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.
This suite begins with the act's opening number: a boisterous, stamping dance to which the people rudely mock Queen Caroline Mathilde and her lover Struensee. After this comes a dark Adagio, The Conspiracy, in which the theme passes like persuasion from mouth to mouth, its variations suggesting the different attitudes of the conspirators, firmly controlled by the brass-driven gestures of the Queen Dowager. The conspiracy then works itself out at a court masked ball, from which the suite includes two dances: a gavotte, and a slow, lubricious passacaglia that is a pas de deux for Caroline Mathilde and Struensee. The Arrest comes with a gathering rush of music that envelops the King, the Queen and Struensee, leading to a vociferous climax in which they are held apart. In The Execution, slow white music for wordless female voices, harp and low strings is interrupted by pathetic, alienated outbursts from the King. The suite ends, as does the ballet, with a quiet adagio lament for clarinets and alto flute as the Queen goes into exile.
Score. Duration c. 33mins.