Why did Queen Henrietta-Maria hate Buckingham?

FBI shines a light on………..

Queen Henrietta-Maria (1609-69)
Princess Henrietta-Maria c1615 by Frans Pourbus the Younger

Her father, Henri IV wanted all his children, including several who were illegitimate, to be brought up together. They spent their early years with the family of the royal governess. Mme Monglat in a house given to her for the purpose in St Germain-en-Laye . Mme Monglat was from a noble family that had been close to the kings since C15th.

The idea for all the children being raised together was to create bonds and trust in their kin. All the children knew their ranking compared with the others. Louis the eldest boy had been at the top, followed by his legitimate brothers then his legitimate sisters, then the illegitimate boys and lastly the illegitimate girls.

Henri IV visited the children but their mother, Marie de Medici did not have much contact with them. To Henrietta Maria the governess was more like a mother.

When he was 7 years old Louis was taken by his father to court learn how to govern. Henrietta Maria was not yet born so Louis would probably have been closer to his older sisters. Never-the-less when their father was killed a year after Henrietta-Maria’s birth, Louis became the “petit papa” to his siblings.

The girls received little formal education. Henrietta-Maria was taught Latin, a little English but no history or politics at a Carmelite convent at the Faubourg St Jacques. She was very devout.  At the governess’ house the girls were taught art, music and dancing. Henrietta-Maria liked to sing and had a good voice.

Henrietta-Maria’s always knew she was a royal French Princess. Did she consider the Duke of Buckingham an upstart? Quite possibly.

George Villers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628).

The son of a knight, George came to London and was presented to Kings James I in 1611. Although James had fathered several children with his wife, Anne of Denmark they lived separate lives. He enjoyed the company of men and was openly affectionate toward them. George  Villiers, described as “the handsomest bodied man in all England” was an immediate hit.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham

In 1615 Villiers was knighted, made a gentleman of the bed-chamber and royal cup bearer which kept him close to the king. He was also given a pension of £1000 a year. He rose to viscount the following year. James gave him land and made him Chief Clerk on the Kings Bench with a generous salary. In 1617 he was made an earl and became a close advisor as a member of the Privy Council. In 1623 his title was raised to duke.

James’s wife died in 1619. His son Charles (1600-49) seems to have grown closer to James afterwards and naturally got to know Buckingham well. Their age difference was only 8 years. Villiers was confident and gorgeous looking whereas Charles had a stammer and was considered small even in his own time. Reports vary but Charles was 5ft 4ins at the most, probably due to a childhood illness. Villiers had a great deal of influence on Charles although their relationship does not have hints of homosexuality.

In 1623 James I sent his son, Charles, accompanied by the Duke of Buckingham to Spain to try to negotiate a marriage. They passed through France on the way to Spain and were entertained at the French court in Paris. Charles met the French royal family including Louis XIII’s youngest sister, Henrietta-Maria. After the failure of the Spanish alliance, one was made with France which was concluded with a marriage between Charles and Henrietta Maria.

The following year Buckingham was sent to France to escort Henrietta Maria to England. Her family accompanied her, Louis XIII as far as Compiegne. Their mother, Marie di Medici and Louis’ wife, Anne of Austria to Amiens and their brother Gaston went all the way to the coast at Boulogne with her. 

Queen Anne of Austria and the Duke of Buckingham

During the journey, Louis’ queen, Anne 0f Austria, seems to have fallen under the spell of the Duke of Buckingham – Mr I’m Confident and Gorgeous. At Amiens they were left alone in a garden and the duke made a pass at the queen. No-one knows for sure whether she accepted or not but rumour spread around the court. Louis XIII was furious.

Who knows what Henrietta-Maria made of her sister-in-law’s flirtation with the Duke of Buckingham but she would probably have sided with her brother.

The story of an affair between Queen of France and the duke of Buckingham was only whispered about until Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-80) wrote a book of memoirs of people of the court. He said that Anne gave the duke of Buckingham (he spelt it Bouquinquin) some diamond trimmed ferrets. These are the metal finials on laces used for fastening or as decorative trimming on clothes.

In the book, The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas embellishes the story and now Anne has given a diamonds on a brooch. She asks d’Artagnan to get them back so she can wear them as her husband requested or he will guess she has had an affair.

Anne of Austria by Frans Pourbus
Louis XIII (1601-43) and Anne of Austria (1601-66)

Anne was Spanish, not Austrian by birth but the Hapsburgs were the extended ruling family of both countries.

The marriage was the conclusion of an alliance between France and Spain that was made in 1615 by Marie de Medici as regent when her son was a child. Louis and Anne were only fourteen years old and had never met before the wedding.

Normally they would not be expected to live as man and wife until they were older but the treaty was controversial. Marie di Medici was anxious that it might be rescinded and the marriage annulled so she insisted they consummate their wedding that night. It was understandably a disaster. Both Louis and Anne felt humiliated. It was a terrible start to a marriage that was never going to be a happy one.

Louis XIII took full control of France in 1617 and his mother was packed off to live in the chateau of Blois where she could not interfere. His chief advisor was Cardinal Richelieu.

Henrietta-Maria and Charles I marriage contract

James I had first proposed an alliance. Louis’ reason for wanting one was for James to give Catholics in England freedom of worship. James agreed although it was not written into the marriage contract. Charles confirmed the agreement after his father’s death.

Louis hoped his sister might even be able to convert Charles to Catholicism. Marie de Medici gave her a long list of reminders about keeping her religion, one of which was to be like Berthe of Kent. She was a C6th Norman Catholic who married the Pagan ruler of Kent. He eventually converted because of how she lived her life. According to the contract Henrietta-Maria would be allowed to have only Catholic servants in her house.

Louis and Cardinal Richelieu also wanted Henrietta Marie to make sure her husband did not give aid to the Huguenots in France. To encourage James I and Charles to accept his conditions regarding the Catholics, Louis gave Henrietta-Maria a huge dowry. 

The Siege of La Rochelle
Louis XIII by Philippe de Champagne

The Duke of Buckingham upset Louis XIII again by pushing Charles toward helping French Protestants. Huguenots were legally law free to worship as they wished after Henri IV introduced the Edict of Nantes. Never-the-less there was friction between Catholics and Protestants in France.

 In 1626 English Protestant politicians including Buckingham felt threatened when Louis made a treaty with Spain as both countries were Catholic.

The Huguenots were concentrated in South West France. In 1627 advised by Buckingham, Charles I sent a fleet of 80 ships to La Rochelle. It was one of the biggest towns in France at the time and was mainly Protestant.

The fleet was led by the duke himself. The boats landed nearby at the Ile de Ré. They were going to encourage rebellion in La Rochelle. At first La Rochelle refused to allow his fleet in to harbour.  The citizens had no plans to join the English and fight their own king. Buckingham returned to Isle de Ré and met resistance there too.

Cardinal Richelieu personally took control. He was determined to put an end to Huguenot power. He besieged La Rochelle. His troops were on the landward side. France’s new allies, Spain had their fleet block access by sea although they did not take part in any battle.

1628 England sent two more fleets but both were forced to withdraw and a Rochelle surrendered to Richelieu. In August 1628 the duke was in Portsmouth trying to raise another fleet. By now he was deeply unpopular for the loss of life and money involved in the Siege of La Rochelle. It was one of many ill-advised ventures. Buckingham was stabbed by an army officer called John Felton. Felton was hanged but the public acclaimed him as a hero.

Author Gail Jones. All images are in the public domain