Pedro I of Brazil

Pedro I
Emperor of Brazil
King of Portugal and the Algarves
Emperor of Brazil (more...)
Reign October 12, 1822 - April 7, 1831
Successor Peter II
Coronation December 1, 1822
King of Portugal (more...)
Reign March 10, 1826 - May 28, 1826
Predecessor John VI
Successor Maria II
Consort Maria Leopoldina of Austria
Amélia of Leuchtenberg
Maria II of Portugal
Januária Maria, Princess Imperial of Brazil
Princess Francisca
Pedro II of Brazil
Princess Maria Amélia
Royal house House of Braganza
Royal anthem Independence Hymn
Father John VI of Portugal
Mother Charlotte of Spain
Born October 12, 1798
Queluz Palace, Lisbon
Died September 24, 1834 (aged 35)
Queluz Palace, Lisbon

Pedro I (pronounced [ˈpedɾu]in Brazilian Portuguese and [ˈpeðɾu] in European Portuguese; English: Peter of Alcantara Francis Anthony John Charles Xavier of Paula Michael Raphael Joaquim Joseph Gonzaga Pascal Cyprian Seraphim of Braganza and Bourbon) (full name: Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bragança e Bourbon), known as "Dom Pedro Primeiro" (October 12, 1798 – September 24, 1834), proclaimed Brazil independent from Portugal and became Brazil's first Emperor. He also held the Portuguese throne briefly as Pedro IV of Portugal, the Soldier-King (Port. o Rei-Soldado), 28th (or 29th according to some historians) king of Portugal and the Algarves. He was also a Freemason.


Early years

Pedro I was born October 12, 1798, at Palace of Queluz, near Lisbon. His father was the prince regent at the time and would later become King John VI of Portugal (João VI); his mother was Charlotte of Spain (Carlota Joaquina), daughter of Charles IV of Spain. Under the full name Pedro de Alcântara Francisco António João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Machado e Bragança e Bourbon, he was the second son born to the royal couple. When his elder brother the Infante Antonio Francisco died in 1801, Pedro was made Prince of Beira as he was the heir-apparent of the then-Prince of Brazil, his father. In 1807, when Pedro was nine, the royal family left Portugal as an invading French army approached Lisbon. (See Napoleonic Wars.) They arrived in Brazil with a British escort in early 1808. The family would remain in the country for 13 years. Their presence made Rio de Janeiro the de facto capital of the Portuguese Empire, and led to Brazil's elevation to the status of a kingdom co-equal with Portugal.

It is said that Pedro was João's favorite son, although the same could not be said about Carlota, who cherished her second son Miguel. The education of Pedro I was very much neglected. Both Pedro and his brother Miguel were brought up haphazardly. Pedro and Miguel would often run away from their tutors to mingle with stable boys and spent their days running around the streets with uneducated children. This led the boys to pick-up habits that may have been considered uncouth by some of their contemporaries, and the colloquialisms of the so-called 'plebeian' classes. As a result of his familiarity with the street life, Pedro grew up with little respect for the symbols and conventions of his age. Because of this he felt himself to be the son of the people rather than the son of royalty. All his life he would become familiar with individuals in every different aspect of life.

Pedro adapted well to the Brazilian milieu. He was an excellent horseman, enjoyed the military life, and could compete with common soldiers and officers equally. Also, he early demonstrated musical talents and later composed some music of creditable amateur quality. Besides music, he displayed a knack for drawing, sculpture, the manual crafts and even poetry. He was considered to be handsome, and was soon to be the talk of the town. Riding on horseback, he would often be brave enough to draw back the curtains of passing coaches, in search of beautiful women. His young endeavors with these women would give him a bad reputation that he would not be able to shed in the future.

In 1817 Pedro married an Austrian archduchess named Carolina Josefa Leopoldina. Although she married him for imperial reasons, she loved her husband even if it wasn’t reciprocal. Throughout Pedro’s difficult days, she proved to be a devoted collaborator. Carolina’s intelligence, consideration, and personality quickly earned her the respect and admiration of the Portuguese and Brazilians, as well as of her husband, but she was unable to distract him from his amorous affairs. Carolina lacked many of the feminine traits which appealed to Pedro. She was very modest in her appearance and had little interest in personal adornment. As she began to get to know the Brazilians better and understand their noble qualities of freedom and independence, she started to love the Brazilians and considered herself as being one.

João VI returned to Lisbon in 1821 because Napoleon had been defeated and the country was having problems with the liberal Cortez. He did not leave empty handed however, he took from Rio to Portugal all the money in the treasury, leaving his son Prince Pedro behind in Rio to watch the Brazilian situation. Some of the duties that came with being regent were the task of appointing and dismissing ministers, administering justice, handling finances, commuting or pardoning death sentences, making war and concluding peace, and conferring honors and decorations. At the time, the Brazilian elites were scared of recolonization and the loss of control over the provinces. The elites discovered a sense of patriotic pride of native birth and popular sovereignty. Observing what was happening in the New world, João VI advised Pedro to declare Brazil independent and take the throne for himself rather than allow a usurper to take over the country. This way there would still be a Portuguese king in power in Brazil. By the year’s end, Pedro had officially declared Brazil an independent constitutional monarchy with himself as monarch.

Brazilian independence

Independence or death: oil on Canvas painting by Pedro Américo (1888).

When King João VI finally returned to Portugal, in the early 1820s, most of the privileges that had been accorded to Brazil were rescinded, sparking the ire of local nationalists. Pedro, who had remained in the country as regent, sided with the nationalist element and even supported the Portuguese Constitutionalist movement that led to the revolt in Porto in 1820. When pressed by the Portuguese court to return, he refused. For that, he was demoted from regent to a mere representative of the Lisbon court in Brazil. This news reached him on September 7, 1822, when he had just arrived in São Paulo, from a visit to the port of Santos. On the banks of the Ipiranga River, he unsheathed his sword, removed the blue and white Portuguese shield from his coat, and declared "Independence or death!" This later became his famous speech "O grito do Ipiranga" (The Cry of Ipiranga). He was proclaimed Emperor of Brazil on October 12, his 24th birthday, and crowned on December 1.

Troubled reign

Portrait of the emperor D. Pedro I, with imperial garment.

The early years of Brazilian independence were very hard ones. Dom Pedro I assumed the title of Emperor instead of King, both to underline the diversity of the Brazilian provinces and to emulate Napoleon, who linked the idea of Empire — as opposed to that of Kingdom — to the French Revolution and modernity. Nevertheless, Dom Pedro I had to navigate between the relatively cosmopolitan society of Rio de Janeiro and the more conservative and patriarchal rest of the country.

In early 1823, the first problem that Pedro I faced was drafting the constitution. Brazil was divided between the Brazilian Party led by José Bonifácio, which included the land aristocracy and who favored a constitutional monarchy, and the Portuguese party, which included the commercial class, office holders and families of Portuguese origin, and who wanted an absolutist monarchy. In 1822, during the struggle for independence, Dom Pedro I had considered himself a liberal and had promised Brazil a constitution. He soon appeared to forget his liberal ideals by enacting a Constitution that gave him substantial power. This was seen as necessary to keep control of the interior, particularly in the yet-feudal North and to prevent the instability and democratic fractioning that was occurring in the rest of Latin America at the time. The Brazilian party, which dominated the assembly, refused to give the emperor so much power. Conflict increased further, after Muniz Tavares, a Brazilian assemblyman, attacked the Portuguese party, which he believed resented Brazilian independence. Also the Sentinella and the Tamoyo, two constitutionalist papers, were written to attack Portuguese born officials. In response to the dispute, Dom Pedro dissolved the assembly on November 12, 1823. He exiled many assemblymen and jailed a few. Upholding his promise for a constitution he then gathered a committee of ten, who then ratified a new but very similar constitution on March 25, 1824, which would remain in effect until the end of the Brazilian empire in 1889.

The new constitution established a conservative centralized monarchy, but not absolutist, sought to maintain stability and protect property. Powers were divided into executive, legislative, judiciary, and moderating branches. The legislative branch contained the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, both of which members were elected to power. Unlike the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate remained in office for life. The Council of State, or the judicial branch, consisted of a counsel of respected elders whom the emperor appointed for life and gave executive powers to make judgments in important issues such as war. The emperor held supremacy or moderating power. He could therefore veto all resolutions; appoint a senator from a group of elected senators, appoint councils of state, replace elected deputies, presidents of provinces, ministers, bishops, senators, pardon criminals, and review judicial decisions. Pedro’s failure to put the constitution in effect immediately, however, left many Brazilians suspicious that Pedro did not favor a constitution in the first place.

During 1824 and 1825, many Brazilians became opposed to the accumulated powers of the emperor and the unpopular provincial presidents he appointed. Secret opposition papers attacked the emperor, his ministers, his servants and his mistresses, particularly Domitilla Marqueza de Santos. Dissatisfaction climaxed with the revolt of liberal urban forces in Pernambuco. Friar Joaquim do Amor Divino led the revolt in response to the election of an unpopular governor, Manuel de Carvalho. In July 1824, Carvalho sought to unite several republics in the formation of the Equatorial Confederation. The Confederation failed to take hold and the emperor put many revolutionaries to death, including Divino.

The absolutist character of events in Rio raised concern in the very mostly liberal Northeast. This region soon called for its own constituent assembly. But the movement was not a success because it was divided within itself due to the issue of slavery and because Don Pedro hired British and French ships and mercenaries to repress them. From here on Britain was able to underwrite much of the transition to Brazilian independence. Britain had the power to facilitate recognition from the rest of the world's important powers. And Don Pedro sought this recognition of Brazil’s independence from other nations. At first European nations were reluctant because of the hesitance of Portugal. The United States became the first to recognize its independence. By 1825 Britain, realizing the importance of Brazil’s market, convinced Portugal to accept Brazil’s independence. In exchange, Pedro agreed to pay a loan to Britain for the war of Portugal and Brazil. The loan implied that Pedro would inherit the Portuguese throne. He also signed a treaty with Britain, continuing the 15% import tariff and abolishing the slave trade within three years. The concessions to end slavery especially made Pedro I unpopular with the land aristocracy, much of the Brazilian party.

Republican sentiment soared, and in 1825, during a war with Argentina, the Cisplatine province seceded to become Uruguay. The war lasted for two years and as a result Brazil suffered great military and financial devastation. During the war, in November 1826, when Pedro visited the troops, the beloved empress Leopoldina, died. Pamphlets were published accusing Dom Pedro of imposing physical violence on her during her pregnancy, while having an affair with Domitilla.

On the death of his father, Pedro chose to inherit his title as King of Portugal (Pedro IV) on March 10, 1826, ignoring the restrictions of his own Constitution. He promulgated the Portuguese liberal constitution of April 26, but was forced to abdicate on May 28 from the Portuguese crown in favor of his daughter Maria II. Since she was then only 7 years old, he nominated his brother Dom Miguel as steward, on the promise that he would marry her. Meanwhile, his apparent indecision between Brazil and Portugal further damaged his waning popularity.

Second marriage of D. Pedro I.

On October 17, 1829 Pedro married his second wife, Princess Amélie de Beauharnais von Leuchtenberg in Rio de Janeiro. Amélie was the daughter of Eugène de Beauharnais, and the granddaughter of the Empress Josephine. She was also the sister of Charles Auguste Eugène Napoléon de Beauharnais, who married his (Pedro's) daughter Maria II.

Domestically, Pedro was accused of mismanaging financial affairs. During his reign, debt rose, inflation grew, the exchange rate sunk, and the bank issued ineffective paper money, which drove gold and silver out of circulation. The cost of living rose in the cities. The upheld British tariffs troubled the elite and middle class, who demanded imported consumer goods. The production of tobacco, leather, cocao, cotton, and even coffee declined. Anti Portuguese feelings ran higher than ever as the Portuguese still controlled most of the retail market. As a result of the wars, revolts, and the economy most of the urban elite, who had been absolutists, sided with liberals. Even the army, discontent with Portuguese commanders and military defeats, distanced itself from the emperor.

In the end, Dom Pedro's loyalty to Portugal cost him his rule in Brazil.

Return to Portugal

In the aftermath of a political crisis that followed the dismissal of his ministers, and amid a growing economic crisis, Pedro abdicated his throne in Brazil in favor of his son Pedro II on April 7, 1831, who was only 5 at the time. Pedro reasserted his use of his old title, 18th Duke of Braganza.

With the death of João VI on March 10, 1826, Pedro, as the rightful heir, briefly inherited as Pedro IV of Portugal. He abdicated the throne to his seven year old daughter Maria da Gloria. However there was a key condition, when she became of age (14 years), she would marry Pedro's brother Miguel. This announcement led to a revision to the 1822 constitution. Pedro then returned to Brazil leaving his sister Isabel Maria as regent. Miguel accepted this solution and distanced himself from the absolutists, some of whom staged a rebellion, failed, and fled to Spain.

In 1827 Miguel attempted to put a claim on the regency over Isabel Maria, although nobody accepted the suggestion out of fear of the absolutists. On February 22, 1828 Miguel returned to Portugal, and four days later he took the oath to his brother and the charter and was installed as lieutenant-general. This loyalty lasted long. Margirita and his mother, Carlota Joaquina, immediately began to oust the liberals and demonstrations in favor of Pedro or the constitution were prohibited.

A group of exiled liberals landed at Porto from the British ship, the Belfast, and raised a rebellion. The rebellion failed and the senior liberals were forced to take refuge back on the Belfast, and leave again for England. Of all of Portuguese territory, only the Azores remained faithful to Pedro, partly because the garrison stayed loyal. On July 11, 1828 Miguel was proclaimed king. The United States and Mexico were the only two countries to recognize him as King. The Holy See, Great Britain, Austria, France, Naples and Spain protested against the illegal suppression of the constitution.

In August 1829, Miguel sent a squadron of 22 ships to the Azores, which were controlled by Pedro. After a day of battle the liberals under the Count of Vila Flor emerged victorious, taking hundreds of prisoners. In April 1831 Pedro abdicated the throne in Brazil in favor of his son, Pedro II, and sailed for Britain where he began to organize a military expedition against his brother Miguel.

Pedro entered Porto on July 9, 1832, and was attacked by the Miguelite army. In the subsequent weeks the absolutist besieged the city. The Siege of Porto lasted over a year, with many failed assaults and battles. Pedro took a risk and sent an expedition to the Algarve by sea (June 1833) despite the fact Porto was still under siege. This proved a war winning strategy as although the siege of Porto continued it became a secondary theatre of operations. Marshal Saldanha eventually broke the siege in August 1833 and later that month the city was free. On July 1833, Pedro arrived in Lisbon. This gave the liberals both of Portugal's major cities, Lisbon and Porto, where they commanded a sizeable following among the middle classes. In contrast, the absolutists controlled the rural areas, where they were supported by the aristocracy, and by a peasantry that was galvanized by the Church. A stalemate of nine months ensued. During this time Maria da Glória was proclaimed Queen, with Dom Pedro as Regent. Pedro dismissed Miguelite ministers and clergy and appropriated church property. On August 25, 1833 Lisbon was under siege. The most active period seemed to be between September 5 and 14, but the liberal lines held. Saldanha broke the siege on October 10, 1833, and forced the Miguelites east toward Santarém.

On April 22, 1834 the Quadruple Alliance was signed. Portugal, Spain, Britain and France agreed to banish Dom Miguel from Portugal and Don Carlos from Spain. Spain committed to keep troops in Portugal until the end of the Portuguese Liberal War, Britain promised naval support for Dom Pedro and Isabel of Spain, and Portugal agreed to supply an auxiliary force for operations against Don Carlos in Spain. This nearly signaled the end of the war. On May 27, 1834 Miguel's officers were unwilling to risk a final battle after nearly two years of warfare, despite still having 18,000 men in the ranks. Miguel was induced to seek terms of capitulation and eventually renounced all claims to the throne of Portugal and agreed to go into exile.

Pedro had finally put his daughter Maria da Gloria back on the throne but this would be his last act. He had returned to his home country, Portugal, to fight for his political ideologies and personal interests, after he had abdicated his throne in Brazil in favor of his son in 1831. He died in Queluz, the palace of his birth, aged 35, of tuberculosis. In 1972, his remains were returned to Brazil and re-interred in the present Ipiranga Museum.


Pedro's ancestors in three generations
Pedro I of Brazil Father:
John VI of Portugal
Paternal Grandfather:
Peter III of Portugal
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John V of Portugal
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Mary Anne of Austria
Paternal Grandmother:
Maria I of Portugal
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Joseph I of Portugal
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Mariana Victoria of Spain
Charlotte of Spain
Maternal Grandfather:
Charles IV of Spain
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Charles III of Spain
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Maria Amalia of Saxony
Maternal Grandmother:
Maria Luisa of Parma
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Philip, Duke of Parma
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Princess Louise-Élisabeth of France


By his first wife, Maria Leopoldina, Archduchess of Austria (January 22, 1797–December 11, 1826):

  • Maria II of Portugal (April 4, 1819–November 15, 1853)
  • Miguel, Prince of Beira (April 26, 1820, stillborn)
  • Joao Carlos de Bragança, Prince of Brazil (March 6, 1821–February 4, 1822)
  • Juanaria de Bragança, Princess Imperial of Brazil (March 11, 1822–March 13, 1901). Married Prince Louis, Count of Aquila, son of Francis I of the Two Sicilies, and had issue.
  • Paula de Bragança, Princess of Brazil (February 17, 1823–January 16, 1833).
  • Francisca de Bragança, Princess of Brazil (August 2, 1824–March 27, 1898). Married Francis d'Orleans, Prince de Joinville, son of Louis-Philippe of France, and had issue.
  • Pedro II of Brazil (December 2, 1825–December 5, 1891)

By his second wife, Amélie de Beauharnais, Duchess of Leuchtenberg (July 31, 1812–January 26, 1873):

  • Maria Amélia de Bragança, Princess of Brazil (December 1, 1831–February 4, 1853).

He had also nine illegitimate children, including five with his best-known lover Domitila, Marchioness of Santos, one with her sister, and one with a nun in Portugal. He is the great-grandfather in male line of the mother of Francisco Pinto Balsemão.

House of Bragança
Cadet Branch of the House of Aviz
Born: 12 October 1798; Died: 24 September 1834
Regnal Titles

New Title
Declared himself Emperor of Brazil
Emperor of Brazil
October 12, 1822 – April 7, 1831
Succeeded by:
Pedro II
Preceded by:
João VI
King of Portugal and the Algarves
March 10 – May 28, 1826
Succeeded by:
Maria II


  • Crow, John A. 1992. The Epic of Latin America. Fourth Edition. Berkley, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and London, UK: California University Press. ISBN 0520077237.
  • Fausto, Boris, and Arthur Brakel trans. 1999. A Concise History of Brazil. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521563321.
  • Macaulay, Neill. 1986. Dom Pedro: The Struggle for Liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798-1834. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822306818.
  • Manchester, Alan K. 1932. The Paradoxical Pedro, First Emperor of Brazil. The Hispanic American Historical Review 12(2):176-197.
  • Skidmore, Thomas E., and Peter H. Smith. 2004. Modern Latin America, 6th ed. Oxford, UK; New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195129962.

External links


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