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you look at the side of the
Topshop in the High
Street, you will see a mural with three figures on it - one of those
figures is Princess Henrietta Anne. The third daughter and ninth child
of Charles I, Princess Henrietta Anne was born in Bedford House,
Exeter. The West of England had divided loyalties during the Civil War
and Exeter, along with Plymouth and Barnstaple had initially come out
for Parliament - the peerage and gentry tended to be for the King but
the lesser gentry and towns people held sway for Parliament. In 1643,
after an 11 week siege, Exeter fell to Prince Maurice, to the relief of
some and dismay of others.
The heavily pregnant Queen Henrietta Maria left Oxford to journey to France via a Cornish port, and arrived in Exeter on 1st May 1644. Princess Henrietta Anne, as she was christened, was born on the 16th June 1644, at a time when the Parliamentary forces led by Lord Essex were yet again threatening the west. The Queen fled to France leaving her sickly infant daughter to be cared for by her governess, Lady Dalkeith - it is possible that her mother thought that she would not survive the journey. The child was baptised in a new font, in the cathedral on 21 July 1644. King Charles arrived in Exeter, to take on Essex, and saw his still surviving baby daughter for the first and only time on 26 July 1644. The King then marched to Cornwall and defeated the Parliamentary forces of Essex at Lostwithiel. The war ebbed and flowed, as opposing forces battled for supremacy in the west. As Parliament gradually gained the upper hand, Exeter surrendered to their army on 13th April 1646. The surrender negotiations at Poltimore House gave the young Princess Henrietta Anne, her Governess and household permission to travel freely on to France.
The Princess was brought up in Paris by her mother with the name Henrietta. Her elder brother Charles was restored to the English throne in 1660 after the demise of the Commonwealth. Exeter did not forget their Princess and the chamber ordered that a piece of plate to the value of £200 be purchased as a gift for the young Princess. The Queen Mother was given a gift to the value of £300 to express 'the joy of this city for her safe return hither'. The Exeter Salt, was purchased for £600 as a gift for the King, and thus the city that came out for Parliament at the start of the war, attempted to make amends with the gift of a piece of silver.
The Princess married Philippe, Duke of Orleans in 1661 and had several children, despite rumours of his brutality towards her. Henrietta was an intelligent woman who often acted as a diplomat between England and France. She visited Devon again, on official business, for Charles II, and she helped negotiate the Treaty of Dover between her husband, Philippe and her brother Charles II. Princess Henrietta died in Paris, on the 30th June 1670, two weeks after the treaty was signed, - it was alleged that she was poisoned by her husband, although an autopsy found she died of peritonitis, caused by a perforated ulcer.
Although Princess Henrietta Anne was in Exeter for only the first three years of her life, Charles II presented Exeter with a full length portrait of her in 1671, to thank the city for sheltering his baby sister; it now hangs in the Guildhall.
With the kind permission of the Lord Mayor's Office
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