Catherine of Braganza
|Catherine of Braganza|
|Queen Catherine in 1663, by Sir Peter Lely|
|Tenure||23 April 1662 – 6 February 1685|
|Spouse||Charles II of England
m. 1662; wid. 1685
|House||House of Braganza|
|Father||John IV of Portugal|
|Mother||Luisa of Guzman|
25 November 1638|
Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, Alentejo, Kingdom of Portugal
|Died||31 December 1705
Royal Palace of Bemposta, Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
|Burial||Pantheon of the Braganzas|
Catherine of Braganza (Portuguese: Catarina Henriqueta de Bragança; 25 November 1638 – 31 December 1705) was Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II. Catherine was born into the House of Braganza, the most senior noble house in Portugal which became Portugal's royal house after Catherine's father, John, 8th Duke of Braganza, was proclaimed King John IV, after deposing the House of Habsburg, in 1640.
Owing to her devotion to the Roman Catholic beliefs in which she had been raised, Catherine was an unpopular consort for Charles II. She was the special object of attack by the inventors of the Popish Plot. In 1678 the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey was ascribed to her servants, and Titus Oates accused her of a design to poison the king. These charges, of which the absurdity was soon shown by cross-examination, nevertheless placed the queen for some time in great danger. On 28 November, Oates accused her of high treason, and the Commons passed an address for her removal and that of all the Roman Catholics from Whitehall. A series of fresh depositions were sent in against her, and in June 1679 it was decided that she must stand her trial; but she was protected by the king, who in this instance showed unusual chivalry and earned her gratitude.
Catherine suffered three miscarriages and as a result, she did not produce any heirs. Her husband kept many mistresses, most notably Barbara Palmer, who was appointed as her Lady of the bedchamber. He fathered numerous illegitimate offspring by his mistresses which he acknowledged.
Early life and family
Catherine was born at the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, as the second surviving daughter of John, 8th Duke of Braganza and his wife, Luisa de Guzmán. Following the Portuguese Restoration War, her father was acclaimed King John IV of Portugal, on 1 December 1640. With her father's new position as one of Europe's most important monarchs, Catherine became a prime choice for a wife for European royalty, and she was proposed as a bride for John of Austria, François de Vendôme, duc de Beaufort, Louis XIV and Charles II, She was seen as a useful conduit for contracting an alliance between Portugal and England, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 in which Portugal was arguably abandoned by France. Despite her country's ongoing struggle with Spain, Catherine enjoyed a happy, contented childhood in her beloved Lisbon.
Commonly regarded as the power behind the throne, Queen Luisa was also a devoted mother who took an active interest in her children's upbringing and personally supervised her daughter's education. Catherine is believed to have spent most of her youth in a convent close by the royal palace where she remained under the watchful eye of her protective mother. It appears to have been a very sheltered upbringing, with one contemporary remarking that Catherine, 'was bred hugely retired' and 'hath hardly been ten times out of the palace in her life'. Catherine's older sister, Joana, Princess of Beira, died in 1653, leaving Catherine as the eldest surviving child of her parents. Her husband was chosen by Luisa, who acted as regent of her country following her husband's death in 1656.
Negotiations for the marriage began during the reign of King Charles I, were renewed immediately after the Restoration, and on 23 June 1661, in spite of Spanish opposition, the marriage contract was signed, England securing Tangier (in North Africa) and the Seven islands of Bombay (in India), with trading privileges in Brazil and the East Indies, religious and commercial freedom in Portugal and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000); while Portugal obtained military and naval support against Spain and liberty of worship for Catherine. She journeyed from Portugal to Portsmouth on 13–14 May 1662, but was not visited by Charles there until 20 May. The next day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service at the chapel of Domus Dei.
On 30 September 1662 entered the spouses in London, accompanied by numerous escort being the Portuguese delegation a large group of members of the court including musicians and minstrels and among them 10 shawm players and 12 Portuguese bag pipe players being this instruments the Queen’s favourites. All this persons landed on a bridge that was specifically built and organised to reach the palace, where the queen mother waited, as well as all the court and nobility of Great Britain. There were splendid feasts and showy lighting.
Catherine possessed several good qualities, but had been brought up in a conventual seclusion and was scarcely a wife Charles would have chosen for himself. Her personal charms were not potent enough to wean Charles away from the society of his mistresses, and in a few weeks after her arrival she became aware of her painful and humiliating position as the wife of a licentious king.
Little is known of Catherine's own thoughts on the match. While her mother plotted and schemed to secure an alliance with England and her future husband celebrated his restoration by sporting with his mistresses, Catherine's time had been spent in the sombre seclusion of her convent home where there was little opportunity for fun or frivolity. Even outside of the convent her actions were governed by the strict etiquette of the royal court of Portugal. By all accounts Catherine grew into a quiet, even-tempered young woman. The Portuguese ambassador proudly remarked that she was "totally without that meddling and activity in her nature".
At the time of her marriage she was already twenty-three, something which was not lost on her critics, and had long since resigned herself to the necessity of making a grand match abroad. Contented and serene, Catherine's rather quaint response on being told of her impending nuptials was to request permission to make a pilgrimage to a favourite shrine of hers in Lisbon. Devoted to her beloved Portugal, as she set sail for England any distress she may have felt at leaving her family and her home was no doubt lessened by the knowledge that her marriage had been hailed as 'the welcomest news that ever came to the Portuguese people'.
Catherine became pregnant and miscarried three times, and during a severe illness in 1663, she thought, for a time, she had given birth. Charles comforted her by telling her she had indeed given birth to two sons and a daughter. Her position was a difficult one, and though Charles continued to have children by his many mistresses, he insisted she be treated with respect, and sided with her over his mistresses when he felt she was not receiving the respect she was due. After her three miscarriages, it seemed to be more and more unlikely that the queen would bear an heir. Royal advisors urged the monarch to seek a divorce, hoping that the new wife would be a Protestant and fertile – but Charles refused. This eventually led to her being a target by the courtiers. Throughout his reign, he firmly dismissed the idea of divorcing Catherine. She remained faithful to Charles throughout their marriage.
Catherine was not a particularly popular choice of queen since she was a Roman Catholic. Her religion prevented her from being crowned, as Roman Catholics were forbidden to take part in Anglican services. She initially faced hardships due to the language barrier, the king's infidelities and the political conflicts between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. Over time, her quiet decorum, loyalty and genuine affection for Charles changed the public's perception of her.
Although her difficulties with the English language persisted, as time went on, the once rigidly formal Portuguese Infanta mellowed and began to enjoy some of the more innocent pleasures of the court. She loved to play cards and shocked devout Protestants by playing on Sundays. She enjoyed dancing and took great delight in organising masques. She had a great love for the countryside and picnics; fishing and archery were also favourite pastimes. In a far cry from her convent-days the newly liberated Catherine displayed a fondness for the recent trend of court ladies wearing men's clothing, which we are told, 'showed off her pretty, neat legs and ankles'; and she was even reported to have considered leading the way in wearing shorter dresses, which would show off her feet. In 1670, on a trip to Audley End with her ladies-in-waiting, the once chronically shy Catherine attended a country fair disguised as a village maiden, but was soon discovered and, due to the large crowds, forced to make a hasty retreat. And when in 1664 her favourite painter, Jacob Huysmans, a Dutch Catholic, painted her as St Catherine, it promptly set a trend among court ladies.
She did not involve herself in English politics, instead she kept up an active interest in her native country. Anxious to re-establish good relations with the Pope and perhaps gain recognition for Portuguese independence, she sent Richard Bellings, later her principal secretary, to Rome with letters for the pope and several cardinals. In 1669 she involved herself in the relief of Candia in Crete, which was under siege by the Turks and whose cause Rome was promoting, although she failed to persuade her husband to take any action. In 1670, as a sign of her rising favour with the pontiff she requested, and was granted, devotional objects.
On the first presentation to Charles' official mistress, Barbara Palmer, she fainted away when Charles insisted on making her Catherine's lady of the bedchamber. She accepted Barbara, however later withdrew from the king's society, and in spite of Clarendon's attempts to moderate her resentment, declared she would return to Portugal rather than consent to a base compliance. To overcome her resistance nearly the whole of her Portuguese retinue was dismissed. She was helpless, and the violence of her grief and anger soon changed to passive resistance, and then to a complete forbearance and complaisance which gained the king's regard and favour. In the midst of Charles's debauched and licentious court, she lived neglected and retired.
Though known to keep her faith a private matter, her religion and proximity to the king made her the target of anti-Catholic sentiment. Catherine occupied herself with her faith. Her piety was widely known and was a characteristic in his wife that the King greatly admired; in his letters to his sister Catherine's devoutness is described almost with awe. Her household contained between four and six priests and in 1665 Catherine decided to build a religious house east of St James's to be occupied by thirteen Portuguese Franciscans of the order of St Peter of Alcantara. It was completed by 1667 and would become known as The Friary.
In 1675 the stress of a possible revival of the divorce project indirectly led to another illness, which Catherine's physicians claimed and her husband cannot fail to have noted, was 'due as much to mental as physical causes'. In the same year all Irish and English Catholic priests were ordered to leave the country, which left Catherine dependent upon foreign priests. As increasingly harsher measures were put in place against Catholics, Catherine appointed her close friend and adviser, the devoutly Catholic Francisco de Mello, former Portuguese Ambassador to England, as her Lord Chamberlain. It was an unusual and controversial move but 'wishing to please Catherine and perhaps demonstrate the futility of moves for divorce' the King granted his permission. De Mello was dismissed the following year for ordering the printing of a Catholic book, leaving the beleaguered Catherine even more isolated at court. One consolation was that Louise de Kéroualle, who replaced Barbara Palmer as reigning mistress, always treated the Queen with proper deference; the Queen in return used her own influence to protect Louise during the Popish Plot.
The Test Act of 1673 had driven all Catholics out of public office and anti-Catholic feelings intensified in the years to come. Although she was not active in religious politics, in 1675 Catherine was criticised for supposedly supporting the idea of appointing a bishop to England who, it was hoped, would resolve the internal disputes of Catholics. Critics also noted the fact that, despite orders to the contrary, English Catholics attended her private chapel.
As one of the highest-ranking Catholics in the country, Catherine was an obvious target for Protestant extremists, and it was hardly surprising that the Popish Plot of 1678 would directly threaten her position. However, Catherine was completely secure in her husband's favour ( "she could never do anything wicked, and it would be a horrible thing to abandon her " he told Gilbert Burnet) and the House of Lords, most of whom knew her and liked her, refused by an overwhelming majority to impeach her. Relations between the royal couple became notably warmer: Catherine wrote of Charles' "wonderful kindness " to her and it was noted that his visits to her apartments became longer and more frequent.
Later life and death
At Charles' final illness in 1685 she showed anxiety for his reconciliation with the Roman Catholic faith, and exhibited great grief at his death. When he lay dying in 1685, he asked for Catherine, but she sent a message asking that her presence be excused, and "to beg his pardon if she had offended him all his life." He answered, "Alas poor woman! she asks for my pardon? I beg hers with all my heart; take her back that answer." Later in the same year, she unsuccessfully interceded with James II for the life of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, Charles's illegitimate son and leader of the Monmouth Rebellion – even though Monmouth in rebellion had called upon the support represented by the staunch Protestants opposed to the Catholic Church.
Initially on good terms with William and Mary, her position deteriorated as the practice of her religion led to misunderstandings and increasing isolation. A bill was introduced to Parliament to limit the number of Catherine's Catholic servants, and she was warned not to agitate against the government.
She finally returned to Portugal in March 1699, where she became a nanny and tutor to Prince John. His mother, Maria Sofia of Neuburg, had recently died, and the prince had fallen into a depression. Catherine was key in lifting the young prince's spirits, and soon became a key part in his life, as his tutor and main female figure in his life. Her death would, in fact, cause Prince John to go into another depression.
In 1703, she supported the Treaty of Methuen between Portugal and England. She acted as regent for her brother, Peter II, in 1701 and 1704–05. She died at the Bemposta Palace in Lisbon on 31 December 1705 and was buried at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora Lisbon.
Catherine is credited with the introduction of tea drinking to Britain, although Samuel Pepys makes reference to drinking tea for the first time in his diary entry for 25 September 1660 (i.e. prior to Catherine's emigration to England and marriage to Charles). It is more likely that she popularised the drink, which was unusual in Britain at the time.
It is alleged that Queens, a borough of New York City, was named after Catherine of Braganza, since she was queen when Queens County was established in 1683, alongside Kings County (Brooklyn, originally named after her husband, King Charles II), and Richmond County (Staten Island, named after his illegitimate son, the 1st Duke of Richmond). However, there is no historical evidence that Queens County was named in her honor, no document from the time proclaiming it so.
After the tri-centennial of the establishment of Queens County in 1983, a group of Portuguese-Americans began raising money to erect a 35-foot statue of Queen Catherine to be installed on the East River waterfront in Long Island City. The sculptor of the proposed statue was Audrey Flack. The project was well advanced when opposition arose. Historians objected on the grounds that there was no evidence that Queens was actually named for her, and further that a British monarch was an inappropriate subject for a public monument. African-Americans objected to the statue on the grounds that the British and Portuguese royal houseses benefitted from the African slave trade. Irish-Americans objected to any statue of a British monarch. The controversy forced Borough President Claire Shulman to withdraw her support, and the statue was never erected. A quarter-scale model survives at the site of Expo '98, in Lisbon, Portugal, facing west across the Atlantic.
Novelists, notably Margaret Campbell Barnes in With All My Heart, Jean Plaidy in her Charles II trilogy and Susanna Gregory in her Thomas Chaloner mystery novels, usually portray the Queen in a sympathetic light.
Titles, styles and arms
Titles and styles
- 25 November 1638 – 1 December 1640: Dona Catherine of Braganza
- 1 December 1640 – 23 April 1662: Infanta Catherine of Portugal
- 23 April 1662 – 6 February 1685: Her Majesty The Queen
- 6 February 1685 – 31 December 1705: Her Majesty The Queen Dowager
The royal arms of the British monarch are impaled with the royal arms of her father. For supporters she used the crowned lion of England on the dexter side, and on the sinister the wyvern Vert of Portugal.
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- Murphy, Heidi.Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705)
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- "Catherine of Braganza", UK Tea Council. Retrieved 1 March 2013
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- Jason D. Antos (14 January 2009). Queens. Arcadia Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7385-6308-4. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
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- Plaidy, Jean (1993). The Pleasures of Love: The Story of Catherine of Braganza. Chivers Large print. ISBN 978-0-7451-7528-7.
- Plaidy, Jean. (2008). The Merry Monarch's Wife: The Story of Catherine of Braganza. Broadway. ISBN 0-307-34617-X
- Plaidy, Jean. (2005). The Loves of Charles II: The Stuart Saga. Broadway. ISBN 1-4000-8248-X
- Lewis, Hilda (2007). Wife to Charles II. Tempus. ISBN 978-0-7524-3948-8.
- Koen, Karleen. (2006). Dark Angels. Broadway. ISBN 0-307-33992-0
- Fraser, Antonia (2002). King Charles II. Phoenix Paperbacks. ISBN 0-7538-1403-X.
- Sousa, Manuel E. (1995). Catherine of Braganza. Howell Press Inc. ISBN 978-972-9019-73-9
- Elsna, Hebe. (1967). Catherine of Braganza : Charles II's Queen. Hale.
- Mackay, Janet. (1937).Catherine of Braganza. J. Long, Limited; First Edition.
- Barnes, Margaret Campbell. (1951). With All My Heart: The Love Story of Catherine of Braganza. Macrae-Smith Company.
Media related to Catherine of Braganza at Wikimedia Commons
Catherine of Braganza
Cadet branch of the House of AvizBorn: 25 November 1638 Died: 31 December 1705
Title last held byHenrietta Maria of France
|Queen consort of England,
Scotland and Ireland
Mary of Modena