Catherine of Braganza, House of Braganza, John IV of Portugal, King Charles II of England, King James II-VII of England and Scotland, King Pedro II of Portugal, King William III and Queen Mary II, Kings and Queens of England, Regent of Portugal, Roman Catholic Church
Catherine of Braganza (November 25, 1638 – December 31, 1705) was queen consort of England, of Scotland and of Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II.
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 December 1, 1640.
With her father’s new position as one of Europe’s most important monarchs, Portugal then possessing a widespread colonial empire, Catherine became a prime choice for a wife for European royalty, and she was proposed as a bride for Johann of Austria, François de Vendôme, duc de Beaufort, Louis XIV and Charles II.
The consideration for the final choice was due to her being 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.
Negotiations for the marriage began during the reign of King Charles I, were renewed immediately after the Restoration, and on June 23, 1661, in spite of Spanish opposition, the marriage contract was signed. England secured Tangier (in North Africa) and the Seven Islands of Bombay (in India), trading privileges in Brazil and the East Indies, religious and commercial freedom in Portugal, and two million Portuguese crowns (about £300,000).
In return Portugal obtained British military and naval support (which would prove to be decisive) in her fight against Spain and liberty of worship for Catherine. She arrived at Portsmouth on the evening of May 13-14,1662, but was not visited there by Charles until 20 May 20, The following day the couple were married at Portsmouth in two ceremonies – a Catholic one conducted in secret, followed by a public Anglican service.
Owing to her devotion to the Roman Catholic faith in which she had been raised, Catherine was unpopular in England. She was a special object of attack by the inventors of the Popish Plot. In 1678 the murder of Edmund Berry Godfrey was ascribed to her servants, and Titus Oates accused her of an intention to poison the king.
These charges, the absurdity of which was soon shown by cross-examination, nevertheless placed the queen for some time in great danger. On November 28, Oates accused her of high treason, and the English House of Commons passed an order for the removal of her and of all Roman Catholics from the Palace of Whitehall.
Several further depositions were made against her, and in June 1679 it was decided that she should stand trial, which threat however was lifted by the king’s intervention, for which she later showed him much gratitude.
She produced no heirs for the king, having suffered three miscarriages. Her husband kept many mistresses, most notably Barbara Palmer, whom Catherine was forced to accept as one of her Ladies of the Bedchamber. By his mistresses Charles fathered numerous illegitimate offspring, which he acknowledged.
Catherine is credited with introducing the British to tea-drinking, which was then widespread among the Portuguese nobility.
At Charles’ final illness in 1685, she showed anxiety for his reconciliation with the Roman Catholic faith, and she 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.
Catherine remained in England, living at Somerset House, through the reign of James and his deposition in the Glorious Revolution by William III and Mary II. She remained in England partly because of a protracted lawsuit against her former Lord Chamberlain, Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, over money that she claimed as part of her allowance and that he claimed was part of the perquisite of his office. Catherine’s fondness for money is one of the more unexpected features of her character: her brother-in-law James, who was himself notably avaricious, remarked that she always drove a hard bargain.
Initially on good terms with William III and Mary II, 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 1692. In 1703, she supported the Treaty of Methuen between Portugal and England. She acted as regent for her brother, Pedro II, in 1701 and 1704–05. She died at the Bemposta Palace in Lisbon on December 31, 1705 and was buried at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora Lisbon