Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (In Danish, Caroline Mathilde) 22 July 1751 – 10 May 1775, She was by birth a Princess of Great Britain and member of the House of Hanover and by marriage Queen consort of Denmark and Norway between 1766–1772. The youngest and posthumous daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Caroline Matilda was raised in a secluded family atmosphere away from the royal court. At the age of fifteen, she was married to her first cousin, King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway, who suffered from a mental illness and was cold to his wife throughout the marriage. She had two children: the future Frederick VI and Louise Augusta, whose biological father may have been the German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee.
Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
22 July 1751 – 10 May 1775
July 1751 – 8 November 1766
Her Royal Highness Princess Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
8 November 1766 – April 1772
Her Majesty The Queen of Denmark and Norway
22 July 1751
10 May 1775 (aged 23)
Celle, Holy Roman Empire
13 May 1775
Christian VII of Denmark
.1 King Frederick VI of Denmark
.28 January 1768 – 3 December 1839
.Wife – Marie of Hesse-Kassel
.2 Children – Princess Caroline, Duchess Vilhelmine
.2 Princess Louise Auguste
.7 July 1771 – 13 January 1843
.Husband – Duke Frederick Christian II
.3 Children – Queen Caroline Amalie,
Duke Christian August II, Prince Frederick
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
Caroline Matilda was born in Leicester House, London, on 22 July (11 July in the Old Style) 1751.
She was the ninth and youngest child of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Her father died suddenly about three months before her birth, on 31 March 1751.
At birth, she was given the style and title Her Royal Highness Princess Caroline Matilda, as daughter of the Prince of Wales, though, by the time of her birth, the title of Prince of Wales had passed to her brother George (who became King George III in 1761). Both of her names were used to distinguish her from her paternal aunt, Princess Caroline.
The princess was christened ten days after being born, on 1 August at the same house, by the Bishop of Norwich, Thomas Hayter. Her godparents were her brother George, her aunt Caroline, and her sister Augusta.
She was brought up by her strict mother away from the English court and was described as natural and informal. She was uninterested in politics and court intrigues as she grew older. She spent most of the time with her family in Leicester House but during holidays they moved to Kew Palace.
Caroline Matilda enjoyed outdoor life and riding, and, despite the irregularities of her and her sisters’ education, she was musically gifted, an accomplished singer with a beautiful voice and also could speak three languages Italian, French, and German
In 1764, a marriage was suggested between the Danish House of Oldenburg and the British House of Hanover, specifically between Christian, Crown Prince of Denmark, and a British princess (a first cousin.)
Initially, the marriage negotiations were intended for the eldest unmarried daughter of the Waleses, Princess Louise Anne, but after he was informed of her weak constitution her younger sister Caroline Matilda was chosen for the match instead.
The marriage was considered suitable because both the British and Danish royal families were Protestant and of the same rank, and thus had the same status as well as religion. The official betrothal was announced on 10 January 1765.
On 1 October 1766 in the royal chapel of St James’s Palace the marriage was celebrated by proxy, in which the groom was represented by Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany. She sobbed through out the ceremony.
Two days later, Caroline Matilda departed from Harwich for Rotterdam, and three weeks later she arrived in Altona, where she left her British entourage and was welcomed by her appointed Danish courtiers. Twelve days later, Caroline Matilda arrived in Roskilde, where she met her future husband.
The official wedding ceremony took place on 8 November 1766 in the Royal Chapel at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Marriage celebrations and balls lasted for another month. On 1 May 1767, Caroline Matilda was crowned Queen of Denmark in Copenhagen.
The young Queen at the Danish court was described as particularly temperamental, vivid and charming. She was thought too plump to be described as a beauty, but she was considered attractive, it was said of her that “her appearance allowed her to avoid criticism of women, but still captivate the male eye.”
However, her natural and unaffected personality was not popular at the strict Danish court, despite the fact that originally she was warmly received in Copenhagen. The weak willed, self-centered, and mentally ill Christian VII was cold to his wife and not in a hurry to consummate the marriage.
The King was forced to marry by the court, who believed that with this, his mental problems would improve.Part of the court felt that Christian preferred the company of men to women. As a boy, Christian’s tutors had beaten and tortured him, trying to make a man of him. In order to survive he had retreated into a fantasy world. He himself became violent especially towards women.
After the marriage, Christian abandoned himself to the worst excesses, especially sexual promiscuity. In 1767, he entered into a relationship with the courtesan Støvlet-Cathrine.
Christian publicly declared that he could not love Caroline Matilda, because it was “unfashionable to love one’s wife”. He ultimately sank into a condition of mental stupor. Symptoms during this time included paranoia, self mutilation, hallucinations and chronic masterbation.
Caroline Matilda became close to her Chief Court Mistress Louise von Plessen who regarded the King’s friends, such as Conrad Holck and Enevold Brandt, as immoral and acted to isolate Caroline Matilda from her spouse. This was not difficult, as Christian VII did not like her.
The couple was further estranged when Louise von Plessen advised Caroline Matilda to claim to be indisposed when the King expressed a wish for physical intimacy, with the thought that distance would make the King more eager instead though, it only made him more unwilling.
6 months after the wedding Christian consummated his marriage for the sake of the succession. Frederick was born 10 months later, a day before his father’s 19th birthday, when his mother was 16.
In May 1768 Christian VII took his long tour of Europe. During his absence, Caroline Matilda took care of her son and aroused attention when she took walks in Copenhagen this was considered scandalous, as royal and noble Danish women normally only travelled in town by carriage.
Caroline Matilda spent the summer at Frederiksborg Castle with her son before returning to Copenhagen in the autumn. During the absence of the King there were rumors about an affair of the Queen with Hofteatret La Tour an actor and singer from the French language theater Hofteatret La Tour was exiled after the return of the King.
The King returned to Copenhagen on 12 January 1769, bringing with him Johann Friedrich Struensee as Royal Physician. He had met Struensee in Altona at the beginning of his travels. During 1769 the King’s mental health deteriorated but Struensee could apparently handle the King’s instability, which was a great relief to the King’s advisers and Christian VII developed a confidence in him. During 1769, Struensee encouraged the King in his attraction to Birgitte Sofie Gabel, reportedly because he believed a relationship with an intelligent woman would make the King more mentally stable and his insanity easier to handle, but this failed, and the attempt to provide the King with a mistress made the Queen hostile toward Struensee.
After this, Struensee encouraged the King to improve his relationship with Caroline Matilda, and Christian VII showed his attention to her in the form of a three-day 18th birthday party on 22 July 1769. The Queen was well aware that Struensee was behind these improvements, and her interest in the charming doctor developed.
Later, in the summer of 1769, Caroline Matilda had an attack of dropsy, and at the insistence of her husband, she turned to Struensee. He advised the Queen that entertainment and exercise are the best medicine the physician’s advice helped Caroline Matilda, and Struensee gained credibility before her.
Confidence strengthened when Struensee successfully inoculated the infant Crown Prince Frederick against smallpox. The attraction which had arisen between the Queen and the Royal Physician amused the King, but it was initially caused by the desire of Struensee to bring together Christian VII and his wife.
In January 1770, Struensee was given his own rooms at Christiansborg Palace. In the meanwhile the King became more and more passive, isolated and less counted upon as his mental health deteriorated. He entrusted more and more of the daily state affairs to Struensee, as he had by then become accustomed to trust him.
Ecstatic to have a friend, soon Caroline Matilda demanded that Struensee come visit her everyday, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. It was a classic case of a young, romantic girl falling for an older, experienced man. By the spring of 1770 Struensee became the Queen’s lover.
The rumors forced the Queen to limit her contact with Struensee for a while but this didn’t last for long: by the summer of 1770 the proximity between Caroline Matilda and Struensee was known in all the capital and the provinces.
Shortly after, the royal couple made a tour through the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein and the German border, accompanied by Struensee During the trip, the Queen and Struensee were observed to behave in a suspicious manner towards each other, and rumors started spreading that they were lovers.
In the summer of 1770, Caroline Matilda’s mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales, made a visit. This was the last meeting between them. The Queen received her in breeches, which at that time was scandalous. During this meeting, Struensee was constantly at her side, so her mother couldn’t find an opportunity to talk freely. When her mother asked her daughter about these rumours, the Queen responded with “Pray, madam, allow me to govern my own kingdom as I please!”
On 29 January 1771, in honor of the King’s birthday the Queen founded the Mathildeordenen. The Order has one class, and was intended to honor the royals and their closest friends. The badge of the Order was a monogram “M”, framed by a circle of precious stones and branches covered with green enamel. The Order was suspended on a pink ribbon with three silver stripes. A man wore the Order on a tape around his neck, and a lady with a bow on the chest.
Until now without influence, Caroline Matilda became the center of the Court’s attention, and gathered followers called the Dronningens Parti (“The Queen’s Party”). She gained a new confidence, and showed herself in public riding astride on horseback, dressed as a man. This was seen as scandalous.
Struensee introduced a reform in which burgher class people were allowed to dine informally with the royal family, and the Queen acquired friends outside the aristocracy which was seen as a scandal.
In June 1771 the Queen moved to Horsholm castle, north of Copenhagen, and there Caroline spent an idyllic summer. It is a large possibility that she also moved away from the King and the rest of the court because the 7th of July she gave birth to a girl. Her daughter was christened Louise Augusta, after Caroline and Christian’s respective mothers, and although the King acknowledged the child as his she was often called “la Petite Struensee” around the court.
Shortly after Louise Augusta’s birth, rumors began in the court and population that Caroline Matilda and Struense wanted to imprison the King and declare the Queen regent, these accusations, in fact were absurd in themselves, as Christian VII was more a protection than an obstacle to the lovers. By the end of 1771 the lovers began to worry, and Caroline Matilda suspected that the Dowager Queen Juliana Maria planned a plot against her and Struensee.
By January 1772 Struensee and Caroline Matilda were already in serious danger. A former supporter of Struensee, Count Schack Carl Rantzau, discontented with the fact that Struensee did not accept his political views, decided to overthrow the favorite.
Dowager Queen Juliana Maria had during the summer watched the progress of the events at Fredensborg Palace, where she lived in seclusion with her son. She was given fake evidence that the lovers were going to overthrow the King, prompting the Dowager Queen to act against them.
Struensee and Caroline Matilda were arrested after a masked ball. Christian had signed warrants when Juliana told him that a revolution was forming and the palace was about to be stormed. Caroline Matilda was allowed to take Princess Louise with her to her prison at Elsinore but not the Crown Prince who she never saw again.
When George III heard of his sister’s adultery, he didn’t lift a figure to help her. He ignored her pleas and burned all her correspondance.
The interrogation of Struensee began on 20 February 1772, but in recognition of the “crime of familiarity” with respect to the Queen, he admitted to nothing for three days after that. Later, he tried to shift as much of the responsibility for adultery on Caroline Matilda. Struensee’s main political associate and friend, Enevold Brandt, was interrogated at the same time, and reportedly admitted his knowledge of the favorite’s crimes
A committee of four nobles was sent to interrogate the Queen, Caroline Matilda refused to speak with them, replying that “she doesn’t recognize anyone’s court other than the court of the King.” In the later visits of the committee, the Queen denied her relationship to Struensee in the hope of saving him.
On 9 March, a confession signed by Struensee was presented to Caroline Matilda she also signed a confession and took much of the blame on herself hoping thus to mitigate the fate of her lover, although she is believed to have been pressed or manipulated to admit the affair by the interrogator.
On 24 March an indictment against the Queen was presented to the court, consisting of thirty-five members of the nobility. On 2 April she was given a lawyer, who said that the Queen was innocent, and her confession was signed under pressure and solely to protect Struensee. The judgment was handed down on 6 April and two days later the Queen was notified her marriage was dissolved.
Struensee was sentenced to death and executed on 28 April. He first had his right hand cut off then he was beheaded, his head stuck on a pole and presented to 30,000 bystanders after disembowelment, his remains were quartered.
In Great Britain the news about the arrest of Caroline Matilda were met with great excitement. After the divorce, her brother King George III, began to negotiate her release, without success. A British squadron arrived off the shores of Copenhagen, but a few hours before its arrival George III received the news that the Danish government guaranteed the freedom of the former Queen.
By May 1772 the British and Danish governments had been able to figure out where Caroline Matilda would live. Tt the suggestion of George III, the new residence of his Sister was to be Celle Castle. On 3 May she departed from Helsingør. Her two children, Frederick and Louise Augusta, remained in Copenhagen and she never saw them again.
In Celle, Caroline Matilda had a very quiet life. She became known for her charity toward poor children and orphans.
The former Queen was often visited by many relatives and friends, among whom was her older sister Augusta Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel which was a way to keep her watched.
Caroline Matilda died suddenly of scarlet fever on 10 May 1775 at age 23. She was buried in the crypt of the Stadtkirche St. Marien near her paternal great-grandmother Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick Lüneburg, who was also divorced and exiled.
Written in German on a drawing the king made in 1775, three years after Struensee’s execution and one month after the death of his wife, was the following: “Ich hätte gern beide gerettet” (“I would have liked to have saved them both”).
.Robert Neumann – The Favourite of the Queen (1935)
.Edgar Maass – The Queen’s Physician (1948)
.Norah Lofts – The Lost Queen (1969)
.Per Olov Enquist – The Visit of the
Royal Physician (1999)
.Bodil Steensen-Leth – Prinsesse af blodet
(Princess of the Blood) (2000)
.Peter Maxwell Davies – Caroline
Mathilde (ballet 1991)
.The Dictator, Caroline Matilda is
played by Madeleine Carroll. (1935)
.King in Shadow, Caroline Matilda is
played by Odile Versois (1957)
.A Royal Affair, Caroline Matilda is
played by Alicia Vikander (2012)
Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
22 July 1751 – 10 May 1775