Philippa of Guelders, Duchess of Lorraine

Effigy of Phillipa of Guelders, Duchess of Lorraine

Philippa of Guelders was born on November 9, 1467. Her father was Adolf of Egmond, Duke of Guelders and Count of Zutphen and her mother was Catharine of Bourbon. Philippa had a twin brother Charles and they were born at Graves, Netherlands and were the only children of their parents. The duchy was named after the town of Geldern which is now located in Germany. The present province of Gelderland in the Netherlands occupies most of the area of the former duchy.

Philippa was to grow up to be a celebrated beauty. Her emblem was a thistle leaf with the motto “Do not touch me, or I will prick”. A marriage was arranged with René II, Duke of Lorraine and the nuptials took place on September 1, 1485 in Orléans. Phillipa and René were to have at least 13 children.

• Charles, born in 1486, died young
• Francis born 1487, died shortly after birth
• Antoine, Duke of Lorraine born 1489, died 1544
• Nicholas, born 1493, died young
• Claude, Duke of Guise, born 1496, died 1550, the first Duke of Guise
• John, Cardinal of Lorraine and Bishop of Metz, born 1498 and died 1550
• Louis, Count of Vaudémont, born 1500, died 1528
• Francis, Count of Lambesc, born 1506, died 1525
• Anne, born 1490 and died 1491
• Isabelle, born 1494, died 1508
• Claude and Catherine, twins born 1502 and died young

Philippa’s husband died in 1508, leaving her with many young children. She tried to undertake the duties of regent for Antoine, the new Duke of Lorraine but it was agreed he was old enough to rule on his own, even though he was only nine years old. After her husband’s death, Philippa was the supreme head of the family.

When her son Claude had a daughter Mary on November 22, 1515, Philippa was present. Mary of Guise was to marry King James IV of Scotland, and her daughter was Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1519, at the age of fifty-two, Philippa’s health was in decline. She suffered from headaches, dizziness and dropsy and told her children she was going to stay for a week or two at the convent of the Poor Clares in Pont-à-Mousson, north of Nancy.

Shortly after arriving at the convent, she decided she wanted to retire and spend the rest of her life there. Her children were stunned. The Poor Clares lived in poverty and under strict guidelines. The children begged her to go to a less severe establishment and that they needed her to guide the family. She held fast to her decision and on December 19, 1519 she was inducted into the order while all her offspring and their spouses watched. She gave her blessing to everyone and retired to the cell which would be her home for the rest of her life. Her duties included cooking, weeding the garden and doing laundry. She slept on straw on bare boards, wore coarse and simple clothing and ate plain food. Her children would continue to visit her, asking for her input when in need. Even when King Francois I was having political troubles, he would come to Pont-a-Mousson to ask her advice. She raised and educated her granddaughter, Mary of Guise at the convent. She died on February 28, 1547 at the age of seventy-nine and was buried at the Cordeliers Convent in Nancy, France.

Cordeliers Convent, Nancy, France

(c) 2012

Resources: “Mary of Guise, Queen of Scots” by Rosalind K. Marshall, “Scottish Queens, 1034-1714” by Rosalind K. Marshall

Posted in France, Medieval History, Queens and Rulers, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gertrude Belle Elion – Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine

“Acyclovir turned out to be different from any other compound Elion had ever seen. It is so similar to a compound needed by the herpes virus for reproduction that the virus is fooled. The virus enters normal cells and starts to make an enzyme that helps it reproduce. This enzyme activates Acyclovir and turns into something that is toxic to the virus. In short, Acyclovir makes the virus commit suicide.”

This is a quote from Sharon Bertsch McGrayne’s excellent book Nobel Prize Women in Science, which explains not only how one of the many compounds developed by Gertrude Belle Elion works, but also exemplifies her approach to research. She wanted to understand how the compounds were metabolized in the body and how they fought disease. Together with Dr. George Hitchings and a team of researchers at Burroughs Wellcome, she developed drugs that would change the lives of many people for the better, reducing suffering and extending lives.

Gertrude Belle Elion was born in New York City on January 23, 1918 to a Jewish immigrant family. Her father, Robert Elion, immigrated to the US from Lithuania when he was 12 and worked hard to graduate from New York University School of Dentistry in 1914. He was very successful, opening several dental offices, and investing in stocks and real estate. Her mother, Bertha Cohen, immigrated alone at the age of 14 to come live with older sisters who were already established. Bertha was 19 when she and Robert married, and although she never pursued higher education, she was a voracious reader who frequently read the books her children brought home from school. She came from an intellectual Russian Jewish family that valued education and knew how important it would be to her children’s futures.

When Gertrude, Trudy to the family, was six years old her brother Herbert was born. Shortly afterward, the family moved to the Bronx where they had a happy childhood. Before the move another person joined the family, her grandfather from Russia. His failing eyesight prevented him from continuing his profession as watchmaker, so after Herbert was born, he spent a great deal of time with Trudy forming a close bond. He was a Biblical scholar and spoke several languages; together they spoke Yiddish, and shared time in the park, the Bronx zoo, and music.

Trudy’s father was also a music lover, specifically the opera. He and Trudy often went to the Metropolitan Opera, a habit that Trudy would maintain for the rest of her life, flying to New York on weekends from North Carolina. Robert influenced her in another way. He was always planning imaginary trips using maps, train and bus schedules. After Trudy became successful, she began to travel, visiting many places in the world before her death in 1999.

Trudy was a successful student in high school, and when she graduated she entered Hunter College in 1933. She was a sponge for knowledge and enjoyed learning just about anything, but her decision to study science was made when she was 15 and watched her grandfather die painfully from stomach cancer. Trudy decided that no one should have to suffer as her grandfather had, so she wanted, if possible, to do something about it. Inspired as a girl by the life of Marie Curie and the book The Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif, she knew that she needed to study biology or chemistry, so she chose chemistry and graduated summa cum laude in 1937.

Robert Elion had lost most of his wealth in the crash of 1929, and although he still had his dental practice and loyal customers, there wasn’t much money for college. Hunter College, the women’s section of City College of New York, was free for those who could beat the fierce competition, but graduate school was a different story. Hunter was also an all-girl’s school, and Trudy had never really faced discrimination because of her gender. She placed many applications for fellowships and assistantships, but nothing came through. It was the Depression and there weren’t many jobs available, but there were none for women in fields that were dominated by men. In one eye-opening interview, she was told that she was qualified, but that they had never had a woman in the lab and they thought she would be a distraction!

Trudy’s mother had always encouraged her to have a career of some type, so she finally enrolled in secretarial school, but when she got the opportunity to teach biochemistry at the New York Hospital School of Nursing, she dropped out and took the job, even though it only lasted for 3 months. Finally, she met a chemist at a party and asked him if she could work in his lab as an assistant. He agreed, but couldn’t pay her anything to start. She was willing because it allowed her to continue learning and after a year and a half, she was making $20 a week and had saved enough living at home for one year of graduate school.

In the fall of 1939, Trudy entered New York University with money for one year’s tuition. She worked part-time as a receptionist and took education classes that allowed her to substitute teach in the public schools. In 1941, Trudy completed her Master’s Degree in Chemistry and began the task of looking for the perfect job. Her focus was always to look for jobs that would allow her to learn and get closer to her goal of working in medical research.

When WWII began, the demand for women increased in laboratories across the country. Trudy got a job in a laboratory doing quality control work for the A&P grocery chain. Always concerned with learning new things, when she felt she had learned as much as she could, she applied to an employment agency for research jobs. For about six months, she worked for a Johnson & Johnson lab until it was disbanded. Having gained the experience she needed, she then had a number of jobs to choose from, but was most intrigued by a job as an assistant to George Hitchings working for Burroughs Wellcome.

She found out about the job when her father asked her what she knew about the company after they sent some sample painkillers to his dental office. She decided to call and ask if they had a research lab and a job opening. She and Hitchings were a good match. He explained that he didn’t like the traditional trial and error method of drug research. He was also content to let her learn at her own pace and move from one area to another to satisfy her thirst for knowledge. While she had moved on from other jobs because she felt she had learned all she could, she never moved on from Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline.) There was always something new to learn and she had the freedom to do it there. But more importantly, they began to make a difference in people’s lives.

Although Trudy started as Dr. Hitchings assistant, within two years she was publishing her own papers under his guidance and by the mid 1960s she had developed a reputation apart from Hitchings. This was in spite of not having a Ph.D. For two years, she worked on a Ph.D. at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute until the dean told her that she would have to quit her job and work full time on her degree. She wasn’t willing to quit her job, so she quit school. It was an agonizing choice to make, but she knew that she had the potential to make a difference where she was, so she stayed.

Her faith in the job paid off. In 1950, Elion synthesized two cancer treatments for leukemia. Both of these drugs are still used today and when combined with other drugs result in close to an 80% cure rate. One of these drugs, referred to as 6-MP, was found to suppress the immune system in rabbits. Reading about the rabbits, a British surgeon tried 6-MP in dogs with kidney transplants and found that it extended their lives. He contacted Elion and asked if they had similar compounds that he could try which might be more effective. One of these, later marketed as Imuran, proved to be very effective in suppressing the immune system and since 1962 has been given to most of the kidney transplant patients in the US.

But what Elion called her “final jewel” was Acyclovir. Prior to its unveiling in 1978, there hadn’t been much research done on viruses. It was assumed that any compound toxic enough to kill a virus would also be extremely toxic to normal cells. Because Acyclovir was so selective to the herpes virus, it was very nontoxic to normal cells. Not only was it a break through in treating herpes, but it was a break through in virus research, opening the doors to many new possibilities including treatments for AIDS.

The intervening years had brought life changes for Trudy as well. In 1941, she had been planning to get married to a brilliant young statistician named Leonard. He fell ill with a strep infection, bacterial endocarditis, and died, just a few years before penicillin became available. Her mother also died of cervical cancer in 1956. Both of these losses served to intensify Trudy’s drive to continue in her research.

In 1970, the company moved its research facility to the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. For a life long NYC resident this was quite a change. She adjusted well however, and it was here that she received the call in 1988 from a reporter telling her she had received the Nobel Prize together with Dr. Hitchings, and Sir James W. Black. She had already retired in 1983, but had remained in a consulting position. Winning the prize gave her a visibility that she had not had along with opportunities to contribute in many other ways.

In spite of the accolades that eventually came her way, what always meant the most to Trudy were the letters and handshakes she got from people who wanted to tell her how her discoveries had changed their lives. Although she never met anyone that could take Leonard’s place and never married, she loved her work, opera, traveling, and had loving relationships with her brother and his family. Gertrude Belle Elion lived a full and rewarding life and died in her sleep at her home in North Carolina on February 21, 1999, with a folder full of letters from people whose lives she had touched and whose lives she had helped save.

Nobel Prize Women in Science by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
Academy of Achievement – A Museum of Living History
First Woman elected to the national inventor’s hall of fame 1991 (New York Times)

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Luisa Maria Francisca of Guzman, Queen of Portugal

Luisa Maria Francisca of Guzman

In another great incident of serendipity, while working on a post on an amazing woman in history, I found another amazing woman. In researching Catherine of Braganza, Queen of King Charles II, her mother was mentioned and it turns out she was a great ruler in her own right. As usual in these cases, there’s not a lot of information about her but what I did find was interesting.

Luisa Maria Francisca was born on October 31, 1613 and was the daughter of Juan Manuel Pérez de Guzman, 8th Duke of Medina Sidonia. Her mother was Juana Lorenza Gomez de Sandoval y la Cerda. The Dukes of Medina Sidonia are grandees of Spain. The dukedom is the oldest in the kingdom, first awarded by King John II of Castile in 1445. The family was once the most prominent in the Andalusian region. Luisa’s grandfather, Alonso Pérez de Guzman y de Zuniga-Sotomayor, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia, was the commander of King Philip II of Spain’s Spanish Armada which was defeated by the English on August 8, 1588.

Luisa married John II, 8th Duke of Braganza in 1633. Portugal began a revolution in 1640 to become independent from Spain. Despite the fact that Luisa was Spanish, the determined Duchess guided her husband’s policies. When the tide of the revolution was in favor of Portugal, Duke John was offered the throne. Due to Luisa’s insistence, her husband agreed. When she was warned it was dangerous to be a Queen who had to fight the Spanish, she supposedly said “Rather Queen for a day than a duchess all my life”.
Luisa and Juan were to have seven children. Infante Teodósio, Prince of Brazil lived for 19 years and died before his father, Ana de Braganza died at birth, Infanta Joana, Princess of Beira lived for 18 years, Catarina of Portugal became Queen of England, Manuel of Portugal died at birth, Afonso VI of Portugal became King and lived until he was forty and Pedro II of Portugal was King for 23 years. Young Afonso suffered an illness at the age of three that paralyzed the left half of his body and also caused mental instability.

Luisa’s daughter, Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England

Juan was crowned King and the family moved to Lisbon. The Acclamation War, fought between Spain and Portugal lasted until 1668 and consisted of sporadic conflicts. There were border skirmishes and cavalry raids and sacks on towns, invasions and counter-invasions. There were only five major battles in the twenty-eight years of conflict. Portugal received little cooperation from other European countries but one monarch acknowledged Juan’s elevation to the monarchy. The struggling King Charles I of England recognized his crown and King Juan would never forget this validation of his status.

Worn out with fighting, King Juan died in 1656. Juan’s will appointed Luisa as regent for her young son who became King Afonso VI. She remained as regent even when Afonso became an adult due to his mental illness. She was to preserve the principles of freedom and independence for Portugal during the long conflict with Spain. She was responsible for a new, strong alliance with England which culminated in the marriage of her daughter Catherine to King Charles II of England. She cultivated commercial enterprises and trade to help the Portuguese economy and she strengthened the military, fully ensuring success in Portuguese independence. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed after she died in 1668 and Spain finally recognized Portugal as an independent Kingdom.

Sadly Afonso became so unstable he was easily influenced by his favorites. In 1662, his new favorite, Luiz de Vasconcelos e Sousa, Count of Castelo-Melhor convinced Afonso his mother was trying to steal his throne and send him into exile. The King and the court began ostracizing Luisa until she finally agreed to retire to a convent. Castelo-Melhor gained full power after her departure. As she lay dying she requested Afonso come to her. He stalled and finally arrived three days after her death. She died on February 27, 1666 at the age of fifty two.

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Alice Paul – The Final Stretch for Women’s Suffrage

Alice Paul around 1901

During the second half of the 19th century, the two primary women’s suffrage organizations led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (National Woman Suffrage Association), and Lucy Stone (American Woman Suffrage Association) were working on two different approaches: a Constitutional Amendment, and state-by-state legislation giving women the vote. There was little progress on either front by the time the two organizations joined in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA.) By 1900, only four western states had given women full suffrage, and the Constitutional Amendment that Susan B. Anthony had championed was not the preferred approach of most of the women’s leaders. Introduced in 1872, it had only been brought up for a vote one time in 1878 in spite of the fact that Anthony and others addressed the House Committee every year. Although a few more states had given the women the vote when Alice Paul returned from her studies in England, she was convinced that the only way to proceed was to push for the Amendment, and she was determined to do her part.

Alice Stokes Paul was born January 11, 1885 to William and Tacie Paul. They were Hicksite Quakers who led simple lives and had a strong heritage of activism and education for women. William was the seventh generation descended from Philip Paul who fled religious persecution in England and established Paulsboro, New Jersey. Alice’s maternal great-grandfather, Charles Stokes, was active in politics and a supporter of abolitionist and women’s suffrage causes. Her maternal grandfather, William Parry, believing in educating women, established Swarthmore College as a co-educational experiment and Alice’s mother Tacie was one of its first female graduates.

Photograph. Britannica Online for Kids

William Paul was a banker and owned a modest working farm. Together they gave the family a comfortable life and provided Alice and her three siblings, Helen, Parry, and William, the opportunity for an excellent education. As a child, Alice read every book in the house as well as the school library, and when she entered Swarthmore in 1901, she studied biology because it was the one subject she hadn’t studied in school. Intellectual curiosity about a subject, however, didn’t make for a good major, so at the advice of a professor, she switched and graduated with a degree in social work.

Alice was definitely academically gifted and in spite of her family heritage, had no real intention of being an activist. No one else would have expected it of her either. On her return from England after getting involved with the British suffrage movement, her mother was quoted in the New York Times (Nov. 13, 1909) as saying, “I cannot understand how this all came about, Alice is such a mild-mannered girl.” But after graduation, Alice had taken a job in the New York College settlement house. She quickly came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to just work to alleviate the suffering of individuals; she wanted to work to change the conditions that led to their suffering. In order to work within the system and help change the social conditions that prevailed at the time, Alice decided to continue her academic career and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania to study sociology.  She eventually received an MA and PhD through the University of Pennsylvania, and ultimately an LLB, LLM, and a Doctorate in Civil Law. But before completing these accomplishments, she took a “slight” detour into the real world of activism in England.

Her life-changing trip to England began in 1907 with a scholarship to Woodbrooke, a Friends institution in Birmingham. While there, she also became the first woman to enroll in the commerce department at the University of Birmingham to study economics. This is where she first heard Christabel Pankhurst speak about women’s suffrage. Christabel and her mother Emmeline Pankhurst weren’t in the business of asking men politely to give women the vote. For the previous two years, they had been agitating and getting arrested to raise awareness for the need for women’s suffrage. The press had dubbed them “suffragettes”, to distinguish them from the more “socially acceptable” suffragists, using the diminutive “ette” to insult them. Their motto was “Deeds, not Words” and they wore the suffragette badge with pride.

Alice was a petite, delicate even fragile looking woman. She said herself that she was “not very brave,” and had a fear of public speaking. Nevertheless, once she had been “converted to the cause” she met each fear and challenge. She began simply by marching with the women, but quickly took on other activities. She was a “newsie”, passing out the organization’s paper Votes for Women; she was promoted to street corner speaker; and she eventually was invited to participate in a march on the House of Commons. This invitation came with a warning that they might be arrested, and that she shouldn’t agree to participate unless she was willing to accept that consequence. She accepted.

The women in the Pankhurst organization, the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), had been getting arrested for a couple of years at this point. They would ask to be treated as political prisoners. When this request was denied, they would often go on hunger strikes. This ultimately resulted in force feedings. It was a horrible procedure that consisted of being held or tied down and having a tube thrust into a nostril and down their throat. It was brutal and extremely painful.

When Alice was arrested and force fed, she asked her suffrage sisters not to release her name to the media, so as not to worry her mother, but the word got out and it served to greatly increase Tacie’s concern for her daughter. Eventually, Alice decided that she needed to return home, for the sake of her family and to finish her education. She may have underestimated her fame in the US. When she returned, she found that she was in great demand as a speaker, but she had other goals as well. She joined the National, as NAWSA was called, and became the chairman of its Congressional Committee.

Her first major task was to organize a parade in Washington, D.C. for March 3, 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration as President. The parade was her idea and she was completely responsible for organizing and raising funds. She contacted Lucy Burns, an American woman she had met during the protests in England, and formed a small committee. This was a monumental undertaking that deserves its own narrative, but suffice it to say that the city had never seen anything like it. She negotiated many controversies, disagreements, obstruction from authorities, and the press. Ultimately, women from all over the country and from all walks of life were represented. Wilson had tried to avoid the issue, but was privately against women’s suffrage. The parade made the statement in a big way that the issue and the women, were not going away.

At first Alice believed that the radical methods used in Britain would not be needed in America, but little progress was being made and she wanted to increase the pressure. There were disagreements about tactics within NAWSA, whose conservative leaders had always been a little wary of Alice, so she finally broke from them in 1916 and formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP.) Through the NWP, she began introducing some of the methods used by the Pankhursts. One of their goals was to shame President Wilson into supporting the suffrage movement. They picketed the White House over the next two years in all types of weather, amusing, confounding and finally angering the authorities. The picketers, including Alice, were arrested, incarcerated in workhouses, and force fed. At one point Alice was confined to a psychiatric ward, but the doctor would not be complicit; his report stated that she was perfectly sane.

The pressure finally worked. In January of 1918, President Wilson spoke to Congress and urged them to pass the Nineteenth Amendment for women’s suffrage. The rest as they say is history. In June of 1919, the Amendment passed both houses of Congress, and finally in August of 1920, it was ratified by the 36th state and signed into law on August 26, 1920.

Many women considered the fight over and resumed their lives, but Alice had a broader vision. She went on to write and campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. Unlike the people who originally wrote the suffrage amendment, Alice was alive to see the ERA pass the Congress in 1972. Unfortunately, only 35 of the required 38 states ratified the amendment before the deadline passed. After suffering a stroke in 1974, Alice Paul died in 1977. No other states ratified the ERA after her death.

I haven’t read all the sources about Alice Paul, but from what I have read, including reviews of other sources, not much has been said about her as a person, her personality, her leisure activities, etc. She doesn’t seem to have had close personal friends. There is an occasional mention of a male companion for dinner or a lecture, but no continuing relationships. Even her letters to and from Lucy Burns are started with “Miss Paul” and “Miss Burns.”  It could be that she was just very private about those aspects of her life, but I’m inclined to think that perhaps this quote from Alice herself explains it best.

“My feeling about our movement, you see, is that it is so pregnant with possibilities that it is worth sacrificing everything for, leisure, money, reputation and even our lives. I know that most people do not feel this way about it but since I do you can see that it cost me a pang to think of anyone abandoning suffrage for any other work.”
~ Alice Paul in a letter to someone preparing to leave the movement.

Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker
A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot by Mary Walton

Visit the homepage of the Alice Paul Institute which was established in 1984 to “commemorate the centennial of Alice Paul’s 1885 birth and to further her legacy.” (Note: This does not imply any endorsement of me or my post by them, it’s just for your information.)

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Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England

Portrait of Catherine of Braganza by Lely

Amidst all the commotion created by King Charles II’s sex life and flamboyant mistresses, there actually was a Queen. She was Catherine of Braganza and she led a very interesting life in England as the King’s wife and later as ruler of her country of origin. Catarina Henriqueta de Braganza was born on November 25, 1638 in the Vila Vicosa in Alentego, Portugal. She was the eldest child of Juan, Duke of Braganza and his wife, Luisa Maria. Catherine had two siblings, Afonso and Pedro and grew up in a loving family. Catherine’s mother took an active interest in her children’s education.

In 1640, Catherine’s father led a rebellion against Spain. During the rebellion he was offered the crown of Portugal and at his wife’s urging he agreed. The family moved to Lisbon and he was crowned King Juan IV. Portugal continued to fight for independence from Spain and received little cooperation from other European countries. However, one monarch acknowledged his elevation to the monarchy. The beleaguered King Charles I of England recognized his crown and King Juan would always remember this validation of his status. In 1644, King Juan finally prevailed against Spain. In an effort to reinforce his standing further, he sent his ambassador to England to negotiate a marriage agreement between King Charles I’s eldest son Charles and his daughter Catherine. Due to the raging Civil War in England, the negotiations never were carried out.

Catherine lived for most of her childhood in a convent close to the royal palace where her mother could supervise her education. Her upbringing was said to be sheltered and made her a person of strong faith and devotion. Exhausted with fighting the Spaniards, King Juan died in 1656 leaving his remarkable wife as regent for King Afonso. Luisa continued the fight against the dominance of Spain and enhanced Portugal’s independence through military and commercial endeavors. She soon was entertaining proposals for her daughter’s hand in marriage. She first contemplated a marriage with Louis XIV of France. When that didn’t materialize, she turned to England. A secret meeting was set up with her ambassador and King Charles II. The Portuguese offered Charles Tangier which could be used as a base for trade in the Mediterranean, Bombay, a gateway for trade with India, free trade with Brazil and the East Indies and an enormous amount of cash, £300,000. After a year of negotiations and overcoming doubts over him marrying a Catholic princess, Charles announced he would marry Catherine of Braganza before Parliament on May 8, 1661.

King Charles II of England

The marriage contract was signed on June 23, 1661 with England agreeing to provide military assistance to help protect Portugal from Spain in return for the massive dowry. Catherine was given and income of £30,000 and the right to worship freely in England as a Catholic. Catherine was twenty-three and had become a serene and quiet young woman. She made the difficult journey to England, leaving her beloved home. The couple had two wedding ceremonies performed on May 21, 1662. The first was a Catholic service performed in secret and then a public Protestant service. She was never crowned as a Catholic was not allowed to participate in an Anglican ceremony.

People were already criticizing Catherine’s appearance and her reserved nature. The fact that she didn’t speak English well made things difficult for her. But Charles seemed pleased with her appearance and her behavior and the early days of their marriage were satisfying. Catherine fell hopelessly in love with the King.

But things did not go smoothly for long. Barbara Villiers, Lady Castlemaine, Charles’ tempestuous mistress was pregnant with her second child by the King. Once their son was born, Barbara demanded to be named “Lady of the Bedchamber” to the new Queen. The King placed her name on the list and Catherine instantly crossed the name off. Both parties dug in their heels but in the end, Catherine surrendered and Barbara was given the post. After the dust settled on the issue, Catherine was to treat all of Charles mistresses with calculated friendship, thus endearing herself even more with Charles.

To make Catherine’s position even more difficult, she had trouble producing an heir. In 1663, she fell seriously ill and almost died. The King remained by her side, seemingly devoted to her. In her delirium she kept asking where her children were. Charles reassured her and his attentiveness seemed to restore her. When she recovered she couldn’t walk and was temporarily deaf but she eventually overcame these disabilities. In 1665, plague in London caused the court to move to Oxford and it is likely Catherine miscarried in February 1666. She suffered another miscarriage in 1668 and again in June 1669. This was to be her last pregnancy and both she and Charles were forced to accept they would never bear children together.

Catherine’s existence was not all misery. As she grew older, she began to relax and enjoy what life at court offered. She loved to play cards, dance and organize masques. She liked to picnic and fish in the country as well as practice archery. Like other women of the time she dressed in men’s clothing and may have instigated the practice of wearing shorter dresses to show off her pretty ankles. She is credited with starting the practice of drinking tea in England which noblemen had done in Portugal. She may have introduced the use of forks as well. She did not get involved with English politics but closely followed developments in Portugal. In 1665, she started building a religious house east of St. James which was completed in 1667 and became known as The Friary.

In 1669, the King’s mother died and in 1671 Catherine moved into Somerset House. The rumors of divorce commenced but the King remained supportive of Catherine. In February 1673, Catherine fell seriously ill again. The government was calling for Charles to divorce Catherine or legitimize his eldest bastard son, James, Duke of Monmouth. Charles refused both requests. Barbara Castlemaine openly insulted the Queen in pubic so Charles made her a Duchess and basically bought her off. But his new mistress, Louise de Kéroulle was even more repugnant to Catherine than Barbara had been. The stresses of her life threatened to kill her again with another serious illness in 1675. To make matters even more stressful, her religion was coming under attack and the Popish Plot of 1678 threatened her status directly. The government threatened Charles asking him to purge all Catholics from his household and they asked him to divorce her again in 1680.

Charles was steadfast in his support of Catherine. He continued to treat her well until his death in 1685. Catherine fell into a deep depression but she was to enjoy religious freedom and the support of Charles’ Catholic brother King James II. When James was driven from the throne, his daughter and son-in-law took the throne as joint sovereigns, William and Mary. For some reason Mary didn’t like Catherine and in 1692, Catherine received permission to return to Portugal and she retired there.

Her retirement did not last long. Her brother King Pedro II was incapacitated and her nephews were too young to rule and in 1704, she was named regent, just as her mother had been when her father died. Catherine ruled over military campaigns and was highly effective in running the country. She was to govern to great acclaim until her death on December 31, 1705. She is buried in the Royal Pantheon of the Braganza Dynasty and her name is highly respected to this day in Portugal.

Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora where the Royal Pantheon of the Braganza Dynasty is and where Catherine is buried

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