In a time of terror for Europe’s monarchs--imprisoned, exiled, executed--Napoleon’s army marched toward Lisbon. Cornered, Prince Regent João had to make the most fraught decision of his life. Protected by the British Navy, he fled to Brazil with his entire family, including his mentally ill mother, most of the nobility, and the entire state apparatus. Thousands made the voyage, but it was no luxury cruise. It took two months in cramped, decrepit ships. Sickness ran rampant. Lice infested some of the vessels, and noble women had to shave their hair and grease their bald heads with antiseptic sulfur. Vermin infested the food, and bacteria contaminated the drinking water. No European monarch had ever set foot in the Americas, let alone relocating an entire court there. A week after landing, Prince João opened Brazil’s ports, liberating the colony from a trade monopoly with Portugal. While explorers mapped the burgeoning nation’s distant regions, the prince authorized the construction of roads, the founding of schools, and the creation of factories, raising Brazil to kingdom status in 1815. Meanwhile, under French control, Portugal was suffering the dire effects of famine and war. Never had the country lost so many people in so little time. But after Napoleon’s fall and over a decade of misery, the Portuguese demanded the return of their king. João sailed back in tears, but because of him Brazil remained whole and powerful. As he left, the last chapter of colonial Brazil drew to a close, setting the stage for the strong, independent nation that we know today, changing the history of the New World forever.