Who was Henrietta Maria of France?
Henrietta Maria of France was the wife of King Charles I of England and mother of James II and Charles II. Also known as Queen Mary, she never had a coronation. She was the youngest daughter of King Henry IV of France and a sister of the future King Louis XIII of France. Born in a royal house during a period of political turmoil, she lost her father just six months after her birth. At the age of seven, Henrietta saw the banishment of her mother and grew up under the supervision of her governess, Françoise de Montglat. As a child, she received her training in singing, dancing, theatre, and riding. In 1625, at the age of 15, Henrietta was married to Charles. Although initially she had a strained relationship with the king due to his closeness to his friend George Villiers, the couple’s relationship improved dramatically after the assassination of Villiers. Henrietta’s popularity grew when she participated in national affairs as the civil war loomed. She was later compelled to seek refuge in France in 1644. The execution of her husband in 1649 left her impoverished. Henrietta settled in Paris and subsequently returned to England after her son Charles’ restoration to the throne. She died in Paris in 1669, at the age of 59.
Childhood & Early Life
Henrietta Maria of France was born on 25 November 1609, in Palais du Louvre, Paris, France, as the youngest daughter of King Henry IV of France and his second wife, Marie de' Medici.
On 14 May 1610, her father was assassinated. When she was seven, her mother Marie was banished from Paris. As a result, Henrietta grew up under the supervision of governess Françoise de Montglat.
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Marriage & Relationship with King Charles I
Henrietta Maria first met King Charles I in 1623 while he was travelling from Paris to Spain with his favorite Duke of Buckingham to discuss his possible marriage with Maria Anna of Spain.
As the trip ended badly, the king decided to marry Henrietta Maria instead. The two married in 1625, shortly after Charles’ accession to the throne.
Despite being the wife of King Charles I of England, Henrietta was never crowned due to her Catholic religion.
The couple’s relationship was initially quarrelsome and frigid and she disliked the king’s friendship with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. However, after Buckingham’s assassination in 1628, their relationship began to improve.
Henrietta Maria gave birth to King Charles’ first child in 1629; he was either stillborn or died shortly after birth. In 1630, she gave birth to Charles II successfully. By that time, the couple’s relationship had blossomed and Henrietta Maria became Charles' closest friend and advisor.
Henrietta Maria, who remained sympathetic to her fellow Catholics from the start, began the construction of a new Catholic chapel in 1632. It is assumed that by the late 1630s, there were over 300,000 Catholics In England, with numerous conversions taking place amongst Henrietta Maria's circle.
Her active participation in masque plays throughout the 1630s garnered criticism from the English society.
In the early 1640s, an alliance of parliamentarians under John Pym succeeded in the execution of Charles’ advisers Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford and Archbishop William Laud.
In January 1642, Henrietta Maria reportedly encouraged the king to arrest his parliamentary enemies.
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First English Civil War (From 1642 to 1646)
The First English Civil War finally commenced in August 1642. During this time, Henrietta Maria was in Hague trying to raise money for the Royalist cause.
In February 1643, she set to sea to return to England and succeeded in evading the parliamentarian navy to land in Yorkshire with arms and troops. In Yorkshire, she was entertained by the Earl of Newcastle. The following month, parliament members John Clotworthy and Henry Marten destroyed her private chapel at Somerset House.
By early 1644, Henrietta Maria and her husband’s military situation had begun to deteriorate, especially after their defeat at the Battle of Alresford. The queen, who was pregnant, moved to Exeter to deliver the future Princess Henrietta. She left for France in July 1644.
The Battle of Naseby and the Battle of Langport fought in June and July 1644, respectively, led to the destruction of Charles' armies.
Second & Third English Civil Wars (From 1648 to 1651)
Henrietta Maria settled in Paris with the support of the French government. During her stay in France, she tried to convince her husband to accept a Presbyterian government in England as a means to conquer the parliament.
In December 1647, Charles rejected the "Four Bills" offered by the opposition as a peace settlement. The result was the Second Civil War which ended with the king’s capture by parliamentary forces.
In 1649, King Charles was executed which left Henrietta Maria in shock. During the Third Civil War, the then-Queen Mother was joined by her old Royalist circle, including Clarendon and Ormonde whom she disliked.
In 1654, her son Charles II eliminated her remaining influence in St-Germain. In the 1650s, Henrietta Maria lived in a convent at Chaillot that she founded in 1651.
Henrietta Maria During the Restoration Period
In October 1660, Henrietta Maria, who was now the Queen Mother, returned to England following the Restoration. Her return happened as a result of certain events surrounding the relationship between her son James II and Earl of Clarendon's daughter Anne, who was pregnant with James’ child.
Henrietta Maria eventually took up residence at Somerset House and was supported by a generous pension.
In September that year, her third son Henry died of smallpox at the young age of 20. Soon, her daughter Mary also died of smallpox, leaving behind her son, the future William III of England.
In 1661, the Queen Mother returned to France where she got her daughter Henrietta married to her first cousin Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. After the wedding, she returned to England the following year. She then travelled back to France where she took up residence at the Hôtel de la Bazinière in Paris.
Family & Personal Life
Henrietta Maria of France had an elder brother, King Louis XIII of France. She also had an elder sister named Christine Marie who became the wife of Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy.
From her marriage to King Charles I of England, Henrietta had several children, including Charles II, James II, and Henrietta. Her children Elizabeth, Anne, and Catherine died as children. Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died unmarried as a young man.
Death & Legacy
Henrietta Maria of France died on 10 September 1669, at the château de Colombes near Paris. She was 59.
The North American Province of Maryland was named to honor her. It later became part of the present US state of Maryland.