Sarabande for Dead Lovers (1948)




Director:    Basil Dearden

Starring:     Stewart Granger, Joan Greenwood, Flora Robson, Francoise Rosay, Frederick Valk, Peter Bull, Anthony Quayle, Michael Gough, Megs Jenkins, Christopher Lee

Country:    British

Good movie.  Joan Greenwood in romance that tears her between her responsibilities and love for a young rogue.  


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 


From a Germany that was then a collection of small and independent States, George Louis of Hanover succeeded to the throne of England. As King George the First he left behind him a prisoner in the Castle of Ahlden - a woman whose name he tried to obliterate from the pages of history, whose story he determined should die with her. It was the story of the woman who had been his wife . . . Sophie Dorothea.

A maid comes out of the room and tells three men that Sophia Dorothea wishes to write a letter to the Prince and wishes for pen and paper. One man grants permission, but the other man tells him that there is to be no communication at all. The man who granted permission says that she is a dying woman. The other one says there is to be no communication, especially since the King and the Prince are not getting along well. A third and older man says let her write the letter and they will read it and make their own judgment.

In the letter Sophie Dorothea wants to set the record straight with her son. He has been told that his mother brought dishonor on the house of Hanover. Hanover, the capital of the ambitious and powerful state that bordered on her childhood home of Cella. Politics and intrigue dominated the court there. And without warning they were to alter the whole course of her life forever.

Flashback.  Two men arrive with news. An uncle is dead. A servant notifies Clara that Count Potten has arrived. The man with her in the room, the Elector, is upset that her husband would come as this hour of night. He asks: "Hasn’t he any sense of what’s fitting?" The mistress, Clara, says she will see to it.

Her husband says there is news of a betrothal. Sophia Dorothea to Prince Anthony Ulrich of Offenburtle. The contract will be signed tomorrow. It will be part of the birthday celebration The Princess will be 16 years old. Clara thanks him for the news and says she will tell the Elector.

Clara tells the Elector to go to his brother and offer him an alliance with Hanover and he’ll soon have sense enough to put this to right. She says they are not so rich that they can ignore Sophia Dorothea’s dowry. He can’t let these lands just slip through his fingers, especially since he has an unmarried son of his own.

The Elector speaks with his wife Sophie about the marriage. Sophie is opposed to any marriage to Sophia Dorothea from Cella. She says she is a commoner. Her husband tells her she is his brother’s daughter. With Cella in his pocket he will have more weight with Sophie's cousins in England. She wants to see her son on the English throne and this marriage will make that possibility more secure. 

The brother of the Prince, named Charles, speaks with Clara.  The Elector and his wife come into the room.  Charles speaks with his mother and then leaves.  Sophie then speaks with Countess Plotten (Clara0.  She says she hopes the Countess is well because she is valuable to Hanover. 

Sophia Dorothea is excited on her sixteenth birthday awaiting the arrival of Prince Antony Ulrich and the formal signing of the marriage contract.  She looks forward to a happy and contented future.  She runs in to tell her father that Antony is here, but she finds her parents with stern faces.  With them in the room is Sophia.  Sophia gives Sophia Dorothea a ring that her husband gave her when she was to wed and now she gives it to her on behalf of her son George Louis. 

Neither Sophia Dorothea or her mother want the marriage to George Louis.  Dorothea cries.  But her father tells her to be quiet.  Her mother begs Sophia to let her daughter marry who she wants.  Sophia says she doesn't know if she will.  Father apologizes to Sophia. 

George Louis talks to his father about his bride to be.  He says he hears that she doesn't want him for a husband.  George says he sympathizes with her for he does not want her as his wife. 

Sophia Dorothea waves to the cheering ground on her way to her marriage.  The marriage is completed.   At night Dorothea dreads her first conjugal visit from her husband. 

Sophia Dorothea says that the next years brought her many lonely nights.  Her happiness was centered around her two children.  George, however, soon went his own way.  She was often left with only the Electress as company and they had little in common.  Dorothea complains to Sophia that she is taking George away from her.  She is also upset by the mistresses of her husband.  Dorothea says:  "Iif he can please himself, so can I."  This makes Sophia angry and she tells her to remember to uphold her position and try to live within it decently.  

As every month went by she saw less and less of her two children.  It was the summer of 1689.  Then Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck moved to Hanover.  He soon matched the court in his extravagance.  Königsmarck loses at cards to His Highness.  Clara stays behind to speak to him.  She says maybe there is some military appointment they can find for him.  She does has some influence at court, after all.  In return, he will pay her a commission of 15% percent on his salary. 

At a cabinet meeting the two brothers, George and Charles, trade barbs.  Charles says George lost 8,000 men at Mannheim two months ago.  George says to sentdCharles as commander and with second-in-command take Königsmarck.

Clara tells Königsmarck about the position, but he is suspicious.  He thinks they are looking for a scapegoat when the time of defeat comes.  The Swede says that not being a man of honor he can always run away to England if things get too uncomfortable.  Clara has second thoughts.  She will get him a position at home.  Clara finds him a position as the Colonel of the palace guards.  The Earl of Hanover (George) is disappointed in the Swede when he finds out about the new position.  At this moment Dorothea and the two children come into the room.  George introduces the Swede.  The children recite poems for their father.  Her husband gets impatient with the poems and leaves.  Dorothea and the children talk with the new colonel for a short while. 

At a picnic Clara indicates that she wants a relationship with the colonel.  Königsmarck goes to speak with Dorothea.  She says she may have to go to England one day so she studies English poetry.  Dorothea enjoyed the talk and tells the colonel that he must continue it on another occasion. 

The Electress calls Königsmarck in to try to convince him to take the second-in-command military position.  He is still not interested.  She wants to know why?  He says why should he want to invite discredit on himself in a doubtful military adventure?  The men are not fit to fight.  Sophia leaves.  It turns out that neither Sophia nor Sophia Dorothea knew about the sorry state of their forces.  Dorothea says the Electress will still send her son to war.  It's all for politics and, especially, for the English throne.  In fact, everything they do at court is subservient to politics.  She is quite bitter about it.  She apologizes for ranting to the colonel. 

Clara speaks with Königsmarck.  She says that pretty little simpleton, Dorothea, could be Queen of England one day.  But Clara doesn't care.  She says she has her Philip.  But Philip is thinking about other things, especially Dorothea. 

At an operatic performance, Philip sits next to Dorothea.  Clara sees Philip looking at Dorothea and she is not happy about it. 

At another picnic Königsmarck tries to kiss Dorothea, but she turns away at the last second.  He tells her he loves her and she loves him.  That's not something to be afraid of.  But Dorothea says yes it is.  Clara rides over to them and calls for Philip.  He goes to Clara.

In the evening, Philip comes to Clara's room.  She scolds him for staying away from her for two weeks.  She wants him to be honest with her and asks him directly what is there between him and the princess?  He says:  "Nothing."  Then what is it?  She tells Philip to kiss her but he won't.  She grabs a hot curling iron and places it against his neck on the left side.  He knocks the curling iron to the floor.  Philip bolts for the door.  Clara bars his exit.  She begs him to stay with her, to love her.  Philip walks out the door as she cries.

The princess tells her good friend that she doesn't want to go partying.  The friend tells her she's just afraid of running into Philip.  She says that Dorothea cannot end something like this by hiding from it.  But the princess is still going to stay in.  She looks out the window to see all the revelers in the street.  She closes the window to block the noise.  The wind blows the window back open and Dorothea can't sleep.  She decides to put on a mask and go down into the streets with the revelers.  She seems to almost panic in the streets.  There are too many people and too much wildness.  She reaches a house and bangs on it to get inside.  Others mockingly bang on the door with her.  She runs away and runs straight into Philip and promptly faints.   

He takes her inside and they kiss.  She grabs his neck where he was burned by Clara.  He removes her hand.  Dorothea says she has dreamed of being alone with him for a long time.  She says she tried to fight it, but she can't.  Philip says he is putting her life at risk.  He is leaving Hanover.  She doesn't want him to go.  Philip says that Clara already knows about them.  Dorothea says that Philip has made love to Clara.  But Philip tells her twice that he loves her and that he has never said that before to any woman. He says he must take her back now. 

On Philip's desk there is a map of the Peninsula of Morea.  And now we see Philip riding beside Charles, as his second-in-command.  Clara and Dorothea are very unhappy to see Philip go.  The two men will be leading 9,000 men into battle.  Sophia wants Dorothea to read to her, but Dorothea says she has a headache.  She can't hide her disappointment and asks Sophia how can she so blithely watch her son going off to war without some sign of feeling of compassion.  Sophia asks her if this display of emotion is for her son Charles or for someone else?  She goes on to say that she is not making any accusations, but she must realize that her good name is of great importance not just only to herself. 

Sophia has had a very hard life herself, emotionally speaking at least.  But she has kept her good name despite such provocations as her husband's mistress Clara.  In the end you only have yourself to thank, she says. Dorothea apologizes to her for her criticisms and Sophia again reiterates that women of the nobility have no choice but to live up to their positions.  The talk has an effect on Dorothea for now she tries to shut out all thought of Philip and to be accept the futility and the monotony of a life at court.   Dorothea tries to outdo them all at court.  But this backfires on her.  Clara tells her George that Dorothea now pleases everyone so much at court that it is now said by everyone that she who neglects her husband.  George listens and absorbs. 

Dispatches arrive from the Morea.  Their troops have been routed and Charles is missing.  George tells Dorothea and she starts to fall apart.  He starts to become suspicious of her emotional state.  He asks her if she feels faint?  He says the dispatch from Königsmarck said . . .  As she sinks deeper into an emotional state, he asks her:  "What is this?"  He grabs her and slaps her three times across the face and then leaves.  Dorothea cries.  Clara comes in and Dorothea says that Philip is safe.  Clara is relieved. 

What's left of the troops come home.  Many are badly wounded.  Königsmarck tells the Electress that when the men heard that Prince Charles was dead, they had no stomach to continue.  The Turks returned Charles's body to them.  She asks him if her son received her letters and Philip says he carried them with him always.  She tells Philip that she is happy her son had him as a friend.  Philip leaves and runs into Dorothea.  She stops and they look at each other.  But then she proceeds on without saying anything. 

Dorothea's good friend goes to Königsmarck to tell him that she is afraid for Dorothea.  She is not able to hide her feelings.  If one word gets to George of this, he will ruin Dorothea.  Philip can only help her by going back to Clara.  She adds that Dorothea is not enjoying her life.  She is too full of crying. 

Sophia and George talk to Dorothea.  The English ambassador is coming to see them.  The English have finally recognized George's right to the English throne.  Dorothea says she has no wish to be Queen of England.  Sophia is shocked.  She says it's not a time for personal sentiment.  Dorothea has only one male child and Sophia insists there must be another.  She demands that the separation of George and Dorothea must end once and for all.  George says when the English ambassador comes, Dorothea and he will share the same wing. 

Clara develops the measles.  Philip comes to see her.  Clara is thrilled that he came.  She asks him why has he come and if he wants thing to be as they were?  Philip says he's here and isn't that enough?  So Clara starts dreaming of going to Sweden with him.  She says she has planned and schemed for English acceptance of George's claim to the British throne and she has waited for the day when George would give her a little pension and set her free.  When she tells Philip that Dorothea has returned to her husband, Philip rushes out.  Clara is upset all over again. 

Back home Philip receives an invitation to the regimental party in honor of the prince's claim to the English throne being recognized.  He tells the messenger that with Charles dead, this is not the time to celebrate.  Philip sits at the right hand side of George.  He gets up to make a little speech.  Philip gets carried away with insulting George and praising his late brother Charles.  The men at the table are shocked.  A major goes to challenge Philip to a duel, but Philip stops him for slapping him with a glove.  Philip walks out.  George calls for a song. 

Dorothea is asleep.  She awakens to see her husband standing by her side and gets a fright.  He tells her that now he knows and now he will have him shot.  He turns and leaves.  Dorothea leaves to go to Philip.  She is watched by a Captain Dura.  Philip plans to elope with Dorothea.  They are leaving together tomorrow night.  It's all been arranged.  Captain Dura knocks on the door.  He wants to check the other room thinking he saw Dorothea.  Philip tells him it is Clara that came to see him and she won't be pleased to see him.  The captain accepts this and leaves.  Philip finds a note from Dorothea saying they can't escape.  It's impossible.  

The captain discovers the get-away coach,  He tells Clara about it.  Clara says if Dorothea is going, she's going tonight.  Clara comes to speak to George.  The captain tells Clara that Philip has come for Dorothea.  Dorothea goes to tell Philip that she's not going with him.  Philip says he won't go without her.  Meanwhile, Clara tells George.  She also tells him to give her four guards and let her make the arrest of Philip.  Philip talks about taking Dorothea to Sweden.  He will return in fifteen minutes.  She says she will be ready. 

Philip tries to leave, but he can't.  The exit door has been secured.  He draws his sword and searches for a way out.  Running into one of the guards, Philip kills him. Captain Dura draws his sword.  Philip severely wounds  him.  Philip goes on to kill the other two guards, but is knifed in the back by the captain.  Philip falls dead in front of Clara who watched the whole thing.    

Dorothea waits for Philip in vain.  Sophia confronts Clara and tells her she has dishonored their house.  Clara says she was the one who got George acknowledged by the English.  Sophia tells her thank you, but says Clara will have her head cut off.  She will pray for Clara. 

September 20, 1694.  The leader of a tribunal reads a statement.  Dorothea agrees to divorce George.  She will be placed under a type of house arrest in the Castle of Ahlden in her native Celle.  As the conditions of her imprisonment are read aloud, Dorothea sees her note to Philip on the table and knows that Philip is dead.  Dorothea signs the document.  She cries.  Sophia gives her message of asceticism to Dorothea once again.  Dorothea is taken to the castle on the same day.

Back to the present.   Dorothea says that was 30 years ago.  "I have nothing to wait for now, except . . ." 

Dorothea, the wife of King George I of England and mother of King George II, dies, November 13, 1726 at her castle. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




Historical Background:


George I of England

1660 (May 28) – George born in Osnabrück (then part of the Holy Roman Empire). His father was the oldest son of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. His mother was Sophia of the Rhineland Palatinate, granddaughter of King James I of England through her mother, Elizabeth of Bohemia.

1661 – George's brother, Frederick Augustus, born.

1664-1665 – mother absent on a convalescent holiday in Italy for almost a year.

Sophia's had five more children. Sophia said that George as a child was responsible and conscientious.

By 1675 – George's accession to being king was not at all certain. Two uncles married and might have sons. So his father trained him in a back-up profession just in case: the military. He took George on campaign in the Franco-Dutch War to see how he performed.

1679 – an uncle died without sons. George’s father became Duke of Calenberg-Göttingen, with his capital at Hanover. The other uncle only had a girl. So George’s accession now seemed secure.

1679 – George marries his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea. It was an arranged marriage for political and economic goals.

1683 – George and brother Frederick Augustus serve in the Great Turkish War at the Battle of Vienna.

1683 – Sophia Dorothea gives birth to a son, George Augustus.

1684 – Frederick Augustus breaks with the family when he finally learns he would not receive part of his father's territory.

1687 – Sophia Dorothea has a daughter she names Sophia.

1690 – Frederick Augustus dies in battle.

1692 – George becomes an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.

George starts hanging out more and more with his mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg.

1692 - George has a daughter by his mistress.

1693 – George has a second daughter by his mistress.

George’s wife has a romance with Swedish Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck. She threatens to elope with the man.

1694 (July) – the Swedish Count is killed and his body, weighted with stone, thrown into the river Leine. It is believed the the murder was done by four of Ernest Augustus's courtiers.

George divorces his wife. The grounds were that his wife had abandoned him. The wife is put in prison in the Castle of Ahlden in her native Celle. She was given income and servants and allowed to ride in a carriage outside her castle as long as the ride was supervised. (George’s treatment of his wife became something of a scandal.)

1698 – George’s father dies. George is now Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (also known as Hanover, after its capital) as well as Archbannerbearer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. In his court was composer Georg Friederich Händel

1698 – the second-in-line to the English and Scottish thrones, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester dies. Because she was a protestant, the Parliament decides that next in line would be George's mother (that is, after the reigning monarch William III and his sister-in-law, Princess Anne of Denmark, later Queen Anne).

1701 – death of the nearest Catholic claimant to the throne of England, ex-King James II.

1701-1714 – War of the Spanish Succession begins. Several European powers combine to stop the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under a single Bourbon monarch.

1702 (March) – death of William III. Sophia becomes heir presumptive to Anne, now Queen of England.

1705 – naturalization of Sophia and her heirs as English citizens.

1705 – George's surviving uncle dies and George gets Lüneberg-Grubenhagen.

1705 – as part of the War of the Spanish Succession George invades his neighboring state, pro-French Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. The British and Dutch reward George by recognizing the Hanoverian claim to Saxony-Lauenburg.

1707 – George becomes Imperial Field Marshal.

1709 – George resigns as Field Marshal.

1710 – George becomes Archtreasurer of the Empire.

1711 – Emperor Joseph dies.

1713 – ratification of the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip of France can succeed to the Spanish throne, but he is removed from the line of succession to the French throne.

1707 – Act of Union unites England and Scotland into a single political entity, the Kingdom of Great Britain.

1714 (May 28) - George's mother dies at age 83. George is now heir to the throne.

1714 (August 1) – hit by a stroke, Queen Anne dies. George becomes king.

1714 (October 20) – George is crowned king. He spends about one fifth of his reign in Germany.  (He was not popular partly because he could not speak English.)

1715 – the Whigs win big in the general election. George's chief ministers include Sir Robert Walpole, Lord Townshend (Walpole's brother-in-law), Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland.

1715 – death of Louis XIV of France. Phillip of Spain tries to unite France and Spain.

1716 – end of the short-lived Jacobite rebellion which sought to put Anne's Catholic half-brother, James (who they hoped would be James III). Some of the Tory party sided with the Jacobites. Because of this George preferred the Whigs. The Tories would not return to power for another half-century.

George’s son, George Augustus, Prince of Wales, encouraged opposition to his father's policies.

1717 – the quarrels lead to major dispute between father and son over the christening of a grandson. The Prince is forced to leave the royal residence, St. James's Palace. The children of the Prince were left in the care of the king.

The Prince's new home, Leicester House, becomes a meeting place for the political opponents of the king.

Walpole and the Princess of Wales, dying to see her children, virtually force father and son to reconcile, but they never again were on cordial terms with one another.

1717 – Lord Townshend is dismissed and Walpole resigns from the Cabinet over internal disputes. Lord Stanhope becomes supreme in foreign affairs and Lord Sunderland supreme in domestic matters.

1717 – George helps create the Triple Alliance, an anti-Spanish league composed of Great Britain, France and the Dutch United Provinces.

1718 – the Triple Alliance becomes the Quadruple Alliance with the addition of the Holy Roman Empire.

1718-1720 – War of the Quadruple Alliance, the result of the attempt of Philip King of Spain to overturn that part of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) which prohibited France uniting with Spain.

1719 – Spain supports a Jacobite-led invasion of Scotland (but only 300 Spanish soldiers actually arrive because of bad seas). The Jacobites are easily defeated. Spain and France remain separate.

1719 – Lord Sunderland's power begins to wane. Walpole led the opposition to him.

1719 – the economic crisis, known as the South Sea Bubble, made George and his ministers extremely unpopular.

1721 -- Lord Stanhope collapses and dies after a stressful debate in the House of Lords. Lord Sunderland resigns from public office.

1722 – Lord Sunderland suddenly dies. Sir Robert Walpole becomes de facto Prime Minister. He helped the nation return to financial stability. (George himself had lost money in the crash.)

Walpole becomes so powerful that he is able to appoint ministers himself.  George rarely attends Cabinet meetings.

1726 – George provides sanctuary for the philosopher Voltaire when he is exiled from Paris.

1727 – George suffers a stroke and dies during his sixth trip to his native Hanover since his accession as King.

His son George Augustus becomes King George II.


Other movies dealing with George:

Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953)

The Iron Glove (1954)

an episode of the Granada Television series Rogues' Gallery entitled "A Bed-Full of Miracles" (1969)



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