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THE REIGN OF THE STUARTS.
CATHERINE, QUEEN OF CHARLES II.
The Queen's uncomfortable Situation at the Court of Charles-Her Lineage-Arrives at Portsmouth-Charles's Description of her to Lord Clarendon-Her Marriage with the King-Descriptions of her Person-Her Extraordinary Retinue-List of her Household in 1669-Anecdotes-Lady Castlemaine attempted to be forced upon her as a Lady of the Bedchamber-Indignation of Catherine -Unfeeling Conduct of Charles and Lord Clarendon-The Queen consents to the Appointment of her Rival-Alteration in her Conduct-Encourages Gaiety and Frolic-Fashionable Freaks of the Period-The Queen's Unhappiness-Evidences of her being capable of bearing Children-Her dangerous Illness, and Affliction of Charles-Accused by Titus Oates-Her Grief at the Death of Charles-Description of her later in Life-Her Death.
ALTHOUGH her position as Queen of Great Britain was a splendid and an envied one, and although few persons, who have attained to the age of threescore years and ten, have passed through life more happily exempt from those domestic afflictions which are the lot of humanity, the story of Catherine of Braganza is nevertheless a melancholy one. Accustomed in her childhood to the strict rules, the rigid discipline, and narrow intercourse
of a convent; ignorant of the vices of the other sex, and incapable of comprehending the possible existence of such a character as Charles the Second, she was suddenly led forth to become the wife of an unprincipled voluptuary, and to preside over the most licentious court in Europe. As many as five years had elapsed since she had last emerged from the quiet courts and gardens of her father's palace, when, as the accepted and affianced wife of Charles, she ventured into the streets of Lisbon, to return thanks to her tutelary saints for the splendid future which she believed to be her destiny. So charmed was the Queen of Portugal with her daughter's elevation, and so satisfied was Catherine herself that a life of happiness awaited her, that when they parted for the first and last time on the Quay of Lisbon, neither mother nor daughter shed a single tear. She was destined to be signally and bitterly disappointed. Friendless and almost companionless in a foreign land; exposed, by the eccentricity of her national costume and the stiffness of her foreign manners, to the merciless ridicule of licentious men, and the half-suppressed titters of shameless women; deserted, almost in the first weeks of her marriage for more alluring charms; uniting moreover the conventional pride which is engendered in the atmosphere of a small court, with all the deep sensitiveness of her sex, and the proverbial jealousy of her native land, thus rendering the indignities to which she was exposed the more insufferable, we can imagine few trials more bitter, few situations more mortifying, than were those of this unoffending and ill-treated Princess.
Charles had scarcely been settled quietly on his throne, when his future marriage became no less a matter of common interest and gossip among his subjects,
than one of solemn discussion at the council-board. The eligibility of one or two German Princesses had been advocated by some of his councillors, but Charles rejected such an alliance with horror. "Odd's fish," he exclaimed, “ I could not marry one of them; they are all foggy." The fact was that they were portionless. The King was in want of money, and accordingly the wealthy daughter of the House of Braganza, endowed as she was with some personal charms, presented herself to him as the most eligible consort he could select. Half a million of money; the Island of Bombay in the East Indies; the fortress of Tangier on the coast of Africa,which promised protection in the Mediterranean to the merchant-trade of England, and lastly a guarantee of sharing in the hitherto exclusive trade with Brazils and the East Indies, certainly constituted a tempting and splendid dowry. Lastly, the favourable reports which he received of the Infanta's accomplishments, and the not untempting features presented in a miniature-portrait of her, which he received from Lisbon, decided the choice of the unscrupulous monarch. Contemplating her portrait for a few moments,-" He was sure, he said, that person could not be unhandsome." A well-known miniature, sold at the recent spoliation of the famous collection at Strawberry Hill, is said to have been the identical portrait which influenced Charles in his selection of a partner of his throne.
Catherine, Infanta of Portugal, was the only daughter of Juan, Duke of Braganza, who so nobly threw off the yoke of Spain, and restored monarchy to Portugal, after an interruption of nearly sixty years. Her mother was Lucia, daughter of Guzman Duke of Medina Sidonia, a Spanish grandee. Catherine was born at Villa Vicosa, in Portugal, on St. Catherine's Day, the 25th of November,
1638, and had attained her twenty-fourth year at the time of her marriage.
The articles of the marriage treaty having been signed on both sides, the Earl of Sandwich was despatched from England with a gallant squadron of ships, with directions to take possession of Tangier, and, on his return, to bring home the bride. According to Echard and other writers, the Earl married her for the King by proxy. We have the authority, however, of King James that she refused to be married to a Protestant representative, and consequently trusted herself implicitly to the faith of the English nation.* The experiment, considering the character of Charles, was rather dangerous; especially as her dowry was only half paid at the time, and then in the shape of jewels, cotton, sugar, and other articles of merchandise. It was not till the eve of the embarkation of the Infanta, that Lord Sandwich received an intimation from the Court of Lisbon, of its inability to pay the stipulated sum. Thus Charles received his bride and his disappointment at the same moment. As the dowry was to have been paid entirely in gold, the long face of the "merry monarch," over his bales of cotton and tubs of sugar, must have been sufficient to provoke the mirth even of his dullest courtier.
The Infanta sailed from Lisbon on the 23rd of April,
*To enable her to be married in Portugal to a Protestant Prince, according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, it was necessary that a dispensation should be obtained from the Pope. As the independence of Portugal had not yet been acknowledged by the See of Rome, Catherine would necessarily have been designated, in the deed of dispensation, merely as the sister of the Duke of Braganza. "Accordingly,” says Lord Clarendon, "before they would receive that affront, the most jealous nation in the world chose rather to send the daughter of the kingdom to be married in England; and not to be married till she came thither."
and after a voyage, which lasted three weeks, during which she suffered severely from sea-sickness, arrived at Portsmouth on the 14th of May, 1662. She had been met off the Isle of Wight by the Duke of York, then Lord High Admiral of England, who was instantly admitted into her cabin and placed in a chair on her right hand. Catherine was seated under a canopy, on a throne which was contrived for the occasion. Lord Chesterfield says in his "Short Notes:"-" His royal highness, out of compliment to the King, would not salute her; to the end that his Majesty might be the first man that ever had received that favour; she coming out of a country where it was not the fashion." * Notwithstanding her sufferings during the voyage, it appears that, from some unaccountable reason, it was six days before she landed.
At Portsmouth, Catherine was received with every possible honour. "The nobility and gentry," says Heath, "and multitudes of Londoners, in most rich apparel, and in great numbers, waited on the shore for her landing. And the Mayor and Aldermen, and principal persons of that corporation, being in their gowns, and with a present and speech, were ready to entertain her; the cannon and small shot, both from round that town, and from the whole fleet echoing to one another the loud proclamations of their joy." In consequence of having some important bills to pass through Parliament, it was not till the 19th of May, five days after the arrival of Catherine at Portsmouth, that Charles set off from Whitehall to welcome his bride. At nine o'clock at night, accompanied only by Prince Rupert, and attended by a troop of the life-guards, he entered the Duke of
* Letters of Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield, Memoir, p. 21.