Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Catherine of Braganza by Sarah-Beth Watkins

Catherine Braganza - not a queen with whom I am overly familiar with - the Restoration not my particular area of expertise. So it was with anticipation that I sat down with this concise biography and discovered just who this woman was. A survivor!

Catherine's time as Queen of England was tumultuous - the reign of her husband, the notorious prolifigate, Charles II, was dominated by his long time mistress, Lady Castlemaine; Catherine's failure to produce an heir saw many plots abound to remove her or execute her - but Charles stood firm beside her. This was also the period of England's war with the Netherlands and the Great Fire of London.

Yet Catherine survived - she outlasted both Charles II and the reign of his brother James II; she witnessed Monmouth's rebellion (Charles' illegitimate son who challenged his uncle James II for power); she saw in the reigns of William and Mary following James' overthrow and exile; and then the coronation of Anne. 

Finally, Catherine returns to Portugal and for the first time, exercising royal power as regent for her nephew (1705). But her happiness was short-lived - she died the same year.

Sarah-Beth successfully recreates the life of Catherine who lived in a most exciting time. Her story is highly readable, not bogged down with too much dry historical facts, and leaves the reader with just enough information to send them off on their own journey of discovery of this queen who for many, was just a mere footnote in history.

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