John VI of Portugal


John VI of Portugal : biography

13 May 1767 – 10 March 1826

On the Cortes met in Lisbon and decreed the formation of a Council of Regency to exercise power in the name of King John, freed many political prisoners and demanded the king’s immediate return. On 20 April, King John convoked in Rio a meeting to choose deputies to the Constituent Cortes, but the following day protests in the plaza were put down violently. In Brazil the general opinion was that the king’s return to Portugal could mean withdrawal from Brazil of the autonomy it had gained, returning to its prior colonial status. Under pressure, John tried to find a middle way by sending his son, the Prince Pedro, to Lisbon, to grant a constitution and establish the basis of a new government. The prince, however, already leaning toward liberal ideas, refused. The crisis had gone too far and there was no turning back. John named Pedro regent for Brazil in his name and left for Lisbon 25 April, after a stay of thirteen years in Brazil, a country he would always miss.Iglésias, p. 106

Return to Portugal

The ships bringing John and his court arrived in Lisbon . His return was orchestrated in such a manner as not to imply that the king had been coerced, but in fact a new political environment had already been established. A constitution had been drafted, and the king was required to swear loyalty to it , surrendering various prerogatives. Dona Carlota refused to follow her husband in this, and thus was dispossessed of her political rights and deposed of her title as queen. Meanwhile, the king had lost out in Brazil as well. His son Pedro, opting to stay in that country, led a revolt proclaiming Brazilian independence , assuming the title of emperor.Pedreira & Costa, p. 15 Tradition says that before journeying to Portugal, John had anticipated future events and had said to his son: "Pedro, Brazil will soon be separated from Portugal: if so, put the crown on your head before some adventurer grabs it." According to the memoirs of the Count of Palmela, Brazilian independence had come about through common accord between the king and the prince. In any event, later correspondence between the two shows the prince’s concern not to disturb his father.The quotation in Portuguese is ‘""Pedro, o Brasil brevemente se separará de Portugal: se assim for, põe a coroa sobre tua cabeça, antes que algum aventureiro lance mão dela." Pascual, Antonio Diodoro. Rasgos memoraveis do Senhor Dom Pedro I, imperador do Brasil, excelso duque de Bragança. Typ. Universal de Laemmert, 1862, p. 65. In Portuguese However, Portugal did not officially recognize Brazilian independence at this time. The liberal constitution to which the king had sworn loyalty was in effect only for a few months. Not everyone in Portugal supported liberalism, and an absolutist movement arose. On , in Trás-os-Montes, o Francisco Silveira, Count of Amarante proclaimed an absolute monarchy; this did not immediately have an effect, and new agitations followed. On 27 May the infante Dom Miguel, instigated by his mother Dona Carlota, led another revolt known as the Vilafrancada, with the intent of restoring absolutism. John changed the game by supporting his son to avoid his own deposition—desired by the party of the queen—and appeared in public on his birthday alongside his son, who wore a uniform of the National Guard, a military corps that had been disbanded by the liberals, receiving the applause of the militia. The king personally went to Vila Franca to better administer the uprising, ultimately returning to Lisbon in triumph. The political climate was undecided, and even the staunchest defenders of liberalism feared to take a strong stand on its behalf. Before its dissolution, the Cortes protested against any change in the recently approved constitution, but the absolute regime was restored, the queen’s rights reestablished, and the king acclaimed for a second time . John, repressed demonstrations against this restoration, deported some of the liberals and arrested others, ordered the restoration of judiciary and institutions more in line with the new political orientation and created a commission to draft a basis for a new charter to replace the constitution.Cardoso, António Barros. "Liberais e absolutistas no Porto (1823–1829)". In: Departamento de Ciências e Técnicas do Património / Departamento de História. Estudos em homenagem ao professor doutor José Marques. Universidade do Porto, 2006, pp. 262–269. In Portuguese.Pedreira & Costa, pp. 392–400