Maria Amélia was not married at the time she gave birth to her daughter on March 13,1907. Maria Pia claimed that, shortly thereafter, she was taken by her mother and grandparents to Madrid, Spain. There, she said, she was baptised in the Church of Saint Fermin dos Navarros on April 15 1907 and that the baptism was registered at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and Saint Aloysius. She claimed that her baptismal registration recorded that her father was "D. Carlos de Sassonia-Coburgo y Savoya de la Casa de Braganza de Portugal". This clearly refers to King Carlos I of Portugal, who at the time was married to another woman, Princess Amélie of Orléans.
The original baptismal registers of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and Saint Aloysius were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. In 1939 the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Madrid-Alcalas issued a baptismal certificate to Maria Pia with information provided to him at that time by Don Antonio Goicoechea y Cusculluela, a member of the Spanish parliament and the Governor of the Bank of Spain, who had reportedly been present at the baptism. Subsequently Maria Pia used this baptismal certificate as evidence for her claim to be the recognised daughter of King Carlos.
Maria Pia also claimed that in the archives of the Diocese of Madrid-Alcala there was a copy of a document signed by King Carlos March 14 1907 in which he recognised Maria Pia as his daughter and that "she may be called by my name and enjoy from now on the use of this name with the honours, prerogatives, rank, obligations and advantages of the princes of the House of Braganza of Portugal". Like the baptismal certificate, the original of this document did not survive.
To escape the Spanish Civil War, Maria Pia moved with her mother to Rome. In 1939 she married Giuseppe Manlio Blais, a general in the Italian carabinieri. At the time, members of the carabinieri were forbidden from marrying foreigners. The marriage was, therefore, celebrated clandestinely, and was not registered civilly until August 5, 1946. The union proved much happier and together they had a daughter, Maria da Glória Cristina Amélia Blais of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Braganza, born in 1946. Maria Cristina married the Spanish sculptor Miguel Ortíz y Berrocal (1933-2006) and together they lived in Verona and had two sons: Carlos Miguel Berrocal of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Braganza (born 1976) and Beltrão José Berrocal of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Braganza (born 1978).
In 1937, Maria Pia wrote her first book La hora de Alfonso XIII (The Hour of Alfonso XIII) published in Havana, Cuba, by Ucar, Garcia y Companía. This work, written in Spanish and published under the name "Hilda de Toledano", is a defence of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who was living in exile at the time.
In 1954, Maria Pia wrote Un beso y ... nada más: confidencia consciente de una pecadora inconsciente (A Kiss and ... Nothing More: Conscious Confidences of an Unconscious Sinner) published in Madrid by Plenitud. This work was also written in Spanish and published under the name "Hilda de Toledano". It is a novel, but one which clearly draws heavily upon certain incidents in the life of the author.
In 1957, Maria Pia wrote Mémoires d'une infante vivante (Memoirs of a Living Infanta) published in Paris by Del Duca. This work, written in French and published under the name "Maria Pia de Saxe-Cobourg Bragance", is an autobiography. It marks the first attempt of Maria Pia to receive widespread public recognition for her claim that she was the illegitimate daughter of King Carlos I of Portugal. In the book, however, Maria Pia makes no claim to any dynastic rights. The book closes with the sentence, "I claim no sceptre but my pen, no crown but that bequeathed by my father and mother: my dignity." Instead, Maria Pia suggests that the rightful heir to the Portuguese throne should be Princess Isabelle d’Orléans, eldest child of Henri, comte de Paris.
For at least several decades Maria Pia had claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of King Carlos I, and even to be entitled to the style "Her Royal Highness" and the title "Infanta". It was not, however, until 1957 that she claimed to be the rightful queen of Portugal in succession to Manuel II, the son of Carlos I (and the purported half-brother of Maria Pia) who had died childless in 1932.
On July 15, 1957 a group of Portuguese monarchists, led by a man called João António da Costa do Cabedo, addressed a petition to Maria Pia of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Braganza, asking to claim the throne (which reads as follows):
"We, the undersigned, considering:
We ask permission of Your Royal Highness to continue considering that:
We beg Your Royal Highness to accept, in Your Royal Person, the restoration of the Portuguese throne, as our Queen and Liege. Hoping that Your Royal Highness will give us the grace of being in reality, as she is already in our hearts: HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN, D. MARIA III."
In 1958 she went to Portugal where she was received by the President Francisco Craveiro Lopes; the Prime Minister, António de Oliveira Salazar, however, refused to meet her. In the presidential elections that year Maria Pia supported the failed candidacy of Humberto Delgado. She continued to support Delgado after he went into exile in Brazil.
From this point forward Maria Pia used the title "Duchess of Braganza". She attracted the support of a small minority of monarchists who were actively opposed to Salazar. The majority of monarchists supported Duarte Nuno, who also used the title Duke of Braganza and was widely recognised as such both in Portugal and throughout Europe by other royal houses. Duarte Nuno had encouraged monarchists to support Salazar in the hope that Salazar might eventually restore the monarchy in Portugal just as Francisco Franco did in Spain in 1975.
For over a century the supporters of the Miguelist line who favored the descendants of King Miguel had fought with the supporters of the Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha line from which descended the direct heirs of Queen Maria II. Duarte Nuno belonged to the branch of the Portuguese royal family descended from King Miguel, whose usurpation of the throne from his niece Queen Maria and autocratic rule led to the exile and exclusion of his heirs from the succession under the terms of the Portuguese constitution of 1838 (repealed in 1950 under Salazar.) The Miguelist line was historically associated with an autocratic monarchy, as opposed to the constitutional monarchy of Maria II and her sons Pedro and Luís along with her grandson Carlos, and his son King Manuel II. Maria Pia played on the rivalry in monarchist circles between the Miguelists and the constitutionalists, presenting herself as the "constitutional" (i.e. liberal) candidate. The support given to Salazar by Miguel's senior male-line heir at the time, Duarte Nuno in the 1950s enabled Maria Pia even more to represent herself as the liberal and democratic claimant to the Portuguese throne.
Maria Pia was very active in her claim to the Portuguese throne. Articles about her appeared in Italian and Portuguese newspapers. In February 1965 she went to Portugal to visit the tomb of King Carlos. As she was leaving Portugal and returning to Spain, she was arrested and held in custody overnight. She was released without charge at the request of the Italian embassy.
Maria Pia mixed frequently with the jet set idle rich. She claimed that for many years she maintained an ongoing friendship with the exiled King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his son Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia but this is strongly denied by the first wife of the latter, Emmanuela de Dampierre. Much correspondence exists between Maria and members of European royal families recording her efforts to gain legitimacy within royal circles, but most of the replies were merely polite but unsupportive.
In February 1972 the case between Duarte Nuno and Maria Pia moved up to the Sacred Roman Rota, the normal appeal court for the Roman Catholic Church. On December 6 1972 the court found against Duarte Nuno on the grounds that he did not have legal standing in the case, being only the second cousin twice removed of King Carlos. The court did not address the primary question of whether there was sufficient evidence for Carlos being Maria Pia’s father and thus named as such on the baptismal certificate. It did, however, question the necessity of changing a certificate which was over seventy years old.
Had the Roman Rota found in favour of Duarte Nuno, his supporters could have said that the court had determined that Carlos was not Maria Pia’s father. Since the court found against Duarte Nuno, the supporters of Maria Pia were able to say that the court had affirmed the validity of her baptismal certificate and therefore the validity of her claimed parentage – neither of which in fact actually occurred. The court found only that Duarte Nuno did not have the legal standing to bring such a case: "Patres Auditores de Turno ... decreverunt negative, seu non constare de legitimatione actoris ad causam".
In 1985 Maria Pia decided to name as her heir Rosario Poidimani, a member of what he claimed to be a Sicilian noble family - in spite of the fact that she had a living daughter and two grandsons.
On December 2 1985 Maria Pia signed a document purporting to amend the Portuguese Constitution of 1838, and recognising Poidimani as her eventual heir. On February 19 1986 she signed a second document affirming that there was a blood relationship between her and Poidimani – but not stating exactly what this relationship was.
On April 3 1987 Maria Pia signed a document abdicating her claim to the Portuguese throne and transferring her rights to Poidimani. Several weeks after the document was signed, Maria Pia and Poidimani held a ceremony in Portugal confirming the abdication. In the abdication document she stated that the reason for her action in favour of Poidimani was that she has been "totally deprived of the support of my descent".
Since 1987 Poidimani has styled himself "H.R.H. Dom Rosario of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Braganza, 22nd Duke of Braganza", and has been active in promoting his claims. He maintains an office in Vicenza, Italy where he lives, but also reportedly visits Portugal regularly. He claims to be a descendant of Luis I of Portugal and a male-line descendant of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Blind.
In December 2003 Poidimani brought a libel suit in Italy against Guy Stair Sainty on account of his published analysis of the claims of Maria Pia and Poidimani, A Brief Response to Statements Made by the Supporters of the late Maria Pia de Saxe-Coburg-Bragança, her Grandson Carlos Miguel Berrocal y Blais, and her Alleged Cognate Rosario Poidimani in Respect of their Claims to the Throne of Portugal In August 2004 the court ruled that Poidimani was not entitled to any financial compensation from Sainty .
Poidimani and Roberto Cavallaro, and six others of his close collaborators were arrested in Italy on 22 March 2007 and charged with fraud, forging documents, extortion, and criminal association. The Italian tax police seized 712 fake diplomatic passports, 600 fake diplomatic IDs, 135 forged CD plates and they also took away his throne. ;
There are no original documents which might support the first and second claims. Maria Pia's baptismal certificate from 1907 was destroyed and there is only a copy of the document in which Carlos I supposedly granted succession rights to Maria Pia.
There is no record of any relationship between Maria Pia's mother Maria Amelia Laredó e Murça and King Carlos I. On the other hand, King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his son Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia seem to have had an ongoing friendship with Maria Pia; her supporters have interpreted this relationship as an affirmation on the part of Alfonso and Jaime that they recognised Maria Pia as Carlos' illegitimate daughter.
Traditionally, the only way in which an illegitimate child of a Portuguese monarch could have been made legitimate and take his or her place in the line of succession was if his or her parents subsequently were married. At the time of Maria Pia's birth, Carlos was married to Queen Amelie and had two sons with her. Children born of adultery were specifically excluded from the line of succession.
Carlos I was the constitutional king of Portugal. He did not claim autocratic power, but instead ruled according to the Constitutional Charter of 1826 which stated that the succession to the throne passed only to legitimate descendants. The Constitution, including all matters of succession, could only be amended by the Cortes. Even if Carlos had signed a document granting succession rights to Maria Pia, it would have had no legal value at all.
Just as Carlos could not unilaterally change the Constitutional Charter and grant Maria Pia succession rights, neither could Maria Pia (even if she were rightful queen of Portugal) unilaterally change the Constitution and grant succession rights to Rosario Poidimani above her daughter and grandsons.