Historical Events - Marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza

Sarah Heath

What happened this week, in 1662?

This week, in 1662 Charles II, King of England married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. Several medals and tokens were produced to commemorate the event however the official medallion issued for their marriage was this beautiful piece by John Roettier.

The Marriage contract was negotiated to benefit both countries, however ultimately Britain did much better, gaining a queen, a huge amount of cash as well as free trade with Portuguese colonies.

Following the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the country was in dire need of money, and with Charles still a bachelor, finding a financially favourable marriage union was the focus for Charles closest advisors and negotiators. Securing this contract between countries was much more important than any sort of love match.

Portugal had become very rich in the early 16th century from the discovery of lands in South America and Asia however this was now being threatened by the Dutch and Spanish.

An agreement was made where Charles supplied Portugal with an army to help them defend their lands, and in exchange he received a cash lump sum, the equivalent to around £11 billion in today’s money, Tangiers, Bombay and free trade agreements with other key Portuguese colonies.

It was an enormous windfall that was too good to refuse, even if he had never met his bride-to-be! 

Charles II and Catherine were very different people, but the union was essential for both of their countries. There were two wedding ceremonies to allow for their differing faiths.

After a very rough journey from Lisbon, Catherine arrived in Portsmouth where she met Charles on the morning of their wedding day.

Catherine was quiet in temperament, pious and respectful. At just 23 years of age, she had left everything she knew in Lisbon to be a Queen in a country where she understood not a word of English.

In contrast, Charles was in his early 30’s and had had many mistresses over the previous decade resulting in several illegitimate children. His current companion, Lady Castlemaine (Barbara Villiers) was due to give birth any day.

Despite their differences they understood the importance of their marriage and what came with it.

There were two ceremonies, a private service held in Catherine’s bedchamber by a Roman catholic priest, a gesture to acknowledge her catholic faith and a public ceremony in Portsmouth performed by the Bishop of London.

The King and his new Queen are greeted by the city of London to celebrate their marriage. It is the first royal wedding where several forms of souvenirs were made to commemorate the event.

A few months after the wedding, having spent the summer at Hampton court, a Royal procession along the Thames was organised to celebrate the marriage of the King and Queen.

Royal souvenirs were produced for the occasion including more than a dozen different medals and badges.

The official commemorative medal for the marriage was designed and engraved by John Roettier who was chief engraver at the Royal Mint. This medal is rare and was struck around the time of the marriage in gold, silver and bronze.

A brief history on John Roettier, the medallist

John Roettier was born in Antwerp and during the 1650’s when Charles was exiled in Europe, John’s father, Philip (a well-respected Flemish medallist) helped Charles financially.

In exchange, Charles offered work to Joseph’s three sons at The Royal mint, and once they had returned to London, John produced many important pieces of work during Charles II reign.

After Charles’ death in 1685, John produced the official coronation medals for his successor King James II, Charles’ younger brother, as well as for the joint monarchs William and Mary in 1689.  

The Golden Medal and its significance as the official commemorative medallion

1662 Charles II & Catherine Medal

George Bower produced medallions for the wedding, but this one, The Golden Medal by John Roettier has been described as such, not for the type of metal used but for it’s elegance in design and accurate depiction of the monarchs.

Charles has been drawn with flowing hair, dressed in scale armour with a lion’s head on his shoulder, and Catherine has been tastefully drawn with a string of pearls through her hair and a loose ringlet on the side of her neck.

Her closed mouth hides her teeth which were known to have protruded quite severely and had a detrimental effect on her looks however Roettier’s skill as an artist is evident in his treatment of both monarchs and the quality of their portraits.

This medallion in silver is available to purchase. It is 43 millimetres in diameter and the condition in Good, very Fine.

Discover our related product: 1662 Charles II & Catherine Medal - Marriage By John Roettier

Discover our related collection: Births, Deaths & Marriages Medallions

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