Open main menu

Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk

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

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 Berkeley
Children Henry Howard, 10th Earl of Suffolk
Parents

BiographyEdit

Henrietta was one of three daughters of Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Baronet, a Norfolk landowner, by his wife Elizabeth (née Maynard). Her father died in a duel when Henrietta was aged eight, and her mother died four years later in 1701, leaving her an orphan at twelve. She then became the ward of Henry Howard, 5th Earl of Suffolk. She made the best of the opportunity afforded by this circumstance by marrying his youngest son, Charles Howard, later 9th Earl of Suffolk. The wedding was held at the church of St Benet, Paul's Wharf in London on 2 March 1706.[1] They had one son, Henry Howard, 10th Earl of Suffolk. The marriage was unhappy; Henrietta had married Charles with the aim of achieving financial security and social position for herself and intending to provide amply for her siblings at her husband's expense, and after she had pursued the latter agenda for some time, her husband discerned the intention and began to resent it. Marital relations deteriorated and Charles may have chastised his wife physically, a circumstance not uncommon for the times; he also began spending less time with her and more time at the card tables, again a habit common among the affluent of England at that time.

In 1714, the couple 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 Lady 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 (although she went deaf at an early age) rather than for beauty.

Henrietta and her husband officially separated around 1727, although there was no divorce; that would have required an act of parliament to be passed, with inevitable public scrutiny. Charles succeeded to the Earldom in 1731, allowing Henrietta to describe herself as Countess of Suffolk. Later, after Charles Howard's death in 1733, Henrietta remarried, 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 the King. 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 Queen Caroline.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  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)
  • Bryant, Julius. London's country house collections (London: Scala Books in association with English Heritage, 1993)
  • Bryant, Julius. Mrs Howard: a woman of reason (1688-1767) (London: English Heritage, 1988)
  •   "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.
Court offices
Preceded by
Elizabeth Sackville, Duchess of Dorset
Mistress of the Robes to the Queen
1731–1735
Succeeded by
Mary Bertie, Duchess of Ancaster and Kesteven