The King of Denmark’s Masquerade

On his visit to England in 1768, the King of Denmark held an elaborate masked ball in London. By Aileen Ribeiro.

The visit of the young King of Denmark, Christian VII, to England in 1768 provided an excuse for one of the most lavish masquerades of the early reign of George III. After the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, masquerades were temporarily forbidden in England; and their popularity seems to have waned throughout the Seven Years War (1756-63). The masquerade given by the King of Denmark marked the revival of interest in such entertainments and was to foreshadow the period of their greatest popularity in the 1770s.

In 1766 Christian had been married to the Princess Caroline Matilda, sister to George III, in order to cement the Anglo-Danish alliance; disturbing reports were already reaching England by 1768 of the failure of this marriage, mainly caused by the mental instability and wild nature of the King (it had in fact become a matter of political necessity to send him abroad ostensibly for his ‘studies’).

When he reached England in August, however, these rumours were known only to the Court and the Government, and the English people reacted favourably to the sight of the debonair young man whose generosity and propensity for lavish entertainment provided much spectacle and amusement, and was in great contrast to the sober life style and parsimonious habits of George III and Queen Charlotte.

On arrival, the Danish King flung himself into a round of travel, entertainments, public receptions and banquets, everywhere demonstrating the sort of generosity that endeared him to the crowds who followed him. Throughout August and September he toured England visiting York, Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge and Windsor; the young Henry Angelo saw him at Eton: ‘I recollect that he was very fair... He had an aquiline nose, a slim boyish figure, and on each side his face one large curl’.

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