Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was born on 4 September 1729 as the daughter of Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. On 8 July 1752, she married King Frederick V of Denmark and had the thankless task of replacing his immensely popular first wife, Louise of Great Britain, who had died only six months before. It would be a difficult task for the shy and stuttering Juliana Maria.1
On 11 October 1753, she gave birth to her only child, a son named Frederick. He became second in the line of succession, behind his eldest half-brother Crown Prince Christian. From the start, she had a strong desire to see her son become King. She was widowed in 1766, and her stepson succeeded as King Christian VII. He married Caroline Mathilda of Great Britain that same year and the birth of a son, the future Frederick VI, pushed her own son further down in the line of succession. Caroline Mathilda began an affair with court physician Johann Friedrich Struensee, and Juliana Maria was disgusted by his behaviour. She put on a good face and acted as godmother to little Princess Louise Augusta, who was most likely fathered by Struensee. However, it was not Juliana Maria who took the initiative for the coup against Struensee in 1772. A rumour that the King may be deposed and replaced with Struensee did make Juliana Maria fear for her own safety and that of her son, and so she did support the conspirators. Juliana Maria forced the King to sign the arrest warrants for Struensee, Caroline Matilda and several of their supporters.2
The King, who was mentally ill and barely able to reign, even signed a letter thanking Juliana Maria for his “deliverance” from Struensee.3 However, the law had not foreseen a King who was mentally ill and incapable of governing. The new powerholders had as little legitimate power as Struensee had had. The Privy Council was reestablished, and her son attended these meetings, but in practice, Juliana Maria was in charge of the new regime.4 Her favourite, Ove Høegh-Guldberg, had an increasing influence with her. He had been tutor to her son but had remained in his service.
In 1784, Crown Prince Frederick attended his first meeting of the Privy Council and in one clean sweep removing Juliana Maria and her supporters from power. From then on, all royal orders were to be co-signed by the Crown Prince. She had effectively ruled Denmark from 1772 until 1784 but now her time was up. Juliana Maria continued to live discretely at court. She died on 10 October 1796. Her grandson became King Christian VIII after the death of her step-grandson.
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.354
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.355
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.356
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.357