By Jeannine Kerwin
Biographies and Portraits
Catherine of Braganza (also referred to by Wheatley as Katherine of Braganza) was the queen consort to King Charles II. Detailed web biographies are located at the following websites: 1911 Encyclopedia, BBC, Queens’ Royal Surrey Regiment and Wikipedia. Perhaps her most famous portrait is the one by Dirk Stoop, which is believed to be the portrait that Charles II saw of a very young Catherine prior to their marriage. Catherine is displayed here at a youthful age most likely around the time that Sam first saw her. The beautiful Jacob Huysman portrait depicts Catherine as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, presenting her image as a faithful servant of God whose devotion to her Catholic religion was unwavering. The National Portrait Gallery includes a collection of other portraits of Catherine over her lifetime.
Queen Catherine in the Diary
Throughout the Diary, Queen Catherine is someone that Sam hears of, perhaps sees from afar on occasion, but doesn’t directly interact with. Regardless of his distance from Catherine, his observations and reports of the Court gossip surrounding the Queen and the Court of Charles II have provided priceless insight into her life, and the world in which she lived. Sam first writes of Catherine’s contemplated arrival when he hears privately from Lord Sandwich that he has been made an Embassador by King Charles II in order to bring the Queen over from Portugal. Sam records assorted details of her life ranging from her 17 October 1661 pre-arrival dietary change in status afforded to her in her homeland, “now that the Infanta is become our Queen, she is come to have a whole hen or goose to her table, which is not ordinary” ; excitement over her arrival “At night, all the bells of the town rung, and bonfires made for the joy of the Queen’s arrival, who came and landed at Portsmouth last night”; the horribly upsetting Bedchamber Incident and his first actual sight of Catherine when Mr. Pierce
took me into Somersett House and there carried me into the Queen-Mother’s presence-chamber, where she was with our own Queen sitting on her left hand (whom I did never see before); and though she be not very charming, yet she hath a good, modest, and innocent look, which is pleasing…The King and Queen were very merry; and he would have made the Queen-Mother believe that his Queen was with child, and said that she said so. And the young Queen answered, “You lye;” which was the first English word that I ever heard her say which made the King good sport; and he would have taught her to say in English, “Confess and be hanged.” The company being gone I walked home with great content as I can be in for seeing the greatest rarity…
Sam also writes, with mixed feelings, of the neglect that Catherine felt living with a Libertine husband whose ongoing involvement with his mistress Lady Castlemaine and desire for the lovely Frances Stuart, were a sad and constant struggle for Catherine.
Sam expresses the Court’s hopes for Catherine to fulfill her role and bring forth a royal heir on both 9 Oct 1662 and again on 7 June 1663 when he shares the gossip that “Mrs. Turner, who is often at Court, do tell me to-day that for certain the Queen hath much changed her humour, and is become very pleasant and sociable as any; and they say is with child, or believed to be so.” After these fruitless attempts to carry a child, Sam notes the Queens’ visit to Tunbridge to take the waters. Sam details the weeks of harrowing illness that the Queen endured in October 1663, which nearly killed her. His writing records the early years of a marriage marred with a husband’s infidelity and neglect and a young Queen’s hopes at fulfilling her role in spite of the Court around her.
Outside of the Diary
Sam’s Diary offers rich insights into the life of this very devout, sadly neglected, yet dignified woman, and offers substance to the words of Lillias Campbell Davidson, Queen Catherine’s biographer who explains in the preface to Catherine’s biography that:
The court of the second Charles of England fluttered with dazzling and frivolous beauties. They obscured the softer light of other women who boasted only such trite and gentle virtues as womanliness, the fear of God, modesty, honesty and truth. Queen Catherine’s contemporaries detested her for her creed and her piety, for her uselessness as a political tool, for her bitter misfortune of childlessness, for the stumbling block that she innocently formed to their greed and ambition. They have left her portrait to posterity painted in malignant colours. They drew her hideous, repulsive fool, too dull to be wicked, to narrow and prudish to have a heart. It is time that the blots should be sponged from the picture. Catherine lived in her husband’s court as Lot lived in Sodom. She did justly, and loved mercy, and walked humbly with her God in the midst of a seething corruption and iniquity only equaled, perhaps, in the history of Imperial Rome. She loved righteousness and her fellows, and, above all, the one man who won her heart on the day of her marriage, and kept it till the grave shut over her. She was one of the best and purest women who ever shared the throne of England. She had equal qualities of head and heart, and both were beyond the average. It has been a pleasant and wholesome labor to trace her blameless life, and to unfold the wrappings that have long hidden the character refined and ennobled by much unnecessary suffering.
Surprisingly, and somewhat sad are the two places that Sam’s life and that of the Queens’ overlapped long after he ceased to write in his Diary. First, both Sam and Queen Catherine became targets of the Popish Plots, although the charges were unrelated to each other. Luckily for both, after each experienced a frightening set-up and horrifying scrutiny, they each emerged innocent of any of the false charges filed against them. By far, the most touching link between the two will take place as both have moved on in years and have poignantly felt the bittersweet lessons that life and maturity have afforded them . Upon her return to Lisbon many years after the death of her husband, Catherine’s biographer Lillias Campbell Davidson (p 481), tells us that:
Those who had esteemed her and loved her in the country she had left, did not now forget her. In 1700 Pepys wrote to his nephew in Portugal to wait on Lady Tuke, and if the honour of kissing the hand of the Queen-Dowager were offered him, to be sure to present to that royal lady, whom Pepys held in great honour, his profoundest duty.
Perhaps the greatest honour that Sam afforded Catherine was to present her to history, in her humanness, within the pages of his Diary. For more comments and interesting discussion about Queen Catherine please refer to the annotations below (where some of the links set forth herein have been drawn from).
Biographies and related non-fiction about Catherine are listed below. These books tend to be rare and may be available through your local library (with the help of the research department) or are sometimes available through the used book search.
- Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest, (volume numbers vary depending upon edition) by Agnes Strickland
- Catherine of Braganza, Princess of Portugal, Wife of Charles II by Manual Andrade Sousa
- Catherine of Braganza by Janet Mackay
- Catherine of Braganza, Infanta of Portugal and Queen Consort of England by Lillias Campbell Davidson
- Catherine of Braganza by Hebe Elsna
- Catarina de Braganca by Augusto Casimiro (Portuguese)
- D. Catarina de Braganca, rainha de Inglaterra by Virginia Rau (Portuguese)
- Richer Than Spices by Gertrude Z. Thomas (related to her dowry)
- King’s Wife by Robert Gray (this may be available on Amazon, and also features a section on Charles II’s mother, Queen Henrietta Marie)