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Maria Leopoldina of Austria

For the Holy Roman Empress, see Maria Leopoldine of Austria.
Maria Leopoldina of Austria
File:Maria Leopoldina 1815.jpg
Leopoldina at age 18, 1815
Empress consort of Brazil
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12 October 1822 – 11 December 1826
Queen consort of Portugal and Algarves
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10 March 1826 – 2 May 1826
Spouse Pedro I of Brazil
among others...
Maria II of Portugal
Pedro II of Brazil
Princess Francisca of Brazil
Princess Januária of Brazil
Full name
Leopoldine Caroline Josepha
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
House of Braganza
Father Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Teresa of Naples and Sicily
Born 22 January 1797
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Archduchy of Austria
Died 11 December 1826(1826-12-11) (aged 29)
Palace of São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro, Empire of Brazil
Burial 1954
Monument to the Independence of Brazil, São Paulo

Dona Maria Leopoldina of Austria (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 Naples and Sicily. Among her many siblings were Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was also the great-niece, through her paternal Grandfather, of the ill-fated Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

Early life

Leopoldine was born on 22 January 1797 in Schönbrunn Palace, in Vienna, Archduchy of Austria. She was given the name Leopoldine Caroline Josepha.[1]

She was raised in accordance with the educational principles laid down by her grandfather, Emperor Leopold II. Among these was the habit of exercising her handwriting by writing the following text:[2]

In addition, she and her sisters were taught to speak French and Latin. They were also educated in drawing, piano, riding and hunting.[2] Her mother died when she was ten years old and her father went on to remarry Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este. Her late mother was a soprano and Leopoldina had the chance of meeting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1810 and 1812, when she went to Carlsbad with her stepmother.[2] Her passions included natural sciences, especially botany and mineralogy.[2] She was formed according to the three Habsburg principles: discipline, piety and a sense of duty.[2]

Although Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily was her birth mother, Leopoldina always considered Maria Ludovika d'Este, her stepmother, to be her mother and she grew up with Ludovika as her "spiritual mother".[2]

Marriage to Pedro

File:Giovanni Passi 001.jpg
A coloured engraving representing Austria and Augusta, the two ships that took Leopoldina to Brazil, departing from Trieste

On September 24, 1816, it was announced by Leopoldina's father that Pedro of Bragança wished to take a Habsburg princess as his wife.[3] Klemens von Metternich suggested that it should be Leopoldina to go get married, as it was "her turn" to become a wife.[4] 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 vade mecum, a unique document the like of which has never been produced by any other Habsburg princess.[5]

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 Charles. 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.[6]

Arrival of Princess Leopoldina in Rio de Janeiro, 1817

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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6]

Empress of Brazil

File:Maria Leopoldina regent.jpg
Dona Leopoldina, then Princess Royal Regent of the Kingdom of Brazil, presides the meeting of the Council of Ministers on September 2, 1822.

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.

When his father, João VI, 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.


File:Maria Leopoldine of Austria Family.jpg
Maria Leopoldina and her children.

Maria Leopoldina and Pedro had seven children before she died in 1826 following a miscarriage:

Titles and styles

  • 22 January 1797 – 11 August 1804 Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria
  • 11 August 1804 – 6 November 1817 Her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria
  • 6 November 1817 – 12 October 1822 Her Imperial & Royal Highness the Princess Royal of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, Duchess of Braganza
  • 12 October 1822 – 10 March 1826 Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of Brazil
  • 10 March 1826 – 28 May 1826 Her Imperial & Most Faithful Majesty the Empress of Brazil, Queen of Portugal and the Algarves
  • 28 May 1826 – 11 December 1826 Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of Brazil




  1. ^ Oberacker 1988, p. 31.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Schloß Schönbrunn (2010). "Leopoldine: Sunday's child". The World of the Habsburgs. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ Schloß Schönbrunn (2010). "1816 – A fateful year for Leopoldine". The World of the Habsburgs. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ Schloß Schönbrunn (2010). "An enquiry from Rio de Janeiro". The World of Habsburgs. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ Schloß Schönbrunn (2010). "An expedition to the tropics". The World of the Habsburgs. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d Schloß Schönbrunn (2010). "A Portuguese fairy-tale prince?". The World of the Habsburgs. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 


  • Oberacker, Carlos H. (1988). Leopoldine: Habsburgs Kaiserin von Brasilien (in German). Vienna/Munich: Amalthea. ISBN 3-85002-265-X. 

External links

Maria Leopoldina of Austria
Cadet branch of the House of Lorraine
Born: 22 January 1797 Died: 11 December 1826
Brazilian royalty
New title
Empress consort of Brazil
12 October 1822 – 11 December 1826
Title next held by
Amélie of Leuchtenberg
Portuguese royalty
Preceded by
Carlota Joaquina of Spain
Queen consort of Portugal
26 March – 28 May 1826
Succeeded by
Auguste de Beauharnais
as Prince consort