From the Emperor’s Desk: In addressing the death of Amélie of Leuchtenberg I will focus on the arrangement of her marriage to Emperor Pedro of Brazil.
Amélie of Leuchtenberg (July 31, 1812 – January 26, 1873) was Empress of Brazil as the wife of Pedro I of Brazil. Amélie was the fourth child of General Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg and his wife Princess Augusta of Bavaria.
Her father was the son of Joséphine de Beauharnais and her first husband, Viscount Alexandre de Beauharnais. When Joséphine remarried, to Napoleon Bonaparte, Eugène was adopted by the latter and made viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy.
Amélie’s mother was the daughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his first consort, Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt.
Among Amélie’s siblings were Josephine of Leuchtenberg, Queen Consort of King Oscar I of Sweden, and Auguste de Beauharnais, 2nd Duke of Leuchtenberg, prince consort of Queen Maria II of Portugal (stepdaughter of Amélie). French Emperor Napoleon III was Amélie’s first cousin.
After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, Eugène de Beauharnais, having been granted the title Duke of Leuchtenberg by his father-in-law, settled in Munich. The possibility occurred to Amélie’s mother, Augusta, of marrying Amélie to the Emperor of Brazil, to guarantee the pretensions of the House of Leuchtenberg to royal status.
After the death of his first wife, the Austrian Archduchess Maria Leopoldina, in December 1826, Emperor Pedro I of Brazil (former King Pedro IV of Portugal) sent the Marquis of Barbacena to Europe to find him a second wife.
Emperor Pedro ‘s Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, and his second wife, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Among her many siblings were Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Marquis of Barbacena’s task was not easy; several factors complicated the search. First, Emperor Pedro had stipulated four conditions: a good family background, beauty, virtue and culture. Conversely, the Emperor of Brazil did not have a particularly good image in Europe: his relationship with the Marchioness of Santos was notorious, and few eligible princesses were expected to be eager to leave the courts of Europe to marry a widower who had a tarnished reputation as a husband, becoming step-mother to his five children.
To make matters worse, the former father-in-law of Emperor Dom Pedro, Holy Roman Emperor Franz II had a low opinion of his son-in-law’s political views, and apparently acted to prevent a new marriage to ensure that his grandchildren would inherit the throne of Brazil if they survived infancy.
After refusals by eight princesses turned the ambassador into an object of scorn in the courts of Europe, the Marquis of Barbacena, in agreement with the Emperor, lowered his requirements, seeking for Dom Pedro a wife merely “good and virtuous.”
Amélie now became a good possibility, but their encounter was brought about not by the Marquis of Barbacena, but by Domingos Borges de Barros, Viscount of Pedra Branca, minister in Paris, to whom she had been pointed out.
She came from a distinguished and ancient line on her mother’s side, the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria, but her father, an exile who shared in the disgrace of Napoleon Bonaparte’s deposition as Emperor, was not an optimal marital match. However, that was her sole “defect”. The princess was tall, very beautiful, well proportioned, with a delicate face.
She had blue eyes and brownish-golden hair. António Teles da Silva Caminha e Meneses, Marquis of Resende, sent to verify the beauty of the young lady, praised her highly, saying that she had “a physical air that like that the painter Correggio gave us in his paintings of the Queen of Sheba”. She was also cultured and sensitive.
A contemporary piece in The Times of London affirms that she was one of the best educated and best prepared princesses in the German world.
The marriage contract was signed on May 29, 1829 in England, and ratified on June 30 in Munich by Amélie’s mother, the Duchess of Leuchtenberg, who had tutored her daughter personally. On July 30 of that year, in Brazil, a treaty of marriage between Pedro I and Amélie of Leuchtenberg was promulgated.
Upon confirming the marriage, Emperor Pedro definitively broke his links to the Marchioness of Santos and, as evidence of his good intentions, instituted the Order of the Rose, with the motto “Amor e Fidelidade” (“Love and Fidelity”).
A proxy marriage ceremony on August 2 in the chapel of the Palais Leuchtenberg in Munich was a simple affair with few in attendance, as Amélie insisted on donating to a Munich orphanage the appreciable amount Dom Pedro had sent for a ceremony with full pomp. Dom Pedro was represented by the Marquis of Barbacena. Amélie was barely seventeen years old; Dom Pedro was thirty.