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History of King Charles II of England
Chapter X. The Marriage.
by Abbott, Jacob


During the period of King Charles's days of adversity he made many fruitless attempts to obtain a wife. He was rejected by all the young ladies to whom he made proposals. Marriages in that grade of society are almost always mere transactions of business, being governed altogether by political and prudential considerations. In all Charles's proposals he was aiming simply at strengthening his own position by means of the wealth or family influence of the bride, supposing as he did that the honor of being even nominally a queen would be a sufficient equivalent to the lady. The ladies themselves, however, to whom he addressed himself, or their friends, thought that the prospect of his being really restored to his throne was very remote and uncertain, and, in the mean time, the empty name of queen was not worth as much as a rich and powerful heiress, by becoming his bride, would have to pay for it.

After his restoration, however, all this was changed. There was no longer any difficulty. He had now only to choose. In fact, one or two who had refused him when he was a fugitive and an exile thought differently of the case now that he was a king, and one of them, as has already been said, gave him intimations, through her friends, that if he were inclined to renew his suit, he would be more successful. Charles rejected these overtures with indignant disdain.

The lady whom he ultimately married was a Portuguese princess. Her father was King of Portugal, but before his accession to the throne his title had been the Duke of Braganza. The name of his daughter was Catharine. She is thus known generally in history by the name of Catharine of Braganza.

It is said that the plan of this marriage originated with Queen Henrietta Maria, and that a prominent motive with her in promoting the measure was her desire to secure for Charles a Catholic wife. Catharine of Braganza was a Catholic. Henrietta Maria was deeply interested, and no doubt conscientiously so, in bringing back her own family and their descendants, and the realm of England, if possible, to the ancient faith: and this question of the marriage of her son she justly considered would have a very important bearing on the result.

Queen Henrietta is said to have laid her arrangements in train for opening the negotiation with the Portuguese princess, at a visit which she made to England in 1660, very soon after her son's restoration. The Restoration took place in May. The queen's visit to her son was in October. Of course, after all the long years of danger, privation, and suffering which this family had endured, the widowed mother felt an intense emotion of joy at finding her children once more restored to what she considered their just hereditary rights. Charles was on the English throne. James, the Duke of York, was Lord High Admiral of England, that is, the commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the realm; and her other children, those who were still living, were in peace and safety. Of course, her heart was full of maternal pride and joy.

Her son James, the Lord High Admiral, went across the Channel to Dover, with a fleet of the finest ships that he could select from the whole British navy, to escort his mother to England. The queen was to embark at Calais. [Footnote: For a view of the famous Calais pier, see History of Mary Queen of Scots, page 105.] The queen came down to the port from Paris, attended by many friends, who sympathized with her in the return of her prosperity, and were attracted, besides, by the grand spectacle which they thought would be presented by the appearance and maneuvers of the English ships, and the ceremony of the embarkation.

The waters of the English Channel are disturbed by almost perpetual agitations, which bleak winds and rapid tides, struggling continually together, combine to raise; and many a traveler, who passes in comfort across the Atlantic, is made miserable by the incessant restlessness of this narrow sea. At the time, however, when Henrietta Maria crossed it, the waters for once were calm. The people who assembled upon the pier to witness the embarkation looked over the expanse before them, and saw it lying smooth, every where, as glass, and reflecting the great English ships which lay at a little distance from the shore as if it were a mirror. It was a bright and beautiful October morning. The air seemed perfectly motionless. The English ships were adorned with countless flags in honor of the occasion, but they all hung down perfectly lifeless upon the masts and rigging. Scarcely a ripple rolled upon the beach; and so silent and still was the morning air, that the voices and echoes came from vast distances along the shore, and the dip of the oars of the boats gliding about in the offing sent its sound for miles around over the smooth surface of the sea; and when the grand salute was fired at the embarkation of the queen, the reverberation of the guns was heard distinctly, it was said, at Dover, a distance of thirty miles.

Even in such a calm as this, however, uncommon as it is, the atmosphere is not perfectly still. When the royal party were on board the vessels and the sails were set, the fleet did begin to glide, almost imperceptibly, it is true, away from the shore. In the course of the day they had receded several miles from the land, and when the dinner hour arrived they found that the lord admiral had provided a most sumptuous banquet on board. Just before the time, however, for setting down to the table, the duke found that it was a Catholic fast day, and that neither his mother nor any of her attendants, being, as they were, all Catholics, could eat any thing but fish; and, unfortunately, as all James's men were Protestants, they had not thought of the fast, and they had no fish on board. They, however, contrived to produce a sturgeon for the queen, and they sat down to the table, the queen to the dish provided for her, and the others to bread and vegetables, and such other food as the Catholic ritual allowed, while the duke himself and his brother officers disposed, as well as they could, of the more luxurious dainties which they had intended for their guests.

With a fair wind, three hours is sufficient for the run from Calais to Dover. It took the Duke of York two days to get his fleet across in this calm. At length, however, they arrived. The king was on the pier to receive his mother. Rejoiced as her majesty must have been to be welcomed by her son under such circumstances, she must have thought mournfully of her departed husband at the time of her landing, for it was here that he had taken leave of her some years before, when the troubles of her family were beginning. Charles conducted his mother to the castle. All the inhabitants of Dover, and of the country around, had assembled to witness the arrival, and they welcomed the mother back to the land of her husband and her sons with long and loud acclamations.

There was a great banquet at Dover Castle. Here all the members of the royal family were present, having been assembled for the occasion. Of course, it was an occasion of great family rejoicing, mingled undoubtedly, on the part of the queen, with many mournful thoughts and bitter recollections. The fast was past, and there was, consequently, no difficulty now about partaking of the food that had been provided; but another difficulty arose, having the same origin, viz., the question whether the divine blessing should be implored upon the food by a Catholic priest or an Episcopal chaplain. Neither party could conscientiously acquiesce in the performance of the service by the other. They settled the important question, or rather it settled itself at last, in the following manner: When the guests were ready to take their places at table, the king, instead of asking his mother's spiritual guide to officiate, as both Christian and filial courtesy required him to have done, called upon his own chaplain. The chaplain said grace. Immediately afterward, the Catholic priest, thinking that fidelity to his own religious faith required him to act decidedly, repeated the service in the Catholic form, ending with making the sign of the cross in a very conspicuous manner over the table. The gentry of Dover, who had been admitted as spectators of this banquet, were greatly scandalized at this deed. They regarded the gesture as an act of very wicked and vary dangerous idolatry.

From Dover the queen proceeded with her children to London. Her sons did every thing in their power to honor their mother's visit; they received her with great parade and pomp, assigned her a sumptuous residence, and studied every means of amusing her, and of making her visit a source of pleasure. But they did not succeed. The queen was very unhappy. Every place that she visited recalled to her mind the memory of her husband, and awakened afresh all her sorrows. She was distressed, too, by some domestic troubles, which we have not here time to describe. Then the religious differences between herself and her children, and the questions which were arising out of them continually, gave her a great deal of pain; she could not but perceive, moreover, that she was regarded with suspicion and dislike by the people of England on account of her Catholic faith. Then, besides, notwithstanding her English husband and her English children, she was herself a French woman still in character, thought, feeling, and language, and she could not feel really at home north of the Channel. After remaining, therefore, a few months in London, and arranging some family and business affairs which required her attention, she determined to return. The king accompanied her to Portsmouth, where she set sail, taking the little princess Henrietta with her, and went back to France. Among the family affairs, however, which she arranged, it is said that the marriage of her son, the king, was a special object of her attention, and that she secretly laid the train which resulted in his espousing Catharine of Braganza.

According to the accounts given in the chronicles of the times, the negotiations were opened in the following manner: One day the Portuguese ambassador at London came to a certain high officer of the king's household, and introduced the subject of his majesty's marriage, saying, in the course of the conversation, that he thought the Princess Catharine of Portugal would be a very eligible match, and adding moreover, that he was authorized to say that, with the lady, very advantageous terms could be offered. Charles said he would think of it. This gave the ambassador sufficient encouragement to induce him to take another step. He obtained an audience of Charles the next day, and proposed the subject directly for his consideration. The ambassador knew very well that the question would turn, in Charles's mind, on the pecuniary and political advantages of the match; so he stated at once what they would be. He was authorized to offer, he said, the sum of five hundred thousand pounds [Footnote: Equal to two or three millions of dollars.] as the princess's portion, and to surrender to the English crown various foreign possessions, which had, till then, belonged to the Portuguese. One of the principal of these was the island of Bombay in the East Indies. Another was Tangier, a port in Africa. The English did not, at that time, hold any East Indian territories. He likewise offered to convey to the English nation the right of trading with the great South American country of Brazil, which then pertained to the Portuguese crown.

Charles was very much pleased with these proposals. He immediately consulted his principal minister of state, Lord Clarendon, the celebrated historian, and soon afterward called a meeting of his privy council and laid the case before them. Clarendon asked him if he had given up all thoughts of a Protestant connection. Charles said that he did not know where to look for a Protestant wife. It was true, in fact, that nearly all the royal families of Europe were Catholics, and royal bridegrooms must always have royal brides. There were, however, Protestant princesses in Germany; this was suggested to his majesty, but he replied, with an expression of contempt, that they were all dull and foggy, and he could not possibly have one of them for a wife.

The counselors then began to look at the pecuniary and political advantages of the proposed bargain. They got out their maps, and showed Charles where Bombay, and Tangier, and the other places offered with the lady as her dowry lay. The statesmen were quite pleased with the prospect of these acquisitions, and Charles was particularly gratified with the money item. It was twice as much, they said, as any English king had ever before received as the marriage portion of a bride. In a word, the proposition was unanimously considered as in every respect entirely satisfactory, and Charles authorized his ministers to open the negotiations for the marriage immediately. All this time Charles had never seen the lady, and perhaps had never heard of her before. Her own individual qualifications, whether of mind or of person, seem to have been considered a subject not worth inquiring about at all.

Nor ought we to be at all surprised at this. It was not Charles's object, in seeking a wife, to find some one whom he was to cherish and love, and who was to promote his happiness by making him the object of her affection in return. His love, so far as such a soul is capable of love, was to be gratified by other means. He had always some female favorite, chosen from among the ladies of his court, high in rank, though not high enough to be the wedded wife of the king. These attachments were not private in any sense, nor was any attempt made to conceal them, the king being in the habit of bestowing upon the objects of them all the public attentions, as well as the private intimacy which pertain to wedded life. The king's favorite at the present time was Lady Castlemaine. She was originally a Mrs. Palmer, but the king had made her husband Lord Castlemaine for the purpose of giving a title to the wife. Some years afterward he made her a duchess. She was a prominent lady in the court, being every where received and honored as the temporary wife of the king. He did not intend, in marrying the Princess Catharine, to disturb this state of things at all. She was to be in name his wife, but he was to place his affections where he pleased. She was to have her own palace, her own household, and her own pleasures, and he, on the other hand, was to continue to have his.

Notwithstanding this, however, Charles seemed to have had some consideration for the personal appearance of his proposed bride, after all. The Spanish government, as soon as Charles's plan of espousing Catharine became known, attempted to prevent the match, as it would greatly increase the strength and influence of Portugal by giving to that country so powerful an ally. Spain had plenty of money, but no princess in the royal family; and the government therefore proposed to Charles, that if he would be content to take some Protestant lady for a wife, they would endow her, and with a portion as great as that which had been offered with Catharine. They, moreover, represented to Charles that Catharine was out of health, and very plain and repulsive in her personal appearance, and that, besides, it would be a great deal better for him, for obvious political reasons, to marry a Protestant princess. The other party replied that Catharine was not ugly by any means, and they showed Charles her portrait, which, after looking at it a few minutes, he said was not unhandsome. They reminded him, also, that Catharine was only the third in succession from the crown of Portugal, so that the chance of her actually inheriting that realm was not at all to be disregarded. Charles thought this a very important consideration, and, on the whole, decided that the affair should go on; and commissioners were sent to make a formal proposal of marriage at the Portuguese court. Charles wrote letters to the mother of the young lady, and to the young lady herself, expressing the personal interest he felt in obtaining the princess's hand.

The negotiations thus commenced went on for many months, with no other obstruction than the complication and intricacy which attend all matrimonial arrangements where the interests of kingdoms, as well as the personal happiness of the wedded pair, are involved in the issue. Ambassadors were sent, and contracts and treaties were drawn up, discussed, modified, and finally signed. A formal announcement of the proposed marriage was made to the English Parliament, and addresses congratulatory were voted and presented in reply. Arrangements were made for transferring the foreign possessions promised to the British crown; and, lastly, the money intended for the dower was collected, tied up in bags, sealed, and deposited safely in the strong room of the Castle at Lisbon. In fact, every thing went on prosperously to the end, and when all was thus finally settled, Charles wrote the following letter to his expected bride.

"London, 2d of July, 1661. MY LADY AND WIFE,"

"Already the ambassador has set off for Lisbon; for me the signing of the marriage has been great happiness; and there is about to be dispatched at this time, after him, one of my servants, charged with what would appear necessary, whereby may be declared on my part the inexpressible joy of this felicitous conclusion, which, when received, will hasten the coming of your majesty."

"I am going to make a short progress into some of my provinces. In the mean time, while I am going further from my most sovereign good, yet I do not complain as to whither I go; seeking in vain tranquility in my restlessness, looking to see the beloved person of your majesty in these realms already your own; and that with the same anxiety with which, after my long banishment, I desired to see myself within them, and my subjects desiring also to behold me among them. The presence of your serenity is only wanting to unite us, under the protection of God, in the health and content I desire.

"The very faithful husband of her majesty, whose hand he kisses.
CHARLES REX."

The letter was addressed

"To the QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN, my wife and lady, whom God preserve."

Whoever reads this letter attentively will see in it that infallible criterion of hypocrisy and pretense in professions of regard, viz., extravagant ideas feebly and incoherently expressed. When the heart dictates what is said, the thoughts are natural, and the language plain; but in composition like the above, we see a continual striving to say something for effect, which the writer invents by his ingenuity as he goes on, without any honest impulses from the heart to guide him. He soars one minute and breaks down the next, in absurd alternations of the sublime and the ridiculous. How honest Charles was in such professions, and what was the kind of connubial happiness which he was preparing for his bride, is shown by the fact that he was even now spending all his time with Lady Castlemaine; and, to reconcile her to his marriage with Catharine, he had promised her that he would make her one of the ladies of the queen's bed chamber as soon as she arrived in London, which would give him constant opportunities of being in her society.

We have made very little allusion to Catharine herself, thus far, in the account of these transactions, because she has had, thus far, nothing to do with them. Every thing has been arranged for her by her mother, who was an ambitious and masculine woman, and at this time the queen regent of Portugal. Catharine had been kept shut up, all her days, in the most strict seclusion, and in the most rigorous subjection to her mother's will. It is said that she had hardly been ten times out of the palace in her life, since her return to it from the convent where she had been educated. The innocent and simple hearted maiden looked forward to her marriage as to a release from a tedious and intolerable bondage. They had shown her King Charles's picture, and had given her an account of his perilous adventures and romantic escapes, and of the courage and energy which he had sometimes displayed. And that was all she knew. She had her childlike ideas of love and of conjugal fidelity and happiness, and believed that she was going to realize them. As she looked forward, therefore, to the period of her departure for England, she longed impatiently for the time to come, her heart bounding at every thought of the happy hour with eager anticipations of delight.

An English nobleman--the Earl of Sandwich--was sent with a squadron to bring the bride to England. He was received, when he entered the Tagus, with great ceremony. A Portuguese minister went down the river to meet him in a magnificent barge. The nobleman descended to the lowest step of the ladder which led down the side of the ship, to receive the minister. They ascended the ladder together, while the ship fired a salute of twenty or thirty guns. They went into the cabin, and took seats there, with great ceremony. The minister then rose and made an address of welcome to the English commander. Lord Sandwich replied, and there was then another thundering salute of cannon.

All this parade and ceremony was, in this case, as it often is, not an expression of real cordiality, good will, and good faith, but a substitute for them. The English commander, who had been specially instructed to bring over the money as well as the bride, found, to his great astonishment and perplexity, that the queen regent had spent a considerable portion of the money which had been put away so safely in the bags, and she wished to pay now a part of the dowry in merchandise, at such prices as she thought reasonable, and to have a year's credit for the remainder. There was thus thrown upon Lord Sandwich the very heavy responsibility of deciding whether to give up the object of his expedition, and go back to England without the bride, or to take her without the money. After very anxious hesitation and suspense, he decided to proceed with his enterprise, and the preparations were made for the princess's embarkation.

When the day arrived, the queen descended the grand staircase of the palace, and at the foot of it took leave of her mother. Neither mother nor daughter shed a tear. The princess was conducted through the streets, accompanied by a long cavalcade and a procession of splendid carriages, through long lines of soldiers, and under triumphal arches, and over paths strewed with flowers, while bands of music, and groups of dancers, at various distances along the way, expressed the general congratulation and joy. When they reached the pier there was a splendid brigantine or barge ready to receive the bride and her attendants. The Earl of Sandwich, and other English officers of high rank belonging to the squadron, entered the barge too. The water was covered with boats, and the shipping in the river was crowded with spectators. The barge moved on to the ship which was to convey the bridal party, who ascended to the deck by means of a spacious and beautiful stair constructed upon its side. Salutes were fired by the English ships, and were echoed by the Portuguese forts on the shore. The princess's brother and the ladies who had accompanied her on board, to take leave of her there, now bade her farewell, and returned by the barge to the shore, while the ships weighed anchor and prepared to put to sea.

The wind was, however, contrary, and they were compelled to remain that night in the river; and as soon as the darkness came on, the whole shore became resplendent with illuminations at the windows in the city, and with rockets, and fire balls, and fireworks of every kind, rising from boats upon the water, and from the banks, and heights, and castle battlements all around upon the land. This gay and splendid spectacle beguiled the night, but the wind continued unfavorable all the next day, and confined the squadron still to the river. Catharine's mother sent out a messenger during the day to inquire after her daughter's health and welfare. The etiquette of royalty did not allow of her coming to see her child.

The fleet, which consisted of fourteen men-of-war, put to sea on the second day. After a long and stormy passage, the squadron arrived off the Isle of Wight; the Duke of York came out to meet it there, with five other ships, and they all entered the harbor of Portsmouth together. As soon as Catharine landed, she wrote immediately to Charles to notify him of her arrival. The news produced universal excitement in London. The bells were rung, bonfires were made in the streets, and houses were illuminated. Every body seemed full of joy and pleasure except the king himself. He seemed to care little about it. He was supping that night with Lady Castlemaine. It was five days before he set out to meet his bride, and he supped with Lady Castlemaine the night before he commenced his journey.

Some of Charles's best friends were very much grieved at his pursuing such a course; others were very indignant; but the majority of the people around him at court were like himself in character and manners, and were only led to more open irregularity and vice themselves by this public example of their sovereign. In the mean time, the king moved on to Portsmouth, escorted by a body of his Life Guards. He found that his intended bride was confined to her bed with a sort of slow fever. It was the result, they said, of the roughness and discomforts of the voyage, though we may certainly imagine another cause. Charles went immediately to the house where she was residing, and was admitted to visit her in her chamber, the many attendants who were present at the interview watching with great interest every word and look on either side by which they might judge of the nature of the first impression made by the bride and bridegroom upon each other. Catharine was not considered beautiful, and it was natural that a degree of curiosity should be manifested to learn how Charles would regard her.

There are two apparently contradictory accounts of the impression made upon Charles by this his first sight of his intended bride. Charles wrote a letter to Lord Clarendon, in which he expressed himself very well satisfied with her. He admitted that she was no beauty, but her countenance was agreeable, he said, and "her conversation," he added, "as far as I can perceive, is very good; for she has wit enough, and a very agreeable voice. You would be surprised to see how well we are acquainted already. In a word, I think myself very happy, and I am confident that we shall agree very well together. I have not time to say any more. My lord lieutenant will tell you the rest." At the same time, while writing this in his official communication to his minister, he said privately to one of his companions on leaving the presence of his bride, that, "upon his word, they had sent him a bat instead of a woman."

The royal couple were married the next day, first very privately in the Catholic form, and afterward more openly, in a great hall, and before a large assembly, according to the ritual of the Church of England. The bride was attired in the English style, her dress being of rose color, trimmed with knots of blue ribbon. These knots were, after the ceremony, detached from the dress, and distributed among the company as wedding favors, every lady eagerly pressing forward to get a share. Magnificent presents were made to the groomsmen and bridesmaids, and the company dispersed. The queen, still indisposed, went back to her bed and her supper was served to her there, the king and other members of the household partaking it with her, seated at the bedside.

A day or two afterward the royal party proceeded to London, in a long train composed of Life Guards, carriages, horsemen, baggage wagons, and attendants of every grade. The queen's heart was full of anticipations of happiness. The others, who knew what state of things she was to find on her arrival there, looked forward to scenes of trouble and woe.

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