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When the Colony becomes the Ruler

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My vicarious trip to Brazil


In 1807, Napoleon forced the Portuguese court into exile. Relocating to Rio de Janeiro, Portugal became the colony -- its kingdom ruled from Brazil. This transfer of power was formalized in 1815 when the Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil e Algarves was established and Rio de Janeiro became its capital. This is the only example of a European nation ruled from one of its colonies. The Portuguese court returned to Lisbon in 1821 with Brazil gaining its independence the following year.


Perhaps it was a subconscious impulse from watching the Rio Olympics but when I saw these 8 reales, re-purposed for use in Brazil, in the recent ANA auction listings, I eagerly added them to my collection. Both examples are from the early years of the Portugese court's time abroad.


The first example is a 960 reis counterstamp on a Potosi 8 reales. These were issued in 1808 for circulation in the Minas Gerais Capitania, Brazil's principal gold mining region. According to the Banco Central do Brasil website, they were issued in conjunction with the prohibition of using gold dust for financial transactions to counter embezzlement from the mines.


My second example is an 1810 960 Reis from the Rio de Janeiro mint, overstruck on a Potosi 8 reales. The counterstriking of 8 reales was superseded by the full overstrikes starting in this year. The host coin's bullion value was only 750-800 reis, at this time; the inflation to 960 reis was done to generate revenue for the crown.


Both coins display similar designs, the Portuguese coat of arms on the obverse and the armillary sphere on the reverse. The armillary sphere, an astronomical and navigational instrument of huge importance during the Age of Discovery, became a national emblem of the Portuguese Empire.




See more journals by jgenn

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RE: Armillary sphere. Ptolemaic or Copernican? Interesting how a personal symbol became a national emblem.

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PS: There is no truth to the assertion that small armillary spheres were used to produce fantastic grill marks on Brazilian steaks.

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