Bernardo O'HIGGINS

Family tree of Bernardo O'HIGGINS

South American and Central American politician

ChileanBorn Bernardo O'HIGGINS RIQUELME

Chilean independence leader

Born on August 20, 1778 in Chillán, Chile

Died on October 24, 1842 in Lima, Perú

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O'Higgins was born in the Chilean city of Chillán in 1778, the illegitimate son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, 1st Marquis of Osorno, a Spanish officer born in County Sligo, Ireland, who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru. His mother was Isabel Riquelme, a prominent local lady and daughter of Don Simón Riquelme y Goycolea, a member of the Chillán Cabildo, or council.

O'Higgins spent his early years with his mother's family in central-southern Chile, and later he lived with the Albano family in Talca, who were his father's commercial partners. Aged 15, Bernardo was then sent to Lima by his father. Bernardo had a distant relationship with Ambrosio, who supported him financially and was concerned with his education, but the two never met in person. It is unclear why his father did not marry Isabel. High-ranking Spanish government officials in America were forbidden to marry locals, but at the time of Bernardo's birth Ambrosio O'Higgins was only a junior military officer. It has been suggested that Isabel's family would not have seen the match as advantageous at the time. Two years later she would marry Don Félix Rodríguez, an old friend of her father's. In any event, Bernardo used his mother's surname until the death of his father in 1801.


Ambrosio O'Higgins continued his professional rise and became Viceroy of Peru; at seventeen Bernardo was sent to London to complete his studies. There, studying history and the arts, Bernardo became acquainted with American ideas of independence and developed a sense of nationalist pride, coming to admire liberalism in the Georgian British model. He also met Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda, an idealist and believer in independence, and joined a Masonic Lodge established by Miranda, dedicated to achieving the independence of Latin America.

In 1798, Bernardo went to Spain from England, his return to the Americas delayed by the wars and the British capture of the first ship he sailed with. His father died in 1801, leaving Bernardo a large piece of land, the Hacienda Las Canteras, near the Chilean city of Los Angeles. Bernardo returned to Chile in 1802, adopted his father's surname, and began life as a gentleman farmer. In 1806, O'Higgins was appointed to the cabildo as the representative of Laja. Then, in 1808 Napoleon took control of Spain, triggering a sequence of events in South America. In Chile, the commercial and political elite decided to form an autonomous government to rule in the name of the imprisoned king Ferdinand VII - this was to be one of the first in a number of steps toward national independence, in which O'Higgins would play a leading role.

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Geographical origins

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