A Royal Affair: The Romance That Changed a Nation

The movie A Royal Affair (Danish Title: En kongelig affære) was released in 2012, and received much critical acclaim. It stars Mikkel Følsgaard and Christian VII of Denmark, Alicia Vikander as his wife Caroline Matilda of Great Britian, and Mads Mikkelsen as the court physician Johann Friedrish Streuensee. Set in the late 1700’s, it tells one of the most dramatic stories of factual historical account in Europe that changed the course of Denmark. It is a story, as director Nikolaj Arcel puts it, that is taught to many children in their classrooms, has been novelized and set to film, but A Royal Affair finally introduces this story to the whole world.

Caroline Matilda of Great Britiain, sister to the Prince of Wales, was bethroted and married to King Christian VII of Denmark with no knowledge of his poor mental health. He proved to be constantly absent from his royal responsibilities, turning to diversions such as swordfighting, heavy drinking, and well-endowed women. At this time Johann Friedrich Streuensee came into the picture, as he was able to rise in the Danish court and make a name for himself as someone with excellent manners and controversial Enlightenment ideas. He won the confidence of the King, and was later given titiles that rose higher and higher in rank. Streuensee did his best to reconcile King chrisitan and Caroline Matilda, but to no avail. The lonely, forsaken queen had no one else save Streuensee, and by 1770, they became lovers and the queen bore Streuensee a child.

With the King’s constant shirking of his royal responsibilities, Streuensee became the “de facto” ruler of Denmark, setting abolitions and reformations that were true to his Enlightenment roots. Alas, this tale does not have a happy ending.

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