Royal Affair, A

A Royal Affair

Love and ideals are the primary factors at the heart of this absorbing true-life tale from Denmark in which Mads Mikkelsen’s enlightened doctor brings gravitas to the court during the turbulent years of the 18xxs.

Enlisted as physician to an out-of-control, boorish, juvenile monarch who is being manipulated by his advisors, Doctor Struensee (Mikkelsen) assumes the position of mentor/father figure to King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard) whilst Caroline, the young queen, lonely, ignored and cultivated, enjoys a yearning for a better man.

Their affair soon becomes the talk of the court. And as Christian begins to appreciate and wield his influence – persuading Christian to allow him to sign off laws and other matters of state – he initiates a coup d’état that no-one within the Machiavellian establishment will allow.

An enthralling costume drama, part biopic, part illicit romance, part history lesson, A Royal Affair contains elements of Mrs Brown, The King’s Speech, The Young Victoria and The Madness of King George.

Yet in many ways it manages to eclipse them all in its depiction of a mighty state in which the upper class is rotting from within, where corruption is commonplace and lies, deceit and intrigue are a way of life.

The accidental love triangle at the heart of A Royal Affair is the motor that gives this compelling story its heart. Struensee emerges as a magical Mr Fix-It, imbuing the king with the essence of identity, steering the country toward reform and siring a child that, if the story had a happy ending, might be as great as his father wishes to be.

But stories like this do not traditionally enjoy a fun finale. As the powers of the elite are ranged against him, so Mikkelsen begins to realise the folly of his actions, and his emotions. High ideals and love make for uncertain bedfellows, and one man cannot defeat an army.

Students of modern politics will see Boris Yeltsin or an 18th century Berlusconi in the king. Mikkelsen resembles a benign, free-thinking, cultured Rasputin. Alicia Vikander as Caroline, the English princess co-opted for her breeding, is the ultimate victim of Bodil Steensen-Leth’s novel, and of this glorious epic.

 

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