He became king on his father’s death on January 14, 1766. All the earlier accounts agree that he had a winning personality and considerable talent, but he was badly educated, systematically terrorized by a brutal governor, Detlev Reventlow, and hopelessly debauched by corrupt pages, and grew up a semi-idiot. It is suspected that he also suffered from schizophrenia, at least in his later years.
After his marriage in 1766 to Caroline Matilda, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, he abandoned himself to the worst excesses, especially debauchery. He publicly declared that he could not love Caroline Matilda, because it was "unfashionable to love one's wife". He ultimately sank into a condition of mental stupor. Symptoms during this time included paranoia, self-mutilation and hallucinations. He became submissive to upstart Johann Friedrich Struensee, who rose steadily in power in the late 1760s. The neglected and lonely Caroline Matilda drifted into an affair with Struensee.
In 1772, the king’s marriage with Caroline Matilda was dissolved. Struensee was arrested and executed in that same year. Christian signed Struensee's arrest warrant with indifference, and under pressure from his paternal grandmother, Sophie Magdalene of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, who had led the movement to have the marriage dissolved. Caroline Matilda, retaining her title but not her children, eventually left Denmark in exile and passed her remaining days in neighbouring Celle. She died of cancer there on May 11, 1775.
The marriage had produced two children, the future Frederik VI and Princess Louise Augusta. However, it is widely believed that Louise was the daughter of Struensee - portrait comparisons have supported this.
Christian was only nominally king from 1772 onwards. From 1772 to 1784, Denmark was ruled by Christian's stepmother Juliana, his physically disabled half-brother and Danish politician Ove Høegh-Guldberg. From 1784 onwards, his son Frederik served as Regent.
|List of Danish monarchs||