A journey to the new world: the Portuguese court in Brazil

Find out about this episode of history that transferred the entire Portuguese court to the other side of the Atlantic

Departure of the Portugues Royal Family for Brazil (19th century) by Nicolas-Luis-Albert Delerive (attrib.)National Coach Museum

The departure

In 1807, facing an imminent invasion of the Napoleonic troops, Dom João VI made an unprecedented decision: to transfer the Portuguese court to its largest and opulent colony, Brazil. Is estimated at 15 thousand the number of people who embarked on the docks of Belém - 5% of the population of the country at that time - among which were the entire royal family and members of the nobility. For the first time in history, a Portuguese sovereign left Europe to live in a colonial territory. The transfer of the court to the other side of the Atlantic had significant historical implications and conditioned the entire future relationship between Portugal and Brazil.

We can see, in the foreground, the Prince Regent D. João in a white suit and red jacket, accompanied by members of the nobility and clergy arrived in carriages and seats.

A berlin carries the Princess D. Carlota Joaquina with her children on board the dock.

D. João VI (19th century) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

Dom João VI

One of the last representatives of absolutism, Dom João (1767 - 1826), son of D. Maria I, married D. Carlota Joaquina, daughter of Carlos IV of Spain. The resolution of transfer of the court to Brazil kept intact the sovereign power of the Bragança and put into practice a plan already architected, 50 years before by the Marquis of Pombal.

Entree de la rade de Rio-Janeiro (1827) by Richard Parkes Bonington after Moritz RugendasNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Arrival in Brazil

After 54 days at sea in difficult journey, the ship that brought the prince anchored first in Salvador de Bahia where he signed the Royal Charter, which opened Brazilian ports to foreign trade. On March 7, 1808, D. João arrived in Rio de Janeiro, where he remained for 13 years, until his return to Lisbon on April 26, 1821.

The ship trip was marked by several mishaps: the water was scarce and the food was nothing more than salted meat and biscuits. An infestation of lice on the ship carrying Carlota Joaquina forced all the women, including the princess, to shave their heads.

Rio de Janeiro's Bay Landscape (From Armação Point in Niteroi to Santa Cruz Fort (1830 - 1870) by SunquaMuseu Imperial

Paris in the tropics

Rio de Janeiro, at the time of the Portuguese court, resembled a European capital where the customs of the great courts were practiced, according to strict protocols: the royal "hand-kissing", processions and Te Deum solemn, official banquets and great apparatus, concerts, plays and parades, among the most varied royal and courtesan ceremonies. From the arrival of the Royal Family the urbanization of the city began to be radically transformed, with the opening of wider streets and a new building plan. Portuguese institutions such as the Royal Archive and the Royal Library were recreated in Brazil to allow the Portuguese state to function on American land. Rio de Janeiro was one of the most important cultural centers of the time. A modest colonial city had become an effervescent metropolis. It was "Paris in the tropics".

Transport in the New Capital of the EmpireNational Coach Museum

The use of litters and sedan chairs with all their peculiarities are demonstrated in this video.

Bed Berlin (1816-01-01/1826-12-31) by Unknown authorNational Coach Museum

The best choice

The berlins were the vehicles chosen to be taken to Brazil by Dom João VI. The choice is due to the fact that they are taller and more resistant than the coaches, thus allowing long journeys and better adapting to the territory. They are also more stable due to their structure with two parallel beams and the box rests directly on the leather struts, which provides greater comfort for long journeys. It is believed that the Bed Berlin was one of the vehicles that went to Brazil and returned in 1821 along with the Portuguese royal family. In contrast to the other vehicles, this berlin has an aeration system, adapted to the high temperatures of Rio de Janeiro, where the glass panels have been replaced by leather - which can be opened with a pulley system.

Landing of the Real Princess Leopoldina (1839 - 1839) by Jean Baptiste Debret (del.); Thierry Frères (lith.)Museu Imperial

Royal wedding

A policy of European alliances negotiates the marriage of Prince D. Pedro to the Archduchess of Austria, D. Leopoldina. It was the alliance of Brazil with one of the most important European courts, the Habsburg House. In 1817, for the first time, the descendant of a European Royal House would cross the Ocean to marry in the New World, accompanied by a court of outstanding scientists, botanists, musicians and artists who took with them their libraries and their instruments.

In the background, the São Bento Monastery adorned with silk tapestries in honor of the arrival of the princess ...

... In the center, the landing of Princess Leopoldina accompanied by Prince D. Pedro. Then the queen Carlota with his chamberlain and behind, D. João VI being helped by two men. They were on their way to the the coach that will take them to the royal chapel where there will be the episcopal blessing.

The Queen's departure (1839 - 1839) by Jean Baptiste Debret (del.); Thierry Frères (lith.)Museu Imperial

The return

The royal family returned to Portugal in 1821 after intense dissatisfaction with the Portuguese and the outbreak in the north of the country of the Oporto Revolution. By popular pressure the restitution of the Colonial Pact and consequent return of the Family to the Kingdom were demanded.

The departure of the Portuguese royal family was accompanied by a huge audience that crowded for farewell.

Queen Carlota waves to the audience that accompanied her departure.

King Pedro IV (19th century) by Marício José do Carmo Sandim (attrib.)National Coach Museum

D. Pedro I

D. Pedro I (1798 - 1834) remains in Rio de Janeiro and plays the independence movement of the colony becoming Emperor of Brazil. Later, he abdicates the Brazilian crown in favor of his son D. Pedro II and returns to Portugal to fight for the right of his second daughter, D. Maria, to the Portuguese throne.

Credits: Story

Realization: Silvana Bessone e Gilliard Bressan
Texts: Gilliard Bressan
Translation: Enrique Castillo e Gilliard Bressan
Reviewer: Graça Santa-Bárbara, Teresa Abreu e Teresa Antunes
Video: Gilliard Bressan
Collection: National Coach Museum; Imperial Museum, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Photos: ©DGPC/ADF

- GUIDE NATIONAL COACH MUSEUM - A unique collection worldwide which tranports us in time; coord. Silvana Bessone, SEC/DGPC/MNC, Lisbon, Portugal, 2015
ISBN 978-989-8456-80-9

- ARTE EFÊMERA EM PORTUGAL. João Castel-Branco. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. 2000.
- PARTIDA DA FAMÍLIA REAL PARA O BRASIL. Maria Adelina Amorim. Lisboa: Fundação Millenium BCP / Lusitania / Museu Nacional dos Coches, 2018.

- DO MÓVEL AO AUTOMÓVEL: TRANSITANDO PELA HISTÓRIA. Rio de Janeiro: Museu HIstórico Nacional, 2009.

- UM NOVO MUNDO, UM NOVO IMPÉRIO: A CORTE PORTUGUESA NO BRASIL, 1808-1822. Rio de Janeiro: Museu HIstórico Nacional, 2008.

- VIAGEM PITORESCA E HISTÓRICA AO BRASIL. Jean Baptiste Debret. São Paulo: Editora da USP, 1989.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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