Maria I of Portugal: The First Queen Regnant

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Maria I of Portugal: The First Queen Regnant

Maria I of Portugal, also known as Maria the Pious, was the first queen regnant of Portugal and Brazil. She was born on December 17, 1734, in Lisbon, Portugal, and was the daughter of King Joseph I and Mariana Victoria of Spain. Her reign lasted from 1777 to 1816 and was marked by political and social reforms, as well as by religious conservatism.

Early Life and Marriage

Maria I was born into a royal family that had been ruling Portugal since the 12th century. She received a well-rounded education, with a focus on religion, languages, and the arts. In 1760, she married her uncle, Peter III of Portugal, who became king after her father’s death in 1777. Their marriage was reportedly unhappy, and Peter III was not popular among the Portuguese people.

Reign as Queen

After her husband’s death in 1786, Maria I assumed the throne and became the first queen regnant of Portugal and Brazil. Her reign was marked by political and social reforms, including the establishment of a ministry of foreign affairs and the abolition of the slave trade in Portugal and its colonies. She also founded the Real Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, a scientific institution that still exists today.

However, Maria I was also known for her religious conservatism and her devotion to the Catholic Church. She supported the Inquisition, which was responsible for the persecution of Jews and other religious minorities in Portugal. Her reign was also marked by the suppression of the Jesuits, who were accused of promoting Enlightenment ideas and of challenging the power of the monarchy.

Lapse into Madness

In 1792, Maria I suffered a severe mental breakdown and was declared unfit to rule. Her son, Prince John, who later became King John VI, assumed the regency and ruled Portugal until Maria I’s death in 1816. Maria I lived the remaining years of her life in seclusion and was unable to perform her duties as queen.


Maria I’s reign is remembered for both her political and social reforms and her religious conservatism. She was a patron of the arts and spent considerable amounts of money on the construction and decoration of palaces and churches in Lisbon. Her legacy is still visible in the city’s architecture, as well as in the many cultural institutions she founded or supported.

The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Maria I of Portugal: The First Queen Regnant

Maria I is one of the most remarkable and influential figures in the history of Portugal, and her legacy has been the subject of many debates and discussions over the years. As the first queen regnant of Portugal, she played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s political, social, and cultural landscape during the 18th century. In this post, we aim to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Maria I and her reign.

1. Who was Maria I of Portugal?

Maria I was born on December 17, 1734, in Lisbon, Portugal. She was the eldest daughter of King Joseph I of Portugal and his wife, Mariana Victoria of Spain. Maria I became queen after the death of her father, and she ruled from 1777 to 1816.

2. Why was Maria I important?

Maria I was important because she was the first queen regnant of Portugal, which means that she held the title of queen in her own right, rather than as the consort of a king. Her reign was marked by significant political, social, and cultural changes that helped to shape Portugal’s future.

3. What were some of the major events that occurred during Maria I’s reign?

During Maria I’s reign, Portugal experienced a number of significant events, including the following:

– The Távora affair: A conspiracy against the king that led to the execution of members of the Távora family and a number of other nobles.

– The expulsion of the Jesuits: Maria I expelled the Jesuits from Portugal in 1759, which had a significant impact on the country’s education system and cultural life.

– The earthquake of 1755: A catastrophic earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755, killing tens of thousands of people and causing widespread destruction.

– The invasion of Portugal by Napoleon’s army: Maria I was forced to flee to Brazil in 1807 after Napoleon’s army invaded Portugal.

4. What was Maria I’s relationship with her husband, Pedro III?

Maria I was married to Pedro III, who was also her uncle. Their marriage was arranged for political reasons, and although it was not a love match, they had a good working relationship. Pedro III served as co-regent with Maria I until his death in 1786.

5. Did Maria I have any children?

Maria I had four children with Pedro III: José, Infante of Portugal; João Carlos, Prince of Brazil; Pedro, Prince of Brazil; and Maria Francisca, Princess of Brazil. Her eldest son, José, succeeded her as king of Portugal.

6. What was Maria I’s religious affiliation?

Maria I was a devout Catholic and was known for her piety. She was heavily influenced by the Jesuits, especially during her early years as queen.

7. How did Maria I contribute to the arts and culture of Portugal?

Maria I was a patron of the arts and supported many writers, musicians, and artists during her reign. She also founded the Academy of Fine Arts in Lisbon and supported the construction of several other cultural institutions.

8. How did Maria I die?

Maria I died on March 20, 1816, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she had been living in exile. She was buried in the Royal Pantheon in Lisbon, Portugal.

Maria I of Portugal: The First Queen Regnant

Maria I of Portugal was the first queen regnant of Portugal, who ruled from 1777 to 1816. Born on December 17, 1734, in Lisbon, Portugal, Maria was the eldest daughter of King Jose I and Queen Mariana Victoria of Spain. When her father died in 1777, Maria became the queen regnant of Portugal, a rare occurrence in European history where most monarchs were male.

Early Life and Education

Maria’s education began at a young age and included subjects such as languages, history, music, and philosophy. Her father, King Jose I, was a patron of the arts, music, and architecture, and he encouraged Maria’s artistic and intellectual development. Maria was fluent in several languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian.


In 1760, Maria married her uncle Pedro III, who was appointed King of Portugal in 1777 after her father’s death. The marriage was arranged by Maria’s father to strengthen the political ties between Portugal and Spain. Although Maria and Pedro had a happy marriage, they did not have any children.


When Maria became queen regnant in 1777, she faced several challenges. Portugal was a small country and faced economic and military difficulties. However, Maria was a popular queen and was known for her piety and generosity. She was deeply religious and took her responsibilities as monarch seriously.

One of Maria’s first acts as queen was to pardon many of the individuals who were imprisoned by her father’s government. She also implemented reforms to improve the living conditions of her subjects, including the establishment of hospitals, schools, and charitable institutions.

Maria’s reign was not without challenges. In 1789, a conspiracy known as the Tavora Affair was uncovered, which implicated several nobles in an attempt to assassinate the king and queen. Maria responded decisively, executing several individuals and exiling others.

In 1807, Portugal was invaded by Napoleon’s forces, and the royal family was forced to flee to Brazil. Maria ruled from Rio de Janeiro until 1816 when she returned to Portugal.


Maria I’s reign was significant for several reasons. As the first queen regnant of Portugal, she established the precedent that women could ascend to the throne. She also implemented several social and economic reforms, which benefited her subjects. Her piety and dedication to her duties as monarch earned her the loyalty and respect of her people.

In conclusion, Maria I of Portugal was a significant figure in Portuguese history. Her reign was marked by social and economic reforms, religious piety, and loyalty to her people. As the first queen regnant of Portugal, she helped pave the way for future women monarchs.

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Maria I of Portugal: The First Queen Regnant