Henrietta Stewart

Henrietta Stewart (1573–1642), was a Scottish courtier. She was the influential favourite of the queen of Scotland, Anne of Denmark.


Henrietta Stewart was the daughter of Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox and Catherine de Balsac. Henrietta, her sister Marie and her brother Ludovic came back to Scotland from France in 1587. On 21 July 1588, she married George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly at Holyroodhouse. James VI of Scotland wrote a masque to be performed at the wedding.[1] The wedding celebrations at Holyroodhouse involving "plays and masquerades" lasted two or three days.[2]

Marie Stewart became a lady-in-waiting in the household of Anne of Denmark in December 1590 at Henrietta's request, which increased Henrietta's access at court, and she married the Earl of Mar in December 1592.[3] Their younger sister Gabrielle was a nun in France at Glatigny, but a scheme for her to marry Hugh Montgomerie, 5th Earl of Eglinton in 1598 came to nothing.[4]

Eventually, she came to be a favourite of the queen, and exerted an influence over her which became controversial. Henrietta was known to be a fervent Catholic, and the friendship between her and Anne was politically sensitive and developed into a cause for conflict between the king and the queen. It also brought Queen Anne negative publicity and exposed her to criticism from the Scottish church. Henrietta Stewart is speculated to have played a part in Queen Anne's rumoured secret Catholic conversion.

Henrietta was able to further her husband's cause at court even when he was forfeited, except in June 1594 when James expressly forbade her attendance. She defied his order and visited Anne of Denmark at Holyroodhouse in "base array", disguised as a servant, on a day when the king had gone to Stirling Castle to see the building work on the new Chapel Royal.[5]

In 1596 pressure was exerted on her and her husband to convert from Catholicism by taking away her eldest son Lord Gordon. He was to be brought up and court and sent to the University of Edinburgh as a pupil of Robert Rollock. Anne of Denmark bought him clothes including a velvet coat and a belt with a little dagger.[6] David Moysie wrote that Henrietta's representations to a Convention of the Estates were twice rejected.[7] On 19 October 1596 Henrietta's representatives presented her signed seven-point offer to the Synod of the Presbyteries of Moray at Elgin on behalf of her husband, undertaking to assist the Protestant ministry and to eject Jesuits from his company.[8]

She was a godmother to Princess Elizabeth at her christening on 28 November 1596, and held Prince Charles at his christening in 1600.[9]

Her name is carved in stone across the upper storey of Huntly Castle in 20-inch letters, in equal prominence to her husband's.[10]


  1. Allan Westcott, New poems by James I of England: from a hitherto unpublished manuscript (Columbia University Press, 1911), pp. 47–52.
  2. HMC Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquess of Salisbury at Hatfield House, vol. 3 (London, 1889), p. 341 no. 709.
  3. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 10 (Edinburgh, 1936), p. 429.
  4. Scots Peerage vol. 5 (1908), p. 356: William Fraser, Memorials of the Montgomeries Earls of Eglinton, vol 2 (Edinburgh, 1859), no. 201, now NRS GD3/2/15/10.
  5. Grant (2017), p. 71: Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 11 (Edinburgh, 1936), pp. 362–3.
  6. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1952), pp. 162, 183, 359, 388.
  7. David Moysie, Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1830), p. 127.
  8. Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1952), pp. 358, 360-1.
  9. Grant (2017), p. 71.
  10. Grant (2017), p. 72.
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