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In Brazil Royal says monarchy would fix country's chaos

Even if many may not take it seriously, Dom Bertrand de Orleans y Branganca is a very serious man and at 77 the prince in Brazil's defunct royal line says restoration of the monarchy could resolve his country's problems.

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Memorabilia related to the Brazilian monarchy being sold at the entrance to a church during the annual gathering of descendants of the Brazilian royal family play

Memorabilia related to the Brazilian monarchy being sold at the entrance to a church during the annual gathering of descendants of the Brazilian royal family

(AFP)

Even if many may not take it seriously, Dom Bertrand de Orleans y Branganca is a very serious man and at 77 the prince in Brazil's defunct royal line says restoration of the monarchy could resolve his country's problems.

"If the monarchy returned it would be a relief. Brazilians would celebrate it as a great national party because people are fed up with the republic," Dom Bertrand, a great-great grandson of Brazil's last emperor, Pedro II, said Sunday.

These are tough times in Brazil. Whether it's the worst recession in the country's history, the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in 2016, the biggest corruption scandal ever or a just-finished truckers' strike that crippled the economy for more than a week, things are bad and not necessarily getting better.

An election is due this October, but could a return to the royals fix the mess instead?

Emperor Pedro II was deposed on November 15, 1889 in a military takeover, followed by the declaration of a republic.

Since then, the royal family has sunk into obscurity and internal division. Sunday, though, was the annual gathering in the former capital Rio de Janeiro where the faithful get to see some of their would-be sovereigns.

About 100 people turned out, dressed in their finest, to greet the man they called "his highness" before he entered the church in Rio's historic Gloria neighborhood to attend Mass.

With pins of the imperial flag on their lapels, they waited anxiously to shake the hands of the prince, a tall, thin man in a suit and tie.

Many of the women and girls present had covered their heads -- in black for those married and white for the unmarried.

"Hail the empire!" one shouted, waving a large royalist flag.

"There are a lot of people who are even calling for a military coup today, because Brazilians feel they've run out of options. When politicians abandon you, there's nothing left," said Graciane Pereira, 37, an anesthetist.

"I think the Brazilian royal family has fantastic people, you can't even compare them to the politicians."

Glory days

Don Fernando de Orleans e Braganca, Dona Maria da Graca de Orleans e Braganca, and Don Bertrand de Orleans e Braganca, 77, prince in Brazil's defunct royal line, greet guests before a mass at the annual gathering of descendants of the Brazilian royal family play

Don Fernando de Orleans e Braganca, Dona Maria da Graca de Orleans e Braganca, and Don Bertrand de Orleans e Braganca, 77, prince in Brazil's defunct royal line, greet guests before a mass at the annual gathering of descendants of the Brazilian royal family

(AFP)

Time seemed to go backward during the Catholic Mass in the church, where Pedro II and his elder daughter Princess Isabel were baptized.

The priest, in golden robes and accompanied by altar boys burning incense, spoke of "the glorious past of kings and emperors and saints."

For the faithful, European countries like Norway and Belgium, which have retained their monarchies, are the examples Brazil should take.

"In reality, Brazil lost its bearings when the monarchy fell. From then on, everything went wrong," said teacher Uilian Martins, 33, who had come from northern Brazil for the occasion.

But a chance visitor to the church, Ana Paula Logrado, was not convinced.

"I think the corruption we have today actually started in those times."

The last time Brazilians held a referendum on restoration, in 1993, only 10 percent voted yes. However, Don Bertrand says a majority would back the move today.

Brazilians are "indirectly" natural monarchists, he says, citing the love of naming carnival "kings" and "queens," and nicknaming footballing legend Pele "the king."

"The monarchy has a certain charm that the republic lacks," Dom Bertrand said.

Well on the right, the would-be royal considers Brazil's main leftist Workers' Party "a sect," opposes same-sex marriage, and says racism does not exist in Brazil.

But the family is deeply divided over who would take the throne.

One presumptive heir would be Dom Bertrand's eldest brother Luiz, but many consider the much more politically active Bertrand to be the emperor in waiting.

Another great-great grandson, Dom Joao, says that none of the descendants are automatic choices and that a newly formed parliament should decide.

In the meantime, the bluebloods live far from their old luxuries.

Dom Bertrand, like Luiz, lives in Sao Paulo, and survives on donations and the help of half a dozen volunteers.

Dom Bertrand says not to worry. "The fruit is ripening. No one can give the timing, but I'm sure I'll see the restoration of the monarchy with my own eyes."

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