John VI of Portugal

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John VI of Portugal : biography

13 May 1767 – 10 March 1826

Colonial Transformation

On 22 January 1808, the Prince Regent’s ship and two others arrived in Baía de Todos os Santos, Brazil. The streets of Salvador were deserted, because the governor, the Count of Ponte, preferred to await the prince’s orders before permitting the people to receive him. Finding this attitude odd, John ordered that all could come as they wished.Gomes, p. 102 However, to allow the nobility to compose themselves after such an arduous journey, the landing was postponed until the next day, when they were received joyfully amidst a procession, ringing of bells and a celebration of a Te Deum at the Cathedral. In the following days the prince received all who wished to give homage, granting the ceremony of the beija-mão (the kissing of the monarch’s hand) and conceding various mercies.Pedreira e Costa, pp. 201–210 Among the latter, he decreed the creation of a public lecture series on economics and a school of surgery,Lobo Neto, Francisco José da Silveira. . In: Trabalho Necessário, ano 6, nº 6, 2008, s/p. In Portuguese. but his most decisive action at this moment was the Decree of Opening the Ports to Friendly Nations (Decreto de Abertura dos Portos às Nações Amigas), a measure of vast political and economic importance and the first of many that went to improve conditions in the colony. However, naturally, Britain, whose economy depended in great part on maritime commerce, and for whom the Portuguese and Brazilian monarchy was now something of a protectorate, was the most direct beneficiary, obtaining various privileges.Pedreira e Costa, pp. 208–210 Salvador spent a month in commemorations of the presence of the court, and tried to seduce the court into making Salvador the new seat of the kingdom, offering to construct a luxurious palace as a home for the royal family, but John declined and continued his voyage, having already announced to various nations his intention to make his capital at Rio de Janeiro. His ship entered Guanabara Bay on 7 March, where he met the infantas and other members of his entourage whose ships had arrived earlier. On the 8th, finally, the whole court disembarked, encountering a city adorned to receive them with nine days of uninterrupted celebrations.Pedreira e Costa, pp. 210–212 A well-known chronicler of the era, Father Perereca, eyewitness to the arrival, while lamenting the news of the invasion of metropolitan Portugal, also intuited the significance of the arrival of the court on Brazilian soil:

With a court, the essential apparatus of a sovereign state became inevitable: the senior civil, religious, and military officials; aristocrats and liberal professionals, skilled artisans, public servants. For many scholars, the transfer of the court to Rio began the establishment of the modern Brazilian state and constituted Brazil’s first step toward true independence.Mota, Carlos Guilherme. Viagem incompleta: a experiência brasileira. A grande transação. Senac, 2000, pp. 453–454. In Portuguese While Brazil at this time remained formally and juridically a Portuguese colony, in the words of Caio Prado, Jr.

But first it was necessary to provide accommodations for the newcomers, a difficult problem to resolve given the cramped proportions of the city of Rio at that time. In particular, there were few homes suitable for the nobility, especially the case for the royal family themselves, who were installed in the viceregal palace, known today as the Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace). Though large, it was comfortless and nothing like Portuguese palaces. As large as it was, it was not enough to accommodate everyone, neighboring buildings were also requisitioned, such as the Carmelite Convent, the town hall, and even the jail. To meet the needs of other nobles and to install new government offices, innumerable small residences were hastily expropriated, their proprietors arbitrarily ejected, at times violently in the face of resistance. Despite the efforts of Viceroy Marcos de Noronha e Brito and of Joaquim José de Azevedo, the regent was still poorly accommodated. Merchant Elias Antônio Lopes offered his country house, the Quinta da Boa Vista, a sumptuous villa in excellent location that immediately met with the prince’s satisfaction. Renovations and expansion transformed this into the Paço de São Cristóvão ("Palace of Saint Christopher"). Carlota Joaquina, for her part, preferred to settle on a farm near the beach of Botafogo, continuing her habit of living apart from her husband.Pedreira e Costa, pp. 214–216 The city, which at that time had about 70,000 inhabitants, saw itself transformed overnight. The additional populace, full of new requirements, imposed a new organization in the supply of food and other consumer goods, including luxury items. It took years for the Portuguese to settle in, causing years of chaos in the daily life of Rio; rents doubled, taxes rose, and food was in short supply, requisitioned by the imported nobility. This soon dispelled popular enthusiasm over the prince regent’s arrival. The very shape of the city began to change, with the construction of innumerable new residences, villas and other buildings, and various improvements to services and infrastructure. Likewise, the presence of the court introduced new standards of etiquette, new fashions and new customs including a new social stratification.Fernandes, Cláudia Alves & Fernandes Junior, Ricardo de Oliveira. "Dom João VI: arquiteto da emancipação brasileira". In: XXII Simpósio de História do Vale do Paraíba, Associação Educacional Dom Bosco, Resende, 15–17 August 2008. pp. 36–38. In Portuguese.Oliveira, Anelise Martinelli Borges. "Dom João VI no Rio de Janeiro: preparando o novo cenário". In: Revista História em Reflexão: Vol. 2 n. 4 – UFGD – Dourados, July/December 2008. In Portuguese.Lima, Carollina Carvalho Ramos de. "Viajantes estrangeiros na corte de Dom João". In: Anais do II Fórum de Artigos Multidisciplinares, Uni-FACEF Centro Universitário de Franca, 5–9 May 2008, no pagination. In Portuguese.Gomes, pp. 136–151