Thursday, September 22, 2011
Monarch Profile: Emperor Pedro I of Brazil
As he grew up, Dom Pedro was known for his military flair, love of horses, music, art and poetry. He was also fond of the ladies though his adventures in this area have, perhaps, been overblown. In 1817, in the usual effort at a royal alliance, he was married to HIH Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. As an arranged marriage, Pedro was never quite so fond of his wife as she was of him but that is not to say he was not fond of her. She was always a trusted and respected confidant and she was much loved by the common people and, like her husband, came to adore the people of Brazil and considered herself finally to be a Brazilian above all. Finally, in 1821, with Napoleon safely defeated and hauled off to exile, King João VI returned to Portugal, leaving Dom Pedro as regent in Rio de Janeiro. However, having tasted ‘first place’ the Brazilians were rather hesitant to return to the subordinate status of a colony. Revolution was spreading across Latin America and it was also in 1821 that Mexico became independent after the King of Spain had refused to consider independence in a personal union.
There were still problems with rebels and dissidents, but Pedro I was able to prevail against them and further consolidated his position by seeking foreign recognition which came first from the United States (which was always eager to see ties severed between European kingdoms and their American colonies) but also, significantly, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which proved to be a valuable support and trading partner for the new Empire of Brazil. This, however, did anger some Brazilian merchants as did the call by Emperor Pedro I to abolish slavery within three years. Many elites began to oppose the Emperor in the north and in the south there was a costly war with Argentina which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Uruguay. National morale was lowered further with the death of Empress Maria Leopoldina in 1826. Because she was so popular, republican enemies of the Emperor tried to blame Dom Pedro for her death in very ugly and outrageously false propaganda pamphlets they circulated. In March of that same year, King João VI died which made the Emperor of Brazil simultaneously King Pedro IV of Portugal. A couple of months later he abdicated in favor of his young daughter, Queen Maria II, and appointed Dom Miguel regent on the agreement that the two would eventually marry.
In the war, Dom Pedro proved victorious and was supported by Britain and France which viewed the civil war in Portugal in the same light as that of the Carlist war in Spain, agreeing to banish both the Portuguese Dom Miguel and the Spanish Don Carlos. Dom Miguel was finally defeated and forced to capitulate, which he did, renouncing his rights to the Portuguese throne and accepting exile. Dom Pedro had, at long last, prevailed and his daughter Maria II was formally restored as Queen of Portugal. However, he did not live long to savor his victory as his life was cut short at the young age of 35 when, at the very palace he was born in, Dom Pedro, the first Emperor of Brazil and, for a short time, King of Portugal, died of tuberculosis on September 24, 1834. It was not until 1972 that his remains were finally returned to the country he most felt his own and interred at the Museu Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil near where he had first declared the independence of the Brazilian Empire.