Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wentworth, Henrietta Maria

WENTWORTH, HENRIETTA MARIA, Baroness Wentworth (1657?–1686), mistress of the Duke of Monmouth, born in all probability towards the close of 1657, was the only child of Sir Thomas Wentworth, baron Wentworth (1613–1665) [q. v.], by Philadelphia (d. 4 May 1696), daughter of Sir Ferdinando Carey. On the death of her grandfather, Sir Thomas Wentworth, fourth baron Wentworth of Nettlestead and first earl of Cleveland [q. v.], she succeeded to the barony of Wentworth. The early years of Lady Wentworth appear to have been passed at the family manor of Toddington in Bedfordshire. In December 1674 she is heard of at court as taking part in a masque called ‘Calisto, or the chaste Nymph,’ by John Crowne (cf. Dryden, Works, ed. Scott, x. 337). The princesses Mary and Anne, Sarah Jennings, and other court ladies were seen in this masque. ‘The Lady Henrietta Wentworth’ personated ‘Jupiter, in love with Calisto,’ and ‘one of the men that danced’ was the Duke of Monmouth, who had been introduced to Henrietta by her first cousin, John Lovelace, third baron Lovelace [q. v.] Monmouth had already had an intrigue with Eleanor, daughter of Sir Robert Needham, by whom he was father of Henrietta Crofts (afterwards Duchess of Bolton) and other issue; his intimacy with Lady Wentworth probably had its origin about the time of the performance of this masque. Early in 1680 it would appear that Lady Wentworth abruptly withdrew from the court with her mother, a design being on foot just then to marry the young baroness to the Earl of Thanet. But the proposed match appears to have fallen through, or may indeed have been frustrated by Monmouth's following the ladies to Toddington, where henceforth, as an old plan of the house testifies, the names ‘The Duke of Monmouth's Parlor’ and ‘the Lady's Parlor’ were given to two contiguous apartments. To Toddington Monmouth fled in June 1683 upon the discovery of the Rye House plot. Early in 1684 Henrietta crossed the sea to join Monmouth, and was received at the Hague by the prince of Orange as the duke's mistress. Towards the close of 1684 she was back again in England, probably with a view to raising money, and Monmouth doubtless saw a good deal of her during his stealthy visit in November 1684 (Life of James II, i. 744). Had Lady Wentworth seconded the suggestion of William that her lover should repair to the imperial camp in Hungary and take part in the war against the Turks, there can be little doubt that there would have been no Monmouth expedition; but she appears to have wished to see him a king, and her rents, her diamonds, and her credit were placed at his disposal with this object. Forde, lord Grey, states that in April 1685, disappointed in the arrival of 6,000l. from England, Monmouth borrowed the money from a Dutch merchant, the bulk of the security being the goods of Lady Wentworth and her mother (Secret Hist.) When Monmouth was captured after Sedgmoor, on 8 July, an album was found upon his person containing some doggerel rhymes about the bowers of Toddington (for an account of this album see Chambers's Journal, 19 Jan. 1850). On the scaffold, a few days later, Monmouth maintained that his connection with Lady Wentworth was blameless in the eyes of God. He had been married, he said, when but a child, and he had never cared for his duchess; Henrietta had reclaimed him from a licentious life; he remained faithful to her, and, turning to the crowd, he exclaimed that she was ‘a lady of virtue and honour, a very virtuous and godly woman.’ One of his last acts was to request one of the attendants to convey a memorial to her (Roberts, ii. 144; ‘An Account of what passed at the Execution of the Duke of Monmouth, 15 July 1685,’ Somers Tracts, ix. 260).

Lady Wentworth seems to have remained in Holland, as towards the end of July she despatched a servant thence with a letter to Sir William Smith, and her messenger was arrested by the mayor of Dover and sent to London on 3 Aug. 1685. She probably returned to England a little later, and she died on 23 April 1686. On 30 April she was buried in Toddington church, where (in the north transept) an elaborate monument was raised by her mother. A more touching memorial was her name, long traceable, as carved by the hand of Monmouth upon a stately oak which still grows hard by the mansion at Toddington (for a view of the Monmouth Oak in 1890, see Wentworth Family, p. 130). The barony passed to Henrietta's aunt, Anne, lady Lovelace (the poet's Lucasta), only surviving daughter of the Earl of Cleveland, and on her death, 7 May 1697, it was transmitted to her granddaughter Martha, only surviving child of John Lovelace, third lord Lovelace of Hurley.

A fine portrait by Kneller was engraved by R. Williams, and is reproduced in Rutton's ‘Wentworth Family’ (p. 102; cf. Notes and Queries, 9th ser. ii. 12). A very dissimilar portrait was engraved by W. Richardson after an original dated 1675, and ascribed to Lely.

[Rutton's Family of Wentworth, London, 1891, pp. 102 sq.; Wentworth's Wentworth Genealogy, Boston, 1878, i. 43; Miscellanea Genealog. et Herald. 1884, new ser. iv. 341; Burnet's Own Time, i. 630, 645; Evelyn's Diary, 15 July 1685; Sidney's Diary, ed. Blencowe; Fox's Life of James II, 1808, p. 266; Roberts's Life of Monmouth, i. 177, ii. 339; Welwood's Memoirs, 1702, p. 377; Cartwright's Sacharissa, pp. 233, 273; Macaulay's Hist. of England 1858, i. 535, 625; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, iii. 347; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. pp. 264 seq.]

T. S.