Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Royal Consorts Born on November 25

Charles I's Queen Consort, Henrietta Maria, was born on November 25, 1609, and Catherine of Braganza, Charles II's Queen Consort was born on the same date in 1638. Their married lives could not be more different: Charles I was a faithful and loving husband; his son Charles II was an impossibly unfaithful spouse. Nevertheless, their careers as consorts were both marked by the fact that they were Catholic princesses married to Anglican monarchs, facing conflict with Parliament because of their religion.

Henrietta Maria was the sister of the most Catholic King of France, Louis XIII and had been sent to England with a mission to convert her Anglican husband. She was not crowned Queen of England because she could not receive Holy Communion in the Church of England. At first her arranged marriage to Charles I was as unhappy as one could be when the husband had a male favorite who opposed her possible influence on the young monarch. But once Buckingham was assassinated, Charles and Henrietta Maria grew to love each other.

As Charles became so uxurious, there were some who feared that he would become a Catholic just to please his wife and the mother of their growing brood. Conversions at Court and the very presence of Catholic priest and sacraments at Court were unsettling to the Puritans in Parliament. She was attractive and gathered Catholics and converts around her. Henrietta Maria honored the Catholic martyrs of the past two reigns, processing to Tyburn Tree and praying there. She also worked to protect Catholic priests during her husband's reign, pleading for their release.

When the Civil War began, Charles and his queen set up court in Oxford. She used the chapel at Merton College for Mass. Eventually Henrietta Maria fled England, home to France after a stop in the Netherlands, because she was attainted a traitor by Parliament. She worked hard to raise funds for her husband's cause and was bitterly grieved by his capture and execution.

Upon the Restoration of the Monarchy in the person of her son Charles II she returned to England for a time but then came back home to France, always wearing mourning for her husband. Henrietta Maria died in France on September 9, 1669; she had been given a dose of opiates and did not revive. She was 60 years old and had been a widow for 20 years.

More about Henrietta Maria here, especially about her efforts to support her husband during the English Civil War.

Charles II married a Catholic wife who brought with her dowry the port cities of Tangier and Bombay. She did not speak English when she and Charles married in 1662. Catherine had to accept Charles' rampant infidelity and also endured several miscarriages. Nevertheless, he would not contemplate divorcing her even during the Exclusion Crisis when Parliament urged him to do so in order to have a legitimate Protestant heir to succeed him rather than James, the Catholic Duke of York. Charles always took her side in any conflict with a mistress regarding her position at Court, although never to the point of actually practicing fidelity. While she did not have any surviving children, his mistresses bore his illegitimate children, whom Charles acknowledged and supported.

He definitely defended her against allegations during the infamous faux Popish Plot incident, when Parliament wanted her banished.

Along with James, the Duke of York, Catherine hoped for Charles's conversion to Catholicism on his deathbed. Father John Huddleston, who had helped him escape Scotland in 1650, did receive him and Charles died a repentant Catholic, hopefully.

After Charles died in 1685, Catherine remained at Court; with the fall of James II in 1688 and the invasion and coup by William and Mary of Orange, however, she returned to Portugal in 1692. She died in Lisbon on December 31, 1705 and is buried in the great Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. More about Catherine here.


  1. I have a wood cut of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, which I shall have to share.

  2. Brantigny, I look forward to seeing it!