WCW: Queen Henrietta Maria


I’m still working my way through British queens we haven’t yet covered, and now we come to Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-69), who often shows up in English Civil War productions or in films about her son. She was the daughter of the French king, and married Charles I of England in 1625. She was vilified for being Roman Catholic, and per Wikipedia, “has been criticised as being an ‘intrinsically apolitical, undereducated and frivolous’ figure during the 1630s; others have suggested that she exercised a degree of personal power through a combination of her piety, her femininity, and her sponsorship of the arts.”

Portrait of Henrietta Maria de Bourbon, Queen of England (1609-1669) by Anthony van Dyck, c. 1636-38, San Diego Museum of Art

Portrait of Henrietta Maria de Bourbon, Queen of England (1609-1669) by Anthony van Dyck, c. 1636-38, San Diego Museum of Art

When the Civil War broke out, she had to seek refuge in France, staying there more permanently after the execution of her husband. She returned to England when her son, Charles II, ascended the throne, but returned to Paris for the last four years of her life.

Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria in mourning by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (1593–1661), 1650s via Bonham's

Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria in mourning by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (1593–1661), 1650s via Bonham’s

Let’s take a look at Henrietta Maria on screen! Sadly I had to yet again scrape the bottom of the barrel to find many of these.


The Further Adventures of the Musketeers (1967)

A British TV show set 20 years after the usual Three Musketeers.

1967 The Further Adventures of the Musketeers

Anna Barry plays Henrietta Maria.


Cromwell (1970)

A British historical drama film focused on, you guessed in Cromwell. Dorothy Tutin (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) played Henrietta Maria.

1970 Cromwell

I’m guessing the veil is to say “she’s Catholic”?

1970 Cromwell

Nicely done, from the hair to the whisk ruff to the big poufy sleeves!

1970 Cromwell

Lovely use of satin, which this era is allll about.

1970 Cromwell

Not too sure about the pearls tho…


Churchill’s People (1975)

A BBC series, based on Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, featuring various historical dramas.

1975 Churchill's People

That’s Jean Sadgrove cavorting as Henrietta Maria. I guess this is a masque?


By the Sword Divided (1983-85)

A British TV series about the impact of the Civil War on a fictional family that included both Royalists and Parliamentarians. Henrietta Maria seems to be small part and is played by Marsha Fitzalan (Pride and Prejudice).

By the Sword Divided (1983-85)

So small I can’t find any pics, so here’s some of the other female characters.


Keeping Up Appearances (1995)

A modern British sitcom, but too funny not to include. In one episode, Hyacinth organizes a pageant based on the English Civil War, with herself as Queen Henrietta Maria and Richard as Charles I.

1995 Keeping Up Appearances


The Devil’s Whore (2008)

One of the better English Civil War miniseries out there, but Henrietta Maria (Melodie Abad) is barely in this.

2008 The Devil's Whore

Peter Capaldi IS Charles I in my mind! He’s got the look, for sure.


National Civil War Centre Film Series (2015)

A series of short films created for then-new National Civil War Centre. Elizabeth Berrington (The Nevers, Sanditon, Vanity Fair) played Henrietta Maria.

2015 National Civil War Centre Film Series

This is lovely, but it’s the British government and they tend to do history right.

2015 National Civil War Centre Film Series

I found this pic somewhere, where it indicated that this was HM, but that’s not Berrington, so IDK. Nice satin tho!


The Musketeers (2016)

The weird Three Musketeers reboot. HM shows up in one episode, wearing a godawful dress, and is played by Olivia Poulet.

2016 The Musketeers

On the left. Hard to miss | (C) BBC – Photographer: Dusan Martincek

2016 The Musketeers

This is one of the ugliest dresses I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something.


Horrible Histories (2009-22)

Henrietta Maria seems to have shown up in several episodes of this slapstick historical comedy. She was played by Alice Lowe.

Horrible Histories

The queen is concerned!

Horrible Histories

The queen is happy!

Why hasn’t there been a better depiction of Henrietta Maria on screen?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

18 Responses

  1. ED

    On a less croaking note, I suspect that this particular Queen Consort seldom shows up because she was (A) wife to a king, rather than a ruler herself


    (B) Acutely respectable (she and King Charles appear to have been GASP mutually loving and faithful), not to mention much-slandered, so there’s not much of the Good Stuff to draw our eye away from the court of His Britannic Majesty King Charles II being the CARRY ON sex comedy that really should have been.

    I mean come on, they had Mr Bernard Breslaw RIGHT THERE being absurdly tall and rather charming (not to mention the obvious ‘Swinging Sixties Mk. 1’ gag with him).

    For pity’s sake, His Late Majesty’s reaction to finding his maitresse en titre in bed with a very junior officer was (more or less) “Don’t worry, I know you only love her for her money” – how much more CARRY ON can you get?

  2. EA Gorman

    Henrietta Maria was also the namesake for the state of Maryland, my home state. :) I actually kind of like that “hideous dress” Olivia Poulet wears but then again I wouldn’t wear it for historical re-enactment purposes. Fantasy Lwaxana Troi outfit, though, it’s perfect!

  3. Roxana

    Not a big fan of Charles I, a typically idiotic Stuart, but am rather sorry for all Marie Henriette went through. Charles was a lousy king but an excellent husband and she loved the fool.

  4. peacoclaur

    I suspect that we don’t see Henrietta Maria more often on screen because this whole time period (the civil war and the seventeenth century in general) is a hard sell to the general public on account of the god bothering and the complicated (and from a 21st century standpoint, unsympathetic) politics – and unlike the Tudors, the Stuarts were failures as a dynasty, so there’s that too. She also kept her head which means there’s no dramatic climax for film or TV – also a problem.

    That said, according to Leanda de Lisle’s twitter, who has just released a new bio of HM, her book was picked up for film rights so we might be getting a HM movie or series in the future – fingers crossed….

    • Aleko

      Which general public are you referring to? Here in the UK, English Civil War re-enactment is HUGE; there are two major national societies, the Sealed Knot and the English Civil War Society (ECWS, pronounced like ‘equus’), and they both have thousands of active members.

    • ED

      I disagree that the House of Stuart were failures as a dynasty – they very successfully united the British Isles, after all.

      United the British Isles against THEM, admittedly, but nobody’s perfect.

  5. hsc

    That shot from CHURCHILL’S PEOPLE– aren’t they cavorting in front of Frank N. Furter’s throne from the “Sweet Transvestite” number in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW?

  6. Jamie

    I LOVED “By the Sword Divided” and wish I could find a copy somewhere. I remember watching it when it came out. oddly enough it’s not on the PBS/masterpiece streaming site or britbox.

  7. Lily Lotus Rose

    OMG!! The dress from The Musketeers (which I LOVED–I can’t defend my love for that crazy-ass show–but I did LOVE it)–that dress looks like a Mardi Gras costume!!!

    • Lily Lotus Rose

      And also, for me, Peter Capaldi IS Charles, based on his performance in The Devil’s Whore.


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