Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married Charles II in 1662 and became the merry monarch’s Restoration queen. Yet life for her was not so merry – she put up with the king’s many mistresses and continuous plots to remove her from the throne. She lived through times of war, plague and fire. Catherine’s marriage saw many trials and tribulations including her inability to produce an heir. Yet Charles supported his queen throughout the Restoration, remaining devoted to her no matter what. Outliving her husband, she ended up back in her home country and spent her final days as queen-regent of Portugal.
Catherine of Braganza was born in 1638 as the daughter of John, 8th Duke of Braganza, later King John IV of Portugal and his wife, Luisa de Guzmán. She was married off to the newly restored King Charles II in 1662, who by then already had several illegitimate children. She would be forced to compete for Charles’s attention with several of his mistresses and learned to tolerate them. Sadly, she never had children of her own, despite many trips to healings baths. Instead, she was forced to watch Charles have child after child with a mistress. One cannot help but feel sorry for her.
Sarah-Beth Watkins’s new book on Catherine makes her anything but a victim of her time. The book is well-written en researched, although I could have done with a bit more notes and primary sources. We see Catherine in a new light, the target of a hostile court, but never a victim. Her greatest glory was perhaps not as Queen of England but as regent of her native Portugal later in life. She was much in need of a new book on her life.