Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fred and Charlotte, Bill and Sophie

While trying to keep track of all the Hohenzollern boys, I’m struck with the paucity of names the family came up with.  There’s an occasional Heinrich, Ludwig and Ferdinand here and there, but mostly they went with Frederick (Friedrich), combining it often with William (Wilhelm).  There’s a similar lack of imagination in the female line.  An amazing pile of Sophies and Charlottes.  (I’m writing in English, so I'm using Frederick and Sophie and William, but you know I mean Friedrich and Sophia and Wilhelm).

I have learned and forgotten a dozen times which one of the Sophie Charlottes Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) is named after and which of the Freddies or Williams or Freddy Williams she was attached to.  It has always seemed way beyond storage capacity to try to remember the entire line, but unless you at least give it a brief study, there’s no way to tell the players apart.   And in the end, you need an anchor or you just drift, so I decided to use Frederick the Great.  The answer to my question, by the way, is Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Frederick I, Frederick the Great's paternal grandmother.

So here goes, with birth years to keep them apart: The Sophies and their Freddies, moving backwards and forwards from Frederick II, aka Frederick the Great.

First, there is his mother,  Sophia Dorothea (1687) of Hanover.  And his mother's mother, Sophia Dorothea (1666) of Celle.  And his mother’s father’s mother: Sophia of the Palatinate (1630), also known as Sophia of Hanover. And finally, there is his father's mother, Sophia Charlotte (1688) of Hanover, who is also the daughter of his mother’s father’s mother, Sophia of the Palatinate (1630), also known as Sophia of Hanover.  The reason for this convolution it that his mother's father's mother is his father's mother's mother - Sophia of the Palatinate, also known as Sophia of Hanover.

There are so many more.  There’s Sophia Dorothea of Prussia (1719) (German: Sophia Dorothea Marie von Preußen), for example, the ninth child and fifth daughter of Frederick William I and Sophia Dorothea (1687) of Hanover.  She married a man named Frederick William, same name as her father.

The Sophies and the Charlottes don’t let a little thing like the English channel get in their way.  There is Sophia Matilda (1777) of the UK, daughter of George III, who became King of Hanover as well, which became a part of England until Victoria became queen and they took it away again because they didn’t want a woman to inherit it - and his wife, Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Nor do they stop in the 17th and 18th centuries; they just go on and on.

There is Sophia Dorothea (Ulrike Alice) of Prussia (1870), for example, daughter of Kaiser Friedrich III, the Kaiser who ascended the throne in March 1888 and died 99 days later, leaving the throne to his younger brother, Wilhelm II.  She was thus the daughter of Wilhelm I and the sister of Wilhelm II as well as of Charlotte and Victoria of Prussia, and the granddaughter of Victoria and Albert.  She married King Constantine of Greece, which required her converting to the Greek Orthodox faith.  Which so pissed off her sister-in-law, Dona, the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II, that she, Dona, convinced Sophia Queen of the Hellenes was going to hell, gave birth three weeks prematurely, which led Wilhelm, ever the horse’s ass, to write to his mother that if the baby had died, Sophia would have murdered it.

Then, a few years later, there was Sophia Charlotte (1879) of Oldenburg, who was married (1906) for twenty years (divorced in 1926) to Prince Eitel (which is the German word for "vain") Friedrich, the second son of Kaiser Wilhelm II (and therefore Frederick the Great’s nephew’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandson.)   She is apparently named after Sophie Charlotte of Hannover.  Lived in Bellevue Palace, where the German president now lives, after her marriage began falling apart.

And let’s not forget the current head of the Hohenzollern household, and heir presumptive to the German throne, Georg (wait for it,) Friedrich.  His wife’s name?  Sophie, of course.  And what did they name their first-born, the heir presumptive’s heir presumptive?  First name: Carl.  Second name: Friedrich.

And, once more across the channel, what are the Brits up to?  Heir presumptive to the throne, Wilhelm William married Kate and had a little boy Georg George.  And then they had a daughter.  Whom they named – you’d never guess ­– Charlotte.

Freddy von Kamakura
Sophia von Mexiko
My closest friends in Japan, Don and Alice, had a dog, a beautiful Chocolate Lab of blessed memory, named after Frederica von Stade.  Called her Freddie, for short.  Don and Alice live in Kamakura, where my friends Dan and Kanti used to live, also.  Until they moved to Mexico.  They have a dog named Sophia.

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