The restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 resulted in the return of the exiled King Charles II and the re-establishment of an extended royal family. Charles II had numerous family members whose place in the new political order was uncertain including his mother, Henrietta Maria, the queen dowager. Although Charles II enjoyed broad popular support at the time of his Restoration, some of the factions that emerged during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum were motivated to use Henrietta Maria’s reputation as a weapon to undermine her son’s political legitimacy. During the 1660s, Charles faced two modes of political attack based on his mother’s reputation, which coincided with Henrietta Maria’s two periods of residency in England. From 1660 to 1661, various English men and women outside court circles who opposed monarchical government challenged the very premise of “Restoration” by accusing Henrietta Maria of being unchaste. From 1662 to 1665, when Henrietta Maria presided over a splendid and well attended court at Somerset House, rumours spread in elite and diplomatic circles that she had recently married her private secretary, Henry Jermyn, first earl of St Albans. These rumours were an attempt to undermine both the perceived influence of both Henrietta Maria and the earl of St Albans over Charles, and to diminish the attraction of the queen dowager’s splendid court, which appeared to promote French and Roman Catholic interests. Although Charles II would make numerous conciliatory gestures towards his political opponents, his support for the status and privileges of all members of the royal family would remain steadfast throughout his reign. Charles’s later determination to preserve James’s place in the line of succession during the Exclusion Crisis demonstrated the same concern for hereditary legitimacy as his previous efforts to grant Henrietta Maria full honours as queen dowager.
“One of Palgrave Macmillan’s latest publications in the series ‘Queenship and Power’ is a four-volume collection called English Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), edited by Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J. L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre, all of whom possess impeccable credentials in queenship and royal studies. The collection features individual biographies of all English and British consorts since England fell to the Normans in 1066. This book, Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty, is the second volume of the collection…the generally excellent quality of its biographical chapters … [mean] this volume and the English Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty series are a most welcome addition to royal studies.” – Michele Seah, Parergon, Volume 40, Number 2
“In all, Tudor and Stuart Consorts is a handsomely produced study of the careers of fifteen consorts between 1485 and 1714 and deserves attention from scholars seeking fresh perspectives of these individuals based on solid research.” – Conor Byrne, Royal Studies Journal.
I will be delivering an evening lecture (7pm) at North York Central Library in Toronto on Friday October 13 about the history of royal weddings from Victoria and Albert to Harry and Meghan! All are welcome.
I will be teaching an eight week course on Tuesday afternoons in October-November 2023 at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies – Behind the Crown: The Monarchy from Victoria to Charles III. Click here for more information and to register.
ABOUT THIS COURSE
The personal lives of royalty are a popular subject for fiction in novels, films and TV series but the real history is more interesting. Each generation of royalty must respond to the challenges of their times to keep the monarchy relevant and engaged with public opinion. Join Carolyn Harris, historian, commentator and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting for a lively discussion of the history, politics and cultural significance of the monarchy in the UK and Canada.
Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence and Dynasty, edited by Aidan Norrie, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, Elena Woodacre and myself is now available in hardcover and e-book from Palgrave Macmillan. The book includes new research and perspectives on all the consorts to the Hanoverian, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Windsor monarchs in Britain and the Commonwealth, examining three hundred years of royal history. I wrote the introduction to the volume and introductions to the sections on Hanoverian and Windsor Consorts as well as the final chapter about Camilla, Catherine and the future of the role of the royal consort.
In a recent interview on the Royal Studies podcast, I discussed my experience co-editing Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence and Dynasty as well as the lives and legacies of royal consorts from the eighteenth century to the present.
I discussed the English Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty series with co-editors Elena Woodacre, Aidan Norrie, and Joanna Laynesmith on the Royal Studies Podcast including key themes in the history royal consorts, and the challenges of co-editing a book series that includes chapters on every English/British royal consort from 1066 to the present day!
My course about the history of Women in Power from the Classical World to the 21st Century will be offered in class at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on Tuesday afternoons in Fall 2022 from October 11 to November 29.
Powerful women have presented themselves as warrior queens, rulers by divine right, wives and mothers and, most recently, as elected officials. We’ll examine the most significant female political figures in history, including Boadicea, Queen Isabella, Queen Elizabeth I, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. Through lively lectures and discussions, you’ll learn the story of women in political life. Why are women still underrepresented in political life? Join Carolyn Harris for a fascinating look at the often-neglected place of women in power from Cleopatra to Angela Merkel.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
Survey changing attitudes toward women and political power throughout history.
Explore how female leaders have presented themselves to the public.
Understand how powerful women are portrayed in popular culture and the media.
Compare the experiences of female leaders around the world.
See how the history of women in power influences female political leadership today.