Charles I (November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649) was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from March 27, 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603 (as James I), he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life.
Charles became heir apparent to the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1612 upon the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Charles and Buckingham, James’s favourite and a man who had great influence over the prince, travelled incognito to Spain in February 1623 to try to reach agreement on the long-pending Spanish match with Infanta Maria Anna of Spain the daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and Margaret of Austria, the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria Anna of Bavaria and thus the paternal granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. Her elder brother was the Archduke Ferdinand, who succeeded as Emperor Ferdinand II in 1619.
The trip to Spain was an embarrassing failure. The Infanta Maria Anna thought Charles little more than an infidel. The proposal fell through when Felipe IV of Spain demanded Charles convert to the Catholic Church and live in Spain for a year as pre-conditions for the marriage. As Felipe IV was aware, such terms were unacceptable, and when Charles returned to England in October, he and Buckingham demanded King James declare war on Spain.
The Spanish court also insisted on the repeal of the penal laws, which Charles knew Parliament would not agree to. A personal quarrel erupted between Buckingham and the Count of Olivares, the Spanish chief minister, and so Charles conducted the ultimately futile negotiations personally.
With the failure of the Spanish match, Charles and Buckingham turned their attention to France in searching elsewhere for a bride. Charles sent his close friend Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland, to Paris in 1624. A Francophile and godson of Henri IV of France, Holland strongly favoured a marriage with Henrietta Maria, the terms of which were negotiated by James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle.
Henrietta Maria de Bourbon was the youngest daughter of Henri IV of France (Henri III of Navarre) and his second wife, Marie de’ Medici, and was named after her parents.
Henrietta Maria was born at the Palais du Louvre on 25 November 25, 1609, and was brought up as a Roman Catholic.
As a daughter of the Bourbon king of France, she was a Fille de France and a member of the House of Bourbon. She was the youngest sister of the future Louis XIII of France. Her father was assassinated on May 14, 1610, when she was less than a year old. As a child, she was raised under the supervision of the royal governess Françoise de Montglat.
Henrietta Maria first met her future husband in 1623 at a court entertainment in Paris, when he was on his way to Spain with the Duke of Buckingham to discuss a possible marriage with Infanta Maria Anna of Spain.
Henrietta Maria was aged fifteen at the time of her marriage, which was not unusual for royal princesses of the period. Opinions on her appearance vary; her niece Sophia of Hanover commented that the “beautiful portraits of Van Dyck had given me such a fine idea of all the ladies of England that I was surprised to see that the queen, who I had seen as so beautiful and lean, was a woman well past her prime. Her arms were long and lean, her shoulders uneven, and some of her teeth were coming out of her mouth like tusks…. She did, however, have pretty eyes, nose, and a good complexion…”
A proxy marriage was held at Notre-Dame de Paris on 1 May 1625, where Duke Claude of Chevreuse stood as proxy for Charles, shortly after Charles succeeded as king, with the couple spending their first night together at St Augustine’s Abbey near Canterbury on June 13, 1625.
Charles delayed the opening of his first Parliament until after the marriage was consummated, to forestall any opposition.
Many members of the Commons opposed his marriage to a Roman Catholic, fearing that he would lift restrictions on Catholic recusants and undermine the official establishment of the reformed Church of England. Charles told Parliament that he would not relax religious restrictions, but promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with his brother-in-law Louis XIII of France.
Moreover, the treaty loaned to the French seven English naval ships that were used to suppress the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle in September 1625. Charles was crowned on February 2, 1626 at Westminster Abbey, but without his wife at his side.
Henrietta Maria’s Roman Catholicism made her unpopular in England, and also prohibited her from being crowned in a Church of England service; because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony, therefore, she never had a coronation.