king charles stuart

Catherine of Braganza: Poems

Catherine arrived in Portsmouth on 13 May 1662. It had been a long and stormy crossing, and as soon as she arrived she asked for a cup of tea. So rare was it at this time that there was none available; the princess was offered a glass of ale instead. Not surprisingly, this did not make her feel any better, and for a time she was forced by illness to retire to her bedchamber. Eventually though Catherine and Charles II were married, on 21 May 1662. Initially Catherine, a deeply pious Catholic who had been schooled in a convent, found it difficult to fit in at the bawdy and fun-loving English court. But over time she established herself, and as the pre-eminent woman in the kingdom became something of a trend-setter. Although she adopted English fashions, she continued to prefer the cuisine of her native Portugal - including tea. Soon her taste for tea had caused a fad at the royal court. This then spread to aristocratic circles and then to the wealthier classes. In 1663 the poet and politician Edmund Waller wrote a poem in honour of the queen for her birthday:

Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays;
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
The Muse’s friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Regress those vapours which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.

Edmund Waller dedicated another poem to the Portuguese Queen after she recovered from a serious illness, which sadly caused the death of her first unborn child. The poem also shows Charles devotion and love for his Queen.

In the month of October 1663, Catherine was attacked by a dangerous illness. In the wanderings of her delirium she imagined that she had become the mother of a son; a circumstance which ( as it would have rendered her of considerable importance, both in the eyes of her husband, and of the nation at large,) was naturally at the uppermost importance in her thoughts. Among other morbid fantasies, she expressed her wonder that she should have been delivered without pain, but seemed afflicted at the notion that her imaginary child was ugly. Charles, who stood vigil at her bedside, insisted, with a view of soothing her, that he was very pretty boy.

“Ah!” she replied, “ if it were like you it would be a fine boy indeed, and I should be well pleased.”

The disorder gradually gaining force, Charles is said to have been affected, and even to have wept over his injured wife.

Waller, in his verse to the Queen on her recovery, alludes to the unexpected sympathy of her husband in the following lines:-

Farewell the year! which threatened so

The fairest light the world can show.

Welcome the new! whose every day,

Restoring what was snatched away

By pining sickness from the fair,

That matchless beauty does repair

So fast, that the approaching spring,

(Which does to flowery meadows bring

What the rude winter from them tore)

Shall give her all she had before.

But we recover not so fast

The sense of such a danger past;

We that esteemed you sent from heaven,

A pattern to this island given,

To show us what the blessed do there

And what alive they practised here,

When that which we immortal thought,

We saw so near destruction brought,

Felt all which you did then endure,

And tremble yet, as not secure.

So though the sun victorious be,

And from a dark eclipse set free,

The influence, which we fondly fear,

Afflicts our thoughts the following year.

But that which may relieve our care

Is, that you have a help so near

For all the evil you can prove,

The kindness of your royal love;

He that was never known to mourn,

So many kingdoms from him torn,

His tears reserved for you, more dear,

More prized, than all those kingdoms were!

For when no healing art prevailed,

When cordials and elixirs failed,

On your pale cheek he dropped the shower,

Revived you like a dying flower.

During her sickness, and in the belief that her days were numbered, the Queen affectingly appealed to her husband’s feelings, imploring him to give his support to her native country in its contest with Spain, and, when she was dead, to allow her body to be interred among her own relatives, and in her own land of Portugal. Charles, at this moment, is said to have fallen onto his knees, and to have bathed his wife’s hands with his own tears.

There was also another poem dedicated to her, although perhaps in the most unsavoury of ways. The poet’s name in question was John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester - so, there can be no stretch to the imagination as to the contents of this certain poem.

One day, we are told, the King and some of his courtiers were drinking some “Lisbon” (Portuguese white wine) and were trying to think up a rhyme for Lisbon. The Earl of Rochester coming in… Now, says the king, here’s one that will do it.

“None of us can make a rhyme to Lisbon” the King tells Rochester.

“No!” says the Earl. “That is strange! If it please your majesty?”

“Why! can you do it?” the King asks.

“Yes, Sir.” the Earl nods. “In a stanza, if your majesty will grant me your pardon?”

“You’re thinking up some mischief now.” The King says, smiling upon Rochester, “Well, I grant you my pardon.”

Upon which, Rochester, taking a glass of wine in his hand, said;

A health to Kate!
Our sovereign’s mate,
Of the royal house of Lisbon.
But the Devil take Hyde,
And the bishop beside
Who made her bone his bone.

At which the king, biting his lips, and frowning at Rochester, bid him be gone.

Mini Histories - the Origins of the Civil Wars

As per the suggestion of @qsy-complains-a-lot, I thought I’d start doing very brief history overviews on requested topics. To get the ball rolling, a subject dear to my heart - the causes of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. 

In the early 1600s both England and Scotland were Protestant countries, but practiced different brands of worship - Presbyterian in Scotland, Episcopalian in England. The joint monarch at the time, Charles I, wanted the Scots to be more like the English in terms of worship. The Scots said no and signed a document called the National Covenant defending the Church of Scotland - resulting in them becoming known as Covenanters - then went to war with England briefly in 1639 and 1640 (known as the Bishop’s Wars) to defend their church practices. Charles was humiliated in both these wars, and Irish Catholics took the opportunity to rebel in 1641 and start massacring Protestants. Both the Scots and English prepared armies to go and crush the Irish rebellion, but the English Parliament didn’t trust Charles not to use the army against his political enemies in England after defeating the Irish rebels. Parliament therefore rebelled in its own right, starting the first of the three English Civil Wars (1642, 1648 and 1649) and the whole Charles I getting executed/Cromwell becoming Lord Protector thing. The Bishop’s Wars, the Irish rebellion and the English Civil Wars combined are known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms or the British Civil Wars, and are really the birthplace of Britain as we know it today.

Fun fact: The Scottish defiance against Charles began when a woman in Saint Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, threw her stool during one of the imposed Episcopalian services, starting a riot. Because of this I like to connect the dots/overreach and claim a woman throwing a stool in my local church led to the bloodiest conflict in British history and seismic political and religious upheaval that would mold not only Britain but influence numerous 18th and 19th century revolutions across the globe.

2

January 30th 1649: Charles I executed

On this day in 1649, King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland was executed in London aged 48. He was born in 1600 the son of James VI of Scotland, who in 1603 became King James I of England and Ireland, in addition to Scotland, when Queen Elizabeth I died. Charles succeeded to the throne in 1625 when his father died, becoming the second Stuart monarch. Charles inherited from his father a firm belief in the divine right of kings to absolute rule, which led to conflict between the King and Parliament. These tensions lay in part due to debates over money and religion, with Charles’s Anglicanism alienating Puritans in England. Charles dissolved Parliament three times, and in 1629 resolved to rule the nation alone, without Parliament. During this period his actions appeared increasingly tyrannical, raising taxes and cracking down on Puritans and Catholics, leading to an exodus of the former to the American colonies. Personal rule ended when the King attempted to interfere with the Scottish Church, and had to restore Parliament to raise the funds to fight the Scottish. The English Civil War broke out in the last years of his reign, which pitted the crown against Parliament and occurred after he attempted to arrest members of Parliament. Charles’s Royalist supporters were defeated in 1646, and the King himself was eventually captured. The Parliamentarians, including general Oliver Cromwell, put the King on trial for treason, which resulted in his execution in 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. The monarchy was then abolished, leading to the short-lived Commonwealth of England. A leading figure of this republic was Oliver Cromwell, though his rule as Lord Protector became increasingly authoritarian. Cromwell died of natural causes in September 1658, but on January 30th 1661, on the anniversary of Charles’s death, Cromwell’s remains were ritually executed. The monarchy was restored in 1660 with Charles’s son in power ruling as King Charles II.

3

The popularity of the name in continental Europe was due to the fame of Charles the Great (742-814), commonly known as Charlemagne, a king of the Franks who came to rule over most of Europe. It was subsequently borne by several Holy Roman Emperors, as well as kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Hungary. The name did not become common in Britain until the 17th century when it was carried by the Stuart king Charles I. It had been introduced into the Stuart royal family by Mary Queen of Scots, who had been raised in France.