HENRY HOWARD, 5TH EARL of Suffolk, was an old man of seventy-seven when his wife’s young kinswoman Henrietta sought his assistance. He had held a few minor appointments during his life, including Commissary General of the Musters in Charles II’s reign. A staunch Royalist, he had fought at the Battle of Roundway Down in 1643, but otherwise his military career had been of little note and he preferred the more leisurely pursuits that life in the country could offer. He was described as ‘A Gentleman who was never yet in business, loves cocking, horse matches, and other country sports.’1
The Earl and his second wife Mary divided their time between Gunnersbury House and Audley End, the spectacular Jacobean mansion near Saffron Walden where he had spent his childhood. His impoverished elder brother James had been obliged to sell it to the Crown for use as a royal palace, but Charles II had soon tired of it, and succeeding monarchs had paid it little attention. In 1701, Sir Christopher Wren had urged King William III to rid himself of this unnecessary burden, and the house had duly been returned to the Howard family, which was now under the direction of the 5th Earl.
Henry Howard had had three sons by his first wife, Mary Stewart, the daughter and heiress of Andrew Stewart, 3rd Baron Castle Stewart, an Irish peer. It was said that the infusion of Irish blood into the Howard strain accounted for certain unpredictable elements in their offspring. The Castle Stewarts had a history of reckless behaviour, the 1st Baron having ruined himself through expensive living.
The youngest of the Howard sons, Charles, born in 1675, had pursued a military career, as was traditional for the younger sons of noble families. At the age of twenty, he was awarded a captaincy in Lord Echlin’s Regiment of Dragoons (mounted infantry), and given command of a troop. This was not as great an honour as it might appear. Dragoons were third in rank behind the Household Cavalry and Regiments of Horse, and attracted a much lower rate of pay. Commissions were therefore less expensive, and this is possibly why Charles ended up here rather than in one of the more prestigious regiments, for he had already frittered away most of his modest allowance. Nevertheless, he retained the post for the following nine years. During this time he served mainly in Ireland, but also saw action in the War of the Spanish Succession, when he served as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Ormonde in the Cadiz expedition of 1702. Later that year, he was recommended for further promotion by the Earl of Nottingham. In 1704, he was appointed a captain in Lord Cutts’s Dragoons. Nicknamed ‘Salamander’ on account of his courage in the hottest parts of the battlefield, Lord Cutts had fought alongside the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim a few months earlier.
Charles may have led an exemplary military career, but this was in sharp contrast to his private life. Free from the shackles of family responsibilities (as the youngest of three sons, he was not expected to inherit his father’s title and estates) he indulged in a life of excess and became addicted to drinking, gambling and whoring. A contemporary observer described him as ‘wrong-headed, ill-tempered, obstinate, drunken, extravagant, brutal’.2 The fact that he could conceal the darker facets of his character beneath a veneer of charm and respectability made him all the more dangerous.
Charles took a period of leave from his military service during 1705 and returned home to stay with his parents at Gunnersbury. He arrived to find a guest at the house. Henrietta Hobart had been invited to live at Gunnersbury on a more-or-less permanent basis. At sixteen years of age, she was already an attractive young woman: her fine chestnut-brown hair, large clear eyes and pale complexion gave her an appearance that was at once striking and untainted. She was also bright and quick-witted, and had inherited the keen intellect of her learned forebears. But her mental and physical qualities were of less interest to Charles than her potential fortune. As the eldest surviving daughter of Sir Henry Hobart, she was entitled to a significant dowry when she married, on which occasion she would also receive an inheritance from her late great-grandfather, Sir John Maynard.
At thirty, Charles was fourteen years Henrietta’s senior. What drew her to him is something of a mystery. In his published sketches of the principal characters at the Georgian court, Lord Chesterfield, Henrietta’s friend in later life, shrewdly observed: ‘How she came to love him, or how he came to love anybody, is unaccountable, unless from a certain fatality which often makes hasty marriages, soon attended by long repentance and aversion.’3 Perhaps she was taken in by his charming and easy manners. Perhaps his military bearing evoked memories of her cherished father. Or perhaps she saw this as the only means to ease the burden on her siblings, who were now apparently living under the sole care of the household staff at Blickling, for the terms of her father’s will had ensured that her generous dowry would be protected even though the rest of his estate was in financial difficulties. What was more, she would also receive a regular – if modest – income paid every half-year after her marriage. Whether captivated or calculating, she very quickly decided to marry him.
For his part, Charles could appreciate the advantages of giving up his protracted bachelorhood for the sake of his young kinswoman. The Earl and Countess of Suffolk approved of and encouraged the romance. Henrietta presented a highly appropriate match for their troublesome youngest son. The aristocracy preferred to keep to its fairly close circle, and Henrietta was from one of the oldest and most respected noble families in East Anglia. Within a very short space of time, the pair were betrothed.
Henrietta may have been enraptured by her fiancé, but her uncle, John Hobart, was considerably less so. Charles Howard’s reputation had apparently reached as far as his chambers in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Although he had had little to do with Henrietta and her siblings since their father’s death, he now provided a valuable service by insisting upon drawing up a marriage settlement that would prevent Charles from getting his hands on a large part of her fortune. He made himself an executor of this settlement, along with the family’s solicitor, Dr James Welwood. As one might expect from a family that had such a distinguished record in law, the settlement constituted an impenetrable barrier to Henrietta’s future husband. It stipulated that £4,000 of her £6,000 dowry would be invested by her executors, and that the interest would provide her with ‘clothes and other expenses of her person with which the said Charles Howard her intended husband is not to meddle or have any power or disposeing thereof’.4 Even if Henrietta were to die before her husband, Charles would still be unable to access this money, for the arrangement provided that it would pass to her children. The foresight of Henrietta’s family in insisting upon this arrangement was to prove all too justified.
On 2 March 1706, Henrietta Hobart married Charles Howard at the church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf, in the city of London. St Benet’s had been built by Wren in the style of a Dutch country church. Its dark red brick façade was offset by white marble swags and cornerstones, together with a decorative lead spire. The royal arms of King Charles II were mounted over the entrance, and the interior would have been illuminated by the bright spring sunshine flooding in through the vast windows on either side of the nave. The calibre of the building was further enhanced by a tomb within the chancel, which contained the mortal remains of Inigo Jones.5
The location of the church, opposite the College of Arms, made it a popular wedding venue for those in military service, and this could have been why Charles and Henrietta chose to marry here, rather than at either of their family’s estates, as was more customary. The groom may have worn his military uniform, which consisted of a stiff-necked jacket with yellow cuffs, white breeches, black leather boots and a tricorn hat. But most gentlemen who served in the army wore their civilian clothes for formal occasions, with the addition of a sash across the chest to denote their military association.
Meanwhile, it was common for eighteenth-century brides to wear one of their ‘best’ or evening dresses, which were often white but could have been any colour, for there was no standard attire for weddings at this time.6 A passing reference to some ‘weding cloaths’ in Henrietta’s papers indicates that she at least had a new dress for the occasion. Her betrothed had been obliged to contribute £300 to her apparel, but this would prove to be one of the last sums he ever laid out on her behalf. Indeed, it seems to have exhausted his resources, because three months later he sold his commission in the Regiment of Dragoons for £700. His financial circumstances were now ‘the reverse of opulent’, as one contemporary observed.7
The Howards moved to London soon after their marriage, although the surviving records do not reveal in which part of the capital they were living – or in what degree of comfort. It might be supposed that the latter was not considerable, however, for they had barely enough money to live on. Now that Charles had sold his commission, their only source of income was the interest from Henrietta’s personal fortune, which her executors had intended to ensure her comfort alone. Rather than providing for her clothes and other personal expenses, it was soon frittered away by Charles on drink and gambling.
The Howards’ married life could not have got off to a worse start. In the face of financial hardship, the initial attraction that had brought them together quickly faded. Within weeks of their wedding, Charles’s true character had been revealed all too clearly. His carelessness with money might have been forgiven, but his temper and violence could not, and Henrietta soon felt the full force of it. Her infatuation turned to hatred, and she bitterly regretted tying herself to such a loathsome character. Society viewed marriage as a binding and everlasting commitment, however, and no matter how miserable or badly treated a woman was, she was expected to stand by her husband. There was therefore nothing that Henrietta could do about it. As Lord Chesterfield later observed: ‘Thus they loved, thus they married, and thus they hated each other for the rest of their lives.’8
There was another tie that bound Mrs Howard to her new husband. She had fallen pregnant almost immediately after the marriage, and on New Year’s Day 1707 she gave birth to a son, whom she named after her father Henry. What should have been a joyful occasion merely served to put an increasing strain on the couple’s relationship, not to mention their already limited resources.
Even as Henrietta was entering the final stages of pregnancy, Charles was scheming to get his hands on her fortune. Shortly before his son’s birth, he brought a lawsuit in the court of Chancery against Henrietta’s brother John, who he claimed had cheated her out of her full inheritance. According to his suit, he and his wife were entitled to the £4,000 that her executors had tied up in investments. John Hobart’s lawyers, meanwhile, pointed out that according to the terms of the marriage settlement, Henrietta was entitled only to the interest on that sum. Among the Hobart family papers are several boxes of correspondence relating to the case. It was to drag on for the next six years, and by the time it was concluded in 1712, most of the money had dwindled away.
The interesting – and potentially lucrative – diversion that Henrietta had presented during their courtship was now tedious to Charles, and the added burden of a new baby to provide for made him crave the freedoms that he had enjoyed to the full as a bachelor. He therefore sent his young wife and infant son to live in the country while he remained in London. The ‘mean lodgings’ that he hired for them in Berkshire, and that Henrietta still recalled vividly in an accusatory letter written to him some years later, formed a sharp contrast to the comfort that she had enjoyed in her early years at Blickling and Gunnersbury.9 There was barely enough food to live on, and if she ever wished or needed to travel anywhere, she was obliged to hire a coach from Reading, like any commoner. Even the more straitened circumstances in which she had lived after her father’s death were as luxury compared to her onerous new life.
Charles, meanwhile, was busy squandering their limited funds on a life of excess in London. Henrietta rarely saw or heard from him during her first year in Berkshire, and he only deigned to make one or two visits. She grew increasingly miserable with her solitary existence, and felt keenly the shame of living in such mean circumstances with her new son. In 1709, therefore, after two years alone, she resolved to go to London and seek out her husband. What she found there was shocking, for Charles had soon fallen back into his old ways. Any residue of tender feeling that she had felt towards him was now destroyed for ever.
Nevertheless, the prospect of returning to her miserable life in the country was scarcely more appealing to Henrietta than that of staying with her errant husband. At least the latter offered some hope, however misguided, that she would be able to reform his debauched habits. This proved to be a hopeless cause, however, and within a year he had run up huge debts from his addiction to the capital’s gambling tables and brothels. Henrietta now suffered the humiliation of having their goods seized and being ejected from their lodgings in both London and Berkshire.
Homeless and in debt, they had no choice but to call upon Charles’s wealthy family for assistance. His father had died in 1709, and his eldest brother Henry had succeeded as 6th Earl of Suffolk. Henry had little time for the feckless Charles, but judged it the lesser of two evils to have him close at hand, where his wayward behaviour could be checked, than to risk his bringing further disgrace on the Suffolk family name in London. He therefore allowed the couple and their young son to come and live at Audley End. That he did so reluctantly and with ill grace is demonstrated by the fact that he insisted on treating them as boarders and charged them a rent of £20 per year.
Charles found this situation equally repugnant, and it was not long before he strayed from the family home and resumed his life of immorality in London, leaving Henrietta alone with her brother-in-law and his wife. In fact, during the year and a half that the Howards boarded at Audley End, Charles spent only a fraction of his time there. When Henrietta came to make up the accounts with Lady Suffolk, she found that there was only five months’ rent due from her husband because he had been absent for the rest of the time. But Charles proved incapable of honouring even this meagre sum. His patience tested too far, the Earl of Suffolk promptly expelled the couple from his house.
Determined not to suffer the humiliation of yet another separation from her husband, this time Henrietta insisted that they find lodgings together. Charles reluctantly agreed, but only on condition that they move to London, where his favoured haunts would be within easy reach.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, London was a city shaped by the substantial rebuilding that had taken place after the Great Fire in 1666. This had focused initially on what is now the West End. A mass of houses had been built in the streets around Covent Garden, St James’s Palace and Lincoln’s Inn. Elegant squares had been created in Soho and Gray’s Inn Fields, and avenues tightly packed with new houses had sprung up around them. Along the Strand, old palaces had been replaced by small streets and courtyards filled with lodgings. The city that had emerged by the end of the seventeenth century was marked by regular red-bricked streets and white stone churches, with the crowning glory of St Paul’s Cathedral, newly rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. It was no longer two cities (Westminster and the rest of London) as it had been a century earlier, but ‘one huge dragon of a town spread along the arc of the Thames’.10
Henrietta and Charles made their way back to London towards the end of 1711. The quality of lodgings that they could afford was hardly commensurate with what was expected of a noble couple, but having now alienated both of their families, they had little choice. They moved to St Martin’s Street in Covent Garden, which was at this time an unfashionable and rather shabby part of the city. The gabled houses that lined the street had been built fifty or so years earlier and were now somewhat faded and in need of repair. The couple’s lodging was secured for a rent of 35 shillings per week, which although more expensive than their house in Berkshire, was relatively cheap for London and would not have bought them any great luxury. They were able to afford only one servant, and even that was apparently on a part-time basis. The regular payments from Henrietta’s dowry would have been enough for them to live on fairly modestly, but Charles was not one given to moderation. Within just seven months, he had spent all of their funds and they were again forced to seek shelter elsewhere.
Their family ties broken, the Howards turned to friends for assistance. Henry O’Brien, Earl of Thomond, was distantly related to them by marriage. A staunch Hanoverian and former Privy Councillor, he had gone on to a successful military career as colonel of a Regiment of Dragoons. After the death of his father, his mother had married Charles’s brother Henry, 6th Earl of Suffolk, and lived with him at Audley End. Lord Thomond’s estate, Shortgrove, was at nearby Saffron Walden, and he agreed that Charles and Henrietta could stay with him there for the summer of 1712. While he might have genuinely taken pity on the couple, it is more likely that he invited them as a deliberate slight to his stepfather. He did not charge them a rent, and they were only obliged to lay out a few guineas for the servants.
It was common for the nobility to stay at each other’s country houses during the summer months, when stench and disease made the capital less attractive. The Howards might have succeeded in presenting it as such were it not for the fact that Charles left his wife alone there for all but two weeks of their sojourn while he returned once more to London.
The humiliation that Henrietta suffered was acute. Her husband had been with her for only a fraction of their six-and-a-half-year marriage, and during that time she had endured a seemingly endless cycle of cruelty, indignity and hardship. Her respectable life as a gentleman’s daughter had been transformed into one of misery and humiliation as the wife of a notorious drunk and philanderer. The shame of her situation compelled her to live increasingly apart from society, ‘concealing myself and my Misery from ye world’, and quietly eking out the meagre funds that her husband’s excesses left her with in order to preserve a semblance of respectability. But with Charles showing no inclination to be discreet in his pursuits, this was an ever more impossible plight.
Charles’s neglect betrayed what was by now a complete lack of affection towards his young wife – a fact of which she was all too painfully aware. Among Henrietta’s correspondence is a letter that she wrote to her husband some twenty years later. This letter, which runs to several pages, makes up for the absence of surviving correspondence from the early years of the Howards’ marriage. Even though it was written two decades after the events it describes, its accuracy is proven by various other sources, notably the legal papers within the Hobart family archives and eye-witness accounts given at the time of their divorce.
‘During ye space of 6 years and a haf yt you pretended to live with me, you were absent above half of ye time,’ she complained. ‘Your absence plainly show’d ye greatest indifference.’ This was hardly the married life that Henrietta had imagined during her childhood at Blickling. But loneliness, shame and neglect were as nothing to what she was about to endure. In the same letter she reflected: ‘I must confess them periods of splendour and happiness comparatively with the dreadful Scenes that followed which I tremble even to repeat, and which humanity wou’d force ye most barbarous to commiserate.’11 At least while Charles was so often absent, Henrietta was shielded from the effects of his temper. Living with him on a daily basis would prove a far worse fate.
The couple were forced to take up lodgings together in London when they had exhausted Lord Thomond’s hospitality. Although they had lived rent-free that summer, Charles had continued to fritter away their resources, and they were now able to afford only the meanest of dwellings in Beak Street, an unsavoury part of the capital. What was worse, Charles had by now accumulated such substantial debts that they were obliged to assume a false name in order to escape his creditors. So it was that a ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ and their young son moved into Mr Penhallow’s lodgings towards the end of 1712.
Living under the same roof as his wife and child did nothing to check Charles’s habits; if anything, it made them worse. To drinking and gambling were added ‘other pleasures which a wife is entitled to call crimes’, for Charles continued to prefer the company of whores to that of his young spouse. Such was his indifference towards Henrietta that he did not attempt to conceal the fact from her.
While Charles enjoyed a life of excess and increased the burden of their debts, Henrietta and their six-year-old son Henry were forced to endure penury and degradation. ‘I there Suffer’d all that Poverty and ye whole train of miseries that attend it can suggest to any ones imagination, nor was this all, I was unpitied by him who had brought me into these calamities, I was dispised and abused by him tho’ he often knew me under the pressure and Smart of hunger . . . he has known me rise and go to bed without meat, when he could have come home in surfeits to me who was actually starving.’ Her drawn and wasted appearance attracted the pity of a neighbour, Mrs Anne Cell, who often invited her to take dinner or supper at her house. Henrietta accepted gratefully, but Mrs Cell guessed that she would not have done so ‘had she not been in ye utmost want’.12 Her clothes also betrayed the impoverished situation into which she had sunk. They were by now so worn and threadbare that her landlady, Mrs Hall, offered to mend them for her in exchange for Henrietta looking after her young child for a few hours.
In the shame and humiliation that such circumstances wrought upon her, Henrietta must have been glad of the need to disguise her true identity with a false name. Her only solace was her son, upon whom she lavished as much care and attention as her circumstances would allow. Neighbours observed that the pair were inseparable, and that Henrietta was constantly looking out for Henry’s welfare – giving him the best offerings from their meagre fare, repairing his clothes while her own were threadbare, and keeping him amused during the long and lonely days in their shabby lodgings.13
When Charles was at home, he treated his wife little better than a servant. She cooked, cleaned and carried out any other task that her husband demanded. Mrs Hall described how she once saw Henrietta struggling to carry a grate ‘with a Red Hot fire in it’ from one room to another and back again on the same night, while her slothful husband looked on.14 The couple were evidently no longer able to afford enough coal to heat more than one room at a time.
The harder Henrietta worked, the more disdain she incurred from her husband. According to Mrs Cell, she behaved in ‘ye most Engaging & obedient manner that was possible’ towards him, but he never showed any tenderness or compassion towards her.15 The couple’s debts continued to mount and Charles was obliged to keep a low profile at home. Frustrated at being deprived of his treasured vices, he sought solace in tormenting his young wife. Frustration turned increasingly to violence, and Henrietta now bore the full brunt of her husband’s temper.
Although Charles’s frequent absences had caused misery and humiliation for his wife, she soon came to realise that they were far preferable to the times when he was with her. In a testament that she later wrote about her marriage, she recalled that ‘such frequent separations screened me in some measure from the effects of your temper which I afterwards severely felt’.16 With the prospect of violence ever present, Henrietta lived in a state of permanent terror. Her landlady noticed that she seemed to always be ‘under a Constant Awe, & Apprehension, scarce daring even to speake to him’. She often saw her in tears, which she believed was ‘owing to his ill usage of her’.17
Trapped in a loveless and violent marriage, forced to endure poverty and deprivation, and unable to call on friends or family for help, Henrietta’s plight was now desperate. But she refused to follow the path to certain ruin that her husband was driving them along. In the depths of her misery, she hatched a plan to restore their fortunes. The means of salvation was a far cry indeed from the insalubrious lodgings of London’s Beak Street.
The Electoral court at Hanover, in Germany, had for some time been a source of great interest and speculation for politicians and courtiers in England, for it was from here that the successor to Queen Anne looked set to hail. The House of Hanover’s claim to the British throne had arisen from a period of turbulence and dynastic uncertainty in Britain towards the end of the seventeenth century. In the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, the Catholic King James II had lost his kingdom to his nephew and son-in-law, the Protestant William of Orange. William, who ruled from 1689 until 1702, and his wife and co-ruler Mary II (James’s elder daughter) had no direct heirs. Their successor, James’s younger daughter, Anne, had had many children from her marriage to Prince George of Denmark, but none had reached adulthood. William, Duke of Gloucester, the last to survive, had died in 1700. This had made the issue of the succession, which had been pushed to the fore when James II had been driven from the throne, even more acute. In order to exclude the Jacobite claimants and a variety of other Catholic individuals with better claims than the Hanoverians, Parliament had passed an Act of Settlement in 1701 which had provided for the succession of the Electoral House of Hanover.
The Hanoverians’ claim to the British throne derived from King James I’s daughter Elizabeth, who in 1613 had married Frederick V, Elector Palatine. In 1658 their youngest daughter, Sophia, had married Ernest Augustus of the staunchly Protestant house of Brunswick-Luneburg, in north Germany. The marriage had been an outstanding success in dynastic terms, bringing forth six sons and a daughter, all of whom had survived into adulthood. Widowed in 1698, Sophia was now the heiress-presumptive to the British throne.
Political events in Germany must have seemed very distant to the Howards. Indeed, in their impoverished state, even the court in London was well beyond their reach. But they nevertheless inspired Henrietta’s plan for advancement, for she seized upon the idea that they could go to Hanover in an attempt to secure themselves positions in the future royal court. Given that she and her husband were out of society, and therefore not party to the latest news from court, it is extraordinary that she should conceive such a plan on her own. Her correspondence contains no clue as to what provided the inspiration.
It was certainly a bold move. Throughout history, royal families have been petitioned for favour by high-born ladies and gentlemen, and the Hanoverians were no exception. But Henrietta had little apart from her aristocratic connections to recommend her, and these were in a country with which the Hanoverians were not yet familiar: it is doubtful that Electress Sophia would have known of either the Hobarts of Blickling or the Howards of Audley End. Neither would Henrietta be able to impress the German courtiers with fine clothes or extravagant hospitality: the voyage alone would take up most of any funds that she managed to raise. The plan therefore rested upon Sophia having enough of an eye to the future to fill her court with English nobility, regardless of the paucity of their means.
Henrietta risked everything to bring her plan to fruition. Heavily in debt and with no more funds to call on, she decided to sell what little furniture and goods they had left, ‘Beds & Bedding not Excepted’.18 The shame of doing so was great, and Henrietta disguised herself with a hood and cape as she made her way to the nearby merchant’s, where she sold every last piece. This raised enough money to pay for the voyage to Hanover. The road to salvation was now tantalisingly close. But for all her careful planning, she had not accounted for one crucial detail: the need to keep the money safe from her husband’s grasping reach.
Henrietta had told Charles about the Hanover scheme and had persuaded him of the need to sell their goods in order to fund it. But while she had enthused about everything that was to be gained from a connection with the Electoral family, all Charles had seen was the prospect of some ready money. As soon as she returned with it, he stole and squandered the lot.
Henrietta was devastated. She seemed destined to live a life of abject poverty, no matter how hard she tried to claw her way out of it. Her plan had not only failed, it had left her worse off than she had been before. With no resources, in either money or goods, the Howards were now unable to meet their weekly rent payments. Although their landlady, Mrs Hall, had been sympathetic towards Henrietta’s plight, she could not afford to let the couple live in her house for nothing, and they were once more obliged to seek new lodgings.
Still going by the name of Smith to protect Charles from his creditors, the couple lived in a succession of cheap lodgings. The first of these was in Red Lion Street, Holborn, which was further east than Beak Street, in an even less desirable neighbourhood. Charles’s creditors soon caught up with him and, fearing arrest, he left Henrietta on her own as he sought alternative shelter. Her husband’s absences were no longer a thing to be feared, however; they brought her a welcome respite from his cruelty.
Left to her own devices, Henrietta’s thoughts again turned to Hanover, and she began to save what little money she could from the modest half-yearly allowance provided by her inheritance. Charles was, unfortunately, integral to her plans. Their chances of success would be far greater if they were presented to the Hanoverian court as a respectable noble couple; the strict codes that governed high society would not have tolerated a noblewoman making the journey without her husband. Neither could they escape the country and travel under false names, since it was their family name that was the key to their success. But if Charles were to come out of hiding, he would almost certainly be arrested at the behest of his creditors. Henrietta took the bold step of going in person to entreat them to give him more time to pay his debts. The names of these creditors are not provided in Henrietta’s papers. We only know that she went to see them because of the long letter she wrote to her husband many years later, in which she recalled this and other episodes from her miserable early married life. That she succeeded in winning a temporary reprieve is as much a testament to her determination to improve her situation as it is to her skill in negotiation.19
Having eased the burden of their debts, albeit temporarily, it was with renewed vigour that Henrietta now set about raising what money she could for the voyage. She gave up the rooms that she and her young son had shared in Red Lion Street and moved into Charles’s squalid lodgings.20 These consisted of one ‘very bad Room’, and the rent was one tenth of what their first London lodgings had cost almost three years before. Charles was evidently content to live in squalor if it meant he could spend what little money he had on drinking and whoring. Henrietta found him fully engaged in both pursuits when she and Henry arrived towards the end of 1713. By now she was all but immune to his depravities. As long as she could drag him away from them long enough to save the family from utter ruin, she would be content.
Living in a ‘wretched manner’ and with no furniture left to sell, Henrietta cast about for other means to raise the money for Hanover. Some years before, she had been obliged to pawn the few items of jewellery she owned, and she now sold them all for good. But this still did not give the Howards sufficient funds for the voyage. Increasingly desperate, Henrietta contemplated selling her own hair and visited several wig-makers. Even this sacrifice was not enough, however, for the highest price she was offered was a mere eighteen guineas, which was significantly less than she had hoped for. Rather than being humbled by the fact that his wife was prepared to take such a step, Charles sneered that she should have accepted the money because it was more than her hair was worth.21
Eventually, after more than a year of carefully putting by what she could from her inheritance, Henrietta had accumulated enough money to fund their trip to Hanover. While she was delighted at being at last able to carry out her plan, the prospect of Hanover also brought with it some anguish, because it meant being separated from her young son. Whether she could not afford to take him with them, or whether she judged the voyage too hard for a seven-year-old boy is not certain. Neither is it clear to whom she entrusted his care, although the strongest possibility is that he was taken in by his paternal uncle at Audley End. Whatever the case, Henry had become her only joy and comfort during the years of misery and hardship she had suffered, and the prospect of leaving him behind must have been painful.
Thus, with only her wayward husband for company, and no great prospect of success, Henrietta set sail for Hanover.