Royal Tea: Maria I of Portugal


Valeria Velasquez

For the past decade or so, Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton, along with Prince Harry’s engagement, has been all the rage (well, not really, but British Royal gossip is certainly the best raging hot cup of royal tea we’ve got.) While I am certainly not one of those period drama-obsessed Tumblr girls who, with a hopeless, exasperated sigh say, “Ugh, I was born in the wrong era,” I am thoroughly fascinated with the scandals that stem from the lives of the fabulously wealthy and the passionately despised. From incest to unprecedented love affairs, this blog will feature the sociopolitical and just plain weird circumstances of past and present prominent families and emperors. This week’s hot cup of tea deals with a conflict that is moderately (but not insanely) incestous… let’s just say that Maria the First, Queen of Portugal, has a mind-boggling family tree.
Maria I was the first queen of Portugal. It can therefore be assumed that her belly was always full of extravagant food and that poverty was a concept she had no experience with; yet, Maria’s life was plagued with misfortune. When poor Maria was 26 years old, she married the brother of her father. And let’s face it… a plotline where you marry someone in your family isn’t the sexiest trope in a contemporary romance novel on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. Needless to say, the 1760 award for father of the year does not go to Joseph the I of Portugal, who, in efforts to combat the Portuguese law that barred princesses from reigning if they married foreign-born royals, had his daughter marry his brother Peter III of Portugal, who was only three years younger than him.
As is expected when you marry your uncle (ugh, I hate it when that happens…) misfortune is inevitable. Maria I went on to have six children and one stillborn baby. The family tree became even more stomach-churning when Maria’s 15-year-old son married her younger sister, Benedita, who was twice his age. If you got out a piece of paper and a pen in effort to detangle this mess of a family tree, then you’ve certainly come to the harsh realization that Peter III’s relation to the royal family is a confusing one, given that his daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and niece are the same person.
I’d like to end this edition of Historic Tea by saying that incest wasn’t Maria’s biggest feat. Maria I of Portugal was the first Queen consort of Portugal and had a prominent role in the Brazilian economy, yet too often her name is tarnished by her uncle (who so happens to be the father of her children). But being brutally honest, the latter is much more interesting!