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Secret History Of Charles The First, And His Queen Henrietta
by [?]

The secret history of Charles the First, and his queen Henrietta of France, opens a different scene from the one exhibited in the passionate drama of our history.

The king is accused of the most spiritless uxoriousness; and the chaste fondness of a husband is placed among his political errors. Even Hume conceives that his queen “precipitated him into hasty and imprudent counsels,” and Bishop Kennet had alluded to “the influence of a stately queen over an affectionate husband.” The uxoriousness of Charles is re-echoed by all the writers of a certain party. This is an odium which the king’s enemies first threw out to make him contemptible; while his apologists imagined that, in perpetuating this accusation, they had discovered, in a weakness which has at least something amiable, some palliation for his own political misconduct. The factious, too, by this aspersion, promoted the alarm they spread in the nation, of the king’s inclination to popery; yet, on the contrary, Charles was then making a determined stand, and at length triumphed over a Catholic faction, which was ruling his queen; and this at the risk and menace of a war with France. Yet this firmness too has been denied him, even by his apologist Hume: that historian, on his preconceived system, imagined that every action of Charles originated in the Duke of Buckingham, and that the duke pursued his personal quarrel with Richelieu, and taking advantage of these domestic quarrels, had persuaded Charles to dismiss the French attendants of the queen.[201]

There are, fortunately, two letters from Charles the First to Buckingham, preserved in the State-papers of Lord Hardwicke, which set this point at rest: these decisively prove that the whole matter originated with the king himself, and that Buckingham had tried every effort to persuade him to the contrary; for the king complains that he had been too long overcome by his persuasions, but that he was now “resolved it must be done, and that shortly!”[202]

It is remarkable, that the character of a queen, who is imagined to have performed so active a part in our history, scarcely ever appears in it; when abroad, and when she returned to England, in the midst of a winter storm, bringing all the aid she could to her unfortunate consort, those who witnessed this appearance of energy imagined that her character was equally powerful in the cabinet. Yet Henrietta, after all, was nothing more than a volatile woman; one who had never studied, never reflected, and whom nature had formed to be charming and haughty, but whose vivacity could not retain even a state-secret for an hour, and whose talents were quite opposite to those of deep political intrigue.

Henrietta viewed even the characters of great men with all the sensations of a woman. Describing the Earl of Strafford to a confidential friend, and having observed that he was a great man, she dwelt with far more interest on his person: “Though not handsome,” said she, “he was agreeable enough, and he had the finest hands of any man in the world.” Landing at Burlington-bay in Yorkshire, she lodged on the quay; the parliament’s admiral barbarously pointed his cannon at the house; and several shots reaching it, her favourite, Jermyn, requested her to fly: she safely reached a cavern in the fields, but, recollecting that she had left a lap-dog asleep in its bed, she flew back, and amidst the cannon-shot returned with this other favourite. The queen related this incident of the lap-dog to her friend Madame Motteville; these ladies considered it as a complete woman’s victory. It is in these memoirs we find, that when Charles went down to the house, to seize on the five leading members of the opposition, the queen could not restrain her lively temper, and impatiently babbled the plot; so that one of the ladies in attendance despatched a hasty note to the parties, who, as the king entered the house, had just time to leave it. Some have dated the ruin of his cause to the failure of that impolitic step, which alarmed every one zealous for that spirit of political freedom which had now grown up in the Commons. Incidents like these mark the feminine dispositions of Henrietta. But when at sea, in danger of being taken by a parliamentarian, the queen commanded the captain not to strike, but to prepare at the extremity to blow up the ship, resisting the shrieks of her females and domestics. We perceive how, on every trying occasion, Henrietta never forgot that she was the daughter of Henry the Fourth; that glorious affinity was inherited by her with all the sexual pride; and hence, at times, that energy in her actions which was so far above her intellectual capacity.