Monday, December 10, 2012
Consort Profile: Queen Carlota Joaquina of Spain
The difficulties between John and Carlota were so widely whispered about, and their physical appearance held up to such ridicule, that when some of their last children were born people judged them too beautiful to have been fathered by John and assumed Carlota had found someone else for the job. It was nonsense of course though their marital relations were pretty much a matter of simple duty and after the birth of their ninth child they decided they had done enough to secure the succession for Portugal and lived apart thereafter. Ugly rumors were spread about her shockingly immoral behavior, which are not worth recounting, that she was plotting to take over the government, that she was an insatiable nymphomaniac and so on. Certainly she was no saint but the worst of such stories have not a shred of evidence to support them and were almost totally due to the fact that she was unpopular for simply being Spanish in most cases. There was no end to the rumors that Carlota was always scheming to do something terrible to the Portuguese Royal Family to enable Spain to take over the country. She certainly spoke up for the interests of Spain, which is hardly shocking, but most of the rumors were simply that and nothing more. In the end, of course, it was not Spain that proved to be the real threat but France. Under the dynamic leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, French troops conquered Spain and soon Portugal as well, forcing the Royal Family to relocate to Brazil in 1807.
Portuguese-Brazilian forces did annex some territory in this region and Carlota had the support of some prominent local leaders such as the Argentine national hero General Manuel Belgrano, however, the powerful viceroys opposed such a change and the British were against the idea as well. It is understandable but also inviting to imagine what might have happened if so large an area of South America had become an independent monarchy still tied by blood to the Spanish Royal Family. There were plans, or at least rumors of plans, for Carlota to assemble an army and march on Buenos Aires and declare herself “Queen of La Plata” but, as we know, nothing finally came of the grand scheme due to a lack of support from the local elites and the opposition of foreign powers. As the Napoleonic Wars ended Carlota would have to content herself with being Queen consort of Portugal. When she returned with the King and the rest of the family in 1821 things in Portugal had changed dramatically and not for the better. Revolutionary ideas had taken root and were spreading unrest throughout the country. A liberal uprising resulted in the proclamation of the first Portuguese constitution which King John VI promised to support.
The King was not pleased though the British finally persuaded him to accept the independence of Brazil in 1825. He died the following year, unattended by his wife as Queen Carlota was becoming increasingly paranoid and was convinced that the Freemasons had poisoned the King as part of the effort by the liberal revolutionaries to take power. When the King died Dom Pedro became King of Portugal but abdicated in favor of his daughter so as to remain in Brazil as Emperor. Queen Carlota might have been expected to act as regent for Queen Maria but was not, probably for fear that she would work to displace her. If that was the thinking, it did no good for her uncle and intended husband, Prince Miguel, was declared King of Portugal by the conservative faction before she arrived back in Europe, setting the stage for a civil war. But there would be no more political intrigues for Queen Carlota who died at Queluz Palace on January 7, 1830 at the age of 54 after a very controversial and colorful life.