When Maria's grandfather King John VI died in March 1826, there was a succession crisis in Portugal. The king had a male heir, Peter, but Peter had proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822 and he was then Emperor Peter I of that country. The late king also had a younger son, Michael, but he was exiled in Austria after leading a number of revolutions against his father and his liberal regime.
Before his death, the king had nominated his favorite daughter, Isabel Maria, to serve as regent until "the legitimate heir returned to the Kingdom" — but he had failed to specify which of his sons was the legitimate heir. Peter, the liberal Emperor of Brazil, or Michael, the absolutist exiled prince?
Most people considered Peter to be the legitimate heir, but nobody wanted him to unite Portugal and Brazil's thrones again. The European country had been under Brazilian rule when both were part of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, established by the King John VI during his stay in Rio de Janeiro from 1808 until 1820. Aware that his brother's supporters were ready to bring Michael back and put him in the throne, Peter decided for a more consensual option; he abdicated the throne to his eldest daughter, Maria da Glória (who was only seven years old), and she should marry her uncle Michael, who should accept the liberal constitution and act as a regent until his niece was an adult.
Michael pretended to accept, but when he arrived in Portugal he deposed Maria and proclaimed himself King, abrogating the liberal constitution in the process. During his reign of terror, Maria traveled to many European courts, including her grandfather's in Vienna, as well as London and Paris.
Peter abdicated the Brazilian throne in 1831 in favor of his son (and Maria's younger brother, Peter II), and from his base in the Azores he attacked Michael, forcing him to abdicate in 1834. Maria was thereupon restored to the throne, and obtained an annulment of her marriage.
On 1 January 1836 she married the cultured and able Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha who ruled with her as a co-monarch. He received the title of King in 1837, in accordance with Portuguese custom, upon the birth of their first child Peter, an heir to the throne.
In 1842, Pope Gregory XVI gave Maria a Golden Rose.
Maria's reign saw a revolutionary insurrection on May 16, 1846, but this was crushed by royalist troops on February 22, 1847, and Portugal otherwise avoided the European upheavals of 1848. Maria's reign was also notable for a public health act aimed at curbing the spread of cholera throughout the country. She also pursued policies aimed at raising the levels of education throughout the country.
After constant pregnancies and births, doctors informed Maria of the dangers of giving birth to nearly one child per year. She ignored the risks that had killed her mother, who died of miscarriage; "If I die, I die in my post", Maria said. Finally she died while giving birth to Prince Eugene in 1853.
Maria II is remembered as a good mother and a kind person, who always acted according to her convictions in the attempt to help her country. She was later given the surname "The Good Mother."
|Auguste, 2nd Duke of Leuchtenberg (December 9 1810-March 28 1835; married in 1835)|
|By Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg- and Gotha (October 29 1816-December 15 1885; married on April 9 1836)|
|Peter V||September 16 1837||November 11 1861||Who succeeded his mother as Peter V, the 31st (or according to some historians 32nd) King of Portugal.|
|Luís I||October 31 1838||October 19 1889||Who succeeded his brother Peter as the 32nd (or according to some historians 33rd) King of Portugal.|
|Infanta Maria||October 4 1840||October 4 1840|
|Infante João||March 16 1842||December 27 1861||Duke of Beja|
|Infanta Maria Ana||August 21 1843||February 5 1884||Married King George of Saxony and was mother of King Frederick August III of Saxony.|
|Infanta Antónia||February 17 1845||December 27 1913||Married Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern and was the mother of King Ferdinand I of Romania.|
|Infante Fernando||July 23 1846||November 6 1861||Died of cholera in 1861.|
|Infante Augusto||November 4 1847||September 26 1889||Duke of Coimbra.|
|Infante Leopoldo||May 7 1849||May 7 1849|
|Infanta Maria da Glória||February 3 1851||February 3 1851|
|Infante Eugénio||November 15 1853||November 15 1853|
See also: List of Portuguese monarchs