The Royal Physician’s Visit

Written by Per Olov Enquist Tiina Nunnally (trans.)

In 1768 a magnetic, handsome German physician named Struensee became royal physician to King Christian VII of Denmark. Struensee was a man of the Enlightenment, a votary of reason and science, who believed in religious tolerance. His royal patient, King Christian, although intelligent and sensitive, had been systematically abused from childhood and driven insane. This cruel strategy left whoever controlled the King free to govern from behind the scenes through a puppet who was also an absolute ruler. Struensee, upon gaining the King’s trust, moved into the vacuum at the top and introduced hundreds of what were then radical reforms. He abolished slavery, all noble privileges, forced labor, capital punishment, and torture. These and many other humanitarian, governmental, and judicial reforms, enacted well before the American Revolution, shook the ground beneath elites all over Europe. Consequences came quickly and predictably to this foreigner with no political base, especially after Struensee began an affair with the lonely young English-born Queen. This is a stellar literary novel about the brutal reality of the often romanticized 18th century, about the use and abuse of power and the earth-shaking ideas of The Enlightenment, still considered dangerous today by despots of every stripe.