Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


The Great Emperor

Some time ago, I decided to write about the emperor Dom Pedro II, one of the most admirable personalities of our so neglected and forgotten Brazilian history. Why I chose him, I can’t say. I only know that the son of Dom Pedro I, and father of Princess Isabel always fascinated me by his wisdom and rigid character, a greatness of spirit and simplicity very rare in political figures at any time in history. Today I am keeping this promise that I made to myself, and I know that this is good, serving as some sort of catharsis, which is somewhat like a refreshing bath to the spirit, a rest of responsibility and tensions that invade our knowing and caring. Cyro dos Anjos said that what we write, or want to, constitutes an intellectual pregnancy and, until the intellectual child is born, there can be no rest. “Bem haja!” God willing!, As the Portuguese say.

And what do I actually know of Dom Pedro II? Not much, actually. That would entail a lot of research involving the time of the Second Reign. But I know a little that I will pass on to you with pleasure if you have the patience to read my simple lines. Following the fashion, it’s always good to start by stating that Dom Pedro II was a great democrat, friend of the people, and simple, as a Christian should be. To avoid swaying from the truth, it would also be prudent to add that his greatest friendships were within the cultural elite, the philosophers, poets, scientists, inventors… people of great intelligence and culture. What he really disliked, though, was the royalty full of pomp, glory and protocol. The stuck-up nobility with their luxury and false appearances. Dom Pedro II really only felt at home in the company of men like Victor Hugo, Rennin, Thomas Edison, Longfellow, Graham Bell, Pasteur, Alexandre Herculano, Manzoni, Gonçalves de Magalhães, Francisco Otaviano, Carlos Gomes, Pedro Américo and other intellectuals that he admired and protected. It is said that he never attended court without showing a certain unease with all the gala and gold.

In dress, Dom Pedro II was fond of a smart black overcoat, in the fashion of the professors of that time, disdaining jewelry, with discreet airs of a good bourgeois, fine, educated, only seduced by new ideas and by the wisdom of great thinkers. He immensely enjoyed traveling though he rarely did, but when he did so, striding through European courtyards, he paid all the travel expenses of the entire journey out of his own fortune, never reaching into the crown’s treasury to fund these trips, as is the costume today. Educated to rule, with iron discipline, nearly monastic, he was molded like a responsible public worker, modest and serious. Extremely tolerant and kind, he nonetheless had an iron will and conserved an intransigent opposition in his intentions. Before all other values, he held duty, work, practice and obligation as foremost. He would work through the night in the performance of his duty. So decided and just was he that he seemed like a centralized judge of good and peace.

A free man, studious and of a spontaneous scientific curiosity, on many occasions he scandalized the courts of the old world, leaving behind the straight laced ideas of the conservatives. This was because he appreciated the company of free thinkers more than the palace dwellers. Rabbis, artists, republicans, the impious Rennin and Victor Hugo were his preferred companions. Little did he care about the friction this caused in relations with the Pope Pio XI, a radical conservative who regularly censured him. Of course he didn’t go as far as to appear an iconoclast, this never. He was a man of peace, a good man with a noble heart.

Serious, concentrated, virtuous, respected and respectful, discreet as a man and as a ruler, he also had a long line of mistresses, besides his royal spouse, the Neapolitan princess Dona Teresa Cristina, a model of kindness, whom Dom Pedro dearly loved. His heart had nonetheless been captured by many other noble paramours such as the countess of Villeneuve, Madam de La Tour, Eponina Octaviano and the Countess of Barral and Pedra Branca, this last being his favorite, with whom he kept voluminous sentimental correspondence and to whom he dedicated himself profoundly. Strangely enough and contrary to the behavior of his regal father Dom Pedro I, he never let these amorous affairs scandalize Europe. Love, to him, was always an intimate concern, from soul to soul.

Expulsed from Brazil, on November 17, 1889 in the wee hours of a tragic, tempestuous morning, he journeyed, clamoring his forlorn sadness, and worn out by long years of work and study, he died in a simple room at the Bedford Hotel, in Paris, two years later. His greatest suffering was his memory of Brazil. How painful were the chains of exile! The French government conceded him honors of Chief of State and his burial was one of the greatest that the city of Paris had ever witnessed, as grand as Victor Hugo’s burial. Before the wise and before man, once again Europe bowed to Brazil!

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