CAPE HENRIETTA MARIA
(For a warrior queen)
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.