The Infanta Catarina of Braganza rode toward Lisbon Harbor through streets of celebration. Bells rang and pennants snapped in the spring sunshine. What looked to be the whole population of the capital lined the streets and hung from the bridges and leaned out the windows, cheering and singing and throwing bouquets of wildflowers under the wheels of the coaches to perfume her passage and bid her farewell.
After long negotiation, the English king and his English ships stood with Portugal against the might of Spain. The people were safe from the hardships and depredations of war. And it was Catarina who had saved them, by becoming Queen of England.
Catarina sat very straight, her back not touching the gold silk cushions, her gaze on the coachman’s liveried back, her expression (she hoped) dignified. Behind the stiff bodice of her gown, her heart beat painfully—from grief, from pride, from excitement, she hardly knew which. The shouts of her people rang in her ears: L’Inglês! L’Inglês! Viva o rei da Grã Bretanha! Viva a Infanta!
Her brother, King Alfonso, lounged upon the seat beside her, throwing smiles at the pretty girls waving from tapestry-hung balconies. Despite his neat beard and gold-laced hat, he looked very little like a king, she thought, and very much like a boy on the edge of manhood—a mixture of uncertainty and braggadocio wrapped in watered silk and jewels. She was going to miss him. To her, he was still the wide-eyed child she’d dandled when she was six, before he was struck by the mysterious illness that had robbed him of the use of one arm and his sweet temper, leaving him prone to fits of rage. Even now, at eighteen, he was much given to brawling, to sudden extremes of passion, to fast company, to drinking and loose women and . . .
“How your people love you, sister,” he told her now, his own teeth flashing under his narrow mustache. “See how they rejoice in your joy!”
On the facing seat, her youngest brother, Dom Pedro, snorted. Even at thirteen, he showed signs of being as ambitious as their mother Queen Luisa, who had pushed their father to revolt against the Spanish and declare himself king of an independent Portugal. He was nearly as wild as his older brother, if more circumspect in his roistering.
Now he said, “They’re rejoicing that the Spanish army retreated as soon as the English warships sailed into Lisbon Harbor. They haven’t seen enough of Catarina to know if they love her or not.”
“Of course they love her,” the king said. “How could they not? She has saved Portugal.”
He cast Catarina his charming smile. She pressed her lips tightly together and prayed silently as the nuns had taught her, until the urge to weep had passed.
A queen does not weep, her mother had murmured as they embraced on the palace steps. A queen holds her head high and does that which God has given her to do—her duty. And so I do, Catarina thought, and so I will, with the help of Mary and the blessed saints.
A spray of jacaranda, newly blossomed and smelling of honey and sunlight, landed in the stiff folds of her wide skirt. Did they have jacaranda in England?
Alfonso picked it up and thrust it at her. “Wave to them!” he insisted, much agitated. “Let them see your joy! As your king, I command it!”
Catarina took the branch. “All right, dearest. Yes, all right. I will. Watch me.”
She took a deep breath of jacaranda-scented air. Her head was ringing with the noise, her heart swelling with love. Love for her wayward little brothers. Love for the formidable mother who had bid her farewell at the palace, straight-backed and serene, the only sign of what the parting cost her the trembling in her lips against Catarina’s forehead as she blessed her. Love for Lisbon, for Portugal, for the father she missed so painfully.
Catarina turned from her brothers and leaned toward the window, letting the sun fall full on her face. She raised the spray of jacaranda and tossed it out to the people crowding the route, saw a woman catch it and brandish it, her round face triumphant. The crowd’s cheers swelled; her own name battered her ears. She found herself smiling at them through a blur of unqueenly tears, smiling at her people, whom she was about to leave forever.
The procession moved on through the streets, slow and stately as clouds across the sky. As it emerged into yet another crowded, noisy square, Dona Maria de Portugal, Condessa de Penalva, adjusted her black silk fan to keep the sun from her eyes.
The coach lurched and the scent of oranges filled the air. Dona Maria clutched her rosary and prayed for patience. Though processions were a necessary part of court life, she hated them and avoided them when she could. Dona Maria was notably shortsighted, and public processions meant shouting crowds that made her head ache and sights that went by in a brilliant blur. She preferred the shadowy rooms of court and convent, where the days unrolled in a predictable round of tasks,...