Catherine of Austria, Queen of Portugal

Catherine of Austria

Catherine of Portugal; Anthonis Mor, 1552.
Queen consort of Portugal
Tenure 10 February 1525 – 11 June 1557
Born 14 January 1507
Torquemada, Spain
Died 12 February 1578 (aged 71)
Lisbon, Portugal
Spouse John III of Portugal
Issue Maria Manuela, Princess of Portugal
Philip, Prince of Portugal
Manuel, Prince of Portugal
John Manuel, Prince of Portugal
Afonso, Prince of Portugal
House House of Habsburg
Father Philip I of Castile
Mother Joanna of Castile
Religion Roman Catholicism

Catherine of Austria (Portuguese: Catarina; 14 January 1507 – 12 February 1578) was Queen of Portugal as wife of King John III, and regent during the minority of her grandson, King Sebastian, from 1557 until 1562.

Early life

Altarpiece by Cristóvão Lopes in the Convent of Madre de Deus in Lisbon depicting Catherine of Austria with her namesake, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Currently on display in the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon.

An Infanta of Castile and Archduchess of Austria, Catherine was the posthumous daughter of King Philip I by Queen Joanna of Castile.[1] Catherine was born in Torquemada and named in honor of her maternal aunt, Catherine of Aragon. She remained with her mentally unstable mother until her eldest siblings, Eleanor and the future Emperor Charles V, arrived at Spain, coming from Flanders.

All of her five older siblings, except Ferdinand, were born in the Low Countries and had been put into the care of their aunt Margaret of Austria, but Joanna kept hold of young Catherine. Catherine actually stayed with her mother during imprisonment at Tordesillas during her grandfather Ferdinand of Aragon's time as regent. When the time came for her to marry, Catherine was released from the custody that her mother was to endure until her death.


On 10 February 1525, Catherine married her first cousin, King John III of Portugal. They had nine children, but only two survived early childhood.

After the death of her husband in 1557, she was challenged by her daughter-in-law and niece, Joan of Austria, over the role of regent for her grandchild, the infant King Sebastian. Mediation by Charles V resolved the issue in favour of his sister Catherine over his daughter Joan, who was needed in Spain in the absence of Philip II.

She then served as the regent of Portugal from 1557 until 1562. In 1562, she turned over the regency to Henry of Portugal.


Catherine had one of the earliest and finest Chinese porcelain collections in Europe due to her position as both the youngest sister of Emperor Charles V and the Queen of Portugal. "She acquired quantities of porcelain and exotica from Asia, which arrived regularly in Lisbon for the decoration of the Lisbon royal palace as well as for her personal use, and which served as emblems of her power. Her collection became the first kunstkammer on the Iberian Peninsula."[2] She was following a tradition established earlier by the Portuguese King Manuel I of Portugal who had purchased porcelain for his wife, Maria of Castile (1482-1517), who was Catherine's aunt. Between 1511 and 1514, the 'Treasurer of the Spices' in Lisbon "registered a total of 692 pieces of porcelain and other exotic goods" bought on his behalf for Maria of Castile, who was then King Manuel's second wife.[3] Amongst other 'exotica' in Catherine's collection were fossilised sharks' teeth, a snake's head encased in gold, heart-shaped jasper stones to stop bleeding, a coral branch used as a protector against evil spirits, bezoar stones, a unicorn's horn (a narwhal tusk) and piles of loose gems and stones such as rubies, emeralds, and diamonds.[4]


With John III, King of Portugal (married 10 February 1525)
Prince Afonso 24 February 152612 April 1526Prince of Portugal (1526).
Princess Maria 15 October 1527 12 July 1545Princess of Portugal (1527–1531). First wife of King Philip II of Spain. She had one child, Don Carlos, and died four days after his birth.
Infanta Isabella 28 April 1529 22 May 1530 
Infanta Beatrice 15 February 1530 16 March 1530 
Prince Manuel 1 November 1531 14 April 1537Prince of Portugal (1531–1537). Declared heir in 1531.
Prince Philip 25 March 1533 29 April 1539Prince of Portugal (1537–1539). Declared heir in 1537.
Infante Denis 6 April 1535 1 January 1537 
Prince John Manuel 3 June 1537 2 January 1554Prince of Portugal (1539–1554). Declared heir in 1539. Married Joan of Spain.
Their son Sebastian became king.
Infante Anthony 9 March 1539 20 January 1540 

Catherine has no descendants today, as both her grandchildren died childless. Her line of descent became extinct within six months of her death, as the only descendant of hers that survived her, King Sebastian of Portugal, died in August 1578.



  1. Jordan, Annemarie (1994). The Development of Catherine of Austria's Collection in the Queen's Household: Its Character and Cost. Providence, R. I.: Brown University. p. 700.
  2. Teresa Canepa, "The Iberian royal courts of Lisbon and Madrid, and their role in spreading a taste for Chinese porcelain in 16th century Europe" in Chinese and Japanese Porcelain for the Dutch Golden Age, Jan van Campen and Titus Eliens, ads. Amsterdam: Wanders Uitgevers,, n.d., p. 18
  3. Teresa Canepa, "The Iberian royal courts of Lisbon and Madrid, and their role in spreading a taste for Chinese porcelain in 16th-century Europe", Ibid, p. 17
  4. Annemarie Jordan Gshwend, "In the Tradition of Princely Collections: Curiosities and Exotica in the Kunstkammer of Catherine of Austria," in Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, Volume XIII, Number 1 (October 1995), p. 142
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Catherine of Habsburg.
Preceded by
Eleanor of Austria
Queen consort of Portugal
10 February 1525 – 11 June 1557
Succeeded by
Margaret of Austria
Preceded by
Infante Peter
in 1448
Regent of Portugal and the Algarves
11 June 1557 – 23 December 1562
Succeeded by
Infante Henry
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