As princesses go, Maria Sofia von Neuburg was a very insignificant one at the time of her birth in 1666. Her father, Duke Philipp Wilhelm, though a member of the illustrious house of Wittelsbach, was merely the Duke of Neuburg, a very small state on the banks of the Danube in southern Germany. Other branches of the family ruled the larger, richer states of the Palatinate and Bavaria. In fact, they were very nearly sovereigns, except that that they nominally owed allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna. Diminishing Maria Sofia’s prospects even further, she was not even an heiress. Women could not inherit the duchy, and in any case she was only one of seventeen children.
Things began to look up for Maria Sofia and her siblings when their relative the Elector Palatine died sonless in 1685 and Duke Philipp Wilhelm succeeded him. The family duly moved to the Palatine capital at Heidelberg.