Entertaining the Braganzas: When William Stephens met Queen Maria of Portugal in 1788 Roberts, Jenifer
Maria I of Portugal was a monarch with absolute power. William Stephens was the illegitimate son of a Cornish servant girl; he sailed for Lisbon at the age of fifteen to become one of the richest industrialists in Europe. The contrast between these two people could not have been greater - they were poles apart in every facet of their lives - yet they formed an unlikely friendship in the stifling formality of the Portuguese court. William, a man of genius, built up a thriving glass factory in a small village seventy miles north of Lisbon. Maria, the reigning queen of Portugal, spent three days here in the summer of 1788, sleeping for two nights in the house of an Englishman, a man who was not only low-born and illegitimate, but also a Protestant, a heretic in the eyes of the Portuguese. Entertaining the Braganzas is the story of this unique event in royal history, an intimate glimpse into the world of absolute monarchy, a snapshot of court life in the old Europe, just one year before the French Revolution began to change the face of the continent. It is also the story of two extraordinary people whose very different lives came together at a time of great upheaval in European history.