1808: The Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and the British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World

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Overview

In a time of terror for Europe’s monarchs--imprisoned, exiled, executed--Napoleon’s army marched toward Lisbon. Cornered, Prince Regent João had to make the most fraught decision of his life. Protected by the British Navy, he fled to Brazil with his entire family, including his mentally ill mother, most of the nobility, and the entire state apparatus. Thousands made the voyage, but it was no luxury cruise. It took two months in cramped, decrepit ships. Sickness ran rampant. Lice infested some of the vessels, and ...

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1808: The Flight of the Emperor: How a Weak Prince, a Mad Queen, and the British Navy Tricked Napoleon and Changed the New World

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Overview

In a time of terror for Europe’s monarchs--imprisoned, exiled, executed--Napoleon’s army marched toward Lisbon. Cornered, Prince Regent João had to make the most fraught decision of his life. Protected by the British Navy, he fled to Brazil with his entire family, including his mentally ill mother, most of the nobility, and the entire state apparatus. Thousands made the voyage, but it was no luxury cruise. It took two months in cramped, decrepit ships. Sickness ran rampant. Lice infested some of the vessels, and noble women had to shave their hair and grease their bald heads with antiseptic sulfur. Vermin infested the food, and bacteria contaminated the drinking water. No European monarch had ever set foot in the Americas, let alone relocating an entire court there. A week after landing, Prince João opened Brazil’s ports, liberating the colony from a trade monopoly with Portugal. While explorers mapped the burgeoning nation’s distant regions, the prince authorized the construction of roads, the founding of schools, and the creation of factories, raising Brazil to kingdom status in 1815. Meanwhile, under French control, Portugal was suffering the dire effects of famine and war. Never had the country lost so many people in so little time. But after Napoleon’s fall and over a decade of misery, the Portuguese demanded the return of their king. João sailed back in tears, but because of him Brazil remained whole and powerful. As he left, the last chapter of colonial Brazil drew to a close, setting the stage for the strong, independent nation that we know today, changing the history of the New World forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Incapable of fending off Napoleon, Portugal’s Prince Regent João —ruling since 1799 in the stead of his demented mother—bluffed France with promises of surrender while signing a secret agreement with Britain to secure safe passage to Brazil for João and his entire court, comprising up to 15,000 people. On November 29, 1807, the fleet set sail from Lisbon, leaving Portugal at the mercy of Napoleon (who once declared João “the only one who tricked me”). During the 13 years that João reigned in exile from Rio de Janeiro, Portugal lost one-sixth of its population—half a million people—due to emigration, starvation, or in battle. Meanwhile, “the idle, corrupt, and wasteful” royal court stayed financially afloat by levying taxes on Brazilians and granting titles in exchange for donations from wealthy colonists—many of them slave traffickers. Nevertheless, the weird king (he had a “crippling fear of crustaceans and thunder” and had a valet regularly masturbate him) raised Brazil to the status of a kingdom in union with Portugal, improved infrastructure, reorganized the government, promoted the arts, and essentially began the process of decolonization. Despite Nevins’s awkward translation, Gomes’s (1822: The Prince Left Behind) account is fascinating. Illus. and 2 maps. Agent: Jonah Straus, Straus Literary. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

An Amazon.com History Bestseller

Winner of the Jabuti Prize

A Brazilian Academy of Letters Best Work of Nonfiction

Critical Acclaim for 1808: The Flight of the Emperor

"This vivid portrait of an unkempt, self-preserving king provides insight into the obscure history of Brazil. ... A meticulous and encyclopedic account of life in the colony of Brazil, as well as the doings of the Portuguese royalty in their new home ... 1808: The Flight of the Emperor offers important knowledge for understanding how modern-day Brazil, a diverse mix of the ancestors of Europeans, slaves, and natives, was created. ... Gomes tells that story completely, with vivid accounts from historians as well as original sources."
Foreword

"Highly readable ... a well-researched, engaging history."
Kirkus Reviews

"Good airline reading on your next flight to Rio."
Library Journal

"Fascinating."
Publishers Weekly

“A light and informative history ... Gomes offers a broad perspective on the period, portrayed in bright colors.”
Folha de São Paulo

“A rare portrait ... Gomes’s research shines . . . in his ability to recreate with unparalleled flair a portrait of daily life in the colonies and how this all changed with the arrival of the Portuguese.”
Estado de São Paulo

“This is a book that you will read with a broad smile. ... The result of ten years of research, 1808 is a veritable guidebook through all the events that formed part of this little-known episode of history. ... It conjures up a delicious blend of good humor and erudition to create a broad portrait of events and people that crossed paths during the thirteen-year adventure in the tropics. ... Through short, cinematic chapters, Gomes successfully sets up a jigsaw puzzle in which each piece fits right into the preceding one. ... In addition to supporting the historical record with primary source documents and with more recent studies, he makes the people of the era jump off the page. ... 1808 reveals these events with grace and weightlessness. ... It’s a historical synthesis that shines for the clarity of its explanations and for the interest of the past it projects onto the present. It’s a well conceived idea sustained by a flawless methodology.”
Veja magazine

Library Journal
In 1807, the royal court of Portugal fled Napoléon's armies by sailing for colonial Brazil. Brazilian journalist Gomes's popular history, a best seller in its original 2007 publication, recounts how a sleepy Rio de Janeiro welcomed Europe's most conservative and absolute monarchy. Prince Regent Dom João and his 10,000 or so parasites found themselves in a beautiful but squalid town of 60,000 people, perhaps half of them slaves. Among those in the prince regent's train were his mother, the mad Queen Maria I, and his wife, Carlota, who participated in several unsuccessful coups against him. Not until 1821, as King João VI, did he reluctantly return to Portugal as a constitutional monarch while his son Pedro remained behind as nominal monarch of an independent Brazil. VERDICT Unfortunately, this book is not nearly as much fun as it should be. Gomes's work (translated awkwardly by Nevins) takes a surprisingly Eurocentric view of the royal family's time in Brazil. The author argues that the presence of the Portuguese court propelled backward Brazil toward improved education, scientific exploration, and independence. Readers might mistakenly think no Brazilian culture existed before the royals arrived. Nonetheless, this book could make good airline reading on your next flight to Rio.—Stewart Desmond, New York
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist's highly readable account of Portuguese monarch João VI's historic 1808 flight from Europe and subsequent exile in Brazil. In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French. But by 1807, the year Gomes' book opens, he "ruled as absolute lord of Europe." Aside from Britain, only one continental nation, Portugal, remained unconquered. Unwilling to surrender but unable to fend off a full-scale invasion, the fearful and often indecisive Prince Regent João VI, whose "sickly obesity gave him the air of a peaceful dullard," deceived Napoleon long enough to transfer his entire court to Brazil. Shepherded by the indomitable British navy, the trans-Atlantic voyage was fraught with challenges for the Portuguese ruler and his retinue, who faced the ever-present risk of disease. But it was João's abandoned people who paid the price for his ultimately successful flight. By 1814, 500,000 Portuguese had starved or died or fled the country to escape the chaos created in the wake of their monarch's departure. Meanwhile, the court lived comfortably in sultry Rio de Janeiro. The greedy beneficiaries of the colony's mineral and agricultural wealth, João and his nouveau riche ministers still managed to lay down the cornerstones of a national infrastructure. They built roads, schools and factories, opened up Brazilian ports to trade with other countries and united quarreling colonial provinces. The king many dismissed as unfit to rule departed in 1821, with only one-third his retinue, to return to a Portugal wracked by chaos and revolution. In a grand twist of historical irony, what he left behind became the makings of a vibrantly complex society that now stands poised to become a major economic power. A well-researched, engaging history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762787968
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 355,203
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurentino Gomes is a journalist and the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling books: 1808: The Flight of the Emperor and 1822: The Prince Left Behind, the first two volumes in a trilogy on the history of Brazil. With more than 1.5 million copies sold, his books have remained on the bestseller lists of Brazil and Portugal for six consecutive years. Gomes has won the prestigious Jabuti Prize, Brazil’s highest literary honor, four times, and the Brazilian Academy of Letters selected 1808 as the nation’s best work of nonfiction the year it was published. He lives in São Paulo.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    amazing book... Read it!... It´s good. You will know more about

    amazing book... Read it!... It´s good. You will know more about Brazilian and Portugal culture... 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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