Dom Joao VI Copper 40 Reis
A man of amazing flexibility, Portugal’s King Dom Joao VI (born 1767, died 1826) could never have been called handsome. His copper 40 Reis coins struck as Regent in 1811-1814 and as King (1819-1825) show him as short and squat with little visible neck and distinctly frog-like features. He ruled after his mother Queen Maria I went mad, convinced that Napoleon was the Anti-Christ coming to devour Portugal. Napoleon was indeed on his way, having seized the Spanish royal family in 1808 and made his brother Joseph King of Spain and Joao’s neighbor.
A French army invaded Portugal in 1807 under Marshal Junot but Joao outfoxed him, taking ship with his entire government for the overseas colony of Brazil, which he declared a kingdom equal to Portugal. His gold and silver coinage was plentiful but his portrait appears only on the crude copper 40 Reis, a 35 millimeter, 5mm thick coin. The example shown is a seriously defective strike, missing most of its left edge but bearing a complete design. Crude, ugly and a fascinating memorial to Dom Joao, a man of ability who outsmarted Napoleon and returned to Portugal in triumph in 1821.