Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk

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Henrietta Howard
Henrietta Howard.jpg
Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, c.1724, by Charles Jervas.
Born 1689
Died 1767 (aged 77–78)
Spouse(s) Charles Howard, 9th Earl of Suffolk
George Berekley
Children Henry Howard, 10th Earl of Suffolk

Henrietta Howard (1689 – 26 July 1767) was a mistress of King George II of Great Britain.

Biography[edit]

She was the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Baronet, a Norfolk landowner who died in a duel when Henrietta was aged eight. Her mother Elizabeth (née Maynard) died a few years later.

Having become the ward of the Earl of Suffolk, she married his youngest son, Charles Howard, at the church of St Benet, Paul's Wharf in London on 2 March 1706,[1] hoping to provide for her siblings. They had one son, Henry Howard, 10th Earl of Suffolk. The marriage was unhappy; Charles was a wife-beater and compulsive gambler. On the other hand her relationship with George II was of great benefit to her own family who received the title Earl of Buckinghamshire.

In 1714, they travelled to Hanover, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the future George I of Great Britain. Henrietta met and became mistress to his son, the future George II, and was appointed a Woman of the Bedchamber to his wife, Caroline of Ansbach. In 1723, the prince made a financial settlement with her husband in exchange for her services as a royal mistress.[2] Queen Caroline liked Henrietta, and was happy that the King kept a mistress she found congenial, although she would occasionally administer snubs to Henrietta in public. Henrietta was noted for wit and intelligence (she went deaf at an early age) rather than beauty.

She and her husband officially separated, and after Charles Howard's death in 1733, Henrietta re-married, in 1735, the Hon. George Berkeley, son of the Earl of Berkeley.

After leaving the position of mistress to George II, Henrietta purchased land on the banks of the River Thames, having received a very large financial settlement from him. Marble Hill House in Twickenham was built for her on this site by the architect Roger Morris, who collaborated in its design with Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke, one of the "architect earls." When her second husband died, in 1746, she retired there permanently. She formed an intellectual circle, and her many friends included Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough, and Alexander Pope, who wrote of her, in his poem "On a certain lady at court":

I knew a thing that’s most uncommon
(Envy be silent and attend!)
I knew a reasonable woman,
Handsome and witty, yet a friend.

She is generally supposed to be the model for Chloe in Pope's The Rape of the Lock.

Her correspondents also included Horace Walpole (a near neighbour in later life) and Jonathan Swift.

She is a character in The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott, who describes accurately her ambiguous friendship with the Queen.

Court offices
Preceded by
The Duchess of Dorset
Mistress of the Robes to Queen Caroline
1731–1735
Succeeded by
None

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tracy Borman, King's Mistress, Queen's Servant: The Life and Times of Henrietta Howard (London: Vintage, 2010), p. 17
  2. ^ Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. An Old, Dull, Deaf, Peevish, Beast: William Morrow Paperbacks. pp. 63–65. ISBN 0060585447. 
  • Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant, Tracy Borman (2007)
  •  "Howard, Henrietta". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  • John Wilson Croker, ed., Letters to and from Henrietta, countess of Suffolk, and her second husband, the Hon. George Berkeley: from 1712 to 1767, (London: J. Murray), 1824. Google Books: Vol. 1, Vol. 2.