Thursday, June 28, 2012

Queen Amelia of Portugal as a Cat
I came upon the original of this portrait in a book of photographs made by a Louise, Lady-in-Waiting to Queens Victoria and Alexandra.  The volume contains several pictures of her that caught my interest, and I decided to learn more about her.
Amelia, though a member of the Bourbon family, grew up in England and can only be described as a Thundering English Rose.  She shod her own horses, even after marrying Carlos I of Portugal.  As queen, she rode a camel in Egypt and once jumped fully dressed into the ocean to save a laborer.  The contribution for which she is lovingly remembered - and which undoubtedly saved her life - was the establishment of a tuberculosis foundation.  She also used the new x-ray technology to convince her ladies of the physical damage done by tightly laced corsets.
What really made her a heroine in my eyes were her actions when her husband and elder son were assassinated before her eyes.  Since the government of Portugal was actually conducted by two political parties that switched places every year, there was so much public unrest that she generally refused to allow her family to ride in an open carriage.  Unfortunately, when the royal family returned from a vacation, the Prime Minister (who stayed safely at home) sent an open carriage to meet them.  The King, who was more concerned with oceanography and building the country's navy than with his people, deemed it imprudent to ask for other transportation.
When shots rang out at very close range, Queen Amelia stood up in the carriage and threw her bouquet at the man who killed her husband.  Then she stood in front of her two sons.  The assassins got the Crown Prince when she lost her balance as the carriage turned a corner.  Police and military finally intervened, and thus she saved her younger son.
Later, she tried to help Manuolo reign, but the political situation was still impossible.  The two were allowed to escape on the royal yacht Amelia.  After World War II, the Portuguese government allowed her to return to visit old friends and collect a few belongings.  Somebody even wrote a song about it.

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