Henrietta Maria (1609-1669)
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Henrietta Maria (1609-1669)

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Queens of England are never drowned.
Henrietta, written during a storm at sea, 1642.

Additional Information on
Henrietta Maria (1609-1669)

The marriage of Henrietta Maria, the sister of the French king, to Charles I in 1625 began inauspiciously because of her conservative Catholicism (she tended to scorn Anglican services), and her preference for the company of the French retinue she brought with her. By the next year Charles had tired of them and with the agreement of her brother sent them back to France in uproar. Thrown to her own devices, as Charles had been after the death of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628, they found love and companionship in each other and over the next fifteen years had nine children, of whom Henrietta was very fond. This happy scene was portrayed in many paintings by Van Dyck.

However, Henrietta's preference for Catholicism (she took her children to Mass), and the couple's joint belief in an autocratic style of government caused endless trouble. Charles' persecution of the more extreme Puritans caused many to leave for the new World. When the Civil War broke out Henrietta rushed round Europe in her husband's cause, appealing to the Pope and her brother and pawning the crown jewels in Holland to raise money for arms. Henrietta managed to charm her way back into England and rejoined Charles at his headquarters in Oxford, then helping to bolster the spirit of his army in the field.

Charles sent Henrietta off to greater safety in Exeter when she became pregnant again in 1644, but with the Roundheads' successes in the West Country making it dangerous for her, she took ship in Falmouth that summer and returned to France. Henrietta was forced to leave all her children, except her eldest Mary (already married to William III of Orange) and baby Henrietta, in England. After the battle of Naseby in 1644 Charles was captured along with all the other children except their older son Charles. Their son James also managed to escape in 1648. The following year the King was executed.

At length the Commonwealth Protectorate was ended by the death of Cromwell in 1658 and after his son Richard resigned the following year, Henrietta's son Charles (II) was invited to return as King. Once there he asked his mother to come back to the English court and set her up in Somerset House in London with an enormous income of £60,000 a year. Henrietta strongly disapproved of the dissipated life style of her sons which was in such contrast to that of their parents. Near the end of her life in 1665 she returned to Colombes in France to look after her daughter, the Duchess of Orleans, and died there in 1669.

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