Princess Caroline Matilda was born on the 22nd July 1751, the youngest daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Sadly, only three months before her birth her father suddenly died and the title Prince of Wales went to her elder brother, George (later to become George III). She was known by both her first names to avoid confusion with her Aunt, Princess Caroline.
Her mother chose to bring her up outside of the Royal Court, and she enjoyed the outdoor life including horse-riding and also became fluent in French, German and Italian. The languages no doubt helping with her love of singing, and it is said she had a pleasant voice. But affairs of state could not be ignored, negotiations had been progressing for a marriage between the British Royal family and that of the combined Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway. It was seen as advantageous to both sides as at that time there were few Protestant Royal families in Europe.
The first choice for the marriage was her elder sister Princess Louisa, however, concern was expressed about her health. This was well-founded, as sadly Princess Louisa died of tuberculosis at age 19. Hence, 15-year-old Princess Caroline left England to marry her cousin Prince Christian VII. The marriage was not the greatest of successes, Caroline was described as being vivid and charming rather than a beauty, but she did not find favour with her husband. What made matters worse, was that her chief lady-in-waiting Louise von Plessen did not approve of Christian’s friends finding them vulgar.
The King was encouraged to consummate the marriage and was delighted when a son, Frederick, was born in 1768. The King then spurned his Queen and had at least one courtesan, her time at court was also made harder when her favourite lady-in-waiting was exiled from court. Shortly after he headed off on a tour of Europe. The now, Queen Caroline Matilda frequently caused a stir when she calmly walked through the streets of Copenhagen rather than ride in a carriage. Even more so when she rode a horse dressed as a man.
The King had been prone to bouts of mental illness and whilst on his tour of Europe met Johan Friedrich Struensee. Johann was a German Doctor from Halle, who the King had met whilst at Altona. Not only did he show excellent skills in controlling the King’s mental illness, but there was also a growing attraction between the Queen and him. As the King’s health deteriorated, control of the country passed more to the shoulders of the Queen and Struensee who had been made a Privy Counsellor. However, the Queen’s desire to flaunt her new found happiness and ride around dressed as a man (as opposed to riding side-saddle) was seen as offensive to the Royal house.
However, a worse scandal was to come in July 1771 when Queen Caroline Matilda gave birth to a daughter Princess Louise Auguste. The father was almost definitely Struensee, in January 1772 the couple were arrested, and in April her marriage to Christian was dissolved. By the end of that month, Struensee was executed along with an accomplice. King George III negotiated a release for his sister and she was taken to Celle in her brother’s region of Hanover. One part of this which must have brought some cheer to Caroline is that this move united her with her former lady-in-waiting and mistress of the robes, Countess Louise von Plessen.
She did not give up her hope for going back to Denmark and was involved in a plot in 1774 where she even tried to obtain the help of her brother King George III. However, suddenly in May 1775 she contracted Scarlet Fever and passed away, at the tender age of 23 and only 4 years older than her sister whose place she had taken.