Sunday, 9 March 2008
Two presidents celebrate the Portuguese King's arrival in Brazil 200 years ago
Somehow it is unreal that two presidents join hands to celebrate the arrival of a royal court 200 years ago. But this event took place in Brazil. The Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, met on Saturday 8th March 2008 to commemorate the transfer of the Portuguese court and cabinet to Rio de Janeiro.
In 1807 Prince Regent Dom João, later King João VI, had resisted the invasion of French troops into his country. But the Portuguese forces were no match for Emperor Napoléon I. The Portuguese government set sail for Bahia in the Portuguese colony Brazil. They reached the colony’s capital Rio de Janeiro on 8th March 1808 and set up court in the new world. After the defeat of Napoléon the Regent proclaimed “the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve”. After the death of Queen Mary I in 1816, for whom he had acted as regent for nearly two decades, he was crowned in Brazil King João VI of Portugal and Dom João I of Brazil.
His eldest son and heir, Dom Pedro (1798-1834) was left behind in Brazil as regent, when King João VI left for Portugal in 1821. Dom Pedro led the independence movement of the country and proclaimed Brazil’s independence on 22nd September 1822. He was proclaimed Emperor on his 24th Birthday, 24th October 1822, and was crowned on 1st December 1822.
Brazil lost its Monarchy in a military coup in 1889, a combined operation of power hungry officers and rich landlords who resented that the Regent, Crown Princess Isabel, had abolished slavery. Only in 1993 did the people get the opportunity to say in a referendum if they wanted their Monarchy back. 6 840 551 Brazilians cast their vote in favour of the Monarchy, the republican system won, but was actually supported by only 49.2 percent of the votes cast.
The bi-centenary celebrations also had a royal touch. The Portuguese and the Brazilian descendents of King João VI were present in Rio de Janeiro to commemorate the arrival of the Portuguese court in 1808. Duke Dom Duarte Pio, Head of the Royal House of Bragança and next in line to the Portuguese Throne, attended mass in exactly the same Church - Igreja do Rosário dos Homens Pretos -, where his great great grandfather went on his arrival in Rio de Janeiro to attend the Te Deum. Dom Duarte there met his distant cousin, Dom Luiz of Orléans-Bragança, whose great-great-great-grandfather was equally King João VI, who could be Brazil's Emperor should the people prefer the Monarchy to a republic.More photos