1808 by Laurentino Gomes

Laurentino Gomes, the award winning author of this interesting book has done splendid research. He tells the exciting tale of the Portuguese royal family escaping the Courts and moving to Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) in 1808.


What an eventful year! Throughout its history Europe had been stricken by earthquakes, fatal diseases, incompetent leaders, but Napoleon, oh Napoleon, was too much. All monarchs were in danger, all monarchies were at stake. Fortunately, for the Portuguese royal family their Empire was booming. They had a way out, well actually more of a route which led to Brazil, one of the crown’s most thriving colonies.

Lusitania, as the Romans called Portugal, was abandoned by its royals in such a hurry they left a whole collection of Camoes on the Lisbon docks. The poet was among the finest of the Portuguese language and therefore priceless. Ironically, by the time Napoleon made it to Lisbon his troops were so hungry and weak that if the Portuguese had tried to resist they would have had a chance.

On that memorable year the only ever royal family to set foot in the Americas arrived on the beautiful North-eastern coasts lines of Brazil.

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By that time, the Prince-in-Charge John VI, had been married for 7 years and had had several kids including Don Pedro I future Emperor of Brazil. Son to a mentally ill mother and married to a bold princess, John had stumbled into power and, had tried his best to rule his empire during the worst crisis Europe had seen in centuries.

Prince-in-Charge John VI in 1808 by Laurentino Gomes

By leaving Lisbon they might have escaped the French, however, they could not escape the Portuguese Courts. Over a decade later the Liberal Revolution would bring them back to the old continent, to the absolute delight of the Spanish princess John VI’s wife, Doña Carlota Joaquina of Spain. The lice infested girl (only 19) is said to have wiped the dust off her shoes when boarding on the royal ship back to Lisbon.

Nevertheless, at least the prince had a good time, he loved Brazil. He enjoyed throwing endless ceremonies littered with countless hand-kissing and long lines of nobles and civil servants who wanted to be seen by the prince as faithful subordinates in the hopes of personal gain. Of course, the prince was always eating. One of his favorites local cuisine dish was Pitanga ice cream to ease the intense Rio de Janeiro heat. After all, his large, round overly dressed figure must have suffered with the tropical weather.

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One of the remaining legacies of their time in Brazil is the June and July parties. A celebration of 3 catholic saints Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter the parties were abolished from big cities after the revolution. The revolution led to the formation of a Republic State and yet remained fairly common in the countryside. That explains the way celebrations usually take place; in an arraial, a huge tent made of raw material (with a thatched roof). The arraial was reserved for special parties in old rural areas. Men dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and women wear pigtails, freckles, painted gap teeth and red-checkered dresses. All in a loving tribute to the origins of Brazilian country music, and of themselves, so called caipiras.

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