Being the wife and queen of King Charles II meant you had tolerate a bevy of royal mistresses. Catherine of Braganza, the wife and queen of King Charles also known as “The Merry Monarch” had to deal with three royal mistresses and who knows how many other women of England when it came to her husband. The difference was where most men especially kings would be cruel or ignore their wives and queens, King Charles II was nothing, but kind and doting to his foreign wife. While Catherine of Braganza had to realize her husband had affection for other women, he did have affection and devotion for her as well.
Catherine of Braganza was born November 25, 1638 in Vila Vicosa, Portugal to John IV of Portugal and Luisa of Medina-Sidonia. She was raised in a convent, but her mother still had an important role in her life supervising her upbringing and education. They had a close relationship as a result. Catherine was used as a royal bargaining chip in many proposed marriages. She was promised in marriage throughout her youth to John of Austria, Francois de Vendome, King Louis XIV, and then eventually King Charles II of England who had just been restored to the English throne.
King Charles II and Catherine of Braganza were married in two ceremonies. A secret Catholic one due to Catherine’s faith and then an official Anglican service on May 21, 1662 occurred after Catherine arrived in England. She brought a large dowry including port cities of Tangier and Bombay to British control. She was not a popular choice for queen initially due to her Catholic faith, but she won the people over with her loyalty and affection for their beloved King Charles. Sadly, she could never be crowned queen because of her religion. Catherine was responsible for bringing the custom of drinking tea to England which would eventually become a staple of the country.
Charles and Catherine never had children. Catherine had at least two miscarriages. Charles had many children with his mistresses, but Catherine could never provide him with that much needed heir. There would be future repercussions with who would ascend the throne after the death of King Charles II because of the lack of children.
Catherine encountered some troubles due to her religious faith when she was accused by Titus Oates, an instigator of the “Popish Plot”. She was accused of trying to poison the king. King Charles never believed the accusations and the evidence was discovered to be a fabrication. King Charles faithfully defended his wife throughout all of this.
After the death of King Charles II which broke Catherine’s heart, she lived at Somerset House through the reign of her brother-in-law King James II and stayed for awhile during the reign of her nephew and niece, King William III and Queen Mary II. Her religion though once again became a problem to the staunch Protestant rulers and country. She decided to return to Portugal in 1692.
Catherine acted as regent for her brother King Peter II of Portugal in 1701, 1704, and 1705. Catherine died at the Bemposta Palace in Lisbon on December 31, 1705. She was buried at the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon.
Catherine of Braganza is the main focus of the novel “The Merry Monarch’s Wife” by Jean Plaidy. She also appears in “The Loves of King Charles II” also by Jean Plaidy. She was played by Shirley Henderson in BBC’s “Charles II: The Power and the Passion”.
Catherine of Braganza was Catholic in a Protestant country, her husband had many mistresses and she could never give him an heir, but she was still respected and admired by her husband and the people of England.