Magazine article The New Yorker

FAMILY TREE; POSTCARD FROM BRAZIL Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

FAMILY TREE; POSTCARD FROM BRAZIL Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

The head of the only genuine royal monarchy in North or South America is the fifty-two-year-old Brazilian prince, Dom Joao Henrique Maria Gabriel Gonzaga de Orleans e Braganca. He makes his living by developing tourist resorts and also by selling hearts of palm from his eight-hundred-acre palm-tree plantation; publishes books--eight so far--of his photographs of Brazil; heads environmental campaigns; and keeps his twenty-five hundred acres of rain forest untouched. He has longish blond-gray hair, green eyes, and a light beard and mustache. He surfs, hikes, and bicycles in Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with his architect wife, Stella--who is, at the moment, designing interiors for a new Club Med in Rio--and their two children, nineteen-year-old Prince Joao Phillipe Maria Francisco Pedro de Alcantara Gonzaga de Orleans e Braganca, who is an economics student in Rio, and seventeen-year-old Maria Cristina de Orleans e Braganca, who is a fledgling writer. The Prince spends half his time in his seventeenth-century hacienda in the coastal town of Parati.

"I am here thanks to Napoleon," he said the other day at his house, where he was hosting a lunch for attendees at the recent Parati International Literary Festival. "My great-great-great-great-grandfather King Joao VI of Portugal fled with his family from Napoleon's invasion in 1807 and came to Brazil. The King's son, Dom Pedro I, was the first emperor of Brazil; that's him and his wife, Empress Leopoldina of Habsburg," he went on, indicating a solemn couple depicted in a large oil painting on the wall. "The Emperor gave independence to Brazil in 1822. I am his great-great-great-grandson. That other portrait on the wall--the man with the bushy black beard--is Emperor Pedro II. He was emperor for forty-nine years. He was admired for being very simple. He didn't want to imitate his cousins' courts in Europe. He felt that a king must be close to his people, so he travelled all over, getting to know the country people."

The Prince's cell phone rang in his pants pocket. He opened it and spoke quickly and quietly to the caller in Portuguese. Then he flipped the phone closed. "It was my cousin Maria da Gloria, Duchess of Segorbe; she lives in Spain and likes to talk," he said. …

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