An Emperor's Heart Gets Hero's Welcome in Brazil

Nation is honoring the late Dom Pedro I
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2022 1:55 PM CDT
This Embalmed Heart Was Flown From Europe to Brazil
A Portuguese military officer disembarks a plane carrying a reliquary containing the heart of Brazil's former emperor Dom Pedro I as it is given a military honors ceremony at the air base in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.   (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

To mark the bicentennial of its independence from Portugal, Brazil is welcoming a special guest: Emperor Pedro I, or part of him, at least. Per the BBC, the former emperor’s embalmed heart arrived Monday on a Brazilian air force plane under fighter escort. Brazil’s foreign ministry said the “heart will be received like a head of state, it will be treated as if Dom Pedro I was still living amongst us.” The relic is on loan from the government of Portugal, where it will be returned in a few weeks after a public display. Per Reuters, the heart—which is preserved in formaldehyde within a golden urn—was to be received Tuesday at the presidential palace with “military honors and a gun salute.”

The Guardian reports that Dom Pedro I is celebrated “as a champion of liberal causes and representative rule” in both Brazil and Portugal, where he helped preserve the nation’s constitutional monarchy. Born in Lisbon, Dom Pedro was son of Portuguese King John VI. The family fled to Brazil in 1807 to escape Napoleon. The king returned home in 1821, leaving his son in charge of what was then a colony. A year later, against his father’s wishes, Dom Pedro declared Brazil’s independence and was crowned emperor. He abdicated in 1831 and returned to Portugal to tend to political matters following his father’s death. However, Dom Pedro died of tuberculosis in 1834, and his last wish was that his heart be preserved in the Portuguese city of Porto.

This event is not without precedent: in 1972, at the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship, Pedro’s heartless body was returned to Brazil to mark the 150th independence anniversary, and it's been in a crypt in Sao Paulo ever since. One critic of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro calls the heart spectacle “a farce,” and says, “We should ask ourselves what kind of way this is to think about history—a dead history stuck in time, like the stopped organ of a deceased emperor.” (More Brazil stories.)

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