Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Braganza Marriage

Until 1667 the king’s chief minister was his Lord Chancellor, Edward Hyde, created earl of Clarendon in 1661. In the reign of Charles I he was seen as the face of constitutional royalism. From the mid 1640s he became the future Charles II’s guardian - a position Charles came increasingly to resent. He saw his former tutor as stuffy and self-righteous and resented his attempts to influence his policies. Criticisms of Clarendon soon mounted.
(a) His reputation for integrity was shaken when his daughter secretly married the Duke of York on 3 September 1660. However, he had certainly not manipulated the situation. Anne Hyde was already pregnant when she and James returned to England and he was not informed of the marriage.
(b) As Chancellor he soon became the focus of criticism: from the bishops for supporting toleration and from Dissenters for not supporting it strongly enough.
(c) When Dunkirk, one of Cromwell’s most valued acquisitions from his war with Spain, was sold to France in October1662, he was blamed for lack of patriotism. His house in course of erection in Piccadilly was nicknamed Dunkirk House.

In 1662 Clarendon secured the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza. He regarded this as a great diplomatic coup.
Since 1640 Portugal had been engaged in a struggle with the crumbling Spanish Empire for her independence. This enabled her to assume a position of triangular importance in European diplomacy. France subsidized her to maintain her struggle with Spain and she had succeeded in preserving the friendship both of the Cromwellian government and of the exiled Stuarts. Because of her overseas possessions she was able to pay for assistance with imported bullion or with the transfer of some of her territories. Involvement with Portugal held out the possibility of a share in her disintegrating empire.
In England financial and diplomatic considerations favoured Charles’s marriage to the king of Portugal’s daughter. Negotiations began in earnest in late 1660. The dowry offered was Tangier (which would give England a Mediterranean base), Bombay (which would secure the trade of the Indies) and 2 m. cruzados (c.£300,000). This marriage was encouraged by France, which offered £50,000.
On 23 June 1661 the marriage treaty was signed, and it was ratified in August. Its main significance was that it significantly extended England’s overseas possessions. In 1668 Spain recognized Portuguese independence partly as a result of pressure from England.
In May 1662 the 23 year old Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) reached Portsmouth and she and Charles were married in two ceremonies, one Roman Catholic (and secret) and the other Anglican (conducted by Sheldon). [For Catherine, see Frances Harris, Transformations of Love, 93-4.) On the morning of his wedding Charles wrote to Clarendon: ‘as good a woman as ever was born ... You would wonder to see how well we are acquainted already’. But Clarendon knew that the uncrowned queen, the maîtresse en titre, Charles’s mistress Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine, had been appointed lady of the bedchamber. When he protested against this Charles wrote: ‘whosoever I find to be My Lady Castlemaine’s enemy in this matter, I do promise on my word to be his enemy as long as I live’. Lady Castlemaine bore him a child every year between 1661 and 1665. Between 1663 and her marriage in 1667 the king’s other mistress was Frances Stewart, the most beautiful of the queen’s maids of honour. Catherine had come to a court ‘which must have seemed like a cross between a brothel and a bear-garden’.
The marriage failed in its primary purpose because it failed to produce children. Catherine miscarried in 1666, 1668 and probably in 1669. The most promising pregnancy, that of 1669, ended when a pet fox jumped on her bed. Thereafter the king seems to have given up hope of a child by her. As early as 1667 there was speculation that he would divorce her. (In 1670 the king took a great interest in Lord Roos’s divorce.)
The failure of this marriage to produce children rebounded on Clarendon. It was implausibly argued that he knew Catherine was barren and had arranged the marriage so that his own grandchildren would inherit the throne. There was also speculation that Charles would legitimate the Duke of Monmouth.
The most substantial achievement of the marriage was the acquisition of Bombay. In 1668 the Crown ceded Bombay to the East India Company. Compared with Calcutta and Madras it was not at first a great asset to the Company but it helped give it a toe-hold on India’s west coast. Tangier at first had much greater importance. The garrison comprised 4,000 soldiers, many of them New Model Army veterans; but it was abandoned in 1684.