Wife of King Charles II: Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza was born on the 25th November 1638, at the Ducal Palace of Vila Vicosa in Alentego, Portugal to parents John, Duke of Braganza and Luisa de Guzman.

In 1640, her father John, the Duke of Braganza accepted the crown of Portugal, and became King John IV of Portugal.

On the 23rd June 1661, a contract of marriage was signed, and Catherine of Braganza and Charles II were married by proxy, on the 23rd April 1662 in Lisbon.

The terms of the contract, meant England obtained Tangiers, the Seven islands of Bombay, trading privileges in Brazil and East Indies, plus two million Portuguese crowns.  In return Portugal obtained military and naval support against Spain.

On the 21st May 1662, Catherine of Braganza married King Charles Ii, in two ceremonies; one a private Catholic service, the other a public Anglican service.

It wasn’t long before Catherine realised Charles had a number of mistresses, and marriage or no marriage they were here to stay.

One Barbara Palmer, mistress to King Charles II was appointed “Lady of the Bedchamber” to Queen Catherine.  Inspite of her objections, Charles had no intentions of changing his mind, and Catherine had to agree with the wishes of her husband and king.

The King’s advisors had put forward, he should seek divorce, for after twelve years of marriage, his Queen had not bore him a son and heir, he rejected the suggestion.

In 1675, English Catholics were ordered out of England, and Catherine a Catholic had no priest to confide in.

Francisco de Mello, became her Lord Chamberlain, but in 1676 was sent packing, for the printing of a catholic Book.  Catherine was isolated from her Catholic faith.

Charles passed away on the 6th February 1685, and Catherine expressed great grief at his death.  She remained in England, residing at Somerset House, being godmother to James Francis Edward, son of James II.

During the reign of William III and Mary II Parliament introduced a bill, which limited the number of Catholic servants she could employ.

In March of 1699, Catherine returned to her homeland of Portugal, becoming tutor to Prince John, son of the recently deceased Maria Sofia of Neuburg.

In 1703, she was one of the supporters in the “Treaty of Methuen” between Portugal and England.

In 1701 and 1704-05, she acted as Regent for Peter III, her brother.

On the 31st December 1705, Catherine of Braganza died at Bemposta Palace in Lisbon, and was buried at the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, the Royal Pantheon of the Braganza Dynasty.

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