EB Odds & Ends

A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Resarch

January 1998, No. 26

Queen's Journey

What historical individual links a cathedral town in northeastern Portugal with New York City's largest borough? Granted, there are probably some ex-pats (expatriates) from the former currently living in the latter. But who else? The question has repercussions today; we'll get to that later.

To find the beginning of the trail, it is necessary to journey back to before the Christian era. The Roman Empire, always spreading, had its eye on the rich mineral wealth of Iberia. Inhabitants, led by their military chief Variathus, held off Rome's armies until approximately 137 BCE, thwarting expansionist ambitions. But assassins are never in short supply and demand always keeps pace. Variathus thus being successfully disposed of, Roman general Scipio Aemilianus soon had most of the peninsula under his control. Italian colonists pushed their way down the Iberian Peninsula and settlements soon dotted the arid plains where the Celtic Lusitani had dwelt for five or ten thousands years. Rome has always showcased its engineering might in the provinces and Lusitania's capital at Emerita (Merida) soon sported a 2500-foot-long bridge, as well as temples, aqueducts, and theaters. Most of this was more than paid for by the copper extracted from the region. Much of the silver from the rest of Iberia also passed through Lusitania as well. Latin was the predominant tongue throughout. And in the third century AD Lusitania became a Christian province.

Two centuries later, as the empire began fraying around the edges, Visigoths and Suevi swept down out of the German northlands and fought each other for possession of the Roman colonies. The next threat came from the south, as Moorish invaders poured out of North Africa, only halting on the banks of the Tagus River. Eventually the European factions began combining forces to drive the Moor back across the Mediterranean. Somewhere along the way a nation coalesced. Two nations actually, although that would take a while longer to sort itself out.

As the first millennium flipped and the African threat began receding, a power base formed around the Spanish city of Castile. The city's ruler Fernando I married Sancha, sister of Bermudo III, the last king of Leon, uniting the two kingdoms, then beginning a campaign of expansion, culminating with the capture of Toledo in 1085. His dynasty would dominate the Christian portion of Iberia for another fifty-eight years. During these years another power base was forming to the west.

The Romans had settled an area, on the Duoro River, they called Portus Cale. Today it's known as Porto, or Oporto. This name is probably the source for Lusitania's new name. Portugal. In 1143 a Portuguese count named Alfonso Henry declared his area's independence from Castile-Leon and began ruling as Alfonso I. Except for a period between 1580 and 1640, when Hapsburg monarchs sat on the throne (Philip II, III and IV of Spain, ruling Portugal as Philip I, II, and III), the kingdom remained independent from the rest of Iberia. Hapsburg rule ended in December 1640 when a wealthy aristocrat from the northeast corner of Portugal, Joao (John) II, duke of Braganza, lead a successful and lasting revolt against Spain. His line would continue to rule until Portugal became a republic in 1910.

Our trail shifts to the north. A frontier outpost of remote uplands surrounded by mountains, Braganza has been described by travelers as a place still retaining echoes of the millennium-old Celtic past. In the mid-1950s the bishop of Braganza told writer-travelers William and Elizabeth Younger, "Up in this part of the world...it would be easy for them to relapse into savagery. In a remote place like this, if it were not for the Church..." End quote. The Youngers noted carved-granite pigs scattered throughout the provincial capital city, harking back to a deity worshipped by the early inhabitants. They describe the buildings as crumbling, as if from loneliness. A stone citadel stares down on the town and a Romanesque council house looks out over a plaza, complete with market cross. In March the winds are cold and damp; in October the heat oppressive. Down below to the north lies the frontier with Spain, eight miles away. This rather remote corner of Portugal gave its name to the family of the new king who captured the throne from the Hapsburgs in 1640 and ruled as Joao IV. In 1633 Joao had married Luisa de Guzman, the oldest daughter of the duke of Medina Sidonia, the oldest duchy in Spain. Luisa's grandfather had been the 7th duke, ill-fated leader of the Spanish Armada. It was to Joao and Luisa that a daughter was born in November of 1638, in Villia Vicosa. They named her Catherine, after the saint whose day she was born on. One legend reports that it was the sight of the young child that emboldened Joao to lead the revolt against the Hapsburgs.

There is not a lot generally known about Catherine's childhood. The princess spent her early childhood in the Court at Lisbon and at Villia Vicosa, long a favorite residence of her father. It was a Catholic upbringing, mostly in a convent, even though Rome refused to recognize her father's rule or accept his church appointments - Portugal was eventually reduced to having one bishop. Joao died in 1656 and Luisa continued shaping the young girl's education, grooming her for a dynastic marriage. Topping the list was the House of Stuart. Apart from Portugal itself and England there weren't too many other prospects; Spain's allies would have nothing to do with this upstart kingdom. Negotiations with England were going forward when someone else entered the picture. Someone who may never have heard of Catherine of Braganza. Someone named Oliver Cromwell. Plans had to be put on hold for a while as civil war raged in England and Charles I was executed.

Finally, in May of 1660 Charles Stuart returned to England in triumph and claimed his father's throne. Luisa lost little time in re-opening negotiations for a marriage between Catherine and the new king. The union would, of course, be of mutual benefit to both nations. England could bring her military might to the aid of Portugal in its struggle to retain its independence. Royal coffers were also rather depleted, and Charles II was a man who didn't spare the horses (or any other costly accoutrements of royalty). The Portuguese had been busy since the time of Henry the Navigator exploring and settling the far regions of the globe and Catherine would bring both a large dowry and some rather impressive property. Such as Bombay and Tangier. Charles II sent one of his most trusted advisers, Edward Mountagu, first Earl of Sandwich, to Portugal to fetch Catherine. Once the terms had been made the Portuguese in Tangier threatened to renege, but when Moorish forces seized the city they changed their minds and Sandwich sent in a garrison to reclaim the city. There was no further problem with Tangier. However Sandwich found the Portuguese could not meet the financial terms either, so Sandwich (and Charles) had to settle for half.

The final agreement in place, Sandwich swung by Lisbon, picked up Catherine, and headed for England. They were met at the Isle of Wight by the Duke of York, then continued on to Portsmouth, where they were met by Charles. Catherine had not been outside of convent walls more than a half dozen times in her adult life; the voyage must have been both exhilarating and frightening. To the two principals arranged marriages have to be the Great Unknown. We know from familiar portraits and reports that the groom was impressively handsome. What about the bride? Charles has shared his first impressions with posterity.

"...her face is not so exact as to called a beauty though her eyes are excellent good, and not anything in her face that can in the least shock one, on the contrary she has as much agreeableness in her looks altogether as ever I saw...her conversation as much as I can perceive is very good for she has wit enough and the most agreeable voice." He concluded, "In a word I think myself very happy."

The words "with faint praise" come to mind, but prints show Catherine as being attractive enough, someone we might like to know. Of course Charles was a Cavalier, with the accompanying manner, and it's certain that Catherine, brought up in a secluded convent, would not have the "flash" to keep Charles's mind off his numerous mistresses. Apparently there was no attempt to do a fashion makeover of her wardrobe. Her traveling outfit seemed to have been designed by the nuns, with numerous folds of ebony fabric. Charles remarked later, in private, he thought they had brought him "a bat instead of a woman." And since she spoke no English, her "conservation" could not have been scintillating. Her dowry was skimpier than expected. Worst of all in the long run, she produced only miscarriages, no heirs. In Catherine's lifetime the crown would pass to brother-in-law, James (the same Duke of York who had met her ship at the Isle of Wight) and then to sister-in-law Mary and Mary's husband William.

But all of that was in the future. Rebelling at first against her husband's flagrant disregard for his vows (Catholic and Anglican) she threatened to return to Portugal. Charles sent most of her entourage packing and, deprived of familiar faces and the sound of he native language, Catherine finally settled into her gilded cage and lived the rest of her life in England, distancing herself from her adopted country's politics and Court life, a stranger in a strange land. She did not remain as distant from its politics as she might have wished. Having by her marriage infuriated English Protestants, she was accused of participating in popish plots. English conspirator Titus Oates accused her of treason in 1678 after the murder of magistrate Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, and accused her of treason again in 1679. The Protestant faction called for her to stand trial, but the king's Cavalier blood surfaced and he stood by his wife's side, refusing to permit a trial. Further attempts to impugn the queen met with an equal lack of success and one accuser named Fitzharris paid with his life in 1681. The furor died down and life at Court continued.

Royalty, whatever its source may be, always influences national life and there is no doubt that Catherine made a mark on her adopted country. Furniture brought from her homeland had feet with a distinctive shape that came to be called Braganza. Charles dedicated London's new Queens Theatre to her, though she seldom attended. It was as a result of this foreign queen that the English people were first introduced to orange marmalade. And Samuel Pepys tells us that the first thing Catherine asked for on her arrival in England was a cup of tea. She was offered ale; tea could not be provided. The English did not drink tea. She finally managed to obtain some and taught some of her new countrymen and women to drink the strange brew.

Charles II died, of convulsions and physicians, in 1685, with Catherine kneeling at the foot of his bed, massaging his feet. He was 54. Catherine remained in England for another seven years, until relations with William and Mary became strained, then she returned to Lisbon to live out the remainder of her life in nearby Bemposta Palace, which she had built for her. She continued to foster good relations between Portugal and England and served as regent while her brother Pedro II was ill. She died on the last day of 1705, at the age of 62, leaving her long-accumulated and considerable fortune to various charities and to her brother. Her funeral at Belem was conducted with great splendor and ceremony.

Our trail has lead us from Rome, to Portugal, to England, and back again to Portugal. We have one more journey to take.

On November 1, 1683, a new county was created out of what had been the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire. Not York, England, but its namesake at the mouth of the Hudson River, on the North American continent. The major stakeholder, the Duke of York, from whom the colony took its name, wished to honor his brother's wife. Apparently deciding not to name the new county Catherine of Braganza, he instead named it Queens.

Catherine is still causing a mild tempest in a land she never saw. Certain civic improvers in the borough of Queens decided recently that their county needed a symbol. But more than just a graphic that would look good on coffee mugs and tee-shirts. One that would make a statement. Plans were announced to commission a thirty-some-foot-high statue of Catherine of Braganza, that would stand at the East River edge of the borough, somehow linking all the citizens of Queens with their heritage. Not feeling any more downtrodden than other citizens of the Big Apple, some Queens residents felt that the money could be spent in better ways, even though it would not be taxpayers' money to begin with. They pointed out that it would be a statue to royalty, within a democracy. Not only that; it would stand of necessity with its back to Queens. Copies of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, positing numerous flaws in the theory of royalty, were added to the anti-statue arsenal. As of this writing the project is in limbo. Stay tuned.

BTW (By The Way)

(A new section for tidbits, factoids and etceteras relating to the main article,
but not fitting neatly therein)

The large room overlooking an inner garden in the palace at Braganza, in which Catherine was born, is now a museum.

The seaport of Porto provided the generic name for the wine called port. The words sherry and madeira also originate in Iberia.

The Spanish name Bermudo turns up in a state of Venezuela (Bermudez). And it was a Spanish seafarer named Juan Bermudez whose ship was wrecked on an island off the mainland coast of North America, causing the site to be referred to as the Bermudas.

The name Braganza turns up as a common family name among the Melungeons, a people of mysterious, not-quite Indian, not-quite-black, origins discovered in the depths of Tennessee's mountains.

The Braganza connection is also commemorated in England by Braganza, the regimental march of The Queen's Regiment (the Second Regiment of Foot), formed in 1661. Lyrics were added during World War I by not-terribly-reverent members of the regiment. Included were the lyrics:

Here they come, here they come,
Silly great buggers every one,
Half a crown a week to pay,
For putting a girl in the family way.

Here they come, here they come,
Second of Foot, but second to none,
Here they come, here they come,
Second of Foot, but second to none.

Here they come, the dirty lot,
They chased the girls in Aldershot,
Now they're off to Salisbury Plain,
To start their dirty work again.


Europe in 1705, the year of Catherine's death, and in several following years.


Jan 8
George Frederick Handel's opera Almira premieres at Hamburg.

Apr 20
The French give up the siege of Gibraltar.

Sep 24
English bishop William Beaw conducts his final ordination, at Adderbury.

Explorer Father Louis Hennepin, in Utrecht.

Joseph Addison's Rosamund.

Greenwich Royal Park is opened to public.

Robert Beverly publishes The History of Virginia in London.

Parliament adds rice, West Indian molasses and naval stores to the list of articles to be shipped only to English ports. ** The first London Season.

Edmond Halley identifies the comet later given his name.

Lawyer William Murray is born.


Feb 10
William Beaw dies in his vicarage at Adderbury.

Mar 6
German organist-composer Johann Pachibel dies at the age of 54.

Jun 18
Construction is begun on Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England.

Oct 18
Composer-harpsichordist Baldassare Galuppi is born in Italy.

Susanne Centlivre's Love at a Venture.

The commune of Aalst (Alost) reverts to Belgium.

Joseph Addison produces his opera Rosamund, in London.


Mar 6
Queen Anne approves the Act of Union, uniting England, Scotland and Wales into the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Apr 22
Author Henry Fielding is born near Glastonbury, England.

May 1
The Act of Union goes into effect. Lord Cowper becomes Lord Chancellor.

May 9
Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude dies.

Oct 22
A fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel, returning from the Mediterranean, is shipwrecked near Bishop Rock, off the Cornish Coast. 2,000 of his men drown. The admiral is washed ashore and murdered for his gold ring. A public outcry results.

Joseph Addison accompanies Lord Halifax to Hanover, Germany.

Weekly market figures include approximately 1300 oxen, 8200 sheep and 2000 calves.

John Dalrymple, Earl of Stair, dies.


* Used in the preparation of the article


David Minor
Eagles Byte Historical Research


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte