Royal marriages in early modern Europe were occasions to forge alliances on the diplomatic chessboard. Many queens also came to wield influence over the political, religious and cultural lives of their adopted nations. Hence the choice of bride for Charles II, thirty years old and unmarried when he returned to Britain in 1660, was hotly debated. Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the King of Portugal, was not an obvious choice; however, she brought with her a considerable dowry, including trading rights over the port of Bombay. She is also thought to have popularized a taste for one particular exotic commodity: tea.

 

Key Questions:

  • How does the debate over the choice of a bride for Charles II reflect upon the state of Britain, and its place in Europe, in the months and years immediately after the Restoration?
  • How might the match with Catherine help us to reflect on the state of the nation in the reign of Charles II?
  • Given that women so rarely held the status of monarch, in what ways might a queen consort still manage to wield influence?

 

Further Reading:

  • Tim Harris, Restoration: Charles II and his Kingdoms, 1660-1685 (London: Penguin, 2005).
  • Paul Seaward, The Restoration (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991).
  • Kevin Sharpe, Rebranding Rule: Images of Restoration and Revolution Monarchy, 1660-1714 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).

Unless otherwise noted, images in this film are reproduced by courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.