Maria Leopoldina of Austria

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Maria Leopoldina of Austria bigraphy, stories - Austrian noble

Maria Leopoldina of Austria : biography

22 January 1797 – 11 December 1826

Maria Leopoldina of Austria ( ) (Maria Leopoldina Josefa Carolina;Rodrigues (v.4), p.13 22 January 1797 – 11 December 1826) was an archduchess of Austria, Empress consort of Brazil and Queen consort of Portugal.

She was born in Vienna, Austria, as the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, and his second wife, Maria Teresa of the Two Sicilies. Among her many siblings were Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Empress of Brazil

Maria Leopoldina became Brazil’s first empress consort. She also played an important role in the process of issuing a Declaration of Independence. On 2 September 1822, a new decree with demands from Lisbon arrived in Rio de Janeiro, while Prince Pedro was in São Paulo. Leopoldina, advised by José Bonifácio, and using her power as Princess Regent, met on 2 September 1822 with the Council of Ministers. She decided to send her husband the news along with a letter advising him to declare Brazil’s independence and warned him, "The fruit is ready, it’s time to harvest." Prince Pedro declared the country’s independence upon receiving the letter on 7 September 1822. Portrait of Maria Leopoldina by Louis Schlappriz. When his father died on 10 March 1826, Pedro inherited the Portuguese throne as King Pedro IV, while remaining Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. Maria Leopoldina thus became both Empress consort of Brazil and Queen consort of Portugal. However, two months later, Pedro was forced to give up the Portuguese throne to their seven-year-old daughter Maria.

Leopoldina herself died in Rio de Janeiro in 1826 after a miscarriage, the same year as her father-in-law, at the end of a very eventful year for the House of Braganza.

Marriage to Pedro

A coloured engraving representing Austria and Augusta, the two ships that took Leopoldina to Brazil, departing from [[Trieste]] On September 24, 1816, Leopoldina was announced by her father that Pedro of Bragança wished to take a Habsburg princess as his wife. Klemens von Metternich suggested that it should be Leopoldina to go get married, as it was "her turn" to become a wife. Two ships were prepared and in April 1817 scientists, painters, gardeners and a taxidermist, all with assistants, travelled to Rio de Janeiro ahead of Leopoldina. Leopoldina, in the meantime, studied the history and geography of her future home and learned Portuguese. During these weeks Leopoldina compiled and wrote a vademecum, a unique document the like of which has never been produced by any other Habsburg princess.

On 13 May 1817 Leopoldina was married to Dom Pedro per procuram (by proxy) in Vienna. At the ceremony the bridegroom was represented by Leopoldina’s uncle, Archduke Karl. Embarkation took place in Livorno on 13 August 1817 among much celebration, and after an adventure-filled voyage lasting 81 days, Leopoldina arrived in Rio de Janeiro on 5 November and finally met her husband.

From a distance Pedro initially appeared to Leopoldina to be a perfect, well-educated gentleman, but the reality was very different. Dom Pedro was a year younger than Leopoldina and sadly rarely measured up to the descriptions given by the matchmakers. His temperament was impulsive and choleric, and his education but modest. Even spoken communication between the young married couple proved difficult, as Pedro spoke very little French and his Portuguese could only be described as vulgar.

In keeping with Portuguese tradition, at the age of eighteen Pedro of Braganza not only had a string of amorous adventures behind him and was principally interested in horse racing and love affairs, but in 1817 (the year of his marriage to Leopoldina) he was living as if in wedlock with French dancer Noemie Thierry, who was finally removed from the court by his father a month after Leopoldina’s arrival in Rio de Janeiro.

The young married couple took up residence in six relatively small rooms in the Quinta Boa Vista in São Cristóvão. The inner courtyard and path to the stables were unpaved and the tropical rainfall quickly turned everything to mud. There were insects everywhere, including in their clothing, for the uniforms and court regalia made of velvet and plush rotted and turned mouldy in the heat and humidity.