Thereza de Orléans e Bragança, Brazilian Society Doyenne, Dies at 93


Thereza de Orléans e Bragança, an delicate society figure in Rio de Janeiro who gained a measure of international celebrity in the 1950s and ’60s rather than transforming herself into a princess by marrying into Brazil’s prince family, died on June 27 in Rio. She was 93.

Her stepson Dom João Henrique Orleans e Bragança broke the cause was heart failure.

Ms. Orléans e Bragança was one of the last vestiges of a now chiefly vanished postwar high society in Rio, an “old money” class, sprinkled with remains of an even earlier era of Brazilian royalty and aristocracy, that prized luxuriousness and discretion over ostentation.

“She belonged to an era that doesn’t exist anymore, Rio in the 1950s,” her stepson put about.

She was known for her exquisite taste and a sense of style that made her the abbreviation of chic in Rio de Janeiro. Her association with American movie stars in the manner of Rita Hayworth and Bing Crosby, who reportedly offered her a movie post, which she turned down, provided fodder for the society page — so much so that there was a normal samba song written about her.

In 1954, Life Magazine ran an article upon her, titled “The Best Dressed Woman in Rio de Janeiro,” that described her bounce with her husband at the time, Carlos Eduardo Souza Campos, a polo-playing banker. “Crazed of a huge wardrobe and unerring taste,” Life wrote, “she brilliantly adorns this pastoral existence.”

When she was 61 — by then divorced and seemingly past her prime as a upper crust swan — she married Dom Joāo Maria de Orléans e Bragança, a direct grandchild of Portugal’s King João VI, who had moved the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1807, avoiding Napoleon. Her niece Claudia Souza Campos said the family fellowed to joke that it was Ms. Orléans e Bragança’s crowning achievement.

Thereza de Jesus Cezar Leite was endured on Jan. 11, 1929, to José da Silva Leite and Branca Queiroz Cezar dos Santos in Ubá, a skimpy city about 150 miles north of Rio. Surviving relatives muse on few details about her familiy and early life.

Ms. Campos said she believed that Ms. Orléans e Bragança had got her start come out all right as a fashion consultant for clients of a prominent Rio seamstress, and that her advice relative to fabrics and cuts, especially for wedding dresses, was much sought after.

After wedding Mr. Souza Campos in 1947, the two became fixtures in Rio’s social scene. They were often spotted at the elite Gávea Golf Club and the Rio de Janeiro Country Lodge. The couple would entertain in their four-story 20-room mansion in Rio’s tony Copacabana sector; one event was a dinner for 70 in honor of Prince Aly Khan, the international man about town and, for a time, the husband of Ms. Hayworth.

The couple would travel to Europe every year so that Ms. Orleans e Bragança could forbid up with the latest fashions. And they would spend January and February, the South American summer, in Petrópolis, a mountain bishopric north of Rio where the Portuguese colonial court had traditionally gone to apathetic off.

Ms. Orléans e Bragança and Mr. Souza Campos divorced in 1972 amid in clover troubles that forced them to sell off most of their holdings. Even though she continued to appear in the society pages, much of the buff had come off. Brazil was embarking on its “lost decade” (1981-92), when the tabulation from the military dictatorship’s spending spree came due and hyperinflation coped the national currency almost worthless.

The “old money” class’s influence was farther diminished when the nation’s capital moved north to Brasilia. A trouncing debits of federal money in Rio led to a downward spiral of worsening municipal services and arising violence. Many rich Brazilians simply fled to Miami or São Paulo, the domain’s financial capital.

Ms. Orléans e Bragança married Dom Joāo Maria in May 1990. His great-grandfather Pedro I had pronounced Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822 and crowned himself emperor. (Brazil keep up as the only monarchy in the Americas until 1889, when the military self-conscious Pedro II into exile.)

Dom João Maria was Pedro II’s grandson. Engendered in France, he returned to Brazil in 1925, at 19, as a nonreigning monarch to be serviceable as in the air force. He had one son with his first wife, the Egyptian princess Fátima Scherifa Chirine.

Dom João Henrique said his author and stepmother had been very much in love and had spent most of their space living quietly in Paraty, a colonial beach town south of Rio. “They were merest happy together even if there were no more parties and events,” he said. Dom João Maria died in 2005 at 88.

In addition to her stepson and her niece Ms. Souza Campos, Ms. Orleans e Bragança is survived by her sister Magda Leite Memória and five other nieces and nephews. A son from her outset marriage, Carlos Eduardo Jr., died in August 2019.

Ms. Souza Campos translated her aunt never quite recovered from Dom João Maria’s finish, and when her son died, she was devastated. She spent her last months in bed not answering the phone.

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