Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil

(29 July 1846 – 14 November 1921)

Dona Isabel, nicknamed “the Redemptress”, was the heiress presumptive to the throne of the Empire of Brazil, bearing the title of Princess Imperial. She also served as the Empire’s regent on three occasions.

Isabel was born in Rio de Janeiro, the eldest daughter of Emperor Dom Pedro II and Empress Dona Teresa Cristina and thus a member of the Brazilian branch of the House of Braganza. After the deaths of her two brothers in infancy, she was recognised as her father’s heiress presumptive. She married a French prince, Gaston, Count of Eu, in an arranged marriage and they had three sons.

During her father’s absences abroad, Isabel acted as regent. In her third and final regency, she actively promoted and ultimately signed a law, named Lei Áurea or the Golden Law, emancipating all slaves in Brazil. Even though the action was broadly popular, there was strong opposition to her succession to the throne. Her gender, strong Catholic faith and marriage to a foreigner were seen as points against her, and the emancipation of the slaves generated dislike among powerful planters. In 1889, her family was deposed in a military coup, and she spent the last 30 years of her life in exile in France.

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