BOOK REVIEW – ROSALIND K. RUSSELL – HENRIETTA MARIA – THE INTREPID QUEEN 1990 HMSO
A rare biography of the Queen, Henrietta Maria, wife of doomed King Charles 1st in the English Civil Wars.
Often reduced to a shady, manipulative background figure, blamed for all the Royalist ills due to her Catholicism Henrietta deserves better, and finally gets the credit she deserves in this slender, detailed and lavishly illustrated study.
She was born in France, & betrothed to Charles when she was just 15 as insurance against England getting officially involved in the 30 Years War raging through Europe. Naïve, and with limited English, the Queen was shocked at how easily Charles was manipulated by his aides though she liked her comforts and the lavish gifts bestowed on her by The Duke Of Buckingham, though he often poisoned people’s minds against her to gain power for himself.
Her Catholicism estranged her from her husband who was angry enough to fire her many French friends and religious advisors. Worse, the husband and wife were struggling to have children, and seemed to hate each other. That changed with Buckingham’s assassination when Henrietta learned to love Charles and vice-versa. She had many children, often painfully, though some died in infancy and she experienced a very sad miscarriage too.
As war raged when Parliament accused her of popery and tried to get her impeached, Henrietta blamed herself for letting a maid know of Charles’s efforts to arrest John Pym & other conspirators, who escaped well in time. The maid had tipped them off
Henrietta went to France to sell the family jewels and raise an army to bring to her husband’s aid, but few could afford her goods and Parliament spies & agents blocked many of her efforts too – she returned under intense fire by the Parliament navy, and faced several stormy sea-crossings, before Charles sent her back to France for her own safety.
She was heart-broken when Charles was executed, and found herself moved between Holland & France by indifferent sympathisers, while her sons, the future kings Charles & James 2cd, were more interested in the military return of the monarchy than her needs.
Charles did get the crown back, though it was his indiscreet love affairs that tempted Henrietta to England to maker her peace with her sons, though she returned to Europe, where she lost her long struggle with tuberculosis in 1665.
A well-told story, flashing too quickly over the Queen’s posts Civil War years, but still a terrific book.
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