The eldest daughter of Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria was born in 1631. In France it was the norm for the eldest daughter of the king to be called Madame Royale. Charles gave his daughter the title Princess Royal starting a new English tradition in 1642 that the ruling monarch may give this title to his/her eldest daughter but the caveat is that the title remains with the holder for life and no one else can have it during that time.
Mary Henrietta was married off to William II of Orange in 1641 when she was nine and William was fifteen. It wasn’t an auspicious event. Charles I would have preferred her to marry in to the Spanish royal family whilst her mother regarded William as rather beneath the Stuarts and it didn’t help that her cousin, the eldest son of Elizabeth of Bohemia, thought that she was going to marry him. The celebrations were rather muted, as well, because the country was already sliding towards war.
The following year, in February 1642 a month after Charles I had made his botched attempt to arrest the speaker of the House of Commons,her mother took Mary to Holland. She was just ten and Mary was the excuse the queen needed to go abroad in order to raise loans, purchase armaments and recruit mercenaries. Henrietta Maria would return to England in 1643 via Hull but by that time Charles had raised his standard in Nottingham and the king was at war with rather a lot of his subjects.
But in 1642 when mother and daughter sailed from Dover it is hard not to feel some sympathy for Charles as a parent if not a king. He galloped along the white cliffs keeping the boat that carried his daughter in view for as long as he could. It would be the last time he saw Mary but he kept her portrait, the one at the end of this post, with him even when he was in captivity.
By the time she was nineteen Mary was a widow and her family were in exile. William II had been a pretty indifferent husband by all accounts. A week after William II died her son was born. Life was not easy for Mary because although she was named co-regent of her young son who now became William III her mother-in-law, Amelia von Solms-Branfels, with whom she did not get on held more power than her. In part the dislike sprang from the fact that Amelia and Elizabeth of Bohemia were arch-rivals. The Dutch weren’t terribly keen on Mary either because she refused to speak Dutch, was a tad on the snooty side and also tried to help her brothers whilst they were in exile during the Commonwealth period which was not in accord with Dutch politics.
She was in England in 1660 because she’d pawned her jewels and returned home. Sadly she caught small pox and died on 24 December – I did try to find a cheerier metaphorical advent image but the pretty little girl that Van Dyck captured in oils didn’t really have a happy ever after. For more about the picture of Mary, aged five or six at the time, which can be viewed at Hampton Court, click here.
And that brings me to the end of the History Jar’s historical advent calendar. All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy Christmas. I shall be back before the New Year with the Wars of the Roses whilst 2017 will bring Edward IV; Jane Shore; the Princes in the Tower (I obviously like living dangerously); more on Margaret Beaufort and the rise of the Tudors; the skulduggery of the Seymour brothers; Lady Jane Grey and her sisters – and, of course, more from the files of Thomas Cromwell.