Emperor Dom Pedro II, during his reign from 1831 to 1889, was a prominent figure in the country’s history. His personal wealth was not primarily associated with an exorbitant material fortune, but rather with a vast cultural, intellectual, and emotional richness.
The emperor wasn’t as wealthy as many people think. His annual budget allocation from 1841 to 1889 was 800 réis, about 5% of the empire’s budget, and around 130 réis were designated for assisting the needy or returned to the treasury (such as student pensions, diverse donations to individuals and provinces, donations for state emergencies).
With these funds, he paid for his travels, established three palace libraries, distributed alms and scholarships, and supported literary talents. Empress Teresa Cristina’s budget was around 98 réis annually, and Princess Isabel’s was about 150 réis.
“I owe nothing, and when I incur a debt, I make sure to pay it off immediately, and the record of all my household expenses can be examined at any time. I don’t amass money, and I believe what I receive from the treasury is meant to be spent”, wrote Dom Pedro II.
His disregard for money never allowed him to accumulate even a few réis. His civil list, in fact, didn’t allow for it, despite his scrupulous care in employing it. The positions he considered entirely unnecessary in his palaces, existing only due to old court traditions, were gradually cut.
Thus, the Imperial Archers Guard, created by Dom Pedro I upon the empire’s foundation, was abolished. Later on, many positions in the imperial household were removed, such as the chief butler, chief chamberlain, chief and minor equerries, head chambermaid, and king of arms. The effective class of the Emperor’s wardrobe was also abolished.
From his youth, Pedro II always put many silver coins in his pockets whenever he went out, so he could distribute them to the poor and needy he encountered. Once, the administrator of the Santa Cruz farm, property of the Crown, presented him with a considerable balance money, the result of an honest and hardworking administration. “Money, I don’t want it. Give it as alms to the poor, because I don’t want it to be said that I am hoarding capital”, said the emperor.
After the fall of the monarchy in 1889, part of the deposed emperor’s annual budget (who became completely bankrupt in exile) was allocated to the poor of the Imperial neighborhood of São Cristóvão, continuing Dom Pedro II’s humanitarian tradition that the republic did not dare to end.
Reference: LYRA, Heitor. Dom Pedro II. Brazil: Garnier, 2020.
Matheus is an entrepreneur at Araujo Media, where he serves as CEO and Creative Director. He shares analyses on his personal blog "matheusaraujo.me" and is currently pursuing a degree in Advertising and Propaganda. Moreover, he has a passion for history, particularly that of Brazil, which led him to become the founder and editor of the Brazilian History portal.