Sophie von Hatzfeldt

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Sophie von Hatzfeldt, retouched portrait photograph, c. 1860/61

Sophie von Hatzfeldt; contemporary painting

Portrait with ermine coat and cigar

Sophie Josephine Ernestine Friederike Wilhelmine Countess of Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg-Schönstein, née Countess of Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg (* August 10, 1805 in Trachenberg; † January 25, 1881 in Wiesbaden) was a German socialist and companion of Ferdinand Lassalle.


In 1822, in order to end family disputes between the Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg and Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg lines, Sophie was forced to marry her brutal and violent cousin from the Wildenburg line, Edmund von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg-Weisweiler († 15 January 1874 in Düsseldorf),[1] a wealthy man with residences at Kalkum Castle near Düsseldorf, Schönstein and Crottorf Castle. Even the birth of her son Paul in 1831 could not stop the count from his debauchery. Already around 1830 she wanted to divorce, but her brothers Hermann Anton von Hatzfeldt and Maximilian von Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg denied her any financial support. From 1846 she pursued the divorce herself and was supported in this by the later labour leader Ferdinand Lassalle, whom she met through the mediation of Colonel Archibald Graf von Keyserling (1785-1855). The trial, which Lassalle also used for propaganda purposes for the workers’ movement, dragged on until 1854 and took place before six courts. The actual divorce took place on 30 July 1851.[1]

Alexander von Humboldt defended the Countess and Lasalle against the suspicions that arose during the divorce proceedings and vividly praised Lassalle’s “chevaleresque advocacy for an unhappy woman.”[2]

On December 10, 1847, she was sentenced at Berlin by the Rhenish Court of Cassation for libel to a term of imprisonment of two months, a fine of 100 Reichstaler, and the loss of civil rights for a term of five years. Lassalle received the same sentences for aiding and abetting.[3]

Since 1848 the “red countess” lived with Lassalle in Düsseldorf and was politically active there during the March Revolution. Even after her divorce in 1851, she lived with Lassalle until 1856; she then moved to Berlin, but remained in close contact with him. In 1861, they both met Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy. In 1862 she lived in Zurich and traveled through southern Germany with Wilhelm Rüstow.

After Lassalle’s death in a duel in 1864, she saw herself as his spiritual heiress, published his bequeathed writings, and was active in the Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein ADAV (General German Workers’ Association) founded by Lassalle, where, meanwhile, she quickly came into conflict with many male members of the workers’ movement. In 1867, as a split from the ADAV, she founded Lassalle’s General German Workers’ Association (LADAV). The president of this strictly centralist association was Fritz Mende, who was also its secretary[4] was its secretary. After the reunion of the LADAV with the ADAV in 1869, the Countess withdrew from politics. After she had reconciled with her family, she lived on the count’s estate Schloss Sommerberg in Frauenstein or in Heddernheim, later in Wiesbaden.

Even shortly before her death she was famous for her attractiveness: “The Countess still looks like a stately lady of fifty, but not like an old woman of seventy-three.”[4]

Sophie von Hatzfeldt was also called the “Mother of Social Democracy”.[5]

Her estate was kept at Sommerberg Palace until 1962, when it was moved to Schönstein Palace.[6] It also contained numerous correspondences from her partner Ferdinand Lassalle, which he had bequeathed to her. These were recovered from the attic of Sommerberg Palace in October 1918 and made accessible to scholars.[7]


Parents and siblings

The father was Prince Franz Ludwig von Hatzfeldt. Her younger sister Clara (1807-1858) was married to August Ludwig von Nostitz, her younger brother Maximilian von Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg (1813-1859) became a Prussian diplomat and envoy in Paris.

Marriage and offspring

Sophie and Edmund von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg were married on 10 August 1822.[1] They were divorced in 1851 and had three children:

  • Alfred Count (1870 Prince) of Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg (1825-1911), ⚭ 1852 Gabriele Countess of Dietrichstein-Proskau-Leslie
  • Melanie Countess von Hatzfeldt (1828-1911), ⚭ 1852 Maximilian Count von Nesselrode-Ehreshoven
  • Paul Graf von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg (1831-1901), ⚭ 1863 Helene Moulton.


Sophie’s grandson was

  • Paul Fürst von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg (1867-1941), German diplomat.

Her great-great-grandson is

  • Hermann Maria Carl August Count Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg-Dönhoff

Her biological nieces and nephews were:

  • Franziska von Hatzfeldt (1833-1922), ⚭ (2) with Walter von Loë
  • Elisabeth von Hatzfeldt (1839-1914), married Princess zu Carolath-Beuthen, companion of Herbert von Bismarck
  • Hermann von Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg (1848-1933), Prussian politician.

Her step-niece was

  • Marie von Schleinitz (1842-1912), salonnière.


  • Ferdinand Lassalle: Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften. 6 vols., Stuttgart 1921-25:
    • Vol. 3: The correspondence between Lassalle and Marx together with letters from Friedrich Engels and Jenny Marx to Lassalle and from Karl Marx to Countess Sophie Hatzfeldt, Stuttgart 1922.
    • Vol. 4: Correspondence with Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt, Stuttgart 1924.


  • Renate Feyl: The indispensable condition of happiness. Novel. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2019, ISBN 978-3-462-04890-2.
  • Hans Wolfram von Hentig:Hatzfeldt, Sophie Josepha Ernestine Countess von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 8, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1969, ISBN 3-428-00189-3, p. 67 f. (Digitalisat).
  • Manfred Gebhardt: Sophie von Hatzfeldt. A Life with Lassalle. Neues Leben, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-355-01290-4.
  • Arno Herzig: Sophie von Hatzfeldt (1805-1881). In: Schlesische Lebensbilder. Vol. 7, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 215-219.
  • Helmut Hirsch: Sophie von Hatzfeldt – In Selbstzeugnissen, Zeit- und Bilddokumenten dargestellt. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1981, ISBN 3-590-34101-7.
  • Ders.: Refuge at Trachenberg Castle. An Episode from the Life of Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt. In: Silesia. Quarterly journal for art, science and folklore. Vol. 26, 1981, pp. 216-221.
  • Ders.: Sophie von Hatzfeldt (1805-1881). In: Rhenish biographies, vol. 10. ed. by Wilhelm Janssen. Rheinland Verlag, Cologne 1985, pp. 121-140.
  • Antje Kahnt: Düsseldorfs starke Frauen – 30 Portraits. Droste, Düsseldorf 2016, ISBN 978-3-7700-1577-1, pp. 49-54.
  • Christiane Kling-Mathey: Gräfin Hatzfeldt. Bonn 1989 (incl. diss.)
  • Isidor Momma: The Countess Sophia von Hatzfeldt and the Professor Isidor Momma. Campmann in Comm., Düsseldorf 1848. Digitized edition of the University and State Library of Düsseldorf
  • Karla Nieraad: “I have decided to step forward now.” On Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt in the Shadow of Ferdinand Lassalle. Stadthaus Ulm, edition stadthaus, vol. 19, Ulm 2016, ISBN 978-3-934727-43-4.
  • Britta Stein: Der Scheidungsprozess Hatzfeldt. Münster 1999 (doctoral thesis)


  • Michael Behnen: Sophie von Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg. In: Gerhard Taddey (ed.): Lexikon der deutschen Geschichte. Events, Institutions, Persons. From the beginnings to the capitulation in 1945. 3rd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1998. ISBN 3-520-81303-3, p. 516.
  • Entry in the Brockhaus Encyclopedia online

Web links

Commons: Sophie von Hatzfeldt– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. a b c Personnel News.In: Das Vaterland, 20 January 1874, p. 3 (online at ANNO).Template:ANNO/maintenance/vtl
  2. † Countess Sophie Hatzfeldt.In: NeueFreie Presse, 27 January 1881, p. 6 (online at ANNO).Template:ANNO/maintenance/nfp
  3. Germany.In: WienerZeitung, 20 January 1848, p. 1 (online at ANNO).Template:ANNO/Maintenance/wrz
  4. a b Small chronicle.In: DiePresse, 30 September 1878, p. 7 (online at ANNO).Template:ANNO/maintenance/apr
  5. Countess Sophie Hatzfeldt.In: PragerTagblatt, 1 February 1881, p. 1 (online at ANNO).Template:ANNO/Maintenance/ptb
  6. Wolfgang Mommsen: Die Nachlässe in den deutschen Archiven: mit Ergänzungen aus anderen Beständen /2. Boldt, Boppard am Rhein 1983, p. 811.
  7. Gustav Mayer: Briefe von und an Lassalle bis 1848. DVA, Stuttgart u. a. 1921, pp. 15-16, digital copy, retrieved 29 December 2020.