Caroline Mathilde became the Queen of Denmark in 1766, when she married Christian VII. She was the daughter of Prince Frederick Ludwig of Wales and a sister of King George III of Great Britain. Caroline Mathilde was the mother of Frederik VI and Princess Louise Augusta.
Caroline Mathilde’s marriage to the mentally ill Christian VII isolated her at the Royal Court. In 1770 she began a love affair with the King’s physician, J.F. Struensee, and Louise Augusta, to whom she gave birth in 1771, was most likely his daughter. After the fall of Struensee the next year, Caroline Mathilde was arrested and she confessed the adultery. The marriage to Christian VII was dissolved and she was deported. She spent the last years of her life in a castle in Celle, Germany.
Caroline Mathilde was a tragic figure. As a very young person the cheerful Queen was embroiled in events, the consequenses of which she could not foresee. Because of rumours about her and Struensee and allegations about a harsh upbringing of the Crown Prince, she was very unpopular with the population at large.
Portrait of Caroline Mathilde, ca. 1767
This portrait of Caroline Mathilde is from around 1767, and is therefore one of the earliest portraits we have of her. The picture depicts the young queen about a year after she married the Danish king, Christian VII. It therefore portrays her before she began her famous affair with the king’s personal physician JF Struensee. The painting is attributed to the Danish artist Peder Als (1727-1776) who was one of the artists who paved the way for neoclassicism in Danish portraiture. He also painted other royal portraits, not just of Caroline Mathilde, but of the king and the crown prince. The queen is portrayed here with her hair powdered white, and adorned with lace which falls over her right shoulder. She wears an aqua blue dress adorned with lace along the neckline, and bows on the chest and arms. She has adorned her ears and neck with white stones in the form of earrings and an aqua blue necklace. On the left of the queen is a bouquet of white flowers with a light blue bow.
Crown Princess Marie and Princess Caroline in Frederiksberg Gardens
Jens Juel painted the Crown Princess with her daughter around 1800. At that time he had been the court portrait painter for 20 years and had painted most of the members of the Royal Family several times. Crown Princess Marie had been portrayed in a more than two metre high painting eight years earlier, while Juel had painted her husband, the later Frederik VI, shortly before his confirmation in 1783. In Juel’s paintings grace is united with realistic depictions. The representation of the country’s Crown Princess walking on her flat feet in a garden without status symbols would have been unthinkable a few decades earlier. With the French Revolution came a liberation of the arts, which Juel had witnessed during his many years travelling abroad, and he was therefore able to live up to the, for the time, modern demands and expectations of art, which were also emerging in Denmark. Interest in the private sphere, family bonds, and the freer expression granted to children were tendencies that were popular at the time and are depicted in the painting. C Zeuthen depicted Frederik VI’s study and bedchamber in a watercolour in 1840 following the king’s death. In the watercolour Juel’s painting can be seen hanging on the wall behind the king’s bed. His white writing desk can be seen on the left of the picture. Today it is part of the Royal Danish Collection and can be seen in room 16 at Rosenborg. The painting was purchased by Rosenborg in 2015 with support from Augustinus Fonden, Ny Carlsbergfondet, and the Danish Ministry of Culture.