QUEEN CATHERINE OF BRAGANÇA
As the world’s eyes are turned to London’s Westminster Abbey for the most famous wedding of the new millennium, we remember some notorious unions involving the Portuguese royal families. Of course Portugal is no longer ruled by kings and queens, as the country stopped being a monarchy exactly 100 years ago, but there are still many fairytale stories to tell that happened once upon a time, although the main characters didn’t always live happily ever after.
King Afonso V and Queen Isabel
He was only six years old when he was declared king and it was only some time later that that he was forced to marry his first cousin Isabel. They did so in Obidos‘ Santa Maria Church in a scene that most likely looked more like a First Holy Communion than a holy matrimony.
Catherine of Braganza and King Charles II
A Portuguese princess was sent to England to marry Charles II and solidify the political relationship between Portugal and England, at the time the two major superpowers of the world. Part of her dowry were the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Tangier which had been under Portuguese control and then became part of the British empire.
Poor Catherine had a very unhappy marriage, as she spoke no English and was of the Catholic faith in a Protestant country. Nonetheless, she had a major cultural impact in her new land by introducing the tradition of the 5 o’clock tea. Her husband was also nice enough to dedicate part of his new territory in the New World to her. That’s Queens, New York.
King João I and Philippa of Lancaster
This political marriage of convenience was the result of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance. Their wedding took place in Porto’s cathedral, also the site of the baptism of their most famous son — Prince Henry the Navigator.
King Pedro I and Inês de Castro
Even more tragic than the story of Romeo and Juliet is the story of Pedro and Inês, especially because this one actually happened. Prince Pedro and Inês fell in love, but this was a forbidden love, as Inês was Spanish and there was no way Portugal was going to have a Spanish queen. So they eloped at a time when there was no such thing, especially among members of a royal family. Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV heard the rumors of the secret marriage, and decided to have Inês murdered. Years later Pedro did become king and in order to have a happy end with the love of his life, ordered that his tomb be placed by Inês’ upon his death. Two monumental gothic tombs were built, and they now stand facing each other in the abbey of Alcobaça. Pedro believed they’d meet once again at the end of the world, so the words “Até ao fim do mundo…” (“Until the end of the world…”) are inscribed in the marble of the tombs.
Before that, Pedro also had Inês’ body exhumed, placed on a throne, dressed in royal fashion, and had his courtiers kiss her decomposed hand as a queen.
King Pedro II and Queen Maria Francisca de Saboia
In the 17th century when kings were essentially dictators, there wasn’t much a king couldn’t do and not much a country’s people could disagree with. But apparently stealing your brother’s wife met with great disapproval among the Portuguese population. King Pedro II was therefore an unpopular king ever since he married his former sister-in-law and took over the throne from his brother, King Afonso VI, by having him declared insane.