João VI of Portugal (1767–1826)

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João VI of Portugal (1767–1826)

João VI of Portugal (b. 13 May 1767; d. 10 March 1826), regent (1799–1816) and king (1816–1826). João was the second son of Queen Maria I and Pedro III of Portugal who became heir to the crown when his elder brother José died in 1788. In 1785 he married Carlota Joaquina, the daughter of the Spanish king Carlos V. When Queen Maria became mentally ill, João took the government in his hands in 1792 and was officially declared regent in 1799. With the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon Bonaparte's troops in 1807, he embarked with the royal family and his court for Brazil. After a short stay in Bahia, he chose Rio de Janeiro as the seat of his government.

Among his first reforms was the opening of Brazilian ports to international trade, which changed the colony considerably. The capital became crowded with civil servants, aristocrats, and foreigners, a demographic and cultural change for which the police intendant general, Paulo Fernandes Viana, sought to prepare the urban space. The regent and the royal family were housed in a chácara (farm) in São Cristóvão that had belonged to a rich merchant. The Portuguese elite took refuge in the beautiful neighborhoods, where they built the noble houses to which they were accustomed in Portugal. The downtown shops and warehouses occupied by Portuguese and foreign merchants began to display European goods and fashions. Court life contributed to the development of a luxury trade, and the lifestyle changed in many aspects: housing, furniture, transportation, fashions.

Dom João soon adjusted to the Brazilian environment and enjoyed the musical events in church and in the palace. Every day he received his subjects in a ceremony called beija-mão, and on special occasions he favored them with a promotion in military rank, an honor in the Order of Christ, or a public office in some part of the Brazilian territory. When Bonaparte was defeated in Europe (1815), Dom João and the royal family were supposed to return immediately to Portugal, but the regent preferred to stay in Brazil. On 9 March 1816, after Queen Maria's death, he became King João VI.

The Pernambucan Revolution of 1817 was the result of the struggle between absolutism and liberalism that began after the fall of Napoleon. The conspiracy was put down, but, in Portugal, the king's continued absence was a major grievance. In 1820 the commander in chief of the Portuguese army, the English officer William Carr Beresford (1768–1854), left for Brazil in order to warn the king of the imminence of revolution in Portugal and the urgent need for his return. João VI was not a man of quick decisions. He always listened to his ministers, and since they held differing views about monarchy, the constitution, and the cortes, the king delayed his return.

After many ministerial discussions, the opinion prevailed that the king should return to Portugal, leaving his elder son Pedro in Brazil. João VI and the court finally sailed 26 April 1821, after the city of Rio de Janeiro had been the stage of a violent coup attempt and the persecution of those who defended the immediate adoption of the Spanish Constitution of 1812—unpleasant events for which the king was not directly responsible. Rather, they were the result of Pedro's personal interference and of his fear of a more democratic form of constitutional government. The years before João VI's death in 1826 in Portugal were troubled by the absolutist movement conducted by his younger son Miguel (1802–1866) in 1823 and 1824.

See alsoPernambucan Revolution (1817)xml .


Roderick J. Barman, The Forging of a Nation (1988).

Pedro Calmon, O rei do Brasil: Vida de D. João VI, 2d ed. (1943).

Maria Cândida Proença, A Independência do Brasil: Relações externas portuguesas, 1808–1825 (1987).

Manuel De Oliveira Lima, D. João VI no Brasil, 1808–1821, 2d ed. (1945).

Maria Beatriz Nizza Da Silva, Cultura e sociedade no Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821, 2d ed. (1978).

Angelo Pereira, D. João VI príncipe e rei (1953–1956).

Additional Bibliography

Rabello, David. Os diamentes do Brasil: Na regência de Dom João, 1792–1816: um estudo de dependência externa. São Paulo: Editora Arte & Ciência, UNIO, 1997.

Schultz, Kirsten. Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821. New York: Routledge, 2001.

                            Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva

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João VI of Portugal (1767–1826)

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