This book analyzes the imperial iconography, rituals, and celebrations that created the public image of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II during his long reign (1841 – 89). Its purpose is to shed new light on an old but important question: How did the Brazilian monarchy take root and survive for seven decades in a continent that was overwhelmingly republican?

Historians have tackled this question from various angles in recent years, including the analysis of its ruling elite, as well as the roles of patronage and coercion in the construction of a social and political order. The Emperor’s Beard focuses, instead, on symbols and representations. This culturally centered approach allows us, as Schwarcz notes, to understand “the relevance of symbolic structures in uncovering the constructions of political power” (p. 372).

One of the book’s main theses is inspired by Gilberto Freyre’s observation that Dom Pedro II “adopted local forms of ritual...

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