Press Release: The Heretic and the Heiress - two new books by J.N. Duggan

Post date: Sep 06, 2011 12:59:14 PM

Back to News >

Press Release: The Heretic and the Heiress:

the Electress Sophia of Hanover and Irish Philosopher, John Toland

11 November, 2010

For immediate publication

What is the connection between a European Princess, a descendant of the Wittelsbach and Stuart dynasties, who would go on to become Heiress Presumptive to the throne of Great Britain by the Act of Settlement of 1701 [see Note 1] and, a Donegal heretic, widely denounced by political and ecclesiastical authorities of the day? Two new books by Irish author, J.N. Duggan [see Note 2] furnish an answer.

Sophia, Electress of Hanover (1630-1714) was daughter of Frederick and Elisabeth of the Palatinate, known as the Winter King and Queen of Bohemia. Irish readers may be interested to know that she was a 20x great grand-daughter of Brian Boru and counted Strongbow and Aoife among her ancestors.

She is best remembered, in the English-speaking world, as the connection between the Houses of Stuart and Hanover but, in the opinion of her biographer, she deserves to be remembered in her own right, as a gifted writer and chronicler of her times (1630-1714).

"She has left us an enormous legacy of writings in the form of her Memoirs, (which she wrote at the age of 50), and the many letters which she wrote to her family and friends over the course of her long and eventful life. Her writings are remarkable both for the light that they throw on the politics and personalities of the 17 Century - she was related by blood or marriage to all the great families of Europe - but also for the insiders view that she gives us of life in the Princely Courts of Europe."

Because of her privileged position and ringside seat at the cockpit of European politics, she was able to report to Leibniz on 4 November 1688:

The Prince of Orange left last Saturday with 50 vessels. He had no manifesto except a memoir that the English Protestants sent him listing all their grievances against their King and the reasons that made them doubt that the Prince of Wales is the Queen’s child. However, the King of England [James II] has done me the honour of writing to me in his own hand on this subject, where he says that he would have to be the wickedest man on earth to do such a thing, but it seems that those who believe in such an imposture judge him by their own standards. H.M. writes to me also that he had not been able to believe for a long time that his son-in-law and nephew would be willing to invade his country and that was why he had delayed so long in making preparations, but that if the wind remained contrary for another few days he would be in a state to receive him. Therefore we are all impatient to learn how matters went in England. On all the Prince of Orange’s banners there is “For Religion and Liberty”.

J.N. Duggan is the author of Sophia of Hanover: from Winter Princess to Heiress of Great Britain, 1630-1714, recently published by Peter Owen Publishers of London. The circumstances in which her book on Sophia of Hanover was completed, led directly to her second book, John Toland: Ireland's Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar ... and Heretic, which is published by TAF Publishing. The author explains that she had never heard of John Toland (1670-1722) until coming across his name while researching for her biography of Sophia:

"Searching through other people’s bibliographies, I realised that he was the recognised source of information on the Courts of Hanover and Berlin in the first decade of the Eighteenth Century, and Chambers Biographical Dictionary informed me that he was an Irishman."

In fact, John Toland was born and raised on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, in 1670. He was a prolific writer on important political and religious issues of the day. He was the first person to be called a freethinker (by Bishop Berkeley); a radical republican who challenged the divine right of kings; the first to advocate full citizenship and equal rights for Jewish people in Great Britain and Ireland, among other notable achievements.

Toland left Ireland soon after his first book Christianity Not Mysterious was publicly burned in Dublin, having been denounced in both the Irish and English parliaments. He moved to London, where he resided till his death in 1722 but, was also a frequent visitor to the Continent. At the behest of some leading Whig lords, he wrote a book (Anglia Libera) in support of Sophia of Hanover's claim to the throne. He was able to present her with a copy in person when he travelled with Lord Macclesfield's delegation [see Note 3] that delivered the Act of Settlement to her.

That Toland and Sophia would take an instant liking to each other is not surprising, according to the author of these two volumes. It was noted that, during daily walks, Sophia and the Irishman would distance themselves from the attendant courtiers so that they could talk in private.

"They were both very forward-looking but also very practical people. He loved an audience and she loved to be entertained. Throughout her life, Sophia kept in touch with the thinking of the foremost philosophers of her day. Gottfried von Leibniz was not only librarian to the court of Hanover but, he was Sophia’s best friend and confidante. The two of them, together with the Catholic bishop of Neustadt, Christof Rojas de Spinola, attempted to reunite the Catholic and Protestant churches."

The attempt ended in failure and acrimony but, in any case, Sophia's enthusiasm for ecumenism was waning as prospects of a Protestant crown loomed on the horizon.

Toland, for his part, was in turn a member of each of the major religious sects - Catholic, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian - but, he abandoned them all and was denounced by each as a dangerous heretic. Outside of academic circles, he is barely known in his native Ireland however, where he is known, he is celebrated for the important part he played in laying the groundwork for the 18th Century Enlightenment.

Both of these books are on sale in all good bookshops and retailers including Online


Notes for Editors:

1. The Act of Settlement of 1701 was an act of the Parliament aimed at ensuring Protestant succession to the English throne. It was later extended to Scotland with the Acts of Union (1707). The Act named the Electress Sophia of Hanover - a granddaughter of James I - and her Protestant heirs to the throne, should Queen Anne die childless. This is precisely what happened. For the last 13 years of her life, Sophia looked forward to mounting her grandfather’s throne, even though she was 35 years older "but in far better health" than Queen Anne, her first-cousin-once-removed. In fact, she died only six weeks before Anne so, it was her son who inherited the throne that her descendants still occupy.

2. J.N. Duggan was born in Sheffield in 1938 but came to live in Ireland at the age of 12. She returned to Sheffield to train as a nurse and later did her BSc at University College Dublin. She now lives in Galway. She is the author of two books on European history. She is at present at work on a life of Count Hans Axel Fersen, the friend of confidante of Marie Antoinette.

3. Charles Gerard, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield was actually sentenced to death in 1685 for his role in a plot to assassinate King Charles II (the Rye House Plot) but later pardoned. In 1689 he was elected Member of Parliament for Lancashire, which he represented till 1694, when he succeeded to his father's peerage. In 1701 was charged to present a copy of the Act of Settlement to the dowager Electress Sophia. He died on 5 November 1701, leaving no heir. The title, Earl of Macclesfield was re-created in 1721.

Contacts for interviews, review copies etc:

Books by J.N. Duggan (Literary Agent)

Phone – Int+353+(0)1 8569566 or 087 7604547



Signed copies of Books by J.N. Duggan are available to buy exclusively from our Online Book Shop