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Peter Maxwell Davies

Publisher: Chester Music

Caroline Mathilde: Ballet (1991)
commissioned by Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen
Chester Music Ltd
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Year Composed
2 Hours 5 Minutes
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Programme Note
Peter Maxwell Davies Caroline Mathilde: Ballet (1991)

The fifteen-year-old English princess Caroline Mathilde (1751-75) is brought to Denmark to become the wife of her seventeen-year-old eccentric, epileptic and half mad cousin King Christian VII (1749-1808). Lonely, the young queen strikes up an intimacy with the King’s physician and councillor, Dr Struensee, who becomes her lover. Neither the people nor the court approves of this situation. The dowager queen’s influence is threatened and they conspire to do away with Caroline and Struensee. The plot is implemented at a masqued ball. The lovers are arrested, Struensee is hanged and Caroline Mathilde is sent into exile.


The story centres on the English princess Caroline Mathilde (1751-1775), sister of George III, who at the age of 15 was sent to Denmark to marry the 17-year-old eccentric and schizophrenic Danish King, Christian VII. The ballet portrays her unhappy marriage, the King's growing madness and her fatal love-affair with Struensee, the King's influential physician, which leads to their arrest, his execution and her exile, at the age of 20, separated from her two young children.

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The story of the ballet takes a lurid episode in Danish history, when the 15-year-old younger sister of our George III was married to the Danish King Christian VII, a schizophrenic epileptic given to fits of sadism, not at all the Prince Charming most princesses have in mind… Davies has produced a score that is dramatic, challengingly inventive and a pleasure to hear.
Nicholas Dromgoole, The Guardian,01/09/1995
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