David Quidnunc • Link
helena murphy • Link
Henrietta Maria was born in France on November 25th 1609,the daughter of Marie de Medici and the pragmatic Henry of Navarre after whom she was named.The daughter of reigning sovereigns she was destined from birth to marry a king and in 1625 on May 11th she married Charles I,King of England,Scotland,Ireland and France.(English sovereigns still lay claim to the French crown in this period.)In England she was simply known as Queen Mary.
The early years of her marriage to the austere Charles were not happy due above all else to his emotional dependence on George Villiers,first Duke of Buckingham and court favourite.Tragically for the King but fortuitously for Henrietta he was brutally stabbed to death in Portsmouth by an embittered unemployed officer,John Felton.Sensitive to her husband's loss she stepped in and filled the emotional void in his life and from thence grew an unrivaled love and bond amid an ever increasing family,Henrietta having given birth to nine children in all,the youngest Princess Henrietta being born in Exeter On June 16th,1644 in the throes of the English civil war.
The court painter,Sir Antony Van Dyck captures the serenity and happiness of the Queen as a fulfilled wife and mother.In his portraits from the 1630's before the political storms ,her gorgeous floor length dresses,magnificent pearls and elegant grooming create an allusion of fragile beauty which was sadly to vanish in the turbulent years ahead .Christopher Hibbert writes "she was too eager and vivacious to be considered plain;her face always expressive of some emotion,of excitement,sorrow,happiness or anger,was appealing in its responsiveness and childish condour."(Charles I P.84)
The 1630's were also the years when Charles ruled without parliament and he and his French wife held sway over the glittering vibrant Caroline Court.Whitehall,where the King kept open house was a fascinating centre of artistic achievement and performance.Magnificent masques created by Inigo Jones,Ben Jonson and D'avenant took place there,the Queen herself participating in "The Queen's Pastoral"by Walter Montague,her almoner.Unfortunately theatricals infuriated the puritans and caused William Prynne to write that "women actors are notorious whores."This was seen as an insult to the Queen and consequently Prynne was put in the pillory and had part of his ears sliced off!
Henrietta's overt and unapologetic Catholicism made her even more unpopular in England.She did not try to win English hearts with cups of tea and by practising her faith quietly as Catherine of Braganza so successfully did after The Restoration.According to Henrietta's marriage contract she was allowed her own private chapel,which she built in Somerset house and had her own Catholic household.She did her utmost to ease life for the Roman Catholic minority in England,a body of men and women who lived cautiously in the shadows,eternal victims of social and political suspicion especially after the controversial gunpowder plot of 1605.
Her courage and commitment were no less evident in the years of the civil war when Henrietta was both armsdealer,gunrunner and generalissima for her husband and the royalist cause.
On July 14th 1644 she sailed from Falmouth to France hoping to assist her husband from overseas,but instead she endured all the poverty of an exile.Cardinal de Retz calling on her in The Louvre in the depths of winter was appalled that she was too poor to even have a fire and promptly sent her firewood.Her lack of means however did not prevent her from taking a tough stance with her son Charles whom she insisted should pay for his food and board.Still a loyal son he rode beside her carriage to protect her from the angry Parisien mob when they had to leave the Louvre due to the political upheaval of the Fronde.
The saddest day of her life came when Henry Jermyn gently told her of the King,s execution.She stood for an hour"deaf and insensible" and only when her childhood friend Francoise de Vendome fell weeping at her feet did she too mourn in tears,for she had lived with the hope that Charles would be rescued.
She returned to London in 1660 and worked on her son Charles II to restore the Irish Catholic gentry and nobility to their estates which they had lost during the interregnum. In this she was incredibly successful as Randal MacDonell,Marquis of Antrim,along with O'Hara,Macguire,MacCarthy,O'Neill,Talbot,Butler,Mountgarret and many others were all restored to their hereditary lands.
Pepys was not alone in disliking Henrietta Maria. He even peevishly claimed that she lobbied on behalf of the Earl of Antrim who was childless so that he would leave his vast patrimony to an illegitimate daughter of hers and Henry Jermyn. There is absolutely no historical evidence for this assumption and the earl's brother Alexander became his heir.
Henrietta in her uncompromising religious faith was akin to Catherine of Aragon,in her high handed treatment of her sons she resembles the Medieval Eleanor of Aquitaine and in her love for her husband the 19th century Victoria. She died on September 9th 1669 and was buried in St.Denis but her heart was placed in a silver casket and buried in Chaillot.It bears the inscription:Henrietta Maria,Queen of England,France,Scotland and Ireland,daughter of the King of France Henry IV the Victorious,wife of Charles I the Martyr and mother of the restored Charles II.
sources; Civil War and Restoration in the Three Stuart Kingdoms,the career of Randal Macdonnell,Marquis of Antrim by Jane Ohlmeyer,
Henrietta Maria, by Alison Plowden,
Lord Minimus, by Nick Page and Charles I,by Christopher Hibbert.
helena murphy • Link
The unflattering description of Henrietta Maria taken from Nix's annotation of November 22nd was made by eleven year old Princess Sophie, the daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia in her memoirs which she wrote many years later when she was married and had become Duchess of Hanover.She however qualified her statement by telling her aunt of her "beautiful eyes,a well shaped nosed and an admirable complexion."Sophie was of course the mother of the future George I.
The queen-mother returned to England in 1660, after an absence of about nineteen years. She declared, upon her re-entering Somerset House, "That if she had known the temper of the English some years past, as well as she did then, she had never been obliged to leave that house." She exerted herself with her usual vehemence against the marriage of the duke of York with Anne Hyde, which she was determined to prevent or annul. She also expressed the strongest dislike to those ministers who had the greatest share of the royal confidence and favour. On a sudden she appeared to be reconciled to the match, and to acquiesce in the ministry. This was imputed to a soothing, or, to speak more properly, an intimidating letter, sent her by cardinal Mazarine. Upon the breaking out of the plague, in 1665, she retired to France, where she died in August, 1669, in the sixtieth year of her age. It appears from sir John Reresby's "Memoirs," that she was secretly married to Henry Jermyn, earl of St. Alban's.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.