While today we imagine Denmark, like most of Scandinavia, as a liberal, forward-thinking country that provides generously for its citizens, it wasn’t always like that. The historical drama A Royal Affair details the first attempt made to bring Denmark, then led by King Christian VII (portrayed by Mikkel Følsgaard), into the Enlightenment with Dr. Johann Friedrich Struensee (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) and Queen Caroline Matilda (portrayed by Alicia Vikander) pulling the strings.
A Royal Affair begins with Caroline Matilda leaving her native England to meet her husband and become queen of Denmark. Christian does not take his role as king very seriously. He parties like Mozart in Amadeus and resents his new bride for not being “fun.” The relationship quickly becomes frosty between the two. Similarly, the country’s strict censorship rules mean many of the queen’s books must be sent back to England; it’s the first sign of the boredom and misery she’ll encounter.
In order to return to the king’s favor, a couple of lords decide to recommend a German physician, the son of a priest, for the job of the king’s personal physician. Their nominee, Dr. Johann Friedrich Struensee, quickly wins the job and becomes the king’s closest confidant and friend. But it’s Struensee’s closely guarded liberal political ideology that brings him and the queen together as friends and as lovers. The two then use their influence to change Denmark’s direction and make it one of the most liberal countries in the world at that time. Predictably, it’s the beginning of the end.
While the film’s title suggests a steamy romance film, A Royal Affair is quite possibly more fascinating when viewed as a story of politics, history and intrigue. The acting and story are fantastic and moving. A Royal Affair isn’t to be missed.