Seventeenth-century royals weren’t blessed with big families. Elizabeth I had neither husband nor offspring – unless we believe the stories that she was secretly married to Robert Dudley or the Earl of Oxford and gave birth to Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Essex, or William Shakespeare. James I and Anne of Denmark had eight children, but only two – Charles I and Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen – survived their father. Charles II had no legitimate children, although he fathered an awful lot of bastards. His brother James II had eight with Anne Hyde and another twelve with Mary of Modena, but sixteen of them were stillborn or died in infancy. The three children born to Dismal Jimmy’s daughter Mary II and her husband, William of Orange, were all stillborn.
For a while it seemed as though Charles I and his wife, Henrietta Maria, would do no better. What Linda Porter describes as ‘one of the closest marriages in English royal history’ got off to a rocky start, with the fiercely Catholic daughter of