Dom Pedro II (Peter II, 1825-1891) was the last ruler of the Empire of Brazil, reigning for over 58 years. The emperor had a lonely childhood and adolescence with rare moments of happiness; he spent most of his time studying in preparation for ruling.
Pedro grew into a strong leader, dutiful and devoted to his country and people. He was patient, tolerant, progressive and ruled by paying close attention to public opinion and dialoguing with both liberal and conservative parties.
Under his rule, the Empire of Brazil distinguished itself from the rest of Hispanic America. It was politically stable, guaranteed freedom of speech, respected civil rights and had fast economic growth. Brazil was victorious in three international conflicts, as well as in international and domestic disputes.
Despite strong opposition, Pedro II steadily pushed for the end of slavery. The abolition of slavery eventually came with the “Lei Áurea”, ratified by Princess Isabel, the emperor’s daughter. The emperor was sick at that time and when news of the abolition reached him, he murmured, “Let us praise God. Great people! Great people!” A vehement supporter of learning, sciences and culture, he received the respect of scholars such as Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and was a friend to Richard Wagner, Louis Pasteur, Alexander Graham Bell among others.
Charles Darwin said of him, “The emperor does so much for science, that every scientific man is bound to show him the utmost respect”.
Pedro II’s reign ended in a sudden coup d’état, supported by a small group of military leaders. Although at the height of his popularity, the emperor did not try to resist, he saw his position as a duty rather than a privilege, and had grown weary of ruling. He simply commented, “If it is so, it will be my retirement. I have worked too hard and I am tired. I will go rest then.”
In the years after the emperor died in exile the new Brazilian government, incapable governing with the same competence as the monarch had, recognized Pedro II’s overall importance to Brazil’s stability. His remains returned to Brazil and he received a proper state’s funeral, with a national holiday and the commotion of most of the population.