Princess Januária of Brazil was born on 11 March 1822 as the second daughter of Pedro I of Brazil and IV of Portugal and his first wife, Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria. She was born at the Imperial Palace of São Cristóvão in Rio de Janeiro. Her elder sister Maria became Queen of Portugal in her own right. Two elder brothers died in infancy, as did a younger sister named Paula. She had a younger sister named Francisca and her younger brother named Pedro succeeded their father as Emperor of Brazil. From her father’s second marriage, she also had a half-sister named Maria Amélia. She also had several illegitimate half-siblings.
The family and the court moved between three residences: the Imperial Palace of São Cristóvão, the Palace da Cidade and the palace on the fazenda (estate) of Santa Cruz. In 1824, Frei Antônio de Arrábida, her father’s confessor, was named as the director of studies for Januária and her sisters. A strict schedule was also adhered to: they were to rise at 7 in the morning and to go to bed no later than half-past eight, meals were taken at 8 in the morning, at noon and at 7 in the evening. Lessons were in the morning and exercise was in the afternoon. Maria, Januária, Paula and Francisca lived apart from their brother, who was the heir to the throne. Nevertheless, they were considered to be close but they were always expected to be deferential to him.
In March 1826, Pedro I also succeeded his father as King of Portugal but a union of the crown of Portugal and Brazil was not acceptable to either nation. And so, on 2 May 1826, he abdicated the Portuguese throne in favour of his eldest daughter Maria, who was just seven years old. Maria received her own establishment within the palace. Maria was also betrothed to her uncle Miguel who would act as regent. However, Miguel pretended to accept this but once he was declared regent, he deposed Maria and declared himself King. Januária was just four years old when her mother died shortly after suffering a miscarriage at the end of 1826. Maria left for Gibraltar in 1828 but she would not see her throne restored to her until 1834.
In 1829, their father remarried to Amélie of Leuchtenberg and Maria accompanied her new stepmother to Rio de Janeiro, arriving on 16 October. In the early hours of 7 April 1831, Pedro I abdicated the imperial crown of Brazil in favour of his young son Pedro II and immediately travelled to Europe with Maria and his second wife, to support his daughter’s rights. He took the title of Duke of Braganza and became regent in her name. He left behind four sleeping children – including the new 5-year-old Emperor. The following day, a scared and devastated Pedro wrote, “When I got up and could not find Y.I.M. and Mama in order to kiss your hand, I could not contain myself and I still cannot. My dear father, I beg Y.I.M. never to forget this your child who will always show obedience, respect and love for the best of fathers so early lost to your child respectfully kisses your august hands.”1 Originally written in pencil, he only managed the first line in pen before bursting into tears. After his proclamation and the appointment of three regents for the young Emperor, life continued much as it did before for him and his three sisters. However, the siblings were left without their father and stepmother.
Tragedy struck once more in early 1833 when Paula, who had been sickly since her early years, became ill with meningitis or malaria. After three weeks of agony, during which she was treated with quinine both orally and anally, was stuffed with soups and had leeches, mustard plaster and burning chemicals applied to her skin, she died on 16 January 1833 at the age of 9.2 The siblings were devastated at the loss of Paula. In addition, this left only Januária and Francisca as their brother’s heirs. In 1834, their father died in Lisbon of tuberculosis. The siblings’ first instinct was to seek out each other, showing their strong bond.
As they grew up and Pedro became more aware of his exalted status, he still treated his sisters with kindness but he did expect them to do what he wanted. Their close relationship also meant they had little contact with the outside world and Pedro was especially noted for his lack of social skills. Januária and Francisca were probably no different. In 1835, their elder sister Maria was officially excluded from the Brazilian line of succession and Januária became heiress presumptive to her brother. The following year, she declared an oath and became the Princess Imperial of Brazil, a title she held until the birth of her nephew Prince Afonso in 1845.3