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The Principality of Brasil    



Soon after the break up of the Iberian Union in 1640, the Principality of Brazil was founded in 1645 in the South-American Portuguese colonies. The Principality lasted until 1816 when it was incorporated as a kingdom into the Union of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.

The title Prince of Brazil (Portuguese: Príncipe do Brasil) was used in the Kingdom of Portugal, and normally conferred on the heir of the royal House of Braganza.The title was created by King John IV of Portugal on 27 October 1645 in favor of his eldest son and heir Prince Teodósio, soon after Portugal had got rid of its Spanish rulers. During the period  of  1645–1822, the title Prince of Brazil was always conferred to the heir apparent of the throne, who also received the title of Duke of Braganza. Also, in 1750 when the hitherto Prince of Brazil ascended as Joseph I, he granted the title Princess of Brazil (but not the Duchy of Braganza) to his eldest daughter, the future Maria I of Portugal, as the king believed to remain without sons. When Maria in 1760 married Infante Pedro, he also became styled Prince of Brazil as her consort.

The male heir apparent received the title when the relevant parent ascended the throne, or, if the title was vacant, at birth. The heir of the Prince of Brazil was styled Prince of Beira.

When Brazil proclaimed its independence in 1822, the title was taken by the Imperial House of Brazil, and later was conferred to all the sons of Emperor Pedro I.


Princes of Brazil [1]

Teodósio de


heir apparent *1634-†1653


Afonso VI



King of Portugal 1656-1683

João de Bragança

heir apparent 1688

João V



King of Portugal 1706-1750

Pedro de Bragança

heir apparent 1712-1714

José I



King of Portugal 1750-1777


heir apparent*1761-†1788



heiress apparent 1734-†1816


Queen of Portugal 1777-1816

Pedro III

King consort *1717-†1786


João VI



King of Portugal 1816-1826

The Princes of Brazil, heir apparent of Portugal bore the arms of Portugal augmented with a golden label of three. As soon as they were crowned king of Portugal the label was omitted.

It is not known what coat of arms the future heir apparents bore when still a Prince of Beira (and their fathers were still crown princes).


Arms of the heir apparent of Portugal

as in the armorial of Armeiro Mor, 1509 ca.


The golden armillary sphere

Emblem of the Portuguese Empire


No flag or specific symbol is known for Brasil or Portuguese America from the time of the colony until 1816. The flag usually associated with the Principality of Brasil in fact is the flag of the Portuguese empire. It shows the symbol of the Portuguese empire, a yellow armillary-sphere on a white field. On Dutch flag-charts of the end of the 17th / beginning of the 18th C. this flag is called Portugeese Witte Vlag (Portuguese white flag or ensign), meaning that it was displayed on all Portuguese ships, and thus there is no trace of Brazil there. On another white flag  there is depicted a misinterpretation of the cross of the Order of Christ, charged with an armillary-sphere. This flag is also called Portugeese Witte Vlag, but, as the symbol literally means: “The Government of the Portuguese Empire”, this may be the government-flag of Portugal. Again no trace of Brazil there.

After the Portuguese court had moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1808, there is a hint of the emancipation of Brasil in that the armillary-sphere was depicted in combination with the title of Regent of Brasil. This is to be seen on a coin of 20 reis, minted in 1811. On the obverse is the legend: JOANNES D.G. P(ortugalensiæ) E(t) BRASILIÆ REGENS. On the reverse is the well-known armillary-sphere with knob and pedestal for Brazil charged with the letter B


The Kingdom and the Empire of Brazil


The most interesting feature in the history of Brazil is the fact that, in the nineteenth century it was one of only four countries in the New World that housed an effective legal monarchical state (the others were Mexico, Canada and Haiti), for a period of almost 90 years. Rio de Janeiro was for a period of 13 years the metropolis of a European state and from 1808 to 1821 the capital of the Portuguese Empire, which extended over parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. In 1808, the Portuguese court of Queen Mary († 1816), fleeing from Napoleon's troops, which had invaded the territory of Portugal, had moved aboard a large fleet, escorted by British men-of-war, with all the government apparatus to its then-colony, Brazil, and had established themselves in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

In 1815 the the United kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves was proclaimed. King John VI ruled his huge empire from Rio de Janeiro, and there he would have remained for the rest of his life if it were not for the turmoil aroused in Portugal due, among other reasons, to his long stay in Brazil after the end of Napoleon's reign. When he left Brazil to return to his European territory in 1821, his elder son, Pedro, stayed in his stead as regent of Brazil. One year later, Pedro wrote a paper (not so well known as his alleged proclamation — "Independence or Death") to state the reasons for the secession of Brazil from Portugal and bequeathed a constitution proclaiming an independent monarchy in Brazil, assuming its head as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil, also known as "Dom Pedro". Dom Pedro was liked by the common people, but displeased both the landed elites, who thought him too liberal, and the intellectuals, who felt he was not liberal enough. After his abdication in 1831 for political incompatibilities with Brazilian politicians he left for Portugal, leaving behind his five-year-old son as Emperor Pedro II. In 1835, the Male Revolt, perhaps the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil, took place in the city of Salvador da Bahia. After a period of nine years of regencies, Pedro II was acclaimed emperor in 1840 at the age of 14. Pedro II started a more-or-less parliamentary reign which lasted until 1889, when he was ousted by a coup d'état which instituted the republic. At the end of his reign, he presided over the abolition of slavery in 1888.


Reino do Brasil (1)



It was only with the elevation of the principality of Brasil to a kingdom in 1815 however, that we hear of a specific symbol for that empire. It was adopted by a decree of King Joao IV dated 13th of May 1816 and it is described as:


1° - Que Reino do Brazil tenha por armas huma esphera armilar de ouro em campo azul.


(That the Kingdom of Brasil has for a coat of arms an armillary-sphere Or on a blue field).

Unlike the armillar-spheres of the Portuguese empire, this Brasilian armillary-sphere is depicted without its pedestal and it is not crested by an orb (which would have been incorrect in any way).



Coins of the Kingdom of Brazil however show the armillary-sphere charged with the letter B on the cross:

No official contemporary renderings of this symbol have been published until now.

The symbol was displayed in combination with the royal arms of the king of Portugal making the royal arms of the Reino Unido de Portugal, e do Brasil e Algarves of 1816-1822. This symbol, also printed on coins minted in the last year of the reign of Joao IV (1822), was like on the picture at the right.

On coins and publications the achievement was surrounded by a garland of olive and laurel.



In its entirety the decree reads:


D. João por graça de Deos, Rei do Reino Unido de Portugal e do Brazil e Algarves, d’aquem e d’além mar, em Africa, Senhor da Guiné e da Conquista, Navegação e Commercio da Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia e da India, etc.

Faço saber aos que a presenta carta de lei virem que tendo sido servido unir os meus Reinos de Portugal, Brazil e Algarves, para que juntos constituissem, como effectivamente constituem hum só e mesmo Reino; he regular e consequente o incorporar em hum só escudo real as armas de todos os tres Reinos, assim, e da  mesma fórma que o Senhor Rei D. Affonso III, de gloriosa memoria, unindo outr’ora o Reino dos Algarves ao de Portugal unio tembem as suas armas respectivas: e occorrendo que para este effeito o meu Reino do Brazil ainda não tem armas que caracterisem a bem merecida preeminencia a que me aprouve exalta-lo: hei por bem e me praz ordenar o seguinte:


1° - Que Reino do Brazil tenha por armas huma esphera armilar de ouro em campo azul.

2° - Que o escudo real portuguez, inscripto na dita esphera armilar de ouro em campo azul, com uma corôa sobreposta, fique sendo, de hoje em diante, as armas do Reino Unido de Portugal, e do Brazil e Algarves, e das mais partes integrantes da minha Monarchia.

3° - Que estas novas armas sejão por conseguinte as que uniformemente se hajão de empregar em todos os estandartes, bandeiras, sellos reaes e cunhos de moedas, assim como em tudo mais em que até agora se tenha feito uso das armas precedentes.

E esta se cumprirá como nella se contém. Pelo que mando, etc.

Dada no Palacio do Rio de Janeiro, aos 13 de Maio de 1816.

El-Rei com guarda

 (a) Marquez de Aquiar


com os registos competentes  [2]


Reino do Brasil (2)



Pedro I



The achievement and flag of the Kingdom were adopted by decree of King Pedro I of 18 September 1822. It consisted of the the cross of the Order of Christ charged with emblem of the Kingdom of 1816 as on coins (the ‘B’ omitted), surrounded by a ring with stars, the number of which corresponds with the number of provinces of the Kingdom.


The decree reads:

Havendo o Reino do Brazil de que sou Regente e Defensor Perpetuo, declarado a sua emancipação politica, entranmdo o occupar na grande familia das nações o lugar que justamente lhe compete, como nação grande, livre e independente; sendo por isso indispensavel que elle tenha hum escudo real d’armas, que, não só se distingão das de Portugal e Algarves até agora reunidas, mas que sejão caracteristocas deste rico e vasto Continente; e desenjando eu que se conservem as armas que a este Reino forão dadas pelo Senhor Rei D. João VI, meu Augusto Pai, na carta de lei de 13 de maio de 1816; e ao mesmo tempo remomorar o primeiro nome que lhe fôra imposto no seu feliz descobrimento, e honrar as 19 provincias comprehendidas entre os grandes rios que são os seus limites naturaes e que formão a sua integridade que eu jurei sustenar; hei por bem e com o paracer do meu Conselho de Estado determinar o seguinte:

- Será d’ora em deante, o escudo d’armas deste Reino do Brazil em campo verde huma esphera armilar de ouro, atravessada por huma cruz de Ordem de Christo, sendo circulada a mesma esphera de 19 estrellas de prata em huma orla azul; e firmada a corõa real diamantina sobre o escudo, cujos lados serão abraçados por dois ramos de plkantas de café e tabaco como emblemas de sua riqueza commercial, representados na sia propria côr; e ligados na parte inferior pelo laço da nação. A bandeira nacional será composta de hum parallelogrammo verde e nelle inscripto hum quadrilatero rhomboidal côr de ouro, ficando ao centro deste o escudo das armas do Brazil .

Paço, em 18 de setembro de 1822

Com rubrica de Sua Alteza Real, o Principe Regente

(a) José Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva.[3] 


Silver 2000 reís coin, 1855.

Showing the royal arms of 1822, with an annulet with 19 stars and crowned with a  royal crown.


Accordingly the arms are:


Arms: Vert, an armillary-sphere Or, pierced with a cross formy Gules, voided Argent, and surrounded by an annulet Azure charged with 19 five-pointed stars Argent.

Crown: A royal crown.

Garland: Dexter a branch of coffee and sinister a tobaccoplant, proper, tied with a ribbon and bow Vert and Or.

By Decree, 18.IX.1822


Imperio do Brasil



Pedro I



The Imperial Achievement in the time of the emperors Pedro I (1822-1831) and Pedro II (1831-1899) was the same as for the kingdom, the royal crown being replaced by the Imperial Brasilian Crown by decree of 1 december1822.


The decree reads:


“Havendo sido proclamada com a maior espontaneidade dos povos a Independcia politica do Brazil, e a sua elevação á categoria de Imperio pela minha solenne acclamaço, sagração e coroação, como seu Imperador Constitucional e Defenso Perpetuo: hei por bem ordenar que a Corõa Real que se acha sobreposta no escudo das armas establelecido pelo meu imperial decreto de 18 de setembro do corrente anno, seja substituida ao gráo sublime e glorioso em que se acha constituido este rico e vasto Continente.

- Paço, em 1.° de dezembro de 1822, 1.° da Independencia e do Imperio

-Com a rubrica de Sua Magestade Imperial

(a) José Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva [4]

The Imperial Arms with 20 stars

Coll.  Câmara de Ouro Preto Museu Mineiro B.H.


Flag of the Empire, embroidered with gold and silver

Coll. Instituto Geográfico e Histórico da Bahia, em Salvador

On the annulet 21 stars


Pedro II

1831 - 1889


According to the number of provinces of the Empire the number of stars was augmented, first to 20 and next to 21.

The Imperial Arms with 21 stars


In some drawings of the achievement the artistic freedom is taken to make the annulet: Azure, fimbriated Argent, which is, of course, incorrect.

The number of stars on the annulet changes, but in the time of the emperors there has never been a decree by which the number of stars was adapted to the number of provinces. Also, the use of six-pointed stars instead of five-pointed is to be considered as an artistic freedom.


The Imperial Crown


The dismantled Imperial crown of Dom Pedro I

Imperial Museum, Petropolis.



Imperial Crown of Dom Pedro II, 1841

Imperial Museum, Petropolis


The first imperial crown of Brasil was made in 1822 for the coronation of D. Pedro I on 1 December 1822. At this occasion D. Pedro wore a green velvet mantle lined with yellow silk and embroidered with gold, of a model inspired by the indian ponchos and he bore a cape of yellow-orange toucan-feathers around his shoulders. After being anointed he descended his throne to receive a sword and crown. This last, in french Empire-style, consisted of a green velvet cap surrounded by a diadem of gold, with eight palmettes alternated with pearls and decorated with diamonds. From the diadem rose eight hoops set with pearls and topped by a globe showing an armillary-sphere, crested with the cross of the Order of Christ. In his right he bore the imperial sceptre which consisted of a dragon sejant on a staff.

In 1841 the crown was dismantled and its precious stones and pearls were used for a new crown for D. Pedro II. This crown was made by Carlo Marin in Rio de Janeiro. After the proclamation of the Republic the crown was stored in the National Treasury and from 1943 exposed in the Imperial Museum.




In heraldic drawings the Imperial Crown sometimes has a green cap, sometimes a purple one because its color was not laid down by decree. Younger drawings however, always depict it purpure.


The Imperial Achievement


Larger Augmented Imperial Arms

Scepters, order, crowned mantle and dragon supporters.


There are several versions of the achievement or Greater Arms of the Emperor himself. Sometimes it shows the Imperial arms augmented with scepters, a dragon in base and the crosses of the orders of the Southern Cross (1820), of Pedro I (1826) and of the Rose (1829) but sometimes these are omitted. Also there are versions where the achievement is surrounded by a green velvet mantle, lined ermine and fringed and tasseled Or. [5]

Smaller Augmented Imperial Arms, 1837 ca.

Main de Justice, Dragon Sceptre and a single dragon as supporter





Ordem do Pedro I

Ordem Imperial do Cruzeiro

Ordem Imperial do Rosa



Larger Imperial Achievement (before 1841)

Crowned imperial mantle and Order of the Southern Cross pending


Clichés of the time of Pedro II, used for example on the Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in Brasil (1888), show the achievement placed on a red crowned imperial mantle, lined ermine, and the cross of the Ordem Imperial do Cruzeiro, hanging down from the bow.

No known decree however sanctionizes the use of these embellished achievements. This may explain the great variety of the versions.


For a modern rendering see:  Wikipedia


The motto of the House of Bragança was in hoc signo vinces (Under This sign You Will Triumph), and is the motto Constantin the Great saw in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 307. In Brazilean context it refers to the cross of the Order of Christ.


The motto however was never incorporated in any achievement of the House.


The Republic


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© Hubert de Vries 2011-11-22



[1] Retirado de ""

[2] Ribeiro, Clovis: Brazoes e Bandeiras do Brazil. Editoria Sao Paolo. Sao Paolo, 1933. (387 pp. 37 pl.) p. 44-45.

[3] Colleção das Leis do Imperio do Brasil, de 1822, parte 1. a, p. 47 (Imprensa Nacional, 1877)

[4] Ibid. p. 87.

[5] For example on the Imperial carriage, made in England 1837 and used for the coronation of Pedro II in 1841 and by him at the openeing of the National Assembly.