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DNA Analysis Might Solve this 300-Year-Old Case of Royal Adultery and Murder

The timeless love triangle between a count, a princess, and a cuck.

It's a classic 17th century love story: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy goes missing and is presumed murdered by girl's royal spouse, who then divorces girl and imprisons her for the rest of her life. So it went with the Swedish count Philip Christoph Königsmarck and German princess Sophia Dorothea of Celle, whose star-crossed romance is widely believed to have been snuffed out by Sophia's husband, a mean dude who later became King George I of Britain.

Now, over 322 years after he disappeared from Leineschloss Castle in Hanover, Königsmarck's body may have finally been recovered.

The princess's 29-year-old lover was last seen in July 1694, visiting his mistress at the castle during nocturnal hours; they were plotting to escape her oppressively unhappy marriage and elope later that summer. The details of this scheme, along with the arc of the illicit relationship more broadly, survive on in the 300 love letters that Sophia and Philip exchanged over the course of two years, which are now preserved at Lund University in Sweden.

A featurette on Sophia and Philip's letters and the potential discovery of his body.

Multiple hired hands admitted to killing Philip for this open cuckolding of the future British king, so there's little doubt about the count's sad fate. However, some reports suggested his body had been thrown in a river or otherwise disposed of outside the castle grounds.

This theory was thrown into question on August 11, 2016, when construction workers who were renovating an area of the castle uncovered a human skeleton that many believe to be Sophia's ill-fated lover. Initial examination has confirmed that the remains are likely centuries old, while researchers from the University of Göttingen are currently working to see if DNA extracted from the bones matches samples from Königsmarck's living relatives.

"If it really is the bones of Königsmarck, [it] would be a sensation," Thomas Schwark, director of the Historical Museum of Hanover, told the German newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

READ MORE: Time to Crush Up King Richard III's Bones

Indeed, Philip and Sophia's love story has been the inspiration for books and films, in large part because so much of it lives on through their passionate letters to each other. Sophia has come off as sympathetic despite her infidelities because George was such a preposterously terrible husband.

For starters, George was unfaithful to Sophia long before she strayed, and he enjoyed openly spurning her in favor of his main mistress Melusine von der Schulenburg. But beyond his hypocrisy, George had a reputation for being an intolerable and relentless jerk to pretty much everyone he came across, especially his wife, who he frequently physically and verbally assaulted.

In fact, to get a true measure of George's scumbaggery, it's worth noting that his own mother called him "the most pigheaded, stubborn boy who ever lived, who has round his brains such a thick crust that I defy any man or woman ever to discover what is in them," according to Eleanor Herman's 2005 history Sex With the Queen.

Yes, that's the woman who gave him life summing up his qualities. It should give you a sense of the torment experienced by Sophia in their marriage and some insight into her desperation to bolt for greener romantic pastures.

But George had other plans. After the hit on Königsmarck was ordered, George had Sophia locked up at Castle Ahlden in Saxony for the remaining 32 years of her life. She was buried first at her place of imprisonment, and then transferred to rest with her parents in Celle where her remains are still located.

Perhaps if the body recovered from the site of the lovers' last meeting is determined to be Philip, he will be interred with her for posterity. It would be a satisfying end to this cold case of adultery, deception, and murder that has remained unsolved for over three centuries.

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