Restoring a Neglected Queen: Re-Examining Catherine of Braganza's Role in the Restoration Period

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Lowery, Serena
English History , English Protestantism , English Catholicism , Catherine of Braganza , Charles II , The English Restoration , The Popish Plot , The Exclusion Crisis , English Divorce Law , Early Modern England , Early Modern Period
In her reign as Queen Consort, issues with Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) brought up questions of power between the Church and State, helped heighten anti-Catholicism, and brought up questions of exclusion years before the infamous Exclusion Crisis began. History has traditionally remembered her for being the wife of Charles II, King of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and for bringing tea culture to England from her home, Portugal. This idea, however, neglects the more significant role she played in the Restoration Period (1660-1685). The Restoration resumed the issues between the Church of England and the State. The Church was desperate to demonstrate their autonomy from the State and their presumed divinity. The State wanted to use the Restoration to prove its presumed superiority over the Church of England through new legislation to weaken the Church’s control. Issues with Catholicism also became increasingly prevalent in the Restoration Period as Charles attempted to enact tolerant acts and Catholicism became closer to the royal family. This thesis will argue that Catherine is a neglected character in this story. Being Catholic, her presence at court became more of a nuisance as time went on. While keeping herself out of the spotlight, she still found ways to assist fellow Catholics and practise her faith as Anti-Catholicism rose. She was directly involved in the issues between Church and State, as ways to dispose of her brought up questions of secular and spiritual jurisdiction. As her marriage continued, it became apparent that she was not able to have children. Due to this, the King’s Catholic brother James remained the heir apparent. This worried Parliament and the Church, as both dreaded a Catholic taking the throne. To prevent a Catholic monarch, Parliament attempted to remove Catherine from her position byways of divorce and later impeachment. This thesis will demonstrate that when considering the Restoration Period, Catherine of Braganza is a main actor.
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