1 June 1670: Henrietta brokers the Secret Treaty of Dover

Deal sees England aid French war against Dutch


In the summer of 1670, Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, was not well. Her relationship with her husband was stormy, and she complained of pains in her side. But at the end of May, she had a break from her troubles. She headed back to the country of her birth to broker a treaty that would become the single most controversial deal in all English history: the Secret Treaty of Dover.

Ever since childhood, Henrietta had been very close to her brother, Charles II. Now she was the crucial intermediary between the impecunious Charles and her rich brother-in-law, France’s Louis XIV. Under the terms of the deal Henrietta arranged at Dover, Louis would pay Charles £230,000 a year, while Charles would send 60 ships and 4,000 infantry to help the French in their war against the Dutch.

Then came an even more shocking detail. Charles, who had long been a Catholic sympathiser but had kept it secret so as not to alienate his Protestant subjects, promised to come out as a Catholic convert. In return, France would pay him an extra £160,000 and intervene if his people rebelled against him.

On 1 June the deal was signed, and Henrietta returned to Paris triumphant. But things did not turn out as expected. Poor Henrietta only lasted a few more weeks, dying on 30 June 1670. France and England declared war on the Dutch in 1672, but they got nowhere. And Charles never came out as a Catholic, only converting in secret on his deathbed in 1685. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

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