Catherine of Braganza: Charles II's Restoration Queen by Sarah-Beth Watkins: A Book Review

Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen
Author: Sarah-Beth Watkins
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Chronos Books
Release Date: 2017
Pages: 169
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married Charles II in 1662 and became the merry monarch's Restoration queen. Yet life for her was not so merry - she put up with the king's many mistresses and continuous plots to remove her from the throne. She lived through times of war, plague and fire. Catherine's marriage saw many trials and tribulations including her inability to produce an heir. Yet Charles supported his queen throughout the Restoration, remaining devoted to her no matter what. Outliving her husband, she ended up back in her home country and spent her final days as queen-regent of Portugal.

     My Review: Catherine of Braganza was the wife of Charles II. She is known for making tea popular in England. She was often very unpopular and was believed to be the neglected wife of Charles II. However, in this biography of Queen Catherine, she is portrayed as a loyal and loving wife to King Charles. While she was often in background at the merry monarch’s court, King Charles never really considered replacing her. He ended up being her most staunch supporter. This biography also shows that Catherine had the makings of being a great queen when she became regent for her nephew in Portugal.

     Catherine of Braganza was a princess of Portugal. She was a devoted Catholic throughout her life. Charles II secured his marriage with Catherine in exchange for a large dowry, which he never received. Catherine arrived in England, but she didn’t speak any English. She was immediately unpopular because of her Catholic faith. Charles also did not meet her upon arrival because he was with his mistress. Yet, despite these setbacks, Charles still decided to marry her anyway, both in a secret Catholic ceremony and in a Protestant one.

     The beginning of their marriage became tumultuous. Charles wanted to make his mistress serve his wife. Catherine refused. This biography showed that Catherine was temperamental, stubborn, and passionate. It also showed that Charles was also hot-headed and stubborn, and that both the king and queen were used to getting their own way. This became a strained marriage, and Catherine became neglected. It wasn’t until after she relented and treated Charles’s mistresses with respect that Charles began to pay more attention to her.

     Throughout her marriage, Catherine had to tolerate Charles’s mistresses. She also had to deal with the failure that she never produced an heir and the king’s counselors advising the king to replace her. Despite these problems, Charles never divorced his wife. He supported her. When the Popish Plot of 1678 threatened her, Charles stood by her side and declared he wouldn’t impeach her. Their relationship became closer. Charles spent more time with her and gave her more attention.

     After Charles’s death, she lived in seclusion in Somerset House and witnessed the reigns of James II and William and Mary. Eventually, she returned to Portugal and was appointed regent for her nephew. She was a successful regent, but her time was short. She died in December.

     Overall, this biography portrays Catherine in a sympathetic light. Her life was a series of tribulations. I felt sorry for Catherine and her difficulties. Yet, she managed to overcome them with the help of her husband Charles II. This biography also shows a more complex portrait of Catherine. She is portrayed as temperamental, stubborn, loyal, and politically adept. Because we see how capable Catherine is as regent, we only wonder how good of a queen she would be if Charles relied on her more often. This biography was short and it is very readable to the general reader. Those who have never heard of Catherine will find her story compelling and will want to learn more about her. Thus, Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen shows Catherine to be a woman who had the potential to be a great queen, but was never given the chance during her marriage to Charles II.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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