Henrietta of England

gigatos | April 6, 2022


Henrietta Anne Stuart, Duchess of Orleans (16 (26) June 1644, Exeter-June 30, 1670, Saint-Cloud) was the youngest daughter of Charles I Stuart and Henrietta Maria of France.

At the age of two, Henrietta was taken from England as a governess and ended up at the court of her cousin Louis XIV, where she was nicknamed “Minette” (French for “cat” or “kitten”). After her marriage to the king”s brother Philip of France, the princess was called “Madame” at court by her title. The influence the princess had at court was a cause of tension in her relationship with her husband. Henrietta played a major role in the conclusion of the Treaty of Dover. Soon after the signing of the treaty and her return to France, Henrietta died. The circumstances of the princess” death were such that many contemporaries believed Henrietta had been poisoned, but officially the cause of death was gastroenteritis.

The descendants of Henrietta were the eldest in the house of Stuart after the termination of its male line with the death of Henry Stuart in 1807. However, they were removed from the succession to the throne of England and Scotland in 1701 because of their affiliation with the Catholic religion.

Princess Henrietta was born on June 16, 1644, on the eve of the second Battle of Newbury, in the midst of the Civil War. Her birthplace was Bedford House in Exeter, the residence of the Duke of Bedford, who had recently returned to the Royalist side. The princess”s father was King Charles I of England; her mother was Henrietta Maria of France, the youngest daughter of King Henry IV of France and his wife Maria de Medici. It was with her mother that Henrietta maintained the closest relationship all her life. The kinship of the princess with the French kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV in later life would prove to be very beneficial to her and her family.

Shortly before Henrietta was born, her mother was forced to leave Oxford for Exeter, where she arrived on 1 May 1644. The state of the queen”s health was such that her death in childbirth was considered by many to be the most likely outcome. The newborn princess was placed in the care of Anne Villiers, known at the time as Lady Dalkeith. For the princess”s safety, the queen decided to send her to Falmouth, the penultimate English stronghold still loyal to the king, Pendennis Castle; from there Henrietta Maria was to travel with her daughter to France, where she could ask Louis XIV for help for her husband. When the queen arrived in Falmouth in mid-July, she was informed that the little princess had arrived in town ill (she had been convulsing), but was already completely cured. Nevertheless, the queen went to France alone. On 26 July, Henrietta was visited by her father. Shortly before his arrival, the king ordered that the princess be baptized in accordance with the laws of the Church of England; the ceremony was performed on 21 July at Exeter Cathedral and the girl was named Henrietta. The princess was transported to Otland Palace outside London, where she and her retinue remained for three months. Henrietta never saw her father again. In June 1646, the princess and her small retinue left the palace in secret; Lady Dalkeith ensured Henrietta”s safe arrival in France, where her daughter was reunited with her mother.

Already at the French court, at her confirmation, the princess was given a second name, Anne, in honor of her aunt, the French Queen Anne of Austria. On their arrival in France, the daughter and mother settled in the Louvre apartments, Henrietta received a pension of thirty thousand livres and the right to use the Palais Saint-Germain. Such luxurious privileges were soon curtailed, for all the money that Queen Henrietta Maria received began to be given to her husband in England or to the royalists who had fled to France. All this time Lady Dalkeith did not leave the princess.

In February 1649, Henriette”s mother was notified of the execution of her husband Charles I, beheaded on 30 January. At the end of the Fronde, in the midst of which the queen and princess remained in the Louvre, Henriette Marie moved with her daughter to the Palais-Royal, where the young King Louis XIV was already living with his mother and brother. At this time, Henrietta Maria decided to convert her daughter, baptized in Anglicanism, to Catholicism. At the queen”s request, the princess”s chaplain was also commissioned to convert her governess Lady Dalquith to Catholicism, but he failed, and after her husband”s death in 1651 Lady Dalquith returned to England. In 1650, Henrietta”s older brother Charles arrived in Paris, with whom the princess became very close. With the arrival of Henrietta”s other brother, the Duke of Gloucester, in 1652 the little English court greatly expanded. In 1654, the princess made her first public appearance: she and her mother and brothers were invited to a ball given by Cardinal Mazarini. Henrietta quickly charmed the French court with her knowledge of the French language, her passion for literature and music.

After the end of the Fronde, the French court made it a priority to find a bride for the young king. Henrietta Maria began to hint at an alliance between her daughter and Louis XIV, but Queen Anne rejected the idea, preferring Henrietta to the daughter of her brother Philip IV, Maria Theresa. Louis XIV and Marie Therese were married in June 1660, after which Anne turned her attention to her second, still unmarried son Philip, Duke of Orleans. While living at the Château de Colombe, Henriette Marie”s personal residence outside Paris, mother and daughter learned of the restoration of the monarchy in England and the proclamation of Henriette”s brother Charles II as king; they both returned to Paris. This momentous change led Philip of Orleans, a notorious bisexual with whom a series of scandalous stories had been linked, to ask for Henrietta”s hand. Earlier, rumors had circulated at court that Henrietta had received a marriage proposal from Charles Emmanuel of Savoy and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but the question of marriage had not been resolved because of the princess” exile status.

Impatient Philip wanted to make sure he could marry Henrietta as soon as possible, but Queen Henrietta Mary was about to return to England to pay her debts, provide a dowry for her daughter and prevent the Duke of York”s announcement of her marriage to Anne Hyde, a former maid of honor to the royal princess. At the same time, in September 1660, the Duke of Gloucester died of smallpox, and Henrietta was in mourning and grief for her brother. In October, Henrietta and her mother left Calais for Dover, where she stayed at Dover Castle. The French court officially asked for the princess”s hand on 22 November, at which time the question of Henrietta”s dowry was resolved: Charles II agreed to give his sister as a dowry of eight hundred and forty thousand livres and another twenty thousand for other expenses. Henrietta also received forty thousand livres as a personal gift and the Château de Montargis as her personal residence.

Henrietta”s return to France was delayed by the death from smallpox of her older sister Mary, Princess of Orange. In the end, Henrietta left England in January 1661. On March 30, Henrietta and Philip signed the marriage contract at the Palais-Royal; the official ceremony took place the next day. After the celebrations, the newlyweds went to the Tuileries, their new residence. Since Henriette was now married to Monsieur, the king”s younger brother, the princess was referred to as “Madame, Duchess of Orleans.

At first, the princess”s marriage seemed quite successful and Philip seemed a loving husband, despite the fact that the couple had little in common. Within a year of marriage, Henrietta gave birth to a daughter who was christened Maria Louisa. Some courtiers questioned Philip”s paternity, hinting that the father of the newborn princess was King Louis XIV or the Comte de Guiche. Henriette and Guiche may have had an affair early in the princess”s marriage, even though he was supposed to have been Philip”s own lover.

Soon after, the king made one of Henriette”s ladies-in-waiting, Louise Lavalier, his favorite, who appeared at court in late 1661 and defended the Duchess of Orleans in the Guiche affair. Philip of Orleans and Henrietta”s next child, son Philip, was born in July 1664 and given the title Duke of Valois; the boy died in 1666 hours after his naming as Philip Charles. The little duke”s death greatly grieved Henrietta. In July 1665 Henrietta gave birth to a dead daughter; four years later the duchess gave birth to another daughter, christened Anne Marie in 1670.

In 1666, the Chevalier de Lorrain, Philip”s most prominent alleged lover, found himself at the court of the Duke and Duchess. It was Lorrain who often competed with Henriette for power within the court of the Duke of Orleans; after Henriette”s death he became the rival of Philip”s second wife, Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate.

Henriette was often called at court an intellectual princess; the princess corresponded with Molière, Racine, Lafontaine, Bussy-Rabutin and other luminaries of the time. She also loved gardening and had a water garden at the Palais-Royal. Henriette amassed a large collection of paintings, including works by Van Dyck and Correggio. The princess”s exuberant activity has led historians to believe that Henrietta suffered from anorexia nervosa.

In late 1669, Henrietta lost her mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, who died after taking an excessive dose of opiates as a painkiller. Henrietta was devastated; the situation was made worse by Philip, who even before the funeral began to claim his wife”s inheritance.

Treaty of Dover

Henrietta played an important role in the diplomatic negotiations between her native England and France. The princess”s brother, Charles II, with whom Henrietta had always had a close relationship, had been trying to establish closer relations with France since 1663. He succeeded only in 1669, when Charles confessed openly that he had become a Catholic, promising to bring England back into the Catholic Church. Henrietta was eager to visit her homeland, something King Louis XIV encouraged her to do as he wished for the treaty. Philip of Orleans, however, was irritated by Henrietta”s flirtations with Guiche and his other lovers and remained adamant that the princess should not be allowed to go to complain about his attitude to the English king and that she should stay by his side in France. The princess managed to persuade the French king to let her go to England, to Dover, where she arrived on May 26, 1670, and remained there until June 1, the day of the signing of the treaty.

Charles II abandoned the Triple Alliance with Sweden and Holland in favor of helping Louis XIV conquer the Republic of Holland, which he considered part of the unpaid dowry of his wife, Queen Maria Theresa. England was promised several very lucrative ports along one of its largest rivers in the event of a conquest of Holland. Public announcement of the treaty did not take place until 1830. The success of Henriette”s mission was due to her brother”s love for her and the close relationship between them; Henriette”s maid of honor, Louise René de Keroual, who arrived in England with the princess and quickly charmed the English king, played no small part in this affair. On June 18, after spending some time in England, Henrietta returned to France. Louisa went to France with her, but soon after Henrietta”s death she returned to England and became a favorite of Charles II.

In 1667 Henrietta began to complain of intermittent severe pain in her side. In early April 1670, Henrietta reportedly began to have digestive problems so severe that she could eat only milk. On June 20, Henrietta arrived in Paris; on June 26, she and her husband stayed at Saint-Cloud. On June 29, at five o”clock in the evening, Henriette drank a glass of chicory water with ice. According to witnesses, immediately afterwards she felt a pain in her side and exclaimed: “Ah! What a pain! What am I going to do! I must be poisoned!” The princess demanded an antidote for herself and that someone examine the water she was drinking. She was given the colic medicine common at the time, as well as an antidote. The royal family arrived at Saint-Cloud within hours of receiving news of Henrietta”s illness. Bishop Bossuet was summoned to the princess”s bedside and later performed a funeral service. At two o”clock the next morning, Henrietta died. Many courtiers considered the Chevalier de Lorrain and the Marquis d”Effia as accomplices in the poisoning of Henriette. Seventeen French and two English physicians, the English ambassador, and about a hundred spectators were present at the autopsy, and although the official report stated “death from cholera disease (gastroenteritis) caused by heating bile,” many observers disagreed with this conclusion.

Henriette was buried in the Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis on July 4; another service was held on July 21. The service was attended by representatives of all the principal organs of state, including members of parliament, courts, the Assemblies of the Clergy, and city corporations, as well as members of the nobility and the general public: Queen Maria Theresa accompanied the former King of Poland, Jan II Casimir and the English ambassador, Duke of Buckingham; also present were princes of the blood and many others.

“Finally, members of the court appeared, Monsieur and Madame, carrying torches in their hands. The mausoleum, surrounded by altars and silver urns and adorned with allegorical mourning statues, among which Youth, Poetry, and Music were prominent, erected in the center of the choir. Here rested a coffin covered with gold brocade trimmed with ermine, and with the coats of arms of France and England embroidered in gold and silver. Those present took their seats and lit hundreds of candles, creating a cloud of incense; the Archbishop of Reims, with the help of other bishops, began the mass, which was sung by the royal musicians, led by Lully.

In 1671, Philip of Orleans married for a second time: his betrothed was Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, who, like Henrietta, was a descendant of King James I. Philip of Orleans died in 1701.

On October 16, 1793, Henrietta”s grave among others was desecrated.

Henrietta and Philip had four children in their marriage; the duchess also suffered four miscarriages:

Henrietta”s descendants are several European pretenders to thrones and monarchs.

The coat of arms of Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, is based on that of her husband Philip, united with the English royal coat of arms of her father.

The shield is surmounted by a crown, corresponding to the dignity of French princes – royal children. To the right is the coat of arms of the Dukes of Orleans (the French royal coat of arms – in the azure field three golden lilies – with a silver titus with blunt teeth); to the left is the English royal coat of arms of the Stuarts (in four parts: in the first and fourth parts the royal coat of arms of England [in the 1st and 4th parts in the azure field three golden lilies (the French royal coat of arms), in the 2nd and 3rd parts in the scarlet field three golden leopards armed with azure (in the second part in the golden field a scarlet, armed with azure, lion surrounded by a double prosperous and antifloral inner border ; in the third part in the azure field a golden harp with silver strings .

Henrietta is depicted in one of the portraits in Peter Lely”s Windsor Beauties collection.

The Duchess of Orleans was a close friend of Madame de Lafayette, who, at her request, wrote a biography of the princess.

Henriette is one of the characters in Dumas” novels Twenty Years Later and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, or Ten Years Later, as well as two film adaptations of the former, the French one (the role was performed by Liliya Ivanova).

The Duchess appears in several films and TV series:


  1. Генриетта Стюарт
  2. Henrietta of England
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