Ahead of Valentine's Day we're sharing one very special document on loan from Portsmouth Cathedral. John Bolt tells us more.
Portsmouth, 21st May 1662:
"I arrived here yesterday about two in the afternoon, and as soon as I had shifted myself I went to my wife's chamber. Her face is not so exact as to be called a beauty, though her eyes are excellent good, and not anything in her face that in the least degree can [shoque] one; on the contrary, she hath much agreeableness in her looks altogether as ever I saw; and if I have any skill in physiognomy, which I think I have, she must be as good a woman as ever was born. Her conversation, as much as I can perceive, is very good; for she has wit enough and a most agreeable voice. You would wonder to see how well we are acquainted already; in a word, I think myself very happy, for I am confident our two humours will agree very well together.”
These were the first impressions King Charles II confided to Lord Clarendon following his first meeting with his wife to be, the Infanta of Portugal, Catherine Duchess of Braganza. Catherine had arrived at Portsmouth on the 14th of May 1662, where she stayed at the Governor’s House awaiting the King. Samuel Pepys, no stranger to Portsmouth in his stewardship of the Royal Navy, observed in his diary, “At night, all the bells of the town rung, and bonfires made for the joy of the Queen’s arrival, who came and landed at Portsmouth last night.” It was also in Portsmouth that Catherine is reputed to have first introduced the custom of drinking tea in England, which she did at court throughout her life.
The marriage between the newly restored King of England and the Portuguese Infanta took place in Portsmouth on the 21st of May 1662. As St Thomas’s, the parish church of Portsmouth, was still heavily damaged from the English Civil War, the only suitable venue for a royal wedding was the “Domus Dei”. The Domus Dei had once been the old medieval hospital of Portsmouth, which fortuitously survived the Reformation by becoming first a city armoury and later the chapel to the Governor’s House. The wedding service, however, is believed to have taken place in the Governor’s Presence Chamber and not the chapel itself. Besides a considerable dowry of some 2 million Portuguese Crowns, England also gained the North African port of Tangiers, trading privileges in the East Indies, and the ports of Bombay, India.
Today, the parish church of St Thomas’s is now Portsmouth Cathedral and the custodian of the marriage certificate of King Charles and Catherine as well as some of the “Tangier Plate” from the garrison of Tangiers. The Domus Dei in Old Portsmouth is better known today as the Royal Garrison Church, as it was used in later years used by the army for church services and suffered considerable damage in the Portsmouth Blitz in 1941.
Sadly, Catherine bore no live children but Charles acknowledged at least twelve children from his mistresses and liaisons. Charles’ brother James would succeed him to the throne.
To find out more about Charles II and his court visit Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution
John Bolt is the Marketing Coordinator for Portsmouth Cathedral. He recently completed his MA in History at the University of Portsmouth and is also a Volunteer Guide at the Royal Garrison Church in Old Portsmouth.
 Wright, H.P. The Story of the ‘Domus Dei’ of Portsmouth, (London: James Parker & Co., 1873) 21.
2 Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for Thursday 15 May 1662. Source: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/05/, accessed 8 February 2016.
3 “Catherine of Braganza”, source: https://www.tea.co.uk/catherine-of-braganza,, accessed 8 February 2016.
4 Wright, Domus Dei, 23.