L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, November 5, 2017

And then forty-nine years later - two portraits of Caroline Amalie, Queen of Denmark

Portrait by Louis Aumont (1805-1879), 1830.
Portrait by Hans Christian Jensen (1836-1903), 1879.

Caroline Amalie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (28 June 1796, Copenhagen – 9 March 1881, Copenhagen), queen consort of Denmark from 1839 to 1848, as the second spouse of King Christian VIII. She was the daughter of Frederik Christian II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, and Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark, the only daughter of Christian VII and his British wife, Queen Caroline Matilde. She was given the conventional education of an upper class female of her time. Her woefully mismatched parents had a stormy marriage, but she was always close to her mother. And it was her mother who introduced her to the heir apparent to the Danish throne, her first cousin, the future Christian VIII, encouraging them to marry. (Though marriage between first cousins was far from rare at the time, they probably weren't fully that, as Caroline's mother's paternity was decidedly in doubt.)

Christian had divorced his first wife Charlotte Frederika of Mecklenburg-Schwerin - the mother of his heir, the future Frederik VII - in 1810 on grounds of adultery. Christian and Caroline Amalie were engaged in 1814, the wedding taking place the following year. After Christian served as Governor of Fionia in 1816 and 1817, the couple undertook numerous trips through Europe, visiting various resorts in an attempt to remedy their inability to conceive a child; in the end they would have no issue.

A bust of her husband, the future Christian VIII, the work of Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Their relationship was harmonious and seen as an image of the contemporary ideal of marriage. Her acceptance of his rampant infidelity - he produced at least ten illegitimate offspring, for whom he generously provided - was regarded as something appropriate and gracious, suitable within their milieu and for the times. Christian was devoted to the sciences, mineralogy and geology in particular. And Caroline Amalie was a composer, writing numerous pieces for piano. Her amiable personality made her well liked and respected within the royal family, and she is said to have been a good stepmother to her stepson Frederick.

In 1839, her husband ascended the throne and she became Queen Consort of Denmark. Caroline Amalie had always been active in philanthropic endeavors. Even before becoming Queen, she had established two poor houses under her patronage and, after, she sponsored a home for the sick and women in childbirth. Her charitable projects for poor orphans earned her the name "The Poor Children's Mother" and "The Royal Foster mother of the Little Ones". As Crown princess and later as Queen, she became a role model for the female members of the nobility and upper classes, setting an example for upper class women to be actively involved in society through philanthropy. Her introduction of a new and acceptable public and political role for women is considered to have had great impact on Danish society.

Caroline Amalie was a follower of the religious ideas of N. F. S. Grundtvig, whose movement she actively supported; in 1841, she founded an orphanage, Dronning Caroline Amalies Asylskole, whose school was inspired by the ideas of Grundtvig. She has not been described as an intellectual herself, however she regarded it as a duty to introduce the representatives of art and literature at court and act as their supporter. The growing unrest between Denmark and the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, with her brothers being in opposition to Christian VIII and Denmark, caused a difficult situation for the Queen, who was suspected of conspiring with her brothers against Danish interests. This made her unpopular and exposed her to some hostility during the last years of Christian's reign.

Caroline Amalie became a widow in 1848; she survived her spouse for more than thirty years. She took up residence at Sorgenfri Castle north of Copenhagen, but due to ill health she preferred to spend winters in southern Europe. She also outlived her stepson's reign by seventeen years, thereby living to see Christian IX become king, with her niece Louise of Hesse-Kassel as queen. As Queen Dowager, she regained the popularity that had waned in the years before her husband's death, and she continued with her charitable projects. She lived to the great age of eighty-four and was buried at Roskilde Cathedral next to Christian VIII.


A photograph of the Queen Dowager wearing the same clothes as in Jensen's portrait.
The same toilette as in the Jensen portrait - with feathers added - was used for the portrait by sculptor Vilhelm Bissen (1836-1913), 1896.
Bissen's sculpture of the Queen stands in the gardens at Rosenborg Castle.
(And, here, suffers the indignity all outdoor sculptural portraits must endure: a bird on the head.)

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