King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France married in 1625 and they went on to have nine children together. Of their five daughters, three survived passed infancy; Mary, Elizabeth, and Henrietta. None of them would live to see their 30th birthday and they would go on to live very different lives.
The Tragic Daughters of Charles I: Mary, Elizabeth & Henrietta Anne by Sarah-Beth Watkins brings together their stories. The eldest daughter, Mary, was designated as Princess Royal in 1642. At the age of nine, Mary married William II, Prince of Orange but the marriage was not consummated until several years later. Mary was pregnant with her first, and only, child when William died of smallpox 1650. Their son, the future King William III of England, was born a few days after his father’s death. Mary was not popular in the Netherlands and she spent a lot of time away. When her brother was restored as King Charles II, she returned to England where she too died of smallpox in 1660. She was 29 years old. It is Mary’s image on the cover of the book.
Their second daughter was Elizabeth. She suffered the most under the political unrest and turmoil. She was just 13 years old when her father was executed and by then she had essentially been a prisoner for 7 years; being moved from place to place. In 1649, she requested parliament to allow her to stay with her sister Mary in the Netherlands. She died on 8 September 1650 and permission for her stay in the Netherlands arrived three days after her death. She was still only 14 years old.
Henrietta was born in 1644 during the Civil War. Shortly after her birth, her mother travelled to France – leaving her daughter behind – to ask for the French King’s help. Henrietta was put in the care of Anne Villiers, Countess of Morton who managed to flee with the young princess to France when matters became worse. Henrietta grew up at the French court and in 1661, she married the King’s brother Philippe, Duke of Orléans. Henrietta was pregnant seven times but only two of her daughters (Marie Louise and Anne Marie) survived to adulthood. She was part of the Secret Treaty of Dover and was finally able to visit England. Shortly after arriving back in France, she fell ill and died on 30 June 1670. She was still only 26 years old.
The Tragic Daughters of Charles I: Mary, Elizabeth & Henrietta Anne is well-written and finally makes their stories known to the wider public as they deserve to be. I always enjoy Sarah-Beth Watkins’ style of writing and she knows her stuff. My only regret is that the book isn’t any longer.