Maria I (b. 17 December 1734; d. 20 March 1816), queen of Portugal (1777–1816). Born in Lisbon, Maria I was the oldest of four children (all girls) born to the future King José I of Portugal (reigned 1750–1777) and his Spanish queen, Mariana Vitória. As heir presumptive to the throne, Maria was given the title of princess of Beira at her birth. When her father became king, she inherited the title of princess of Brazil. On 6 June 1760, Princess Maria married her father's younger brother, Prince Pedro, and they established their residence at Queluz palace. For the most part, Maria was removed from affairs of state during her father's reign. The marquês de Pombal had hopes that Maria would abdicate her right to the throne and Prince José, oldest son of Maria and Prince Pedro, would succeed his grandfather as king. However, this plan fell through. In February 1777, just days before José I died and Maria succeeded him as ruler of Portugal, Prince José, then fifteen years of age, married his mother's younger sister, thirty-year-old Princess Maria Francisca Benedita. Prince José died of smallpox a little more than a decade later in 1788, leaving his younger brother Prince João to inherit the throne as João VI.
Maria I's reign is frequently described as the vira-deira (turnabout) because of the reversal of many of the policies promulgated by the marquês de Pombal, her father's chief minister. However, the extent of the changes has sometimes been exaggerated. Maria's husband, who was given the honor and title of King Pedro III, died in 1786. It is not known exactly when Maria began showing signs of mental illness, due possibly to the loss of her father, husband, and son within a short period. However, by late January or early February of 1792, it was clear that she was unable to rule. By a decree of 10 February of that year, her surviving son, Prince João, took over the government of Portugal but was not officially given the title of regent until 1799. In November of 1807, the insane queen accompanied the Portuguese court when it fled to Brazil during the French invasion of Portugal. She died in Rio de Janeiro.
See alsoJosé I of Portugal .
Caetano Beirão's D. Maria I, 1777–1792, first published in 1934, has gone through a number of editions.
Alves, José Augusto dos Santos. A opinião pública em Portugal (1780–1820). Lisboa: Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, 2000.
Brandão, Fernando de Castro. De D. João V a Dona Maria I: 1707–1799: Uma cronologia. Odivelas: Heuris, 1993.
Francis A. Dutra