Okay, since November 25 was Catherine of Braganza’ birthday, I decided to add another post about her…
If you look around my blog, you might discover that I’m writing a biography of Michal,King David’s first wife, and the similarities she shares with other princesses. Now, I don’t imagine Michal looking like any of those princesses.
The last princess I’d ever compare Michal to in physical appearance is Catherine of Braganza. As I was doing some online Michal research, I came across a website about biblical woman and was taken aback that the author, Elizabeth Fletcher, inserted Catherine’s portrait into a her Michal post. Ironic, isn’t it?
I emailed her about my project and asked why she used Catherine’s picture. She responded:
“I used her face because the emotions on the Princess’s face seemed to sum up what Michal must have felt…I see sadness, real grief and the beginning of wisdom/understanding in the Princess’ face, even though she is so young. It is a subtly tragic face, and no other image I’ve seen fitted Michal so well.”
That makes sense. Neither princess foresaw the struggles they’d face. Dirk Stoop’s painting of Catherine before her marriage to Charles screams naïve.
It would be a mistake, however, to judge the two women solely on that portrait. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Catherine , you can see her story unfold with her further portraits. She transformed from a neglected princess bride into a calculating queen. I cannot rule out, though, both princesses might have carried a certain sadness described by Ms. Fletcher.
Did Catherine ever view herself as Michal? Neither produced an heir, and both saw their husband as father to many. Even if she didn’t, others made a connection during her lifetime.
I was surprised to discover John Dryden and Nahum Tate’s 1681/82 allegory poem, “Absalom and Achitophel” in which they based Michal off of Catherine. Michal/Catherine gets one of the more favorable edits:
Such was the charge on pious Michal brought
Michal, that ne’er was cruel e’en in thought.
The best of queens, the most obedient wife,
Impeached of cursed designs on David’s life,
‘Tis scares so much his guardian angel’s care.
Not summer morns such mildness can disclose
The Hermon lily and the Sharon rose,
Neglecting each vain pop of majesty,
Transported Michal feeds her thoughts on high;
She lives with angels, and as angels do,
Quits heaven sometimes to bless the world below,
Where, cherished by her bounty’s plenteous spring,
Reviving widows smile and orphans sing
Whether the two women can be considered angels, the stanza lets the reader know the risks they took to help others.
It’s a relief I’m not the only one to remember and liken Michal to figures thousands of years after her death.