The King’s doctor Johann Struensee seized power for over a year in 18th century Denmark. He managed to abolish slavery, abolish censorship of the press, and have an affair with the Queen before being ousted and executed in 1772

Johann Friedrich Struensee

Johann Friedrich, Greve Struensee (5 August 1737 – 28 April 1772) was a German physician, philosopher and statesman. He became royal physician to the mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark and a minister in the Danish government. He rose in power to a position of “de facto” regent of the country, where he tried to carry out widespread reforms. His affair with Queen Caroline Matilda (“Caroline Mathilde”) caused a scandal, especially after the birth of a daughter, Princess Louise Augusta, and was the catalyst for the intrigues and power play that caused his downfall and dramatic death.

Upbringing and early career

Born at Halle an der Saale and baptized at St. Moritz on 7 August 1737, Struensee was the third child of six born to Pi… Continue Reading (10 minute read)

10 thoughts on “The King’s doctor Johann Struensee seized power for over a year in 18th century Denmark. He managed to abolish slavery, abolish censorship of the press, and have an affair with the Queen before being ousted and executed in 1772”

  1. MaymayLerd

    TLDR:
    Struensee was able to do all this, because the King had been sick for some time, having to relay information through Struensee every now and then, and even becoming a minister. The trust became so massive, that when the king one day dismissed his “right-hand-man”, Struensee saw opportunity, and a few months after proclaimed himself the new Chancellor. While the king was sickly, the Queen didn’t have many physical and emotional attachments to the King, and slowly developed a love for Struensee, whom she could talk and confide to.

  2. ennuiui

    ” When Struensee abolished all censorship of the press, it mostly resulted in a flood of anti-Struensee pamphlets.”

    Oops.

  3. apearbuckle

    The film “A Royal Affair” starring Mads Mikkelsen & Alicia Vikander is literally this story. It’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Highly recommend.

  4. viper_16

    He was more productive in about a year than most politicians.

  5. Panamaned

    I liked this quote:

    > He also took Rousseau’s advice about cold being beneficial for children literally, and the Crown Prince was thus only sparsely clothed even during winter time.

    In Danmark. And it worked as the Prince (and later king) lived to the ripe old age of 71.

  6. carolinemathildes

    I absolutely recommend the film A Royal Affair! It was after watching it that I chose my username. Fantastic performances and the story was so interesting; I’d studied history, but never touched on that part (too modern, and too northern for my degree). A really fascinating time period.

  7. Happy-Engineer

    Then he reloaded his quicksave, leaving our timeline to continue, unobserved.

  8. X0AN

    Tbf he didn’t seize power as such, he was basically the kings right hand man when the king was too ill to actually reign.

    Happens a lot in history.

  9. bhejda

    I wonder what the follow-up was.

    How many of the reforms were rolled back (and to what extend)? How many of the inept and corrupted officials returned to their offices?

    The usual pattern in Europe was: An enlightened ruler (and/or a revolution) pushing liberal reforms -> Pushback from conservatives (usually not the whole way back, though) -> another revolution/enightened ruler -> rinse and repeat.

  10. Dances_with_Manatees

    Well hopefully he did the queen right too because it sounds like he was killing it in all other areas.

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