By the mid-15th century, the royal marriage of King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria incited enough conflict to spark civil war, as the English struggled to reconcile between the long-established image of female English domesticity and a pervasive cultural expectation for equality between marriage partners. Any form of equality in the royal marriage called the absolute power of the king into question, as it would imply that his actions had included her direct involvement, and even at times were more representative of her, not his, views. Letters captured at the Battle of Naseby confirmed fears that the queen had too much influence, as the intercepted correspondence revealed not just the queen’s obdurate Catholic zeal and intimate, persuasive position as advisor to the king, but her determination to fulfill her Papal promise to do everything in her power to help the Catholics in England. Royalists responded to the scandal with domesticity: emphasizing the submissive, domestic role of the queen. This would not be enough to combat the stiffening waves of Parliamentarian opposition—as the king’s death attests—but it did create a space for intellectuals of the time to engage in this fraught political moment. Royalist women, such as Hestler Pulter and Margaret Cavendish, included many nuanced and varied representations of Henrietta Maria in their works, perhaps even in response to the letter allegations, or at the very least, the political unease of their time. Though their contributions are often less recognized by historians and scholars, these women also advanced the politicization of the domestic (and especially that of Henrietta Maria) in nuanced and varied ways. Both represent the French Catholic queen Henrietta Maria as a quintessential English woman—living a life that was just as domestic as it was royal.
Issue and Volume
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
"Henrietta Maria: Royalist Women’s Representations of the French Catholic Queen,"
Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism: Vol. 16:
1, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/criterion/vol16/iss1/9