At the time of the coronation in 1953 there were a number of decorations set up in London composed of royal devices in their various forms. Amongst them, in Westminster Abbey, stood ten six foot tall royal heraldic beasts. Their inspiration was taken from the heraldic beasts at Hampton Court Palace originally placed there by Henry VIII, gaining them the name “the King’s Beasts.”
These beasts, and others like them may be found on coats of arms, heraldic badges used on the liveries and standards of various families and the two heraldic supports of a shield of arms.
The royal arms and their beasts have changed across the centuries – the Tudors added a royal beast, as did the Stuarts for example.
Royal arms can be seen in churches across the country. It became usual for churches to do this following the Reformation – and was a very visual way of the population being reminded exactly who was in charge. Royal arms can also be found in various stately stacks around the country as assorted nobility and gentry used their building projects to demonstrate their loyalty to their monarch.
Last week I set the first History Jar Challenge which was to name as many English royal consorts as you could since 1066. There are, I think, 38 of them. Not all royal spouses became kings or queens alongside the monarch in question. How did you do? There will be another challenge on Saturday!
William the Conqueror = (1) Matilda of Flanders. Following the conquest she was crowned as William’s consort in 1068.
William Rufus = unmarried.
Henry I =
(2) Edith of Scotland who became Matilda of Scotland upon her marriage to Henry. Henry I’s mother Matilda of Flanders was Edith’s godmother and it is said that at her christening she pulled at Matilda’s head dress signifying that one day she would rise to her godmother’s rank. She died on 1st May 1118 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
(3) Adeliza (there are alternative spellings and pronunciations) of Louvain.
Stephen = (4) Matilda of Boulogne who was the niece of Edith/Matilda of Scotland.
The Empress Matilda was never crowned queen of England. And you will be delighted to hear that there aren’t any more Matildas!
Henry II = (5) Eleanor of Aquitaine
Richard the Lionheart = (6) Berengaria of Navarre
Isabella of Gloucester but she was never queen of England due to an annulment on the grounds of consanguinity.
(7) Isabella of Angoulême. She was crowned in Westminster in 1200 when she was 12.
Henry III = (8) Eleanor of Province
Edward I =
(9) Eleanor of Castile (after who the Eleanor crosses are named.)
(10) Margaret of France
Edward II = (11) Isabella of France – one of English history’s she-wolves.
Edward III = (12) Philippa of Hainhault. They married in 1328 in York Minster during a snow storm – which was unfortunate as the minster was without a roof at the time.
Richard II =
(13) Anne of Bohemia. She died of plague in 1394 at Sheen Palace. Richard was so devastated that he ordered that the palace be demolished.
(14) Isabella of France who was a child at the time of her marriage. Following Richard II’s usurpation by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke she returned to France.
Henry IV =
Mary de Bohun who died before Henry became king.
(15) Joan of Navarre became queen upon her marriage to Henry in 1402 but she wasn’t crowned until the following year.
Henry V = (16) Katherine of Valois who would marry Owain Tudor following Henry’s death.
Henry VI = (17) Margaret of Anjou (another she-wolf)
Edward IV = (18) Elizabeth Woodville (and this is not the time to discuss whether or not Edward was a bigamist)
Richard III = (19) Anne Neville
Henry VII = (20) Elizabeth of York
Henry VIII = famously married six times. He believed that he had only ever been legitimately married to Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr – one because she produced a son and the other because he died before she could be toppled from the rather tenuous position as Henry’s spouse.
(21) Catherine of Aragon
(22) Anne Boleyn
(23) Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves – not crowned because Henry took against her.
(24) Katherine Howard
(25) Katherine Parr
Edward VI = unmarried
Lady Jane Grey was never crowned although she was proclaimed queen.
Mary I = (26) Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Match as it was known was deeply unpopular. Although Philip became king he had very little power.
Elizabeth I = unmarried
James I = (27) Anne of Denmark
Charles I = (28) Henrietta Maria
Charles II = (29) Katherine of Braganza
James II =
Anne Hyde who died before James became king.
(30) Mary of Modena
William III and Mary II who were married to one another.
Anne = George of Denmark – was raised to the English peerage prior to Anne becoming queen but was never crowned as prince consort.
George I = Sophia Dorothea who never became queen of England because George divorced her for adultery before he became king of England. She spent the remainder of her life locked up in Ahlden Castle in Germany.
George II = (31) Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach
George III = (32) Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. There is a possibility that he married bigamously.
George IV =
Maria Fitzherbert – who was Catholic and therefore the marriage was against the 1701 Act of Settlement and the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. This marriage was deemed to be invalid.
Caroline of Brunswick. It wasn’t a happy marriage. She was forcibly barred from attending George’s coronation so was never crowned.
William IV = (33) Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
Victoria = (34) Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Edward VII =(35) Alexandra of Denmark
George V = (36) Mary of Teck
Edward VIII was proclaimed king but never crowned, preferring to abdicate in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.
Edith of Scotland, or Matilda as became upon her marriage to Henry I on Sunday 11th November 1100 was an example of how a medieval queen was supposed to behave. One bishop described her as a mother to her people. Weir makes the point that traditionally she has been seen as a pious queen without much of a political role but as with much of history, over time this view has been reappraised.
She advised the king, attended his meetings and worked for the reform of the Church as well as working with Anselm and maintaining a balance between her husband and his principal cleric. There are thirty-three charters in her own name. Her seal, pictured above is the earliest seal in England for a queen. It is in the hands of the British Library.
It was Matilda in 1103 who persuaded Henry to repeal the curfew laws introduced by his father. The idea had been to stop Saxon plotting. At eight o’clock every night the curfew bell tolled and people were required to damp down their fires – it also prevented fires in towns made largely from wood.
In addition to being pious, caring for the poor and interceding on behalf of the wider population it was also essential for a medieval queen to have children. On 31 July 1101 she gave birth to a daughter called Euphemia who did not live for long. By the summer of the same year she was pregnant again. We know this because Henry summoned the Abbot of Abingdon, a renowned physician, to care for his wife. On 7th February 1102 Matilda gave birth to another girl who was baptised as Aethelice (Adelaide) but she is known to history as the Empress Matilda. The year after that William was born.
There was another son called Richard. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle says that he died young whereas other sources state that a second son of Matilda’s called Richard drowned with the sinking of the White Ship. The fact that Henry also had an illegitimate son called Richard doesn’t much help matters.
After the birth of a male heir (and possibly a spare) Matilda had no more children. William of Malmesbury says that the king and queen stopped sharing a bed by common consent. Perhaps Matilda wasn’t terribly impressed with Henry’s love of the ladies. Princess Nest gave birth to one of Henry’s children in 1103. Weir speculates that Henry may have been put off from the wife he was described as ardently desiring because of the fact she spent so much time caring for the ill and the poor. An early example of social distancing perhaps? Weir goes on to suggest several other possible reasons – all in the realms of speculation but it is evident that the couple fell out over Church matters when Anselm was forbidden to return to England in 1104.
Despite this, Henry appointed Matilda as his regent when he went to Normandy that summer. Weir observes that William the Conqueror left his wife as regent and Henry now did the same – demonstrating that both men respected their wives abilities to maintain order in their absence. Henry gave Matilda the “power to judge crime.”
In 1110 Matilda’s daughter henceforth known as the Empress Matilda left England to marry Henry V- the Holy Roman Emperor.
Matilda died on the 1st May 1118 at Westminster Palace and buried in the abbey where she had spent much time in private prayer during her lifetime. She is also associated with Waltham Abbey and Malmesbury as both of them were part of her dower. Henry did not attend the funeral as he wasn’t in England at the time of her death.
Following Henry I’s death Good Queen Maud’s reputation took a bit of a battering when her nephew by marriage, Stephen of Blois, insisted that she had been a nun when Henry married her which meant that Matilda’s daughter, the Empress Matilda, was not the legitimate heir whatever her father said.
Weir, Alison (2017) Queens of the Conquest. London: Jonathan Cape
Edith or Matilda of Scotland was the wife of Henry I. The couple had four children but only two survived to adulthood – Matilda and William. It was the death of William that ultimately plunged England into a lengthy and rather bloody civil war.
Edith was born circa 1080 in Dunfermline to Malcolm III and Margaret , grand-daughter of King Edmund Ironside and great niece of Edward the Confessor . Somewhat confusingly since Margaret fled England along with her family at the time of the Norman Conquest it turns out that Edith’s godfather was Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. William’s queen, Matilda of Flanders was also present at Edith’s baptism as godmother. It’s recorded that little Edith pulled at the royal headdress – this was later seen as a sign that Edith would herself be queen one day. Tyler identifies the fact that Edith’s name identifies her Saxon royal heritage whilst the choice of godparents reflects the political capital of the infant.
When she was about six Edith was sent to England to be educated by the nuns of Romsey Abbey in Wiltshire. The Royal House of Wessex had a tradition of association with the abbey and Edith’s aunt Christina was the abbess there. She had left Scotland in 1086 to become a nun. Edith’s older sister Mary went with her. As well as spending time in Romsey the girls also spent time at Wilton Abbey – again there was a royal connection to the House of Wessex – Edward the Confessor’s wife Edith Godwinson was associated with the nunnery and had retired there after the Conquest. Wilton was regarded as a centre for female learning as well as a centre of spirituality. The nunnery had a nail from the True Cross, bits of the Venerable Bede and St Edith.
The choice of these nunneries perhaps reflects the political heritage of Edith of Dunfermline. The Normans weren’t necessarily secure on the throne and by maintaining their royal behaviours Malcolm III and his wife were leaving a path open to reclaiming the crown as well as arranging good marriages for their daughters.
Unsurprisingly Edith had lots of prospective suitors including the 2ndearl of Surrey (de Warenne) and Alan Rufus the Lord of Richmond. It is also suggested that William Rufus might have been a candidate for Edith’s hand – it is perhaps one reason why Edith was required to wear a religious habit during her childhood.
Edith’s settled life came to an end on November 13 1093 when her father and one of her brothers was killed at the Battle of Alnwick. Her mother died on the 16thNovember at Dunfermline where she is buried. Aside from a controversy about whether she was a nun or not History does not know where Edith was between 1093 and 1100.
At some point in 1093 Edith left Wilton and was ordered back there by Anselm the Bishop of Canterbury. He believed that she had taken holy orders – that she was in fact a nun. In 1100 Edith was called upon to testify before a council of bishops that although she had been educated at Romsey and Wilton that she had not taken any vows. She stated that Christina had required her to wear a habit to protect her from unwanted attention from Norman lords. Edith does not appear to have had a good relationship with Christina – she stated that her aunt would often give her a sound slapping and “horrible scolding.” She further added that when she was out of her aunt’s sight she tore off the monastic veil that her aunt made her wear and trampled it in the dust.
In addition to Edith’s testimony there was also the fact that Archbishop Lanfranc had ruled that Saxon women who went into hiding in nunneries in the aftermath of the Conquest could not be deemed as having taken monastic vows when they emerged from their hiding places. Although Edith clearly hadn’t gone into hiding due to ravaging Normans, Christina’s dressing of the girl in a monastic habit was seen as having stemmed from the same root. William of Malmsebury notes that Christina grew old and died at Romsey so perhaps the move to Wilton was partially to get away from an unloved relation – but that is entirely speculation.
On one hand its evident that Edith/Matilda’s bloodline was ample reason for Henry I to marry her but William of Malmsebury states that Henry loved his new bride. Henry I and Edith married on November 11thin Westminster Abbey. Anselm performed the marriage but before doing so told the entire congregation about Edith potentially being a nun and asked for any objections. The congregation- possibly knowing what was good for it- cried out in Edith’s favour. Afterwards she took the name Matilda – not that it stopped Henry I’s lords mocking him by calling him Godrick and his queen Godiva because of the return to Saxon customs that Henry instituted.
And for anyone doubting whether Edith/Matilda was legally able to marry, the fact that a healthy baby daughter, the future Empress Matilda, was born in February 1102 followed by a boy called William in September 1103 put an end to those niggling concerns that Henry might have married a nun – would God have blessed a marriage if it was invalid?
Honeycutt, Lois L. (2005) Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship
“Edith Becomes Matilda.” England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Patronage, C.1000–C.1150, by ELIZABETH M. TYLER, University of Toronto Press, Toronto; Buffalo; London, 2017, pp. 302–353. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1whm96v.14. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.
Æthelred the Unready from a thirteenth century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle.
Alfred was succeeded by his son, Edward the Elder who ruled until 924. Edward had campaigned against the Danes during his father’s life time just as Alfred had been his brother’s lieutenant before he in his turn became king.
Edward didn’t automatically become king. Applicants for the Crown were required to present themselves to the Witan. Although Edward was the son of Alfred his cousins who had been bypassed when Alfred became king because of their youth were now men. Eadweard and Ethelwald both wanted to become the next king of Wessex.
Ethelwald fermented rebellion and seized Crown lands but was swiftly kicked into touch. He reacted by taking himself off to Norse ruled Northumbria before returning at the head of an army in 905 when he was killed. Unfortunately for Edward the Elder the battle was actually won by the Danes so he had to negotiate a settlement. Borders and boundaries became rather fluid after that.
Edward was able to work with his sister Æthelflæd, The Lady of the Mercians to secure territory from the Danes. Howel the Good of Wales eventually accepted Edward’s overlordship as did the Kings of the Scots and Strathclyde when they met Edward at Bakewell in 920. Edward died in 924 following a Mercian uprising.
Edward certainly extended the Cerdic line. He had somewhere in the region of eighteen children including his son Æthelstan who succeeded his father and ruled until his own death in 939. Unlike his father who the Mercians regarded as a king of Wessex, Æthelstan who had been reared in Mercia was accepted there before he was made king of Wessex. In 927 he was victorious over the Vikings in York making him effectively the ruler of England (remember Scotland was somewhat larger at that time extending down through Cumbria into Lancashire.) In 934 he invaded Scotland.
Æthelstan wished to extend law and order. He built on the legal reforms of his grandfather Alfred which is understandable as he had a rather larger kingdom than his predecessors. When he died rather than being buried in Winchester he was interred in Malmesbury Abbey and succeeded by his brother Edmund.
It was not a peaceful time and Edmund was eventually murdered. He was succeeded by his brother Ædred who was king from 946 to 955. In 954 Ædred effected the removal of Eric Bloodaxe from the Kingdom of Northumbria. When he died the following he was succeeded by his nephew, Æthelstan’s son, Ædwig. He was only fifteen. Four years later he was dead. Poor Ædwig had a bit of a reputation allegedly having been caught by St Dunstan consorting with two ladies of ill repute on the night of his coronation. More likely the tale arose out of the feud between the secular and clerical world for the control of the king’s ear.
After Ædwig’s death his brother Edgar became king. Edgar is known as Edgar the Peaceful. He ruled from 959 (he was sixteen at the time) until 975. He relied upon St Dunstan for advice. He honed the laws and set about standardising currency. He wasn’t without scandal though. He allegedly killed a rival in love and when he was crowned in Bath had his wife crowned alongside him – a first for the kings of Wessex. The coronation took place in 973 – rather than at the start of his reign. We will be returning to Edgar’s problematic love life in due course.
Edgar was succeeded by his son Edward in 975. Edward was murdered in 978 where upon he became known to history as Edward the Martyr and modern historians are increasingly keen to point the finger of blame at his step-mother Ælfthryth who was Edgar’s second or third wife. Edward had been virtually of age when he became king and had the support of the Church. The death of Edward at Corfe left the way clear for Ælfthryth’s son Æthelred to become king even though he was still a child.
Æthelred was king from 978 until 1013. Initially his mother was his regent. Æthelred the Unready or ill-advised had Viking problems. He’s the chap who paid vast sums of Dane-geld to the marauding Norse not understanding the free lance relationship they had with their leaders or the fact that handing over great wages of coin was actually somewhat counter productive.
In 1013 King Sweyn Forkbeard invaded England and Æthelred fled to Normandy. Sweyn died the following year. Æthelred returned and ruled until he died in 1016.
He was succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside. It was a short reign from April to November 1016. The summer of 1016 was a summer of battles.
John Sheffield, the 3rd Earl of Mulgrave was born on the 7th April 1648. He inherited his title when he was a child. When he was eighteen he joined the fleet to fight against the Dutch in the Second Anglo Dutch war. He went on to command his own ship, the Royal Katherine, and was also made an infantry colonel having raised a regiment of foot. In 1680 he was sent to relieve the garrison of Tangiers.
All of which sounds like the usual “blah” until you realise that history says that he was sent off in a leaky boat to Tangiers for having looked a bit too closely at Charles II’s mistresses or else for having the audacity to look to marry James of York’s youngest daughter (it depends on the source but it was more likely the mistress than the princess given the date of his commission to relieve Tangiers which was before the princess scandal.) Samuel Johnson mentions “some resentful jealousy of the king,” he also comments that since Mulgrave resumed his duties at court as a courtier on his return that perhaps Charles II had never been angry at all – making the whole story a Stuart red herring.
On his return from Tangiers Mulgrave became noted for his support of James of York. He was one of the men who helped to bring about the disgrace of the Earl of Monmouth (Charles II’s illegitimate but protestant son.) Not unreasonably Mulgrave may have expected a little gratitude from Monmouth’s uncle James, Duke of York.
However, his desired reward was not forthcoming! In 1682 Mulgrave was sent away from court for putting himself forward as a prospective groom for seventeen-year-old Princess Anne – the gossip mongers claimed that he’d progressed rather further with his courting than either James of Charles II liked. Mulgrave was thirty five at the time and had a reputation as a rake (hence the leaky Tangiers bound boat.) He was quick to report that he was “only ogling” the princess (charming) but at the time it was understood that he had written letters to the princess that were rather too personal. When he was banished from court in November 1682 speculation about Anne’s possible seduction was rife. There were plenty of risqué songs on the subject in London’s taverns.
This account is more probably true, than the former when it is considered, that by sending the earl to Tangier, a scheme was laid for destroying him, and all the crew aboard the same vessel. For the ship which was appointed to carry the general of the forces, was in such a condition, that the captain of her declared, he was afraid to make the voyage. Upon this representation, lord Mulgrave applied both to the lord admiral, and the king himself: The first said, the ship was safe enough, and no other could be then procured. The king answered him coldly, that he hoped it would do, and that he should give himself no trouble about it. His lordship was reduced to the extremity either of going in a leaky ship, or absolutely refusing; which he knew his enemies would impute to cowardice, and as he abhorred the imputation, he resolved, in opposition to the advice of his friends, to hazard all; but at the same time advised several volunteers of quality, not to accompany him in the expedition, as their honour was not so much engaged as his; some of whom wisely took his advice, but the earl of Plymouth, natural son of the king, piqued himself in running the same danger with a man who went to serve his father, and yet was used so strangely by the ill-offices of his ministers.
Providence, however defeated the ministerial scheme of assassination, by giving them the finest weather during the voyage, which held three weeks, and by pumping all the time, they landed safe at last at Tangier, where they met with admiral Herbert, afterwards earl of Torrington, who could not but express his admiration, at their having performed such a voyage in a ship he had sent home as unfit for service; but such was the undisturbed tranquility and native firmness of the earl of Mulgrave’s mind, that in this hazardous voyage, he composed (a) poem.
The poem I should add is described by Johnson as licentious.
Mulgrave remained in England after King James II fled in 1688. He even protected the Spanish ambassador from the London mob. His political career nose dived during the reign of William and Mary.
He remained on very good terms with Anne. He became the Lord Privy Seal after she became queen and in 1703 was created Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. When in London he lived in Buckingham House which overlooked the Mall. He was furiously Tory in his sympathies throughout his life which was a bit of a problem whilst Sarah Churchill held the queen’s ear as she was a Whig. It’s somewhat ironic that Sarah Churchill met Anne when they were children but it was only after the Mulgrave scandal that the two became close.
Just a reminder – the final short summer class in Derby entitled Queen Anne- fact and fiction- starts on Tuesday 25th June. There are still spaces. Follow the link to find out more. https://thehistoryjar.com/derby-classes/
I came across an old Jean Plaidy novel – I haven’t read one for years but, unusually, being short of a book I started reading and am hooked – I may even start to take a more lively interest in the Hanoverians so long as I don’t get mired in Whigs and Tories.
Caroline was George II’s wife. The thing that’s impossible to escape in the fictional account is that Caroline spends a lot of time pretending to be rather dim whilst actually manipulating her husband, George II, in terms of political decision making.
Inevitably I’ve gone off to the history books to find out more. George I and George, then Prince of Wales, had an almighty row and as a consequence George and Caroline were sent away from court. Even worse Caroline was separated from her daughters. She’d already had to leave her son Frederick in Hanover when the family came to England in 1714.
George I died in 1727 at which point George II became king. Caroline formed an alliance with Walpole who held a substantial majority in Parliament. Initially they formed an alliance about the amount that the civil list would pay. During the rest of her life they persuaded the king to do what Walpole wanted. This meant that Caroline had some sort of say in what happened in England. Lord Hervey, Walpole’s political opponent cultivated the king’s mistress and discovered that it didn’t get him very far at all.
Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales when George, Elector of Hanover became king of England in 1714. She immediately became the most important woman at court because George I was short of a queen. George I had locked his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, (who was also George’s first cousin) in Ahlden Castle. She’d been there since 1694 on account of her affair with Count von Königsmarck. The count was rather more unfortunate – his body was apparently disposed of in a river. Sophia Dorothea died in 1726. George did bring his half sister and his mistress with him but they hardly counted in terms of the court scene, even though they did gain the names of the Elephant and the Maypole based on their looks.
Initially her court was almost separate from that of her husband – this wasn’t unusually what was different was that she filled it with intellectuals. This must have come as a bit of a surprise after Queens Mary and Anne who weren’t known for their brains. She deliberately sought out Sir Issac Newton and was friends with Jonathan Swift. She also set about trying to improve the lives of the people of England. In 1722 she had all of her children inoculated against small pox – using a cow pox vaccine making the whole thing wildly fashionable. I’m less sure how warmly I feel about the fact that she had all the foundlings in London’s Foundling hospital inoculated before her own children.
Lucy Worsley says that she was the cleverest queen consort to sit on the throne. Walpole commented that he’d taken the “right sow by the ear” when he chose to work with her. Certainly when George went back to Hanover he trusted her sufficiently for her to rule as regent, during which time she wanted a closer look at the penal code of the time. She was liberal in thought and behaviour and demonstrated compassion not only to the country’s imprisoned masses but also tried to plead leniency for the Jacobites in 1715.
Most important of all was that she was able to soothe George’s ruffled feathers, make him believe her words were his ideas and withstand his rudeness to her in public. Whilst she had her husband fooled the public weren’t so easily hoodwinked:
You may strut, dapper George but ’twill all be in vain:
We know ’tis Queen Carline, not you, that reign.
The truth was that everyone apart from her husband knew that she was an intelligent and able consort.
Was she a successful queen? The terms by which queen consorts are judged are not by their capacity to manipulate their spouses but by the children they produce. Caroline was pregnant on at least ten occasions and had eight children. She’d already had a son and three daughters by the time she became Princess of Wales. Her favourite son was William whom history calls Butcher Cumberland. Together with her husband she didn’t much like her eldest son Frederick and was horrible to both him and his wife continuing a Hanoverian traction that would be maintained throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Caroline who had become rather overweight in later years died in November 1737 from a strangulated bowel that was in part the product of poor treatment after the birth of her youngest child. She underwent several rather unpleasant operations without any painkillers, although she did apparently find the fact that her surgeon managed to set his wig on fire with a candle rather amusing. She finally died whilst holding her husband’s hand.
George II announced that no other woman he knew was fit to buckle her shoe – though that hadn’t stopped him from having many mistresses during their marriage or telling Caroline that she should love one mistress because the mistress loved him.
Henrietta Maria has undoubtedly had a bad press in English History – in the past she has either been fitted into the pattern of she-wolf or interfering wife. And yet prior to arrival in England in 1625 and in the weeks afterwards she was praised for her youth and her beauty. Her arrival was, after all, the beginning of an Anglo-French partnership. Not that every was wildly happy about a French Catholic becoming queen.
The power of a consort was very indirect so far as most Stuart kings of England are concerned. Henrietta is the best known of the Stuart wives and she undoubtedly arrived with an agenda. Pope Urban VIII had made her a member of the order of the Golden Rose prior to her departure for England. She wrote to her brother, Louis XIII, saying that she would improve the lot of Catholics in England. She made no secret of the fact that she was a good Catholic princess. Her pilgrimage to Marble Arch and Tyburn where Catholics had been executed caused consternation amongst her Protestant subjects. Yet, she was also supposed to engineer a firm Anglo-French alliance. She was fifteen and it was a very tall order.
Griffey explains that her presence in England quickly became a political liability so far as Buckingham was concerned. In the first instance she was French and Catholic so did nothing to enhance Buckingham’s popularity at home given that he brokered the match and secondly Charles was predisposed to love his bride. In terms of the first Buckingham broke the escrit secret that he had agreed promising to suspend the recusancy laws, declaring it was nothing but a trick to get the French to agree to the marriage and in the second he sought to impose his various female relations upon Henrietta not to mention the female relatives of men who owed their ascent at court to him so that he could control who had access to her. The effect of both was to leave her feeling embattled and isolated – which in turn made her more determinedly Catholic in her outlook. She refused to be crowned because it was a Protestant ceremony. The same applied to Garter events and other events. It did nothing for the royal marriage either as Charles became ever more resentful of her lack of obedience to his husbandly requests – though apparently the fact that her sixteenth birthday passed unremarked was neither here nor there as indeed was the fact that he was flagrantly breaking the promises that he made prior to their marriage.
Charles came to believe that her household was keeping her too French and too intransigent. In part her relationship with her confessors did have that effect and whilst there were few English women in her household she had no need to speak the language – indeed I imagine that girls around the country were being tutored in French in the hopes that they might get a place in her household. Charles came most of all, it would appear, to blame Jeanne St George. Madame St George or Mamie as she was known had been with Henrietta since the princess was a child. She had unintentionally caused a diplomatic incident when Charles and Buckingham insisted on travelling in Henrietta’s coach to Canterbury from Dover along with Buckingham’s mother and wife. There had been no space for Mamie which was a serious breach of French etiquette. The whole affair was repeated when the royal couple fled the plague that summer. Buckingham was offended at the suggestion that his family should not travel with the queen.
Gradually the household of four hundred was eroded. Henrietta took up the lute. Her lutist was arrested as a spy and packed off to the Tower, some other household members were arrested under the recusancy laws which were very much in force. Matters came to a head for Henrietta when her entire household was sent back to France in 1626 – Charles having forcibly separated his wife from their company. It was a total breach of the marriage treaty. It left her hysterical and a virtual prisoner. She was unable to write any letters unless an English lady-in-waiting supervised its content.
Henrietta who still did not speak English now found herself surrounded by the Duke of Buckingham’s female relatives including his niece Susan who slept in her bedchamber. Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle was imposed on her. Lucy was beautiful and witty and Buckingham’s sometime mistress. There is evidence to suggest that Buckingham was planning to set Lucy up as Charles I’s mistress but the king was a loyal husband – not that Henrietta would have initially known that. Instead she might have thought of her own father with his more than forty mistresses as well as the court of her brother. No wonder she was hostile to Lucy – and her rather colourful reputation.
Ultimately the two women became friends and allies whilst it suited them both. Lucy was older than Henrietta and she was able to fulfil a role as mentor – which was as alarming to most Puritans as the thought of Mamie St George. Their relationship sums up the informal nature of female Stuart politics. It was based on personal relationships and favour. Interestingly Lady Carlisle only fell from favour when her husband became Pro-Spanish in sympathy.
The reorganisation of Henrietta’s household structure in 1627 at Charles’ behest meant that access to the bedchamber and personal spaces of the queen were more limited than they had been under previous monarch and consorts. A distinction was drawn between the bedchamber and the privy chamber in a way that it hadn’t been before. The extended hierarchy was Charles I’s preference. He disliked the free and easy way that Henrietta associated with her French ladies and wanted to impose more regulation upon the whole proceeding so that it mirrored his own household.
She was angered that he had imposed his will on her independence. She pointed out, quite reasonably, that his mother had ordered her own affairs but Charles said that was a different matter entirely. At which point Henrietta lost her temper and proclaimed that she was a daughter of France whilst Charles’ mother was only from Denmark. It wasn’t tactful but it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Henrietta at this point.
The limiting of access with its heightened powers of influence initially seemed to work to Buckingham’s advantage as the key jobs were given to his people but after his death in 1629 it meant that access to Henrietta was still limited. The difference was that Henrietta who had rushed to console her husband on Buckingham’s death had much more influence than anyone could have anticipated. The lack of range of voices and opinions surrounding Henrietta and Charles would be one of the factors that led husband and wife down a dangerous path.
Men have always blamed evil councillors when they revolt against their monarchs. The death of Buckingham removed a hated advisor so it was perhaps only to be expected that Parliament began blaming Henrietta Maria for Charles’ actions – she was after all a foreigner ( a French one at that), a Catholic…and a woman!
Erin Griffey (ed) Henrietta Maria: Piety, Politics and Patronage
Wolfson, Sara J. The Female Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria: Politics, Familial Networks and Policy, 1626–40 in The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe
Henrietta Maria, pictured at the start of this post, was born in 1609 at the Louvre. She was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici. Henry had become Henry III of Navarre in 1572. He was to become the first Bourbon king of France. Somewhat ironically given the reverence she placed upon her father’s memory, Henry was a Huguenot although he had been baptised a Catholic. He was fortunate to escape the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 – an event witnessed by Sir Francis Walsingham who was the English Ambassador in Paris at the time. Henry would go on to become King of France in 1589 – taking on the Catholic League to become the only Protestant king that France ever had but in 1593 to bring civil unrest to an end he returned to Catholicism. The Edict of Nantes passed in 1598 granted religious toleration to the Huguenots. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Henry was neither popular with Catholics who regarded him as a protestant usurper nor with Protestants who saw him as a traitor to his beliefs – he is famously supposed to have said that Paris was worth a mass. It was only after his death that he turned into Good King Henry.
Marie de Medici was Henry’s second wife. They married in 1600. Marie was born in Tuscany in 1573 and the marriage with Henry was helped along by a large dowry. The year after their marriage Marie provided Henry with an heir – Louis. She would have five more children before Henry was assassinated in 1610. She would go on to rule as regent for her son Louis XVIII. Even if the marriage between the pair was a matter of state, Henry had other consolations – approximately 54 of them- making Henry VIII seem positively restrained! Diane D’Andoins was just one of the mistresses who stood the test of time.
So- back to Henrietta Maria. When she arrived 25th November 1609 her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They had hoped for a legitimate spare to go with the heir. Henry was troubled by his wife’s desire for a more pro-Spanish policy whilst he himself was infatuated with Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency. She was the seventeen-year-old wife of his own nephew, Henry Prince of Conde.
Henrietta was sent off to join nursery of assorted legitimate and illegitimate brothers and sisters at the Chateau of St Germain. Once there she was lumped together with all the younger siblings so history doesn’t necessarily see her with great clarity during her early childhood. It is perhaps unfair to record Henry’s grumpiness about the fact that she was a girl. We know from other correspondents that he spent time with all his children in St Germain. He declared them to be the most beautiful children and that the time he spent with them as the happiest.
We know Henrietta attended her mother’s coronation and her father’s funeral. She was a princess and had the qualities that princesses were supposed to have; she was beautiful, she loved music, painting and dancing. She was given religious instruction by Carmelite nuns.
It wasn’t long before she learned that princesses had an important diplomatic role to fulfil. On November 9th 1615, about the time the above portrait was painted by Frans Pourbus, she was at Bordeaux to see her sister Elizabeth who married Philip of Spain whilst the Infanta Ana became her brother Louis’s bride. Anne of Austria as she is better known holds her own place in England’s Seventeenth Century history and a spot in the heart of all Alexander Dumas fans. In reality she was one of the ties that helped bind the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs together in Maria de Medici’s pro-Spanish policy.
Meanwhile in France, politics and family life were a dangerous cocktail. In 1617 Marie de Medici found herself ousted from her role as regent and sent to Blois whilst her favourite, and foster sister, Leonora Dori the wife of Concino Concini was executed. Concini was killed by a Paris mob. It should be noted that Marie had remained regent despite the fact that Louis was an age to rule for himself. The murder of Concini was ordered by Louis and just for good measure he reversed his mother’s pro-Spanish policy. Marie would remain in Blois until she escaped in 1619 and she wouldn’t regain political power until the death of the Ducky de Luynes. The removal of Marie drew Louis and Anne closer together. Up until this point she had not learned much French, still dressed in the Spanish fashion and was a wife in name only. The Ducky de Luynes encouraged Louis to spend time with his wife.
Henrietta was with her mother at Blois but once Henrietta’s sister Christine was married off to the Duke of Savoy – Henrietta assumed a more important role. She was the remaining dynastic pawn on the board of continental politics. In 1619 Henrietta was moved from Blois to the Louvre. By 1620 prospective husbands were under discussion. She was eleven.
Cardinal Richelieu was keen on an English alliance for political reasons of his own but he would make his move in due course. The current driver for the wedding was the Duc de Luynes, the favourite and boy hood friend of Louis XVIII. At this point, James I of England who had married his own daughter Elizabeth off to Frederick V of the Palatinate was determined on a Spanish match for his remaining son, Charles. Du Buisson was dispatched to London on the Ducky de Luynes’ orders ostensibly to purchase horses for the Prince of Conde’s stables. The French Ambassador at the English court, Comte de Tillieres was instructed to introduce Du Buisson at court where he was turned down flat by King James. The ambassador was able to assure King James that the proposal was unofficial because it hadn’t come through the proper channels i.e. him. De Tillieres also stated that French princesses weren’t hawked around the countryside but that monarchs made their way to France in the hope that a French princess might be bestowed upon them.
This was unfortunate as de Luynes then sent his own brother to make another proposal. Inevitably the Duke of Buckingham became involved with the envoys and there was insult on both sides rounded off by the Spanish ambassador getting in on the act to move the Spanish match forwards another couple of paces.
At home in France after de Luynes’ death Marie de Medici was busy sowing discord between her son and his wife, Anne of Austria. Anne, sidelined and unhappy, sought entertainment and relied upon her favourite Marie de Rohan-Montbazon.
In short, life was complicated for Henrietta Maria even as a child.
I did consider titling this post “three foul french fowl”but decided it was an alliteration too far.
Richard I, a.k.a. the Lionheart, should have married Alys of France – the dispensation for that marriage would have been interesting given that Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alys’ father, Louis VII of France had once been married. Alys arrived in England aged eight as Henry II’s ward following a treaty agreed in 1169. However, the marriage never progressed which didn’t help Richard’s relationship with fellow monarch Philip II of France who was Alys’ brother.
In 1175 Henry II began to seek an annulment from his marriage to Eleanor. It has been suggested that rather than marrying Alys to his son Richard, that he intended to marry her himself. Certainly it is thought that he began an affair with her after the death of Fair Rosamund in 1177. All things considered it is relatively easy to see why Alys didn’t become one of England’s French hens.
On the other hand, Alys’ sister Margaret should be on the list of French hens because she married Henry II’s oldest son also named Henry in 1162. Technically she became a royal consort when the Young King as he became known was crowned in 1172. Henry II and his son being the only occasion when there have been two official monarchs on the English throne (excluding the Wars of the Roses and the joys of the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda both claimed the Crown – and Matilda never had a coronation.)
I am not including women who would be defined as French by today’s geography but were daughters of independent or semi-independent realms in their own times: Matilda of Boulogne who was King Stephen’s wife or even Eleanor of Aquitaine who was Henry II’s wife come under this category of consort.
Which brings us to our first indisputable French hen – Margaret of France who was the second wife of Edward I. She was swiftly followed by Isabella of France who is better known as a “she-wolf” on the grounds that she and her lover Roger Mortimer deposed Isabella’s husband Edward II and according to official histories arranged for his dispatch – purportedly with a red hot poker.
French consort number three was Isabella of Valois who was married to Richard II after his first wife Anne of Bohemia died. She was married to Richard at the age of seven in 1396. Four years later Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke. Richard was fond of his young wife and she returned the feeling. She refused to marry Henry IV’s son and went into mourning. She died aged nineteen in childbirth following her return to France and second marriage to Charles of Orleans.
Henry V ultimately married Catherine of Valois in 1420 following his victory at Agincourt. After Henry’s death Catherine went on to be associated with Edmund Beaufort but when the laws changed specifying that if the dowager queen married without her son’s consent that the new husband would loose his lands, Beaufort swiftly lost interest. Catherine went on to make an unequal marriage with Owen Tudor.
In 1445 Catherine’s son, Henry VI, married Margaret of Anjou as part of a policy to bring the Hundred Years War to an end. Margaret had no dowry and was plunged into a difficult political situation which resulted in her ultimate vilification by the winning Yorkists. Her hopes for the Lancaster Crown ended on 4 May 1471 when her son, Prince Edward, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI was killed in the Tower shortly afterwards. She eventually returned to France.
Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou are the two consorts that popular history remembers most clearly. The third of English history’s three foul French fowl arrived in 1625. Henrietta Maria married Charles I shortly after he became king. Initially she had to contend with Charles’ reliance upon the Duke of Buckingham. Her Catholicism made her an unpopular choice in England despite Charles’ insistence that she be known as Queen Mary, as did her ability to buy armaments and mercenary forces on her husband’s behalf during the English Civil War. She also decided on a new title for herself – Her She-Majesty, Generalissima.