In 1683, not long after England permanently took over New Netherlands from the Dutch, a round of renaming was in order.
The entire colony was rechristened New York, after the Duke of York.
And because the Duke of York was given control of the area by his brother, King Charles II, the Duke named Kings County for him.
Queens County reportedly was named for Charles’ wife, Catherine of Braganza.
Who was Catherine? A Portuguese-born royal who came with a huge dowry (crucial to cash-strapped England at the time) and trade rights to Portuguese-controlled colonies around the world, she was not widely loved in the UK.
One one hand, she’s credited with introducing the fork, tea, and orange marmalade to her subjects.
But she was unable to produce an heir, and she was Catholic in a Protestant-ruled nation.
After her husband died, sick of being hassled by the new regime, Catherine soon returned to her home country and spent the rest of her life there.
She stayed under the radar for more than three hundred years.
But her name popped back up in the 1980s when it was announced that a Portugal-backed, 35-foot bronze statue of her was to go up along the Queens waterfront at Hunters Point.
Politicians were on board; a sculptor brought in and casts made. By the 1990s, however, community groups rallied hard against the statue—because Catherine’s family had benefited from the 17th century slave trade.
Also, some historians questioned whether Catherine really was the woman who lent her title to the borough’s name.
Because of the controversy, the sculpture project was nixed.
Catherine became such a lightning rod, even her portrait was removed from Queens Borough Hall.
Eventually, a smaller-scale model of Catherine, made from the original mold, was created. It now sits on the waterfront in Lisbon (right; via Golisbon.com).