Book Review: ‘Henrietta Maria’ by Dominic Pearce

Title: Henrietta Maria

Published: 15th November 2015

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Dominic Pearce

 

Synopsis:

At the heart of the English Civil War stands the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. She came to England in 1625 at the age of fifteen, undermined by her greedy French entourage, blocked by the forceful Duke of Buckingham and weighed down by instructions from the Pope to protect the Catholics of England. She was only a girl, and she had hardly a winning card in her hand; yet fifteen years later she was the terror of Parliament.

We see Henrietta Maria in the portraits of van Dyck, and hear her voice in the letters which she wrote to her husband and many others. She is a historic queen who inherited from her father, the great French statesman Henri IV, undying convictions about royal and divine authority and about just governance. There was always brutal violence in the background of her life from the early moments (her father was assassinated when she was six months old); she lived through civil war both in England and in France (the Fronde); she was tortured by the fate of Charles I; but her spirit – and her family – prevailed. Two of her children sat on the throne of England (Charles II and James II) and three of her grandchildren followed them (William III, Mary II and Anne). Her life is a story of elegance, courage, wit, energy and family devotion on a grand scale.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A History book.

A new and enticing biography of a Queen who has stayed in the background through many discussions on Charles I, their son Charles II and the English Civil war. Dominic takes the reader on a journey through her younger life before she became a player in a much more dangerous royal game in England.

From the start Henrietta Marie’s life was going to be a controversial one with religion and political gain always playing a part in the path she was being led down. At the age of fifteen she was a pawn placed in a high position when she became the wife of Charles I, then Charles, Prince of Wales. The marriage had its set backs from the very beginning with religion being the key player. She was Catholic and he Protestant. Part of her dowry always stated that this was never going to change and this is what sent fear into many a political mind. Their marriage, after a few set backs to being with, well she was just a child and couldn’t speak a word of English, seemed to be a happy one after the birth of their children. She was a very loyal woman and fiercely protective of her children and her husband.

When her husband became king you would think that they would be safe from persecution but the fear many had over her control of the king was great. It wouldn’t take long for whispers of dislike to get louder and have more of a political backing, mainly when they tried to impeach her. Which would soon bring about the start of a civil war. It was at these most difficult times that many would think she would cower and hide but she just stepped forward to help her husband take back control of the country they were losing. She was condemned and attacked at every turn but still carried on to see things through. Having the means to help where she could with other countries. She was a daughter of France so they were always there to help her, just not always as much for her husband. An interesting view on the English Civil War and the part the she played in it, from close up and a distance.

The war would end and the lose was great with the death of her husband but she knew she still had work to do to help her son claim back what was rightfully his. The Scots may have taken him as their King but the rest of the land was something else entirely. No matter the set back she always seemed to have a plan up her sleeve, not always taken though as soon it became clear that her children, most of whom she had not seen in years, were coming into their own and not needing her or her opinions. It was probably why she felt so strongly for her youngest Henrietta Anne, as she was the last one to mould in her own image.

Throughout her life she had many a friend who stayed close no matter the danger, though not all could be saved from it. She outlived most of her children and saw the fall and rise of the English royal reign when her son Charles II took back control. Her cultural influence can be seen today through the architecture designed by her protégé Inigo Jones and the art that was a love of hers. She was a creative creature from the start and seemed to want to please others, though I’d say only when deserved. This was a very interesting insight into a hidden figure of history.

From not knowing anything about her before reading the book I will admit to going back to the family trees at the front of the book from time to time just to remind myself who people were and how they were connected. Can get a little confusing when they all have the same name but that was just something they liked to do at the time so you have to just go with it.

5 out of 5 stars

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Filed under Non-fiction, Reading Challenges, Reading Nook Blog Posts

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