The final episode of the TV drama series, Versailles, which was shown last night on BBC Two, gave centre stage to the traumatic death of Henriette, the wife of Louis XIVâ€™s brother, Philippe, Duke of OrlÃ©ans.
The production as a whole veers between fact and fiction, but elements of the depiction of Henrietteâ€™s death have been based upon eyewitness accounts. It might be supposed such accounts would be found only in archives in France, but the extensive early modern diplomatic correspondence held by The National Archives in the UK includes many references to the loss of this princess.
Henriette was the daughter of Charles I, born in Exeter in 1644. Smuggled out of England two years later, she was brought up at the French court. The restoration of her brother, Charles II, to the English throne in 1660 raised her standing in the European royal marriage market,Â resulting in her marriage to Philippe in 1661. The young coupleâ€™s high status at the French court was underlined by the simplicity of their titles â€“ â€˜Monsieurâ€™ and â€˜Madameâ€™. Continue reading »