CHAPTER X. THE MARRIAGE.
We have made very little allusion to Catharine herself, thus far, in the account of these transactions, because she has had, thus far, nothing to do with them. Every thing has been arranged for her by her mother, who was an ambitious and masculine woman, and at this time the queen regent of Portugal. Catharine had been kept shut up, all her days, in the most strict seclusion, and in the most rigorous subjection to her mother's will. It is said that she had hardly been ten times out of the palace in her life, since her return to it from the convent where she had been educated. The innocent and simple hearted maiden looked forward to her marriage as to a release from a tedious and intolerable bondage. They had shown her King Charles's picture, and had given her an account of his perilous adventures and romantic escapes, and of the courage and energy which he had sometimes displayed. And that was all she knew. She had her childlike ideas of love and of conjugal fidelity and happiness, and believed that she was going to realize them. As she looked forward, therefore, to the period of her departure for England, she longed impatiently for the time to come, her heart bounding at every thought of the happy hour with eager anticipations of delight.
An English nobleman - the Earl of Sandwich - was sent with a squadron to bring the bride to England. He was received, when he entered the Tagus, with great ceremony. A Portuguese minister went down the river to meet him in a magnificent barge. The nobleman descended to the lowest step of the ladder which led down the side of the ship, to receive the minister. They ascended the ladder together, while the ship fired a salute of twenty or thirty guns. They went into the cabin, and took seats there, with great ceremony. The minister then rose and made an address of welcome to the English commander. Lord Sandwich replied, and there was then another thundering salute of cannon.
All this parade and ceremony was, in this case, as it often is, not an expression of real cordiality, good will, and good faith, but a substitute for them. The English commander, who had been specially instructed to bring over the money as well as the bride, found, to his great astonishment and perplexity, that the queen regent had spent a considerable portion of the money which had been put away so safely in the bags, and she wished to pay now a part of the dowry in merchandise, at such prices as she thought reasonable, and to have a year's credit for the remainder. There was thus thrown upon Lord Sandwich the very heavy responsibility of deciding whether to give up the object of his expedition, and go back to England without the bride, or to take her without the money. After very anxious hesitation and suspense, he decided to proceed with his enterprise, and the preparations were made for the princess's embarkation.
When the day arrived, the queen descended the grand staircase of the palace, and at the foot of it took leave of her mother. Neither mother nor daughter shed a tear. The princess was conducted through the streets, accompanied by a long cavalcade and a procession of splendid carriages, through long lines of soldiers, and under triumphal arches, and over paths strewed with flowers, while bands of music, and groups of dancers, at various distances along the way, expressed the general congratulation and joy. When they reached the pier there was a splendid brigantine or barge ready to receive the bride and her attendants. The Earl of Sandwich, and other English officers of high rank belonging to the squadron, entered the barge too. The water was covered with boats, and the shipping in the river was crowded with spectators. The barge moved on to the ship which was to convey the bridal party, who ascended to the deck by means of a spacious and beautiful stair constructed upon its side. Salutes were fired by the English ships, and were echoed by the Portuguese forts on the shore. The princess's brother and the ladies who had accompanied her on board, to take leave of her there, now bade her farewell, and returned by the barge to the shore, while the ships weighed anchor and prepared to put to sea.
The wind was, however, contrary, and they were compelled to remain that night in the river; and as soon as the darkness came on, the whole shore became resplendent with illuminations at the windows in the city, and with rockets, and fire balls, and fireworks of every kind, rising from boats upon the water, and from the banks, and heights, and castle battlements all around upon the land. This gay and splendid spectacle beguiled the night, but the wind continued unfavorable all the next day, and confined the squadron still to the river. Catharine's mother sent out a messenger during the day to inquire after her daughter's health and welfare. The etiquette of royalty did not allow of her coming to see her child.
The fleet, which consisted of fourteen men-of-war, put to sea on the second day. After a long and stormy passage, the squadron arrived off the Isle of Wight; the Duke of York came out to meet it there, with five other ships, and they all entered the harbor of Portsmouth together. As soon as Catharine landed, she wrote immediately to Charles to notify him of her arrival. The news produced universal excitement in London. The bells were rung, bonfires were made in the streets, and houses were illuminated. Every body seemed full of joy and pleasure except the king himself. He seemed to care little about it. He was supping that night with Lady Castlemaine. It was five days before he set out to meet his bride, and he supped with Lady Castlemaine the night before he commenced his journey.