Catherine of Braganza (1)

Staying in the Alentejo has got me interested in relations between Catherine of Braganza and Charles II, who she married in 1661, leaving the great palace of Vila Viçosa, east of Estremoz, and bringing with her, according to the terms of her marriage treaty, 2 million cruzados (although this was never entirely paid), Tangier and Bombay. She set up court at St. James’s Palace, where a Catholic chapel was made available for her and, rather amazingly, established a convent known as The Friary in 1665 occupied by Portuguese Franciscans. In 1671, she moved her entourage to Somerset House and Charles II seems constantly to have considered the possibility of divorcing her, as many encouraged him to do, as she was both heirless and a Catholic. But he never quite got round to it. She attended him in his final illness, commissioning a bust of him after his death, and falling into ‘a profound depression and melancholy’, before returning to Portugal in 1692, where she was, for a short time before her own death in 1705, Regent.

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