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
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.
“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
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.
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
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.
‘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!