Dispelling the myths around this legendary queen, this biography of Henrietta Maria, queen consort of King Charles I, retells the dramatic story of the English Civil War from the perspective of this dynamic woman.
Henrietta Maria is British history’s most reviled queen consort. Condemned in her lifetime as the "Popish brat of France,” an adulteress, and a traitor, she remains in popular memory the wife who wore the breeches in her marriage, the woman who turned her husband Catholic (and so caused the English Civil War), and a cruel and bigoted mother.
This clear-eyed biography unpicks the myths and considers the story from Henrietta Maria's point of view. A portrait emerges of a woman whose closest friends included Puritans as well as Catholics, who crossed swords with Cardinal Richelieu, and led the anti-Spanish faction at the English court. A witty conversationalist, Henrietta Maria was a patron of the arts and a champion of the female voice, as well as a mediatrix for her persecuted fellow Catholics.
During the civil war, the queen's enemies agreed that Charles would never have survived as long as he did without the "She Generalissimo." Seeing events through her gaze reveals the truth behind the claims that she caused the war, explains her estrangement from her son Henry, and diminishes the image of the Restoration queen as an irrelevant crone. In fact, Henrietta Maria rose from the ashes of her husband's failures—a "phoenix queen”—presiding over a court judged to have had "more mirth” even than that of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.
It is time to look again at this often-criticized queen and determine if she is not, in fact, one of British history's most remarkable women.
Historian de Lisle (Tudor) delivers a persuasive revisionist biography of Queen Henrietta Maria (1609 1669). Challenging depictions of Henrietta Maria as the "popish brat" who caused the English Civil War by turning her husband, King Charles I, Catholic, de Lisle describes her as a "warrior and a wit" who survived to see her son, Charles II, restored to the throne in 1660. The youngest daughter of French king Henry IV and Marie de' Medici, Henrietta Maria was taught from a young age "that women had an important role to play in making the world a better place, containing male violence and inspiring a more refined way of living." Only 15 years old when she became queen, Henrietta Maria's relationship with Charles was initially distant and grew closer over time. She gave birth to nine children and formed alliances and rivalries with key historical figures including Cardinal Richelieu and painter Anthony Van Dyck. When parliamentarian forces pushed the royalist army into retreat in 1644, Henrietta Maria sought refuge and financial and military aid for her husband in Europe, where she learned of Charles's execution in 1649. Though dry at times, de Lisle's accessible account identifies key players and themes and convincingly argues that Henrietta Maria has been unfairly maligned by historians. Readers will see these complex and tumultuous events in a new light.