The fact that the English Civil War led to the execution of King Charles I in January 1649 is well known, as is the restoration of his eldest son as Charles II eleven years later. But what happened to the king’s six surviving children is far less familiar.
Casting new light on the heirs of the doomed king and his unpopular but indefatigable Catholic queen, Henrietta Maria, acclaimed historian Linda Porter brings to life their personalities, legacies, feuds and rivalries for the first time. As their calm and loving family life was shattered by war, Elizabeth and Henry were used as pawns in the parliamentary campaign against their father; Mary, the Princess Royal, was whisked away to the Netherlands as the child bride of the Prince of Orange; Henriette Anne’s redoubtable governess escaped with the king’s youngest child to France where she grew up under her mother’s thumb and eventually married the cruel and flamboyant Philippe d’Orleans. When their ‘dark and ugly’ brother Charles eventually succeeded his father to the English throne after fourteen years of wandering, he promptly enacted a vengeful punishment on those who had spurned his family, with his brother James firmly in his shadow.
A tale of love and endurance, of battles and flight, of educations disrupted, the lonely death of a young princess and the wearisome experience of exile, Royal Renegades charts the fascinating story of the children of loving parents who could not protect them from the consequences of their own failings as monarchs and the forces of upheaval sweeping England.
The tragedy of Charles I’s reign and eventual execution left their mark on England but also left a profound mark on his children with his Queen Henrietta Maria. Together the pair had a total of nine children. Three of those children would either be stillborn or die in infancy. The six who made out of infancy were the future Charles II, the future James II, Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Henrietta, later Duchess of Orléans.
Royal Renegades covers their parents’ marriage and the eventual execution of their father. Some of them manages to flee England, others were held hostage in England such as Princess Elizabeth. The best known stories are of course those of Charles and James, who both became King of England. Tragically several of their children, though out of infancy, would not live to old age. Princess Elizabeth died at the age of 14, just shortly before she was granted permission to leave England. Princess Mary gave birth to a future King of England but died of smallpox at the age of 29. The Duke of Gloucester lived to see his brother restored to the throne but died later that same year of smallpox at the age of 20. But while tragedy seems to rule in this family, it makes for an interesting read and Linda Porter manages to capture it all perfectly.
Royal Renegades helped me to understand the situation leading up the Civil War perfectly and it was great to read about an often skipped period in history, the exile.
Linda Porter is also the author of “The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary“, which I used extensively while writing The Year of Mary I.