Today in World History: July 18th

Pedro II was crowned as Emperor of Brazil on this day in 1841. Although he was crowned in 1841, Pedro rose to the throne in 1831, at the age of five. The son of Emperor Pedro I, he was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. Due to trouble in Brazil, Pedro I abdicated the throne and fled to Europe, where he had family. Pedro II spent most of his childhood preparing for his rule, resulting in his unhappiness in life and resentment of his position. At the age of sixteen, Pedro was crowned, and began his fifty-eight year reign. Although Brazil was on the verge of collapsing when he rose to power, Pedro managed to keep the Empire intact, and making it into a local powerhouse, setting up the country to develop rapidly. Unlike some of the other South American nations, who were all Spanish colonies, the former Portuguese colony was known for its stability, freedom, culture, and economy. Pedro also led the country to victory in three wars, against Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay. During the height of his power and popularity, a small group of military leaders, who desired for a republic led by a dictator, staged a coup d’état in 1889. Pedro, who did not enjoy his role as emperor, was exiled from Brazil, but refused any offer of restoring the monarchy by other political parties. He lived in Europe as a poor man for the last two years of his life, until he died in 1891 at the age of sixty-six of complications from pneumonia. His people adored him, as did some of the greatest scientists and artists of the time, like Darwin and Wagner, and so eventually did the people who overthrew him. They held him as an example of the republic they desired, and a few decades after his death, Pedro II’s remains were returned to Brazil and his reputation restored.

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