The Symbolism in the Coronation Robes Worn by Emperor Pedro II

Museu Imperial

To talk about the robes worn by Emperor Pedro II for his coronation is, first and foremost, to talk about how clothes epitomize the wearer. This is achieved in various ways—through fabric, through color, and through shape. These elements combined were used, and still are, as a means of differentiating the wearer's status in society. Of all the objects belonging to Dom Pedro II in the Imperial Museum collection, it is his coronation robes with their insignia that most interest and fascinate visitors. More than mere fashion items, these pieces are symbols of power and assertion by a newly independent nation, which was still finding its place in the world and seeking respect from the great traditional kingdoms of 19th century Europe.

The boy-emperor
Born in Rio de Janeiro, he was the emperor d. Pedro I's youngest son with the Empress Dona Maria Leopoldina of Austria and, therefore, member of the Brazilian branch of the House of Bragança. He becomes emperor at only five years of age, when his father, d. Pedro I, abdicates to the Brazilian throne and leaves to Europe to return to the throne of Portugal that had been usurped his brother, D. Miguel. The Empire is governed by three regencies until Pedro II has his adulthood decreed with 14 years of age and assumes the throne on July 18th, 1841.

D. Pedro I's abdication letter

Dom Pedro II's coronation robes followed all the 19th-century rules of symbolism to the letter. Rodrigues, in his work for the Imperial Museum catalog, referred to the inspiration taken from the costumes that a Renaissance cavalier would have worn to court ceremonies.

Freesz believes that the robes chosen by Dom Pedro II were more inspired by those worn in the 17th century, especially the style adopted by King Charles II of England.

Freesz also points to the similarity in the embroidery pattern on his robes—oak leaves and acorns—to those found on the coronation mantle worn by his maternal grandfather, Emperor Francis I of Austria.

This was evidence that the family's Austrian heritage would continue in the newly created Empire of Brazil.

The robes
As far as the materials used in Dom Pedro II's coronation robes are concerned, the fashion rules for the nobility were followed to the letter, with velvet, silk, and gold thread being used in the robes, and gold and precious stones in the royal insignia. These fine fabrics for his clothes, and precious metals to show the wealth of the lands governed by the boy emperor, marked a sharp contrast to the monarch's own personality, given that he was known for his simplicity in daily life.

Formal dress used by d. Pedro II at his coronation, on july 18 1841 and, subsequently, on the solemn opening and closing of the brazilian parliament.
According to publications of that period, it was called the “knights´ garment” and was made up of the following parts: white jacket made of satin that extended down to the knees; a tie of french lace; maniple; ribbon with a bowknot of the same material as the jacket; breeches of white silk, shoes of white satin, knights´ hat. Over these clothes the imperial symbols: magestic robe made of velvet; cape made from tucan throat feathers, also used by d. Pedro I; imperial crown; imperial sceptre; cruzeiro sword; gloves; decorations, such as the grand-cross of the order of the rose and the imperial order of the cruzeiro. The clothing was inspired by that used by the french court on royal solemnities, as represented by François Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) in his painting “Portrait of Luis XVI”. D. Pedro II´s formal dress bears a touch of romanticism and is of great distinction and elegance. It causes admiration because of the quality of the cloths used and the perfection of the embroidery, as well as the value of the precious stones and by the richness of the decoration.

Material: White satin embroidered in gold

Jacket, knee length, embroidered with oak twigs; motive that follows the brim of the jacket and expands gradually. The stitching of the sleeves follow the same type of embroidery.

Material: White satin embroidered in gold

Waistband embroidered with gold thread, forming lillies and bellflowers on each of the four folds, set out horizontally for the length of the band.

The band that goes around the waist of the jacket is finished, on the right side, with a bow from which hang two tassels adorned with small golden tubes.

Material: White satin embroidered in gold

Maniples in the shape of embroidered bows with the motive of oak twigs and small stars. In the centre, a rosette made up of folds and also embroidered, attached to the maniple.

The maniple is a kind of stole that forms part of the liturgical vestments, primarily within the catholic church. It usually hangs from the left arm of the priest.

Satin embroidered in gold and leather

Shoes embroidered with stylized palms, oak leaves and tendrils..

The colors
Another key element in the symbolism of the coronation robes are the colors used. The prevalence of Brazilian heraldic colors is particularly interesting. Gone was the red adopted by the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves, and in came the green of Brazilian forests, yellow representing gold (the source of the kingdom's natural wealth), and white—a symbol of the monarch's purity, which was ever-present in royal robes to some degree, to remind people that the monarch wearing them has the "divine right" to do so.

Material: Silk and gold thread

Gloves with the arms of the brazilian empire embroidered with gold

His pallium is bright orange-yellow in color and features breast feathers from a toucan—a common bird in Brazil—illustrating both the country's natural wealth and its exoticism in using bird feathers to make garments.

Materiais: Toucan feather (ramphastos vitellinus ariel Vigors), Silk satin beige and dark green

Collar in the shape of a short cape, opened to the breast and so could be put on over the head. Made using the “strips” technique where each crop is stiched onto the other in overlapping horizontal rows until reaching the lower border, thus forming segments with a textile base. Linning made of silk, coloured beige, reinforced with dark green silk. Neckline with a hem containing a ribbon, the ends of which serve to attach the collar to the neck.

The color white appeared again in the cavalier hat that Dom Pedro II wore to enter the Imperial Chapel for his coronation ceremony.

Material: White velvet embroidered in gold

White velvet hat embroidered with gold thread. Front rim raised, round crown circled by acorns and oak leaves intemingled within a circular space with oak twigs and leaves in the central superior part; band that joins the crown with the rim has gold embroidered oak twigs.

On his cloak, the green of Brazil's forests illuminated by stars embroidered in gold and by the armillary sphere topped by the cross of the Order of Christ—a European symbol representing the king's universal power. Its shape also evokes perfection and wisdom.

Material: Green Velvet, gold thread and embroidery made of gold, beads (frosted, brilahnte and beaded), sequins, reeds, cord and various gold threads

Made up of four widths of velvet sewn lengthways, with the superior part touching the neck, containing 22 pleats accompanying the central seam. The finish is with a reinforcement of velvet that hides the seam of the linning; sewn to the the velvet with invisible stiches. The outline of the cape is embroidered with oak twigs and acorns and stars containg the initials PII. The hem, embroidered, with rectangles each one, alternatively, containing a star or a crecent moon, both made of sequins. The central part of the robe is covered with gold embroidered elements, forming the following motives: Armillary Sphere, the Bragança dragon and a five points star.

One significant element adopted by Dom Pedro I at the proclamation of the Brazil's independence is the "wyvern," often confused with a dragon, which is found not only in the rich embroidery on his mantle

...but is also majestically poised on top of the gold scepter, from where the creature's bright eyes observe all before him...

The scepter was seen as an extension of the monarch's arm, his governance, and enforcement of justice. The scepter used by Dom Pedro II was inherited from his father. Dom Pedro I commissioned it for his own coronation.

Material: Carved gold and bright

Hollow staff formed by six articulated segments; on the upper side, a garland made up of oak leaves and fruits. A bell-shaped part of the capital ornate with stylized leaves; retangular abacus with divided angles also framed with stylized leaves upon which a serpent with spreaded wings, tail turned upward and open mouth, from which hangs a barbed and movable tongue. Eyes made of diamonds that were added at the time of the coronation of d. Pedro II; the lower part in the shape of leaves, with a carved moulding finished in the shape of a cap.

Honorific orders were used to complement Dom Pedro II's coronation robes. These orders are awards granted in recognition of services provided to a country and bestowed by the Head of State, who himself holds the highest class of the order granted.

Some of the orders adopted by Dom Pedro II for his robes included the Imperial Order of the Cross

Imperial Order of the Cruise (band)
Material: Carved gold and enamel

Hanging insignia circled by rosettes on sky-blue cloth, in the shape of a five point white bifurcated star of gold; headed by the imperial crown also of gold. The whole is surrounded by a crown made up of enamelled tobacco and coffe leaves bordered by gold in the centre of the disk. On the obverse of the disk, sky-blue field with the latin cross made up of 19 white stars. Navy blue surround with legend in polished gold: BENEMMERENTIUM PRAEMIUM. On the reverse in a gold field, on the left side the image of d. Pedro I. Navy blue surround with gold legend: PETRUS I BRASILIAE IMPERATOR.

The Order of Pedro I, Founder of the Empire

And the Order of the Rose, created by Dom Pedro I to celebrate his marriage to Amélie of Leuchtenberg, stepmother to Dom Pedro II.

Order of Rose
Material: Carved gold and enamel

Chain of gold consisting of 15 roses foliated in their colour and the same number of small scutcheons of the same metal with the initials PA (interlinked) and placed alternatively. From the collar hangs the insignia corresponding to the class of grand-cross in the shape of a six-pointed star of gold, headed by the imperial crown also of gold. The star is surrounded by a garland made up of 18 small enamelled roses in their colour and in the centre of the disk. On the obverse of the disk, in a gold field the initials pa interwoven; skirting around in dark blue the legend in gold: "amor e fidelidade" (love and faithfulness). On the reverse side, engraved in gold, the date 02/08/1829, set out in the shape of a cross (it refers to the marriage date); surrounding in navy blue the words in gold: Pedro and Amelia.

The crown
Last but not least is the crown: the greatest symbol of royal power. It is impossible to imagine a king without a crown. Whether it is simple, like the ancient crowns of laurel leaves used in the Roman Empire, or lavish like the crown worn by Charlemagne, the crown is the very insignia of royal dignity. It is the crown that endows the king with his sacred character and supernatural power.

The crown used by Dom Pedro II was made especially for the young monarch. The piece had to be as new as the reign that was just beginning...

...but, although new, jewels and pearls from his father's crown were incorporated into its design, maintaining a hereditary link in the crown jewels.

Material: Gold, silver, brilliants, pearls, velvet and satin

Crown in chiselled yellow and green gold. Wide oval shaped belt, on the lower side, two friezes in the shape of laurel leaves. Between the friezes a string of cultured pearls. On the higher side a garland of 16 points and below this another frieze identical with that of the base. Below each point of the garland a diamond set in silver. In the same direction of the points of the garland, a sprinkle of diamonds and, on the principal axis of the crown, the sprinkle is made up of a larger retangular stone surrounded by smaller stones. Each sprinkle (of diamonds) is surrounded by the same frieze of laurel leaves as that surrounding the belt. On the extremities of the garlands, placed alternatively, triófilos in green gold finished with a knot and within each one a rosette made up of different size diamonds. From each of these arrangements rises a stalk with the following characteristics: polished gold in the shape of shoots and, on the extremity, laurel leaves; in the centre of each shoot, a line of diamonds mounted on silver. On the top side of the crown a globe of polished gold girded by a chiselled edging, set with diamonds, from which rises a semi-circle of a similar shape. A gold chiselled flower ornament supports the sphere. On the top of the circle the Cross of Christ set with diamonds. Original linning of dark green velvet padded with white satin.

Credits: Story

Director: Maurício Vicente Ferreira Júnior.
Administrative Coordinator: Isabela Neves de Souza Carreiro
Technical Coordinator: Fernando Ferreira Barbosa
Curation: Maurício Vicente Ferreira Júnior e Muna Raquel Durans.


Museology: Ana Luisa Alonso Camargo, Aline Maller Ribeiro, Evaldo Portela e Maria Helena de A. Esteves da Costa
Library: Claudia Maria Souza da Costa, Márcio Cardoso Miquelino Silva
Photography and Picture Editing: George Milek e Luis Fernando de Oliveira Azevedo.
Proofreading: Rosana Carvalho.

Credits: All media
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