Henrietta Maria became a mother for the first time in 1629. She had been married for four years but had been only pregnant for six months when she went into labour. The Greenwich midwife was summoned. Upon discovering who it was and that the baby was breech she promptly fainted and had to be removed from the bedchamber, unlike Charles who insisted on staying and resolved to save his wife rather than his unborn child when asked saying, “He could have other children, please God.” The baby was born alive but having been hastily baptised died and was buried with all ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Henrietta went on to have nine more children of whom six survived infancy. The five eldest are pictured above in the portrait after Van Dyck.
A year after the death of her first child, Henrietta was pregnant once again. Madame Peronne, Marie de Medici’s midwife was sent for along with other Frenchwomen – although they were captured en route by pirates based in Dunkirk but released after some negotiating.
On the 29th May 1630 Henrietta gave birth to another baby boy in St James’ Palace. Like his short-lived brother he was called Charles. The baby was baptised into the Anglican church – another flouting of the marriage treaty. In truth, as Whittaker points out, this was not actually the case. Whether Henrietta Maria’s children would be raised Protestant or Catholic had been left deliberately vague. The treaty only said that they would be in their mother’s care until the age of thirteen.
On the 4th November the following year the Princess Mary Henrietta was born, followed in 1633 by James, 1635 by Elizabeth and in 1637 Princess Ann joined the nursery but died three years later. All of them were born in St James’ Palace and on each occasion Madame Peronne and the french nurses were summoned. In 1640 Henry was born at Oatlands in Surrey and in 1644 Henrietta Ann known as Minette arrived on the scene – a child of war.
For those of you who like to know these things:
Mary married William II of Orange. She’d been given the title Princess Royal in 1642, a year after her marriage had been celebrated. She was nine and her husband was six years older. The following year Henrietta Maria took her daughter to Holland – and purchased guns and mercenaries for Charles I. No matter what one thinks of the monarch who raised his standard in Nottingham that same year it is hard not to feel sympathy for the father who rode along the cliffs of Dover waving his hat until his wife and daughter were out of sight. William III was born in 1650 a few days after his father’s death. Mary was only nineteen. William III married his cousin Mary the daughter of James II. For more on Mary click here.
James was the Duke of York from birth and after the death of his elder brother became King James II. And yes, he’s the pretty child in the dress with the red jacket between Mary and Charles. He married Anne Hyde, who was Protestant, when she became pregnant. His daughters Mary (who married her cousin William III of Orange) and Anne would rule in their turn after James was deposed in 1688 following the birth a male heir James Francis Edward who became History’s Old Pretender. When Anne Hyde died James, who was a Catholic, took a Catholic bride, Mary of Modena. The birth of James Francis Edward who would undoubtedly be raised a Catholic proved too much for the English gentry and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 followed. For more about Mary and the problems that led to the Glorious Revolution click here.
Elizabeth died in Carisbrook Castle in 1650. I have posted about her short life before. Click here to open a new window.
Henry, who was the Duke of Gloucester died in 1660 from smallpox. After 1649 he was a potential heir to the throne. Prior to his execution Charles I explained to Henry, who was just eight years old, that he must not let Parliament crown him as the kingdom belonged to his brother Charles. After the execution of Charles I it was suggested that the two children, Elizabeth and Henry, should be allowed to join their sister Mary in Holland but instead of this they were put into the custody of the Earl of Leicester at Penshurst in Kent. From there the pair were sent to the Isle of White. Elizabeth did not want to go, her health was failing. She died on 8 September 1650. After the death of Elizabeth there was talk that Henry would be allowed to join his aunt Elizabeth of Bohemia – the Winter Queen- but nothing came of it. In the end Henry petitioned the Council of State himself. Cromwell agreed to release Henry into the care of his sister Mary. From Holland he journeyed to Paris. Unfortunately by then Henry was very Protestant and fell out with his mother who was very Catholic. He became a successful career soldier joining his brother James in France’s military campaigns.
Minette who had been born in Exeter on 16th June 1644 married Philip of Bourbon, the Duc d’Orleans having been taken from England to France in 1646. She and her mother lived in exile in the Louvre and she was raised a Catholic. Minette’s marriage caused some raised eyebrows as Philip was a bisexual and there were also suggestions that Minette’s first child Marie was not fathered by Philip who had his own share of sexual scandals. On her death bed she would say that she had never been unfaithful to the Duke. The Duke, however, had become increasingly jealous of Minette’s admirers and imported his own lover into the familial home. Minette had a series of still born children, her mother died and relations with her husband deteriorated still further. Small wonder that Minette turned to art collecting, gardening and engineering diplomacy between England and France. Both Charles II and Louis XIV trusted her knowledge and her skills which she used to help facilitate the secret Treaty of Dover in 1670. She died the same year on 30th June believing that she had been poisoned.
Porter, Linda. (2016) Royal Renegades. London: Pan MacMillan
Whitaker, Katie. (2010) A Royal Passion London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson