Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, Henrietta

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GORDON, HENRIETTA, called Lady Henrietta (fl. 1658), maid of honour to the Princess Henrietta, youngest daughter of Charles I, was the only daughter of John Gordon, created Viscount of Melgum and Lord Aboyne in 1627, by Lady Sophia Hay, fifth daughter of Frances, ninth earl of Errol. She was born about 1628. Her father was second son of George Gordon, first marquis of Huntly [q. v.] by Henrietta, eldest daughter of the first Duke of Lennox. He was burned to death in his house at Frendraught in October 1630; and, his widow dying on 22 March 1642, Henrietta was left an orphan. She had been bred in the catholic faith, and, her uncle and natural guardian, the second Marquis of Huntly, being a protestant, her mother on her deathbed commended her to the care of her father confessor, Gilbert Blackball or Blakhal, who forthwith repaired to Paris in the hope of obtaining from Henrietta's grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Huntly, instructions how to act in the matter. The marchioness, however, pleading poverty as an excuse for taking no step to have the child brought to Paris, as Blakhal desired she should be, he applied to Anne of Austria, and obtained from her a letter, under the joint sign-manual of herself and the king, praying the Marquis of Huntly, who had assumed the guardianship of Henrietta, with the intention of having her educated in the protestant faith, to permit Blakhal to escort her to France. Blakhal accordingly proceeded to Scotland, and having, after considerable delay, obtained the charge of Henrietta, took ship with her from Aberdeen on 26 July 1643. At Paris Henrietta was presented to the queen by her second cousin, Ludovick, fifth son of Esme, third duke of Lennox (better known as Monsieur d'Aubigny), and was sent to the convent of the Filles de Ste. Marie, Rue St. Antoine, to learn French. After remaining there a year she was placed under the charge of Madame de Brienne, who found it more convenient to send her to the convent of Charonne, where her proud spirit revolted against the rule and ways of the mother superior, and meagre diet of the convent. Blakhal accordingly induced the queen to have her removed to the convent of St. Nicolas de Lorraine, where she remained from 8 Jan. to 10 Aug. 1647, when she was transferred to that of Fervacques in the Faubourg St. Germain. Here she resided till 20 Jan. 1649, when, the Fronde having raised an insurrection in the streets of Paris, she was by the queen's orders brought, not without considerable risk, under the escort of D'Aubigny, to St. Germain-en-Laye. Too proud to enter the service of the Princesse de Condé, which the queen proposed to her, and neglected by Madame de Brienne, she subsisted for some time on the charity of Mesdames de Ferran and de la Flotte. At length, however, she was admitted to the queens household in the capacity of supernumerary maid of honour, and after two years' probation was accepted as maid of honour. In this character she figures in the pages of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, who represents her as in 1658 high in the favour of 'Monsieur,' the effeminate Philippe, duc d'Orleons, who devoted a great part of his time and thought to her dress (Mémoires de Mlle, de Montpensier, ed. Petitot, 2nd ser. xlii. 275, 330). She is said to have had liaisons with Clérambault and Bouvron. On the marriage of 'Monsieur' with the Princess Henrietta of England she was appointed lady of the bedchamber to 'Madame,' and after the death of 'Madame' she served Philippe's second wife, Charlotte Elisabeth, daughter of Charles Louis, elector of Bavaria, sometimes called 'la seconde Madame,' in the same capacity. From a letter of Mademoiselle de la Fayette, written in December 1672, it appears that Henrietta was on bad terms with her new mistress. After this date we hear no more of her. She seems to have been generally unpopular, and Blakhal gives her a character for the basest ingratitude.

[Blakhal's Brieffe Narration of the Services done to three Noble Ladies (Spalding Club), p. 101 et seq.; Michel's Ecossais en France, ii. 345 et seq.; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (1813), i. 651, ii. 100, 222.]

J. M. R.