By Lynne Booker
Pedro I – Emperor of Brazil (1798 – 1834)
The Rossio is the popular name for Praça de D. Pedro IV in central Lisbon. Atop the column is D. Pedro IV of Portugal and I of Brazil. Before he died of tuberculosis in the Palace of Queluz, in the same room and in the same bed in which he had been born, this 35-year-old had lived a life crammed with incident and romance. How did the King of Portugal also become Emperor of Brazil?
Between February and September 2012, medical experts in São Paulo, Brazil, examined the mortal remains of D. Pedro and of his two wives, the Empresses D. Leopoldina and D. Amélia.
D. Pedro was originally buried in the Bragança Pantheon in S. Vicente de Fora in Lisbon, but his remains were translated to the crypt of the Independence Monument in São Paulo in 1972 and those of his second wife followed him to Brazil in 1982.
He had left Portugal for Brazil with the royal family in late 1807 as French troops entered Lisbon, and he was not to return to mainland Portugal for another 27 years.
In the meantime, he had won himself the reputation of a freedom fighter and libertine. He was forced to abdicate his Brazilian throne in 1831 in favour of his five-year-old son because of his lack of enthusiasm for a constitution, because he meddled in Portuguese affairs, because he lost the war over Uruguay and because of his irresponsible attitude towards women.
On his return to Portugal in 1834, he defended the cause of his daughter D. Maria da Glória and the Liberal Constitution against his brother D. Miguel and the Absolutists.
In this D. Pedro and the Constitutionalists were successful, and it is because of this victory in the Civil War that Portugal eventually emerged as a constitutional monarchy in the 1850s.
D. Pedro had married his first wife D. Leopoldina in 1817. She was an Archduchess of the House of Hapsburg and was used to the refined etiquette of the Austrian court. She arrived in Brazil in 1817 at the age of 20 full of excitement at the prospect of the mineralogy and botany yet to be discovered in this new world.
The Austrian ambassador asserted that only heated and violent conversation had taken place, but in her advanced state of pregnancy, even such treatment was clearly too much for this unfortunate and clinically depressed woman.
Much more popular than her degenerate husband, D. Leopoldina was sincerely mourned by the people of Rio de Janeiro, and her remains rested first in the Convento da Ajuda, Rio de Janeiro, then in the Convento de S António, before being moved in 1954 to the Independence Monument in São Paulo.
D. Pedro’s libertine reputation was not helpful in the search for a replacement wife. Not only was there Domitília, but D. Pedro had a further 11 bastard children by at least five other women.
Spurned by the royalty of Europe, he settled for the educated and pretty 17-year-old D. Amélia de Leuchtenberg, daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte’s stepson Eugène de Beauharnais.
She too was elegant and popular, and made instant friends with her stepchildren. After D. Pedro abdicated his Brazilian throne in 1831, D. Amélia joined him in Lisbon in September 1833 only to be widowed a year later, and lived the rest of her life in Lisbon.
What have the medical researchers discovered? They found that D. Pedro had four fractured ribs on his left side. This injury was the result of two falls, one from a horse in 1823 and the other from a chariot in 1829.
His left lung would have been largely incapacitated, and the tuberculosis which finally killed him in 1834 would have been aggravated.He probably lived his last years in considerable pain.
His corpse was dressed as a General of Cavalry in the Portuguese army. The researchers found D. Leopoldina in three coffins, the inner of Portuguese pine, enclosed by one of lead, and the whole encased in another of cedar. Her corpse had no broken bones, and her death was most likely caused by the puerperal septicaemia, allied with a clinical depression as thought at the time.
D. Amélia was embalmed and examination of her corpse showed that she had suffered from a curvature of the spine and osteoporosis.
She had been widowed at the age of 22 and had lived the remaining 38 years of her life in mourning, and indeed had been buried in black. Her only child, D. Maria Amélia, married the Austrian Archduke Maximilian in 1852, only herself to die of tuberculosis in Funchal in 1853.
Overlooking the Rossio, D. Pedro occupies an equivocal place in Portuguese history.Champion of democracy in Portugal and champion of his daughter Maria da Glória, he abdicated in Brazil because he was thought more absolutist and because of his irrepressible womanising.
In his 35-year life, I bet there was never a dull moment.
Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association.