Queens, Lisbon

Statue of Catherine of Braganza in Lisbon

Today being September 11, here’s something about New York, and Lisbon, of course.

The borough of Queens in New York City was named after Catherine of Bragança (often spelled “Braganza” in English), a Portuguese princess who became the Queen of England when she married Charles II.

Born in the city of Vila Viçosa in 1638, she was proposed as Charles’ bride by her father, the king of Portugal at the time, John IV. This solidified the old alliance between Portugal and England, and she moved to her new country in 1662. She took with her an old habit –- drinking tea at 5 o’clock, introducing that custom to English society.

But that wasn’t the only mark she left in the English world. Although it was an unhappy marriage, her husband dedicated the newly-taken-over land in the New World to her. New York was Dutch territory at the time, and was called New Amsterdam. Charles renamed it New York and a large piece of land within it was “the Queen’s borough.”

As a reminder of that, a 10m (33ft) statue was planned to stand by the Hudson in New York facing Queens, but protests from the local African-American community prevented that from ever happening. That’s because Catherine’s court had profited from the slave trade, and the local community was not comfortable honoring a person with such a past.

So a scale model (a quarter of the proposed size) used to build the final piece was instead shipped to Lisbon, where it stands today facing the Tagus River and the Atlantic towards Queens, New York. You will find it when you walk along the river in the Parque das Nações district in the direction of the Vasco da Gama Bridge.

For other historical personalities in Portuguese and world history, click here.

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