Queen Henrietta Maria, the Queen Consort of Charles II and mother of Charles II and James II, is quite difficult to assess. One on hand she was - after a bumpy start - the beloved wife of the King and a loyal companion in all his troubles, on the other hand her being a Catholic and quite sticking to it did nothing to help to improve the situation. One can admire her determination to support the King while her - may one call it undiplomatic behavior - can only be critized.
Alison Plowdon has presented the reader with a great study of this Queen and she manage to stir the reader through the difficult times, separating her different roles and looking into the real influence she had on her husband. Quite astonishing results - her influence was not that great to shape the policies, but she provided the emotional suppot the King needed and help to implement the policies. She just being there and being a Catholic was the problem for many Protestants. It is quite difficult to blame her for being herself. It was the King's rather unfortunate choice of a wife. But she could have been more sensitiv , calming tensions instead of pouring oil into the fire.
Alison Plowden looks behind the rather flattering Van Dyck portraits and the vicious Roundhead propaganda. One gets a feeling for the real Henrietta Maria. There is more understanding for her, but I can not say that I liked her. But the book is a very good read and makes one re-assess this Queen Consort.
This study of the life of Henrietta Maria gives the reader a clear picture of the period leading up to and including the English Civil War. The book is very strong on the Queen's political influence (or lack of it), and many long-held misconceptions are exploded. the same clarity extends to the tensions and intrigues surrounding the various factions at Court. The Queen comes across well, and Ms. Plowden remains objective in her assessment of Henrietta's faults. I personally found this a very enjoyable read, although I was left with the impression that the biography could have easily been half as long again at least. I would have liked to learn more about the Queen's relationship with her husband and children, for example, and about daily life at Court before and during the war - how did female courtiers react to Henrietta? What was her relationship with her friends based on; what made them like her?