Bernardo O'Higgins

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General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme

Bernardo O'Higgins

Order: 1st Supreme Director
Period in Office: February 16, 1817-January 28, 1823
Predecessor: New Creation
Successor: Ramón Freire
Date of Birth: August 20, 1778
Place of Birth: Chillan, Chile
Date of Death: October 24, 1842
Place of Death: Lima, Peru

Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (August 20, 1778October 24, 1842), South American revolutionary leader and first Chilean head of state (Supreme Director, 181723), who commanded the military forces that won independence from Spain.

O'Higgins was born in Chillán, Chile. As noted in his certificate of Baptism, he was the illegitimate son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, a Spanish officer from County Sligo in Ireland, who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru; his mother was Isabel Riquelme, a prominent lady of Chillán.

O'Higgins spent the earlier years of his life with his mother's family in south Chile. He had a distant relationship with his father: he supported the son financially and was concerned with his education but never knew him. Spanish government officials in America were forbidden to marry locals.

As Ambrosio O'Higgins became viceroy of Peru, O'Higgins was sent to London to complete his studies. In this city, Bernardo became acquainted with American-independist ideas: he knew Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda and joined the Logia Lautaro.

In 1810 he joined the nationalist rebels who desired independence from Spain. In 1814, his Chilean rebels were defeated by the Spanish and retreated into the Andes. In 1817, O'Higgins went back on the offensive with the aid of Argentine General José de San Martín. On February 12, 1817 he led a cavalry charge that won the Battle of Chacabuco.

He became the first leader of independent Chile, and was granted dictatorial powers as Supreme Director on February 16, 1817. On February 12, 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic. His 6-year rule saw the founding of the Military Academy and the approval of the new (and current) Chilean flag. However, his more radical and liberal reforms (such as the establishment of democracy and abolishment of nobility titles) were resisted by the powerful conservative large-land owners. He was deposed by a conservative coup on January 28, 1823.

O'Higgins spent the rest of his life in exile, and died in Lima, Peru in 1842. After his death, his remains have been subsequently moved: repatriated to Chile in 1869, moved in 1979 from the Military School to a place of honor in the Altar de la Patria's mausoleum in front of the Palacio de La Moneda government palace, and then back again temporarily to the Military School in 2004 for a year, during transformation of the Altar de la Patria into the new Plaza de la Ciudadanía (Citizens' Square).

Preceded by:
Supreme Director of Chile
Succeeded by:
Ramón Freire

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See also

es:Bernardo O'Higgins


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