WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka


Don Phillip, Don John and Dona Catherina of Sri Lanka


The Kingdom of Kotte was established by Parakrama Bahu Vl (1473-1480) who was also Emperor of Ceylon. The Kingship devolved on King Dharmapala (1557-1597).


The Kandyan Kingdom was established as an autonomous Kingdom in 1474 by Vickrama Bahu Vl, under King and Emperor of Kotte. Vickrama Bahu broke away and established himself as King of Kandy. Vickrama Bahu gave his daughter in marriage to Kiravilla the brother in Law of the King of Kotte. Kiravilla’s son Karaliedde Bandara was also known as Mahadasin to the throne of Kandy.


The Portuguese first made contact with Ceylon accindentaly when in ISOS Admiral Lorenzo De Almeida landed here by strong monsoonal winds but did not enter into any formal treaty. However, about 5 decades later the Portuguese came here to establish a factory in Colombo in the time of King Dharmapala. With the coming of the Portuguese the King of Kotte, nobles and warriors were converted to the Catholic faith and adoption of Portuguese, titles and names after conversion. Dharmapala was baptised as Don Juan Dharmapala.


Mayadunne and his son, Rajasinghe I of Sitawaka raised a rebellion against the Portuguese. Mahasin, Karaliadde Bandara the father of Kusumasena Devi fled Kandy with his wife and child as well as his nephew Yamasinghe Bandara for safety to Trincomalee as there was an attempt to capture his Kingdom by Sitawaka Rajasinghe. It is said that at Trincomalee he and his wife was affected by smallpox and died. Both Yamasinghe and infant Kusumasena Devi were advised to beseech the aid of Catholic Nuns in Mannar for succour. Yamasinghe was baptised as Don Phillip and Maha (pata) bandige Kusumasena Devi was baptised as Dona Catherina.


Dona Catherina was the sole child survivor of the smallpox epidemic which wiped out her entire family, the family of Karaliyadde Bandara. As an orphan she was brought up by the Nuns of the convent at Mannar.


Sitawaka Rajasinghe I together with his General Wimala Dharmasuriya (Sn) conquers Kandy and appoints his General Wimaladharmasuriya (the father of Konnappubandara) as Governor of Kandy. Subsequently King Rajasinghe I who was a diehard convert to Hinduism had ordered the Governor of Kandy,  General Wimaladharmasuriya, to destroy the Buddhist Monks in Kandy. He did not carry out the orders but knew the possible consequences. So he sent his wife and son over to the Portuguese in Mannar and reported himself to Rajasinghe I Sithawaka. He was martyored by Rajasinghe I by stoning him to death for not carrying out his orders. General Wimaladharma Suriya’s son who was known as Konnappu bandara was baptized as Don John of Austria.


Both Don Phillip and Don John were trained in warfare in Goa by the Portuguese while Dona Catherina was named in the niceties of Royal etiquette and court craft.


The Portuguese decide to Conquer Kandy with Don Phillip to be installed as King with Don John as his General, who were both expected to marry Portuguese wives, so that they could have a control over them and were taken to Mannar for the expedition.


The Portuguese advanced an expedition to Kandy to conquer it with Portuguese General Pedro Lopenz and conquered Kandy and Don Phillip was installed as King.  After a while he was poisoned by his General Don John of Austria who took over the reigns as King of Kandy (1592) better known as Wimaladharma Suriya l.  He used the Portuguese Captives to reconstruct his Fortress in Kandy and his palace. Asgiri Talipot says that Konappu Bandara alias Wimaladharmasuriya (1593 - 1604 AD) was crowned by Rev. Devanagala Ratanalankara Maha Thero and Chief Sanghanayakes of up country. Meantime, he married the daughter of Udammita Brahmana Rala, a very distinguished officer of the Palace of Kotte. (Rajawali P. 160 - Suraweera) His newly married wife passed away as a result of a child birth. Being a full trained soldier he began the liberation struggle against king Rajasinghe I and Portuguese power both.


Rajasinghe I attacks Kandy but is routed by Wimaladharma Suriya 1 (Don John of Austria).  Rajasinghe returned to Seethawaka and died. Jayaweera Banda the Treasurer of Rajasinghe I declares himself King of Seethawaka. Jayaweera Banda conspires with the Portuguese to conquer Kandy, with the hidden intention of marrying Dona Catherina and to become undisputed Emperor. Later Dona Catherina left Mannar with the Portuguese General Pedro to be installed as Empress of Ceylon in Kandy. The pole of the Palanquin in which Dona Catherina is carried breaks. This was considered as a bad omen by Donna Catherina, but General Pedro Lopes with her was not superstitutious and they decided to proceed to Kandy on the Expedition. The joint forces of the Portuguese and Jayaweera Banda took over Kandy which was tactfully deserted by Wimaladharma Suriya and installed Dona Catherina as Empress.


There were strained feelings between General Pedro Lopes and Jayaweera Banda. Pedro Lopes refused to give into the intentions of Jayaweera Banda to marry Dona Catherina. Wimaladharmasuriya I adopted Guerrilla Tactics and attacked Kandy, with the support of disgruntled Jayaweera who was promised by Don John to give him the lower Kingdom. Consequently, The Portuguese were routed and Dona Catherina was captured. Later, Wimala Dharma Suriya married Dona Catherina and became the undisputed Emperor of Ceylon with Empress Dona Catherina as his Queen. Jayaweera Banda was murdered by the Portuguese.


Dona Catherina begets by King Wimala Dharma Suriya I three children, namely a son Mahaasstane (the legal heir to the throne), two daughters Sunya Mahadasin and Cathan Adsain and lives in the old Palace in the premises of the present Kataragama Devale where the Palace Complex was within inner Fortress as indicated in the old Portuguese Maps. The well known Perahera of the four devales of Kataragama, Vishnu, Natha and Pattini was established at that time.

Demise of Wimala Dharma Suriya I lead to Dona Catherina taking over as regent to her son Maha Astenne who is heir to the Kingdom.

Later, Senerath, step brother of Wimaladharmasuriya, married Dona Catherina and begets three sons namely Prince Wijepala, Prince Kumarasinghe and Mahadasin. On 23rd August 1612 Heraditory Imperial Prince Mahastanne died suddenly. Dona Catherina suspected Senarath of Murdering him. Cremation Scene of Mahastenne at Mahiyawa (it is said the ashes of Mahastenne was brought by Dona Catherina to Welimantotta (in Kegalle) where the urn was kept within the Palace, which the Archaeology Dept. had found in the excavation of the Palace.) During this time she was also carrying another child by Senarath, However during her visits to Kandy she is reputed to have stayed in the Guest House in the Centre of the Present Kandy Lake (in the days of Senarath it was a paddy field).

Dona Catherina left the palace of Kandy after her second husband King Senarat poisoned her eldest son prince Maha Asthana - the heir to throne, in order to the pave the way to install his own son. She built this palace at Welimanathota, where she lived with her children after abandoning King Senarat. While at Welimantota she fell deliriously ill and summoned Prince of Migonne (Marcellus de Boschhouwer) and the Prince of Ouver (Kuruwitarala) and gave special custody of all her children and died, while incanting Catholic Prayers on 20th July 1613 at the age of 35.

Donna Catherina was buried on 21st July 1613 with all honors due to an Empress with Roman Catholic rites at her Palace Premises at Welimantota. It is believed that she was buried dressed in her Royal Regellia including a Pearl Rosary round her hands and the Bible beside. The Moseleum was built by the Prince of Ouva (Kuruwitarala) entombing herein a masolieum and a oil lamp was lit perpetually in her memory till recently.


King Senarath fell sick and summons the Council to decide on the Succession. Prince of Migonne (Marcellus de Boschhouwer) and the Prince of Ouva (Kuruwitarala) appoints Regents of Cumarasinghe Heriditory Prince during his minority with full authority to govern the relm and chosen for so great a task. In case of his death other princes to follow according to custom. King Senarath died in 1632 and left the Empire between his three sons. Ouva to Vijayapala his eldest, Matale to Kumarasinghe and Kandy to Mahastane the youngest.  When Vijapala died Mahastane later became King under the imperial name of Rajasinghe II (Rasin Deiyo).


WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka