepsis. On 19 October, he became delirious and called out for his mother at his bedside. However, the Greek government refused to allow Sophia to return to Greece: they feared that the loyalists would benefit from the presence of the Queen in Athens to organize action against them.

Very worried about her son, Sophia begged the government to change their mind but, aware that only her mother-in-law still found favor with Venizelists, she eventually asked Olga to go to Athens to take care of Alexander I. After several days of negotiations, the Dowager Queen obtained permission to return to Greece, but delayed by rough seas, she only arrived twelve hours after the death of her grandson, on 25 October.

Two days later, the remains of the young King were buried in the royal crypt of Tatoi. Again, the government banned the exiled royals from entering the country and the Dowager Queen was the only member of the family to attend the funeral. The loss of her son and the impossibility to go to his funeral deeply affected Sophia; many observers now noticed the sadness that showed on the Queen's face.

Last years

Sophia, now Dowager Queen, left Southern Italy with her daughters Irene and Katherine and moved to Tuscany, in the Villa Bobolina of Fiesole. From 1924 to 1927, the three women were joined by Princesses Aspasia and Alexandra, much to Sophia's delight, because she was very attached to her granddaughter. In 1930, Princess Helen also came to live with her mother after her disastrous marriage with King Carol II of Romania ended in divorce. During summer vacations, the Dowager Queen had the opportunity to see her grandson Prince Michael of Romania, when he came to visit his mother.

Surrounded by her family, Sophia found some stability but, convinced that Greece wouldn't remain a republic forever, refused to acquire the villa where she settled. Released from any official position, she had now more freedom to travel. She made frequent trips to Germany, where she reunited with her sister Margaret, but also to Great Britain, after having obtained the permission of King George V. The Dowager Queen also witnessed several strong moments in the life of the European elite. In 1929, she went to Doorn in the Netherlands for the 70th birthday of her brother, the former Emperor William II, whom she had not seen since 1914.

In her older years, Sophie became increasingly religious. She remained orthodox, but also attended Anglican offices when she had the chance. The Queen Dowager was also interested in the Protestant literature, especially in the works of the Episcopalian pastor Samuel Shoemaker (particularly Religion That Works and Twice Born Ministers) and the Presbyterian Rev. James Reid (In Touch With Christ). Finally, she had a close correspondence with the Anglican pastor R. W. Cole, whom she met in Birchington, and spent long hours praying.

Illness, death and burial

Sick for many years, Sophia saw her condition worsen from 1930, which forced her to go to a hospital in Frankfurt to follow a treatment. Apparently recovered by December, she took full advantage of her strength and during 1931 she traveled to Great Britain, Bavaria and Venice. But in September, her condition deteriorated again and she had to return to Frankfurt, where she underwent surgery. It was during this time that the doctors diagnosed advanced cancer and they gave the Dowager Queen a few weeks to life. After the New Year celebrations of 1932, Sophia gradually stopped eating and her health declined rapidly. She finally died surrounded by her children in the hospital, on 13 January 1932.

Sophia's body was transferred to the castle of Friedrichshof, where she rested a few days before being sent to the Russian Church in Florence, where she was buried alongside her husband and mother-in-law. They stayed there for four years until the restoration of George II on the Greek throne in 1935.

After his restoration on the Greek throne, George II organized the repatriation of the remains of members of his family who died in exile. An important religious ceremony that brought together, for six days in November 1936, all members of the royal family still alive. Sophia's body was buried at the royal burial ground at Tatoi Palace, where she still rests today.

Avoti: wikipedia.org

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