Henrietta Maria, the French Catholic wife of King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the 17th Century, was called a “Popish brat of France” by her British subjects, blamed for the English Civil War, and seen as a mannish and heartless mother. The reality is, of course, much more nuanced. Henrietta Maria fiercely loved Charles and their children and fought to protect them in any way she could during a time of upheaval and violence. In this episode we push past the caricature of Henrietta Maria to see the real, complicated, person she was.
Joining me in this episode is historian and writer Leanda de Lisle, author of the new book, Henrietta Maria: The Warrior Queen Who Divided a Nation, which will be released in the United States on September 6, 2022.
Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is “Henrietta Maria,” painted by Anthony van Dyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Kelly Therese Pollock 0:00
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please, tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too.
Today's episode is the second in our four episode detour to British history. We'll be discussing the fascinating Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland in the 17th century. Henrietta Maria was born in Paris on November 25, 1609. She was the youngest daughter of the Bourbon King Henry IV of France, and his second wife, Marie de Medici. When Henrietta Maria was not quite six months old, her father was assassinated by a fanatical Catholic monk, even though Henry himself had converted from the Huguenot faith to Catholicism. Marie de Medici became regent for Henrietta Maria's nine year old brother, Louis XIII. As a child, Henrietta Maria saw her older sisters married off to other royal families, in order to strengthen alliances. Her oldest sister, Elisabeth of Valois, married Philip IV of Spain, and her sister Christine of France, married the Prince of Savoy. When Henrietta was only 12, her own future was being decided via negotiations between the English and French courts. When she was 15, they agreed that Henrietta Maria would go to England to marry Charles, the oldest son of King James I. Just days after the treaty was finalized, James I died, on March 27, 1625, and Charles ascended to the throne as Charles I. Charles and Henrietta Maria were married via proxy on May 11, in Paris. It wasn't until June 23, when Henrietta Maria arrived in England, that the two were physically together. The coronation ceremony for Charles took place the next February, but as a devout Catholic, Henrietta Maria could not participate in the Protestant service. She watched from a distance as her husband was crowned. She was never crowned herself. Despite their differences, and the arranged nature of their marriage, Henrietta Maria and Charles fell in love and grew closer to each other. Henrietta Maria gave birth to nine children. The first was a stillborn boy. The next child was the son who would become King Charles II, followed by Mary, who married the Prince of Orange, James, who would later become King James II, Elizabeth, Anne, Catherine, Henry, and finally Henrietta, who was also called "Minette," and who would later marry Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, the younger brother of the Sun King Louis XIV. Henrietta Maria loved to put on plays and masks at the Royal Court, elaborate entertainment of the sort she was used to at the French court. However, these entertainments were not as welcome among the Puritan subjects of England who found the Catholic Henrietta Maria shocking. From the beginning of their marriage, Henrietta Maria's Catholicism caused problems in Protestant England.
Their marriage treaty had included, at the request of the French, certain guarantees that Henrietta Maria could continue to worship as a Catholic, that she could have a Catholic chapel open to worshipers wherever she resided, and freedom for any English Catholics who had been imprisoned for their religion. Although Charles told Parliament that he'd signed only for the pope's approval of the marriage, and that he had no intention of following through on most of the agreement, religion wasn't Charles's only problem. He had a rocky relationship with Parliament from the start, which was exacerbated when Charles dissolved Parliament to save his favorite, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, whom Parliament had begun to impeach in 1627. Charles called Parliament again in 1628, in order to raise funds, and Parliament required him to sign the Petition of Right, a document that set out individual protections against the state, including saying that the military couldn't be put up in a private home without the owner's consent, and that only an act of Parliament could compel an individual to pay taxes. Charles, like his father, James I, believed he had been chosen by God, and that he had a divine right to rule. For the next decade, he refused to call Parliament again, reigning by personal rule, or by tyranny, as his detractors said. In order to quell a rebellion in Scotland, Charles eventually had to recall Parliament in 1640. But he dissolved it again after only a few weeks, when they refused to fund the invasion. He invaded Scotland anyway, and suffered a defeat. Desperately needing funds, he reluctantly called Parliament again, in November, 1640. This Parliament was hostile to Charles, and they began to pass laws limiting the king's powers, leading to a series of wars, collectively called the English Civil War, although they also included Ireland and Scotland, which were united under a single king. The wars lasted nearly a decade. I'll discuss Henrietta Maria's actions during the English Civil War with our guest today.
On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was beheaded by decree of Parliament. An impoverished Henrietta Maria moved to France, where she took solace in her Catholic faith. In 1651, she founded a convent in Chaillot, where she lived for much of the decade. Royalist forces were finally defeated in 1651, and for a brief period of time, power in England, was held by the republican government. However, in 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector, essentially a dictator, until his death in 1658. Cromwell's son, Richard took over after his death, but his rule was brief. In May, 1660, Henrietta Maria's oldest son, Charles II, returned with the consent of Parliament, and he was crowned on April 23, 1661. Henrietta Maria returned to England in October, 1660, along with her youngest daughter, Minette, whose wedding to Minette's first cousin, Philippe I, Henrietta would soon arrange. After Minette's wedding in France in 1662, Henrietta Maria returned to England, where she intended to stay; but in 1665, in the hopes of restoring her health, which suffered in the damp British weather, Henrietta Maria moved back to France, where she lived out her years. In 1669, upon the advice of Louis XIV's doctor, Henrietta Maria took an excessive quantity of opiates and died at age 59. She was buried at the Basilica of St. Denis, although her heart was buried in Chaillot, at the convent she founded. Joining me to help us understand more about Henrietta Maria is historian and writer Lianda DeLisle, author of the new book, "Henrietta Maria: The Warrior Queen Who Divided a Nation," which will be released in the United States on September 6, 2022. Hello, Lianda, thanks so much for joining me today.
Lianda de Lisle 9:44
Thank you for inviting me.
Kelly Therese Pollock 9:46
Yes. So this is an exciting departure for me. I usually do American history, but I'm doing a brief detour, a four episode detour into British history that I am quite excited about. So I'm really excited to hear about Henrietta Maria.
Lianda de Lisle 10:01
Well, she's, she is a fascinating character and in fact, Maryland in the United States is is named is named after her so she does have an American connection. But yeah and she's I think she's a figure that women from whatever part of the world they come from can can can relate to the sort of struggles in her life and which were, which were many and quite fascinating.
Kelly Therese Pollock 10:25
Yeah. So you had written several books about the Tudor period in England and and then you wrote about Charles I. So what then led you to write this book about Henrietta Maria?
Lianda de Lisle 10:38
Well, when I talked about Charles I, who was Henrietta Maria's husband, Charles I was the king of England who lost his head, had his head chopped off. There was a civil war, and it ended with his execution. Anyway, so I was, I was writing this book and I just became increasingly fascinated by his by his wife, and how very different the real Henrietta Maria was from the kind of black legend that has sort of grown up around her name and actually began in her in her lifetime. And I felt actually, you know, this story really deserves to be told as well, from her perspective, which is, which is very different from the sort of perspective we're used to seeing, and from the male perspective. It's very much a female perspective.
Kelly Therese Pollock 11:25
So let's talk some about those perceptions of her that started as you said, in her own lifetime, and have continued this this sort of thing that everybody thinks they know about her. So for people who maybe aren't as familiar with that, what what is this sort of this legend, this perception of her?
Lianda de Lisle 11:46
Well, as she's perceived, I suppose you could say it's like a cross between a witch, the witch Eve, you know Eve who seduced seduced Adam in the Garden of Eden, and also a Marie Antoinette figure. She was supposed to have persuaded Charles I to become Catholic, although Britain, his various British kingdoms were Protestant, particularly Scotland and England, and so paved the way to civil war. And despite having somehow managed to seduce this Protestant king into becoming Catholic, she was also supposed to be you know, really quite stupid, and frivolous and spend her time sort of dressed in frocks. And aren't the sort of tropes used against her, used against all sorts of powerful women? So it's, it's interesting, so she's supposed to in the original story of, of Eve, or you have Eve, who obviously has some kind of innate weakness that allows her to be seduced by Satan in the Garden of Eden. And Eve then goes on to seduce Adam, also into betraying God. And of course, to do this, she must appear attractive, but she isn't because she is a satanic force. And so she's actually ugly. If you think about witches and the way we've seen witches in Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs for example, the Wicked Witch, you know, she's, she looks beautiful, but behind the beauty is the horrible hag. And you see the depictions of Henrietta Maria, she's supposed to be weak, and that's shown in her supposed frivolity and that also, she likes wearing dresses. This is her disguising her innate ugliness so that she looks attractive to seduce Charles into evil, ie: into sort of becoming a Catholic and paving the way to civil war. All of which is sort of, you know, actual, actual nonsense, but it's surprising how, how quick we are to accept these sorts of cliches and tropes. And I think there's another thing as well is that there's a sort of belief that the Reformation and Protestantism on some level, paved the way to our liberal democracy. There is a great sort of myth that that's part and parcel of it. And so it's also natural for us to believe that Henrietta Maria, who was a French Catholic princess, could, must somehow be responsible for Charles' authoritarianism. And so I really sort of confront these myths to reveal one who was this actually very remarkable woman.
Kelly Therese Pollock 14:21
Yeah, and, and very, very much a real person. I mean, I think that's the thing we sort of lose as we're looking at the past thinking about these, especially well-known figures.
Lianda de Lisle 14:31
No, that's so true. She's, absolutely at every stage, she's that, yes, exactly. She's a woman that we might recognize. When she marries Charles, she's 15 years old. She's a child, really. She's a girl. And she's arriving in this Protestant kingdom to an adult male monarch who believes in the divine right of kings. So the idea of her being able to seduce anyone into anything is a bit absurd, frankly. But she's a really stroppy teenager. I mean, Charles behaves quite badly, and doesn't fulfill the promises that were made to her before she married him and were made to her family. I mean, I rather love how she is a kind of stroppy teenager. There's one wonderful stretch when they have a flaming row in bed when she asks him to do something, and he says, "No," he won't, for perfectly good reasons. And she completely loses her temper and she sort of says, you know, "I'm miserable. It's horrible. Everything's, it's all your fault. And you've done this to me," and you could just hear the voices of the teenagers through the ages actually. Then she writes to her family this terribly melodramatic letter saying, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die of misery," and how awful anyway, so. And she plays awful tricks. So one point, I mean, for not for perfectly good reasons, I said, Charles is supposed to have allowed as a part of the agreement for the marriage is supposed to stop persecuting Catholics actively in England, and to have, you know, not sort of fining them for not going to Protestant services. But anyway, he breaks his promise. And she's very cross about this, but there's not a lot she can do. But when there's a Protestant service is held in her house, she has her revenge by walking into the service with her sorts of mates, and stomping up and down and laughing and joking and flapping her fan or whatever. And then later when the poor vicar is sitting in the garden, minding his own business, you know, sitting on a bench by a hedge trying to sort of have a quiet moment, she and her sort of friends go and fire pistols behind the hedge to make him jump, and it's just very kind of human.
Yeah, yeah. I think one of the things I thought a lot about in reading this book is, is agency. And so her agency as a woman, in her time period, her agency, as a mother, you know, and then all these things she's believed to have done, that she could somehow influence Charles in ways that actually she she couldn't and didn't. But I wonder, you know, as, as you've thought a lot about this time period, and about the people, you know, sort of the, the ways that that she isn't, isn't able to sort of be her own person, express her own agency, in this world that she's in, in this family that she's in just sort of what what she maybe isn't, isn't able to control in her own life.
She's certainly a doer, I mean, you know, from the beginning. So she, when she arrives in England, she has been given a sort of mission, which she does try and fulfill and the sort of three parts essentially that mission, one is to sort of love her husband and to be loyal to him and his and his kingdoms. The second thing is to try and act as a protector to her persecuted co religionists, and to set a good example that might encourage conversions, and also to try and maintain good relations with France. She also herself, which is not supposed to be a part of her mission, but what she also sees her marriage as very much in the tradition of her father's her father Henry IV of France's alliances with Protestant powers against the Catholic Hapsburgs. So from the beginning, she does try, she does try and set an set an example to other Catholics. So for example, when Charles is persecuting them quite harshly and and not allowing them, you know, and forcing them to go to Protestant services, she refuses to attend the coronation. So she does that, which causes ructions, but she does that. Relations with France, you know, she does her best to try and improve them. She certainly pursues a very strong anti Habsburg, a foreign policy agenda, which is quite separate from Charles. And in fact, interestingly, becomes the leader of a Puritan leaning faction at court, which is something people don't associate with her. They sort of think that she's been described as a kind of sort of Catholic fanatic, but actually far from being a fanatic. She has lots of Calvinist friends, and they because they share the same sort of foreign policy agenda. There are things she can't do, she can't she knows that she has that sort of fantasy of you know, converting our husband is unrealistic, that Charles is a very devoted, you know, he has is very strong believer in his particular brand of Protestantism. She knows perfectly well she was not able to change that. But she does try. And she does try not not too very successfully, to encourage him to lessen persecution of Catholics or even stop it she would like but was never happens in fact. She does manage to moderate it to some extent. But I think again, she changes again when , when, when things start going very badly wrong for Charles, she then does take a more active political role because she she realizes she comes to realize that her husband is not quite the man she thought he was, that he's failing and flailing, and he needs to be saved from from himself.
Kelly Therese Pollock 20:21
So I want to talk a little bit about sources. So this is just a huge amount of information. Her life is, as we've said, wonderfully complex. And there's a lot to put in here. So I want to talk a little bit about sort of how we know what we know about Henrietta Maria and and how you sort of took everything that you had to synthesize into this book, a little bit about sort of your methodology of writing.
Lianda de Lisle 20:51
Yes, my methodology. Well, I had a sort of head start, of course, because I had just done this biography of Charles. And I'd also, I was very lucky to be allowed into these private archives at Beaver Castle, which had closed archives, and had pretty much unique access to to them, and they had lots of several of her letters in there. But I would say my methodology is, I research and write, research and write, I write and rewrite and rewrite. I know some people do everything upfront, I think they do all the research, and then they write it. No, I'm not like that. I don't really know what's going to happen. I mean, I wait, you know, things unfold, I'll I'll I'll see something, read something, discover something, then I'll go down that rabbit hole, I will, I will be lying in bed or staring into space or whatever, and I will reflect on something or something will strike me. And I think that's off. That's off. So we've been told this endlessly. But that doesn't fit with, with what I actually read from the period. And so you start questioning that, is that right? And I've done this before, where you need to be able to stand back really and and see how, where things actually fit with what would what are the facts actually fit with what we've been told, and they don't always. And I suppose I said, and then and then the sources. So now you can access for example to because I was writing this book during what was endless lockdowns and you can get stuff emailed, for example, from the Louvre, which, which is absolutely amazing. And there was a fantastic character description, written anonymously, but about Henrietta Maria, you know, by a contemporary, that I very much enjoyed, for example, and one of the things that came out for me when I was researching and writing this book was it was, which I hadn't really considered before, was that she had a great sense of humor. She was obviously very, very funny, and was one of those sort of people who will crack jokes in even the worst circumstances and could have quite a sort of dark sense of humor. And one of the things I find is it makes her very sort of human and you can understand. She was quite naughty, like lots of people's sense of humor as sometimes it was against, she told jokes against herself, but also could tease others it has to be said.
Kelly Therese Pollock 23:14
So I thought it was so interesting. And I sort of knew this intellectually, but thinking about how interconnected all the kingdoms in Europe were. It's just kind I'm shocking, when you look at a family tree of Henrietta Maria, and it's first cousins marrying first cousins, and you know, her sister's, the queen over here, and her other sister the queen over there, her brother's that king over here, you know. It's like, how do we think about this, this role in their lives of having to sort of marry as you know, a way of forming alliances and stuff, but then maybe having to go to war against your own sibling, you know, what, what that must have been like?
Lianda de Lisle 23:53
I know, I know. I mean, it's, it's heartbreaking some of the time and I'm really glad you asked this question actually, because it is a very important part of my book, this society of princes and her relations with her family, her mother, and and particularly her sisters. She had two sisters, one of whom became queen of France, and who's her elder sister, and they were very close when Henrietta Maria was little and wrote sweet letters to each other. But when Henrietta Maria married Charles, all that ended, because as I said, she perceived her marriage, as, as in, in her father's tradition of of a Protestant alliance against the Hapsburgs and her sister was married to Philip IV, a Habsburg King. And then she's got another sister, Christine, the Duchess of Savoy, and both her sisters faced their own civil wars and faced a lot of the problems that she faced with favorites, for example. Her sister in Spain, the queen of Spain had terrible problems with her husband's favorite just as Henrietta Maria did with Charles' favorite when she arrived in England. These favorites of course, who felt threatened, male favorites who felt threatened by the potential rivalry for influence from from the queen. And and therefore tried to try to opt in to destroy their reputations by accusing them of adultery or or other things. So I found I found that interesting comparing their, comparing their lives and yes, as you say, how things could become quite brutal. Your your countries went to war and you had to side with with your with your husband. I hope that it wasn't too confusing, because this is it was it's a big canvas. It is a big canvas. And so I hope I've managed to have given enough life to her two sisters, that you felt that they were more than just, you know, names on a family tree. Because I think that's a really interesting part of her story, how these girls, these three little princesses, each married off as children, all of them as children, and how they coped with the various challenges that arose.
Kelly Therese Pollock 26:18
Yeah, it was fascinating. And then, of course, Henrietta Maria is doing the same thing with her own children, is trying to marry them into strategic marriages, which she's able to do with her oldest daughter, Mary. I mean, it's just it's so interesting to think then just, you know, she she sees this example of her own mother, Marie de Medici doing this and then says, okay, and then this is my role as well to do this with my children.
Lianda de Lisle 26:43
Absolutely, absolutely. And also, she was quite bossy, bossy, to her sons, which Marie de Medici was as well. I mean, she very much felt, you know, particularly when they were young and in their teens, that, that that they should they would benefit from her opinion, just as much as they would do from any male minister and occasionally give it to them with both barrels. Not that they weren't quite capable of charging back. I think one of the things that people have done with that in the past though is they've sort of assumed that it meant that she was an unloving mother, but not at all. Henrietta Maria and her children loved each other very much. And that's very obvious, in fact. You can argue with someone and love them, you can disagree with someone and love them, and come together in the end, which she which which she did. But yes, as you say, there was one, of course, James, her son James, the future James II, married to her intense disappointment, married the daughter of a sort of English gentleman, Anne Hyde. But rather touchingly, when James married Anne, she came over. She was getting wants to undo the marriage. And so just after the restoration, and then in the space of weeks, she lost, one of her sons died and, and, and also her eldest daughter, Mary, and after her eldest daughter's death, she ultimately just sort of decided there were more important things and and made up, which I thought was also very sort of human and very moving. And James, who was who was his brother's heir, after all, and should have married into a great royal house and married you know, little, Little Miss Nobody. And she was, understandably, because of the kind of family she came from, angry about this. But she just, she's just after Mary died, she just sort of obviously thought, "No, this is ridiculous," and became quite close to Anne Hyde.
Kelly Therese Pollock 28:33
Yeah, and, you know, as we're recording, I have just been away from my own children for a week. They're they're with their grandparents. And, you know, so I was, every time she was separated from her children, especially while they were still very young, you know, because she has to go into exile in France, or, you know, they're taken somewhere else. It was just kind of heartbreaking to think that she clearly had so much love for her children and yet had to spend so much time away from so many of them throughout their lives.
Lianda de Lisle 29:03
Yes, the time when they were so little. Yeah, that was so awful. Yes. I mean, her, the baby she had to abandon as a newborn baby at one point in 1644 in Exeter, which she obviously found horrendous. And and, and what was so awful as well is she was getting these breast abscesses. You know, obviously, because you know, when you're breast, well, she wasn't going to be breastfeeding, but when you have milk, obviously, you know, and so they had this kind of physical results and every day she would have known not only the mental anguish, but you could actually feel it in her body. I think it must have been so well, it was clearly I mean, you know, it was described very clearly as how dreadful it was. And she had two other little children who were, throughout the Civil War, who were captives of Parliament, and one of them she never saw her again, which is her daughter, Elizabeth. And it's heartbreaking, the letter she wrote after Elizabeth died, and died in Carisbrook Castle, where Charles I had been kept prisoner for a while, and with sort of rather unsympathetic, and unpleasant guards. Yeah, absolutely terrible.
Kelly Therese Pollock 30:09
Lianda de Lisle 30:10
I actually have a ring. I had a great grandmother, believe it or not, who collected Stuart relics and I actually have a ring that belonged to this girl, Elizabeth and has her hair in it because they dug her up in the 19th century. And anyway, it was a fashion then, rather awful. But that's an aside.
Kelly Therese Pollock 30:31
So I think the other thing then that I wanted to talk about is this idea of Henrietta Maria as generalisimo. And that she, she seemed to have actually really good instincts in battle, in strategy, in war. That, you know, I think is not the thing we think of typically with queens, you know. That's what you're thinking of with kings. And so I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that, and how she got to be sort of in this position that she got to exercise some of this?
Lianda de Lisle 31:01
Yes, I know, it is absolutely extraordinary. Well, as I said, poor old Charles, he needed some help. When she left, she left England in 1642, on the eve of the Civil War. And the parliamentarians gave her a passport to leave, really, because they wanted to get rid of her, because it was it she was actually too, she was too powerful an ally of Charles and wanted her out of the country. But actually, this proved to be a great mistake, because she went to Holland, where she sold many royal jewels and managed to, with some difficulty, because obviously obstacles were put in her way as much as possible. And also these jewels were worth millions the equivalent now millions and millions and millions of pounds. And because there was a political aspect to them, it was quite difficult flogging them but she managed to do so to buy arms and to pay for men. And she had to again then sneak these arms into England. And they basically saved Charles that year because he was expected to lose the first battle the civil war and he survived it. Following year she came back to England with more arms, more men, but essentially her own army and went to the north of England. Charles was in the south, south southwest at Oxford, where his capital was and she sat on the Council of War with the Earl of Newcastle, who was the sort of leading general and the North Royalists general and she helped persuade parliamentarian general, leading parliamentarian general and the three top parliamentarian generals in the north to turncoat and, and had several military successes. And Charles eventually insisted that she came to join him in Oxford, which she did, taking the town of Burton on Trent on the way in what was described as a bloody and desperate fight. Interestingly, when she took this town, the women took part in the fighting, you know, and you see this quite a lot in the Civil War, making the making bullets and and so forth. And, and then, of course, occasionally they would become victims of war as well because the the Victoria soldiers would take revenge, which is someone of the opposite wars is is obviously dreadful and dreadful things happen. But anyway, so she went to Oxford, and she was desperate for him to win the war that year, before the Scots. You had to remember England and Scotland were under the same crown but they were separate countries, separate kingdoms independent of each other. And she wanted Charles to win the war before the Scots joined because when when the Scots joined, she knew that the balance of numbers would be tipped against him. And London is rioting that summer. London Londoners want peace and she says to him, you know, you must use my all this extra power I've brought you now and take London. Now's the time to take London and win the war, and he ignores this advice and goes and besieges Gloucester, and it's a moment that she returns to people return to again again in the years ahead. It is even mentioned in her funeral oration as the sort of great turning point when Charles, you know, has made a massive mistake. So he misses the opportunity to take London and the Scots join the civil war on the Parliament side at this point, and, you know, you have the great Battle of Marston Moor in 1645, which was a massive defeat for Charles and really like a sore, terrible deflating balloon, you know, everything's going downhill. Henrietta Maria has gone back to France by then, to try desperately to keep the show on the road with still raising money, still raising men, still getting arms. But you know, she can't save them ultimately.
Kelly Therese Pollock 34:53
So if he had listened to her along the way, would he have won?
Lianda de Lisle 34:56
Well, I don't know. I think you can't know that. You can't know these what ifs, but he certainly didn't he didn't he didn't win by ignoring her advice, that's for sure. I think what is interesting is not so much about that, I don't know whether taking her advice would help is that what is interesting is how respected she is by both sides at the time. Of course, the parliamentarians hate her. Lots of people hate her. She's French Catholic, you know, and also she, it's very useful to blame her for stuff that it's useful to say, "Oh, look at Charles, he's being run by the pope," you know, but there is one of their marks of respect is that is the really quite serious attempts, they made to kill her. And they really do try quite hard to kill her, and said that they bother if, if if, you know, she was a sort of useless bit of fluff, who was just sort of leading him astray, then why, why try and kill her? And you know, on the contrary, you know, feed her chicken and chips twice a day to keep her alive and healthy. So that's one thing. And on the royalist side, as well, you have all sorts of different characters who go to see her when she arrives in England in 1643 in the middle of the Civil War, because they say that the king, the king is basically, he's he's, he's, he's not he's he's not firm in his positions in that he flip flops. And whereas she's much more reliable, and much more sensible, and they go and see her and even people she argues with like Prince Rupert, Rupert of The Rhine, who also opposed this retaking of London that she had suggested, grows to respect her. And when she leaves Oxford to return to France, you know, is extremely upset about it. So she was good at working with lots of different people. There's another thing, in a civil war, you had is you'd have people switching sides. And when old courtiers who had been friends and had betrayed them, in 1642, changed their minds, people like Henry Holland, Henry out of Holland. His brother, I may say, was one of the people who tried very hard to kill her. When he when he sort of defected to the royalist side, and she welcomed him with open arms and was prepared to, you know, to do a lot for him, because she realized that would encourage more defections, whereas Charles wouldn't. Charles was like, sort of, couldn't really swallow that pill as easily as she was prepared to do. She could. I find that quite interesting as well.
Kelly Therese Pollock 37:25
Yeah. So I want to encourage everyone to read this book. So can you tell everyone how they can get a copy?
Lianda de Lisle 37:30
All right, yes, you can buy it from I think any good books, any good bookstore, Barnes and Noble or wherever, online or in your local shop. You probably have to order as many if you're I don't know if some of remote in the middle of Idaho or something might they might not realize that you'd be interested in reading a book on Henrietta Maria. I don't know. Or there's, you know, Amazon to any of the any of those sorts of usual places where you might go to get a book. I mean, as I said, in some places, you probably have to order it in. I don't know, but it shouldn't be too difficult to get, I hope.
Kelly Therese Pollock 38:00
Yeah, I'll put links in the show notes so people can can find it that way.
Lianda de Lisle 38:05
Thank you so much.
Kelly Therese Pollock 38:06
Yeah. Is there anything else that you wanted to make sure we talked about?
Lianda de Lisle 38:09
Well, I was very pleased, as you said, as you were mentioning her sisters, I suppose. Yes. So there's also some quite fun things that I enjoyed writing about was her rivalry with Cardinal Richelieu. Now, I quite love the whole you know, Dumas Three Musketeers thing, which you definitely have some of that at the beginning but that of course is involves principally Buckingham that the Charles' favorite. But after he's assassinated, she becomes really Richelieu's leading enemy in support of her mother who detested Cardinal Richelieu and I think you have you know, you have all the spies the you know the and sometimes moments of farce as well as I think actually in intelligence you often get moments of farce. People think I think things intelligence works are very serious but I think inevitably has there's always a certain silliness that you can't escape from. People sort of say there's a wonderful scene or one point when the French, when Cardinal Richelieu's agents break into the house of a French spy living in England and, and just say there were caskets and letters under their cloak, and right there. I mean, I enjoy all that site. I enjoyed all the all that as well. And I hadn't realized actually, just how important her emnity with Cardinal Richelieu was, I mean, that Richelieu was was blamed being blamed for supporting the Scots when the Scots rebelled against Charles, and even for being involved in backing Parliament at the beginning of the Civil War, and I found all that actually quite fascinating and unexpected.
Kelly Therese Pollock 39:54
Yeah. Well, I loved learning about Henrietta Maria. I thought this was just a great book. I really enjoyed it. And it's been excellent talking to you as well, so thank you so much for joining me.
Lianda de Lisle 40:05
Thank you. Oh, can I ask you one question?
Kelly Therese Pollock 40:07
Lianda de Lisle 40:08
What was your favorite bit? What did you like best?
Kelly Therese Pollock 40:12
I really liked when, especially when she was younger, the the masks that she was in? Oh, yes. So especially before they before they said she couldn't talk in them anymore. So I think it's maybe the first one she's in England, when she has a speaking role. And I just love that that image of this this queen being on stage performing.
Lianda de Lisle 40:38
And actually, uh, you know, I think what was most interesting about all that is that even after she was stopped speaking, she encouraged plays that centered on female characters, and they became very fashionable. And this encouraged I think, women in England to feel they had a right to a political voice. And so when the civil war came, this fed into fed into the politics and you have very much of women on both sides, really feeling really being politically engaged as well as literally making bullets. And, and some of that I think came from a culture that she encouraged.
Kelly Therese Pollock 41:15
Yeah, yeah. I love that. All right. Well, thank you so much. This was wonderful.
Lianda de Lisle 41:22
Thank you very much. Bye, everybody.
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode @UnsungHistorypodcast.com. To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or are used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @Unsung__History, or on Facebook @UnsungHistorypodcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email Kelly@UnsungHistorypodcast.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review and tell your friends.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
I was born in Westminster, London and read History at Somerville College, Oxford University, before taking up national newspaper and magazine columns, and later publishing best selling Tudor and Stuart history.
After Elizabeth: The Death of Elizabeth & the Coming of King James, was runner up for the Saltire Society's First Book of the Year award. My next book, the New York Time best selling biography, The Sisters Who Would be Queen; The tragedy of Mary, Katherine & Lady Jane Grey, provided the non-fiction basis for Phillippa Gregory's 2017 novel The Last Tudor, and was described by Professor John Guy as 'gripping' and 'an unrivalled account'.
Tudor; The Family Story (1437-1603), is a biography of the dynasty and a Sunday Times top ten best-seller. My latest book, White King, is a biography of Charles I and his loss of three kingdoms. Based on my new manuscript discoveries, with many never before seen royal letters, it describes a brave king who, like the tragic heroes of Greek myth, falls not because of wickedness, but human flaws and misjudgments, and it reveals the true role of his remarkable and maligned queen.
I regularly write and speak on matters historical for TV, radio, and a number of publications including the Times, the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, the Daily Express, BBC History magazine, History Today, the Literary Review, the New Criterion and the Spectator.