She married Charles I before she met him
Henrietta ‘s wedding was a proxy ceremony in May 1625 in Paris, meaning that someone else stood in for the groom. When for the first time she set eyes on Charles I in June (in Dover Castle) there was no going back.
After spectacular early quarrels an exceptional chemistry developed between Henrietta Maria and Charles. One of the great royal marriages.
Both king and queen appeared on stage at Court. In 1632 Henrietta Maria was the heroine in a play, the Shepherd’s Paradise, that lasted seven hours! She had an extensive speaking part.
She suffered from depression
We know this from the observations of Gregorio Panzani, a papal envoy. Henrietta Maria was known for high spirits but could be melancholy. She sometimes had panic attacks. In 1644 her doctor told her she was mad (temporarily).
Revered her mother
When her mother, Marie de Médicis, arrived in England in 1638, Henrietta Maria greeted her in the courtyard of St James’s Palace by sinking to her knees twice. She was heavily pregnant at the time.
Worked for peace before civil war broke out
Henrietta Maria is usually criticised as a warmonger. In fact she tried hard to calm things in the early 1640s, meeting opposition politicians personally. It was only when she became a target of her husband’s enemies that she thought conflict inevitable. War was declared in August 1642.
Nearly killed three times
First by the winter storms which almost drowned her in early 1643 (two of her eleven ships went down). The queen was returning to England from Europe with money and arms for Charles I. On her second attempt she reached Bridlington where her lodgings were bombarded by a parliamentary vessel. She fled into a ditch to escape the cannonballs (but went back to rescue her dog). In 1644 returning to France, her ship was again intercepted, attacked and hit. The damage was slight. She survived although in a terrible state.
When she heard of the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 – the man who killed her husband and dispossessed her family – she might have shouted hurray. But we have a letter to a friend in which she calls him a ‘wretch’ but says she felt ‘no rejoicing’ on the news.
She outlived five of her children
Henrietta Maria had at least one miscarriage. Of the children who were born two died as infants/toddlers, one died as a teenager, and two died as adults in 1660, the year of political triumph (when Charles II returned to England as king).
She died of a drug overdose
Henrietta Maria died on 10 September 1669 shortly before her sixtieth birthday. Her death was caused by a dose of laudanum (an opium mix) administered by the doctor of her nephew Louis XIV. It was an error. He was trying to help her sleep. He overestimated her strength.