Queen Henrietta Maria returns from exile (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

November 2nd –  On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“So to White Hall, where when I came I saw the boats going very thick to Lambeth, and all the stairs to be full of people.  I was told the Queen [Henrietta Maria of France, the widow of the executed Charles I, and the mother of the then recently restored Charles II] was a-coming [home from the continent, where she had been in exile since her husband’s execution]; so I got a sculler for sixpence to carry me thither and back again, but I could not get to see the Queen; so came back, and to my Lord’s, … and I supt with him, he being very merry  … .  [Eventually] … I took leave of my Lord and Lady, and …  coach …  home … .  So to bed.  I observed this night very few bonfires in the City, not above three in all London, for the Queen’s coming; whereby I guess that (as I believed before) her coming do please but very few”.

Anthony van Dyck's portrait of Henrietta Maria

Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of Henrietta Maria

On a related note, Somerset House, which  was once owned by Henrietta Maria, is passed on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” themed special (see also below).

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Somerset House

The original Somerset House was built for the Lord Protector Somerset in 1547-50.  After Somerset’s  execution in 1552, it came to owned, occupied and modified in turn by the then-future Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1553; by    the then King, James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, in 1603; by  the then-future King, Charles I, in 1619; and by the then King, Charles I’s wife, the French Henrietta Maria, in 1626.  It then survived the Civil War and Commonwealth of 1642-60, during which time it was temporarily appropriated by Parliamentarian authorities, as well as the Great Fire of 1666.  In 1669, the then King,  Charles II’s wife,  the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, acquired it, and in 1692, shortly after Charles II had died and James II, who was a Catholic, had been deposed,  she relinquished it, fearing  for her safety there in the midst of what by that time had become a fiercely anti-Catholic populace.  It was then  allowed to fall into disrepair, and substantially demolished to make way for the present building in 1775.  Of the original, only some headstones from the former – Catholic – chapel, survive, in the “Dead House”- see photographs in gallery below.

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