A Royal Affair (Danish: En kongelig affære) by the Danish director Nikolai Arsel is an amazing film, addressed primarily to lovers of historical cinema. The story of impossible love in Europe in the eighteenth century, full immersion in the era, the appropriate environment. Above all praise, the play of actors, costumes, nature. At first glance, this is a typical melodrama. In fact, the film is much deeper, causing a number of historical parallels and unexpected conclusions.
The narrative spans a short span of time: about nine years. In these several years, important events for the country take place, during this period the love, power and death of a couple of main characters – Carolina Matilda and Struense – are taking place. The Royal Affair is truly a royal spectacle: the magic of power against the backdrop of a tragic love story.
Is it easy to be a queen
The young 15-year-old princess-Englishwoman Caroline Matilda, not spoiled by life at court, comes to a foreign country with the hope of happiness.
The marriage to King Christian VII of Denmark turns out to be far from ideal. The king is mentally ill, rude and unceremonious towards his young wife, his behavior is simply indecent.
After the birth of the heir, the royal couple drift apart. Christian, as before, prefers to spend time with prostitutes. The Queen is unhappy, completely alone, and at the same time prohibitively young. There are all the prerequisites for a romantic hobby.
The right to happiness
People have a simple desire to be happy. However, what is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to a bull. And – accordingly – on the contrary: what is forgivable to a commoner is impossible for the queen. As a rule, fate denies the right to happiness to crowned persons. There are always too many ill-wishers and spies in the palaces. Caroline’s connection with Dr. Struensee could not but end in disaster.
Could everything have turned out differently if the queen showed a little female wisdom? And if there was a friend next to her who managed to stop her from taking a wrong step? Christian VII obviously succumbed to outside influences. Probably, in the hands of a prudent wife and convincing Struensee, the years of this monarch’s reign would become an outstanding era.
But then this extraordinary story would not have happened.
Christian VII – Mask of Madness
It is believed that King Christian VII of Denmark was mentally ill, probably suffering from schizophrenia. In the film, he was superbly played by Mikkel Völsgaard, receiving the 2012 Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear award. On the screen we see an unbalanced young man, a spoiled, licentious brute. At the same time, he is keenly interested in art, theater, sometimes capable of quite healthy deeds. Struensee managed to awaken in Christians the desire to be a ruler. The doctor claims that he does not think the king is crazy.
I think that some people do not accept their life so much that they hide inside themselves.
Johann Struensee – who is he?
The state is often ruled not by the one who is the nominal ruler. Rather, the one who knows how to competently rule the king. Dr. Struensee – who is he: a naive freethinker, a lover who has lost his head, or a purposeful politician? Rather, all together. His conviction and drive impress not only Carolina. Even King Christian, the doctor manages to interest and involve in governing the country for a short time.
Politics and love are the main driving forces of progress. Moreover, both are quite dangerous. Passion for the queen and the desire to change the world for the better, shared love and a dizzying career – with such successes, it is difficult to maintain caution and composure. Carolina Matilda is an educated woman who fully shares the views of her lover. Together they oppose the outdated system, reforming the old way with ease.
Man is born to be free, and yet he is everywhere in chains .
Johann Struensee is above all a politician of unheard-of audacity. For two years, he virtually single-handedly controls the state, implements the most daring projects. The doctor-politician succeeds in literally all plans, he acts assertively and recklessly. Perhaps too recklessly.
The magic of power
Until the end of the 18th century, the person of the sovereign was sacred to his subjects. Absolute monarchy implied absolute submission. The king is the deputy of God, and every decision of his is good. A not quite adequate king wants to make his dog a member of the Council of State:
The gourmet will become an honorary member of the Council.
None of the dignitaries dare contradict. There is indeed something magical about royalty in those days. Struensee was able to gain such incredible power only because he acted on behalf of the divine person of the king.
The 18th century in Europe is called the Age of Enlightenment, but Denmark seems to remain in the Middle Ages. The ruling elite – priests and ministers, are intolerant of the ideas of the Enlightenment, their levers of power: serfdom, torture, fear.
During the two years of his reign, the German introduced the abolition of torture, orphanages, freedom of the press, and several hundred other reforms. Struense’s laws were very progressive, but perhaps a little ahead of their time. Unfortunately, Johann Friedrich was not popular in the country and imposed reforms too decisively. He inadvertently forgot about the forces of opposition in the person of his stepmother Christian and the ousted ministers. And the doctor’s love affair with the queen became too strong a trump card in the hands of enemies.
The conspirators managed to arrest and execute Johann Friedrich Struensee, the queen was exiled from Denmark. The system won, the country returned to the medieval way.
The downside of progress
Thanks to Struensee’s reforms, Denmark is becoming an advanced European state. It is paradoxical, but true: the adopted laws rather harmed the reformer himself. The abolition of censorship led to a massive spread of gossip, and the reduction in military spending was the trigger for the coup.
It would seem that the common people should appreciate the obvious benefits of innovations. But here, too, by: Struensee rises to the scaffold amid the jubilation of the crowd.
The history of the Danish royal family bears comparisons with the life of Catherine the Great, the Russian empress. In the middle of the 18th century, 16-year-old German princess Sophia Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst arrives in Russia to marry the heir to the throne, Peter III. Peter, like Christian, has an extremely unbalanced disposition and does not fit the role of a monarch.
Unlike the Danish queen, Catherine II managed to become an empress and successfully ruled a huge power for several decades.
The meaning of the film
Despite external metamorphoses, at all times the inner essence of people remains the same. Some strive for love, others for power or wealth. For some, it is important to change the world for the better, others cling to the past and do not want any changes. Still, progress is inevitable.
Frederick VI, son of Christian and Caroline Matilda, implemented the reforms of Johann Struensee, abolished serfdom and slavery in the colonies.