Date of this Version
On the surface, Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette had much in common. Each was the youngest daughter of a ruling woman (Marie de Medici was regent for Henrietta Maria’s brother, LouisXIII, and Maria Theresa was a ruling empress), a foreign-born princess who grew up to be queen, was childless in the first years of her marriage, and was consort during a time of revolutionary upheaval in her adopt- ed country. It is in the examination of those similarities that historian Carolyn Harris aptly demonstrates the subtle changes in political thought, the ideal role of women in the household or domestic sphere, and the role of queen consort over the century that separates these two queens. In this comparative study of Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, Harris examines not only circumstances and events in each queen’s life that impacted how each queen was perceived by her new countrymen and women but also each woman’s reaction to those events. The book is separated into five body chapters with an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are thematic and treat each queen’s life individually and each ends with a summary comparative section.
The introduction opens the book with a quote from Marie Antoinette in which she compares her and her husband’s troubles facing the Revolution to those faced by Charles I a century before, in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Historians have paid attention to the similarities between both kings, Louis XVI and Charles I, but, as Harris points out, not much work has been done to compare the lives of their queens, and this book is an effort to close that gap in the scholarship. She recognizes that each queen’s role as wife of the sovereign and mother of royal children was a highly visible and inherently political one. From there, Harris clearly lays out her rationale for choosing the topics she incorporates into the text.