Brazilian nobility

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Portrait of the Marquis of Paraná.

The Brazilian nobility refers to the titled aristocrats and fidalgo families recognized by the Kingdom of Brazil and later, by the Empire of Brazil dating back to the early 19th century, when it was a colony of the Kingdom of Portugal. It existed until 1889, when a military coup d'état overthrew the monarchy and established the First Brazilian Republic.


Noble Titles of Brazil
 Coronet of a Duke of Brazil.svg Dukedoms of Brazil
 Coronet of a Marquess of Brazil.svg Marquisates of Brazil
 Coronet of a Count of Brazil.svg Counties of Brazil
 Coronet of a Viscount of Brazil.svg Viscountcies of Brazil
 Coronet of a Baron of Brazil.svg Baronies of Brazil

The Brazilian nobility originated from the Portuguese nobility, during the time of colonial Brazil; the noble titles were a sign of political power among the elite. Some of the nobles were members of Portuguese noble lineages and even of the high nobility, especially the families that arrived during the first centuries of the colonization of Bahia, Sergipe, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The elevation of Brazil to the status of Kingdom, under the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves in 1815, led to the creation of the first Brazilian noble titles. With the Independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822, the Empire of Brazil established its own system of nobility.

According to the Brazilian Constitution of 1824, only the Emperor had the right to confer titles and ranks on non-nobles. Unlike the former Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian titles—and most systems of aristocracy—a Brazilian noble title was only for the holder's lifetime and could not be inherited, similar to a British life peer.[1] All nobles, regardless of title and rank, were entitled to the style of Excellency.[2]

During the reign of Dom Pedro II and the advent of the commercialization of coffee, it was the great coffee-growers who began to collect such titles, being acquaintances of the coffee barons. According to Affonso de Taunay, around 300 holders had their income linked to coffee: farmers, bankers and traders. The title of baron thus became a symbol of the legitimization of local power, making those who held it intermediaries between the people and the government.

During this period the Brazilian Imperial Family sought to efface republican sentiments with a wide distribution of titles, mainly among important political leaders in the provinces, some aristocrats and also members of provincial oligarchies; 114 were awarded in 1888, and 123 in 1889.[citation needed]


José Paranhos, Baron of Rio Branco, famous diplomat both in the Empire and the Republic.

With the proclamation of the republic in 1889, the aristocracy was abolished and all Brazilian titles of nobility were banned. It was also prohibited, under penalty of accusation of high treason and the suspension of political rights, to accept noble titles and foreign decorations without the permission of the State. However, nobles of greater distinction, out of respect and tradition, were allowed to use their titles during the republican regime; a well-known example is the Baron of Rio Branco.[citation needed] The Imperial Family was not allowed to return until 1921, when the Law of Exile was repealed by President Epitácio Pessoa.


To be qualified for ennoblement, one could not be of illegitimate birth, be previously charged for lese-majeste, or have a history of engagement in a mechanical trade or be of "impure" blood (e.g., Jewish ancestry, the law of sangre pura).[citation needed] Most had to pay a large sum for the conferral of noble status (the Portuguese monarchs sold titles for payment to raise funds giving Portugal many nobles, 600+ families, for a small population), even if titles passed to their descendants.[citation needed]

A recipient had to pay the following fees depending on the title given, in contos de réis, according to the table of April 2, 1860:[citation needed]

Register Value in 1860
Title Value
Duke 2:450$000
Marquis 2:020$000
Count 1:575$000
Viscount 1:025$000
Baron 750$000

In addition to these amounts, there were the following costs:

  • Roles for the petition: 366$000
  • Coat of arms registration: 170$000

A list of possible grantees was drawn up by the Council of Ministers, with recommendations from their colleagues, provincial presidents, other nobles, politicians, senior officials, and other influential people. The lists were sent to the approval of the Emperor, being presented, twice a year: December 2, the anniversary of the Emperor; March 14 or 25, respectively, the anniversary of the Empress and the anniversary of the oath of the Constitution of the Brazilian Empire of 1824—the first Brazilian constitutional charter.

Some Brazilian nobles were given the distinction "with grandeeship," which allowed them to use in their coat of arms the crown of the next higher title—for example, a baron could wear the viscount's coronet on his coat of arms. Also, a Grandee of the Empire enjoyed other privileges and precedence that holders of the next superior title enjoyed. The grandeeship was conferred on 135 barons, who used the viscomital coronet in their coats of arms, and 146 viscounts, who used the comital coronet.

Registration of nobility[edit]

All records of the nobility were made in the books of the Office of Nobility and Knighthood until 1848, when they disappeared under unexplained circumstances. At the time, they were the responsibility of Possidonio da Fonseca Costa, the then-King of Arms, which greatly hindered the registration of noble titles granted during the First Reign of the Empire. Luis Aleixo Boulanger, his successor, sought to recover part of this documentation, producing a single book with part of the first generation of the Brazilian nobility.

Throughout the entirety of the Empire's existence, 1,211 titles of nobility were created: 3 dukes, 47 marquises, 51 counts, 235 viscounts and 875 barons. The total number of recipients, however, was lower—around 980—as many received more than one title. These numbers are not entirely accurate, as there are doubts about the validity and even the existence of some titles. Much of this doubt stems from the loss of some of the records of the Office of Nobility and Knighthood during the First Reign.


Royal titles[edit]

Imperial Crown Brazil.svg Emperor (Imperador) Coronet of the Imperial Prince of Brazil.svg Prince Imperial of Brazil (Príncipe Imperial do Brasil) Coronet of the Imperial Prince of Brazil.svg Prince of Grão-Pará (Príncipe do Grão-Pará) Coronet of a Prince of Brazil.svg Prince of Brazil (Príncipe do Brasil)

Noble titles[edit]

Coronet of a Duke of Brazil.svg Duke (Duque) Coronet of a Marquess of Brazil.svg Marquis (Marquês) Coronet of a Count of Brazil.svg Count (Conde) Coronet of a Viscount of Brazil.svg Viscount (Visconde) Coronet of a Baron of Brazil.svg Baron (Barão)

Famous nobles[edit]

Coat of arms of the Marquess of Maranhão.






  • José Maria da Silva Paranhos Júnior, Baron of Rio Branco
  • Henrique Hermeto Carneiro Leão, Baron of Paraná
  • Gregório Francisco de Miranda, Baron of Abadia (1795 - 1850)
  • Maria Izabel Cardoso Gusmão, baronese of Abadia


  1. ^ Les manuscrits du C.E.D.R.E. – Dictionnaire Historique et Généalogique, vol. III. Le Royaume de Portugal, L’Empire du Brésil. Cercle d'Études des Dynasties Royales Européennes (president, Jean-Fred Tourtchine), Paris, 1987, p. 51. (French). ISSN 0764-4426.
  2. ^ Vainfas 2002, p. 554.


  • Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz. As barbas do Imperador: D. Pedro II, um monarca nos trópicos. 2. Ed. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1998.
  • Vainfas, Ronaldo (2002). Dicionário do Brasil Imperial (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva. ISBN 978-85-7302-441-8.