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

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

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!

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?

Vogue at Versailles

Errr…. That is Vogue at Le Grand Trianon, the home of Louis XIV’s mistress, Francoise-Athénäis, the marquise of Montespan. It’s an impressive building with rooms kept completely in reds or yellows or reds which is enough to awe any visitor. But until October visitors are treated to another form of grandeur. At the Grand Trianon there is an exhibition called The 18th Century Back in Fashion which features pieces from the haute couture, but also ready-to-wear, collections of several modern/contemporary designers.

I thought I’d show off a couple of the gowns exhibited among the 56 pieces at the exhibition. The pieces can usually be found at the Museum Galliera. Apart from the modern gowns, authentic 18th century pieces can be seen, for comparison.

Seeing these amazing dresses etc. in the flesh, so to speak, in such an impressive place was definitely the highlight of our visit to Versailles.

The photos are taken by Julie Ansiau. I make no money from this, all rights reserved to Vogue and Julie Ansiau.

Christian Dior.

Pink taffeta by Doutzen Kroues, inspired by Fragonard. 2007.

Pale green tulle. 2011.

Christian Dior. Better view of the one above.

Christian Dior. Better view of the one above

Bit big for a bedroom, mind.

Robe á la Francaise, 1755-1760

Rochas, 2006.

This gown was created in relation to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.

Jean-Paul Gaultier jacket inspired by the wide paniers of the 18th century.

Christian Dior, 2004-05.

Amazingly over the top.

Underwear, 1765, showing exactly what went on under those beautiful gowns.

Vivienne Westwood, 1991.

Christian Lacroix, 1995-96.

I mean, w-o-w.

Christian Lacroix, 1998-99

Vivienne Westwood

I had to include this because of the gorgeous fabric used.

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen.

He was just a genius, wasn’t he?

Vivienne Westwood from the collection Vive la Cocotte, 1995-96

Nicolas Ghesquiére for Balenciaga, 2006

Pierre Balmain, 1954

Isn’t it amazing how the 18th century fashions were relevant in the 50s and continue to influence fashion until today?

Christian Dior, 1954

Thierry Mugler, 1992-93

Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a Goth. I could totally wear this.

Thierry Mugler, 1997-98

I just love this one.

The entire slideshow can be seen here.

And just to finish, here’s a portrait of Madame de Montespan herself: