The Curse of the Braganzas
The Curse of the Braganzas is a myth related to the reigning families of the Kingdom of Portugal (1139-1910) and the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889). Legend says that this supposed curse, affecting the House of Braganza, begun with the Portuguese King João IV in the 17th century, when a Franciscan friar had asked the king to give him alms and João IV answered by kicking the priest. The friar apparently said that no firstborn male child would ever live enough time to become king. Coincidence or not, almost all firstborn male heirs died before they ever reigned.
João IV’s heir, Teodósio, died at 19 of tuberculosis. Afonso VI, his younger brother, had no children and then the crown went to another brother, Pedro II, whose firstborn male child (João) died as a baby. A second boy, bearing the same name, became João V. King João V’s heir (Pedro) died when he was 2 years-old, so it was his younger brother who reigned in Portugal as José I. José I was the father of four girls, and the oldest became Queen Maria I. However, her male heir, José, never became king, having died of smallpox at 27. João VI, his younger brother, ended up taking the reins of the kingdom. His firstborn male descendent, Francisco António, also died as a child of 6. His younger brother, Pedro, eventually became the first Emperor of Brazil (Pedro I) and briefly king of Portugal (Pedro IV), but he abdicated in favor of his children Pedro II of Brazil and Maria II of Portugal. His first boy, Miguel, had also died as a baby.
In Brazil, Emperor Pedro II lost his 2 year-old heir, opening the door for his daughter, Isabel, to succeed him. In Portugal, Pedro V, son of Maria II, was the firstborn male heir to ever become king (more than two centuries after João IV’s reign began!), but after six years, he died of typhoid fever at 24. After this, his younger brother Luís substituted him on the throne, and his eldest child, Carlos, the second to defy the “curse”, became Carlos I at 26. Although he reigned for almost 20 years, this king and his heir Luís Filipe had a most tragic ending. Both were casualties of the 1908 regicide. Carlos I’s younger son, Manuel II, reigned for a little over 2 years before the Republican system was implemented in Portugal. He did not have issue.