Sympathize

 

In considering thoughts along the lines of sympathy my mind is drawn to a street named Portugal! It is situated in the heart of London’s law quarters, in an area known as Lincoln’s Inn, and is so called after the unhappy wife of Charles II; Catherine de Braganza (1638 – 1705); the daughter of the King of Portugal. Unhappy because she failed to produce an heir for the monarchy, and because her husband had such an enormous number of beautiful mistresses to father the many off-spring that he sired, and if this was not enough to make this lady blue, she was of course also despised for her faith as a Catholic. One can only sympathize with this poor dear lonely wife and Queen, who ultimately must have found living in our cold and damp Protestant land utterly joyless!  The country was still recovering from the effects of the dour Puritans, as well as the terrible Civil War with its sombre outcome when she arrived for her wedding, having been raised in the land of endlessly shining sun, with its exotic fruits and wine that could be harvested with ease from its fertile terrain. As a means to make life more pleasant Catherine did at least introduce tea drinking to the English, which in the fullness of time would prove both lucrative as well as become the height of sophistication for ladies in the higher ranks of gentrified society; tea was to be sipped as only a Queen would do.  But no amount of sympathy could console this lady for those three miscarriages that would be her fate; a barren future without children, denied the satisfaction of motherhood in exchange for her duties as England’s second Carolingian Queen. Eventually she returned home to her native land after her husband’s death, having fallen foul of the new Dutch King William of Orange and his wife Queen Mary; her niece by marriage.  Back home sympathy now became hers to bestow in an act of roll reversal, and she found herself consoling her nephew John who had recently lost his mother and had slipped into a deep depression.  The widowed Queen now lifted her sister’s child’s spirits, and soon became a key part of his life, finally fulfilling that latent maternal roll. Catherine died in the land of her birth in 1705 and is buried in Lisbon, in a tomb within a monastery befitting her soul, beneath the rays of the warming Portuguese sun.  Happy in the end to be back home with her family.

'Catherine of Braganza', 17th century, Oil on canvas, 102 x 88 cm, P02409.

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