Dorothea von Velen

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Dorothea von Velen (17 April 1670 – 21 August 1732) was the mistress of Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine.

Born into an impoverished noble family of Berg, she came to Johann Wilhelm's attention as a lady-in-waiting to his second wife, Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici of Tuscany. She bore the elector two children to survive infancy, Frederika Cunigunde and Melusine, and is credited with being the foremost advocate of religious toleration at the contemporary Palatine court, compelling Johann Wilhelm to issue the Religionsdeklaration of 1705. Dorothea was also a proponent of women's rights, unsuccessfully lobbying the elector to allow women to initiate divorce; however, the elector did agree to abolish coverture in 1707, aggrandising the Palatinate's image among Enlightenment philosophers such as Montesquieu.[1] At the age of 41 she was married to Otto Alexander von Velen, whom the elector made Bailiff of Seltz. It was a happy marriage, even though Dorothea failed to give him any children.

When Johann Wilhelm died, in 1716, the new elector, Charles III Philip, expelled her from her apartment in the Electoral Palace, thinking her a stain on his brother's memory. News of her subsequent disappearance scandalised Europe. The French resident at Düsseldorf speculated that Dorothea had intended to propagate information inimical to the elector's reputation and that he had taken "appropriate action" to ensure that she wouldn't. Without any explanation, she resurfaced in 1717 in Amsterdam, where she published her memoirs, A Life for Reform. Passages detailing the personal life of Charles III Philip damaged his reputation; among other things, she accused him of participating in séances—a fact attested to by other ladies-in-waiting at court. He withdrew her allowances and she mired herself in debts. Penniless, she died in 1732 of dysentery.


  1. ^ Langdon-Davies, pp. 132 - 124.


  • Langdon-Davies, John (1962). Carlos: The Bewitched. Jonathan Cape.