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Sophia, Electress, consort of Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover, 1630-1714
Sophia, Electress of Hanover, Letter Book and Commonplace Book
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-001206


Consists of a letter book with unpublished letters and a commonplace book likely compiled by or for Sophia, Electress of Hanover (1630-1714), granddaughter of James I of England.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a letter book with unpublished letters and a commonplace book likely compiled by or for Sophia, Electress of Hanover (1630-1714), granddaughter of James I of England, around 1700.

Although not written in her hand, the volume of about 185 letters (387 pages), all in French (the court language of Hanover), perhaps made around the year 1700 (there is nothing later than 1702), were likely compiled for her use. They constitute a significant collection of documentary evidence for the political and, to a lesser extent, the literary culture of her court, and that of other European courts as well. They include letters to and from her husband Ernst August; his numerous brothers; her siblings such as Elisabeth Abbess of Herfort and Prince Rupert of the Rhine; advisers and ministers such as Otto Grotius, Ezekiel Spanheim and Count von Wartenburg; and letters such as the anonymous one from London written in 1701 (pages 282-286) on the debate about the succession. This last one is possibly from John Toland, with whom we know she and her daughter were familiar: in 1701 Toland travelled to present to Sophia a copy of the Act of Settlement, and had long conversations with her and her daughter the Queen of Prussia. Also included is an extract from Camden's Britannia (pages 246-247). Although much of Sophia's correspondence has been published this collection of almost 200 letters to her seems to be unknown.

The commonplace book (426 pages), compiled mostly by the same hand (with two different hands adding other matter at the end), also includes a long account of the Carnival at Herrenhausen court in 1702 (subtitled "Trimalcion Moderne"), which continued the tradition begun by Duke Ernst August even after his death. There are a few letters here, too, but the majority of the volume is composed of verses, literary anecdotes, and historical and political matters. Among the more significant pieces – given the expectations of Sophia and her eldest son with regard to the British throne – are an account of a meeting of William III of England with the Electors at the Hague (page 13), and a long section on the rules governing the accession to the throne made by the Westminster Parliament (pages 36-44). Also included is a lengthy word list of English words, with translations into German (pages 391-424). The book is primarily in French with some Italian, German, and English.

Description and inventories provided by the dealer.

Collection Creator Biography:

Sophia, Electress, consort of Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover, 1630-1714

Sophia, Electress of Hanover (1630-1714), was the twelfth of thirteen children born to Frederick V of the Palatinate and Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662), eldest daughter of James VI and I: she was born at The Hague and spent much of her early life in Holland, where she received a high level of education. In 1658, she married Ernst August (1629-98) of Brunswick-Lüneberg with whom she had several children. Sophia's court at Herrenhausen, near the city of Hanover, was a considerable centre for cultural life, where the annual Carneval, begun by Ernst August, was continued by Sophia. With the death, infertility or Catholic conversion of many candidates with stronger claims, Sophia's regal ambitions came closer and closer to the Stuarts, of whom she was eventually the final representative: for more than a decade, from the death of Queen Anne's son the Duke of Gloucester in 1700 to her own death in June 1714, Sophia was heir to the British throne. But because she died less than two months before Anne, the title was inherited by her son George Louis (Georg Ludwig), better known to English history as George I, founder of the House of Hanover in England.

Collection History


Purchase, 2018 . AM 2018-87

Custodial History

Both volumes have a small early 19th century book label reading "Louisa Catherine Sligo," likely Louisa Catherine Browne (née Howe, 1767-1817), wife of the first Marquess of Sligo (1756-1809). Her father was Richard, Earl Howe (1726-99), who was in turn the son of Emanuel Viscount Howe and his wife Mary Sophia Charlotte Kielmansegge. Lady Howe (1695-1782) was the eldest child of Charlotte Sophia Kielmansegge, Countess of Darlington (1675-1725), natural daughter of Ernst August, elector of Hanover, Sophia's husband.


No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing beyond routine appraisal practices.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton in July 2018. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in July 2018.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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Credit this material:

Sophia, Electress of Hanover, Letter Book and Commonplace Book; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
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(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-001206