Queen Henrietta Maria & Lord Minimus

In case you’re in need of a refresher or an introduction, the queen’s abbreviated bio is this:

Unpopular consort of King Charles I, youngest daughter of King Henri IV of France, catholic, subject of several Anthony Van Dyck’s paintings, and woman with “a strong penchant for private theatricals.” Also, keeper of Lord Minimus.

Who was Lord Minimus, you ask? Scroll to the Van Dyck with Henrietta Maria and the male figure who I, upon first glance, believed was a child. As far as records go, he was consistently described as a miraculously well-proportioned dwarf, which accounts for my momentary blunder.

But first a few lavish pictures of Henrietta Maria with her tight curls and early to mid 17th century get-ups.

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by Van Dyck (1632)

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Miniature by John Hoskins (1632)

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by Van Dyck (1638)

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With Sir Geoffrey Hudson (1633).

Comically known as Lord Minimus, Sir Hudson was the queen’s official court dwarf. According to Wikipedia, he killed a man in a duel via pistols on horseback (the challenged fellow dared bring a squirt gun and was thus shot dead), spent 25 years as a slave, and was 18 inches tall (yeah, right). An 1894 volume of The Strand says he was 3 feet 9 inches by 30; at two years he was 18 inches–much more believable. The Strand also states he was knighted as a joke, but he did hold a captain’s commission with the Cavaliers in England’s Civil War. He apparently had a boisterous, “peppery” personality, but he didn’t think much of being Henrietta Maria’s little man. That’s okay though; the formerly mentioned fellow he shot dead was his queen’s brother. The account was described in one of the queen’s letters wherein she stated she wished permission to “dispose of them [servants] as I please, in dispensing either justice or favour.” This was how slavery happened to Geoffrey. He was expelled from court and captured by Barbary pirates. Many years later he returned to England and was thrown into prison, possibly for being Catholic. The rest of his life has been described as: Lived where? Unknown? Died when? Unknown. Died how? Ring-a-ding. Unknown.

Beyond Henrietta Maria’s flair for unusual courtiers, if you’re interested in her epistolary life or royal relations in the 17th century, you can read her letters.

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3 thoughts on “Queen Henrietta Maria & Lord Minimus

  1. The painting that says “By Van Dyc 1638” – do you happen to know if that dress is described as the color puce? (The English considered it a shade of dark muted purple or a muted mauve, but apparently the French defined it as more of a rust-red brown.)

    1. Thanks for the interesting question and observation!

      The 1938 Van Dyck does show a red-rust brown and even though puce didn’t appear in French until 1787, the question really would come down to: does the color resemble a flea?

      Red-rust brown is the color of a flea’s belly, so I’d say yes.

      I wrote a post a while back regarding the etymology and multiple definitions of puce: https://lifetakeslemons.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/pretties-in-pink/. Apparently there are many colors of flea including brownish purple, pinkish-tan, and red-rust brown! One has to wonder on how many occasions the French court intimately observed fleas.

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