Maria I of Portugal
Traditionally, many European royal families have kept close ties with each other, with cousins intermarrying for generations. However, few have practiced incest in quite the same way as the Portuguese royal family in the eighteenth century. Maria, I of Portugal was born on December 17, 1734, the daughter of King Joseph I. Attractive and well educated, Maria was also extremely devout. When doctors saved her from a life-threatening illness, she believed it the result of divine intervention. The Princess even expressed a desire to become a nun. On the face of it, she was an unlikely candidate for incest.
When court officials were suggesting marriages for the Princess, Maria could have had her pick of European Princes. Instead, she settled on her father’s 43-year-old brother, Pedro. On June 6, 1760, the pious, 25-year-old entered into incestuous wedlock with her uncle. By all accounts, the marriage was a happy one. The royal couple was devoted to each other – despite their age gap and close family ties.
Maria became pregnant several times. She also lost several children to miscarriage but managed to successfully provide a son and heir, Joseph, as well as several spares. It was Maria’s son Joseph who continued with the incestuous tradition established by his parents, by marrying his aunt- Maria’s sister- when he was fifteen and the lady in question thirty. Fortunately, this marriage produced no children!
In 1776, Joseph I had a stroke and Maria became the first Queen regent in Portugal’s history. On her father’s death, she became Queen Maria I with Pedro as her King consort. However, on May 25, 1786, Pedro died suddenly, and grief sent his widow (and niece) into a spiral of depression that drove her mad. By 1790, she was in a deep state of melancholia. She took to roaming the palace moaning and wailing incoherently and declaring herself damned. In 1799, the Queen’s mental state was so sorry that Portugal’s officials installed Joseph as regent.
However, Joseph did not have to bear this burden for long. In 1807, Napoleon invaded Portugal. The royal family, complete with all the wealth they could carry and the mad queen fled to Brazil. There, on seeing the welcoming natives, Maria truly believed she had entered hell. While the rest of her family settled on a country estate, Maria I was cared for in a convent where she died in 1816.