Tag Archives: Catherine of Aragon

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Michal: Reacting to Wives, Concubines, and Children

Before Michal returned to David, she probably had some sort of knowledge that David took on more wives. Perhaps Abner filled her in on more details on their way to Hebron. Accepting or not, nothing could have fully prepared her to be in the presense of his other families.

David’s wives are  obviously one of the hurtful aspects of her return. They had children which gave their positions a boost. It would have been humiliating if she was asked to acknowledge the wives and recognize their children as David’s heirs.

Reactions of Royal Women

Traditionally, royal women have been expected to turn a blind eye to their husbands’ other lovers. Some were forced into associating with them. And it’s typical for the strong ones to take a stand. Here are some examples.

Catherine of Aragon

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Catherine of Aragon usually turned a blind eye to her husband’s affairs, but there were times she felt it necessary to stand up to him which shocked him. Even before Anne Boleyn, she showed disapproval when Henry recognized a illegitimate son at court. That mistress was dismissed. When the Anne Boleyn burden did arise, Catherine would always consider herself to be the king’s true wife and called herself “Queen” till her death.

Anne Boleyn

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Anne Boleyn lashed out more than Catherine  about Henry’s affairs. With the assistance of her family, she made sure one of his mysterious mistresses didn’t return to court. I’m not a fan of her, but I think she was showed the dignity of a queen when she went to the executioner’s block.

Catherine of Braganza

Queen Esther and Queen Catherine of Braganza both had similar, selfless agendas

Before Catherine of Braganza married Charles II, she was informed of his affairs. She was also advised not let his head mistress into her presence.  But when that did happen, she got a bloody nose and fainted.   She improved restraining herself from making scenes in public. Once in a while, the mistresses made good allies, which put her more in favor with her husband. She even was on good terms with the mistresses’ children but never acknowledged them as his heirs.  She stayed queen consort and her husband asked for her forgiveness on his deathbed.

Problems With Approved Polygamy

I have not forgotten about how David’s marriages were approved by God at this time. That would have presented unique challenges and made it more difficult. Even the most righteous women in the Bible struggled with their husbands having other wives and concubines which bore them children.

Rachel and Leah

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Childen made a woman more valuable in ancient Israel. Leah thought Jacob would love her when she bore him sons. Then there’s younger sister Rachel, who’s barren but still Jacob’s true love. Rachel desired children so badly. When Rachel asked Leah for mandrakes (considered a fertility drug), Leah said, “Is it enough you have stolen my husband?” (Genesis 30:15)

Who did Michal relate to most in this case? Did she feel like the other wives stole David? Could she also have wanted children more than anything? Leah and Rachel’s stories both have a somewhat satisfying ending. Rachel bore Jacob his favorite sons, and Jacob requested to be buried with Leah. It seems non-royal families have a better chance at happy endings than royal ones.

Hannah and Peninnah

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The prophet Samuel was the product of a woman with great faith who had been barren for years. Hannah felt low as her husband’s other wife , Peninnah, produced many children, yet her husband, Elkanah “loved Hannah” (1 Samuel 5) and tried to comfort her “Why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8) Through Hannah’s faith she eventually conceived a great prophet and other children followed. Maybe David attempted to reassure her with love but there’s the question if David even wanted to have children with Michal due to a desire to prevent Saul’s descendants from inheriting the throne. With all his other wives, it was easy to avoid her. There wasn’t that much communication.  Also, the rulers that married off their daughters to David might be suspicious if he gave the daughter of a rival king (even if he was dead) more attention.

Sarah and Hagar

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According to Sarah, Hagar disrespected her: “She had conceived, I was despised in her eyes.” (Genesis 16: 5)Abraham let Sarah “do to her [Hagar] as it pleaseth thee.” Sarah might have been too harsh as Hagar ran away. Hagar she was still promised posterity, But it was Sarah who eventually bore Abraham’s son of the covenant. She was concerned that people would think Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was Abraham’s heir and not her son, Isaac. Sarah advised Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10) Abraham took his what his wife said to heart and asked the Lord what he should do. The Lord agreed with Sarah, and the next morning, he sent Hagar and Ishmael off with sufficient supplies. (Genesis 21:11-14).

Sarah’s request was granted but royal women don’t always have the opportunities. Sometimes  king’s mistresses do fall out of favor much to his queen’s delight. Since many of David’s wives were prominent women, the chances of sending them away were slim. Michal was the first wife but had little power to pull off something like Sarah. If David sent away another wife who was the daughter of a king, alliances would be broken which would present problems such as the threat of war. The most powerful members in Michal’s family were dead. Yet, some of his wives were low born. Michal might have considered them bondwomen like Sarah saw Hagar.

The Ticking Time Bomb

Michal survived Hebron. But when the royal family changed their residence to Jerusalem, things became shakier.2 Samuel 5:13 practically yells Michal had a problem with the move and David’s further actions:

“And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron”

So David had more children, wives, and concubines. This was bound to create more conflict and competition among the other wives too (2 Samuel 5:13-16). Who knows if she and the other wives conspired with or against each other Maybe Michal felt she had more power over the concubines, but was getting the impression she held little value to David. This was the perfect setup for he next chapter–their public spat after a controversial celebration. David taking on more wives, concubines, and having children was traumatic and contributed to that fight. There might have been individual incidences that left Michal shaken. I wouldn’t have been in the mood to celebrate.

 

Sources:

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen by Giles Tremlett
The Anne Boleyn Collection II by Claire Riidgeway
Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox
“Keeping Up Appearances: Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s Underestimated Wife” by Sarah Patten

Genesis 16, 21, 20
1 Samuel 1
2 Samuel 5

Images:
Catherine of Aragon  by Michael Sittow
Anne Boleyn portrait
Catherine of Braganza  Jacob Huysmans
Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah by Gabriel Charles
Hannah Giving Her son Samuel to the Priest by Jan Victors
Sarai Sends Hagar Away by James Tissot

Catherine_of_Braganza_-_Lely_1663-65 September (3)

Keeping Up Appearances: Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s Underestimated Wife

Game Face

I love it when the “just there” players in reality TV shows make it to the end—and win. Their opponents hadn’t realized they were making moves the whole way. One “just there” historical player is Catherine of Braganza. She played one of the best games in the history of queens vs. mistresses.

It’s easy to overlook the Portuguese princess who married Charles II in 1662. Oh that shameless Charles II. He restored the English monarchy but any wisdom he possessed was overshadowed by his foolishness. The Merry Monarch openly had mistresses and acknowledged his illegitimate children. They even received more attention and had greater political influence than his wife.

“Poor Catherine” and “pity” are the phrases included in articles about the Queen of England. I had similar reactions at first. Catherine was a tender wife. I believe she would not want to be remembered as the pitiful queen who, at best, brought the tradition of tea drinking to England. I think we’ve been deceived. She played the game well and walked away with the money and ultimately didn’t need a man to fight her battles.

We can only feel a little bit of her great pain, but we need to focus on her practical side. What was her agenda?  Why did she stay in a marriage where she was rejected? How did she do it? She had her reasons for staying. After Charles’ death, she wrote to her brother that she married the king for the sake of Portugal. Portugal relied on the marriage alliance for protection.  Catherine had a lot riding on her shoulders.

Escaping Death and Divorce

Catherine got sick from pressures expected of her. She suffered three miscarriages and caught an illness that temporarily left her deaf loss and unable to walk. Good thing she recovered. She loved dancing and continued to enhance the quality of Italian music in the catholic friary she built. Technically British monarchs were not supposed to be practicing Catholics go there but she practiced her religion anyway. She was definitely in danger of treason, though, when she was accused of planning to poison the king along with other conspiracies. King Charles didn’t believe the accusations against his wife and ignored suggestions to divorce her. He said, “She could never do anything wicked, and it would be a horrible thing to abandon her.”

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

She might have had trouble learning English, but she found ways to communicate and change people’s perceptions. Catherine literally painted herself out to be a saint. After she was painted as St. Catherine, other women at court followed suit. Some of the mistresses attempted at being depicted as heavenly but it wouldn’t do. They had influence in government but Catherine was bold enough to remind them she was the only one who held the title of queen.

For example, look closely at this portrait.

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An accident? It’s almost as if she’s pointing at the crown. Time went on, and most of her portraits included the crown and sovereign orb.

Catherine worked hard on her public image of being a pious woman (but she also loved to party), and conveyed the message that she was still the queen.

The person she needed to convince most was the king. Though he had many mistresses, he viewed the queen as infallible.

The King’s Apology

Part luck, part strategy, and all miracle, Catherine outlived her husband by twenty years. She must have been envied—and admired—by past queens when her husband actually asked for her forgiveness on his deathbed. She sent a message: “to beg his pardon if she offended him all his life.” He said “Alas poor woman! She asks for my pardon? I beg hers with all my heart, take her back that answer.”

Sweet and Sassy

Catherine had been Charles’ angel, but others saw her as someone difficult to work with. Before Catherine returned to Portugal, she stayed in England to pursue a lawsuit. She was determined to get money back from a former chamberlain who neglected her finances. She proved she hadn’t come all the way to a foreign country over two decades before just to be cheated on. She became very wealthy.

Catherine’s current chamberlain worked closely with the now dowager-queen. He took the blame for Catherine’s actions when Mary II found out that Catherine forbade the chapels at Somerset House to say prayers for King William. William once tried to get Catherine out of Somerset House, but Catherine reminded him she was protected with certain rights. It took Queen Mary to talk through things with Catherine.  Finally it was agreed upon that it would be best if she returned to Portugal.

She Rules!

Catherine was greeted like a hero when she returned to Portugal, She assisted her brother ruling as regent. Her rule included victories over invading threats. One of her greatest victories though, was acting as a mother figure to her motherless nephew. She lifted his spirits when his mother died. When Catherine died, he became depressed again. This shows what a positive influence she could have over people.

So, here’s a queen of two countries, who didn’t produce an heir, and surprisingly, didn’t get a divorce. She was accused of treason, but stayed alive well after her husband’s death and left with the wealth she deserved. Catherine, the queen of England and Portugal, proved to be a capable leader and mother figure. The odds were against her, but she came up on top.

The Catherine Club

Catherine of Braganza shared more than just her namesake with some of the Catherines that graced England’s royal scene. .

 

425px-CatherineAragon Catherine of Aragon. Aragon was 23 when she married Henry VIII. Braganza was also 23 when she married Charles. Both marriages lasted about 23 years. Aragon lost her husband through annulment and Braganza lost her husband through the king’s death.

 

Catherine_Parr_from_NPG_croppedCatherine Parr. Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife who’s also known as the one who survived. She and Braganza experienced rumors of divorce and accusations of treason. Despite threats, they both ended up finding favor and outlived their kings.

 

182px-Catherine,_Duchess_of_CambridgeKate Middleton.   Perhaps the Catherine that Braganza identifies with most. The now Duchess of Cambridge will be the first British queen to be named Catherine since Braganza. She is also married to the first direct descent of Charles II expected to inherit the throne.

 

CatherineofBraganza In Black (2)Though Charles II had many illegitimate children, they weren't entitled to the throne. It would be over three centuries before a direct descendant would be eligible to be king.

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Image credits:
Queen Catherine of Braganza (featured image) by Peter Lely
Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England (pointing to crown) by Jean Baptiste Gaspars
Catherine of Aragon by Michel Sittow
Catherine Parr by William Scrots
Catherine,  Duchess of Cambridge
Catherine of Braganza (in black) by Peter Lely
Charles II in the robes of the Order of the Garter, by John Michael Wright
The Royal Family on the Balcony 

Further Credits:
Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Queen by Hebe Elsna

 Catherine of Braganca: Infanta of Portugal and Queen-Consort of England By Lillias Campbell Davidson

Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest By Agnes Strickland, Elizabeth Strickland

Catherine of Braganza by Thomas Fredrick Tout

http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/queen_of_reg/catherine.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Braganza