Rivalry within the family erupted in 1946 when Dom Pedro Gastão (1913–2007) repudiated the renunciation to the throne of his late father, Pedro de Alcântara, Prince of Grão-Pará (1875–1940), for himself and his future descendants, when he made a non-dynastic marriage in 1908. Pedro de Alcântara was the eldest son of the Princess Imperial Isabel (1846–1921) who, as Pedro II's elder daughter and heir presumptive when he was dethroned, became the last undisputed head of the family after her father's death in exile in 1891. Pedro Carlos is Dom Pedro Gastão's eldest son. Dom Luiz descends from Isabel's younger son, Prince Luís (1878–1920) who, by a Bourbon princess, fathered Prince Pedro Henrique (1909–1981). Dom Luiz is Pedro Henrique's son by a Bavarian princess and upholds his dynastic claim to the same legacy.
Following the tradition of the Iberian monarchies, the closest relatives of the Brazilian Emperor are considered members of the Brazilian Imperial Family, disregarding those who renounced their dynastic rights. With the proclamation of the republic in 1889, and consequent extinction of the Brazilian Empire on that date, the title of Head of the Imperial House of Brazil was created for the apparent heir to the defunct throne.
Founded by Pedro of Braganza, until then Prince Royal of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, member of the House of Braganza, heir apparent to the Portuguese throne and the King's representative in the Kingdom of Brazil as Prince Regent, the Imperial House of Brazil was sovereign from 7 September 1822, when Prince Pedro proclaimed the independence of the Kingdom of Brazil from the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves and was subsequently acclaimed as Emperor of Brazil on 12 October that same year until 15 November 1889, when a military coup d'état took place and the proclamation of the Brazilian republic overthrew the monarchy.
Prince Pedro, then, was acclaimed as Emperor of Brazil in all the territory. The constitution of the Brazilian Empire of 1824 - the first Brazilian constitutional charter - was organized two years after independence, with the emperor being the head of state and head of government of the Empire of Brazil, as well as head of the moderator power and the executive power. He reigned until 7 April 1831 when he abdicated due to a long ideological conflict between with a sizable parliamentary faction over the role of the monarch in the government and other obstacles. Pedro I's successor in Brazil was his five-year-old son, Pedro II. As the latter was still a minor, a weak regency was created. The power vacuum resulting from the absence of a ruling monarch as the ultimate arbiter in political disputes led to regional civil wars between local factions. Having inherited an empire on the verge of disintegration, Pedro II, once he was declared of age, managed to bring peace and stability to the country, which eventually became an emerging international power. Even though the last four decades of Pedro II's reign were marked by continuous internal peace and economic prosperity, he had no expectation to see the monarchy survive beyond his lifetime and made no effort to maintain support for the institution. The next in line to the throne was his daughter Isabel, but neither Pedro II nor the ruling classes considered a female monarch acceptable. Lacking any viable heir, the Empire's political leaders saw no reason to defend the monarchy. After a 58-year reign, on 15 November 1889 the Emperor was overthrown in a sudden coup d'état led by a clique of military leaders whose goal was the formation of a republic headed by a dictator, forming the First Brazilian Republic.
With the proclamation of the Brazilian republic on 15 November 1889, the Imperial Family went into exile in Portugal, Spain, France and Austria-Hungary. In the party that accompanied the Imperial Family were included many loyal subjects and nobles, as politicians such the Viscount of Ouro Preto, the deposed last Prime Minister of the Empire, as well the Emperor's particular doctor. Price August Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, grandson of Emperor Pedro II was the only member of the imperial family not boarded to exile because he was on board the cruiser Almirante Barroso, on a circumnavigation trip. Subsequently, upon receiving the news of the deposition of the monarchy, he was sent into exile. In addition to the ban, the Republican government confiscated and auctioned many of the assets of the imperial family. In 1890, thirteen auctions of Imperial House goods were made. Empress Teresa Cristina died in the first months of exile. Later Emperor Pedro II died in France, where he receive a head of state's funeral by the French government. The Imperial Family settled in the Château d'Eu, former residence of King Louis Philippe of France and property of Gaston of Orléans, Count d'Eu, husband of Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, heiress of Pedro II and de jure Empress-in-Exile of Brazil.