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Encyclopedia > Johann Friedrich Struensee
Johann Friedrich Struensee By Jens Juel, 1771, Collection of Bomann Museum, Celle, Germany.
Johann Friedrich Struensee By Jens Juel, 1771, Collection of Bomann Museum, Celle, Germany.

Johann Friedrich, Count von Struensee, (August 5, 1737-April 28, 1772) was a German doctor, born in Halle. He became royal physician to the schizophrenic King Christian VII of Denmark and a minister in the Danish government. He rose in power to a position of “de factoregent of the country, where he tried to carry out widespread reforms. His affair with Queen Caroline Matilda (‘’Caroline Mathilde’’) caused scandal, especially after the birth of a daughter, Princess Louise Augusta, and was the catalyst for the intrigues and power play that caused his downfall and dramatic death. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (886x1214, 144 KB) Summary Johann Friedrich Struensee By Jens Juel, 1771 Oil painting on canvas, 67 x 49 cm oval Collection of Bowmann-Museum, Celle Licensing File links The following pages link to this file: Johann Friedrich Struensee ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (886x1214, 144 KB) Summary Johann Friedrich Struensee By Jens Juel, 1771 Oil painting on canvas, 67 x 49 cm oval Collection of Bowmann-Museum, Celle Licensing File links The following pages link to this file: Johann Friedrich Struensee ... Self-portrait with wife, 1791. ... Map of Germany showing Celle Celle is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. ... August 5 is the 217th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (218th in leap years), with 148 days remaining. ... Events 12 February — The San Carlo, the oldest working opera house in Europe, is inaugurated. ... April 28 is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 247 days remaining. ... 1772 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Map of Germany showing Halle Halle (also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish from Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia) is the largest town in the German Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. ... King Christian VII Christian VII (January 29, 1749–March 13, 1808), King of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Schleswig and Holstein. ... De facto is a Latin expression that means in fact or in practice. It is commonly used as opposed to de jure (meaning by law) when referring to matters of law or governance or technique (such as standards), that are found in the common experience as created or developed without... // High public office A regent, from the Latin regens who reigns is anyone who acts as head of state, especially if not the monarch (who has higher titles). ... Princess Caroline Matilda of Wales (July 11, 1751 - May 10, 1775), was a princess of Great Britain and Ireland, sister of King George III and Queen of Denmark from 1767 to 1772. ... Portrait of Princess Louise Augusta as a child. ...

Contents


Upbringing and early career

Struensee was the third child of six born to pietist theologian and priest Adam Struensee and Maria Dorothea. He grew up in a solid and respectable middle-class home, but not particularly overly strict or religiously intolerant. The children received a good upbringing, and three of the sons went to the University. None of them became theologians like their father. Two of the daughters married priests. Pietism was a movement, in the Lutheran Church, lasting from the late-17th century to the mid-18th Century. ... Theology is reasoned discourse concerning God (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογος, logos, word or reason). It can also refer to the study of other religious topics. ...


Johann Fiedrich entered the University of Halle on August 5, 1752 at the age of fifteen where he studied medicine, and graduated on December 12, 1757. The university exposed him to Age of Enlightenment ideals, and social and political critique and reform. He was influenced by these, and supported these new ideas, becoming a propagandist for atheism, the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Encyclopédie. The Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg is located in the German cities of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt and Wittenberg. ... August 5 is the 217th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (218th in leap years), with 148 days remaining. ... 1752 was a leap year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... December 12 is the 346th day (347th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1757 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... William Blakes Newton as a divine geometer (1795) The Age of Enlightenment refers to the 18th century in European philosophy, and is often thought of as part of a larger period which includes the Age of Reason. ... Atheism, in its broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of any deities. ... Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a Franco-Swiss philosopher, writer, political theorist, and self-taught composer of The Age of Enlightenment. ... Fig. ...


Adam and Maria Dorothea Struensee moved to Altona in 1758, where the elder Struensee became head priest at Marienkirche (Mary’s Church). Johann Friedrich moved with them, along with two other of his siblings still under family support. He was soon employed as a public doctor in Altona, in the estate of Count Rantzau, and in the Pinneberg District. His wages were meager, and he expected to supplement them with private practice. Altona may refer to various places: Altona, Victoria, a seaside suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Altona, Illinois, a village located in Knox County, Illinois Altona, Indiana, a town located in DeKalb County, Indiana Altona, Hamburg, the westmost district in the city of Hamburg, Germany Altona, Manitoba, a town located in... Pinneberg is a district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. ...


His parents moved to Rendsburg in 1760 where Adam Struensee became first superintendent (bishop) for the duchy, and subsequently superintendent-general of Schleswig-Holstein. The young Struensee, now 23 years old, had to set up his own household for the first time. His lifestyle expectations were not matched by his economics. His superior intelligence and elegant manners, however, soon made him fashionable in the better circles, and he entertained and scandalized his contemporaries by his controversial opinions and his frank licentiousness. Rendsburg (Danish: Rendsborg) is a town at the Kiel Canal in the northeastern part of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. ... A bishop is an ordained member of the Christian clergy who, in certain Christian churches, holds a position of authority. ... Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the 16 Bundesländer in Germany. ...


He was ambitious, and petitioned the Danish government in the person of Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Johann Hartwig Ernst, Count von Bernstorff for funds. He tried his hand at writing Enlightenment treatises. He saw himself as having a higher calling than a simple doctor. A minister for foreign affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the governmental foreign policy of a sovereign nation. ... Johann Hartwig Ernst, Count von Bernstorff (13 May 1712 – 18 February 1772), Danish statesman, who came of a very ancient Mecklenburg family, was the son of Joachim Engelke, Freiherr von Bernstorff, chamberlain to the elector of Hanover, and was born on the 13 May 1712. ...


Ministering to King Christian VII

During these almost ten years in Altona he came into contact with a circle of aristocrats that had been rejected from the court in Copenhagen. Among these friends were Enevold Brandt and Count Schack Carl Rantzau, leader of a circle of followers of the Enlightenment who treated Struensee as his protogé. They managed to maneuver Struensee into a position as King Christian VII’s travelling physician, also with the hope that he could give them access to the royal court again. ... King Christian VII Christian VII (January 29, 1749–March 13, 1808), King of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Schleswig and Holstein. ...


June-July 1767 the king had spent the summer in Schleswig-Holstein, along with his court and chancellery. Struensee was a clever doctor, and having somewhat restored the king's health while visiting the area, gained the king's affection. He was retained as travelling physician on April 5, 1768, and accompanied the entourage on the King’s foreign tour to Paris and London via Hannover from May 6, 1768-January 12, 1769. He was given the title of State Councilor (‘’etatsråd’’) on May 12, 1768, barely a week after leaving Altona. 1767 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... A royal or noble court, as an instrument of government broader than a court of justice, comprises an extended household centered on a patron whose rule may govern law or be governed by it. ... Various governments have a Chancellor who serves as some form of junior or senior minister. ... April 5 is the 95th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (96th in leap years). ... 1768 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... May 6 is the 126th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (127th in leap years). ... 1768 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... January 12 is the 12th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1769 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... May 12 is the 132nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (133rd in leap years). ... 1768 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...


During the nine month trip he became tight with the king. The king’s ministers Bernstorff and Finance Minister H.C. Schimmelmann saw Struensee as having a positive influence on the king, and stood behind his being named the king's personal physician January 1769 after their return to Copenhagen. Copenhagen (Danish: København) is the capital of Denmark, and the name of the municipality (Danish, kommune) in which it resides. ...


Rise to power

Struensee soon wielded great influence on the mentally unstable young king, and soon he practically ruled Denmark. It had always been Struensee's ambition to play a great part in the world and realize his dream of reform. He had gathered from various Danish friends, most of them involuntary exiles of doubtful character, that the crazy, old-fashioned Dano-Norwegian state, misruled by an idiot, was the fittest subject in the world for the experiments of a man of superior ingenuity like himself; and he proceeded to worm his way to power with considerable astuteness.


First he reconciled the king and queen, for he calculated, shrewdly enough, that if the king was to be his tool he must make the queen his friend. At first Caroline Matilda disliked Struensee, but the unfortunate girl (she was scarce eighteen) could not fail to be deeply impressed by the highly gifted young doctor, who speedily and completely won her heart. By January 1770 he was notoriously her lover; a successful vaccination of the baby crown prince in May still further increased his influence. 1770 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ...


Struensee was very involved with the upbringing of the Crown Prince Frederick VI along the principles of Enlightnment, such as outlined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau challenge to return to nature. King Frederick VI of Denmark and Norway (January 28, 1768 – December 3, 1839), reigned as King of Denmark from 1808 to 1839, and as king of Norway from 1808 to 1814. ... Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a Franco-Swiss philosopher, writer, political theorist, and self-taught composer of The Age of Enlightenment. ...


He is named royal adviser (forelæser) and konferensråd on May 5, 1770. May 5 is the 125th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (126th in leap years). ... 1770 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ...


The royal court and government spent the summer of 1770 in Schleswig-Holstein (Gottorp, Traventhal and Ascheberg). Gottorp in 1864 Gottorf (in Danish, Gottorp) is a palace and estate in the German city of Schleswig in the Bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein. ...


On September 15 the King dismissed Bernstorff, and two days later Struensee becomes maître des requètes, consolidating his power and starting the 16 month period generally referred to as the "Time of Struensee". On December 8 the king dismisses his entire state council and chancellery.


When in the course of the year the king sank into a condition of mental torpor, Struensee's authority became paramount.


In control of the government

For a time Struensee kept himself discreetly in the background, though from henceforth he pulled the strings of the whole political machine. However, he soon grew impatient of his puppets. In December the council of state was abolished, and Struensee appointed himself maître de requêtes (privy counsellor). A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, especially in a monarchy. ...


It was now his official duty to present to the king all the reports from the various departments of state; and, Christian VII being scarcely responsible for his actions, Struensee dictated whatever answers he pleased. His next proceeding was to dismiss all department heads, and to abolish the Norwegian stadholderships. Henceforth the cabinet, with himself as its motive power, was to be the one supreme authority in the state. Unfortunately, he had made up his mind to regenerate the benighted Danish and Norwegian nations on purely abstract principles, without the slightest regard for native customs and predilections, which in his eyes were prejudices. He was hampered, moreover, by not knowing a word of Danish. Christian VII (January 29, 1749_ March 13, 1808), King of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Schleswig and Holstein. ...


Many of his reforms, such as the establishment of foundling hospitals, the abolition of capital punishment for theft and of the employment of torture in judicial process, the doing away with such demoralizing abuses as perquisites, and of "lackeyism," or the appointment of great men's domestics to lucrative public posts, were distinctly beneficial if not original. Unfortunately reform was not as much a principle as a mania with Struensee, The mere fact that a venerable institution still existed was a sufficient reason, in his eyes, for doing away with it. Changes which a prudent minister might have effected in a generation he rushed through in less than a fortnight. Between March 20, 1771 and January 16, 1772— the ten months during which he held absolute sway— he issued no fewer than 1069 cabinet orders, or more than three a day. In order to be sure of obedience he dismissed wholesale without pension or compensation the staffs of all the public departments, substituting for old and experienced officials nominees of his own, in many cases untried men who knew little or nothing of the country they were supposed to govern. Child abandonment or the practice of abandoning ones offspring outside of legal adoption is a long standing social ill. ... Use of the death penalty around the world. ... The Iron Maiden of Nuremberg is an infamous and rarely used torture device. ... March 20 is the 79th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (80th in Leap years). ... 1771 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... January 16 is the 16th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1772 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...


The dictator's manners were even worse than his morals, He habitually adopted a tone of insulting superiority, all the more irritating as coming from an ill-informed foreigner; and sometimes he seemed deliberately to go out of his way to shock the most sacred feelings of the respectable people. Nor was this all. His system of retrenchment, on which he particularly prided himself, was in the last degree immoral and hypocritical, for while reducing the number of the public officials, or clipping down their salaries to starvation points, he squandered thousands upon balls, masquerades, and other amusements of the court, and induced the imbecile king to present him and his friend Brandt with 60,000 rix-dollars apiece.


In Christian's name he introduced a large number of reforms, thereby creating much opposition to his rule, not the least because he disregarded the national language, using only German. When he abolished all censorship, the result was a flood of pamphlets against himself. To meet Wikipedias quality standards and appeal to a wider international audience, this article may require cleanup. ...


Still in spite of all his blunders and brutalities, it is clear that, for a short time at least, middle-class opinion was, on the whole, favourable to him; and had he been wise, he might perhaps have been able to defy any hostile combination. But such was his contempt for the Danish people that he cared not a jot whether they approved or disapproved of his reforms. What incensed the people most against him was the way in which he put the king completely on one side; and this feeling was all the stronger as, outside a very narrow court circle, nobody seems to have believed that Christian VII was really mad, but only that his Will had been weakened by habitual ill usage; and this opinion was confirmed by the publication of the cabinet order of July 14, 1771, appointing Struensee "gehejme kabinetsminister", with authority to issue cabinet orders which were to have the force of royal ordinances, even if unprovided with the royal sign-manual. July 14 is the 195th day (196th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 170 days remaining. ... 1771 was a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ...


Nor were Struensee's relations with the queen less offensive to a nation which had a traditional veneration for the royal House of Oldenburg, while Caroline Matilda's shameless conduct in public brought the Crown into contempt. The society which daily gathered round the king and queen excited the derision of the foreign ambassadors. The unhappy king was little more than the butt of his environment, and once, when he threatened his keeper, Brandt, with a flogging for some impertinence, Brandt, encouraged by Struensee and the queen, actually locked him in his room and beat him with his fists till he begged for mercy. The House of Oldenburg is a North German noble family and one of Europes most influential Royal Houses. ...


Struensee's downfall

Things were at their worst during the winter of 1771. Struensee, who had, in the meantime, created himself a count, now gave full rein to his licentiousness and brutality. If, as we are assured, he publicly snubbed the queen, we may readily imagine how he treated common folk. Before long the people had an opportunity of expressing their disgust openly.


The king, queen, Struensee and Enevold Brandt, along with the royal court spend the summer of 1771 at Hirschholm Palace north of Copenhagen, and stay there until late in the autumn. On July 7 the Queen gives birth to daughter Louise Augusta; and a proclamation commanded that a Te Deum in honour of the event should be sung in all the churches. But so universal was the belief that the child was Struensee's that, at the end of the ordinary services, the congregation rose and departed en masse. Hirschholm Palace, also known as Hørsholm Palace, was a royal palace located in present-day Hørsholm municipality in Denmark until 1810. ... July 7 is the 188th day of the year (189th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 177 days remaining. ... Te Deum is an early Christian hymn of praise. ...


The court moved to Frederiksberg Palace just west of Copenhagen on November 19.


The general ill will against Struensee, which had been smouldering all through the autumn of 1771, found expression at last in a secret conspiracy against him, headed by Rantzau-Ascheburg and others, in the name of the Queen Dowager Juliana Maria, who in this way wrested power away from the king, and secured her and her son’s position of power for many years to come. A Queen Dowager or Dowager Queen is a title or status generally held by the widow of a deceased king. ...


The court returned to Christiansborg Castle on January 8, 1772. The season’s first masquerade ball was held at the Royal Theatre on January 16. January 8 is the 8th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1772 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... January 16 is the 16th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ...


Early in the morning of January 17, 1772, Struensee, Brandt and Queen Caroline Matilda were arrested in their respective bedrooms, and the liberation of the king, who was driven round Copenhagen by his deliverers in a gold carriage, was received with universal rejoicing. The chief charge against Struensee was that he had usurped the royal authority in contravention of the Royal Law (Kongelov). He defended himself with considerable ability and, at first, confident that the prosecution would not dare to lay hands on the queen, he denied that their liaison had ever been criminal. But on hearing that she was also a prisoner of state at Kronborg Castle, his courage evaporated, and he was base enough to betray her, though she did all in her power to shield him. January 17 is the 17th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Kronborg Castle as seen from the sea Kronborg Castle is situated near the town of Elsinore (Danish Helsingør) on the extreme tip of Zealand at the narrowest point of the Oresund (Danish Øresund), the sound between Denmark and Sweden. ...


On April 28 Struensee and Brandt were condemned first to lose their right hands and then to be beheaded; their bodies were afterwards to be drawn and quartered. Sentence of death was the least that Struensee had to expect. He had undoubtedly been guilty of lèse majesté and gross usurpation of the royal authority, both capital offences according to paragraphs 2 and 26 of the Kongelov. He awaited his execution at Kastellet. The sentences were carried out on the April, 28 1772 with Brandt suffering first. April 28 is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 247 days remaining. ... Lese majesty, leze majesty, or lèse majesté (from the Latin Laesa maiestatis, injury to the Majesty) is the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. ... Kastellet, located in Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe. ...


History’s judgement of Struensee

Many of his reforms were reasonable, but badly timed and poorly executed; many of them came to eventually be realised many years later, most notably after the coup d’etat of 1784. Many backfired on him, and were opposed by the aristocracy who had much to lose from these "Enlightenment" era reforms, especially the fear of a weakened or toppled political and economic elite. He was demonised by a chorus of disgust, gossip and lies all the way to his execution, and these reverberated unchallenged for many years to come. The conservative reaction to his reforms, helped, however, build a positive climate for their eventual realisation. A coup détat (pronounced ), or simply a coup, is the sudden overthrow of a government against the volonté générale formed by the majority of the citizen, usually done by a smaller supposedly weaker body that just replaces the top power figures. ...


His affair with the queen was intolerable to the public at large, although sexual infidelity was not unusual in royal circles, and the king himself was notorious for his sexual exploits. Judgement of the queen’s affair was much harsher than that accorded the king, and Victorian era morality in the next century was not kinder to either Struensee or Caroline Matilda. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


The King himself considered Struensee a great man, even after his death. Written on a drawing the king made in 1775, three years after Struensee’s execution, was the following: "jeg havde gerne reddet dem begge to" ("I would have liked to have saved them both"), referring to Struensee and Brandt.


References

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Category:Johann Friedrich Struensee
  • Robert Nisbet Bain, Scandinavia, cap. xv. (Cambridge, 1905)
  • Gustave Bascle De Lagrbze, La Reine Caroline-Mathilde et le Comte Struensee (Paris, 1887)
  • Lars Bisgaard, Claus Bjørn, Michael Bregnsbo, Merete Harding, Kurt Villads Jensen, Knud J. V. Jespersen, Danmarks Konger og Dronninger (Copenhagen, 2004)
  • Editor Christian Gether, Kronprins og Menneskebarn (Sorø, 1988)
  • Peter Edward Holm, Danmark-Norges Historie, vol. iv. (Copenhagen, 1897-1905)
  • Georg Friedrich von Jenssen-Tusch, Die Verschwörung gegen die Königin Karoline Mathilde und die Grafen Struensee und Brandt, nach bisher ungedruckten Originalakten (Leipzig, 1864).
  • Elie Salomon François Reverdil, Struensee et la cour de Copenhague 1760-1772 (Paris, 1858)
  • William Henry Wilkins, A Queen of Tears (London, 1904)
  • Karl Wittich, Strueszsee (Leipzig, 1879)

The British movie The Dictator (1935) deals with the Struensee drama Image File history File links Commons-logo. ... The Wikimedia Commons (also called Commons or Wikicommons) is a repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files. ...


 
 

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