by Scott Mehl
Queen Maria II of Portugal
Queen Maria II of Portugal first became Queen at just seven years old. Deposed two years later, she returned to the throne at age 15 and reigned until her death. She was born Maria da Glória Joana Carlota Leopoldina da Cruz Francisca Xavier de Paula Isidora Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga on April 4, 1819 at the Imperial Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Maria was the eldest of six children of the future King Pedro IV of Portugal (and Emperor Pedro I of Brazil) and his first wife, Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria. Born in Brazil, Maria is the only European monarch to be born outside of Europe.
She had six siblings:
- Infante Miguel of Portugal (1820) – stillborn
- Infante João Carlos of Portugal (1821) – died in infancy
- Princess Januária of Brazil (1822) – married Prince Luigi of the Two Sicilies, Count of Aquila, had issue
- Princess Paula of Brazil (1823) – died at age 9
- Princess Francisca of Brazil (1824) – married François d’Orléans, Prince of Joinville, had issue
- Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825) – married Princess Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies, had issue
And one half-sister, from her father’s second marriage to Princess Amélie of Leuchtenberg:
- Princess Maria Amélia of Brazil (1831) – unmarried
When Maria’s grandfather, King João VI of Portugal, died in March 1826, it caused a succession crisis. His eldest living son and heir was Maria’s father Pedro, but he had declared Brazil’s independence and was ruling as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. The King had appointed his daughter, Isabel Maria, to serve as regent until the “legitimate heir returned to the Kingdom”. But, he never specified who that should be. Pedro was ruling as Emperor of Brazil, and the king’s younger son, Miguel, had been exiled to Austria after leading several revolutions against his father and his liberal regime.
While Pedro was the legitimate heir, the Brazilian people didn’t want the two thrones to be reunited. Pedro abdicated the Portuguese throne on May 2, 1826, and Maria became Queen of Portugal at just seven years old. As part of the agreement, Miguel would return to Portugal and serve as Regent (once he himself reached age 25), and would be married to Maria once she came of age. This would all be under a new liberal constitution which would re-establish a constitutional monarchy. In July 1827, with Infanta Isabella Maria very ill, and the regency very unstable, a decree was issued, granting Miguel his new role as Regent, and he set out for Portugal.
With Miguel serving as Regent, Maria was sent to Vienna to continue her education. It was on this journey that Maria learned that Miguel had deposed her and declared himself King on June 23, 1828. Emperor Pedro insisted that his daughter was the rightful Queen, and demanded that she be treated as such. She traveled to the United Kingdom, hoping to garner the support of the British government, but they instead supported Miguel. She met up with her father in France, where they stayed with King Louis Philippe I, and Maria received her education. For the next six years, forces loyal to Maria and her father would try to force Miguel from the throne. In 1831, Emperor Pedro abdicated the Brazilian throne and joined the fight. Finally, on May 26, 1834, Miguel was forced to abdicate, and Maria was returned to the Portuguese throne. Her betrothal to Miguel was annulled several months later.
On January 26, 1835, Maria married Auguste de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg. He was the son of Eugène de Beauharnais (a son of Empress Josephine) and Princess Augusta of Bavaria. Sadly, Auguste died just two months later.
In Lisbon, on April 9, 1836, Maria was married to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Ferdinand was the son of Prince Ferdinand Georg of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Maria Antonia Koháry de Csábrág. Through his father, he was a first cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her future husband, Prince Albert, as well as King Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico. Maria and Ferdinand had 11 children:
- King Pedro V of Portugal (1837) – married Princess Stephanie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, no issue
- King Luís of Portugal (1838) – married Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, had issue
- Infanta Maria (1840) – stillborn
- Infante João, Duke of Beja (1842) – unmarried
- Infanta Maria Ana (1843) – married King Georg of Saxony, had issue
- Infanta Antónia (1845) – married Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern, had issue (including King Ferdinand of Romania)
- Infante Fernando (1846) – died as a teen
- Infante Augusto, Duke of Coimbra (1847) – unmarried
- Infante Leopoldo (1849) – stillborn
- Infanta Maria de Glória (1851) – died just after birth
- Infante Eugénio (1853) – died just after birth
On November 15, 1853, just after giving birth to her youngest child, Queen Maria II died at the Palace of Necessidades in Lisbon. She is buried at the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.