26 January 2015

Today's Princess: Francisca of Brazil

By Franz Winterhalter via Wikimedia Commons
That's right: Brazil. If you did not know that Brazil once had its own monarchy, imagine if King George III's family had been forced out of Great Britain in the early 19th century and had said, "That's okay because we are still the Kings of Canada!" That is something like what happened in Brazil. From 1645, the Portuguese heir apparent had been titled Prince of Brazil, after the vast colony. Following the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal, the royal family fled to Brazil and a few years later Portugal and Brazil became a United Kingdom. A few years after that, revolution in Portugal led to a schism between the two governments. The Portuguese King defied his government, declared Brazil independent and made himself an Emperor. The monarchy remained in place there until 1889. The relationships among the royal family regarding the two thrones was a bit complex.

For today's princess, Francisca of Brazil, things were not quite so complicated. Her younger brother became Brazil's Emperor and her older sister became Portugal's Queen. Her childhood was rocky. Her mother died when she was only two. She soon had a gentle stepmother in Amelie of Leuchtenberg, a granddaughter of Napoleon's first wife Josephine. However, Francisca's father, Emperor Pedro I was never entirely secure on his throne and he had several children outside of his marriages. He abdicated when Francisca was seven and decamped to Europe, taking his pregnant second wife and his oldest daughter (already Queen Maria II of Portugal at age 10). The younger children stayed in Brazil, where little brother Pedro II was now a five-year-old Emperor. Her closest sister Paula died just two years later.

They were not forgotten in royal Europe, however, where their ties to both the powerful Hapsburgs (their mother had been an Austrian archduchess) and the re-emerging Bonaparte's gave them so political currency, despite the instability of the Braganza thrones in Portugal and Brazil When she was 19, the French Prince Francois of Orleans, the Prince de Joinville, made the ocean voyage to marry Francisca in Rio de Janiero. As a younger son of King Louis Philippe of France, he took his bride to France, but the tumult in that country led them to flee to England. During the Second Empire of the Bonaparte's the Joinvilles were able to return to France, and Francisca eventually died there in 1900, at the age of 73.

Francisca's family maintained connections in the New World. Her son Pierre studied at the U.S. Naval Academy and together with her future son-in-law Robert Duke of Chartres fought for the Union during the U.S. Civil War.

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