CHAPTER X. THE MARRIAGE.
During the period of King Charles's days of adversity he made many fruitless attempts to obtain a wife. He was rejected by all the young ladies to whom he made proposals. Marriages in that grade of society are almost always mere transactions of business, being governed altogether by political and prudential considerations. In all Charles's proposals he was aiming simply at strengthening his own position by means of the wealth or family influence of the bride, supposing as he did that the honor of being even nominally a queen would be a sufficient equivalent to the lady. The ladies themselves, however, to whom he addressed himself, or their friends, thought that the prospect of his being really restored to his throne was very remote and uncertain, and, in the mean time, the empty name of queen was not worth as much as a rich and powerful heiress, by becoming his bride, would have to pay for it.
After his restoration, however, all this was changed. There was no longer any difficulty. He had now only to choose. In fact, one or two who had refused him when he was a fugitive and an exile thought differently of the case now that he was a king, and one of them, as has already been said, gave him intimations, through her friends, that if he were inclined to renew his suit, he would be more successful. Charles rejected these overtures with indignant disdain.
The lady whom he ultimately married was a Portuguese princess. Her father was King of Portugal, but before his accession to the throne his title had been the Duke of Braganza. The name of his daughter was Catharine. She is thus known generally in history by the name of Catharine of Braganza.
It is said that the plan of this marriage originated with Queen Henrietta Maria, and that a prominent motive with her in promoting the measure was her desire to secure for Charles a Catholic wife. Catharine of Braganza was a Catholic. Henrietta Maria was deeply interested, and no doubt conscientiously so, in bringing back her own family and their descendants, and the realm of England, if possible, to the ancient faith: and this question of the marriage of her son she justly considered would have a very important bearing on the result.
Queen Henrietta is said to have laid her arrangements in train for opening the negotiation with the Portuguese princess, at a visit which she made to England in 1660, very soon after her son's restoration. The Restoration took place in May. The queen's visit to her son was in October. Of course, after all the long years of danger, privation, and suffering which this family had endured, the widowed mother felt an intense emotion of joy at finding her children once more restored to what she considered their just hereditary rights. Charles was on the English throne. James, the Duke of York, was Lord High Admiral of England, that is, the commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the realm; and her other children, those who were still living, were in peace and safety. Of course, her heart was full of maternal pride and joy.
Her son James, the Lord High Admiral, went across the Channel to Dover, with a fleet of the finest ships that he could select from the whole British navy, to escort his mother to England. The queen was to embark at Calais. [Footnote: For a view of the famous Calais pier, see History of Mary Queen of Scots, page 105.] The queen came down to the port from Paris, attended by many friends, who sympathized with her in the return of her prosperity, and were attracted, besides, by the grand spectacle which they thought would be presented by the appearance and maneuvers of the English ships, and the ceremony of the embarkation.
The waters of the English Channel are disturbed by almost perpetual agitations, which bleak winds and rapid tides, struggling continually together, combine to raise; and many a traveler, who passes in comfort across the Atlantic, is made miserable by the incessant restlessness of this narrow sea. At the time, however, when Henrietta Maria crossed it, the waters for once were calm. The people who assembled upon the pier to witness the embarkation looked over the expanse before them, and saw it lying smooth, every where, as glass, and reflecting the great English ships which lay at a little distance from the shore as if it were a mirror. It was a bright and beautiful October morning. The air seemed perfectly motionless. The English ships were adorned with countless flags in honor of the occasion, but they all hung down perfectly lifeless upon the masts and rigging. Scarcely a ripple rolled upon the beach; and so silent and still was the morning air, that the voices and echoes came from vast distances along the shore, and the dip of the oars of the boats gliding about in the offing sent its sound for miles around over the smooth surface of the sea; and when the grand salute was fired at the embarkation of the queen, the reverberation of the guns was heard distinctly, it was said, at Dover, a distance of thirty miles.