Charles I and Catherine of Bragança

Catherine of Bragança, Queen of Tea

D. Catarina de Bragança was born in 1638 in the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa and was the second daughter of D. João IV of Portugal and D. Luísa de Gusmão.

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Who was Catherine of Bragança

From an early age, his life was marked by relevant historical events, in particular his father's acclaim as king after the Portuguese Restoration War in 1640.

Catarina grew up in an environment of love and protection, especially under the supervision of her mother, who was very dedicated to raising her children.

It is believed that Catarina de Bragança spent a large part of her youth in the Royal Convent of Chagas de Cristo, built by D. Jaime, IV Duke of Bragança, in the 16th century and next to the Ducal Palace, currently being the Pousada do Convento de Bragança. Vila Viçosa.

It was there that she received her religious education, which, however, limited her knowledge of non-Iberian languages, meaning she had to speak to her husband, King D. Carlos II, in Castilian.

Fig 1 Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa - Portugal; Credit Vitor Oliveira, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Fig 1 Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa – Portugal; Credit: Vitor Oliveira, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The marriage of D. Catarina de Bragança with King D. Carlos II of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1662 was not only a political union, but also a cultural and religious shock, as she was Catholic in a predominantly Protestant England.

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Fig. 2 Marriage of D. Catarina de Bragança with Charles II of England, Credit National Archive of Torre do Tombo
Fig. 2 Marriage of D. Catarina de Bragança with Charles II of England, Credit: Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (Retoque IA)

His Catholicism was therefore a subject of great controversy and even prevented his coronation.

Catherine's life at the English court was challenging. She faced the difficulty of not being able to have heirs, after having suffered three miscarriages, while her husband continued to have children with his lovers.

Despite this, Charles II insisted that Catherine be treated with respect and refused to divorce, even under strong political pressure to do so.

Fig. 3 Catarine de Bragança Credit Royal Collection, Peter Lely, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Fig. 3 Catarine de Bragança Credit Royal Collection, Credit: Peter Lely, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Catarina de Bragança's personal life was marked by her resilience and ability to adapt to a new country and culture, while maintaining her traditions and religiosity.

Her contribution to English culture is often remembered, but her personal story reveals a woman of courage who faced adversity with dignity and elegance.

The Queen of Tea

The Queen of Tea, an emblematic figure in the history of European culture, was Catherine of Bragança, the Infanta of Portugal who became queen consort when she married King D. Carlos II.

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Catherine introduced the custom of tea in England, a habit she took from Portugal, where it was already a popular drink among the aristocracy, due to the trade routes established by Portugal, with China through Macau.

But its influence extended beyond the introduction and practice of drinking tea as a social event, rather than just being considered a medicine, as it also popularized the use of fine china and cutlery.

Fig. 4 The History of Afternoon Tea; Credit Aimee Provence
Fig. 4 The History of Afternoon Tea; Credit: Aimee Provence (IA Retouching)

Catherine arrived at the English court with an impressive dowry, which also included tea leaves that quickly became the fashionable drink among the nobility.

A curious idea suggests that the initials of the words “Transportation of Aromatic Herbs” could be the origin of the English word “tea”.

At court, D. Catarina de Bragança was a relevant figure and her preferences quickly became trends.

It influenced eating habits, but also fashion and the arts.

For example, she is credited with introducing fans, which became essential accessories for ladies of the time.

Furthermore, the queen consort took with her an orchestra of Portuguese instrumentalists, enriching the cultural life of the court with music and dances from her homeland.

It was Catherine who introduced the muffin, a cake with a kind of crown around it, which also became popular in England.

Being passionate about Italian opera, she also promoted its introduction to the English court.

The Portuguese queen is also remembered for having popularized the use of jams, including marmalade, and for having introduced Indo-Portuguese furniture, which was much appreciated for its exotic beauty.

The story of Catherine of Bragança is a fascinating testament to the cultural exchange between Portugal and England and the significant and lasting role that a queen can play in introducing new customs to a nation.

The relationship with her mother-in-law, D. Henriqueta Maria de França

Catarina de Bragança's relationship with her mother-in-law, D. Henriqueta Maria de França, is a less documented aspect in history, but it can be inferred that it was a complex relationship, marked by the political and religious context of the time.

Henriqueta Maria, being Catholic like Catherine, could have been an ally in the predominantly Protestant English court.

However, Henriqueta Maria died in 1669, just seven years after Catherine's arrival in England, which limited the time in which both could have developed a meaningful relationship.

Henriqueta Maria, mother of D. Carlos II, was a figure of great influence and power, having been the wife of King D. Carlos I (father of Carlos II) and experiencing with him the turmoil of English Civil War between 1642 and 1651.

Therefore, upon arriving in England, Catherine of Bragança found a court that was still recovering from the effects of this civil war between King Charles I, father of Charles II (husband of Catherine of Bragança), who defended an absolutist monarchy and the defenders of a constitutionalist republic, led by Oliver Cromwell.

Fig. 5 Henriqueta Maria and Carlos I Source Anthony van Dyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Fig. 5 Henriqueta Maria and Carlos I Credit: Anthony van Dyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (Retouching IA)

The war ended with the victory of the Parliamentarians, the execution of Charles I (father of Charles II) and the establishment of a republic.

However, in 1660, the monarchy was restored with Charles II, the “king of joy”, on the throne.

Henriqueta, a Catholic, had to deal with hostility towards Catholics and faced significant challenges following the execution of her husband, King Carlos I.

These experiences could have created common ground and mutual understanding between her and her daughter-in-law. Furthermore, Henriqueta Maria was known for her patronage of the arts and for maintaining a sophisticated court, which could help Catarina de Bragança to highlight her own cultural and artistic interests.

However, Henriqueta Maria's influence at court was already in decline by the time of Catherine's marriage to Charles II, and her death in 1669 meant that any direct influence on Catherine was limited to the beginning of her reign, as queen consort who became her followed.

Despite this, it is possible that Henriqueta Maria's cultural contributions, such as her patronage of the arts, allowed Catherine to continue and expand them, especially considering her tea habit and the promotion of Italian opera at the English court.

Both navigated an English court in difficult transition and left their mark on English culture and society with “good manners” that are still remembered today.

In summary, although the specific details of the relationship between Catarina de Bragança and Henriqueta Maria de França are scarce, it is likely that there was an affinity and respect for the mutual challenges they shared.

Catherine's relationship with her husband, D. Carlos II

The relationship between Catherine of Bragança and King Charles II of England was complex and multifaceted, the marriage was arranged mainly for political reasons, with Catherine taking a large dowry, which included the territories of Bombay and Tangier, thus handed over to the British Court .

Fig. 6 Charles II of England and D. Catherine of Braganza at Old Somerset House; Credit English School, 17th Century, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (AI touch-up)
Fig. 6 Charles II of England and D. Catherine of Braganza at Old Somerset House; Credit: English School, 17th Century, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (IA touch-up)

Despite the difficulties inherent in a marriage of convenience, especially in a foreign country of different faith, Charles II demonstrated consideration and respect for Catherine throughout his reign.

The couple's relationship was affected by the Popish Plot, an alleged plot to assassinate Charles II and replace him with a Catholic monarch, which exacerbated the suspicions of Catholics in England, including Catherine herself.

Despite these circumstances, Carlos II remained by his wife's side, protecting her from accusations and guaranteeing her position at court.

The Popish Conspiracy was an alleged plan that emerged in London in 1678, with the aim of killing King D. Carlos II. The accused conspirators were the nation's Catholics, particularly those of the Jesuit Order. The supposed plan was to kill the king and install his Catholic brother, James, on the throne.

The term “papist” is in this case derogatory and created by English Protestants to categorize Roman Catholics. It was used as a reference to the Pope's sovereignty over Christians and to humiliate those who respected that ascendancy.

The Return of Catarina de Bragança

After the death of Charles II in 1685, Catherine remained in England for a further seven years, during the reign of her brother-in-law James II.

As James II was Catholic, he would have provided a slightly more welcoming environment for Catherine of Bragança.

He returned to Portugal, after Glorious Revolution of 1688 which definitively ended absolutism, removed Catholics from public life and consolidated the Anglican Church.

Catarina went to live at the Palácio da Bemposta in Lisbon and during her widowhood, she maintained a peculiar status as Dowager Queen and came to exercise the regency of Portugal, in two short periods, showing her leadership capacity and political influence.

Fig 7 Bemposta Palace, in Arroios, Lisbon Credito Gualdim G, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Fig 7 Bemposta Palace, in Arroios, Lisbon; Credit: Gualdim G, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Although the marriage of Catherine and Charles II was not marked by the romantic passion typical of fairy tales, there appears to have been a basis of respect and loyalty.

Fig. 8 Statue of Catarina de Bragança, Parque das Nações, Lisbon; Public Domain Credit via Wikimedia Commons (IA Retouch)
Fig. 8 Statue of Catarina de Bragança, Parque das Nações, Lisbon; Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons (IA Retouch)

Charles II valued Catherine's dignity and status as his queen consort, and she, in turn, played her role at court with delicacy and dignity, despite the challenges she faced.

Their relationship reflects the complexity of royal marriages at the time, where politics and duty often trumped personal considerations.

Catarina de Bragança died in 1705, leaving a legacy of cultural and political influence that transcended the borders of her native country.

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