Henrietta Maria

Henrietta Maria

Henrietta Maria, 1609-69, queen consort of Charles I of England, daughter of Henry IV of France. She married Charles in 1625. Although she was devoted and loyal to her husband, her Roman Catholic faith made her suspect in England. By her negotiations with the pope, with foreign powers, and with English army officers, she added to the suspicions against Charles that helped to precipitate (1642) the English civil war. After 1644 she lived in France, making continual efforts to secure foreign aid for her husband until his execution in 1649. She returned (1660) to England after the Restoration, but resumed living in France in 1665. Her influence may have affected the religious beliefs of her sons Charles II and James II, although she herself was unsuccessful in her attempts to convert them to Catholicism.

See biography by E. Hamilton (1976); study by Q. Bone (1972).

Henrietta Maria (25 November 1609 – 10 September 1669), was Princess of France and Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland (13 June 162530 January 1649) through her marriage to Charles I. She was the mother of two kings, Charles II and James II, and was grandmother to Mary II, William III, and Queen Anne.

Early life

Henriette-Marie de France was born the daughter of King Henry IV of France and his second wife, Marie de Medici. As the daughter of the king, she was a Fille de France. She was the youngest sister of the future King Louis XIII of France. Her father was killed before she was a year old; her mother was banished from the royal court in 1617.

She was born at the Palais du Louvre on 25 November 1609, but some historians give her a birthdate of 26 November. In England, where the Julian calendar was still in use, her date of birth is often recorded as 16 November. Henrietta Maria was brought up as a Roman Catholic. This made her an unpopular choice of wife for the English King, whom she married by proxy on 11 May 1625, shortly after his accession to the throne.


They were married in person at St. Augustine's Church, Canterbury, Kent, on 13 June 1625. However, her religion made it impossible for her to be crowned with her husband in an Anglican service. Initially their relationship was rather frigid. Henrietta Maria had brought a large and expensive retinue with her from France, all of them Roman Catholic. It is said that eventually Charles sent them home to France, only allowing his teenage bride to retain her chaplain and confessor, Robert Phillip, and two ladies in waiting. Finding her sadly watching the retinue depart for France at the window of a palace, Charles angrily and forcibly dragged his wayward queen away.

Charles had intended to marry Maria Anna, a daughter of Philip III of Spain, but a mission to Spain in 1623 had failed. Perhaps this earlier disappointment explains why relations with his French bride were strained; every time the couple met, they started arguing and would separate, not seeing each other for weeks. When next they met, again they had to separate, because they could not stop arguing.

Henrietta Maria took an immediate dislike to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the King's favourite. However, after Buckingham's death in August 1628, her relationship with her husband, Charles I, improved and they finally forged deep bonds of love and affection. Her refusal to give up her Catholic faith alienated her from many of the people and certain powerful courtiers such as William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Charles, on the other hand, had definite leanings towards Catholicism, and, once he had reached maturity, did not share his father's sexual ambivalence.

English Civil War activities

Henrietta Maria increasingly took part in national affairs as the country moved towards open conflict through the 1630s. She despised Puritan courtiers to deflect a diplomatic approach to Spain and sought a coup to pre-empt the Parliamentarians. As war approached she was active in seeking funds and support for her husband, but her concentration on Catholic sources like Pope Urban VIII and the French angered many in England and hindered Charles' efforts. She was also sympathetic to her fellow Catholics and even gave a requiem in her private chapel at Somerset House for Father Richard Blount, S.J. upon his death in 1638.

In August 1642, when the conflict began, she was in Europe. She continued to raise money for the Royalist cause, and did not return to England until early 1643. She landed at Bridlington in Yorkshire with troops and arms, and joined the Royalist forces in northern England, making her headquarters at York. She remained with the army in the north for some months before rejoining the King at Oxford. The collapse of the king's position following Scottish intervention on the side of Parliament, and his refusal to accept stringent terms for a settlement led her to flee to France with her sons in July 1644. Charles was executed in 1649, leaving her almost destitute.


She settled in Paris, appointing as her chancellor the eccentric Sir Kenelm Digby. She angered both Royalists in exile and her eldest son by attempting to convert her youngest son, Henry, to Catholicism. She returned to England following the Restoration in October 1660 and lived as 'Dowager Queen' and 'Queen Mother' at Somerset House in London until 1665 when she returned permanently to France. Her financial problems were resolved by a generous pension. She founded a convent at Chaillot, where she settled.

Henrietta Maria died at Château de Colombes, and was buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica near Paris.


The U.S. state of Maryland was named in her honour by her husband, Charles I. George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore submitted a draft charter for the colony with the name left blank, suggesting that Charles bestow a name in his own honor. Charles, having already honored himself and several family members in other colonial names, decided to honor his wife. The specific name given in the charter was "Terra Mariae, anglice, Maryland". The English name was preferred over the Latin due in part to the undesired association of "Mariae" with the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana. Cape Henrietta Maria, at the western meeting of James Bay and Hudson Bay in Northern Ontario, is also named for her.

The slave ship Henrietta Marie (which carried slaves to what is now the United States and sank 35 miles off the coast of Key West after selling 190 slaves to Jamaica in 1701) is also named after Henrietta Maria.


Henrietta Maria's ancestors in three generations
Henrietta Maria of France Father:
Henry IV of France
Paternal Grandfather:
Antoine of Navarre
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Charles de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Françoise of Alençon'''
Paternal Grandmother:
Jeanne III of Navarre
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Henry II of Navarre
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Marguerite de Navarre
Marie de' Medici
Maternal Grandfather:
Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Eleonora di Toledo
Maternal Grandmother:
Johanna of Austria
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Anna of Bohemia and Hungary


Name Birth Death Notes
Charles James, Duke of Cornwall 13 March 1629 13 March 1629 Stillborn
Charles II 29 May 1630 6 February 1685 Married Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705) in 1663. No legitimate issue.
Mary, Princess Royal 4 November 1631 24 December 1660 Married William II, Prince of Orange (1626–1650) in 1648. Had issue.
James II, King of England 14 October 1633 16 September 1701 Married (1) Anne Hyde (1637–1671) in 1659; had issue
(2) Mary of Modena (1658–1718) in 1673; had issue
Elizabeth, Princess of England 29 December 1635 8 September 1650 Died young; no issue. Buried Newport, Isle of Wight
Anne, Princess of England 17 March 1637 8 December 1640 Died young; no issue. Buried Westminster Abbey
Catherine, Princess of England 29 January 1639 29 January 1639 Stillborn; buried Westminster Abbey.
Henry, Duke of Gloucester 8 July 1640 18 September 1660 Died unmarried; no issue. Buried Westminster Abbey
Henrietta Anne, Princess of England 16 June 1644 30 June 1670 Married Philip I, Duke of Orléans (1640–1701) in 1661; had issue

See also descendants of Henrietta Maria de Bourbon, which maps how the Medici became part of the European Royal families, eventually leading to Prince William of Wales, future King of the United Kingdom Descendents of Charles I and Henrietta Maria


External links

  • A short profile of her alongside other influential women of her age: http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/womeninpower/Womeninpower1600.htm
  • British Civil Wars Page Biography

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