23 November 2016

A Braganza Queen Without a Crown

There are former monarchies all over Europe and many of them have competing claimants for the throne, were it ever to be restored. One of the least discussed is the Portuguese House of Braganza. This one fascinates me, however, because it established one of the few European monarchies in the Americas by setting up the Empire of Brazil. There is an extremely complex history there and the family eventually came to have two monarchs for a time, one on each side of the Atlantic, and this eventually led to succession crisis. The Brazilian crown was lost in 1889 and the Portuguese crown in 1910. Today, there are two lines of descent in the family. There are no living descendants of the last three kings of Portugal. There are descendants from their matriarch, Queen Maria II, in the royal families of Saxony and Romania and there are two claimant lines to Imperial Brazil, but none of these people make claim to Portugal. The only active Portuguese claimant today is Dom Duarte Pio, great-grandson of King Miguel I. Miguel had been the uncle and regent for his niece, the aforementioned Maria, when he claimed the throne for himself. By the way, he was also Maria's fiance at the time. Needless to say, that didn't end so well and they never married.

Duarte Pio married a Portuguese businesswoman (and noblewoman) 20 years his junior, Dona Isabel Castro Curvelo de Heredia in 1995, making her his Duchess of Braganza. 

A financial assets manager prior to her marriage, she devoted herself post-wedding to the standard life of a European princess. She is the patron of numerous charities devoted to social justice, children's health and welfare, and patient care. The couple has three children: Afonso Prince of Beira, Infanta Maria Francisca, and Dinis Duke of Porto.

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