Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Historical Flavour of the Week: Henriette d’Angleterre (June 16 1644- June 30, 1670)

This fun-loving and absolutely charming princess, also named Henrietta-Anne Stuart was the daughter of Charles I (of England and Scotland) and of Henriette of France- and, most importantly, Henry IV’s (Henry the Great) granddaughter. This would also make her Louis XIV’s first cousin. She was of Royal lineage through and through.

Today marks the birthday of this exuberant Princess who was born in England at the peak of England’s civil war. Shortly after giving birth to her, wasting no time, her mother who had no choice but to escape to France due to the political instability of England and persecution, leaving Henriette in the care of her governess, Lady Dalkeith, Countess of Morton.

A few months after her birth, ‘Minette’ as she was affectionately called, was transferred along with her governess to London by force. Opposed to this, the gutsy governess, fearing for the life of the baby princess, dressed herself up as a villager and Minette as her baby boy -smuggled her way to France and into the Court of Louis XIV.

By this time her father had been executed and stripped of his title. This left Minette and her mother to live, albeit in the Royal Court, as poor heiresses of what was then thought of as a lost kingdom and a finished royal lineage…

Henriette was raised by the Sisters of the Visitation, where she was given a good Catholic upbringing filled with the riches of culture and fine education. At Court, she was never permitted to be distinguished as royalty though. Her poverty was such that her mother, the deposed Queen of England, had to sell most of her jewelry and best China just to survive.

Despite the fact that she was a desolate forgotten princess, Henriettte’s spirit never plunged. Her fate finally changed when her brother became King Charles II of England after having re-conquered the thrown. She was very close to her brother and his ascension changed her life around. This time around, she was Princess Henriette the most- sought- after lady of the highest regal standing. Almost too royal to find a husband suiting her rankage, LouisXIV decided that she would be an excellent consort for his brother Philippe.

Due to the Princess’ fun-loving character, amusing ways and innocent flirtations, much has been written about the alleged romantic relationship between Henriette and Louis XIV. Most of this is speculation though, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Henriette’s husband had totally no interest in women.

In fact, furiously outrageous fights were the order of the day between the married couple. Insinuations incurred bouts of jealousy- all because of Henriette’s natural tendency to popularity (especially with the King) infuriated Philippe who always needed to be the center of attention. Louis, on the other hand, really enjoyed Minette’s company and was openly affectionate towards her, but nothing past that. Being the sensitive man that he was, it may have been that Louis felt sorry for much of what the Princess had to endure. Especially since Philippe was overtly enamored with the Chevalier de Lorraine (who openly detested Madame) and would have done anything for him much to the demise of Henriette.

How did it all end for this beautiful Princess? After returning from London, where she was instrumental in helping rekindle alliances between her brother and Louis, she was afflicted by horrible pains on her side. She had apparently started feeling sick after drinking some chicory coffee. Henriette died within minutes. She was only 26. They said it was peritonitis…although most people suspected poison.

The case was cleverly muffled. However, in the Palatine Princess’ memoirs (Philippe’s subsequent wife), it appears that Philippe might have alluded to a few culprits…le Chevalier de Lorraine’s name came up quite often. That does seem plausible considering Philippe’s gossipy reputation and especially for not being able to keep a secret…


May said...

Oh, poor Henriette! Thank you for this post, she sounds very appealing.

Ingrid Mida said...

What a tragic life! Being royal was obviously more glamourous in theory than it was in reality.
I quite like her dress in the portrait. Do you know who the artist is?

Viola said...

Thank you for this sympathetic post about 'Minette', Ms.Lucy. Have you read the novel about her by Anya Seton? It's excellent. I think that it's called 'Devil Water'.

ceecee said...

What a tragic beginning and tragic end. Everything was always so complicated. The gossip alone would have been enough to kill me! Thanks Ms. Lucy. It must take you hours to write a post like that. (It takes me hours just to write a paragraph!)
Catherine xx

Unknown said...

Oh Ms Lucy! What a story, what a life! Thanks for sharing with us, I loved reading it & now I want to read more :) HAve a great week!

Harvee said...

I didn't know about Devil Water by Anya Seton. Sounds like an interesting book on Henrietta! Very nice article; told me a lot about the princess.