Portrait of Maria I (1734-1816), Queen of Portugal (1777-1816), Regency (1792-1816)
Maria I (Portuguese: Maria I de Portugal; 17 December 1734 – 20 March 1816) was Queen of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves. Known as Maria the Pious (in Portugal), or Maria the Mad (in Brazil), she was the first undisputed Queen regnant of Portugal and the first monarch of Brazil. Maria was born at the Ribeira Palace in Lisbon. On the day of her birth, her grandfather, King John V of Portugal, created her the Princess of Beira. When her father succeeded to the throne in 1750 as Joseph I, Maria, at age 16 and as his eldest child, became his heiress presumptive and was given the traditional titles of Princess of Brazil and Duchess of Braganza. In 1777, Maria became the first undisputed queen regnant of Portugal. With Maria's accession, her husband became king as Peter III. Despite Peter's status as king and the nominal joint reign, the actual regal authority was vested solely in Maria, as she was the lineal heir of the crown. Also, as Peter's kingship was iure uxoris only, his reign would cease in the event of Maria's death, and the crown would pass to Maria's descendants. However, Peter predeceased his wife. Maria is considered as having been a good ruler in the period prior to her madness. Her first act as queen was to dismiss the popular Secretary of State of the kingdom, the Marquess of Pombal, who had broken the power of the reactionary aristocracy via the Távora affair, partially because of Pombal's Enlightenment, anti-Jesuit policies. Noteworthy events of this period include Portugal's membership in the League of Armed Neutrality (July 1782) and the 1781 cession of Delagoa Bay from Austria to Portugal. Queen Maria suffered from religious mania and melancholia. This acute mental illness made her incapable of handling state affairs after 1792. Maria's madness was first officially noticed in 1786, when Maria had to be carried back to her apartments in a state of delirium. Afterward, the queen's mental state became increasingly worse. In May 1786, her husband died; Maria was devastated and forbade any court entertainments. According to a contemporary, state festivities began to resemble religious ceremonies. Her condition worsened after the death of her eldest son, aged 27, from smallpox, and of her confessor, in 1791. In February 1792, she was deemed mentally insane and was treated by Francis Willis, the same physician who attended King George III of Great Britain. Willis wanted to take her to England, but the plan was refused by the Portuguese court. Maria's second son (eldest surviving) and new heir-apparent, John (Portuguese: João VI), took over the government in her name, even though he only took the title of Prince Regent in 1799.
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