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.

The NYC Tenement Museum

97 Orchard street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side takes you back into New York’s immigrant past.


One of the first museums we visited during our stay in New York was the Tenement Museum. It’s located on the Lower East Side, in an area that’s always been an immigrant area. Today, it’s mainly populated by Latin American immigrants but over the years it has been home to German Jews, Eastern-European Jews, Italians, Irish and virtually every single immigrant wave that made it to America over the years.

The museum entrance is right on the corner of Orchard street. You have to be a part of a tour to visit the actual museum building, 97 Orchard Street. They had four different tours to choose from: Hard Times, about immigrants during the Great Depression, which we chose, Sweatshop Workers, Irish Outsiders and Exploring 97 Orchard Street. You can read more about the different tours here.

I think they run two different tours each hour, and we chose the Hard Times one which ran about 10 minutes after we got there. There was plenty to look at in the museum store, so we didn’t just have to stand and wait.

The tour was led by a history student and it took us a little down the street in a group of about 10-15 people to 97 Orchard Street. It’s a building which was bought by the museum in the 1990s but which stood empty, except for the basement, between the 1950s (I think) until it was bought and renovated, partially, by the museum.

The different tours offer a look into different immigrant areas and the Hard Times tour takes you into the home of a German Jewish family in the 1860s and 70s and the home of an Italian family in the 1930s. During both of these periods the US experienced an economic downswing and there was a focus on this during the tour.

We were taken into the building and then shown upstairs to the two rooms that the German family, the Gumpertz, lived in. These were the actual apartments they had occupied and they were restored like the late 1860s. We were then given an extremely detailed account of their life during the 1860s depression. I won’t go in to too much detail because it won’t make much sense if you weren’t there, such a big part of the tour was the impact the building gave you, but it involved husbands running of, wives and children being left destitute and then pulling themselves up by their bootstraps until they reached such a level of prosperity they could afford to leave the Lower East Side.

The Gumpertz living room, typical late 1800s style. Read more at The Tenement Museum’s blog:

The Gumpertz kitchen. From here:



One of the focuses of the tour was the difference in the charitable attitude of the government during these two times. The tour guide was very personable and funny, and she encouraged us visitors to participate with questions and would ask us our impressions about the different times which gave it a really nice touch.

The Gumpertz family lived four, then three people, in two rooms and one was converted into a sewing studio. I assume they all slept in the same room, if not the same bed. They had no gas and no electricity, and no running water inside the building. All residents in the building shared a toilet in the yard.

It is also interesting to note that during the 1860s the Lower East Side was known as Klein Deutschland, or Little Germany, and was made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish Germans. This wouldn’t change until Eastern-European Jews started arriving in the 1870s and 80s when the area would start changing, and Yiddish would become the majority language rather than German. It was around this time Mrs. Gumpertz moved from the area. I had no idea there had ever been a thing like Klein Deutschland, and in Manhattan too!

The other family, the Baldizzis, lived in three rooms, some 50-60 years later, adjacent to the Gumpertz of yore.

The Baldizzi kitchen. By this point, gas and running water has been installed in all New York apartments.

Most of the info about this apartment, both in how it looked and how it was to live there, comes from Josephine, daughter of the Baldizzis. Her family was the last to stay in 97 Orchard Street before it was closed for residents. She and her family lived through the Great Depression and although she remembers the hardships, she also remembers not wanting for much because she had her family with her and they were close. She also remembers the help the government issued during the Great Depression. She received men’s shoes in one instance, in a charitable act.

You can read more from The Tenement Museum blog here.

As I said, a large part of the tour was exploring how attitudes towards charity, received and given, were during the two different eras. The 1860s were very big on self-sufficiency. This is something I also mention in my post about Ellis Island. The prevailing attitude for a long time was that you should not become a burden to the state. And, indeed, the state had very few ways to help people who could not support themselves. This attitude had changed by the 1930s and the Great Depression, in part because of the Great Depression, and the Baldizzis received a weekly shipment of food, and used clothes and shoes.

If I had been in NYC longer, I think I might have gone back to visit another of the tours because it was really brilliant and I’m sure the other ones were equally as interesting. I can definitely recomment the Tenement Museum, if you’re interested in immigrant histories iand the immigrant experience.

Fashion from the 1880s

Evening shoes, ca. 1875-1885. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fashion from the 1880s are recognisable by two things: big bustles and slim waists. Unlike the half-hoop skirts of the 1870s, the 1880s emphasised a less volume overall and focused the bulk and weight of the gown on the bustle which could grow to startling proportions. Necklines crept upwards and shoulders remained covered at balls and certainly also during the day. 1880s corsets emphasised an hour-glass figure, tightening the waist so the bulk of the bustle would stand out in contrast. The sleeves of the gowns remained smooth, wholly unlike the enormous sleeves the 1890s would introduce into ladie’s fashion.

Exercise like croquet and tennis grew increasingly important but exercise gowns were conservative when compared with what would happen some 10-20 years later. Ladie’s hats grew small and focused their attention on the back of the lady’s head, growing into a style called “capote” which emphasised a small brim and big ribbons tied under the chin. Would you believe that I have an extant example that once belonged to a great-great grandmother of mine? As soon as I am able I’m going to take pictures of it.

Corset, 1885-1895. The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bustle, 1884. The Victoria and Albert Museum. This bustle is relatively small!

Bustle, ca. 1885. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


In action, the size of the bustle varied from the truly enormous to a more sublte collection of cloth around the hips and back.

Evening Dress. 1884-1886. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Dress. 1884. The Kyoto Costume Institute


Ensemble. 1885-1888. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Evening dress, ca. 1884. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Dress. 1880. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Dress. Charles Fredrick Worth, 1888. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


From the front, dresses emphasised slim waists and well-defined hips. The fabric of the skirt was flat and tight over the legs, a big change from the crinolines of some 20 years sooner and even the half-hoop skirt of the 1870s.


Dress. Charles Fredrick Worth, 1888. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Dinner dress, ca. 1880. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Evening Dress. Charles Fredrick Worth, 1889. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This dress is a bit more free with its shape but then it is Worth.



Bathing and swimming dresses were only just coming back into fashion in the 1880s, so tennis and croquet were the sports of the day. Croquet outfits could be pretty much any day dress, but it was important that a tennis dress could be moved in. I couldn’t imagine playing tennis in either of these dresses, though.

Tennis dress ca. 1885-1888 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Tennis dress ca. 1885 via The Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


It is highly unlikely bustles were worn under tennis dresses, but the bustle effect would be created by pulling the fabric back and creating a modest hump.

Emile Pingat jacket ca. 1885 via The Victoria & Albert Museum


Outwear would also have to be loose to make room for the bustles, or like in the example above, be altered so the back of the dress wouldn’t be compromised.

Capote Bonnet. H. O. Hanlon, ca. 1887. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Capote bonnet, 1883. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


1880s bonnet, Musee Mccord.


Often ribbons would be emphasised to compensate for the lack of shade, and tied in big, soft knots under the wearer’s chin. The one I own is a mourning bonnet and is primarily made up of black velvet and black ribbons. I really have to take photos of it for this blog.

That’s a small look into the fashions of the 1880s! Next up: the 1870s.


We Are Not Amused, or Are We?


Or are we? And by we, I mean Victorians. The early days of photography saw the subjects of the photographs quite still and stern. The reason was the slow response time of the camera, which necessitated that the people being photographed sat still for a long amount of time, usually a couple of minutes. Which as anyone can tell you, can be hard.

As you can see above, sometimes Victorians failed at being quite as stern as we perhaps expect them to be. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Fashions from the 1890s

Slippers. 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yes, this fashion thing is a thing we’re doing now. Today’s post will focus on the last decade of the 19th century, the 1890s, which saw another remarkable change in the female silhouette. The most remarkable feature of the 1880s dress (which the next post will focus on, yes, this is going to get methodical) was the bustle which could grow to enormous proportions. In the 1890s the weight of the dress shifted to its sleeves while the skirts grew flat again. Hats remained a reasonable size. Bicycles became a fixture of upper class life which necessitated special cycling costumes designed to allow the wearer to move her legs while remaining reasonably covered. Corsets allowed for a normal body posture, unlike the S-corsets that soon would make their debut, focusing mostly on creating small waists.

1898 advert for corsets. The main functions of the corset is to support the breasts and clinch in the waist but it doesn't alter the female figure or silhouette drastically.

Without further ado, here are some examples.

Mourning Dress. 1894-1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wedding Dress. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dinner Dress. Worth, 1892. The Kyoto Costume Institute. This is perhaps one of my favourite dresses of all time.

All of these gowns have two things in common: the sizeable sleeves and a natural waistline. In Danish these massive sleeves are lovingly referred to as “ham-sleeves.” However, it was becoming increasingly normal and popular for upper-class women to engage in different forms of exercise.

Ball Gown. Worth, 1894. The Kyoto Costume Institute.

Bathing Suit. 1895-1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Can you imagine wearing a bonnet to go swimming?

Gym suit. Ca. 1893-1898. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Walking) Suit. Jacques Doucet, 1895. The Victoria & Albert Museum

Riding Ensemble. 1896. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cycling ensemble. ca. 1895. The Kyoto Costume Institute

Another difference between the end of the century fashions and fashions from the rest of the Victorian periods is the headwear. Bonnets grew consistently smaller towards the end of the century until they caved in altogether and became hats. The 1890s was the first century where women exclusively wore hats instead of also bonnets.

Hat. Ca. 1892-1895. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat. 1890s. the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shoes. 1895. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As for shoes, their basic shape stayed much the same throughout the century.

Capelet ca. 1895 via The Victoria & Albert Museum.

You can see how the capelet lifts upwards towards the shoulders to make room for the large sleeves of the gown worn underneath.
Next up: The 1880s. Yes, it’s going backwards. It’s my blog I do what I want etc etc.

I am so sorry that the format in this post is so jacked up. I’ve tried to fix it ten times now, it still refers back to the way it is now.

1890s Summer

Three fully-clothed women hiking their skirts at the shoreline of the beach in Averne, Wallace G. Levison, 1897

It was very, very warm today which I’m told is unlikely for Edinburgh in March. At least I was wearing four layers of skirts and linen shirts, eh?

I’m not sure whether I need to express how very, very much I love old-time photographs that aren’t posed. I love them so much, you guys. So, so much.


The Crown Jewels: The Pearls and Rubies

Like the diamond piece, the pearls in this piece originally belonged to Princess Charlotte Amalie. In 1840 Christian VIII’s queen Caroline Amalie ordered the piece re-modelled and the rubies were added. This is the last of the crown jewel pieces still in use by the Danish queen.

Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sønderborg-Augustenborg. 1830 by Aumont.

Caroline Amalie was married to Christian VIII, son of Juliane Marie’s son Prince Frederick. Since Frederick VI had no sons, Christian VIII was crowned upon his death.

In a twist of fate Caroline Amalie’s uncle was also Frederick VI. The mother of Caroline Amalie is Princess Louise Augusta, the daughter of Queen Caroline Mathilde. Louise Augusta’s story is an interesting one that I will post about at a later date.

Although the old king had accepted Louise Augusta as his legitimate child, rumours persist that Louise Augusta was actually fathered by Johann Struensee who once upon a time ruled in the king’s stead. Since these rumours were never confirmed, there was no hindrance for Caroline Amalie to become queen consort.

Caroline Amalie and Christian VIII were the last Danish monarchs to be crowned, and since their reign the Danish crowns (which I will post about later) have been safely packed away beneath Rosenborg Castle. Their sucessor, Frederik VII was the king who gave the Danes a democratic law and ended 400 years of supreme royal rule. In a way, this couple were the beginning of the end for the old monarchy. Soon, there would be no more supreme rule and soon the role of the monarch would constitutional one.

Caroline Amalie is also the queen that gave these four pieces their current shape, but the notion that parts of these pieces are from the 17th century is a sweet one.

It could be said that her nose is more Struensee than Christian VII but who can really say?