Toast your British Tea cup to Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza by Jacob Huysmans (1670)

Queen Catherine of Braganza introduced the custom of drinking tea in the United Kingdom around 1662.

Since the 18th century Great Britain has been the world’s largest per capita tea consumer.

Catherine of Portugal was born November 25, 1638, at the Ducal Palace of Vila Vicosa as the second daughter of the Duke of Braganza (the future King John IV of Portugal). Her mother was Luisa de Guzman, a daughter of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia. Catherine was a great-granddaughter of Saint Francis Borgia.

As early as the age of two, Catherine was proposed as a potential bride for John of Austria, Francois de Vendome, duc de Beasufort, Louis XIV and Charles II. After the Treaty of Pyrenees left Portugal abandoned by France, Catherine at the prime age of twenty-one, became a useful conduit for contracting an alliance between Portugal and England.

Catherine had been raised in a convent, and as a plain looking twenty-three year old virgin, negotiations were intense. What Portugal needed in return for the hand of Catherine was nothing less than Portugal’s national security. Portugal was forced to acquire England’s commitment of military and naval protection against Spain. Finally, on June 23, 1661, her marriage contract was signed.

With Catherine’s marriage to Charles II, England secured Tangier in North Africa, the Seven Islands of Bombay in India, along with trading privileges in Brazil and the East Indies, as well as two million Portuguese golden crusados. Portugal received the commitment of military and naval support against Spain and liberty for Catherine’s Catholic faith.

Catherine left for Portsmouth on May 13, 1662, arriving the next day. She was not visited by Charles until May 20th, the day before the wedding. Charles and Catherine conducted two wedding ceremonies, a Catholic one in secret followed by a public Anglican service at the chapel of Domus Dei.

Queen Catherine in 1663, by Sir Peter Lely

King Charles II respected Catherine and became protective of her after three miscarriages. Charles comforted her by lying and telling her she had indeed given birth to two sons and a daughter.

Catherine’s faith prevented her from being crowned Queen, and as a Roman Catholic she was forbidden to take part in Anglican services.

King Charles fathered many children with many mistresses and as such Catherine had to find ways to entertain herself. She loved to play cards, dancing, and tool delight in organizing masques. Catherine had a great love for the countryside and picnics. She even displayed a fondness for a tend among court ladies to wear men’s clothing.

Catherine introduced the custom of drinking tea in Britain. She had grown up drinking tea imported to Portugal from the Portuguese possessions in Asia. According to Samuel Pepys, Museum Director of the house of Braganza, Catherine not only drank tea, but had “High Tea” at 5:00 pm (some people believe it to be at 4:00 pm) which is still a Portuguese tradition. “Tea time,” quickly spread throughout court and the British countryside. The British East India company began to import tea directly from China in 1669.

Catherine endured religious persecution over the years culminating with the Test Act of 1673 that intensified the anti-Catholic feelings in Britain. The Popish Plot of 1678 directly threatened her position, however with King Charles favor she remained protected.

When King Charles died in 1685, Catherine remained in England living at Somerset House. She dealt with the reign of James and his deposition in the Glorious Revolution by William and Mary. Initially on good terms with William and Mary, her religion continued to lead to misunderstanding and increasing isolation.

Catherine returned to Portugal in March 1692, and died at the Bemposta Palace in Lisbon on December 31, 1705.

It is believed that Queens, a borough of New York City, was named after Catherine of Braganza. Brooklyn (Kings County)was originally named after her husband King Charles II, and Staten Island was named after his illegitimate son, the 1st Duke of Richmond (Richmond county).

Now WE know em



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