In 1766, the little sister of Britain’s King George III, Princess Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), is betrothed to her cousin, King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) of Denmark. The king, a mentally ill philanderer, has to be coaxed into fathering a child.
The king’s ministers are concerned about the monarch’s instability, so they hire a German doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), to be at his side. The king comes to trust the doctor. But when they return to court after a tour of Europe, the queen and Struensee are attracted to each other.
Denmark is simmering in the late 18th century. The alliance between the ruling class and the Evangelical Church is facing off against the professional classes and the poor, who are influenced by the secular values of the Enlightenment. Struensee and the queen influence the king to make laws that favor the poor. The king fires his ministers, and he and Struensee rule Denmark briefly.
A Royal Affair is an excellent historical drama about a place and time about which we know little. It provides a rare glimpse into how the Enlightenment influenced countries. The film also shows how difficult it is to introduce authentic social change based on human dignity.
From my column “Reel Talk” at St. Anthony Messenger December 2012
Click here for “Life of Pi” and “Chasing Mavericks”