Surprise Heirs: Illegitimacy, Patrimonial Rights, and Legal Nationalism in Luso-Brazilian Inheritance, 1750-1821 - Vol. 1

By Linda Lewin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Estate in Succession Law
Birth and Nobility

I have in my possession evidence for the legitimization conceded
by the king, D. Sebastião, to the natural children of Jeronymo de
Albuquerque in 1561. It is in such poor condition that the names
are not legible and very little can be discerned [from the docu
ment]. It is certain [nevertheless] that those who were perfilhados
numbered thirteen, and that only eight of them were born to D.
Maria do Espírito Santo Arco Verde.

Borges da Fonseca, Nobiliarquia pernambucana (1748–1786) 1

From 1561, when the “Brazilian Adam,” Jeronymo de Albuquerque, traveled to Lisbon to petition Queen Regent Catarina for royal legitimization of a favored thirteen of his natural children, Brazilian parents of noble rank sought the “mercy and grace” of the monarch. Only the sovereign could suspend the provision of the Ordenações do Reino that denied their natural children ab intestato succession rights. In Jeronymo's case, a successful petition that conferred perfilhação solemne on the eight children he had fathered with the Indian woman, Arco Verde, proved part of his strategy for a legitimate marriage. In 1561 or 1562, he contracted a very late first marriage with a Portuguese noblewoman, Felipa de Mello. Subsequently, the will Jeronymo executed in 1584 made clear that his creation of an entail, on behalf of his eldest legitimate son, João de Albuquerque, had deprived all of his children of patrimony, whether they were natural or legitimate. Nevertheless, crown legitimization placed his eight natural children with Arco Verde on the same social footing with the eleven legitimate children he fathered in marriage with Felipa de Mello. In fact, it equipped his eldest and favorite natural daughter, Catarina de Albuquerque, to marry her father's preferred candidate, the Florentine nobleman Felipe Cavalcanti. Similarly, her two older, full brothers were equipped to marry the women of noble rank their father selected as their wives, none other than the younger sisters of his new Portuguese wife. Finally, Jeronymo's will made clear, however much he regretted “robbing”

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