♕ JANUARY 22, 1797 – BIRTH OF MARIA LEOPOLDINA OF AUSTRIA, EMPRESS OF BRAZIL
Dona Maria Leopoldina of Austria (22 January 1797 – 11 December 1826) was born Caroline Josepha Leopoldine Franziska Ferdinanda of Habsburg-Lorraine at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, Holy Roman Empire. She was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Franz II and Empress Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily and among her siblings were Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and Marie Louise of Austria, Empress of the French, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1817 the Archduchess married Prince Dom Pedro of Braganza, heir to Portugal, later the Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil and King Dom Pedro IV of Portugal. The couple had 7 children: Queen Maria II of Portugal, Miguel, Prince of Beira, João Carlos, Prince of Beira, Princess Januária of Brazil, Princess Paula of Brazil, Princess Francisca of Brazil and Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil. During her time in Brazil Leopoldina gave advice to Dom Pedro in important political decisions that reflected in the future of the nation, such as the Dia do Fico and the subsequent opposition and disobedience to the Portuguese Cortes. She was one of the main articulators of the process of Independence of Brazil that took place between 1821 and 1822. On September 2, 1822 while she was the Acting Princess Regent of the Kingdom of Brazil in the absence of her husband Maria Leopoldina received a decree from Portugal that overturned the Brazilian government and demanded the immediate return of Pedro and his family to Lisbon. She summons the Council of State and signs on the same day the Decree of Independence, declaring Brazil separate from Portugal. Leopoldina send her husband the news, along with a letter urging him to proclaim the independence. On September 7, 1822 the letter reached Dom Pedro and he declared the independence of Brazil.
In 1826 Maria Leopoldina became Queen Consort of Portugal during her husband's brief reign as King Dom Pedro IV. Despite being usually remembered as a melancholic and humiliated woman by the extramarital affairs of Pedro I Leopoldina achieved much more. She had great influence in Brazilian politics and the respect and admiration of Brazilians, particurlarly of the poor and her popularity was even larger than that of Pedro. She died at age 29 on December 11, 1826 after a miscarriage. Maria Leopoldina was the first woman to govern an independent Brazil, the first empress consort of the country, the first empress of the Americas and the first woman to govern an independent American country.
Letícia Colin as Princess Maria Leopoldina of Austria, the Empress Consort of Brazil, Queen Consort of Portugal and Archduchess of Austria in “Novo Mundo” (2017). | Portrait of Maria Leopoldina - Archduchess of Austria by Joseph Kreutzinger.
Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig | Emma (2020) dir. Autumn de Wilde