Henrietta Maria

Portrait of Henrietta Maria by Anthony van Dyck (c. 1636-1638. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Henrietta Maria de Bourbon (1609-1669) was the youngest child of Henri IV of France and Navarre and Marie de Medici. Upon her marriage to Charles I of Scotland and England in 1625, Henrietta became the first French queen consort to sit on the English throne since Margaret of Anjou during the reign of Henry VI.

Henrietta Maria was a Catholic, a fact that made her unpopular with her husband’s staunchly Protestant parliament and subjects. Religion also created tension within the marriage as Henrietta refused to engage with Anglican ceremonies. As a result, she was never crowned queen.

While Charles blamed the influence of Henrietta’s French servants for their rift, Henrietta blamed the influential Duke of Buckingham. He had been a favourite of James VI/I and had retained his position at a cost to Henrietta. The couple did not bond until his death in 1628.

Henrietta Maria and King Charles I with Charles, Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary, painted by Anthony van Dyck (1633). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Henrietta then became Charles’s crutch and advised him on all things even if he did not always listen. Her influence made her a target of Parliament’s ire and religious concerns around the British Isles during the 1630s led to a rapidly deteriorating political situation.

As war in England as well as Scotland seemed inevitable, Henrietta fled to the Continent under the guise of taking Princess Mary to marry William II of Orange. It was from the Low Countries and ultimately France that Henrietta tried to coordinate and supply the Royalist war effort.

Despite returning to England in 1643, Parliamentary gains and the pursuit of the Earl of Essex forced Henrietta back to the Continent only days after she had given birth to her youngest daughter in Exeter. Charles had escorted her as far as Abingdon. It was their last meeting.

Drawing of Saint-German-En-Laye. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Henrietta formed a Royalist court at St-Germain-En-Laye, her childhood home, and it was there she learned of Charles’s execution in January 1649. The next decade was devoted to the cause of the Restoration and, in 1660, she finally returned to England after 16 years of exile.

Portrait of Henrietta Maria by Peter Lely (1660). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Henrietta died at the Chateau de Colombes in September 1669, aged 59. Hers was an incredibly tumultuous life and we can only attempt to capture some of what took place here.

Recommended Reading

Alison Plowden, Henrietta Maria. Charles I’s Indomitable Queen (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2002)

Dominic Pearce, Henrietta Maria. The Betrayed Queen (Stroud: Amberley, 2018)

Linda Porter, Royal Renegades. The Children of Charles I and the English Civil Wars (London: Pan Macmillan, 2017)

Michelle Anne White, Henrietta Maria and the English Civil Wars (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006)

Susan Dunn-Hensley, Anne of Denmark and Henrietta Maria: Virgins, Witches, and Catholic Queens (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

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