Henrietta Howard Haiku

King should have mistress

But has wife he loves. The fix?

Play cards all night long.

A new week, a new theme. So I dub this Royal Mistress Week. (English / British this time around. Those for other monarchies deserve their own weeks.) To kick it off, we have Henrietta Howard, who was a bit unusual so far as royal mistresses go. Namely, because she wasn’t expected to bang the king that often, if at all.

Henrietta was born in 1689 and became an orphan at age 12, after her father died in a duel sparked by him being a sore loser in an election and her mother died of… something. She then became a ward of the Earl of Suffolk and married his son Charles at the ripe age of 17. It was a bad choice. She’d hoped to use her new position to help out her younger siblings and he responded with his fists.

It must have come as something of a relief when, in 1714 after a trip to Hanover to meet the soon-to-be George I, Henrietta caught the eye of his son. (The later-to-be George II.) He asked her to be his mistress. She agreed. He made her Lady of the Bedchamber to his wife, Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and later threw a bunch of money at Charles to quell any objections he might have had. There. Settled. But.

The interesting thing about King George II is that he was really in love with his wife. So much so that he really didn’t want to go sleeping around on her. But he believed society expected him to have a mistress, especially since he was so obviously in love, and so he recruited Henrietta Howard.

Their arrangement went like this: George would very visibly visit her every night for several hours, locking the door behind him. From there, they would proceed to… play cards and chat.

If you’re wondering if Queen Caroline had a problem with the arrangement, rest assured she didn’t. In fact, she liked her quite a bit and had to remind herself to snub Henrietta in public for appearance’s sake. The arrangement ended when Henrietta started to go deaf and thus was no longer as good a conversationalist, but George made sure she went off with a bundle of cash.

Her life afterwards seems to have been spent quite enjoyably. She separated from Charles in 1727 and was rid of him for good when he died six years later. She remarried (to a husband who actually loved her and she loved right back) in 1735, had a fancy house built with her royal severance package (the Marble Hill House in Twickenham) and became the center of a happy circle of intellectuals.

Henrietta died in 1767. As for George II, he did take on another mistress… But only after Queen Caroline died herself.

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