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Maria Pia (1847–1911)

Maria Pia (1847–1911)

Queen of Portugal and daughter of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy . Name variations: Marie-Pia; Maria Pia of Italy; Maria Pia de Savoie. Born in Turin on October 16, 1847; died on July 5, 1911, in Stupinigi, Italy, from heart disease; daughter of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Italy (r. 1849–1878), and Marie Adelaide of Austria (1822–1855); married Luis or Louis I (1838–1889), king of Portugal (r. 1861–1889), on September 27, 1862 (some sources cite October 6); children: Carlos or Charles I (1863–1908), king of Portugal (r. 1889–1908); Afonso also known as Alfonso Henrique (1865–1920), duke of Oporto.

Birth of Louis (1838); proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy by Victor Emmanuel II (1861); abolition of slavery in Portuguese colonies (1868); death of Louis (1889); assassination of Charles (1908); proclamation of Portuguese republic (1910).

The daughter of Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia and Marie Adelaide of Austria , Maria Pia

was born in Turin on October 16, 1847. Her mother died when Maria Pia was seven, and the girl's childhood was beset with the wars between Sardinia and the Austrian empire, as Victor Emmanuel fought to expel foreign powers and unify the Italian states. Maria Pia was 14 when emissaries of the Portuguese king approached Victor Emmanuel to negotiate a marriage between her and Louis I. Her father approved, and Maria Pia was married by proxy to Louis on September 27, 1862, in Turin. She departed immediately for Portugal, arriving there on October 5.

Louis I had acceded to the Portuguese throne the year before, and the royal couple ruled over a period of rising liberalism and political chaos. Portugal's declining economic fortunes weakened the government, as did political factionalism. Maria Pia rarely intervened in government affairs, preferring to devote her energies to charitable works. The queen did press for the abolition of slavery in the Portuguese colonies, which occurred in 1868.

Although Louis ruled as a constitutional monarch, Portuguese liberalism and republicanism agitated his reign. The political opposition accused Maria Pia of extravagant expenditures and considered her politically too conservative. On the other hand, she enjoyed popularity in pro-monarchy circles. She heroically rescued her two sons when they were caught by an undertow at Cascaes in 1873. When widespread flooding destroyed homes and fields in 1876, she successfully organized relief campaigns to raise funds. Even the political opposition approved, and the people called Maria Pia the "Angel of Charity."

Her husband died in 1889, succeeded by their son Charles I. Maria Pia remained in Portugal as the dowager queen, but her final years were filled with tragedy. Her brother Umberto I, king of Italy, was assassinated in 1900. Eight years later, political extremists in Portugal killed her son Charles and her grandson. When the republican revolution of 1910 exiled her from Portugal, she took refuge with her sister-in-law Margaret of Savoy , the dowager queen of Italy. The tragedies, however, left her clinically depressed, a condition complicated by arteriosclerosis. She died on July 5, 1911, in Stupinigi from heart disease.


A Morte da Rainha Maria Pia. Rio de Janeiro: Jornal do Commercio, 1911.

Mowlam, Kay. A Rainha D. Maria Pia: Iconografia. Portugal: Palacio Nacional da Ajuda, 1987.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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