Teresa Cristina

Photo of Teresa Christina, c. 1888. Image Credit: BnF/WikiCommons.

By Holly Marsden

Dona Teresa Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies was the last Empress consort of Brazil. She was born in 1822 as Princess of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies in Italy, the daughter of King Don Francesco I of the Italian branch of the Bourbon dynasty and Maria Isabella of Spain.

Teresa Cristina married Dom Pedro II of Brazil in 1843, who was not present at their wedding in Naples. The princess’ brother, Prince Leopald, stood in by proxy. Her dating portrait seemed to be a little too flattering and, upon arrival in Brazil, Pedro stated his disdain.

The new Empress arrived from Italy to Empress Wharf in Rio de Janeiro. This wharf had been re-named for her arrival, previously having been where enslaved people had disembarked. This was a clear attempt at separating the new monarchy from its tragic and violent past.

The pair enjoyed family life together and bore four children. Unfortunately, three passed away which, in addition to her religious identity, may describe why the Empress’ style of dress was plain and modest, often wearing black and only wearing jewels for specific state events.

Dom Pedro had written to doctors about his wife’s health, who suffered from pain in the legs, head, and scalp. Recent research claims she may have suffered from fibromyalgia, which may explain why people had described her as shy and discontented.

Dona Josefina da Fonseca Costa and the Empress’ other ladies-in-waiting were her closest friends. Teresa Cristina was highly interested in the arts, practising singing, needlework, and writing, and sponsoring huge archaeological projects in Italy and Brazil.

Dom Pedro was deposed by military leaders on 15th November 1889 after 58 years. This was unexpected, as the royal couple were loved by their public. The coup d’état forced them and the rest of the royal family to flee to Lisbon, where Teresa Cristina died in just over a month.

Recommended Reading

Aniello Angelo Avella, “Teresa Cristina Maria de Bourbon, uma imperatriz silenciada,” Associação Nacional de História (2010): 1-14

Leopoldo Luiz Dos Santos Neto, Licia Maria Henrique da Mota, Leonardo Rios Diniz, Patricia Shu Kurizky, and Ana Cristina Vanderley Oliveira, “The physician, the Emperor and the fibromyalgia: Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard (1817–1894) and Dom Pedro II (1825–1891) of Brazil,” Journal of Medical Biology 24.1 (2014): 45-50.

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