Sophie of Württemberg

Sophie of Württemberg (Sophia Frederika Mathilde; 17 June 1818 – 3 June 1877) was Queen of the Netherlands as the first wife of King William III[1].

Sophie of Württemberg
Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1861)
Queen consort of the Netherlands
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Duchess of Limburg
Tenure7 March 1849 – 3 June 1877
Born(1818-06-17)17 June 1818
Ludwigsburg Palace, Stuttgart, Württemberg
Died3 June 1877(1877-06-03) (aged 58)
Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, Netherlands
Burial20 June 1877
Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, Netherlands
Full name
Sophie Frederika Mathilde
FatherWilliam I of Württemberg
MotherCatherine Pavlovna of Russia


She was born in Stuttgart; her parents were King William I of Württemberg and Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, the fourth eldest daughter of Tsar Paul I. Sophie and William were first cousins as their mothers were sisters. Shortly after Sophie’s birth, her mother died, and she was cared for by her aunt, Catharina of Württemberg. She was niece of tsars Alexander I and Nicholas I of Russia.

Prior to her marriage, King Otto of Greece and Duke William of Brunswick were possible suitors for Princess Sophie. The engagement with the first came to nothing because Princess Sophie's ambitious father had no confidence in the newly established Greek monarchy of Otto. Chance prevented a proposal by the second candidate because her father let it be known that Princess Sophie was already betrothed.

She married the Prince of Orange (later King William III) in Stuttgart on 18 June 1839 with the idea that she would in the end succeed in dominating him. The couple returned to the Netherlands and established themselves at the Plein Palace and—after they had become king and queen—at the Noordeinde Palace. They had three children. The marriage was not a success. King William's mother, whom he completely relied on, was totally against the marriage to a daughter of the sister she loathed and treated her daughter-in-law and niece with disdain. Intellectually, Queen Sophie was superior to her husband. She, on the other hand, did not fit his sensual character. While he loved contemporary painting, music and theatre, she was a lady of letters with a specific interest in history. William III had several extramarital relations. She let it be publicly known that she found him inferior and unsuitable to be king and that she would do better as a regent for her son.

Queen Sophie tried to separate from him, but this was refused; the state interest had to prevail. From 1855 the couple lived separately during the summer season, he at Het Loo Palace and she at Huis ten Bosch Palace. She also spent time in Stuttgart, with her own family. Queen Sophie died at Huis ten Bosch Palace in the Hague. She was buried in her wedding dress, because, in her own view, her life had ended on the day she married.

Queen Sophie corresponded with several European scholars and maintained warm ties with Emperor Napoleon III and Queen Victoria. She protected and stimulated the arts, supported several charities, including animal protection and construction of public parks. She was the 540th Dame of the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa.



Titles and styles

  • 17 June 1818 – 18 June 1839: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophie of Württemberg
  • 18 June 1839 – 7 October 1840: Her Royal Highness Princess William of the Netherlands
  • 7 October 1840 – 7 March 1849: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Orange
  • 7 March 1849 – 3 June 1877: Her Majesty The Queen of the Netherlands



Sophie of Württemberg
Born: 17 June 1818 Died: 3 June 1877
Royal titles
Preceded by
Anna Pavlovna of Russia
Queen consort of the Netherlands
Grand Duchess consort of Luxembourg

Title next held by
Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont
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