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Saraband for Dead Lovers tells the tragic story of Princess Sophia Dorothea of Celle who married Prince George Louis of Hanover most unhappily. Her's is one of the saddest stories concerning royalty ever.
This may have been Joan Greenwood's finest performance on screen. She's really the only decent person in this entire cast. For reasons of politics, she's rushed into a marriage with George Louis and has two children by him, a boy and girl. At the time this is all taking place in the 1680s, there's no reason to suspect that these kids will be nothing more than the Electoral Princes of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire.
But through their grandmother, played here by the indomitable French actress Francoise Rosay, they are descended from James I, the first king of the United Kingdoms of Scotland and England. She never lets them forget that for a moment.
Actually in fact a whole lot of people in 1689 would have to clear out of the way for Peter to become King of Great Britain. But over the next two decades, that's exactly what did happen. One thing the Hanover clan had going for them, they were firm Protestants and at that point there were too many people in Great Britain who had a vested interest in an unquestioned Protestant succession. It was the Hanoverian ace in the hole.
But before all these events occur Joan Greenwood falls head over heels for the dashing Swedish Count Philip of Konigsmarck as played by Stewart Granger. Granger probably plays Konigsmarck a lot better than he actually was, which was a military man who was not above a little bedroom politics to get what he wanted. Before becoming involved with the younger and more attractive Greenwood, Granger was providing a little nookie on the side to Flora Robson. Robson was the old mistress of the Duke Ernest Augustus played here by Frederick Valk, but the old girl wanted something a little livelier which Granger provided for a few favorable mentions. As in real life Granger moved away when he found something better and Flora reacted with the fury of a woman scorned.
Some of you might recognize a bit of Anna Karennina in this story and I wouldn't be surprised if Count Tolstoy took this story as inspiration when he wrote his epic classic.
Peter Bull and Joan Greenwood are the direct ancestors of the present monarch of the United Kingdom and her family. In 1715 Peter Bull became George I of Great Britain and distinguished himself by never learning to speak one drop of English. In fact all he saw Great Britain as was a cash cow to finance various continental Hanoverian ventures. But the little boy in this film grew up to be George II and so on and so on until Elizabeth II.
For what happens to lovers Granger and Greenwood you have to watch the film for. It's a story that the royals aren't exactly proud of.
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