Henrietta Maria was the wife of Charles I. Henrietta Maria was born in France on November 25th, 1609. Her father was Henry IV and she was the sister of Louis XIII. Henry IV was killed shortly before Henrietta Maria’s first birthday.
Henrietta Maria was brought up and educated as a Roman Catholic. News that Charles was going to marry a Roman Catholic did not go down well in England, Wales and Scotland. However, the marriage went ahead. Both were married by proxy on May 11th, 1625 while they married in person on June 13th, 1626 at St. Augustine’s Church in Canterbury. However, the coronation service of Charles was an Anglican one and as a result Henrietta Maria could not be crowned as queen.
The marriage was a re-bound from the failure of the ill-fated Spanish Match. Both barely knew one another when they did marry and both were the victims of the way royal marriages were carried out then – more out of a duty than for any other reason. The marriage was considered the best way to bring France and England closer together and whereas Charles may have had some say in who he married, Henrietta Maria probably had very little.
When Henrietta Maria arrived in England she brought with her many servants – all of who spoke French and were Roman Catholics. Not only did the retinue cost a lot of money to maintain, they acted as a barrier between Charles and his wife. Charles ordered back to France most of her retinue. Henrietta Maria was only allowed to keep her chaplain and two ladies-in-waiting.
As Charles found it initially difficult to develop a relationship with his wife, he turned more and more to the Duke of Buckingham, one of the favourites of his father, James I. Henrietta Maria did not get on with Buckingham but it was Buckingham’s murder that resulted in a much closer relationship between king and queen consort. Charles cared little that she was a Roman Catholic despite the misgivings of some of his advisors.
After the murder of Buckingham, Henrietta Maria became more involved in the day-to-day running of affairs. This was bound to cause friction on a number of levels. She was not a Protestant in a nation that had the Church of England as its state religion. Henrietta Maria was a foreigner who some believed was meddling in the affairs of the nation. She was also a woman in a society that was dominated at the highest levels by men. Any one of these caused problems but when all three were combined, they were to become a major issue for Charles. The fact that Henrietta Maria primarily tried to raise finance for Charles from Catholic sources in the lead up to the civil war actually turned away those who might have supported Charles.
When the English Civil War began in 1642, Henrietta Maria was in Europe. She returned to England in 1643 when she landed in Yorkshire with troops. Henrietta Maria joined up with Royalist forces in the north and made her headquarters in York. She moved to Oxford to be with Charles but fled to France in July 1644 when the position of Charles and his forces looked bleak. Here she remained with her sons.
Henrietta Maria visited England twice during the reign of her son Charles II. She died on September 10th, 1669.