What better day to review a book on Henrietta Maria of France than on her 406th birthday?
Henrietta Maria of France was the daughter of Marie de’Medici and Henry IV of France. She was the youngest of six children, and her eldest brother became Louis XIII in 1610. She married Charles I of England on 13 June 1625, shortly after his accession to the throne. The new Queen was not only just 15 years old, but she was also a devout Catholic.
Dominic Pearce begins with the wedding of Henrietta Maria’s parents and quite rightly so. Her mother would be a huge figure in not only Henrietta Maria’s life but also as regent of France for her son when her husband and Henrietta Maria’s father was assassinated just one day after Maria de’Medici’s coronation in 1610. Henrietta Maria was just one year old and would have no memory of her father.
The age in which Henrietta Maria was Queen of England and Scotland was certainly no easy one, and it’s quite interesting to read about it from a woman’s point of view. Most of us know what happened to Charles I, but Henrietta Maria was always such a shadowy figure. She suffered great loss in her life, losing not only her husband to the executioner but also six of her nine children. Her subsequent exile in France and her husband’s sudden and shocking death devastated her. She remained devoutly Catholic and even tried to convert her sons James en Henry, to the anger of the new King Charles II. She returned to England twice when her son was restored to the throne, but she died in France in 1669 after taking an accidental overdose of laudanum when she could not sleep.
Henrietta Maria deserves a better reputation, and a re-evaluation of her reputation was long overdue. The fact that she was a devout Catholic overshadows that she was also a strong woman, who fought for her husband and for later her son. I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking to learn more about such a misunderstood Queen.