When I began my interest in European Royalty one of my great pleasures, and still is to this day, is perusing genealogy charts and trying to memorize who all these people are and how many different ways they are connected to one another. However, at one point the thought occurred to me that these charts may not accurately reflect what actually happened. In other words, was the parentage of each royal accurate or was someone else, in reality, the father of certain children. I have discovered there are times when who the actual father of a royal really is.
In legal terms as long as the legal spouse acknowledges the paternity of the child then that child is said to be the legal offspring of the marriage. In all or royal circles this has been the majority practice. I know of only one case, Princess Louise-Auguste of Denmark (1771-1843), where paternity was well known not to be that of the queen’s legal husband, King Christian VII of Denmark, but he acknowledged the child as his anyway. It is broadly accepted that her real biological father was Johann Friedrich Struensee, the king’s royal physician and de facto regent of Denmark at the time of her birth. It was also known at the time that the mentally unstable king was estranged from his queen, Caroline-Matilda of Great Britain. After the affair the king and queen were divorced in 1772.
Struensee, who had initiated many modernizing and emancipating reforms, was arrested and executed for high treason for his affair with the queen that the same year. Christian VII reluctantly signed Struensee’s arrest and execution warrant under pressure from his stepmother, Queen Juliane-Marie, the power hungry queen led the movement to end the marriage and hopefully advance her son (Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway) in his claims to the Danish throne. Caroline Matilda, retained her title of Queen but her children were taken away from her. She was eventually exiled from Denmark and passed her remaining days at Celle Castle in her brother, King George III of Great Britain’s German territory, the Electorate of Hanover. Her life was tragic. She died there of scarlet fever on May 10, 1775, at the age of 23.
Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark, though officially regarded as the daughter of King Christian VII, was, in fact, the daughter of Queen Caroline Matilda and Johann Friedrich Struensee. Their daughter had a better life than her mother and her actual illigitimacy did not affect her position in society. She was married to a Danish cousin, Frederick Christian II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. He was born the eldest son of Friedrich Christian I, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1721–1794), and his cousin Princess Charlotte of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön (1744–1770). Until his father’s death, he was styled “Hereditary Prince of Augustenborg”.
This marriage was arraigned by Danish Chief Minister Andreas Peter Bernstorff, because he theorized that since a son of Louise Auguste could ascend the throne some day, it would be beneficial to arrange a marry to the “half-royal” and to keep her in the family. The result of this plan closely re-connected the Danish royal house’s two lines, the ruling House of Oldenburg and the offshoot House of Augustenburg. The marriage took place on May 27, 1786 and the 14-year-old Louise Augusta was married to the 20 year old Frederick Christian II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg at Christiansborg Palace.
The couple lived at the Danish court in Copenhagen for many years until the Christiansborg Palace fire of 1794 and the death of the elder Duke of Augustenborg, Frederik Christian I, 1721-1794, when her husband inherited his father’s the estate, title and the Duchy. The new radiant Duchess of Augustenburg was often the center of court activities, and was proclaimed the “Venus of Denmark”; she was the real female center of the Danish royal court even after her brother, King Frederik VI, married in 1790 to Princess Marie of Hesse-Kassel. Sadly the union was a mismatch for the spouses were different: Louise Augusta was extrovert, lively, beautiful and pleasure-loving, Frederik-Christian II was homely, serious, and only interested in philosophy and politics. This is where history repeated itself. Louise Auguste was said to have had many lovers, and the most notably among them was the doctor Carl Ferdinand Suadacini, who treated her for infertility and was believed to have fathered her three children. Unlike the situation with her mother and Friedrich Struensee, this rumor cannot be proven. Despite being a great-granddaughter of King George II of Great Britain and having many British royal cousins, Louise Auguste felt sympathy for the French Revolution and from 1789 onward held anti-British views.
Frederik-Christian II died on June 14, 1814. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Christian-August II, who was only sixteen years old. Duchess Louise Auguste took control of the Augustenborg estates and the children’s upbringing. However, the estate was turned over to Christian-August II, on his return from an extended foreign tour in 1820. After her short period as a regent for her son, Louise-Aguste then resided in the Augustenborg Castle, where she established an eccentric court. She had a close and warm relationship with her daughter, Caroline Amalie (September 28, 1796-March 9, 1881), who would become Queen of Denmark as consort to Christian VIII, but her relationship to her sons was tense. Louise-Aguste died at Augustenborg in 1843, when her brother’s reign in Denmark had already ended (Frederik VI 1808-1839) and Christian VIII (1839-1848)*, her son-in-law, ascended – she thus died as the mother of the then Queen of Denmark.
* Christian VIII (September 18, 1786-January 20, 1848) was the King of Denmark from 1839 to 1848 and, as Christian-Frederick, King of Norway in 1814. He was the eldest son of Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway and Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, born in 1786 at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. His paternal grandparents were King Frederik V of Denmark and his second wife, Duchess Juliane-Marie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.
This will be a relatively short series. The parentage of the following monarchs will be looked at: King Edward III of England, King Alfonso XII of Spain, Archduke Maximilian of Austria (Emperor of Mexico), Emperor Pavel of Russia.
Oh, here is another interesting bit of trivia. Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark was the grandmother of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg who was married to Princess Helena of Great Britain, daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.