Empire Adrift

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s been weird around here the last few days, what with ducking tornados (that luckily didn’t come too close to my town–it’s always exciting here in Oklahoma in the spring!), battling a cold, and writing. But I enjoyed the time to hole up at home with a new box of book bargains from the Edward r. Hamilton catalog.

One of the books I ordered this time was Patrick Wilcken’s Empire Adrift: The Portugese Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821, and I loved reading more about this strange tale. I knew almost nothing about what happened to Portugal during the Peninsula Wars–it always gets overshadowed by Spain, and I don’t know much about the history of that country in general. One review quote called this “A brilliant account of a bizarre yet momentous event.” In 1807, the Portugese prince regent Dom Joao (regent for his mad elderly mother Queen Maria), with the French closing in on his country and the British bossing him around, decided to just pack up his entire court and government and go to his colony in Brazil to rule from there. Over 10,000 people hurriedly climbed aboard a fleet amid chaos and confusion, and after a dangerous, stormy voyage emerged in the tropics. They stayed there for 13 years, in a weird attempted recreation of their life in Lisbon amid the jungle. In addition to trying to rule an enemy-occupied country from across the ocean, they also contended with a highly disfunctional royal family (Dom Joao and his ambitious Spanish wife, Dona Carlotta, had long been bitterly estranged, even though they had 9 bickering kids, and their quarrels only got worse in the New World). 

I couldn’t help but imagine a story set amid characters like this! What would a European woman think of life in Brazil? How would she adjust? (the heir Dom Pedro’s bride, the Austrian archduchess Leopoldina, at first romanticized what life in the “innocent” new world would be like, but soon came to hate it, along with her husband, and long for her home). It was a fascinating story, one I enjoyed learning about.
What are some stories from history you were surprised to learn about? If you had lived in the Regency period would you have been brave enough to make a run for South America??

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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