The dawn of the 19th century was a time of nightmares and terror for kings and queens. Never in all the history of humanity had European rulers lived through times as turbulent and tormented. It was a period in which kings and queens were persecuted, rendered destitute, imprisoned, exiled, deported, and even executed in public squares. This book recounts the fate of one those monarchs: it is the story of the Emperor João VI of Portugal who, chased by the Napoleonic storm in Europe, initiated an extraordinary flight to Brazil. In November 1807, Portugal was invaded by 50,000 French and Spanish soldiers. Painted into a corner both by Emperor Napoleon as well as by his English allies, Dom João had no choice but to flee to Brazil. With the British Navy’s help, the royal family and an entire court of over 10,000 people set sail in decrepit and cramped ships to seek refuge in Rio de Janeiro.


Nothing remotely similar had ever happened in any other European country. In times of war, kings and queens had been dethroned or forced to take refuge on foreign soil, but none of them had ever gone to the point of crossing an ocean to rule from the other side of the world. Although the Europeans dominated immense colonies over diverse continents, until that moment no monarch had ever set foot on overseas territory even for a simple visit – let alone to live and govern from there. It was, therefore, an event without precedent – as much for the Portuguese, who found that they had become orphaned by their monarchy overnight, as for the Brazilians. With the arrival of the Portuguese court in Rio de Janeiro, the last stage of colonial Brazil had concluded and the first stage of independent Brazil had begun.

Read more on this article from the author published by the American literary magazine Words Without Borders: http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/eighteen-o-eight/.