Princess Amélie Augusta Eugénia Napoleona de Beauharnais was the fourth child and third daughter of Eugène de Beauharnais, the stepson/adopted child of Napoleon I, and Princess Augusta of Bavaria. Amélie was born on July 31, 1812 in Milan, Italy, where her father served as the Viceroy of Italy. She was the paternal granddaughter of Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife and Empress of the French of Napoleon, through her father and the maternal granddaughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria through her mother. Amélie’s siblings included: Joséphine, Queen of Sweden and Norway and Auguste, 2nd Duke of Leuchtenberg and the Prince Consort of Maria II of Portugal (Amélie’s future stepdaughter). She was also a first cousin of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.
Amélie had a happy childhood with her siblings and parents, who cared deeply for all of their children and made every effort to raise them into respectable, intelligent adults. Amélie’s parents had married for political reasons but they had fallen in love at first sight and their passion for one another never waned during their eighteen years of marriage. When Napoleon, Amélie’s paternal grandfather, was overthrown in 1814, Eugène lost his position of Viceroy of Italy and left the country with his wife and family for Bavaria, Augusta’s homeland. They were welcomed with open arms by Augusta’s father, who gave his daughter and son-in-law the title of Duke and Duchess of Leuchtenberg and the principality of Eichstätt. Since Amélie was just two years old when her family fled Italy, she didn’t remember her early life in her birthplace of Milan. But she did have very fond memories of her happy childhood in Munich, where her family lived in Bavaria.
|Amélie of Leuchtenberg|
(Franz Xaver Winterhalter)
|Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil|
|Amélie of Leuchtenberg|
Amélie's mother (her father had died in 1824) agreed to the match and a marriage contract between the Emperor and the Princess of Leuchtenberg was ratified on June 30, 1829. A proxy ceremony was held on August 2nd in Munich. It was a modest and small event with the Emperor being represented by the Marquês de Barbacena. Amélie's mother knew that her daughter would face some challenges in her upcoming marriage and prepared her for her future role as a sovereign with great diligence and car. She found various teachers to educate Amélie on matters centered around Brazil’s culture and people, as well as her husband’s character, the routines of the Brazilian court, and the Portuguese language. On October 15, 1829, Amélie arrived in Rio de Janeiro where she met the ecstatic Emperor and his ten year-old daughter, Maria II of Portugal (Pedro had renounced his rights to the Portuguese throne in favor of his daughter in May of 1826 after just two months as king). Pedro was supposedly so overjoyed when he saw Amélie that he fell to his knees with passion when she disembarked her ship and stepped onto the dock.
|The Wedding of Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil and Amélie of Leuchtenberg|
(Jean-Baptiste Debret, 1829)
At first, her marriage to Pedro boosted his popularity with the people, which was a great relief for the monarchy, as Brazil was going through a tough time politically. However, Pedro’s popularity didn’t last for long and despite Amélie’s efforts to rouse up popular support for her husband, the country fell apart both politically and economically. Brazil’s chaotic state ultimately pushed Pedro to abdicate the throne on April 7, 1831 in favor of his five year-old son. So, after less than two years as the Empress of Brazil, Amélie’s tenure as a monarch had come to an end. Once she and her husband had given up their crowns, they were simply known as the Duke and Duchess of Braganza. When they left Brazil to create a new life in Europe, Amélie was three months pregnant. They arrived in Cherbourg, France on June 10, 1831 but just ten days later, Pedro left for London to search for political support (which he never found) while Amélie remained behind in Paris with her stepdaughter, Maria II of Portugal, and her husband’s illegitimate daughter, Isabel Maria, the Duchess of Goiás, who Amélie actually adopted as her own daughter. She even arranged her marriage to Ernst von Treuberg, the Count of Treuberg, who she had four children with.
|Amélie of Leuchtenberg and her daughter,|
Princess Maria Amélia
(Friedrich Dürck, 1840)
Amélie, now a widow and a young mother at the age of twenty-two, never remarried. After her husband’s death, she moved to the Palácio das Janelas Verdes and spent most of her time focusing on supporting charities and raising her daughter. Maria Amélia proved to be a very intellectual and gifted girl like her mother, especially when it came to music. Sometimes, Amélie would go back to Bavaria with her daughter to visit her family. Although they continued to live primarily in Portugal, they were not considered to be part of the Portuguese royal family. Even the Brazilian government would not acknowledge Maria Amélia as a Brazilian princess and refused to let her enter the country. This was because the different political factions in the new kingdom harbored a fear that if the Empress Dowager and her daughter returned to Brazil, they would try to gain influence and power. But since Pedro II continued to maintain good relations with his stepmother, he recognized both her and his half-sister as members of the Brazilian royal family once he reached his majority in 1841.
|Princess Maria Amélia of Brazil|
(Friedrich Dürck, 1849)
The loss of her only child deeply affected the Empress Dowager. She visited her daughter’s grave in the Convent of Saint Anthony in Rio de Janeiro every year on the anniversary of her death for next twenty years of her life. Amélie moved back to Lisbon after her daughter’s passing, where she remained until her death on January 26, 1873 at the age of sixty. Her older sister, Queen Joséphine of Sweden and Norway, was the primary heir in her will (she received, among other things, the famous Braganza tiara) but Amélie also left behind her properties in Bavaria to Maximilian, the one-time betrothed of her daughter, “whom [she] would have been happy to have as a son-in-law, if God had saved her beloved daughter Maria Amélia”. Today, she is buried in the Monument to the Independence of Brazil in São Paulo along with her husband and his first wife.