Maria I of Portugal

Dona Maria I (17 December 1734 – 20 March 1816) was Queen of Portugal from 1777 until her death in 1816. Known as Maria the Pious in Portugal and Maria the Mad in Brazil, she was the first undisputed queen regnant of Portugal and the first monarch of Brazil. With Napoleon's European conquests, her court, then under the direction of her son João, the Prince Regent, moved to Brazil, then a Portuguese colony. Later on, Brazil would be elevated from the rank of a colony to that of a kingdom, with the consequential formation of the .

Maria was born at the Ribeira Palace in Lisbon and baptized Maria Francisca Isabel Josefa Antónia Gertrudes Rita Joana. On the day of her birth, her grandfather, King John V of Portugal, appointed her the Princess of Beira.

When her father succeeded to the throne in 1750 as Joseph I, Maria, at age 16 and as his eldest child, became his heir presumptive and was given the traditional titles of Princess of Brazil and Duchess of Braganza.

Maria grew up in a time when her father's government was dominated completely by the first Marquis of Pombal. Her father would often retire to the Palace of Queluz which was later given to Maria and her husband. The Marquis took control of the government after the terrible 1755 Lisbon earthquake of 1 November 1755, in which around 100,000 people lost their lives. (The palace of her birth was also destroyed in the disaster.)[1]

After the earthquake, Maria's father was often uncomfortable at the thought of staying in enclosed spaces, and later suffered from claustrophobia. The king had a palace built in Ajuda, away from the city centre. This palace became known as Real Barraca de Ajuda (Royal Hut at Ajuda) because it was made of wood. The family spent much time at the large palace, and it was the birthplace of Maria's first child. In 1794 the palace burned to the ground and the Palace of Ajuda was built in its place.[1]

In 1760 Maria married her uncle Peter, younger brother of her father Joseph I. They had six children, of whom the eldest surviving son succeeded Maria as John VI on her death in 1816.

In 1777, Maria became the first undisputed queen regnant of Portugal. With Maria's accession, her husband became king as Peter III. Despite Peter's status as king and the nominal joint reign, the actual regal authority was vested solely in Maria, as she was the lineal heir of the crown. Also, as Peter's kingship was jure uxoris only, his reign would cease in the event of Maria's death, and the crown would pass to Maria's descendants. However, Peter predeceased his wife in 1786. Maria is considered to have been a good ruler in the period prior to her madness. Her first act as queen was to dismiss the popular secretary of state of the kingdom, the Marquess of Pombal, who had broken the power of the reactionary aristocracy via the Távora affair, partially because of Pombal's Enlightenment, anti-Jesuit policies. Noteworthy events of this period include Portugal's membership in the League of Armed Neutrality (July 1782) and the 1781 cession of Delagoa Bay from Austria to Portugal.[2]

Queen Maria suffered from religious mania and melancholia. This acute mental illness (perhaps due to porphyria) made her incapable of handling state affairs after 1792.[3]

Maria's madness was first officially noticed in 1786, when Maria had to be carried back to her apartments in a state of delirium. Afterward, the queen's mental state became increasingly worse. In May 1786, her husband died; Maria was devastated and forbade any court entertainments. According to a contemporary account, state festivities began to resemble religious ceremonies. Her condition worsened after the death of her eldest son (and heir-apparent), aged 27, from smallpox, and of her confessor, in 1791.[4] These traumatic events may have resulted in her developing major depressive disorder.[5] Another potential cause was her incestuous ancestry, this is substantiated by two of her other sisters who had similar conditions.[5]

In February 1792, she was deemed mentally insane and was treated by Francis Willis, the same physician who attended King George III of Great Britain. Willis wanted to take her to England, but the plan was refused by the Portuguese court. Potentially as a result of Willis' more advisory role in Maria's care, rather than the hands-on care of King George III, Willis' deemed the Queen incurable.[5] Maria's second son (eldest surviving) and new heir-apparent, John, took over the government in her name, even though he only took the title of Prince Regent in 1799.[3]

When the Real Barraca de Ajuda burnt down in 1794, the court was forced to move to Queluz, where the ill queen would lie in her apartments all day. Visitors would complain of terrible screams that would echo throughout the palace.[citation needed]

In 1801 Spanish Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy sent an army to invade Portugal with backing from Napoleon, resulting in the War of the Oranges. Though the Spanish ended their invasion, the Treaty of Badajoz on 6 June 1801 forced Portugal to cede Olivença and other border towns to Spain. (This cession is not recognized by the present Portuguese government, and the country officially considers those territories still to be Portuguese possessions.) On 29 September 1801 John VI signed the Treaty of Madrid (1801), ceding half of Portuguese Guyana to France, which became French Guiana.[4]

The refusal of the Portuguese government to join the French-sponsored Continental Blockade against Britain culminated in the late 1807 Franco-Spanish invasion of Portugal led by General Junot. The ultimate Napoleonic plan for Portugal was to split it into three sections. The northern parts of Portugal, from the Douro to the Minho, would become the Kingdom of Northern Lusitania, and its throne was promised to King Louis II of Etruria. The Alentejo Province and Kingdom of the Algarve would be merged to form the Principality of the Algarves, of which Spanish Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy would be sovereign. The remaining portion of Portugal would have been directly ruled by France.[4]

At the urging of the British government, the entire Braganza Dynasty decided to flee on 29 November 1807 to establish a government in exile in the Portuguese Viceroyalty of Brazil. Along with the royal family, Maria was transported aboard the carrack Príncipe Real. During her move from the royal palace to the docks she was heard screaming throughout the trip, in the middle of the crowd and in the carriage. The queen's dementia was so great that she feared that she was going to be tortured or robbed during her movement by her servants.[2]

In January 1808 Prince Regent John and his court arrived in Salvador da Bahia. Under pressure by local aristocracy and the British, the prince regent signed a commercial regulation after his arrival that opened commerce between Brazil and friendly nations, which in this case represented the interests of Great Britain above all. This law broke an important colonial pact that had previously allowed Brazil to maintain direct commercial relations only with Portugal.[2]

On 1 August 1808 British General Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) landed a British army in Lisbon to initiate the Peninsular War. The impact of Wellesley's initial victory over Junot at the Battle of Vimeiro (21 August 1808) was wiped out by his superiors in the Convention of Cintra (30 August 1808), which allowed the defeated French troops to evacuate peacefully from Portugal.[4]

Wellesley (soon to be made Lord Wellington) returned to Portugal on 22 April 1809 to recommence the campaign. Portuguese forces under British command distinguished themselves in the defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras (1809–1810) and in the subsequent invasion of Spain and France. In 1815 the government of the Prince Regent João elevated Brazil to the status of a kingdom, and Maria I was proclaimed the Queen of the . When Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815, Maria and her family remained in Brazil.[4]

Maria lived in Brazil for a total of eight years, always in a state of incapacitation. In 1816, she died at the Carmo Convent in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 81. After her death, Prince Regent John was acclaimed the king of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves and his mother's body was returned to Lisbon to be interred in a mausoleum in the Estrela Basilica (Portuguese: Basilica da Estrela), which she had helped found.

Maria is a greatly admired figure in both Brazil and Portugal due to the tremendous changes and events that took place during her reign. In Portugal, she is celebrated as a strong female figure. Her legacy shines at Portugal's Queluz Palace, a baroque-roccoco masterpiece that she helped conceive. A large statue of her stands in front of the palace, and a pousada near the palace is named in her honour. A large marble statue of the queen was erected at the Portuguese National Library in Lisbon by the students of Joaquim Machado de Castro.

In Brazil, she is admired as a key figure in the eventual independence of Brazil. It was during her reign, albeit through the government of her son's regency, that many of the national institutions and organizations in Brazil were created. These institutions were the precursors to their modern-day equivalents and granted large degree of power to the Brazilian colonials. While she is often called A Louca (the Mad) in Brazil, Brazilian and Portuguese historians hold her in high esteem.

Maria married her uncle, Peter on 6 June 1760. At the time of their marriage, Maria was 25 and Peter was 42. Despite the age gap, the couple had a happy marriage. Peter automatically became co-monarch (as Peter III of Portugal) when Maria ascended the throne, as six children and a stillborn baby had already been born from their marriage.