The queen of Portugal’s correspondence with queen Victoria gives us a fantastic insight into the private life of two powerful women, both married to princes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who are struggling to conciliate motherhood with the responsibility (and pleasure) of power.
When only seven years old, Maria da Gloria became queen of Portugal. A country, on the other side of the ocean, where she had never been. She grew up in Brazil, spending the long warm days between the green hillocks and the white sandy beaches, secure in the love of her dearest mother, Leopoldina of Austria.
The only shadow cast over this happiness was her father’s mistress, Domitília, the favourite and most famous mistress of D. Pedro, the emperor of Brazil. In 1828 she departed for Vienna to be educated in her grandfather’s court, but when she lost the throne to her uncle Miguel, she ended up in London. She became
King George IV’s protégé and he commissioned Lawrence to paint her portrait (on this book’s cover). During her stay in London she met the heir presumptive, Alexandrina Victoria, and they forged a close bond that lasted a lifetime. When she was fourteen, the civil was coming to an end and D. Maria set foot, for the first time, on her country’s soil. Finally on the throne, she promised herself that she would be a good queen, and a happier one than her dearest mother had been. Her marriage to D. Fernando of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, father of her eleven children, was truly a blissfull, as she confides in her letters to her “Dear cousin Victoria” – now a queen herself, and married to Fernando’s first cousin, Albert.