Maria Benedita of Braganza (born Maria Benedita Rosa Carolina Mafalda Fernanda; 5 July 1896, Kleinheubach, Kingdom of Bavaria - 11 May 1971, Koningstad) was a member of the House of Braganza and Infanta of Portugal by birth. Through her marriage to King Johan II, she was the Queen Consort of Brunant from 1915 to 1967 (the record for a consort), and Queen mother until her death in 1971. Maria Benedita died in May 1971 at the age of 74.
Maria Benedita was the second daughter and child of Miguel, Duke of Braganza and his wife Princess Maria Theresa of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg. Her father was the Miguelist claimant to the throne of Portugal from 1866 to 1920. She had six sisters, one younger brother and three older half siblings.
Her paternal grandparents were Miguel I of Portugal and Princess Adelaide of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg. His maternal grandparents were Charles, 6th Prince of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, and Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein.
She was born in Bavaria, but her family was soon in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where her father would serve as an army officer. She was taught by tutors and her mother hoped she would marry someone of stature and make a household.
Marriage and early yearsEdit
In February 1915 a marriage was arranged with Johan of Brunant, the young King of Brunant. Johan, upon seeing Maria Benedita became besotted with her, if more for her personality than her looks. The two were wed on 19 October 1915 at St. Peter's Church, in a fairly lavish ceremony. The two were a fairly happy couple, but for several years they were unable to have a child.
The young queen had a strained relationship with her new mother-in-law, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was a Germanophile and attempted to keep controlling her son.
The young Queen was very supportive of the war effort in 1915 and set up the Queen's Relief Fund that year to assist in supporting serving soldiers, nurses and their families. The queen was highly popular, not only for her visits with average Brunanters but also by her down-to-earth and humble way of life.
A pregnancy in early 1919 resulted in a miscarriage and it seemed she may not be able to provide a son. Rumors of an affair by her husband were the talk in 1920, but the queen refused to believe them. As a shock to most, the Royal Palace in December 1922 announced the queen was pregnant with child.
On 23 June 1923, she gave birth to a son, Marten Jan Albert, which placed great relief on the king. It would take four years for her to become pregnant again, giving birth to a daughter, Angela Maria, on 2 July 1927.
The night of the 20th of May 1941, after German paratroopers had landed in Cape Cross, King Johan, Queen Maria Benedita and their two children were evacuated by car to the port of Koningstad, and then onto a ship to Grijzestad, where they were to be evacuated to Egypt. Maria Benedita had hoped to perhaps move on to Portugal, but the status of her as a member of the deposed Portuguese house could have raised grave issues, and the idea was rejected. They then moved on to Lovia, for the duration of the war.
The royal family returned to Koningstad on 2 March 1945, aboard the aging cruiser R.S. King Ambroos. Throngs of people clamored when they landed, cheering on the returned king and queen, with the greatest display of flags, pomp and patriotism not seen since the victory parades of November 1918.
The queen strove to increase relations with Portugal and made the first state visit there with the king in August 1951, meeting with Prime Minister Oliveira Salazar, once the Braganzas were once again allowed to visit Portuguese soil. Queen Maria Benedita became one of the founding members of The Cancer Society in 1954 and was its vice-president from 1954 to 1966.
In 1964 her son and daughter-in-law were appointed official regents. On 11 October 1965, Johan and Maria Benedita celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. It was largely a private family affair, but souvenirs were being sold commemorating the couple's 50 years of marriage, and parties were held across the country. Henry Warson, then Prime Minister, visited the king and queen and with his wife presented them with a special bound, unique book on History of Brunant in the Reign of Johan II.
In 1967 the queen began showing early signs of Alzheimer's, exacerbated from 1969. On 14 June 1967, she fell coming out of a car and had her using a cane. The illness and death of her husband in November 1967 greatly affected her.
Maria Benedita spent much of 1968 in her son's country house in Tavira, Portugal, showing some improvement. She returned to Brunant for Christmas that year.
Maria Benedita spent her last years in relative good health, though no longer as active as before. The queen mother suffered a fall in April 1971, and she was confined to her bed and to resting. She died quietly in her sleep on 11 May 1971 at the age of 74. She was interred at the Royal Mausoleum in Koningstad alongside her husband.