The Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda has launched (29 August) the latest coin in a series entitled, “Queens of Europe,” which chronicles Princesses of Portuguese Royal Houses who have attained the status of Queen consort through marriage to European monarchs. This year’s coin is dedicated to Catherine of Braganza (1638 – 1705), who was Queen Consort of England as the wife of King Charles II.
Born Catarina Henriqueta de Braganza on November 25, 1638, at the Vila Vicosa in Alentejo, she was the eldest child and only surviving daughter of Juan, Duke of Braganza (1604 – 1656), and his wife Luiza Maria, Queen consort of Portugal. News of Catherine’s birth was greeted with widespread rejoicing. On December 12, she was christened with great pomp and ceremony in the couple’s ducal chapel.
Considered an accomplished and appealing princess, Catherine was not thought to be a smart choice as a bride for the then-prince Charles, son of King Charles I. But the alliance to Portugal was seen as politically advisable, especially as England sought trading privileges in the New World governed by Portugal. England also supported Portuguese independence from Spain and aided Lisbon in this aim.
Catherine married her husband, the newly crowned King Charles II on May 21, 1662, in separate Anglican and Catholic ceremonies. Catherine was able to continue practicing her Catholicism, as she was excluded from actually being crowned Queen of England, though she was nevertheless Queen Consort of her new country.
Catherine suffered three known miscarriages during her marriage to Charles and ultimately did not produce an heir, which made her unpopular with English Courtiers who had urged Charles to divorce her and re-marry. But Charles defended his wife on more than one occasion when she had become the target of intrigue or accusation. Queen Catherine struggled with English customs and language for most of her reign as Queen Consort, but held the affection of her husband. She felt affectionate for him as well, despite his many involvements with mistresses and the illegitimate offspring those relationships produced. Her Catholic religion also made her a repeated target by politicians who were resentful of her close proximity to the King. Despite these challenges, Catherine held steadfast and continued to practice her faith, which only brought admiration from the King for her uncompromising and devout behavior.
King Charles died in 1685. While on his deathbed, he received the Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion, perhaps influenced by his wife. Catherine remained in England after the death of her husband, who was succeeded by his younger brother, crowned James II, England’s last Catholic monarch. She remained in England even after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought the Protestant Monarchs William III and Mary II.
Mary, the elder daughter of James II, was married to a Dutch Prince of Orange. Eventually, she would return to Portugal in 1699 to provide care as well as guidance to her nephew, Prince Joao, who would later be King as well as acting Regent for her brother, King Pedro II, on two separate occasions. She died in 1705 at the Bemposta Palace and was buried at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.
During her time as England’s Queen Consort, Catherine is remembered for introducing the English court to the custom of drinking tea, a beverage routinely consumed by the Portuguese court, since they imported it from their colonies in Asia and India. The habit was copied in the salons of much of the aristocracy and nobility, and the rest is history.
The coins are designed by artist José Viriato Bernardo and include a front-facing obverse portrait of Catherine based on an oil painting of the Queen by Sir Peter Lely in 1665. The reverse design includes a reminder of Catherine’s contribution to the English custom of tea-drinking with a simple porcelain tea cup angled vertically. The English text, FIVE O’CLOCK TEA, is positioned vertically along the cup. The denomination and year of issue are also incorporated in the reverse design.
|5 €URO||Cupro-nickel||10 Grams||30 mm.||BU||75,000 pieces|
|5 €URO||.925 Silver||15.5 Grams||30 mm.||Proof||2500 pieces|
|5 €URO||.999 Gold||15.5 Grams||30 mm.||Proof||2500 pieces|
This is the third coin in the annual series, which began in 2014. The first two coins were dedicated to Queens Dona Lenor de Portugal (1434 – 1467), consort of Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, and Dona Isabel de Portugal (1503 – 1539), consort of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The coins are available for pre-ordering from September 13; for more information, please visit the web site of the INCM. International orders will be dispatched where applicable.