Henriette-Marie de Bourbon was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici and the sister of the future Louis XIII of France. Her father was killed before she was one; her mother was banished in 1617.
She was born at the Louvre Palace and brought up as a Roman Catholic. This made her an unpopular choice of wife for the English king, whom she married by proxy in May, 1625, shortly after his accession to the throne. They were married in person at St Augustine's Church, Canterbury, England, on June 13 of that year. However, her religion made it impossible for her to be crowned with her husband in an Anglican service. Initially their relationship was cold. Charles had intended to marry a daughter of Philip III of Spain, but a mission to Spain in 1623 had failed.
She was not close to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the king's favourite. Following the murder of Buckingham in August, 1628, her relationship with the king improved and they finally found deep bonds of love and affection. Her refusal to give up her Catholic faith alienated her from the people and certain powerful courtiers such as William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Charles, on the other hand, had definite leanings towards Catholicism, and, once he had reached maturity, did not share his father's sexual ambivalence. Henrietta Maria gave birth to ten children, six of whom survived into adulthood, and also had several miscarriages. Their surviving children were Charles (b. 1630), Mary, Princess Royal (later Princess of Orange) (b. 1631), James (b. 1633), Elizabeth (b. 1636), Henry, Duke of Gloucester (b. 1640), and Henrietta Anne Duchess of Or!eans (b. 1644).
Henrietta Maria increasingly took part in national affairs as the country moved towards open conflict through the 1630s. She allied with Puritan courtiers to deflect a diplomatic approach to Spain and sought a coup to pre-empt the Parliamentarians. As war approached she was active in seeking funds and support for her husband, but her concentration on Catholic sources like the Pope and the French angered many in England and hindered Charles' efforts.
In August 1642, when the conflict began, she was in Europe. She did not return to England until early 1643. She landed in Yorkshire and tried to rally support for the Royalists in northern England. The collapse of the king's position and his refusal to negotiate led her to flee to France with her sons in July 1644. Charles was executed in 1649, leaving her almost destitute.
She settled in Paris, appointing as her chancellor the eccentric Sir Kenelm Digby. She angered both Royalists in exile and her eldest son by attempting to convert her youngest son, Henry, to Catholicism . She returned to England following the Restoration in October 1660 and remained mostly in England until 1665 when she returned permanently to France. Her financial problems were resolved by a generous pension. She founded a covent at Chaillot, where she settled.
- A short profile of her alongside other influential women of her age:http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/womeninpower/Womeninpower1600.htm