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Henrietta of England was an English princess who lived during the 17 th century. She belonged to the House of Stuart and after her marriage to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, became the Duchess of Orléans. Despite being an English princess, Henrietta spent the majority of her life in France and was a prominent figure in the court of her brother-in-law, the French king, Louis XIV.
Henrietta’s Early Life – Fleeing in Secret and the Beheading of Her Father
Henrietta was born on the 16 th of July 1644. She was the youngest daughter of Charles I of England and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. At the time of her birth, England was in turmoil, as the English Civil War had been raging since 1642. In 1646, the first part of the war was concluded when Charles I was imprisoned by the Parliamentarians. In June of the same year, Henrietta and her governess, Anne Villiers, Countess of Morton (known also as Lady Dalkeith), fled in secret to France.
The infant Henrietta was reunited with her mother, who had been seeking aid from the French for her husband’s war effort. The Royalists were ultimately defeated, and Charles I was executed in 1649. Henrietta and her mother remained in France and Henrietta Maria decided that her daughter should be raised as a Roman Catholic. At the French court, Henrietta was given the additional name of Anne, in honor of her aunt, Anne of Austria (who was also the wife of Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV).
Contemporary German print of Henrietta’s father Charles I's beheading. (National Portrait Gallery / Public Domain )
Politics Altered Who Henrietta Was to Marry
Henrietta’s mother had hoped that her daughter would marry Louis XIV. The French king’s mother, however, had different ideas and preferred a union between the royal families of France and Spain. As a result, Louis XIV married another of his cousins, Maria Theresa of Spain , in 1660, whereas Henrietta married the king’s younger brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, in the following year.
Philippe de France with his favorite daughter Marie Louise, Henrietta’s and his first child. (Salon de l'Œil-de-bœuf / Public Domain )
Sister of the New King of England
One of the reasons for Philippe’s interest in Henrietta was the fact that she was the sister of Charles II , who became the new King of England following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Additionally, an uncle left him with an inheritance, which he could collect only after his marriage. The Duke of Orléans likely feigned interest in Henrietta, as he was in fact homosexual (or bisexual) and had a number of affairs with different men. In any case, Philippe carried out his duties as a husband and had four children with Henrietta.
- The Black Masses of La Voisin: How a Fortune Teller Became a Murderess in the French Royal Court
- Bloody Mary: The Marriage, Reign, and Death of a Queen of England
- Hiding to Avoid Hanging: Priest Holes, Hidden Chambers, and Secret Passages
Charles II of England in Coronation robes. (royalcollection / Public Domain )
Was Henrietta Faithful to Her Marriage Vows?
Some members of the French court, however, were doubtful whether Philippe was indeed the father of Henrietta’s children, as the duchess herself was having affairs with various men. Henrietta is rumored to have had affairs with Guy Armand de Gramont, the Comte de Guiche, one of her husband’s lovers, and Louis XIV himself. Although Philippe probably did not love his wife, he was an extremely jealous man and was furious when he heard of the rumors. Moreover, the stories circulating about Henrietta’s affairs with both his brother and his lover would have been humiliating for Philippe.
What Part did Henriette Play in Diplomatic Relations Between France and England?
In 1670, Henrietta returned to England as part of a secret diplomatic mission to establish closer relations between France and England. As the beloved younger sister of Charles II, Henrietta played a key role in the negotiations, which resulted in the Treaty of Dover. The treaty was signed on the 1 st of June, and Henrietta returned to France on the 18 th of June. She died suddenly shortly after her return, on the 30 th of June, at the age of 26.
Painting of The 'Gouden Leeuw' at the Battle of Texel, the Third Anglo-Dutch War was a direct consequence of the Treaty of Dover, which Henrietta assisted in the negotiations. (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London / Public Domain )
What Really Caused Henrietta’s Early Tragic Death?
Three years before her death, Henrietta’s health was in decline, and was suffering from digestive problems and abdominal pains. The deterioration of her health was so severe that milk became her only source of nourishment. Historians today are of the opinion that Henrietta died of natural causes. Speculations about the exact cause of the princess’ death include a ruptured appendix, intestinal blockage, and anorexia nervosa, though no one is absolutely certain as to what killed Henrietta.
At the time of her death, it was widely believed that Henrietta had been poisoned and the prime suspects were her husband, Philippe and/or his lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine. The king himself suspected that Henrietta might have been poisoned and ordered an autopsy to be carried out. This was performed by French doctors and witnessed by English doctors. Although the doctors did not find any evidence of poisoning, they reported that the princess’ liver and intestines were badly corrupt, while foul-smelling bile filled her duodenum, gall bladder, and the lower portion of her abdomen, hence concluding that Henrietta had died of cholera morbus .
A posthumous painting of Princess Henrietta commissioned by her brother King Charles II. (Exeter Guildhall / Public Domain )
1. Her Family Was Infamous
Don’t let her sweet face fool you. Henrietta Maria had some of the baddest blood in European history. Her father was King Henry IV of France, but her mother was Marie de Medici, of the fearsome House of Medici. Young Henrietta grew up with an understanding of power and how to wield it…but as we’ll see, this came with grave consequences.
Heartbreak after Heartbreak: Eight Tragic Deaths in Less than Eight Years
As seen in my earlier posts, by 1900 Levi Goldsmith and his wife Henrietta Lebenbach had both passed away, but they were survived by eight children. Thank you to my cousin Julian Reinheimer for this photograph of the headstones of Levi and Henrietta:
Courtesy of Julian Reinheimer
(I note that Levi’s name is spelled Levy on both stones records are inconsistent about how he spelled his name, and since I’ve thus far used Levi, I have decided to stick with that spelling for consistency’s sake.)
All of Levi and Henrietta’s children except for their son George were married by 1900, and almost all of those who married had at least one child. Five grandchildren had died very young, but twelve were still living as of 1900. That would not be true in seven years.
The year 1900 saw the births of two more grandchildren. Felix Goldsmith and his wife Bertha Umstadter had their fourth child in Virginia in May 1900, a daughter named Minna. 1 And Blanche Goldsmith and her husband Max Greenbaum also had a baby in May of that year, a son named Levis Greenbaum, another grandchild named for Levi Goldsmith. 2 He was their third child, but their first two—Ethel and Leah—had died very young.
As of the taking of the 1900 census in June, Eva Goldsmith had separated from her husband Nathan Anathan. On the 1900 census, Eva is listed as a widow, living in Philadelphia with her two daughters, Helen (21) and Bessie (17) and eight boarders. Helen was working as a school teacher, and Bessie was still in school. I assumed that Nathan had died, but then I found him living in Chicago, working as a tobacconist and reporting that his marital status was single. I am quite sure that it is the same Nathan Anathan since he listed his birthplace as Philadelphia, he is the right age, his surname is quite unusual, and he was still in the tobacco business. Further searching revealed that Nathan died (under the name Nathan Nathan) in Chicago on April 9, 1907. 3
Eva Goldsmith Anathan and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Page: 2 Enumeration District: 0710 FHL microfilm: 1241470
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
Nathan Anathan, 1900 US census, Census Place: Chicago Ward 1, Cook, Illinois Page: 3 Enumeration District: 0020 FHL microfilm: 1240245
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
The 1900 census reported that Estella and her husband Solomon (listed as Samuel here) Rothschild were living in Philadelphia with their three sons, Jerome (16), Leonard (12), and Herbert (6), and two servants. The boys were all at school, and Solomon reported his occupation as “gentleman.” He is also listed without an occupation in the 1899 Philadelphia directory, though earlier directories list him as being in the millinery business. 4
Rothschild family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Page: 6 Enumeration District: 0711 FHL microfilm: 1241471
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
Levi and Henrietta’s oldest son, George Goldsmith, was living in Philadelphia as a lodger and working as a druggist in 1900. 5 His younger brother Felix was living with his wife Bertha in Norfolk, Virginia, with their four children Frances (Fannie here, 11), Lee (7), Hortense (2), and the newborn Minna, who was a month old at that time. Bertha reported that she had given birth to six children, four still living, but I have not yet been able to find the other two children, so there must have been two more grandchildren who died very young. Felix was in the clothing business. They also had a nurse and a cook living with them.
Felix Goldsmith, 1900 US census, Census Place: Norfolk Ward 1, Norfolk City, Virginia Page: 5 Enumeration District: 0086 FHL microfilm: 1241735
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
The third oldest son, Isadore, and his wife Mary were living as boarders in Philadelphia. They had no children. For his occupation, Isadore listed that he “lives on income.” 6 I wondered where that income came from. More on Isadore in my next post.
Isadore’s next youngest sibling was Helen Goldsmith, and she and her husband Harry Loeb were living in Dubois, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Armand (6) and Henriete (4) Harry was working as a lumberman. They had one servant living with them as well.
Harry Loeb and family, 1900 US census, Census Place: Dubois Ward 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania Page: 5 Enumeration District: 0071 FHL microfilm: 1241396
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
Blanche, the youngest daughter, was living with her husband Max Greenbaum and her newborn son Levis in Philadelphia, where Max was a dentist. They also had a servant living with them. Although Blanche had lost two children before 1900, she reported that she had only given birth to one child. 7
The youngest Goldsmith sibling, Sylvester, was living in Addison, Indiana, with his wife Ida and their two children Henrietta (4) and Louis (1), as well as Sylvester’s mother-in-law. Sylvester was working as a clothing salesman. 8
Unfortunately, during the next seven years the family suffered loss after loss of many of its members including far too many children as well as adults who died too young.
First, on October 30, 1900, just five months after the birth of his daughter Minna, Felix Goldsmith died. He was only 37 years old and left behind not only his infant daughter, but three other young children.
“Mr. Goldsmith’s Funeral,” Norfolk Virginia-Pilot, November 1, 1900, p. 2
According to his obituary in the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot of November 1, 1900 (p. 2), Felix died after being quite ill for two years. The paper described him as a “well-known and highly-esteemed citizen.” It also reported that after high school, Felix had taken “a medical course of study with the intention of being a physician.” Instead he became “an excellent businessman and was quite successful in his enterprises.” What a terrible loss this must have been for his family and his community.
1901 brought two new babies to the extended family in the same week. Harold Goldsmith was born on February 2, 1901, to Sylvester Goldsmith and his wife Ida in Indiana. 9 Then six days later Helen Goldsmith Loeb gave birth to her third child, a boy they named Leonard Loeb, presumably for Helen’s father Levi. 10
Whatever joy that may have brought to the extended family must have been dashed when little Levis Greenbaum, son of Blanche Goldsmith and Max Greenbaum, died in Philadelphia five months later on July 15, 1901. According to the death register, he died from toxemic collapse. With help from my brother and some people in Tracing the Tribe, I’ve determined that Levi most likely died from what today we would call septic shock from a bacterial infection. He was just over a year old when he died. And he was the third child of Blanche and Max to die before reaching age five. I can’t imagine how devastated they must have been.
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-65Y7-7PQ?cc=1320976&wc=9FRH-C68%3A1073327701 : 16 May 2014), 004047862 > image 394 of 687 Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
And then, just seven months after the death of little Levis, his cousin Leonard Levi Rothschild, son of Estella Goldsmith and Solomon Rothschild, died on February 2, 1902. He was only thirteen years old. Within the space of just seven months, two of the namesakes of Levi Goldsmith had died as children. Leonard died from gangrenous stomatitis or noma, which according to Wikipedia is “is a rapidly progressive, polymicrobial, often gangrenous infection of the mouth or genitals.” Today it is associated with malnutrition, poor hygiene, and unsafe drinking water. Given the family’s status on the 1900 census, it is hard to imagine that Leonard was malnourished or had poor hygiene.
Leonard Rothschild death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-63B7-4Z1?cc=1320976&wc=9F5C-L2S%3A1073221501 : 16 May 2014), 004009533 > image 376 of 1778 Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Sylvester Goldsmith and his wife Ida Simms experienced both a tragic loss and the birth of a new child in 1903. On February 15, 1903, their seven-year-old daughter Henrietta died from the measles. She was the eighth grandchild of Levi and Henrietta Goldsmith to die as a child. 11
And then eight months to the day later, Ida gave birth to a boy they named Blanchard. 12 Was Ida already pregnant when Henrietta died? That must have been a very bittersweet and frightening pregnancy.
Fortunately 1904 brought no deaths to the family (as well as no births), but the heartbreak began again on January 9, 1905, when Estella Goldsmith Rothschild died from mitral regurgitation and pulmonary edema at age 45.She left behind her husband Solomon and her two surviving sons, Jerome (21) and Herbert (11). Had the loss of her two other sons, Stanley and Leonard, affected her health? It certainly is possible.
Estella Goldsmith Rothschild death certificate, “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68KD-GL?cc=1320976&wc=9FRY-W38%3A1073113702 : 16 May 2014), 004008757 > image 316 of 534 Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Estella’s memory was honored a year later when her brother Sylvester’s wife Ida gave birth to another child on February 8, 1906 and named her Estella Rothschild Goldsmith.
Estella Rothschild Goldsmith birth certificate, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Box Number: 5 Certificate Number: 14402
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1910
April 1907 started out with good news when Blanche Goldsmith and Max Greenbaum had a new child, Helen Estelle Greenbaum, on April 7, 1907, also named in memory of Estella Goldsmith Rothschild.
Helen Estelle Greenbaum birth certificate, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Box Number: 100 Certificate Number: 104056
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1910
Two days later Nathan Anathan, Eva’s estranged husband, died in Chicago. 13 Then Mary Wheeler, Isadore Goldsmith’s wife, died on April 17, 1907, from a stroke she was 54. 14
Six months later on October 11, 1907, Isadore himself died from a cerebral hemorrhage to which acute alcoholism was found to be a contributing factor. He was only 43 years old from the death certificate it appears that he died after about a day in the Gibbons Sanitarium in Philadelphia. When I saw that, I decided to look further into Isadore’s life. More on that in my next post.
Isidore Goldsmith Death Certificate, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68DJ-WR?cc=1320976&wc=9FRT-N38%3A1073183102 : 16 May 2014), 004008905 > image 483 of 536 Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Looking back on what the extended family experienced between 1900 and 1907 is mind-boggling. Three of the children of Levi and Henrietta Goldsmith died before their 50 th birthdays. Felix was only 37, Estella was 45, and Isadore was 43. In addition, Isadore’s wife Mary and Eva’s estranged husband Nathan died in April 1907.
Even more tragic, three more of their grandchildren died: Levis Greenbaum was only a year old, Leonard Rothschild was thirteen, and Henrietta Goldsmith was seven. That meant that eight of the grandchildren of Levi and Henrietta died as children.
What would the next decade bring for the five children of Levi and Henrietta who remained and for the surviving grandchildren? More to come in a subsequent post.
The English Civil Wars
When the war Officially began in August 1642, Henrietta was in the Netherlands attempting to raise money to support the Royalists (or Cavaliers). The Civil Wars or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms had been brewing since her late father-in-law James was proclaimed King in 1603. The King of Scotland had become used to Scotland’s rather weak Parliament since assuming control of the Scottish Government in 1583. The new King of England and Ireland expected it would be the same in his new Kingdom. James was, frankly, affronted by the constraints the English Parliament placed on him in exchange for money. Money that James often overspent and took for granted. Something Parliament did not take lightly.
At the time, the Parliament of England did not have a large permanent role in the English system of government. Instead, it functioned as a temporary advisory committee and was summoned only if and when the monarch saw fit. Once summoned, a Parliament’s continued existence was at the king’s pleasure since it was subject to dissolution by him at any time.
Yet in spite of this limited role, Parliament had acquired over the centuries de facto powers of enough significance that monarchs could not simply ignore them indefinitely. For a monarch, Parliament’s most indispensable power was its ability to raise tax revenues far in excess of all other sources of revenue at the Crown’s disposal. By the 17th century, Parliament’s tax-raising powers had come to be derived from the fact that the Gentry [People of High Social Class] was the only Stratum of Society with the ability and authority to collect and remit the most meaningful forms of taxation then available at the local level. So if the king wanted to ensure smooth revenue collection, he needed Gentry co-operation. For all of the Crown’s legal authority, its resources were limited by any modern standard to an extent that if the Gentry refused to collect the king’s taxes on a national scale, the Crown lacked a practical means of compelling them.
Fortunately for James, his extravagant spending was tempered by his peaceful and kind disposition. It was enough to maintain peace. His son was not so lucky. The first nail in the coffin for Charles came when he married a Roman Catholic French Princess. An intolerance that would shift into hatred.
The second nail in the coffin for Charles came when he dissolved Parliament because they had opened Impeachment Proceedings on Charles’s favourite courtier, the Duke of Buckingham. Having dissolved Parliament and unable to raise money without it—the King assembled a new Parliament in 1628. The new Parliament drew up a Petition of Right, which Charles accepted. The Petition made reference to the Magna Carta, but did not grant him the right of Tonnage and Poundage, which Charles had been collecting without Parliamentary Authorization since 1625. Several more active members of the opposition were imprisoned, which caused outrage. One, John Eliot, died in prison and came to be seen as a martyr for the rights of Parliament.
Strike three and the final nail in the coffin for Charles came when he attempted to implement the same religious measures in Scotland, he had been instituting throughout England and Ireland. Charles believed in High Anglicanism and wanted one uniform Church throughout Britain . Scotland was still primarily Episcopal and violently resisted the idea. In 1637, a riot broke out in Edinburgh and although the English Civil War would not Officially be recorded as beginning until 1642—Some would say this was the tipping point of what was to come.
It is unclear of what or how much of a role Henrietta played in the events leading up to the outbreak of war in August 1642, but it is widely reported the Queen encouraged Charles to arrest his Parliamentary enemies in January 1642 . In February 1642, Henrietta left [fled] for the Hague on the Western Coast of the Netherlands. On the surface, it was a trip to accompany her 10-year-old daughter Princess Mary to meet her husband, William II, Prince of Orange. Truthfully, The Hague was a major center for Banking and Finance in the 17th Century, and the Queen planned to take full advantage.
It was not a successful venture. Henrietta was quite ill (likely due to stress) and many prospective buyers were deterred in case a future English Parliament attempted to reclaim them [Jewels] , arguing they had been illegally sold by Henrietta Maria . In January 1643, the Queen unsuccessfully attempted to return to England. Her ship was battered by storms and came close to sinking more than once. It was blessing in disguise though, as Henrietta was able to use the time to convince the Dutch to release a shipload of arms for the King, which had been held at the request of [the English] Parliament .
In February, the Queen was able to evade Parliamentary Forces and successfully return to England. Unfortunately, it was not without significant loss. Henrietta had been forced to leave Princess Mary behind in the Hague, despite her much too young age to be left with her new husband. Henrietta’s then two youngest children, Elizabeth and Henry, had been taken hostage by the English Parliament, and her two eldest sons, Charles and James were actively involved in the war alongside her husband. Eventually, both Princes would be forced to flee to France to avoid capture by Parliamentary Forces.
Henrietta travelled throughout England, avoiding Parliamentary Forces and meeting up with her husband as often as possible. She conceived her ninth and final child in the Fall of 1643. Unfortunately, by the beginning of 1644, the King’s Military had rapidly deteriorated and the Queen, heavily pregnant, was forced to flee to safety in Western England. They would not have known it, but it was the last time Charles and Henrietta would ever see each other. By the end of the year, the decision was made that Henrietta should leave her newborn daughter and make her way to France.
Charles was captured by Parliamentary Forces in 1648. King Charles I was executed by Parliamentary Decree on 30 January 1649. Henrietta was devastated and in shock. The situation was worsened as France was going through their own Civil War, Henrietta was no longer Queen, but Queen Mother, and Parliament was still holding Elizabeth and Henry hostage.
Whatever minor role Henrietta played in the English Civil War and/or in English Politics, ended with the execution of her husband. The new Charles II was staunchly Protestant and deeply resented his Catholic mother. Charles moved to the Hague in 1648, and would have little to do (besides quarrel) with his mother forevermore. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy, Henrietta would return to England several times, but would always return to her beloved France.
6. Her Grandmother Passed…Then Her Aunt
Not long after Anne arrived in France, her grandmother passed at just 59 years old. Relatives shipped Anne off to live with an aunt, the Duchess of Orleans, but then she croaked too just a year later! Maybe France was cursed? Regardless, her family brought her back to England next—but the tragedy was only beginning.
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Published in 1800, this novel is a spine-chilling gothic romance - combined with an impassioned indictment of the subjugation of women in eighteenth century Britain and the oppression of African slaves in the West Indies.
Henrietta, a beautiful young woman of fortune, is recalled by her father to Jamaica from England upon the death of the aunt who raised her. The man she loves follows her there, but not quickly enough to save her from a variety of terrifying threats - her tyrannical father who wants to marry her to a loathsome dependent of his the rebel blacks who are likely to kill her or rape her in the course of their uprisings and the spells and weird rituals of the Obeah practitioners.
To further enrich the novel, there's a story within the story. The melancholy hero tells a tragic tale of the misfortunes that lead him to become a hermit in the Jamaican mountains.
This really is a gothic shocker, despite the exotic location. Instead of an isolated castle, we have an isolated planter's mansion haunted by the ominous drumming of hostile blacks in the surrounding mountains. Instead of brooding Northern landscapes we have lush colonial landscapes inspiring the characters with feelings of rapture and aloneness. And there's lots of action involving privateers, duels, sudden deaths, violent storms, shootouts and stabbings.
In the excellent introduction, the editor points out the many elements in the plot that are drawn directly from Charlotte Smith's life. She was "sold" into marriage before she was sixteen by a selfish father - the same fate Henrietta faces. Smith's marriage was a disaster, and this novel is rich in disastrous marriages. The editor discusses Smith's ideas about female education and her radical politics, as expressed by her plot and characters. Contemporary readers would have seen a parallel between the violent slave rebellions and the French revolution.
I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend the Valancourt edition. This was one of the last works of fiction Smith wrote before her death in 1806. I can picture her writing it with her fingers crippled by rheumatism after years of writing to support her children. She was a remarkable woman for any era, but especially for her time.
Until Queen Mary’s time, assisting births was strictly the domain of the midwives. As medical historian Dr James Drife writes, attempts had begun in the 16th century in France to improve and codify the knowledge of the midwives into texts, in order to spread the knowledge of better, safer birthing practices. That also meant the involvement of more trained doctors in delivery. These new male practitioners were often dubbed “man midwives.”
The field of what would later be termed obstetrics in England was dominated for generations by the Chamberlen family. In 1609 Anne’s grandmother, Henrietta Maria, was delivered by Peter Chamberlen, the son of a French Huguenot refugee (who was also a surgeon), making her one of the first royal babies in England to have been born in such a way. Peter, along with his younger brother (also named Peter) are credited with the invention of the obstetrical forceps, with the secret of the design closely guarded by the family over the next three generations.