CAPE HEN­RI­ETTA MARIA

(For a war­rior queen)

Canada's History - - ROOTS -

Welsh ex­plorer Thomas James was search­ing for the fa­bled North­west Pas­sage when he named this re­mote cape at the north­west­ern tip of James Bay after the wife of King Charles I (who reigned from 1625 to 1649). Hen­ri­etta Maria is no­table for be­ing the only queen to be im­peached by Eng­land’s House of Com­mons. She was also the daugh­ter of King Henry IV of France and was born in 1609, dur­ing the same decade her fa­ther spon­sored Cham­plain’s ex­pe­di­tions.

Her mar­riage to Charles I in 1625 was happy but con­tro­ver­sial — he was Protes­tant, she was Ro­man Catholic. Fam­ily por­traits by An­thony Van Dyck em­pha­sized their bliss­ful mar­riage and fam­ily life. In one, Hen­ri­etta Maria is shown hold­ing her baby daugh­ter, mak­ing her the first queen of Eng­land to pose for a por­trait with one of her chil­dren in her arms. The fact that she was French and Catholic, how­ever, did not en­dear her to Charles I’s Protes­tant sub­jects.

When the English Civil Wars broke out in 1642, Hen­ri­etta Maria fled to Hol­land and sold some of the crown jew­els to pay mer­ce­nar­ies to fight in the roy­al­ist army. She re­turned to Eng­land with her troops in 1643, styling her­self “She-Majesty Gen­er­alis­sima.” The House of Com­mons, out­raged by her be­hav­iour, im­peached the queen in ab­sen­tia. Fear­ing for her safety, she fled to France in 1644 and re­mained there for the re­main­der of the civil war, sur­viv­ing Charles I, who was be­headed in 1649. She re­turned to Eng­land in 1660 when her son was re­stored to the English throne as King Charles II. As dowa­ger queen, she re­mained a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure. The di­arist Sa­muel Pepys recorded ru­mours of an af­fair with her ste­ward, the Earl of St. Al­bans, and dis­ap­proval of her lav­ish court at Lon­don’s Som­er­set House.

Cape Hen­ri­etta Maria, lo­cated in what is now north­ern On­tario, is to­day the sum­mer home for about two hun­dred po­lar bears as well as other mi­grat­ing wildlife.

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