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.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
This short biography of Catherine of Braganza is an interesting, straight forward and fast paced overview of the life of one of England’s less well known queens.
Watkins clearly shows the difficulties faced by a Catholic Queen in a Protestant country and how the childless Catherine dealt with the many mistresses and illegitimate children of Charles II at the restoration court.
Catherine’s struggle to find her place as Queen is set against the dramatic back drop of plots against her, the war against the Dutch, the plague and the great fire of London. It is a great starting point for those wanting to learn more about queenship in this period. ~ Tamise Hills, ladyjanegrey blog
I liked the book so much I read it all in one sitting. I definitely plan to look into more of her books. ~ Kelly Wells, GoodReads
First off, I knew next to nothing about the wife of Charles II before this. Now, I think I love her and I just want her to get the recognition she deserves after putting up with all she did. She's up there in my admiration box of queens with the patience of saints along with Catherine of Aragon. This woman spent years going along with all her husband's scandal and affairs, and getting nothing but abuse and in the end outlived them all and got her brief moment in power, putting them all to shame. She's also supposed to have popularised tea drinking in British court, so I have to give her props for playing a part in my identity as a certified addict. All in all, an unsung hero who was so extra she'd play it cool for years and then hit you with a ruinous comeback.
This book was a perfect introduction into Catherine's life... I think something like this is a brilliant way to get immersed in the history without becoming overwhelmed (which can often become the case when reading about a historical figure straight off he bat).
Especially if you're someone who doesn't often read nonfiction, this is a great way to get the details and not feel bored to death at the dryness of it. ~ Liz Gregory, GoodReads
History is more interesting when spiced with royal drama.
“Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen” by Sarah-Beth Watkins is a short biography of Queen Catherine of England, who reigned from 1662-1685. Her marriage to King Charles II, a king on shaky ground as he had previously been usurped, was an alliance match. The book focuses much on her struggles as a foreign bride – she was a princess from Portugal – and the problems of being a Catholic noble in the hostile, Anglican-leaning English courts. I found myself finishing the book in a matter of hours, as Catherine's history was so engaging that I had to know how it turned out...
~ Diana Fossett, Dixie Sun News -The Voice Of Dixie State University
I studied Catherine’s (Catarina in Portuguese) life for some time and this author is brilliant. Loved this book deeply since it speaks of what I know.
Fun fact: Did you know that British drink Tea at 5pm because of Queen Catherine? She was the one that introduced this habit in the Royal Court since Portuguese were the ones with trade route to China.
Tea in China and in Portugal is called the same: Chá, and are the only countries in the world saying the word in the same pronunciation. ~ Alejandra, Alejandra's Life
British Royalty particularly the Tudors and Stuarts have been a seamless source for writers both of the fiction and non fiction variety. But some of the Royals of these periods have been somewhat overlooked and one of those that fits into this category is Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess married to Charles II, who was Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685. This well written book by Sarah Beth-Watkins seeks to redress this omission.
The biography follows the life of Catherine from the Royal Household in Portugal to her marriage to King Charles II and the trials and tribulations that her life entailed. This was a time of upheaval in British politics and society with the restoration of the monarchy taking place in 1660 just two years before Catherine became Queen. One not only gets an insight into the politics of the time with continued fear and mistrust of Roman Catholicism which placed this Catholic Queen in grave danger throughout her time here but also some of the great events that took place during her reign which included the Great Plague, the fire of London and the sea wars with the Netherlands. Use is made of contemporaneous diary entries.
Catherine had to put up with the King's numerous mistresses which she did stoically and befriended many of his illegitimate children. Unfortunately she was unable to have children herself leading to the problems of succession as Charles's brother James was of course a Catholic. Remarkably the story of Catherine does not end with the death of Charles as back in Portugal she acted as regent for her brother, Peter II.
I must admit I was so engrossed with this story I read it in one sitting and if you are interested in history I would certainly recommend this. ~ George Heard , NetGalley
Our story begins with the arrival of the English fleet at Lisbon. Catherine of Braganza is to be married to England’s King Charles II during the 17th Century.
This book traces the period of time during which Catherine was married to Charles II. She was sorely tested by Charles’ philandering and many at the court did not like her for her Catholic beliefs. They plotted against her in a vicious manner.
She was married to Charles for more than twenty years and although pregnant a number of times, she was never able to have a live birth.
Charles was a very stubborn man and refused to give up parading his mistresses in front of Catherine. Unable to get a ship back to Portugal, Catherine was trapped. At the same time, Catherine refused to take his main mistress into service with her and this caused much grief.
This is a sad and trying biography. I felt bad for Catherine, but knowing the mores of the day, it was okay for men to have affairs, but not women. It states that Catherine was aware of her brothers acting the same way, but forcing the other woman into Catherine’s face seems a bit much.
This is a very well written and researched book. I found it fascinating. I will look into more of Sarah-Beth Watkins’ books. ~ Joyce Fox, NetGalley
As a bit of a Restoration nut, I jumped at the chance to read this book courtesy of NetGalley. Sarah-Beth Watkins’ latest history explores the life of a woman she labels “a forgotten queen marked by history as the neglected wife of Charles II and not much more.” In this briskly paced book, Watkins expands our understanding of Catherine’s personality and the events of her life, from her cloistered upbringing in Portugal to her marriage to Charles, a notorious philanderer who nevertheless showed his wife continual political loyalty. While Watkins’ turns of phrase sometimes lack elegance (the wording and exclamations can come off as a bit casual), her prose is straight-forward. What’s more, Watkins inserts a good deal of primary source material into the narrative, much to the book’s benefit – the commentary of famous diarists Pepys and Evelyn, and snippets from letters written by the royals themselves, add authenticity and flavor. Further, Watkins’ bibliography reflects a wide gathering of sources both historical and modern.
Given the book’s brevity, Catherine of Braganza is a history painted by necessity with a broad brush. While we don’t get all the nuance and particulars of events like The Popish Plot, or even explanations of any medical circumstances which may have caused Catherine to repeatedly miscarry, Watkins does provide some interesting tidbits of information relating to her subject. It was enjoyable to learn about Catherine’s passion for the navy, her skill as an archer, her enthusiasm for tea, and her patronage of music (she was the organizer of the first Italian opera performed in England). These details added color to Catherine’s life.
What I found especially fascinating about the book was the kinship networks Catherine worked hard to establish within the royal family – whether her closeness with the Queen Dowager Henrietta Maria, or her role looking after not only the children of Charles’ mistresses, but also her nieces, the future Queens Mary and Anne. And on that note of Charles’ mistresses, I felt intrigued by Watkins’ description of the ways in which Catherine lived closely to and collaborated with her husband’s lovers, particularly in the arrangements of entertainments. Certainly, queens before her had endured proximity to their husband’s paramours. Yet against the backdrop of Charles’ many mistresses jockeying for favor and position at court, Catherine remained a steady presence, who if not exactly their close companion was at least companionable. Here Watkins successfully highlights the sexual double standard at court – whereas Catherine not only had to put up with but also collaborate with Charles’ mistresses (her early protestations against them fell on Charles’ deaf ears), Charles would not suffer to let Catherine have a master of horse of her choosing, fearing she favored the man over himself.
Watkins succeeds in demonstrating Catherine’s role as a political pawn, even in her infancy as a symbol to spur on the Portuguese rebellion against Spanish rule, and later in life as a scapegoat for Catholics in England. Her part in that conflict – with accusations of conspiracy volleyed consistently against her on account of her religion – was interesting, too.
Overall, Watkins’ breezy history does convey a solid sense of Catherine’s character – a woman who, though stubborn at times, displayed a good deal of grace, devotion, maternal care, and savviness to know when political winds were changing.
~ Alexandra Kennedy, Early Modern Allie
This book provides a fascinating look at the life of Catherine of Braganza. She was born in 1638 in Portugal, and married Charles the II of England in 1662. She must have been an amazing women since she had to come to terms with the numerous mistresses of the king and the fact that, as hard as she tried she was never able to give the king an heir.
When she wasn't dealing with domestic hardships she had her detractors to contend with, particularly those who wanted to rid themselves of a Catholic queen. Even though the king stood by her during her most difficult times it seems true happiness may have come at long last when she was able to return to Portugal, where she was to rule as regent for João V.
I recommend this well written book for anyone who wants to know more about Catherine's role as queen and her life at the English court.
~ Cristina Wood, NetGalley
I found this a refreshing and interesting read about his queen, Catherine of Braganza... Any reader who has an interest in history would no doubt enjoy reading this. ~ Bethany Stafford, GoodReads
I have always been interested in the many Queens of England. I have read some books about the Merry Monarch's mistresses, but I haven't found any about his wife, so I was glad to find this book about Catherine of Braganza. It was a very informative read, starting from her birth up to her final years when she returned to Portugal to become regent. I have never read anything from Sarah-Beth Watkins before, and next time I won't be reluctant to pick up a book from her!
~ Kayenne Bee, NetGalley
5/5 Stars. An excellent account of the life of one of our most overlooked queens. Informative & easy to read. The impact of religious differences & her husband's mistresses (especially Lady Castlemaine) is explained thoroughly & sympathetically. Read this in a matter of hours as it was so engaging. Highly recommended. ~ Cath Bell, NetGalley
I enjoyed Watkins account of the life of Catherine of Braganza. She is a somewhat forgotten figure of the restoration period.
I enjoyed the gossipy feel to the book with the interspersed extracts from letters and diary entries from Pepys and Evelyn. I was particularly pleased Watkins stuck to writing in chronological order it made following the sometimes complicated events of Catherine's life much easier. Overall, it was a quick and enjoyable read and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a light historical biography. ~ Sarah Moxey, NetGalley
A very enjoyable read and does it’s job of informing the reader about the Portuguese Princess turned Queen’s life. It has inspired me to read more nonfiction, and if the author writes more books like this in the future, I would read them.
~ Brittany Stallman, NetGalley
I was intrigued by the story of Catherine, Queen of England, and regent of Portugal. The author managed to capture the times and the personalities which surrounded her, her challenges, and her amazing ability to remain true to herself. Makes me want to do more digging about this remarkable woman. ~ Rosann Goldblatt, NetGalley
The history of the portuguese princess told almost like a historic romance... The facts were written in an interesting and engaging way. Very enjoyable read. ~ Cat Chloe, NetGalley
Catherine of Braganza was a Catholic Portuguese princess who was married off to Charles II to cement the relationship between Britain and Portugal and discourage Spain from its constant invasion of Portugal. Catherine left behind everything to live in a country she hadn't been to before with a man she'd never met. Her life there wasn't an easy one, from putting up with Charles mistresses and his favoring them over her to people's hostility over her Catholicism to her inability to produce offspring she had a rough time constantly. Yet through out it Catherine remained pious and kind and did her best to try and fit in at the English court and support her king.
I thought it was really interesting read, I didn't know anything about this time period but after reading the book I'm sure I've seen references to Charles II and his numerous mistresses in TV shows. I felt bad for Catherine especially in the beginning where no matter what she did people found a way to use it against her but I'm glad that towards the end Charles at least seemed to be much more loyal and devoted to her. The only thing I had a problem with was trying to keep up with all the titles and names in the book but that's not the authors fault. It was also a pretty quick read which was nice. It sucks that she had to die before she got to do more for Portugal especially since her limited time as regent seemed pretty impressive. ~ Pouting Always, GoodReads/ThePloughmans Lunch