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A Royal Visit

Mike Wilson, Bridlington writer and historian

Queen Street and Queen's Square, Bridlington, are not just named after just any queen. One queen actually stayed in the town, long ago in 1643. I have always been fascinated with the story of Queen Henrietta Maria. Did you know that one of her gloves is in the Bayle Museum? And I also know that she left a ring to a local family, and that this is in a Bridlington bank for safe-keeping.

Some way along Fondbrigg Lane (or to give it its other name, Woldgate), the old road which leads to Kilham, there is a bridge that I always understood to be called Henrietta Maria's Bridge. I was told that was where she sheltered from the guns. But I cannot imagine a cannon could fire a cannonball that far. A gun would have to be very powerful to send the ball that far and that high. I'd love to know where she actually did hide.

From Historical Sketches of Bridlington, by J. Thompson, published in 1821.

For a century after 1539, no event occurred at Bridlington sufficiently important to place its name on the page of general history. During that unhappy period in which the misguided and unfortunate Charles became embroiled with the Parliament, this town became of casual and temporary importance. Charles's first step, on proceeding to extremities, was to write individually to each captain in the fleet, commanding him without delay and without regarding the orders of his superiors, to bring his vessel into the bay of Bridlington. This was about the month of June, 1641.
Unfortunately for the king, some misunderstanding arose respecting these despatches, and on the captains' being summoned by the earl of Warwick, the admiral, to attend him in a council of war, the project was entirely frustrated. From this time all hopes of accommodation were at an end, and that most terrible calamity, a civil war, with all its attendant horrors, became general throughout the realm.
Charles's Queen, Henrietta Maria, daughter to the great Henry IV of France, in the spring of 1642 departed for Holland, where she used her utmost exertions in procuring arms and ammunition, and for that purpose pledged the crown jewels, which Charles had entrusted to her care.
The Queen, having embarked at Schiuling, near the Hague, under convoy of seven Dutch men of war, commanded by Van Tromp, arrived in Bridlington Bay on the 20th February, 1643; after remaining at anchor three days, the squadron entered the harbour.
Admiral Batten, who, with a view to intercept her Majesty, had been for some time cruising in the north with four of the parliament's ships, and was then at anchor off Newcastle, immediately weighed on receiving intelligence of her arrival, but did not gain the bay until the night after the Dutch vessels had entered the port. Batten, chagrined at his disappointment, determined on harassing the royalists to the utmost in his power, and accordingly drew his vessels directly opposite to the Quay, on which he commenced a heavy cannonade on the morning of the 24th in hope of firing the ammunition-vessels.
Some of the shots penetrated the house in which the Queen reposed, and compelled her, with the duchess of Richmond and the other ladies in her retinue, at a very unseasonable hour, to seek for safety beneath the precipitous banks of the stream which empties itself into the harbour.


An interesting detail of the whole event has been transmitted to posterity by her majesty, in the following letter to the king:*

Burlington, 25th Feb. 1643.
"My dear heart,
"As soon as I landed, I dispatched Progers to you; but having learnt to day that he was taken by the enemy, I send this bearer to give you an account of my arrival, which has been very successful, thank God; for as rough as the sea was when I first crossed it, it was now as calm, till I came within a few leagues of Newcastle; and on the coast the wind changed to N.W. and obliged us to make for Burlington-bay, where, after two days lying in the road, our cavalry arrived. I immediately landed, and the next morning the rest of the troops came in. God who protected me at sea, has also done it at land; for this night four of the parliament ships came in without our knowledge, and at 4 o'clock in the morning, we had the alarm, and sent to the harbour to secure our boats of ammunition; but about an hour after, these four ships began so furious a cannonading, that they made us get out of our beds, and quit the village to them; at least us women, for the soldiers behaved very resolutely in protecting the ammunition. I must now play the Captain Bcssus, and speak a little of myself. One of these ships did me the favour to flank my house, which fronted the Pier, and before I was out of bed the balls whistled over me and you may imagine I did not like the music. Every body forced me out, the balls beating down our houses; so, dressed as I could, I went on foot some distance from the village, and got shelter in a ditch, like those we have seen about Newmarket; but before I could reach it, the balls sung merrily over our heads, and a serjeant was killed 20 paces from me. Under this shelter we remained two hours, the bullets flying over us, and sometimes covering us with earth. At last the Dutch Admiral sent to tell them, that, if they did not give over, he would treat them as enemies. This was rather of the latest, but he excused himself on account of a fog. Upon this the parliament ships went off; and besides, the tide ebbed, and they would have been in shoal water. As soon as they were withdrawn, I returned to my house, not being willing that they should boast of having driven me away. About noon I set out for the town of Burlington, and all this day we have been landing our ammunition. It is said, one of the parliament Captains went before, to reconnoitre my lodging; and I assured you he had marked it exactly, for he always fired at it. I can say, with truth, that by land and sea, I have been in some danger, but God has preserved me: and I confide in his goodness, that he will not desert me in other things. I protest to you, in this confidence I would face canon, but I know we must not tempt God. I must now go and eat a morsel; for I have taken nothing to day but 3 eggs, and slept very little."
*Gentleman's Magazine for August, 1774, p. 363: from a volume in the British Museum, marked 7379, in the Harleian catalogue