Queen Catherine of Braganza's
Visit to Sandwich 4th May 1672
A set of thirteen old pictures uncovered, as is often the case, when interior walls were being redecorated in a house in Sandwich, Kent, circa the nineteenth century, eventually found their way, via a variety of owners, into the hands of the Sandwich Corporation. The pictures are painted on fir panels, all but one of them being 4 feet high and 3 feet wide. Four of them are of considerable regimental interest as they show three-quarter length life-sized portraits of Charles II, his Queen, Catherine of Braganza, his brother James, Duke of York, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and a Mayor of Sandwich in his robes. Other civic dignitaries are represented.
view of the portraits hanging in the Sandwich Guildhall,
Equally interesting, four others represent a royal procession in the town. The first picture, it is believed, shows Canterbury Gate with gentlemen and others on horseback passing under it to meet the Queen. There is good military representation with infantry presenting arms in the foreground and some guns being discharged to the left, where a mill is also shown. The next picture shows the head of the Queen's procession. Two carriages are shown. One, drawn by six cream horses and accompanied by walking bareheaded pages, contains two gentlemen, one of whom is possibly the Duke of York. Again, infantry and artillery are present, being drawn up on the walls of the town. The third picture, the really important one, shows the Queen's coach, drawn by six brown horses and containing her Majesty and another lady. The Mayor attended by two macebearers and six Jurats, is presenting the address. The last pictures shows two more coaches, escorted by some trumpeters, and containing six Jurats and civic dignitaries accompanied by ladies and children. Musqueteers are present with their Captain.
The history of these panels which are painted in oils on fir wood, is noteworthy.
view of the portraits of King Charles II and his Queen,
Catherine of Braganza hanging in the Sandwich Guildhall.
In 1839, in a house occupied by a Mr. Stanley in Harnet Street, the series of panels was discovered hidden behind the plaster. They are attributed to William Van der Velde, the Dutch painter, who is known to have been in Sandwich about the time of their probable execution. They were given to Lady Ashburnham and sold at her death to Admiral Jolliffe, whose widow removed them to London. After an absence of nearly 30 years, she returned them to Sandwich, presenting them to the Corporation. This valuable gift was largely due to the efforts of Alderman W.J. Hughes to recover them for the town. Four panels represent the entry of Catherine of Braganza into Sandwich in 1672. According to the historian Boys, "Queen Catherine came to Sandwich on the 4th May with a great train, and there was a royal banquet provided for Her Sacred Majesty and attendents at the Mayor's door, for the Queen would not quit her coach". The reason for the Queen's refusal to leave her coach was because she did not wish to walk in the "Dirty Streets of Sandwich", a statement still remembered by the people of the Town, this despite the banquet laid on at the Bell Hotel in her honour. It is also of some interest to know that in attendance on the Queen on that occasion was James, Duke of York, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, later King James II.
The accounts of the Corporation for 1671-72 (Mayor Bartholomew Coombes time) show an expenditure of over £27 in preparing the route for the Royal Visit. It included such things as providing carriages, lifting and positioning guns, obtaining cartridges for the same and for supplying nails. A fair proportion was spent on drinks for those involved. Despite any actual or supposed inaccuracies the pictures form part of valuable records of the occasion and it is fortunate that they came safely to light after their "days in plaster". A lesson can be learnt here mainly that old buildings should always be altered or dismantled with care.
The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Association are most gratefull to the Town Council of Sandwich, for granting permission for the portraits to be photographed and be included on our regimental web-site.