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Isabel I, also called Isabel the Redemptress and de jure Empress Isabel I of Brazil ( ; ; 29 July 1846 14 November 1921), was the heir to the throne of Brazilmarker bearing the title of Princess Imperial during the last decades of the reign of her father Pedro II and sometimes, she assumed the role of Regent.

In the political history of Brazil she was the first woman to become the ruler during the post-colonial period.

She acted as regent of Brazil three times while her father was absent from the country. In 1888 she signed the Golden Law establishing the total abolition of slavery in the Empire. For her pious character and her role in the abolition of slavery in Brazil, Pope Leo XIII bestowed the Golden Rose upon her.

In 1889 the Brazilian military overthrew her father, Pedro II, along with the monarchy, ending her chance at a permanent succession upon the end of his reign. The royal family was sent into exile, however, after the end of the monarchy, she became the Head of the Brazilian Imperial House and de jure Empress of Brazil.

She died on 14 November 1921 while living in Ch√Ęteau d'Eumarker, Francemarker. At the time she and her family were preparing to return from exile to Brazil.

Personal life

Isabel was born on 29 July 1846. She was the eldest surviving child of Princess Teresa of the Two Sicilies and Emperor Dom Pedro II. Her mother was the youngest daughter of King Francis I of the Two Sicilies, in the Palace of São Cristóvãomarker, in Rio de Janeiro. Before Isabel's birth, her elder brother had died as an infant. A younger brother also died in infancy.

Since the imperial couple was left with only daughters as heirs, Dom Pedro designated Isabel, the heiress presumptive, the official heiress (although she was not heir apparent in the strictest sense of that concept). With this status, she received the titles, Princess Imperial and Princess of Brazil, during the lifetime of her father.

On 15 October 1864, Isabel married Prince Gast√£o d' Orl√©ans, Count of Eu (Louis Philippe Marie Ferdinand Gaston, Prince d'Orleans, comte d'Eu, 1842‚Äď1922), son of Louis Charles Philippe Raphael, duc de Nemours, a cadet prince of the House of Orleans. Her only surviving sibling, her younger sister, Princess Leopoldina of Brazil, married Prince August of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Originally, the two princes were sent to Brazil so that August could marry Isabel and Gaston could marry Leopoldina, but the young women had other preferences and the emperor, having experienced the unhappiness of an arranged dynastic marriage, agreed to accommodate their wishes for a change in the intended matches.

"Her Imperial Highness" was her style for most of her life, except for the brief period during which her younger brother was alive, during that time she bore the style of, "Her Highness". Her title was Princess Imperial, also except during the lifetime of her brother, when she was titled, Princess, given that the style of HIH and the title of Prince or Princess Imperial were reserved only for the heir to the throne.

During her three periods as Regent of the Empire during absences of her father from the country, Isabel was known as The Princess Imperial Regent, however, she passed into history simply as Princess Isabel, or, The Redemptress.

Isabel's marriage with Gaston produced three sons. The eldest, who was named after her father, was designated as the next heir of Brazil, and, accordingly, given the title Prince of Gr√£o Par√°. Her sons were,
Princess Isabel is acclaimed as Regent of the Empire of Brazil

Political role

Isabel was regent of the Empiremarker three times while her father, Emperor Dom Pedro II (1825-1891), traveled abroad: the first time, from 25 May 1871 to 31 March 1872; the second, from 26 March 1876 to 25 September 1877; and finally, from 30 June 1887 to 22 August 1888. In his reign, Pedro II, who was regarded as liberal, took steps to industrialize Brazil and to end slavery.

Isabel, acting as the Regent, signed the final edict declaring the abolition of slavery, the "Lei √Āurea" or Golden Law, on 13 May 1888. This act earned her the sobriquet Isabel the Redemptress. For the act of signing the Golden Law, she was awarded the Golden Rose by Pope Leo XIII.

This progressive action, however, brought the imperial government into conflict with the more conservative elements of Brazilian society. At the same time, the liberal elements that the government encouraged, decided that Pedro was not willing to make reforms quickly enough, so they also rejected the imperial rule.

Although the emperor remained popular among the people, he was deposed on 15 November 1889 by a military coup and the imperial family was exiled. Isabel accompanied the other members of her family into exile in France.

When the deposed Emperor Pedro II died on 5 December 1891 in Parismarker, his daughter Isabel ascended as the Titular Empress of Brazil and Head of the Brazilian Imperial House, according to monarchists in Brazil and the related royal families from which she was descended.

Belated return from exile

In 1920, the Brazilian government rescinded the exile law imposed by the new Republican government in 1889, allowing the imperial family Isabel headed to return to Brazil. Isabel died before returning, however. At the age of seventy-five, she died on 14 November 1921 while still in exile at the Castle d'Eu, in France, and her husband, Gaston, having embarked on a ship traveling to Brazil, died on board.

On 7 July 1953, their remains were brought to Brazil aboard the cruiser, Barroso, arriving in Rio de Janeiro where they were kept until 12 May 1971. On that date their remains were taken to Petr√≥polismarker and interred in the Imperial Mausoleum at the S√£o Pedro de Alc√Ęntara Cathedral.


Isabel was a member of the House of Orleans-Bragança. The family includes royal heirs of deposed monarchies of France and Portugalmarker, in addition to the Empire of Brazilmarker and the present House of Ligne, one of oldest and the most prestigious Belgianmarker noble families.



  • Princess Isabel of Brazil: Gender and Power in the Nineteenth Century, Barman, Roderick J. 2002.

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