Christian VII 1766-1808

Christian VII

Coins from Christian VII

It became clear at an early stage that Christian VII, son of Frederik V and the English Louise, was mentally ill. In his first years as king, Christian lived a double life. In the mornings he gave audience to ambassadors and engaged them in cultivated conversation in French. In the evenings, however, he indulged himself by "enjoying freedom" in the streets of Copenhagen in the company of drinking companions and prostitutes. On a long journey in Europe in 1769 he made himself known to the world as an interested and cultured monarch. After his return his condition and conduct took a sharp turn for the worse and he was never again to play an active role as king.

Christian's only remaining task was to provide the numerous documents with his signature. He had become a useful instrument in the hands of individuals hungry for power. The first person to find himself in a position to take advantage of Christian was his court physician, Johan Freiderich Struensee, who managed to have himself appointed as secretary of the royal cabinet. With the power vested in him, he implemented a number of radical reforms in the spirit of the Enlightenment.

In 1772, Struensee was ousted and the position of power was taken by the dowager queen, Juliane Marie, the king's stepmother, a position he managed to maintain until 1784. She secured her son, Prince Frederick, a seat in the State Council and appointed his former teacher, Ove Høegh-Guldberg, as secretary of the royal cabinet, making him the country's most powerful man.

When Christian VII's son, Crown Prince Frederick, reached 16 years of age, he joined a circle of discontented politicians who were laying plans to depose Guldberg's cabinet rule and bring to an end the influence of Juliane Marie and her son, Frederick, also in line for the throne. In 1784 they succeeded, and Crown Prince Frederick ruled Denmark-Norway on behalf of his mentally ill father until the latter's death in 1808.

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