John VI of Portugal


John VI of Portugal : biography

13 May 1767 – 10 March 1826

Whatever the king’s character may have been, the importance of his reign for a remarkable spurt of development for Brazil and, indeed, for the very unity of that nation is incontestable. Gilberto Freyre affirms that "Dom John VI was one of the personalities who had the greatest influence over the formation o the nation…. he was an ideal mediator…. between tradition – which he incarnated – and innovation – which he welcomed and promoted – during that decisive period for the Brazilian future"."Dom João VI foi uma das personalidades que mais influíram sobre a formação nacional…. foi um mediador ideal…. entre a tradição – que encarnou – e a inovação – que acolheu e promoveu – naquele período decisivo para o futuro brasileiro." op. cit., Souza, p. 54 As Laurentino Gomes puts it, "no other period of Brazilian history testifies to such profound decisive and rapid changes as the thirteen years in which the Portuguese court lived in Rio de Janeiro". Scholars such as Oliveira Lima, Maria Odila da Silva Dias, Roderick Barman and the aforementioned Laurentino believe that had John not come to the Americas and installed a strong central government, probably the large territory of Brazil, with important regional differences, would have fragmented into several distinct nations, as occurred with the vast neighboring Spanish colony. This opinion was shared by the British admiral Sir Sidney Smith, commander of the squadron that escorted the Portuguese ships as the fled to Brazil."nenhum outro período da história brasileira testemunhou mudanças tão profundas, decisivas e aceleradas quanto os treze anos em que a corte portuguesa morou no Rio de Janeiro". Gomes, pp. 288-295

Recent biographies try to separate fact from legend and counter the folklore of ridicule that had formed around King John and which lacks documentary basis. Lúcia Bastos warns that even today we need to be careful to place certain matters in their historical context, such as the question of corruption, noting that although there were enormous costs and clear abuses, at that time there was no clear separation between the public treasury and the monarch’s private accounts, and in the logic of the Old Regime "the king is the owner of the state… of which the distribution of spoils forms part: the king is the dispenser of justice and spoils". In the words of Leandro Loyola, "from the new research a ruler emerges who had his limitations, but who encountered a totally adverse situation and survived it, despite governing a small, poor, decadent country such as Portugal at the beginning of the 19th century." Before dying on Saint Helena, his most powerful enemy, Napoleon, said of him: "He was the only one who deceived me."Miguez, Sérgio. . In: Revista da Cultura, nº 6, January 2007 The Marquess of Caravelas, praised him in the Brazilian Senate on the occasion of John’s death, saying, "All of us who are here have many reasons to praise the memory of King John VI, we all ought to be grateful, for the benefits he gave us: he raised Brazil to a kingdom, provided well for all of us, treated us always with great affection, and all Brazilians are obligated to him.""Nós todos que aqui estamos temos muitas razões para nos lembrarmos da memória de Dom João VI, todos lhe devemos ser gratos, pelos benefícios que nos fez: elevou o Brasil a reino, procurou por todos o seu bem, tratou-nos sempre com muito carinho e todos os brasileiros lhe são obrigados." . In: Diários Anacrônicos, Sociedade Histórica Desterrense, 2011