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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

John Smith (1652-1743)

The most Illustrious Princess Sophia Electrice Dowager of Brunswick c.1706

RCIN 610366

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The death of William, Duke of Gloucester in 1700 deprived the nation of a Protestant heir to his mother, Princess (later Queen) Anne. The Act of Settlement was therefore introduced to guarantee the Protestant succession. By this legislation the seventy-year-old Princess Sophia, the dowager Electress of Hanover (whose mother had been the ‘Winter Queen’ Elizabeth, daughter of James VI and I) was named as Anne’s successor. But Princess Sophia died in 1714, two months before Queen Anne, and on Anne’s death the crown thus passed to Sophia’s eldest son, who became the first Hanoverian King of Britain, George I.

This print was made in around 1706 by the prolific mezzotinter John Smith. Sophia had never travelled to Britain and such images of the heir to the throne and potential future monarch would have been eagerly studied. John Smith advertises the accuracy of this portrait in his note that it is based ‘on an Original Painting lately brought from Hanover’.