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A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria

Katie Whitaker

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Biography: historical, political & military, Biography: royalty, Prose: non-fiction

The passionate and complex marriage of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria, one of the great love stories of history

The marriage of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria forms one of the great love stories of history. It is a dramatic tale of extremes: of love and hate, happiness and despair. As eligible young royals, Charles and Henrietta were mere pawns in the great game of international diplomacy. They only met for the first time a month after their arranged marriage, and within hours they had quarrelled violently. Divided by their conflicting personalities and opposing circles of friends, they continued to quarrel for three years. But at the end of that time, despite the odds, they fell in love.

Yet, tragically, it was the very strength of the couple's attachment that brought their downfall. As Charles was drawn closer into his French wife's Catholic circle, British Protestants began to doubt their King's allegiance to his own country's church and political institutions. Parliament's suspicions of the Queen mounted, until Charles's love and fears for her safety finally drove him to take the step which precipitated armed conflict. Henrietta was declared a traitor by Parliament and forced to flee abroad, never to see her husband again. For five years the couple kept up a poignant correspondence, which reveals the tremendous strains that war and separation placed on their marriage. Always they hoped that peace would return, and they would be reunited. But in 1649, after more than two years' imprisonment, the King was condemned as a traitor and publicly executed, leaving his 'dear heart', Henrietta, to face years of impoverished exile alone. From the 'Queen of Love' she had become the 'Queen of Tears'. My Dear Heart shows the importance of this passionate and complex marriage in defining English cultural, social and artistic life and ultimately in causing and directing the British Civil Wars

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