‘A myth-busting biography of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, which retells the dramatic story of the civil war from her perspective
Henrietta Maria is one of British history’s most reviled queen consorts. Condemned in her lifetime as that ‘Popish brat of France’, an adulteress and traitor, she remains in popular memory the wife who wore the breeches and turned her husband Catholic, so causing a civil war, and a cruel and bigoted mother.
This biography unpicks the myths and considers Henrietta Maria’s point of view, setting her story as a royal consort alongside that of her mother and sisters. A witty conversationalist, she was a patron of the arts and a champion of the female voice, as well as a mediatrix for her persecuted co-religionists. No bigot, her closest friends included ‘Puritans’ as well as Catholics, and she led the anti-Spanish faction at court that was linked to the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years War.
When civil war came, even the queen’s enemies agreed that Charles would never have survived as long as he did without his She Generalissimo. Seeing events through her gaze reveals the truth behind the black legend of her as a mindless fanatic, and explains her estrangement from her son Henry. Also swept away is the image of the Restoration queen as an irrelevant crone. Henrietta Maria rose from the ashes of her husband’s failures as a ‘phoenix queen’, still wielding influence in religion and politics, while her court was judged to have ‘more mirth’ even than that of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.
It is time to look again at this despised woman and judge if this reviled queen consort is not in fact one of our most remarkable.’