Synopses & Reviews
In a time of terror for Europe’s monarchs--imprisoned, exiled, executed--Napoleon’s army marched toward Lisbon. Cornered, Prince Regent João had to make the most fraught decision of his life. Protected by the British Navy, he fled to Brazil with his entire family, including his mentally ill mother, most of the nobility, and the entire state apparatus. Thousands made the voyage, but it was no luxury cruise. It took two months in cramped, decrepit ships. Sickness ran rampant. Lice infested some of the vessels, and noble women had to shave their hair and grease their bald heads with antiseptic sulfur. Vermin infested the food, and bacteria contaminated the drinking water. No European monarch had ever set foot in the Americas, let alone relocating an entire court there. A week after landing, Prince João opened Brazil’s ports, liberating the colony from a trade monopoly with Portugal. While explorers mapped the burgeoning nation’s distant regions, the prince authorized the construction of roads, the founding of schools, and the creation of factories, raising Brazil to kingdom status in 1815. Meanwhile, under French control, Portugal was suffering the dire effects of famine and war. Never had the country lost so many people in so little time. But after Napoleon’s fall and over a decade of misery, the Portuguese demanded the return of their king. João sailed back in tears, but because of him Brazil remained whole and powerful. As he left, the last chapter of colonial Brazil drew to a close, setting the stage for the strong, independent nation that we know today, changing the history of the New World forever.
"Incapable of fending off Napoleon, Portugal's Prince Regent JoÃ£o ruling since 1799 in the stead of his demented mother bluffed France with promises of surrender while signing a secret agreement with Britain to secure safe passage to Brazil for JoÃ£o and his entire court, comprising up to 15,000 people. On November 29, 1807, the fleet set sail from Lisbon, leaving Portugal at the mercy of Napoleon (who once declared JoÃ£o 'the only one who tricked me'). During the 13 years that JoÃ£o reigned in exile from Rio de Janeiro, Portugal lost one-sixth of its population half a million people due to emigration, starvation, or in battle. Meanwhile, 'the idle, corrupt, and wasteful' royal court stayed financially afloat by levying taxes on Brazilians and granting titles in exchange for donations from wealthy colonists many of them slave traffickers. Nevertheless, the weird king (he had a 'crippling fear of crustaceans and thunder' and had a valet regularly masturbate him) raised Brazil to the status of a kingdom in union with Portugal, improved infrastructure, reorganized the government, promoted the arts, and essentially began the process of decolonization. Despite Nevins's awkward translation, Gomes's (1822: The Prince Left Behind) account is fascinating. Illus. and 2 maps. Agent: Jonah Straus, Straus Literary. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Laurentino Gomes is a journalist and the bestselling author of 1808: The Flight of the Emperor, the first volume in a trilogy on the history of Brazil, which has sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide and was named by the Brazilian Academy of Letters as 2008’s best work of nonfiction. He lives in São Paulo.