The future Queen of Portugal was born on 28 September 1865 to Antoine of Orléans and Luisa Fernanda of Spain. Through her father, she was the granddaughter of the last King of France, Louis-Philippe I and through her mother, she was the granddaughter of Ferdinand VII of Spain.
On 22 May 1886, she was married to Carlos, who was at the time the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne. It was an arranged marriage, and it was not even popular at first. It was probably never a love match, but they got along.
They had three children, but one of them was stillborn or died shortly after birth.
- Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza (21 March 1887 – 1 February 1908)
- Maria Anna of Portugal (born and died on 14 December 1887)
- Manuel II of Portugal (15 November 1889 – 2 July 1932)
Amélie became Queen on 19 October 1889 when her husband succeeded as King. Though Amélie was personally popular, her husband was known for his mistresses, and the general popularity of the Portuguese monarchy dwindled.
It was on 1 February 1908 that tragedy struck. Amélie, her husband and their sons, were returning to Lisbon. While their carriage passed through Rua do Arsenal, several shots were fired from the crowd. The shots came from two men, Alfredo Costa and Manuel Buica, who were members of a revolutionary society called the Carbonária.
Inside the carriage was a bloodbath. Carlos I had died immediately from a bullet to the neck and both sons were hit by bullets. Only Amélie was unharmed by the bullets even though she had tried to shield their youngest son, Manuel. She had stood up as one of the assassins stood on the carriage step and struck him with the bouquet of flowers she had in her hand while shouting ‘Infames, Infames!’ (Infamous) at him. Their eldest son, Luís Felipe, was fatally wounded by bullets to the head and chest as he attempted to draw a concealed weapon and he would die just twenty minutes later. He is not recognised as King because Portuguese law requires an acclamation by Parliament before a new reign commences. The assassins were killed by royal bodyguards.
The carriage was directed to the Arsenal das Marinhas where both Carlos I and Luís Felipe were declared dead. Maria Pia of Savoy, mother of Carlos I, was called the Arsenal das Marinhas where she encountered a desolate Amélie, who apparently cried ‘They have killed my son!’ in French upon which Maria Pia replied ‘Mine too!’
The two women and the surviving son, Manuel, returned to the Palácio das Neccessidades under heavy guard due to fear of another attack. The bodies of Carlos I and Luís Felipe were transported as if they were still alive, propped up as if they were still breathing.
The next day Manuel was acclaimed King of Portugal as Manuel II. It must have been an emotional day for all those involved. Amélie was the last Queen of Portugal. Manuel would be deposed on 5 August 1910, and he only married after he was deposed to Augusta Victoria of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
Amélie was a great influence on the young King during the two years of his reign. She knew he had not been properly prepared for his role. When the revolution began, Amélie came to his side. When the Palacio das Neccessidades was hit by warships, they were forced to leave. They headed towards Gibraltar on the appropriately named yacht Amélia.
Maria Pia returned home to Italy, while the others left for England, where Amélie’s brother lived. However, when her mother and brother-in-law died in 1919 and 1920, Amélie decided to leave England. She chose to live in Chesnoy in the Château de Bellevue in France. She lived there for the next 30 years. She saw her son for the last time in 1932. She formed a surprisingly close bond with António de Oliveira Salazar who ruled Portugal as its virtual dictator. At the end of the Second World War, he invited her to Portugal, and she arrived there on the same day she had arrived as Carlos’ fiancée. She visited the tombs of her husband, her sons and her baby daughter. A visit to the Palace of Pena had left her in tears. When she left Portugal, the station was filled with people waving her goodbye.
The last three years of her life were severely affected by her ill-health. She suffered from heart problems and mental illness. She finally died on 25 October 1951. She received the funeral of reigning Queen on the orders of Salazar. She wore the dress she had worn on the day of her husband and son’s assassination, still stained with their blood. She was buried with her family, and her tomb reads, ‘Here rests in God, D. Amelia of Orléans and Bragança, Queen on the Throne, in Charity and in Pain’, which seems fitting for such a life.