Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies – The Saint of Brazil (Part one)




teresa cristina
(public domain)

Teresa Cristina of the Two Sicilies was born on 14 March 1822 in Naples as the daughter of King Francis I of the Two Sicilies and Maria Isabella of Spain. She was known to be timid and lost her father at an early age. She was reportedly not close to her mother after she remarried. Teresa Cristina would be one of twelve siblings; she had six brothers and five sisters.

teresa cristina
The portrait that was sent to Brazil (public domain)

By early 1841, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil was looking for a wife, and the Two Sicilies offered the hands of Teresa Cristina. At the same time, Pedro was looking for a husband for his sister Januária, who should preferably be from the same family as his bride. He initially wanted a Habsburg bride, but a suitable one could not be found. The offer from the Two Sicilies came at the right time. The Brazilian liaison described her as, “of marriageable age, good looking, and well educated, from a temperate climate, and in blood of the most illustrious.”1 The marriage treaty was soon signed without the bride and groom meeting, as was usual. A portrait was sent to Brazil along with the marriage treaty. On 13 August 1842, the Brazilians sent back their ratification of the marriage treaty with a portrait of the Emperor. It wasn’t until 3 March 1843 that a squadron of three ships departed Brazil to fetch the new Empress. The ship had to be lavishly decorated, and an entourage had to be selected for her.

During these months of waiting, Teresa Cristina wrote to her future husband, “Be certain also that I will do everything in my power to contribute to that of your Majesty; my entire desire will be to please you and to merit, thanks to the advice you may kindly wish to give me, the affection of your subjects.”2 On 30 May 1843, the proxy marriage took place, and Teresa Cristina wrote to her future husband that her brother Prince Louis, Count of Aquila, would be accompanying her. On 3 September 1843, Teresa Cristina arrived in her new homeland. The meeting with Pedro was not quite as everyone had hoped. Pedro was apparently disgusted with her looks, and she knew it, breaking down in tears to her lady-in-waiting and saying, “Elisa, the Emperor did not like me.”3 She apparently considered throwing herself overboard.  It took hours to convince him that he could not repudiate her. Teresa Cristina was described as “not ugly but also not pretty.”4 She also walked with a pronounced limp. Despite the first impression, the wedding was set for the following day.

Teresa Cristina dressed in a “dress of white lace over white satin, with a single band of splendid large Brazilian diamonds, to confine her jet black hair. Altogether, the appearance of the Princess was rather prepossessing. She is plain, modest, intelligent looking, and exceedingly healthy – although not what would be called a beautiful lady.”5 Pedro reportedly refused to consummate the marriage for several days, and it wasn’t until Teresa Cristina broke down and asked to be sent back to her parents, that he was touched and consummated the marriage. It would never be a loving marriage, but Teresa Cristina adapted, as many royal women did.

Teresa Cristina’s brother had made a good impression of Pedro’s sister and on 28 April 1844, Januária and Louis were married. Pedro and Louis had been friendly at first, but for some reason, the relationship between Pedro and Louis deteriorated rapidly, and by the middle of July, they were no longer on speaking terms. In September, Januária and Louis were excluded from the Imperial couple’s first wedding anniversary celebrations. Once when Pedro refused to accompany his wife, sister and brother-in-law to a ball, Louis said, “Well, we are going to dance, and we leave you in your convent.”6Pedro began to see his new brother-in-law as a threat. At the end of 1844, Januária and Louis sailed from Rio de Janeiro never to return.

teresa cristina
(public domain)

On 23 February 1845, Teresa Cristina gave birth to her first child – a son. It was recorded that, “as soon as the empress had given birth the emperor, who had not quitted her side for an instant, took the young prince in his arms and, showing him to the people around him, said with emotion: ‘Gentlemen, it is prince whom God…’ at which point sobs choked his voice.”7 Teresa Cristina quickly conceived again, and she gave birth to a daughter named Isabel after a long labour on 29 July 1846. She was pregnant with her third child when tragedy struck on 11 June 1847. Young Afonso died from convulsions at the age of two and a half. Just one month later, Teresa Cristina gave birth to a second daughter – named Leopoldina. A second son named Pedro was born on 19 July 1848 to great relief, but he would die before his second birthday. Pedro wrote, “This has been the most fatal blow that I could receive, and certainly I would not have survived were it not that I still have my wife and two children, whom I must educate so that they can assure the happiness of the country in which they were born.”8 Pedro and Teresa Cristina had found a common interest in their children and they had grown closer in their marriage. Pedro treated his wife with respect, and she called him, “my dear and always beloved Pedro”9 but it was mostly a facade. Teresa Cristina passed her days with knitting, reading and writing letters. She was also religious and often gave alms. She had a close group of ladies-in-waiting. She really only wore jewels on state occasions and was adored by the palace staff. She was described as “kindly in her manner, but a certain vein of sadness in her character.”10 She showered her affection on her children and later also on her grandchildren.

After having given birth to four children in a short time, it was perhaps expected that Teresa Cristina would give birth to more children, but she did not become pregnant again. The cause of this is not clear as she was in generally good health and still only 28 years old. Pedro did manage to pick up a mistress in the form of Maria Leopoldina Navarro de Andrade. The Empire of Brazil adhered to male-preference primogeniture which meant that the throne could pass to a woman if she had no brothers. Isabel, their eldest daughter, thus became Princess Imperial of Brazil as the new heir.

Read part two here.

  1. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick Barman p.87
  2. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick Barman p.96-97
  3. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick Barman p.97
  4. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick Barman p.97
  5. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick Barman p.99
  6. Citizen Emperor by Roderick J. Barman p.105
  7. Citizen Emperor by Roderick J. Barman p.110
  8. Princess Isabel of Brazil: Gender and Power in the Nineteenth Century by Roderick Barman p. 25
  9. Citizen Emperor by Roderick J. Barman p.144
  10. Citizen Emperor by Roderick J. Barman p.144






About Moniek Bloks 2055 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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