EB Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Resarch
January 1998, No. 26
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
"...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
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
Jan 8 1706
George Frederick Handel's opera Almira premieres at Hamburg.
The French give up the siege of Gibraltar.
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
Edmond Halley identifies the comet later given his name.
Lawyer William Murray is born.
Feb 10 1707
William Beaw dies in his vicarage at Adderbury.
German organist-composer Johann Pachibel dies at the age of 54.
Construction is begun on Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England.
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.
Queen Anne approves the Act of Union, uniting England, Scotland and Wales
into the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Author Henry Fielding is born near Glastonbury, England.
The Act of Union goes into effect. Lord Cowper becomes Lord Chancellor.
Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude dies.
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
Joseph Addison accompanies Lord Halifax to Hanover, Germany.
Weekly market figures include approximately 1300 oxen, 8200 sheep and 2000
John Dalrymple, Earl of Stair, dies.
* Used in the preparation of the article
- Bridge, Anne & Lowndes, Susan - The Selective Traveller in Portugal
- Cmoes, Luis Vaz de - The Lusiads (trans. L. Bacon, 1950)
- Durant, Will - The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ (New York,
Simon & Schuster, 1944)*
- -- The Story of Civilization: The Age of Louis XIV (New York, Simon
& Schuster, 1963) *
- Gallop, Rodney - Portugal. A Book of Folk-Ways (Cambridge University
- Hughes, T. M. - An Overland Journey to Lisbon with a Picture of the
Actual State of Spain and Portugal (1847)
- Kelly, Marie Noele - This Delicious Land Portugal (London, Hutchinson,
- Livermore, H. V., ed. - Portugal and Brazil (1953)
- Longford, Elizabeth, ed. - The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes (New
York Oxford, 1991) *
- Macaulay, Rose - They Went to Portugal (London, Jonathan Cape, 1946)
- Murray, John - A Handbook for Travllers to Portugal (1864)
- Young, Sir George - Portugal Old and Young (1917)
- Younger, William & Elizabeth - Blue Moon in Portugal (New York,
William Morrow, 1956) *
A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL
Eagles Byte Historical Research
© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte