The terrible fire in the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro left the nation devastated. A lot of national treasury was destroyed and the national culture devastated. After the incident, people’s eyes were on Dom Joãozinho, a popular imperial prince, who offered a part of his vast art collection to restart the museum’s collection.
João Henrique de Orléans e Bragança, Prince of Orléans and Bragança, popularly known as Dom Joãozinho, or Prince Dom Joãozinho, or Prince João de Orléans and Bragança, is a Brazilian photographer and entrepreneur. He is the firstborn son of the prince João Maria de Orléans and Bragança and Fátima Scherifa Chirine from Egypt. When she met her father in Cairo, Egypt, she was a princess of Toussoun, and held this title until the married his father, thus becoming Princess of Orléans and Bragança. Belonging to the Petrópolis branch of the Brazilian imperial family, Dom João Henrique is a grandson of Pedro de Alcântara de Orléans and Bragança, prince of Grão-Pará and prince of Orléans and Bragança, who, on October 30th, 1908, abdicated and renounced his rights and the rights of future offspring to the succession line to the Brazilian throne. João Henrique is the great-grandson of the last imperial princess of Brazil, D. Isabel de Bragança, and the imperial prince consort of Brazil, D. Gastão de Orléans, Count of Eu, being the great-grandson of the last Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II, and a descendant of the emperor Pedro I of Brazil. He is also the owner of Pousada de Paraty, and a photographer who stages the biggest literary event in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Now, after the terrible fire in the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, he has offered to lend a part of his personal collection in order to put together a new collection in the museum, thus renewing a part of the Brazilian national heritage.
Very few people here and generally know that Brazil was an empire and that many buildings and institutions were built during this time, including the National Museum. Due to the unfortunate events, Brazil must replace what was lost, which is of course, impossible, but one can try. Can one person boost the significance of the imperial family
and awaken the history of ancient Brazil?
— When D. João VI, King of Portugal arrived in Brazil in 1808, he realised that the then Portuguese colony of Brazil should be independent. He was the only king of a colonising country that moved to and stayed in a colony. He thought that if the colony was not independent, the territory would be divided in several countries which happened in Spanish America. He founded education academies universities, Royal Justice, the Botanical Garden, which was at
the time, an important centre of agricultural research, the House of Currency, the Royal Press (Imprensa Regia) and several other institutions which did not exist up until then. He knew that for a territory to become a nation, besides having institutions, it should also know and value its own identity. To that end, he founded the National
Museum in 1809. The work that began over 200 years ago turned to ashes last September.
As a legitimate heir of Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, you have a kind of moral authority over the National Museum’s collection since it was your grandfather who created it. You also said you would gladly lend the table that was used by your great-granddaughter, Princess Isabel to sign the Slavery Abolition Act, as well as lend other artifacts to help in the formation of the new museum. Could you tell us more about these artifacts? You said it was “pictures, photographs and objects, photographs that Dom Pedro took when he was exiled”.
— The day after the fire, I went to visit the Museum’s director, Alexander Kellman and all the staff, researchers and teachers who dedicated their lives to this important institution. I offered to loan to the Museum, historical artifacts that were personal possessions of Emperor D. Pedro II and Princess Isabel, like the table on which the
Golden Law (Lei Áurea or Slavery Abolition Act) was signed by Princess Isabel, ending slavery in Brazil in 1888. I am willing to help in rebuilding the museum’s collection. More than 20 million pieces from studies and archives are lost. The Museum had an important archeological, ethnological, paleontological and anthropological collection.
What happened was an utter disaster. I said in several interviews said the governments of the Left and Right from the previous period were to blame because they did not see Brazil as a nation and yes, they acted according to their political interests and personal privileges and never long term. In addition to being responsible for the great corruption and misappropriating public money (all of these are known facts) they did not reform the state,
government, tax, social security and political system. If they had done that, we would have become a country that the Brazilians always wanted – a country with social justice, without polarized politics and divisions that are noticeable in presidential elections.
How can you overcome the crisis? Maybe you can do a fund raiser that to buy the artifacts of the Brazilian national history?
— There is a tradition in reputable families and business communities in the US and Europe of donating art collections to museums, in addition to funding the construction of art pavilions in universities. Although this initiative in Brazil is still in its infancy, it does exist. I hope there will be a lot of help coming from private initiatives in terms of reconstructing the Museum and setting up a new collection.
Could Brazil become a more stable country if it were a monarchy? This is a question that is being asked in all the countries that were monarchies, especially in Eastern Europe. This question has been increasingly popular after Spain became much more stabile following a transition into a monarchy. What do you think?
— The parliamentary system works with the clear separation of the State and the Government, which does not happen in presidentialism. Parliamentarism in Europe works well with both President and King representing the State and serving as a mediating force in conflicts and government formation. The Monarchical Parliamentary has an important characteristic that is the supra-partidary position of its representative which does not happen in the Republican Parliamentary. Without a doubt, considering the political crisis that Brazil is going through, with the radicalism that does not serve democracy well, it would be useful to have a supra-partidary institution to mitigate the polarization that we have now. I talk about this in my lectures and interviews, always prioritising the Brazilian State, our democracy that, despite being 30 years old, can be weakened precisely in crises like this that we are
going through now where many do not value democracy but rather want to see the problems through any means. I say our country and our democracy come first.