The End.

It should be clear to any regular readers of this blog (did I ever have any?) that I have neither the energy nor the interest in updating this blog these days. This is due in part to school, where I’m happily kept busy with about 2 years to go until the end of my degree, and in part by shifting interests. While I’m still interested in history and while I still read historical fiction, my interests have changed a lot and what initially kept this blog focused, is no longer that much on my mind these days.

Occassionally, I get comments on old posts and I barely have any interest in following the links WP kindly provides in the email. I think that’s a pretty clear indicator that this particular blog is no longer for me, and that perhaps longform blogging is just not in the cards while studying nursing full-time.

And mainly because of this, I’ve made the decision to officially end this blog. I might make it private so that I can keep the archive, I might keep it up so that the archive is still public but shut off comments, I might some day delete the whole thing.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and commented during the time I was active. It was fun while it lasted!

La Petite Struensee: The Story of a Bastard Princess

Louise Augusta. 1784. Jens Juel.

Louise Augusta. 1784. Jens Juel.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember this face. This is Louise Augusta, daughter of queen Caroline Mathilde but not of king Christian VII. No, Louise Augusta (named for her maternal grandmother, Augusta, Princess of Wales but also for the king’s mother, queen Louise of England. Note that she was from England, but not of England. It gets confusing, I know.)

Since posting about her mother all that while ago, I keep getting people who find my blog after googling who this Louise Augusta was and I’ve mentioned her in passing before, in my post about Jens Juel and also in my post about the Danish crown jewels in which I mentioned her daughter, queen Caroline Amalie of Denmark.

But enough about posts of years past. I felt that it was time for Louise Augusta to be featured in a post of her own, and very overdue it is.

Louise Augusta, or la Petite Struensee as she was cruelly dubbed by the Danish court, because of her mother’s indiscreet affair with the royal physician, Johann Friederich Struensee, was born on the 7th of July, 1771. She was only roundabout a year old when her mother was forced to leave Denmark, and to give up her crown and children. Louise Augusta had been officially recognised by Christian as his daughter, but although no DNA test has been performed posthumously there is little doubt that Louise Augusta was not his biological child.

Louise Augusta, 1771 by H.P. Sturz. Part of the collections at Rosenborg Castle.

Louise Augusta, 1771 by H.P. Sturz. Part of the collections at Rosenborg Castle.

Louise Augusta, by W. Heuer, 1827. The Royal Library of Denmark.

Louise Augusta, by W. Heuer, 1827. The Royal Library of Denmark.

Louise Augusta and her brother, Frederik (later the VI of Denmark) were raised by the dowager queen Juliane Marie, in as formal and stilted a manner as one could expect from a royal court in the 18th century. The way they were raised was sure to have been a far cry from the free and untroubled childhood their mother famously wanted for them, and sought to implement as best she was able. Nonetheless, if any child suffered from it, it is more likely to be Frederik than Louise Augusta who grew up to never fall ill in body, but who’d inherited a smattering of the mental illnesses that had also plagued his father.

Frederik VI, probably Jens Juel.

Frederik VI, probably by Jens Juel.

Louise Augusta by all accounts grew up in much the same expectations as any other European princess of the time. Although, the source of her birth was well-known in the Danish court, and one assumes also abroad due to the nature of her mother’s disgraceful departure from the court, she was not discriminated against in her upbringining and all formal courtesy was extended to her by the court. I personally wonder whether Juliane Marie was all that fond of her, as she held an obvious hatred for Caroline Mathilde and Louise Augusta was a bastard child.

Louise Augusta and Frederik grew up close, probably by virtue of both feeling like outsiders in a court ruled by Juliane Marie and her conservative noblemen, and by virtue of their strange family history. They remained close throughout their childhood, adolence and adulthood. At one point, it is reported that Juliane Marie tried to seperate the two, by way of sending off Louise Augusta to be educated elsewhere, but Frederik, who had a famous temper, interfered and seems, trumped the dowager queen’s influence.

Both Louise Augusta and her brother grew up to feel a good deal of resentment at Juliane Marie, and this was only exacerbated as they grew old enough to learn, through court gossip, the true nature of their mother’s departure and in the case of Louise Augusta, the death of her true father. As Christian VII was, due to the nature of his mental illness, unable to parent the two, they both must have grown up feeling very much like orphans with only each other to cling to.

Princess Louise Augusta. 1780. Jens Juel.

Louise Augusta. 1780. Jens Juel.

As Louise Augusta, who was much less shy than her older brother and sweeter in temper too, grew older, she became the natural centre of the young people at court,  and the above portrait is an example of the ways she stirred up the older establishment at court. Out of France and due to the influence of Marie Antoinette the chemise a la reine had come. This style of dress was much softer and less formal than other dresses worn at court, and it was also worn without panniers (the wide hoops that hold out the dress at the hips) thought by some to be incredibly indecent. But Louise Augusta would be painted in this new style and upon the first unveiling of the portrait above, the older ladies of court, Juliane Marie amongst them nearly fainted. The shape of the princess’s legs could be spotted through the fabric of the gown! Either Juel would paint over a respectable amount of fabric to obscure this shape, or the portrait was scrapped. Louise Augusta bowed to their will and the portrait became as we know it now. I love it, personally, not least of all because of her victorious expression and proud posture.

When Louise Augusta turned 15 she had reached the marriagable age of the day for royal women, and by the urging of her brother she became engaged to the 23-year old duke Frederik Christian of Augustenborg. The two were married in 1786. Augustenborg today is about as far south you can get in Denmark before you’re in Germany, but back then the border was further south and the Northern German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were also in Danish possession. All the same, Louise Augusta must have felt herself exiled, so far from Copenhagen, the court, where she had grown into a favourable position, and her brother, married to a man for whom she felt little.

The marriage was strategically and dynastically important, as it would merge the old line of the Oldenburgs (currently on the throne in Christian VII) and the new Augustenborg royal family. If Louise Augusta married Frederik Christian, it would solve any future issues over the throne and possibly even prevent civil war, should it have come to that.

Duke Frederik Christian, 1790s. Anton Graff. From the collections at Frederiksborg Castle.

Duke Frederik Christian, 1790s. Anton Graff. From the collections at Frederiksborg Castle.

The marriage between Louise Augusta and Frederik Christian was unevenly matched from the beginning. Louise Augusta had grown into her role as the female centre of the Copenhagen court and enjoyed such trivial pursuits as dancing and merrymaking with her friends, apparently possessing no deep interest for anything serious. Rather, she was full of joy at life and a natural extrovert, blessed with the ability to make those around her love her.

Frederik Christian by contrast was a small man and deeply interested in philosophy and pedagogy, shutting himself away to study for hours at a time, leaving his wife to amuse herself. He had ambitions to become involved in the politics of the new governmental coalition forming around his brother-in-law Frederik. Louise Augusta cared for few things less than she did for politics, although she must be said to have lived politics her whole life.

Perhaps coming to a marital compromise, the couple would summer at the duke’s castle in Augustenborg, where they invited the artists of the day, and winter in Copenhagen, where they would spend their time with the aristocratic centre of power.

by Jens Juel, 1790s. Private collection.

by Jens Juel, 1790s. Private collection.

by Jens Juel, ca. 1800. In a private collection.

When the French Revolution broke loose in 1789, Louise Augusta initally bid it welcome and as one of few aristocrats in Europe remained in sympathetic faith with the French until long into the Terror, which put her at a decidedly un-English perspective. If you’ve ever read “Desirée” by Anne-Marie Selinko you might recall a scene in which Desirée and Jean-Baptiste are travelling to Sweden to take up the Swedish throne. They are invited to dine at the king of Denmark’s palace (by then Frederik, Louise’s brother had become king) and they end up discussing the war in Europe. At the end of the discussion (which I can’t quote here because my books are all packed away) Desirée concludes that Frederik’s pre-French sentiments have less to do with politics and more to do with his anger at his English mother.

I’m not certain I agree with the viewpoint, but I find it very interesting, that Louise Augusta and Frederik should feel so betrayed by their mother’s passing they would carry it with them all their lives, basing political opinion on it.

Louise Augusta and Frederik Christian remained childless for ten years, but finally in 1796 Louise Augusta gave birth to her daughter Caroline Amalie, defiantly named for her disgraced mother. Two and four years later, Louise Augusta had sons, Christian August and Frederik Emil August. The gossips of the day attributed the fatherhood of the children to doctor Carl Ferdinand Saudacini, in a cruel play on Louise Augusta’s own paternity, but it is not known whether it is true. He had been asked to cure Louise Augusta’s infertility and though I shudder at the thought of the fertility treatmeants of the late 18th century, he certainly suceeded whether by personal involvement or through more natural causes.

Louise Augusta and duke Frederik were more attentive parents than Juliane Marie ever was to Louise and her brother. Especially Frederik offered up much of his time to their care and took personal care that their education was up to par.

Unknown artist, after the style of Jens Juel. ca 1790.

Unknown artist, after the style of Jens Juel. ca 1790.

As the years progressed, and Louise Augusta’s brother became king, the distance between the two brothers-in-law increased as they grew to disagree about many political issues, especially the question concerning the German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Frederik Christian forced Louise Augusta to give up her winter home in Copenhagen as Louise Augusta consequently took her brother’s side in their quarrels, even acting as his spy against her husband. In 1810 Louise Augusta began working to stop her husband in his bid to become king of Sweden (as I let slip above it later went to French general Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte) again at the urging of her brother. This was too much to take for Frederik Christian who in return sought ought to change his testament so that Louise Augusta would find her powers of the futures of their children mightily increased. Caroline Amalie remained on the side of her mother, eventually going on to become queen of Denmark (though not through a marriage with any child of her uncle, but her uncle’s cousin, later Christian VIII). Louise Augusta’s sons, however, grew apart from her. The elder, Christian August, became the key player in the Question of Schleswig-Holstein. In the words of Lord Palmerston, a contemporary English diplomat:

Only three people…have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it.

I don’t care either, nor do I understand it so I won’t be summarising it here.

Louise Augusta in Turkish dress, by Jens Juel. 1780s.

Louise Augusta in Turkish dress, by Jens Juel. 1780s.

However, Frederik Christian’s triumph over Louise Augusta was short-lived, as he went on to die in 1814 whereafter Louise Augusta took over the running of Augustenborg as well as the education of their children. In 1820, as he reached his maturity, Christian August inherited the title of Duke and the estate at Augustenborg and ran it for his mother. Louise Augusta, who knew that her younger son would be left basically destitute due to the inheritance laws of the day, had managed to scrape enough money together to, in 1832, buy the estate of Nør for her younger son. Her daughter, as I have mentioned, was taken care of by marrying the next king of Denmark.

In her old age, Louise Augusta took up residence in the dowager estate at Augustenborg, where she kept a loud and eccentric mini-court, where both the artists of her youth and younger ones welcome.

Louise Augusta died today, the 13st of January, in 1843 and is buried at Augustenborg, far from her beloved brother and farther still from Copenhagen.

Her life story is featured in the novel Kærlighedsbarn (Love Child) by Maria Helleberg, a very good novel, indeed. It’s not published in English as far as I am able to tell, so I hope this blog post has served well instead!

by Anton Graff, 1791. Rosenborg Castle.

by Anton Graff, 1791. Rosenborg Castle.

My Year in Review and What’s to Come

I know WordPress just posted my generic 2012 in review but I wanted to do a slightly more personal one about what I did in 2012 and what I  want to do in 2013.

What I Did in 2012

  • Lived in a different country (Scotland) and knew myself the better after coming back
  • Re-evaluated my choice of study and career and came out on the side of nursing, a choice I’d never considered in earnest since becoming an adult
  • Began nursing school
  • Lived in a real-life grown-up apartment, not in a dorm or at home with my parents. Unfortunately, I had to leave my apartment after 6 months and am currently searching for a place to live.
  • Wrote 34 posts for this blog. Not an ideal, by far, but I have to accept that this blog is a side-project and that school comes first.
  • Finished my English degree, and happily put it away for now. I’m far more happy to have English literature and language as a hobby and an interest than as my course of study and career path.
  • Travelled outside of Europe for the first time, to New York City. I’d love to go back but uuuuuuuugh money.
  • Read 172 books out of an initial goal of a 100 for the year. I updated it to 150 eventually, but I knew I couldn’t make it to 200 so now it looks wonky.

What I Want to do in 2013

  • Write one post a month for this blog in 2013. AT LEAST. I want to keep the blog posts consistent, rather than write a million posts one week and none for the next three months.
  • Study for school more efficiently.
  • Read 100 books.
  • Find a new place to live, but preferably in January rather than, say, December.
  • Write more. Ideally, I’d set time away to write during the weekends but I am so, so bad at structuring my time.
  • Which reminds me that I need to get better at structuring ALL of my time. If anybody knows a good app or website to structure  work-time, school-time, down-time, study-time, hit me up, eh?
  • Make more lists because they really help me feel organised and on top of things and if I don’t feel that way I leave things too late and don’t bother doing them.
  • Save my money up.
  • Spend more time with my friends.
  • Get to know people in my class better and try to socialise more.
  • Eat mindfully. I’m working on unlearning some really toxic bullshit and just start listening to my body’s demands.
  • Travel to Paris again. I have half-baked plans with a friend to do this.

As for upcoming posts on this blog, I can’t say too much as I’m not actually sure. I want to post more Danish history, and continue my series on fashion, but I’d also like to expand into other interests like good tv shows and books that I’ve read.

I hope you the readers wil stay tuned and that you’ve had a great start to your year!

Here's to 2013!

Here’s to 2013!

A (short) resource on Caroline Mathilde; or Danish history, English books.

A while ago reader Allison posted a comment asking me if I could dig up some English books relating to Caroline Mathilde, as she’d recently seen the movie A Royal Affair. The director of the movie mentions that 19 or so books relate to the subject, and that’s certainly true… if you speak Danish. I know this also, because I’ve read the vast majority. My favourite book about Caroline Mathilde will always be “Princess of the Blood” by Bodil Steensen-Leth. It serves as a vague sort of inspiration for the film and I wish it had been translated into English because every historically inclined reader deserves to read this book

Sadly, the supply of English-language books about Caroline Mathilde (who was an English princess but seems mostly an aside in English history), Christian VII or Johann Friederich Struensee is very lacking.

In my searches I’ve only been able to find two, and poor Allison was already aware the one existed and probably would have little trouble finding the other. So much for asking your friendly neighbourhood history blogger for help! If only you’d asked me for books in Danish, because there’d be LOADS to highlight.

Here are a few English titles about poor Caroline Mathilde and I hope Allison finds that this post has helped her in some way.


The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist.

The Visit of the Royal Physician by Per Olov Enquist.

This one was translated from Danish to English in 2003. I read it back when I was 15 and devouring everything related to Caroline Mathilde. Amazon gives it 4,4 stars and most of the reviews are glowing.

from Amazon

“It is the 1760s, the height of the Enlightenment. The young King of Denmark, Christian VII, is a half-wit. His queen, the English princess Caroline Mathilde, has fallen in love with his most trusted advisor, the court physician Struensee. Guldberg, a cold-blooded religious fanatic, is determined to annihilate the Enlightenment ideas Struensee is introducing to Denmark – whoever prevails in their bitter ideological battle will control not only the king but the nation state.

 Adultery, insanity, back-stabbing and blue blood… Enquist brilliantly recasts a dramatic era of Danish history, weaving a wide range of historical characters – Voltaire and Diderot, Catherine the Great and George III – into a tale of ruthless political ambition and personal betrayal.”

A ROYAL AFFAIR: George III and His Troublesome Siblings

A Royal Affair: George III and his troublesome siblings by Stella Tillyard

A Royal Affair: George III and his troublesome siblings by Stella Tillyard

I’ve not personally read this but I think it looks VERY exciting. It’s about all of George III’s siblings, but is centered around Caroline Mathilde, and as I know very little about the rest of her English family, my interest is definitely piqued.

from Amazon

The young George III was a poignant figure, humdrum on the surface yet turbulent beneath: hiding his own passions, he tried hard to be a father to his siblings and his nation. This intimate, fast-moving book tells their intertwined stories. His sisters were doomed to marry foreign princes and leave home forever; his brothers had no role and too much time on their hands – a recipe for disaster.

 At the heart of Tillyard’s story is Caroline Mathilde, who married the mad Christian of Denmark in her teens, but fell in love with the royal doctor Struensee: a terrible fate awaited them, despite George’s agonized negotiations. At the same time he faced his tumultuous American colonies. And at every step a feverish press pounced on the gossip, fostering a new national passion – a heated mix of celebrity and sex.


The Lost Queen by Nora Lofts

The Lost Queen by Nora Lofts

You have to forgive me for including this ridiculously inaccurate cover because a) how could I not? and b) I literally can’t stop laughing at how trashy it is.

I have no idea what the book is like but based on this cover, I feel like I MUST READ IT.

from Amazon

‘Princesses are born to be exiled. What is the alternative? Spinsterhood? ‘Thus the future of Caroline Matilda, youngest sister of George III, was settled – exile to a foreign country, and marriage to a nearly insane Crown Prince of Denmark. Entreatingly prompted by a sense of foreboding, she begged that one of her sisters be sent in her place. But Caroline was the healthiest, the strongest of the English princesses, and as well as being exiled, princesses were meant to brood mares…Here is the life of Caroline Matilda set against the stark contrasts of 18th century Denmark; the cruelty, poverty and oppression of life under an absolute monarch sinking into madness; and the hatreds and court intrigues that swirled around the young English girl who was Queen of Denmark.

But let’s be real, we all decided to read it the moment we laid eyes on THAT COVER.

I’m afraid that’s all I could find for Allison. I do hope you got something out of it, and if anybody is interested in hearing about the multitude of Danish fiction about Caroline Mathilde, don’t hesitate to ask!

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November…

Elizabeth Stuart by Gerrit van Honthorst. National Portrait Gallery, London.

I was doing some reading about the Gunpowder, Treason and Plot thingie when I came across this lady. I read that she was Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England and our very own Anne of Denmark and naturally my interest was spiked.

Elizabeth was born on the 19th of August 1596, the second child of James and Anne at Falkland Palace in Fife, Scotland and was six years old when her father took the English throne.

Elizabeth in 1606, by Robert Peake the Elder. Metropolitan Museum of Art

She comes into the Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by being Guy Fawkes’ intended Catholic monarch. It was his plan to kidnap her in 1605, when she was nine, and, after assassinating her father to put her on the throne. Happily, Guy Fawkes was apprehended before he could murder her father and Elizabeth remained a princess, not to follow in her aunt’s footsteps as a reigning queen of England.
Elizabeth was married on Valentine’s Day 1613 to Frederick V, the Elector of the Palatinate in Germany. They were married at the palace of Whitehall and John Donne, the famous 17th century poet, wrote a poem to celebrate the event “Epithalamion, or Marriage Song on the Lady Elizabeth, and Count Palatine being married on St. Valentines Day.”

Frederick led the coalition of Protestant princes at Holy Roman Emperor’s court and marrying Elizabeth would have tightened his ties to his fellow protestants at the court. Despite the business-like affair of their marriage, the two were believed to be genuinely in love with each other and Frederick even created an English wing in his palace at Heidelberg to make his wife comfortable.

Elizabeth is also sometimes called The Winter Queen, the cause being her husband’s short reign as king of Bohemia. Frederick was offered the Bohemian crown in 1619 and both him and Elizabeth were crowned in November 1619. However, Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor, had a birthright to the throne and did not let them reign long. He forced the couple into exile by 1920, where Elizabeth came to be known as the Winter Queen.

In 1648 her son, Charles I, won back the Electorate of the Palatinate and after the Restoration of the English and Scottish Monarchs, it was also possible for Elizabeth to travel to England to visit her nephew, Charles II.

It is also through Elizabeth’s line the Hanoverian royal house of Britain, which ended in 1901 with Queen Victoria, is descended. Her daughter, Sophia of Hanover, had become the nearest Protestant to the English and Irish crown and under the Act of Settlement (1701) the royal crown was bestowed on her and her issue.

And this particular blog owner, will never cease to be amazed at how interconnected the royal houses of Europe really are. I hope all of my readers in England are having a great Bonfire Night!

Elizabeth as a widow, by Gerard van Honthorst. National Gallery of London.