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Boy am I lucky. Somehow, I managed to get a first edition of this book published in 1908. It’s filled with portraits and illustrations and dedicated to: “The people of Portugal who gave their princess throughout her life love, loyalty, devotion and by whom in her death she is not forgotten”. What a thrill to hold a book in my hands that is 110 years old. This work has been out of print for many years. My precious copy of this book was donated to the public library in Plymouth, England. It was withdrawn and a bookseller managed to find it and offer it for sale.
The subtitle of this book is “Infanta of Portugal & Queen-Consort of England. Once again, I am reading this book for research purposes. I first read Janet MacKay’s biography of Catherine of Braganza so it has been interesting to compare the two author’s observations on this queen’s life. Davidson is similar in her writing style to MacKay as there is a lot of description and flowery Edwardian language. She has a tendency to go off on a tangent here with long recollections of related subjects such as the life of the Louise de Kerouaille, Charles II’s French mistress. All of this is interesting but it does detract from Catherine’s story and it makes for a long book, 502 pages!
I found Davidson’s early chapter on the House of Braganza and Catherine’s childhood to be thin on information. Catherine’s early years are shrouded in mystery so this accounts for some of the lack of detail. And the particulars of the Braganza family history are questionable from other research I have done. Some of the positives in this narrative are the description of Catherine’s resistance to allowing Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine as a Lady of the Bedchamber and her views of Catherine’s relationship with Charles.
Davidson’s recounting of the Popish Plot which threatened Catherine’s life if not as detailed and insightful as MacKay’s. She also quotes verbatim the letters written in Catherine’s own hand to her brother in arranging her return to Portugal after Charles’ death just as MacKay did in her biography. Davidson’s description of the last years of Catherine’s life in Portugal is not complete. There is a very short bibliography here and she cites some sources that do not appear in her list. But overall, this is a well-researched and detailed biography. She must be given credit for completing the first comprehensive biography of this enigmatic queen based on the sources and methods available in the early 20th century.
If you enjoy Stuart history, I have a copy of “The Prince of Wales Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart” by Sarah Fraser. For a chance to win this book about this forgotten Jacobean prince, leave a comment below.