Sunday, 5 May 2013

Charles II-The Lady Who Might Have Been His Queen

Henriette Catherine of Nassau

No, not Frances Stuart, who refused the king’s advances and ran off with the Duke of Richmond. This lady appeared much earlier, when Charles II was in exile during the 1650’s.

Henriette Catherine was the second to youngest daughter of Frederik Hendrik of Orange  and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. The House of Orange had already provided a bridegroom for Charles I’s eldest daughter, Mary, Princess Royal. One of Frederick and Amalia’s daughters, Louise Henrietta, had tentatively been suggested as a bride for Prince Charles, but she married the Elector of Brandenburg.

Around 1656, while staying in Bruges during his exile, Charles was attracted to the eighteen-year-old Henriette Catherine of Orange, who had already shown her strong spirit in refusing to comply with a betrothal her parents had made for her in infancy to a Friesian prince because of her ‘unconquerable aversion’ to him.

Henriette Catherine and Charles wrote to each other diligently with Charles using a code name ‘infanta’. He extolled the lady’s virtues and the contents of her letters to Lord Taaffe, and even ordered six pairs of gloves from Paris for ‘my best friend’. On Shrove Tuesday, Charles planned to eat pancakes and draw valentines with the women, while privately drinking ‘the infanta’s health. ‘For I cannot choose but say she is the worthiest to be lov’d of all the sex.’

When Cromwell died two years later, even the Dowager princess of Orange, Henriette Catherine’s mother and Mary of Orange’s mother-in-law, imagined that the penniless emigree courting her daughter would soon be reinstated as a powerful king. Charles himself was equally confident in his imminent return to England, and he issued a formal proposal for Henriette Catherine's hand.

His widowed sister, Mary of Orange disapproved of the match, as did the dowager Queen Henrietta Maria, who had embarked on a romance with Harry Jermyn, a liaison of which Charles fervently and openly disapproved. Despite the change of regime in England, there still appeared no sign that Charles was about to regain his throne.

Henriette Catherine’s mother, realised they had been too hasty, and Charles’ approaches were reconsidered. The following year, a new suitor was selected for Henriette Catherine, John George of Anhalt-Dessau and they were married in September 1659.

Charles was philosophical and told Lord Taaffe that his fondness for Henriette Catherine inspired in him a real wish for her true happiness and he would not interfere. Henriette Catherine married her prince and embarked on a happy thirty-four year marriage that produced ten children.
Frederick and Amalia of Nassau with their daughters
How different the history of England might have been had Charles married this Protestant, and fertile, Dutch Princess. 

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, Royalist Rebel, is published under the name Anita Seymour by Claymore Press.


Mrs Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

Fascinating! Thank you for sharing. Minerva x

Alison Stuart said...

An interesting snippet, Anita. I knew nothing about this relationship. History is so full of "What ifs..."...that's the fun of being a writer!

Marg said...

We hear a lot about his later ladies, but I hadn't heard of this one before! Fascinating stuff!