Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henry (1639-1660)
HENRY, Duke of Gloucester (1639–1660), styled sometimes Henry of Oatlands, third son of Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria, was born at Oatlands, Surrey, on 8 July 1639. In his infancy he was committed to the care of the Countess of Dorset, but on the surrender of the city of Oxford in April 1646, he was placed, along with his brother the Duke of York and his sister the Princess Elizabeth, under the charge of the Earl of Northumberland (Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, ed. 1819, iii. 94). They were sent to the earl's house at Sion, and when the king their father came to Hampton Court, had liberty to attend on him when he pleased (ib. p. 109). The Duke of Gloucester, the youngest of the three, was specially enjoined by the king ‘never to be persuaded or threatened out of the religion’ (ib.), but it is uncertain whether Charles feared that the puritans or the catholics would seek to convert him. The king also entreated him ‘never to accept or suffer himself to be made king whilst either of his brothers lived, in what part soever of the world they might be’ (ib. p. 110). After the escape of the Duke of York, while under the care of the Earl of Northumberland, Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth were transferred to the keeping of the Countess of Leicester. The two had a last interview with their father on the day preceding his execution (29 Jan. 1648–9) [see Elizabeth, 1635–1650] (Herbert, Two last Years of Charles I). In June following they were sent to Penshurst, a seat of the Earl of Leicester in Kent, orders being given by parliament ‘that they should be treated without any addition of titles, and that they should sit at their meat as the children of the family did.’ Lovel, a gentleman of royalist sympathies, was also permitted to be Gloucester's tutor, and accompanied him also to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight, whither the children were sent in August 1650. Elizabeth died at Carisbrooke (8 Sept. 1650); Gloucester remained there till the close of 1652, when Cromwell gave him permission to go abroad, 500l. being granted to defray the expenses of the journey. He set sail for Holland, and afterwards, at the special request of his mother, joined her in Paris. When his elder brother, Charles, left Paris for Germany in 1653, he proposed to take Gloucester with him, but the queen urged the advantages of Paris in perfecting his education after his long confinement in England, and Charles allowed him to remain, on the express condition that no attempt were made to pervert him from his religion. About the beginning of 1654 Gloucester was, however, committed by the queen to the care of her almoner, the Abbé Montague, at his abbey near Pontoise, and during the temporary absence of his tutor Lovel he was pressed by the abbé to consider the claims of the catholic religion. Gloucester deeply resented this ‘mean and disingenuous action.’ Soon afterwards the queen avowed her responsibility, and joined her entreaties to those of Montague. Gloucester was obdurate, and it was resolved to send him to a jesuits' college. The news reached Charles, who despatched the Marquis of Ormonde to Paris to bring Gloucester to him at Cologne. Ormonde enabled him to recover his liberty and to return to Paris. Gloucester then assured the queen that he intended at all hazards to adhere to the protestant religion, and she bade him ‘see her face no more’ (Carte, Life of Ormonde, iii. 641). His horses were turned out of her stables, the sheets were torn from his bed, food was denied him, and he was thus driven from the palace. He went to Lord Hatton's house for two months, until Ormonde could borrow sufficient money to carry them to Cologne (ib. p. 644). Gloucester remained at Cologne with Charles till 1656, when they removed to Bruges. There Gloucester was admitted a member of the confraternity of Archers of St. George. In December he became colonel of ‘the Old’ English regiment of foot in the Spanish army, and volunteered for active service with the Spaniards in 1657 in the Low Countries. He fought side by side with his brother the Duke of York at Dunkirk (17 June 1658), where both displayed great gallantry. When Dunkirk fell, he escaped capture by collecting some of the scattered troops, and made a desperate charge through the enemy (Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, ed. 1819, iii. 856). Gloucester had his sword struck out of his hand, and while Villeneuve, master of horse to the Prince de Ligne, alighted from his horse and recovered it, Gloucester covered him with his pistol. Charles knighted him, 26 Feb. 1657–8; made him a privy councillor, 27 Oct. 1658, and created him Earl of Cambridge and Duke of Gloucester, 13 May 1659, although he had borne the latter title from his birth. At the Restoration he accompanied Charles to England, 5,000l. being voted him by parliament to defray his expenses. On 13 June 1660 he was made high steward of Gloucester, and on 3 July ranger of Hyde Park. Shortly afterwards he was seized with small-pox, then prevalent in London, and died on 13 Sept. 1660. On the 21st his body ‘was brought down to Somerset House to go by water to Westminster’ (Pepys, Diary). He was buried in the same vault as Mary Queen of Scots and Arabella Stuart. Clarendon wrote enthusiastically of him as the finest youth, ‘of the most manly understanding that I have ever known’ (Clarendon State Papers, vol. ii.), and as ‘a prince of extraordinary hopes, both from the comeliness and gracefulness of his person and the vivacity and vigour of his wit and understanding’ (Clarendon, Hist. iii. 703). Burnet says ‘he was of a temper different from that of his two brothers. He was active and loved business, was apt to have particular friendships, and had an insinuating temper, which was generally very acceptable’ (Own Time, ed. 1826, p. 116). Reresby mentions that he was ‘far from insensible to female charms.’ ‘His death,’ according to Burnet, ‘was much lamented by all, but more particularly by the king, who was never in his whole life seen so much troubled as he was on that occasion.’ Sir John Denham grandiloquently apostrophises him as ‘more than human Gloucester.’
A portrait (in armour), by William Dobson, belongs to the Hon. A. Holland Hibbert; another, by Lely, to the Duke of Northumberland. A portrait of him as a boy of from ten to twelve, with his tutor M. Lovel, is in possession of the widow of the late Archdeacon Groome at the Manor House, Pakenham, Bury St. Edmunds. A sketch of the same portrait is in the Bodleian. A painting by Luttichuys was engraved by C. v. Dalen, jun., and by Faithorne. Other engravings are attributed to Gaywood, Cooper, Hollar, Vaughan, Vertue, and White.
[Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Cal. Clarendon State Papers; Carte's Life of Ormonde; Burnet's Own Time; Diaries of Pepys and Evelyn; Reresby's Memoirs, ed. Cartwright; Memoirs of James II; Jesse's Memoirs of the Court of England during the Time of the Stuarts.]