Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Dowager Princess of Wales, Elector of Hanover, Frederick-Louis, King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway, King George II of Great Britain, King George III of Great Britain, Prince of Wales, Princess Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, Princess Louise Anne of Great Britain
Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (July 22, 1751 – May 10, 1775) was Queen of Denmark and Norway from 1766 to 1772 by marriage to King Christian VII.
Caroline Matilda was born in on July 22, 1751 as the ninth and youngest child of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, daughter of Friedrich II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1676–1732) and Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst (1679–1740).
Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, was the eldest son and heir apparent of King George II of Great Britain, Elector of Hanover and Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, the daughter of Johann Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and his second wife, Princess Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach. Her father was a member of the House of Hohenzollern and the ruler of one of the smallest German states. Frederick Louis was the father of King George III.
Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales father died suddenly on March 31, 1751 about three months before Caroline Matilda’ birth; thus she was a posthumous child. She was born at Leicester House, London, a large aristocratic townhouse in Westminster, where her parents had lived, since the King had banished his son from court in 1737.
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 that title had passed to her brother George (who became King George III in 1760).
Caroline Matilda grew up in the large group of siblings, and during the remaining years of the reign of her grandfather, King George II, her mother, Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, chose to live in seclusion with her children, devoting herself to their care, and bringing them up away from the English court.
As a consequence, Augusta was to be criticised for her manner of raising her children, as she isolated them from the outside world into a secluded family environment, seldom meeting people outside the family.
In 1764, four years into the reign of her brother as King George III of Great Britain and Ireland, Elector of Hanover; 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.
The Danish Crown Prince was the oldest surviving son of King Frederik V and his first wife Princess Louise of Great Britain sister to King George III and in consequence, the Danish Crown Prince and Caroline Matilda were first cousins.
The marriage was considered suitable because the British and Danish royal families were both Protestant and of the same rank, and thus had the same status as well as religion. Additionally, the deceased Queen Louise had been very popular in Denmark.
Initially, the marriage negotiations were intended for, Princess Louise Anne, eldest unmarried daughter of the former Prince of Wales; but after the Danish representative in London, Count von Bothmer, was informed of her weak constitution, her younger sister Caroline Matilda was chosen for the match instead. The official betrothal was announced on 10 January 1765.
On January 14, 1766, in the middle of preparations for the wedding, King Frederik V died and his 17-year-old son became King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway.
On October 1 of that year in the royal chapel of St James’s Palace (or according to other sources, in Carlton House) the marriage was celebrated by proxy, the groom being represented by the bride’s brother Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany.
Two days later, Caroline Matilda departed from Harwich for Rotterdam, and three weeks later she crossed the River Elbe and arrived in Altona, in the then Danish Duchy of Holstein. There 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 for the first time. She held her official entry into the Danish capital on November 8 to great cheers from the population.
Already the same day a second wedding ceremony with the groom present took place in the Royal Chapel at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Marriage celebrations and balls lasted for another month. On May 1, 1767, Christian VII and Caroline Matilda were crowned King and Queen of Denmark and Norway in the chapel of Christiansborg Palace.
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-centred, and mentally ill Christian VII was cold to his wife and not in a hurry to consummate the marriage.
The reason for this attitude towards his wife could be that the King was actually forced to marry by the court, who believed that marriage would lead to improvement in his mental problems; in addition, part of the court felt that Christian VII preferred the company of men to women.
Despite rumours of homosexuality, the King had a mistress with whom he began a relationship in Holstein in the summer of 1766, and often visited courtesans in Copenhagen, of which the most famous was Anna Katrina Bentgagen, nicknamed Støvlet-Cathrine.