Mission accomplished...

Archduchess Leopoldine, daughter of Emperor Franz II (I) and future Empress of Brazil, oil painting, c. 1815

In the last year of Leopoldina’s life the long hoped-for heir to the throne was born.

My beloved sister,

Reduced to the most lamentable state of health and arrived at the last stage of my life suffering the greatest sorrows, I bear the further misfortune of being unable to express to you in person all the feelings that I have carried within me for so long. Oh my sister! I will never see you again! I would be failing in my duty if I omitted to inform not only the diplomats Mareschal and Dacolino but you as well that I have incurred debts in order to support those women who begged me for help and to fund my own private expenses. Oh my children! What will become of you after I am gone?

On 8 December 1826 Leopoldina dictated in Portuguese to the Marquise of Aguiar, the head of her court household, a last letter to her sister Marie Louise.

Archduchess Leopoldine, daughter of Emperor Franz II (I) and future Empress of Brazil, oil painting, c. 1815

Following the recognition by Portugal of Brazil’s independence on 15 November 1825, Leopoldina entered the final year of her life, which began with a happy event. On 2 December 1825 she gave birth to the heir to the throne, Pedro. At the beginning of 1825 Leopoldina had consulted a priestess on how to ensure conceiving a child of the desired sex – she wanted to finally bear a son and heir to the throne.


After four daughters, an heir to the throne was finally born; even today, Pedro II is talked of as the half Austrian who held the throne of Brazil. With the birth of a healthy heir to the throne, Leopoldina had fulfilled her paramount duty as a wife and as a daughter of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.


Events from this point until the date of her death on 11 December 1826 are no more than a chronology of her dying. Her psychological reserves had long ago been exhausted through homesickness, her husband’s infidelities and isolation, and it is not surprising that she just wanted to die. But she was not yet thirty years old and her young body rebelled against her death-wish.


Leopoldina’s last months of life in Boa Vista were characterized by loneliness and a series of humiliations that sapped her energy. She dutifully accompanied her husband on a propaganda trip to Bahia. She even put up with her husband flitting back and forth between Boa Vista and his mistress’s household for months on end. It was only when Pedro ceased to live at Boa Vista that Leopoldina finally fought back, taking two decisive actions: she sent her husband’s clothing and personal effects to his mistress’s apartment and refused to acknowledge her.


After both of these events – regarded by her husband as the foolhardy acts of a disobedient wife – Dom Pedro left for Cisplatina (modern-day Uruguay) on 22 November 1826 to join his soldiers, and Leopoldina began her final days.


On 11 December 1826, a few days after suffering a miscarriage, and just five weeks before her thirtieth birthday, Leopoldina passed away.

Gloria Kaiser