Per Olov Enquist
Christian VII of Denmark
Johann Friedrich Struensee
The web-based encyclopedia entries on Christian VII of Denmark each restate that the young king, who came to power at the age of 17 in 1766, "had a winning personality and considerable talent," but was "badly educated," terrorized by his governor, Detlev Reventlow and "debauched by corrupt pages." He suffered, so the entries tell us, possibly from schizophrenia. After his marriage to Princess Caroline Matilda (Queen Caroline Mathilde), he "abandoned himself to the worst excesses, especially debauchery," giving himself up to the courtesan Støviete-Cathrine, declaring he could not love Caroline because it was "unfashionable to love one's wife." Thereafter he "sank into a condition of mental stupor" with the symptoms of paranoia, self-mutilation and hallucinations.
"My friend Voltaire is in the habit of saying that sometimes by chance,
history opens up a unique...aperture to the future."
"Is that so?"
"And then one should step through."
In the years following, Struensee, against his own doubts and fears for what he recognized was the "dark flame" of the King, took that momentous step, ordering, with the King's signature, that all court declarations pass through him. Within the short period of his powerful rule, Struensee made hundreds of enlightened changes to Danish law, changes that significantly altered the freedoms of Denmark's masses. The problem is that these uneducated masses had no comprehension of what the changes meant, and Struensee, in turn, had no deep comprehension of the "common folk" for which he was fighting. Agitators such as Guldberg and other court lackeys found it easy, through pamphlets and other methods, to bring suspicion upon most of Struensee's important changes of law.
Los Angeles, December 14, 2001